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Destroy All Monsters (1968)

By 1968, the sons o’ fun at Toho were running out of ideas on what to do with their monster movie franchise. In “Destroy All Monsters,” the studio assembled nearly all of their beloved Tokyo-stomping monsters and recycled earlier movie plots regarding extra-terrestrials using the monsters to conquer the Earth. The result was a noisy, raucous mess that will appall the serious cinephile and delight the inner 10-year-old cocooned within the most seriously cynical of adults.
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The Bootleg Files: Cozzilla

BOOTLEG FILES 623: “Cozzilla” (1977 Italian riff on “Godzilla, King of the Monsters!”).

LAST SEEN: It is on YouTube.

AMERICAN HOME VIDEO: None.

REASON FOR BOOTLEG STATUS: Never commercially released outside of Italy.

CHANCES OF SEEING A COMMERCIAL DVD RELEASE: Utterly unlikely.

In 1976, Italian producer Dino De Laurentiis unleashed a remake of “King Kong” on the moviegoing public. Inspired by the commercial success of this endeavor, Italian filmmaker Luigi Cozzi figured that he could score his box office hit with a monster film. But rather than create a new film from scratch, he sought to re-release the 1954 Japanese classic “Godzilla.” But Cozzi’s simple plan turned out to become a lot more complex than he anticipated, and what he eventually put into theaters is widely regarded as one of the most bizarre productions ever made.

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King Kong Escapes (1967)

Poor Kong. He’s only a pawn in the game of life. “King Kong Escapes” is another in the efforts by Toho to create a more expanded mythology for King Kong, which is a shame since I think he could have been a nice part of the Godzilla movie series here and there. He could have balanced out all the reptiles and lizards and bugs. “King Kong Escapes” is a direct sequel to “King Kong vs. Godzilla” except this is a movie much more about Kong. This is also one of the few King Kong movies with an actual conniving villain, who walks around committing to an evil scheme.

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Hail to the King: 60 Years of Destruction (2015) [Horrible Imaginings Film Festival 2016]

hail-to-the-kingThis American documentary shows what the Japanese think of the King of Kaijus, the big G, Godzilla.  This documentary was shot using crowd funding to garner its budget.  Director and uber Godzilla fan Kyle Yount went to Tokyo in July 2014 to film this fan love letter to his favorite monster.

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Dragon Wars: D-War (2007)

d-warShim Hyung-rae’s action film is a great concept with many possibilities that is never realized in to a watchable movie. While it’s not the worst movie of 2007, it’s an ill conceived film better suited for more forgiving Kaiju buffs. Shim Hyung-rae’s “D-War” is a confusing, poorly written, convoluted mess that only exists to host average CGI monsters, all of which are the actual stars here. Shim Hyung-rae’s film seems much better suited for cable, as its jumbled storyline tends to snuff out any momentum of action or suspense; it does sport one of the most droning prologues in cinema history, after all. “D-War” tends to fall in to repetition as a sloppy bit of fantasy filmmaking that it can never really decide what story it wants to tell. This meandering narrative does nothing but foreshadow future events, and the almost endless flashbacks hoping to bind the story into coherence fail and collapse in on themselves.

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Kaijyu Mono (2016) [Fantasia International Film Festival 2016]

kaijumonoIn the only logical location for Kaijyu attacks, Japan, a Kaijyu wakes up and eats teenagers in a forest.  A scientist and his assistants look into the event and get involved in the fight against the Kaijyu. The film is directed and co-written by Minoru Kawasaki who also worked on The Calamari Wrestler, a film with a very particular story line.  With his co-writer on Kaijyu Mono, Takao Nakano, they create a delightfully bizarre tale that only makes sense when screening at Fantasia.

The story they build here is full of surprises and twists, not all of which make sense but they somehow fit in this film.  It’s hard to explain, but it works, possibly because the whole premise is completely crazy.  The characters they have created are not particularly original or deep and they feel like crazy caricatures which brought this viewer to the conclusion that it’s a wanted thing.  They add so many odd selections to their film that it all has to be planned.

The cast for this is composed of Saki Akai, Bin Furuya, Shinzo Hotta, etc.  They all are a bit cartoon-y and definitely do so on purpose as this is what the story lend itself to.  That being said, the acting, within its confines and limitations, is quite good.  It cannot be easy to keep a straight face when the elder actor on set shows up dressed as Sailor Moon for example.

The titular Kaijyu us fun, but not particularly original.  It looks similar to many Kaijyus seen before, which is most likely a wanted thing as a throwback to old school Kaijyu films.  This particular monster is clearly a man in a suit and it shows, adding charm to its appearances and to its fight sequences.  In these sequences, the monster fights a giant man, made so by shots in the story and by using cool maquettes in the film techniques, bringing even more nostalgia to the proceedings.  The fights themselves are more like wrestling than martial arts even though they do through some of that in there, they are very exaggerated, but quite entertaining.

Kaijyu Mono is a fairly simple film, keeping proceedings to a minimum of locations and characters.  It’s fun and entertaining but doesn’t re-write the book on its genre or bring much new elements to the table.  It’s silly, many elements are just there to be funny or look cool, but it works in a sense that it’s entertaining non-sense with a strong sense of nostalgia.  Fans of old Kaijyu films should love Kaijyu Mono.

Fantasia International Film Festival ran from July 14th until August 3rd, 2016 and will be back in the summer of 2017.

Men in Suits (2012)

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Director Frank H. Woodward’s “Men in Suits” is one of the best film related documentaries ever made. It’s an insightful and entertaining look at a rarely covered corner of Hollywood that’s gone unnoticed and uncredited since the beginning of film. “Men in Suits” is a fantastic chronicle of the facet of Hollywood films revolving around men that dress up as monsters for horror, fantasy, and science fiction, and bring to life many of the most iconic and horrific monsters ever put to film. Woodward chronicles how the art form began in the golden age of filmmaking, and has become something of a rare form of performance art in the era where studios are dependent on CGI and polygons.

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Godzilla (2014) [Blu-ray/DVD/Digital]

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Warner Bros. Pictures were wise to hire Gareth Edwards to film what is essentially a reboot of the Godzilla series for American audiences. Director Edwards displays a knack for depicting giant monsters as forces of nature that affect civilization, and he carries a lot of the sensibilities from “Monsters,” over in to the reworking of “Godzilla.” His version of “Godzilla” is less monsters stomping around and fist fighting, and more of a disaster film with a slew of human beings affected by the chaos that two monsters inflict when they rise from their gestation to feed on radiation around the world and wreak pure chaos. “Godzilla” is a sterner and dramatic approach to the lore, offering a very interesting dynamic between characters, all of whom carry through the themes of family and unity among the human race. Particularly fatherhood.

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