Archive for Godzilla

Review: Kong: Skull Island

Posted in Film with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 12, 2017 by Tom Austin-Morgan

This is now the umpteenth version of the King Kong story, coming some seven years after the horribly boring Peter Jackson version. None of the previous films have managed to hold a candle to the brilliance of the original 1933 version, so how do you go about retelling this tired old story yet again? Set it during the Vietnam War and throw A-list film stars in it of course!

Kong Skull Island isn’t really retelling the tried and tested version of the King Kong mythology, it’s actually trying to do something a little different. Plus, it’s already a part of the upcoming monster-movie mashup series that includes 2014’s Godzilla reboot.

For starters, the 1970s makes sense as the most recent decade for the discovering the giant ape. It’s mentioned in the dialogue that there is a mythical island in the Pacific that is difficult to access due to unique weather systems that surround it, meaning the only way to really tell if it’s there is from satellite surveillance, something the US has and the Russians are developing, so it’s another race in the Cold War, akin to the arms race, the space race and the race to get the first man on the Moon.

Also, different from previous versions, this is the biggest and scariest Kong so far and apparently he’s still growing! It turns out that Kong is all that stands between us and a load of reptilian monster that want to wipe out humankind. (See how they might pit Kong against Godzilla in a future film?!) So, rather than dinosaur this time round there are a plethora of mega-fauna roaming ‘Skull Island’ that have had managed to grow so large thanks to the island’s ecosystem and their low levels of exposure to humans, presumably.

There’s the standard rag-tag band of adventurers, scientists and soldiers who all have their own agendas. The latter group has been plucked straight from the end of the Vietnam War under the command of Samuel L. Jackson’s character who basically doesn’t want the war to stop. The scientists are led by John Goodman’s character who managed to sneak in this last expedition under the guise of finding fuel but who seems to know a bit more about the islands inhabitants than he’s letting on, Brie Larson’s character is a photographer along for the thrill of shooting never-before-seen landscapes after being disillusioned with the way the War had unfolded. And Tom Hiddleston is there as a former SAS tracker. Cue lots of paranoia and scheming.

 Essentially, Sam Jackson plays a typical Sam Jackson character (even down to the point that he repeats a line word for word that he said in Jurassic Park), Tom Hiddleston plays a typical Tom Hiddleston character suave and threatening, in a slightly unbelievable way), Kong is Kong (can’t help but save the girl)and John C. Reilly plays everything for laughs as usual.

The elements of Kong: Skull Island that are really cool and different are the creature designs, how cine-literate it is (with references to films from The Deer Hunter and Apocalypse Now to Cannibal Holocaust – really!) and the fact that during one fight scene Kong is given a weapon to use! He was also never caught and showcased in New York.

Above all else it was a whole load of fun, I can’t wait to see Kong go toe to toe with Godzilla and a host of other Kaiju in future films! One of the rumours going round is that the relationship between the Japanese and American characters from the very beginning of he movie will mirror the way these two titans will get along in the next film. I for one can’t wait to see that match-up and what villainous Kaiju will force them into an alliance.

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Anywhere But Here, Episode 71 – Ku Klux Queen

Posted in Podcast with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 4, 2014 by Tom Austin-Morgan

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In this week’s podcast Ant and Tom have listener e-mails to read out from long time listeners Phil Clarke, who comments on the last 50 episodes of content, also Scott Nash and Robbie Polanco throw their thoughts into the ring about the killer robot debate from last week. Jake Calland gets a special mention for hacking the menu at McDonalds by asking them to make him the McKinley Mac from the menu read out on last week’s show. please keep the e-mails coming!

Tom finally got round to seeing Godzilla so Ant finally gets to talk about the film. they go into what they liked about it and what they didn’t. There may well be a few spoilers, so if you haven’t been to see it yet, go now and come back to us. You do need to see it on the biggest screen with bestest sound! On the topic of films, Ant got to see X-Men Days of Future Past, so there’s a little about that too.

Ant brings in a story about a ridiculously driven school girl from India who has become the youngest woman to climb Everest at the age of 13. 13! Tom talks about how the French Premiere has had to get a knackered old Renault out of retirement to drive the Queen around in for the D-Day anniversary as her hat is too big. Perhaps she should wear one of the new England ponchos that ASDA are selling for the World Cup?

The show ends on a list of inappropriate book titles. Plus, a science fiction book from the 30s called ‘Planet of the Knob Heads’ the artwork for which will adorn the walls of the ABH Pod Pod. See if you can find them on Amazon, through our banner at http://www.abhpod.com.

Review: Godzilla

Posted in Film with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 31, 2014 by Tom Austin-Morgan

Godzilla

Gareth Edwards is the latest in a long line of directors who have taken on the legendarily iconic building-bashing big-screen blockbuster beastie. Many will remember the God-awful Roland Emmerich version starring Ferris Bueller and wince that Hollywood has dared to have another go at the franchise. But, with Edwards, the British director of the amazing indie sci-fi/monster film, Monsters (2010), at the helm it seems like a sure bet. After all, he’s such a fan of the monster movie genre that he spent years on the visual effects for Monsters on a laptop in his room… for nothing.

This is evident from the start in this reincarnation as it feels a lot closer to the feel of the original, Japanese films. For a start, Godzilla and the MUTOs Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organisms) are not created by man’s nuclear experiments but, rather, they feed on radiation and are throwbacks from the era of dinosaurs that have sat dormant for millions of years until the 1940s. This is shown during the opening sequence which re-writes what we know about nuclear bomb testing; instead of weapons tests the military was actually trying to destroy Godzilla in the unpopulated Bikini Atoll.

The point of Godzilla, that was totally lost in the Emmerich film, is that the giant lizard is actually a force for good, not a rampaging beast bent on destruction. Its role is to restore balance by despatching the true monsters, like the MUTOs, Ghidora or Mothra.

One of the best things that Edwards brings to this film is that he has given Godzilla a personality, in some films he has recognisable facial emotions, which was great to see. The design of the creature is classic as well, in that it almost looks like a man in a suit rather than an overly stylised creature design.

There are many things that are problematic about this film, largely the human characters and their acting. For a start, Aaron Taylor-Johnson doesn’t look like the father of a 5-year-old and Elizabeth Olsen, equally, doesn’t look like a mother either. Their relationship was pretty unbelievable and largely pointless for the most part. During the action sequences, Taylor-Johnson’s character is more believable. Ken Watanabe’s character serves just to tie the legend of Godzilla back to Japan, though he does bring some gravity to proceedings. The best acting comes from Bryan Cranston and Juliette Binoche, Taylor-Johnson’s parents, who worked at a nuclear power plant in Japan when it was destroyed in the 80s. Their chemistry was brilliant, even though their roles were quite short.

There are also some horiffically hackneyed bits of dialogue and even a dog that manages to escape from a tsunami wave, reminiscent of the dog in Independence Day.

People have also been complaining that the titular creature isn’t shown very much at all, which is curious as it appears quite a lot throughout the film. And, though you don’t see it in all its glory in every scene it’s in we get to see all of Godzilla for the majority of the final 20 minutes. Also, this is how directors build suspense for the big reveal: you get the spines down its back a few times, then a foot, then the whole side of the beast, then the head and finally you get to see it throwing MUTOs across San Fransisco and the pièce de résistance is the nuclear breath! It’s a master class where the monsters are nowhere near as vague as in other monster movies like Cloverfield, for example.

There are three amazing set pieces during the film, among many brilliant effect shots of secret mountain bases being ripped open, destroyed buildings and a simulated tsunami. The first is where a MUTO causes huge devastation at an airport, tossing airliners across runways and causing a chain reaction of exploding jumbo jets until Godzilla appears to chase it away.

The second involves a MUTO and the humans: The soldiers are delivering a nuclear payload by train across country and a thick fog has come down over a bridge, so soldiers have to go ahead and check that the bridge hasn’t been destroyed. Things go south when a MUTO shows up and it all goes to pot in a really tense and spectacular fashion.

The third, of course, is the final battle between both MUTOs and Godzilla which starts off with that halo jump we’ve all seen in the trailer and sees some breath-taking visuals mixed with some absolutely classic Godzilla-style fighting that looks like guys in suits fighting. There are easter eggs for both Godzilla and general monster movie fans, including a point where Godzilla tries to break the jaw of a MUTO in the same way King Kong kills a T-Rex in most incarnations of his story. the switch up here is that Godzilla holds the MUTO’s mouth open and breathes its atomic breath down the creature’s throat.

These encounters were thrilling and, better than that; you can tell what was going on, unlike a lot of other modern monster or action movies of late. This is what sets Godzilla apart. Gareth Edwards’ direction mixes the human and monster elements together with clear visuals and dialogue which has been his calling card thus far and why he has landed the directing role on one of the upcoming Star Wars spin-off movies.

It isn’t just the visuals that are amazing, the sound and soundtrack are equally interesting. Instead of the more common electronic soundtrack Godzilla‘s soundtrack uses a more standard orchestra and choir, choosing to use electronic elements for the sounds of the creatures. These creature sounds really do enhance the effects and add to a truly immersive experience. In some cases the background sound effects fade right out to indicate the fact that they are so loud that the character’s brain can’t process them or the onset of a fainting spell.

This is not your standard modern monster movie, in many ways it harks back to classic monster movies of the past with cutting edge visual effects with great characterisation (especially on the part of the creatures, less so some of the human cast who were a bit one dimensional) and imparts an eco-friendly message which has become the latest thing to hit the Hollywood blockbuster of late. It’s well worth a watch and you really need to see it on as big a screen as possible.

Review: Pacific Rim

Posted in Film with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 18, 2013 by Tom Austin-Morgan

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Transformers versus Godzilla with a bit of the Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers thrown in is how Pacific Rim first struck me. And I wasn’t far wrong. The premise of this film is that monsters, called Kaiju (Japanese for strange creature), have been appearing from a chasm at the bottom of the Pacific ocean and have wrecked havoc across countries around the Pacific Rim. The seemingly unstoppable Kaiju have forced mankind to forget their differences and pull together their resources to build giant robots, dubbed Jaegers (German for hunter). Thus ensues huge, loud fights in the sea between gigantic… things!

But to say that this is anything like the Power Rangers movie (probably the closest live action film to Pacific Rim that comes to mind) is like comparing an ant to an anteater. Because of the subject matter of the film initial thoughts turned directly to Michael Bay type films like the recent Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen and Battleship, but as soon as Guillermo del Toro was attached to direct ears started to prick up.

Del Toro’s work is varied, but always visually stunning from fantasy films that border on horror like Pan’s Labyrinth and The Devil’s Backbone to out-and-out action films like Hellboy and Blade II. So for him to take on a film of such scale was a challenge, but not one that was insurmountable for him. Heck, he was even supposed to have been directing the Hobbit films. Thank god he didn’t because this film is an absolute joy!

Not for a very, very long time has a film transported my back to the age of 12, but this one certainly did. The first scene where the Jaeger pilots are being fitted into their machine just makes you smile from ear to ear as this giant mechanoid jolts into life and wades into the ocean to take on a giant shark-like humanoid while trying to save a tiny fishing boat.

The scale of this movie is truly befitting of the overused term, epic. You frequently see 300 foot monsters take on 250 foot robots in battles that are both tense, comic and unbelievable… except you totally let yourself get swept along with it. For example a robot piloted by two people would never be a reality. The monsters? Forget it. But when they go toe to toe in a harbour and are knocking seven shades out of each other with cargo containers, cranes and even a cargo ship you believe this could actually happen.

This is mainly down to the flawless special effects that are seamless, except for one scene where the hero Jaeger is stalking a Kaiju through the streets of Hong Kong which does look a bit like a computer game. But then that only made  me want to own the game, which is rare for a game of a film. The second part of the reason for this suspension of disbelief is the cast and the way in which del Toro manages to tread the line between the enormity of the action sequences and the drama between the human cast.

In any other hands *cough* Michael Bay! *cough* this could have been just another by the numbers action blockbusters where death tolls are insignificant and the characters are completely overshadowed by the banging and crashing of the giant constructs. But del Toro is a better director than most and somehow manages to make you care about the characters piloting the machines and even the supporting cast by making them fully rounded characters with complex back stories which make you sympathise with them, even though they are all basically playing stereotypical roles.

The lead actors in this are relatively unknown, except for the leader of the Jaeger forces, played by the incomparable Idris Elba, who gets to be British for once! The pilots of the hero Jaeger are played with rather naïve sexual tension by Charlie Hunnum and Rinko Kikuchi. What is great about this relationship is that you know how they feel for each other and that they also know it, but they never even kiss or even embrace, there are no leering shots of her straddling a motorbike or not wearing any clothes. This is so refreshing.

The scientists who are working on theorising  and predicting the Kaiju’s appearances are the perfect comedic relief and stick very close to the standard formula in so many anime and manga cartoons where one is uptight and math based (Burn Gorman) and the other a hot-headed, sharp-talker (Charlie Day) who prefers physical experiments. There is also a cameo from a certain Ron Pearlman to look forward to.

This movie really does need to be seen in the cinema to appreciate the size and sound of these titanic beings beating each other up. It’s also worth a look to see how Michael Bay dropped the ball with the Transformers franchise or even how Zak Snyder could have injected some humour into Man of Steel so that it wasn’t so dull. But mainly, you should go to let your inner child resurface, if just for a little over 2 hours.