Monday, January 23, 2017

Review - S.H. MonsterArts Godzilla 1954

Bandai's S.H. MonsterArts line has become the frontrunner in highly accurate, incredibly articulated and notably collector-centric figures covering a variety of old and new movie monsters.

The series' main focus seems to be on Japanese Kaiju characters, including Godzilla, Mothra and Gamera. On a quest to cover each and every incarnation of many beloved creatures, Bandai has finally made it's way to cover the rendition that started it all; ShodaiGoji, from 1954's Gojira.

Released in August of 2016 to coincide with the release of Shin Godzilla, fans were elated at the reveal of such a monumental version of the beloved beast. Costing roughly $70 (and, as of this writing, even less, thanks to a wide release), it's hard not to be drawn toward the true Kong of the Monsters.

Sculpt - 5/5

Being the first actual Kaiju suit, ShodaiGoji is quite rough around the edges; with dead eyes, a streamlined build and limited flexibility. At times, the film even used a quite different puppet, causing some inconsistency concerning Godzilla's true 'look' in the film. SHMA's figure has been modelled after the actual suit rather than the puppet, appropriately going for the more refined and popular of the two choices. 

As is practically always, Bandai has struck gold with an incredibly screen-accurate sculpt, down to even the most intricate of choppy textures and natural folds. From the head's strong browline, the jagged dorsal spines, the protruding chest, and even quite hard to notice details such as the stocky tail or large ears, the figure absolutely parallels the original being to a tee. Here's an album of images to compare the figure to.

Being noticeably thinner and smaller than future Godzillas, this figure is about 6.5" tall, but has a much less demanding presence than other characters of the scale. However, being an antiquated version of the character, this fits rather well, and definitely doesn't look out of place. 

Articulation - 4/5

As is usual with the line, this figure is chock full of movements. With about 31 in all, there's some really good range available in the toy; whether you prefer his film-accurate upright stance, or a slightly more dynamic pose, the excellently planned articulation is easily the most striking attribute overall.
However, it should be noted that, while all the typical articulation is there, it isn't nearly as useful as on similar figures. For example, there is a midsection ball joint, but it doesn't exactly allow for much beyond a crunch. Another example is in the arms, which are likewise on a ball joint at the shoulder, but cannot move out to a significant degree. Though not surprising considering the limitations of the design, it's worth acknowledging that despite the sheer number of joints, not everything is incredibly 'free'. 

Paint - 4/5

It's difficult to identify precisely how ShodaiGoji ought to be painted; as, naturally, he is extremely obscured by smoke, shadow and general aged film in most source materials. Despite this, Bandai has covered the bases rather well.

Using a monotone color scheme to reflect the original movie, everything looks both nicely 'blurred', and excellent at defining the bumpy ridges of throughout sculpt. Small sprays and washes cover the scales and highlight features such as the heavy knees and vertical chest bone really well, giving dimension to what could've been a very bland toy. The cleaner work on the face is especially nice; as previously seen on SHMA's SokogekiGoji, the glassy eyes look really neat.

A bit more could be asked, such as further/stronger highlights, spray on the hands' claws (though they were unpainted on the real suit), and better alignment of the pupils, but what's there is definitely good. Definitely not among the most incredible or attractive of the series work, but fitting for the character.

Fun Factor - 4/5

SHMA's offering is easily the best articulated ShodaiGoji on the market, with great details and nicely done movability, The monster's design seems to limit how much range one can really get, however, thus meaning he isn't quite as 'elastic' as Godzillas from the same series. No accessories is a big downside, too; especially once this guy hits the aftermarket. He's a cool figure, but perhaps not the most shining model of Bandai's achievements. 

Overall - 4/5

There's a fair amount of things to love in the very first version of Japan's favorite nuclear dinosaur; a spot-on sculpt, pretty nicely done articulation, and traditionally well done detail work. There's certainly room for improvement - and, the complete lack of accessories makes even the lowest of prices seem a little unfair. All things considered, though, longtime SHMA, Action Figure, and Horror fans in general won't be disappointed. 

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Song Analysis - Hallelujah Money (Gorillaz)

Experimental, artistic, unique; all adjectives applicable to animated English troupe Gorillaz, admired for their often seamless integration of creative imagery with interesting musical ventures.

Leading directly to the upcoming release of a new album, 2017 release Hallelujah Money has created a sort of rift between audiences. Though the practice is not uncommon for band's creator Damon Albarn, many find it's political focus and unusual musical stylings either off-putting, or at the very least, unimpressive.

Though perceived as a forerunner to the certain reveal of further tracks, Money is immediately striking in its odd beat patterns and use of vocals, seemingly directly avoiding any traces of Gorillaz' previous Pop appeal. Trip-hop heavy and upfrontly poetic, there is an odd clash between the strong topical intent driving the lyricism and the spacy, somewhat dub influenced instrumental. 

Drearily singing the praise of legal tender, artist Benjamin Clementine leads the dark, drippy lullaby with a melodramatic flavour, paralleling the booming voices of past influential peoples. His plain, non-cryptic metaphors and sparkling foretellings paint the image of a man proudly reciting his long mulled-over words in the face of a pliable society. Impeccable in his grasp on persuasion, yet somehow ingenuous in his choice of such buzzwords.

This falsity is solidified  as we hear him sing the praise of a foreign influence; money. It is what fuels his pride, what pushes him to pander to such low levels. His inflection is now far more honest, perhaps parallelling the hymns recited religiously in the Church. A soulful praise of a higher entity, yet one for a creature implicitly capable of corruption and evil.

Clementine's character knows to serve and honor his god with his entire being, yet does not seem to acknowledge it's dangerous intents. It is arguable whether he knows; or, if he instead prefers to revel in it's benefits. Even in the face of an apocalypse, he clutches desperately to this deity which has fueled him with a spiritual power. Grasping it with all his might, shielding himself from outside influence to further perpetuate his devotion. Blinding himself to the truths of greed, twisting them into boast-worthy praises. 

Among this, an angelic, otherworldly echo parades about the politician's ongoing pledges, drawing a hypothetic fear from these carefully crafted words. Lead vocalist Albarn has shrouded himself in the guise of two characters; that of cartoon frontman 2-D, and that of an omnipresent being able to analyze the true intent behind Benjamin's covenants. 

He asks the world a subconscious series of questions, juxtapositioning calm delivery with menacing implication, If the world has joined hands with a demented creature intent on serving a palpable supreme being, how long is it truly until our further human emotions and natural attributes are torn from us? Will we, likewise, sacrifice morality in the name of benefit? Though we may be human, will we remain the same?

These questions seem to be ignored; 2-D's doomsaying predictions quelled in the name of acceptance. As this chorus of fear comes to a close, Clementine's demonic praise of the material is converted from a singular, uncomfortable chant, to an anthem howling proudly among a cacophony of distortion. Minds being melded, modern existence seemingly mashed upon itself upon this new praise of what was once seen as evil; convincing word proving mightier than thought.

The choice of a unpowerful, rather soothing vocals and music seems to drown the highly enigmatic lyrics beneath a sea of uninterest. Rather than a strike, Gorillaz has offered what many describe as a yawn; one of suppressed truths, one of revealed consciousness. Yet, this is a consciousness impacted by numbness - whether caused by persuasion, or sheer terror. One only intended as a small dip into a very difficult, rough series of image-heavy thoughts; yet, one that may stand firmly as one of the groups' strongest songs.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Review - Godzilla, King of the Monsters / 'Cozzilla'

Godzilla's long, varied career began in 1954 with Ishiro Honda's film Gojira; a murky, intricately designed allegory for the terrors of the nuclear bomb. Focusing heavily on the titular monster's reign of destruction and it's various metaphorical implications, while consistently proving itself to be far more than the typical B-Movie common to the era, Gojira grew famous among audiences and critics alike with quite the fanfare.

Drawn by this excitement, America quickly created it's own edition in '56 - entitled Godzilla, King of the Monsters. Severing both World War Two connections and indirect Western criticisms while adding various English additions, this version is essentially a watered-down, decidedly more 'accessible' interpretation of the original's core plotline.

Years later, in '77, the aforementioned recut was colorized, translated, and minorly edited for Italian audiences by director Luigi Cozzi - creating the strange technicolor explosion known lovingly as Cozzilla.

For all intents and purposes, this is a review of King - as, beyond the occasional added stock footage and obvious technical differences, Cozzilla is the exact same film. Also, this review is written with a general understanding of Gojira in mind.  

The primary addition made in King is the character Steve Martin, a reporter accidentally caught in Godzilla's rampage. Through clever editing, the new cast member interacts with the original Japanese lineup various times through the runtime, serving mainly as an alternative to the character-driven exposition seen in the original film. 

Though a smart concept, his inclusion unfortunately neuters the various side-plots that structured the source material. Beyond some vague background given to Martin, no other character has any exposition. I can't help but feel that the movie is actively battling it's Japanese core - the American directorial choices clearly opting for a more upfront narrative perspective than one that directly impacts it's characters. 

Because of this, Martin's singular scenes work rather well, shedding a light on how unpredictably horrific the events are projected to be. A great example of this is the classic narration gave by the character during Godzilla's Hiroshima-esque destruction of Tokyo.

The rest is rather dull. Beyond Martin's experiences and the various monster effects scenes, there's little to latch on to - even the climactic choice between two evils (a new military-grade weapon and the monster himself) made by Doctor Serizawa carries a bit less weight than in Gojira.

As previously stated, King is very blatantly cheap-ified, transitioned from a frightening, thoughtful film to a much more Hollywood style horror flick. Again fighting the original film, one can sense that the filmmakers much preferred Godzilla himself to the metaphors clouding him (hence the very celebratory title) - building the film specifically toward his appearances, and doing very little of substance between them.

That's not to say the similes are no longer intact; with some thought, it's very simple to find the morality discussions buried below the screen. There's still a certain strength to at least the imagery - especially thanks to Cozzilla's additions of actual news footage showing mass death and destruction caused by similar situations as seen in the film - but, without the darker tone and stronger undertones of the original, it's hard to argue their particular importance beyond speculation.

On that note, let's look at what makes Cozzilla unique; the colorization. Though it can be very well argued that Gojira (and King) work best in their native black-and-white, I'd hardly be against a competent layer of paint added to the work.

Sadly, the very primitive technique used here almost never looks good. Glossy, mismatched, and near psychedelic, the visuals are sometimes more confusing than fitting. Far too often, the globs of solid color obscure basically everything from recognizability. 

Despite its rainbow of color, King/Cozzilla is quite washed out. Though not exactly bad as a midnight movie, it definitely doesn't hold a candle to the movie it means to create an alternate version of. Though the minor additions made in Cozzilla admittedly do give the film slightly more weight - thus technically putting it slightly above King - neither are especially notable, beyond their relevance to the franchise. 

I suppose that's the simplest way the pair can be argued against; neither leave much of an impact, with hardly any characters to observe, thoughts to consider, and in Cozzilla's case, visuals to enjoy. Leaning far more toward bad, but not particularly terrible, either.

Rating - 2.5/5

Monday, January 16, 2017

Retro Spirits

I feel so nostalgic for absolutely nothing lately. Not people, not places... moreso things I never had in the first place.

Looking back at images and creations from the 1980's and 90's just brings such a mixed emotion out of me. I never experienced the decades, but I constantly feel so directly related to them. In that sense, I'll never reach a close to my longing for the Pop Cultures and societal normalities of these eras.

I suppose the closest I can reach is delving into these interests retroactively. I'm a huge fan of old characters, particularly those found in advertisements and theme parks... but, knowing that they are now mere memories to those that have endured their love for them makes them a bit sad to enjoy. It's almost akin to reading about the life and times of a long-gone celebrity, or more close to home, relative. You can't help but image how wonderful they must've been, and how greatly you'd have appreciated them, yet there's a deep pit of emptiness in that you'll never prove your belief.

I also simply admire antiquated, yet familiar aesthetics. Outdated webpages, neon cities, bustling homes. Something about them, in my mind, simply cannot exist in my own perceived reality. I reflect it in my tastes and works - for example, Wastelnd's basic, conventionally user-friendly design choices, or my tendency to adorn myself with Mac Tonite or Showbiz Pizza Tee-Shirts - but, again, knowing I simply can't live these names' glory days is so strangely depressing.

Anything from discarded VHS tapes, to long-forgotten albums, to oddball pieces of media, to cheap collectibles, to pandering commercials, to sitcoms, cartoons, stickers, articles... it's practically an addiction. One with no fulfilling payoff.

Yet, in a sense, my personal appreciation of these retro 'spirits' is because of their lack of existence. Their decay, their lessening appeal. It's almost as if I can serve as one of their few life supports.

Maybe they aren't quite passed on, but simply desperate for some love. If that's the best I can do, so be it.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Review - Diamond Select Oogie Boogie

As most longtime toy collectors can recall, NECA's The Nightmare Before Christmas toy line was one of the most expansive and consistent toy lines in the recent years, covering almost every character related to the film in NECA's signature high-quality fashion.

Sadly, the line's Sixth wave marked its end in 2007. Since, there's been a bit of a lull in full-on Nightmare action figures, mostly being replaced by dolls and static models and the such. Sure, there have been some neat offerings by companies such as Revoltech, ReAction, or PlayArts, but none have come near the level of comprehensiveness NECA achieved.

That is, until 2016, when Diamond Select stood up as the first true challenger to NECA's Nightmare legacy. DS seems to be aiming to cover the movie's vast array of creatures, and though the results thus far have been... mostly hideous... I can say I'm excited by the concept alone that there will once again be a mainstream Nightmare series that could have the potential to outrank NECA.

Sculpt - 5/5

Nightmare's villain, Oogie Boogie, is nothing more than a burlap sack supported by a legion of nasty insects - so, naturally, his onscreen incarnation is as loose and weightless as the movie's medium of choice, stop-motion animation, would allow. The figure captures his fabric's folds and textures phenomenally, looking practically authentic from a distance. Even smaller details such as the individual stitches and wide holes along his seams are present.

His face is totally spot on, particularly his expression. Though I usually prefer my articulated figures as static as possible, Boogie's angry, open-mouthed look can convey a good variety of emotions, such as mid-song, a dastardly tease, or even an evil grin. As can be seen through his mouth, below his face plate there is an underlying pile of mushy, clumped bugs, which looks just as grossy formless as it did in the feature. This is a really great point of detail that, as far as I know, no other articulated Boogie has captured. 

This toy comes in at about 9" tall (which is, sadly, not in-scale with the vast majority of Jack Skellington figures), and is surprisingly heavy, weighing in at over a pound. No rotocasting here, this baddie is a solid brick of plastic.

If I had to point out any flaws, I'd say that first; his slightly slated, forward-pace feet are  a bit odd, maybe even hindering to which poses will look natural. Not bad, as they do give some more life to the toy, but questionable. Second, I think his head is too big for his body. It's hard to say, seeing as Boogie is, again, relatively indefinable when it comes to how his proportions align, but compared to some images of the actual puppet I think there's a discrepancy. It's minimal enough to not really matter, though. 

Articulation - 3/5

Most physical Boogie representations have been either totally plush, mostly unarticulated, or static, mainly because adding articulation to what is essentially a living bag is a tricky task. Though with some creative engineering, the task could be nearly perfect (perhaps underlying joints hidden by various plastic shells, a la S.H. Monsterarts?), DS' work is acceptable considering the character. 

There are four points; a ball-joint head, two hinged arms, and a ball-joint midsection. Though minimal, I think the choice of joint types allows the figure to acheive a bit more than it may seem on-paper. Still, added points such as a jaw hinge, ball-joint arms, or moveable feet would've been really nice. What's there is serviceable, and can reach some nice poses, but probably not all it could be. 

Side note, as far as I know, this is the most articulated toy of the character currently available. For those interested in more 'collectable' action figures such as this, that aspect immediately ranks this version above all others.

Paint - 5/5

To emulate the fabric texture present all across the toy, there are a variety of washes and sprays to emphasize the looseness of the material, all generally either dark brown or off-white. This works extremely well; not only making his detail work stand out extremely well, but making him look nicely weathered. Even smaller details such as the dark stitchwork or shadowy lip-folds have been painted specifically.

His insect innards are the sole dash of neon color present on the toy, being surprisingly intricate for such a minor aspect. There's plenty of colors and variations in the mix, making him look just as nasty as ever. I especially like the itty-bitty eyes paired here and there through the mush.

Fun Factor - 3/5

Being extremely sturdy, Oogie's ideal for fans young and old. The added face-revel gimmick is really smart, and a clever way to add in a selling point without adding too many bells and whistles. However, the smaller than expected scale and limited articulation can make him a bit less enthralling than one may desire. He looks very nice, but isn't really perfect as a toy.

Overall - 4/5

Even though there are some areas where improvement wouldn't have been impossible (and could've easily bumped up the quality), it's hard to fairly accuse DS of not delivering a great toy. Oogie Boogie looks spot-on, has really high quality paint, and despite looking akin to any number of collector-level figures, will only cost you somewhere around $25. It's hard to say no to what may likely be the best figure available of this specific character.

Compared to it's most obvious competitor, NECA's 2006 offering, this one immediately comes out on top, with far prettier paint and more useful articulation. However, as a final note, I sincerely hope DS eventually reissues this figure with his far more iconic neon green coloration (which NECA did use). I'd adore it all that much more with such a cool palette. 

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Album Spotlight - A Message For Marta (TAS 1000)

Inspiration can come from the strangest of places. Enthralled by the awkward, context-free messages found on a discarded answering machine, Canadian foursome Cass Picken, Scott Howard, Matt Krysko and John Rogers saw potential in what ought to be ignored.  Taking their name from the model of the machine, TAS 1000, and the album's title A Message For Marta from the name of the apparent owner, Marta Leskard, the group melded a musical hodgepodge of creative sampling, genre jumping, and musical prowess.

Released in 2003, the album has remained quietly buried below both the radar, and below the radar's radar, for it's entire existence - it's single dip into popularity coming in Club Penguin precursor, Penguin Chat 3, where catchy intro track 'I've Been Delayed' was used as background music. The album's other songs and skits have been totally lost to irrelevance, known only to those familiar with the aforementioned site's history. Yet, in some sense, the rarity of the album makes it all the more artistically unique; making TAS 1000 as antiquated and rare as, well, a real TAS 1000.

Marta is an eccentric collection of unrelated songs tied together by repetitive, lo-fi vocals, creating a very unique style. Ranging from simple guitar strumming, to bouncy pop beats, to face-blasting synths, TAS has taken this opportunity to prove themselves extremely capable musicians.

Though admittedly lacking a cohesive vibe, the album occasionally does well creating emotion and implication using it's extremely minimal lyricism - a task that ought to be commended, for it's sheer complication. Songs 'Parks Canada' and 'Before You Leave', using almost only one's interpretative skills to meld a sad, longing mood, complementing the mystery shrouding each vocalist and their intentions. While heavily dependant on the sampled words chosen, both serve as prime examples of how sound alone can elicit emotion, using fittingly dreary atmospheres to project the intended feel.

Besides this, most songs are generally nondescript, their artistic and literal meaning both a mystery. The lyrics themselves mean next to nothing; ranging from a complaint about seemingly stolen 'Protein Shoes', to an exacerbating announcement that an unknown caller is now a fully licensed hairstylist. Marta is hardly concerned with capturing a specific overall impact, and instead aims only to deliver a fun-filled jam clearly only driven by what the band really wanted to play. And, it shows - based solely on how filled-out each song is, TAS clearly put their hearts and souls into toying with both an experimental gimmick and finally showcasing their notable skills.

All things considered, the album is a bit loosely formed, though the individual songs are often surprisingly well-made for an album as unknown as this. The repetition can sometimes grow annoying, and some tracks are a bit too plain to make an impact. Though perhaps not exactly underrated - despite their musical work usually being higher end, nothing the album offers is especially new - Marta is totally unrecognized.

Bar one or two other songs and a lost documentary, the album was TAS' only creative foray. Despite being almost undeniably impossible, I'd personally adore further work by the group - Marta is lacking in areas such as cohesiveness, but there's absolutely traces of potential seeping from the record. Far from perfect, but a neat display of a creative idea put to work.

Thursday, January 12, 2017


Here's something I'll probably do various times; look back and modify previous 'thought' posts.

My personal Church is rather untraditional; focusing less on by-the-books tradition and guideline, and more on direct religious focus. I see the typical structured version more informational, whereas the latter is more 'celebratory'.

I sat solemnly, munching slowly on cheese fries and sipping Dr. Pepper. As an upbeat pop-rock jam balred on the stage below the Cafe loft I occupied, I couldn't help but breath in the atmosphere. A unique sense of both appreciation for that far above us, and of a close-to-home interpretation intended to spread the joyous inflections to both the intent, and to the listener.

The dancing individuals, unashamed - proud - of their praise, the chatting elderly likely recalling countless experiences in their lives, the children scurrying about... as I absorbed the world around me,  many feet above the aforementioned peoples, I almost felt as if I'd seen earth from Heaven's point of view, watching intently as the peoples below act so intricately and purely.

All these walks of life, joined under one solid, unifying belief... it somehow gave me more faith. Not only in the blatant religious sense, but in the purpose of humanity. I began urgently marking down these impacts upon a torn envelope; what I saw, who I saw, what they were doing. Desperate to find why it suddenly mattered to me.

As I overlooked by observations, I began trying to decipher why they had happened as they had. What did it mean to me?

It was then that my previous belief that those we encounter in our lives only exist to impact us was crushed. Seeing the happiness and energy bustling about surrounding me, I finally saw myself not as the game, but as just another player. Perhaps my subverted opinion on 'reality' was, ironically, far too simple. Far too easily constructed. Perhaps rather than simply only influence the mind one exists within, we all influence each other, systematically and mechanically.

These influences are something of a God-given purpose; they can be as little as being particularly friendly, or enjoying a certain movie, or wearing a color. We are not alone at all; we are simultaneously sculpting one another. It makes waking up so much more enthralling when you see that there is a purpose for you to walk, to talk, to exist; even if that purpose may seem arbitrary, it could effect someone or something in an indescribable way.

I've somewhat decided, based on this, to no longer focus totally only pon my happiness - often, a top priority for me. I see I should use that feeling to lighten others, as well. To incite a laugh, inspire a smile, so much as an unimportant scoff; that small pleasure can not only make you a better person, but can also improve someone else's day.

There's a lot more to life than individual human desire. Perhaps it is a one-player game in some aspects - one of acceptance, and one of personal inescapability. But one in which, with enough thought, you can choose to win.

Whether or not this was a realization caused by Cheese Fries and Dr. Pepper, I may never know.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

King of the Monsters; The Godzilla Essentials

With a 62-year career of smashing, punching, and blasting, movie-mogul Toho's star Godzilla has become an international icon of both fun and destruction. However, despite being a household name, few have seen the films that made him the monster he is today.

31 movies can be quite the daunting number, however; and besides, how should the unfamiliar viewer decide which are worth the time, and which to throw back in the dollar bin? Being a massive fan of the Kaiju (Japanese for 'strange monster') genre, I've chosen five essential films which describe the series as a whole, in no particular order except release date.


The classic, the favorite; the first, and to many, best installment. 1954's Gojira pushes uniquely dark and socially relevant ideas for such a basic genre, particularly for the B-Movie adoring era it was made in. 

As many know, the film creates a metaphor for the horrific nuclear attacks which onced wiped out various Japanese cities via Godzilla himself, making a basic simile prove in and of itself how devastating the damage truly was. 

The Hiroshima and Nagasaki-esque visuals can be strikingly powerful, and the questions asked concerning progress versus humanity remain relevant to this very day. 

Full of great directing, a morally gripping story, and lots of food for thought, Gojira is an absolute for any newcomer to the series. 

Godzilla Vs. MechaGodzilla & Terror of MechaGodzilla

The MechaGodzilla duology brought a close to the twenty-one year long original era of Godzilla films (spanning from 1954 to 1975), pitting the nuclear monster against his greatest foe yet; himself. The two movies shine a light on both sides of this era; the dark, thoughtful side of films such as the aforementioned Gojira, and the 'cheesy' family features made infamous by late-night moviethons. Due to the films  being directly connected, I am discussing both in one entry.

Vs. tells the story of horror-turned-antihero Godzilla and local deity King Ceasar against the unnatural impersonator MechaGodzilla, created by a league of apelike invaders (no doubt inspired by Planet of the Apes) dead set upon the destruction of Japan. The movie has a generally light feel, with plenty of colors and a simple, yet enjoyable cast. Though not exactly a great film on it's own merits, it does a good job summarizing 'heroic' Godzilla.

Terror, taking place immediately after Vs., pits Godzilla again against his metallic counterpart, whom is now joined by fishlike beast Titanosaurus (likewise controlled by the Invaders). The plot is much more focused on the cast, however. A tragic love, a tortured scientist, feelings of entrapment and defeat; though not intended as a finale, it serves extremely well as one, crushing near all shreds of hope and raising the stakes to new highs.

Fundamentally different, the two movies give a solid brief insight into the variety that was the earlier run of Godzilla's career. Not only do they offer plenty of mega-monster fun, but some genuinely well-done filmmaking that will leave you impressed. 

Godzilla Vs. Biollante

Nominated as Japan's all-time favorite Godzilla film in a recent poll, Biollante is often regarded as one of the finest modern installments to the series. Being the second in an all-new continuity of Biollante cemented a darker, more realistic take on the famous creature.

Following a complex series of international complications, military attacks, industrial espionage, and oddball scientific discoveries, this movie takes on far more than perhaps any previous Godzilla. The film is loaded to the brim with plotlines and characters, but hardly grows confusing or uninteresting - in fact, it's really quite the opposite, with some truly compelling beats and concepts. 

Among all this, there's actually a very heavy focus on Godzilla and rose-based atrocity Biollante (a creature mutated from Godzilla himself via some literal mad science). The monsters' scenes are divided neatly between classic Godzilla destruction and one-on-one brawls, giving a little taste of both ends of the spectrum.

The effects are particularly impressive (which may come as a surprise to the unfamiliar viewer), lookings particularly realistic and demanding onscreen. Godzilla is expressive and menacing, and Biollante - a massive and intricate Little Shop of Horrors style puppet - is a marvel of practical effects. 

Biollante, not unlike the MechaGodzilla films, gives one a feel for the various styles within the second series of Godzilla movies. Along with this, it's extremely well-done technically, being a strong thrill-ride all the way through. Looks like the entirety of Japan may have been right, after all.

Giant Monsters All-Out Attack

The era of films between 1984 and 1995 followed a relatively strict, solid reality, barring any especially new concepts from being considered. Toho's next run of Godzilla adventures, made between 1999 and 2004, specifically opted out of this confining build, going instead for an anthology of similar, yet totally unrelated movies.

Though the final results were not as varied as likely intended, a shining example of the new era's potential came in 2001's Giant Monsters All-Out Attack. Directed by Kaiju superstar Shusuke Kaneko, the film served as a strong, yet totally new direct sequel to Gojira, taking on it's own array of metaphors alongside excellently conducted filmmaking.

Angered by Japan's modern state of self-pride and arrogance, spirits of those lost to the horrors of World War Two infest Godzilla's remains, rebirthing the now long-forgotten creature and using his incredible power to take vengeance against their peoples for bashing the traditions of old. However, three of Earth's Guardian Monsters - Baragon, Mothra, and Ghidorah - are released from an ancient slumber to attempt to quell the unholy giant. Following a filmmaker determined to prove her worth, a military stunned by an array of unbeatable foes, and a cast of colorful, yet strong characters, the movie is perhaps one of the closest times a Godzilla venture has come to resembling any typical American action feature.

Though packaged as a Hollywood style monster mash, Monsters is filled to the brim with subtle metaphors concerning Japan's denial and hiding of it's sometimes troubled past, and society's growing distaste for the wise words of our elders. The film feels both classic and modern, combining unique elements of mysticism to a world awestruck by such terrible creatures. It's one of the few entries that feels like a truly filly-realized production - with messages that are all relevant, effects that rival even the newest installments, an unforgettable array of characters, and some of the best action the series has ever seen.

These selections are only some of what the long, varied series has to offer; providing a small taste of what each movie's avenues have to offer. With near limitless creativity and unique intent, the Godzilla films have a little something for everyone; even if that something is the thrill of smashing and bashing.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Album Spotlight - These Are Our Children (I Monster)

First released in 1998, I Monster's debut album These Are Our Children is uniquely enigmatic and sonically gripping, painting an eerie picture through it's specifically crafted choices of nostalgic elements; A run-down Jazz bar fogged by a grimy film of smoke, inhabited by ghosts, ghouls, and all reaches of once horrific, but now inoffensively off-putting horrors. Putting aside their tragic longings to be feared once more, the seedy collective of haunts translates their naturally dark, yet morbidly upbeat souls into a jam session full of unnaturally offbeat tunes. 

Though mostly consisting of slow-paced instrumentals dotted with strange samples, bloopy synths, and blaring horn sections, the occasional vocals have a perfected antiquated feel, almost as if copied directly from a long-forgotten record of old. Not unlike later Monster released, there is a 'retro' vibe throughout, what with the use of simplistic musical structures and now-outdated or ignored instruments (such as passé synthesizer settings or nostalgic vocoders). 

The creative freedom is palpable; with one songs sounding not unlike any common Trip-Hop beat, while another is akin to a friendly Haunted Mansion tune, while yet another dips into the inky blacks of dub. However, the general murky inflection of the album never waivers - the dizzy, intoxicated Halloween vibe reaching a striking compendium of sounds in the climax 'Daydream in Blue', a menacing and booming remix of Wallace Collection's 'Daydream'.

Though perhaps unintentionally Lo-Fi, and thus a bit dreary, when Children hits it's love for the decrepit on the head it bleeds with dark creativity, being both classy and gothic in it's blend of inflections. However, the slower dredges of the album can be less than enthralling, and a bit too uniform in their builds. There's an all-too-often ignored difference between a comprehensive sound, and simple repetition of the same style; the latter of which heavily applies to this album.

I Monster's first foray into the world of music is a subdued, yet innovative and unique one; though it has it's variety of faults, which heavily impede the album from successfully playing through it's entirety without boring the listener, one cannot deny the excellent sense of spirit built through the various intentional stylistic choices is an undeniable and strong feature for a group's first effort to boast.