Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Pacific Rim Watch - May 29th, 2013

Gypsy Danger fan-art by edcomics - Go see his DeviantART page here!

With the highly anticipated "Pacific Rim" coming in just over a month's time, I'll be doing articles like these, for both major and minor updates alike. And also, just to share my obviously bias opinions on the upcoming release - I am a giant monster fan after all!

Starting with today's recently released featurette, which explains the how the film's  'neuro-bridge', or The Drift works. Hopefully there will be more such shorts in the days to come, including ones focusing on the Kaiju antagonists themselves.


*****************

Now I should mention my disappointment and related fears around the general public's rather flippant reactions towards this film. Along with Geek culture being more interested in the relatively minor casting of voice actress Ellen McLain (Glados from "Portal 2"), and the cheap accusations of this film being "Transformers 4".

Meanwhile, film critic and blogger (and fellow Kaiju fan) MovieBob own sentiments on "Pacific Rim" heavily mirrors my own, as seen in his own shout out towards the third trailer (also feature below).



Here's what MovieBob had to say on the matter, edited slightly for potty mouth tidbits:

I really, really hope that this (third trailer) marks the start of a much bigger push for this movie. Fairly or not, I feel like so much is riding on "Pacific Rim." An original (read: not a sequel, remake, reboot, adaptation, etc) big-budget genre movie? Guillermo Del Toro finally on the cusp of the blockbuster clout he should've had a decade ago? Giant monsters and robots up onscreen with no "apology" for their own existence or attempt to make them palatable to audiences that might turn their noses up otherwise?

If something like this doesn't "succeed," it validates all the worst chicken**** instincts of the current studio-system. "Joe Popcorn" (or whatever the current euphemism is) probably doesn't deserve this movie... but I hope "he" shows up anyway. There's more riding on this than just this.

*****************

I personally doubt "Pacific Rim" will be one of the big bombs of the Summer 2013, though the possibility of it being a box office disappointment is still there, as mainstream American audiences really do turn their noises up at giant monster movies. The success of Michael Bay's "Transformers" films probably have to do more with everything surrounding the title robots, except for the title robots themselves. This being a situation not too dissimilar to "One Million Years B.C.", where one busty, red-headed cave girl was the box office draw, and not the (equally) fantastic dinosaur effects work.

Peter Jackson's "King Kong" remake from 2005 did well, but not well enough to really give the giant monster genre a shot in the proverbial arm. And the success behind  "Cloverfield" had more to do with its 'Mystery Box' marketing, over audiences even knowing, let alone wanting to see the movie for what it actually was about. For more on this nonsense, I refer you all back to MovieBob's video on the matter.



On the extremely bright side however; no matter how "Pacific Rim" performs, we can still rest assure that around this same time next year, Legendary Pictures has another Kaiju film in store for all of us. Isn't that right, Mister British Director Man?



*****************

Than of course, there's the Japanese factor to consider.

Contrary to popular belief, Japan hasn't been that keen on giant monster movies for several years now, despite being the country that was once the most prolific in this sub-genre. And often for reasons very similar to American attitudes towards Kaiju films, as being 'old hat', 'outlandish', or met with just plain indifference.

And again, just like America, when these films do succeed, it's often for reasons outside the Kaiju themselves, like paring up some of the Millennium-era Godzilla films with more popular animated fair. Or the presence of some beloved actor or in-the-moment guest stars who simply happen to be in said monster movies.

With that said, I'd be interested in Japan's reaction towards "Pacific Rim", even if I have the sneaking suspicion that the hype around the film will be centered firmly upon child actress Mana Ashida, who's quite big there right now.

"What's this? Famed child star Mana Ashida, in an American attempt at weird Kaiju films? How can this be!?!?" is probably how most of the Japanese publicity might play out.

Regardless, director Guillermo del Toro hasn't forgotten the county that directly inspired his upcoming opus, and had this special trailer made for that particular distribution.




*****************

Also worth mentioning (unfortunately), is that those infamous producers over at The Asylum are doing their thing again, with the 'mock-buster' "Atlantic Rim". In all fairness, this actually looks better than most of The Asylum's output. And the one (I repeat, one) giant monster in this does looks pretty neat, like a slender dragon-dinosaur-style hybrid.

But having seen my fair share of modern B-movies and Syfy Originals, I'm expecting we don't get any good fight sequences until the last 20-or-8 minutes, and the action and adventure will take a backseat to overused horror elements.

Oh and is that a token black man among the robot piloting trio? Surely nothing BAD will happen to him before film's end (sarcasms)!



*****************

I know I'm coming off quite negative here, but I really am excited for "Pacific Rim". And will go see it either at a midnight screening, or first thing the following morning. And my comments here are only being realistic and level headed, at best. But please share all your opinions and speculation in the comments below. Out blabber mouth THIS blabber mouth!

And to further end this article on a high note, the site io9 has some concept art based on the film's monsters, along with newly released promotional photos here.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Ranting Time: J.J. Abrams...Really?

Hello everyone! How are you doing?

I just found out today (1/25/2013) that director and producer J.J. Abrams has been chosen to helm the new "Star Wars" movie, slatted for 2015. Very old news for the rest of you by now, granted, but I just have to share my thoughts here regardless.

Because that's what the Internet is all about - complaining about anything and everything!

Now before I begin, I must state that I'm not the biggest fan of "Star Wars", even before "The Phantom Menace" arrived in theaters over a decade ago. The extreme dichotomy between good and evil with no margin in between, and a sad tradition of mugging actors who look like they really don't want to be there, are my chief complaints. Oh, and a general lack of respect for otherwise sentient robot characters, outside well received guest appearances from David Tennant.

But it's still Star Wars, and my fondness, or care for the franchise is present enough to lead me to write the following article (extended rant).

*************

Now I'm also not a J.J. Abrams hater like most critics and Internet commentators tend to be, but when I think of the Star Wars Universe (for better or for worse), I think of massive colorful landscapes and characters (at least in appearance over personality - again, see mugging), with related good cinematography and / or imaginative artistry. Even the cold planet of Hoth, and the emotionless interiors of the mechanized Death Star, are both nicer to look at than similarly theme locations found elsewhere in fiction.

And from what I've seen from Mister Abrams past works...those elements are NOT in his repertory, unfortunately.

He's one of those science fiction craftsmen who underplays everything he does, as most Hollywood film makers often tend to do - even in the supposed unlimited age of computer generated imagery, or 'CGI' for short. And although that might work with most of the material that these men and women are given to work on, it's an otherwise bad fit when it comes to something as bombastic as the "Star Wars" films.

I know the "Star Trek" franchise, as a whole, was never really about insane aliens and space monsters, but there was a earnest attempt at colorful alien variety while Gene Roddenberry was still kicking about, as evident in his own Star Trek motion pictures, the Filmation cartoon spin-off, and "The Next Generation". But Abrams' own handling of the Trek mythos, although not bad, was still pretty tame and even visually neutered. And that's even by the more unimaginative comparisons of previous Trek films and television series.

'Star Trek light' if you will.

And of course, there's his overt use of darkness in his films...And no, not darkness as in story material or subject matter, but literal darkness, as in poorly lit and purposely so shots, hampered further by limited cinematography and related artistry. He never goes as bad as the later-era "Harry Potter" films, which it comes off to me like grown men blindly fighting each other with three-or-more glow sticks, in a completely unlit warehouse during a prolonged Alaskan night.

But Abrams films like "Super 8" and "Cloverfiled" come dangerously close to the line, or even over stepping it on occasion. This 'Stage Lighting Blackouts Syndrome' of course obscures any coherent scenes, and more so, any and all creature designs.

"But Enshohma (You might say), the overt use of lens flair isn't dark at all!"

No, it isn't...for that's on the complete opposite end of my 'problem specter', and the amount J.J. Abrams flaunts it, it breaks the forth wall with as much subtlety than a plate of pancakes, being shoved into the camera every ten-seconds for a cheap 3D gimmick.

Getting right back to underused monster and alien designs - that's also something Abrams seems to excel at in all of his projects, which comes off like a bad mixture of being way-to-realistic with your admittedly silly monster movie, or again, typical of Hollywood, laughably timid (the 2011 "Green Lantern" movie for example).

I'd like to give J.J. Abrams the benefit of doubt, and hope that he hasn't done 'creature spectacle' in his past works because the studios were holding him back...But than I remember to myself that he's very much in the "Jaws" school of cinematic thinking, by never showing any non-human characters for any significant amount of time...which in my opinion works only in the suspense style of that aforementioned film, but not in outrageous space fantasies like "Star Wars".

*************

I know I might be over reacting here (for all the right reasons), but this feels like yet another bad decision that the 'Hollywood Suits' tend to do, when pairing a film's manager, to an ill fitting subject matter that's almost the opposite of what he or she understands, nor even cares about.

Like placing two otherwise competent film makers on a project, whose fantastical subject matter doesn't at all appeal to them, even remotely. And thus the two alter the said material to their own extreme preferences, that we end up with something that's completely, if not insultingly against the source material. Akin to the similar situations that plagued the making of "Super Mario Bros the Movie", and of course the 1998 American Godzilla.

And I actually liked "Super Mario Bros the Movie"!

Now with J.J. Abrams, he no doubt will do a better job than the aforementioned examples, but I still can't shake off the dumb-downing and visual blandness of his "Star Trek" reinterpretation, which wasn't further helped by script writers Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, who unlike Abrams, are bigger offenders in this regard.

And maybe Abrams will tone down his own idiosyncrasies to deliver an actual Star Wars-like, or at least Star Wars-looking product. This is after all, a genre I do love, and as such, I give almost every science fiction and fantasy film a fair chance when they get released, even when I have MAJOR reservations like I'm sharing here.

Plus, let's face facts and note that J.J. Abrams is a rather smart filmmaker (lens flare not withstanding), unlike say someone like Michael Bay. So if Abrams' does fail at "Star Wars", at least we know he was putting some effort into the proceedings.

Although just like Michael Bay, I have the sneaking suspicion that J.J. Abrams' continuing success in Hollywood has much less to do with the caliber of his work, and more to do with how well he personally appeals to the studio heads behind operations.

But even with that stated, this is all still a less than a promising start to the new cycle of this already troubled franchise. Especially after a good number of weeks when the future of Star Wars was looking positive, with George Lucas stepping down, and giving the reins over to Disney. Despite the obvious jokes and gags the public loves hurling their way, Disney has done fantastic jobs with their stewardship and support of the Muppets AND Marvel Studios properties.

And unlike most of you, I am mindfully grateful that they halted production on all those terrible straight-to-video sequels, prequels, and 'midquels' of their own animated theatrical films...Well, minus the Ticker Bell movies, and all the freakish "Cars" flukes.

But YET again, with J.J. Abrams being directly involved, my enthusiasm for a New Hope (pun intended) has diffidently been diminished.

HOWEVER, maybe you can make positive arguments, or less harsh opinions on this turn of events, and as such, I more than encourage you to share them here, beyond the usual, expected 'this sucks' replies.

-Love Enshohma!

Friday, December 21, 2012

APOCALYPSE NOT!


Oh my God(zilla)! What a horrible day I've had!

The Apocalypse apparently happened today...and you are all dead.

Thankfully, human ghosts are directly connected to Japanese-made computers and the Internet, so we can still talk to each other online. But as the sole survivor of humanity (minus all the other lone survivors of humanity), it is my SkyNET given duty share my harrowing tale with you all!

*****************

I was sleeping comfortably in my unattended hospital bed for 28 days, when suddenly I was awaken by a bunch of futuristic soldiers, claiming that 'Blue Bugs' were coming in to kill me. That or the new biological weapon dubbed 'Italian Flue' - really I can't remember which one again.

While we were escaping the hospital, located on the poorly lit district of 7th Street, we were suddenly ambushed by zombies, including the ones that can't run OR walk slowly.

The soldiers were then eaten by the zombies...and when I mean eaten, I actually mean they disappeared into thin air - another byproduct of New Zealand's damn Project Flashlight experiments. No clue if they've been disintegrated, or been teleported to one of the inhabitable moons of Saturn...or Purgatory, as I can never tell with those ambiguous endings.

So I'm power-walking for my life from the zombies, when equally as sudden, vampires showed up to challenge the zombies, to see who get's to eat the last human alive on Earth (me of course). But before their battle commenced, I notice some old guy sobbing over his broken pair of glasses outside the public library. And I said to the vampires and zombies alike "Why don't you eat that guy over there, for clearly I am not the last human to feast upon?!?".

The vampire leader said "What are you, insensitive? That guy broke his glasses and really doesn't need more stress from the likes of us!"

So the vampires and zombies began to fight over me, when suddenly some really poorly designed and equally constructed robots came walking by, and took electronic mind-control over all the zombies and vampires, for reasons that were never revealed to me.

Just than, a big old triceratops puppet came after me, forcing me to kill a man-sized bat creature in order to use its corpse to fly away to safety from prehistoric beast. Eventually, my 'dead bat glider' landed me right into a cave, owned by extreme survivalist Ray Milland, who mistakes me for a dope addict.

Ray Milland then proceeds to open fire on me with his riffle, while constantly apologizing for doing so all at the same time!

I eventually escape to safety, and while wondering the barren country roads, a giant super-truck of Military design pulled up besides me. The 'Super Truck' was being driven by a telepathic dog, who offered me a ride. I gladly accepted his offer, but have-way into our pleasant road trip, two British police detectives in a broken car attached to a hot air balloon, started giving us the business. And proceeded to bombard us with satire, wit, and sacrificial thirty-year-olds from above.

And you know they were thirty-year-olds, because the diamonds in their hands had expired to blinking red.

I decided to leave the telepathic dog to fend for himself against the British police officers, and made my way to desert, which was being patrolled by blood-sucking android knights!

Thankfully, the blood-sucking android knights were too busy to bother with me, as they were all in bloody combat against an alpha male dragon of gigantic size...because apparently dragons are alive again now.

I personally lay the blame on those fairy tale goblins armed with World War II weaponry.
Days later, while wandering the cursed Earth, a huge floating stone face appeared before me, and tried to convince me to wear an unappealing bright orange Speedo-like outfit.

I said "No", but the twisted stone face insisted that I should, especially since he ran out of guns to give to murderous people hours ago. Annoyed, I continued walking, but the damn perverted, if not pretentious, hovering stone face wouldn't leave me alone, who then tried to sell me DVD copies of "Tank Girl" in place of questionable orange underwear.

It was then that I realized that the giant hovering stone face was an artificial fake, piloted by non-other than comedic character actor Wallace Shawn. I was like "Why are you piloting a giant hovering stone face and trying to sell me orange underwear and "Tank Girl" discs"?

From which Wallace Shawn replied "Because I've got nothing better to do...that, and I think I MIGHT be the Anti-Christ...Again, the keyword being 'think'".

Sadly, our conversation was ended abruptly by the blue mutant giant known as Devil Reverse, who quickly rode in upon the back of a far larger Ohmu (sort of an evolved mega-worm creature). With the swipe of his mighty hand, Devil Reverse knocked down Wallace Shawn and his giant stone gift shop in the sky to the ground. It exploded upon contact, and littering the cursed landscape with flaming underwear and unwanted digital discs!

As the demonic giant rode away, he said to me in a loud, booming voice "Beware the tree pollen!". And as quickly as he arrived, Devil Reverse and his Ohmu steed disappeared over the horizon.

I still have no idea what "Beware the tree pollen" even means!

Anyway, after several years serving as a postman on horseback, I now live in the deserted city of New York, with Harry Belafonte and his lady friend Inger Stevens, who both have affectionately dubbed me 'The Greatest Third-Wheel In Human History'.

And every Sunday afternoon, we all drive down to our local box canyon, and mess around with the three-eyed mutants that inhabit the region.

Oh, and I forgot to mention that I was completely blind during this entire adventure.

HAPPY HOLIDAYS EVERYONE!!!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The Kaiju News Round-Up For 10/9/2012

 

Just some (many) gathered tidbits (all giant monster related) from across the internet.

 
"Godzilla vs. Biollante" Coming to American DVD
 
First we had "Ultra Seven" getting a Region 1 release, and now another long awaited kaiju title is coming to American DVD, also in December - the 1989 entry to the Godzilla film franchise "Godzilla vs. Biollante"! Toho Kingdom has more on the matter here.
 
Obscure, overlooked, and underrated, "Biollante" isn't a famous Godzilla movie, but in my humble opinion, is definitely among the best. This is largely due to its ambitious ideas, and surprisingly well-done execution. And hopefully it will find a new appreciation both within and beyond giant monster fan-base.
 
 
 
"Earth Defense Force 3" Live Action Promo
 
Short film for the third entry into the Japanese video game series, that is heavily inspired by the alien invasion and giant insects films of yesteryear.
 
The promo is directed by B-movie comedy director Minoru Kawasaki, whose works include the awesome "Calamari Wrestler", and the universally panned "Monster X Strikes Back".
 
Thankfully, this promo features some awesome destruction at the hands of giant rampaging ants puppets, though Minoru's knack for camp and bad 'Gaijin' (foreigner) acting remains. But it's still worth checking out in the following link.
 
Related Videos:
 
 
 
"Ultimate Edition Godzilla 1998 Soundtrack"
 
Don't get too excited, because this is the American Godzilla from 1998 we're talking about. On the bright side, the 3 disc set will nix all the pop songs of the original 1998 CD release (indifferent Puff Daddy included), focusing only on the movie's actual score.
 
Even more intriguing however, is that the previously unreleased 'Score Album', which will feature self contained, full length tracks of said score, not unlike the Japanese Godzilla movies and their respective soundtracks.
 
Related Links:
 
 
 
 
"Daimajin Kanon" Series Guide, Parts 1-2
 
Yes, I know...a lot of American fans hate this show, which is based on the "Daimajin" trilogy from 1966. And as such, barely any reliable information on this television re-imagining has been present online, if not viciously so.
 
Thankfully (for me at least), the fine folks over at Sci-Fi Japan has uploaded an extensive two-part series guide for "Daimajin Kanon".
 
Fair warning though, don't except too much giant monster action, as the series was made for the highly under-budgeted late night programing of Japan, no matter if the show itself was actually good or not:
 
 
 
Legendary Godzilla Updates
 
The following comes from the blog io9 and their near-daily Morning Spoilers articles.
 
"Monsters" director Gareth Edwards discusses his approach to the latest movie about the iconic monster, and he then offers an amusingly disgusting analogy for the state of the project's visual effects:
 
I've always been interested in Godzilla and the ideas around him. I really wanted to see another Godzilla film and jumped at the opportunity. My main idea was to imagine 'If this really happened, what would it be like?' I want to take a grounded, realistic approach to a Godzilla film...[On the visual effects] I've never worked this hard, this long and been this emotionally involved in something that's lasted only a few seconds since the time I lost my virginity! But the reaction has been amazing and I can't wait for the fans to see our final product.
 
Also, another writer has been attacked to the project, which you can read about over at Toho Kingdom.
 
 
"Space Sheriff Gavan the Movie" (2012)
 
Based on the character's renewed / rediscovered popularity from the movie "Pirate Sentai Gokaiger vs. Space Sheriff Gavan", the alien police officer in the silver cyber-suit and a robotic dragon ship, is getting his own spin-off movie.
 
Related Links:
 
 
 
 
"Mobius"
 
You'd think this would be a feature length documentary about the late, great European science fiction artist and concept designer...but nope, its the classic tale of "Moby Dick", but set in space, and with aliens.
 
Ironically, this isn't the first time such a thing has happened, as it was the subject for not one, but two animated shows - "Hakugei: Legend of the Moby Dick", and the "Futurama" episode "Mobius Dick". But now this time it's being done as a (hopefully) major motion picture.
 
 
More "Gila" Updates
 
The poster and the first real trailer for the upcoming remake of "The Giant Gila Monster" can be found here.
 
I do appreciate that this remake is indeed a period piece, taking place in the 1950's, with a matching soundtrack, and hot, busty actresses dressed in the appealing styles of the day. And although the CGI isn't  good, the Gila Monster himself is relatively (again, relatively) decent looking.
 
Unfortunately, it seems to suffer from the same-old-same-old violence and death count that you'd come expect from your typical Syfy Original.
 
 
 
And of course (simply for the sake of it), the trailer for the original 1959 film.
 
 
 
"The Giant Spider" (2012)
 
As if to balance out the already retro-mined "Gila!", comes this upcoming film, which is an obvious homage to "Tarantula" ('55) and "Earth vs the Spider" ('58) - complete with an actual, real arachnid being used in the effects footage.
 
The blog Undead Backbrain has more information here.
 
By-the-way, if you haven't seen the original "Tarantula", it's a pretty good monster movie, with some very effective special effects that arguably still holds up to this day. Especially the long shots of the title monster crawling across the desert, with excellent interaction between the super-imposed Tarantula and the real life backgrounds.
 
It's a real shame that "Tarantula" isn't readily available online for your viewing (*wink-wink*).
 
 
"Power Rangers Super Samurai" Returns October 13th
 
The cable network Nickelodeon is notorious for their mid-season breaks, and forced hiatuses for almost all their programs, which sometimes have been known to go well over a year in length. This practice even extends to their more popular or rating grabbing shows, of which "Power Rangers Super Samurai" was no exception.
 
Despite the embarrassment of foreign markets already airing the series in its entirety, the final batch of episodes are finally getting aired here in America, which you can read more about here.
 
 
Queen + Van Halen + Japanese Puppets AND Giant Robots = Yeeeeeaahhh...?
 
The original link from io9 doesn't work for the following article, so I'm re-posting it here, because I really need some second opinions on this oddball collaboration - I personally think it's awesome, but my musical tastes are dubious at best.
 
***********
 
When it comes to matters science fictional, the band Queen is best known for their soundtrack to "Flash Gordon".
 
But back in 1983, Queen guitarist Brian May teamed up with Eddie Van Halen and members of REO Speedwagon and Alice Cooper's and Rod Stewart's bands for "The Star Fleet Project"; an EP whose most famous track was a cover of the theme song from the Japanese-British TV show "Star Fleet".
 
As Brian May recalled of these unvarnished jam sessions way back when:
 
There weren't any rehearsals, except that we played around at each other's houses a little bit, acoustically. I'd been to Edward's studio in his home, and I played a little with him — nothing very organized [...] I've been working very hard on making a video for "Star Fleet." The people who made the series, which originally was Japanese, have very kindly given me access to footage that I'm using. We're putting a whole little story together using the original shots of theirs. I'm also telling the story — a sort of figure who appears, a background narrator.
 
"Star Fleet" was a Japanese television series directly influenced by the Garry Anderson series "Thunderbirds Are Go!" and "Captain Scarlet and the Mysterions" - both of which were big budgeted British shows featuring puppetry, high-end miniature models, and lots of spectacular pyrotechnic explosions.
 
These British series became very popular in Japan, eventually leading to "Star Fleet" - a marionette space opera with character designs by famous / infamous manga author Go Naiga ( "Devilman", "Mazinger Z", and "Cutey Honey" ). And with some giant robot elements thrown in for good measure, as in the form of the heroes' transforming spaceship mecha Dai X.
 
In a very nice (if not awesome) reversal, the Japanese homage became popular in the United Kingdom soon after - hence the creation of this music album and its related music video, as seen in the following music video.
 
 

Saturday, July 28, 2012

A Brief History of the Godzilla Film Series

The following article was done as research notes for producer Dawn Green of High Noon Entertainment, and television personality Elyse Luray, for an upcoming series dealing with collectors of pop culture swag, and their related collections.

Now at the time of this blog post, however, the title for this new series has yet to be finalized, with the original working title being "Collection Intervention". But now it appears to have been changed to "Amazing Collectibles".

What you're about to read is a VERY basic introduction to the Godzilla film series, and in turn, giant Japanese movie monsters (Daikaiju) in general.

Now this will not be groundbreaking to veteran Godzilla nerds, but this would be a great link to send to people who are interested getting into the fandom, or just wanting a nonsensical introduction to it.

-Raf AKA Enshohma

*********

A Brief History of the Godzilla Film Series

Inspired heavily by the recent box office successes of the 1952 re-release of "King Kong", and Warner Brothers' "The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms" (1953), producer Tomoyuki Tanaka convinced his superiors at Toho Company Ltd. that a Japanese monster movie would be a great high profile project to do - especially after a previously planned co-production with Indonesia had fallen through.

There was also the recent real-life incident involving a fishing boat dubbed Lucky Dragon no. 5, which it and its crew were accidentally exposed to America's Castle Bravo nuclear bomb tests on March 1st, 1954. The tragedy brought back harsh memories of the atomic bombings towards the end of World War II, and Tomoyuki, along with mindful director Ishiro Honda and imaginative special effects artist Eiji Tsuburaya, teamed up to create a monster movie with some serious dramatic overtones. And to act as an allegory to the fears of an atomic Armageddon, which was on everyone's mind during the Cold War era.

Although not the first Japanese movie to feature fantasy elements (let alone monsters), "Gojira" (also known as "Godzilla") was a success with Japanese audiences, and herald an new age of science fiction and fantasy cinema in that country.


Toho decided to rush out a sequel, "Godzilla Raids Again", less then six months later in 1955. However, that sequel lacked the strength of its predecessor, and it looked like the character of Godzilla wouldn't make it to a third film.

Fortunately, Toho continued to make other science fiction and monster movies, which included the likes of "Rodan" (1956), "Mothra" (1961), "The Mysterians" (1957), "Battle In Outer Space" (1959), and "The H-Man" (1958). And all of which with the same creative team and extended crew behind the original 1954 Godzilla.

In the spring of 1956, TransWorld Releasing Corp bought the American distribution rights to "Gojira", and edited together a new version, featuring sequences with then unknown actor Raymond Burr. This new edit, entitled "Godzilla, King of the Monsters!" stayed fairly faithful to the original story-line, though with Mister Burr inserted as an visiting news reporter, caught up in the spectacular events.


The idea behind this was to create a story that would appeal to mainstream American audiences of the time, of whom Japanese films were still a relatively alien concept, especially ones released with subtitles, like the otherwise well received "Rashomon" from 1950. The gamble paid off, and "Godzilla, King of the Monsters!" became a sleeper hit that year, while cementing Godzilla's status as a prominent movie monster and pop culture icon.

But it wouldn't be until 1962's "King Kong vs. Godzilla" did the film franchise really get going. And taking a cue from that film's crossover success, Toho continued the trend by having their rediscovered star Godzilla, face off against other giant monsters equal to him in either power or marketable popularity, as they did the 1964 follow-up "Mothra vs. Godzilla" (released state side as "Godzilla vs. The Thing").

The decade of the 1960's is considered the 'Golden Age' of Japanese movie monsters, or Kaiju Eiga as they're referred to in Japan. Toho was not only producing a Godzilla film a year, but also many other high-end productions in and out of the sciences fiction genre, though it would be their monster films that would be the big money makers overseas.

Other Japanese studios and even television companies tried to do their own giant monsters, in order to ape Godzilla's fame, but very few of these ever truly succeeded. The most notable winners in this regard included Daiei Film's Gamera; a giant fire-breathing turtle that was a brief, but steady box office rival to Godzilla. And the title superhero of of the TV series "Ultraman"; a silver alien giant on the side of humanity, created by Godzilla effects master Eiji Tsuburaya, for the Tokyo Broadcasting System (TBS).

And very much like Godzilla, both Ultraman and Gamera spawned franchises that continue to this day, despite some multi-year long resting lulls between projects.

Further more, one can compare the Godzilla films to that of the James Bond series, in the sense that they have both gone through their respective ups and downs, as well as rebooting the characters and related story concepts over the years. And like any successful film franchise, there has been spin-off material, like animated television shows, video games, comic books, toys, and many others.
*********

The Showa-Era Series

This is the term used to describe the cycle of Godzilla films made from 1954-to-1975, and were more or less connected to one another, however loosely through each film's continuity, back when film audiences were probably less aware of such things.

As previously mentioned, the films from the 1960's are considered some of the best Toho Studios had to offer, with the following 1970's considered lesser in quality, and totally going into children's fair with Godzilla becoming a quasi-superhero. With that said, there was an earnest attempt to end the Showa-era with some dignity, with the more straight faced entry "Terror of MechaGodzilla" (1975).


*********

The Heisei-Era Series

Refers to the Godzilla films made from 1984-to-1995. In order to return the character to his darker, more villainous origins, the first film in this cycle, "The Return of Godzilla", totally reboots the franchise, and ignores all the films made right after the 1954 original. The Heisei films are also much tighter in continuity between each film, despite some questionable plot holes brought up by the time-traveling centric entry "Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah" (1991).

The last film in the Heisei saga was "Godzilla vs. Destroyah" (1995), where Godzilla suffers an internal meltdown and even permanently dies, but not before taking on the title villain beast one last time.


*********

The American Godzilla Film of 1998

One of the main reasons the Heisei era ended was because Toho wanted to accommodate Sony Pictures, who planned to restart the franchise as a big-budget American property. After many false starts and incomplete attempts, Sony finally made "Godzilla" in 1998, to good financial success, but mixed-to-negative reactions from audiences and critics alike.


And strangely enough, the weakened portrayal of Godzilla in the 1998 movie, made people yearned for the more powerful, fantastical creature of the original Japanese films. And thus, gave the Godzilla of the past films a brand new appreciation that had previously alluded him. There was an attempt to make a sequel to the 1998 "Godzilla", but nothing came of it, and Sony eventually lost the rights to the Godzilla property.

*********

The Millennium Series

After the 1998 debacle, Toho began a third cycle of Godzilla movies, starting with 1999's "Godzilla 2000". The deliberate concept behind the Millennium series was to have each film totally separate from one another, and essentially creating a 'Godzilla anthology', with only two of these said films ending up as direct sequels to one another. Those two movies being "Godzilla Against MechaGodzilla" (2002) and "Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S." (2003).

The final film in the Millennium era, as well as the last Godzilla film to date, was 2004's "Godzilla: Final Wars" which was a big budget extravaganza featuring multiple monsters from the past, and was made to celebrate the franchises' 50th anniversary. A virtual birthday bash for the King of the Monsters basically.


*********

Legendary Pictures' Godzilla For 2014

It was confirmed at this year's San Diego Comic Con, that Legendary Pictures, the Hollywood company behind the recent trilogy of Chris Nolan's Batman films, among other successful hits, will be doing a new American Godzilla for 2014.

This time around however, they hope to remain true to the original spirit of the classic character. A proof-of-concept teaser was shown at Comic Con, and as a far cry from the more lighthearted 1998 film, the 'Legendary Godzilla' is presented as a nightmarish beast, hoarding over a devastated city, littered with humans victims and fallen enemy monsters alike.

Legendary Pictures will also be releasing another giant monster related epic, "Pacific Rim", before then in summer of 2013, though this film, and their future Godzilla remake, are otherwise unconnected.

*********

Character Bullet Points:

Mecha-Godzilla (AKA Kiryu) is a giant robot made in the image / likeness of Godzilla himself, and has been portrayed as both an extraterrestrial villain, AND as a man-made weapon for good, throughout its various film appearances. Despite the varying story incarnations however, Mechagodzilla has largely remained an adversary to Godzilla.

Mothra (Moth-Rah) is a giant moth from Infant Island, and unlike most movie monsters, she is a magical agent for justice, born of equally mystical origins. Often accompanied by the twin fairies dubbed The Shobijin (Sho-Be-Jin, literally means 'Tiny Beauties'), who serve as her ambassadors, Mothra helps mankind against more menacing monsters (including Godzilla on occasion), while also sometimes uniting the monsters of Earth (Godzilla too) for a greater good, like defending their world against alien invasion.

Both Mechagodzilla and Mothra are hugely marketable characters, and have made numerous film appearances within and without the Godzilla film series.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Ensho's OCs: Mistress Mephistia


The Most Recent Drawing of Mistress Mephistia, Done Earlier In 2012

OCs is an abbreviation for Original Characters...or Orange County...But amongst us artists (AKA me), it's the former and foremost...so please deal with it from this point onward.
 
Plus, I did promise more regular updates to this site, and I have untold numbers of such creations laying around for showcasing - even if the related images I have done are nothing more than pencil sketches, colored by computer.
 
And for those of whom that have catch on by now, yes, these articles are directly inspired by my friend Hawanja's "Freaks, Mutants, and Monsters" blog-site.
 
********
 
Let's start with everyone's favorite subject - top-heavy demon women!
 
I've been doing these kind of creations for a long time (from twelve-years-old to present), and there have been an equal mix of good guys (fictional demons don't have to be all evil, you know), and bad guys. But for this first entry, let's start with one of the villains - Mistress Mephistia.
 
Older Art Possibly Done in 2007, And Colored in 2012 (Notice the Smaller Bust?)
 
An ancient succubus, originally born on Earth, Mistress Mephistia has since become the lead sorceress for the intergalactic conqueror Ceronus. Her personal knowledge of magic is impressive, but Mephistia prefers to take related spell books with her in battle, which serve as additional shields that produce their own invisible, defensive barrier. Or at least strengthens any ones that Mistress Mephistia creates on her own.
 
Being a succubus of the cruelest order, Mephistia has claimed the life-forces of almost all of her lovers, minus a small handful throughout her long lived existence. Though with that said, it is unknown if the father of her half-human daughter Pike, was among said survivors.

Pike, Mephistia's Half-Human Daughter.

Unlike her mother, Pike is fairly young by demon standards, and has adopted a warrior-type persona over her mother Mephistia's sorceress ways. This is probably due to her half-breed nature, which doesn't allow for a natural talent for magic. And thus Pike compensates this flaw with fighting skills, inhuman physical strength, and handheld weapons.
 
Pike serves as her mother's bodyguard, as well as a field general for Ceronus' forces. But outside their working relationship, there isn't much closeness between mother and daughter, which is largely Mephistia's doing.
 
Mistress Mephistia is a stanch believer in demon superiority over that of lowly humans, and although she's not ashamed of Pike, she's not exactly Mephistia's preferred progeny or heir either.
 
Despite her 'demonic chauvinism', Mistress Mephistia is still quite the charmer and seductress, and this would be true even if she wasn't born a succubus. This may explained how she's managed to obtain such a high position within Ceronus' ranks, as the Space Giant (literally, a fairy-tale-style Titan from deep space) enjoys the beautiful ladies immensely. And the Mistress was a much need addition to his more male-oriented armies.
 
Mistress Mephistia also has a pair of large bat-like wings, as all succubus women do, but keeps them physically hidden within her own back until need be. This too is quite rare, for the sorceress is rather lazy when it comes to travel, included being teleported by her own magical incantations. And instead, prefers being transported by vehicles, driven by chauffeurs.
 
Unfortunately for Pike, she did not inherit her own pair of wings from her mother's side of the family. And thus she uses alien technology from Ceronus' other minions for temporary levitation, while in combat.
 
-Raf AKA Enshohma

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Look Everyone! I'm Acting!

I finally appeared in one of my brother's YouTube shorts, and in this case "Something Strange"; a live action series of 'micro-stories' inspired by silent films and similar-era cartoons. Particularly those from Fleischer Studios (Betty Boop), and Walt Disney's earliest black-and-white output.

With that said, the character that I played in the short, simply billed as 'The Brute' - an eye-patch wearing villain who pursues the narrator Gonzo, is very much the kind of over-the-top heavy you'd find in such animated fair.

The Brute was mainly inspired by Peg Leg Pete from "Steamboat Willie" (1928), and Bluto, the nemesis (and sometimes friend) of "Popeye the Sailor" (Fleischer era, 1933 - 1942).

The following was a lot of fun to make, and it was finally nice to play a full-blown character (literally and figuratively) affront of the camera. The video featured below is safe for public viewing:


And while on the subject of "Something Strange" , here's an older episode, featuring my other younger brother Gabe as 'The Grandson From The Future':