Friday, December 2, 2016

#2,264. The Hateful Eight (2015)

Directed By: Quentin Tarantino

Starring: Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh

Tag line: "Spend the holidays with someone you hate"

Trivia: FThis is only the eleventh film to be shot in the Ultra Panavision 70 process

In 2012, while on The Howard Stern Show, director Quentin Tarantino discussed his announcement that, after making 10 films, he plans to retire. “I don’t want to be an old man director past his prime, whose best work is behind him”, he said, and as an example he pointed to Billy Wilder, one of the greatest filmmakers in Hollywood history, who, having made classics like Double Indemnity, Stalag 17, and Sunset Blvd. early on, turned out 4 movies in the ‘70s that didn’t measure up: Avanti, The Front Page, Fedora and Buddy Buddy (Tarantino admits he did enjoy Avanti, but called the other 3 “God fucking awful”). “One bad movie devalues three good ones”, he said, and he doesn’t want a bad picture to mar his otherwise brilliant filmography.

Well, 2015's The Hateful Eight is movie #8, and thus far, Mr. Tarantino has gotten his wish. Like Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, Jackie Brown, Kill Bill (Vol. 1 & Vol. 2), Death Proof, Inglourious Basterds and Django Unchained, The Hateful Eight is a tremendous motion picture.

As the movie opens, bounty hunter John Ruth (Kurt Russell) is on a stagecoach with his latest capture, outlaw Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jaosn Leigh), who he plans to deliver to the town of Red Rock, where, after he collects the bounty on her head, she will be hanged for her crimes. Along the way, he picks up Union Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson), a fellow bounty hunter and a man he met once before; as well as former Confederate renegade Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins), who is about to be named the new sheriff of Red Rock. With a fierce snow fast approaching, the stage decides to pull into Minnie’s Haberdashery, a nearby rest stop, where the four of them, as well as the driver, O.B. Jackson (James Parks), will wait out the storm.

Surprisingly, Minnie herself is not there. According to Bob (Demián Bichir), who is running the Haberdashery in her absence, Minnie is visiting her mother on the other side of the mountain. What’s more, another stage pulled in just before John Ruth and the others arrived, carrying Oswaldo Mobray, (Tim Roth), the local hangman; Joe Gage (Michael Madsen), a cowboy on his way home to visit his mother; and Confederate General Sanford Smithers (Bruce Dern), who has traveled to Wyoming to look for his son.

Being a less than trustful man, Jonh Ruth suspects that someone is not who they claim to be, and is trying to rescue Katie Domergue before he can turn her over to the authorities. As the hours drag on and the storm rages outside, tensions run high in Minnie’s haberdashery, but the question remains: who can John Ruth trust, and who is waiting for their chance to put a bullet in his head?

Coming on the heels of Django Unchained, The Hateful Eight marks Tarantino’s second western in a row, though it’s actually more of a mystery than it is a frontier adventure, weaving an Agatha Christie-like whodunit in which a good many characters have something to hide. On a technical level, The Hateful Eight is stunning, with gorgeous cinematography that brings the snowy landscape to life (with Colorado standing in for Wyoming), and a vibrant musical score by the great Ennio Morricone, who netted his first-ever Oscar (aside from his 2007 Lifetime Achievement Award) for his work in this film. In addition, Tarantino crafted a “Roadshow” version of the movie that played in 70mm, the first since 1966’s Khartoum to utilize that format.

And like most of the director’s best pictures, the script for The Hateful Eight is one of its strong points, featuring colorful conversations and a few surprising twists that will surely catch you off-guard (even with the majority of the movie taking place in a single setting, the crisp dialogue ensures that it never once feels stagebound). Throw in plenty of that Tarantino violence (which is as sudden as it is brutal) and excellent performances by everyone involved (especially Jennifer Jason Leigh, who earned BAFTA, Golden Globe, and Academy Award Nominations for her turn as the ornery Daisy Domergue), and you have a movie that satisfies on every level.

While I certainly understand his reasons for wanting to retire after 10 films, I have to say I’m a bit depressed by the thought that, eventually, I won’t have a new Quentin Tarantino movie to look forward to. Fortunately, there are 2 more yet to come before I have to worry about this.

And, of course, I’ll always have The Hateful Eight to watch over and over again…

Thursday, December 1, 2016

#2,263. Hardcore Henry (2015)

Directed By: Ilya Naishuller

Starring: Sharlto Copley, Tim Roth, Haley Bennett

Tag line: "First they made him dangerous. Then they made him mad"

Trivia: Crowdfunding was used to get additional funds during post-production

From a stylistic standpoint, Hardcore Henry is in a class by itself. Inspired by first-person shooter videogames, writer / director Ilya Naishuller makes us, the audience, the star of his movie.

Yes, Hardcore Henry, a 2015 action film produced in Russia, is shot entirely from a first-person perspective, and thanks to a number of GoPro cameras, which were attached to some very daring stuntmen, what we see from that vantage point is equal parts harrowing and exhilarating.

As the movie opens, the title character, Henry, is lying in a tank of water in what looks to be a laboratory, situated on an airship floating high above Moscow. When he finally comes to, Henry is greeted by a pretty scientist named Estelle (Haley Bennett), who tells him that she’s his wife (aside from being unable to speak, Henry has also lost his memory). What’s more, Henry is now a full-fledged cyborg, with high-tech limb replacements ad plenty of other modifications that have made him better than ever.

As Estelle and her associates work to restore Henry’s voice, the lab is attacked by heavily-armed mercenaries loyal to Akan (Danila Kozlovsky), a deranged Russian millionaire with telekinetic powers who wants to take possession of Henry. Before he can do so, however, Estelle and Henry climb into an escape pod and make their way to the city below. Unfortunately for them, Akan’s men are everywhere and shortly after their pod crash-lands in the middle of a busy highway, Estelle is taken prisoner and Henry is chased into a nearby parking lot. It’s at this point that our hero meets Jimmy (Sharito Copley), a mysterious individual who, for reasons unknown, agrees to help Henry retrieve his wife. Of course, defeating Akan and his small army is easier said than done, but once Henry realizes just how powerful he truly is, he becomes a one-man wrecking machine!

Aside from the brief introduction aboard the airship, Hardcore Henry is wall-to-wall action, and is guaranteed to get your pulse pounding (one scene in particular, where Henry, riding a motorbike, attacks a fleet of vehicles belonging to Akan is one of the most thrilling sequences I’ve seen in a while). And while the movie has its share of CGI, there are moments when the stuntmen portraying Henry (by some accounts, as many as 10 took a turn playing him) wow us with their death-defying feats; early on, Henry scales the side of a building and, after shooting it out with a few dozen henchmen, chases a guy across a rooftop. Along with the excitement, Hardcore Henry also presents us with some mysteries to solve, the most intriguing of which centers on his new friend Jimmy (who appears to be immortal). All this, plus a cameo by Tim Roth (as Henry’s father), a rocking soundtrack, and a hyper-chaotic finale, do their part to make Hardcore Henry a kick-ass motion picture experience.

That said, Hardcore Henry is not for everyone. First of all, it’s incredibly gory; the opening title sequence alone features violent images, all playing out in slow-motion, that are tough to watch, and things only get bloodier from there on out. Also, if the shaky cam in 1999’s The Blair Witch Project made you nauseous, this film will likely put you in the hospital (the camera shakes so wildly at times that it’s difficult to make out what’s going on). 

Ultimately, I hate to steer you away from Hardcore Henry; it truly is an exceptional film. But if copious amounts of blood and guts aren’t your thing, or you’re prone to motion sickness, then this movie, regardless of how unique it may be, is one you should definitely avoid.

Everyone else should check it out.

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Wednesday, November 30, 2016

#2,262. Jurassic World (2015)

Directed By: Colin Trevorrow

Starring: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Ty Simpkins

Tag line: "The park is open"

Trivia: Colin Trevorrow revealed that the first cut ran 13 minutes longer than the final film

Like a good many people, I wasn’t blown away by either of the sequels to 1993’s Jurassic Park. It’s not that I hated The Lost World (1997) or Jurassic Park III (2001); both movies featured a handful of entertaining sequences, and the effects were top-notch. But one thing those two later films failed to recreate was the sense of wonder that made Jurassic Park so damn engaging, taking instead what had been an awe-inspiring story with real moral ramifications and transforming it into a pair of straight-up action films. Released 22 years after the original (and 14 years after the most recent sequel, Jurassic Park III), director Colin Trevorrow’s awesome Jurassic World is a welcome reminder of how exciting, how frightening, and... yes... how amazing dinosaurs can be.

It’s been 2 decades since the tragedy that rocked John Hammond’s Jurassic Park, and InGen, the company he founded, has come a long way. For years now, thousands of people have been flocking to Jurassic World, a bigger, better amusement park. With the new owner, Mr. Masrani (Irrfan Khan), picking up where Hammond left off, and Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) overseeing the day-to-day operations, Jurassic World wows adults and kids alike with its state-of-the-art attractions and impressive dinosaurs. Claire’s nephews, Zach (Nick Robinson) and Gray (Ty Simpkins), have recently arrived, and are looking forward to their stay at Jurassic World, but even though she promised her sister Karen (Judy Greer) that she’d personally look after the two of them, Claire instead passes Zach and Grey off to her assistant Kara (Katie McGrath), who will act as their chaperone during their stay. Of course, boys being boys, they eventually ditch Zara and begin exploring a little on their own.

Part of what’s keeping Claire busy is the park’s newest upcoming “attraction”, a genetically engineered super-dinosaur known as the Indamines Rex. Larger and meaner than any of Jurassic World’s other creatures, the Indamines Rex lives in its own paddock, and to ensure its structurally sound Mr. Masrani has Claire bring in Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) to inspect the pen. A former Navy man who has been training a team of Velociraptors for the military, Grady isn’t too keen on the idea of a genetically enhanced dinosaur, especially one that has spent its entire life in captivity. Soon after Grady voices his reservations, the Indamines Rex, as if on-cue, escapes from its pen, and when last seen was heading straight for the main park. With thousands of guests enjoying themselves in Jurassic World, and her two nephews off on their own, Claire, with the help of Grady, must work quickly to recapture the new dinosaur before it can do any further damage. But as everyone will soon discover, the Indamines Rex has a few unexpected tricks up its sleeve…

Like its predecessors, Jurassic World is filled to its breaking point with incredible special effects and exciting action sequences, but it also reintroduces that sense of awe and wonder that made the original film such a terrific experience. When Zach and Grey first arrive at the park, the overly-enthusiastic Grey rushes ahead of his brother and Zara to admire the holographic displays in the main lobby and, as John Williams’ now-iconic score plays underneath, he runs through he and Zach’s hotel suite and throws open the back doors, giving him a great view of the entire park (in all its glory). Along with showing us just how high-tech Jurassic World is going to be, this scene allows the audience, for a moment anyway, to feel like a wide-eyed kid, drinking in some truly amazing things.

In addition, Jurassic World dedicates a fair portion of its time to the relationship between man and dinosaur; Claire, who spends most of her day in the main control room, had, for years, viewed the dinosaurs as nothing more than company “assets”. That all changes the moment she and Grady, while tracking the Indominus, stumble upon a wounded brontosaurus that had gotten in the humongous creature’s way. Thanks to some well-realized animatronics, this scene is both tender and heartbreaking.

Not to worry, though, because if its action you want, Jurassic World certainly has what you’re looking for. In fact, many of the dinosaurs that were featured in the previous sequels get in on the fun this time around as well (one of the movie’s most intense sequences involves the aviary that was a major part of Jurassic Park III), and there’s a late scene with Grady’s Raptors that you won’t want to miss. As for the effects, Jurassic World is every bit as groundbreaking as the original Jurassic Park (there are plenty of examples I can point to, but my favorite comes when Zach and Grey are enjoying themselves at a Sea-World style exhibit, where we get to see one massive underwater dinosaur).

With a box-office tally that exceeded $1.6 billion (it was the first movie in cinematic history to bring in over $500 million worldwide on its opening weekend), Jurassic World has all but guaranteed that we’ll be seeing yet another Jurassic Park sequel somewhere down the road. But thanks to this movie, I’m finally looking forward to what executive producer Steven Spielberg and his team will come up with next.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

#2,261. A Brief History of Time (1991)

Directed By: Errol Morris

Starring: Stephen Hawking, Isobel Hawking, Janet Humphrey

Tag line: "Where did the universe come from? Will time ever come to an end? Which came first, the chicken or the egg?"

Trivia: Appearances to the contrary, all interviews were filmed on sets built for the movie

From the night it premiered in September of 1987, I have been a big fan of Star Trek: The Next Generation, and one of my all-time favorite scenes in the entire series is the opening of The Descent, part 1, an episode that aired during the show’s 6th season. In it, the android Data, played by Brent Spiner, is in the holodeck playing poker with three of history’s most impressive scientific minds: Isaac Newton (John Neville), Albert Einstein (Jim Norton), and Stephen Hawking (appearing as himself). Hawking was a fan of the series, and this brief bit of whimsy allotted him a chance to finally appear in an episode, but the more I learned about the man, the more I realized he belonged in this class of great thinkers, and his work in the field of cosmology has allowed us to understand our universe in ways that were not possible before.

Director Errol Morris’s A Brief History of Time is both a biopic about Stephen Hawking and a documentary that presents, sometimes in amazing detail, the theories he developed over the years. Born in England during World War II, Hawking was, according to his mother (interviewed here), an active child, and usually impressed the adults around him with his sharp mind and analytical skills. It was during his years at Oxford and Cambridge that he dedicated his life to researching the universe, and it was also at this time he was diagnosed with ALS, a neurological disease that would eventually render his body useless. Told in the early 1960s that he only had about 2 years to live, Hawking beat the odds and, to this day, continues to astound with his theories on such topics as black holes and dark matter.

It’s here that the movie truly excels, with Morris giving us computer graphics, testimony from Hawking’s former classmates and peers, and even a few clips from Disney’s The Black Hole, to explain how his findings have taken the field of cosmology to new heights. I’ve watched A Brief History of Time twice now, and while I can’t say I’m any closer to fully comprehending his research into black holes and the Big Bang, Hawking himself (rendered mute by his disease and speaking by way of a specialized computer program) is as witty as he is brilliant, and does his best to present these very involved subjects in a manner that everyone can understand.

There are other works out there that delve deeper into Hawking’s research (the 1997 TV miniseries Stephen Hawking’s Universe is quite fascinating), and 2014’s The Theory of Everything, in which Eddie Redmayne plays Hawking, gives us a broader understanding of his life, both personal and professional. But as a concise, entertaining look at both the man and his discoveries, A Brief History of Time is, indeed, an invaluable resource.

Monday, November 28, 2016

#2,260. Tale of Tales (2015)

Directed By: Matteo Garrone

Starring: Salma Hayek, Vincent Cassel, Toby Jones

Tag line: "A feast for the imagination"

Trivia: This was director Matteo Garrone's first English-speaking film

Fairy tales, by their very nature, weave together elements of fantasy and reality in an effort to teach us something about the human condition. Director Matteo Garrone does just this with 2015’s Tale of Tales, giving us a live-action fairy tale that is, all at once, vibrant, frightening, funny, enlightening and romantic.

Set in a mythical world, Tale of Tales presents three separate stories, each focusing on a different kingdom. Unsuccessful in her attempts to bear a child, The Queen of Longtrellis (Salma Hayek) consults an oracle, who tells her that, to become pregnant, she must eat the heart of a sea monster that has been cooked by a virgin. To please his wife, the King (John C. Reilly) battles and kills an underwater serpent, only to die himself in the process. Still, even in tragedy, the Queen’s resolve to be a mother remains strong, and, following the oracle’s advice, she orders the only virgin in her kitchen to prepare the beast’s heart. Once she devours it, the Queen does, indeed, give birth to a young boy who she names Elias. In an amazing turn of events, the virgin who cooked the heart also bears a child on the same day, and calls him Jonah. As the years pass, Elias and Jonah (played as adults by real-life brothers Christian and Jonah Lees) become the best of friends, but will the Queen let her son, who is next in line to the throne, spend all his time in the company of a commoner?

Meanwhile, in the kingdom of Strongcliff, the lecherous King (Vincent Cassel) is peering out his window one morning when he hears a maiden singing, ever so beautifully, in the town below. Though she scampers away before he can get a good look at her, the King, now smitten, immediately visits woman’s cottage and declares that he must have her. But this cottage is not the home of a gorgeous maiden; in fact, two elderly sisters, Dora (Hayley Carmichael) and Imma (Shirley Henderson), reside there. Anxious to be a royal consort, Dora (who was the one singing) convinces the king, without ever opening the door, to come back in a week, at which point she will allow him to kiss her finger. Dora then spends the next seven days trying everything from magic to make-up to make herself appear younger, but to no avail. And when the king returns, and asks her (again sight unseen) to visit him in his chambers later that night, Dora agrees, but insists that the room be dark before she arrives. Will her grand ruse fool the king?

The third and final tale takes place in the kingdom of Highhills. Princess Violet (Bebe Cave) loves her father the King (Toby Jones), but he is more interested in his new pet: a small flea that he secretly keeps in his bedroom. Over time, the flea grows to an enormous size (as big as a large dog), and, unable to breath properly, dies. Meanwhile, Violet, who is now of age, requests that her father allow her to marry. Having just lost his beloved pet, the king is not ready to part with his only child as well, and, in the hopes of keeping Violet with him forever, he has the flea skinned and says he will only let her wed the man who can identify what creature the hide came from. Suitor after suitor fails the test, but to both Violet’s and the King’s horror a dreadful ogre (Guillaume Delaunay) manages to solve the riddle. Will Violet live happily ever after with her new “husband”, or will fate intervene on her behalf?

Across the board, the cast of Tale of Tales does a fine job (I was especially impressed with both Hayley Carmichael, who plays the aged Dora; and Bebe Cave as Violet, whose hopes for a handsome husband are quickly dashed). But it’s the manner in which director Garrone brings this marvelous world to life that makes the film such a delight. By seamlessly merging fantasy with reality, Garrone accomplishes in live action what Disney had done in animated movies like Cinderella and Beauty and The Beast, and sets the tone for what’s to come in the very first sequence, with a queen who is unable to conceive (a real problem for some) and a king fighting an undersea monster (a bit of fantasy that is also one of the film’s most memorable scenes). All three stories in Tale of Tales are fantastical in nature, and designed to reflect such human foibles as lust (the King of Strongcliff, driven by his carnal desires, is eager to have his way with a woman he’s never met simply because he liked her singing voice); jealousy (the Queen of Longtrellis doesn’t like the fact that her son prefers a common villager over her); and selfishness (The King of Highhills doesn’t want to be left alone, and tries everything in his power to keep his beloved daughter by his side).

Some of the special effects that Garrone employs throughout Tale of Tales are clearly practical (the oversized flea, for example), and they look great. But even those moments that are obviously CGI (such as the sea monster) are strong, convincing us that we’re watching honest-to-goodness fairy tales play out before our eyes. And while most anthologies feature one or two segments that are better that the others, I can honestly say that I found all three stories in Tale of Tales equally as enthralling.

Tale of Tales may not be the cinema’s first live-action fairy tale (Douglas Fairbanks Sr’s Thief of Bagdad is a brilliant film, as is Cocteau’s Beauty and the Beast), but it’s certainly one of the most visually striking, and while some elements may be a bit much for younger children, older kids and their parents will likely enjoy what they see.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

#2,259. The Mutilator (1984)

Directed By: Buddy Cooper, John Douglass

Starring: Matt Mitler, Ruth Martinez, Bill Hitchcock

Tag line: "Their horrifying vacation was no day at the beach!"

Trivia: The car featured in the movie was sold shortly after production wrapped... and wrecked by the new owner about three days later

"Fall Break", a catchy little tune performed by Peter Yellen and the Breakers, plays over the opening credits of this 1984 movie. In fact, Fall Break was one of the film’s original titles, and for a fair portion of its runtime the movie feels like a teen comedy / romance about three college-aged couples spending a weekend at the beach. But by the time it’s over, you will understand why the title was changed to The Mutilator!

After a brief flashback in which young Ed Jr. (Trace Cooper) accidentally shoots his mother with a shotgun, inciting the wrath of his father, Big Ed (Jack Chatham), The Mutilator jumps ahead several years, with Ed Jr. (now played by Matt Mitler) hanging out at a bar with his girlfriend Pam (Ruth Martinez) and buddies Ralph (Bill Hitchcock), Linda (Frances Raines) and Mike (Morey Lampley).

Suddenly, out of the blue, Ed receives a call from his estranged, now-alcoholic father, who asks him to drive out to the family’s beachside condo and lock it up for the winter. Having made no other plans for their fall break, the group, joined by Ralph’s girlfriend Sue (Connie Rogers), decides to turn Ed Jr’s chore into a weekend getaway. With plenty of beer in tow, the six arrive at the house, and by the looks of it will have the place, and indeed the entire beach, to themselves. But Ed’s drunken father is still lurking nearby, and hasn’t forgotten what his son did all those years ago…

At the outset, The Mutilator plays like a teen rom-com, with a gang of twentysomethings enjoying each other’s company at a beachside house. Ralph is the prankster of the group, and his antics (though sometimes tiresome) are responsible for a lot of the movie’s early laughs. In addition, there are a few cozy walks on the beach (accompanied by romantic music), and the six friends even pass the time by playing a few games (including Monopoly).

The frivolity comes to an end, however, when Mike and Linda go for a swim in a nearby pool, leading to the first of several tense scenes (the most nail-biting sequence, though, comes a short time later when a character, who moments earlier was safely tucked away in bed, searches the garage for some of his missing friends). The acting isn’t anything to write home about, yet we do become invested in these characters, and hope they’ll somehow make it out of this terrible situation alive (of course, being an ‘80s slasher, we know not all of them will).

The kill scenes are mostly impressive, with weapons that range from a chainsaw to a sharpened wooden stake (which, in my opinion, is one of the movie’s best effects, though it’s immediately followed by one of its weakest). Yet the most violent kills in The Mutilator occur in the film's final minutes, with make-up and special effects that are both very realistic and incredibly hard to watch. 

Mark Shostrom (who also worked on such horror classics as Evil Dead 2 and A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors) delivers Tom Savini-quality gore throughout The Mutilator, and in so doing helped make it one of the decade’s better low-budget slasher flicks.

Friday, November 25, 2016

#2,258. KIng Kong vs. Godzilla (1962)

Directed By: Ishirô Honda

Starring: Tadao Takashima, Kenji Sahara, Yû Fujiki

Tag line: "The most colossal conflict the screen has ever known!"

Trivia: There were four live octopuses used in the fight sequence with Kong and the natives, as well as a plastic model

After scoring hits with both Gojira and Godzilla Raids Again in the 1950s, Japan’s Toho Studios decided to up the ante in 1962 by having Godzilla face off against another giant monster, and who better to take on this prehistoric fire-breather than the 8th Wonder of the World himself, King Kong?

Hoping to generate publicity for the television shows that his company, Pacific Pharmaceuticals, are sponsoring, Mr. Tako (Ichirô Arishima) sends a couple of his employees, Sakurai (Tadao Takashima) and Kinsaburo (Yû Fujiki), to the remote island of Farou, where legend has it there lives a large creature that the natives worship as a God. Sure enough, the two men discover that Farou is home to the mighty Kong (played by Shoichi Hirose), a humongous ape that protects the locals from other indigenous monsters. Following a battle with a giant octopus, Kong drinks several large jars of berry juice (made from a special red berry found only on the island) that put him immediately to sleep. Taking advantage of the situation, Sakurai and Kinsaburo load the sleeping behemoth onto a makeshift raft and, tying it to the back of their boat, drag Kong to Japan.

But Kong isn’t the only giant creature around; while patrolling icy waters, the U.S. submarine Seahawk accidentally struck an iceberg, inside of which was Godzilla (Haruo Nakajima), in a state of suspended animation. Once released from his frozen prison, Godzilla makes a beeline for the coast of Japan, unleashing his fiery fury on several small towns before setting his sights on Tokyo. The military, under the leadership of Gen. Shinzo (Jun Tazaki), throws everything they can at Godzilla, yet are unable to stop him. But with the mighty Kong also on the loose (seems the raft couldn’t hold him once he woke up), the authorities are hopeful that the two monsters, who are natural enemies, will destroy one another before the military is forced to use its most powerful weapon: the Atom Bomb!

Unfortunately, the only cut of King Kong vs. Godzilla that I own is the U.S. one, an edited version that eliminates some of director Ishirô Honda’s original Japanese footage and inserts several awkward English-language “newsroom” scenes, in which U.N. reporter Eric Carter (Michael Keith) updates viewers on the situation in Japan while also interviewing Dr. Johnson (Harry Holcombe), a professor at the Museum of Natural History in New York, who discusses his theories on the origin of Godzilla while also offering suggestions on how to stop the two creatures. As you might expect, these added scenes are more of a distraction than anything else, taking us away from the action to give us “updates” on what we’ve already seem,

Still, there’s enough here of both Godzilla (looking more menacing than ever) and Kong (not the best ape costume ever created, but what are you gonna do?) to make even this edited version a worthwhile watch. Along with being the first time either one was shown in color, King Kong vs. Godzilla features some exciting showdowns between its title characters (their first melee is one-sided, but things get much more intense the next time they meet); and I especially enjoyed the scenes set on Farou Island, where Kong also fights an oversized octopus!

Godzilla would face a number of foes over the years (soon after this movie, Mothra vs. Godzilla was released), and while King Kong vs. Godzilla may not be the best of the bunch, it’s still plenty of fun.