Thursday, July 22, 2010

Return to G-FEST XVII: Thursday's Films

This marquee greeted G-Fans on Thursday afternoon.

Readers of this blog know that we were looking forward to Thursday's double-double feature for more reasons than one. A family emergency prevented us from enjoying G-FEST XV's double-double, which was to include Destroy All Monsters, one of our very favorite films. The 1:30 p.m. start time suits the sleeping patterns of a seven-year-old (and parents) much better than 10:30 p.m. showings do. But most of all, things were getting started with Son of Godzilla and Godzilla vs. Mothra, two movies that are on Andy's short list of classics.

We were a bit dismayed when we arrived in Park Ridge and discovered that G-FEST was coinciding with "Taste of Park Ridge," a street food festival and sidewalk sale. Parking is always at a premium in that vicinity, and we feared it would be harder than ever to find a spot. Fortunately, we have discovered enough lots through two years of trial and error, and never had to waste much time trolling back and forth for parking. It helps if you don't mind walking a few blocks, either.

Andy looks "ready to crumble" at the Pickwick box office.
I am an unabashed fan of Son of Godzilla, and was really happy to see it on a movie screen for the first time. No matter what some fans might say, Son of G has a lot going for it; a colorful setting; great actors; a jaunty, complementary score; and, at the heart of the story, a giant monster and his son. I enjoyed seeing Kenji Sahara on screen and I think Akira Kubo gives a winning performance as the brash ace reporter.
What really struck me about viewing Son of G in this format was the sound work. The rasping sound of Kamacurus really was alarming, and the other monster sounds had a lot of punch to them as well. The toe-tapping score can also be sensed at varying levels in the mix, depending on the action at hand.
And, for the record, I love the ending of this film, with the snow falling and the monster hug, and no, I am not ashamed.
Next up was Godzilla vs. Mothra, the Heisei era take on the great daikaiju rivalry. I don't actively dislike this film, but it is hard for me to understand how it became the highest grossing of the Heisei movies, as the supposed romance/family drama at the center of the plot doesn't amount to much. Perhaps it was simply the chance to see Godzilla and Mothra go at it again, with the fearsome Battra thrown into the mix.
OK, the truth is I find Godzilla vs. Mothra mildly entertaining at best. It sort of epitomizes all the things I don't prefer about the Heisei films, such as: big-scale Godzilla and the resultant fakey-looking sets; lots of static energy beam battles; inscrutable plot lines and human characters who don't do much but watch monster destruction on video screens. I don't mind the whole transforming monster device, either, but Battra's leap from larva to winged creature is downright disappointing.
I will say this for Godzilla vs. Mothra: it has the presence of Akira Takarada going for it, which helps. There are also some great moments, such as Mothra peering into the windows of a building, looking for the fairy twins; the top half of a huge skyscraper collapsing on Godzilla's head; and the chance to sing along with the new-school arrangement of the Mothra song. A handful of great moments do not make for a great movie, though. Then there's the whole Indiana Jones-esque opening sequence...I don't know. It's kind of a weird movie all around. When it was done I was really ready for supper.

The stately Pickwick Theater in Park Ridge, Illinois

We were back in our seats for the 7:30 showing of Godzilla 2000. What an enjoyable experience! The occasionally dopey and nonsensensical dubbing only adds to the fun of seeing this film with a theater-full of true-blue Godzilla fans. There was lots of applause and just as much laughter at the expense of the brazen character Katagiri, who in the end, stares down Godzilla with a cigarette dangling from his lips! In my opinion, the G2K suit is really cool and very fierce-looking. It is an update, to be sure, but one in keeping with the Godzilla character. Seeing G2K on the big screen reinforced for me that there is no substitute for seeing a Godzilla movie this way. TV and home theatres are great, but there is something fundamentally right about viewing these films in their intended setting.

Because the hour was drawing late (and eyelids were growing droopy), we only made it through the opening sequence of Godzilla vs. Megaguirus before heading back to the Rosemont Hotel. I love the score to this film and the Godzilla theme which it develops, and we heard just enough. We wanted to be sharp for the next day's activities--and I wanted to get my hands on the convention program book to chart our course for the next several days. Little did I know the great surprises that were in store for us!

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