The Wolverine May Be Hugh Jackman’s Definitive Logan Performance To Date

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If you’re keeping track, The Wolverine marks the fifth time Hugh Jackman brings his vision of the adamantium-laced mutant to the big screen. Okay, technically sixth if you count his cameo in X-Men: First Class (2011) (and it should count, simply on the cool factor alone). Personally, I really like the first two X-Men movies. I didn’t hate the third but it was a big step down. X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009) was a mix of fun stuff that worked and other elements that just didn’t. So, where does The Wolverine fit in with all that has come before?

The-Wolverine-2013-Movie-Poster2Considering this will be posted prior to most people seeing the movie, suffice to say there will be no spoilers here. However, let’s set up where The Wolverine is in the timeline. It does indeed occur after the events of X-Men: The Last Stand (2006). Logan has become a recluse after the deaths of Jean Grey and Professor Xavier. The opening sequence is a flashback taking us to Nagasaki, Japan in 1945, on the day the atom bomb was dropped. Logan is a prisoner of war who saves the life of Ichiro Yashida (Ken Yamamura). Flash forward to modern day and Logan is plagued with nightmares of his long past and visions of Jean. Famke Janssen is back as Jean in a way that leaves you wondering whether she is simply a dream of Logan’s or is she somehow reaching out to him from beyond?

Logan is brought to Japan by Yukio (convincingly played by Rila Fukushima) at the bequest of a now older and near death Yashida (now played by Haruhiko Yamanouchi). Yashida offers Logan the gift of mortality. Logan has always wanted this but does he eagerly accept it or reject it in fear the offer has no chance of working? Logan has clearly stated he is no longer Wolverine. He is tired, alone and, apparently, ready for that mortality. We’re introduced to Yashida’s granddaughter Mariko (Tao Okamoto) and her father Shingen (Hiroyuki Sanada), a crime boss with connections to her fiancé Noburo Mori (Brian Tee), a corrupt official. And, of course, no X-Men movie would be complete without at least one other mutant. Svetlana Khodchenkova plays Viper, a snakelike character whose toxins cause their fair share of trouble. Comic fans will also recognize the Silver Samurai, a giant robot made of adamantium.The Wolverine 2

The story is based on the classic Chris Claremont and Frank Miller 1982 limited series. Logan’s Japanese storylines are most fans’ favorites and the setting is refreshing from what we’ve seen in previous X-Men films. Director James Mangold has created a world that should please almost every fan out there. I say “almost” because some will say they wanted a darker vision of Wolverine. Granted, there does seem to be a small amount of blood for as much violence that’s present in the movie. Undoubtedly, we’ll get an unrated version on DVD and Blu-ray but even then, I wouldn’t be expecting to see a bloodfest to rival Django Unchained (2012). Frankly, it’s not needed. The story is what is most important here and it works. The Wolverine 3

It is a slower paced film without the non-stop destruction that leaves me weary in some other blockbusters. Don’t get me wrong, I love mass destruction as much as the next guy but I also enjoy a story and we get that here. At over two hours, it could have benefited from some editing to shave off about 10 minutes or so. Beyond that, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Sure, it’s a tad formulaic but it was a fun movie, just what you expect as the dog days of summer loom near. With a budget of $120 million and virtually no competition at the box office this weekend, expect this one to be a success.

The Wolverine 4This is the Wolverine movie everyone wanted and Hugh Jackman has never been better in the role. It continues the saga of Logan and plays a part in setting things up for what comes next. Make sure you stay through the credits because there is a cool sequence that had me geeking out. I avoided internet spoilers and glad that I did. Mark your calendars for May 23, 2014. X-Men: Days of Future Past is coming and may very well be the biggest mutant superhero movie yet! Meanwhile, I highly recommend The Wolverine.

Godzilla Orders Up a Jumbo Shrimp Cocktail

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For every long-running franchise, there is that jump-the-shark moment when things take a turn for the worse. For Godzilla, that moment came in 1966 with Ebirah, Horror of the Deep. A surefire sign was when the movie was released in the United States in 1967 as Godzilla versus The Sea Monster…direct to television.

Jon Fukuda assumed the directorial reigns for the first time. He would go on to do four more Godzilla movies, including such “classics” as Son of Godzilla and Godzilla vs. Gigan. Prior to Ebirah, Horror of the Deep, his most well-known flick was the fun Secret of the Telegian in 1960. One of his first and most controversial decisions came when he replaced Akira Ifukube with composer Masaru Sato. Sato did amazing work on many Akira Kurosawa movies, such as Throne of Blood and Yojimbo. However, with Godzilla, he incorporated jazz which, in my opinion, just didn’t work as well. Fukuda would concentrate more on action but did still use Eiji Tsuburaya on special effects.

The story deals with a young man named Ryota (Tooru Watanabe) stealing a boat with some friends in search of his missing brother Yata (Tooru Ibuki). After an encounter with the sea beast Ebirah (which resembles a giant shrimp), they land on Devil’s Island, inhabited by criminals, Red Bamboo, who are making heavy water to use for their evil plans of domination. They have captured natives from Infant Island, and you know where this is headed. Yes, Mothra is going to get involved at some point. However, first it’s time for Godzilla to appear, which he does sleeping alongside a mountain.  Godzilla awakens, fighting Ebirah, followed by a giant bird and fighter jets. Let’s not forget the tower with the all-important self-destruct switch. Yes, Godzilla turns Ebirah into shrimp cocktail but the island is ready to blow. Mothra sweeps in to save the day, taking our human cast to safety as the island explodes…right after Godzilla escapes.

G SM 1If the movie seemed a bit odd for Godzilla, it might have to do with the fact that it was never intended for him. The script originally had King Kong as the primary monster but was switched to include the more popular Godzilla. Unfortunately, it makes Godzilla seem a little out of place. For example, why would lightning revive him? Also, didn’t he become friends with Mothra in the previous movie? Why didn’t he just fire-breathe the base down? Leaving those minor issues aside, it wasn’t a bad entry in the series. It just seemed a little underwhelming considering some of the previous entries.

Some minor edits were made before the US release. The title card would be changed to read a more generic Godzilla versus The Sea Monster, with no other credits listed. Some music was also deleted or altered, contributing to a reduced running time by about four minutes. In 2005, the original Japanese version finally saw a US release. Original VHS tapes can be found for as little as a dollar but the recent DVD is out-of-print and demanding some high prices. Catch the trailer on YouTube (just try not to laugh at the musical selections) and decide just how much you really want to spend. I recommend the movie but go into it with slightly lowered expectations.G SM 3

The trend towards a more action-oriented Godzilla would continue in the forthcoming years. I have previously reviewed the next eight entries in the series. Some were good, some not so much. However, after 1975, the series would take a nine year rest until 1984, when we were witness to The Return of Godzilla. The 1980s only featured two films and in the next few weeks, it’s time to dive into a rebooted Godzilla franchise!

Embrace Your Inner Child at the Movies

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A growing concern I have about the current state of podcasts is the amount of negativity sneaking into some of my favorite shows. No names shall be mentioned here, but on a recent episode of an established show, a listener encouraged the hosts to be more critical. He hoped for the failure of a blockbuster movie because it wasn’t his idea of a good film. Not enough gore and lazy writing. On one hand, I can understand what he was trying to say but I also heard something that really puzzled me. Why would we hope for the film to fail when we can simply choose not to support it at the box office? It’s been successful, so there are obviously people who enjoyed it. Does every movie released need to fit our designed parameters of success?

Last year, studio executives successfully sabotaged John Carter, dooming it to be referenced for the foreseeable future as one of the biggest flops of all time. Yet, there are those who thoroughly enjoy the movie, this writer being among them. In fact, it was one of my favorite movies from last year. Many of us were upset that a movie studio would hope for a film to be a failure yet here we have a listener hoping for the very same thing. Now, I understand his overall point. He is hoping that Hollywood studios listen to the fans and start giving us movies we really want. However, I think we need to understand that those of us who listen to podcasts are only a portion of the audience. We have a passion for all things horror or sci-fi, or just film related in general. Yet, that passion can often turn into an outcry of negativity towards anything that doesn’t fit our parameters of “fun” or “successful”.

Let’s be honest and admit that for every well-made film, there are dozens of mindless flicks many of us find a waste of time. Brother D reviewed countless zombie movies on the Mail Order Zombie podcast. Many were not well-made yet had moments that gave him enjoyment. Some of these I enjoyed, others I did not. Yet, at no time did I wish for these filmmakers to stop making them. I simply chose not to watch them. Many of us love the old and cheesy movies of the 50s. Yet, at the time, they were cheaply made and many turned their nose down on them. But, because there were people who enjoyed them, they continued to crank them out. Just as today, SyFy and The Asylum continue to release film after film of two-headed sharks and bigfoot-inspired beasts, riddled with forgotten TV actors and horrible CGI. And people continue to watch them week after week. I choose not to but I also don’t wish they’d stop being made. There is a little something called diversity. The sci-fi and horror genres used to embrace it. Now, I fear there is a growing trend that is making many so-called fans sound like those film lovers of decades past who turned their noses down on sci-fi and horror.

Many people have forgotten a time, or perhaps never lived through it, when sci-fi and horror was not main stream. It was a niche group looked down upon by true lovers of film. After all, those types of movies were crude and not really worth a true cinema lovers time, right? I thought those days were gone yet now I am beginning to see a growing trend amongst genre fans and podcasts where many think its okay to be overly critical and hope for a film’s failure simply because it doesn’t fit their vision of what a zombie flick should be or what Star Trek is supposed to be about. Remember that little saying Gene Roddenberry came up in the third season of Star Trek? Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations. It’s a saying some of us have lost sight of but sorely need in our daily lives.Film

These movies we watch online or rent or go to the theater to see are supposed to be for enjoyment. An escape from our everyday lives. They can make us laugh or cry, scream out in terror or clap in celebration. No director or writer ever created something in hopes that people would bash it for every possible fault. The podcasts we all listen to have created a community of diverse opinions interspersed with familiar visions. However, when the negative begins to overwhelm the positive, it leaves one to question whether they are truly enjoying what they are watching or listening to. Too many of us have lost connection with that inner child we all embraced when we discovered the wonderful world of movies. It was that child who chose to enjoy the moment rather than be overly critical of every fault. It’s that inner child that many of us need to reconnect with. Otherwise, what’s the point of going to the movies when all we do is moan and complain about what we just paid $10 of $15 to see?

Remember that if a horror flick you just watched doesn’t have enough blood and gore, I guarantee you there is one out there you haven’t seen yet full of just that. Not a fan of shaky camera? Do some searching and embrace a movie from decades past that matches the style you love. The movies of the past never go away. They wait to be rediscovered. I am constantly amazed by what I still haven’t seen. For me, a movie truly has to be bad for me not to enjoy it, at least to some degree. Yet, I guarantee you, someone out there enjoys every movie I don’t, and that is what used to separate us from the so-called Hollywood snobbery. Many have abandoned that philosophy and sorely need to rediscover it. Embrace your inner child and enjoy the cinematic experience. Otherwise, what’s the point?

State of the Blog and a New Direction Going Forward

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Friends and followers of mine on Facebook may have read a recent post concerning a decision I’ve made about pulling away from the internet a little. I have found that it was consuming too much of my time. There are amazing things to be found on the world wide web. However, there are also countless items that will eat away your time, day in and day out. When I started this blog last October, the sole purpose was purely personal. I wanted to write more creatively. I write corporate communications for a living and desired to reignite those old creative passions. I’ve accomplished that but now, I’m at a point of reflection.

My goal with this site is to always be positive. If I really disliked a movie, I choose not to waste my time discussing it here. Other sites do that, sometimes to a fault. That is not what Monster Movie Kid is about. If a review is posted here, it will be because it was something I enjoyed and wanted to share with other people. Therefore, you will find that I will be posting reviews here with much less frequency. I will continue to review the Godzilla series, as that is a journey I have had a lot of fun with. However, there will be no schedule and no behind-the-scenes plan. A review will be posted only when the passion strikes; only when I have what I think are insightful and relative comments to make. Some weeks may only see one review while others may see two or three. There will also be weeks of inactivity but I will continue to post a new review link on Facebook to make it easier to know when something new is here to read. I hope those of you who have been reading these will continue to follow and comment. The site remains a public exercise but I do enjoy reading the responses. It just needs to be something I do for fun and not a chore that must be completed.

Okay, now that we’ve got that out of the way, look for another Godzilla review coming soon. Up next will be a look at Godzilla vs. The Sea Monster. Then, it will be time to get back in sync with my current viewing as we enter the 1980s!

Invasion of Astro-Monster Brings King Ghidorah Back for More Destruction

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In 1965, Toho released the 6th entry in the Godzilla series. Best known today under its original Japanese title of Invasion of Astro-Monster, it has had numerous titles over the years. The original US title was Monster Zero, giving no indication it was a Godzilla flick. Then, it became known as Godzilla vs. Monster Zero before settling on the original title. Picking up on the huge success of the previous years’ Ghidorah, The Three-Headed Monster, the beloved three-headed dragon was back again as the main foe for Godzilla. As well, Godzilla was now the defender of Earth, no longer the threat he once was.

G MZ 1Our story begins with two astronauts exploring the newly discovered Planet X. Fuji is played by Akira Takarada, star of numerous Toho productions from Gojira (1954) to Godzilla: Final Wars (2004). Glenn is played by American actor Nick Adams, guest star on countless 60s TV shows as well as co-starring alongside Boris Karloff in 1965s Die, Monster, Die! Being in the shadow of Jupiter, Planet X has gone unnoticed all these years, existing in relative darkness. Fuji and Nick soon find themselves in an underground fortress, where they encounter the inhabitants of Planet X. They are under attack from a creature they call Monster Zero, who we know better as King Ghidorah. The mysterious Controller wants both Godzilla and Rodan from Earth to fight Monster Zero, in exchange for a miracle drug that cures cancer (or all diseases, as it was translated for the English-speaking audiences).  However, once the Controller shows up on Earth, both Glenn and Fuji become suspicious of their true intentions. After capturing Godzilla and Rodan, they take the monsters to Planet X to defeat Ghidorah aka Monster Zero. However, the box containing the miracle drug is really a warning from Planet X. They reveal their true nature and threaten to destroy Earth unless they surrender. They now control all three monsters using sound waves and the battle soon begins with the Earth armies on one side and a trifecta of Kaiju goodness on the other. A sub-plot about an odd warning device to protect women turns out to be important to Earth’s survival, as it is the only weakness Planet X has. Once the new weapon is used against them, their control over the monsters is stopped, leaving Godzilla and Rodan to defend the Earth, forcing Ghidorah back into space. The fate of Godzilla and Rodan is left up in the air, as they are last seen crashing into the ocean.G MZ 2

This was one of my earliest Godzilla flicks, so it remains one of my favorites for nostalgic reasons alone. Bringing the outer space aliens into the plot was relatively unique at the time and a plot that would be repeated in future Godzilla movies. It was certainly more light-hearted fare and was a sign of the more family-friendly turn for Godzilla. Even Godzilla’s appearance is slightly altered here, sporting bigger and friendlier eyes. However, the monsters almost play second fiddle to the rest of the characters. Obvious stock footage from the original Rodan is incorporated, showing signs of a tighter budget. Mothra, who had to help defeat Ghidorah before, was originally planned but cut, again due to budgetary constraints. Minor drawbacks aside, Invasion of Astro-Monster had a successful run in Japan but wouldn’t see release in the US until 1970. One of the biggest drawbacks was poor dubbing. However, since the film is now finally available in its original Japanese language, it is getting more recognition and respect.

One of the refreshing aspects of the film is leading man Nick Adams. After starting off with bit roles in such Hollywood films as Mister Roberts and Rebel Without A Cause in the 50s, Nick had become relegated to guest starring roles in countless TV shows in the 60s. However, in 1965, he solidified his standing in the sci-fi/horror genre with his appearance here, as well as in Die, Monster, Die! and Frankenstein Conquers The World. Sadly, Nick never true found the stardom he so craved. Hollywood rumors about his sexuality and possible relationships with James Dean and Elvis Presley may have hurt his chances at getting bigger roles. After a starring role in Murder in the Third Dimension fell through when the movie halted production, Nick became very despondent and was found dead, apparently from suicide. With the popularity of Godzilla films on the rise in the 70s, it seems possible he could have had a career resurgence. However, considering how much he loathed working abroad, it is also just as likely he would have continued with television work before eventually retiring. Nonetheless, he remains an iconic figure in the Godzilla universe.

Invasion of Astro-Monster is easily available on DVD for less than $5. Seek it out today and check out the trailer, ensuring you enjoy the great 60s sci-fi effects and designs.

Ghidorah Arrives As Godzilla Becomes A Hero

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There’s no denying that the Godzilla franchise got weaker with each release in the late 1960s. But there were several high points before that and Ghidorah, The Three-Headed Monster (1964) was certainly a lot of fun. It was one of a few Godzilla movies that played on regular rotation on my local UHF channel in the late 70s/early 80s. It is one of my personal favorites based on, if for no other reason, familiarity.

Ghidrah 1Following quickly on the release of Mothra vs. Godzilla earlier in the same year, 1964, Ghidorah, The Three-Headed Monster saw Ishiro Honda back in the director’s seat once again with Eiji Tsuburaya on special effects. Unlike in previous films, Godzilla is presented here as the hero, eventually defending Earth against King Ghidorah, a giant three-headed golden dragon with one of the best sounding vocal effects in any Toho film. The story centers on a princess’ visit to Japan. While her plane is thought destroyed, she later turns up, claiming to be from Mars. She begins to preach of impending doom and the return of both Rodan and Godzilla, which eventually happen. It appears that the princess is possessed by a Martian, who then warns that King Ghidorah, a creature who destroyed Mars, is now on Earth to destroy it. A meteorite that crashed earlier in the movie is revealed to really be an egg that hatches into King Ghidorah. Ghidorah then goes on a mission of destruction. The Shobjin (once again played by Emi and Yumi Ito) are used to summon Mothra, in hopes it will fight against all of the monsters threatening Tokyo. A somewhat silly sequence follows with Mothra “talking” to both Godzilla and Rodan, who refuse to help as mankind has always hated them. Mothra confronts Ghidorah on her own until Godzilla and Rodan, having a change of heart, come to help Mothra. After a 3-on-1 battle, Ghidorah is eventually defeated and flies back into outer space. Along the way, we got a story-line about assassins and the princess eventually regaining her memory. But let’s be honest, we all came for Godzilla and the battles, which this movie offered plenty of both.

Part of Ghidorahs’ appeal is the unique design. A three-headed dragon with a screeching sound and electric bolts as weapons makes it stand out amongst all the other residents in Godzilla’s rogue’s gallery. No surprise that Ghidorah appeared in a total of 7 Godzilla movies and 2 of the Mothra spin-off movies of the 1990s. Consider Ghidorah the Joker to Godzilla’s Batman. Thankfully, the Ghidorah we see on screen was not what was originally envisioned. It had originally been conceived with rainbow-colored wings and was purple. Although, come to think of it, wings do sound kind of cool.Ghidrah 2

This entry into the series sets the tone for future films. We have Godzilla defending Earth against an assortment of creatures, sometimes enlisting Rodan and Mothra for help. It was a huge success in Japan and remains one of the most loved Godzilla films. As was now standard, the movie was edited for release in the US. In the American version, which was not released until 1965, “Ghidorah” has been changed to “Ghidrah”. Once again, much of Akira Ifukube’s score was replaced with standard music for no apparent reason. And Mothra is a female in the Japanese version while a male in the American version. There is no clear idea why this decision was ever made. In total, some 7 minutes of footage was cut from the American release. Ghidrah 3

Ghidorah, The Three-Headed Monster has always been readily available to American audiences. However, the superior Japanese version was finally released on DVD in recent years. It’s still available for as low as $5 on Amazon. This is one of the cornerstone pieces of the Godzilla franchise. So if you haven’t checked it out yet, watch the trailer on YouTube before acquiring a copy today.

Next time, Ghidorah returns in Invasion of the Astro-Monster (1965).

The Norseman (1978) Needed a Six Million Dollar Budget

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Sometimes, you seriously have to wonder what Hollywood is thinking when it comes to some of the decisions production companies make. From odd casting choices to non-existent scripts, there are bad movies and then there are bad movies. Sometimes, a movie is so bad, it comes full circle and ends up being entertaining in a way I’m sure the film makers never intended. If you’ve ever seen Manos, The Hands of Fate, then you know exactly what I’m talking about. Case in point, 1978’s The Norseman.

Norseman 1From the opening credits, the movie would seem to be legitimate…at least to some point. The legendary producer Samuel Z. Arkoff, the man behind some 141 classics including Invasion of the Saucer Men and The Last Man on Earth, is listed as “presenting” the movie. However, IMDB does not list this movie amongst his credits. He was still active through the mid-80s, so the only reason I can come up with is that it was in name only or he asked to be removed. Which, considering some of the movies he did, would certainly be telling of how truly bad this flick is. The cast alone is enough to make your head spin. Lee Majors headlines the cast as Prince Thorvald, who is leading a group of Vikings to the New World in search of his father, King Eurich, played by Mel Ferrer (War and Peace, The Longest Day). Ferrer is virtually unrecognizable here, wearing a long white beard and wig that makes him look like a brother to Saruman from The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings trilogies. Cornel Wilde stars as Ragnar, second-in-command to Prince Thorvald. Wilde was once one of the sexiest men in Hollywood. However, by 1978, acting gigs were scarce and, after three years of no film work, you wonder what he had to think as he muddled his way through this mess. Other familiar faces include Jack Elam as the wizard Death Dreamer, football star Deacon Jones as a black Viking (yes, don’t even ask) and surfer boy Denny Miller playing what was probably the most realistic looking Viking on the ship, which isn’t saying much. I’m sure many will also recognize actress Kathleen Freeman as the old woman. I’m sure you have no clue by her name but you’ll know her face from one of the 282 film and TV appearances she made from 1948 until 2001, when she died at the age of 82.Norseman 2

So just what is this movie about? Well, the Vikings have landed in the New World and immediately confronted a group of savage Iroquois warriors. The warriors capture King Eurich and killed almost all of his men, in addition to brutally blinding them. Christopher Connelly plays the Iroquois leader, Rolf, in true scene-chewing bad guy fashion. The lovely Susie Coelho plays femme fatale Winetta, who is repulsed by her Iroquois brothers and tries to make Eurich as comfortable as possible during his captivity. This part of the story is told via flashblacks while the rest of the movie is fleshed out by narration from Eric, the younger son of King Eurich and brother to Prince Thorvald. Young Eric was played by Chuck Pierce Jr., son of director Charles Pierce (The Legend of Boggy Creek, The Town That Dreaded Sundown) while the narration was done by Jesse Pearson (Bye Bye Birdie). The majority of the movie deals with the Vikings attacking the Iroquois and vice versa before Thorvald ultimately finds and saves his father with some help from Winetta. But don’t expect any epic confrontations here.

There are so many factual errors that it almost isn’t worth mentioning them all. Suffice to say, the Vikings are anything but accurate, the script is relatively boring and the acting is sub-par at best. Lee Majors is sporting that funky late 70s mustache he wore during the fourth season of The Six Million Dollar Man, when this movie was obviously filmed. Now Majors is certainly never going to earn an Academy Award for his acting. However, I always find him entertaining in his TV work but he just appears to be sleepwalking his way through this movie. Add to that, he looks more like a Roman than a Viking. The best part is the original music from Jaime Mendoza-Nava, who makes it sound so much more epic than it has any right to be.

So, do I recommend this movie? Absolutely, if for no other reason than to see just how bad it truly is. For me, it did that full circle and moved into the “so bad it’s good” category. It’s currently only available on a 1983, out-of-print VHS, which is how I watched it. But, believe it or not, those wonderful people over at Shout! Factory are putting it out on DVD as a double feature with The Barbarians. Meanwhile, you can check it out on YouTube (with a very poor picture) while you wait for what I hope to be a widescreen DVD presentation in August 2013.