A Look Back at Roland Emmerich's Godzilla (1998)

Over 20 Years Later, Godzilla 1998 Proves To Be One Of The Best Giant Monster Epic's Ever Made

by robotGEEK

This take on Godzilla is such a fascinating one. Intended to kickstart a whole new franchise of Godzilla films, it was met with mostly negative reception, and while it was ultimately a very minor hit, making more money than any Godzilla film before then, it wasn't enough to keep making more. In fact it would be another 16 years before Hollywood gave it another go with Gareth Edwards slightly better received version in 2014. That's not to say that this film isn't any good in it's own right or that it's the disaster that it's reputation leads you to believe. Because honestly, Godzilla 1998 is one helluva fun ride. Let's begin.

Writer/Director Roland Emmerich (along with his partner Dean Devlin), were riding high on some big budget hits with Universal Soldier, Stargate and the mega-hit Independence Day when they were contacted to try and revive the Godzilla franchise. I mean, who better than this hit-making team who proved they could make big special effects-laden hits on a relatively modest budget? When you think about it, their 3 previous films all turned into highly successful franchises spawning sequels, television series, toys and entertainment memorabilia. Mixing old school practical effects and model work with new state of the art CGI (at the time), they were proving themselves big players in the sci-fi, epic, disaster, and action genre's with glowing results. While initially given a book full of "do's and don't's" from Godzilla's parent company Toho, Emmerich ultimately seemed to disregard most of them and came up with his own version, which not surprisingly, didn't sit too well with die hard Godzilla fans. This time around Godzilla looked like a giant lizard that walked like a T-Rex, and honestly to this day that is really the biggest gripe anyone has regarding this film. And I get it. I was the exact same way. I HATED the way Godzilla looked so much that I let it define my overall feelings towards the film as a whole.

But guess what? Time has been extremely kind to this film. Sure I'm still not a fan of the whole lizard look, but I'd be damned if it isn't one helluva fun epic giant monster film. If you can look past his design, you'll find that as said giant monster film, Godzilla 1998 has so much to offer in the form of epic entertainment. Flawed, absolutely, but it's also made exceptionally well in the way only Emmerich and Devlin could produce. You have to remember they were at the peak of their talents around this time, and it's all due to their talents of creating fun films, utilizing outstanding effects work and a strong and consistent visual pallate that few filmmakers were and are capable of producing.

Roland Emmerich has always been a strong visual filmmaker, and I don't feel he gets the credit he deserves for infusing so much style into his films. If you look back at some of his biggest hits, they all carry a gorgeous aesthetic that utilizes it's widescreen frame to enormous effect. While entertaining, they're also beautiful films to look at. I feel Universal Soldier in particular is a prime example of this. As much as it is a badass 90's action/sci-fi masterpiece, it's one damn good looking film too.

With Godzilla, they decided to go BIG. Big in the sense of scale in that they have Godzilla destroy New York City, the most famous city in the world. Logistically, shooting in NY is such a gargantuan task, but destroying it is an even bigger one, and they make it look so damn easy. And that's one of Emmerich and Devlin's greatest strengths. They make it all look so easy when in reality, it's a nightmare. The sequences where armed helicopters are zig zagging through NYC high rises while chasing Godzilla (at night....in the rain!) is so well done utilizing a surprisingly large amount of old fashioned model work and stunts is so goddamn impressive that I'm shocked it doesn't get more attention for just how incredibly effective they pulled it off. 

While I feel some parts of it are a bit ridiculous, like the fact that he can hide underneath New York City by moving around through the sewer system (come on!), and how the third act basically turns into a Jurassic Park sequel, I have to say that that first 45 minutes is pure gold and some of the best exposition I've ever seen leading up to a big reveal. The film as a whole is just great fun, but that first act is just incredible.

If you can look past his unpopular design (thanks to Patrick Tatopoulos), and maybe think of it as just a big epic giant monster film, you will find that actually really fun, extremely well-made, and so ambitious that it's almost exhausting. Everything you love about Roland Emmerich as a director is on full display here, from his impeccable camerawork, how he utilizes every inch of the widescreen format, and just with it's overall fun tone, Godzilla might actually be a better film than you remember. In fact, it's pretty great.

Fun Fact:
Writer and Producer Dean Devlin has stated that upon it's original theatrical release, the film's less than stellar digital effects were not fully completed to their satisfaction. But because of time restraints, they had to release it "as is". He says that the only version available with the updated and completed digital effects is on the Blu Ray release. Per IMDB: The movie's intended look was not revealed to the public until the Blu-ray release in 2009. All previous versions contained a serious technical issue which lead to the computer generated graphics appearing sub-par. Dean Devlin explained that this was the result of the type of film tape they had wanted to print the movie onto being inaccessible at the time of its release. Thus, the movie was printed onto a different type of tape and shipped to cinemas with unfinished-looking effects. This was one of the reasons behind the movie's failure, as the effects did not live up to the hype. They were finally corrected digitally for the Blu-ray.


The Cult Corner: Starcom (1987)

German DVD Cover

A 1987 Animated Series and Toyline That Failed to Capture an Audience, Yet Lives on in Cult Infamy

by robotGEEK

These last few months I've really dug deep into collecting vintage toys again. But not just any toy, primarily the toys from my childhood in the mid 80's. It's something I come and go with from time to time - a hobby that brings back the kid in me. So much so that I probably need to take a step back for a little while. But when I get in these nostalgic moods, I also begin revisiting old 80's cartoons. And in case you didn't already know, TubiTV is an excellent source for free vintage cartoons, as well as a shit ton of movies and tv shows. One day as I was watching the first season of Transformers, this show was suggested as one I might like based on watching that. Boy were they right.

I had never heard of Starcom, or as it's officially known as Starcom: The U.S. Space Force. I didn't even know it was also a toyline back in 1987, the year this series aired. How did I miss this? No idea. But what I can tell you is that it is hands-down one of the best animated series I've ever seen. And not just from the 80's, but.....ever!

While it only lasted one brief season, with the toys not doing well either, it came and went with little fanfare, and somewhat forgotten by the general public. I mean, I was a HUGE cartoon, science fiction and toy nerd in 1987 ( I was 11 years old, and the perfect age to dig this), and somehow never knew this franchise existed. From what I learned, it did considerably better overseas and lasted a bit longer outside of the United States. I suppose it comes down to poor marketing for both the toyline and series, but still, how is it that nobody ever talks about this?

The first thing that grabbed me immediately was it's superior animation. It's impressive as hell, reminding me a lot of something that would have easily been featured in an issue of Heavy Metal, or better yet the cult classic animated film. It features stunning character and production design, with nonstop action and a more adult-oriented storyline that I found surprisingly mature, considering it was aimed primarily at kids to sell toys. And that's just a few of a large number of things that makes this series absolutely amazing. They don't dumb down anything, in the hopes of appealing to a younger audience. There's no silly comedy or humor like most cartoons from the 80's tried desperately to include (C.O.P.S.: Cops 'n Crooks by Hasbro is a painful example), and it makes it all the more immersive. And the action is so well done that the space fighter jet sequences are so much better than most animated films to have ever come out, much less a little known animated kids show from over 30 years ago.

Starcom only lasted a single season of just 13 episodes, yet is a prime example of outstanding animation, story, character design and quality that NEEDS to be more recognized.

You can currently watch the entire season for free on TubiTV, but not sure how long it will be available on there. You can also purchase the complete series on DVD for less than $10, and trust me, that's a helluva bargain for quality this good.

To learn all about the history of this series and it's very brief toyline, check out this excellent video from the insanely talented Toy Galaxy. If you're not already following them on YouTube, follow and support them. Their videos on vintage shows and toys are a part of my every day routine.


{Quickshot Review} MI: Fallout: The Best Action Film of 2018

by robotGEEK

I'm not the biggest fan of this franchise. I enjoy them to a degree, but never really find myself actually running to the theater to see them. In fact, it took me nearly 20 years to finally get around to watching MI: 2 (which I loved by the way), but don't recall really loving any that followed. Rogue Nation and Ghost Protocol were alright, but didn't really grab me, which I guess would be the reason it took me until now to finally check out this latest offering, a whole 2 years later.

With that being said, holy shit this was awesome. I'm not going to say that I was able to follow everything 100% since I honestly don't remember a whole lot of what happened in the previous films, but that honestly doesn't matter. Because Fallout is a pretty self-contained story (with some obvious references and plots taken from a few of the earlier installments, yet integrated well enough that you can follow along) that's big on the action in a way I was not expecting.

The first thought I had when finishing this was just how fucking badass this was as a straight-up action film. I'm telling you, the action set pieces are nuts! And it's just nonstop too. A seemingly endless series of spectacular action set pieces that defy logic, as well as the laws of gravity, that ultimately make Ethan Hunt out to be a superhero. But who cares? It's awesome and if you're looking for a slick looking action/adventure film with insane stunts, then look no further.

I'm not going to get into the whole story, plot or anything like that, because I couldn't tell you if I tried. I was all about the action because that's literally what grabs you right from the beginning, and all I can tell you is to just go along for the ride, because it's an awesome one. Yea there's plenty of exposition, double crosses and intrigue, so you might enjoy or appreciate those elements more than I did, but in this case, it's the action that takes center stage and it's really impressive.

It's no surprise that writer/director Christopher McQuarrie has been tapped to helm the next 2 installments of the franchise based on his success here. He did a phenomenal job, which is all the more impressive considering he only had 3 directing credits to his name before this. But he's certainly written some classics for sure. The Usual Suspects, Jack Reacher, The Edge of Tomorrow, and the previous MI film Rogue Nation are all from him as screenwriter. I'm especially looking forward to his Top Gun sequel (as screenwriter) hitting soon.

Anyway, that's my two cents. For a film series I don't really care for all that much, this one kind of blew me away with its nonstop epic action sequences and it's convinced me to sit down and revisit them all in order someday instead of all spread out.

Fallout is currently streaming on Hulu Plus and Amazon Prime.


80's Thriller Throwback: Tequila Sunrise (1988)

Chinatown Screenwriter Robert Towne Delivers A Smart, Classy And Sexy Thriller In His Second Stint As Director

by robotGEEK

Few screenwriters have had the long-lasting career that Robert Towne has had. It's hard to believe, and almost unheard of, that he's been writing for film and television for over 60 years. And he's still working today! But they're not all homeruns though, because for every Chinatown, Mission Impossible and The Yakuza, there's a Days of Thunder and Mission Impossible 2 (personally, I love the shit out of MI: 2). Still, there's no denying his immense talent as a screenwriter when he's on fire, but a lot of people don't realize he also got behind the directors chair from time to time with a very brief directing career with only 4 films under his belt. And much like his screenwriting credits, it's a mixed bag of drama's, sports and thrillers. In fact, I think this film here is his only thriller and I'm here to tell you that it's a true under-the-radar gem within this genre. I say under-the-radar because while it was financially successful, it's not an overly popular film in the career's of anyone involved, which is really surprising to me because I happened to love it. I mean, nobody is going to immediately think of Tequila Sunrise when they're talking about Mel Gibson, Michelle Pfeiffer or Kurt Russell. But moving on.

Released in 1988, Gibson had just come off the massive success of Lethal Weapon, while Russell's previous films were the cult classics Big Trouble in Little China and Overboard. These guys were at the peak of their career's and teaming up with a legend such as Robert Towne seemed like a surefire homerun, and technically, it is. This film oozes style, substance and a clever, razorsharp script from a master of the genre. It's a classy crime thriller that takes it's time with exposition, leaving you guessing a lot of the time as to what these characters are really up to. And I'm talking about everyone, because nobody ever really comes across as who they're projecting to be. And that's something I really enjoyed about this. You never know who's on the up and up, or what anyone's real motive is. It keeps you guessing for the most part until it all starts to come together.

I want to also touch on just how beautiful this film looks. Conrad L. Hall's (Marathon Man, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid) camerawork is just simply stunning. As the title implies, this takes place in California, L.A. to be exact, and we are treated to some truly breathtaking cinematography that takes full advantage of the L. A. sunsets.

Everyone brings their A-Game to the table. The acting across the board is impressive, with Raul Julia being especially great here. The tone can best be described as a combination of drama, crime thriller and romance as all 3 leads (Gibson, Russell and Pfeiffer) are intertwined in a steamy affair that complicates everything. While screenwriter and director Robert Towne had only directed one single film years before this, you'd never know it as it's all handled like a seasoned pro. And there's no surprise that the L.A. scenery, via 1988, plays a huge role in this. It's almost as if it's it's own character, and both Hall's brilliant camerawork and Towne's confident direction capture it flawlessly.

Tequila Sunrise is a film that deserves more love. It's a sexy crime thriller with that oozes both style and substance similarly to great results. If there was anything worth complaining about, I could see how some might feel it drags on a bit too long, but I personally enjoyed its nearly 2 hour runtime. I was entertained and engrossed the entire time.

How to see it:
Easily available on every format including Blu-Ray, I chose to rent it on Amazon Prime for a few bucks before I spent the funds to grab it on physical media. Trust me, you'll want to grab this on Blu-Ray above all else so you can enjoy it's gorgeous imagery to full effect.


90's Thriller Throwback: Bird on a Wire (1990)

If Only All Action/Comedy's Were This Good

by robotGEEK

I've said it before, and I'll say it again; director John Badham just doesn't get the love and respect he deserves as a great director. And I'm guilty of that too. I was never a fan of his particular "style" of directing back when his films were hitting theaters in the 80's and 90's. I just didn't "get it". While I grew up on films of his like Wargames Short Circuit, for some reason I just couldn't get into his others that followed. Truth be told, I didn't give most of them a shot, so I realize now I was really missing out on some gems. Blue Thunder, The Hard Way, Point of No Return (a remake of La Femme Nikita), and Stakeout were all surprisingly great films that I kick myself for not ever giving a chance years earlier when I should have. But better late than never.

Sandwiched between his highly successful Stakeout (1987), and The Hard Way (1991), Bird on a Wire stars Mel Gibson fresh off the successes of Lethal Weapon 1 & 2, when he was a leading heartthrob once upon a time. That's crazy to think, isn't it? There was a time when Mel was a damn good looking guy, charming, funny and a leading man to so many great films. To look at the grumpy old man he's become today is a bit shocking.

This would be Goldie's followup to her cult classic Overboard from a whole 3 years earlier, and while I found her incredibly annoying in this, I know it was just the way her character was written, because she really is so damn cute, even in this. I might also add that I don't recall another film where her amazing ass is featured more prominently than it is here. I mean, I've always admired it, because it is rather impressive, but there are a number of scenes that really remind you why it's so glorious. Thank you John Badham. Thank you.

As for the film itself, I can't help it. I loved the shit out of it. It was so much fun, mixing just the right amount of comedy with impressive and explosive action. The film hits all the right notes in the action/comedy genre, and I was pleasantly surprised to learn that it was co-written by none other than the screenwriter of one of my all-time favorite films on the planet, the Kung Fu epic The Last Dragon.

It also helps that we have legends such as David Carradine and Bill Duke playing the bad guys. While their characters really aren't given much depth, seeing them show up from time to time to shoot shit up and create chaos is really fun. Oh, and legendary hottie and B-Movie queen Joan Severance also shows up briefly, but memorably. 

I really don't know why I never bothered to see this until now, other than I guess it just didn't seem all that appealing at the time. But boy was I wrong, because it was legitimately a blast from start to finish. Funny when it's supposed to be, and the action is big, loud and impressively done. Give this one a watch! Its a fun afternoon flick that reminds me why the 90's really was a great decade for film.

Documentary Spotlight: The Power of Glove

by robotGEEK

If you're anywhere close to my age, then you grew up on a healthy dose of Nintendo in the 80's and 90's. I know I sure did. While I would eventually dig into some other systems like the Super Nintendo and the Sega Genesis (both amazing systems in their own right!), I'm still all about the original NES system. My fondest gaming memories revolve around this system and the countless hours I spent playing classic games like Ghosts n' Goblins, Slalom, Commando, Contra, Kung Fu, Marble Madness, Wizards & Warriors and countless other games we could get our hands on.

With that being said, we never got the Power Glove. We had R.O.B the Robot, and I sure as hell wish I had held onto that whole setup considering how much he goes for today, but for some reason we never pushed to get that killer Power Glove. And as we all know, that thing crashed and burned so quickly that I'm not surprised that it wasn't something in our consciousness back then, because the more I try to think back, I honestly don't ever recall even hearing about it to be honest. When you hear the facts, it's short life span really isn't all that surprising.

This crowdfunded via Kickstarter documentary will answer any question you ever had about how it was made, conceived, released, produced, designed, and why it crashed and burned so epicly. Really, there were a lot of things I didn't know about it, and finally understanding why it failed so miserably makes it all the more fascinating. It really is one of those crazy stories about a product that should have become a blockbuster, but poor planning and a poor release strategy doomed it to failure.

One of the things you'll notice immediately as the opening credits rolled up is that this is going to be fun. And it is. It's a blast of nostalgia that's just as informative as it is engaging. So much work went into this, and damn near every single person responsible for it's creation and release is interviewed and given their two cents on it's cult status, and why and how it just didn't work.

The Power of Glove is a fascinating, engrossing and completely entertaining documentary that is not only a punch to the gut of nostalgia, but an incredibly informative and well made documentary that deserves to be seen. We streamed it on Amazon Prime, but I'll sure as hell be picking up the DVD for my collection. This NEEDS to be in my collection.


70's Thriller Throwback: Futureworld (1976)

by robotGEEK

Futureworld May Be One Of The Best 70's Sci-Fi/Thrillers You've Never Seen

Released 3 years after Westworld, Futureworld (with no input or participation by Westworld creator  Michael Crichton) finds the embarrassment of Westworld has helped them improve the theme park with brand new updated robots and technology. The park enlists the help of two reporters (Peter Fonda, Blythe Danner) to come experience the all new theme park, now with multiple "worlds", including the retro-impressive Futureworld taking center stage, in the hopes of running a favorable piece to help squash any negativity from the previous Westworld from just a few years before. The reporters soon discover the park's hidden agenda. Can they make it out alive to tell the world what's really happening at Futureworld?

I have to say, this was quite the pleasant surprise. Sitting in my "watchlist" for ages, we had finally run out of films to watch one night and took a gamble on this. The mediocre rating on IMDB didn't help get us excited, but we're suckers for 70's sci-fi/thrillers and Futureworld not only surprised us at every turn, but exceeded our expectations. Which surprised us with it's tepid response from critics and moviegoers. It's really a great sci-fi/thriller.

If you're a fan of this genre, there's just so much to love in here. The production design is simply phenomenal. The retro-cool decor will blow you away, as will the costume design, with some incredibly sexy outfits on a lot of the female "sex" robots.

Fonda and Danner were such a fantastic team, playing off each other like an old married couple with the constant bickering. There's a history to their relationship that plays a big part in their constant banter, but when they're in "investigation mode", it's a great thing to see. The cast also includes none other than legendary bad guy John P. Ryan as one of the new scientists that helped create this all-new updated world.

70's sci-fi/thrillers have such a unique look and feel to them. They're one of most favorite genre's and when it comes to the effects work, Futureworld stands on it's own as a class act in practical effects and design work. This was a time when sets were real, and big! While I know they shot multiple sequences at different locations around the world to achieve that "mod sci fi" aesthetic, it's flawlessly integrated into one another and a damn impressive visual feast.

This would mark the last film for Yul Brynner (through a brief, and honestly an unnecessary cameo), who succumbed to lung cancer shortly after. Though you'd never know it, because he looks as fit as he did when starring in his now iconic role as the gunfighter in the original film just a few years earlier.

Futureworld deserves more love, recognition and respect within the science fiction community. It's a film that while plays homage to the original, is it's own and completely separate entity and it's great. While the first film played more within the western genre and themes, this one hits all the right notes within the thriller genre. The fact that it's also technically a science fiction film and a thriller only makes it all the more special.

Available on every format, including a modestly priced Blu-Ray (which I need to get!), it's also currently streaming on Amazon Prime right now.

Prime Recommendation: Black Moon Rising

by robotGEEK

I'll be honest, as much as I want to love this film, I just could never get quite into it as much as others have. While it's got some good things going for it, I always feel like it's severely lacking in some other areas. But those are just my bones to pick and despite my personal feelings, I do realize this is still considered a cult classic, as it should. There's a lot to like here.

Co-written by none other than John Carpenter, Black Moon Rising tells the story of a thief working for the government, who gets caught in the middle of car theft ring involving a beautiful car thief (Linda Hamilton), a ruthless crime boss (Robert Vaughn), and a state of the art car the world has never seen.

It basically plays out like a Cat & Mouse thriller as everyone seems to be playing everyone else, but the film is shot well - courtesy of director Harley Cokeliss (Malone) - with a cool 80's thriller aesthetic, Tommy Lee Jones actually looks like he's trying (remember those days??), and that car, even though it doesn't have nearly as much screen time as you hope, is one helluva killer vehicle.

The score carries a cool 80's synth vibe from time to time, and despite my grumblings, it's certainly enjoyable, especially anytime that car makes an appearance. I threw it on as background noise the other day while working from home and I have to admit that I enjoyed it much more this time around than before. Maybe my issues initially were that I was expecting too much, whereas this time around I already knew exactly how it would play out? In any case, it's yours to stream right now, so give it a shot.

Black Moon Rising is currently streaming on Amazon Prime.


Documentary Spotlight: Henchman - The Al Leong Story

The Legend Gets His Due, And All We Can Say Here At robotGEEK'S Cult Cinema Is That It's About Damn Time

by robotGEEK

What we have here is a full length feature documentary on the legendary bad guy, henchman, stuntman, sometime actor, filmmaker, and all around badass Al Leong, and all I can say is that it's about damn time.

We all know who he is. If you grew up on action films in the 80's and 90's, you most certainly saw him die in numerous big budget classics, as well as low-budget gems, not to mention countless television credits on shows ranging from Hunter to The A-Team.

But if you're like me and have wondered quite often what the hell happened to Al, because to me it seemed like he literally just disappeared decades ago, this documentary will answer that question and then some. Unbeknownst to me, Al had a series of health setbacks that I was completely unaware of, but thankfully the guy is still ticking and from what this doc shows, he still hits the convention circuit from time to time.

As for the documentary itself, it's great stuff! I will admit, when it begins, it's shockingly apparent that this is a very low-budget offering. A lot of the interviews that take place in the first half with legends such as directors Craig R. Baxley (Stone Cold, Action Jackson) and John Carpenter (Big Trouble in Little China) are web cam interviews. But, either you just get used to it, or the quality gets better as it moves along because you don't even care. Just listening to all these industry legends discuss this guy's life and how much they respect him is pure joy. You're treated to countless behind the scenes photos, footage, and on-hand interviews with not only some of the action genre's top legends, but you hear from Al himself, talking about his humble beginnings in the industry and how hard he worked to get to where he was. I won't spoil some of the surprises for you here, so it's best you get on this ASAP. You won't be disappointed!

You can purchase this fantastic documentary on DVD from any number of online retailers, and it's available to stream on Amazon Prime.