Insects of Sea and Space | Godzilla and Mothra: The Battle for Earth (1992) Review

This one is so close. It just needed a little more time in the oven. All the pieces are here, and they mostly fit together, but there’s something missing. Maybe an oomph? Maybe it’s the pieces themselves, each of them chipped in some unique way. Take the characters, for example. I know, this isn’t the place to start with a Godzilla movie, but that would make Godzilla movies an exception. Our protagonist this time, arguably, is Takuya Fujito, an archaeology professor who steals artifacts from tombs. After he’s thrown in jail, he’s visited by government men who want him and the feisty Masako to investigate a meteor on Infant Island. Apparently, this island is in Indonesian territory, making it off-limits to Japan, like an echo of the original Godzilla’s production. Okay, so Takuya is a man of action, unlike the sci-fi writers and journalists of Heisei movies past. He has more immediate personality, but one nevertheless expressed by whining through the bars of his jail cell. Not super appealing. … More Insects of Sea and Space | Godzilla and Mothra: The Battle for Earth (1992) Review

Home Movies | Shin Kamen Rider (2023) Review

Chances are, if you’ve heard of Shin Kamen Rider, you’re gonna go see it. For my part, I missed Shin Godzilla in theaters and then missed Shin Ultraman. I was determined not to miss Shin Kamen Rider, despite it being my least favorite of the three properties. My experience with Kamen Rider is mostly bafflement. There’s this explosion of light and color, and suddenly, he’s on a motorcycle. Who? I don’t know. The guy who’s running away from the mutants, and he has to stop SHOCKER. Obviously. The difference between Godzilla, Ultraman, and Kamen Rider is a matter of personal taste. I prefer monsters to superheroes, and Kamen Rider is a quintessential Japanese superhero, up there with Astro Boy. Shin Kamen Rider is the 50th anniversary project (adjusted for COVID), and as alluded to, the third in anime maestro Hideaki Anno’s weird revival movies, beginning with the masterpiece Shin Godzilla. … More Home Movies | Shin Kamen Rider (2023) Review

New World Order | Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah (1991) Review

Opening with a tease is almost never a good idea. It always feels so arbitrary, to show a moment from the middle of the story and then say “One Year Earlier.” When we get back to that moment chronologically, it never feels like anything. “Oh, great, so that’s how we know that happened.” It might not even be inherently bad but that its use is so automated, because test screenings find the beginning too slow. Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah opens with maybe the ultimate tease, informing us we’re in the year 2204 before “flashing back” to present-day 1992. That’s not a good sign, and neither is our ostensible lead, Kenichiro Terasawa, being a science fiction writer. Made famous by a book on ESP, he’s hoping to break into more human interest stories, which is a dramatic need that hardly screams “Godzilla movie.” Fortunately for us, his human interest turns out to be a veteran of World War II who believes that dinosaurs still yet live. Then we cut to a classic government conference room where people in suits discuss The Situation, this time involving UFOs. There’s a lot going on already. … More New World Order | Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah (1991) Review

Bulletproof Suit | John Wick: Chapter 4 (2023) Review

In a way, John Wick: Chapter 4 is a needless sequel. Rewind to 2019, with about 45 minutes to go in John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum, around when the plot seems to whisper “actually, this is not the grand finale.” A confrontation with the ultimate bad guys is averted, and we’re left on a cliffhanger. What’s funny about the world of John Wick as it’s expressed in Chapter 3 and Chapter 4 is – where’s the mob? Who are these assassins killing when they’re not killing each other? This felt like less of a “problem” in Chapter 3, where John Wick was facing the consequences for the assassination of a non-assassin character. Cue the assassins, and that’s fine. In Chapter 4, we have the same consequence, again. Now it isn’t John Wick versus New York City, it’s John Wick versus… well, that’s a long story. … More Bulletproof Suit | John Wick: Chapter 4 (2023) Review

Thespian Equestrian | Ran (1985) Review

The horses and the horse riders are put through the wringer in Ran, the final epic of Akira Kurosawa and perhaps his greatest film. I saw horses struggling through water coming up to their necks, soldiers falling off horses, and horses just about to trample a soldier who fell off his horse. It’s a movie entitled “Chaos,” after all! And, well, that’s about as fresh an angle I can manage for this or any Kurosawa title, the director being so widely studied and appreciated. Of course, I’ve come into this one for the first time nearing the age of 30, long after film school let out. I have nothing to add to the conversation, so take this review on a humble blog as a missive – delivered by horseback – that I’d like the conversation to continue. … More Thespian Equestrian | Ran (1985) Review

Once Upon a Time in Singapore | Crazy Rich Asians (2018) Review

Despite my best efforts, I was moved by this film. Granted, if you’ve read any of my coverage of Korean dramas, you know I’m a pretty easy mark. Crazy Rich Asians has a rocky start, pitched more toward comedy as we’re guided by a too-cute film language bordering on fourth wall breaks. Like, at any moment, Constance Wu is gonna look into the camera with an ironic “You’re probably wondering how I got here.” I suppose what I’m really thinking of is characters introduced with loud title cards, because they are introduced with voiceover and cutaways, and it’s a toss-up whether it’s an Asian or Asian-American celebrity who’s great or who totally sucks. … More Once Upon a Time in Singapore | Crazy Rich Asians (2018) Review

Beautiful China Doll | Memoirs of a Geisha (2005) Review

If you were to accuse me of disliking this film simply because it’s an insensitive American portrayal of an Asian culture, my only objection would be the word “dislike.” I disliked the movie the first time I saw it, in high school as part of AP English Literature – parents, if you were wondering what your kids are getting up to at school – where we also read the book. I didn’t remember much, other than it wasn’t that good but the Spielbergian style was sort of amusing. Well, TVs back in 2011 sucked, especially ones wheeled into public school classrooms. I don’t know what I saw in even the cinematography. This is, quite possibly, the worst movie I’ve ever seen. … More Beautiful China Doll | Memoirs of a Geisha (2005) Review

Costume Drama, Hold the Costume | The Treacherous (2015) Review

This movie is brutal. Like, tremendously, exceptionally disturbing. Chronicling the last days of a mad king, director Min Kyu-dong apparently wants you to feel that madness, to leave the film a wide-eyed, gibbering mess, soaked in blood and stabbing at pigs. My understanding of Korean cinema – which I’m trying to advance past – is that there are the early export arthouse films like Oldboy and Memories of Murder, and then the movies indistinguishable from K-dramas like My Wife is a Gangster 3. The Treacherous leans more toward the latter in terms of visuals and direction, but has the unflinching violence and sex of the former. It’s a mostly discordant mix, all set against the constant soundtrack of screaming and moaning. … More Costume Drama, Hold the Costume | The Treacherous (2015) Review

A Shimmering Vegetable Death | Godzilla vs. Biollante (1989) Review

Godzilla vs. Biollante is good. Especially for the Heisei era, it’s held in high regard among Godzilla movies. Surprisingly, it derives a lot of its profitable ambition from being a true sequel to Return of Godzilla, imagining what the world would be like after a giant monster attack. We find that international corporate interests are competing for Godzilla cells, whose magic properties have the potential to shift world power. In the fictitious and ridiculous Middle Eastern country “Saradia,” a nationalized oil firm plans to harvest the cells’ immortality to grow vegetation in the desert, divesting the region of its reliance on a valuable but limited resource. Meanwhile, the American company Bio-Major resorts to terrorism to claim the cells, as their science experiment would neutralize the threat posed by nuclear missiles. Somehow, in the midst of this political spy thriller, a giant rose emerges from the sea, and Godzilla burns it with the heat ray. … More A Shimmering Vegetable Death | Godzilla vs. Biollante (1989) Review

Give Me My Turtle Back! | Decision to Leave (2022) Review

Decision to Leave is South Korea’s submission for the American Oscars, and it is, in no way, an Oscar contender. It is not an event film, it is not an issues movie, it’s not based on a book. And yet, Park won Best Director at Cannes, and I can see why. His actors, Tang Wei and Park Hae-il, are electric and lived-in, respectively. His touch with film language is delicate but precise. The way he plays with time and space can only be described as “masterful,” in the sense that he becomes like a god of time and space. We see the flash of an image, and moments later, that image is contextualized, shepherding us through the story with a proper disorientation. In fact, we’re being oriented toward puzzle-solving. You could put a crumpled paper bag in front of Park Chan-wook, and he’d shoot it the one way that would make you feel something. If one of his films happens to be emotionally bereft, more fascinated by than curious about human nature, it must have been a choice. … More Give Me My Turtle Back! | Decision to Leave (2022) Review