Tag Archives: Monster Movie

Cinema-Maniac: Yurusarezaru mono (Unforgiven) (2014) Review

Hollywood has a history of remaking Japanese films. “Seven Samurai” became “The Magnificent Seven”, “Yojimbo became” “A Fistful of Dollars” and “The Warrior and the Sorcerers”, and “Rashomon” became “The Outrage”. What all these Japanese films have in common besides being helm by Akira Kurosawa. All contained samurai as a major character. I wanted to list specifically samurai films because Japan love Western as much as Hollywood loves (remaking) samurai films. So it is no surprise that Japan would remake Clint Eastwood masterpiece “Unforgiven”. Calling the original “Unforgiven” the “Seven Samurai” of the Western genre is no exaggeration by any means. However, the remake, “Yurusarezaru mono” (Unforgiven in English) is not of the same caliber. While it’s not quite as insulting as Hollywood take on “47 Ronin”. This remake is by definition lazy. Retreading familiar material without much effort to deviate for its own identity and missing all source of passion. Kinda ironic when you think about it since Warner Bros. who are responsible for the original are responsible for the remake.

Yurusarezaru mono (Unforgiven in English) is about Jubei Kamata, a fearsome former samurai of the Tokugawa Shogunate taking one last job. Plot point by plot point this retelling is superficial. Just because the setting is changed and characters named change does not qualify as a proper remake. Scenes for scenes copy dialogue from the original sticking too closely to them. Making it tedious to sit through for anyone who seen the original. Ironically the worst scenes of the film are it rare attempts to deviate from the original. In the opening we see Jubei Kamata fighting for his life against some military soldiers. Immediately this remove the mysterious aura around Jebei being this so call legendary killer. Because we saw Jubei kill we don’t once ever question his ability or doubt he is this legendary killer. Therefore never seeing him as this ordinary person he pretends to be when he’s introduced. Another change in the story is who convinces the protagonist to get involved for this hit. In the original it was The “Schofield Kid”; a young admirer of William Munny (the original film protagonist) and this came into play very strongly on depicting morality in the old west and the influence of legends. Here it’s Kingo Baba (Morgan Freeman character basically) convinces Jubei to get back out on the field. This too is also ruined instead of developing the relationship between these two long time friends during their journey they are downgraded to simple two dimensional characters. Than comes the climax that butchers the preceding. In the original, Munny had a reason a to return to Big Whiskey for more than just payback; in this remake it just comes off as an act of vengeance. Schofield Kid character is also diminished in this remake. Whereas most of the characters stay the same this character gets needlessly changed. Using Schofield character as attempt to bring up race discrimination, but does nothing with it. Discrimination is just brought up as this character defining feature who does discuss his struggles with it once. Once, other times discrimination is just brought up because it a thing that happened to him for small talk. Worst part about it bringing up discrimination is pointless in this. If discrimination was never brought up the film would not change in the slightest.

Does the film work if you haven’t seen the original? How can the remake fail for those who haven’t seen it if virtually everything remained intact? Simple…okay it’s actually not, but I’ll explain the best to my amature abilities. What the original did was play on expectations and doing a complete one-eighty in its board depiction on sophisticated themes. This remake falls victim to those expectations; it sets up those expectations of what is associated with Samurai films and following them with a straight face. The humor is more varied and less subtle, but is also more spontaneous and noticeable when it disappears entirely from the film. Pacing issues are apparent with some scenes rushing encounters and introductions while others overstay their welcome. This is a major problem, as the emotional link that could be potentially had with a tale of two old fools, one chasing and one running from a dream, doesn’t hit as well as it might. It adapts the story well replacing guns with swords, but is not an seamless exchange. It doesn’t bother exploring why some still prefer to carry sword despite the advantages a gun can offer. Another is the setup appears to be wanting to make commentary on a theme, but which one that is becomes clouded by what characters do. Characters motivations aren’t clear or properly set up; like why the young Auni wants to been seen as a killer aren’t made clear. Our main cast is two dimensional with supporting characters changing through the course of the film more so than the actual protagonist. In the climax, Jubei image being this frail man is removed as he able to endured multiple wounds from bullets and swords. The ending is set up in a way to create an image of Jubei as a passing legend despite trying so desperately earlier on to disprove audience from that notion. In the eyes of a newcomer is might come off as a passable film with no developed, clear ideas with miss potential for greatness.

Ken Wantanabe is our leading man and his performance is below average. He’s no Clint Eastwood vocally or physically and that’s where the problem lies. Eastwood in the original looks like someone grandfather who you would have trouble believing was this legendary outlaw, but Wantanabe just comes across as someone out shape. Wantanabe young looking appearance makes it difficult to see him as the frail old man he plays. His line delivery is always assured eliminating the unease that his character might not actually changed. Since there’s no distinction in the way Wantanabe speaks there is no subtle transformation. Imitating Eastwood performances instead of making it his own. Akira Emoto is an excellent replacement for Morgan Freeman playing virtually the same character. Charismatic and committed in his role being a good supporting actor to help remove Wantanabe never settling into the role. Another stand out is Koichi Sato glowering, witty and assured performance, given a dandyish touch by his curlicued moustache, has a finesse worthy of the role’s originator, Gene Hackman. Sadly though, our lead isn’t able to the break image of whose first played the role like the rest of the cast. Cinematography is pleasing to the eyes with rich textures that changes environment according to the protagonist mood. It’s nice hidden visual theme that sadly is undermined by the majority that retread old material.

Yurusarezaru mono (Unforgiven) is a remake that encourages laziness. It’s a carbon copy of the original with none of the same passion or sophistication. Whatever small change the film rarely goes for backfires making characters two dimensional and simplifying such gray themes as discrimination as throwaway material. Characters motivations are lost and it’s story plays into your expectations. As a remake it’s just retreading virtually everything the original cover making it tedious for anyone who seen the original and for newcomers with unclear ideas that get lost among the mess of what could have been.

3/10

Cinema-Maniac: Godzilla (2014) Review

In 2012 the world saw the release of Skyfall which honored the heritage of James Bond and paid tribute to it past without succumbing to the norm of blockbuster pitfalls. Fast forward onward with 2014’s Godzilla and it is that same exact franchise film, but more so needed for a bygone genre. Coming from someone who considers the 1954 original “Gojira” a masterpiece and one of his personal favorite films it inherits a Godzilla film DNA into its modernization. Like the best film in the long running franchise, Godzilla is less interested in a giant monster’s destructive progress than in what it might feel like to be a tiny human watching it close up, or far away, or on TV.

Godzilla is about U.S. Navy lieutenant Brody attempting to stop Godzilla from destroying parts of the United States to protect his family. The structure and pacing is equal to the 1954 original. In fact, the affection and respect that the creators have for the film that birthed Gojira is felt throughout. As in the classic, they hold the titular monster back for quite some time, and it unveils at a slow pace. Setting up an atmospheric presence with us humans being marginally inferior when compared to the massive creatures. Making us more aware of the devastation and death that would occur if its scenarios were real. Borrowed from past templates is the American military every man archetype leading character with scientists and generals supporting characters meeting regularly to discuss unfolding developments and devise ineffective solutions. These human characters are token in monster films addresses the template flaws without so much eliminating the problem. All the two dimensional characters have simple goals and strong emotions, and they never feel awkwardly shoehorned in, as humans in monster flicks often do.

Godzilla design oozes classical Godzilla. Gone is the man in the suit, but retain are the likeness to it. The spiky back plates, the gigantic tail, the stomping foot, the massive chest are kept, etc. His body structure towers virtually over every building, his body movements is similar of a human wearing a heavy costume, and his presence never becomes just an effect. It’s a character that contains his own arc alluded to the protagonists own arc as both overcome two different species that do all in their power to stop them. When Godzilla is fully reveal it’s awe inspiring as it menacing in the way it’s done. After rampaging destruction in the airport we are put on ground level. Seeing a foot engulfed by smoke that slowly pans up to reveal the sheer massive size and commanding presence with his thunderous roar. The other monster in the film are the massive unidentified terrestrial organism or MUTO for short. As hinted to by the brilliant opening credits that ties itself with the original gives hint of the kind of monster it is. Mothra is mentioned which ironically is also Godzilla most famous foe, but MUTO are entirely different in biology. Muto can be described as a more mechanical Mothra with bigger claws, big in size, and without wings can still fend its own against Godzilla in some breathtaking action when they share the same screen.

Director Gareth Edwards has taken visual and tonal inspiration from Steven Spielberg. More specifically Steven Spielberg’s “Jaws,” “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” and “War of the Worlds,” as well as from earlier popcorn classics that shaped Spielberg. It is obvious from the start of Spielberg’s tone and style being a important influence upon Edwards, and it is used to a great effect. From the orchestral score to to the iconic visuals, this Godzilla movie doesn’t hesitate to be bold. However, it also takes cues from the slow burn of Jaws, lending more to the anticipation of our first clear look of Godzilla. Going more so being captured in the moment than playing out like a film. The cast provide good performances even if the material doesn’t come through for them. Bryan Cranston delivered a brilliant on-screen hammy and over the top performance showing an understanding of the kind of film he’s in. Aaron Taylor-Johnson is decent at the protagonist being overshadowed by Bryan Cranston more personal, fully realized character. Johnson has the every man look as oppose to his extraordinary luck to survive the instances he’s in danger. Repeating the cycle of exposition and reaction to monster. Elizabeth Olsen is limited in her scenes spending most of her screen time look at the camera and giving a reaction. Ken Watanabe is committed to his role which unless you seen the original the importance of his role will fly over your head.

Godzilla carries the torch of tradition of what makes a Godzilla film and is a terrific modernization of a genre film. Call this closing a cop out on my end for not wholeheartedly supporting a film I gave a perfect score too, but the execution by Gareth Edward is not so much to change as so much reaffirm your position on the genre. For those exact reasons Godzilla 60th anniversary film will be enamoured with praise from those (including myself) who see the appeal of a bygone genre even with it inheritance of shortcomings. It’s also because of those same reasons (two dimensional characters, actors limited range due to roles, silliness not blending with serious tone, numerous reaction shots, etc.) those on the opposite spectrum will too be reinforced by their feelings on why similar films do not co-exist equally with other genres. If there were to be only one thing taken by this film on both sides that would be the meaning behind destruction has not disappeared from the blockbuster. Godzilla is just as capable to get your blood pumping in large scale destruction as well as hold that same destruction with various emotions as we watch helplessly unable to change the outcome.

10/10

Cinema-Maniac: Dragon Wars (2007) Movie Review

When it comes to movies featuring monsters I always rely on two monsters to give some sort of entertainment and they are King Kong and Godzilla. Any other monsters would can result in disappointment, just like how Dragon Wars.

Every five hundred years, a woman protected by a man transforms in a serpent to fight against a dragon in a battle between good and evil. Ethan seeks out Sarah and together they fight to survive and destroy the devilish dragon. So right off you know the story won’t go anywhere as it include random scenes that makes you wonder if you’re watching the most expensive high-school movie ever produced. I’m serious, there so much inconsistency like how a helicopter crashes into a building, and then magically blows up only when the pilots get out for some reason. It’s also very uninteresting to have a hero who’s useless for most of the movie which made me feel like also watching a comedy just because on bad certain scenes are.

So the story isn’t what anyone wants to watch in this movie, they want the monsters, and they disappoint for the most part. These monsters just look terrible and terribly animated. I will say I did enjoy when the monsters got released in Los Angles and the battle began. To bad they were terribly filmed and not as cool as they could have been. As for the epic finale, i’ll just say i’ve seen better in terms of monster movies. I mean the area where the final battle looks so bad and incomplete with bad special effects. The final battle is a let down, it’s last less than three minutes. Now I originally was going to give this a 30% before I saw the ending. The ending makes you feel you wasted your time and got ripped off.

It’s such a shame to see a movie featuring Dragons be this bad and so poorly made. I mean it’s not often we see Dragons being the main focus of a movie let alone in a watchable movie, but maybe one day we’ll have a decent movie featuring Dragons. Until then, avoid this at all cost.

2/10

Cinema-Maniac: Daikaij├╗ Gamera (The Giant Monster Gamera) (1965) Review

When it comes to monster movies you just can’t do any better than King Kong and Godzilla. What makes the first entry in the Gamera series a failure is that it borrows from Godzilla and anything original in the movie is not interesting and lacks entertainment.

From out of the arctic comes a gigantic flying, fire-breathing turtle that sets its sights on destroying Tokyo. Now the main thing that bothered me besides the dubbing, especially for Kevin (one of the main character), was that is had Americans. Americans in a Japanese monsters movie? I’m not trying to be racist, but it just that our involvement isn’t really required in this movie, I mean these are the same people that killed Godzilla. As the movie progress you’ll questioned that you’ve seen it before, you have. The movie best moments are copied from Godzilla. One thing that bothers me is that the characters that see Gamera just go on TV with a ancient rock and say Gamera is real, and people believe them. The reason it’s a problem is that in Godzilla the people got evidence to prove Godzilla was real, right here the character just say they saw it and are believed.

Now time to talk about the ridiculous Turtle monster himself, Gamera. I’m not going to complain how the costume obviously looks fakes, but I will say it doesn’t looks as good as Godzilla. For some reason this Turtle monster can breath fire, eat fire, and can fly with a rocket power shell. I don’t get it, just like how in one scene it almost looks like he’s dancing a little. Gamera only good moment is when he gets to destroy Tokyo, unfortunately the human characters have to kill that fun whenever they interrupt. Gamera as a monster just doesn’t look menacing, even the citizens in one scene laugh at the idea of running away from a giant Turtle

Gamera just doesn’t have any good original ideas and the only good moments from the movie are ripped-off from Godzilla. Gamera isn’t the worst movie monster movie i’ve seen in a movie, so I give it some points for actually trying to compete with Godzilla and making me laugh unintentionally. It might fails making a good first impression, but it succeeded in making me like the monster Gamera, whenever humans weren’t involve much that is.

3/10