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Posts Tagged ‘Godzilla’

Making Good

Posted by Dirck on 6 March, 2020

This has not been a stellar week, to be honest, although I’m pleased on the writing front. A co-worker has suddenly decided that retirement now is preferable to retirement with a full pension, causing much disruption in the daytime. I managed to actually get ink on my fingers when filling a pen, a thing I’ve managed to avoid (leaving the TWSBI Go out of it) for at least ten years. My sleep has been interrupted by terrible dreams– not like this one, which is fine, but a bleak exercise in cleaning a bed soiled by an infirm grandparent might be worse because there’s nothing in it to shock a guy awake. My computer, approaching its eleventh anniversary, is beginning to fail at last, a development which is definitely affecting updates of my site and a lot of other stuff I want to accomplish.

And yet, not only is there the writing to cling to, but I stumbled upon a delightful series of comedic shorts which (combined with Magic Brain Pills) has kept me well out of despondency. Here’s a couple of them!

Get in there before the copyright strikes start landing!

Today’s pen (also being contrary, to confirm the week): Parker 65
Today’s ink (which declines to emerge freely): Quink Turquiose (vintage)

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Crush Crumble Chomp

Posted by Dirck on 3 June, 2014

I’m distracting myself from finishing that damned story, but I made a promise to my wife I’d get this entry out while the effect was still fresh.  It’s a movie review without reference to any other reviewers work, regarding something that’s still in the theatres.  I’m probably in over my head.

But first, a word on the combination of logistics and the effect of expectations.  My wife and I have not been to a movie together and unaccompanied since the decent but slightly silly The Happening.  My son appeared shortly thereafter, and because we got a late start on child-bearing and keep odd company, we’d no one to look to for babysitting– friends either physically distant, past the screeching infant phase of their lives, or not inclined to deal with such things in the first place, and parents too old for the pressure.  However, with the lad’s sixth birthday impending, he’s reached an age when the beginnings of civilized behaviour are starting to appear.  This means that we sometimes think it might be safe for his grandparents to be left alone with him for an hour or two; like the cats, they’re not to be rubbed the wrong way, folded, or hurled onto the roof.  And that means we can look at going to a film.

But the first film seen in six years is going to have unfair expectations set against it, right?  Or rather– the first film for which the vast heaps of treasure are paid out for the privilege of seeing it in a first run theatre.  We’re not hermits.  Anyway, that’s the context of what follows.

We went to see Godzilla.  I’d also run expectations up on the foundation of the ads.  It was, to look at those, a proper Godzilla film, as opposed to the 1998 foolishness (which, because I am a devil and an idiot, we had gone to while on our honeymoon; thank heavens Jean Reno was in the cast).  Godzilla as an impossibly huge, atom-powered, semi-allegory, rather than a hermaphroditic Bruce Campbell caricature with a fondness for fish.  I was excited, and my wife wanted to see me giggling with glee at the action.

And there’s the first problem.  Action.  There is action, to be sure, but it is interspersed with such deserts of not-action that by the time if comes around, all your blood has pooled in your feet.  Holllywood apparently doesn’t quite get how to make a proper kaiju film, and the problem appears to be this– they think it’s a disaster film.  There are similarities, in that something terrible happens on a rather large scale.  However, the central hook of the disaster film (and, to my taste, central failing) is the fates of the people caught up in it.  We have tragic swimming, leaping across chasms, pinnings under heavy things, immolations, but it’s all at the scale of humans.  Kaiju films do not work at this scale, because what we’re there for is, at that scale, a mere toenail briefly filling the background.  The closest approach to doing kaiju right with that sort of approach was Cloverfield, and when I say closest I mean the best possible, ever, and any further attempts should be shelved as a waste of time and effort.  I liked Cloverfield, and I suspect the reason I like it and not this new Godzilla is that it isn’t Godzilla and there’s rather fewer contrivances demanded to keep the human characters in the action.

Well, to be fair, there’s two big contrivances, and at this point I’m going to start waving spoilers around rather freely.  One is that the son of The Only Man Who Understands What’s Happening is a highly trained soldier with enough freedom and loose cash to visit Japan at a moment’s notice, and thus get initially inducted into the action.  The other is that his efforts to get home to his wife and son are constantly derailed by the appearance of the various monsters who seem to be following the same route as he is.  By the end of the film, I leaned over an whispered to my wife, “Obviously, the problem is that the monsters don’t like that guy. They should run him out to sea on a raft, and the problem is solved.”

Putting the emphasis on the human face of the drama also apparently required Hollywood to turn on the saccharine spigots.  Our central protagonist (who is not, to our bitter disappointment, Bryan Cranston, whose absence from most of the film is bad news indeed) has a wife and child, and as you might guess, they are frequently menaced with the possibility of squishing during the supposed climax.  However, not content with this particular use of the cliche, protagonist also finds himself in loco parentis to a Japanese kid in short pants during an earlier rampage– as obvious a reference to the noxious Kenny of Gamera and some of the more kid-friendly Godzilla films of the late 1960s and early ’70s as one could fear.   But wait!  There’s more!  A sweet innocent little girl is threatened by a tsunami which somewhat inexplicably accompany’s Godzilla’s big entry.  The same tsunami also menaces a helpless doggie, just in case your pancreas was still working.  It’s an almost Spielberg level of unnecessary emotional manipulation, although Spielberg is usually a little better at making it work.

Adding to my complaints is a sort of running gag nuclear countdown– a device meant to put an end to the monster menace by blowing up in their faces, which one of them steals and inconveniently embeds in San Francisco.  The exact yield of the item is never specified, but it’s some number of megatons, which means it’s a really big explosion when it goes off.  Our intrepid protagonist volunteers to join the squad tasked with either de-activating it or getting it far enough out to sea that it won’t destroy the city.  When the squad arrives at it, it is down what the 3D glasses suggested was a very deep hole indeed.  There’s 27 minutes left on the clock, and the access panel is sticking a little.  Personally, I look for a crowbar, but the decision is made for six guys to carry this very heavy object out of the very deep hole, at least a kilometer to the seafront, put it on a tour boat, hotwire the boat, and… get rescued by a deus ex helicopter.  All of which happens, at least for the protagonist; his buddies Pay The Ultimate Price, somewhat predictably.

I have to imagine that the hole was not as profound as it looked for this to work at all.  However, when the boat gets up and running, there are five minutes on the clock.  If it were the sort of boat that can do 100km/h, the bomb could be gotten… nothing like far enough away.  The boat is the sort that probably glows with pride if it manages 40km/h with a following tide.  And yet, the city is saved, in so much as only some of it was rolled around on by huge monsters.  It’s the one thing too much to swallow (and I gleefully accepted the Traditional Nonsense Science Exposition scene about the end of Act I).

Gripes also about the monsters, but minor ones.  The central gripe is that we hardly get to see them at their tussles.  The action is implied by wreckage.  It is obscured by swirling dust.  It is shown diminished on a background television, which brushed up against an insult to the audience.  If the few clear looks we’re given of the actual monster wrasslin’ is anything to go by, there was the potential here for a proper Godzilla movie.  The fact that it hints at the potential without ever really engaging it is enough to make a fan like me a little angry.  That the monsters are not extremely overheated stuntmen in heavy suits who are stumbling around a large model city is small potatoes next to that; the computer effects were quite good, to be honest, but whatever element in the human brain is that detects fakery was not fooled.  The addition of 3D to the pot was really neither here nor there– as was the case in the ’50s and the ’80s, when there were also 3D movies, it’s a mere condiment, and easily lost in the face of miscarried storytelling.

I guess it really comes down to pacing.  If this film were 95 minutes long rather than 125, and that reduction were at the expense of protagonist getting to and from places and the general, “Oh, who will save the little doggie?!” junk, this could be a cracking good example of a Godzilla movie.  As it is, I’m hard pressed to recommend even waiting for it on video.  Get thee to a place of renting GMK: All Out Monster Attack, or any of the Gamera films of the late 1990s; they’re kaiju films made by people who know how.

Today’s pen: Cross Century II
Today’s ink: Diamine Sherwood Green

p.s.  I know there’s at one reader here waiting for me to comment on a specific pen, which I long since should have done; it’s down to getting the pictures processed, which I appear to be developing some kind of hysterical blindness about.  Soon.

Posted in Armchair Quarterslack, General Blather | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

A Once-Great City Lies in Ruins….

Posted by Dirck on 21 November, 2013

Actually, I’m a lot more worried about the state of the city come Monday, since the Grand Ultimate Final of Canadian Football is being held here on Sunday, the Home Team are in it, and the fans are barking mad (by North American standards, anyway).  I intend to spend that time huddled in my basement with my family, singing, “It’s just a game, and we don’t care” to the tune of Jimmy Crack Corn, because I figure win or lose there’s apt to be a berserk orgy of destruction.

However, my workspace is in an utter shambles, and the moving of computers is threatened.  I will therefore stick up an appropriate film to both cover yesterday’s absence, today’s uncertainty, and possibly tomorrow’s utter distraction.

I’ll look in tomorrow if I can, and on Monday if one brick still stands atop another by then.

Today’s pen: Pelikan New Classic
Today’s ink: Diamine Evergreen

Yesterday’s pen: Sheaffer Balance Craftsman
Yesterday’s ink: Waterman Washable Blue

Tomorrow’s (probable) pen: Parker Vacumatic
Tomorrow’s ink: Herbin Éclat de Saphir

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Heavyweight Championship Fight

Posted by Dirck on 6 September, 2013

Superman has shared page space with Spiderman, Batman was thrust into an unlikely tussle with The Hulk, and the results in each case were… inconclusive.  In keeping with that tradition, today’s Friday film is good news for kaiju eiga fans and extremely bad news for models of Japanese landmarks.  Someone without the permission of either Toho nor Daiei has engineered a corker of a fight between flagship monsters:

…which I should have mentioned is rather long.  Who cares? Stuff exploding!  Whee!

Today’s pen: TWSBI Diamond 540
Today’s ink: Private Reserve Supershow Blue

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Earth-Shaking News

Posted by Dirck on 11 March, 2011

I don’t frequently comment on specific news events, but the earthquake which just struck Japan will not leave my imagination.  This footage of the tsunami not merely going inland, but apparently never going to stop, reduced me to tears (although not in sufficient quantity, as I still feel the odd physical pressure in my head which an over-abundance of emotion brings).

Becuase I’m not directly affected though, beyond a Dickensian “mankind should be my business” way, I am able to also detach slightly.  I wonder, in this somewhat heartless and academic consideration, whether the daikaiju films, those of Godzilla, Gamera, and less famous hangers-on, have not been to some degree a prolonged exercise in desensitization.  This picture is a case in point:

Taken from BBC: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-pacific-12709791

I have seen just about this exact thing previously, in the 1995 restart of the Gamera franchise.  When I saw it this morning, and the progression of the fire in later live coverage, the shock of it was overlaid with a strange and somewhat tranquillizing surprise that Gamera wasn’t standing in the inferno, consuming the released energy.  Silly, of course, but I still wonder if the same sensation doesn’t affect those who are fleeing from the scene, ideally in such a way that panic is kept to an minimum.

Foolishness aside, this is for those of us not embroiled in it a useful and concrete example of “Things could be worse.”  Am I trapped in the rubble of my shattered house while a wall of flaming wreckage borne by recreant sea-water races towards me?  No?  Well, then I’m doing relatively well.  I do hope that Japan’s relatively high degree of preparation for tectonic shenanigans will allow a lot of people in actual danger from the aforementioned to also have answered in the negative.

I shall have to be careful not to crush my wife and son with hugs when I get home.

Today’s pen: Sheaffer Imperial IV
Today’s ink:  Pelikan 4001 violet

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Replication Errors

Posted by Dirck on 24 August, 2010

Before diving off the deep end into the main thrust of today’s posting, a quick note about last night’s meeting with the no-longer-prospective repair client– I was indeed the only one there with a fedora, which may say something about my home town’s ability to keep up with fashions. I have now got to apply myself to a Remington syringe-filler, having persuaded him to make sure there’s no satisfaction to be wrung from the manufacturer’s warranty on his Faber-Castell Ambition before letting an unqualified ape technician poke at it.  As I have no idea how extensive that maker’s warranty is (could be vast, like Lamy or Cross, but could be sadly limited), I’d rather not get the commission immediately than void anything.

Now…  yesterday’s picture of me and my son at the nearest of the Western Development Museums has put me in a reflective mood.  He was, as I’d hoped he would be, absolutely wonder-struck by the great locomotive– his favorite television programme involves steam engines.  I know that he will soon loose access to the memories of this experience, but we’ll add more as needed.  Watching him, I recalled my early visits the the same museum, which was newly opened at the time and rather more shambolical.  Experiences like this are what make us recall our childhoods fondly, and I am able to say that I had a pretty good childhood (apart from the fact that there were other children in the neighbourhood, whose intrusions on my carefully designed games I frequently resented).

I hope in the way that all half-way decent parents do that I can give my son a similarly happy childhood, filled with joyful experiences which he can take down off the shelf once in a while and enjoy the recollection of.  However much I might want to, though, I can’t give him the same experiences that I had.  Apart from the fact that his brain wiring is not the same as mine except in the most general way, the events of which those experiences are made cannot be repeated.  He may have joys, but they will be different.

The main example of this sort of thing is Museum Movie Night.  For reasons that elude me, around the start of my second decade, the museum a short distance from my home ran a series of black and white horror movies in its theatre.  My first exposure to The Creature from The Black Lagoon and The Incredible Shrinking Man come from that series, and while it probably served to derange my imagination, it was also a fun night out with the family.  I notice looking at the link to the museum that they are still doing something of the sort even now, but it won’t be the same.

At the time of my memories, there was no such thing as a home theatre.  An old movie might appear on broadcast TV, but failing that one was pretty much stuck with reading synopses and looking at stills.  To have a venue to see an old film in something like the original format was a rare treat, one understood and shared by all attending as a special, and it’s a treat that in the current age can’t be replicated.  Our current TV is a “mere” 32-inch job, but it is a 16:9 high-definition screen and we can access most films ever made, either on DVD or on-line.  The treat, if treat my son considers it, will have to lie in the novelty of a story not yet seen.  This isn’t a bad thing, and of course the treats of my own generation are much different from the previous; I am happy that my father’s treats (no V-1 overhead today!) were unavailable to me, frankly.  Nonetheless, the good stuff that made me the sort of person I am is simply not available to my son.  He’ll have to reminisce about different good stuff.

And that means… he’ll be an entirely different person!  Not simply a replica of his dad!  I’m not sure I like the sound of that.  The best I can hope for is that he’ll have more fond memories than bitter, and will be inclined to be what I think is a good person.  Such is the way of every generation, and I guess most men who come to fatherhood eventually re-invents this particular wheel of understanding the nature of the developing personality. 

I do have a plan to help him along the right path, though.  In addition to regular subtle lessons of correct behaviour and morality, and the occasional nifty hat and decent outfit in size Tiny, I plan for his fifth birthday to present him with a city skyline made of cake and cardboard, a viewing of one of the less alarming Godzilla films, and big rubbery lizard-foot overshoes.  There can’t be anything wrong with that, can there?

Today’s pen:  Parker 45 with a UK-made steel medium point fitted
Today’s ink: Diamine Majestic Blue

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Boo! Blah! Ssss! Geek!

Posted by Dirck on 28 October, 2009

I am a couple of days early, or course, but it being the most wonderful time of the year, my thoughts are running irresistably towards Hallowe’en. Thanks to the now-cognitive presence of my son, my wife and I won’t be able to go as mad for the grand holiday as we could wish, making the house into a palace of terror (two years ago, clusters of children would stop at the end of the driveway, confer, and in half the cases not approach– many candies were the reward of the brave!), and watching horror films.

Note the last two words there. I nearly said “scary movies”, but I didn’t want to wander into territory defined by Scream and claimed by Saw and Rob Zombie. To my mind there is a difference between a movie which insinuates through mounting evidence that the world is other than one had believed it to be, and one which shouts, “BOOGABOOGA! This is what guts look like!” A horror film is the former, while the latter differentiates between Scream– or Saw-inspired by whether it’s making smirkingly smug references to previous films or not. Post-modern ironicism nor torture porn make for a horror film.

I will not discount the place of viscera in a horror film, mind you. The difference is that the whole point of the film is not to cause the viewer to cry, “Oh, ick!”, but to use the ick to underline the situation. A modern horror film, faced with the numbing effect of modern news, can hardly avoid some of it. The Ruins is an excellent example of the sort of thing I mean– the gore isn’t wanting, but it’s in service to the story rather than the goal.

They is another film that pleases me greatly, for the same reason that it offends a lot of on-line commentors; the monster is never clearly shown. Some details are displayed, but the whole of it remains murky and obscure, letting the imagination not only fill in its details, but fit it into the dark corners of your very own home.

My regular Hallowe’en viewing includes, almost invariably, Hallowe’en, the original outing from 1978. Dated as some components of it are, it was the first of that sort of thing, and possibly the purest– think not in terms of improving technology, but rather the rapidly diminishing payback of squeezing juice from a fruit. I also rather like The Thing which was made by the same director a few years after Hallowe’en, and which stands as one of the few examples of a remake serving any kind of a good purpose (although I’ll defend The Thing from Another World against all insults).

Were I in the mood for a nice little British tale of witchcraft, I’d certainly trot out Night (or Curse in the US edit) of the Demon— the monster is shown in this one, and quite early on, but it’s such a corker and the story between appearances is so good I can forgive it.

We have decided to dress my son as Edgar Allen Poe, as his hair works for the costume, and this brings me around to the fine… er, fun movies made by Roger Corman using Poe’s titles, and occasionally some story elements. The only two I can really recommend without comedy raising its mood-crushing head are Pit and the Pendulum and Masque of the Red Death, and the only thing to really recommend them is also what recommends The Raven— lovely old Vincent Price. He also raises Bert Gordon’s The Tingler to art, with his interaction with Patricia Cutts being a display of how two people can be terrible to one another without the movie stinking (a trick modern writers should try to figure out, since so many current scaries are populated entirely by jerks).

Price is also the only thing to recommend The Haunted Castle, which claims to be Poe but which lifts a Lovecraft story. If you want to find decent interpretations of the Old Man of Providence, The Resurrected is one of the best things going despite some ’80s cheese-effects towards the end. The only link I’m putting in is a plug for a very low budget Call of Cthulhu, which I urge the buying of– it’s a labour of love, and it’s very true to the material.

Finally, although my list goes much, much farther– as a Godzilla fan, I can’t let the giant monsters go without mention. Had I the time, it would be the original Burr-free Gojira, the very recent All Out Monster Attack (don’t be fooled by the title), or the remarkably good non-Godzilla Cloverfield.

Next year, he’ll be old enough to go to the Grandparents for the night.

Today’s pen: Waterman Crusader
Today’s ink: Mont Blanc Racing Green

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16 Tons, Loaded.

Posted by Dirck on 13 October, 2009

The vague musical reference of the title should not lead the reader into the belief that I had a bad weekend, although it was labour filled. By dint of the extra day away from The Regular Job, I was able to finally catch up on the home chores that the previously reported hospital extravaganza delayed, and got stuck into my own business, as it were.

After yesterday’s vestigal effort here, I had a couple of choices before me. Chip away at the ever-growing mountain that my website has become (there’s but four faces on Rushmore, and people make a big deal? Poo!) or attend to what threatens to become a backlog of clients’ pens. The latter is less visible but more pressing, so that’s what got my day.

The day advanced quite nicely, too. I installed a “fountainbel” cartridge in a Sheaffer Vigilant which I’d thought I had resurrected the original seal in some time ago– a happy delay with another of the client’s pens made sure the failure happened on my workbench rather than in her pocket– and I’m very happy with the result. All the moreso because it’s reversible. My next use of that sort of thing will be with the more permanent application to a later model pen, but given the instant results I’m actually sort of looking forward to mutilating a pen for science.

The only sour note was a very gooey sac in a very bad place. I borrow a phrase from Partick O’Brian’s Dr. Maturin when I say I could wish to the devil the man who thought of crimping the end of a sac protector in a Sheaffer snorkel filler. It’s not insurmountable, but it’s a great annoyance. If you don’t repair your own pens– this is the reason you’re paying someone else to do it, trust me.

Moving from my own developments to my son’s: I had mentioned earlier his own interest in other people’s pens, and this took on a new aspect on Friday. He lifted from my pocket the Wearever I wore that day, and apparently mistaking it for one of his old playmates (the Parker “51”) tried to pull the cap off. It being a screw-cap, and he not being much mightier than the standard child of his age, I didn’t do any more than smile indulgently (as opposed to the hoot of terror I give when he’s got the “51” or when any adult gets hands on one of my screw-caps). Thwarted, he gazed at the pen for a moment… and then unscrewed the cap. Hoot! A hoot of terror with a large tint of admiration, though– I’m very pleased with both his motor control and his cognitive effort.

Two final notes on the day: A totally gratuitous plug for a pen shop I will likely never visit, but one of my fellows on the FPN wrote a delightful word-picture of it–

LEE’S PEN SERVICE
Lot G-8
Bangunan Pak Peng
76 Jalan Petaling
5000 Kuala Lumpur
Tel: 00 603 2078 7987
Fax: 00 603 2078 7987
Email: leespen@pd.jaring.my

…and there is a much better review of Gojira no Gyakushu by an actual scientist than the mere mention of it I made myself, which I encourage the interested to peer at.

Today’s pen: Guider Vishal (having not updated the site, I think I’ll be back into relatively posh pens tomorrow)
Today’s ink: Private Reserve Burgundy Mist.

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Off topic.

Posted by Dirck on 25 August, 2009

I don’t seem to have any serious pen-theme topics in mind today, nor much in the way of whimsy. Rather than just sit quietly, which is abhorrent in the modern world, I will yammer.

Recently I’ve had a chance to watch a recent DVD release of the second film to feature Godzilla. There are few pens visible, although in his big cameo, the first film’s Dr. Yamane (Shimura Takeshi, a class act indeed) does a lot of gesturing with something that might be a pen, or a letter opener, or some item of mid-century Japanese desk litter I’m unequipped to recognize… but this is not my point. My point is a recommendation of it, with caveats. Caveat the first is that the dubbed version (Gigantis the Fire Monster) is rather hard to take if you haven’t trained up for it– it’s the sort of thing people make fun of Japanese monster movie over.

Caveat second is that the subtitled original, Gojira no Gyakushu (“Godzilla’s Counterattack”, more freely titled as “Godzilla Raids Again”), is nothing like as good as the original, in which I speak of Gojira rather than Godzilla King of the Monsters. Nothing against Raymond Burr, mind you, but there’s some pretty cool subtexts that slide out of the version he’s in. The sequel has the flaws of sequels, but it’s not as bad as some people say. Of course, those people were mainly talking about Gigantis.

Further off track, I should remedy an oversight through a plug. I bought a Panama hat over the summer, and despite the nasty things Stephen Fry says about them I’m very pleased with mine. I didn’t spend a mint on it, either, and for the combination of customer service, price, and willingness to accommodate an unfashionably large skull, it’s hard to do better than the folks at The Panama Hat Company of St. Augustine. It takes a little perseverance for those living outside the US, as they’re not yet set up for online international orders, but it’s absolutely worth the small effort required.

…and that finishes the lunch break.

Today’s idle pen: Sheaffer Statesman snorkel
Today’s inactive ink: Skrip blue

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