King Kong vs. Godzilla (1962)

"Yeah, eat it!"
“Yeah, eat it! I popularized this genre first, biz-natch!”

Given King Kong‘s one of the most successful and popular monster movies of all time, it’s enjoyed numerous revivals over the years. Including one in the early 1950s that directly inspired the American atomic monster craze and the daikaiju eiga of Japan. Kong‘s direct sequel, Son of Kong, and its kissing cousin, Mighty Joe Young were…less than successful.

But that didn’t stop special effects wizard Wells O’Brien from conceiving yet another sequel. Something that would retain all the grandiose power of the original but do away with that slapdash, chash-in feel that made Son of Kong suck. It would be a conscious throwback to that Golden Age of Monster Movies: the 1930s, the age of O’Brien’s primes. And it would climax in a gigantic fight scene in the streets of San Francisco, with Kong squaring off against a gigantic Frankenstein monster composed of animal parts and, presumably, a constantly-beating heart, irradiated by the atomic bombing of Hiroshima.

By 1960, O’Brien had a treatment all worked up, but the projected cost of the stop motion animation necessary to pull all this off made Hollywood skittish. The producer O’Brien hired, John Beck, began to shop the movie around overseas. He eventually wound up at Toho, who liked the idea of a giant Frankenstein so much they sat on it for three more years…after they made this. Continue reading King Kong vs. Godzilla (1962)

Nightbreed (1990)

Filmed on location in beautiful Branson, Missouri.
Filmed on location in beautiful Branson, Missouri.

Clive Barker’s Nightbreed by Clive Barker is a horror film based on the 1986 novella “Cabal,” written by some British dude named…Clive Barker…huh…Funny: the writer of the source material and the writer/producer/director of this film share the same name…almost as if they’re…gasp…the same person! But no…that’s so outlandish a concept it couldn’t possibly be true…could it?

Cabal‘s a product of what Barker scholars (i.e., the five or six voices in my head who claim to specialize in his work) refer to as his “middle” period. By 1990, the once-poor English playwright (and how Byronic can you get?) was an international sensation, alternatively praised and maligned as “the British Stephen King.” But whereas King takes us into the minds of old Twilight Zone and Outer Limits protagonists, Barker built his career on taking us into the minds of their monsters. Continue reading Nightbreed (1990)

Die Another Day (2002)

This is where I abandoned all hope.
Don’t know about you, but this is where I abandoned all hope.

Bond is, in many ways, every “civilized” government’s wet dream: a nominal superman, possessed of  knowledge, skill-sets, and technologies far beyond we mere mortals…with no attachment to humanity.

Die Another Day finds the Fifth Bond (Pierce Brosnan) visibly aged since his previous appearance on the world stage and sent to assassinate one Colonel Moon (Will Yun Lee) of the North Korean Army. Moon’s your usual evil hypocrite, having used his American education to get in good with international Conflict Diamond smugglers. As he tells Bond “I studied at Oxford and Harvard: majored in Western hypocrisy,” and it’s nice to see a fellow History Major on screen, even if only as a Bond Villain. So far, so good, but things will get bad very quickly. Continue reading Die Another Day (2002)

Guyver: Out of Control (1986)

It's the phallic symbols, right? Chicks dig the phallic symbols.
It’s the phallic symbols, right? Chicks dig the phallic symbols.

In 1998 I sat watching the Prince of Space episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000. I heard Tom Servo ask if the Satellite of Love’s weekly experiment was going to be a “hyper-violent porn cartoon” and immediately flashed back to the Guyver. And there goes the last otaku in the room. He was willing to put up with me until now, but that one was just over the line. Bye, dude! ‘Least he left before I started talking about Evangelion.

But first: based off a long-running, serialized manga series with some of the same characters and a similar name, Guyver: Out of Control took a long time to reach the U.S. But when it got here, in the dark year of 1993, it spread far and wide. Like a tentacle monster, it crept into the orifices of North American geekdom and, for better or worse, colored a generation’s perceptions of what anime was and could be.

But mostly worse since, as we’ll see below, it’s pretty crappy. Continue reading Guyver: Out of Control (1986)

X-Men: The Last Stand (2006)

Oh crap. I put in a Twilight movie by mistake.
Oh crap. I put in a Twilight movie by mistake.

Doc Psy’s Journal: May 26, 2006. Shitty movie in theaters this morning. Finger pints of meddling executives all over the remains. This entertainment industry is afraid of me. I have seen its true face. Its corporate boardrooms are blood-stained abattoirs where good ideas go to die, tortured by bean counters and business school graduates even more cynical than I am. If that’s possible.

The hatred I feel now’s been a long time coming. For two movies, I watched as fanboys and -girls the world over sang the praises of X-Men. They jumped for joy when X2 managed to avoid outright sucking. And then it happened. Bryan Singer jumped ship to do Superman Returns. Wouldn’t you? Yes, you would. You would abandon the franchise you’d spent half a decade building for the chance to do Superman. I don’t blame Singer for taking the opportunity to make that film. I blame him for the crappy film he eventually made . The rest of the blame is fitted for the shoulders of 20th Century Fox, the movie company that can’t pass a shark without jumping it. Continue reading X-Men: The Last Stand (2006)

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

Episode 12 – DeadLoch

Funny how many of these episodes open up with some member of the Humanitarian Environmental Analysis Team sitting on their ass, watching television. Team lead Dr. Nick Tatopoulos has “monitor duty” this week, joined by recovering Larry Cohen fan Dr. Elsie Chapman. The two watch a video from Dr. Hugh Trevor of the Pisces Research Institute…in Loch Ness, Scotland. Per the usual cryptozoology cliches, Dr. Trevor’s only managed to catch a fleeting glimpse of Nessy after the creature’s alleged attack on the Institute.

“They should’ve hired a real actor,” Dr. Nick says. “This guy’s embarrassing.” And when a 90210 vet craps on your ability, you really should go back to drama school. “And is that thing made of…rubber?” Har-dee-flippin’ har, doc. Making things even funnier, the “actor” Dr. Nick’s critiquing is played by the realest “real” actor this series has seen so far: Roddy “Cornelius” McDowall, in (no, really) his last screen role. Continue reading Godzilla the Series: An Exercise in Over-Analysis – Part XI

A Murder of Crows (1998)

Yeah, I felt the same way, watching Pearl Harbor. It's alright, man. It'll pass.
Yeah, I felt the same way, watching Pearl Harbor. It’s alright, man. It’ll pass.

After the Pearl Harbor review – which I should’ve reposted for Bayhem, but ah well – some of you requested I review a “good” Cuba Gooding Jr. movie. Well, the jokes on you there, since Pearl Harbor wasn’t a Cuba Gooding Jr. movie at all. Not even a bad one. But how did the Academy Award Winning star of Jerry Maguire wind up slumming in a Michael Bay movie, anyway? What sad, twisted tale of modern Hollywood kept this rich young black man down?

Well, to answer that, we have to look at A Murder of Crows. Released three days after Armageddon, in July, 1998, it promptly sank into obscurity, one of the first films to discover Michael Bay’s shadow is actually the manifestation of a trans-dimensional void, a howling vacuum of Suck from which no good can possibly escape. There’s the film’s main problem, right there. Everyone who might’ve been interested in seeing Cuba’s post-Oscar follow-up held onto their money and went to see Lethal Weapon 4 (released the following weekend) instead. We were all suckered, myself very much included, and Cuba (for all his money, talent and money) got screwed right along with the rest of us. Was a time when Jet Li’s presence would get me anywhere, I confess. Continue reading A Murder of Crows (1998)

No Retreat, No Surrender (1986)

Our Hero, ladies and gentlemen. Fear him!
Our Hero, ladies and gentlemen. Fear him!

In 1984, director Corey Yuen sat down and watched The Karate Kid. Like a lot of other people, myself included, he felt the flick was alright but the fight scenes kinda sucked. Yuen figured, “Why not go Chinese Opera Academy on this boy-gains-self-respect-through-martial-arts bullshit?” Two years, $400,000, and one (almost) all-American cast later, he gave us No Retreat, No Surrender.

It’s the best kind of awful movie: the kind that’s so bad, it’s honestly endearing. The story, the casting, the acting, the editing, the character’s motivations, and especially the tacked-on resolution…everything in this movie is wrong. And the result is glorious. Kneel before this movie, son of Jor-El, for it is the perfect combination of rip-off and cliche. It’s a Bad Film for the ages, because it manages, in spite of it all…to actually…kind a work…in all the wrong ways. Continue reading No Retreat, No Surrender (1986)

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

"You're watching the PSN: the Plot-Specific News Network."
“You’re watching the PSN: the Plot-Specific News Network.”

Episode 11 – Freeze

…begins in an Antarctica well-known to followers of sci-fi television—the kind of Antarctica where a wool-lined parkas are all the protection you need from screaming, sixty-mile-an-hour, sub-zero winds that want for nothing more than to turn your face into an ice sculpture.

Seems an everyday, garden variety international oil company, ComOil, has dispatched a team to the southern wastes (complete with their own flag). Because if there’s one thing that would improve the hell out of Antarctica, its an oil pipeline. Everything’s going well, even their satellite video link to the home office, so it must be time for a mysterious, subterranean force to (literally) undermine their campsite, sucking many a parka-clad Redshirt down to their icy graves. (Yeah, right…raise your hand if you expect them to be miraculously found alive sometime near the end of the show. Everyone? Good. You’ve been paying attention.) Continue reading Godzilla the Series: An Exercise in Over-Analysis – Part X