Thursday, June 24, 2010

Futurama - Rebirth/In-A-Gadda-Da-Leela

Wow. I've never seen a cancelled show come back this strong. Watching these premier episodes of the new season (the show's sixth, following production orders, airing on Comedy Central Thursdays at 10 PM EST) one would think that Matt Groening and co. just took a long hiatus to further sharpen their wits for this brilliant show. While the show's fifth season, comprised entirely of four straight to DVD movies later split up for broadcasting, was hit or miss for some (I fully enjoyed them all, with Bender's Game being the only weak link of the bunch for me), these two episodes are a hilarious gut punch that don't skimp on the intelligent humor or the brilliant geek culture references the show is known and loved for.
I'm definitely not going to spoil the plots of the episodes, trust me, it's way more fun going into them blind, just like every episode of Futurama. Here's hoping the meatbags at Comedy Central give Groening's masterpiece a good home until (if ever) he finally is able to put it rest. Of course, I'll always pray that never happens.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

(500) Days of Summer

Marc Webb's feature film debut, (500) Days of Summer, wasn't a film I was exactly looking forward to. I was prepared to write it off to hype, but as I sat down to watch the movie with my wife I can say I really wasn't prepared for the places this film went. This is the kind of romantic comedy I enjoy the most, with real characters and real emotions, topped off with a believable story.
The story is told in a non-linear fashion, with Tom Hansen (a mesmerizing Joseph Gordon-Levitt) falling in love with the new girl, Summer Finn (Zooey Deschanel), at the greeting card company where he works. Eventually the two begin seeing each other, where Tom learns that Summer does not want to get close, having commitment issues stemming from her parent's divorce. Early in the movie, we see the aftermath of the end of their relationship, Summer wanting to remain friends; Tom wanting more. Tom romanticizes their relationship, blinding himself to the reality of what Summer is and isn't. The film follows his rise and fall of emotions, Tom wondering how to get Summer back, everyone else wondering where Tom will land.
(500) Days of Summer is a film that lets its actors breathe and inhabit their characters (every actor makes the most of their screen time) and genuinely puts us in Tom's shoes. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is quickly becoming one of my favorite actors and I can't wait to see him in next month's Inception and Zooey Deschanel is possibly too good at pulling off her off putting character. Marc Webb has a tight hold on his direction and gives every frame a pleasing touch to the eye, while not afraid to get a little existential and goofy. Also to note is the great soundtrack, featuring Regina Spektor and Black Lips, among others. This is just a film I really enjoyed every minute and every element of and I highly recommend it.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


Nothing is a strange oddity of a film, one that I wish really had enough steam for its entire runtime. The plot follows two men who live together, one trying to push his own way through society while letting everyone walk on him (Dave); the other an agoraphobic who suffers from panic attacks (Andrew). Through strings of bad luck worthy of any classic black comedy, they both end up trapped in their home, needing an exit from their problems and it seems like it's not going to happen. Lo and behold, after a tear gas attack from the police, Andrew and Dave wake up to discover that there is literally nothing outside their house.
It is here where the film is most interesting as David Hewlett and Andrew Miller (both having previously acted in director Vincenzo Natali's Cube) portray the two neurotics exploring their new world with a fantastic sense of wonder and fear. The sequences with the recurring nightmares of the two murdering each other are morbidly hilarious and a little unnerving at the same time. Unfortunately, shortly after the film really goes off the rails, seemingly just pull some gags and show off the effects. I'd lightly recommend it for a fun time, but don't expect too much from it. I appreciate Natali for trying something different, but I much prefer his earlier output and look forward to Splice as a return to form.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Top 10 Godzilla Films

We should just go ahead and get it out of the way. I'm a huge Godzilla fan. I have been since I was about five years old and my parents go me Godzilla vs. Megalon on VHS (I know, awful movie, but it got me on the road). Over the years, it evolved into a love of Toho's films in general (an entire discussion for another day) and their competitors, such as Daiei, producer of the Gamera films. However, nobody does it better than Toho and on this Father's Day (where I get to go lax on my duties and waste time on things like irrelevant top 10 posts) I'm gonna hail to the King of the Monsters once again.

Runner-Up: Gojira tai Supeesgojira (Godzilla vs. Spacegodzilla)

Let's just get it out there. Spacegodzilla is my favorite kaiju other than Godzilla himself. The problem is the movie he's in just isn't very good. It's got a confusing Yakuza subplot, terrible direction, an agonizingly slow plot, weird score and worst of all, this...

Yeah, let's move on, shall we?

10. San Daikaiju: Chikyu Saidai no Kessen (Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster)

Most people seem to prefer Invasion of Astro Monster, but I prefer its predecesor. For one, it's an epic smackdown between Godzilla, Rodan, Mothra and Ghidorah. Astro Monster just removes Mothra and adds Devo aliens. For two, Ghidorah's "alien prophet in a human body" plot intrigues me in a way few Godzilla films have. Sadly, it's not that well handled, but at least the acting's good, Inoshiro Honda is on the top of his directing game and Eiji Tsuburaya's effects are fantastic.

9. Gojira tai Hedora (Godzilla vs. Hedorah)
Oh God, where to start with this gem of insanity? This is possibly the most heavy-handed environmentalist movie of all time, but even that doesn't being to describe the batshit insanity of this film. Growing up with the American Internation Pictures dub and that bizarrely infectious "Save the Earth" song set to people dance around with fish head masks... Nightmare fuel, pure and simple. The fights are great and Hedorah is a dastardly fun monster, if you can get past the fact that it's a pollution monster spewing his acid poop on everyone and everything.

8. Gojira tai Biorante (Godzilla vs. Biollante)
Note: Out of all the films on this list, this one still isn't on DVD. It was put out on home video by Dimension and apparently it isn't very high on their priority list to get it out and they want too much for the rights for any of the smaller companies to pay to release it.

I guess I must just really enjoy the weird Godzilla films. Another very strange one, thous for way different reasons than Godzilla vs. Hedorah. The score is one of the weirdest ones I've heard from the series, what with the main title "Bio Wars" being carried by a rip roaring guitar ready to burst into a solo at any moment. Biollante is also one of Godzilla's most interesting foes, what with all the "being a genetic abomination of Godzilla, roses and a dead girl's soul" stuff. The plot loses its way a little when it becomes too embroiled in government espionage, but it's still well worth a watch, especially for the first film featuring my favorite Godzilla suit.

Badass, thy name is Godzilla.

7. Kingu Kongu tai Gojira (King Kong vs. Godzilla)
Possibly one of the stupidest Godzilla films plot wise (it's all just an excuse to get the two titans together, and none of the characters matter in the slightest) this film is just a fantastic good time. All I think about when I think about this film is the fantastic effects work and my favorite little bits from the battles (Godzilla clapping his hands together and making little roars to announce his victory over Kong midway through the film; the random half a minute stick puppet battle in the Mt. Fuji climax). Classic Godzilla smackdown material.

6. Mekagojira no Gyakushu (Terror of Mechagodzilla)
You gotta love Mechagodzilla. His entire conception sounds like a drunken alien scientist's way of dealing with Godzilla. "Godzilla stops us at every turn, he's defeated all our monsters!" "Well... wait a minute, here's an idea! What if... what if we just build a robot Godzilla? Yeah, and we'll give him rockets and stuff! God, your eyes are so dreamy..."
*ahem* The original Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla was a decent film, it just suffered from some really random choices, such as a near five minute song break in the climactic monster fight, which awoke King Seesar, who we don't have enough time or space to talk about how much I hate. Terror... removes Seesar, gives us a huge freaking dinosaur named Titanosaurus and pits them both against Godzilla. Also, gone is Jun Fukuda, who is probably my least favorite Godzilla director and in his place, the master Inoshiro Honda returns to direct his last Godzilla film. The battles are epic and well done and the plot is actually pretty good, for about the tenth alien invasion film in the series at this point.

5. Gojira tai Mekagojira (Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla)/Gojira tai Mosura tai Mekagojira Tokyo Esu O Esu (Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S.)
I'm cheating a bit and including these two as one entry, as they are the closest tied films plotwise in the entire series. Where to start? The ingenious concept of Kiryu, who is essentially a new Mechagodzilla created from the bones of the original Godzilla? The fantastic special effects, which are the best of the entire series? The great plot, acting and directing? These are top notch films and I never feel I can watch one without the other, they honestly feel like one long saga. Great stuff.

4. Mosura tai Gojira (Mothra vs. Godzilla)
The last Showa film to feature Godzilla as a full blown city wrecking baddie, this is a tour de force of Tsuburaya's effects, Honda's direction and Akira Ifukube's stirring music. There's not much I can say about it that hasn't been said before, it's just classic Godzilla.

3. Gojira tai Desutoroia (Godzilla vs. Destoroyah)
If I ever have to make a list of movies that bring me to tears and turn me into a bawling baby, this would be very near the top. Godzilla freaking dies, set to Ifukube's beautiful, poignant "Requiem" and it gets me every time. The monster effect here are the best of the Heisei era and this is nothing short of Takao Okawara's masterpiece, hitting all the right notes and even bringing the series full circle.

2. Gojira, Mosura, Kingu Gidora: Daikaiju Sokogeki (Godzilla, Motha and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack)
When Shushuke Kaneko, director of the Gamera reboot trilogy, decided to sign on for a Godzilla fim, he decided he was going to do something no director has since the Inishiro Honda directed the first film in 1954. He was going to make Godzilla scary again, and he succeeded. This Godzilla, with his cold, lifeless eyes has become more than just a monster smashing Japan's cities, he is the embodiment of the Japanese soldiers lost during World War II, punishing Japan, lest they forget. Kaneko puts us in awe of the beast again and makes us feel the horror of being under his wrath. A haunting, stirring film that may even be better than Kaneko's Gamera films, if I ever get around to re-watching them.

1. Gojira (Godzilla)
How could it not be number one? The birth of a legend, the terror of a nation and the start of fascinating (and well-deserved) careers. As much of a product of doom saying of the horrors of nuclear warfare as it is a monster film, the original Gojira is a cast and crew not milking a scare, but putting forth their fears and emotions (Honda himself visited the bombing sites in Hiroshima and Nagasaki and Godzilla's attack on the fishing boat mirrors the very real Lucky Dragon 5) with more heart than ten James Camerons with ten Avatars. A true classic and my favorite film of all time.

Well, that's it for now, folks. Be sure to comment back and tell me which films you agree with, disagree with and any of your favorites.

Saturday, June 19, 2010


Vincenzo Natali has been on my backlog of directors to check out their works for some time, having seen Cube years ago and enjoying it to a great degree, I always meant to check out more of his work. Now with Splice having been in theaters for quite a while and me just refusing to go out to the theaters for the time being, I've gotten around to watching his other films, so expect a review of Nothing to be forthcoming in the next couple of days.

Cypher is a very interesting film in that it seems to wear its genre heart on its sleeve and at the same time wants to be unconventional. It is possibly the best spy film of the sci-fi genre that I can think of off the top of my head and there's a reason for that. Most spy films can become confusing enough with their narrative without having to throw into the mix the headache that can be technobabble. Natali wisely sidesteps this by having the tech gear be a natural extension of the story. Natali's direction lends the world a futuristic and familiar feel, although the nauseating fish eye lenses and the like tend to wear out their welcome pretty quick.

I'm also still not sure if I'm sold on the film's big reveal in the final act, but if nothing else, it does fit well within the context of the film, if not within my taste glands. The acting is great across the board, Jeremy Northam making me wonder where the hell he went and where the hell he's gone as he's got great charisma and great presence and Lucy Liu making me wish she'd show up in smaller films like this more often, adding this to her fun turns in Payback and being one of my favorite guests on Futurama. It's not going to knock Blade Runner off anyone's top 10 sci-fi films, but it's well worth checking out.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Runaways and Conan

So, it's about 1 AM here and I've just finished the first dozen or so issues of Brian K. Vaughan's Runaways and Kurt Busiek's Conan. I'm loving both of them in their oh so different ways.

First off, Runaways is just sublime in how it works as a satirical take on the Marvel universe, while at the same time worshiping it. All the characters are witty and heartfelt and even the villains don't come off as one note jerks. I know I'm late to the party, but I know there are still people yet to discover this great series and I believe that it truly has something for everyone.

Which can't be said of Conan, however I wouldn't have it any other way. It's bloody and misogynistic in exactly the way a Conan comic should be. Filled with all the ancient dialect that would make Crom proud and the epic battles that make him even prouder, it's just one big ass-whupping after another. Coming from someone who worships Robert E. Howard and despises the pedestrian film and TV adaptations, these come highly recommended for anyone who loves big swords and gory battles.

Stay tuned for some film reviews coming up, I've got a backlog of probably about twenty to thirty films sitting here waiting to be judged. Peace out, y'all.