Saturday, December 13, 2008

Jurassic Park IV? Not likely

The above image, DUH, is from an old Playstation game (WHICH I OWN, BITCH) and is essentially a less-than-stellar fighting game. Still, it's dinosaurs, and dinosaurs make everything better. Only Communists and really ugly people dislike dinosaurs.

That said, ever wonder what happened to JURASSIC PARK IV? Rumors had been tossed around for years now, from Lex (Ariana Richards) returning as the main character to plot devices involving Deinonychus mercenaries (seriously) to something about dinosaurs invading the mainland and a state-of-emergency declared for the US...I mean, really, it all sounded incredibly overblown and "jump the shark" (or "nuke the fridge," however your pop culture references roll) but it looks like the project has ultimately been shit-canned.

With Michael Crichton's untimely death, Kathleen Kennedy, one of the film's producers, stated that the flick is pretty much done for. They're still attached to it, but it's likely that the project's been pushed way, way, way down into the seventh level of development hell, never to be seen again.

While I postulate that the first Jurassic Park is one of the best adventure films in cinema history, I do feel that the franchise ran out of fresh ideas about halfway through The Lost World: Jurassic Park. The two sequels, including JP3, were still entertaining and exciting in their own right, as "hardcore" dinosaur films go, but the franchise definitely lost something when Jack Horner (whom I have some choice things to say about) decided to stomp T. Rex, the undisputed Tyrant Lizard King, into the ground in favor of the fish-eating Spinosaurus. Anyone who knows me will anticipate my shrieking rants on this subject, so let's move on.

Honestly? I'd have been the first in line for JPIV, ESPECIALLY with the plot I'd read online. Check this out, from Aint It Cool News' "Moriarty":

The script starts at a Little League game somewhere in America, an idyllic scene that quickly goes bad when pterosaurs attack the kids and their parents. It’s a cool scene, and I couldn’t help but immediately anticipate what might lay ahead. Dinosaurs in America. All-out warfare on home soil. This should be fun. In a series of television clips, we learn that this is the first attack on North American ground following months of this sort of thing in Central America and Mexico. The UN has created a task force to exterminate the dinosaurs. Awesome, I thought. A bad-ass heavily-armed United Nations task force versus the dinosaurs. Bring it on! But then the script throws its first major curve ball, introducing Nick Harris, an unemployed soldier of fortune. Nick’s the lead in the movie. Not Alan Grant. Not Ian Malcolm. Despite all the rumors to the contrary, those characters are not back for this film. Instead, we meet Nick as he watches those same reports on TV that we are. He’s approached by an ex-commander of his and offered a meeting about a job. He’s warned that the guy he’d be working for is a little bit strange...

... which brings us to John Hammond. It’s a great cameo role for Richard Attenborough, and he’s said several times that he is looking forward to it. In the script’s single wittiest scene, we catch up with the eccentric ex-billionaire who is now the most-sued man in history according to the Guiness Book Of World Records. He’s been declared incompetent by his heirs and his company has been taken over by other corporations. Technically, Jurassic Park isn’t even his problem anymore, but he still feels responsible for the dinosaurs and the damage they do. Hammond’s got a big idea: breed some new dinosaurs that can’t reproduce and introduce them into the wild population. A Judas strain that will kill off the dinosaurs within one generation. Easy enough, except the UN has outlawed any breeding of new dinosaurs by anyone and they’ve prohibited the sale, mining, or possession of amber worldwide. Hammond’s got scientists ready and waiting to go, but he needs genetic material to work with. As soon as Hammond mentions where that material might come from, I thought for sure that I was ahead of the script again. Oh, of course! The shaving cream can that Nedry stole. He’s going to hire this guy to put together a team of mercenaries, and they’re going to spend the whole film on Isla Nublar getting picked off one-by-one while trying to find the samples.

After all, the first three films are all pretty much carbon copies of each other, excuses to turn people loose on the island. I almost set the script down at that point, disappointed that they’d do something so predictable again after all this talk about how they were going to turn things upside down. Page sixteen, and I was sure I knew the rest of the script without even reading it.

But I was wrong... again.

Nick Harris does indeed got to Isla Nublar, but he goes alone. He does indeed track down the shaving cream can that Nedry stole, but that’s a mere five pages later. And as soon as he finds it, he’s attacked not only by excavaraptors (think trapdoor spiders), but also by security rangers who work for Grendel Corporation, the mysterious Swiss holding company that took over Jurassic Park from Hammond. Seems they want those genetic samples for their own purposes... whatever those may be. Nick has to get off the island, evading his pursuers, human or otherwise. He manages to make it back to the mainland just long enough to hide the shaving cream can before the security team catches up with him and gasses him into unconsciousness.

All of that happens by page 39, at which point I realized I had no idea where this thing was going, and I quit trying to guess. It kept confounding my expectations. It certainly didn’t feel like it was just another rehash of the same formula. When Nick wakes up, he’s in the tower of a medieval castle in the Alps. Seriously. That’s the precise moment when the entire enterprise goes so over-the-top loony that you’ll either go along with it for the entire insane ride or reject it roundly as a big bag of ludicrous. Nick is introduced to Adrien Joyce, the major domo henchman of Baron von Drax, CEO of the Grendel Corporation. Joyce isn’t a moustache-twirling bad guy bent on torturing Nick into revealing where he hid the shaving cream can. Instead, he offers Nick a job, and in order to explain the job to him, he has to take him on a tour of the entire castle, which turns out to be a fairly sophisticated genetics lab where Grendel Corporation has been breeding some dinosaurs of their own design, cross-breeds that never existed in any era of nature with all sorts of custom modifications.

I want to tread lightly on what happens over the course of the rest of the film on the off chance that Mary Parent or someone at Universal is seriously going to make this thing. There’s the eight-year-old-boy side of me that thinks that a DIRTY DOZEN-style mercenary team of hyper-smart dinosaurs in body armor killing drug dealers and rescuing kidnapped children will be impossible to resist. And then there’s the side of me that says... WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT?! Nick is put in charge of training these five dinosaurs, X1 through X5, and the first thing he does is name them. “Any soldier worth his pay has a name to answer to, not a number,” he says. So we are introduced to Achilles, Hector, Perseus, Orestes, and Spartacus, each of them a specially created deinonychus, which is sort of like a miniature T-rex. They have super-sensitive smell and hearing, incredible strength and speed and pack-hunting instincts, and they have modified forelegs, lengthened and topped with more dextrous fingers, as well as dog DNA for increased obedience and human DNA so they can solve problems well. All of this is topped off with a drug-regulating implant that can dose them with adrenaline or serotonin as the situation demands.

And yes, there's more to it, but Moriarty was tight-lipped beyond that.

I wanted to paste that here for posterity, because it's a crazy-as-hell plot and I'd loved to have seen that, regardless of the shark-jumpage. There just aren't enough dinosaur movies these days. The last one was King Kong in '05, and next year Ice Age 3: Dawn of the Dinosaurs brings them into a CGI-animated fare, but beyond that, we can only hope that, in a few years, someone will bust out with an awesome, lavishly animated movie version of Ricardo Delgado's Age of Reptiles graphic novels.

Until then, we've still got Dinosaur King :D

Monday, November 17, 2008

My CYCLOPS comic is ready for pre-orders!

The press has started for my first comic, WRATH OF THE TITANS: CYCLOPS, by BlueWater Productions. With less than two months before it's release, you had best pre-order now!

The official site of the company:


Check these links to preorder!

Here's an online interview on the book by Jazma:

Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Day The Earth Stood Still new trailer and impressions


While I, like Harry at Aint It Cool, believe that a DTESS remake is COMPLETELY unnecessary (since the original was such a somber masterpiece of science fiction), this new film which bears the same title, but obviously is not the same film, still may be interesting enough for me to actually consider seeing. There are some really cool concepts at work here, which may just be that interesting considering how the re-makers are trying to create something from almost nothing, and it was that "nothing" that made the original so unique. It's a "less is more" approach. Still, it looks flashy and dramatic, so I'll still see it, just like the inevitably awful DRAGONBALL film.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Dennis Hopper and Billy Bob Thorton in Deadly Creatures!

How the hell did they manage that?!?

Seriously, I am so freaking excited for this game.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

God Bless 2-D Animation

It's not often that I post nude models, but I suppose it's a proper lead-in to the topic of 2d animation...
What dickweed decided that 3D should completely annihilate good 2D goodness?...oh yeah, it was Jeffrey Katzenberg.

Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas performed miserably at the box office, and as a result, Katz there decided that 2D animation was a plague to be avoided (despite Sinbad being a perfectly decent 2D-flick, it did come out in the wake of "OMG CGI MOVIES ARE TEH WINZORS"). Not only that, and I need to check some resources on this, but it's been noted that Michael Eisner intentionally made sure that Disney's last 2D flicks like "Home On the Range" were extremely sub-par so that he could push the studio to dissolve the 2D department (in exchange for equally sub-par 3D animated flicks in Disney's desperate attempts to match the power of Pixar).

That said, please direct your attention to Michel Gagne's masterpiece, "Prelude to Eden":

You can also see his other beautiful work on his main site:

Make SURE you check out his Insanely Twisted section. Good Halloweenie stuff.

After that, my bud Patrick pointed out Pearl Jam's Evolution video, directed by Scott Mother-effing McFarlane.
(I cant embed the stupid thing...dammit, but be warned, it's a pretty harsh vid, but real purdy).

*sigh* I love 2D animation, and I love 3D animation, but only if either is done WELL. WALL-E is a good example of an excellent 3D flick (and I recently enjoyed the sumptuous feast of MONSTER HOUSE), and as a bit of an extension, CGI itself is a good tool for cinema. But it's nice to see that audiences are getting overloaded by CGI. Case in point, the Hellboy films, and this:

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Palin says "Daina-sores and Hoomans ran around together!"

Not in those exact words, obviously.

Man, I gotta' make a cartoon of this. I just find this crap hilarious.
Seriously; how do these idiots even GET this far in life? Then again, it raises the question of just how legitimate this all is. Everyone sure seems out for Palin's life fluids, so there must be SOME reason.

Anywho, here's a quote ala

"Which brings us to today's topic: Sarah Palin's belief that people and dinosaurs coexisted. When Palin was the mayor of Wasilla she wasn't reticent about sharing even the most bizarre aspects of her faith.

But now that Palin is John McCain's vice-presidential running mate, she won't even admit that she's a Pentecostal. Palin has been sequestered, far away from the press and pundits. In public appearances she sticks to her talking points, and they don't include babbling such nonsense about cavemen cavorting with dinosaurs. "

Here's another one from LA Times:

"Soon after Sarah Palin was elected mayor of the foothill town of Wasilla, Alaska, she startled a local music teacher by insisting in casual conversation that men and dinosaurs coexisted on an Earth created 6,000 years ago -- about 65 million years after scientists say most dinosaurs became extinct -- the teacher said...
Palin told him that "dinosaurs and humans walked the Earth at the same time," Munger said. When he asked her about prehistoric fossils and tracks dating back millions of years, Palin said "she had seen pictures of human footprints inside the tracks," recalled Munger, who teaches music at the University of Alaska in Anchorage and has regularly criticized Palin in recent years on his liberal political blog, called Progressive Alaska...
Palin has attended a number of prayer sessions with pastors and has quietly sought their guidance, but she is often mum on matters of faith in high-profile public forums.

Her aides say Palin's caution at the intersection of religion and governance is a studied effort to share her beliefs without forcing them on Alaska.

'She's obviously an intensively religious person,' said Bill McAllister, Palin's chief spokesman as governor. "She understands that she's the governor and not preacher in chief. Religion informs her decisions, but she is not out to impose her views on Alaska.'"

Seems like Palin at least knows when crazy shit is crazy shit.

It's still funny shit though.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Crap Matt's Excited About: Deadly Mutha'-Effin' Creatures

Time for some free advertising. They should be paying me for this nonsense.

Deadly Creatures is a new Wii game (yeah, that's right, Mr. Family Sunshine System) which stars a scorpion and a tarantula and you fight through horrible environments of beauty and savagery while witnessing a rather unsavory plot by a bunch of giant monsters called "hoo-manz." You get the jist ;)

That pic at the top is the basis of some fanart I'd like to do. That and I would absolutely kill to make a comic of this game.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

New name and artsies

After feeling somewhat shaken by the knowledge that some random flick stole the title of my blog, I thought I'd try out The Roaring Brain and see how that goes over.
Expect a banner soon!

Note the oil painting ;)

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

A birthday fit for a fighting robot

I figured I'd best upload this. It's my recent JET JAGUAR art that was commissioned as a birthday present for a fan's son.

Here's the original:

And here's the lucky recipient:

Friday, September 19, 2008

Matt's G-Fest Adventure!

FINALLY! After replacing my USB cable, I am able to show the world my G-Fest pictures! It's a preview of the video that will premiere on "Captain Gordon and the Quest for Kongzilla."

Me and Godzilla himself, Haruo Nakajima; I stepped out of the taxi and somehow this happened. What a freaking welcome to my first G-Fest!

Now THAT'S interesting, isn't it?

Myself and a reporter from a Japanese magazine. She was very perplexed by the kaiju phenomenon, to say the least, but she was very polite and we gots a picture! This was taken right after I won that Rodan figure in a trivia contest.

I stole this for a short time from another fan ;)

Welcome to G-Fest! We have sex and lots of it! Wait...

One of my new friends and I pose for some Ultraman badassitude.

A cavalcade of new friends and allies!

Now this was fun; a group of G-Fans, after the airing of Godzilla X MechaGodzilla, got together in the lobby to film an evacuation sequence for my bud Jared's new ULTRAMAN SORTA' movie.

That's Jared there in the bottom-left, with his stars getting ready for the next scene.

Collectively, that's a sampling of "the Old Guard," some of our G-fan elders and their elixers of wisdom.

The last day, with another pair of new friends at my artist's table. The feller on the left bought my sign!

Yes. That is, in fact, Don Frye, and yes, he has me in a headlock. BFF's!

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Ultraman Appreciation

A Guide to the World’s Biggest Hero

In 1966, a new kind of super-hero appeared on television screens across Japan known as Ultraman. Much more than a simple Japanese version of Superman, Ultraman was a being from the galaxy M78 who came to Earth in order to protect humanity from the assaults of rampaging daikaiju, evil aliens, and other malevolent threats. Over the years, the Ultraman franchise has blossomed into not just a record-holding series of spinoffs, but a phenomenon that held Japan, nearly all of Asia and even other countries in the protective silver gloved-grasp of the Giant of Light and his many relatives.
Unfortunately, since the late 60's, Ultraman has yet to gain a giant foothold in one key location: the United States. While the original series, as well as its sequel, Ultra7, were broadcast on US television, Ultraman has had very little luck with American audiences since then, as nearly every attempt to being him to our shores fails to a surprising degree. Why is this? Could it be the SPFX are too jaded for American children (despite the same principles used in the still-popular Power Rangers), or could the awful dubbing and editing be giving baby-boomers headaches?
Regardless, I decided to make this little journal entry to catch some of my devWatchers up on the goings-on of this super-hero...I mean, if he’s been around for 40 years, he must be doing SOMETHING right.

“Who IS Ultraman?”
Ultraman was a creation by Eiji Tsuburaya’s SPFX company in 1966 during the Daikaiju craze. Characters like Godzilla and Gamera were at the height of their popularity, and since Tsuburaya himself brought many of these beasts to life, why not make a TV show out of the concept?
Ultraman was, at the basic level, portrayed by an actor in a latex suit, and wrestled likewise rubber-suited monsters each week. The show, something of a sequel to UltraQ, a Twlight Zone-esque series, was a smash hit, and spawned more than 15 sequel series, at least a dozen movies, cartoons, direct-to-video specials, live stage shows, and an endless string of merchandising.

“What is an Ultra-Warrior?”
An Ultra-Warrior is any manner of “Ultra” being in an Ultraman series. Ultraman himself was just one of many “Ultra Warriors” throughout the galaxy, and he himself is usually referred to by fans as “Ultraman the First.” Each Ultra after has an official name attached to him (or her) to distinguish between them, besides their appearances. Each individual Ultra-Warrior is unique, from their appearances to their basic fighting styles and abilities, and even their personalities.
An Ultra is not, in fact, a flesh-and-blood being, but rather a combination of metallic substances and mechanics as well as “The Light.” All Ultras are powered by this energy, which is debatable as to exactly what it seems to be both a combination of ultraviolet radiation as well as an empathetic connection with humanity, particularly an Ultra’s “Deunamist” (more on that later). Regardless, Ultras, when wounded, literally bleed light, so it’s obvious as an Ultra’s lifeblood. The physical aspect of an Ultra (as recently revealed in Ultraman Tiga) has been revealed to be minerals and various metals created by the Ultra’s “true forms,” which instead of creating a mechanical being, rather simply provides a solid foundation for the Ultras to interact on a more physical level with the rest of the Universe.

So, where did the Ultras come from? What exactly happened to them? There are various stories and theories according to different series, but the origin that is considered most “cannon” is that of the original “Showa series,” but through much research, I’ve made something of an “all inclusive origin” (if you prefer to keep universes separate, then no biggie) -

Time before time, legend before legend, before good and evil, and before recorded history, there was darkness, and there was light. Light and Dark warred with each other for centuries, one sometimes defeating the other, but the other always returning to challenge the former victor. As the Universe developed, so did Dark and Light...
30 Million Years ago, Earth was home to a surprisingly advanced civilization of homo sapiens. However, a war soon raged between the humans and a race of savage beings called the Kileil, and before both sides could destroy each other, THEY appeared...the Giants of Light. Nobody knows where exactly they came from, though they may have been beings created at the beginning of time itself...regardless, they arrived on Earth and fashioned for themselves bodies of the rock and soil of the planet itself. Together, they stopped the war, and the Kileil were banished to the shadows of the Earth. The humans and Ultras then began to live together in peace, the Ultras forming an empathetic bond with the humans, and the humans learning new and wonderous technologies from the Ultras.
However, one fateful day, the darkness came once more. Armies of horrible monsters, created by the power of the darkness, swarmed over Earth. The Ultras fought and fought, defending both the humans and the new City of Ultra, until when it seemed like victory was at hand, the humans fell to the power of a monster with the ability to create indifference and carelessness in a human spirit...thus, the Ultras lost their touch with humanity. Many of the Ultras wanted to rule over Earth, since they believed that humanity was unfit to care for the world. It resulted in a civil war amongst the Ultras...but the final blow came from a new kind of Ultra Warrior....the Dark Ultras.
However, the Ultras eventually left Earth, having defeated the darkness, but no longer wanted by an uncaring humankind. The darkness remained, however, so the Ultras would one day return...

260,000 years ago, in the Nebula of M78, a small planet with an advanced civilization not unlike Earth’s former inhabitants, floated about in relative peace around a mighty sun. One day, fate took a bizarre turn, and the sun began to fad and grow dim, whether by machinations of a dark force or otherwise. Fortunately, a being called the Ultra Elder created a mysterious power source called the “Plasma Spark” on the small planet to keep it alive.
Fate has a way of making things interesting, of course...the Plasma Spark emitted a strange energy called the “Differator Ray,” and the first to be exposed to it were two caretakers of the Plasma Spark, a man and a woman, and the energy began to change them...
Over 200,000 years, the people of the small world evolved beyond the need for flesh and blood bodies, and became strangely similar to the Giants of Light that once roamed the universe...could the Ultra Elder be....?
30,000 years ago, a mighty beast called “Emperor” appeared and attacked what had become legendary as “The Land of Light.” The invasion was fended off by the Ultras, and the Ultra Elder decreed that the warriors use their newfound powers to create the Space Garrison, an intergalactic police force dedicated to protecting worlds from the ravages of creatures spawned by the darkness that created Emperor.
Over the millenia, the Ultras spread their influence, forming more “homeworlds” for new generations of Ultra beings (such as L-77, Z-95, U-40 and TOY-1).

As the Ultra series grew in size and depth, it became the first franchise in Japan to have fan-based magazines and trivia (and I’m not just saying that...). Fan trivia is always fun, and here are some of the bigger aspects of the Ultra-universe to familiarize oneself with:

“Deunamists” -
The vast majority of Ultras are incapable of existing in Earth’s current atmospheric condition for more than a few minutes. This has been attributed to pollution, air density, molecular differences, the ozone layer, and the like, but regardless, an Ultra’s energy will begin to deplete rapidly while fighting on Earth. Thus, the Ultras require a human host while protecting the planet. These human hosts are called “Deunamists,” (as recently coined in the series Ultraman Nexus) and are chosen for a number of reasons: sometimes it’s out of obligation, such as Ultraman the First’s ship colliding with Science Patrol operative Hayata’s jet. Other times, a human of exceptional courage, determination and kindness, who happens to be at the “right” place at the “right” time (such as a monster attack) will be chosen by an Ultra to be a human host (such as Ultraman Max). Other times, a human’s very DNA and/or physical makeup determine his (or her) right to inherit “The Light,” (ala Ultraman Tiga and Nexus).
It’s unclear as to exactly how an Ultra remains unseen by the human eye while with a Deunamist, but it has been recorded that Ultras can speak with their host on a psychic level, but never take control of their host’s body or mind.
Not all Ultras have Deunamists, as some, such as UltraSeven and Ultraman Mebius, can actually change their physical appearence to look and act like humans so that they may directly observe human behavior and interact with other homo sapiens.

“Henshin!” -
Nearly all Ultras have a “Henshin Device,” or transformation item, which, when activated, releases a small amount of “The Light” and activates a molecular transformation in the Deunamist to bring out the Ultra Warrior within. Henshin devices come in many forms and functions, and are activated in different ways as according to the device itself.
Some Henshin devices come in an impressive variety, but most are hand-held items (the Beta Capsule). There have also been small masks (the Ultra-Eye), bracelets (the Mebius Brace), necklaces (the Delta Pendant), curious little trinkets (the Beam Flasher), and even everyday items (Zearth’s electric toothbrush!).
Not all Ultras require transformation items...some, such as The Next, have merged so completely with their host that sheer force of will can transform them.

"Luminizers" -
As we well know, Ultra Warriors are powered by the Light. However, they have learned to harness this power into attacks called Luminizers (coined in the US dub of Ultraman Tiga). Luminizers shape light in such a way that it can achieve a large number of effects. Sometimes a swipe of the hand can emit a cutting disc of energy, such as the Ultra Slash, other times a force field can be created. The most powerful attack in an Ultra Warrior's arsenal, however, is what could be collectively called an Alpha Stream, which varies from Ultra to Ultra. Ultraman the First utilizes the Specium Beam, while UltraSeven fires the Wide Shot. Ultraman Tiga uses the Zepellion Ray, and Ultraman Max has the Maxium Cannon. Most if not all Alpha Streams are fired by collecting a huge amount of energy, often through the ColorTimer or an Ultra's chest armor, and fired from the hands but creating a T or L shape when crossing them.
There are other abilities for Ultras to make use of, such as Seven's Eye Slugger or Ultraman's Ultra Current, and while the Light is utilized to control these powers, and even warp matter around an Ultra (in case he or she needs to put out a fire or levitate something) these aren't "natural" Light-based abilities and are thus not considered "Luminizers."

“Kaiju and Seijin” -
Ultras are gigantic in their natural fighting forms, and this seems to be a response to the giant beasts that plague the universe. Kaiju are long time foes of Ultra Warriors, and as many of you know, come in all shapes and sizes, from mutant dinosaurs to giant bugs to fire-breathing fish to mad robots run amuck. Monsters like this can be naturally occurring and simply awoken by man’s foolish designs, whereas others are giant mutants that are the result of humanity’s arrogant pollution of this precious planet.
Ultras rarely show compassion towards such mindless destroyers, but sometimes an Ultra will see that a kaiju needs to be put down because it is suffering, or will even remove the creature and find it a new home.
Many a monster is actually the result of a malicious consciousness that seeks to destroy Earth: Some of the first monsters to menace Earth were the giant beasts of darkness called Golzas which fought against the ancient Ultras millions of years ago. The Gudis was a living amalgamation of mutagenic bacilli that began to transform normal animals into ferocious beasts. The Chaos Header sought to turn normally peaceful Earth kaiju into beasts of ravenous destruction. The Entity of Root Destruction sent outer-dimensional monsters to Earth to tear it apart.
Seijin (aliens) are no strangers to the Ultra universe. The Ultras, being aliens themselves, have created alliances and enemies across the galaxy. Earth, however, has been called “the jewel of space,” and is coveted by many a hostile species. The aliens that appear are just as numerous and various as the kaiju that appear on the planet (Earth has been identified as well as having the largest number of different species in the whole galaxy).
One alien species of particular note could be considered the Decepticons to the Ultras’ Autobots, and they are the infamous “Baltan-seijin.” Horrible and malignant, the Baltans have had a long-standing rivalry with the Ultras, as it seems as though their intent is to invade and conquer planet after planet, making them true space-locusts. Baltans, however, seem to be very tiny in their natural forms; they number in the thousands and millions. There are a select few Baltans that are meant for battle, and they are all as gigantic as the Ultras themselves (but are also capable of size-changing ability). Despite being such a massive thorn in the Land of Light’s side, it seems as though, in recent years, the Baltan threat has been largely squelched by the Ultras. Apparently, the Ultras finally wised up and aided the Baltans in finding a new homeworld where they wouldn’t have to plunder other races of their own...of course, there are always exceptions to the rule...

“The Dark Ultras” -
The Ultras are not perfection. Wherever there is light, it will always cast a shadow, and the Dark Ultras ARE that shadow. Dark Ultras come into existence by a number of ways, but largely, it tends to be Ultra Warriors and Deunamists who are tainted by the Dark, and give in to selfishness, greed, hatred, and lust for power. This results in Ultras like Kamilla, Dark Zagi, and Evil Tiga.
Dark Ultras can be every bit as strong, fast and intelligent as Ultras of Light, and are frequently the most deadly enemy an Ultra can face...but usually, the lesson learned is that, while the Dark relies only on itself, the Light takes strength from itself and others as well, thus, the Dark is pushed back into oblivion...of course, it will come back. It always does...

Monday, July 28, 2008

State of the Godzilla Franchise

It’s been awhile since I’ve taken the time to write in the “deep and serious” territory, but it’s come to my attention that Matt Frank’s opinion is valued to a degree in the kaiju fandom. As such, I felt it a worthwhile endeavor to undertake a sort of “State of the Genre” address to be written, posted and likely forgotten since hardly anyone reads this blog (my own fault for updating once every ice age). I really do hope, however, that someone from Toho or anyone else actively important in the entertainment industry will read this and consider it for more than two heartbeats.

The kaiju genre is currently in a bizarre state of flux; Godzilla is on yet another hiatus (this one appearing quite serious), Gamera is all but dead, Ultraman is desperately clinging to his “triumphant return” certificate, South Korea is having a strange upturn of monster movies, and the first truly excellent American giant monster film since KING KONG took the world by storm earlier this year. Interestingly, our little corner of nerdom seems to gain an upsurge of randomized influences whenever our godly king of rubber suited stuntmen takes a nosedive into low box office turnout and subsequent hibernation...or that’s one way to put it. GODZILLA: FINAL WARS was perhaps the most divisive kaiju film ever released, likely because it ended the series on a series of notes equivalent to a hippo trying to conduct Carmina Burana. In fact, the fandom has recently taken to regarding the Millenium series (as a whole) with a consensual “eh”. Let’s face it: GODZILLA 2000 was smart but overall lackluster, GODZILLA VS. MEGAGUIRUS was a crazed mish-mash of good ideas and bad execution, GMK was a glorious gem but scared the hell out of the average G-Fan by being “different,” the massive fanwank known as the “Kiryu Saga” was a cacophony of pretty-but-recycled ideas and writing, and the aformentioned FINAL WARS caused epileptic seizures though a concoction of “stupid awesomeness.” Don’t get me wrong; there’s a lot that the Millenium series did well, but it suffers mostly from Toho’s “Play it Safe” policy. This is derived heavily from the very Japanese notion of “the nail that sticks up gets hammered down.” In other words, Toho doesn’t want to take risks, especially not after the whole 1998 GODZILLA fiasco. Of course, we can hardly fault them for that. The thing is, however, that change can be a very good thing, but it’s a tricky balance. Changing something for the sake of changing it, and in the process completely altering the core concepts that made it special in the first place, is a universal slap in the face. Yet, breaking something down back into its base uniqueness and thematic elements, and THEN changing all of the other frikafrak that had built up is the ideal (and ONLY) way to intelligently improve a series or franchise, be it Godzilla, the Incredible Hulk or Lord of the Rings. But such a concept is an elusive one, apparently, and Toho seems to rather stick with what works (even on the most basic level) than take any huge risks (which is one reason why Kaneko did not return for any subsequent Godzilla films).
Thus we are brought to the topic of Suitmation. A long-standing practice, there’s little argument that it is an effective tool for filmakers. Guillermo del Toro has proven that over and over again with the HELLBOY films and PAN’S LABYRINTH, and for God’s sake, look at GAMERA 3! I find it incredible that an almost 10-year-old film set the bar so high for Japanese suitmation monster flicks that the rest of the industry is STILL struggling to reach that film’s level of technical achievement. I will advocate, however, that CGI is an extremely important tool for filmmakers to utilize, especially if Godzilla is supposed to return in 3 years or so. The all CGI-Godzilla from Toho’s ALWAYS 2 was a tasty crumb tossed at us from the massive and delicious pie of cinematic potential, BUT upon viewing clips from a small-time film on Youtube (LINK), one can clearly see that a rubber suit can still be very effective, if handled properly. If Kaneko were given the proper amount of time needed to bring GMK to its full potential, we would have likely gotten something similar, but with a much more massive budget and eye-exploding visuals.
That was the paramount problem with most of the Millenium series: a simple sense of energy and atmosphere. The fight sequences and scenery of the monsters lacked the dynamics of even the recent Ultraman incarnations and the MIKAZUKI television series. In the wake of TRANSFORMERS, THE INCREDIBLE HULK, and the 2005 KING KONG, all of which are explosive computer-animated brain tumors of awesome, it’s very hard to go back and watch GODZILLA AGAINST MECHAGODZILLA and honestly try to gain a sense of excitement beyond the simple fact that it’s the same two characters we’ve known for decades on end, slightly redesigned and beating the hell out of each other-oh wait, they’re doing some sort of weird...fighting/hugging...thing. I’m very thankful that GODZILLA: FINAL WARS at least attempted to ramp up the action, thanks largely to the imaginative work of suit actor Tsutomu Kitagawa, but the silliness and speed of the action turned a lot of fans off. This brings me to yet another point: fandom. Toho may have a lot of flaws, like any company, but neglecting the fans is not among them. Toho does have an admirable quality of insuring that Godzilla is treated with the utmost respect, as they seem to have their finger on at least some faint pulse near the fandom’s foot or something. However, trying too hard to impress a collective of like-minded people leads to the incredibly destructive problem of stagnation; if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it...but don’t improve it, either. Just keep it the same and nobody will complain (or as little as the average fan can manage without going insane). BUT, and I’m loath to admit this, but the general and casual public needs to be “let in,” so to speak. The franchise has become SO enamored with “fans first” that the general public, and by extension a larger audience, has been viciously shut out. Yet if CLOVERFIELD proved anything, it’s that the non-kaiju-fan public has a huge say in what constitutes a successful film, and any major franchise film should be approached with the idea of really drawing people in with something genuinely exciting to everyone, not just the same fans repeated ad nauseam.
The Showa series (the bar which the entire rest of the franchise is measured against) is a strange mix of honest artistry and retro-riffic wackiness, whereas the Heisei series was a massive, balls-to-the-wall step up in technical prowess and divide in cinematography when compared to the low-tech Showa days. True, the Heisei saga runs together after awhile for its manly sort of swagger and the seriousness it takes itself, but it never outstays its welcome because it’s such a leap in aesthetic from the Showa days. The Millenium series (GMK and FINAL WARS notwithstanding) runs together but with a “boring realism” sort of way, rather than the Heisei saga’s “explosive action film” approach to life. But enough fanwanking over that shallow-but-completely-BADASS septuplogy (is that even a word?) and back to the matter at hand.
We have the problem; the Godzilla series has stagnated. What’s the solution? Well, if Toho stays the course and rushes out another lackluster “revival film,” the series will fall flat on its face again and we’ll not see another Gojira flick for decades. The proper and profitable solution is, firstly, to take TIME with a new Godzilla film. Really put a huge amount of money, effort and promotion into it. Tout it as a true “next generation,” rather than the “return to form” that is so often thrown in our face with hopes at placating a rabid fanbase with tired homages and recycled material. Japanese films are not known for having big budgets but just look at what CAN be done (Gamera, AGAIN, not to mention low-budget films like CLOVERFIELD) with a modest budget. It’s about effort, more than anything.
But what should the new film be about? I think it needs to go one of two ways: either something cool, flashy and new, with all sorts of bells and whistles, like THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL. And something original, for the love of Primus, not Mothra, Ghidorah and MechaGodzilla again. If TOKYO S.O.S. taught us anything, it’s that audiences are tired of the same monsters and same scenarios over and over again. What about the Crystal Incursion from GODZILLA: UNLEASHED? True, not a perfect game and the story mode is fractured to say the least, but the concept is a cool and refreshing one. And Krystalak, despite a frequent victim of the usual fan-reaction “Oh God something that isn’t a redesigned Battra!” is a unique foe that would be perfect, and throw Obsidius in for good measure. The revived Gotengo could provide human-level drama, bring in Space Godzilla as a pseudo-sequel to the Heisei series and you’re golden!
The other possibility? Remake GOJIRA. The Back-to-Showa kick is major in Japan right now, and the possibilities were touched on in ALWAYS 2, and if teamed with a major US production company, it could be the sort of “Godzilla means something” film that fans have been wanting and needing desperately since GODZILLA 1985. Heck...take a damn risk and let an American studio make the darn thing! I really don’t think GINO will happen again, honestly, as that film alone stands as a huge warning beacon to all of Hollywood as “How NOT to revive a franchise.” There are tons of directors and scriptwriters out there who are just ITCHING to take their own crack at Godzilla...why not let them?
Well, this may all just be pointless, desperate wailing from a frustrated fan who thinks he’s enlightened or something, but it’s still a valid point if Toho wants their flagship series to be profitable again. So, Mr. Toho Representative, if you could kindly take these ideas, feel free to remove my name from the credits, and present it to the big guys upstairs in the head office building, maybe they’d stop trying to sue sandwich companies over completely legal parodies and make something out of this series. Oh, and GO GET KANEKO BACK. At least he knows what he’s doing.
Alright, that’s that then. I suppose it’s more of a “State of Godzilla” address than of the genre, but everyone knows how it’s doing, more or less. CLOVERFIELD incited an honest resurgence of interest in giant monsters, Ultraman is actually healthier than initially noted (despite it never, EVER will be relevant in the United States), and life really isn’t so bad, once you stop complaining and look at all the beautiful women around you...sorry, where was I? Oh yes. Go forth my fellow fans. Go forth and...write letter to Toho? Just consider the possibilities, I suppose. At least we have MONSTERPOCALYPSE to tide us over ;)

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Matt like Hulk

I honestly considered writing this review in "Hulk speak," but upon my first effort I realized that Hulk may not be so much simple and childlike due to mutated brain cells as he was likely MADE stupid by trying so hard to constantly refer to himself in third let's just stick with regular text, shall we?
Sometime around mid-afternoon on Friday I received a text message from my hotly opinionated friend Max stating that THE INCREDIBLE HULK is, like the protagonist Bruce Banner, underdeveloped, uninteresting and a slew of other mean words basically summing up "disappointing" at the end of his capsule review.
I've always valued this particular friend's opinion, so he had validity to his argument. However, if my college years have taught me anything, it's that you NEVER take another person's opinion as your own; you'd best find out for yourself.

At the Alamo Drafthouse, my 10+ friends and I (who unfortunately couldn't all sit together) settled in for the film. In the midst of the Bill Bixby INCREDIBLE HULK projected on the screen, a game of "Smash the Hulk" (where young audience members attack a candy-filled Hulk), and "Gamma Green Sundaes," we weren't all sure if it would in any way stack up to last month's IRON MAN, but we definitely knew that giant mutated fists were going to fly and some serious shit was about to go down.

A little more than two hours later, we had found ourselves reeling from the experience. I'll never take the "opening night theatrical experience" for granted, as there's practically nothing that compares to it, ESPECIALLY at the Alamo Drafthouse. But anyway, on to the film!

...But what hasn't already been said? "It evokes the themes of the original televised series," "Extreme action and awesome special effects," "one-dimensional but otherwise basically effective characters," "plenty of Marvel fan easter eggs to boil up and nibble on," etc. etc. etc. That's the thing about writing reviews when you're not a review-writer: the most obvious facts that people actively care about have been stated, repeated and regurgitated. The only way that my review will be of any use to anyone is to strive to make points seldom or rarely made, based on my own modestly correct opinion.

First and foremost is the editing. Why make a fuss about that? Because a lot of otherwise excellent films *coughjackson'skongcough* are marred by otherwise atrocious editing, mostly because filmmakers seem to be bound by blood-oaths of making audiences sit through "character development" whether it's necessary or not. Sometimes character development can be a truly excellent thing, other times it's tacked on and does little more than pointlessly delay the actively enjoyable parts of the film. THE INCREDIBLE HULK absolutely tosses out any notion of active character development in favor of dramatic excitement. At first glance, that last sentence is a horrific cancerous growth on the backside of cinema, BUT not in the case of the Hulk. The characters of Bruce Banner, Betty Ross, Thunderbolt and Emile Blonsky are all nearly devoid of the standard character introductions or development, but they really, REALLY don't need it. The characters do what they need to do and their motivations are laid out just enough for us to know what's what. The only character that some may argue could have used more background is Blonsky, who becomes the punishingly awesome Abomination, BUT the fact that we're unfamiliar with the power-hungry little troll of a man puts the audience on guard (to paraphrase the IGn review...see what I mean?) and makes him a more unsettling villain. Betty Ross is portrayed strikingly different from what I expected, actively putting herself in harm's way for Bruce's sake to an original and refreshing extent. Thunderbolt Ross, her warmongering father (a fact that is interestingly kept out of the equation until an excellently dramatic moment) isn't the morally ambiguous weirdo of the Ang Lee flick (which I enjoyed aspects of) but a man who likes to think he has everything under control, even though the world is, quite literally, blowing up in his face.
Finally, Dr. Banner is the man on the run. Norton gets the point across and he does it well. He's not particularly strong or snarky, but he's resourceful and brilliant.

Before I get to the REAL meat of the film, I'd like to mention that it all feels very "refreshing." You generally know what's going to happen, but everything is handled so refreshingly and originally that it's hard to see what little tidbit of clever writing will be tossed at you next. From Banner's Brazilian escapades to his relationship with Betty, anything that could have been tiresomely retroactive has been thankfully side-stepped and trimmed to bypass any unnecessary fluff (more credit to the film's editing).

Finally, THE MONSTERS. Hulk and the Abomination are great fun, and the special effects themselves a sumptuous visual feast, BUT only occasionally slipping into the "CGI overload" territory so often slapped into the faces of moviegoers. Hulk looks great, there's no question about that, but he looks like he's really stepped out of the pages of a lavishly illustrated comic, and doesn't seem to occupy the same space of reality as the real actors (and he doesn't look a damn thing like Edward Norton). Still, the filmmakers were clearly going for spectacle over realism, so even though we know it's not really happening, we sure are having fun watching it.
Another thing that the Ang Lee Hulk was sorely lacking was the beastial ferocity that makes Hulk so "incredible." This Hulk roars to the sky with a foot firmly planted on a fallen nemesis, challenging the world at large for supremacy. It's this "Roaring Hulk" that I've so longed for and wanted to see for years and years now, and it's positively glorious.

As good as IRON-MAN? Probably not, but it's certainly in the top-5 superhero flicks of all time, definitely alongside IRON-MAN and SPIDERMAN 2 as one of the best Marvel films. Now we wait for the inevitable sequels and the rest of the AVENGERS films, and hopefully we'll see the the Hulk tackle the Leader and his army of plastic androids soon enough ;)

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Monster motivators

It's a quickly aging internet quirk, but I thought I'd have some fun like some other bloggers.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

King Kong 2005 - A look back

It's 2008, and 75 years ago (circa a few months back), King Kong premiered to captivate audiences in a way never before imagined.
Now I look at my personal favorite film, Peter Jackson's King Kong, almost 3 years after its release in theaters in 2005. It's an odd feeling, watching a film for the first time, watching it for maybe a few more times, getting it for your own collection, then let it collect dust for awhile before you crack it open once more and throw it into your dvd player (or in my case, catch it by accident on TNT).

The result is a rather perplexing experience, especially for me and Kong. I recall 2005 with great fondness, and being absolutely enamoured with the film and everything to do with it, not to mention my respect for the classic Kong (to that point little more than "Godzilla's inspiration" on a sticky note tacked to the film in my cerebral library) grew immensely. Upon viewing it, I was assaulted by an emotional experience for a giant beast that I hadn't felt since perhaps Godzilla's nuclear heart exploded from his body in 1995. For the next year or so I fervently venerated the film, calling it (not so silently) one of, if not THE best film I had ever seen. In fact I took to viciously defending it in case I met some fuddy-duddy who found it undesirable. I motioned that anyone who disliked Kong '05 had a heart made of melted shards of glass and a soul more dry and putrid than an old onion husk (much like detractors of GMK). In retrospect...and I'm quite loath to admit it, but King Kong 2005 isn't what I wanted to believe it is. Now don't concern yourself, dear reader, Kong 2005 is still my favorite film of all time, but for a plethora of reasons. All my repeat viewings have done are to give me a more rounded perspective of the film and where others come from when they express distaste for it (despite it being one of Universal's most profitable home-video sales of all time).
I'll get my undying love of the film out of the way first, so you cynical bastards can just skim over this part. The relationship between Kong and Ann is nothing short of cinematic and narrative genius, and I will slap anyone across the face who argues otherwise. The sheer, unspoken beauty of this onscreen drama cannot be evoked more beautifully or sublimely. Kong, played masterfully by Andy Serkis, wasn't just a computer-animated piece of nothing like Ang Lee's Hulk or, God Forbid, Roland Emmerich's "Zilla." Serkis was on the set for all of Kong and Ann's scenes, and he acted against and with her for all the interaction. There's REAL acting going on there, not just soulless green-screen. Not to be outdone, Ann, played by Naomi Watts, is a remarkable beauty who, like in the words of Fay Wray herself, held "Ann Darrow in good hands" (no pun intended). Naomi has such onscreen presence and is such a powerful actress that she was robbed an Oscar nomination...oh wait, nevermind, since the Oscars is a big fat idiotic scam anyway, there I said it.
And God Dammit, JACK BLACK. You sunnavabitch. Okay, granted, all the actors maintain a level between competent and excellent acting, but Jack Black just plain steals the show. He's so damn fun and interesting as this new take on Carl Denham that, rather than attempt to channel Jack Armstrong's original character, he forges his own cross between his own persona and Orson Wells.
That said, let's talk DINOSAURS and other horrific beasties on this island. Yes, okay, it's all very excessive. There's more critters on this island that should even be legal, but I just can't help but adore the design team for coming up with them all! Granted, there are many creatures from the production that I would have preferred to see over the "Wetasaurus," but the sheer spectacle that these dinosaurs embody, the ornamentation on the heart and soul that is the love story, simply cannot be beaten. The V-Rex's themselves are stars in their own right, the big, violent lot of them. The Piranhadon swamp monster and rampaging Ferrucutus (triceratops thing) from the extended edition THAT SHOULD HAVE BEEN THEATRICAL are two of my favorite creatures as well.

Well, I could go on, but I've detailed Jackson's more genius decisions in the past, especially the musical numbers in NYC at the start and end of the film, as well as some truly sublime storytelling aspects, but let's get to what I'm finally willing to agree is not so great.

First and foremost, the film is too damn long. Yes, this is an argument repeated many times, but I've finally come to truly accept it. Peter, I love you man, but get a damn editor. If you love the spectacle of the film so huggy-muggy-much (line blatantly stolen from Yahtzee), why replace that with some psuedo-man-boy story that goes absolutely nowhere? You're gonna' look me in the eye and say that you were willing to replace a big hungry piranha/sea-serpent/thingy with some bullshit about "It's not about being brave, Jimmy"? I did like Hays as part of the "Driscoll Trio" of characters inspired by the original Jack Driscoll (said burly black man, heroic writer and shallow movie-star), but everything, and I mean absolutely EVERYTHING with Jimmy and interactions with Hays feels completely unnecessary...tacked-on at best. There was supposed to be some sort of "young man learns about life" going on here, but after Hays dies, Jimmy seems to literally become dead weight or a walking hazard. There's probably a good hour of exposition that could be cut from the film, and it would be SO much tighter and more enjoyable without losing the spectacle or the real drama. I'll make a list:
1. All Jimmy/Hays crap.
2. A LOT of the scenes that drag on and on could be trimmed down immensely.
3. About half of the whole sea-voyage bull.

Something else that has finally started bothering me is the general logic that pervades several parts of the film. Yes, okay, my belief is already suspended what with the whole giant ape/way too many dinosaurs for that tiny island to sustain, but seriously, can we have a little dignity? The Brontosaurus stampede is almost universally regarded as one of the poorer spfx in the film, and I'm inclined to agree, with the exception of some truly breathtaking shots in that sequence...but raptors? C'mon, Peter. We've SEEN raptors. Why not Carnotaurs, like your first idea? Or how about those four-legged wolf-raptor things from the beautiful concept art book? THOSE would be AWESOME. Anyway, it's just how strangely fake and removed everyone is in this scene that throws me, not to mention in the Ferrucutus scene, where the SPFX guys seem to be too aware of how to work a creature AROUND the actor.
It's natural that a piece set in the 1930's will be a somewhat awkward transition to a 2005 audience without going the tongue-in-cheek route of The Mummy or Jackson's original script for Kong, but still, the spectacle is hard for some people to swallow when it takes big leaps like "How did they get Kong to New York?" and "Why are they so quick to want to kill Kong?" and "Why do they keep searching for one girl when several of them have already died?" That last bit has to do with pacing, frankly.
Speaking of The Mummy, there were elements of that film that were oddly parallel with Jackson's bizarre but wildly entertaining 1996 script that could have and should have been integrated into the final Kong product. It seemed as though when trying not to be so SERIOUS SERIOUS SERIOUS all the time is when Jackson's films have the most entertaining. Can anyone say they would have enjoyed Lord of the Rings more had they not made Gimli the comedy relief? There's a scene in the extended edition where an platoon commander is harping about a "filthy ape" in an extremely humans-are-best-and-everything-else-has-to-die manner, and then gets barreled by Kong that absolutely SHOULD have been in the final product.

Of course, with all my criticism here tonight, it would be easy to say that my opinion of Kong has lowered, and if you think that then you're a liar and a filthy horrible person, because it has not. King Kong 2005 is still my favorite film of all time, not just because I can take the spectacle and all of the best aspects of the film more to heart than any of the bad pieces that most other people let absolutely annihilate their movie experience (and as such are people who inherently must dislike cinema as a whole). One of the biggest factors is how much absolute LOVE went into this film. Yeah, remember "LOVE"? Yeah, that whole thing that people scoff at nowadays. It's the sort of thing that led to the birth of the Speed Racer film (a joyous and also overly-long experience in my humble, fiery opinion). While watching the video of Peter while he mulls over Fay Wray's death, you don't see a director; you see a man who's just learned that a childhood idol and first crush died before he could give her a last shining moment on film (a cameo at the point of Kong's death). Jackson and his army of nerds have created one big fangasm, and though it doesn't always work, it's still a great and epic cinematic experience, and I'll still defend it with tooth and claw.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Giant Monsters are SCARY again.

A Cloverfield review, if you will ;)

Monster movies, particularly of the "giant" variety, have had tumultuous tidings over the last few years. Godzilla took his third hiatus back in 2004, and things seemed bleak for daikaiju eiga. Thankfully for fans of this somewhat under-appreciated genre, a small but noticeable wave of creature features have been crawling from the darker corners of film-making imaginations, such as Peter Jackson's epic, exciting, and overly long remake of King Kong, the brief return of Gamera, and two new South Korean films: the critically acclaimed The Host and the flashy-but-brainless Dragon Wars. Finally, trailing on the success of Transformers, Producer J.J. Abrams and director Matt Reeves have unleashed the giant monster genre in a way never seen before. A jarring, abrasive, eye-popping spectacle called "Cloverfield."

Thanks to a brilliant marketing campaign primarily consisting of little tidbits and dangling carrots peppered throughout the vast internet realm, to say that this is a monster movie for the "Youtube generation" is a colossal understatement. What's truly spectacular about the film is that it breaks so many conventions of the giant monster genre, while simultaneously re-introducing time-honored traditions and elements to the teenagers of today.

The story is fairly simple, but genius in its delivery. A bunch of upper-class teens and college students from NYC are living their inane grandly insignificant drama-laden lives (part of the charm, since these are just normal shmucks and not scientists or generals), dealing with breakups, crushes, and awkward sex. In the midst of a going-away party for Rob the "hero," and "crazy horrible shit" happens. Manhattan is turned into a mass of nightmares, with horrible surprises lurking around every corner, all while Hud, our nervously comical cameraman, loyally documents the events.

The camera documentation style is absolutely what sets this film apart from any other monster film. While the Blair Witch Project gets points for inventing the concept and for subtle creepiness, Cloverfield puts you smack in the middle of the confusion, excitement and thrill of confronting a truly terrifying living force of nature, and all the chaos it brings with it. The scariest aspect, of course, is that you DON'T know what the damn thing is. It's big and terrible and it doesn't look like anything you've seen before (from a normal shmuck's perspective). You don't know why all this horror is happening, you aren't a scientist or a general, so you're on the periphery, so start RUNNING.
The human characters are, of course, the center of the story. Though Rob's decision to go on his heroic quest to save his one true love feels the most unrealistic of all...however, we can't deny that, without this "hero's quest," there would BE no real story to be involved in...and if your dearest friend called you, crying and scared, you're a horrible person for not going to their aid, and may it haunt you for the rest of your life.
Acting in general was very good. A few lines felt forced or odd attempts at sounding "hip" or "cool" but these few instances aside the dialogue was very natural and fluid. Each character was also built well enough for the one and a half hour of footage (which, by the way, is all the power the camera had. Those who criticize the camera for being "on" for 10 hours need to remember that Hud was constantly turning it on and off). Rob was a stoic leaderly character, though obsessive in his goals. Hud was disheveled and cracks wise excellently, Lilly was a supportive sisterly character, and Marlena, the sad little introvert, thankfully stayed the sad little introvert.
What's also really interesting about the movie is that no character is truly "sacred." Unlike many of its kind, Cloverfield doesn't coddle its lead teens, at least not excessively. No one is truly safe.

Okay, enough of that crap. What about the question on everyone's lips? What does the monster look like? Well, finding a little time, I worked up a really quick sketch of the beastie:

(UPDATE: I removed the old picture with something a little more updated, more accurate...I'm still a little unsure about the legs, though)
(I'm working on a more detailed pic for G-Fan magazine)

You'll need to make notes of that, because even when you get an eyeful of the big bad antagonist, it's hard to make out what's-what. The beast, designed by the masterful Neville Page, has a very unique anatomy (despite looking somewhat superficially like "Orga" from Godzilla 2000), and on top of that, moves with an awkward grace of a monster not used to walking on land. It doesn't march proudly down city streets like the mighty Godzilla, rather it shambled and crawls, "scampers," if you will, because it's really not sure how it should be moving. "Clover," is an odd mix of characterizations. When it arrives, and if you take time to dissect the events, it's really not being aggressive. It's confused and surprised by humans in general (if you check the various sites, it's never seen humans before, living underwater for thousands of years), and attacks the Statue of Liberty. It isn't until the combination of the military enraging it and the nasty mutant Parasites living on it running off and raising hell that the shit really hits the fan. Now the monster's pissed and annihilating the military where it can find them. It really is kaiju-level of invincibility, which, handled in such a refreshing way, adds to the monster's level of fearsomeness.
The scrambling, horrible parasites that act as yet another threat are a welcomed addition, if a bit superfluous, or even completely unnecessary, but then again, the impact of the film wouldn't be nearly as strong as it is. Taking cues from Starship Troopers and Godzilla 1985, these buggers create a whole new level of chaos to the camera work that emphasizes the quick, deadly nature of what's going on. Horrifying stuff.

No score for the film, with the exception of the wild, monstrously powerful "Roar!" overture theme during the end credits, written by Michael Giacchino, evokes the best of Akira Ifukube and other 50's and 60's monster movie themes. This needs to be online, available for download NOW.

A few friends who had to sit back a few rows (yes, we were unnervingly close to the screen) said they could hear me shouting at the screen various obscenities, depending on what was a-happenin'. Cloverfield had indeed heralded a new era of kaiju eiga, now placed alongside the greats of Monster Movie History. King Kong, Gojira, Them, Gamera 3, Aliens, and The Host had best make way for this sucker. Now if Abrams can only resist making a sub-par sequel, we'll be all set for a Godzilla revival soon enough :D