Thursday, June 23, 2016

"Gamera: Guardian of the Universe" (1995) d/ Shusuke Kaneko

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We've still got a few Showa era Gamera flicks to get through, but frankly, I needed to break up the childish ineptitude with an example of an excellent kaiju movie. If you asked me prior to 1995 if I thought such a concept was possible with Gamera as a centerpiece, and Gyaos as the villainous foe, I'd ask you where you scored the hard drugs, and more importantly, why you didn't immediately share 'em with me/ give them all to me. But that's exactly what happened. It's no surprise that such a project was helmed by Shusuke Kaneko, the man who'd be responsible for Godzilla Mothra King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All Out Attack (2001), as well as the second and third movies in this trilogy. In the end, all he managed to do is make some of the greatest kaiju films to date, starting with this one...

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"I don't think that's coleslaw..."
After a ship loaded with plutonium collides with a floating atoll off the coast of the Philippines, a team of scientists are called in, and subsequently find a rune slathered stone slab and some amulets before they discover the horrible truth: This moving atoll has eyes and tusks. Elsewhere, in a tiny village in the Goto Archipelago, an ornithologist named Mayumi (Shinobu Nakayama) investigates a series of attacks eyewitnesses attribute to "giant birds". That explains that towering butte of bird shit with human remains in it. Her team discovers the winged culprits responsible in the nearby rainforest, and with government assistance, a trap is set and baited with sides of fresh beef to attract these strange creatures inside the domed Fukuoka Stadium. While they're all trapped in steel cages, the giant turtle unexpectedly makes the scene and blasts one with a death fireball directed from his tusked yap. The other two use a laser screech to sheer the cages in half and flap into the night sky before the half-shelled hellion can off them, too.

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No Gyaos were harmed in the making of this picture. All, I meant all.
Kusanaga (Akira Onodera), one of the scientists from the atoll, successfully translates the runes and thus identifies the turtle as Gamera, and the triangle-headed birds happen to be Gyaos, while the daughter of a marine officer from the ship named Asagi (Ayako Fujitani) inadvertently touches one of the amulets, developing a psychic link with the giant turtle. As a rare faux pas, the government forces attack the guardian, Gamera instead of the grotesque googly-eyed Gyaos. After rescuing humans from an attacking Gyaos, which he dispatches really briskly, Gamera is set upon by the armed forces, his wounds directly affecting Asagi in the same areas on her body. The last Gyaos shows up and seriously wounds the massive turtle, sending him into a mid-ocean heal sesh sequence that hearkens back to a lousier movie made nearly a quarter century earlier, and the young girl into a coma. While Gamera recuperates the Gyaos boosts his status from regular Gyaos to colossal Super Gyaos with devastating Tokyo attacks that'd make Godzilla jealous, even building a huge egged up nest on Tokyo Tower. It's just that Asagi awakens to relate news of Gamera's recent recovery and impending scrap with the giant asexual product of man's pollution, Super Gyaos, and follows the climactic action in a chopper full of her buddies. How it all turns out you'll have to find out for yourselves and score a copy!

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Ohhhhhh SNAP! Did y'all get dat? World Star! World Star!!
Besides her psychic bond with the giant turtle in her premier performance, actress/writer/director Ayako Fujitani also shares a blood bond with Steven Seagal, one of the worst action stars in movie history, and her dad. I'm pretty sure the Gamera suit is a better actor than he is. She's good, though, as is pretty much everything about this one. In fact, you'd be hard pressed to find a better, more enjoyable kaiju movie than this. Besides the competent acting from it's cast, the sets and miniatures are incredible, the suitmation effects, blended slightly with cg, is optimal, effortlessly surpassing Eiji Tsubaraya's best work, IMHO, and the score is both heroic and theatrical. Four Wops, without question, for this first reinterpretation, a job very well done. Highly recommended.

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"Gamera no want broccoli, dammit! Gamera want turtle flake!"
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