Saturday, December 19, 2009
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
One of today’s posts from io9 website featured these amusing giant monster parody posters, which were commissioned by the Center for Migratory Species and the United Nations Environment Programme. The ad campaign’s theme is to raise awareness of humanity’s negative impact on animal species.
Monday, December 14, 2009
To be perfectly blunt: The Host, this ain’t. When I first heard about the Korean giant killer boar movie Chaw, I had hopes that it would follow more closely in the cinematic footsteps of the aforementioned film than, say, the unsatisfying D-War: Dragon Wars. While it might be unfair to compare the two, it’s kind of perplexing how a movie like Chaw can be made after something genuinely decent like The Host and yet, seemingly learned nothing from it.
Police officer Kim Kang Su is hoping for a change of pace from his stressful existence in Seoul when he is transfered to a quiet, forest village but arrives just in time to be assigned to a case involving the discovery of the dismembered remains of a young girl. The girl’s grandfather, an retired hunter, is convinced that the perpetrator is actually a wild boar with a taste for people. Before long, the entire community becomes focused on finding the creature, unaware that it’s an even greater problem than they initially suspected.
Before I go any further with this review, I should mention that the DVD copy I watched was a Chinese version with spotty english subtitles, so a lot of the plot details ended up lost in a sea of lousy translation. Unfortunately, this also proved to be particularly problematic with regards to the humor in the film, as Chaw is meant to be an intentional horror/comedy outing. I can’t help but wonder if my final opinion is somewhat tainted by the fact that I missed out on a lot of the jokes- well, the dialogue-based ones, anyway. Nonetheless, it was pretty obvious where the film would dip into lighter moments and, to be truthful, I simply found it more forced rather than funny whenever it did.
And therein lies my key problem with Chaw: it’s as if the filmmakers seemingly couldn’t decide on what to do with regards to both tone and content. The story alone felt like it could have used some trimming in terms of the number of characters and weird little subplots that just end up going nowhere. All the extra fat in the script might also explain why the killer boar itself is barely in the movie for the first hour; when it finally does show up, it’s only for a brief sequence before disappearing again for another twenty minutes until the movie’s climax. Be it for reasons of room or budget, the creature’s absence probably wouldn’t have bothered me as much if its threat was a little more omnipresent. Even as the various characters wander around in the woods (particularly during that first hour), it never really feels as if the boar could come barreling out of the shadows at any given moment.
On the special effects end of the spectrum, the CGI (and occasionally animatronic) work used to portray the boar is decent for the most part, especially considering that the film had nowhere near the budget of a Hollywood blockbuster. Granted, computer-generated fur still has a little ways to go in terms of being 100% convincing (unless you’re able to throw tens of millions of dollars at it), but at the least the movie had the sense to keep most of the boar sequences in low light to help hide the shortcomings.
To sum things up, if you’re looking for a monster romp, you might want to look elsewhere. The imbalance of humor and horror in Chaw didn’t quite gel with me, even though I firmly believe that the two genres can be successfully merged together (as in the case of Tremors, for example). I think the biggest problem was that I went into the movie expecting a main course of monster pig but instead got servings of lame duck humor- that’s not a decent meal in my book, unfortunately. Two and a half out of five.
Thursday, November 19, 2009
Here’s a weird little desktop defense-style game I found recently; you take control of a dungeon-dwelling creature out to protect its “Doom Chest” from an onslaught of angry villagers (should they manage to destroy said item, the game is over). Your monster can move freely around the area to either blast away the interlopers or chow down on them to renew its energy. Clearing out the level of intruders earns money which can be used for upgrades or to purchase contraptions that will slow down or damage the enemy units.
Be forewarned; things get considerably hectic with each subsequent, ever-increasing wave of attackers. I didn’t last very long before the villagers made hamburger out of my Doom Chest, but I fully admit to being lousy at games like this. Perhaps you might fare better.
Play it here: Trap Master
Sunday, November 8, 2009
Being a citizen of the Great White North and only a basic cable television subscriber to boot, I have no access to the American Sci Fi (Sorry- SyFy) Channel or its home-brewed films aside from reading online reviews or what occasionally makes its way into the video rental shelves up here. However, while I am aware that there have been a couple of forays into giant monster territory, my urgency in seeking out these movies has always been dulled by the fact that they’re somewhat notorious for being... well, bad. Still, being a fan of this genre nowadays often means that you simply take what you get whenever new films occasionally appear and as I sat down to watch Wyvern, I fully expected a repeat experience of Dinocroc: a lackluster movie that features an otherwise a neat-looking monster on its DVD cover.
Surprisingly, I was wrong in my assumption; all things considered, Wyvern is actually an okay giant monster film.
Keep in mind that I used the word “okay” and not “great”. If anything, the movie’s weakest point is that it’s yet another entry in the horror-comes-to-a-small-town formula that has been recycled endlessly since Jaws and firmly subscribes to all of its cliches. Central protagonist is a charismatic outsider? Check. Initial monster attack casualty dismissed as something pedestrian? Check. Planned town social event goes ahead despite warnings that doing so will put everyone participating in danger? Characters learn that if the monster isn’t stopped, the scope of its threat will become even more disastrous? Check. In an earlier version of this review, I had planned to include a plot synopsis but to be honest, it really isn’t necessary. If you’ve seen Jaws, Tremors, Bats, Arachnophobia, Piranha or any of a number of similar movies, this thing basically goes through all the same motions only with sightly different characters.
So what did I enjoy about the film, exactly? For one, unlike most straight-to-DVD release of this kind, the headlining creature of the film- the entire point of why I’m watching the movie in the first place- spends a surprisingly decent amount of time on-screen. No skulking in the shadows or only showing up in full view during the final minutes of the film- the wyvern is in plain sight throughout. Furthermore, the computer animation is actually pretty good as the monster moves around with a nice sense of weight, even when airborne. Refreshingly, the story also opts to give the wyvern a mythological slant to its origin; although the concept doesn’t really go anywhere aside from being used as a fanciful theory for the monster’s existence, it is a nice change from the overused “escaped, bio-genetic military experiment” explanation that currently seems to be in vogue with films of this kind.
Overall, Wyvern can be best described as “competent”; in the grand scheme of things, it’s not a particularly significant entry in the genre but in terms of what it sets out to do, it does adequately. All things considered, that’s more than what could be said of many of the straight-to-DVD giant monster movies nowadays. Three out of five.
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
I came across this fun little entry on the blog of Pete Von Sholly, a feature film storyboard artist, comic creator and monster enthusiast who put together a conceptual sequence of how Kong might have survived his adventure in New York and then returned to his island home. Of course it doesn’t pack the emotional punch of the film’s original ending, but it’s a neat creative exercise all the same. You check out the entire post here:
Monday, October 12, 2009
The fall 2009 issue of Space Magazine Uchusen pays tribute to Toho’s 1968 daikaiju-fest, Destroy All Monsters. Curiously, the artist has portrayed the monsters that, in the original film, had only appeared via stock footage (Baragon, Varan) or in a bit role (Manda) as active participants in the climactic fight with King Ghidorah. Neat!
Tuesday, October 6, 2009
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
Next month on NBC, the characters from Monsters vs Aliens will return in a Halloween-themed television special, Monsters vs Aliens: Mutant Pumpkins From Outer Space. I suspect that this might be an exercise in “testing the waters” to see if a TV series (which has been considered) or theatrical sequel would be worth the trouble, as Dreamworks’ faith in the property was shaken when the film fell short of expectation in terms of its overseas box office performance (particularly in parts of Europe). The title alone for the special makes me wonder if the plot will be a parody of Invasion of the Body Snatchers or a lighter take on The Day of the Triffids. Something akin to the unused, original ending of the 1986 version of Little Shop of Horrors would be pretty awesome:
Sunday, September 13, 2009
A little while back, I was contacted by composer T. Reed with some information about one of his music projects, “Kaijusonic”; electronic soundscapes designed to evoke the spirit of classic giant monster films. You can check out an example of one of his works, “Mecha vs. Monster IV” inserted into a sequence from The Terror of Mechagodzilla over here on this YouTube video (it’s embedding-disabled, otherwise I’d post it here). For something that wasn’t composed specifically to the footage, the music inadvertently synchs up pretty well to imagery onscreen.
This particular song comes across as a more atmospheric version of the Daisuke Yano pieces from the Godzilla: Final Wars soundtrack (which, coincidentally, were also the tracks that liked the most). You can check out some further examples of Reed’s daikaiju-inspired works on his MySpace page: Kaijusonic
Since we’re on the topic of music, I also wanted to post this cool video that I came across called “Kaiju Beach Party”, which features clips from Son of Godzilla and Godzilla vs. the Sea Monster set to the surfabilly song “Black Sand Beach” by The Royal Fingers:
Tuesday, September 1, 2009
Well, it’s not the actual title but I couldn’t help it, what with the shot of the creature barreling down what appears to be a highway. Little is really known about the film at this point other than the following bits:
1. The film is apparently a prequel to the original.
2. All the CGI special effects work will be exclusively kept in Korea (unlike the first, which was a co-produced effort).
3. The Korean government will be throwing some considerable dough at the production as funding assistance.
4. The original’s director will not be involved.
5. The script will be helmed by Kang Full, a popular Korean comic artist/writer.
While I really loved The Host and the idea of a cinematic follow-up, I’m a little torn about it being a prequel. If you’ve seen the first movie, you know how the “Gwoemul” isn’t exactly a subtle predator whenever it takes hunting excursions onto dry land. So we’re going to have a story that takes takes place before the first with the same giant creature (possibly more than one, according to some rumors floating around) going on a brazen killing rampage that is completely forgotten about by the time the events in the first movie come around. Hmmm.
I suppose that I really shouldn’t cast any dispersions before I see the final, finished film- I guess that it just comes down to nervous jitters over the continuation of a movie that I greatly enjoyed.
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
Monday, August 10, 2009
If there’s a lesson to be learned from Mega Shark versus Giant Octopus, it’s that expectation is the bugbear of common sense. It’s not as if Asylum, the company responsible for the film, has any sort of reputation beyond rushing low budget, straight-to-DVD Hollywood knockoffs to video store shelves (Transmorphers, anyone?), so there was already a heathy amount of skepticism present when the film was first announced. Yet, all it took was a trailer with one fleeting shot of a gigantic shark jumping out of the water at an airliner (as seen from the a P.O.V. of a passenger from inside the plane) to replace my doubt with cautious optimism that the movie might, at the very least, be a fun romp with lots of over-the-top giant monster goodness.
Here’s the thing: if you’ve watched the trailer (look it up on YouTube- it’s been posted a few times by different people), you’ve pretty much most of the good bits from Mega Shark versus Giant Octopus in their respective entireties. I can’t help but suspect that the film’s undoubtedly low budget probably had a lot to do with why the starring monsters are barely in the movie, but it’s still vexing to sit through scene after scene of uninteresting human characters talking about said giant shark and octopus instead of actually seeing them.
The plot is pretty straightforward stuff: a military operation involving a sonar transmitter near Alaska causes the destruction of a glacier which frees a prehistoric shark and octopus that had been trapped inside it. The two beasts swim away and immediately get busy wreaking havoc; the octopus demolishes an oil drilling platform off the coast of Japan, while the shark goes on an eating spree. Concerned oceanographer Emma MacNeil suspects that something is amiss when the mangled corpse of a whale washes up on a California beach, despite her superior’s assumption that the wounds are merely the result of a boat propeller. Emma revisits the site later that evening and discovers the fragment of a gigantic shark tooth embedded in the carcass. She secretly smuggles the item back home and consults with her old mentor, Lamar Sanders. The two mix colorful chemicals and run a computer scan on the tooth to learn that... it is indeed a tooth. They are soon contacted by a Japanese scientist, Dr. Seji Shimada; along with some video footage taken of the glacier when it shattered, the trio come to the realization that two enormous prehistoric sea monsters have been let loose into the oceans.
In the meantime, the mega shark decides to catch up to the octopus in terms of human body count and takes out a commercial airliner and U.S. naval destroyer. Having run out of ideas, the military forcibly enlists the aid of Emma, Lamar and Seji to come up with a way to stop the creatures. The scientists comply, but only under the terms that the creatures are subdued without being killed so as to preserve them for study. The three get to work mixing chemicals, but can’t seem to come up with any decent ideas. A sexual rendezvous in a janitor’s closet between Emma and Seji inspires the two with a plan to use chemical pheromones in order to attract the creatures to specific locations in order to contain them. More chemicals are mixed together. Unfortunately, things do not work out quite as intended; the shark eludes an attack from a battleship then takes a bite out of the Golden Gate Bridge while the octopus destroys Tokyo bay (well, we’re told the latter, anyway- the audience never actually gets to see anything). Since doing things the humane way just isn’t cutting it, the characters decide that the best thing to do would be to attract the two monsters to a mutual location so that they can finish up their battle from a few million years earlier.
As to whether you’ll enjoy Mega Shark versus Giant Octopus or not is really going to come down to a mixture of your mood, expectation and level of inebriation. In my particular case, I was a little bored, hopeful that the craziness seen in the trailer was reflective of the actual film and stone-cold sober. It probably explains why I didn’t care much for it. A big problem here is that the film is- to put it bluntly- dull. At times, I almost felt like I wasn’t watching a giant monster movie so much as seeing an exercise in padding. Notice during the plot synopsis that I kept mentioning how the characters continuously indulge in bouts of mixing chemicals? Those sequences go on just long enough to make you wonder if the filmmakers were desperate to meet the movie’s running time and used every cheap trick they could to accomplish it. In two separate sequences, a naval vessel attempts an attack on the mega shark which, in turn, destroys the ship: both bits are practically identical to each other, as if someone had literally photocopied the earlier portion of script, changed the words “destroyer” to “battleship” and switched in new characters.
Acting-wise, Debbie (sorry- “Deborah”) Gibson is one of the better players in the cast, which really isn’t saying much. The actor playing her mentor tries his best at a Scottish (?) accent that is so inconsistent and distracting, it’s kind of a wonder why he even attempted to begin with. Former daytime soap star Lorenzo Lamas, who plays the obnoxious government official Allan Baxter, is just downright painful to watch; even for someone who is hamming up his performance. At least, I’m assuming that he was purposely acting over-the-top. It would be frightening to consider the possibility of what’s seen in the finished film is a legitimate effort on Lamas’ part.
Special effects-wise, the CGI runs a gambit between competent and lackluster. The animators seemed to have trouble wrapping their heads around the concept that if something is supposed to be immense, it doesn’t zip around as if weightless. In many of the shots which involved the mega shark swimming along, the creature is swishing its tail back and forth like a guppy, completely undermining any sense of scale. Odder still, this same problem extended to the non-monster stuff, such as the military submarines, which also exhibited unbefitting amounts of speed and agility. And one little note to the film’s director- while blatantly recycling shots of the two monsters during their climactic fight may be easier on the film’s budget, it’s practically the filmic equivalent of flipping the bird to the audience.
As I said earlier, perhaps one has to be in the proper frame of mind to enjoy Mega Shark versus Giant Octopus but if you’re really in the mood for a giant monster skirmish, there are better films out there to satisfy that craving. 1 out of 5.
Monday, July 27, 2009
I stumbled across a couple of giant monster movie announcements today while visiting my usual internet haunts: the first is a film adaptation of Kong: King of Skull Island, an illustrated novel which details the events of Skull Island before the events in the original film as uncovered by Carl Denham’s son, Vincent . The meat of the backstory involves an ongoing rivalry between the giant apes of Skull Island and a species of intelligent, carnivorous dinosaur called “death runners”. Admittedly, I’m not much of a fan of prequels, but hey: giant apes verses dinosaurs. I’m willing to put aside my personal bias just on that alone. The weird thing with this movie though, is that Spirit Pictures (the company producing the film) is planning to go the CGI motion-capture route in the same way that The Polar Express and Beowulf were handled. Hard to say how that might go, considering the aforementioned approach sometimes comes off a little cold and uncanny valley-ish in the final product, but at this early stage of things, there’s not much point in fussing over it.
Source: Dread Central
Switching from digital effects to rubber suits and miniature sets, we have the upcoming movie Death Kappa from director Tomoo Haraguchi. Haraguchi, a veteran effects artist who (among other things) handled the creature work on the first two 90’s-era Gamera entries, is approaching this pet project from a very nostalgic angle: his plan is to use only traditional effects to create a tribute of sorts to the “old school” style of Japanese giant monster films.
Twitchfilm.net has posted a video where Haraguchi not only discusses his thoughts behind the movie but you also get a sneak peak of some miniature sets and the design of the kappa monster itself (as well as a drawing of a second daikaiju that also makes an appearance in the film as the kappa’s opponent). I hope this turns out to be a lot of fun as it’s certainly sparked my interest.
And for those of you not versed in Japanese folklore, the kappa is a mischievous water spirit that makes its home in rivers and ponds and preys on unsuspecting passers-by that get too close to water’s edge. Sometimes it merely plays innocent pranks on its intended victims but the creature can also be murderous; dragging people underwater to drown them (one theory is that the legend of the kappa was created as a way to make children wary of playing near water). The most particular feature of the kappa is the top of its head which is indented like a bowl and filled with water. Said water is vital to the monster’s ability to exist on dry land- should it be spilled, the creature becomes helpless. This can be achieved by simply bowing to the kappa and exploiting its etiquette to return the gesture. I wonder if the Death Kappa will have a similar Achilles’ Heel? Hmmm. I can already imagine the movie's ending narration:
"In the end, Kappa’s undoing was not because of the bombs or artillery but, rather, its own stubborn insistence on being polite..."
Saturday, July 25, 2009
A tip of the hat to blog reader Benjamin for bringing an upcoming Nintendo DS release called Kaiju Busters to my attention. It’s another game that makes use of the Ultraman franchise (although Ultraman himself is absent); in this case, plugging it into something that, at a casual glance, seems to have been inspired by Capcom’s Monster Hunter series.
I did some further digging around online and found out some additional tidbits of info (there’s really not much at this point):
- players can battle alongside three other characters
- 500 different weapons (within nine categories)
- 500 defensive items
- Seven different planets to explore
- Over 40 giant monsters to fight
- More than 300 missions
- Comes with free ham
Okay, so I made that last one up. I’m just making sure that you’re paying attention. Anyhoo, a giant monster-themed game is something that has been long overdue for the DS, so I’ll definitely be picking this one up when it’s released around winter. You can also check out a brief trailer here.
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
Warner Brothers has optioned a movie adaptation of The Flock, a novel by James Robert Smith about a modern day run-in with the descendants of prehistoric, carnivorous birds. The story synopsis, as pulled from the author’s website:
Salutations USA is the ideal town built by Berg Brothers, the studio that for generations produced family films. Constructed on a parcel of the decommissioned site of what was the Edmunds Bombing Range, it is the great studio’s intention to create a place that is what America once was. with room to expand.
But the land beyond Salutations is wilderness- 450, 000 acres protected from development because of its former military status. Other forces struggle against the company for control of those acres. Vance Holcomb, billionaire ecologist wishes to construct a research center, saving the rare habitats. Winston Grisham, retired Marine colonel, wants all parties away, capitalist exploiters and meddlesome tree-huggers alike; he and his militia wish to be left alone. Ron Riggs, Fish and Wildlife officer wants to know what is lurking at the edges of Salutations. And the lawyers slug it out in the Florida courts.
Unknown to most, this backcountry is home to the last population of a creature believed to be extinct: Titanis walleri, a predatory ground bird of saurian form. The creatures, possessed of near-human intelligence, have hidden since the first Native Americans came from the north. With humans on the doorstep knocking to come in, the Flock does not wish to be disturbed.
Could be cool- that is, as long as Hollywood doesn’t wreck it... like having the birds protect their habitat by wimping out and organizing a benefit concert or something. Archeologists have long since determined that a “terror bird’s” preferred method of negotiation was disembowelment; I’m hoping that the movie’s producers don’t forget that fact.
Sunday, June 28, 2009
It’s been kinda quiet around here recently, huh? Unfortunately my life has been rather busy lately and as such, I haven’t had much time to sit down and put together some decent-sized articles for the blog (I’m currently trying to finish up a review for Mega Shark verses Giant Octopus, which should be up before too long). I did come across this little tidbit of awesomeness on the Japanator website which I thought I’d mention here.
It seems that the Japanese have been on a recent kick to produce “life-sized” statues of popular giant anime robots; the first is a 59-foot tall recreation of the popular robot from Mobile Suit Gundam which will stand in Tokyo’s Shiokaze Park for a two-month period starting in July.
Much cooler (I think, anyway) is the proposed Tetsujin 28 statue, which is planned as a permanent fixture of Wakamatsu Park in Kobe as a way to commemorate the achievements of manga creator, Mitsuteru Yokoyama. You can actually check out pictures of statue’s various stages of construction on the official website. Very, very neat. I wish we did stuff like this in North America. Don’t tell me that a series of 1:1 scale statues of various Ray Harryhausen monsters adorning public parks wouldn’t be more interesting than the usual fare of historical figures on horseback.
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
It seems that the video game Project Trio that I reported on not too long ago has been given its official title, The Last Guardian. There’s still nothing new in the way of details about the actual gameplay or plot, but Kotaku.com has a bunch of recently-released screenshots to peruse. You can check them out here.
One detail of interest that I didn’t notice in the teaser trailer when I watched it (but can be clearly seen in these new pictures): the cat/griffin thing seems to riddled with arrows. What could that be all about, I wonder? Given that this is a Japanese game, I can’t help but suspect that the creature might have a tragic end waiting for him at the story’s completion...
Sunday, May 31, 2009
There are a couple of upcoming animated movies with giant monster content heading to theaters, although just not anytime soon. First up is Dreamworks’ next 3D feature called How to Train Your Dragon, an adaptation of a children’s novel by author Cressida Cowell. The plot involves a teenaged viking named Hiccup who meets and befriends an injured dragon... which would be less of a problem if Hiccup didn’t live in a village of warriors whose predominant occupation involved battling said monsters. Apparently there have been some concerns from fans of the books that the film is taking some unwanted liberties with the story, such as adding new characters and changing the original plot. I’m sure more of this will come to light when the movie gets closer to its release date of March 2010.
Twitch.com and I09.com both posted a brief news tidbit about an upcoming Danish animated film project, due out in 2011, called The Great Bear. According to the synopsis posted on both sites, the story is about an 11-year old boy named Jonathan, who laments having his younger sister Sophie joining him on his vacation to visit his grandfather. Things get worse when Sophie is spirited away by an ancient, gigantic bear which leaves Jonathan no alternative but to enter the vast forest where the creature live (along with other mythical beasts) in an attempt to rescue her.
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
Despite mixed reviews, Dreamworks’ Monsters vs Aliens turned out to be a decent performer in the box office arena (almost 200 million domestically as of this writing, according to Box Office Mojo.com), so it’s no big surprise that the studio has green lit a television pilot for Nickelodeon to air next year. I’d imagine that the expensive celebrity voice talent won’t be used, however. One can only guess what the plot will involve, but it would be nice if the series cooked up some new 50’s B-movie inspired opponents for the characters to face off against. Is an episode featuring a giant mantis too much to ask for? Just sayin’...
Source: Hollywood Reporter.com
Sunday, May 24, 2009
Here’s a teaser trailer for an upcoming video game by the same folks responsible for ICO and Shadow of the Colossus (two great PS2 games, BTW). There’s not much to go on in terms of what the game is exactly about, but I suspect that it might be an exploration-style adventure in the vein of ICO. The giant baby griffin will probably act as a support character that helps the player reach otherwise unaccessible areas. Nonetheless, color me interested!
I tried (unsuccessfully) embedding both a YouTube and Gametrailers.com video with the original version of this post, but the picture of the former kept getting cut off (I’ve noticed this issue with Blogger ever since YouTube switched over to a widescreen format) and the latter had some sort of HTML code problem and wouldn’t post at all.
Here’s the link to the Gametrailers.com site: Project Trico
And you can view it here in HD: Project Trico on YouTube
Monday, May 18, 2009
Here are a couple of free online games I discovered recently; nothing deep, but good if you need to get rid of a couple of minutes (click on each title to go to said game).
Run around and eat hapless stickmen, uh- people in order to change into larger and more versatile forms. Each transformation gives the player a couple of different choices with regards to what kind of monster they can become next.
A fun but incredibly short game with the aesthetic of a bad 80’s cartoon.. and I mean that in a good way. Needs a longer sequel. ROOOOOOAR!