Captain America (1979)

Yeah, that's right! Hide your face in shame!
Yeah, that's right! Hide your face in shame!

Time for me to come clean and admit I never really liked Captain America. I don’t hate him, no matter how many times I joke about him being a fascist propaganda tool…or a rampaging national id who only exists to spout jingoistic platitudes and win Marvel some gratuitous Patriot Points. Beneath all that I really do understand his appeal.

But come on. Really, what’s so special about Steve Rogers? Line him up with all the other great heroes of the early 40s and compare. Doc Savage is a memory. The Shadow‘s a hallow catch phrase. The Phantom had a movie, but that starred Billy Zane and took fifty years to make. Yet here’s this blond hunk of apple pie, no matter how long you leave him frozen in ice he’ll always pop right off the operating table, ready to kick ass and take names… in America! Or anywhere else S.H.E.I.L.D. needs him.

Ah, but once…back in the Golden Age of Superhero Movies…Marvel tried to update good ol’ Steve for the Masses. Make him hip and relevant for a broader, TV audience that had ignored comic books entirely until Lynda Carter’s Wonder Woman and Lou Ferrigno’s Incredible Hulk smashed their way onto CBS in 1975 and ’77, respectively. Heck, even though it’s 2011, I’m still technically this TV movie’s target audience, so why not, eh? Continue reading Captain America (1979)

Godzilla the Series: An Exercise in Over-Analysis – Part I

Godzilla the Series: Main Titles
The Obligatory Group Shot

Episodes 1 & 2 – A New Family

It may not be the most popular or most famous cartoon series of the 1990s and it’s far, far from the best. But even the die hard haters of Roland Emmerich’s 1998 Godzilla film admit a small place in their hearts for this cartoon series. They had no faith going in, allowing the series to pleasantly surprise them…even as it annoyed and frustrated.

Like Justice League after it, Godzilla: The Series successfully mined every useful idea out of it’s parent genre, eventually managing to distill at least fifty years of daikaiju movies into their purest, most ridiculous essence…and I mean that as a compliment. Because if you’re into this sort of thing you really couldn’t ask for more. What we have here, for example, is a animated, one hour, made-for-TV daikaiju movie. From America. Name another one of those from the last ten years. Go on. I’m so desperate for human communication I’m actually daring you to name one. Go on. But read this first. Continue reading Godzilla the Series: An Exercise in Over-Analysis – Part I

Varan the Unbelievable (1962)

I can imagine him going, "Helloooo!" in full-throated, barbershop quartet mode. If only there were three more, we could have a hell of a harmony going.
I can imagine him going, "Helloooo!" with the full-throated thrill of a man trying to start up a barbershop quartet.

Ishiro Honda directed three films in 1958. One is justly famous in international horror circles, one is rare but infamous among daikaiju fans, and one is a “human interest” drama called Song of the Bride. Good luck trying to find out anything about that. As the decade of atomic power gave way to the Space Age, the director who began his career with two “human interest” documentaries (no really: The Story of a Co-op kicks ass if you can find it…not that you asked) saw himself enthroned as King of the Special Effects Picture in general…and monster movies in particular. Having learned their lesson from Godzilla Raids Again, Toho dared not let anyone else touch their newest, fattest cash cow of a sub-genre. They needed a monster movie for 1958. Too bad they had to give us this.

Except that’s not accurate, since the Japanese version of this flick  is remarkably different from the version I watched as a child; the one I’m picking apart, in public, tonight…and all for your entertainment, you sick bastards. Why must I suffer? Continue reading Varan the Unbelievable (1962)

Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988)

Thank God...before the film located me in time and space I was completely adrift.
Thank God…I was completely adrift, myself.

In all the history of cinema, Godzilla and Star Trek stand alone as the only franchises in history who’ve managed field strong fourth films (Mothra vs. Godzilla and The Voyage Home, respectively – though this feels like an invitation for everyone to “well, actually” me). One day they will do epic battle for the hearts and souls of nerds the world over. But until then we, their partisans, must content ourselves with taking the piss out of other, less-fortunate film series.

After Halloween III‘s non-success, John Carpenter apparently had an idea: the story about some small town, haunted by the memory of a violent killing spree in its all-too-recent past…rather like Haddonfield, Illinois. It could’ve been an Our Town for the 1980s…except George went insane and murdered his sister Rebbecca at the end Act One, spent the scene break in an asylum, escaped, and spent the whole of Act Three trying to murder Emily. C’mon: you know you’d love to see that. We won’t see it here, but you just know it’d make a better movie. Continue reading Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988)

A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987)

Or, The one where they dropped the word “Part” from the title. Most of the the Slasher series that chose this  route tend to go downhill rather fast. Except when they already hit their nadir (and gaydir) in Part 2. Things just had to improve after that, right?


Hell yeah! That’s what I’m talking about. Continue reading A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987)

Winter’s Bone (2010)

Filmed on location in the region I grew up in. No, really.
Filmed on location where I grew up. No, really.

Ree Dolly (Jennifer Lawrence) is a seventeen-year-old native of the Missouri Ozarks. With her father missing and her mother nearly catatonic, Ree’s left to raise her two young siblings as best she can. Winter’s Bone opens with their morning routine and, as the Dolly children walk to school, we see Ree quiz her little sister. “Spell ‘house,'” she says, delivering the film’s theme with a level of stealth that would make ninja masters nod in stoic, reserved approval as they tugged at their obligatory beards.

Winter’s Bone is nothing less than cinematic ninjitsu: a film that carries out its missions  with careful patience, heart and soul. Based on the eponymous book by Ozark native Daniel Woodrell, the film is everything you’ve heard it is and more. Continue reading Winter’s Bone (2010)

Elektra (2005)

Nice job covering up where the stab wound's supposed to be.
Nice job covering up where the stab wound’s supposed to be, guys.

At least one of you has already called me out for seeming to lavish all my attention on the masculine side of superhero film. Thank you, you’re right, and I mean no disrespect to all the super-powered ladies who’ve done so much to enhance my life, and the lives of most Good Nerds, throughout the years. The long, lonely years…Honestly, it’s just that their films suck. Off the top of my head, I can think of exactly one kinda-sorta-good superhero film that focused around a female protagonist. And trust me: you’ve never heard of it. If you can guess what I’m thinking of, I’ll mail you a cookie.

That can’t be it though, right? There’s got to be another one out there somewhere. And since March is National Women’s History Month in the United States, I’ve got all the excuse I need to get in touch with superherodom’s feminine side. Continue reading Elektra (2005)

The Mysterians (1957)

"Last one to Tokyo's a robot chicken!"
“Last one to Tokyo’s a robot chicken!”

Alien invasions are as old as literature. I’ve read versions of the Biblical flood myth that sound more like the plot of tonight’s film than any other part of the Old or New Testaments. Yet ever since the success of George Pal and Byron Haskin’s War of the Worlds (released four years prior to our subject), vicious extraterrestrials have tried to conquer Earth at least once a year, despite repeated, and often embarrassing, setbacks.

Case in point: The Mysterians, first of the many, many, many alien races who threatened Toho Co.’s Japan (and, by extension, The World) with enslavement and annihilation throughout the 1950s, 60s and 70s. And while superhero and space opera films on all sides of the Pacific had long ago burned over this particular district of science fiction, The Mysterians marks the first successful fusion of the alien invasion motif with Ishiro Honda’s daikaiju formula. The result is, to say the least, mixed. But it’s still head and shoulders over what would come after Continue reading The Mysterians (1957)