Thursday, 22 June 2017

Godzilla raids again (4 Stars)

This is the first sequel to "Godzilla", made in 1955, only four months after Godzilla was killed in the first film. So how could he be raiding again? And come to think about it, did he ever raid anyone or anything in the first film?

The original Japanese title translates literally as "Gojira strikes back". That makes slightly better sense, except that being dead would make it difficult for him to strike back. Don't complain about Gojira's name being anglicised as Godzilla. When the film was first released in American cinemas in 1959 it was called "Gigantis the Fire Monster". The first film had been called "Godzilla, King of Monsters" in America. The name change was to tell the audience that Gigantis was a new monster, because the original monster from the first film was dead.

I admit that the name change makes sense, but it's not what the original Japanese film makers wanted to say. Far from being a folk legend, as in the first film, the Gojira is a dinosaur that died out two million years ago. There are even pictures of the Gojira in Japanese dinosaur books. That's funny. When I was a child I never saw pictures of a Gojira or a Gojirasaurus. Godzilla #1 and Godzilla #2 both belong to the same breed. Both used to live on the sea bed and were driven to the surface by the atomic bombs. That almost makes sense.

The sequel tells two stories. In the first story a pilot crash lands on a small Japanese island called Kamiko. When another pilot is sent to rescue him they see Godzilla fighting with another giant dinosaur that they recognise as an Angilas (called an Anguirus in the American version). That's another dinosaur that I never saw in my children's dinosaur book. The pilots return to mainland Japan. They're stationed in Osaka, the second largest city in Japan. Soon afterwards Godzilla swims to Osaka, followed by the Angilas, and they fight in the city centre, destroying everything as they battle. Eventually Godzilla wins and swims back to sea. The end.

That's the end of the first half of the film, at least. The second story takes place a few months later, in winter. It seems to be a simplified copy of the story from the first film. A fishing boat is destroyed. The pilots that we met in the first half of the film investigate and see that Godzilla did it. They discover that Godzilla still lives on the small island where they first found him. The Japanese air force makes multiple strikes to stop him from doing any more damage.

The first Godzilla was killed, but this one is only trapped. Oops! Yet another spoiler? I deserve a spanking. That was a wise choice by the screenwriter. If they killed Godzilla in every film we would need 29 Godzillas by now.

Unlike the first film, which has been remastered for Blu-ray, the second film has only been released on DVD and is now out of print. If you want a copy you'll have to pay expensive collector prices. Or do what I did: watch it on Amazon Prime.

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Loving (4½ Stars)

"Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow and red, and He placed them on separate continents. And but for the interference with His arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that He separated the races shows that He did not intend for the races to mix. (Judge Leon Bazile, January 22nd, 1965).

I've been waiting to see this film for months. The story fascinated me. It's a true story, supposedly well known in America, but I had never heard about it until a few months ago.

In 1958 Richard Loving -- a very appropriate name -- was a 25 year old construction worker in Caroline County, Virginia. When his 18-year-old girlfriend Mildred Jeter became pregnant he asked her to marry him. The problem is that they weren't allowed to marry, because he was white and she was black. Issues like that were governed by state laws, not by federal laws, so they travelled to Washington D.C. to get married. On returning home their house was raided by the police and they were arrested. As the sheriff pointed out, it wasn't a problem that they lived together or even that Mildred was pregnant, because white men were allowed to have black whores. The crime was that they were married, because they were expressing that marriage between different races was something normal.

In court they were sentenced to one year in prison, but the sentence was suspended on condition that they left Virginia immediately and didn't return together for 25 years. They went to live with Mildred's relatives in Washington. Richard kept his job in Caroline County, even though he had to drive 85 miles to work every day. At first they were happy together, but slowly it became a burden for Mildred as she had first one, then two, then three children. She had lived all her life in the countryside, and life in a city was unbearable for her. In 1963 she wrote to the American attorney general, Robert Kennedy, and asked for help overturning the ruling. Two young, inexperienced lawyers were appointed to represent them by the American Civil Liberties Union. That was the beginning of a long, hard court battle.

The two lead actors put on excellent performances. Both Richard and Mildred were uneducated, although Mildred had more natural intelligence. Richard didn't understand much of what was happening, so he kept his head down and did what he was told. Mildred was more astute and willing to fight for justice. Actors are highly educated people, it's in the nature of their work, so Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga do an excellent job in dumbing themselves down, if you understand what I mean. Richard loved his wife, but he was a man of few words and didn't know how to express it. Mildred was an outwardly emotional, which we see in Ruth Negga's facial expressions every time the camera lingers on her. She was nominated for an Oscar as Best Actress, but she lost to Emma Stone in "La La Land". That's totally ridiculous! Sometimes I wonder if the Academy Award judges ever take time to watch the films they vote for.

The couple are now remembered on June 12th every year, celebrated as Loving Day. I've only found out about it now. Please remind me to celebrate it next year.

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Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Godzilla (1954) (5 Stars)

That's a big poster for a big monster!

Yesterday I noticed that Amazon Prime contains 12 of the 29 Japanese Godzilla films. I immediately decided to watch some or all of them, beginning with the original 1954 film. I'm not sure whether I've watched it before or not. I know I watched a few black and white Godzilla films on television when I was young, but I don't know which ones. All I can remember is a big monster knocking building over while people ran away screaming.

This is a classic. I loved it from the very beginning. As well as the big monster knocking over buildings it has a love triangle and a clear anti-war message. Don't forget that the film was made in 1954, only nine years after Japan was pounded by two atomic bombs, so the Second World War was omnipresent in Japanese minds.

The film starts with a freighter being mysteriously sunk near Odo Island, Japan. A naval ship sent to investigate is also destroyed. Soon a giant dinosaur-like monster is seen wading onto the island and trampling local houses. The local villagers call it Godzilla (Gojira in Japanese), based on a creature in old folk legends, but it's probably not the same creature. It's a creature that lives on the sea bed, feeding on fish, but the water has been polluted by radiation from the atomic bombs, so he has to come to the surface to feed. Supposedly Godzilla is feeding. We never see him eating anything, he just walks around at random trampling buildings flat. He only comes to the surface at night because he doesn't like the daylight.

I don't know how close Odo Island is to mainland Japan because it's a fictional island. Godzilla soon finds his way to Tokyo. I've been told that famous Tokyo landmarks of the 1950's are among the buildings that he destroys.

I assume the film was intended to be a one-off, because at the end of the film Godzilla is destroyed. Oops, is that a spoiler? And yet 28 sequels were made in Japan, plus six (possibly alternate universe) films in America. Maybe it was a different Godzilla? I'll have to watch the first sequel soon, made in 1955, to see what the explanation is.

The film has been remastered for Blu-ray, but obviously Amazon Prime only hosts the old version. The picture is fuzzy throughout, but it didn't spoil my enjoyment of the wonderful film.

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Monday, 19 June 2017

Coco Austin Lingerie Promotion

Next month I intend to do a special promotion of Coco Austin's lingerie articles. Each day I'll be highlighting one of her garments that can be bought at Amazon. What has this to do with films? Nothing. I'm making an attempt to earn some money as an Amazon associate. She sells other items on her own web site, Coco's World, but I'll only be promoting the items for sale on Amazon.

This isn't a completely random choice. I've recently received a small commission after one of my blog's visitors bought lingerie. Thank you, whoever that was. Now I want to encourage more of my visitors to do the same.

Saturday, 17 June 2017

Baywatch (4 Stars)

I can't remember exactly when I first saw the TV series "Baywatch". I vaguely remember seeing pictures of sexy looking girls in red swimming costumes which made me curious. That was in the ancient times before there was Internet, so I wasn't able to find out much about it. Finally I saw a couple of episodes on television, but I found the story so stupid that not even the sexual titillation of Pamela Anderson in a skin tight bathing suit could retain my attention. A couple of years later I heard that Carmen Electra would join the series, and I was a big Carmen Electra fan at the time, so I gave it another chance. I watched a few more episodes before giving up again.

What was so bad about the series? It was so shallow. It took place in an artificial world in which people's only purpose in life was to look good. David Hasselhoff annoyed me the most as the head lifeguard, Mitch Buchannon. Something about his silky smooth personality mixed with a touch of heartbreak rubbed me up the wrong way. Not just me. By this time, the late 1990's, I had an Internet connection, and it was common for people to express their hatred for David Hasselhoff. I joined in the heckling.

A few years later, round about 2005, David Hasselhoff appeared on Jonathan Ross's talk show. It was amazing. When he walked on the audience booed and hissed. David ignored the audience reaction and chatted normally with Jonathan Ross. It wasn't so much what he said, it was his attitude. His jovial personality won over the audience, and by the end of the show they were cheering for him. I was cheering as well. What a great guy! I still didn't like the series, but I'd become a David Hasselhoff fan.

I didn't intend to watch the film, but I watched the trailers, and it became apparent to me that the film would be a parody, making fun of the series. I've been a fan of Dwayne Johnson (the Rock) since "San Andreas" (I didn't like his earlier films), which was another reason to go.

I was laughing from the beginning of the film. The half a dozen episodes I'd seen of the series were enough for me to understand the brunt of the jokes. The film had some action as well, which I found unconvincing, but I didn't care. For me the film was all about the comedy. I enjoyed it greatly, and I can recommend it to anyone who hates the TV series.

Of course, all potential lifeguards must be carefully inspected. The new girl, Kelly Rohrbach, is given full marks by an unbiased connoisseur of the female form.

Friday, 16 June 2017

Wolverine (4½ Stars)

I've been hit by a fatal case of writer's block. As much as I enjoy "Wolverine" (which I probably should call "The Wolverine") I don't feel like I have anything to say about it today. It's an improvement over the first Wolverine solo film, but not up to the level of "Logan".

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Thursday, 15 June 2017

The Mummy [2017] (4 Stars)

When I first heard about a remake of "The Mummy" being planned I groaned. After all, the previous remake starring Brendan Fraser was so excellent that it didn't need to be made again. Then I heard that the film would star Tom Cruise as the leading character, the archaeologist, so I groaned even more. I avoid films with Tom Cruise unless there's a very good reason to see them. Then I finally saw the trailer, and I saw that the mummy is a woman this time, making it a distinctly different film from the previous versions. That was the very good reason that I needed. An insanely powerful woman trying to conquer the world? That's hot.

So I went to see the film. I was pleasantly surprised to see that Tom Cruise wasn't as bad as usual. He managed to play the role without grinning too much. I was disappointed with the portrayal of the female mummy. Rather than conquer the world for herself, she's planning to raise the God Set in human form to give him control of the world. So the alpha female is really just a beta female subjecting herself to the big, bad alpha male. That's disappointing.

"The Mummy" (2017) can't properly be called a remake of the 1933 film, because the story deviates enough from the original to make it a new film. It's intended as a reboot of Universal Studios' mummy franchise and a part of a reboot of the 1930's Universal monsters, an interconnecting universe that will include Count Dracula, Frankenstein's monster, the Wolfman and various other monsters from the Golden Age of Cinema.

Why are they doing this? It's because they're running out of ideas. Universal Studios has no inspiration for new blockbusters, so they're repeating what made them money 80 years ago, in the hope that history will repeat itself. That's sad. I'm sure there are talented individuals out there who would be able to write riveting stories that would draw people into the cinemas, but they're not given a chance.

Today it's all about "cinematic universes". Marvel Studios started the ball rolling by making films about different characters who all live in the same universe and interact with one another. Warner Bros. said "We can do that too" and jumped on the bandwagon by making a film universe based on the DC Comics characters. Universal Studios doesn't want to be left behind, so they've dredged the bottom of their film archives looking for something they can use. And this is it. In order to let people who don't read film magazines know that it's a new universe, they threw Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde into the film.

As a standalone film "The Mummy" is entertaining. It's no masterpiece, but I think the critics have been too harsh on it. Nevertheless, as a reboot it's totally unnecessary.