Tuesday, November 15, 2016

What I Watched In October

As you might expect, last month was a busy movie watching 31 days of Halloween with only a few non-horror or monster movies wedging themselves into view. Sadly one of them was ..... hold on. 

I have not been a big fan of the Abrams STAR TREK reboot films. The first was a sloppy mess with a script that seemed assembled in the dark from six separate story ideas. The only thing that saved it for most people is that Abrams knew the story was crap so he welded it together with FAST FAST FAST action to keep the audience from figuring out how stupidly constructed the damned thing was. Plot contrivance, thy name is STAR TREK (2009). The second film was just about as bad, heaping confused plotting and poorly thought out concepts (why are there spacecraft in a universe in which planet to planet teleportation is possible?) onto a story that makes every single character an idiot. Those two films made me sorry that the franchise was still limping along having such a public, embarrassing series of blunders. It was like watching a good friend crap their pants on stage in front of a packed house.

So now we have the third (and hopefully last) of these mistakes. There was hope for this one simply because it was written by an actual fan of Star Trek - there's a shocking idea! Abrams is on record as not being a fan of Trek and sadly his two films prove he didn't care to learn more than the surface details. Maybe 40 plus years of history was too daunting? Luckily a member of the cast was knowledgeable, talented and willing to try to save this mess of a reboot. Did he succeed?

Not in my opinion. I will admit that this is better than the first two. The story hangs together pretty well and manages to make sense well enough. The excellent cast does as good a job as they can given the material. The problems with this one are different but just as irritating though. Once again we have a character out for revenge against the Federation as if that were the only adventure that the Enterprise crew could EVER encounter. And, of course, we destroy the ship again as if that was somehow going to be impressive for the - what? - third time in the Trek feature films? There are other ways to maroon and isolate the cast but no one seems to be able to get those ideas past whatever committee approves bad plot concepts at Paramount.

Oh, to hell with it! This sucker was passable but overlong, over obvious and simply wasted its fine group of actors. By the time Kirk is running around on a motorcycle I was just wanting the thing to end already. Please - let there not be a fourth. 

After far too long Toho Studios has produced a new Japanese Godzilla film! SHIN GODZILLA (or Godzilla Resurgence) is a fantastic exercise in trying something fresh while still giving fans the badass monster destruction. This movie ignores all previous Big G films giving the audience a leg up on the sea of scrambling bureaucrats as they try to understand what is happening when this giant creature lurches out of the ocean and proceeds to accidentally level huge sections of Tokyo. After a while the googly-eyed thing slides back into the bay leaving the entire government with the task of stopping it if it returns. Of course, it does return, changed pissed and seemingly determined to raze th whole city if it can!  

I loved this film more than I thought I would. The radical rethink of this entry is not to start over from scratch but to show just how difficult it would be to get all the governmental necessities in place to get ANYTHING of the magnitude needed for this threat set in motion. Endless meetings in dozens of conference rooms are used to show how much work it really is to get things done in a modern bureaucracy. These scenes could have been incredibly boring (as they have been in some older giant monster films) but the filmmakers here aren't just padding the movie's running time with these scenes. These sequences are in place to humorously poke fun at Japanese society, it's norms and the stodgy ways that things have to get done to keep from breaking decorum. And to keep the tone light these often minutes long dialog scenes are edited at lightening speed, jumping from speaker to speaker, changing angles and refusing to allow the film to feel slow. I was laughing with this film even while I was struggling to read all the subtitles onscreen as things moved at super speed. Damn, I wish I spoke Japanese!

But, of course, no one comes to a Godzilla film to see humans dealing with supply and shipping problems. No, we come to see giant monster action and WOW does this movie deliver! The effects work is astonishing and a brilliant use of both practical and CGI magic to make every single shot seem as realistic as possible. There is so much detail in the shots with every action and it's consequences violently displayed that this often felt like a completely new way to imagine the kaiju film. I was thrilled, amused and totally entertained!


ZOLTAN, HOUND OF DRACULA (1978) - 3 (rewatch)
SPASMS (1983) - 6 (pretty insane giant snake story)
TRACK OF THE VAMPIRE (1966) - 5 (padded, slightly silly patch job from Corman)
HILLBILLIES IN A HAUNTED HOUSE (1967) - 3 (terrible film but good music)
DEEP IN THE WOODS (2000) - 7 (rewatch)
THE BLACK CAT (1981) - 7 (rewatch)
SILENT HOUSE (2011) - 7 (well done horror thriller)
GHOST STORY (1981) - 7 (good but not as good as the book)
SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE (1982) - 6 (well done little slasher)
BOOGEYMAN 2 (2007) - 6 (becomes a slasher but not bad at all) 
HORROR RISES FROM THE TOMB (1972) - 8 (rewatch)
DEMONS 2 (1986) - 7 (rewatch)
SHIN GODZILLA (2016) - 9
FRANKENSTEIN (1931) - 9 (rewatch)
HALLOWEEN II (1981) - 7 (rewatch)
WE ARE STILL HERE (2015) - 9 (rewatch)
YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN (1974) -10 (rewatch)
PHANTASM (1979) - 8 (rewatch)
COUNT DRACULA'S GREAT LOVE (1973) - 7 (rewatch)
IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE (1953) - 7 (rewatch)
TRICK 'R' TREAT (2007) - 9 (rewatch)
PERKINS' 14 (2009) - 4 (good idea undermined by bad acting and sloppy scripting)
RiffTrax - CARNIVAL OF SOULS (1962) - 8 (film is an 8 - RiffTrax version was an 8 as well)
FRIDAY THE 13TH (2009) - 4 (rewatch) (empty, dull, well photographer blah)
BLAIR WITCH (2016) - 5 (good idea - mediocre execution)
THE X FROM OUTER SPACE (1967) - 3 (rewatch)
SCOOBY DOO AND THE LEGEND OF THE VAMPIRE (2003) - 6 (pretty good Australian adventure for the team)
CHILD'S PLAY 3 (1991) - 6
SATAN'S LITTLE HELPER (2004) - 3 (weakly done Halloween set slasher)
MANHATTAN BABY (1982) - 7 (rewatch)
SAVAGE WEEKEND (1979) -4 (part backwoods slasher, part softcore sex film)
TRICK OR TREATS (1982)- 5 (tormented babysitter/evil kid/escaped psycho blend) 

No comments: