• Kingu Kongu tai Gojira / King Kong versus Godzilla (1962)

    After a dormancy of more than seven years, the Godzilla franchise was revived and to kick things off on a spectacular note, the giant lizard confronts a legend of Hollywood cinema with giant monkey King Kong. The movie was commercially successful and remains one of the most profitable films in the franchise. Without this film, many other movies that followed would have never seen the light of day. Nevertheless, King Kong versus Godzilla is one of the franchise's worst movies and the terribly edited American version is particularly bad.

    There are several elements to be criticized here. Godzilla almost only has a side role since the movie largely focuses on King Kong.

    The story of the monkey retrieved from an isolated island by a greedy businessman is an almost exact copy of the original King Kong movie and lacks imagination.

    The characters in this movie remain superficial and the fact that many actresses and actors overact in a way that recalls the slapstick comedy genre certainly doesn't help.

    The edited and inserted scenes in the American version harm the pace of the original movie and leave out several key scenes. The monologues and communications between the additional American actors are bland and boring. They don't add anything to the story. Changing a movie and adding American characters to the plot would rightfully be considered disrespectful and even racist by today's standards. Things were different back then but cinephiles around the globe can consider themselves lucky that things have changed.

    Even the monsters in this movie are far from convincing. King Kong looks mildly amusing with his chaotic fur and is seen hammering his fists against his chest in half of his scenes. Godzilla certainly doesn't look as scary as in the first two movies and has clearly taken a more accessible look to appeal to larger audiences.

    Still, King Kong versus Godzilla has a few redeeming qualities after all. The scene when Godzilla awakes from an iceberg after a submarine collided with it is truly tense and impressive.

    The scenes on Faro Island add an exotic touch to the movie and something new to the franchise overall.

    The scenes when King Kong kidnaps a woman and climbs a building with her are obviously copied from the original Hollywood movie but they are nevertheless entertaining and impressive to watch.

    The ways the military attempts to stop the monsters are quite diverisfied and portray the helplessness of mankind quite drastically.

    The final fighting scenes between King Kong and Godzilla are certainly very entertaining. This movie might have multiple flaws but it isn't boring and doesn't overstay its welcome.

    To conclude, King Kong versus Godzilla is one of the weakest entries into the franchise. The movie is basically a Japanese reinterpretation of the Hollywood movie of the gigantic monkey with a few secondary scenes involving their very own national treasure. Still, the movie is nicely crafted for its time and certainly entertainment that appeals to the whole family. Nowadays, this movie is only recommended to avid fans of both the Godzilla and King Kong franchises. Occasional fans of kaiju films can skip this overall average release without any regrets.

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  • Gojira no gyakushû / Godzilla Raids Again (1955)

    After the unexpected success of Godzilla, Toho Studios wanted to produce and release a quick sequel to cash in on the groundbreaking predecessor's excellent reputation. Director Honda Ishiro wasn't available, so Oda Motoyoshi was hired. Despite the limited time and the directorial change, Godzilla Raids Again is much better than its reputation and actually one of the series' greatest movies in its original Japanese version.

    Godzilla looks more flexible in this movie than in the predecessor which amplifies the film's astonishing action scenes. In addition to this, a new monster in form of an ankylosaurus named Anguirus makes its appearance and battles Godzilla on two separate occasions. Their second battle in the port of Osaka is one of the series' most spectacular fighting scenes.

    The characters in this movie are unique, sympathetic and profound. Tsukioka Shoichi is a dynamic, helpful and quick-witted pilot working for a tuna cannery company who saves his brave, creative and funny colleague Kobayashi Koji after his engine malfunctioned and he stranded on an isolated island inhabitated by Anguirus and Godzilla. Numerous buildings of their company get destroyed when the giant monsters destroy parts of Osaka later on. The two men are heartbroken when they get transferred to the company plant in Sapporo. Just as Tsukioka Shoichi is joined by his charming girlfriend and Kobayashi Koji develops a serious love interest as well, tragedy strikes again as Godzilla destroys one of the company's fishing boats. The two skilled pilots support the military in locating Godzilla and are thus heroically risking their lives.

    Beside the main plot, Godzilla Raids Again features numerous excellent little ideas. Charismatic Doctor Yamane Kyohei from the first movie makes a short appearance explaining the origins of the monsters and adding a scientific dimension to the movie. There is a breathtaking scene when a groupe of criminals try to escape from a prison truck as Anguirus and Godzilla fight at the port. The chasing sequences are wonderfully shot and even add a tragic dimension to the story. The military is quite inventive regarding strategies to fight the monsters by enforcing a blackout, using flares to lure the monsters away and provoking an avalanche to bury Godzilla.

    In just a few months' time, Oda Motoyoshi managed a seemingly impossible task by directing a sequel that lives up to its legendary predecessor. The only reason why this movie is just slightly less impressive than the original film is because it's missing the first film's gloomily philosophical depth. Still, Godzilla Raids Again is an overlooked masterpiece with action, creativity and depth all at once. It deserves more attention and credit than it has gotten and is one of the series' greatest highlights that has stood the test of time.

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  • Gojira / Godzilla (1954)

    This movie is a masterpiece. I have been a big fan of the Godzilla series since I was a child. When I discovered the original movie at the age of twelve, it was only the second movie in my life that truly impressed me after The Lion King. The movie hasn't lost anything of its intensity since then and I have watched this film again on multiple occasions.

    Everything about this movie is perfect. First of all, there is the intense atmosphere. The beginning of the movie is worthy of an excellent horror flick. You see destruction, fear and pain and you are on the edge of your seat because you don't really know what's going on. When Godzilla then first appears on a Japanese island, you feel shivers running down your spine. The ugly look of this giant is truly scary and not comparable to the rather sympathetic look of the same monster in the upcoming features or the mediocre American movies.

    Another big point is the strong acting. The strange and lonesome Doctor Serizawa that turns out to be a warm-hearted hero is simply amazing and the acting of Akihiko Hirata really touched me and almost made me cry in the end. The curious, old and stubborn Kyohe Yamane played by Takashi Shimura and his beautiful and charming daughter Emiko portrayed by Momoko Kôchi are also excellent. Add the dynamic and young Hideto Ogata that is played by Akira Takarada to this and you have four excellent characters and actors that interact very well. The emotions that connect them all go way further than just love and respect. It's about honour, knowledge, politics, responsibility, science and trust. In one hour and a half, the characters of this movie are more authentic, diversified and intense than any characters in any other monster movie I have ever watched. These Japanese were simply miles ahead and even today, this movie portrays Japanese culture in an extraordinary way.

    Let's add to this that the special effects and the camera work of the movie are highly detailed and artistic for the time the movie was created in. When Godzilla grabs the trains in the Tokyo Bay, slowly disintegrates the clock tower and smashes the power lines that have all been constructed in a long process as miniature objects while a man walking around in a huge latex costume all destroys them in a few minutes, these moments have something epic, powerful and unforgettable that modern special effects can't reproduce. This is the magic of the early after war cinema.

    Don't forget the memorable soundtrack of the movie filled with dark and menacing but also majestic melodies that you won't forget and that have been used over and over again during the upcoming decades. The scream of the monster is also extremely haunting.

    The movie is somewhat divided into four parts and very well-balanced. It starts as an intense catastrophe and horror movie, then touches some serious parts dealing with science and politics, then turns into a stunning symphony of destruction to end on a highly human and philosophical note. This masterpiece is like four excellent movies in one and never gets boring. I could simply watch this every month. If you haven't seen it yet, go and change it now. This movie is definitely among my twenty favourite movies of all time.

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  • Ladies and gentlemen!

    Please trust me when I'm telling you that punk's not dead! Before I started discovering the gothic and metal scenes when I was fifteen years old, I had been listening to punk rock music for many years. German legends Die toten Hosen had been my favourite group for many years and I still listen to them occasionally. The quintet always comes around with fresh and new ideas such as the concept of a big band acoustic show that has now been released under the title Alles ohne Strom. I would like to invite you to read my review, check out the band and its amazing new record and to understand that punk rock will never die!

    Die toten Hosen - Alles ohne Strom (2019)

    German punk rock veterans Die toten Hosen have always been on the brave, creative and innovative side which helped them stay successful, relevant and energetic for four decades in a row. A punk double album, a single with French lyrics criticizing former French President Jacques Chirac, a greatest hits record only released in Japan, a Christmas album under the Die roten Rosen banner, an acoustic live album, a compilation for the Argentinian market, a compilation for the Polish market, exclusive concerts played in their greatest fans' living rooms and a concert with a symphony orchestra covering music prohibited in Nazi Germany are only some of the experiments the band has done since its inception in Dusseldorf in the early eighties. 

    Alles ohne Strom is the release of an acoustic concert with a big band playing accordion, cello, clarinet, melodica, percussion, piano, saxophone, sousaphone, trombone, trumpet, viola and violin. The concert took place on July thirteenth and fourteenth in the band's hometown and was released only three and a half months later on October twenty-fifth last year. This makes me wonder why certain bands take two to three years to release their live albums.

    The German punk quintet reinvented its own repertoire creatively. The lyrics for energetic single ''Strom'' where changed to be more appropriate for the occasion of an acoustic show. ''1000 gute Grunde'' has a danceable, energetic and joyful vibe despite dealing with a bitter, sarcastic and serious topic lyrically. ''Hier kommt Alex'' was turned from an atmopsheric punk classic into a vibrant folk tune with polka and ska elements. As strange as these experiments might sound, they actually work out really well.

    The already legendary concert also featured three quite unusual cover songs. The band transformed Rammstein's epic ''Ohne dich'' into a much more intimate song that sends shivers down the spine. Funny von Dannen's ''Politische Lieder'' focuses on simplistic acoustic guitar instrumentation while the lyrics deliver a thoughtful message. Foo Fighter's ''Everlong'' sounds more diversified than the gloomy original tune in its acoustic soundscapes.

    The band also performed four new songs on this album. ''Kamikaze'' is a melancholic anthem with thought-provoking lyrics. ''Schwere(-los)'' is a sinister tune dealing with the haunting memories of a Holocaust survivor. ''Sorgenbrecher (Auf euch)'' on the other side is an uplifting ode to the band's fans and their support. ''Feiern im Regen'' is an ode to life with wonderful guitar melodies.

    In the end, Die toten Hosen offer seventy-eight minutes of perfect entertainment with a creative reinterpretations of their own material, unusual cover songs and four strong new tracks that deserve more attention. Any fan of rock music with lyrical depth should purchase this gem of an album. Punk rock doesn't need angry bass sounds, ferocious drums and distorted guitars to work out. These twenty-one acoustic big band sound experiment are actually more relevant than many traditional punk albums in recent memory. Even in the thirty-eighth year of its existence, Die toten Hosen are still by far Germany's best punk band ever.

    Final rating: 90%

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  • Ladies and gentlemen!

    Only two months after the heartbreaking end of the Ottawa Fury FC franchise in the United Soccer League, there might be professional soccer to be seen this year in Canada's beautiful capital after all. According to rumours, La Liga club Atlético Madrid might invest in a team that would be the eighth franchise to take part in the Canadian Premier League. An official announcement is expected to be made next week. Let's cross our fingers that everything will work out in time. If this project saw the light of day this season, I would certainly attend several home games as well. Stay tuned for more updates on my blog!

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