Marvel Cinematic Universe: From Worst to Best

 

 

I think it’s safe to say that no one has had quite an impact on the film industry at the moment like Marvel studios. Since 2008, they’ve now released twenty movies in their shared universe, typically releasing three movies every year, with each film building off the the events of the last to make a shared cinematic universe that everyone is trying to copy now. They’re films are some of the highest grossing movies of all time, and they’re single-handedly keeping superheroes as the most popular genre at the moment.

Everyone has seen their movies and eagerly wait for their next entries to see where they’ll take their dramatic, funny and always entertaining movies next. So now that Marvel studios has released exactly twenty of their own movies, I feel now is a good time to look back and countdown all of them from their worst to their best.

Keep in mind that I’ll only be looking at the entries in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, not every movie Marvel had a part in. Which means no X-Men movies, Spider-Man movies with Tobey Maguire or Andrew Garfield, and unfortunately no Deadpool films. With that said, these are how I would rank all of the MCU movies.

 

 

Number 20 – “Iron Man 2”

As a direct sequel to the first film in this cinematic universe, “Iron Man 2” takes everything that made the first film likable and charming and makes it obnoxious. This film is loud, irritating, makes the least amount of sense of any Marvel film and has the worst pacing of any film in this series. It doesn’t really have a lot going for it, especially when the lasting image of this film are the annoying conversations between Downey Jr. and Paltrow talking over each other. Easily the worst film in the series.

Number 19 – “Thor: The Dark World”

Not as annoying or irritating as “Iron Man 2,” but this films’ crime is that it’s so boring. The characters are dull, the plot is forgettable, the way it uses the other nine realms of Asgard is lame, and it feels like nothing is accomplished. The only saving grace of this film is Tom Hiddleston’s always great performance as Loki and how he’s given a chance to do way more than he did in “Thor.” Speaking of which…

Number 18 – “Thor”

Like “The Dark World,” this one is just forgettable. It is better due to the heroic character arc of its lead, and many of the scenes with Thor learning to live on Earth are funny in that “fish out of water” style. Beyond that, there is nothing worthy to be seen in “Thor.”

Number 17 – “The Incredible Hulk”

This one now feels like the black sheep of the cinematic universe and is often forgotten among the many other super heroes. It also didn’t help that Ang Lee’s “Hulk” was always on people’s minds and that Edward Norton didn’t want to keep playing the Hulk after this movie. For the time, this film had great special effects and it made good use of the Hulk’s size and scope. But there was really nothing else going for it.

 

 

Number 16 – “Doctor Strange”

In the grand scheme of this universe, “Doctor Strange” doesn’t really have much going for it outside of its stunning visuals and the odd journey its title character goes through. It is impressive at times, but other moments are just so bland and predictable that it makes for an average blockbuster.

When the best character in your film is a piece of clothe, you know you goofed on a few things.

Number 15 – “Iron Man 3”

Some people really hate this one because of how it mistreats the comic origins of its villain. I always overlook that and instead remember “Iron Man 3” for making me laugh so hard. For a long time, it had the best sense of humor of any Marvel film and loving most of the film as a result – it basically sent the standard for how comedy in Marvel would be handled in the future. But beyond this, the plot is nonsensical and full of holes, and the climax leaves a lot to be desired. Not the strongest Iron Man tale, but far from the worst.

Number 14 – “Ant-Man”

Now we’ve reached that films that are just…fine. Perfectly serviceable summer blockbusters that were a lot of fun while I was watching them, but had no reason to watch them again after my initial viewing. “Ant-Man” did everything right, especially in scale and storytelling, but didn’t leave much of an impact on me. The film did it’s job and gave us a unique superhero with a very similar personality to many of the other Marvel leads. It wouldn’t be until his next film that we would get a better taste of his personality.

Number 13 – “Avengers: Age of Ultron”

The best way I can describe “Age of Ultron” is that it is a sequel to an experience. Rather than being it’s own thing, it tries to replicate something that cannot be topped and captured again. Even though “Age of Ultron” is, in many ways, an improvement over “The Avengers” in terms of storytelling, tension, dialogue and character dynamics, everything it does tries to be “The Avengers” all over again. It just doesn’t feel as genuine this time around.

 

 

Number 12 – “Captain America: The First Avenger”

Now we move onto the ones that I thoroughly enjoy, starting with quite possibly the best superhero origin tale. Right from the beginning, our lead shows us his charm, compassion and likability that would become his defining characteristics, with some of the best scenes being little moments to prove that he’s not trying to be a great soldier, but a good man. This whole movie is like if Captain America made a movie, cutting out the nitty-gritty and leaving only that which the filmmakers feel is important. Certainly one of the more underrated Marvel films.

Number 11 – “Ant-Man and the Wasp”

We come to the most recent Marvel film, one that won me over with its charm and likability. I appreciate the smaller-scale character driven piece, especially since it was a palette cleanser after “Infinity War.” I ended up loving every character in this film, which is a testament to the writing and acting throughout.

Number 10 – “Iron Man”

For a long time, this was my favorite. It was the one to start it all and introduced us to Robert Downey Jr.’s unparalleled acting abilities. But then time passed and we got better made superhero movies. Tales that had better character arcs, and much better climaxes. It showed that “Iron Man,” while still a solid entry in the shared universe with great acting and writing, is weaker compared to films will see later on this countdown.

Number 9 – “Spider-Man: Homecoming”

The most realistic and authentic of the Marvel films, “Homecoming” was more of a treat than I initially gave it credit for. The comedy felt genuine, the dialogue was fresh and witty without being over-the-top, and Tom Holland plays the best Spider-Man to date, perfectly balancing the line between the comedy and drama of being Spider-Man while still learning how to be the best hero possible. It is as refreshing and honest as we’ve gotten from Marvel.

 

 

Number 8 – “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2”

While I initially thought of this one as little more than a funny summer blockbuster that was another sequel to an experience, I thought more about “Guardians Vol. 2” and how it blurred the line between really funny scenes throughout with very intense and emotional moments. This thread is forever connected because of the theme of family and how each character has a different interpretation of it. This is far more than a funny summer blockbuster and it deserves all the credit it gets.

Number 7 – “Black Panther”

I know this one is special for a lot of people, and for very good reason. It is a game-changer in terms of what it is saying and what it represents, while still remaining as thought-provoking as a superhero film can get. For me, watching “Black Panther” was like a gateway to vast and diverse culture that I wanted to see even more of. I respect this film for what it accomplished and what it was trying to say, while still being a whole lot of fun.

Number 6 – “Thor: Ragnarok”

Speaking of fun, here is the most balls-to-the-wall insane entertainment of any Marvel movie. It is uproarious, thrilling, charming and so crazy that it’s hard not to crack a smile just thinking about it. The whole film never takes itself too seriously, unlike the previous Thor films, and just has as much fun with Asgard as it possibly can, leading to some of the coolest sequences of any superhero movie.

 

 

Number 5 – “Avengers: Infinity War”

The most ambitious and epic movie out of this universe. Everything about this film felt big without sacrificing the smaller character driven moments. The pacing is stellar and everything about it felt satisfying while keeping the fun-loving Marvel style. This film is what ten years of development leads to, and it did not disappoint.

Number 4 – “The Avengers”

When I think of Marvel movies and what they’re capable of doing, “The Avengers” is typically the first thing that comes to mind. It was an event when it came out and felt like more than just a normal film-going experience. No body have ever made a movie quite like “The Avengers” at the time, and it still hasn’t been topped by anyone except by Marvel. This has become the standard for summer blockbusters now with it walks that tight rope between tense character-driven drama and witty comedy. It may seem small now compared to “Civil War” and “Infinity War,” but “The Avengers” is still just as mind-blowing today as was in 2012.

Number 3 – “Captain America: The Winter Soldier”

Now we get the truly great Marvel movies, the ones that transcend being just summer blockbusters. I wish I could say all three of these last ones are a tie for number one, but instead I’ll place “The Winter Soldier” here because it not only works as a wonderful political thriller, with some of the best action sequences in the entire cinematic universe, especially the highway fight scene, but because of struggle to find the difference between right and wrong in a world that is constantly evolving. The fact that it’s Captain America that undergoes this struggle makes it even more interesting as we watch him personally struggle with his beliefs against the rest of the world. A simple yet highly effective movie.

Number 2 – “Captain America: Civil War”

Now take what “The Winter Soldier” said about the difference between right and wrong in an ever evolving world and add in a personal yet passionate conflict between its leads, and you have the most human portrayal of superheroes I’ve seen in a long time. It is amazing how well this film works on so many levels and never stops being entertaining for even a moment. The acting, the writing, the pacing and tension is solid throughout, but the relationships are the star of this film, especially with how brutally real they feel. It’s one of the few Marvel films that made me think about what these heroes were fighting for and what they were doing to the world at large, all while still being thoroughly entertaining.

 

 

Number 1 – “Guardians of the Galaxy”

This may come as a surprise to some, since I wrote off “Guardians of the Galaxy” as little more than a dumb popcorn flick in my initial review. But the more I thought about how different this film is from every other Marvel film, and as they released more superhero tales, the more I looked back on this film and realized how smart, witty, emotional and stunning this film can be. On paper, this film should not work – every one of these characters are assholes, while four of the five main cast members aren’t human, one of which can only say three words. Yet through clever writing, unbelievably captivating performances, an unparalleled soundtrack and the best world building of any Marvel film, we get a gem amongst some already awe-inspiring movies.

But the main reason “Guardians of the Galaxy” is my number one is because it was a risk. Marvel had no idea if this film was going to win people over. Unlike their other products with heroes that everyone knows about and could turn a profit even if they made a bad movie, only die-hard comic book fans knew who Star Lord, Rocket and Groot were. Marvel took a huge chance by doing a story that, not only didn’t contain any previously established characters, but was filled with characters that were far from heroes. Hell, two of it’s characters were a CGI raccoon and living tree! But despite all of the odds, this is the most memorable, fun and heartwarming film that Marvel has ever released.

With Marvel dominating the film industry at the moment, as well as how many companies conduct their business, it’s safe to say that their movies aren’t going anywhere, especially since “Black Panther” and “Infinity War” are in the top ten highest grossing films of all time while still being critically praised. These films keep finding new ways to tell fascinating and surprisingly complex stories that seem to keep getting better over time. As long as people enjoy people becoming more than what they are, Marvel will always have a special place in our hearts.

 

 

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Paul’s 2018 Academy Award Predictions

 

 

It’s that time of year again, where Oscar season is upon us and everyone is guessing who they think will be taking home the big awards this year. As I recall, last year I got most of my predictions right, although I’m still blown away how the awards ended last year with the mix up on Best Picture. I want to say that this year doesn’t have as many obvious picks for awards as last year, where many were guaranteed their award before the show even started. This year, it honestly feels like many of these awards deserve to go to many of the nominees.

But let’s see if I can get as many right this year as I did last year. As always, I’m skipping the Shorts, Documentaries and Foreign Film awards, since I’ve never seen any of those nominees, so my predictions would just be a random guess.

Best Visual Effects:

Who Should Win: “Blade Runner 2049”

Who I Want to Win: “Kong: Skull Island”

Who Will Win: “War for the Planet of the Apes”

Lots of monkeys and apes in the visual effects category this year. The most visually stunning film of the year was certainly “Blade Runner,” but in terms of effects created for the screen, it’s hard to go against the one that made an entire army and civilization of apes. This award usually goes to the film that creates an entire world out of CGI, and even though I didn’t care for the film, the one that did this the best this year was “War for the Planet of the Apes.”

Best Costume Design:

Who Should Win: “Phantom Thread”

Who I Want to Win: “Phantom Thread”

Who Will Win: “Phantom Thread”

I feel like this one is a given. The whole film is based around costumes and clothes, so of course it has to have the best design award locked up. Even though I don’t know the first thing about fashion, I do know that if this award goes to any film other than “Phantom Thread,” it’ll be a travesty.

Best Makeup and Hair:

Who Should Win: “Darkest Hour”

Who I Want to Win: “Darkest Hour”

Who Will Win: “Darkest Hour”

Another given. Gary Oldman’s performance as Winston Churchill wouldn’t have been half as good if the make-up on him wasn’t convincing. He disappeared in that role, and a lot of that is thanks to the make-up.

 

 

Best Original Song:

Who Should Win: “Remember Me” from “Coco”

Who I Want to Win: “Remember Me” from “Coco”

Who Will Win: “Stand Up for Something” from “Marshall”

“Remember Me” is the song I heard in a movie in 2017 that really stood out to me, and it really left an emotional impact every time it was used in “Coco,” so I honestly hope that it wins this award. That being said, they really love to give this award to big-name musicians and Common wrote “Stand Up for Something,” so I can see it winning this award.

Best Original Score:

Who Should Win: “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”

Who I Want to Win: “The Shape of Water”

Who Will Win: “Dunkirk”

This one is a bit trickier than I thought. One the one hand, the scores of “Three Billboard” and “Shape of Water” truly compliment the actions and mood of the film perfectly, but “Dunkirk”‘s score added the emotional and dramatic punch that the otherwise silent film needed. “Dunkirk” wouldn’t have been half as powerful if the score wasn’t there to amplify the visuals. So, for me at least, I think that’ll give “Dunkirk” the win here.

Best Production Design:

Who Should Win: “Blade Runner 2049”

Who I Want to Win: “The Shape of Water”

Who Will Win: “Blade Runner 2049”

I honestly want “Shape of Water” to win everything that it’s nominated for, but there’s no doubt in my mind that “Blade Runner” will walk away with this one, for making an fully convincing depiction of the future in all of lavish and grotesque details.

Best Sound Mixing:

Who Should Win: “Dunkirk”

Who I Want to Win: “Baby Driver”

Who Will Win: “Blade Runner 2049”

For the award given to the best creation of its sound effects, I would love to see “Baby Driver” walk away with some kind of award after how well it used its sound effects. But I can see “Blade Runner” winning many, if not all, of the technical awards this year much like “Mad Max: Fury Road” did a few years ago.

Best Sound Editing:

Who Should Win: “Dunkirk”

Who I Want to Win: “The Shape of Water”

Who Will Win: “Blade Runner 2049”

As for the best use of merging those sound effects into a convincing and artistic film, I stick with what I said above and say that “Blade Runner” will win this one as well. Although, I would like to think that “Dunkirk” has a better chance of winning this award than Sound Mixing.

 

 

Best Editing:

Who Should Win: “Baby Driver”

Who I Want to Win: “The Shape of Water”

Who Will Win: “Dunkirk”

This might be the one I’ve hard the hardest time deciding, because I can’t think of a whole of outstanding achievements in editing this year. “Baby Driver” does come to mind, but I don’t think it was popular enough to get the win here. If I had to pick one though, I do think “Dunkirk” would be the hardest of the nominated films to edit, so I’ll pick that to win.

Best Cinematography:

Who Should Win: “Blade Runner 2049”

Who I Want to Win: “The Shape of Water”

Who Will Win: “Blade Runner 2049”

Roger Deakens finally wins the award for Best Cinematography on his most visually stunning film to date. The award has alluded him after creating visual masterpieces like “No Country For Old Men” and “Skyfall,” but there’s no doubt in my mind that “Blade Runner 2049” is the most visually pleasing film of 2017 and that he deserves to win this award.

Best Original Screenplay:

Who Should Win: “Three Billboard Outside Ebbing, Missouri”

Who I Want to Win: “The Shape of Water”

Who Will Win: “Lady Bird”

Tons of great original ideas and screenplays in 2017, with just about all of them being true stand outs, which makes it hard to pick just one. My gut is telling me to stick with “Lady Bird” though, since it felt the most authentic and natural of all the nominees, especially when it came to the dialogue.

Best Adapted Screenplay:

Who Should Win: “Logan”

Who I Want to Win: “The Disaster Artist”

Who Will Win: “Molly’s Game”

I’m not entirely sure about this one. I really want “The Disaster Artist” to walk away with the award, especially since this is its only nomination, but its not mainstream enough to get it. The voters will immediately be against “Logan” for being a super hero movie, so it won’t win. That leads me to believe that Aaron Sorkin will get the award again for “Molly’s Game.”

 

 

Best Animated Feature:

Who Should Win: “Coco”

Who I Want to Win: “Coco”

Who Will Win: “Coco”

It’s Pixar…and one of the few good animated films of the year…and I’m upset that “The Lego Batman Movie” didn’t get nominated for this one. Does the Academy just despise these Lego movies, or do they just not see them as animation?

Best Director:

Who Should Win: Greta Gerwig for “Lady Bird”

Who I Want to Win: Guillermo del Toro for “The Shape of Water”

Who Will Win: Guillermo del Toro for “The Shape of Water”

And so we come the biggest awards of the night. Best Director really comes down to either Greta Gerwig or Guillermo del Toro, for different reasons. This is Gerwig’s directorial debut and she really knocked it out of the park on this one. While del Toro created this stunning fantasy exactly the way that he wanted to make it. I will say that I’ve read articles about how everyone’s convinced that del Toro is going to win this award, mostly for being snubbed back when “Pan’s Labyrinth” came out, so it makes me very happy to say that I think Guillermo will win this one.

Best Supporting Actress:

Who Should Win: Laurie Metcalf for “Lady Bird”

Who I Want to Win: Laurie Metcalf for “Lady Bird”

Who Will Win: Laurie Metcalf for “Lady Bird”

Really the only obvious choice out of the acting categories this year. While I think there’s a slight chance that Allison Janney for “I, Tonya” could win this award, Laurie Metcalf was the stand out performance in a film full of stand out performances. She wins from sheer honesty alone.

Best Supporting Actor:

Who Should Win: Christopher Plummer for “All the Money in the World”

Who I Want to Win: Sam Rockwell for “Three Billboard Outside Ebbing, Missouri”

Who Will Win: Sam Rockwell for “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”

Sam Rockwell is one of the most underrated yet passionate actors in Hollywood and I would love for him to keep getting more recognition. His performance in “Three Billboard” was one of the most mesmerizing roles I’ve ever seen, simultaneously making me love and hate this man. That is an unbelievable accomplishment, and he deserves the award for that alone.

Best Actress:

Who Should Win: Frances McDormand for “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”

Who I Want to Win: Sally Hawkins for “The Shape of Water”

Who Will Win: Frances McDormand for “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”

This is the most difficult award for me to pick for this year’s Oscars, because I want Sally Hawkins to win with every fiber of my being. Everything is telling me that she deserves to win for giving honestly the best performance I’ve seen in the last five years from anybody. I would love it if she won…but I don’t think she will, not when Frances McDormand is her competition. I think it’ll come down to those two, but in the end, McDormand’s role speaks to the current state of our world and that’s going to play a big factor for the voters.

Best Actor:

Who Should Win: Daniel Kaluuya for “Get Out”

Who I Want to Win: Gary Oldman for “Darkest Hour”

Who Will Win: Gary Oldman for “Darkest Hour”

Much like what Eddie Redmayne did in “The Theory of Everything,” Gary Oldman disappeared in his performance as he portrayed one of the most famous and well-known Englishman of the all time. While I think Daniel Kaluuya and Daniel Day-Lewis have a chance to win, it’s going to be very hard to compete against Oldman’s performance as Winston Churchill.

 

 

Best Picture:

Who Should Win: “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”

Who I Want to Win: “The Shape of Water”

Who Will Win: “Lady Bird”

And so we come to the biggest award of the night…hopefully there isn’t another screw up like last years’ awards.

Honestly, there are plenty of reasons to say why films like “Call Me by Your Name,” “Dunkirk,” “Get Out,” “Lady Bird,” “The Shape of Water” and “Three Billboards” should walk away with Best Picture, so that makes picking a clear winner very difficult.

I’ll start by saying films like “Darkest Hour,” “The Post” and “Phantom Thread” are just happy to be included. I don’t think any of those three have a chance at winning Best Picture.

“Call Me by Your Name” is vastly different from any other film nominated as well as any other coming-of-age tale I’ve ever seen. It has a chance, but a slim one, since I don’t think the Academy would have two films about homosexuality win Best Picture in back-to-back years (since “Moonlight” won last year).

Everyone loves a good war film, and “Dunkirk” might be the best war film since “Apocalypse Now.” But the Academy has yet to recognize Christopher Nolan as anything more than a big-budget popcorn filmmaker, so I think that’ll hurt “Dunkirk” for this award.

While I think “The Shape of Water” is the best film of the year and one of the best theatrical releases in many years, I don’t think the Academy shares my enthusiasm. The Academy rarely goes for fantasies, and it’s even rarer when they go for a horror film. So one that combines those two genres is even less likely to win. It would be stellar if it won, and I would be cheering all year if it did, but I just don’t see it happening.

“Get Out” has a real chance of winning this award and it would not surprise me if it did. But if there’s any mark against “Get Out,” it is the February release. If “Get Out” came out in October or November of 2017, I think it would absolutely win Best Picture. But because it was released in February of last year, most of the voters will have forgotten about it by now. I think it has the best chance of any of the films I’ve covered so far, but it’s just barely edged out by the final two films – “Lady Bird” and “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.”

“Lady Bird” is here because it is the most authentic, honest and respectful film of 2017, while “Three Billboards” is a fiery passion piece that, at times, reflects the mood and anger many people in this country have right now against their freedom of speech and law enforcement. That makes this a very difficult choice between the two. I can see both of them winning Best Picture over the other, but my gut is telling me that “Three Billboards” might have rubbed some people the wrong way and that might hurt its chances. Therefore, I think this years’ winner for Best Picture will be “Lady Bird.”

Honestly, this has been one of the better years for cinema in a while and many of the films nominated for these awards absolutely deserve to win, which makes the competition for these awards to great this year. I eagerly wait for this years’ Academy Awards and can’t wait to see how my picks and predictions compare to what actually happens. Here’s hoping that the ceremony itself is as memorable as last years’, just not quite in the same way.

 

Godzilla-thon: Top Ten Scenes from the Godzilla Series

 

 

Now that I have looked at every single Godzilla film (with the exception of the newest movie, “Godzilla: Monster Planet” but I’ll be getting to that one soon enough), and given my thoughts on each of them in extensive detail, to the point that all of my reviews would probably be the length of an entire novel, I feel like I can take the next step and do one last thing with my Godzilla-thon.

In this case, that would be to look back at the series one last time and look at the finest moments from the entire Godzilla series – these are my top ten favorite moments from the Godzilla series.

The criteria for this top ten is simple – if it happened in any of the 31 Godzilla movies, it can make this top ten. I will be limiting each film to one entry at most, otherwise this countdown would probably be filled with nothing but scenes from “Shin Godzilla,” “Son of Godzilla” and “Mothra vs. Godzilla.” Other than that, these are the scenes that I remember fondly when I think of Godzilla and monsters, the ones that perfectly capture everything that is awe-inspiring and fun about this series.

Let’s start things off with…

 

 

Number Ten: The Final battle from “Ghidrah, the Three-Headed Monster”

While I had some problems with the plot and sillier moments in this movie, the final fight between Godzilla, Rodan, Mothra going up against King Ghidorah makes the whole thing worth it. I love the build-up to the fight and that it introduces that Godzilla and Rodan have egos that they must maintain for some reason. But I especially love the unique way all three monsters fight the golden space dragon, with Godzilla’s brute force and direct tactics, to Rodan’s stealthy yet swift moves, to Mothra’s intelligent yet limited decisions. They each have some great moments throughout this fight, but it truly shines when all three work together to fight an enemy none of them could take on their own.

Add in a wonderful score from Akira Ifukube and great suit acting all around, and you’ve got one of the best monster fights in the entire series.

 

 

Number Nine: Godzilla vs. Fake Godzilla/MechaGodzilla’s reveal from “Godzilla vs. MechaGodzilla”

To me, this scene is drenched with style. First of all, it finally gives us a fight fans have always wanted – Godzilla vs. Godzilla. In that regard, the fight doesn’t disappoint, as the oil refinery around them blows up, as if the earth itself is in awe over their fight. But when the Fake Godzilla sheds its skin and to reveal the decked-out MechaGodzilla and that saxophone starts up, I get goose bumps every time. I love that it comes out of no where, yet makes the fight even better now that MechaGodzilla can fight at his maximum potential, whipping the floor with Godzilla with just a few missiles and eye beams.

A great introduction to my favorite Godzilla villain.

 

 

Number Eight: Godzilla vs. Mecha-King Ghidorah from “Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah”

While I think the human scenes in “Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah” are laughable at best and cringe worthy at worst, the monster scenes are some of the best in the entire series, especially when Godzilla and King Ghidorah are fighting. But if there’s one stand-out scene, it has to be the final battle between Godzilla and Mecha-King Ghidorah. From the mechanical three-headed dragon emerging from a hole in the sky to his epic theme song, to Mecha-King Ghidorahs’ cyborg-like design, to its intense struggle with Godzilla that leaves most of Tokyo in ruins, this is one of the most tense scenes in the entire series, and easily one of the best battles in the entire Heisei series.

 

 

Number Seven: Mothra’s sacrifice/King Ghidorah’s revival from “Godzilla, Mothra, King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack”

I feel like this one makes the list due to its stellar effects and soundtrack alone. These two elements combine into something more than just another action sequence, but tells a very emotional short story of sacrifice and revival with very few words and awe-inspiring visuals. This is one of a few grand scenes in “GMK,” all of which take full advantage of scale and scope to leave us feeling small and helpless, but is certainly the scene from “GMK” that I fondly remember above all the others.

 

 

Number Six: Godzilla vs. Kong on Mt. Fuji from “King Kong vs. Godzilla”

This one is so high on the list mostly for nostalgic reasons, but also because it is just a cool power struggle between two iconic movie monsters. I love how it starts at the top of Mt. Fuji and slowly works its way down the mountain until the two are fighting over a pagoda, each getting the upper hand over the other several times throughout the fight to always make it feel like its evenly matched. The two monsters are honestly pretty brutal to each other at a couple points, especially when Godzilla buries Kong in rocks and lights up the forest around him, or Kong shoving a tree down Godzilla’s throat. If there’s any scene in this series that makes me feel like a kid again, it is the final battle in “Kong Kong vs. Godzilla.”

 

 

Number Five: Godzilla vs. the two Mothra Larvae from “Mothra vs. Godzilla”

I had a very hard time deciding between this fight and the one between Godzilla and the adult Mothra, but went with this one for a few reasons. One is the brain vs. brawn battle going on between these monsters and how satisfying it is to see Mothra’s offspring get the upper hand over the evil Godzilla. Another is how great it feels seeing Godzilla all wrapped up in Mothra’s silk, which is one of the most iconic images of the entire series. But I think the main reason is that serves as the perfect cap to a movie that is entertainment from start to finish, giving us a climax that wraps up everything nicely. It is more than just your standard monster overpowering another, but a war of wits and strategy, something you don’t get too often in these films.

 

 

Number Four: Rodan’s sacrifice from “Godzilla vs. MechaGodzilla II”

These last four scenes are perfect examples of every aspect coming together to create scenes that are nothing short of masterpieces. While the rest of their films may have their fair share of problems, these particular scenes hit every emotional note to give us a truly memorable scene. And we start with my favorite scene when I was a kid and still love to this day. Maybe it’s because of the hauntingly sad score that Akira Ifukube provides, or it could be Rodan’s utterly selfless act, providing us with one final development to an underrated interpretation of Rodan. It is touching, heart-breaking and makes Rodan far more than just another kaiju. Plus, it leads into one of the most badass sequences in the entire series as Godzilla and Super MechaGodzilla fight after Godzilla is brought back from the dead and given a massive power upgrade. Is it silly? Absolutely. But it takes itself seriously in all the right spots for this to be an effective and awesome sequence.

 

 

Number Three: Yashiori Strategy from “Shin Godzilla”

Goddamn, I love this scene!

This is the filmic definition of “triumph” and serves as the perfect cap to an impossible struggle for the Japanese people. While the scene of Godzilla using his atomic breath for the first time is terrifying, this scene never fails to bring a smile to my face. I love how the Japanese people work out this intelligent battle plan without sacrificing on stellar visuals. And that music! I adore the Ifukube military march they used and how it adds an emotional punch to every move the defense force makes against one of the scariest monsters (in both design and concept) I’ve ever seen. In a film about Japan’s fight for an identity in the face of bureaucracy, red-tape and an ever-evolving monster, this scene wrap up all of that in the most satisfying way possible.

 

 

Number Two: The Final scene from “Son of Godzilla”

This is not just the only scene in the entire series that makes me cry, but also one of the few scenes in all of cinema that makes me cry. Even with great endings from films like “Mothra vs. Godzilla,” “King Kong vs. Godzilla,” “Terror of MechaGodzilla” and “Shin Godzilla,” this is my pick for the best ending in the entire series, as we finally see Godzilla receive character development in a scene that makes you forget this tender moment is between two actors in rubber lizard suits. This is the sweetest moment in the series from one of the most underrated monster films of all time.

 

 

Number One: King Ghidorah vs. the Earth Monsters on Mt. Fuji from “Destroy All Monsters”

You know, I thought long and hard if there was any scene that I felt was better than the final monster battle from “Destroy All Monsters.” And even though I love every single scene in this top ten, I couldn’t think of anything that encapsulated Godzilla and daikaiju films in general than watching this all-out brutal yet awesome struggle between nearly a dozen different monsters. When I think of Godzilla, this scene is typically the first thing that comes to mind. I love the effects, the Mt. Fuji backdrop, the music, the unrelenting pace, and especially how each monster chooses to fight in a battle that perfectly summarizes an entire universe of monster movies. It takes what “King Kong vs. Godzilla” started and cranks it up to eleven, giving audiences the all-out battle we’ve always wanted.

There are of course loads of other scenes I adore from the Godzilla series, especially from films like “Godzilla vs. Hedorah” and “Invasion of Astro-Monster,” but I think this top ten encapsulates the best the series has to offer. Whether it is because of effects, tension, music, development or anything in between, these are the scenes that remind me how great and powerful Godzilla can truly be.

 

Movie Review – “Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters” (2017)

 

 

So yeah, there’s a new Godzilla movie out on Netflix. Not only that, it is the first animated Godzilla film and it is the first part in a trilogy of movies that takes a drastically different turn with the series.

So why do I feel like the first installment, “Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters,” was a bit of a disappointment? Well, more accurately, the word I would use to describe this film is “underwhelming.”

As the first part of a trilogy, it does its job of setting up this whole new world of monsters and the conflict our characters face. But it does everything so by the numbers that it doesn’t feel like it has any life to it, especially from these dull and rather emotionless characters. And then there’s Godzilla, who doesn’t really do anything Godzilla-related other than be big and imposing. They could have literally removed the word “Godzilla” from this movie and nothing would have been lost, which is extremely disappointing after “Shin Godzilla” breathed new life into the franchise.

In the late 20th century, the planet is overrun with giant monsters (all of which are Toho monsters from other films including “Godzilla 2000” and “Dogora”), causing the governments of the world to throw everything they have to defeat these monsters. Eventually though, they’re all defeated by the most powerful monster of all – Godzilla. In a desperate attempt to stop the final monster, the world leaders unleash everything they have at Godzilla, launching nearly 200 nuclear missiles at him – they don’t even leave a scratch on him.

 

 

Since their last hope failed, Godzilla now roams the planet unopposed, destroying everything in his path without remorse or concern. With the after effects of 200 nuclear missiles looming in the atmosphere and no chance of defeating Godzilla, the human race flees the Earth in a desperate attempt to locate a suitable planet elsewhere, leaving Godzilla the lone ruler of Earth.

All of this is told to us through flashbacks in the first few minutes of the movie, along with humans getting aid from alien races that also want to call Earth their home and want to fight Godzilla. Honestly, this is the most interesting part of the movie – simply hearing about how the human race collapsed in the face of giant monsters and their impossible fight against Godzilla. I want to see that as the movie, at least then we’d get to see Godzilla fight monsters like Dogora and Dagarha from “Rebirth of Mothra II.”

Instead, what we get is a hard cut to 20 years in the future, when the surviving human race makes it to a planet they always thought was going to be their new home, only to find out the surface of this planet is uninhabitable. With the ship running low on supplies and fuel, the leaders calculate that it would be impossible to find another suitable planet before they all died from starvation or running out of oxygen. They come to one conclusion – return to Earth via a subspace warp jump and hope that conditions have returned to normal and that Godzilla is long gone.

So now Godzilla is taking technology directly from Star Trek? I’m surprisingly okay with this development.

As it turns out, the scientists miscalculated how much time would have passed while they were in subspace. They thought only 1,000 years would pass, but it ends up being around 20,000 years and the Earth has changed significantly. The surface is still inhabitable, but it is covered in a thick fog (that turns out to be plant spores that release radiation into the atmosphere) and Godzilla-like dragons fly throughout the skies.

 

 

The whole idea of this trilogy seems to be that, while leaving Godzilla unattended on Earth for 20,000 years, he has become the top of the food chain and now the planet bends to his presence. An interesting concept that the film tries to explore, especially when we learn more about how Godzilla has changed the course of the planet and what that has done to him. But they don’t put a big focus on this, instead going for the humans’ struggle to retake the planet and their battle plan against Godzilla.

Everything about these characters feels utterly generic that it feels forced. Our protagonist is an angsty young man that wants revenge against Godzilla for killing his parents and constantly makes dumb speeches about how humanity needs to fight Godzilla to get our home back.

Great, another young adult main character that exists only to even the score against a giant fire-breathing monster! It’s not like that’s exactly the same motivation for most protagonists in the Heisei and Millennium series. Oh wait…

I’m also not a fan of the animation style at all. Everything about it feels block and unnatural, like everyone is a computer with very robotic unrealistic movements. It’s like I’m watching old PlayStation 1 video game cut scenes, not an animated film that came out in 2017. I realize this CG-style is faster and cheaper than hand-drawn animation, but this style has no polish or life to it. None of this film looks good, it is an ugly CG-filled mess.

Now that I’ve officially looked at every Godzilla film and ranked them from best to worst, you’re probably wondering where I would rank “Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters.” Well, after watching this film only once, I would say this film is probably somewhere in the mid-20s, right around “Godzilla X MechaGodzilla” and “Godzilla 2000.” It is not the worst thing that involves Godzilla, certainly not insultingly bad like the 1998 American film or “Godzilla: Final Wars,” but it is so bland and uninspired that I can’t say this is a good Godzilla film either.

 

 

Granted, this is just the first installment in a trilogy that tells one continuous story, so we’ve only seen a third of the full picture. For the time being, I’ll cut “Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters” some slack, especially with a reveal at the end that was genuinely shocking, and wait patiently for the final two installments. However, I still feel like the opening flashback was the best part of the film and that should have been the focus of this first entry.

My biggest complaint is that it doesn’t seem to care about what made the Godzilla franchise so endearing and memorable, for-going most monster interactions and instead tell a forgettable story told in the most unimaginative ways using piss-poor animation. If you’re a long time Godzilla fan like me, or even a casual fan of monsters or Godzilla, you probably won’t care for “Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters.” Here’s hoping the rest of the trilogy gets better.

Final Grade: C-

 

Paul’s Best of 2017

 

 

And so another year of cinema has come and gone. While I didn’t see as many movies in theaters as I would have liked to see, I would still say that 2017 was a very eventful year for movies. A lot of great movies started out the year, with films like “The Lego Batman Movie,” “Get Out” and “Logan,” while having a bit of a dry summer that led into a captivating fall and winter that had more than enough movies to keep us interested.

At this time, there are still plenty of movies from 2017 I haven’t seen, including “Shape of Water,” “Call Me By Your Name,” “Phantom Thread,” “All the Money in the World” and “Darkest Hour,” just to name a few. But, in the mean time, it’s about time we went over the best (and worst) films of the past year. As always, I’ve broken down films into certain categories that determine how I’ll remember this past year.

So let’s start things off with…

 

 

Biggest Surprise – “Get Out”

I’ll be honest, when I initially saw the trailer for “Get Out,” I laughed at how serious it was taking itself, while the trailer kept repeating “Get out! Get out! Get out!” It wasn’t until I saw the stellar reviews the film was getting that I started taking it seriously. And the entire time the film was going, I was transfixed, adoring how it presented a perspective and fear that I had never seen before or since. I left that theater absolutely loving every minute of this movie and respect how intelligent and well-thoughtout it was.

 

 

Most Technologically Impressive – “Coco”

While there weren’t a whole lot of films that I was impressed with on a technical level this year, I guess the one that stands out is the animated film that felt like it invented all sorts of new colors. I swear, “Coco” used such a vibrant color scheme that I saw shades of neon I’ve never seen before, like the whole film was this never ending technicolor rainbow of varying colors. I would consider that more impressive than anything any other film has done technically this year.

 

 

Most Fun in Theaters – “Thor: Ragnarok”

The best popcorn film of the year was such a blast! If I wasn’t laughing at the witty banter or great jokes, I was enthralled by the use of norse mythology and/or colorful alien worlds. Korg might be one of my favorite characters in the entire Marvel universe now, and we finally get a Thor film that never took itself seriously, leading to some really awesome action sequences that take full advantage of their wacky scenarios. This film was this year’s definition of fun.

 

 

Sleep Inducer – “Colossal”

This goes here because I’m pretty sure I fell asleep at one point. This is a boring, hateful movie that never fully embraces its genres of comedy and giant monsters, turning into a forgettable and sometimes hard to watch film that I’d rather forget about. Save yourself the trouble with this film and just watch “Shin Godzilla” instead.

 

 

Need to See Again – “Star Wars: The Last Jedi”

I really wanted to see the newest Star Wars in theaters again when I had the opportunity, but that chance hasn’t come quite yet. I feel like, in order to fully get Rian Johnson’s vision of Star Wars and what he really wanted to add to this universe, you need to see this film twice (again, very ingenious move by Disney). It felt like it added so much more to this sci-fi fairy tale that I missed on my initial viewing, so I do think a second watch is in order.

 

 

Funniest Film – “Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2”

I would have said “Thor: Ragnarok” again for this one, but I don’t want to repeat myself, so instead I’ll go with the film that honestly did leave me in stitches at a couple of points. Watching “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” is like watching Abbott and Costello trying to travel across the galaxy – the comedic timing between all of the main cast is pitch perfect and their witty banter is some of the best I’ve heard in any Marvel film. Plus, this film gave us the iconic line, “I’m Mary Poppins, y’all!” You really can’t go wrong with Yandu.

 

 

Biggest Disappointment – “Power Rangers”

As a longtime Power Rangers fan, this film was nothing but a big disappointment. While I didn’t have many expectations going into this film, I did expect to be entertained by some classic Power Ranger stuff, and we didn’t even get that. Instead it was teen angst and Krispy Kreme, never delving any deeper than a plastic spork on solid volcanic rock into what made the Power Rangers so great and memorable. The ultimate problem with this movie is that it doesn’t understand what made Power Rangers so iconic, even though it is something very simple that even the 1995 terrible movie understood. Hell, I’d take that turd of a movie from my childhood over this crapfest.

 

 

Most Forgettable – “American Made”

I completely forgot I saw this film until I looked through all of my reviews of 2017. My picks for this category are always the film that left literally no impression on me. They weren’t terrible enough to remember, nor did they have anything good to talk about to others. They just exist in the ether that means nothing to me. While “American Made” wasn’t a bad movie, it certainly wasn’t good either. Just a forgettable okay. And sometimes, that can be even worse than being a bad film.

At least I remember how bad “Power Rangers” made me feel. I can’t remember anything about “American Made” other than Tom Cruise flew a plane.

 

 

Most Overrated – “War for the Planet of the Apes”

I thought about giving this spot to “The Post,” but I think that film does deserve most of the praise it is getting. “War for the Planet of the Apes” on the other hand had very little going for it outside of its continued technological breakthroughs. The world was detailed and emmersive and the effects were stellar, but the story was almost nonexistent and the pacing was horrendous. After a certain point, I just stopped caring about everything these apes were fighting for. While this is a visual masterpiece, this film left me feeling pretty cold by the end.

 

 

Most Underrated – “Logan”

While we raved about this film when it came out, it feels like opinions on “Logan” have died down since its release. And while I gave this film an okay review back in March, my opinion on this film has only grown since then as I’ve realized that it’s not just a great comic book movie, but a wonderful conclusion to a story that was told over the course of nearly 10 movies and gave us one of the best unconventional westerns of all time. I love the bitter-sweet feeling to it all, as well as the heartache it provides as everything gets wrapped up. It may not end the way fans wanted it, but I honestly can’t imagine this ending any other way.

 

 

Best Performance – *Tie* James Franco as Tommy Wiseau in “The Disaster Artist” and Sam Rockwell as Officer Dixon in “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”

Two men who put everything they have on the screen for us to bare witness to, letting us judge not only their characters but their very souls. Both of these men were funny, heart-breaking, thought-provoking and always the center of attention when they were on screen. James Franco disappeared in this role as Tommy Wiseau, while Sam Rockwell gave us a performance that made you similtaneously love and hate this man. So I applaud both of these actors for giving us the year’s best performances.

 

 

Best Scene – Kong’s reveal and initial helicopter fight in “Kong: Skull Island”

While there were tons of scenes that I vividly remember, the one that reintroduced us to King Kong might be my favorite. From the camera movement, to the ballet-like movement of the helicopters to the orange and yellow color palette, this scene made me fall in love with Kong all over again.

 

 

Most Anticipated Film of 2018 – “Avengers: Infinity War”

How could I not be excited for a film that’s been building up for ten years? Litreally everything that the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been building up since “Iron Man” is coming together in this one movie. The castlist of stars alone is enough to cover up two posters, and it’s made by the same guys that did the last two Captain American movies. I cannot wait for this film to come out and see exactly how the heroes will combat the greatest evil they’ve ever faced.

 

 

Worst Film – “Kingsman: The Golden Circle”

This film was infuriating and insulting on more levels than I thought an action movie could be. It’s one thing if it’s a brainless action film, but it’s another thing entirely when an action film talks down to you, makes snap judgments about the world around us, and paints us all as incompetent morons would couldn’t save ourselves even if we tried. This film made me want to throw up, and made me hate Elton John! How dare you?!

Now before we get to my top five films of 2017, there’s still one question I always like to ask at the end of every year – Was this past year a good one for movies?

My typical criteria for defining what makes a “good year for movies” is the number of stellar or outstanding movies. Ones that weren’t just great entertainment, but ones that I’ll remember fondly years from now, long passed their initial run in theaters. A good year typically has at least three or four of these types of films, while a great year has five or more. Last year was a pretty good year, with films like “La La Land,” “Arrival,” “Moonlight” and “Shin Godzilla,” though not nearly as good as 2015 with an amazing ten wonderful movies.

But this year? I would say 2017 was a great year. As you’re about to find out, I would say there are at least seven or eight movies that are amazing and truly worth everyone’s time. And this is without seeing movies like “Shape of Water” or “Call Me By Your Name.” It was a year of movies that I felt told honest yet extremely human stories, about people who risked everything they had ever believed in, and offered us their flawed souls. Even blockbusters like “Wonder Woman” and “The Lego Batman Movie” did this exceptionally well.

Which brings us into my picks for the five best films of the year. This proved to be difficult for some of these picks, though I didn’t have a problem picking numbers one and two – they were, in my opinion, clearly the best films of the year.

Top Five Films of 2017 –

 

 

5. “The Disaster Artist”

This is not only the best movie about movies since “Ed Wood,” but it feels like a love letter to one of the most bizarre tales in all of Hollywood. It has one of the best performances of the year from James Franco that transcends the typical Tommy Wiseau impression that everyone has these days and a great sense of humor that never lets up. The ending sequence is the reason we go to the movies, offering a visual affection for one of the best worst films ever made.

 

 

4. “Lady Bird”

The best coming-of-age tale of the year, and one of the most relatable tales since “Boyhood,” “Lady Bird” feels like an entire generation wrapped up in one picture, with all of their dreams, fears, insecurities and style all on full display. With some of the best authentic writing that comes across as both humorous and heartwarming, I have no problem saying this is the film I respect the most in 2017.

 

 

3. “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”

I honestly did not see this one coming. “Three Billboards” was just the right kind of different and weird that I wanted to see, while still remaining honest yet brutal. It doesn’t pull any punches while not giving the audience a clear answer about its morals and ethics, showing us characters that constantly act like villains but never feel like anything less than flawed humans. It has three wonderful performances and the pacing never lets up. It is my pick for the best indie film of the year.

 

 

2. “Blade Runner 2049”

“Blade Runner 2049” makes the number two spot almost because of cinematography alone. Without a doubt in my mind, this is the best visual spectacle of the year and probably the best since “Gravity.” The story world is just as fascinating though and is explored in beautiful and loving detail. The mystery is extremely fascinating and Ryan Gosling’s character makes for a wonderful evolution in this world where the line between android and human is getting thiner every day. While I feel it does have pacing problems, that is not nearly enough to dissaude me from saying that everyone needs to see this movie and see how science fiction is done right.

 

 

1. “Dunkirk”

Visual storytelling at its finest. “Dunkirk” feels like if Alfred Hitchcock made a big budget silent war film – it is eerie, tense, heart-pounding and makes you feel like you’re there with these men fighting for their lives against a faceless enemy, and all without hardly ever saying a word. This might be my pick for Christopher Nolan’s best film, because of how masterfully he weaves in and out of his three parallel stories to create this dynamic and very human struggle for survival.

Honorable Mentions – “Logan,” “Wonder Woman,” “Kong: Skull Island,” “The Lego Batman Movie,” “Thor: Ragnarok,” “Get Out” and “It.”

 

Paul’s Recap of 2017

 

 

And so 2017 has come to an end. As a whole, 2017 was a marked improvement over 2016 in some areas, but was just as hard to get through. In terms of cinema, 2017 offered a greater variety of blockbusters and some stunning films near the beginning of the year, as well as two of the most visually pleasing films of the past decade.

As for this blog, 2017 was by far the most productive year to date, and that blows me away. While I only watched 91 new films, far fewer than 2016’s 115 new movies and not even close to 2015’s 127, I still managed to generate 131 blog posts this year, which is more than any other year I’ve been writing reviews and editorials. I guess the main reason for this is the Godzilla-thon, as well as each movie getting its own review. But in any case, it’s a sign that I’ve been writing much more than usual and I intend to put even more work into the blog this year.

So, in case you were wondering, here’s a recap of every film I watched in 2017 and the final grade that I gave all of them. The only ones I didn’t write about were 2016’s “The Jungle Book” and “McCabe and Mrs. Miller.”

 

 


1. “The Time Machine” (1960) C+

2. “La La Land” (2016) A+

3. “In the Mood for Love” (2000) B

4. “Of Mice and Men” (1939) B-

5. “Dodes’ka-den” (1970) B-

6. “In the Heat of the Night” (1967) A

7. “Moonlight” (2016) A-

8. “Hoop Dreams” (1994) A-

9. “Intolerance” (1916) C-

10. “Hidden Figures” (2016) B

11. “The Pink Panther” (1964) B+

12. “Manchester by the Sea” (2016) C

13. “Lion” (2016) A-

14. “Adam’s Rib” (1950) B+

15. “The Quiet Man” (1952) A-

16. “Fences” (2016) C-

17. “The Lego Batman Movie” (2017) A

18. “Cabaret” (1972) C

19. “John Wick: Chapter 2 ” (2017) B

20. “Split” (2017) B+

21. “Roman Holiday” (1953) B

22. “Swing Time” (1936) – B

23. “Shaft” (1971) – B-

24. “Deliverance” (1972) – C+

25. “Poltergeist” (1982) – B+

 

 

 

26. “Kong: Skull Island” (2017) – A-

27. “Nashville” (1975) – C+

28. “Spartacus” (1960) – C

29. “Mrs. Miniver” (1942) – C+

30. “Get Out” (2017) – A-

31. “Logan” (2017) – B+

32. “House” (1977) – B

33. “Power Rangers” (2017) – D+

34. “A Face In the Crowd” (1952) – A

35. “Sleeper” (1973) – A+

36. “An Affair to Remember” (1957) – C

37. “Lady Snowblood” (1973) – B+

38. “Coraline” (2009) – A-

39. “Alien: Covenant” (2017) – B-

40. “Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2” (2017) – B

41. “El Dorado” (1966) – A-

42. “Lady Snowblood: Love Song of Vengeance” (1974) – B+

43. “Imitation of Life” (1959) – B-

44. “The Omen” (1976) – A-

45. “House on Haunted Hill” (1959) – A

46. “Wonder Woman” (2017) – A-

47. “Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea” (1961) – B-

48. “Baby Driver” (2017) – A

49. “Brief Encounter” (1945) – B-

 

50. “Spider-Man: Homecoming” (2017) – B

51. “War for the Planet of the Apes (2017) – C+

52. “White Zombie” (1932) – D+

53. “Dunkirk” (2017) – A

54. “The Lion in Winter” (1968) – B+

55. “Colossal” (2017) – D

56. “Atomic Blonde” (2017) – C

57. “Dogora” (1964) – B-

58. “She Wore A Yellow Ribbon” (1949) – C

59. “Manhattan Murder Mystery” (1993) – B+

60. “Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid” (1973) – A-

61. “Logan Lucky” (2017) – B+

62. “Marty” (1955) – A-

63. “Murder, My Sweet” (1944) – A-

64. “It” (2017) – B

65. “The Bang Wagon” (1953) – B-

66. “The Lego Ninjago Movie” (2017) – C-

67. “American Made” (2017) – C-

68. “Kingsman: The Golden Circle” (2017) – D

69. “To Be or Not to Be” (1942) – B

70. “My Little Pony: The Movie” (2017) – C+

71. “Blade Runner 2049” (2017) – A

72. “Thor: Ragnarok” (2017) – A-

73. “Destry Rides Again” (1939) – A-

74. “Carnival of Souls” (1962) – D+

75. “THX-1138” (1971) – C

 

 

76. “Ugetsu” (1953) – B+

77. “The Dirty Dozen” (1967) – C+

78. “Justice League” (2017) – C+

79. “Coco” (2017) – B+

80. “Road to Morocco” (1942) – A

81. “The Four Horseman of the Apocalypse” (1921) – C-

82. “Amarcord” (1973) – B-

83. “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” (2017) – B

84. “The Disaster Artist” (2017) – A

85. “The Right Stuff” (1983) – A-

86. “High Society” (1956) – A-

87. “A Star Is Born” (1954) – C-

88. “Cinema Paradiso” (1988) – B

89. “The Jungle Book” (2016) – C-

90. “McCabe and Mrs. Miller” (1971) – A

91. “Gilda” (1946) – A-

 

 

There are still plenty of films from 2017 that I want to see, including “The Shape of Water,” “Lady Bird,” “Darkest Hour,” “The Post” and many others. What you can expect for this blog in the near future is my usual recap of the best (and worst) films of 2017, my Oscar Predictions once the nominations are announced, and two more additions to my Godzilla-thon (one fairly soon and one not so soon). And, of course, lots and lots of movie reviews.

I’ve thought about doing some television reviews in 2018, but I’ve also thought about maybe taking 2018 to write some other stuff that isn’t related to movies or television reviews, so we’ll see how that goes. This year, I’m aiming to watch around 80 movies that I’ve never seen before and about 20 television shows that are new to me.

Thank you all for another great year and continually coming back to hear about my thoughts and feelings about the random things I’m watching. You are all amazing, wonderful people. I hope that you enjoy what’s coming in 2018 and I’ll see you at the movies!

 

Number 1 – “Mothra vs. Godzilla” (1964)

 

 

I’m not afraid to admit, for all of cinemas’ subtleties, advancements, and vast range of storytelling, that would go no where if audiences did not have fun with these films. Cinema is certainly an art form, but it is also a form of entertainment, like any other media or art form. If art does not give you any enjoyment, then it fails.

The reason the Godzilla series means so much to me is because I have been entertained by its many films for most of my life. Even films as low on this countdown as “Godzilla vs. Space Godzilla” still have one or two things that I enjoyed, with each entry after that getting better than the last, until we get to the most entertaining movie I’ve ever seen, “Mothra vs. Godzilla.”

“Mothra Vs. Godzilla” taught me it was possible for a daikaiju film to have a strong narrative that was as interesting to watch as the monster scenes. That a monster movie should not be only about the monsters, but the people effected by these monsters and their attempts to combat them, or simply survive. This is not the first time the Godzilla movies did this obviously, but “Mothra vs. Godzilla” has the benefit of having impressive effects and Akira Ifukube’s best score.

 

 

 

The film starts with a massive typhoon hitting Japan, destroying an industrial park. More surprising though is that a giant egg washes up on a Japanese beach, leaving everyone surprised as to where it came from. Before researchers can find out about the egg, a business man by the name of Kumayama (Yoshifumi Tajima) buys the egg from the local fishermen and intends to make a theme park with the egg as the center attraction.

A local reporter, Sakai (Akira Takarada) and his photographer, Yoka (Yuriko Hoshi) look into the matter and find that Kumayama is being funded by one of the richest business men in Japan, Banzo Torahata (Kenji Sahara). As the two discuss their plans, they are visited by two unexpected guests – Mothra’s twin fairies, who claim that the egg belongs to Mothra and that it must be returned to them, before Mothra hatches and causes great damage across Japan.

Though this might be the least of their problems, as it seems that typhoon washed ashore something much bigger and more dangerous than Mothra.

“Mothra Vs. Godzilla” has an interesting atmosphere, unlike any other monster film out of Japan. Other than “King Kong vs. Godzilla,” this was the first film Toho would make that has two monsters battling each other. Prior to this, Toho focused on solo monster endeavors, like “Rodan,” “Varan” and most notably, “Godzilla” and “Mothra.” As such, Toho wanted to make this match-up feel grand and epic. They do this by combining storylines and themes from both “Godzilla” and “Mothra” to create a film that balances eerie destruction with a whimsical adventure.

 

 

“Godzilla” was a morbid, unforgiving look at the lives of a frail Japan being savagely beat down by a giant monster created by atomic fire. While “Mothra” was more about the horror of man, in particular greedy businessmen. In that film, Mothra’s twin fairies are kidnapped and forced into show business, with Mothra traveling across Japan to save them and destroying anything in its path. Ultimately, “Mothra” is about the pain that man inflicts upon itself, while still feeling like a light-hearted fantasy.

“Mothra vs. Godzilla” finds the perfect middle ground between these two oddly different monster movies that makes their final clash feel like more than just two titans battling it out, but also feels like a conflict of ideals.

Much like in “Mothra,” this film finds a way to use the giant moth’s property into a means of profit. Both Kumayama and Torohata are unwilling to give the egg back, since Mothra has no legal power. They boast about how rich they’ll be when they make an entire theme park around the egg and build up the mystery of what will hatch from it. Where this film differs is that these men are more fleshed-out than the villain in “Mothra.”

Kumayama saw an opportunity to make a name for himself and refuses to let it go. It seems to be less about the money for him, and more about reputation, as his projections for how much they’ll make out of this are much lower than Torohata’s numbers. When the fishermen complain that they haven’t gotten their money for the egg and the land to build the park, Kumayama insists that he will pay them back the next day, even though there’s a rumor the park will never open due to the bad press. Kumayama ends up paying the fishermen money out of his own pocket and sells all of his stock on the egg as collateral to Torohata.

I get the impression that Kumayama is a desperate man who wanted everything to be fair, only for Torohata to betray his loyalty and use him to become even more powerful. Simply because that’s how business works. Kumayama is less of a villain and more of a guinea pig and shield for Torohata, even though Kumayama is still consumed by greed and ambition to see his final outcome.

With a wonderfully charming performance from Yoshifumi Tajima that adds just enough humanity to Kumayama, his character is up there with Dr. Mafune and Katsura as one of the best characters in the franchise.

“Mothra Vs. Godzilla” takes the themes of greed and capitalism of “Mothra,” but gives it a more human touch by making the characters relatable and sometimes heart-breaking, like those being destroyed in “Godzilla.”

The size and scope of “Godzilla” is also still in full effect, though is enhanced by having superior effects. In particular, Godzilla’s opening rampage is one of the most haunting monster sequences I can think of. It starts off with Godzilla rising out of the ground, as if he were a zombie ready to feast again. There’s something even more haunting about seeing Godzilla’s dorsal spines slowly rise out of the Earth instead of the water that makes his entrance stand out.

Once Godzilla reaches Nagoya, we start off with seeing Godzilla’s figure way off in the distance, only for the camera to get closer and closer, until Godzilla is destroying a building right in front of our faces. It’s like the opening shots of Godzilla in “King Kong vs. Godzilla,” where his dominating figure continues to grow.

 

 

This sequence makes full use of rear projection and super-imposing images of Godzilla over live shots of Nagoya fleeing from this monstrosity. “Godzilla” used this a few times, but here we see Godzilla tower over the massive city landscape, to the point where it looks like he is still miles away and is already bigger than most of the skyscrapers.

For this reason, and many more throughout the film, “Mothra Vs. Godzilla” has the best effects of any Toho monster film. During the 1950s and 1960s, no other film studio was doing what Toho did and was doing so well – they made creatures bigger than anything we had constructed up to that point and made them seem believable and still terrifying. We would fight it with everything we had, even though we were sure it wouldn’t do anything.

The filmmakers understand the scale and power these abominations possess, and that they provide a struggle we might lose but certainly worth fighting.

This works in “Mothra vs. Godzilla” because the defense force is intelligent for once. They understand what they are fighting and know that Godzilla cannot be stopped, but can be incapacitated or moved to less populated areas. They lure Godzilla away from the most densely populated areas with fire and explosives, with the effects crew accidentally setting Godzilla’s head on fire at one point (though it is shocking to see on film). Once there, the military unleashes millions of volts of electricity on Godzilla, which do down Godzilla at one point.

This is why “Mothra Vs. Godzilla” is the most entertaining movie to me. It takes my favorite movie genre of giant monsters, never skips on a chance for exciting action with impressive effects, and still plans out every scene, character, and monster fight to the last detail to give us a movie that respects its audience. It combines eye-popping visuals with a great story, something you don’t see too often in the monster genre.

Of course, the crowning moments in the film are the fights between Mothra and Godzilla. Mothra, being a creature of beauty and kindness, does not fight like any other monster. She prefers to out-wit her opponents and get them in a position where they cannot hit her, using her maneuverability and wind to keep them away. Godzilla is monster of brute strength and will take a threat directly to the face if he has to. Together, these two have a cat-and-mouse style fight, where Mothra blasts Godzilla with hurricane-force winds and drags him around by his tail.

This is made more suspenseful when we’re told that Mothra is dying and has little strength left, but will use the last of it to stop Godzilla.

 

 

The battle at the end of the film is equally as fun to watch. Mothra’s egg finally hatches and gives birth to two Mothra larva, who immediately head for Godzilla to fight him. This turns into a battle of brains against brawn and the monster equivalent of David against Goliath. The twin Mothra’s can only dodge Godzilla’s atomic ray (which apparently is now strong enough to melt solid rock) and use their webbing to slow him down.

What helps sell these fights, as well as any scenes with Godzilla and Mothra, is the music. Akira Ifukube’s style of music was not to accompany the scene, but enhance the atmosphere and give some moments a bigger emotional punch. This is the film where Ifukube would nail down the classic Godzilla theme, which would be used in nearly every Godzilla film from that point on. That theme carries a power that matches Godzilla’s slow methodical pace, but also his immeasurable strength, like a bomb that has crashed and could go off at any moment.

Yet the quiet almost lullaby of Mothra’s theme provides a nice contrast to the Godzilla theme. These pieces of music perfectly capture their respective characters, and makes their fights far more intense when their themes are also fighting for control.

“Mothra Vs. Godzilla” is a great example of every film aspect coming together to produce the most entertaining film in the Godzilla franchise. The effects have never been better, the writing is logical and relatable, the acting matches the writing perfectly, the music is larger than life and makes so many scenes better, and the monsters are still amazing to watch. This film manages to take what “Godzilla” and “Mothra” started and makes it even better, providing a film that always makes me excited when I see it.

 

 

But above all else, it captures everything I love about Godzilla perfectly. “Mothra vs. Godzilla” takes a monster of immeasurable strength and power and uses it as a way to show people’s strengths and flaws. Some people like Kumayama and Torohata grow greedy and selfish in the face of these creatures, while others like Sakai and Yoka are quicker to make their fellow man better and act selflessly.

Godzilla isn’t just an allegory, or destroyer, or protector, or even a monster – he’s a mirror that brings out the best and the worst in people.

And with that, we’ve reached the end of my Godzilla-thon. All 31 films reviewed and categorized from best to worst. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did writing these reviews and recounting everything that I loved and hated about this series. If you’re interested in any of the Godzilla films, I highly suggest you check them out, especially since the Criterion collection just bought the rights to nearly every Showa film. Plus, there are plenty more Godzilla films being made as we speak, so don’t expect me to be done with the King of the Monsters for good.