Category Archives: Film

Dune (2021)

A couple of years ago, I watched maybe half of the Dune remake, but it was at night and I fell asleep. And then I never got around to returning. Which, I mean, plenty of time to make up before part two came calling. Which brings me to last weekend, wherein I did in fact watch the movie for real and true. And you know what? Not bad!

See, there’s this noble family, we’ll call them the Starks. And they are asked by the Emperor of All Cosmos to take over production of spice[1] from a different noble family, who we’ll call the Lannisters. The Lannisters are super rich and also not fond of having their golden goose forcibly taken away, so they plan a trap. But that’s not important right now. What’s important is that Paul Stark is possibly the first male Aes Sedai since the end of the Second Age, as evidenced by the fact that he is having prophetic dreams about Mary Jane Aviendha and by the fact that when he sticks his hand inside a ter’angreal that causes pain, he doesn’t pull his hand out. (Although arguably he was coerced by the threat of murder into leaving it there.)

So anyway, Paul goes off to desert world, where… oh, hey, *Dune*! I get it. Nice one.

He goes there, I was saying, with the rest of his family, to start harvesting spice. And they learn about the giant sandworms who leave behind teeth that you can turn into crysknives if you have a scroll of enchant weapon, and they learn about the blue-eyed desert people who are not fans of the Lannisters, and right as it seems like they might be able to get the hang of this whole spice-harvesting gig even though all the equipment keeps breaking down and may have been sabotaged, that turns out not to matter, because Baron Lannister and his nephew Drax “Sting” Lannister launch a surprise attack and kill every single last Stark. Weirdly, nobody got married.

Wait, sorry, I’m being informed that Paul Stark and his mother Moiraine survived, and wandered off into the desert to hook up with Mary Jane and the rest of the desert people so they could lay low until it’s time for their counter-revenge in part two. Which we’ll probably watch tomorrow!

Although I have been glib in the above review, it is worth mentioning that a) the ornithopters are extremely cool, b) I very much want to know what happens next, even though I kind of do know, and c) the entire aesthetic of the first movie is A+. You can really tell the difference between what Lynch was able to accomplish in 1984 and what Villeneuve has been able to now, from a technological stance. From an adaptive stance, well, Lynch definitely adapted a book, while this guy is putting the book on screen.

I guess the important difference is that Lynch makes me giggle continuously, albeit in a good way, while Villeneuve makes me watch.

[1] Spice is what makes warp speed possible. (Also, it improves food I assume.)

Gojira · Ebira · Mosura: Nankai no daikettô

Ebirah, Horror of the Deep, is… on the one hand, it’s a lot less weird than recent Godzilla movies I’ve watched, in that it’s not batshit crazy. But on the other hand, it’s actually weirder in some ways, because it’s heavily James Bond influenced I think? And also, this was probably the moment where Godzilla made the transition from anti-hero to good guy, which… I certainly see how it has affected all the future stories, making this clear delineation that he will never again be an existential threat. But I’m still not convinced in the contexts of these movies that it was a good idea, is all.

So get this. This dude’s brother is lost at sea, so he tries to enter a dance-a-thon to win a yacht, but since it’s already three days in, they won’t let him join. So instead, he and two other failed contestants and a third guy all steal a yacht together, semi-accidentally. Then they see a giant crab thing and shipwreck on an island, which is inhabited by a supervillain lair, except without a specific obvious supervillain. Instead, there’s a scientist (I think?) working on nukes, and an eyepatch guy who leads a group of henchmen with machine guns from place to place all over the island, just randomly firing at our heroes but always missing them. It is also inhabited by slaves from Infant Island (famously the home of Mothra) and by a comatose Godzilla, the latter of which is too coincidental for words, and yet here we are.

So anyway, these guys try to figure out how to escape, and how to free the Infants, and how to deal with the giant crab monster (who I believe is referred to exactly once by name?), and eventually there’s a lot of kaiju-fighting, to dance-a-thon music. Oh, and in case you were wondering, Mothra 2 finally grew up and is no longer a caterpillar.

Kaijû daisensô

So I’m still watching Godzilla movies, right? Invasion of Astro Monster is on the one hand not nearly as weird as Ghidorah was. But on the other hand, it’s a much weirder Godzilla movie. See, there are radio signals from a planet beyond Pluto, which they have decided to call Planet X, and also it’s right next to (as in seems like a moon of) Jupiter, and in conclusion you can tell that the same people who were spouting paleontological knowledge in the first movie did the astronomical research for this one.

So these astronauts meet up with the citizens of Planet X, where King Ghidorah is rampaging and forcing them underground, and since from monitoring radio waves or whatever they have learned about how Earth survived Ghidorah’s attack, would we mind ever so much if they could borrow Godzilla and Rodan, in exchange for medical panaceas?

The problem with depth of genre knowledge is if good guy aliens ever show up offering us the keys to the universe, we’ll screw it up immediately by not believing them for a moment, since obviously it’s a trap.

Later, some monsters get in big fights, and the world’s most annoying toymaker makes the world’s most annoying toy, inspiring Tim Burton in the process. Oh, also of note: this is the first Criterion edition of these movies to have an English soundtrack instead of Japanese with subtitles. I don’t know if that was a Max choice or Criterion itself, but it is definitely what I had access to. (Made watching it at work a lot easier, I’ll say that much.)

San Daikaijû Chikyû Saidai no Kessen

Okay. I have reached the point where I know what’s up. There are/were only two Godszilla, I have high confidence in this fact. The downside is, now I’m five movies into the series, and I was supposed to watch the first one and the ninth one. So, like… should I just go ahead and power through since I’m already more than halfway there?

There is one compelling factor here: Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster is one of the weirdest movies I’ve ever seen, and that is saying a lot.[1] See, there’s this princess of a nearby island nation who is trying to make a peace treaty with Japan, maybe? Or something. but also internal politics means there are people trying to assassinate her, and also sometimes with no explicit explanation provided, she is from Venus and has been on Earth for thousands of years. Also, the Mothra twins are visiting for a TV show appearance. Also, a meteor shower woke up Rodan, who you would have no reason to know (aside from watching a separate movie without a Godzilla) is a giant pterodactyl thing. Also also, there was a meteor shower that had one weird meteor that changes sizes and has sporadic magnetism, and landed in the Japanese Alps, a mountain range with which I was unfamiliar.

My point is, Godzilla doesn’t even show up until 40 minutes into the movie, and okay, it’s not his name on the title card, but King Ghidorah isn’t much sooner (and might be later still, for all I remember). In the meantime, the Venusian princess is warning people that “Rodan will wake up in a second so don’t go get that guy’s hat that blew down the hill”, or “don’t get on that ship because last time we saw Godzilla he was maybe drowned again, and ships go on water”, or “King Ghidorah destroyed all life on Venus and he’s here on Earth now so get your affairs in order.” Luckily, they didn’t write her as Cassandra, so after the first time she’s right, people start listening.

But the best part of the movie is close enough to the end that I’m going to warn of spoilers, even though I’ve been really cavalier up to now.

[1] I mean, it should be the weirdest movie basically anyone has ever seen, averaging out across the populace. But in the nichier markets there are some true unpolished gems. The Baby, anyone?

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Mosura tai Gojira

When I realized that there was a Mothra movie that predated her interactions with Godzilla, I came very close to falling into the Marvel trap. But since OG Mothra wasn’t available to stream anywhere, I narrowly sidestepped a grim fate. It is important I think to remind myself that I’m only trying to figure out what’s going on with Godzillas, and just how many of them there are. This is not a Toho deep dive.

It’s not, I said!

This brings us to Mothra vs. Godzilla. Last time, Godzilla was left to an uncertain underwater fate. Naturally, therefore, there are zero Godszilla for the entire first third of this movie. Instead, we are treated to a tsunami, and a giant floating egg in the nearby ocean, and tiny twin girls who want the egg back from greedy amusement park developers who bought the egg from local fishermen, and my point is, there’s a lot of things going on which would be familiar to people who watched Mothra and unfamiliar to people who watched Godzilla movies.

Later, it is implied but not outright stated that Godzilla washed ashore and was buried in mud by the same tsunami that brought the egg into the area, and therefore it is implied that this is still Godzilla #2. Which I’m good with. Later, the powers of journalism triumph over the powers of capitalism, and the powers of kaiju silkworms triumph over the powers of kaiju lizards, resulting in approximately the same ending as the last movie, except with more of a Spider-Man webshooters vibe. Also, they made sure to re-use the native villagers set, although then again how do I know the Mothra movie didn’t have it before the Kong movie?

I hope nobody cares how extremely filled with spoilers these reviews are.

Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire

Date night! Which means going to a used bookstore and then a combo dinner / late run movie since we had watched all the other ones again recently. Can’t always pick when babysitting will happen, and so.

Anyway, how does one even say this movie? Godzilla ex Kong? Godzilla times Kong? Godzilla and Kong? Do even the producers of the film know the answer to this question? (Do they care? I posit that they do not, since they have brand recognition regardless.) Anyhow: Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire is about how things are going since Godzilla and Kong had some fights to determine who was the alpha giant monster and ultimately decided, hey, you stay up here and you stay down here, and everything’s cool, right?

Right?

A brief digression, if you will indulge me, to discuss spoilers for the Monarch series up to this point. See, they’ve been trying to make a Hollow Earth theory happen forever. And once they got there, it’s… weird and not fully thought through. Somewhere between ten and X miles beneath the earth’s surface, there’s another land. That land is full of Titan sized animals, which makes sense in context, and is maybe a quarter of a mile deep before gravity flips and there’s more land, which makes no sense. Like, you’re on a mountain, and above you some few hundred yards off, is a different mountain, whose top could poke you in the head if it fell. Also, there’s no obvious source of light, and yet everything is extremely well lit. Is there a night time? no clue, neither if nor how.

Anyway, below that area are caves leading down another mile or three (or X; how would I know?) to another land, which I think is also double sided in the same way? I forget. So I guess we’re dealing with the Honeycomb Earth theory at this point.

What’s important is the movie is following three divergent plotlines. In the first, Godzilla is wandering around on the surface looking for energy sources because he’s planning to be in a really big fight soon, which obvs terrifies everyone. In the second, some of the characters we’d recognize from the last movie but none of the earlier ones (as usual) are chasing a signal underground that has agitated Kong (and maybe Godzilla?). In the third, Kong is following what could just possibly be his family, deeper into the honeycomb. And eventually he follows Gollum into the land of Mordor[1].

Later (and also earlier), some titans fight each other. No, it’s true! And in the end, there is what I think can fairly be called a new empire. The things I still don’t know are if I’ve spoiled myself for the Apple+ TV show and what they might possibly do with yet another sequel.

[1] This is more factual than you believe it to be.

Kingu Kongu tai Gojira

You may recall that the only reason I’m watching these Godzilla movies is to determine just how many Godszilla there are, having been betrayed by the first one. So anyway, the third movie in the series maintains us on Godzilla number two, while introducing a surprise guest star!

King Kong vs. Godzilla is the story of how rival Japanese television networks try to drum up ratings by pitting Godzilla (who has recently been freed from an iceberg that is approximately where he ended up in the previous movie[1], which is how I know it’s the same Godzilla) against King Kong (who has recently been kidnapped from his home in the Solomon Islands by the lower in the ratings of the two TV networks, in a bid to gain marketshare by showing him off to Japan).

No really, that’s the whole movie. Wake up Godzilla who will attack Japan because it’s a habit at this point. Kidnap King Kong for ratings. Notice that maybe since he’s tall, he could defeat Godzilla and save Tokyo. Notice that atomic fire breath sets giant ape skin on fire same as everyone else’s. Notice that, implausibly, where a million volts of electricity makes Godzilla say “ow” and wander off in a different direction, it makes Kong say “yummy!” and then flex like Popeye on a week-long spinach bender. Put them both on the slopes of Mt. Fuji for an electro-charged rematch. Profit?[2]

I’d say you cannot make this stuff up, but, singing Mothra twins? This doesn’t even scratch the surface of what you can make up. In conclusion, Godzilla’s fate at the end of the movie was uncertain, which means I still have to watch another one. Sheesh. At least it’s on Max, because having to settle for 1080p because my Plex server couldn’t deal with the 4K version of this movie was an annoyance and a half.

[1] by meddling Americans, of course
[2] In fact, yes, massive, massive profit in the Japanese market.

Free Guy

There’s nothing quite as satisfying as watching a movie that you expected to be, y’know, probably fine, and it turns out to be really good instead. But then again, I think it is also time to acknowledge that Ryan Reynolds, at this stage in his career, is one of those guys who doesn’t make bad movies. Plus, and I’m ranging a bit far afield of my point now, but his acting style is one I have hardly ever seen before. There are the people who vanish into their roles, and the people that are too famous to vanish but still you are impressed by their ability to be two people at once, and the people who are obviously just playing themselves. And then there’s this guy, unique in my memory, who plays himself, but in a funny game of what if. “What if I got to pretend to be Pikachu?” “What if I got to pretend to be Deadpool?” “What if I got to pretend to be an irrepressibly cheerful NPC in a sandbox video game?”

Free Guy is pretty much the movie you expect it to be, at first glance. Guy works at the Bank, which gets robbed several times a day by the People Who Wear the Glasses. Then, after an inciting incident with a girl humming a song, he starts taking control of his own destiny. I like video games, and I like Reynolds, so the premise was enough to get me to watch. But the thing is, the story is written much more thoughtfully than the previews implied, and the result is a timely, occasionally hilarious, and sweet-hearted look at what our games and indeed what our world could someday look like.

Gojira no gyakushû

I couldn’t help it. I just had to know how Godzilla recovered from being reduced to his component molecules by the oxygen destroyer. So I went digging around and found the second Toho movie, Godzilla Raids Again.

This movie focuses on Japan’s fishing industry, albeit with nearly no fishing. Apparently they have spotters who fly around looking for fish to send the fishing boats to, and lady radio operators to convey messages back and forth between the pilots and the fleet. Which is all fine and good, until one of the spotters, er, notices Godzilla. This gives the writers a chance to correct the paleontologist from last movie. Now, Godzilla is from somewhere between 130 to 70 million years ago, “as everyone knows”. But no fear! there’s also a similarly proportioned ankylosaurus from the same time period also awakened by more atomic testing, who they started calling Anguirus for reasons that were not at all clear to me. And this is where the paleontologist got a bunk script again, because, okay, that guy is also nearly 200 feet tall (I suppose I know why they weren’t going to walk that part back), and he has spikes all over his back instead of only along the sides, and he’s a vicious carnivore.

People knew better in the 1950s, right? I mean, they must have. And yet.

Anyway, from there the movie proceeds about as you’d expect. Here come monsters to attack Osaka, but the Japanese have learned how to lure Godzilla away now. Which worked out great, up until a subplot with a prison transfer escape attempt ends up blowing up the waterfront fishing cannery, and suddenly Anguirus and Godzilla are locked in mortal combat, and also lots of familiar pilots are flying around in danger, with familiar radio operators swooning over them.

I want to watch the next movie and find out how Godzilla comes back next time, but it’s not available anywhere. …which reminds me, I never did tell you how he came back this time! …he didn’t. This is just a different Godzilla. How many of them are there?? But just remember anytime you are watching one of those old sequel movies, it’s not even the actual Godzilla.

I feel so betrayed.

Gojira

So this is super weird.

I know I’ve seen the Raymond Burr Godzilla (which is perversely difficult to find on streaming (not that I particularly wanted to), as compared to how easy it was to find on any given Saturday afternoon in my youth), and I would swear I’ve seen Gojira as well, or even if not, it’s the same movie minus inserted Raymond Burr footage, right?

But, because it has been a while, I figured to myself that I would watch the film in advance of the horror movie podcast episode about it, and it turns out that either they diverge wildly, or I just have not seen this movie after all. I remember the people running along trails to hilltops to see Godzilla approaching, and Burr giving close-up commentary on the moment, and I remember him (Godzilla, not Burr) smashing through buildings and elevated trains and such in Tokyo, but I had minimal to no memory of the family drama / romantic subplot between the paleontologist, his daughter, her scientist fiance, and her fisherman lover, and I had completely no memory of how the movie ended.

For example, and this is a spoiler for a seventy year-old movie, so with that said, did you know Godzilla dies at the end?? There are like ten or a dozen or more other Toho movies in this series, the vast majority of which he is alive in, and I have no idea how! It never crossed my mind that he could die, that was the one thing I was certain of!

Like, I used to be sure that (before he became a guardian instead), Gojira was a metaphor not only for the dangers of nuclear testing, but also for the learned hopelessness of the Japanese people a mere nine years past Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the nation of people in all the world’s history who were the most thoroughly crushed by opposing forces. But if they can just turn around and kill the supposedly undefeatable nuclear behemoth, that particular metaphor flies right out the window.

It’s like learning that Rosebud was his wife’s middle name, or that Rick and Elsa had never been to Paris. Everything I know is wrong, and what can I even do with this information now?