Go, Go, GODZILLA!

Well, I haven’t been around here… for about a year. Last time things were a little different, and I was sweating bullets like a chaingun. Today I’d like to reminisce about some old favourites, things that resurged in my memories when I saw Shin Godzilla over the summer. Godzilla was an absolutely gigantic part of my childhood: reruns late at night, and VHS copies made from those airings with the commercials left in; the occasional rental from a Blockbuster (or Rogers Video, which we had in my neighbourhood 15 or so years ago.) It was never “easy” for me to catch Godzilla, except the fake-Zilla in 1998 which splashed into theatres back then, and the commercial-enterprising around it with cartoons and toys. My Godzilla was always the Godzilla, though, the green, lumbering, spikey-atomic-breathing-unstoppable-monster. In a toast to my childhood with the king of monsters, here is a list of my seminal stompathons!

King Kong vs. Godzilla:

This is it for me. This movie is THE memory I have of Godzilla. The best Godzilla movie focuses on Godzilla, there’s no doubt, but for me the most fun Godzilla movies have “vs.” in the title! This was one of two favourites for me in the series growing up: my second favourite monster for the Big Green to tussle with was one Mr. Kong. Between the lightning powers and tail-spin-throws, King Kong is a real fucking boss in this one. I think, among all the enemies of Godzilla, this is actually a really great novelty, where the kaiju has relatively close to human mobility and motion, as opposed to either stumpy-arms, no-arms, or weapon-arms that most other kaiju have! King Kong really puts to use what he’s been gifted with!

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Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster:

GHIDORAH! My Man! This badass was my all-time favourite growing up. He was the only equal for Godzilla, the one that always required team-ups because Godzilla himself just couldn’t duke it out with him. Three heads, it seems, is far better than one! Not better than two, though, as Mothra and Godzilla showed Ghidorah by teaming up and smashing his face(s) in!

This was also one of the first times I remember aliens being involved in Godzilla plots, which was always ludicrous, I absolutely loved the alien plots in these movies. Sometimes they were just alien-humans, sometimes they were Atlanteans, sometimes they were fucking cockroaches and gorillas!

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Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla:

Who best to best Godzilla but Godzilla?! This was another great aliens-controlling-things set-up. This time, they built their own Godzilla! But lo and behold, it turns out that the power behind the mech is the literal skeleton of the original 1954 Godzilla, and it’s semi-sentient! DUN-DUN-DUUUUUUN! It’s a pure classic – Mechagodzilla was the first idea of a “mech” I ever really had, and it has stuck with me all my life. This movie defined for me how badass robots could be.

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Godzilla vs. Gigan:

I just rewatched this movie recently, and it is still totally badass. Gigan stomped and smashed its away right into my heart. More aliens controlling kaiju! I… I’m sensing a theme in the kaiju movies I like. I also liked Pacific Rim! Surprise!

Gigan has a pretty interesting design, and he’s paired with Ghidorah against a Godzilla Anguirus team. The aliens have control over the former, but the latter are actually defending their “home.” They live on “Monster Island” and the aliens wanted to mind-control them. It’s bonkers, it’s completely off the rails, but buzzsaw-chested Gigan, the mighty hook-handed one, makes for a good rough and tumble with the Big G.

Godzilla_vs_Gigan_1972

Godzilla 2000:

This just holds a small, but special place in my heart. It wasn’t that it was a particularly good Godzilla flick. It was that I saw it at the local AMC with my dad when it was released in Canada in August 2000. Other than this 2000 movie, I never actually got to see a real Godzilla movie in theatres. All I had was the 1998 American attempt and that one was a pretty bitter pill to swallow as a Godzilla fan.

I was a kid and this was everything to me: I got to see Godzilla, real, proper Godzilla up on a big screen, and it was something I never got to have before or have again since. It was a good movie to have that experience with, though. Godzilla fights… himself? Kind of? It ain’t SpaceGodzilla, but it is space mojo blended with his DNA to give us slimey-space-gross-lizard-thing vs. Godzilla! Orga is a weird damned monster, and it sure was cool that he tries to fucking eat Godzilla. Too bad that Godzilla is the living embodiment of indigestion!

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Runner-ups for the list:

Godzilla (1954):

The one, the only, the H-bombed big man himself! This is actually one that I wasn’t too familiar with as a kid, but it was how I got back into the thick of it years later in my early 20s. It’s the real classic of the series, and the one I’ve found to be the most timeless. I suppose there are people that would see it as hokey, but to my eyes, the costume holds up best in black & white and seems the least “floppy” of all the monster designs throughout the series. This is also the most serious of the films that comes to mind, with it being a clear representation of contemporary fears regarding nuclear power from a nation that recently experienced it in force. Godzilla in this movie is nature’s wrath infused with science, and can only be stopped by regrettable scientific destruction.

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Mothra vs. Godzilla:

Mothra needs to be here, because Mothra is a classic Godzilla enemy. The thing is, I never really liked Mothra as a kid, I really just hated the stupid butterfly because it’s a stupid butterfly. Now that I’m older, this is also one of the set-ups that hits me hard, what with the horrible “savage” islanders, who look like lighter-skinned Japanese people painted to be shades of brown and told to hold quasi-African gear while looking to be dressed vaguely in Pacific Island aesthetics. This is actually a problem throughout the era for Godzilla flicks, but this one just sticks in my mind as “the one” with it.

On the other hand, it gives us the fairy twins that lullaby Mothra, cool larvae web-spinners, and eventually I also just started enjoying the stupid butterfly as part of the cosmic order of badasses in Godzilla movies. Honestly, this one actually establishes a lot of the classic tone that I associate with Godzilla but I was too boy-ish to appreciate a big butterfly as a child (also, in a somewhat ironic twist, I have a vivid memory of watching King Kong vs. Godzilla on TV as a child and being literally scared out of the room by a large moth.)

Mothra_vs_Godzilla_poster 1964

For a personal touch, here is a picture of my own Godzilla-Kaiju collection. I actually didn’t own ANY DVDs for… any kaiju movies, until last year. HMV in Canada, which was the last gasp of music store/media store/nerd merchandising, went out of business fairly recently. I made the decision early in the year to acquire a few movies. I wasn’t thinking about the volume collections that exist, or even collecting them in general, at that point, but that changed towards the end of the year. That lovely Godzilla Complete Collection was pretty cheap at the HMV down Yonge, near Ryerson University, but when I finally made up my mind about wanting it, it was sold. Dani volunteered it for Christmas that year and I jumped at it. She ordered it off Amazon for me, and watching those movies was a moment of calm in a very tumultuous year. This year I’ll be getting those Toho Collections, Vol. 1 and 2, for Christmas, and I am so excited! I don’t want to wait for Christmas!

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(Header image taken from this website.)

I Hate Being Sick

Being sick is such a motherfucker. Back in August, Dani and I both got sick – we’ve since agreed that it was food poisoning – and it lasted for weeks. We were running to bathrooms for a good chunk of that month! Many plans were foiled!

Now, October. I’m sick! AGAIN! This time it is 100% a flu. My Saturday was plain as toast. Come Sunday I had a tickle in my throat, nothing out of the ordinary, though. Sometimes I wake up and I just have a real dry throat that lasts for the morning. This particular one lasted more than the morning. It lasted all day, and my nose wouldn’t stop leaking!

By the time the night was over, my nose was a faucet that I could not turn off. I was gonna spend Monday with Dani, but my sickness decided NERP. When Dani and I got to her place, I was burning. Everywhere. Even my eye lids! I was gonna spend the night eating and writing with Dani, but instead I was passed out like a chump around midnight. I’ve got all these wonderful foods just for snacking that I’ve stashed in the fridge, but I didn’t get to have so much as a slice of salami! DAMN MY BODY, DAMN IT WITH THE VERY FIRES IN WHICH MY FEVER WAS CREATED!

I woke at 5:45am on Monday morning. The only people that do that are people in emergency services! I woke up, completely soaked in my own sweat, desperately fumbled for water and acetaminophen and made a silent pee. I thought maybe I’d feel better when I woke up later. Nope. Nope, nope. I could barely get back to sleep!

Dani woke up just after 7:30am. She was gonna wake up earlier but I’d mistaken her phone for mine and switched off the alarm as it went off. Just how sick I was became apparent when she woke up. I was completely on fire, wet like the ocean, and my head was a swamp. Dani was saintly in all this, she prepped the most delicious smelling puchero, knowing my love of potatoes (she puts them in because I love ‘em) and ginger.

For at least two hours, she was checking in on my nearly lifeless body, kind of turning me over so I’d not sweat myself into hypothermia. The best thing she did, that anyone could have done, was the washcloth. OH MY SWEET JESUS! She put a cool washcloth on my forehead and it was THE VERY BEST MOST AMAZING THING! If I were a starving man on a desert island, this washcloth would be more satisfying than any drink or food! She must have swapped the washcloth at least four times.

I completely, entirely soaked her bed. All three pillows soaked. The main pillow I used? It had to be put aside to DRY, the actual PILLOW became a sponge! The sheets were completely wet, like I’d tried to bathe in ‘em.

Once I was stable enough to open my eyes, I got up. I wish I could have had some of that soup! The thought of puchero or sinigang right now fills me with a desperate want! Such magical broths! I eventually showered, which felt amazing, and helped Dani swap out the bed sheets and pillows. When I could, I got my butt to the bus stop and started my way home. The crisp, cool air was amazing. It was the only time I could breathe. Did I mention fuck being sick? Because fuck being sick.

The rest of Monday was hacking, wheezing and otherwise soaking whatever surface I came into contact with.

Tuesday was a repeat of Monday to start. Woken up to pools of sweat at 5:45am, now with the added glory of a hacking cough! YAY! Thankfully, my family had cough syrup on hand which did enough of the job, but that was a miserable-ass night’s sleep. Things are a bit shinier now, towards the evening, I’ve started to regain my footing, despite an otherwise blocked sinus system and bruised throat.

But at least I wasn’t shitting myself silly, thank all the gods!

(Header image taken from MarketWatch.)

Book Baubles: Wizarding Edition

Khairete! This is long overdue, as the semester has been a battle! Mikaius here, victoriously marching in with games, fresh booty from the War of Sales (not to be mistaken for the War of Sails, which I lost miserably)!

Yer a wizard e’rybody! Or rather, you can be, with these games!

(1) Rogue Legacy by Cellar Door Games

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This game is something special. I can play it and play it and play it forever. It’s a simple Metroid-style game with RPG-Roguelite elements: run around the castle, get gold, lose gold, buy things, kill things, repeat until you can fight a boss. Do this for every section of the castle, then do it all again! The sheer volume of character classes, upgrades, and other items, ensures that the game doesn’t get old. The downside is that you can also get very stuck, very easily, if you’re not making enough gold in your runs to meaningfully spend it before the next run. Eventually though, you reach a point where you will obliterate everything that crosses your path, as you upgrade, even in New Game ++etc. mode. When you get to that point, mindlessly slaughtering monsters may lose its charm, but might also be a great way to get through that massive backlog of podcasts we both know you have.

Grab it on GoG or Steam!

(2) Hocus Pocus by Moonlite Software

Hocus Pocus

Yer a wizard! No, really. A straight up wizard. You shoot lightning bolts at monsters. You platform. It’s an Apogee platformer for the PC! This is a great little game, loads of fun. Not much to say, but being able to pick it up as part of the 3D Realms Anthology on Steam was fantastic. However, the Duke Nukem portions of that anthology will be stripped out as of next year, so it may be better to spend less on Hocus Pocus itself over at GoG.

(3) Torchlight/II by Runic Games

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What to say about this series? It’s a Diablo clone. It’s Diablo. It’s even got some of the developers from the original Diablo working on it. Hit the dungeon, fire off your magical bolts, have an adorable pet ferret, beat the big bad! In the first game, you have three classes: a wizard, barbarian and rogue. The correct choice is the wizard, of course, because he is a steampunk wizard that shoots magic from his giant gloved hand. It’s a solid play, the animation is beautifully fluid, the mechanics are top notch and the aesthetic is right on.

Torchlight II is a step up, but if you’ve already gone through Torchlight, it just may not hold the same weight. The step between them is the same as Diablo to Diablo II, single-town-hub with a dungeon to overworld in traversing many environments. Now the classes are wizard, melee-rogue, ranged-rogue, magic-barbarian. Torchlight II also introduces multiplayer to the game, so now you can adventure with your own personal Hermoine and Ron!

GoG has the first one, also on Steam, but Steam has the second game as well.

(4) Magicka by Arrowhead Game Studios

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I don’t have much to say on Magicka. I haven’t really played it myself, but I have watched lots of it be played. What a manic time it looks like! Absurd and fun! Combine all kind of magical elements and blast your enemies, your friends and yourself into the next life! Looks like madness!

Go ahead and grab it on Steam – go crazy and set everything on lightningfire!

(5) Trine by Frozenbyte

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This is an interesting game. A puzzle platformer in 2.5D, with three playable characters. You can play in co-op or by yourself, switching between any of the three characters at will (but only one player can be any given character at a time). A wizard, good for moving objects around and making magical boxes to stack up, a rogue to flit about and swing with a grappling hook, and a warrior to punch skeletons real good and use his shield for protection. Good design, cute aesthetic, fairy tale all around. Fully recommended you hit up Steam or GoG for a copy, or for the whole trilogy! (Though fair warning, the word on the street about the third game is not pleasant.)

(Header image designed by Thomas Taylor, taken from Hypable.)

Literature Monday: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, J.K. Rowling

Khairete, Mikaius returning as your humble paper-pauper.

I did not grow up with Harry Potter. I actively loathed it, having grown up on Lord of the Rings, I was simply too damn good for this kid’s crap. None of that “Diagon Alley” nonsense for my refined tastes! Mind you, plentiful WarCraft and Diablo “novels” were read, so I was clearly full of shit. I found out this year that Harry Potter is awesome. Dani sat me down for the movies, which were adorable and fun. Then she up and got me some of the books! Neat original editions too, gotta love those used book sales. Took me eight months to read the first book, a chapter here, a chapter there, between exams and assignments. What an adorable little book! I will never forget the damn awful “Mirror of Esired” as a name, but I also won’t forget the way in which Hagrid’s accent is written, or how quaintly the holidays were described. This first book is a delight – I thoroughly enjoyed it even at 25 years old; it reminded me of my own childhood and coming across the Hallo’ween and Christmas chapters at just the right time of the year really brought those passages to life.

“Harry had never in all his life had such a Christmas dinner. A hundred fat, roast turkeys, mountains of roast and boiled potatoes, platters of fat chipolatas, tureens of buttered peas, silver boats of thick, rich gravy and cranberry sauce – and stacks of wizard crackers every few feet along the table. These fantastic crackers were nothing like the feeble Muggle ones the Dursleys usually bought, with their little plastic toys and their flimsy paper hats. Harry pulled a wizard cracker with Fred and it didn’t just bang, it went off with a blast like a cannon and engulfed them all in a cloud of blue smoke, while from the inside exploded a Rear-Admiral’s hat and several live, white mice. Up on the High Table, Dumbledore had swapped his pointed wizard’s hat for a flowered bonnet and was chuckling merrily at a joke Professor Flitwick had just read him.

Flaming Christmas puddings followed the turkey. Percy nearly broke his teeth n a silver Sickle embeddedin his slice. Harry watched Hagrid getting redder and redder in the face as he called for more wine, finally kissing Professor McGonagall on the cheek, who, to Harry’s amazement, giggled and blushed, her top hat lopsided.”

Watch the movies, read the books, hate Ron Weasley’s dumb face.

(Excerpt: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone J.K. Rowling)

 

Ghouls and Tools : The Man from Earth Review

Taking place in the modern day – it was released in 2007, but with no technological references, it fits as well today as it did then – the entire movie takes place in a cabin. More specifically, it takes place around a fireplace, rarely sidestepping into the other rooms or outside. Seven people gather to see off John Oldman, a Professor who appears to be in his mid-30s: a biologist (Harry), an art history professor (Edith), an anthropologist (Dan), a historian (Sandy), and an archaeologist (Art) with his student (Linda). Eventually an eighth character arrives, a psychiatrist (Will).

Sitting around the main room, with the fireplace as the focus, the story unfolds. Slowly, John reveals to his coworkers the nature of his going-away. He is a “caveman”, a Cro-Magnon, immortal but not invincible, and he must live a nomadic lifestyle as people become suspicious after approximately a decade of his unchanging visage.

Set in a singular area, with a relatively consistent light source, the movie evokes the campfire storyteller wonderfully. Along with this lighting comes an excellent use of music: although it can at times be overbearing, it’s never unwelcome. The audio is as on point as the visuals.

Through the narrative, John Oldman does a wonderful job weaving reality, historical fictions and historical theories into the story of his life. Though some gems are harder to swallow than others, and much of his history is full of coincidence, it is a fascinating story. Many of the issues that can be brought up with John’s story are addressed through “consultation” amongst his peers. For example, John’s memories are selective, which he points out, as any person’s memory would be. He was also not instantly aware that he is some magical caveman, but rather came to understand his condition over the course of 14 centuries. He learned his own history by keeping up with the species; as the Harry suggests, he can only know as much as the species does, he’s just a normal person living long. John says at one point that when he started he “didn’t know up from sideways”, and for the first few thousand years, nothing could be known. Agricultural civilizations with written and consistently kept libraries/knowledge bases were not accessible. Also addressed in the narrative is that though he learns, he cannot keep up, as any person couldn’t. His knowledge is relative to the time he learned it, and though he has many degrees, they are over hundreds of years and mostly outdated. The suggestion that he’d remember where he came form is also addressed, in asking the student to remember from her own childhood, what her childhood home would look like now, built up and changed, directions learned by landmarks no longer relevant, places found by following family and not personal knowledge and so forth, he makes the point that home is lost over time.

Most importantly throughout all of this, the banter is fluid. There are no awkward moments of stagnant dialogue. There is a sense of a naturally explorative conversation, an almost Socratic Dialogue of back and forth, hemming and hawing to bring forth deeper knowledge, with attempts to understand, believe, and dismiss John’s case.

The movie is not without flaws, however. In one case the character is weak, in others and most commonly, the coincidental nature of John’s life and some of the historical oddities that don’t line up with our current understandings. Edith, “the” Christian character is an aggravating straw man of a religiously intolerant person that shouts blasphemy everywhere because she doesn’t have the capacity to entertain a thought without believing it. She reacts to everything John says as if by hearing it she is damned to Hell, and everything he says is to be taken at face value. However Harry is a counterweight of sorts, representing a religious indifference (citing the varied views of his own household, and being more than happy to indulge John’s story). They both fall into a cliché, the Christian an overbearing zealot, and the Jewish character as more or less indifferent to their faith.

As for the historical holes, the first is at the beginning of the movie. John is supposed to have known Van Gogh, and the movie starts off with the Edith remarking on an unknown painting in John’s possession. This constitutes an heirloom of sorts, a prize, but in the scenes soon to come John makes a point of how he wouldn’t have keepsakes as an immortal that prove his story, as items would all be “tools”, no more valuable or lasting than a pen. He says he keeps no artifacts, but he clearly keeps sentimental items.

It must also be said that Art is a complete dick, and needlessly outraged at John for nothing. Dan, Sandy, Linda and Harry react appropriately; they treat it as a fascinating story, but Art and Edith act like crazy people.

Coincidentally, John also happens to have known Columbus, or at least had the chance to sail with him. He remarks on being certain the world was flat, but that the world was round was an old idea, predating Christianity by hundreds of years as recognized in ancient Greek philosophy and mathematics. Though it can be said that he is far older than any theory so he would hold a personal disbelief/uncertainty of the Earth’s body, it still seems uncharacteristic of him to be stuck in the past. Moreover, he later, coincidence again, reveals he met the Buddha and was Jesus. He is rightfully disgusted by what Christianity is and its implementation. However, his disgust at Christianity is almost surprising considering he didn’t make any mention of how awful Columbus was in every respect, a man that used his Christianity to validate the horrors he perpetuated.

Unfortunately, the notion of a white Jesus plays into a long-standing history of stepping on other cultures and forcing the notion of white-is-right; Jesus is depicted as whatever the local flavour is, in most cases. As with any notion of a historical Jesus hailing from Judea and being Jewish himself, he would have been a much different looking man. It is one thing to pose Jesus as white for the local consumption; it is another to propose he was actually white when any real Jesus would have been a person of colour.

On the flip side of the blind Christian, Dan is at times TOO into the story, to the point that he refers to time as immeasurable, when we use measurements of time every day, from seconds to years, these are measurements of time as metres are of distance. He says clocks are measured against other clocks, but that is how all measurement is done, rulers against rulers, scales against scales. His delivery of his character is fantastic, but it almost feels like he’s going to create a cult afterwards, and that this conversation has been a theological revelation for him.

Though his lack of scarring is explained as part of his regenerative process, bearing no scars from his crucifixion, his survival of many plagues and so forth, it fails to encapsulate entropy. John has lived for 14 centuries, yet has seemingly avoided war, personal violence, simply being hit by a car in the last hundred years, or falling down a flight of stairs. All manner of simple, day-to-day death, accidental and violent, has simply passed over him. It isn’t addressed if he is actually invincible on top of being immortal.

There is also an odd, hierarchical and patriarchal bent to his nomadic society. It is unfair to say they are all the same, but often, and even into modern times, nomadic societies will be more egalitarian due to necessity and scarcity of resources. It is common for hunter-gather societies to be horizontal, not vertical in structure.

Context:

A bit of context to this movie, the story was written by Jerome Bixby. Bixby also wrote a very, very similar story for Star Trek: The Original Series. The episode “Requiem for Methuselah” is about a mysterious figure encountered on a planet by the Enterprise, that just so happens to be immortal, and throughout his life was a number of “great men”

In the same year of the movie’s release, a completely different movie was released sharing a particular element. TMNT (2007) was a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie, in which the antagonist was an Aztec warrior turned immortal, who also happened to be numerous historical conquerors and figures. It’s worth mentioning just because it’s funny that these two movies, both containing an immortal that was historical figures, should come out in the same year. Also, TMNT (2007) is a fun movie, go watch it.

Verdict:

Finally, I entirely recommend The Man from Earth. It’s a silly movie, considering it’s weird shoe-horning of historical elements, but if you let yourself get absorbed into the story like Dan does, then it’s a thrilling ride and a wonderful story to hear around the camp fire. The full movie is actually up on Youtube, posted by the owning company Starz Media/Anchor Bay.

Quick links for the curious:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Man_from_Earth

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0756683/

(Header image taken from ManFromEarth.)