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June 20th, 2018 Movie – Reptillian (a.k.a. Yonggary)

yonggary

As the century was coming to an end, there was a lot of buzz about the Hollywood big budget remake of Godzilla. Well, South Korea decided to reboot their own monster and bring him into the new century as well. Now I had heard about this occurring and was actually curious about seeing it. My first encounter with this movie was actually catching the last 10 minutes or so on TV one day and my initial thoughts were, “What the hell is this?” I would eventually watch the whole movie when I picked it up on DVD but I have to say I was disappointed. See, much like the original Yongary, the original Korean version was not available for me to get, but this time it was not because the print was lost, but rather that it was never released on video in any market. So I am forced to watch the American version, which was released in the U.S. as Reptilian.

The plot: In Southeast Asia, an archaeological team is exploring some caverns but when one of the leaders, Dr. Hughes, gets separated from the group, the other leader, Dr. Campbell, refuses to go look for him, wanting to claim any finds for himself. As Dr. Hughes searches for the others, he finds several fossils including that of an alien being holding a strange gem, which shocks him and causes him to stumble and cry out. One of the team members hears him and wants to go looking for him but Campbell refuses, saying they are too close. He then sees a strange glowing rock and has the workers dig there but when the worker strikes the rock, an explosion occurs that kills all of the team members except for Campbell, who had ducked behind some rocks, and Hughes as he wasn’t there. Campbell steps out from the rocks and sees a rock with some hieroglyphs on it and starts laughing. Two years later, an alien mothership approaches the Earth, hiding behind the moon to avoid detection before launching several ships and destroying a satellite and space shuttle. Meanwhile, reporter Bud Black is sent to cover the story of Dr. Campbell’s latest discovery, a giant dinosaur fossil. Later that night, Dr. Hughes confronts Campbell’s assistant and niece Holly Davis but Campbell shows up and mocks Hughes for disappearing for the past 2 years. Hughes warns Campbell about his greed and tells him that they will all be in danger if Yonggary regains life. Some time later, the alien ships fire on the Earth, causing an electrical surge near the dig site that kills two workers. The next morning, Bud is taking some pictures of the accident but Campbell grabs his camera and destroys the film. He then tells the workers to get rid of the bodies and continue their work, offering them double their salary to continue. When Holly questions him, he speaks with her privately and despite her saying that it was the third “accident” in the last week, he refuses to let anything stop the dig and says she can leave if she doesn’t like it. Later that night, another worker is killed as the fossil begins to regrow it’s teeth and bones. Bud heard the scream and takes some pictures but Campbell again destroys the film, saying bad publicity won’t do either of them any good, then gets rid of the body but another body appears in the morning. Meanwhile, the U.S. military have detected the alien spaceship and General Murdock is placed in command of the situation. Back in Asia, Holly has left the dig site after Campbell’s refusal to investigate the deaths. She is approached by Hughes, who asks her to hear him out. He explains that there were more hieroglyphs in the cavern as well as the alien fossil and what he deciphered talked about how Yonggary would be brought back to life by a beam of light. When she asks why he didn’t tell the authorities, he tells her he was a “guest” of the U.S. government but they were more interested in the alien fossil than his warnings. Holly and Hughes head back to the dig site just as the fossil is completely unearthed and Campbell gloats in his believed supremacy. When the alien craft fires another beam at the site, it revives Yonggary, who attacks the site, killing Campbell and several workers, before being teleported away by the aliens. Meanwhile, the Murdock is told of the alien attack on the dig site and sends Captain Parker to investigate and he finds Hughes and Holly and begins questioning them before having Sgt. Archie take them back to their command center. Along the way, Hughes explains some more to Holly about what happened to him the last two years, and how NSIA (National Space Investigation Agency) had classified his information that he gave them so he chose to work on finishing decoding all of the hieroglyphs before trying to stop Campbell. Suddenly, Yonggary is teleported right in front of them and as they stop the jeep, they get out and observe Yonggary, with Hughes telling them not to make any sudden movement. When a fleet of helicopters attracts his attention, they quickly get away as the helicopters begin attacking Yonggary but have no success and he destroys several of them before being teleported away again. Back in the command center, Murdock is ranting about the situation when he is alerted to the arrival of Mr. Mills, a representative from NSIA, who says he had advanced knowledge of the alien craft, which angers Murdock when Mills says they knew about it months ago. Mills explains that a paleontologist had given them information of an alien civilization had visited the Earth over 200 million years ago but he stole sensitive data and disappeared. The aliens teleport Yonggary into the nearby city and Murdock and his team are able to get a visual of it before the aliens destroy the satellite. Archie enters the command center with Holly and Hughes and Mills says that Hughes is the paleontologist that was helping them. When Hughes tells Murdock that Mills chose to ignore his warnings and says he might be able to stop Yonggary if he can finish decoding the information on the disk he has, Mills tries to grab the disk but Archie stops him. As Murdock tries to coordinate an attack on Yonggary, Mills tries to leave but Murdock refuses to let him leave the building and has Archie escort him out of the command room. As a jet squadron begin attack Yonggary with no success, Murdock is informed that he has 5 hours to try to destroy Yonggary or else the President will authorize a nuke to be dropped. When Yonggary is teleported away again, Murdock organizes an evacuation of the city in case he returns, then tries to figure out what they should do next, deciding to activate an experimental T-Force squadron to attack Yongarry with jet packs if he returns. Meanwhile, Hughes and Holly manage to finish deciphering the rest of the hieroglyphs and realize that Yonggary is being controlled by the aliens by a diamond in it’s head but they are confused when it says that another beam of light will occur if the diamond is destroyed. Yonggary is teleported next to a nuclear plant and Parker leads the T Force to stop him. Hughes and Holly tell Murdock about the diamond and Parker is ordered to target it and when the aliens realize that they are targeting the diamond, they teleport him away. Back at the command center, Murdock has Mills brought back into the room and questions him about the diamond that Hughes had and he explains that it was essentially a non carbon material. Figuring out that they can track the teleport beam with infared, they follow the beam as Yonggary is teleported back to the city. Parker leads his team to attack Yonggary again but his jet pack is damaged by debris from an exploding building, forcing him to crash. As his team is getting destroyed, he orders them to fall back but one of his troops sacrifices himself to destroy the diamond before Yonggary can teleport away again. Parker attacks Yonggary but notices that he is acting different and stops as Yonggary appears non-aggressive. When some planes attack and accidentally hit a building, Yonggary stops it from falling on people and Hughes and Holly convince Murdock that Yonggary is on their side now and he calls off the attack. Murdock contacts the President and asks for more time, when their signals are suddenly jammed. They discover that Mills is jamming them, as he wants Yonggary dead for his own reasons but they are able to stop Mills and regain communications. They discover that the aliens have sent another monster named Cyker to fight Yonggary and the two monsters fight, with Yonggary seemingly killing it when he rips off it’s head. When Cyker continues fighting, Yonggary blows a fireball down it’s open neck, causing him to explode. Hughes and Holly cheer that Cyker is destroyed but Murdock warns them that it isn’t over yet, as they rush to stop the nuke from being dropped on the city, stopping it at the last second. With Cyker killed, the aliens choose to leave, saying they need to escape before Yonggary discovers his true powers while on Earth, Yonggary is transported to a deserted island to live.

This is honestly a truly disappointing movie to watch. The acting was honestly bad, with several characters going completely over the top with their delivery. Bruce Cornwell (Mills) and Richard Livingston (Campbell) were honestly the only two that gave any sort of emotion with their performances that helped make their characters more memorable; with Campbell coming across as a real egotistical asshole while Mills came across as a true, weaselly, self-serving government stooge. The story honestly felt kind of disjointed in what they were going for. I mean, I actually thought the idea of aliens bringing the Yonggary fossil back to life to destroy the world was kind of a neat idea, but the pacing of the movie and the various cutaways just made it difficult to really follow. The special effects were honestly just terrible. Instead of suitimation, they decided to make the monsters both CGI but while the creature designs looked good, the creatures looked soo fake when they were in the cities or fighting each other. It honestly made the movie look extremely cheap, which is a knock against it as it was apparently the most expensive South Korean film produced at the time. A let down of a movie and a sad way to more or less kill a franchise.

Rating: 1 1/2 out of 5

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horror, kaiju movie, movie, movie review, sci-fi

June 19th, 2018 Movie – Yongary: Monster From The Deep

yongary Monster From The Deep

I didn’t lie yesterday. I told you that I was out of Toho kaiju movies but I didn’t say I was completely out of kaiju movies. Today’s movie is actually a little fitting considering the nationality of it. See, back in the 60’s, South Korea, seeing the success of Godzilla and other kaiju films, decided to try their hand at the kaiju movie business. So South Korea’s Keukdong Entertainment Company decided to partner with Japan’s Toei Company (who would later become famous for Super Sentai (which would become Power Rangers)) and come up with their own movie. Now I first heard about this movie years ago while talking about Japanese monster movies and someone had asked if I had seen it, saying it was basically a Korean Godzilla knock off. Well I hadn’t at the time but I would rectify that and pretty soon added Yongary: Monster Of The Deep to my collection of kaiju movies.

The plot: In South Korea, the families of an astronaut and his new bride watch as they drive off for their honeymoon, then tease Il-woo and his girlfriend Soon-a about when they will tie the knot. Il-woo leaves, citing he has a lot of research to do, and Soon-a is upset, thinking that he loves his research more than her but her father assures her that is not the case. As the married couple drive down the road, they are struck by a beam of light that causes them to start itching. Il-woo comes across them and after talking with the astronaut, he realizes what is going on and calls out for Icho, the bride’s younger brother, the come out of hiding. Icho comes out and the couple continue on their honeymoon while Il-woo chastises Icho for taking the ray gun out of his lab, saying he could have seriously hurt his sister with it. That night, the astronaut gets called away from his honeymoon for an emergency assignment to provide rocket surveillance on a possible nuclear testing site in the middle east. As his capsule heads into space and begins monitoring the area, the test commences and the explosion causes interference with the capsules radio, as well as triggers an earthquake to occur. When the control tower finally manages to regain contact with the capsule, they have him land and he informs them that the earthquake is moving, just as the scientists confirm that the earthquake’s epicenter has shifted and is moving towards Korea. As officials meet to discuss what they should do about the earthquake, it reaches the Hwanghae province and they decide to evacuate the area and impose martial law. As the earthquake occurs, a photographer in the area takes some pictures and spots a creature moving around underneath where the ground split open. He drives off to try and get to the authorities but ends up crashing off a cliff due to the tremors. Some guards find him and bring him to the emergency panel, where he hands them his camera before dying from his wounds. When the film is developed, the authorities see the man’s pictures of the giant monster and one of the scientist names the creature Yongary, based on an old legend. When Yongary emerges from the ground, the military is sent in to try and kill him but their tanks have no effect on the giant monster as it makes it’s way towards Seoul. As the city is evacuated, Il-woo decides to head there to observe Yongary and try to figure out a weakness and Soon-a and Icho go to try and stop him. They eventually find Il-woo and duck behind a wall as Yongary is close by, then watch as it continues to wreck the city. Deciding it is too dangerous, they all leave but end up getting separated, and Il-woo and Soon-a start trying to find Icho. The military wants to use guided missiles to attack Yongary but the government fears it would cause more damage to the area and refuses to allow the attack. Meanwhile, Icho makes his way through the sewers and ends up at an oil refinery just as Yongary arrives there. Icho watches as Yongary begins drinking from the tanks containing gasoline and oil, so Icho shuts off the valve, preventing more oil from flowing to the tanks. As Yongary angrily starts thrashing about, he smashes a building and causes an explosion that envelopes him in a white cloud of gas. Icho notices that Yongary starts acting strange when the gas cloud envelopes him and he rushes off to find Il-woo and tell him what he saw. When Icho returns home, he tells Il-woo what he saw and they decide to go to the authorities to speak with them and Il-woo says that the missiles would only make him stronger but they don’t believe him and decide to continue with their plan to use guided missiles on Yongary. Il-woo returns to his lab and, based on what Icho had said about the gas, begins fashioning an ammonia solution to try and defeat Yongary. Icho sneaks back out of the house and uses the itch ray to lure Yongary back to the refinery, where it absorbs the fire from a burning tanker. The military launches it’s missile attack but they have no effect on Yongary. Meanwhile, Il-woo, Soon-a, her sister and new husband use a helicopter to fly over Yongary and drop Il-woo’s ammonia solution into the clouds, causing it to rain and put Yongary to sleep but Il-woo says it is only temporary and that he needs to do some more work on the formula. As he works in his lab on the formula, Icho sneaks out again and goes to see Yongary, using the beam on him and causing him to wake up. Icho laughs when it appears Yongary is starting to dance and he dances with him until some soldiers show up and quickly take Icho to safety. Yongary renews his rampage and the military realizes that their missiles had no effect on him and try a new attack on him. Meanwhile, Il-woo finishes refining his solution and heads out to load it into a helicopter. As Yongary reaches the Han river, they fly overhead and begin dumping the ammonia onto Yongary, causing him to thrash about violently before eventually collapsing to the ground. Icho begs them not to kill Yongary but Il-woo says they have no choice as Yongary finally dies. The next day, Il-woo is commended for his role in stopping Yongary and he gives Icho the credit for his observations on Yongary’s behavior. Icho tells the reporters that Yongary wasn’t really evil, as he was just searching for food but he knows that Yongary couldn’t live with people, but still wishes he could dance with him again. As they all head inside, Il-woo offers to marry Soon-a and she accepts, the smacks Icho when he says that soon she might have a brat like him of her own.

I honestly think the thing that bugs me the most about this movie is that we will probably never be able to see the original Korean version, as the original negatives were shipped out overseas for international release and ended up being lost and the only version available is the AIP English dub. That being said, there are some good elements to this movie but it is one of the weaker kaiju movies that I have seen. The acting was ok, though the dubbing made some of the scenes more comedic than they probably should have been. They seemed to decide to go with the Gamera route and have this be somewhat more kid-centric so a lot of focus was on Icho but to be honest, he was kind of a pain in the ass brat. I mean, he steals the ray gun three times, using it first on his own sister and then on Yongary twice. Some aspects of the story were interesting, such as Yongary feeding on oil and gasoline but the one obvious flaw with that plot line is that if the nuclear test and earthquake occurred in the Middle East, then wouldn’t Yongary just stay in that region, as there is an abundance of those substances there. But of course, they wanted the movie to be focused on South Korea so they had him travel there. The Yongary suit honestly looked a little cheap, and you could totally see the flame thrower nozzle in his mouth the times he breathed fire, while the model sets were kind of hit or miss in regards to how good they looked. It was a good attempt, but I think they could have done a better job with it.

Rating: 2 1/2 out of 5

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June 18th, 2018 Movie – Yog: Monster From Space (a.k.a. Space Amoeba)

yog monster from space

This is a sad day for me regarding this blog as today I find myself watching the last of the Toho Kaiju movies that I own. Here is the great thing about this movie; I first learned of this movie through a video game. Years ago, I had Godzilla: Monster of Monsters for the Nintendo and one of the first monsters you fight was a giant squid-like monster named Gezora. At the time, I had never heard of Gezora before so I spent some time trying to figure out where he came from and eventually learned of today’s movie. I managed to record it when it aired on TV once and when that copy wore out, I went looking for it on DVD. Problem is, When I tried to find it I kept coming across a movie called Space Amoeba, which I quickly learned was the original name for the movie. Now, you might be asking why I didn’t review this movie back when I was on the letter “S” Well, Yog: Monster From Space was the title I have always associated with this movie and so that is the title I chose to use for today’s review.

The plot: The Helios 7 space probe is sent out on a mission to orbit and study Jupiter for one year, then return to Earth. As it flies through space, it passes through a strange gaseous cloud, which envelopes the probe before making it’s way inside, redirecting the probe back to Earth. On a plane flying over the pacific, photographer Taro Kudo has just read an article about the Helios 7’s disappearance when he sees it landing in the ocean below. He tries to tell the newspaper he freelances for about the probe’s landing but they don’t believe him, thinking it impossible for an unmanned probe to change course and land on it’s own. As he leaves the office, Kudo is approached by a young woman named Ayako Hoshino, who wants him to photograph an island for her. Taking Kudo to her employer, they explain that they are developing a hotel on Selgio Island and wanted him to take pictures of the island for selling points for the hotel. Their trip will alos include Dr. Kyoichi Mida, a scientist that Kudo had worked with before, who is going to the island to study the wildlife, as he believes giant monsters once lived there. When they show Kudo the location of the island on the map, he pulls out his own map that has the location marked and says that the island is in the area where he saw Helios 7 land and he agrees to go with them. On Selgio Island, 2 advanced workers, Sakura and Yokoyama, are heading to the beach to go fishing, with Yokoyama justifying shirking their duty by saying they are doing it to provide more food for the people arriving in town. Suddenly, a giant cuttlefish named Gezora appears and grabs Sakura, dragging him into the water. Yokoyama, manages to escape and encounters the local village chief, Ombo, and some of his men. Yokoyama tells Ombo that Gezora appeared and killed Sakura and Ombo says that Gezora is angry with their plans for the island. As Kudo, Ayako, and Mida travel to the island, they are joined by an anthropologist named Makoto Obata, who is also traveling to the island to study the ancient native civilization there. When their boat anchors off shore, Rico, Ombo’s son, goes to pick them up in a small motorboat but as they ask him why nobody is there to meet them on the island, he tells them that Gezora is angry with them, then heads off to get Yokoyama. As they wait, Kudo unfolds a map and says that they will have to keep a strict schedule if they want to explore the whole island in the week’s time that they have. Rico returns with Yokoyama and they start loading the groups luggage into their jeep. Mida and Kudo try to talk to Yokoyama about thewhat happened with Sakura but he refuses to tell them anything, saying Gezora can read minds and would get angry. They all get into the jeep and head off, stopping at a nearby cave to explore. Inside, they find a pool of water when Mida notices something glowing in the water. The water becomes very agitated, soaking the group and after the water calms, they notice Sakura’s watch lying on the ground, having been dispelled by the water. Yokoyama freaks out and leaves the cave and drives off in the jeep, with Rico asking him why they left the others. Yokoyama returns to the main camp and starts packing his things so he can leave the island but Gezora emerges from the water and heads across the land, destroying the hut that Yokoyama is in in it’s quest to get to him. Rico is thrown from the building and as he starts to pass out, he notices some bats circling around Gezora, seeming to drive it away. Kudo and the others walk back to the camp and find the jeep and building destroyed. They find Rico, who is in a state of deep shock, and as he examines the wound on Rico, Mida says that if Gezora did this, it’s body temperature must be close to freezing, as Rico’s wound looks like frostbite. Suddenly, a native girl named Saki shows up, worried about Rico and when she realizes that they want to help him, she leads them to her village. At the village, they find Ombo leading the villagers in a prayer to Gezora and when he spots them, he curses the outsiders for bringing destruction to their village. Saki leads them to a hut, where they lay Rico down on a mat and try to figure out their next move. Obata believes the whole thing is a hoax meant to scare people away from the island and when Kudo comments on Obata’s stealing the hotel plans, he reveals that he actually works for one of Ayako’s competitors. The next day, Kudo and Mida go diving down into the water and discover Helios 7 on the ocean’s floor. Suddenly, Gezora appears and attacks them but when a pod of dolphins swim by, they are able to escape. Gezora makes his way on land, where it attacks the village and knocks Ombo aside. Ayako, Saki, Obato, and the other villagers retreat to the hills, where they are met by Kudo and Mida. Trying to think of a way to kill it, Mida says that due to it’s low body temperature, they might try burning it and Ayako comments on it’s reaction to the fire in the village. Suddenly, some natives show up with some guns and cans of gasoline and Kudo comes up with a plan. Kudo and Mida begin firing at Gezora, luring it towards a clearing where they had the natives pour out the gasoline. When Gezora enters the clearing, they set the gasoline on fire, engulfing Gezora in flames. Gezora retreats back into the sea, where it’s body collapses to the ocean floor and the glowing spores from outer space emerge from within it’s body. On the island, the natives take Kudo and the others to an old WWII Japanese ammunition depot from when the Japanese were stationed on the island and they decide they should have enough gasoline and supplies to defend themselves. Obata decides to try and escape the island, taking the raft and paddling out to sea when something suddenly capsizes the raft. As the others watch and try to figure out what happened, a giant crab, Ganimes, appears and heads towards the group. Kudo, Mida, and the villagers shoot at Ganimes but their bullets appear to have no effect on the giant creature. Kudo manages to shoot out one of Ganimes’s eyes and as it chases him and Ayako, he shoots out the other one, then lures it off a cliff. As Ayako helps Kudo back up, Ganimes recovers and Kudo begins firing at the nearby cans of gasoline next to it, causing an explosion that kills the creature. As they head back to rejoin the others, they don’t see the space particles emerging from Ganimes’s remains and heading back towards the sea. Obata had survived being capsized and when he awakens on the beach, he sees the strange dust and moves to examine it only for it to envelope him. The dust, which is actually a extraterrestrial parasite, takes over his body and says he will help it take over the world. elsewhere, Mida examines the remains of Gamines and tells Kudo and Ayako that the creatures were simply ordinary creatures that were change to giant size and he believes the only thing that could have done it was some sort of space monster. Saki approaches them and asks them to come to her wedding with Rico and they agree but as Kudo takes a picture of the couple, Rico screams out and runs off. After he stumbles, Saki catches up to Rico to find he has come out of his state of shock and remembers her. Kudo and the others approach and when they ask what happened, Rico tells them that the bats scared off Gezora. Kudo recalls the dolphins when they were attacked and Mida realizes that the monster must be sensitive to ultrasonic frequencies. They decide to capture some bats in order to use them to keep the monster at bay but when they find a cave, they find all of the bats inside have been killed. As the split up to check out some more caves, with several other caves being filled with dead bats, Kudo and Ayako are attacked  by a giant turtle named Kamoebas. They quickly duck into a cave only to find some bats inside, which keep Kamoebas from attacking them, and after it leaves, they go tell the others. As the villagers work on sealing the entrances to the cave, in order to keep the bats there, Obata shows up, curious as to what they are doing and Kudo gets suspicious of him. When night starts to fall, Kudo notices Obata has disappeared and goes looking for him, only to see him pouring gasoline on the barricades. Kudo tries to stop him but Obata easily tosses him aside and as the others leave the cave, Mida realizes that Obata has been possessed by the space creature. Obata lights the barricades on fire, intending to smother all of the bats with the smoke but when Ayako pleads for Obata to not do this, Obata regains control of his body long enough to free the bats before walking off towards where Kamoebas and another Ganimes have appeared. The two monsters are suddenly surrounded by bats, whose ultrasonic waves cause the two monsters to begin fighting  and as their battle commences, they end up moving up a volcano and falling into it. As Kudo and the others watch, Mida tells them that not even the space creatures could have survived that. They then see Obata approaching the volcano and choosing to sacrifice himself in order to ensure that the last of the space creature dies. As they see the ship returning to pick them up, Kudo comments that he won’t be able to report the story to anyone as nobody would believe it.

This is a pretty decent kaiju movie, though it definitely was lacking in the property destruction that makes these movies so much fun. The acting was good, with only the typical 70’s dubbing issues really detracting from it. The story was kind of interesting, as I liked the idea of the parasitic space creature taking people over, as well as it being able to make giant monsters, but the whole take over the world plot just felt somewhat anticlimactic. I would have preferred some other reason for the dust arriving on Earth, like just random destruction. The suits created for the monsters were actually pretty decent and did fit in with the island setting for the movie, but I still wish we could have had them attack a major city. A fun little kaiju movie that is worth giving a watch.

Rating: 3 out of 5

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horror, kaiju movie, movie, movie review, sci-fi

April 22nd, 2018 Movie – Varan The Unbelievable

varanj
The other day I had commented on it being a long time since I had watched a Ray Harryhausen movie for this blog. Well, the same thing can be said for watching a Toho Studios kaiju film. Don’t get me wrong, Godzilla movies are pretty much my go to when I want something to watch or I am feeling down. When I started collecting the movies in the unedited Japanese, today’s movie was one of the first ones I bought off of eBay. However, the seller never sent it, or the other movies I ordered from him. A few weeks later, I found the English version at a video store and quickly snatched it up, but I knew that I still wanted the original Japanese version. Almost a year later, the seller finally responded to my emails, and negative feedback and reporting on eBay, and sent the movies I had bought from him. Flash forward several years later and the original Japanese version was released on DVD and I bought that, then had a friend record my English version VHS to DVD so that I could have both movies in an updated format. Now, let’s enjoy this Sunday morning with today’s movie, Varan The Unbelievable.

The plot: When a rare species of butterfly, thought to only exist in Siberia, is found by a vacationing student in Northern Japan, the university sends two members to the region called The Japanese Tibet to see if more can be found. The two men make their way through the mountain road and eventually reach a village but when they ask if it is Iwaya Village, the villagers all walk away. Thinking the villagers are simply scared of outsiders, the two men continue on and attempt to locate the lake the butterflies were found at. AS some strange tremors occur, they are forced to stop the car and notice a butterfly nearby but as they go to catch it, they hear a strange roar and a sudden gust of wind knocks them to the ground, just as a landslide crushes them. As the newspaper reports on the mysterious landslide, the villagers say that the men were killed by their god. Back at the university, Yuriko, the sister of one of the men that died, arrives to collect her brother’s things and questions Dr. Sugimoto about what happened to her brother. When he tells her they aren’t sure but a second expedition is being prepared to journey there, Yuriko says that she is a reporter and is planning on going there to discover the truth about what happened to her brother. When he learns she is going to be accompanied by another reporter, Motohiko, Kenji, one of Sugimoto’s assistants, asks permission to accompany her as well. The three head out towards Iwaya Village and as they get close, they are met by Gen, the son of the village priest, who tells them not to go any further or else their god, Baradagi. Hearing a roar coming from the lake, the boy warns them not to be seen or else Baradagi will eat them, then heads towards the village, with the three adults following behind him. When they reach the village, they find the priest leading the villagers in a prayer towards a statue that represents Baradagi, begging forgiveness for the people that invaded it’s privacy. When the priest spots the intruders, he tells them to leave or Baradagi will kill them like the other intruders. Kenji tries to reason with him, saying there is no way Baradagi really exists. Hearing another roar coming from the lake, Gen goes rushing off to locate his dog, who had run off, and the priest refuses to let his wife go after him. Kenji, Yuriko, and Motohiko decide to go looking for Gen but as a fog starts coming in off the lake, they get separated and Yuriko ends up getting lost. Kenji and Motohiko return to the village and try to convince the villagers to help search when Gen’s dog returns, carrying a note from Yuriko that Gen is safe. When the dog heads back into the fog, Kenji and Motohiko go after it, followed by several of the villagers. They eventually locate Yuriko and Gen and as Gen’s mother embraces him, they are shocked to see a giant, lizard-like monster emerge from the lake. Everyone heads back towards the village and orders an evacuation, getting everyone out of there but the priest refuses to leave, choosing to stay and pray for forgiveness and mercy but he ends up being killed by the monster as it proceeds to destroy the village. As the observe the creature destroy the village, Kenji says it is Varan and is surprised to see that it could still exist. Some time later, Dr. Sugimoto discusses Varan with members of the Self Defense Force, who are prepared to lead a military expedition to the lake and destroy Varan. As the military begins setting up, Motohiko and some other photojournalists make their preparations to take pictures of the encounter. After all of the preparations are made, the Defense Force begins firing chemicals into the lake, in the hopes that it will lure Varan out from the bottom of the lake. After 25 minutes pass, dead fish begin floating to the surface, followed shortly after by Varan, who makes his way to shore. The Defense Force begins their attack but their weapons have no effect on the monster and they are force to order a withdraw. As Varan gets closer, Kenji tells Yuriko to leave but as she makes her way through the jungle, a tree falls and traps her underneath it. When Kenji returns to the base camp and finds she hasn’t returned, he heads back out and eventually finds her. Managing to pull her from underneath the tree, they attempt to make their way back to the base camp but since Varan is close behind them, they are forced to take shelter in a cave. Motohiko, Sugimoto, and some members of the Defense Force go looking for them and see Varan clawing at the hillside, attempting to open the cave wide enough for him to reach Kenji and Yuriko. Realizing they have to distract Varan in order to save them, Sugimoto has the Defense Force fire some flares away from the cave to lure Varan away. The plan works and Kenji and Yuriko are able to escape the cave but as they rejoin the others, they look on in horror as Varan climbs up the mountain, then spreads out it’s arms, revealing a membrane connecting his limbs, and flies away from the lake and out towards the sea. As the Defense Force begins searching the ocean for any sign of Varan, a meeting is held and Sugimoto says there may be know way for them to kill Varan. After Varan sinks a fishing boat, the Defense Force attempts another attack, using jets to fire missiles at it but Varan manages to grab one of the planes as it flies too low and drags it into the water with it, destroying it. When Varan submerges under the water, the Defense Force use destroyers to locate it and renew the attack, reporting that Varan is making it’s way towards Tokyo. They then try to use a fleet of mine sweepers to try and seal off Tokyo Bay but Varan is easily able to make his way through them. Ordering an evacuation of Tokyo, the Defense Force prepares to engage Varan outside Haneda Airport, where it is most likely to make land. Dr. Fujimara, an associate of Sugimoto’s, says that he has some special explosives that he uses to clear rocks for dam construction which might be effective against Varan and he is asked to go get it. As Varan heads towards shore, the trucks with the explosives arrive and they are asked to drive the trucks towards the shore, but the drivers refuse. Kenji gets in one of the trucks and drives it towards Varan, getting out right before Varan reaches the truck, and quickly runs back to the others. Fujimara detonates the truck just as Varan is right above it and they believe it worked only for Varan to get back up and continue towards the city. As the Defense Force attempts to stop it, some jets flying over head drop some flares to try and lure it back out to sea. Seeing Varan swallow one of the flares, they come up with a plan to load the special explosives in bomb casings and drop them from a helicopter. The helicopter takes off and Varan swallows two of the bombs and one of them detonates inside it, severely injuring the monster. Varan crawls back into the sea and disappears from sight and shortly afterwards, the second explosion occurs and when no sign of Varan is spotted, they all believe they have finally destroyed him.

Almost any time that a Japanese kaiju film was distributed in America, the American studios would always make some changes to it; usually substituting some of the original music for some stock music from other movies or editing/cutting some scenes. However, when Varan was shown in the US, almost 20 minutes of footage had been cut, including all of the scenes where Varan is shown to fly away from the lake. Tt had been heavily edited to the point it was given a completely different plot. In the new plot, Commander James Bradley is sent to Japan to work on a desalinization project to convert salt water to fresh water. Setting up his experiments on one of the outlying islands, he asks for help evacuating the islanders but the military goes overboard in their eagerness, making for some bad PR for Bradley. As the experiments commence, they end up waking a giant monster that had been on the bottom of the lake. The monster goes on a rampage, destroying the village on the island and killing several of the villagers and soldiers, then making it’s way to the ocean. As the military works on trying to kill the creature, nothing seems to work. Bradley comes up with the idea of using his desalinization chemicals to attack the creature, Using flares to distract the monster, the chemicals are loaded onto a truck and driven out to where the monster is and detonated, causing a poisonous cloud to surround the monster, which roars out in agony before diving back into the sea and disappearing.

As much as I love kaiju movies, this one was honestly kind of generic. The acting was ok in the Japanese version but just weird in the English version. I liked the plot in the Japanese version of the movie much better than the English version. Not the bit about butterflies being the start of all this, but rather the whole focus on some of the rural, mountain villages in Japans held fast to their ancient beliefs and being challenged by more modern thinking and skepticism, which was a generational issue in Japan back then. As for the English version, that whole plot felt like a convoluted mess, as the English scenes honestly didn’t seem to mesh well with the original Japanese scenes. The special effects were ok and I did like the rather basic look for Varan, which actually made him appear as a more sinister monster than the earlier monsters of Godzilla, Anguirus, and Rodan. The one thing I honestly thought was weird about this movie is that it was shot in black & white, when Rodan, which was released 2 years earlier, was shot in color. Still, it’s a fun movie to watch, even though there isn’t as much mass city destruction to be seen.

Rating: (Japanese version ) 3 out of 5
(U.S. Version) 2 out of 5

 

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adventure, horror, kaiju movie, movie, movie review, sci-fi

June 13th, 2017 Movie – Rodan

rodanFor me, there is no better way to start the day than by watching a Toho kaiju movie. Now today’s movie was always one of my favorite Toho monster movies as a kid. Like many kids, I was a bit of a dinosaur nut and here was this movie about a giant Pteranodon attacking a city. Of course, being a Toho monster meant that Rodan would find it’s way into the Godzilla series, which gave me even more chances to see him. So let’s go ahead and watch Toho’s resident high flyer in action as I watch today’s movie, Rodan.

The plot: In the mining town of Kitamatsu, the miners are preparing for the morning shift in the mine when a fight breaks out between two workers, Goro and Yoshizo, but it is quickly broken up and the men head down into the shaft. A short time later, a call comes in to the headquarters that part of the mine has flooded and Shigeru Kawamura, one of the mine’s safety engineers, quickly heads to the mine to investigate. When Shigeru gets down to where the workers are, he learns that Goro and Yoshizo are missing so he leads a group down to try and find them as well as figure out where the water came from. The group eventually come across the body of Yoshizo and quickly take him back to the surface and take him to the doctor’s office, where the doctor says he was killed by a sharp object. Some of the men believe Goro killed Yoshizo, as he has not been seen since the flood, but Shigeru tells them not to jump to conclusions until the police have finished investigating. As they leave the doctor’s office, Shigeru sees his fiance Kiyo waiting for him and she asks if the rumors about Goro, her brother, are true but he tells her to have faith in Goro. Later, two workers and a police officer are standing at the water’s edge of the tunnel to see if Goro comes out when they hear a splash in the water. Heading into the water to investigate, they hear a strange noise followed by more splashing when suddenly, the worker in front starts screaming as he is dragged underwater. The police officer fires his pistol at their attacker but he too is dragged under and killed, while the second worker is killed while trying to to radio for help. After the bodies have been recovered, the doctors say that the men were killed by the same weapon that killed Yoshizo but they have no idea what could have done it. That night, Shigeru is trying to comfort Kiyo after Yoshizo’s wife yells at her for Yoshizo’s death when they are attacked by a giant insect. They quickly run and Shigeru calls for help and when the police get there, they see the creature and start firing at it but their bullets seem to have no effect as the insect charges at them. With more officers and people coming to help, they soon track the insect to the top of a hill but it manages to kill two police officers before making it’s way back to the mine. Heading into the mine, the police bring some machine guns to use on the insect but even the machine guns have no effect so they are forced to retreat back towards the surface. Shigeru releases the mine cart and crashes it into the insect, killing it, but as they are moving the debris from the crash, a second insect appears. The police begin firing at it but it has no effect when a cave in suddenly occurs, killing the insect and trapping Shigeru inside the mine. Dr. Kashiwagi examine the body of the insect and say it looks like a giant prehistoric dragonfly larvae called Meganulon. Suddenly, a tremor occurs and they learn an earthquake occurred somewhere between the mine and the nearby volcano, Mt. Aso. As the scientist go to examine the site of the earthquake, they see Shigeru stumbling around in the newly formed crater. Taking Shigeru back to the village, they find that he is in a state of shock, causing him to become mute and giving him temporary amnesia. As Kiyo cares for Shigeru, Kashiwagi and the other doctors try to work with him in regaining his memory but to no avail. Meanwhile, a JSDF plane reports to it’s base about an unknown object traveling through the air at supersonic speeds. The pilot is ordered to investigate but as he gets close, the object suddenly reverses course and destroys the plane with a supersonic attack. As the JSDF examines the wreckage and pilot’s remains, they learn of another plane being attacked by the object. As reports come in of the object flying over the area, from Beijing to Manila, the news reports feel like it is impossible for the object to be in different places so close apart and theorize that there are two of them. A Honeymooning couple heads to Mt. Aso to take some pictures when they are attacked by the flying object. As the police examine the items left behind, they develop the pictures from their camera and see a strange wing in one of the frames. Izeki, a newspaper reporter, takes the picture to Kashiwagi to look at, and he and his assistants say it resembles the wing of a Pteranodon. Meanwhile, Kiyo shows Shigeru some bird eggs that are starting to hatch and he regains his memory of what happened inside the cave. Speaking with Kashiwagi, Shigeru tells them that he saw a giant egg hatch and a giant baby Pteranodon was eating the Meganulon that were inside the chamber before flying off. Shigeru leads Kashigawi and some other men to the chamber where the egg was and they find a piece of the egg shell but are forced to run when another cave in occurs. After examining the shell fragment, Kashiwagi is able to estimate how large the egg was theorizes that nuclear testing possibly lead to the giant size and wakening of the creature, which they are calling Rodan. Heading towards Mt. Aso, the group see Rodan appear at the base of the volcano and the police chief sends one of his men to report what is going on but Rodan takes off and uses it’s sonic boom to destroy the jeep. the JSDF mobilizes some planes to attack Rodan but their weapons have no effect and it heads towards Fukuoka. Landing in the city, Rodan begins destroying the city and the JSDF mobilizes tanks and rocket launchers to combat the giant monster but to no avail. As Rodan uses it’s wings to generate powerful gusts of wind that destroy buildings and push the JSDF vehicles away, a second Rodan appears and begins flying over the city before both Rodans leave the city and head back to Mt. Aso. Using a helicopter to examine Mt. Aso and finding the Rodans’ nest, the JSDF plan on bombing the mountain and causing a cave-in that will trap the monsters inside the mountain. One of the geologists says that their plan will cause Mt. Aso to erupt and the commander says that will work to their advantage, believing the lava will kill the monsters. The JSDF evacuate the area, then begin firing at the volcano in an attempt to bury the monsters. The Rodan’s are able to escape but when the Mt. Aso proceeds to erupt, one of the Rodans is overcome by the fumes and ends up falling to the ground, where it is set on fire by the lava. As Shigeru, Kiyo, Kashiwagi, and the others watch, the second Rodan descends to the ground and lands near it’s dying mate, then catches on fire as well and the assembled people watch as both monsters are consumed by fire and die.

Rodan met with mostly praise from the critics, holding a 70% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. While there isn’t a critical consensus on the site, the critics seemed to enjoy the movie but did feel the plot was a bit tedious. This was the first Toho kaiju movie to be filmed in color, though Toho’s first color film was released earlier in the year. Like many other of Toho’s kaiju movies, Rodan found a large audience outside of Japan, especially in the US, though there were changes made just like the other kaiju movies that were shown in the US.

This was always my favorite non-Godzilla Showa era kaiju movie. The acting was pretty good, with a good mix of drama in the early going followed by the usual panic/antics that occur during a kaiju movie. The plot was decent, though it was a bit disappointing because Rodan didn’t really show up until almost 2/3 of the way through the movie, while the first 30 minutes was focused on the Meganulon. The Rodan suit was actually pretty incredible and it is a shame that this suit wasn’t used in the Godzilla series, where we wound up with a googly eyed monster in the later films. A fun movie to watch and enjoy, even if you are not a kaiju fan.

Rating: 4 out of 5

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drama, kaiju movie, movie, movie review, sci-fi, Uncategorized

April 20th, 2017 Movie – Godzilla Resurgence (a.k.a. Shin Godzilla)

shin godzilla

Sometimes, it is the little things that can absolutely make your day start, or end, on an incredible high note. Case in point, the package I received in the mail yesterday. Now, it has been well documented that I am a huge Godzilla fan and when I heard that Toho was making a new movie, I got excited and eagerly anticipated getting a chance to see it. When it was announced that there would be showings in the US, I immediately got tickets for myself and my two youngest brothers so we could go watch it. Towards the end of the year, I started searching online for a copy of the movie that was either a Region 1 DVD or All-Region so that it could watch it and after several weeks, finally found a copy. Granted, it took a while for shipping to get here but I was content with the knowledge that it was on it’s way. That brings us to today, as I finally get to watch Godzilla Resurgence (a.k.a. Shin Godzilla) again.

The plot: When an abandoned yacht is found drifting in Tokyo Bay, the Japanese Coast Guard is sent to investigate it but just as they determine that nobody is on board, a violent eruption occurs in the water, destroying the Coast Guard boat. At the same time, the Tokyo Bay Aqua-Line tunnel suddenly springs a leak, with a strange red water pouring in and flooding the tunnel. As a huge geyser of steam continues to erupt from the bay, the Japanese government begins to discuss the appropriate response to what has occurred. As evacuations proceed for nearby islands and the rest of the tunnel, several people take videos that show a colossal creature moving about inside the steam. Rando Yaguchi, the Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary, sees some of the videos and as the ministers are called into the Prime Minister’s office, he voices his opinion that a creature caused the incidents. Yaguchi’s opinion is scoffed at as the other ministers believe it is simply a volcanic eruption or a thermal vent. Later, as the ministers are gathered in the main conference room, news footage is shown on TV of a large tail emerging from the ocean. The ministers realize Yaguchi was right and quickly reconvene in the Prime Minister’s office. Inside, the ministers discuss the possible scenarios they have for dealing with the creature; leaving it alone, capturing it, or exterminating it. Several minsters vote for extermination, citing the financial losses that the country has already incurred. Several environmentalists and scientists have already called to say the creature should be captured for study, just as several biologists are summoned to help determine what the creature is. The Prime Minister decides that the creature should be destroyed, but as the work out the details of firing torpedoes inside the bay, the creature begins making it’s way inland via the rivers. After an unhelpful meeting with some scientists concerning what they creature is, the Prime Minister returns to his office and demands that they find out more about the creature. Yaguchi asks one of his aides if he has any ideas and he recommends his friend Hiromi Ogashira, a low level Deputy in the Environment Ministry’s Wildlife Division. Ogashira is brought in and after examining the footage they have, she says that it is aquatic but that it has the capability of moving on land. Her superior says she is mistaken and tells the Prime Minister that it can’t possibly support it’s weight on land and the Prime Minister chooses to go on TV and tell the people that the creature can’t possibly come on land but in the midst of his broadcast, an aide comes up to the Prime Minister that the creature has come ashore. The creature, a slow moving, quadrupedal, reptilian animal, begins plowing through the city as the Prime Minister is furious for being made a liar on TV. Returning to his office, the various ministers begin trying to figure out what to do now as an evacuation of the city is begun in preparation for a military strike. As any military response requires the PM’s authorization, the PM is reluctant to give it without knowing all the facts, as this is an unprecedented series of events. The PM gives his approval for declaring a national state of emergency, allowing the JSDF (Japanese Self Defense Force) to assist with evacuations while also attacking the creature. Suddenly, the creature stops moving forward briefly, causing everyone to wonder why, when the creature suddenly evolves into a bipedal creature. The JSDF assemble some attack helicopters to attack the creature but when civilians are seen still in the line of fire, the PM calls off the attack, while the creature roars out and heads back into Tokyo Bay. As the PM and ministers survey the damage, the JSDF begin searching the ocean for signs of the creature. Meanwhile, Yaguchi assembles a team of ministry officials and scientists who are all rebels, like himself, for the sole purpose of getting as much information on the creature as possible. When they try to figure out how the creature can sustain itself, Ogashira theorizes that the creature is powered by nuclear fission. Another member of the task force dismisses the idea but when geiger counters indicate radiation spikes along the creature’s path, they realize she is correct. Yaguchi goes to see the chief ministers and tell them this news and they agree to talk to the PM and warn the public about it. Meanwhile, a Kayoko Ann Patterson, a special envoy to the US Foreign Ambassador, requests a meeting with Yaguchi. Patterson asks for Yaguchi’s help in finding Goro Maki, a disgraced Japanese professor who predicted the arrival of the creature years ago. After a quick search, they learn that Maki’s boat was the one abandoned in the bay when the creature first appeared. Yaguchi informs Patterson of this and shows her the file that Maki had on board. Patterson shows Yaguchi her own copy of Maki’s work, where Yaguchi sees that Maki had called the creature Godzilla. Meeting with the rest of Yaguchi’s team, Patterson explains that 60 years ago, radioactive material was illegally dumped into the sea and Maki was one of the men assigned to find a way to handle it. Meanwhile, an unidentified aquatic creature managed to survive the radiation and thrive on it, mutating into the creature that would become Godzilla. Using this new information, Yaguchi’s team try to figure out how to stop Godzilla and when one member realizes that Godzilla has a blood-cooling system for all of the heat it gives off, they theorize that a blood coagulating agent might be able to immobilize him. When Godzilla resurfaces and is seen to be even larger than before, evacuations begin while the JSDF mobilize to attack him. The JSDF uses helicopters, tanks, and artillery to attack Godzilla but their weapons have no effect. When they begin using bombs on Godzilla, it appears to be working as Godzilla starts to turn away but Godzilla simply changed course to attack the JSDF, then continues making it’s way into Tokyo. With the JSDF unable to stop it, the Defense Minister suggests they ask the US for help in dealing with Godzilla. As Godzilla heads towards the capital, the PM and the other minsters are told to evacuate. While the PM and the senior ministers head to the roof to await a helicopter, Yaguchi and his team evacuate by car but due to gridlock, are forced to go by foot. The US sends some B2 bombers, which manage to injure Godzilla with their bombs on their initial run but Godzilla’s dorsal fins begin to glow and Godzilla begins spewing smoke, then fire, and finally a radioactive beam from his mouth, which he uses to destroy one of the bombers. As the other bombers begin a second run, Godzilla fires beams out from his dorsal fins, destroying the bombs as well as the bombers, plus the helicopter carrying the PM and the senior ministers, before the beams stop and Godzilla, having used up a large amount of energy, is rendered immobile. As the Japanese government names an acting PM and struggles to deal with the wounded, Yaguchi’s team is joined by US scientists, as a result of a deal struck by Patterson. While they continue to work on a way to freeze Godzilla, they study the genetic samples they obtained and learn that Godzilla can reproduce asexually, as well as evolve into a flying creature or a smaller creature if it so chooses. The US recommends using nuclear weapons to destroy Godzilla and the United Nations informs the acting PM that they will authorize the use of nuclear weapons if Japan can’t kill Godzilla themselves. When readings suggest that Godzilla will be mobile again in 15 days, Yaguchi’s team is racing against time to try and finally decipher Maki’s notes regarding Godzilla. Patterson uses her connections, at the risk of her career, to help Yaguchi with his plan to freeze Godzilla. Using unmanned trains as bombs, they send them crashing into Godzilla, then use drones to attack him as he starts moving, forcing Godzilla to expend his energy defending himself. Though the radiation levels exceed what they projected, they continue the attack until Godzilla is unable to fire his radioactive beam, then use controlled detonations to drop buildings on him, briefly immobilizing him and allowing cranes with spray nozzles to approach him and begin spraying the coagulant into his mouth. Godzilla recovers and destroys the cranes but the JSDF use the remaining train bombs to bring him down again, allowing more cranes to begin dispensing the rest of the coagulant. Godzilla destroys the cranes and gets back to his feet but as he starts to move, he freezes up and Yaguchi and the rest of the team breathe a sigh of relief as they managed to freeze Godzilla with one hour to spare before the nuclear bomb would have been deployed. As the government works on reorganizing and rebuilding itself, the UN calls off the strike against Japan, but gets the new Japanese government to agree that if Godzilla reawakens, they authorize the use of a thermonuclear strike against it. As Yaguchi and Patterson say their goodbyes, Godzilla is seen in the distance but a close up of his tail reveals humanoid figures frozen in place as they were beginning to emerge from his tail.

Godzilla Resurgence (a.k.a. Shin Godzilla) met with mostly praise from the critics, holding a certified fresh rating of 84% on Rotten Tomatoes. The critical consensus on the site is that, “Godzilla Resurgence offers a refreshingly low-fi — and altogether entertaining — return to the monster’s classic creature-feature roots.” The 31st entry in the Godzilla franchise and the 29th movie produced by Toho Pictures, the movie was a re-imagining of Godzilla’s origins, while drawing some inspiration from the Fukushima nuclear disaster and the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami. The movie was a box office hit in Japan, debuting at #1 in it’s opening weekend, knocking Finding Dory from the top spot and out performing 2014’s Godzilla by 23%. The movie was given a one week limited release from October 11-18 in the U.S. and Canada but due to the demand, the release was extended to the 27th. Godzilla Resurgence (a.k.a. Shin Godzilla) would go on to earn $77.9 million off of a $15 million budget, making it the highest-grossing Japanese produced Godzilla movie in the franchise and the highest grossing live action Japanese film of 2016.

While this wasn’t what I initially expected, this was still a great movie to watch. The acting was good, with Hiroki Hasegawa (Yaguchi) and Satomi Ishihara (Patterson) doing good jobs in their roles. The story was interesting as instead of focusing on Godzilla, it focused more on how the government would respond to such an event. This was pretty interesting in it’s own way because it showed how sometimes all the red tape cause more inaction than actual action in an emergency. I also like the origin idea for Godzilla they had in this movie and I thought the premise that it could constantly evolve was an interesting twist. The special effects were pretty good but there were one or two moments that actually had me going “WTF”, such as when he starts shooting a radioactive beam out of his tail. Still, almost every Godzilla movie is a great movie to watch and this one is no exception.

Rating: 4 1/2 out of 5

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