Thursday, May 31, 2012

REVIEW: Terror of Mechagodzilla

Terror of Mechagodzilla
Director: Ishiro Honda
Year 1975
Terror of Mechagodzilla is a battle royal extravaganza that showcases a trio of giant monsters ravaging the landscape, all in the name of fun. This destructive entry in the lengthy Godzilla series is directed by the father of the genre, Ishiro Honda. Bringing that mythical and larger than life aspect of the creature Godzilla, Ishiro multiples the formula by three, adding two more monstrous creations that usher in a monumental battle that really does amp up the trademark chaos of the series. With a multitude of memorable fights, interesting characters, and enough destruction to satisfy any disaster film connoisseur, Terror of Mechagodzilla brings the pain to the audience and proves once again how much of a badass both Godzilla and his creator, Ishiro Honda, really is. Let’s get it on!
The film centers on a diabolical plot by a race of aliens, who through the use of a traitorous Earth scientist and his cyborg daughter, are able to control and unleash the terrible destructive power of two monstrous creatures, Titanosaurus and Mechagodzilla. Their plan is simple, to level Tokyo and then rebuild their own version of the metropolis in their image. The only problem is Godzilla is not too keen on rival monsters stepping in on his turf, so he takes on the two behemoths at once, igniting a devastating battle across the streets of Tokyo, which in the end, leaves the city crippled and scarred. Sounds like a damn good time, so lets get down to business.

As usual for a Godzilla film, the movie follows a number of people over the course of the monster’s destructive romp, but in the case of Terror of Mechagodzilla, the number of people involved is astronomical in size and variance. The standouts are Akihiko Hirata who plays the role of Dr. Shinzo Mafune, Tomoko Ai who portrays Shinzo’s daughter Katsura Mafune, Katsuhiko Sasaki who plays the heroic and love struck biologist Akira Ichinose, and the alien leader named Mugal, played by Goro Mutsumi. Each of these characters has an individual story arc that sets them apart from the rest of the pack, but it’s the father/daughter relationship between the characters of Dr. Shinzo and Katsura Mafune that really brings something interesting to the story.
With this dynamic pairing of characters, we are provided an unusual look into a sympathetic villain’s inner workings and turmoil. After being ridiculed and ostracized over his work on the theory of the Titanosaur’s existence, Dr. Shinzo became obsessed with proving his findings, which eventually led him to despise the human race and form an alliance with the alien race that is at present time aiming to take over Tokyo. What makes this allegiance so intricately complicated is that it includes Shinzo’s daughter Katsura. Katsura can telepathically link to the Titanosaur and control its every movement whenever her father commands her too, but that’s not the interesting part. The interesting part is that she is a cyborg. Katsura, once the flesh and blood daughter of Dr. Shinzo, has an unfortunate accident while working in her father’s lab which causes her to be struck dead after a malfunction goes haywire. Seizing the opportunity to sink their claws into the doctor, the alien race swoops in to bring Katsura to life, only in robotic form. From that point on, Shinzo is destined to be under the control of the aliens and this is what makes his story and Katsura’s so compelling and memorable. They’re two heavy hitters that represent the villainous group of the film, but you come to find that they are more complex and complicated than first revealed. The inclusion of this inventive back-story is an added bonus for the depth of these two characters, and both Akihiko Hirata and Tomoko Ai do a great job with the material they’re given.

Now on to the destruction! There’s really no way to write a review on a Godzilla movie without covering the monstrous creatures that show up or the mass amount of mayhem that they inflict on the beautifully rendered landscape, so let’s get right down to it. With the decision to go with three main monsters instead of two, the filmmakers raise the stakes for reckless bedlam by two-fold, and in the process, they raise the viewers’ anticipation for unadulterated chaos by a huge margin. Luckily they have the skill to back these perceptions up, because we bare witness to buildings exploding in a blink of an eye and earthly tremors that literally shake the ground, as we’re presented with a group of colossal giants colliding with each other in violent and entertaining fashion. These chaotic scenes make the anticipated wait for their inevitable confrontation, well worth it, and most of the destruction is the best the series has ever looked. The visual effects are stupendously crafted and the execution is right up there in top notch levels, proudly representing the Toho name. Entire city blocks splinter from cacophony fused blasts that genuinely get the blood boiling from its visceral impact when flashed upon the screen. The overall destruction seems magnified to reflect the number of combatants involved and I absolutely loved the insanity of it all. Once again, Ishiro Honda along with the film crew and Toho have created a masterfully and artistically created world with its destructible miniatures and no holds barred ingenuity.
The creature designs are also rather marvelous, as we’re reacquainted with the now evolved visual look of Godzilla and Mechagodzilla, and shown the unique appearance of the interesting, yet somewhat silly, Titanosaurus. Each monster is designed in the traditional Godzilla-world style and each have an array of weaponry in their arsenal that is unique to them. My favorite weapon of choice would be the missiles used by Mechagodzilla that literally level entire city blocks in a blasé of glory. There is one moment in this film that is just so outrageous and overwhelmingly explosive, that you almost question if the filmmakers have gone too far with the destructive nature of these beasts, but in the end it’s all in good fun and entertaining as hell to see play out. The marvelously designed creatures are a hoot, bordering that fine line between hokey and awe-inspiring. Like all Kaiju films, Terror of Mechagodzilla is a wild ride filled with monsters, mayhem and destruction. Who could ask for anything more?

Terror of Mechagodzilla is a thrill a minute Godzilla entry that even when not bombarding the viewer with epic vistas of giant battling monsters, is still an outstandingly enthralling experience to be remembered. With a star studded cast and enough wild concepts to shake a stick at, the move really does go above and beyond the usual constructs for these kinds of films and pushes the limit whenever possible.
Like all Toho produced Godzilla films, this entry is extremely well crafted, showcasing the amazing work that the company can do with miniatures and practical effects. The explosions and mayhem is spectacular to see flash across the screen and the look and feel of the monsters are at their distinguishing best. If you’ve seen your fair share of Kaiju films, then you know what to expect in this entry in the Godzilla series. It has the same quality and respect to the genre as the ones before it, yet it’s amped to the tenth degree. Terror of Mechagodzilla is a blast and it’s definitely……

What the shit are you looking at?

Cheers to the perfect couple.

Hi everybody!

Where can I get a kick ass helmet like that?

Those shades just scream.... I'm grumpy, but cool.

Looks like they're getting ready for an intense game of RISK.

There goes the neighborhood.

That's awesome..... what is it?

Run kids! RUN!

Holy Shit! Holy Shit! Holy Shit!

On guard... I'll let you try my Godzilla style.

Say cheese!

It's ok kids. Grandpa's just having a little heart attack, that's all.

Godzilla the action hero.

That's one way to get a-head.

Not the titty twister laser! NOOOOO! You bastard!

You'll never catch me and my silly hat. NEVER!



Zimmer 13
Director: Harald Reinl
Year 1964

Sunday, May 27, 2012

REVIEW: The Sentinel

The Sentinel
Director: Michael Winner
Year 1977
The Sentinel is an outstandingly haunting film that relies on subtlety and tension to tell its atmospheric tale of one woman’s descent into madness. Centered on an old apartment complex, the movie bombards the viewer with a wild array of motley characters, all in which inhabit this historic building filled with various sorted tales. With a palpable tone and well paced direction, The Sentinel is a horror film that approaches the subject matter in a classy and respectable way, opening up the film for a much broader representation of the genre.
The film follows a young and beautiful fashion model named Alison Parker, who against the wishes of her boyfriend Michael, is looking for an apartment to rent for herself in New York City. After going through a number of overpriced places, Alison stumbles upon a unique find in Brooklyn Heights in the form of an old apartment building filled with some interesting tenants. Unknown to Alison though is that the building complex has a long and sorted past filled with both mystery and horror. Haunted by frightening visions and battling through a series of strange events, Alison finds herself being drawn into a morbid plot that has her becoming a permanent resident of this house of horrors. Run Alison, run!

Cristina Raines plays the role of Alison Parker, the attractive model who is tormented by a house and destiny that she cannot pull away from. Cristina does an excellent job with the doomed character of Alison, giving a sympathetic performance that really steals the show and progresses the film along with ease. She has the stunning look that is required for the role of a fashion model, but she also has an excellent underplayed approach to her tormented character. Throughout the film, Alison gives off shades of vulnerability, sheer terror, and ultimately strength as she takes on the forces of the house against her own better judgment. Another impressive aspect of her role is the physical progression, or regression, her character undergoes as the film moves along. She goes from a youthful and optimistic woman to a drained and haggard wreck as the film nears its epic conclusion. The overall performance looked draining as all hell, but the end result is rather impressive and makes for a believable and shocking ending when the curtain finally closes.
Paired up with Cristina is the cool as shit Chris Sarandon, taking on the role of Michael Lerman, Alison’s boyfriend. Sarandon plays the character with a suave disposition and a cocky attitude that only he can pull off. What’s most interesting about his character is that for the majority of the film, we are given some pretty heavy clues that point to him being involved in some way with what has been going on at Alison’s apartment. Of course, Sarandon can play off of those teasing aspects of whether he’s a bad guy or good guy like a pro, so the addition of ambiguity is quite clever on the side of the filmmakers and Chris is expertly up to the challenge. What I enjoyed most about his role in the film, is that he becomes somewhat of a defender of his endangered girlfriend, doing research on the side in order to try to find out what is wrong with her. It’s actually a nice change of pace from what we see earlier in the film, and he’s able to make his character reveal some rather endearing qualities. Plus, look at that damn mustache!

The rest of the cast is absolutely great and essential to the structure of the story. Throughout the film, Alison is introduced to her various neighbors in the building, with each one being stranger than the next. They’re all a bit eccentric and each one has their own set of quirks, but for the most part Alison enjoys the company of these strange folks. What is even stranger though, that when complaining about the noise that some of them make at night to her real estate agent, she comes to find that there is only one person living in the building and they live on the top floor. This notion that she has a building full of neighboring tenants that aren’t really supposed to be there is an intriguing one and it is a notion that drives the mystery of this film along with great skill. Another great aspect of these mystery tenants is that they are all insanely wacky in their own respect. We have a lesbian couple, a jaded old woman, a peculiar married couple, and an interesting old man played by Burgess Meredith, who has a pet canary. Hell they even throw other interesting characters at us from outside the apartment complex like Arthur Kennedy and John Carradine as priests, Ava Gardner as Alison’s real estate agent, and a short running cameo by Jeff Goldblum, so this film has no shortage of interesting characters and big name actors. This motley group provides a great deal of spectacularly strange moments within the story and they aid a great deal to the overall atmospherically charged events of the movie.
Speaking of atmosphere, this film has it down-packed with its architecturally interesting look and storied past. Add onto that the wonderfully realized scenes where Alison is wandering around the building at night and you’ve got one hell of a gothic infused horror flick. There are some moments in the movie that are so expertly shot and perfectly handled, that you find yourself jumping out of your seat, not from a loud noise or pitch in music but by the creepiness of the moment. For instance, there is a part in this film that has Alison fumbling in the dark with a broken flashlight, only to have a shadow on the wall behind her spring to life and walk right across her field of vision, only to make it to the other side of the room and stand there, still as stone. The moment is frighteningly simple, yet it packs a punch, one that doesn’t go away as you wait to see what happens next. There’s another moment that has an army of freaks and oddities roaming the darkened halls of the apartment complex with some disturbing imagery that will literally haunt you in your sleep. These are just two examples of many, because this is one classic horror flick that gives you genuine scares without being over bombastic and flashy with their frights. Bring it on and check it out.

The Sentinel is a miraculous display on how horror movies should be done. With a subtle build up that lets the tension grow over time, the film shows just how hypnotic a classically done fright flick can be. With a stupendous performance by both Cristina Raines and Chris Sarandon, and an ensemble cast of high caliber actors, the movie has got all the right ingredients to tell a highly captivating story.
Much like the set up of characters and their fantastic contributions to the narrative, the look and atmosphere for the film is just top notch. Relying heavily on visual cues and steady pacing to put the scare in the audience, the film comes off as a more refined piece of cinematic horror rather than a flashy modern mess. With its attention to tone and its doomed scenario, The Sentinel makes a lasting impression that is sure to stick with the audience long after viewing. They don’t make subtle horror movies like this anymore folks, so check this one out as soon as you can. It will be a refreshing pace from the wham, bam, thank you ma’am shit that you’ve come across in recent years. You can thank me later. The Sentinel is an…..

Damn I'm a good looking man.

Now that's one sneaky priest.

Damn lazy kids. Get a job!

I can see you up there pervert!

Paulie want to shut the fuck up?!?!

You know you look ridiculous in that hat.

Hot damn that's a beautiful view.


Your shadow looks a little weird Alison.

Stab him in the head!

Would you mind dressing up in a naughty nun outfit?

God..... Thanks for the sweet stache.

Look at my mustache when I'm talking to you!

At least the mustache is still intact.

This mustache is delicious!

Shit! It's Burgess Meredith and his posse of freaks! RUN!

Keep the light on for me Alison. P.S. You look like shit.