I watched King of Monsters the other day as part of a larger kaiju-based binge, specifically the new Kong films too, as we’re only a few months away from the big showdown. Godzilla versus Kong has been teased since the first of the new Godzilla films way back in ’14, was made official in ’17 with Skull Island, and we’re far too close to a release date now for there not to exist a cut of the film, probably not a finished cut, but there’s got to be something by now, right?
Well, here’s what I’m thinking, I’m going to do a quick (spoiler-ish) review of King of Monsters, then I’ll tell you why I think Godzilla and Kong could bear the weight of a new cinematic universe.
Long Live the King
I can actually understand why this film got a raw deal from critics. I’ll give it credit for continuing with some reoccurring characters and themes, and I’ll admit to being mildly curious about the various activities and political conflicts of the titan research group “Monarch”, but we’re still pretty light on rich and interesting characters, and yet those characters still feel like they take up a lot of screen time compared to the real stars of the show. But critics would complain if we had nothing but monsters, and they’d complain if the characters drew too much attention away from the monsters, there’s not really a right answer here.
And it’s not exactly easy to try and slide aliens, Atlantis, and the hollow earth theory into a film about giant monsters fighting each other, and to be honest probably not a great idea either, but they managed it all without it being too ridiculous. These days you can’t just roll out the likes of King Ghidorah without some kind of explanatory power, even if it’s a tenuous explanation, and it’s not like twelve thousand years of human civilization and mythology haven’t left us with some groundwork for giant monsters.
But if you like watching giant monsters get into fights then it’s a great film. It’s actually a really good film, I think I enjoyed it almost as much as Pacific Rim. As well as bringing in all the big classic monsters like Ghidorah, Rodan, and Mothra, it also managed to introduce some background players with very little effort, and I find that I’m really interested to see more of the MUTO, Methuselah, Scylla, and Behemoth, as well as the other titans listed in the wiki,*.
We have a Thanos-like villain, a group whose motives I can get behind 100%, and not just because they’re headed by Charles Dance. This time the method is to awaken the titans and have them topple human civilization and put an end to the holocene extinction, destructive harvest of natural resources and extermination of non-human life. Interesting to note that the counter-argument given by the so-called good guys is “No, don’t stop, that’s… very bad.”
Biggest highlights of the film for me, Godzilla’s case of nuclear diarroea, Rodan’s “Starscream” moment, and the closing credits… which sounds like an insult, but they used the song “Go Go Godzilla” and so help me it made me smile. Right, to the point:
The King Is Dead
Pretty sure at this point Marvel’s done. I don’t know what the next four films are, I don’t even know what the next film is, the excitement bubble seems to have burst pretty hard in the jagged edges of the Sony vs Disney debacle. And with every studio clawing and scratching at the market, desperate to be the ones to raise the next big thing, I think Time Warner might actually be in control of the right horse and they just aren’t betting on it.
So far as material content, as I already mentioned they have a glut of titans to play with, and with repeated mentions of the Hollow Earth theory in King of Monsters and Skull Island, I suspect a tie-in with Journey to the Centre of the Earth, and it’s been more than ten years since the Brendan Frasier version. There’s scope for a couple of dozen films, and the fifth is already well under way as we speak… although we’re not speaking, I’m doing the- never mind. Besides, Godzilla is every bit the media darling now that comic books were for decades before the MCU, and with the rise of anime fandom in the west, and the likes of Pacific Rim opening the way, now could be the time of the Kaiju.
We know the basic conflicts of narrative, Man versus Man, Man vs Self, Man vs Supernatural, Man vs Society, Man vs Technology, and Man vs Nature, and it’s that last one that I think is most topical. The last decade or two have been governed by “Man vs Man”, all of the comic villains being dark reflections of the hero, often villains of their own creation, but there’s a new growing narrative, something that could become a dominant talking point, with the escalating arguments over the environmental crisis, could Godzilla and Kong be poster-children for natural order in the 2020s?
Maybe. For certain the age of comic book films has come to a close, or if it hasn’t, if the Joker foolishly reignited that flame, then it needs to go back to sleep soon, like a huge, ancient monster returning to its resting place, deep underground. The new titan of schlocky box office dominators could be, and should be, Godzilla and friends.
*Seriously though, just click that link, there’s some interesting names listed in there.
Happy All Hallows Eve! Happy Halloween! Etc.
Anyway, let’s chat a little bit about Halloween and the significance it has on geek culture. After all, this is a night that many geeks revel in. So today, I thought I’d talk quickly about a few Halloween episodes from TV shows that I thoroughly enjoyed – And yes, there’ll be at least one Treehouse of Horror episode. With that said, let’s buckle down, get the popcorn and snuggle on the sofa with these spooky specials.
Ah it’s the Halloween season, which means that we’re going to get the popcorn on. Let’s turn on a movie and… Oh no. Oh dear, oh my. These horror villains are so scary! No, not because they’re shocking, murderous and altogether evil beings. No, they’re so scary because even the most psychopathic of villains succumb to the most terrible of horror tropes, which is what we’re investigating in today’s Top 10!
Now, we’re all familiar with the likes of Funny Or Die, and College Humour – who started doing D&D games online last year, Brendan’s a decent DM – and before I even start I can tell you that you almost certainly recognise a name or two from the short list below. YouTube has been a great space for comedy acts to get their ideas out there and appeal to a unique sense of humour that might not have reached a mainstream audience without it, and maybe that’s because network executives don’t understand, or maybe it’s that certain niche markets can’t get comedy that appeals to them any other way.
Here are some of my favourites, some of the geekier comedy groups and lesser known sketch channels that deserve a few more views… more accurately I want more people to know them so that I can reference their sketches in conversation, so help me I just want to share the joke!
Riot Games have gone all out for their 10 year anniversary, which is a pretty exciting thing to be able to say. Riot Games made the Free-To-Play giant, League of Legends, which is a major title in the Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA) genre. For years, they’ve run just the one game but this year, they’ve decided to throw caution to the wind and show how much progress they’ve made in their world.
A Spoiler Warning is in effect throughout this whole article, I want to do a deep-dive as best as I can, and it can’t be done without discussing some huge plot points.
Todd Phillips’ Joker stars Joaquin Phoenix as Arthur Fleck, a mentally ill man trying to be happy in the 1980’s at a time when the world doesn’t care about him or anyone like him. He’s beaten down just far enough, that during the events of the film we get to watch him break. Combining elements of the Killing Joke with a subtle hint of the Court of Owls (like, a tiny hint, really small) and creating a version of the Joker that we can really empathise with… a little too much. (more…)
Stephen King never really goes out of style in the film industry, he waxes and wanes like the moon, his work is prolific, and readily adapted for film, although it can be a little variable in quality. Certainly with IT Chapter 2 forefront in everyone’s mind, now is definitely the time to adapt some of his lesser known work, and here we have In The Tall Grass popping up on Netflix, and while I’m watching, I can’t help but be reminded of another film with a concurrent theme. And then I think, hey, haven’t done a film-versus in a while. (more…)
It’s October, and there’s things I have found on Netflix and simply not talked about. Actually a lot of my watch list and to-watch list is horror films, and while I’ll get round to From Beyond, Troll Hunters, and maybe even Errementari at some point, there’s also a few new favourites.
Time to get into the mood for some serious fear, here’s a collection of quick-fire reviews of some of Netflix’s selection of horror films.
Let’s kick off with a horror anthology which – aptly – tells three stories of hauntings and fear, but the truth is that the framing device is the film. An investigator dedicated to debunking psychics is summoned to the hiding place of an old hero, a man who faked his own death decades ago, who leaves him with a handful of case studies that he believes prove the existence of an afterlife that he’d been dedicated to debunking. A night watchman, a nervous teenager, and a boisterous landowner, beset by stories that have traumatised them to their core, each barely capable of talking through their experiences, each forces our investigator to confront something about himself.
I’m a big fan of anthologies, not that I think one can accurately call this an anthology as such. Meeting the protagonist of each story helps build some of the tension ahead of time, seeing how deeply each player is impacted by their part. This is also a parade of British talent at its best, Andy Nyman, Paul Whitehouse, Alex Lawther, and Martin Freeman are tentpoles of the cast. At times Ghost Stories get’s a little reliant on jump scares, and yes they’re often exaggerated by cheesy musical stings, but it uses them to solid effect, and supports it with magnificently built tension, a little well-placed humour, and subverts the format of the anthology by turning it wholly on the main character for the finale.
“Why is it always the last key that unlocks everything?”
The Descent Parts 1&2
Ok, this is cheating, only part 2 is on Netflix right now, and I’d seen them both anyway. Let me clarify as well that I sincerely think that the two are inextricable and that we should not offer one without the other, so do not watch it on Netflix, find some other means. Actually distribution of these films when they were created may not have done it many favours, release dates four years apart (’05 and ’09) when in fact they tell a single, unified story, but that may be about the only criticism I have. A claustrophobic tale of potholers, cavedivers, and thrillseekers who go deep underground in the Appalachian mountains and discover that something has been down there for quite some time.
Use of pure red lighting is very du-jour for the mid-00’s but it’s used to great effect as personal tensions in the group build, and spot some of the camera work and set building that really betrays the decade. But they do a great job of creating a fear of the hidden places below ground, create a genuinely horrifying monster, and mix them with a horror that lurks above ground. It’s very Lurking Fear in it’s inspirations, and is easier to appreciate if you’ve read/listened to the book, but The Descent takes a slant on the idea of subterranean humanoids and makes monsters of some of its main cast at the same time.
For some reason Dan Stevens is not listed as being famous for Legion on imdb? What the hell is Downton Abbey?
Anyway, he and Michael Sheen headline a Wicker Man-esque horror that delves a little more directly into the supernatural while still keeping the focus on the horrors brought about by humanity’s own bad habits, our tendency to abuse a resource, mysticize what we can’t understand, and lean towards totalitarianism in the pursuit of freedom. It also fits most solidly within the modern horror oeuvre of mounting tension above overt fear, and manages to insert a rather complete thriller amongst the more terrifying elements.
A girl is held to ransom by a charismatic cult leader in a bid for money to keep his flock alive, all while maintaining a facade of normalcy. From the perspective of the mysterious stranger come to rescue his sister, normalcy is highly strange practices of bloodletting, strange scriptures, and unmerciful practices, along with visions of a strange figure that roams abroad. A cunning trick played by the soundtrack includes the sound of dripping liquid into glass, or very similar, to drive home the sanguine nature of the fear.
I’d say the ending takes a turn for the aesthetically wonderful, but starts to detract from the fear so wonderfully conjured by the first and second acts, but don’t take that as too harsh a criticism. Apostle is still a great film, just one that coasts through its finale, rather than rises through it.
Matt Groening’s foray into fantasy dropped its second season this week.
Wow do I wish I had more to say. Usually when I review something I’ll be watching it again on the other screen while I write, but Lego Batman’s on Netflix now, so is the Between Two Ferns movie and those are two things I would rather watch! It’s nothing against Disenchantment… no, wait, it is, it’s definitely something against Disenchantment because so help me I do not recall anything that happened in the series that I watched three days ago!
Continuing the storyline that began in the first season and wrapping up the cliffhanger we left in in which Princess Tiabeanie “Bean” leaves Dreamland with her evil mother, oblivious to the fact that said mother is evil. Elfo the elf is dead, Luci the demon is stuck in a bottle, and all the people of Dreamland have been turned to stone, leaving King Zog alone to go mad. All of the above is wrapped up within a couple of episodes, and we learn who the shadowy figures were, Bean’s aunt and uncle.
We now get new plot threads, an elf conspiracy that goes nowhere except now all the elves have moved into the kingdom despite the fact that the city is a terrible place for them, and there’s an ever growing mess with the mother’s side of the family. But… I mean we’re not here for the story, right, we’re here for the comedy? Not sure what happened to that either to be honest.
In season one, Bean was a troubled and rebellious teen, she seems like she’s lost a lot of her zest, becoming a wooden peg on which the plot hangs. Elfo’s incredibly upbeat attitude has been tempered by cynicism with an upbeat delivery, which suits his character progression but loses his naive obliviousness. And Luci, who had been the main source of cynical comedy suddenly takes a backseat. King Zog is beaten down and humbled and clashes less with Bean which was half of his schtick. The first season was rife with jokes that didn’t so much subvert fantasy expectations as shine a massive spotlight on them, mixed with some excellent wordplay, with comical situations and characters.
This time around the jokes are few and far between, and the watering down of the characters only makes the whole thing more bland, and that’s the worst of it, it’s just underwhelming. Secondary characters are thrust forward to negligible effect I felt like Disenchantment was building to something, and I feel like it burned through a lot of the interesting questions pretty easily and left us without much to drag us into season three, if such a thing is coming.
And the worst part is… if it does, I still think I’ll watch it. There’s a cliffhanger, a mystery or two, and a likeability to the cast of characters that makes viewing all too easy. This is passive viewing at its most passive, while the humour is weakened, fewer laugh out loud moments, but it remains watchable and vaguely entertaining, especially if you watch both seasons back to back because there are a handful of running jokes that are forgettable but still kind of humorous, and there’s enough interesting narrative to keep you just barely engaged while I do something else on the other screen… like complain about what I’m watching!
It all nets to somewhere around “watchable”, or perhaps “bearable” but given the legacy it’s come from that makes it something of a disappointment. From the creators of Futurama and the Simpsons comes “more of the same”. Enjoy it if that’s what you want in life.
Shh, do you hear that? It sounds like the trees rustled over this way, quickly, hide in the underbrush. Now, careful, for today we’ve got to keep on the low-down, lest we become prey for them. Whether you’re a vampire, a beast, or even just an ordinary human, today we’re going to check out the Top 10 Hunters across all pop culture. Video games, Film, TV, Literature, you name it, we’ve got it covered. (more…)