• Kaijûtô no kessen: Gojira no musuko / Son of Godzilla (1967)

    Filmed in Guam and directed by Fukuda Jun, Son of Godzilla is another family-friendly adventure film in the franchise that will appeal to younger audiences but disappoint most fans of old date. The story revolves around a group of scientists who are trying to develop a sophisticated weather-controling system on a remote island. The isolation and lack of success puts a lot of pressure on the team and things don't get better when a nosey reporter parachutes himself onto the island to write a story about them. After a failed experiment, animals on the island grow to enormous sizes. Furthermore, an egg is discovered after a storm. It hatches and reveals Godzilla's son. His father soon comes to protect his infant from the gigantic animals. The scientists, the reporter and a mysterious woman living in a cave get caught in between the fights.

    On the positive side, this is a good movie to introduce young children to the Godzilla franchise. The locations in Guam look exotic. The numerous gigantic animals look stunning. The premise of weather-controling systems adds a scientific note to the film. The fights between the numerous monsters are entertaining.

    However, the story itself is quite shallow and lacks depth. The characters are mostly uninteresting and seem to be inspired by second-rate adventure films. The main issue is however Godzilla's son called Minilla whose features are supposed to look cute but turn out to be ugly. The monster's behaviour is similar to that of an human child. It crawls around, cries a lot and fails to develop any impressive skills yet. Godzilla tries to act like an instructing father which further antropomorphizes the once-feared king of monsters. The birth of Minilla is never truly explained either and one has to wonder whether it's really Godzilla's son or perhaps an adopted monster of unknown origin.

    Son of Godzilla has a few creative ideas, is a logical continuation of the preceding movies and certainly very entertaining for younger audiences. However, a childish baby monster and the king of monsters acting like a father figure are certainly not what Honda Ishiro imagined when he directed the franchise's first movie thirteen years earlier. Son of Godzilla is an acquired taste but ultimately good for what it is.

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  • Gojira, Ebirâ, Mosura: Nankai no daiketto / Ebirah, Horror of the Deep (1966)

    With the seventh entry in the franchise, entitled Ebirah, Horror of the Deep, the Godzilla movie series definitely enters adventure film territory. The beloved lizard also moves away from being considered a dangerous antagonist and becomes an earthly protector and sympathetic anthropomorphized protagonist. These changes appeal to younger and wider audiences while adults and fans of old date might dislike those changes. One has to understand that those modifications managed to keep the series successful enough to keep it going until the mid-seventies. Director Fukuda Jun replaced veteran Honda Ishiro here and his movies are overall rather family-friendly. Ebirah, Horror of the Deep is a first step into more light-hearted territories.

    This particular movie succeeds because old and new elements are still quite balanced here. The titular gigantic lobster is an impressive monster that constantly wreaks havoc. The terrorist organization that kidnaps indigenous people for forced labour is also quite grizly. Godzilla annihilates a giant condor, destroys a squadron of fighter jets and fights Ebirah in violent fashion.

    On the other side, Godzilla is awakened to help the human heroes and wreaks havoc among the terrorists. Gigantic moth Mothra comes to save indigenous people and is represented as a symbol of hope, love and even motherhood. The human heroes in this film are particularly sympathetic, creative and brave while strong and convincing antagonists are missing this time.

    One of the movie's strengths is its location on an isolated island. The movie explores rocky mountains, hidden caves and stony beaches that contrast the modern facilities of the terrorists. This is certainly a contrast to previous movies that mostly took place in crowded cities or in space. If you ignore the monsters, this movie could have been an adventurous spy flick in the key of the James Bond franchise.

    In the end, the seventh entry in the franchise introduces some fresh changes and is entertaining from start to finish. This movie might appeal to children and teenagers in particular. The film is however missing the philosophical, mysterious and dystopian undertone of its predecessors. Ebirah, Horror of the Deep foreshadows the changes the franchise would go through in the next decade.

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  • Kaijû daisensô / Invasion of Astro-Monster (1965)

    Invasion of Astro-Monster is the most creative, diversified and entertaining entry in the franchise in the sixties along with cult movie Mothra vs. Godzilla. The story revolves around a Japanese and an American astronaut who encounter extraterrestrials on a mysterious planet. They are terrorized by space monster King Ghidorah and ask mankind to borrow Rodan and Godzilla to protect them. In return, they want to give a miracle cure for cancer and offer the possibility to share their advanced scientific skills with mankind. However, the extraterrestrials aren't as diplomatic as they pretend to be and plan on using the three monsters to conquer the Earth. With the help of an extraterrestrial spy who falls in love with the American protagonist, the two astronauts try to find a scientific way to beat the clever aliens.

    This sixth movie in the franchise is the first one with dominant science-fiction elements. The epic journey through space is fascinating to watch, the alien laboratories look truly creative and even the visual special effects of alien technology are rather ambitious for their era.

    The two protagonists have great chemistry. The intelligent and careful Japanese astronaut and the more emotional and frank American astronaut complement each other perfectly. The alien spy who falls in love with the American astronaut after initially tricking him is an idea that goes back to the origins of Greek dramas and tragedies.

    The story comes around with many ideas, turns and twists that make for a truly entertaining plot. It keeps viewers on the edge of their seats from start to finish. Some story elements might be predictable here and there but they are executed with so much energy, passion and wit that it barely matters.

    There aren't too many lengthy fight sequences between the three legendary monsters as the movie rather focuses on science-fiction stylistics, creative plot twists and intriguing characters. The few confrontations between the three monsters are however executed with much action, drama and special effects. This is a science-fiction movie in first place and only a monster movie in second position.

    In the end, Invasion of Astro-Monster is a highly entertaining science-fiction roller coaster ride that can compete with Hollywood cinema of the same era. The creative special effects, quirky plot and sympathetic characters have stood the test of time. This is also one of the few entries in the franchise when the two protagonists come from two completely different countries and cultures. Nick Adams is perfectly integrated into the cast and delivers one of the strongest acting performances in any Showa Era Godzilla movie. His untimely death was a huge loss but his legacy will forever shine in this masterpiece.

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  • Mono Inc. - The Book of Fire (2020)

    German gothic pop quartet Mono Inc. has become one of the country's most popular groups of the so-called dark culture. Previous record Welcome to Hell went all the way to the second position in the German album charts. It wouldn't be surprising if the band's eleventh studio record The Book of Fire went all the way for the pole position.

    The elements that made the predecessor so successful are still exactly the same on its follow-up. Imaginative lyrics meet smooth vocals, melodic guitar play, harmonious keyboard partitions and stoic rhythm section. Title song ''The Book of Fire'' opens the album on an ambitious note with its numerous changes and intriguing storytelling through seven and a half minutes. Epic, majestic yet tight ''Shining Light'' features Tilo Wolff of Lacrimosa fame on guest vocals which adds some welcome diversity. ''Where the Raven Flies'' is the record's second long tune with dreamy keyboard sounds and inspired sound samples to keep transitions intriguing despite an overall very smooth pace and length almost cracking the eight-minute mark. ''The Last Crusade'' convinces with epic choirs and sound samples of ringing bells. ''Right for the Devil'' features medieval electronic rock band Tanzwut and incorporates bagpipe sounds as well as danceable electronic elements which make for one of this record's most creative tunes.

    While The Book of Fire features the band's charismatic stylistic trademarks focusing on smooth pace, marvelous melodies and fluid flow, it is quite obviously very predictable and ends up sounding somewhat redundant, formulaic and boring. Only the longer tunes and tracks with guest musicians and vocalists add something new to the formula. Numerous tracks simply copy and paste melodies and songwriting patterns already used in the past. The most obvious offender is acoustic guitar and piano ballad ''Nemesis'' whose refrain sounds exactly like the one of ''A Vagabond's Life'' on immediate predecessor Welcome to Hell. Another problem throughout the record is the lifeless drum play that could also come from a computer instead of Katha Mia. At least her exchangeable vocal performances are less present on this release than on some previous outputs. Regarding those weaknesses, Mono Inc. should have simply taken a little bit more time to develop its songwriting and add a more dynamic production to prevent the repetition of its smooth stereotypes.

    In the end, Mono Inc.'s The Book of Fire isn't a bad record but if you already own, know and appreciate the very similar and clearly superior predecessor Welcome to Hell, you simply don't need this fluid but somewhat uninspired successor. Only avid collectors and fans should pick up this new record while everyone else can refer to previous outputs. Perhaps a greatest hits record would also be a welcome alternative and appropriate idea the band could work on to celebrate its twentieth anniversary this year.

    Final rating: 65%

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  • Annihilator - Ballistic, Sadistic (2020)

    Annihilator's Ballistic, Sadistic might be the band's most relentless record ever. There are no ballads, experimental tunes or fun anthems to be found as songwriter, lead singer, lead guitarist, bassist, producer and engineer Jeff Waters offers ten mean thrash metal tracks with sinister riffs, angry shouts and occasional bleak radio play passages involving sounds of gunfire on a battlefield and similar elements.

    Some people might claim that Jeff Waters rehashes some lyrics, melodies and riffs from the past with the most obvious offender being the dynamic ''Lip Service'' that recalls band classic ''Knight Jumps Queen''. However, the ten songs on this album are executed with so much conviction, energy and grit that those repetitions barely matter. Your heart will be racing and your skin will be sweating while listening to and digesting this incredible album.

    The production could also be better even though it isn't as bad as some of the band's worst offenders from the nineties. The drums sound too clinical as if they came from a computer. The riffs sound cold and lack dynamics. The overall production is much too loud. However, all these elements fit the record's atmosphere, concept and direction. Ironically, those flaws can be interpreted as strengths on this particular output.

    Jeff Waters has gone through quite some changes over the past few years. He left his home country Canada because he felt menaced and moved into a completely new environment in the United Kingdom domineered by heated Brexit debates these days. All those challenging experiences have been channeled into the band's most aggressive album ever. 

    ''Armed to the Teeth'' opens hostilities without any introduction and immediately shifts into overdrive. ''The Attitude'' sounds as pissed as it gets and adds a considerable number of swear words to underline a negative mindset. ''Psycho War'' is perhaps this record's catchiest tune but it keeps a very aggressive tone, frantic speed and simplistically violent songwriting structure. ''I Am Warfare'' leads us onto a battlefield that one can visualize perfectly during the bleak middle section. ''Lip Service'' is the record's most experimental and melodic tune but not in a progressive and harmonious way but in a frantic, gloomy and menacing manner that fits with the rest of the album.

    Ballistic, Sadistic might not be easy to digest for those who are looking for melodic, innovative and creative songwriting. However, this album is a wrecking ball that grabs you throughout forty-five intense minutes and ten hostile songs. Few people would have expected veteran Jeff Waters to be able to deliver such a pitiless record thirty-five years into his career. One certainly can't listen to this album all the time but if you are craving for a frantic ride, there isn't any better choice than this. If you like Exodus, Razor and Slayer, you can't get around this album.

    Final rating: 80%

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