Sunday Night Movie: Gojira

gojira_cover For those who are horribly Americanized, the film I watched Sunday Night was the original 1954 Godzilla movie. In Japan the films was titled Gojira, but a new name was selected when the film was re-edited and brought to the United States.

When the film came to America it was decided by the distribution company that the best chance for a wider audience and more money was to add an American character to the film. Scenes were trimmed or outright deleted in order to make room for the story of US Reporter Steve Martin and his coverage of the fantastic monster rising from the depths of the Pacific Ocean.

If you have not seen the original film you really should. It is a much more complex and thoughtful piece than the American edit and far more than the daikaiju that followed in Gojira’s massive wake.

I picked up a copy of the original film on blu-ray and the quality is generally good. The film has some scratches and imperfections, the kind you typically see in an older film without the benefits of extensive restoration. It is also true that many of the shots in the film were never pristine. The quality of the film stock and the equipment in Japan at the time severely limited their capability in special effects. What they did achieve in this film, with a limited budget and very limited time is astounding.

In this version of the film there is a much more direct metaphor made between Gojira and nuclear weapons and war in general. The devastation brought by the atomic bombs is directly mentioned, something omitted from the American release.

Also in this version there is stronger character story and few things are resolved without pain and confusion on the the part of the characters.

If you have never seen this film — and seeing the 1956 American release does NOT count — you should.

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Loscon report the second

So it is Sunday morning and day two of Loscon 36 is not but a memory. It is a happy memory.
Many of the panels I attended were aimed towards writers and I found them at least entertaining and mildly informative. (The truth of the matter is that much of was geared toward the novice writer and I have advanced beyond much of that advice.)
I did attend a presentation on a book called “Keep Watching The Skies! American SF films of the 50’s.” Man, I want that book.
It big and heavy, so heavy it hurt my poor arthritic fingers, but for a classic SF film nut like your humble host it is the perfect reference material.
Sadly it runs $99 and that is just beyond what I can afford to pay for a book.

Plenty of parties in the evening and there were fun. (Though I did miss my sweetie-wife. She stayed in the room still under the weather from a flu she has been fighting.) I did make a connected with an editor of an SF podcast, so I might be getting a story online that way soon.

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Blu-ray Review Star Trek (2009)

blu-ray-star-trekOn Thanksgiving I also watched the blu-ray of Star Trek with the audio commentary on, finishing off all the bonus materials that were included on the disc. Unlike,  G.I. Joe: The Rise Of Cobra, this blu-ray was packed with bonus material.

With the Star Trek blu-ray there is a second disc just for all the short documentaries on the making of the film. They are entertaining and informative. There are also a few deleted scenes, most are unneeded for the story but I do wish that they had kept the longer version of young Kirk takes the car. In the longer version you see Kirk’s older brother George — I wonder if he’s going to end up toast in this alternate universe — and more importantly to me you learn that the car does not belong to Kirk’s stepfather, but rather belonged to his actual father. Stealing it was an act of rebel and taking back from the stepfather what was not his. It was kind of nice.

The transfer for the film to blu-ray was perfect. Even while listening to the commentary track I kept getting sucked in the beauty of the images on the screen. the Commentary track is Director J.J. Abrams, two producers, and the two writers of the script. You can tell that these people enjoy working with each other and have a passion for the material. The writers even joked about putting in an after credit sequence with the S.S. Botany Bay, but decided against it.

If you like bonus material this disc set is for you.

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LosCon Report The First

So this weekend is LosCon 36, the annual L.A. area science-fiction and fantasy convention. Time is short for me this morning so this will be a brief report on the first day of the convention. (Which was Friday, yesterday.)
We left San Diego about 9 am and got to the hotel about 11 am. It was a pleasant drive we passed the time with conversation and a few thorny problems in firearms and armor in an SF environment.

The first panel was SF Horror films, but it really turned into a conversation on SF films in general. Still it was entertaining.

After lunch I was at SF Economics with the Kolin brothers on the panel. They wrote ‘The Unincorporated Man’ something I need to read after I write Cawdor.

We ended the day with Bridget Landry of JPL and her Cassini probe presentation. Always worth seeing.

Sweetie-wife and I walked several blocks for dinner at a little Greek place. It was decent. Then we came back and hit a couple of parties.

About 9pm I stopped by something called MEN INTO SPACE 50 years later. Turns out it was about a TV program that tried very hard to do stories about a US space program. It was really not bad at all.

I ended the night with a Zombie movie premier, Bled White. Not bad, it was about student film school level in quality but I watched the whole thing, and then was off to bed.

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Blu-ray Review: G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra

G.I.JOE Part of my Thanksgiving Day was watching the G.I. Joe: The Rise Of Cobra blu-ray with the audio commentary turned on. I have now gone through all the features of the blu-ray and so here are my quick impressions.

The film transfer is a good one. The image and sound seem very much like the theater experience. The film works a little less well on the small screen than it did on the big screen, but not so much so that it felt flawed. This sort of over-the-top action cartonny movie really succeeds best when you can be totally immersed in the visuals and the sounds to carry you past the impossible action.

The special feature on the blu-ray felt sparse to me. There are two documentaries on this disc, each under 30 min in length. One generalized feature and one on the visual effects. Really I expect more from my blu-rays and wish that they had thought a little more on the special features.

The audio commentary was interesting and informative. The two biggest surprises to me from the commentary track were about the kid-ninjas. (Stormshadow and  Snake Eyes  as children) Turns out the fight scene really was done by two twelve-year old boys. Both were champions in martial arts. It really is an impressive fight sequence.

The second was that the film maker really did think about the ‘falling ice’ problems in the third act. It seems that their justification for the sequence is that there is so much infrastructure built into the ice that when it is separated from the main ice pack it’s now too heavy to float. Okay — I could buy that, but it needed a little more explanation in the film itself.

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Thanksgiving

I’m not a religious person so this is not a time for me to give thanks and praise to an anthropomorphic deity; however we can still be thankful for the good thing and fortunes that have come our way.

First and foremost of course is my sweetie-wife. Meeting her in Boston September 2004 was truly one of life’s more fortunate turns. I have been and continue to be very happy with her in my life.

I am thankful for the good and loyal friends I have. They make up my west coast family and truly make life more enjoyable.

I have a good job with good pay and I work with good people. Few can truly say all of that, plus I help people at work. I know that right now I am making some people’s live truly better.

I sold a second story, proving that the first was not a fluke.

I thankful to have watched a good friend, Gail Carriger, publish her first novel. One that came up and out of the slush pile. I am so very happy for her.

Aside from a few minor problems under control with modern medication, I am in good health and in good spirits.

I have more and more visitors to this site and I am thankful for each and every return visit.

I hope your lives are going as well and as happily.

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It could have been worse…

So last weekend I was playing around with the Garage Band software that comes with my apple computer.

Now understand that I have absolutely no training or education in the fields of music or musical composition. Anyway Garage Band has loops of music pieces that you can lay down as track. You can mix the tracks and do all sorts of interesting things with them I had laid down a drumbeat and was playing around with other pre-recorded instrumental tracks.

The results were apparently not to my sweetie-wife’s ear. Her comment was that I should leave music to ‘professionals.’

I take it as a consolation that she has never said a similar thing about my prose.

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Crossed Fingers

For the last year or so one of my sweetie-wife’s lovebirds has been acting strangely. He will tilt his head back until it’s laying flat along his spine. Lately his balance has gotten bad and he become quite unsteady. Today my sweetie-wife learned that this condition is called’stargazing’ and where we had assumed it was because the bird was aged it could be from other factors.

Tomorrow she is taking the bird to an avian vet and maybe, if the stars align just right, we make the little fellow well again.

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Sunday Night Movie: Night Of The Living Dead

night_of_the_living_dead This is a movie I listed as one of the most influential horror films of all time, George A. Romero‘s Night Of The Living Dead. This is the film that forever changed what we consider to be  zombie, and yet when George Romero made the movie the one word he never used in the script was zombie. The monsters were always called things, or ghouls.

Before this film any movies about zombies generally dealt with them as though they are from Caribbean myth, the reanimated corpses of the recently dead that serve the wishes of an evil wizard or priest. In White Zombie they are laborers making a sugar cane plantation work, in other films armies of the dead are used, but always there is a controlling agency that is the source of the scourge with understandable if somewhat irrational motivations.

With Night Of The Living Dead (Originally titled Night Of The Flesh Eaters.) Romero created a new monster, one that everyone else referred to as a zombie and that in end supplanted the Caribbean zombie as the de-facto zombie legend.

In terms of filmcraft, this film is a flawed film suffering from a lack of skill in the writing and direct through limited budget and effect capability. If you watch this film looking for quality film making you will be disappointed. What this film had, especially for its time (1968) was shock value. Compared to the horror films of of the 60’s this is an in your face gore-fest. The film is simply relentless in his ferocity. At this time other films were satisfied with smear of blood for gore, while Romero took the audience up close to entrails eating ghouls. The film was also ground breaking in the casting of a black man in the heroic lead. At the time when race riots were breaking out and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr was being assassinated, to have a black hero ordering about a white man and slapping a hysterical white woman was simply unparalleled.  It is to Romero’s ethical credit that he saw nothing ground breaking in this. He has made mention in numerous interviews that the actor, Duane Jones, got the part simply because he was the best actor who read for it.

The film’s tones is also more like something from the 70’s than something from the 60’s. Its futile ending reflects the growing cynicism and fatalism in american society.

Of course the films lasting influence was with the creation of the new screen monster, the zombie. After this movie zombies became self-motivated — usually only by hunger — relentless hordes of undead. They were freed of the slavery imagery and instead became an all-consuming mindless crowd. Eventually zombies as a monster factionalized as new filmmakers tried new ways to invigorate and revitalized the concept (If I can be pardoned for using the term in relation to the undead.) Dan O’Bannon gave us smart and indestructible zombies in Return Of The Living Dead, — which is actually a sequel to Night Of The Living DeadZack Snyder gave us fast zombies in the remake of Dawn Of The Dead,  and Danny Boyle gave us viral zombies in 28 Days Later. There have been others cause the zombie genre is not dead, but forever undead and ready to bite, however they all owe a debt to George A. Romero and nine friends who wanted to make a monster movie.

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