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4/14/2014

Gojira Kigen #9: Godzilla vs. Gigan


With the highly anticipated reboot film, simply titled Godzilla, scheduled for a mid-2014 release, I can't help but reignite my Godzilla fandom. I enjoyed watching Godzilla during my childhood and teen years, but it's been many years since I've last seen anything. I feel now is a good time to revisit this long running and historic movie franchise, with a wiser and fresher set of eyes.

So from now until the reboot 2014 film hits theaters, my mission is to watch every single Godzilla movie, starting with the very first 1954 debut film and working all the way up to Final Wars (2004). With this feature article series, titled Gojira Gaiden (i.e. Godzilla Origin), I will write about each and every one of these films in the original canon as I watch them... and hell I will even revisit the terrible 1998 American film while I'm at it.

Things are really picking up now, another solid movie which I didn't enjoy as much as Godzilla vs. Hedorah, but certainly it's one of those films I'd say is legitimately good for its genre and series. 

Godzilla and Anguirus team up to represent planet Earth in an epic tag-team duel against the team representing the alien invaders, which includes the returning King Ghidorah and newcomer Gigan. Now Gigan is one tough brute, he's got a buzz-saw attached to his gut and puts it to effective use. The two on two tag team battle was nicely executed and fun to watch, unlike in other films where they just throw in way too many monsters. The battle for planet Earth was full of carnage, destruction, and it even got brutal too as it is really the first time you witness blood and gore in a Godzilla film... it was odd seeing the monsters spill blood!


I've never been a big fan of alien invasion plots but this one was good as the human characters were actually pretty good in this one, the big plot twist which reveals just what exactly the alien invaders were... even I had to go "holy s----!". 

Pretty smart and classic B Movie horror stuff. A fun flick and one of the stronger ones thus far.


4/13/2014

Gojira Kigen #8: Godzilla vs. Hedorah


With the highly anticipated reboot film, simply titled Godzilla, scheduled for a mid-2014 release, I can't help but reignite my Godzilla fandom. I enjoyed watching Godzilla during my childhood and teen years, but it's been many years since I've last seen anything. I feel now is a good time to revisit this long running and historic movie franchise, with a wiser and fresher set of eyes.

So from now until the reboot 2014 film hits theaters, my mission is to watch every single Godzilla movie, starting with the very first 1954 debut film and working all the way up to Final Wars (2004). With this feature article series, titled Gojira Gaiden (i.e. Godzilla Origin), I will write about each and every one of these films in the original canon as I watch them... and hell I will even revisit the terrible 1998 American film while I'm at it.

Now this movie was awesome!

I'll be honest, with the films that followed after the timeless 1954 debut, I was almost forcing myself to lower my expectations in order to find some silver lining and enjoy them for what they were. Granted, some of them were actually good fun, but the monster versus monster format didn't quite deliver a compelling and unforgettable battle between the iconic behemoths. The fights were a bit of fun, but nothing great. Godzilla vs. Hedorah on the other hand is a glowing exception thus far, in my still on-going quest to watch every Godzilla film before the 2014 reboot hits theaters on May 16, 2014. This film is legitimately awesome, it had me glued to the screen and I enjoyed every second of it. 

The movie stars perhaps the most unique monster foe: Hedorah. An amphibian morphing sludge monster that came out of an asteroid debris. This guy has plenty of tricks up his sleeve, and is powered and fueled by all the pollution produced by mankind. So yea, he's got plenty to keep him full and strong.


His battle with Godzilla is easily the BEST bout in the series up till that point, as in the preceding movies the battles were always simple, short, and never really took center stage as they should. In this film however, the battle between Godzilla and Hedorah is the main focal point and it's brilliant. 

It's a methodological battle... nay... a war in which they square off several times. Hedorah has plenty of cool offence, and it even forces Godzilla to get creative and fight harder. In fact, this has to be Godzilla's toughest fight yet. Hedorah beats Godzilla down within an inch of his life, and it was compelling to see the odds so heavily stacked against the radioactive beast. Despite the brutal beat down, Godzilla kept swinging and he thoroughly unleashes his most vicious counter-assault. 

Epic monster battle aside, the rest of the plot devices were great too. The anti-pollution message came across clear and strong, with Hedorah being the manifestation of how pollution is killing the planet. There is a lot of death in this movie, with Hedorah spreading poison and disease which literally corrodes people right down to their bones. It even portrays a hippie environmentalist cult music group to convincingly sell the setting and plot better.

This is a really cool film and I thoroughly enjoyed it. By a very high margin this is the second best film I've seen thus far. Let's hope subsequent films are as good or better.

4/09/2014

Revisit: The Undertaker versus Brock Lesnar (Wrestlemania XXX)

http://www.wwe.com/shows/wrestlemania

What's gonna happen when I take you out into the deep water, and when your feet can no longer touch the bottom, what... are you gonna do, Brock?


Are you gonna try and grab me, and take me down to the bottom with you? Or... are you gonna try and turn around, and swim back to shore?

The Undertaker 
March 31, 2014

I feel I've finally taken this all in... well not all of it... but enough to articulate and make sense of this match and everything that surrounded it. What I'm writing now is based on my second viewing of the match, and also factoring in everything that surrounded it before, during, and after.

I think back on how I felt back then and everything that lead up to it, and now that history has been decided and reality has sunk in, I can finally retrospectively evaluate this historic Wrestlemania encounter.

I criticized the build-up to the match, everyone did. It made Brock look weak, it made The Undertaker appear stronger than ever. Brock was only able to cowardly land one blow in before Wrestlemania. Everything that took place made it appear that The Undertaker was going to win as per tradition. During that time we all cried "lousy booking!" and "weak build!". Looking back on it all, there was a strong feeling of predictability that made the match appear to be the least lavish out of the other upper-card main events.

That was the whole point.

Looking at how the match went down. It was slow, it was run of the mill, there was nothing special about the workmanship of the match at all. It was just another Wrestlemania streak match, just another win for The Undertaker. My friend compared the whole build up and match to that of The Undertaker versus Mark Henry at Wrestlemania 22. A foregone conclusion from a million miles away. During the match Brock Lesnar and The Undertaker appeared to have no chemistry at all, and because of that the match was boring to us, and it was boring to everyone in the arena. A huge far cry from the superbly paced and nail-biting encounters that The Undertaker had with Shawn Michaels, Triple H, and CM Punk. Everyone was calm and collected, positively insured by the certainty of it all. It was a slow and brooding match which felt like it was being dragged on until the obvious inevitable.

That was the whole point.

Then you look at The Undertaker during the match. He appeared to be sloppy, couldn't land his signature offence with the same finesse as he always did. Later reports confirm that he suffered a serious concussion during the match, so severe that he collapsed afterwards and was rushed to the hospital. It was a grave situation, as Vince McMahon himself rode the ambulance with him, missing the rest of the show including Daniel Bryan's historic victory. With that in perspective, I have to give my hats off to The Undertaker for carrying on with the match, giving it his all, and taking Brock's brutal and stiff offence. What a class act he is.

Unintentionally so, The Undertaker's weariness and missteps contributed to the story of the match. It portrayed a conqueror who had fallen to the sands of time, and was not the same monster that unleashed nearly two decades of destruction. He was going up against the most inhuman specimen in wrestling, the beast incarnate Brock Lesnar. I was annoyed by the apparent sluggish nature of the match and the mistakes made by The Undertaker, but now with all things considered... all the disappointment. 

That was the whole point.

Brock Lesnar hits the third F-5... by that point we were all played perfectly, we were in the exact state of mind they wanted us to be. 

I sat there calm and indifferent when Brock nailed the third (and brutal looking) F-5. The referee counts.

"1"

"2"

Still in that calm and bored state. The Undertaker always kicks out of three finishers. Always.

"3"

Everything changed.

WWE played us, they played with our emotions. They made us believe in something strongly, they made us feel it was certain and predictable. Then the whole wrestling world suddenly came crashing down as a seemingly uneventful and uninteresting match changed the industry forever with that final count.

That my friends, is what makes Brock Lesnar versus The Undertaker among the greatest of encounters in the history of Wrestlemania and the history of this sport.

I compare this bout to Hulk Hogan versus Andre the Giant at Wrestlemania III. The match itself wasn't technically great, but the finish, the ending, and the historical impact, was what made it immortal and truly great. The Undertaker versus Brock Lesnar at Wrestlemania 30 is of the same class in my eyes... this is our Hogan versus Andre. 













4/08/2014

Reflections: Wrestlemania XXX


*All photographs belong to WWE.

Where do I even begin?

Wrestlemania 30 was a roller coaster of emotions. Things came to end, a legacy lived on, and it marked the beautiful beginning of great things to come. I still haven't taken in and processed all that happened that day. In fact, I can't write this post the way I had intended to-- where I talk about each match-- I simply can't. I'm still speechless over what transpired.

To put it simply, Wrestlemania 30 brought things to a full circle for the men and women involved, and also for the illustrious legacy of WWE and the wrestling business as we know it. Full circle... that was the reoccurring theme.

Wrestlemania 30 put the entire history of WWE and the industry into perspective, it really did. It made me appreciate just how far things have come along and how dedicated myself and millions of wrestling fans all over the globe were. There is something truly unique and special about the industry, it exists in a dimension of its own, it follows the beat of its own drum, it has created an amazing ethos spanning generations. Wrestlemania 30 was a realization, retrospective, tribute, and celebration of the entertainment art-form that is professional wrestling. 

Wrestling has always been defined by a heroic role model, the first true hero in wrestling was unquestionably Bruno Sammartino. The living legend who to this very day and perhaps till the end of time, holds the single longest WWE championship reign in history. Then came Hulk Hogan, Sting, Bret Hart, and even The Rock, but none of these new heroes ever fully and truly embodied the values of a down to earth and truly good human being the same way as Bruno Sammartino did. The only wrestler who has come close is John Cena. 

People have begged and kicked for Cena to become the "bad guy" in wrestling, but ever since he became a wrestling hero he has never once looked back, in fact his character has only embodied more goodness with time. It goes beyond just a wrestling character, in real life John is just as much of an honest hard worker. He has granted more wishes for the Make a Wish foundation than any celebrity or athlete... ever, and that's a commendable and admirable deed on his part. It goes to show, I and many of the adult wrestling fans may have grown past that stage, but Cena is truly someone younger fans look up to as a role model and hero for inspiration. 

There was a time when I was a child who looked up to guys like Shawn Michaels and Sting, and it just wouldn't be fair to deny the new generation of fans of that feeling of having a hero. John Cena's match with Bray Wyatt was a moment of truth, a match that told a truly moving and powerful story. I will go as far as to call it my favorite match of the event. The storytelling, the emotion, the ring psychology, and the way the crowd reaction perfectly complemented it all... that match was a work of art in my eyes. A match that not only had Cena fighting for his legacy, but also brought it full circle by solidifying it once and for all.

Things came full circle in a tragic manner too. The Undertaker and his unattainable Wrestlemania streak was at an unparalleled 21-0 going into this historic event. It was the one constant, the one certainty, and as a wrestling fan I found the streak compelling because the idea of something lasting forever and something having so much surety is a compelling thought. 

That's why fans relished in the streak, they found comfort in it, it was always pure and secure, nothing could ever taint it because this was a gift to wrestling fans all over who have been following the business for decades. The Undertaker gave us heart stopping performances at each Wrestlemania and they progressively only got better. This was the epitome of how much a fan can believe in professional wrestling, its heroes and incredible stories. The streak embodied that feeling of escapism and being able to orchestrate, and forge, a history and feat that would not have been possible in any other realm. 

http://www.wwe.com/shows/wrestlemania

I'm going to quote myself from my last blog post in which I predicted how his match with Brock Lesnar was going to go down:

The Undertaker once again puts his coveted streak on the line against Brock Lesnar, a man who should have been a viable contender to breaking the streak. Unfortunately, Lesnar looks weak going into this match, so much so that it's pretty much a foregone conclusion now. Shame really, given their history Lesnar could have been booked as a sure-fire threat to The Undertaker and his Wrestlemania winning streak (which is currently at 21 wins), but it seems like this match will be similar to Diesel versus The Undertaker at Wrestlemania XII. Expect The Undertaker to win this one nice and clean after no-selling Lesnar's finishing moves.

Reading that again after what took place, my heart sank even further than it already has. I can't believe I was so wrong, I was so sure of it, every wrestling fan on this planet was sure of it. To be wrong about this was the biggest most devastating shock. Time stood still when it happened. Sheer silence, sheer awe, sheer shock, sheer horror, the entire moment and experience felt unreal. Speechless, devastated, completely out of body. Nothing I write can ever fully describe what it felt like when the very foundation and constant of the modern wrestling industry ended before my eyes. 

It was a bitter untimely end to something that we all thought was under control and immortal, but in the end it accomplished something that professional wrestling rarely truly does: to remind us of the harshness of reality, that everything we know and love is on borrowed time, real or make-belief, everything surely has an end. Things came full circle for The Undertaker and his decorated streak at Wrestlemania 30, but here full circle does not have the same uplifting connotation. 

I simply can't do it justice, I'm never going to like what I write about that match and how it ended. I need to leave it at that. It is what it is: the end of an era and the end of wrestling as our generation knew it. The moment of silence and solemn that followed after the pin-fall was a moment where fans all around the world collectively looked back on a lifetime of memories with The Undertaker, and the streak that glued generations of fans together.

Even as I write this, I continue to watch that end over and over again. No matter how many times I watch it I still can't let it sink in, even though I've come to terms with its importance and meaning in the grand scheme of things.

Where the final chapter of one book was written and done, a brand new book emerged one that will tell the story of this rich art-form for the next decade. In the past wrestling heroes were seen as larger than life gods that were on a level unattainable by the common man. Daniel Bryan is the opposite: he is one of us, the common man, the dreamer, the one who chases a dream despite all naysayers. 

Daniel Bryan marked the beginning, end, and everything in between at Wrestlemani 30. He overcame all the odds to fully realize his dream. To me, his biggest accomplishment was not defeating Triple H, Randy Orton, and Batista the same night to become champion after nearly nine months of chasing the title. To me, the fact that he made wrestling fans feel alive, and instilled them with hope after the tragic end of the streak, was his greatest accomplishment at Wrestlemania 30.

Throughout my life, I always envied those who had experienced Wrestlemania III live. It was before my time, and despite so many historic and iconic dream encounters, I could never claim that a wrestling event from my lifetime was as pivotal as the industry defining Wrestlemania III, until now.

Wrestlemania 30 rewrote the book on professional wrestling and changed the industry forever for a multitude of reasons. The stage has been set for the future, the past has finally been left behind, and the new generation and era has truly begun.


4/05/2014

Random Musing: Wrestlemania XXX


Just realized that I have not written anything about wrestling here since my post on Wrestlemania XXIX! Well now is as good a time as any to write something, Wrestlemania XXX is just around the corner (two nights away!). Let's have a look at the final card shall we.

WWE Championship: Randy Orton versus Batista versus ??? (winner of Daniel Bryan versus Triple H)

Triple H versus Daniel Bryan (winner enters WWE Championship main event)

The Undertaker versus Brock Lesnar

Bray Wyatt versus John Cena 

The Shield versus Kane & The New Age Outlaws

The Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal

Divas Championship Invitational 

Pre-show Tag Team Championship Fatal 4-Way


I feel that the main showcase of this entire historic 30th Wrestlemania extravaganza is the man that no one imagined would be a top star of the company: Daniel Bryan. He is the focal point, his underdog story is the real theme of this event, and if all goes as planned he will compete in not one, but two upper-card main events. He is literally the hottest thing in pro wrestling right now, and has been for the last 2 years, yet each time he was placed as the main event top guy, it was immediately taken away from him. 

Wrestlemania 30 is the moment of truth now, this could either cement and immortalize him as one of the all time greats in the company and in the entire industry, or it could very well put an end to it all. The greatest concern is whether WWE is willing to put all their eggs in the Daniel Bryan basket, a performer who does not fit the company image and yet has endeared millions of fans all over. The stakes and uncertainly have never been this high.

The Undertaker once again puts his coveted streak on the line against Brock Lesnar, a man who should have been a viable contender to breaking the streak. Unfortunately, Lesnar looks weak going into this match, so much so that it's pretty much a foregone conclusion now. Shame really, given their history Lesnar could have been booked as a sure-fire threat to The Undertaker and his Wrestlemania winning streak (which is currently at 21 wins), but it seems like this match will be similar to Diesel versus The Undertaker at Wrestlemania XII. Expect The Undertaker to win this one nice and clean after no-selling Lesnar's finishing moves.

John Cena versus Bray Wyatt is perhaps the match I am most looking forward to, it's been a long time since Wrestlemania has featured a real wild-card bout and this one fits the bill perfectly. Bray Wyatt is amazing, his ring psychology and storytelling is unparalleled, second to none, one of the most well written characters to emerge in a long time. Not since the debut of Kane have we seen a supernatural and surreal character with so much depth and layer. The thing about Bray Wyatt is that he is amazingly gray despite his label as a wrestling heel. Some of my favorite matches lately have involved Wyatt, and his feud with Daniel Bryan was one of the best in recent times and is something I'd love them to revisit soon. Cena is going in as the top super hero of the company, Bray Wyatt is coming in as the man who has nothing to lose, a man who wants to expose this so called role model that is John Cena. This one will  be a classic.

Two nights to go, I'll be back with my full take on the event after I watch it live on PPV. So that's it for now... I'll see you at Wrestlemania!