Saturday, April 28, 2007

They Came From Hollywood

This link will take you to the website of the upcoming computer game They Came From Hollywood. It’s a straight forward “destroy as much of a city as you can with a monster of your choice while fighting the military” setup and features a selection of twelve different giant monsters and seven cities (complete with famous landmarks) to demolish.

In an amusing maneuver reminiscent of This Is Spinal Tap, the creators have incorporated an internalized mythos into the game’s setup- the monsters are all supposedly based off a series of old B-movies from an Ed Wood/Roger Corman-like film director named Harold Paxton. You can read the fictionalized details of his biography and body of work here.

From the preview material that has posted on the site, the game is looking pretty good. I’m very much reminded of an old Commodore 64 title called The Movie Monster Game which was also about giant monsters smashing city environments and employed a similar 3/4 –downshot perspective:

Some more screenshots from TCFH:

All of the monsters are clearly inspired from famous (or infamous, depending on your tastes) movie equivalents, with the exception of two- the giant, sword-wielding Ray Harryhausen-esque skeleton (aptly named “Harry”) and an enormous green pea (uh... ooo-kay). There was also a squid character that had appeared in the earlier developmental stages, but was recently dropped. The creators have stated that they would like to put it back into the game as part of a future expansion pack, however.

I’m actually rather surprised that there isn’t a giant ape in there, but perhaps something like that may appear in the aforementioned expansion. Another monster archetype up for consideration would be flying creatures like Rodan and Mothra (although I suppose that the UFO technically counts as a “flyer”).

Overall, They Came From Hollywood appears to be shaping up nicely- hopefully a release date will be forthcoming sometime soon.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Giant Nazi Robot!

A buddy of mine sent me a link to a cool CGI short film about giant rampaging robots in World War 2. If crazy stuff like this had actually gone down during that particular time period, I probably would have paid more attention in history class.

You can check out the movie here.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Frankenstein Conquers The World of DVD's

I’m currently saving my pennies for the end of June when Media Blasters releases their super-chocolatey, 2-disc DVD of Frankenstein Conquers the World. It's packed with all manner of good stuff including a Japanese-language, English-subtitled version of the movie, trailers, a commentary track and deleted scenes (including an alternate ending that was never actually used in the Japanese nor the English theatrical cut). With all the effort being put into this release, it’s rather odd that they decided to go with such a garish cover:

Yow! My eyes! What’s with all the Jack-Kirby-esque “action lines” spreading outwards? And that title font... personally, I would have gone with something a little less “superhero-ish”. It is a monster movie, after all. Compare this to the Japanese cover:

The same publicity photo but with none of the graphic embellishment. One could argue that this version perhaps goes too far in the opposite direction and is somewhat uninteresting and less dynamic. I kinda prefer the simplicity of it, myself. Still, I suppose it could have been worse- Media Blasters could have chosen to use the original American release movie poster:

While I’m a big fan of the movie poster artworks created by illustrator Reynold Brown, this particular piece is definitely one of his weaker entries. I don’t get the impression that he was working from any decent reference material; it’s almost as if someone described the contents of the movie to him and he went from there. Check out what is supposed to be Baragon (the other monster in the film) in the background, looking like a flabby T-Rex. And in the bottom right corner... is that Archie Bunker toting a machine gun? So he spent his younger days fighting giant Japanese monsters? No wonder he was such a grumpy bigot in the All In The Family show.

Friday, April 6, 2007

Movie Review: Dinocroc

I should have known better.

Seriously, it’s right there on the poster in gold letters above the title: Roger Corman. The P.T. Barnum of cinema. Granted, he didn’t direct this release but that name attached to a film in any capacity pretty much assures a dubious viewing experience. Despite my familiarity with B-movies, I guess that in the end I’m just a bit of a sucker. I mean, check out the picture of the monster itself- it’s admittedly kinda neat looking. Not only that, but if you poke around on the net, you will find reviews for this film that are actually positive in that “well, it’s not bad for what it is/there are some good scenes here and there”-sorta way. Plus, I found a copy at a used DVD and CD store for nine dollars. Nine dollars! How could I go wrong? Well, allow me to answer that.

The Gereco Corporation is celebrating its latest scientific achievement which involves the bio-engineering of an extinct species of crocodile back into modern day in order to harvest the rapid-growth hormone found in its system. As expected, a mishap (Safety tip: when checking on the status of the dangerous monster you’re raising, it’s best not to walk into the middle of its darkened holding pen while leaving the access door wide open behind you) gives a juvenile Dinocroc the opportunity to kill one of its keepers and then escape out into the wilderness where it takes up residence in a nearby lake. The company sends out a lone flunky to recapture their creation, but the creature has quickly grown to its full adult size overnight and makes a meal out him.

Meanwhile, the community of Grant’s Lake goes about its usual small town routine, unaware of the low-budget horror that is about to befall them. This includes Diane, the local animal control expert and her former boyfriend Tom. The two set out to find a lost dog owned by Tom’s younger brother and their search leads them to a preserve near the lake. It is there that they run into Dr. Campbell, a Gereco employee who narrowly manages to thwart an impending Dinocroc attack directed at the unknowing couple.

The trio heads back to the Gereco laboratory as Campbell explains the details of the situation. They arrive in time to find the head of the corporation holding a press conference in an attempt to cover up the company’s involvement with any potential mysterious occurrences that might or might not have happened, and that may or may not involve resurrected, prehistoric crocodile monsters. As a further contingency, Gereco hires the services of an Australian hunter named Dick Sydney to track down the beast. It’s not long before the body count begins to stack up, forcing everyone to begrudgingly team up in order to somehow stop the creature from using the town as a buffet. Hilarity ensues.

Dinocroc is basically what you’d expect; a forgettable, straight-to-DVD flick which borrows its content from other, more famous films (in this case, Jaws and a smidgen of Jurassic Park) but with a fraction of the charm or competence. In typical fashion, the humans in the story are the weakest aspect of the movie and fall into the category of either “uninteresting” or “annoying”. I simply don’t understand how so many films have copied the Jaws formula while continuously and consistently overlooking the one crucial element that makes it work: characters that you don’t mind watching (or, God forbid, like) when the monster bits aren’t playing out. At times, it’s as if this movie is intentionally trying to make the characters irritating. A particularly exasperating example of this unfolds at the film’s climax wherein Diane and Tom purposely sabotage a plan designed to lure the Dinocroc into a trap because it required using stray dogs as bait. That’s correct- the lives of the townsfolk simply come up short when weighed against the cost of sacrificing a terrier.

If only the Dinocroc itself had looked as good in the movie as it does on the DVD cover. Onscreen, it’s a completely inconsistent CGI effect that runs a gamut between looking somewhat decent in some scenes and downright terrible in others (especially with regards to its stilted and weightless walking animation). Oddly enough, not a single person in the movie seems to notice or care that the crocodile they’re hunting looks like a bizarre dinosaur hybrid; perhaps genetically-altered monstrosities are a commonplace occurrence in the area. Stranger still, I submit that the monster shares more in common with “psycho killer” characters in the vein of Jason Voorhees and Michael Myers than that of a rampaging beastie. Consider the following:

1. The Dinocroc is always preceded or accompanied by its theme music (in this case, an obtrusive orchestral and choral mix) whenever it shows up. Obviously this same technique was used in Jaws and the Godfather movies, but I was constantly reminded of the “Che-hee-hee-Hah-hah-hah” cue that would play in the Friday the 13th films which always heralded Jason’s arrival.

2. The creature is capable of performing “stealth kills”, literally appearing from nowhere to surprise its otherwise attentive victims. During a sequence wherein a group of policemen hunt the Dinocroc in a swamp at night, the monster systematically picks them off as the dwindling survivors fearfully sweep their flashlights around their vicinity, unable to tell where the next attack will come from; an impressive feat considering that their adversary is nearly the size of city bus.

3. Much like its psycho killer brethren, the Dinocroc completely revives after being killed. And I’m not talking about ambiguous “demises” like falling off of a cliff into nothingness; this thing is gassed to death, struck by a moving train and has a pipe rammed through its head AND STILL comes back as if nothing has happened. Perhaps a more effective way to stop the Dinocroc might necessitate tricking it into fighting Freddy Krueger.

I was going to give this film 1 out of 5, but it earns an extra half-point for killing off a character in the story that, in any other film of the same genre, would have easily survived to end of the movie. That’s at least worth something.

Monday, April 2, 2007


Omni-Monster!!! is a neat blog which is used by the author, Geozilla to profile and showcase monster-related toys and collectibles from Japan. He's also an adept photographer, as the cool pictures of his acquisitions on the site makes me want to run out and add to my own collection of figures. Check it out and bask in the vinyl decadence!