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3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
Villains United., 17 August 2014

Villains get the spotlight in BATMAN: ASSAULT ON ARKHAM, a loose prequel set before the critically acclaimed Batman: Arkham Asylum video game. A black ops mission to assassinate the Riddler is foiled by Batman, prompting CIA operative Amanda Waller to assemble "Task Force X", aka The Suicide Squad. Morally ambiguous Vigilante Black Spider, seductive ice queen Killer Frost, savage brute King Shark, Australian scoundrel Captain Boomerang, crazy Harley Quinn and the cynical assassin Deadshot. These sociopathic misfits have to put aside their differences to work together, lest they "lose their heads".

Playing out like a good ol fashioned heist film in the vein of THE Italian JOB or OCEAN'S ELEVEN, we see six villains assembled by Amanda Waller and sent on a mission impossible deep into the heart of the dreaded Arkham Asylum to retrieve a thumb drive containing sensitive information, that was in the Riddler's possession. From the electronic heavy rock soundtrack to the Taratino-esque roll call opening credits sequence, you know you are in for a completely different animated movie. The fun begins when we get to see how well these bad guys play off one another in a script that is chock full of dark humour and depth.

Although each villain does not get much development, we do get a "keynotes" look into their personalities, their motivations and their minds as the brisk pace of the movie sprints from action scene to action scene. Their roles in the team are familiar archetypes for classic villain teams: the alpha male leader (Deadshot), the butt monkey backstabber (Captain Boomerang), the dumb muscle (King Shark), the seductress (Killer Frost), the mysterious odd one out (Black Spider), and the psycho (Harley Quinn). Yet in this familiarity comes the opportunity for the characters to truly shine thanks to some magnificent chemistry and voice acting.

Alas, for a title named "Batman: Assault on Arkham" the titular Batman plays a supporting, almost cameo, role. But when he does appear, he exhibits a powerful on screen presence. Those barely visible eyes staring intensely from within the cowl, the new look of the costume which blends the dark blue streamlined design of Justice League Unlimited with the armoured detailing of New 52, not to mention the return of the classic Batman voice Kevin Conroy. But I digress. Batman is not the focus here, the Suicide Squad is. And they get one hell of a 75 minute showcase. Throughout the movie, you get a sense that some of the team members have their own agenda and secrets. What looks like a crazy outburst turns out to be a well calculated distraction for example. This movie keeps you guessing and keeps the tension up from start to finish.

Like previous DC Animated movies, ASSAULT ON ARKHAM does not shy away from bloody violence or semi-sexual depictions. The near nudity, the blood letting, it is insane, threading close to an "R" rating. Action is smooth, fluid, with a very high budget quality which combines detailed artwork with dynamic animation. Visually, Moi Animation studios have outdone themselves once again delivering top notch animation that surpasses many of their Japanese anime counterparts. For quick comparison, take a look at the animation on SON OF BATMAN done by Japanese anime studio "TheAnswerStudio" and then compare it to the visuals in BATMAN ASSAULT ON ARKHAM. No contest.

BATMAN ASSAULT ON ARKHAM was a risky experiment, but an experiment that pays off. Edgy but fun, dark but not brooding, intense but not shallow. There seem to be things you can do on screen and a dark sense of fun you get with villains instead of heroes. Here I am hoping that DC would consider releasing a villain centric animated movie for every two hero centric movies per year. The DC rogues gallery needs to be tapped and tapped well. This is a good star

Godzilla goes supernatural, 25 July 2014

Godzilla mothra and king ghidora: giant monsters all out attack.

Godzilla mothra and king ghidora: giant monsters all out attack or GMK for short can be considered a semi-reboot of the franchise. Compared to the rest of the millennium era Godzilla movies, GMK is the most unique in terms of tone, spirit and overall feel of the movie. Even Godzilla's origin and design sets itself apart. Here is a monster mashup done well, despite its budgetary limitations, with a bigger badder Godzilla than ever.

Where Godzilla films have been mostly sci fi in nature, GMK seeks to throw in a supernatural fantasy spin on a familiar mythos. As usual, a string of mysterious attacks on sea vessels, this case some submarines, leads the the reemergence of Godzilla. Defeated in the 1950s by a destructive chemical weapon, Godzilla's corpse was apparently reanimated by the souls of world war 2 soldiers. Larger, angrier and more powerful than ever, this super zombie Godzilla is possessed by pure evil as he starts tearing his way across japan. Meanwhile, an intrepid reporter discovers an old prophecy that seems to foretell the second coming of Godzilla and an old man who reveals to her the legend of three guardian monsters who would be the key to ending Godzilla's murderous rampage.

This fantasy retelling, as well as reworking familiar monsters' origins, may not sit well with some. On its own merits, this movie works; recasting Baragon, Mothra and Ghidorah into mythical guardians of earth; a big change especially for Ghidorah who was in previous films an alien weapon of destruction. The first thing to stand out were the new monster designs. Intricately crafted yet with a decent amount of mobility. Godzilla gets special mention for his menacing new look; vampire fangs, jet black skin, insanely sharp claws and soulless white eyes oozing with evil. His overall look is closer to the original Godzilla only with his size and fearsome features pumped to the max.

What many would appreciate is the return of "Godzilla is the ultimate badass" theme. Here he is the villain and humanity is powerless. The monsters engage in truly spectacular fights with the director's stylish camera-work enhancing the scale of such clashes. Another mistake this movie corrects from previous ones is that even in scenes without the monsters, their presence is felt. Many past films just drag in their human scenes until the beasts show up for the action. Accompanying the action here is a pulse pounding score by Kou Otani whom anime fans would recognize as the composer for Gundam Wing Endless Waltz and many other memorable anime soundtracks.

GMK's human characters are well developed; we see our main character go from just wanting the scoop of a lifetime to a well rounded individual who has experienced true horrors of disaster and pulled through. The monsters who are the stars are by far the best among the millennium series of Godzilla movies. Perhaps the fantasy element was not too popular, seeing as how subsequent movies went back to sci fi. But no doubt, it was a bold move, a bold semi reboot, with awesome action, great production design for its modest budget, and a story that never let's up with the tension. A must watch for any Godzilla fan.

Final curtain for Japanese Godzilla?, 25 July 2014

Godzilla final war

Godzilla bows out on his 50th birthday with the massive multi monster mashup GODZILLA FINAL WAR. Stylishly directed by horror action director Ryuhei Kitamura, GODZILLA FINAL WAR is essentially a modernized remake of DESTROY ALL MONSTERS. Godzilla, the king of monsters, lies trapped under the Arctic ice, but earth is determined never to be caught off guard again by giant monsters. The Esrth Defense Force trains an elite team of soldiers comprising men and women enhanced by a mysterious mutant gene. Led by captain Douglas Gordon, the man who first defeated the legendary Godzilla many years ago, this M-Organisation hunts down monsters across the globe.

The discovery of an ancient cyborg creature called Gigan leads to a monster invasion of titanic proportions. Giant beasts appear across the globe, wrecking havoc. Captain Gordon leads his team of mutant monster hunters in the Gotengo, an advanced spacecraft armed to the teeth. But just as the counterattack is underway, the monsters are seemingly disintegrated by human like aliens known as the Xilliens. The Xilliens come in peace, but Captain Gordon has his suspicions. These suspicions are proved right when it is discovered that the ancient cyborg, the mutant soldiers and the Xilliens share the same mutant gene. This same gene allows them to be put under mind control! With chaos reigning from within and from beyond, captain Gordon initiates a plan to turn Godzilla loose on the invaders.

Sure we have seen this monster mash up scenario play out across multiple forms of fiction, but only here does it play out under the keen direction of Ryuuhei Kitamura. Kitamura brings a stylish dynamic look to FINAL WAR; visually! it looks on par with blockbusters 10 times it's budget. His direction in action scenes is intense and fast paced, using a good range of camera tricks to bring out the scale and ferocity of the monster clashes.

Yet mr kitamura's visual acumen cannot make up for all the other flaws of this movie. First and foremost being the story, which manages to rip off Star Wars, x-men, the matrix, universal soldier, and many other far superior Hollywood films. The unoriginal premise and plot comprises a range of over acted characters trying to be "edgy". The actors turn in fine performances with nothing entirely cringe worthy, but the fault lies in the writer who pens some truly cheesy lines right out of bad fan fiction. I do however appreciate the diverse ethnicity of the characters, under utilized though they may be, which gives the movie a broader international feel. You may recognize Kane Kosugi, Hollywood actor and son of the classic ninja actor Sho Kosugi, as well as Don Frye channeling the best of middle age macho through his character of Captain Gordon.

Being a 2004 movie, one should not expect too much in terms of special effects. Is it then too much to expect for special effects to improve just a little bit from the mid 1990s? Sure the movie is in HD but the miniatures, monster costumes and pyrotechnics look just as good (or bad) as Godzilla movies from the 90s. Basically, the more elaborate a monster design, the stiffer it moves. More agile monsters like King Caesar, Gigan and Monster X look like something's out of power rangers. Godzilla himself looks leaner but has a weird tiny head, rat like ears, a perpetual squint and moves just as stiff as most millennium era Godzillas. Unlike other Godzilla movies where the big G gets up close and personal to deliver the beat down on enemy monsters, Godzilla in FINAL WAR is a living deus ex machina overusing an over powered nuclear breath to solve every conflict.

This fight strategy of blowing away enemies with a giant mouth laser soon becomes real old real fast. So the creative team throws in some truly hilarious scenes like having Godzilla play soccer with 2 other monsters while using another monster as the ball. It is instances like this, and much of the hammy human dominated scenes (not to mention every appearance of Godzilla's baby Minila) that makes this movie more like a parody than a serious blockbuster.

No doubt that GODZILLA FINAL WAR was an ambitious project, but the skills of director Kitamura and the film's actors were hampered by an insultingly bad Japanese script (and a laughably horrid English dub), an unoriginal convoluted story with too many sub plots, weak special effects, and a synthesizer soundtrack right out of some old video game. This would be the movie that drove the Godzilla franchise into a 10 year hibernation until it's revival in the 2014 Hollywood remake.

The Visually Stunning and Emotionally Powerful salute to the Universal Century, 11 July 2014

With its 7th feature length episode, Gundam Unicorn bows out with a beautiful, albeit mind boggling, finale. CHAR'S COUNTERATTACK may have been the conclusion of Amuro Ray's story, but GUNDAM UNICORN brings the tale of the entire Universal Century Gundam universe to its satisfying conclusion.

Taking place in UC 0093, six years after the fall of Char Aznable's Neo Zeon, the earth federation and its colonies are once again threatened by war. This time, the race is on between Neo Zeon remnant forces know as "The Sleeves" and the federation's "Londo Bell" unit for the mysterious "Laplace's box"; an artifact with a secret so terrible, it could bring the Federation to an end. The mysterious Vist foundation, led by Cardeas Vist, holds the key to the location of the box. Caught in the middle of a new war is Banagher Links, a teenage "Newtype" with psychic powers and insane mech piloting skills. When he unwittingly rescues a girl named Audrey, Banagher is swept into a world of political intrigue, lies, and hidden truths; a world of life and death as he joins the crew of the Nahael Argama to search for the box. All the time, the ruthless Sleeve Warlord "Full Frontal" is in hot pursuit.

This epic miniseries bring back and combines all the story tropes that universal century gundam fans know. It follows the same beats as the original gundam series with our young protagonist bumping into a female member of aristocracy disguising as a commoner, getting netted into a war, finding a powerful new mecha called Gundam, joining a space ship's crew and facing off with a mask wearing warlord and another teenage rival. These are characters archetypes we have all seen before, only with different names and slightly altered back-stories. But that's not to say everyone is a cardboard cutout. Banagher is a genuinely relatable protagonist; not as whiny as Kamile Bidan or younger Amuro Ray, not as boring as Heero Yuy, and definitely no crybaby like Kira Yamato. Like most of the main characters, he is given a decent amount of development across the 7 episodes. Of course, the first thing that would catch the eye is how good the show looks.

Combining mystery, drama and mecha action, Gundam Unicorn is beautifully animated. Boasting art detail and animation smoothness rivaling big screen anime movies, Gundam Unicorn is easily Sunrise studio's most stunning work to date. Some computer graphics are seamlessly blended with the traditional animation which results in near perfection in the visual department. The mecha are also drawn and coloured intricately; scratches, dents and char marks show off these massive machines as true weapons of war, unlike the unrealistically pristine look and bright colours of new millennium Gundam shows.

Like i said, near perfection. Perhaps the only downside is that it requires a decent amount of knowledge of other universal century Gundam shows to fully appreciate and understand the story of Gundam Unicorn. If you were confused by all the name dropping i have been doing (Char Aznable, Amuro Ray, The One Year War, Neo Zeon, Gryps etc) then this would be difficult for you to get into.

Reviewing more of this series would spoil the mystery, which is a stronger part of the plot here than in any other Gundam show. That being said, with all the hoohaa surrounding Gundam AGE's and other alternate universe gundam shows, Gundam Unicorn is a welcome return to everything that made the original Gundam series so great. For long time Gundam fans, here is your cure for all the alternate universe series that have been dominating the franchise for the longest time. For those who have grown up on said alternate universes lie Gundam seed or Gundam 00, come and rediscover what made Gundam such a classic without having to endure dated animation and aged designs. For newcomers, this is a great way to get them started on one of the most endearing anime franchises ever.

"Godzilla" (1978)
Scooby Doo at sea with Giant Monsters, 27 June 2014

"Scooby Doo at sea with Giant Monsters". That effortlessly sums up this animated adaptation based on the famous Godzilla franchise. This is Godzilla, stuffed into every 70s cartoon cliché you can think of. Yet despite its unoriginal premise, dated production values, and formulaic nature, Hannah Barbera's GODZILLA does showcase some tremendous monster fights with an old school charm.

Here is how the formula works. Bunch of perpetual travellers and their goofy talking animal friend stumbles onto this week's plot and our new creature of the episode. They get into a scrape, creature appears. Bunch fends off creature with the help of Godzilla. They get chased around a bit by human (or humanoid) foes and somehow the plot device to summon Godzilla becomes useless. Finally they get some convenient twist that allows them to once again summon Godzilla, just as the big monster re-emerges. Giant monster battle ensues, Godzilla wins, and the bad guy would have succeeded if it were't for those meddling kids.

Minus off the giant monsters and it is your typical Scooby Doo plot. Instead of travelling in the Mystery Machine, our bunch consisting of no nonsense leader Captain Majors, science exposition person Dr Quinn, her assistant the token African American Brock, irritating kid Pete and the Godzilla's goofy cousin Godzooky, all travel in the research vessel Calico. These characters are as one dimensional as executed from cartoons of the era. Their dialogue serves only for exposition purposes, literally explaining the plot to each other, or for comedy purposes; especially when it comes to Godzooky. Godzooky is Scooby Doo, right down to his cowardly demeanour, his interactions with the crew, even his voice. Credit goes to the voice actors who do rather well given the material they had to work with and the overall juvenile tone.

On the production side, this cartoon suffers from bad cases of off-model artwork, recycled animation, and the now-infamous ever-changing scale of the monsters and backgrounds. Art detail ranges from hilariously bad and flat to the occasional impressive level of detail (mostly in the reused stock footage). The infamous scale issues have monsters like Godzilla seemingly changing size at random. At one point, the whole Calico ship can fit in Godzilla's palm, the next scene shows him having to hug the ship with both arms to carry it. Or perhaps a scene where Godzilla walks up to an airport control tower to smash it. The next scene shows him stomping his foot down on not just the control tower (which was previously shown to be up to Godzilla's waist) but a couple of plans parked on the runway too!.

Despite these glaring shortcoming, there are some particularly awesome episodes and edge back to the spirit of the Godzilla movies. And in some ways, this is an improvement over some of the more horrid Godzilla movies like Godzilla Vs Megalon.

For starters, there's Godzilla himself and the monster fights. Yes, they replaced Godzilla's roar, and yes the monster fights sound like grown men making beastial noises at each other. But damn if they weren't awesomely storyboarded. When our titans clash, the entire scene rumbles and shakes with every gargantuan blow, the ground trembles with each giant step. At close-ups, Godzilla's own roar rattles the screen with his sheer power. Animation allows more mobility for the characters compared to actors in suits, and this cartoon makes good use of the animation medium, delivering fantastic fight sequences that would have been near impossible to pull off in live action with rubber suits. All this is set to powerful background music, some of which are reused from previous Hannah Barbera productions, but used here to good effect. Godzooky is also an improvement from the live action movies' "Minila", Godzilla's supposed dim witted, possibly deformed, son.

For every cartoony episode, you have those that return to the live action film's nuclear power cautionary tale. For every crappy monster design like that cyclops thing, you have designs that illicit pure terror like the Breeder beast. Some episodes deal with isolated incidents while in others the fate of the entire world hangs in the balance. Then, the series closes on a powerful high note with Godzilla taking on heavily armed military forces like in the original Japanese classic.

Compared to other cartoons of its time, Godzilla does stand out among the better ones. As a Godzilla production, it is right there in the middle. It has its flaws, but it has some good redeeming factors as well. While it may not hold up to today's standards, Godzilla would no doubt fascinate kids and anyone's inner child with majestic monster mayhem.

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
When a cartoon surpasses the movie it is based on, 2 June 2014

Godzilla the series

Picking off moments from the end of the 1998 GODZILLA movie, Dr Nick Tatopolus discovers and befriends the last remaining baby Zilla. It imprints on Nick as his parent but is chased away when the military comes calling. Baby Zilla soon grows to full size and although he displays an undying loyalty to Nick, Nick can no longer hide it. While the army is hell bent on exterminating this beast, new monstrous behemoths start to emerge across the world, some the result of mutation, some ancient, others extraterrestrial. Teaming up with former co-scientists Elsie and Craven, along with mysterious French secret agent Monique, Nick forms the H.E.A.T team aiming to track down these giant creatures for scientific purposes before the military blows them apart. But not all these monsters are friendly, and that's where the now adult Godzilla comes in to take them down.

Clearly inspired by the Showa era of heroic Godzilla movies, as well as the Hannah Barbara GODZILLA power hour cartoon, Godzilla the series ranks among the better animated shows based on movies. It is arguably better than the movie itself, returning a generic giant monster premise to its Japanese roots. Where most animated adaptations/continuations dumb down the story (see Robocop, Rambo, Star Wars Droids), this shows ups the ante in action, scale and enjoyment.

The plots could be a tad formulaic: new threat shows itself, H.E.A.T team investigates, gets into trouble, Godzilla helps, monster attacks, fights Godzilla who may or may not be evenly matched, godzilla ultimately wins thanks to its own cunning or human assistance. Thankfully, the execution is too notch. For a start, the characters are well written with snappy dialogue and good chemistry among the voice actors. There are hints of character development across the series. They start off one dimensional but as episodes go along, they change slowly, subtly adding depth to their personalities. For example, Nick outgrows his geeky personality into a confident action leader type by the second season.

On the production side, Godzilla the series looks quite good for a 1999 animated show. Animated by korean studio DR Movie, this show displays a good balance of art detail and animation fluidity. Shadows are consistent, clothing show folds; only the backgrounds come across a little half baked. The backgrounds are flatly colored with the odd scene looking a tad unfinished. Though the character designs may also take some getting used to, coming across like Rugrats mixed with bad early 90s Japanese anime, the monster designs are marvelous. You can tell that most time and effort went into the monsters themselves. They are drawn with an insane level of expertise and animated very smoothly.

Fans agree that this series is what many wished the 1998 Godzilla remake delivered. It is not shy to delve into darker territory, such as the acclaimed "monster wars" 3 part saga, and manages to balance a coherent plot with some timely humor. (Poor N.I.G.E.L). Initially only selected episodes were released on DVD. But now, A complete series DVD set has been released to coincide with the 2014 GODZILLA movie from legendary studios. The late 90s and early 2000s was a new renaissance for American animation, with GODZILLA THE SERIES right there among the best.

Godzilla (1998/I)
1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
An enjoyable monster movie. But bad Godzilla movie, 2 June 2014

Before the critically acclaimed GODZILLA 2014, Hollywood had attempted an Americanized remake of the classic Japanese monster back in 1998. They turned to Roland Emmerich, the man responsible for turning old B movie genres (alien invasion, otherworldly adventures and genetically enhanced soldiers) into big blockbuster hits. Hoping that he would do the same for the giant monster movie. To that end, Hollywood gave him Godzilla, the much beloved Japanese giant monster, to remake to his vision.

Americanized, neutered and changed beyond recognition, GODZILLA came out as a decent monster movie, but a disappointing Godzilla movie. That issue lies in the portrayal of the titular Titan. Gone is the thought provoking nuclear disaster allegory, replaced by a feeble "man is the real monster" Aesop. Nuclear tests in the 1960s gave rise to a giant mutant bisexual lizard. This creature makes a beeline for Manhattan where his arrival is met with mass hysteria and chaos. Named "Godzilla" by the media (thanks to a misinterpreted comment from a dying Japanese sailor), America sends wave after wave of military hardware against the beast, causing more destruction than ever but failing to bring it down. Into this chaos comes dr Nick Tatopolus, an expert on radiation mutations. As the military tracks the monster through new york's concrete jungle, nick discovers that the creature may not be the only one of its kind for much longer. The hunt is on with French secret agents, a budding romance with a wannabe reporter and a parody of some well known movie critics all thrown in.

The first thing that stood out for me in this movie was how enjoyable the scenes with the human characters were. Like INDEPENDENCE DAY, Roland Emmerich peppers this movie with a healthy dose of humor. This makes the one dimensional characters less of a pain to sit through. Hank Azaria, Kevin Dunn, Henry Shearer, all renown comedians, shine in their respective roles, delivering appropriate drama and laughs. Even Jean Reno does well as the offensively stereotyped French agent Philippe. Their scenes are fun, making an overall cliché ridden story more enjoyable than it is. Only the lead characters turn out a tad flat. Dr Nick, played by baby faced Matthew Broderick, brings his best "wide eyed" expressions to play as a man child caught up in the wonder of this giant beast yet running for his very life so he does not become dinner. Wide eyed shock, wide eyed awe, wide eyed terror, that seems to be his only expression. And the redundancy of Maria Pitillo's character Audrey cannot be understated.

Of course, the true star of any Godzilla movie is Godzilla himself. This leaner, faster, velociraptor inspired look by designer Patrick Tatopolus is a terrific looking beast brought to life by cutting edge special effects. For a 1998 production, the effects still hold up well till today. The creature is elegant yet menacing, grand yet grim, with twin rows of fierce spikes on it's back, unbelievable agility and that trademark big chin that is common in Patrick Tatopolus' designs (eg: underworld's Lycans, pitch black's creatures, outlander's moorwen). However, it just isn't Godzilla, the unstoppable force of nature. It shows none of Godzilla's powers, nor his intelligence, nor his durability. Where the original Godzilla would be unfazed by missiles, smash tanks and planes out of his way, and carry on, this remade Godzilla squeals, runs and hides!

Perhaps it would not have gotten that much hate had it been billed as a remake of THE BEAST FROM 20,000 FATHOMS, rather than a Godzilla movie. The basic plot of a lost giant creature drawn to New York and ultimately taken down by sheer luck and superior military firepower already mimics the broad strokes of that stop motion classic. Godzilla can easily pass off as a redesigned Rhedrosaur. But alas, here it is billed as a Godzilla movie.

As a Godzilla movie, Roland Emmerich's multi million dollar blockbuster would rank in the lower thirds. Better than the likes of GODZILLA VS MEGALON, GODZILLA's REVENGE, GODZILLA FINAL WAR and GIGANTIS THE FIRE MONSTER. But compared to the rest of the Heisei era Godzilla movies, the early millennium era, and especially the original 1954 classic, this American remake is a disappointment. So disappointing in fact that the titular Titan of a lizard has been officially renamed "Zilla" by the original creators of the Godzilla franchise. I for one enjoyed this purely as a modern monster movie. It entertains, it has cool special effects, and it is good fun. Nothing much else though.

Godzilla (2014)
4 out of 9 people found the following review useful:
Combining the best elements from 60 years of Godzilla, 22 May 2014

A king had once reigned supreme. But in 2004, Godzilla the king of monsters hung up his crown after a disappointing Final War. But soon, giant monsters started returning to screen; 2005's KING KONG, 2006 korean movie THE HOST, 2008's CLOVERFIELD, all vying for the title of king. Now 2013 comes up with PACIFIC RIM But No king is going to let a kaiju army steal his thunder! So up from the depths steps GODZILLA to show these usurpers how a monster movie is really done.

In shaping Godzillas future, the creative team look back on the big G's past, digging deep into the earlier, darker themed Showa era Godzilla movies and combining the best elements of 60 years worth of sequels. Like the first 1954 original, the monsters' appearance is teased and glimpsed through the human focused tale. This is slow build up and reveal calls back to classic monster movies like JAWS, ALIEN, and the original GODZILLA. Yet director Gareth Edwards successfully builds the tension right up to the big payoff clash of titanic proportions. With No oxygen destroyer, masers, mutant soldiers or other wonky scifi stuff from the Japanese movies, this new Godzilla movie is grounded firmly in contemporary reality. A dangerous move which the 1998 giant lizard remake tried to pull off, though one that ultimately paid off here.

Godzilla's design raised mixed reactions from viewers, but when seen in full motion, this bigger, meaner but definitely not leaner Godzilla is amazing! The design just screams "power" and makes sense for a creature of that size; thick skeletal structure, low centre of gravity, tough meaty exterior and smooth streamlined shape makes it believable that this creature can survive the ocean pressure near the earth's core, swim from Hawaii to San Francisco in a matter of hours yet support it's weight out of water. In motion, this is not the awkward lumbering Japanese rubber beast, but a menacing massive yet graceful Titan with an intelligent spark in his eyes. This wearied, bulkier looking Godzilla feels like an old champion wrestler forced back into the ring to reclaim his title.

Perhaps this was what the creators were going for. The feel of an apex predator who, aside from some pesky atomic bombs giving him a mild sun burn once in a while, has not had a decent giant monster challenge in eons. Godzilla is aching for fight and when a couple of mating obsessed MUTOs wander through his turf........let's just say nobody lays eggs in the King's back yard. Director Gareth Edwards eschews frantic close ups for wide angle, full view cinematography, allowing every monster appearance on screen to be seen in its full glory. Special effects by "moving pictures company" and "amalgamated dynamics" bring the king of monsters to life, rivaling that of the more renown ILM or Weta.

As mentioned, this new movie just oozes with the best elements of 60 years of GODZILLA movies without any of the goofiness. The two enemy monster MUTOs resemble Orga and Megaguirus, two kaiju created in the millennium era Godzilla movies, in their fighting style and design. This bigger, bulkier Godzilla takes design cues from the Heisei era and Godzilla: Giant monsters All Out Attack, while his almost human-like intelligence recalls the "heroic" Showa Godzilla movies. Even Godzilas nuclear breath is a burning blue stream of irradiated particles like the Showa ear, rather than the dragonball Z styled giant laser beam of more recent Godzilla shows.

But enough about Godzilla. How do the mandatory human characters fare? Well Bryan Cranston as Joe Brody is magnificent. He brings gravitas to his character and a heart wrenching emotional touch. Sadly, he is under utilized as the script focuses on Ford Brody. Aaron Taylor Johnson's performance is a little disappointing considering his character is a soldier. He mumbles his way through the movie in a wimpy little voice, sharing only a passing chemistry with his wife, played by Elizabeth Olsen.

Fans of all action monster mash ups like GODZILLA FINAL WAR or DESTROY ALL MONSTERS would no doubt find the slow burn build up boring. But fans of the 1954 classic and the more serious Showa era movies would have much to cheer about. With a nostalgic score by Alexander Desplat clearly inspired by the late great Akira Ifukube, GODZILLA serves as a harrowing metaphor of nature's supremacy over mankind. Where the 1954 classic was an analogy for the atomic bomb, 2014's movie brings to mind the tsunamis and nuclear plant meltdowns that shocked the world. A clever, emotionally engaging and powerful tribute to 60 years of Godzilla.

Son of Batman (2014) (V)
4 out of 8 people found the following review useful:
Goddamn son-of-a-Bat, 7 May 2014

DC's shared direct-to-video animated universe enters its second chapter with SON OF BATMAN. Taking inspiration from Grant Morrison's Batman and Son comic story arc, SON OF BATMAN reveals the illegitimate love child of Bruce Wayne and former nemesis Talia, daughter of Ra's Al Ghul, leader of the league of assassins. When the league , is betrayed by its deadliest member, Deathstroke, Talia sends her son Damien to his father in Gotham city. But Batman has much on his hands, fighting crime and handling his company's falling profits, to take care of a 10 year old. A 10 year old who hacked into NORAD when he was 6, was trained in every art of combat, and who has no qualms about bloodshed.

These clashing values and personalities should have made an intriguing study of this father father/son relationship. Here is a man who is suddenly saddled with the responsibilities of fatherhood, of balancing is double life of swinging billionaire/crime fighter with a new life of a parent which he never had. The comics delved into Bruce's lingering insecurities of a man who had his childhood taken from him on tragic night. How is he, who's own younger days were filled with grief and hatred, able to deprogram me this vengeful, angry kid that is his son?

SON OF BATMAN (the film) fails to offer any glimpse into the head of Bruce Wayne. Character study is overshadowed by wanting to move the whole ninja/assassin hostile takeover story forward. As such, we get the character development taking a backseat to the action. We do get some nice chemistry in the few scenes between Damien and Alfred, as well as budding rivalry with Nightwing. But between Batman and his son? Disappointingly flat.

Thankfully, their voice actors do their best to bring out their characters' personalities. Jason O'Mara's Batman is a nice blend between Christian Bale, without being too raspy, and a young Michael Keaton. Those who prefer Kevin Conroy's deep Batman voice would no take some time to get used to this new portrayal. Stuart Allen as Damien is the star of this show, bringing a level of professionalism to the role despite his young age. On the other hand, our villains, Ra's Al Ghul and Deathstroke, are horrible. Deathstroke especially sounds like acting in a bad school play.

Visually, SON OF BATMAN boasts artwork very reminiscent of Avatar: The Last Airbender. Not surprising since the director Ethan Spulding directed a good number of Avatar episodes. Here, he truly revels in the new PG13 rating of this film, bringing the violence to whole new levels bordering on absurdity. Characters are literally roasted, get their eyes gouged out, impaled, and blasted to bloody bits

The character designs maintain that Japanese anime look consistent with the previous JUSTICE LEAGUE: WAR feature. Level of detail is strong with deep shadows, metallic sheen and creases. TheAnswerStudio brings their "A" game to the animation production, giving generally smooth animation and character movements while maintaining the level of art detail. The only shortcoming is in crowd scenes such as the massive ninja battle that opens this movie. Animation short cuts are very obvious here.

All in all, SON OF BATMAN works better as a set up for bigger stories. Assuming BATMAN UNDER THE RED HOOD is still canon, and with Warner Premiere turning to DC's New 52 for animated adaptations, we could be seeing a whole slew of Bat-family titles on the horizon. An animated "Batman: The Court of Owls" would be epic and "Batman: Death of the Family" would serve as a powerful conclusion. An adaptation of Grant Morrison's final Batman inc chapters would be an emotionally powerful epilogue bringing the entire Damien Wayne saga to a close.

One can only hope.

5 out of 7 people found the following review useful:
No where near DC's most mediocre efforts, 9 April 2014

Not content on dominating the big screen with a connected Marvel cinematic universe, Marvel now aims to create a connected anime universe. Avengers Confidential is a loose sequel to to Iron Man: Rise of Technovore. This time, Iron Man takes a back seat to previous supporting characters of Punisher and Black Widow. Following their debacle in Karachi, Frank Castle aka The Punisher, has returned to taking out organised crime lords. But when one of his hits crosses path with S.H.I.E.L.D, Frank is taken into custody. He has stumbled onto a vast international conspiracy involving an old Russian supersoldier programme and mind control. Unwillingly teamed up with s.H.I.E.L.D agent Black Widow, Frank has to deal with superpowered foes way out of his league while Widow must confront a shadowy figure from her past.

It is an intriguing story. Well written and feeling like it came straight out of the comic books. No surprise there that it was written by comic book writer Majorie Liu. This is a cool way to tie The Punisher into the greater world of Marvel anime characters, themselves already sharing a lot in common with the live action movie universe. In live action, The Punisher's gritty mafia/street crime stories just do not mix with the Avengers' high flying superheroics. If they cannot do it in live action, anime would have to suffice.

Credit goes to this movie for coming up with an interesting reason why the superpowered Avengers remain out of the picture. Since you have a villain who perfected mind control, the last thing you can risk is your most powerful heroes turning against you. So they get plain ol human Frank Castle, The Punisher, and plain ol human Black Widow. Except, the "plain ol human" bit is conveniently forgotten about 10 minutes in where both Punisher and Black Widow are able to go hand to hand with super soldiers, dodge bullets, punch people through walls and take injuries that would kill any normal human.

Now, this being Japanese anime, Marvel has allowed Madhouse Studios (creators of classics like Ninja Scroll, Trigun and the rest of Marvel's anime output) to sprinkle their own eastern touch into this tale. The result......a mixed bag. First is the screenplay, written by Mitsutaka Hirota of Ramen fighter Miki and YuGiOh Zexal fame/infamy. It is a stiffled screenplay, clichéd and lacking any of the wit or character interplay that marvel's live action universe excels in.

This is not helped by the mediocre voice acting from both Japanese and English actors. Punisher growls and grumbles his way through the movie lacking chemistry with Black Widow; herself portrayed more as a straightforward hero with a tragic past romance than a sultry manipulative secret agent whom no one can guess what she is planning to do next. This same screenplay turns our main antagonist into some love scorned brat with a serious inferiority complex who subjected himself to experiments to become a superpowered stalker after his old flame.

Once again, Marvel anime serves as a showcase of what anime always gets wrong. Hyper detailed artwork is ruined by animation shortcuts. First time Director Kenichi Shimizu who watched one too many Michael bay movies peppers this show with shaky cameras, extreme close ups and long lingering shots focused on Black Widow's shiny leather clad chest and bum areas. Nonetheless, the character designs look straight out of Vampire Hunter D Bloodlust with long curvy sharp featured women, square jawed bulky men and a shadow for every nook cranny and crease on a character. They look beautiful.

So in keeping with the usual Marvel Anime standards, we have another visually stunning little movie with a decent story but little else in terms of the script, characters and animation. Better than Iron Man: Rise of Technovore of course, and much better than that CGI atrocity Iron Man/Hulk: Heroes United. Yet no where near DC and Warner Premiere's most mediocre efforts.

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