Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Godzilla: City on the Edge of Battle

Note: Spoilers abound for Godzilla: Monster Planet!!!

The second movie in the animated Godzilla trilogy, City on the Edge of Battle has arrived on Netflix, and it corrects the main issue I had with the first movie. Mainly it is a little more exciting throughout and better paced, whereas the first one was infodump after infodump in space. While the setting is interesting, it becomes a bit of a slog to sit through all of that at once. This movie picks up right where the last one left off, with Harou and his team defeated and scattered by the counterattack of the real Godzilla. When he comes to, he is in the care of a strange girl who can’t speak  his language but looks remarkably human. He finds that they have saved some of his comrades as well and can communicate with him via telepathy, which they use to ask why they were dropping bombs on their land earlier. It turns out that making a parking spot for your ships and fighting Godzilla has a way of upsetting the indigenous wildlife.

Once all of that is cleared up, the natives—who are called the Houtua—agree to release Harou and his friends so they can continue on their way. The strange girl and her twin sister follow along and, when they fight off a monster with some special arrowheads, the alien Bilusaludo realize that the metal that the weapons are made from are pieces of Mechagodzilla. With this information, a new plan is devised. When they get to Mechagodzilla, they find it has grown into a city that can produce weapons of its own that can be used to fight Godzilla. But does using this new weapon come with a deadly cost? And why are the Houtoa so afraid of it? And the most important question—can they get everything operational before Godzilla notices and comes to kill them all?

City on the Edge of Battle is an entertaining middle part of the story, with enough action and intrigue to keep the story moving along. It is nice to see more of the aliens this time too, as we learn more about their methods and beliefs as they fight alongside the humans. We also get to see more of Godzilla, who is truly a beast in this movie and his power is incredible. When you have people in space worried about what might happen if the monster notices you, you know you have a truly terrifying threat on your hands. I would say my only quibble is that the poster and some of the promo materials hint that Mechagodzilla will join the fight, but other than using it as a factory to make weapons, he never does show up. That’s a shame, because I kept hoping the city would transform ala Trypticon and we would get a gigantic royal rumble.

As with the first movie, it does end on a cliffhanger (that hints at an even bigger threat than Godzilla!), so if you’re the kind who needs closure on their story, you may want to wait to watch them all until the third one is released.

It’s on Netflix now. Check it out.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Ant-Man and the Wasp

I have to admit that superhero movies are a favorite of mine. The landscape has changed greatly from when I was growing up and we had Superman, Batman and not much else. Now it seems like every year we get several movies based on the comics I loved and most of them are pretty damn great. The Marvel Cinematic Universe in particular has been on a tear and I'm sure you're familiar with their films. The latest one, Ant-Man and the Wasp, comes hot on the heels of the epic Avengers: Infinity War and to be honest, I liked it a lot more. Part of that has to do with an incredibly likable cast and also the fact that it's a lot more fun and lighthearted, which I needed as of late.

The movie picks up after the events of Captain America: Civil War, where Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) is under house arrest for helping out Captain America and violating the Sokovia Accords in his Ant-Man guise. He's been stuck in his house for two years and is days from finally getting the ankle monitor off so he can enjoy the outside world with his daughter.

Then he has a strange dream that features the missing wife of Dr. Henry Pym, Scott's mentor and the original Ant-Man. Dr. Pym and his daughter Hope are a bit miffed--and rightly so--that Scott acted on his own as by getting caught, he drew them into the eyes of the authorities and now they've been on the run for two years. However, when he calls them up to tell them about his dream, he gets brought back into their world as it turns out the dream is a side-effect of opening the quantum tunnel to try and bring Janet Van Dyne back from the quantum realm. What should be an easy mission to pick up the last part that the team needs to finish the device goes sideways and Scott and Hope find themselves suiting up as Ant-Man and the Wasp to fight arms dealers, the FBI and a strange new adversary that can phase through walls. All the while, Scott has to make sure he doesn't get caught breaking his house arrest or he'll be sent away to prison for a long, long time.

I really love the smaller scale superhero movies. No pun intended. You can only save the world so many times before it gets sort of boring, and after the cosmic adventure of Infinity War, this was just what the doctor ordered. The stakes are smaller but still important, as it's not the fate of the world but the fate of families involved this time, both Scott's and the Pym's. It's those stakes that give the movie a lot of heart and resonates with me quite a bit and makes their plight strike close to home.

And the cast is an absolute blast. Just about everyone from the original film is back and get to be involved in the quest to save Janet. Rudd and Evangeline Lilly have a great chemistry and it's awesome that she got to be more involved in the adventure and kick some ass after being on the sidelines in the first movie. The unsung heroes for me are Lang's friends and co-workers, played by Michael Peña, T.I Harris and David Dastmalchian. This trio is a hoot and whenever they are on screen, it's a good time.

The movie is definitely worth checking out on the big screen and it is one of the most enjoyable times I've had at the theater this year. Check it out.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

The Last Drive-In

Just like Whovians each have their Doctor, most of us out there in the horror world have their own horror host. They aren't as prevalent as they were back in the 80s when I was growing up, where we had Grandpa Munster, Zacherle, Elvira and more but they are still around. While I loved the others, my go to horror host was Joe Bob Briggs.

I first discovered the laid back Texan persona of John Bloom in the early 90s, when I stumbled across his shown on TMC while looking for horror movies to watch. I'm fairly certain the movie was Zombie Island Massacre and I'm pretty sure it was terrible but Joe Bob's parts enthralled me. Not only was he funny, but the reverence he had for the movies and the behind the scenes workings of them was amazing. I kept tuning in week after week to see what new movies he had to show. When he jumped to TNT and the show became Monstervision, I followed along. It became a formative show for me in my college years as my love for horror grew stronger. I got to watch the movies I loved with a host who knew so much about them it was astounding and it was funny to boot. The mail girls only added to my appreciation for it.

Once it was cancelled, I kept waiting for some other channel to pick him up, but it never happened. Thus we were left without Joe Bob and his wonderful movies for a long, long time.

Until this weekend.

For 24ish glorious hours, the nation got to bask in the glow of Joe Bob Briggs once again, as he hosted thirteen movies on the Shudder streaming service. There were some technical difficulties at first, as the demand for Joe Bob overwhelmed the servers. (Add that to the drive in totals--one fried server) Once that was ironed out, I got to relive my college years, drinking and laughing and having a great time with some great movies and some real odd ones too. And despite all of the warts, it was perfect.

It was sad though too, watching him sign off at the end of it all, not knowing if he would come back for another round next year or if someone would notice the demand and give him a show again. That's part of life and why we have to enjoy what we get, when we get it, no matter if it's for one night or multiple seasons. Hopefully, Shudder enjoys money and decides to give us a new Monstervision so we can enjoy a regular dose of him once again.

If you missed any of it (I know I did) or just want to check in and see what it is all about, the whole marathon is available movie by glorious movie on Shudder. Check it out here.

Remember, the drive-in will never die.