Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Godzilla 1985 Review

Sometimes, when a series goes on for too long and sees a new installment released every year, it’s clear the series needs to take a break, and that was the case with the Godzilla series in the late 60’s and early 70’s.  After the release of Destroy All Monsters, which was intended to be the last installment, the series kept on going and releases such as Godzilla vs. Hedorah and Godzilla vs. Megalon dragged the quality of the series down.  Eventually, the original series of Godzilla films ended on a high note with 1975’s Terror of Mechagodzilla, but it was clear that the King of the Monsters needed a break after so many yearly releases.  Nearly ten years after the release of Terror of Mechagodzilla, Godzilla returned to the big screen in 1984 with the release of Godzilla, or The Return of Godzilla.  A year later, New World Pictures, a studio founded by infamous B-Movie director Roger Corman, picked up the rights to release the movie in the U.S.  In the process, new scenes were added in while scenes from the original cut of the movie were altered, deleted, or rearranged, and thus, America got Godzilla 1985.
The movie is a restart to the series, acting as a sequel to the original Godzilla, and ignoring the sequels that came after it, something that would be taken to the extreme in the Millenium series of Godzilla movies, where most of the installments didn’t have any connections to each other and instead, used the original Godzilla as the jumping off point.
The movie begins with a fishing boat caught in the middle of a raging storm, and the boat captain is having a hard time trying to prevent the boat from sinking.  What the boat and its crew don’t know is that on a nearby island, Godzilla is in a slumber, and it isn’t before long that he wakes up and attacks the boat.  After the attack, a journalist, who is out at sea looking for the boat, manages to find the boat and its mostly dead crew, save for one survivor.  The survivor explains to the reporter that Godzilla arose and attacked the boat.  When the Japanese government learns of his return and attack on the boat, they try their best to keep it a secret, but it doesn’t work when news breaks out that a Russian nuclear submarine was destroyed, which was the work of Godzilla.  This creates global tension and members of the American and Russian governments get together with the Prime Minister of Japan to discuss the possibility of using nuclear weapons against Godzilla, should he appear in Japan.  The Prime Minister says no to that option, knowing that trying to use such weapons won’t work.  Later on in the movie, Godzilla makes his way to Tokyo to cause chaos and destruction, much like what the first Godzilla did thirty years ago.
The plot is straightforward and nothing to write home about.  In many ways, the movie’s story feels like a retread of the original Godzilla’s plot, the difference being that this time there’s the presence of other nations who are trying to help Japan stop Godzilla, but the methods they suggest aren’t the best ideas.  This is made up, however, by the movie’s tone and direction.  After Godzilla had become a heroic and kid friendly monster in the latter half of the original series, this movie re-establishes him as an unstoppable force of destruction and a metaphor for the dangers of using nuclear weaponry, which is what Godzilla represented in the first movie.  The redesigned look he has in this movie makes him look menacing, as do several close up and low angle shots of him whenever he’s onscreen.
As I mentioned earlier, when the movie was released in the U.S., certain scenes from the original cut were either deleted or altered, and music from one of New World Pictures’ other movies, Defcon 4, was also inserted into certain scenes in the movie, such as the scene with the Russian nuclear submarine encountering Godzilla.  New scenes were also added set in the Pentagon which featured actor Raymond Burr reprising his role as journalist Steve Martin from the re-edit of the first Godzilla movie, Godzilla: King of the Monsters.  For me, the new scenes and changes they made to the movie don’t bother me.  Unlike the re-edits of other Godzilla movies such as Godzilla Raids Again and King Kong vs. Godzilla, where the changes and scenes added in negatively affected the pacing and story of the movie, such edits that were done to this movie don’t bother me because they don’t detract from the movie itself.  That’s not to say I have a couple of problems with the new scenes added in.  Certain scenes feature blatant product placement for Dr. Pepper and one of the new characters in the added scenes seems to only function as bad comic relief.
The characters, both in the original footage and new footage, are pretty bland.  Though the performances from the actors who dubbed the characters in the original footage are good and Raymond Burr’s character does say some interesting things regarding Godzilla and how unstoppable he is.
Since the previous Godzilla movie, the effects have received an update and even today the movie holds up well in the effects department.  The miniature work looks good with the highlight being the combat scenes between the army and Godzilla, as well as the fight scenes with the Super X, a flying vehicle created by the Japanese government to fight off Godzilla.  As I mentioned before, the Godzilla suit has been updated and altered to give him a more menacing look.  However, in some close-up shots of Godzilla’s face, the eyes can get lopsided, making Godzilla look stupid when it happens.
The movie’s music reflects the dark tone of the movie by being dramatic and ominous, which reflects the role of Godzilla in this movie.  Even the music from Defcon 4 sounds pretty good when it’s used in the movie.
Something I want to address before I end this review is that as of 2015, this movie is the only Godzilla movie to not have an official release in the U.S. on either DVD or Blu-Ray.  If you want to see this movie or the original cut, you either have to track down a VHS copy of Godzilla 1985, which is how I saw the movie...
 ...or go for the pricier alternative of importing the original cut of the movie.  I’m not sure why this movie hasn’t been released on DVD yet, from what I’ve heard there are rights issues which are holding an official release of the movie back; regardless, it’s something that needs to be rectified.
In conclusion, Godzilla 1985 does a good job at revitalizing the series with a movie that manages to make Godzilla feel like a threat again.  While the plot is nothing special and the characters are bland; this is made up by the dark tone of the movie, plus the well done effects and musical score.  If you can find a copy of this movie, give it a watch.
Final Score: 7/10

Monday, August 24, 2015

Godzilla (2014) Re-Review

Ever since I was a young boy, I have been a huge fan of the Godzilla film series.  The first Godzilla movie I saw was Godzilla: King of the Monsters, released in 1956.  This movie left a huge impression on me as a young child, and since then the series has become one of the key things that defines me as a person.  Though this isn’t going to be one big retrospective of the series, instead I’ll be focusing on the new American Godzilla movie that was released last year.  The reason that this is called a re-review is because I did review the movie last year on my old blog, but what I wrote was pretty basic and short, and honestly I wanted to watch the movie again so I could offer my full opinion.
The previous time North America tried their hand at making a Godzilla movie, we got a movie featuring an oversized T-Rex running around New York City instead of Godzilla himself.  That movie was the key reason why some fans were skeptical about this movie when it was first announced a few years ago.  Fortunately, when the movie was released the reaction both critically and from the fans was mostly positive, though there were some that weren’t satisfied with the movie.  With all of that said, what do I think of the movie?
The plot involves a man named Joe Brody, played by Brian Cranston, who has been obsessed with finding out the truth in regards to a mysterious accident at a power plant in Janjira, Japan, which killed some scientists, in addition to his wife back in 1999.  Since that incident, him and his son Ford, played by Aaron Taylor Johnson, have had a tenuous relationship, given that Ford’s father has been too focused with finding the truth instead of just moving on.  Ford travels to Japan to free his father from jail after he was caught trespassing in the abandoned city of Janjira.  Joe tells Ford that he thinks he’s found the answer to the accident and he convinces his son to join him on another attempt to sneak into Janjira.  They manage to sneak into the city and it turns out the air in the city never became radioactive after the collapse of the power plant, but while Joe is collecting old data from his family’s now abandoned home, him and his son are arrested and brought to the site of the destroyed power plant.  It turns out that at the epicenter of the place there is a massive object containing an unknown lifeform.  The research is being conducted by a group named Monarch, however, it isn’t long before the creature wakes up and it starts to go on a rampage before flying off. 
During the chaos, Ford’s father is killed and now Ford has to help Monarch find and stop the creature.  Fortunately, the leader of Monarch, Dr. Serizawa, played by Ken Watanabe, knows of a creature that was studied back in the 1950’s called Gojira, or Godzilla.  The unknown creature, now called a MUTO, makes its way from Japan to Hawaii, and there it also runs into Godzilla, who shows up to confront the creature.  However, the MUTO escapes and Serizawa thinks it’s trying to find and meet up with its mate, who has been held in captivity at a warehouse in Nevada.  The captive creature eventually escapes its container and the two creatures meet up in San Francisco to create more offspring.  Now Monarch and the military have to find a way to stop the MUTOs from creating more spawn, but the answer may just involve Godzilla.
For what it’s worth, the plot and characters are both good.  Much like the first Godzilla movie, which was serious in tone and portrayed Godzilla as a metaphor for an unstoppable force, this movie portrays the monsters and their actions on the cities they show up in as the equivalent of a natural disaster.  Certain scenes in the movie do a good job at showing the aftermath of the carnage caused by both Godzilla and the MUTOs, and the toll it takes on society.  As I mentioned before, the 1998 Godzilla movie didn’t feature the Godzilla we know as that monster greatly differed from the actual Godzilla in terms of design and abilities.  Fortunately, this movie does feature the Godzilla, even though the design has been slightly altered to give him some animalistic traits.  For example, his face bears a slight resemblance to a grizzly bear, yet the overall shape and design still carries the Godzilla design we know and love.  Also, when Godzilla uses his atomic breath in the movie, it is truly awesome.  It should also be noted that the movie never makes it clear as to whether Godzilla is a good guy, bad guy, or an antihero.  While Godzilla’s role in this movie is referred to as the “alpha predator” and the “great equalizer” since he is the only one capable of defeating the MUTOs.  It does raise a question: if the MUTOs weren’t around, would Godzilla still reappear, only instead to cause chaos?
The new monsters introduced in this movie, the MUTOs, are a mixed bag.  While their ablities are fairly unique, design-wise, however, they look pretty generic.  Simply put, these creatures look like what would happen if the Cloverfield monster visited Tron.  Though this is made up by their abilities.  The MUTOs are capable of unleashing EMP pulses from their arms, plus, their primary food source is radiation.  So when the military plans on luring the MUTOs out into the sea and then use a nuke to kill them, guess how well that works? 
One of the key complaints from people who didn’t like the movie is that Godzilla doesn’t have a lot of screentime in this movie, which I don’t have a problem with.  What is a problem, however, is the uneven pacing of scenes involving the monsters.  While not prevalent throughout the movie, there are a few times in which certain scenes with either Godzilla or the MUTOs will abruptly end right as something interesting is about to happen.  For example, when the MUTO from Japan appears in Hawaii, along with Godzilla, the two creatures both let out their roars as we know that a fight is about to go down, but then the movie cuts away and instead we only brief glimpses of said fight via news broadcasts on the TV.
The other big complaint that people have is that Brian Cranston’s character gets killed off early on, even though the trailers for this movie made it seem like he would be in the entire movie.  This, I agree with, Cranston’s character is the best character in the movie as the emotional conflict at hand with him just wanting to find the truth as to what killed his wife makes him the most interesting character in the movie.  His son, Ford, is the character the movie mainly focuses on, and while Ford isn’t a bland or forgettable character, the problem is that when compared to his father, Joe Brody is the more interesting of the two.
Without a doubt, the special effects in this movie look great.  The Godzilla films are known for their strong use of miniature sets and for having stuntmen portray the monsters in costume.  Obviously, this movie uses CGI to portray the monsters instead of this technique, but the effects in this movie look great.  Similar to the movie Pacific Rim, this movie does a great job at showing off the scale and size of these creatures and the impact of their clashes.   The music is also great, even though this movie doesn’t feature the iconic Godzilla theme, the movie’s soundtrack wouldn’t sound out of place in another Godzilla movie.
Despite some pacing issues in the movie as well as the lack of more screentime for an important character, Godzilla (2014) is still an enjoyable movie and it finally does justice to the King of the Monsters after the last attempt of making a Godzilla movie by North America messed things up.
Final Score: 8/10

Friday, August 7, 2015

Ghostbusters: The Video Game Review (Nintendo Wii) Part 2

Besides owning the Xbox 360 version of this game, I also own the Wii version, which was developed by Red Fly Studio.  While the Xbox 360 and Wii versions are essentially the same game, with the same story, dialogue, and levels, the two versions differ from each other in the controls, gameplay, and visuals.
Simply put, the controls in the Wii version are fantastic, using the Wii Remote to blast and capture ghosts works great, mostly.  Whenever you weaken a ghost and wrangle it you have to follow arrow prompts that tell you which direction you need to slam the ghost; sometimes, though, the game won't read the direction you flick the remote, even when it's in the right direction.  This issue wasn't prevalent throughout the game, but when it did happen, it frustrated me.
The gameplay itself is largely unchanged from the Xbox 360 version, but there are some minor differences.  You still acquire most of the new beams that are in the other version, with the only exception being the meson collider, but you don't earn money to upgrade your weapons.  Instead, money is used to tally up how much property damage you cause in a level, and the end of the level it's all tallied up and you're given a ranking based on the final total.
While the AI for your fellow Ghostbusters is fairly competent in the Xbox 360 version, your partners in the Wii version are mostly incompetent.  Most of the time, they'll just stand around and barely do anything to help you when fighting ghosts.  This can be especially frustrating during boss fights.  In one boss fight, I lost all of my health and needed to be revived, but when my partner came over to help me, he got stuck on something and started to run in place, allowing himself to get hit enough times by the boss and go down, which resulted in the boss fight starting over.
The visuals in this game have also undergone a change in the art style, and now the game has a cartoonish look reminiscent of The Real Ghostbusters cartoon.  I like it and it gives the game a unique look and feel, though I did encounter a couple of graphical bugs.  One time during a cutscene I noticed that the lip-synching did not match up with what a character was saying.  Another strange occurrence happened when I walked through a portal that sent me to a different room, only to briefly see the New York skyline before the room suddenly popped into existence.
In conclusion, regardless of whether you play the Xbox 360 version or the Wii version of this game, Ghostbusters: The Video Game is still a very good game and one of the best licensed games ever created.  It's an experience that can by enjoyed by fans of the movies and people looking for a fun game.
Final Score: 8.5/10 (Both versions)

Ghostbusters: The Video Game Review (Xbox 360) Part 1

Ghostbusters is one of the greatest movies ever made; it successfully combined elements of comedy and fantasy together into a movie about three scientists, later joined by a fourth member, who decide to go into the business of catching ghosts, only to later find themselves taking on the supernatural forces of evil.  Unfortunately, the games based off of the movie and its sequel aren't that good, and it seemed like this would be the accepted quality of Ghostbusters games.  That changed in 2009, when Terminal Reality created a game that finally did the Ghostbusters name justice in video games, while also acting as the third movie we had never gotten.

The plot is set two years after the events of the second movie, business for the Ghostbusters has been going strong, and as an unnamed and silent protagonist referred to as the Rookie, you are hired by the Ghostbusters.  However, a supernatural shockwave that came the Museum of Natural History surges through New York City, which results in Slimer, one of the first ghosts the Ghostbusters captured, escaping his holding unit and returning to the Sedgwick Hotel.  After re-capturing Slimer, the Ghostbusters figure that something big must be happening when the Stay Puft marshmallow man reappears, even though he was defeated in the first movie.  Eventually, the Ghostbusters rescue a woman named Ilyssa who is a researcher of Gozerian artifacts.  She is currently looking into the works of Ivo Shandor, a deceased architect who led a cult of Gozer worshippers back when he was alive.  Soon, it becomes apparent to our heroes that something or someone is trying to bring about the destruction of the world, and now they must find out the truth behind things and put a stop to this potential cataclysmic event.

The story in this game is very good, in particular, I like how it takes certain plot points and characters from the previous movies, and expands on them or ties the connective tissue between both movies.  We learn a lot more about the character Ivo Shandor, who was briefly mentioned in the first movie, and that he did some renovations to other key locations from the movies such as the Sedgwick Hotel and the New York Public Library.  Additionally, we also find out where the mood slime from Ghostbusters 2 came from and how it ties into the first movie.  The game's plot definitely feels like the third movie that was talked about for a long time, but nothing ever came to fruition.

The game is a third-person shooter, but what makes it unique from other games in the genre is the ghostbusting aspect of the movies, and its also what makes the game fun to play.  Fighting ghosts is simple: first you weaken the with your proton pack and once they're health drops to a certain point you can wrangle the ghost and slam it around the environment to weaken it further, then you deploy a ghost trap to catch the ghost.  Blasting and capturing ghosts never gets old due to the variety of specters you face during the game and because the game also introduces new equipment for you to use.  Besides ghosts, other enemies you encounter in the game include stone gargoyles, which require you to use your capture stream to wrangle and slam them into the ground, flying projectiles such as books and kitchen utensils, and larger enemies that require you to weaken them before you can wrangle their energy source out.  Though there are some enemies, as well as bosses, that can only be weakened with a certain beam besides the proton stream.

Over the course of the game, you'll acquire new beams for the proton pack including the shock blast, a shotgun-esque weapon, the meson collider, which can fire rapid-firing projectiles, and the slime blower, which is used to get rid of black slime and free people that have been possessed by a possessor, a type of ghost in the game.  Each of these weapons has an alternate firing mode, the shock blast gets a stasis stream, the meson collider can fire a blast of energy that acts as a targeting beacon for the rapid-fire projectiles, and the slime blower, has the slime tether, which can tether itself to different objects.  As I mentioned earlier, certain enemies and bosses can only be weakened with a particular weapon, one example are black slime spirits you encounter that can only be defeated with the slime blower.

At a few points in the game, the weapons are used for some light puzzle solving, so you're not always just using them to blast and capture ghosts.  In one level, you come across a room that is flooded with black slime, so you need to find two weights and use the slime tether to lower them, causing the floodgate to drop and the slime to drain, allowing you to continue on.

By capturing ghosts, scanning them with the PKE meter, which can also be used to find hidden collectibles in each level, you earn money, which is used to buy upgrades for the proton pack.  These upgrades vary and their effects include decreasing the amount of time it takes for one of the beams to overheat, or increasing their rate of fire or damage.

Visually, the game looks good, and the art style of the game allows for some interesting level designs, particularly for the ghost world levels.  The game isn't necessarily scary but some sections of the game do have a creepy atmosphere to them, such as one part in the library level where you go into the children's section, and then things become downright creepy and unsettling.

The four actors who played the Ghostbusters: Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, Bill Murray, and Ernie Hudson, all reprise their roles, playing their respective characters.  A couple of other actors from the movies return as well, such as Annie Potts, who reprises her role as Janine, the Ghostbusters' receptionist, and William Atherton, who plays the jerk of a lawyer named Walter Peck.  Most of the performances are great, with the only exception being Bill Murray's performance, which is just decent.  This is because most of the time he either sounds disinterested or he's mumbling out his lines.  The music, while lifted from the first movie, is still very good.

Hold on there, I'm not done reviewing this game yet as in the second part of this review, I'll be reviewing the Nintendo Wii version of this game.