Friday, May 9, 2014

GODZILLA VERSUS EVERYBODY!!! - The Toho Collection Destroys Your Living Room in Beautiful Blu

As we await the coming of the great Gorilla Whale (Gojira or Godzilla to you), we are being offered ample ways to celebrate the great destructor of cities, the rise of nature, the infinite powertrain without warranty. If you know the name Toho then you most likely at least have an inkling as to just how complex the world of Godzilla can be both on screen and behind the scenes. We often wait with baited breath for adequate releases of Godzilla merchandise or, in this case, Blu-ray releases of neo-classic battles with some of Godzilla’s great opponents. Toho alongside Sony have seen fit to bestow us with four new double feature discs in a “King of Monsters” sized collection called The Toho Godzilla Collection. We’re talking about some of the more recent endeavors into the Kaiju world and not the classic battle of the 60’s and 70’s featuring movies ranging from 1991 to 2004. For older fans this may not be the Zilla you were raised with, but it’s one you just may come to adore and fear. For youngers fans, these are the epic battles, filled with multiple monsters, upgraded special effects cache and familiar storylines that continue to work no matter how often they are recanted.

Let’s talk about the packaging of each release. You have double feature discs. Each one figures Godzilla and his opponent(s) on the cover, on the reverse of the disc on the picture disc. Each disc is remastered in HD. The back of each set features movie specs, basic synopsis and an illustrated guide to which Kaiju is present in each picture. Typically there are more than two monsters featured per movie even if the story line doesn’t necessarily support it.

I’d like to take a walk through each release to highlight some of what you’ll love about each and perhaps offer my own reasons for enjoying a particular title or maybe liking it less than the rest of the releases. Rest assured that none of them are bad for no movie about a giant monster is truly bad. Some may be humorous or have inadequate special effects but that can make them even more desirable. In no particular order save for the pairing of each double feature disc.


Synopsis from Sony/Toho:

When a mysterious U.F.O. is seen flying over Tokyo, tension mounts, until the craft's occupants reveal themselves to be friendly aliens from the 23rd century who have come to warn mankind that Godzilla® will soon awaken and wreak havoc upon the earth unless he is destroyed. Meanwhile, a double threat arrives in the form of King Ghidorah, Godzilla's flying three-headed archrival and an evil and all-powerful android. The suspense builds to terrifying levels as the alien's sinister mission on Earth is gradually revealed and Godzilla® must wage a solo battle against these evil forces who want to destroy mankind. High-tech special effects and awesome action highlight this present-day Godzilla® epic.

After a series of earthquakes unearth a gigantic orb, a trio of Japanese explorers are dispatched to the mysterious Infant Island to investigate. There they discover the island’s sole inhabitants, miniature twin women whose duty is to protect the mammoth ball, the egg of Mothra! When the explorers attempt to bring the egg back to the mainland, a furious Godzilla awakens from the depths and attacks the party, causing the egg to hatch and forcing its newborn larva to fend off the gigantic monster. The humongous worm holds its own until a new threat arrives in the form of Battra. When Mothra and Battra metamorphose into flying monster moths, the battle rages on land and in the sky. With two powerful foes to reckon with, has Godzilla finally met his match?

This particular set feels the most like the Godzilla films of the 60’s and 70’s, but with updated effects. Perhaps that due in part to a revisit with some of the classic battles of yesteryear although with an update in story line, fleshed out narrative and the presence of Mecha- King Ghidorah. From what I gather, the 1991 release of Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah was scene as a way to make up for a lousy box office take on 89’s Godzilla vs. Biollante. It stands to reason that in 1991 and 1992 Godzilla would fight King Ghidorrah and Mothra, classic enemies with a rich history, elegant origins and back story and whose appearance on screen is more colorful and breathtaking then ever.

As a kid who grew up with these classic matchups, it’s easy to find familiarity with these features and even overlook a few moments of filler material that feels like it merely prolongs our anticipation for classic matchups rather than furthers the story line.

Special features on these discs  includes a trailer for each titles. 1080p HD transfers. 1.85:1 AR. English subtitles and a knock out picture that looks stunning on a 60 inch TV which actually goes for all the releases in this set.


Synopsis from Sony/Toho:

Mechagodzilla®, the superior-armed, state-of-the-art, all-robot version of Godzilla®, is undergoing repairs after his devastating battle against the world's monsters. A pair of psychic fairies appear and warn scientists to stop rebuilding Mechagodzilla® but their warning goes unheeded. As the great robot nears completion, a series of mysterious incidents rock the world and awaken Godzilla®, who unleashes a reign of terror against Tokyo. Mothra® joins him and Japan's desperate Prime Minister has no choice but to launch the unfinished Mechagodzilla® against Mothra® and Godzilla®. But who will fight for whom? And in the end -- will the survivor be monster, robot or man?

Godzilla's 50th Anniversary project and costliest adventure to date out of 28 films. Earth has been relatively peaceful since Godzilla was successfully buried deep in ice beneath the South Pole. Then - sometime a few years hence-several of his old nemeses return to wreak havoc on cities worldwide. A huge spaceship suddenly appears and neutralizes all the monsters in a blink. The visitors are "Xiliens," who take human form and announce they would like to negotiate a peace treaty that would replace the United Nations with a "United Universe". They are indeed too good to be true, however. It doesn't take long before their nefarious real purpose is exposed - conquering Earth. Greatly outmatched, Earth officials decide to de-freeze Godzilla as man's only hope to vanish the invaders, as well as the monsters they control. Only trouble is Godzilla is still mad at man for freezing him in the first place.

Tokyo SOS feels like a slow ride to the finish line with MechaGodzilla, Mothra and Kamoebas. For some reason I guess I’ve always considered MechaGodzilla to be the bad guy and Godzilla to be the good guy. The more I watch this more recent incarnation of Toho films, the more I feel like the opposite is supposed to be true. This great conflicts with my natural want to route for Godzilla. Where as Tokyo SOS may paint my hero into a corner, Final Wars turns the coin yet again, featuring a Kaiju saturated battle that feels more like a Mortal Kombat game than a narrative feature. I suppose this make sense since it has been referred to as a “Best of” or “Greatest Hits” reel featuring cameos and battles with fourteen separate monsters. It will never be my favorite story line, but it does feature some music video esque, top 20 countdown moments. It’s good fun, but not more fun than Monster Island or Destroy All Monsters. Final Wars even has the distinction to carry a PG-13 rating!

Special features include a Making of Godzilla featurette, Tokyo SOS featurette, trailers for both movies and a B-Roll to Film featurette for Final Wars. 1080p HD transfers. 2.35:1 and 2.40:1 AR respectively.  English subtitles. Both releases have 5.1 DTS-HD audio.

This pairing works well because it takes a movie that I find to be somewhat downtrodden like Tokyo SOS and pairs it with a upbeat battle royale (though it does take quite a bit of footage to get to the point).


Synopsis from Sony/Toho:

With a super-charged blast from his nuclear past, a new Godzilla emerges from his own ashes, radioactive and ready to take on Tokyo! The great monster’s nuclear energy is increasing by the minute, and a monster meltdown threatens to vaporize the planet. But when mutant micro-organisms unleash a plague of destruction they become Godzilla’s deadliest challenge yet: Destoroyah. And with Godzilla Junior pulled into the ring, only the Super XIII can put the deep freeze on this three-way monster melee. The action is hot and the special effects are chillin’ in this high-tech, high-powered Godzilla thriller!

Five years after Godzilla® terrorized the city of Osaka, Japanese scientists have developed a sure-fire way to finally destroy Japan's monster nemesis. They have created the world's first man-made black hole, which will trap Godzilla® for eternity! But during a testing of this new Dimension Tide, an insect caught in the hole mutates, producing gargantuan eggs that give birth to a new menace : giant dragonfly monsters called Meganula . Meganula queen, the 50-meter Megaguirus , is also on a hunt for Godzilla®, needing to steal his energy to survive. From the sky down to the depths of a city's underground sewer tunnels, Megaguirus , Godzilla®, and humankind battle for supremacy. Who will prevail in this high-tech, three-way battle of terror and destruction?

This set feels so off the wall I don’t even know how to properly address in the context of the rest of the entries into the Godzilla franchise. We have some fairly unfamiliar faces that have that Kaiju look but are very unfamiliar to the purist (I suppose that would be someone who is most interested in the early years). Perhaps the most off the wall moment is when Godzilla Junior shows up to join the battle between Destoroyah and the Zilla. It’s nearly surreal. On the other hand Megaguirus is a giant friggin mutated bug, and the dispatch method for Godzilla this time around is supposed to be to drop him into a human generated black hole. The writers were getting creative (or running out of ideas in 2000) but at least the effects folks created a creepy baddy for our champion to fight.

1080p HD transfers. 1.85:1 and 2.35:1 AR respectively. English subtitles. Godzilla vs. Megaguirus has 5.1 DTS-HD audio. Features include trailers for each release.


Synopsis from Sony/Toho:

The powers of telepathy enter the ranks of high technology in this supernatural, super-powered Godzilla® adventure for the '90s! The military minds behind Japan's special Counter G Bureau enter the New Age with Project T, in which a telepathic amplifier is implanted in Godzilla®'s brain in order to bring the giant monster under control. And just in time! In a faraway galaxy, the mutant Space Godzilla turns its evil eyes toward earth, planning to terminate Godzilla® and conquer the planet for its own. With the Japanese Mafia infiltrating Counter G, the Bureau needs all the help it can get. Will Japan's greatest enemy Godzilla® become its closest ally? Amid all the smoke and high-tech firepower, not even the psychics know for sure!

Built with the utmost in 20th-century technology, Mechagodzilla® is the ultimate in Godzilla®-busting weaponry. Fueled by a nuclear reactor and sheathed in a synthetic diamond shield, the mammoth metal robot is Japan's greatest hope for ending Godzilla®'s reign of terror. Meanwhile, on a remote island polluted by nuclear waste, a team of scientists discover a giant egg in a Pteranodon nest, and bring it home for study. When Baby Godzilla hatches, both Rodan and Godzilla® return to claim the cuddly infant as their own. Will their monstrous maternal instincts cause a custody battle capable of destroying Mother Earth? Or will Mechagodzilla® prove an effective eradicator, leaving Baby Godzilla an orphan for life?

These two features are the meeting point where traditional Godzilla opponents meet the new age of Kaiju troubles (again). On one hand we get the second installment of the Godzilla vs. MechaGodzilla battle that comes off like the second main event featuring a rematch of two superheroes. The reason that this one sits so close to home is because it feature Rodan. I firmly believe (and please do not consider this blasphemous) that Rodan is my favorite of the Kaiju.  You even get a dose of Fire Rodan! Of course Baby Godzilla makes an appearance which often times is the breaking point for me where my suspension of  disbelief is crumbled (not when Super MechaGodzilla shows up… when the baby zilla… can’t explain it). Then the other side of this double feature steps in with a few familiar faces (Little Godzilla and  friggin Fairy Mothra! Alongside Moguera). Then of course there’s SpaceGodzilla… let’s just say he looks like a giant moving crystal farm, almost too wide to be on the screen all at once. He looks mean. One bad mamma jamma.

1080p HD transfers. 1.85:1 AR. English subtitles. Both features have  5.1 DTS-HD audio. Features include trailers for each release.

 I think the basic summation of this review for each of the films is that I prefer some of the more traditional films over the more recent endeavors. That’s not to say I cannot appreciate them. I understand that we must reimagine our heroes and have them battle new, strange metaphorical enemies that clearly stand for the evils of our time in reality. Each of these releases is strong, visually stunning and perfect for the Kaiju fan. If you already enjoy these movies than these releases are must pick up items. If you haven’t yet enjoyed them, it’s possible that these may not be quite what the traditionalist is looking for, but your kids are gonna love it.

You can pick up each release now:

Prepare for the new feature film, but make sure to prime your pump.

-Doc Terror

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