What I'm Watching: Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster

  • Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster (1964): Both UFO cultists and cops agree, heat wave in winter and meteor showers are weird. A cop is assigned to bodyguard a princess from a small island under civil war. Said princess is contacted by an alien voice and told to jump from the plane, and she never even got her drink! Scientists hike into the mountains to investigate a meteor landing.

I must say, Japan's wilderness looks fantastic. The cinematography on this one, in color!, is head and shoulders above previous films. Even when they go into matte paintings and sets, it looks good. They do interesting cuts, like using a subway car as a wipe. It's almost hard to believe this is Honda Ishiro still, not doing locked-down cameras and super simple cuts or wipes; earlier he was more a director of people and cool events, not using the camera well. Even the rear projections are now fairly close to seamless.

Naoko the journalist and the Princess are both cute as hell. Naoko's cop brother is kind of a doofus, and utterly extraneous to the plot. The bodyguard cop has no personality except brooding and shooting (not very well, he never kills anyone with at least 30 shots), and there's no love between him and the Princess in the first half; all he has is a picture, and she's not herself. Has Honda learned cinematography, but forgotten about romance as the main driver of Human-scale plots?! What a terrible bargain.

The Mothra twins appear on TV, and summon a vision of the Mothra larva. This is a Japan that just lives with the regular existence of giant monsters and magic on TV, I don't see how anyone can mock UFO cultists or prophets from Venus in that world.

"Stay out of Mount Aso, Rodan will emerge!" "Shut up prophet! … OH NO IT'S RODAN AAAIEEE!" Incredibly predictable scene, but perfect "fools die of their folly" scene. Rodan's costume & flying puppet are much improved over the first movie, but it's a little odd being more of a Pteranodon/Roc hybrid now.

"Don't get on the ship!" And at least the important characters pay attention, but the poor sailors are going to meet… well, who else would be in the ocean? Big G's moving eyes look really weird. The suit's otherwise fine, but definitely reaching the end of this first design.

Fools stand far too close to Ghidorah's… egg? Meteor? Spaceship? But someone must witness the birth of a death god. The Princess tells the protagonists the Earth is doomed, and sells it for once. We start to get a real kaiju cosmology here, with planets preyed on or defended by monsters.

Finally we have all the world's monsters assembled, rampaging begins.

The assassins chasing the Princess thru the entire film have been unstoppable, but not very competent, and kind of a waste of time. The plot as it is would happen without them.

Possibly too much of the monster scenes are them arguing with Mothra, rather than fighting, there's only a few minutes of King Ghidorah vs the three defending kaiju. There is a bit of destruction in Tokyo, but mostly it's a beloved peasant village or wilderness at the foot of Mt Fuji. Mothra's very slow and annoying power, Godzilla throwing rocks, Rodan standing around waving its wings, are enough to drive off the dragon. FOR NOW.

★★★½☆ - Needs about 15 minutes less Human time, replaced with monster fighting time.

This is a major influence on my favorite kaiju movie, GMK: Godzilla Mothra King Ghidorah Giant Monster All-Out Attack, but there Godzilla and Ghidorah switch places, and the subplots are wiped away so it's just reporter, crazy old man as "prophet", and monsters. And on the latest Hollywood Godzilla King of the Monsters, but there everything is 100x larger than life.

What I'm Watching: Mothra vs Godzilla, end of Watchmen, cartoons

  • Mothra vs Godzilla (1964): Environmental destruction, in this case draining wetlands to make an industrial zone, exposes radioactive material. An egg floats near land, and is brought ashore. The twin fairies and Mothra herself show up asking "please give our egg back", but a greedy land developer, backed by even greedier billionaire, puts the egg at the center of a theme park. None of this can end well.

    I'm fairly displeased by the green screen/rear projection tricks in this one. It was early days for color, but it wasn't a technology ready for this time.

    The reporter and sidekick cameragirl are fine, kind of a Howard Hawks-like situation, and they're not stupid, and not unreasonably competent; there's only so much the press can do against a developer who doesn't care. Eggman, the reporter who loves eggs, would be annoying comic relief except he's not onscreen all that long.

    There's a visit and multiple visions of the natives of Infant Island, who've been nuked and struggle to survive in a barren wasteland. They're implausible primitive, but Japan has a long imperialist history of its own to deal with here. The fairies sing a song every scene they're in, which is somewhere between charming, mystical, and "oh shit I hate musicals".

    The monsters appear after half an hour. Godzilla as the walking force of destruction, Mothra as the ancient mother ready to protect her egg, and sacrifice to help the Japanese who have done her people so much wrong, and later the gross Mothra babies as the cycle of life. Their squeaking really gets on my nerves.

    The military/JSDF is portrayed unusually competent here. In most Godzilla movies, they are baffled, they try to fight, and die, and are utterly pointless. But this time they have competent plans, and are not doing too bad. They can't win but they can fight Godzilla to a standstill while evacuations take place.

    The ending isn't reasonable. 10 children and a teacher vs thousands dying on the mainland is a small price to pay. Godzilla hates squeaky little bugs like the Mothra larva, but they aren't actually harming it, and their secret power takes forever, during which time Big G should nuke them into oblivion. Hmn, in 1968, Star Trek had the Tholian Web episode, which has some similarities.

    ★★★½☆

  • Watchmen: Finished up. Happily this isn't getting a second season. Big time spoilers, but don't worry about it, you're not missing anything by keeping it secret.

    In the comics, Dr Manhattan's first action as a superhuman was to reassemble himself from nothing, after disintegration. When Ozymandias… inconveniences… him, he pulls himself back together in very little time. So it's utterly ludicrous that the whole plot of the series was to disassemble Manhattan again, and then "absorb" his "powers". His power is that his nervous system constantly reassembles matter to stay existing, a magic booster shot of Manhattan won't make someone else into a superhuman; maybe disassembling them in the right conditions would.

    So the hillbilly Senator, and Lady Trieu's entire plan, and the egg scene at the end, are just nonsense.

    Adrian's escape plan is dumb but amusingly portrayed, Jeremy Irons does occasionally wake up and play Ozymandias instead of just sleep-walking across the set in some tired English country drama. That's about the only part of this entire 9 episodes of bullshit that I enjoyed.

    Later, Adrian using frozen baby squid as an orbital Project Thor system is fun, but the actual effects would be rather more catastrophic, even with frozen organics from high atmosphere instead of tungsten rods from orbit, they're probably impacting at 3 km/s, ~1 Rick (Robinson, not Sanchez) each, so equivalent to 0.25 kg of TNT per squid, and there's thousands of squid. Holding a box over your head won't help. The area impacted would look like a giant cheese-grater had run across it to a few meters depth. And this is why we shouldn't let psychopaths have teleporters or spaceships!

    Fake delayed tension is all through this shitshow, but most notably in the minutes of "run!" "what?" "take shelter!" "who is this?" "you're gonna die!" "uh..." vamping when they would clearly already be dead. Again, I hate Damon Lindelof and hope he gets cancer of the fingers and tongue so the world will not again be plagued by his writing.

    Angela Abar (Regina King) is OK, decent action-hero chick, but she plays a detective very poorly; just hits her marks and says lines she clearly doesn't believe. As Laurie/Silk Spectre, I preferred the dumb but very fit Laurie (Malin Akerman) from the Zak Snyder Watchmen to this one (Jean Smart) who couldn't do a pushup let alone plausibly be an aging costumed vigilante G-woman.

    Hillbilly conspiracy theory cop Looking Glass (Tim Blake Nelson) is amusing, maybe not good, but funny. Very ancient Louis Gossett, Jr as Grampa Will is kind of sad, I didn't even recognize him, but I can't hate on Lou even if the role is badly written. Everyone else is a cypher or a walking meatstick.

    They couldn't even get Robert Redford to do a cameo as himself. Incompetent Lindelof wrote him a letter, and he wouldn't even respond.

    ★½☆☆☆ — I appreciate Irons' Adrian enough to not completely savage this, but don't watch it.

  • Adventure Time, Space Ghost Coast to Coast, Rick & Morty, etc.: There's a lot of amusing cartoons for both kids and drunk/stoned adults on here.

What I'm Watching: Rodan, more Watchmen

  • Rodan (1956): A mining company has unexplained flooding, and miners die cut up. Suspicion falls on Goro the brawler… Engineer Sageru is sure he's not guilty, and reassures Goro's sister Kiyu—ah, Honda Ishiro's romances. Every film needs a pretty boy & girl, even if all they say to each other are their names.

It only takes 18 minutes to show the first larval monster, a record for early kaiju films. The giant mob of mine security with their poking sticks and little revolvers are ineffectual as always, but why do they have so many?

The lighting is pretty bad. It captures the darkness of the mines, but even outdoors is very dim to hide details of the larva puppet. The rear projection scenes are not as bad as previous efforts, but still obvious. The only place where lighting is good are the office & hospital sets.

Everyone at the mine and JSDF is competent, and respects science experts, unlike the Godzilla vs Mothra flick. But the scientist then blurts out some unsupported bullshit about the hydrogen bomb moving tectonic plates. The civilians are really quite dumb and deserve their deaths. Then there's an endlessly long nothing happens act.

Baby Rodan is so cute and chubby it's amazing. I've only ever seen it as a giant lean flying death, and of course I adore Pteranodon. The flying model and suit are excellent, and Rodan's wave of destruction is lovely, though they didn't find a traditional Japanese castle to destroy this time. It's a shame it's embedded in a pointless movie.

However, the tank models are preposterous, and the JSDF jingoism is eyeroll bad, lots of sound and fury inflicting no harm on Rodan, but everyone's very proud, it's a very military-focused adventure at this point. None of Godzilla's horror at war, this treats Rodan like, say, Korea, a contemporary problem to be solved by bombing the shit out of it. The end is literally 10 minutes of rockets being shot into a mountain while nothing else happens, and two demoralized Rodans die like Romeo & Juliet. Humans are the monsters.

★★½☆☆ If it wasn't for my absolute weakness for Pteranodon and Pterodactyl, this would be a spectacularly bad movie. As it is, it's merely bad.

  • Watchmen: So eventually the show tells us where Dr Manhattan is, and the nature of Ozymandias' prison, and the origin story of Sister Night. Still no answers as to why, in fact it deliberately has the plot eat its own tail, stupid people causing the problems stupid people investigate. Nothing happens at great length. Interesting ideas like the memory pills are brought up, used in a stupid way, then discarded. The whole thing is a tale told by an idiot. Which, again, Damon Lindelof, I knew it'd be incoherent nonsense made up on the spot, like talking to a toddler. But I don't understand how this fool gets anything this nonsensical and badly-written produced. Got a couple more eps to go and then I can wash my hands of this shitshow.

What I'm Watching: Godzilla Raids Again, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, The Player

More of my HBO Max queue. I absolutely hate that they make me choose my profile every single time. I have one profile, it's a purple cock-ring that says "Mark" in it, there is zero reason to make me choose a profile every new window! Netflix now lets you choose movie characters for your profile image, so there I'm Hup from Dark Crystal 2019, but they only make me choose my profile if I've logged out and back in.

In the old days, I watched 3 movies every night from the video store: One B-movie, one studio flick, one known-good movie (often a rewatch). And that's kinda what I did here:

  • Godzilla Raids Again (1955): On Monster Island, Godzilla is back from the dead (or a second Godzilla!) fighting a 30m-long Ankylosaur "Anguirus" (actual ones were up to 6.25m long), dated at 70-150 MYA (in reality 65-67 MYA), which is certainly better than the first Godzilla's 2 MYA dates. Dr Yamane returns to show stock footage from the first movie, without sound effects or context, and then he is never seen again (smart, take your paycheck and run from this film). They also get to use some military stock footage to show air & naval search for the kaiju. Boy this is a cheapass movie so far.

    The drama of the pilots & radio girls (the pretty one is the boss's daughter, of course) relationship is maybe a repeat of Ogata & Emiko from the first movie, but it fills the Human interest requirement fine. There's a prison break story which has fuck-all to do with Godzilla, it's just B-roll, but serves to screw up the blackout/light lure plan. Oda Motoyoshi was a terrible but prolific waste-of-film director, and in more competent hands the prison story could've been given some pathos.

    The monster fights are goofy, accelerated footage instead of more properly slowed-down to look like 50m-tall monsters, mostly wrestling instead of the more acrobatic fighting of later Godzillas (admittedly these early suits were heavy). The miniature cities, and historic Osaka Castle(!!!), are clearly empty shells inside, when the original tries to not make that visible, and later ones succeed even more. There's a flooding subway scene that's fairly effective, though we don't see the victims; presumably nobody was willing to risk their lives for Oda's filmmaking.

    The music is not great. Anything dramatic or horrifying in the original has heavy Ifukube Akira music. Here, there's a little bass line behind the monster scenes, and light "laugh now" or overbearing brass band music in every Human scene.

    A little "Human interest" goes a long way in a kaiju movie, but post fight there's just endless people talking bullshit about romance and business, corporate drinking in a circle worshipping the boss, nothing to do with the plot. Incredibly tedious, and the comic relief pilot is badly written. Please make this end.

    They really don't seem to have watched the first movie. A fire fence is supposed to keep Godzilla in place? It was born from the hydrogen bomb, breathes fire, stomped thru a burning Tokyo. It lives in the deep freezing ocean. There's no fire or ice solution that's going to stop it. The bombing runs use a mix of miniatures, stock footage, and rear projection to fake in-aircraft camera shots, and the "miniature" terrain and mattes are bad.

    I'm giving this movie way more thought than was put into making it, or has deserved for 65 years. But I'm disappointed.

    ★★☆☆☆ only because Anguirus is slightly cool, being a completely non-humanoid kaiju.

  • Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald: I haven't seen the previous Fantastic Beasts film, which is nowhere to be found, but how much context can a "wizzarding world" flick need? Unfortunately after a pretty good prison break scene with badass Grindelwald (who seems to have the right idea, magical revolution now!), the story switches to whiny, useless "Newt" as protagonist, and then nothing happens forever, and I lost all interest.

    The cinematography looks like absolute shit, it's dark and color-distorted, you can't see anything, it's all CGI cartoons and fast cuts over bad actors, almost a parody of modern terrible filmmaking. Maybe there's plot later, but after 30 minutes of reading my phone while I waited for plot to start, and it didn't, and I loathe all the "good guys" so far, I gave up.

    ☆☆☆☆☆ and may Cthulhu have mercy on their souls.

  • The Player (1992): Haven't seen this in decades. Goddamn that initial long tracking shot. Tons of movie references, I dunno I've ever seen Absolute Beginners, just heard the Bowie song; adding that to my list. The Sheltering Sky I've seen and was bored out of my skull by, all of Bertolucci's films were some mix of fantastic cinematography, pretty girls, dumb assholes, fascists, wandering aimlessly, never intersects a plot, like Last Tango in Paris; he was the original Ridley Scott (right down to the unwatchable but very pretty oriental set piece flicks). I love Fred Ward and he's good at laconic delivery of both useful and menacing lines, but he doesn't get to do any violence here, which is a shame. There's a metric fuck-ton of cameos by Old Hollywood people, before it all went to shit.

    "It's Gods Must be Crazy except the Coke bottle is now a TV actress." "Exactly, it's Out of Africa meets Pretty Woman." made me crack up completely. I can't stop giggling at these people and their awful pitches.

    Oh, I miss movies like this, with writing and characters and cinematography that isn't just cyan/orange filters. I want everyone involved in that Fantastic Beasts flick to watch this, and then blow their brains out in shame.

    "Can we talk about something other than Hollywood for a change? We're educated people." … … [laughter]

    Griffin Mill (Tim Robbins) is kind of too easy-going to have his job, but he steps up to crazy eventually. Vincent D'Onofrio didn't have his known career of being a crazy person yet, so his unstable writer act now looks too obvious.

    "I would hate to get the wrong person arrested." "Oh please. This is Pasadena. We do not arrest the wrong person. That's L.A., see, L.A., they kick your ass, and then they arrest you." A year after Rodney King.

    The first act is great, just a perfect storm of everything coming down on Griffin Mill. Second act develops his guilt and romance, and it's fine, but a little slow. Third act should be a massive storm of catastrophe, but instead nothing happens. Rich people get to be rich and goof around.

    ★★★★☆

Spoiler screenshot but this is the story they wrote and inserted into the paper:

player-newspaper

What I'm Watching: HoboMax

  • Hey, Beastmaster's On (seriously it was on a lot in the afternoons)
  • Hobotime (when you couldn't decide between HBO or Showtime)
  • Skinemax (ah, scrambled cable porn; to this day, static makes me horny (no not really (well, kinda)))

I was ignoring the HBO "Max" launch, but Rolling Stone ran basically an ad/listicle of great movies on it, and so I've given it another shot. Site organization is kind of terrible, it's "Netflix but with more hubs" so you have to poke around all over to see what movies they have. But they do have more older A-list movies, less TV shows.

Currently building up a giant queue by looking at the A-Z list, and then I'll work thru it, because finding anything on this site is a nightmare.

So far, quite pleased by the selection. It's not every movie; there's weird gaps and missing prequels or sequels (they have Yojimbo, but not Sanjuro?! Well, I have that on DVD, but the principle of the thing!), but it's like a pretty good video store. Not as good as mine back in the day, let alone Scarecrow Video, but you can find something besides Navy Seals.

  • Watchmen (2019 series): 3 eps in. Starts with the Tulsa Massacre and does not get more cheerful. Goes back more to the source comic, including the giant exploding squid, but has the consequences 35 years later. Rather implausibly has President Robert Redford, who would be 80+ at this time; I'm actually surprised he's still alive in reality. The masked cops are scum, the KKK using Rorschach as a model sucks (atheist anarchist vigilante, not a racist), the FBI's lead agent is a traitorous bitch, Adrian is a murderous (well, sorta) loonie. Nobody is worth saving. Protagonist cop and old man are… interesting, I guess. But I'm not sure I care. Whole thing's written by Damon Lindelof, who pisses me off with almost everything he writes and especially the dumb ending of Lost, so no shock there. Kind of a hate-watch, but I'll likely finish it.

  • Godzilla (1954): Aside from the B&W subtitles being baked in, instead of letting me choose yellow on black as I prefer, and calling it "Godzilla" instead of "Gojira", a perfectly adequate presentation. As always I sympathize entirely with the monster, Godzilla's been wronged and the Humans should be crushed under its feet. Serizawa is the real monster. It's amusing to compare this with Shin Godzilla; in the '50s, occupied Japan, the security board & Parliament are panicked, but competent at hearing advice and acting on it; in the 2010s, autonomous Japan, the government is completely paralyzed by bureaucracy, the "experts" are only used for PR and any science must be accomplished on the side, until things get close to an extinction event. ★★★★½

Godzilla Shows Again and Again

Considered while watching Godzilla Final Wars again:

The Godzilla Cinematic Universe is massively more high-quality science fiction/space fantasy than Star Wars, Marvel, and DC combined.

Sure, there's a few stinkers across 65 years like the Roland Emmerich movie GINO, Son of Godzilla, All Monsters Attack, and arguably Godzilla 2014, not every film has a great plot or fights. But by and large, they're respectable work.

If I'm going to show someone just three Godzilla films, they'd be Godzilla (1954), GMK: Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack (2001), and Godzilla Final Wars (2004); alternately for the last Destroy All Monsters (1968), similar basic movie but more serious, less awesome.

"One who depends on power will be destroyed by it."
—Xilian leader, Godzilla Final Wars

Tokusatsu is better than CGI, but Gen Orobuchi's Godzilla anime, Final Wars (a mix of Tokusatsu and CGI), & Godzilla: King of the Monsters show you can animate good Godzilla movies.

Compare to Star Wars: Two and a half good movies in the original trilogy, nearly a dozen garbage films since, a bunch of bad cartoons. Marvel: Maybe 5 good movies (Iron Man, Thor, Avengers, Deadpool, Guardians of the Galaxy) and a bunch of recycled junk sequels. DC: The Dark Knight, Wonder Woman somewhat?, rest is Zack Snyderism at its worst.

What's the moral of Star Wars, post-original-Trilogy? "This is pod-racing!" or "kill your father and burn anything you should respect" or some shit. What's the moral of Marvel & DC? Punch "bad guys" and they'll be back next week; a lot of civilians die as collateral damage.

The moral of Godzilla, the truth you should've learned, is always that nature is bigger than mankind, that war brings only misery, that science without forethought and sacrifice brings only monsters.

What I'm Watching: Kong Skull Island

I wanted more Godzilla, but the classic Toho collections are unclearly listed on 'Zon and elsewhere, I want only Japanese-language (English subtitle) theatrical versions and many are 4:3 English-dubbed TV versions. So… I'm putting this off until I can do some real research, and bought an iTunes two-pack of Godzilla (2014) and Kong: Skull Island (2017). Silly American films, but at least I know what they are.

Sort of: I didn't realize Kong Skull Island was a Vietnam-era period piece. That's kinda cool. Sam Jackson at 71 was really way, way too old to be a field officer (Lt Colonel); he's badass and insane, as usual, but it's like your grampa being badass and insane, not like a midlife officer going all Colonel Kurtz up in the jungle. The grunts are mostly personality-free, except for one played by Shea Whigham, and they serve only as expedition "hit points", getting picked off one by one so we can see how much danger the civilians are in. It is very, very, very Apocalypse Now-derived in style.

Hiddleston as the tracker J. Conrad (ha ha Heart of Darkness reference, but yeah…) is bland but effective, a Ken doll with all the hunting accessories and a lot of dialog which he recites competently, but slightly less than alive. Brie Larson as the photographer "Mason" Weaver has no motivation, and a weird boxy face, but at least she has an active role, and only once has to be saved by Kong and improbably held in his hand during a fight. John Goodman and Corey Hawkins do great as the lunatic scholars/scientists organizing the mission; sadly Jing Tian as the biologist does nothing and has almost no lines, despite this being exactly the kind of thing a biologist should be interested in and have a bunch of infodumping to do. The film fails the Bechdel Test because there's really only one female speaking role.

John C Reilly's comic relief role is… well, not the worst thing I've seen. They didn't spend too much time making jokes at his expense. He's awful fat and pale for a guy who's lived among skinny primitive people on an Indian Ocean jungle island for 30 years.

The chopper pilots are really foolish and don't understand the point of a long-range gun. A realistic (OK, physics of titans whatever man) fight between Kong and a bunch of Hueys with heavy machine guns and bombs does not go well for Kong; they should hover 100-500m away and just whittle him down to chipped beef, not go mano a mano with an ape who likes throwing rocks and trees.

The giant bugs and pseudo-pterodactyls all do physically implausible things, but they're scary monsters in a kaiju film. OK.

"We're not gonna talk about this? This is not normal! Stuff like that does not happen!"

The face/heel turns for Sam Jackson and Kong midway through were obviously telegraphed from the start (which is why I don't even bother to say "spoiler"). The soldier's love of war for its own sake, against Kong's self-defense and (usually) mercy for Humans who don't attack him.

So all of this makes a functional movie by itself. Then there's the bad kaiju, and here it kind of falls apart.

The "Skullcrawlers" are weird. They're based loosely on the two-legged skinks from the original King Kong, but the skull head is ridiculous, and they're very smart tactically (completely at odds with how lizards hunt) and then just line up to attack one at a time; they're all CGI, so why are they shot like there's just one suit?

The extreme plot convenience of a skullcrawler giving the tracker useful information during the fight, I would normally give a pass to one deus ex machina, but then the confrontation is almost completely ineffective.

I barely noticed the music, other than some '70s rock records which the grunts inexplicably took along on a 3-day combat mission; a soundtrack driving the tone of the film would've helped.

★★★½☆

The problem with King Kong movies (other than the Toho ones which just use him as a normal kaiju), they all struggle with complexity. The basic premise is:

  • Voyage to Skull Island
  • Horrible Natural Hazards
  • Primitive Tribe
  • King Kong is huge and terrifying
  • Explorers run away

That's enough for a good story, but then each filmmaker piles a bunch of stuff on top:

  • Kong fights dinosaurs
  • Trappers take Kong to the circus
  • Kong fights a bunch of aircraft
  • Kong picks up a girl (romance seems out of the question, it'd be like a Human and a 9" pixie… YOU PERVERT, put Tinker Bell down!)
  • Jessica Lange struts or sits in a boat nearly naked for long periods of time, and then professes love for the beast; as noted, problematic.
  • Jack Black tries to act in a dramatic role

And pretty much none of this works. They pad out a film to 2-3 hours and take away from the thing that matters: King Kong.

What I'm Watching: Godzilla, King of the Monsters

Lovely film. The monsters look and sound amazing, the music is great, the monster fight scenes are long, complex, and more visible than the previous American Godzilla (2014). This really is on par with the Toho movies, and respectful. It takes thousands of people and $200M to accomplish what Ishiro Honda did with $175K ($1.662M after inflation), a few dozen people, and a rubber suit. They have a nice credit memorial to Haruo Nakajima (1929-2017), the original Godzilla actor.

The mythology and backstory for the monsters is a nice touch, the kind of pseudo-scientific gobbledigook Toho does. The literal deus ex machina plot device is annoying, but functional, it drives the plot along.

Naturally, I sympathize entirely with the villains. Their motivation is the only sane response; the evil megacorp (led by the dumbass CEO from Silicon Valley) and military trying to destroy the kaiju are insane and species-suicidal. Ken Watanabe is great, and Zhang Ziyi and Bradley Whitford (who I think of as TV's Frank Jr, but he was on West Wing) are interesting and given good lines. Most of the other Humans I could do without, especially the annoying screaming child and the "hero" who shares my name.

The credits sequence bears rewatching, there's a lot of details there and I couldn't follow all of them; and there's a post-credits sequence, so stick around for that. The next sequel should be interesting.

This is PG-13, but there's nothing above PG in it, and really should have been in a few places; it's obvious scenes were cut or written around to avoid violence and, uh, suggestive monster behavior. So I'm dinging it a half-star for that and the screaming girl who should've been the first one eaten.

★★★★½

What I'm Watching: Shin Godzilla

Recently I've watched the Godzilla anime, which are silly but sometimes fun. So, I felt I should rewatch Shin Godzilla, the most recent live-action Toho movie, by Hideaki Anno. I saw it in theatre, but I remember little of it.

The start isn't at all clear about the timeline. GMK, my favorite Godzilla movie, was based on only the original movie happening. This one doesn't even have that, Gojira has a new origin story.

The early form is ridiculous, it (normally I refer to Gojira as "she" since Minilla, Gojira Junia, Godzuki, and the terrible Roland Emmerich movie imply that she can reproduce; but here that's not the case so "it") looks kind of like Anguirus. Then it "evolves", recapitulating the costumes from the entire series… By the end it's the late '90s overpowered disco-ball of lasers form.

The mid-movie rampages are fantastic, and the SDF and US forces put up a good fight. This entire sequence is one of the best Gojira fights in any movie. Just horrifying and beautiful.

But the politics are most of this film, and Japanese politics are slow, boring, bureaucratic, bloodless and cowardly. Even if it's meant as parody, it's just not funny, it's exhausting. They literally spend half the film doing paperwork and formal meetings. The young rebel politician Yaguchi is OK, but the vast herds of men in bad suits and binders are so dull, and the supposed half-Japanese American attaché has maybe the worst fake-American accent I've ever heard. There are several others who have bilingual lines, so I don't know why they cast her.

Finally the heroic plan engages, in a race against the most stupid plan possible. They actually know what they're doing, get all the computer simulations and chemical engineering, use the city to fight Godzilla… But it's very stationary, and I find it anticlimactic.

★★★½☆ And it'd be lower if not for that epic central battle.

Update: On rewatching:

The ground-crawling instar is so adorable. It's the tiny head and goofy smile it has.

I find the Japanese bureaucracy as villain more interesting this time.

"Wishful thinking and armchair theories by the old Imperial Army in the last war led to 3 million Japanese lives lost. Beware of unfounded optimism."
—Shin Godzilla

Maybe ★★★★☆