Something to space-out to on the plane, one of those very silly sci-fi movies from the 60’s that gradually becomes a Godzilla knock-off. Movieishness is high, reasonable human behavior low, with some really cool miniatures, but the zero-gravity effect of “dangling stuff on strings” is lame. A mission to Mars (to discover why all other missions to Mars have disappeared) is led by Captain Sano with White Biologist Lisa. They stop for a shower on the moon base, where radio operator Michiko is jealous of the white girl, leaving behind their doctor who wasn’t feeling well, and picking up the whiny, dubbed, panic-prone Dr. Stein. Their ship loses power after they collect a Luminous Object near Mars, and they get a tow home. Of course the object grows into a giant monster that threatens Tokyo, but at least the massive-scale destruction and countless deaths resolve the astronaut love triangle. The cast is mostly nobodies, but the comic relief guy was in an Imamura film, and the guy in charge of ground control is Eiji Okada, star of Hiroshima Mon Amour and Woman in the Dunes.

Fun-loving crew:

The X has a name: Guilala

The flying saucer is a Monty Python fan:

Is it already five years since I watched the series? Afterwards I didn’t want to launch into the movie remakes until there was some evidence that the series would ever be completed, and now that part four has premiered, I’m diving in. It’s been long enough that I’m getting reacquainted with the characters and had forgotten some of the early plotting and the monster battle particulars, but not so long that the whole thing doesn’t feel somewhat redundant despite my poor memory. I guess I’d pictured more of a reimagining, a different style, instead of a minor tweaking of character art and background textures.

Same ol’ story: emo kid saves the world, again and again, becoming increasingly emo. The show is pretty good at mortifying Shinji – the only people who are ever nice to him for saving the world are a couple classmates, and that’s only after they beat him up.

The opening scene is full-on nuts and very fakey looking, but i dunno that you need a sand-dune sailboat being attacked by giant duneworms to look “realistic.” Back in “our world” Milla Jovovich is an elite UN soldier(?) until a desert storm transports her to the monster-hunting world where her team is wiped out and she’s cocooned by skittering creatures in an underground insect Matrix until kidnapped by incredible archer Tony Jaa. She fucks up his shrine and they have a really violent fight, then they join forces and make her an arm-mounted grappling crossbow. “To kill a monster you need a monster.” Lost Boy Ron Perlman joins them, fighting off a stampede with flaming swords, then we go through the kidnapping / friendship thing again to fight a fire-breathing dragon. If I’m making this movie sound unbelievably awesome, that’s only because it is.

50 sword deaths in first couple minutes, a good sign, as unstoppable mustache man slays all his rivals then returns home to slay his hot girlfriend. He turns out to be our narrator Kageyama’s boss. We know he’s gonna gradually introduce K to his elite life, glimpsed when the two visit the boss’s bar, where the blood bartender runs a basement prison forcibly teaching captured yakuza to abandon their tough-guy ways – but the boss comes to an untimely end when a cowboy-hat coffin-backpack outsider shoots him with a chintzy lightning gun then kickboxer Kyoken beheads him.

The badly wounded K is revived by a bite from his vampire boss’s severed head, and not knowing how his new hunger works, he bites a townsperson which quickly unleashes a vampire plague on the town – the vamps act like yakuza and band together to torment (but not bite) the mortal yakuza. Meanwhile, kickboxer and coffin-backpack are joined by a kappa goblin and a frog furry with its own theme song. This is one of Miike’s high-energy crazypants movies, and it’s extremely fun, up there with Blade of the Immortal and Zebraman 2.

Let’s see… there’s also a tough woman named Captain whose head fills with water… K loves a hospitalized blind girl who turns out not to be blind… a sad kid whose father died turns into an enraged revenge-vampire… and there’s a bloody showdown between K and the kickboxer at the end as the frog furry grows city-sized and threatens to destroy the world.

K is Hayato Ichihara, lead/bullied boy in All About Lily Chou-Chou, has grown up to have a cool, severe face. The unblind Riko Narumi was a teen in The Great Yokai War, is also in notably bonkers movies Why Don’t You Play In Hell and Labyrinth of Cinema. The late boss has starred in a few Kore-eda films and Tsukamoto’s Fires on the Plain. The kickboxer is from Java, and The Raid movies.

“Structural failure is imminent,” says the same calm female computer voice from all these movies. Before any monsters appear, the underwater base already looks crappy, run down with flickering lights, clear Alien influence. Eubank also made The Signal, which I heard was bad.

Captain Cassel:

Disaster in the deepwater drilling base, Kristen Stewart has to do that movie thing where she closes the blast doors because her coworkers won’t make it through in time. Mamoudou Athie (the punk recluse of Patti Cake$) survives with her, then they rescue Paul (T.J. Miller of a Transformers movie) and meet up with the Captain (Vincent Cassel of Eastern Promises). Together, they go through the motions of an underwater-horror movie, escaping from some underwater Silent Hill creatures that I am not buying and then their Leviathan momma.

Miller is good – I guess he was in the series Silicon Valley, which I skipped. After watching Megan Fox in Jennifer’s Body, maybe I should make a thing of it and watch other Transformers stars’ horror movies… let’s see, Shia LaBeouf has Disturbia and Wahlberg’s got The Happening, I dunno. Back to the plot: Rodrigo’s helmet was compromised so he implodes. A Game of Thrones actress is in love with a Short Term 12 actor, giving us more people to root for, as loveless Stewart makes the Ultimate Sacrifice to destroy the monsters. Whatever, it was weird and nice to watch people who are capable at their jobs for a little while.

After a solid Loch Ness Monster open, the movie spends ten long minutes watching men with big egos converse in fancy rooms, and never really recovers. I mean it’s an overall good time, and Hugh Jackman does better as the explorer than most celebrity voice actors can manage – it’s just a hard comedown after Laika’s masterpiece Kubo. The missing link is lonely, writes a letter to summon a famous adventurer, they collect a bustley Zoe Saldana and go on adventures, chased at times by bounty hunters, rival explorers and a race of abominable snowmen. Mostly we came for the armatures, which were just fabulous. What cool dude was in charge of all those armatures?

For a two-hour movie it sure starts fast – there’s a “sea eruption” as the coast guard examines an abandoned craft, and a gushing leak in an undersea traffic tunnel, then a flurry of government workers reacting to the news, each worker rapidly introduced via subtitle, and this is all in the first two minutes. Little did I realize we’d mostly stick with these government workers for the next 118 minutes – this is a Godzilla movie told from the POV of the bureaucrats trying to devise a solution to the kaiju problem. I meant to watch this two years ago as part of a double-feature, but was so disappointed by the American remake, I cancelled. Should have carried on with the plan – despite its insistent focus on meetings, this is unique and excellent.

While the government works on their undersea-volcano theory, Godzilla’s tail shows up on the TV news, then as the PM is assuring the public there’s no danger of it coming onshore, it comes onshore. The fate of humanity may depend on the government’s response, but the higher-ups only listen to high-ranking officials, not anyone with actual knowledge or ideas. A scrappy young voice-of-reason deputy cabinet secretary named Rando (Hiroki Hasegawa, lead Fuck Bomber of Why Don’t You Play In Hell?, also in Before We Vanish) forms an impromptu committee of underrated functionaries to brainstorm solutions the old-guard leadership isn’t coming up with, making this the most Colonel Blimp-like of Godzilla movies.

Back to the giant monster movie at hand, the thing that comes onshore is… not Godzilla? I thought it might be a monster that G ends up fighting, but after struggling through the city and splashing blood everywhere, it collapses then suddenly evolves into the G we all know. Every time it stops and then rises again, it’s more powerful with new abilities – the fin-glowing, fire-breathing, purple-energy-releasing sequence is especially impressive.

When purple energy beams destroy the prime minister’s chopper, a know-nothing with seniority is made PM, and pretty easily convinced by the U.S. to let them nuke Tokyo. Sure he feels awful, but he has no ideas or power of his own, so it’s up to Rando, his team and his negotiations with the talented half-Japanese daughter of a U.S. senator. The movie is obvious about its politics and complaints – and again, it’s mostly meetings – but it’s also excellently paced and has outstanding monster-devastation scenes.

There are a million actors in this, each introduced with onscreen name and title, and I only kept track of a few. The PM is Ren Osugi, who shows up in every other Japanese movie I watch, and died last year. Kayoko is Satomi Ishihara of the Ring sequel Sadako 3D. Rando’s team includes Mikako Ichikawa of Anno’s live-action cartoon Cutie Honey, and Shinya Freakin’ Tsukamoto.

Not really horror, a disaster movie – made in response to the American version, which wasn’t good at all. This got a limited release in the US, where it mostly appealed to nerds on fansites, while in Japan it won best film and best director and was only outsold by Your Name. Hideaki Anno made this as a mental break between Evangelion films, the fourth of which is now five years delayed. Codirector Shinji Higuchi made Attack on Titan with some of the same cast, and directed sfx for the 1990’s Gamera movies. Anno might be following up with an Ultraman movie, and if he never finishes making the theatrical Evangelion series, I’m never gonna start watching it.

Great opening titles, the credits created from an array of redacted documents. I took a note when pausing to grab snacks: “no way will the movie live up to these opening titles” – and it didn’t!

but it’s thrilling when G’s laser-breath is finally unleashed:

It doesn’t go the full Cloverfield, but sticks close to the ground, glimpsing giant monster battles from a panicked human perspective, much of the action unreadably dark on my screen. Bomb disposal expert Col. Witwicky must be cursed, he and each of his family members getting right in the path of monster attacks, until he breaks the curse at the end by torching the bad-guy monsters’ eggs before they can overrun the planet. And oh yeah there are evil monsters here, and Godzilla’s the good guy. And Juliette Binoche dies horribly after only 15 minutes, and Bryan Cranston is the star but he dies too, and Sally Hawkins gets three lines, and Ken Watanabe plays the Japanese scientist, and David Strathairn plays the serious military one, but mostly we’re left with Witwicky (Aaron Taylor-Johnson, lead rapist of Nocturnal Animals) trying to get home to his Olsen wife before the world ends.

Evil Mantis Monster:

Hidden Mothra reference on a fishtank:

Gareth made this between indie alien thriller Monsters and a Star Wars spinoff. I was planning to double-feature this with the even newer Godzilla movie from the creator of Evangelion, but after two disappointing action flicks in a row (this and Alien: Covenant) I couldn’t risk a third, so rewatched Fury Road instead. Normally I’d say “argh, why did I watch this bland multiplex junk,” not recalling why it ended up on my must-see list, but now thanks to Letterboxd I can look up exactly who recommended it… aha, Ehrlich with 4.5 stars. “One of the most satisfying, well-paced & beautifully directed blockbusters since Jurassic Park… genuinely registers as the first post-human blockbuster.” And MZ Seitz listed it as one of the century’s best. They are high.

First Nacho movie I’ve watched since Timecrimes – I missed his Extraterrestrial and didn’t hear much about Open Windows. Anne Hathaway, not a fraction as messed up as she was in Rachel Getting Married, a movie that has been on everyone’s minds lately, is still somewhat messed up, moving to her old town and hooking up with Jason Sudeikis (Floyd in 30 Rock), then with younger Austin Stowell (Whiplash), causing Jason to unfurl his rage and become a supervillain. Anne can become/control a giant beast stomping Korea by stepping into a local playground at a certain time in the morning, and Jason can become a giant robot, and they have drunken childish playground wars while real people die (we assume, all off-camera) across the world, until he gets fully out of control and she travels to Korea and turns the tables, her avatar now in America facing down the puny Sudeikis.

Tim Blake Nelson, who I’ve seen in six movies and never recognized, is a bar buddy who Jason badly offends then he never returns, and Matthew Crawley is Anne’s ex who returns to rescue her from this nowhere small town.

M. D’Angelo:

Colossal never quite decides whether it’s about the unwitting havoc caused by an alcoholic or the toxic behavior of a closet misogynist, and it veers uncertainly between goofy comedy and genuine ugliness. Furthermore, placing the giant avatars in another country suggests barbed commentary on collateral damage caused by American foreign policy — rich potential that the movie ignores … Even at its most muddled, Colossal taps into the universal secret conviction that one’s most trivial actions and emotions are somehow world-consequential.

Preceded by the Peter Huang short 5 Films About Technology – episodes about people’s lives being ruined by cellphone technology – which I guess fits thematically with Colossal in that Katy points out that ever since Certain Women she’s realized all modern movies are about alienation and peoples’ inability to connect.