Tag Archives: Monsters

Colossal (2017): An Amazing Exploration of Monsters as Metaphor

     “Colossal” is an amazing film. This is a film that has giant monsters, explores ideas of addiction and abuse through use of the monsters and has a great script and actors to go along with it. Hathaway is empathetic but also monstrous at times and Sudeikis’s Oscar is this constant threat through the film that lends power to the narrative.  All this is explored masterfully by Sedakis and Hathaway and Vigalondo’s script is so tight that it flows from scene to scene in exploring each scene and never feels bogged down with McCeary’s music to help better express these themes. I’m a fan of Monster and Kaiju films and this is my favorite type of these films since “Pacific Rim.”

     The film was directed and written by Nacho Vigalondo and produced by Nicolas Chartier, Zev Foreman, Dominac Rustam, Nahikari Ipiña and Shawn Williamson.

      The story involves Gloria (Anne Hathaway) getting kicked out of her boyfriend’s apartment in New York after her life of drinking and joblessness has come to a breaking point. Having nowhere to go she returns to her childhood home where her childhood friend Oscar (Jason Sudeikis) gets her a job at his bar. She soon realizes that the recent monster attacks in Seoul are from her as everytime she enters a playground the monster appears. From here she must deal with the consequences of becoming the monster while facing addiction and abuse.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros: The Premise – The premise is powerful as the idea of someone controlling a monster when they enter a certain area is really neat as it allows for human psyche to be explored. The monster works as metaphor and lends power to the themes of addiction, abuse and going from selfish to selfless.

An Exploration of Abuse and Recovery – The main arc is Gloria getting over her alcohol addiction when she’s kicked out of her apartment in NY and returns to her childhood home where she reconnects with a childhood friend who starts gas-lighting her (as he does his other friends). It comes to a head when she realizes that in the park she becomes a monster and begins getting her life back on track when she realizes her drinking and walking through the park is killing people. As she realizes how toxic her boss is she tries to leave but he finds that he becomes a giant robot in South Korea so begins destroying Seoul or threatening too if she leaves the town. At this point she’s over her addiction and now it it getting rid of an abuser which she does by leaving to South Korea and in doing her Monster appears in the small town and throws him away, ending his threat and in turn she finally has freedom as she has cut out the addiction and stopped the abuse.

 Okay: The Location of the Monsters – Narratively it honestly would have made more sense for the Monsters to be fighting in NY since that is where Gloria leaves from when she is causing a lot of damage to those around her when she leaves. Because the location is South Korea we don’t get the perspectives of any of the South Koreans unlike traditional Kaiju movies where the people in the location are the ones who drive the plot and story. It was still okay as her going to South Korea was powerful and underspoken, no one knew she was the Monster so to the people of it was very much it’s own thing (she never gets credit for being the monster outside of her small friend group), a being in and of itself not being controlled but acting as a protector. If she’d been Korean it would have made more sense that the Monster was located there…instead her only connection is a school project to honor South Korea where her and Oscar get their powers. Again, it wasn’t bad but it still could have been better. She’s from NY so put the Monsters in NY or have her be Korean so we can get the perspective of the people there outside of news reports…and so it makes what is happening even more personal.

     As I said before, this is the best monster film I’ve watched since “Pacific Rim.” This is a film that is intelligent, explores big ideas and has really rich and flawed characters. The villain feels like a threat and someone you’d meet in real life and even my one issue with film is more of a nitpick, which really comes with being a critic. Go and check this film out if you have the chance. I saw it at Salem Cinema, the indie art house in my town, so that is probably your best bet for catching it…though if it becomes popular it will no doubt get the wider release it deserves. I highly recommend this film and hope we see more smart films like this in the future as this is easily one of my favorite films to come out this year.

Final Score: 9.7 / 10

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One-Punch Man – Season 1 Retrospect – A Satire and Celebration of Superheroes

one-punch-man

     “One-Punch Man” is an anime that has been recommended to me by quite a few friends. It was as good as they said. This is a series that satires superheroes as well as celebrating them and gives us some wonderfully well rounded characters, of which I’ll get into more detail about in the review.

   The series was created by a manga author who goes under the pseudonym “One,” Madhouse is the one who produces the anime that I watched.

    The story involves the superhero Saitama who can defeat any enemy in one punch but is never recognized by anyone for what he does. This leads to him joining the Hero Association in order to join recognition after he saves Genos, a cyborg who then becomes his disciple.

The Pros: The World – The world is awesome! You have Superheroes, aliens, monsters and villains and all of them are colorful in personality. Sadly many of them die before there is the chance to know them better since the nature of the show is that Saitama is overpowered.

The Comedy – The comedy and satire are fantastic! Heroes that are larger than life are critiqued in their egos and even overall culture is critiqued in how Saitama saves the world but is never given credit or noticed because his personality leads people to believe it wasn’t him who did it. Genos’s over sincerity and devotion is funny at times too as Saitama really just wanted to be left alone.

The Action – The fights are great, even if the ones with “One-Punch Man” are very short. The introductions and lead up tend to be amazing.

Saitama – Saitama is fun, his Pilot episode starts out with him dreaming of past victories and becoming bored because no one can beat him. In the end he finds that he does it because he loves it though and when Genos introduces him to the world of Heroes that become noticed and famous he joins them too as his desire for more is contrasted with his non-assuming nature.

Genos – Genos is great in that the only way to kill him would be destroy his head and even though he is all robotic he still wants to be the best. He is a character who is driven by his loss of his body and his devotion to Saitama, which is contrasted with his desire to be Saitama’s better and to be accepted, just like what Saitama wants. They really make a great duo.

The Hero Association – The Hero Association is fantastic! You have the lower level S heroes who are ones from a guy riding a bike to how people perceive One-Punch Man. The big heroes are fascinating too as they are celebrities and that has only fed many of their egos making them larger than life.

The Cons: Lack of Great Main Villain – This is a major issue, Saitama is “One-Punch Man” so there is no one who can defeat him. His only challenges really involve his ego or Genos’s struggles and those are great, but why continue the show if that’s all there is to it? A great villain or foil can drive the plot and create great conflict.

   This is a great show that only promise with where it can go. It satirezes heroes wonderfully in how comical they are and in their attitude and costume and also treats them with respect too, This is a world that feels lived in and has consequences for our characters…consequences that in many have yet to be fully explored such as Genos and the influence of the higher ups in the Association.

Final Score: 9.5 / 10 Solidly great anime that just needed a better ovearching baddie…a Lex Luthor to Saitama’s Superman.

The X-Files – Season 10, Episode 3 – “Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster” – A Comedic Twist on a Monster Concept

Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster

“The X-Files” is a show that can sometimes do comedy well. This episode was a shiny example as it took a “Monster of the Week” idea and subverted it into something new. If this was an episode of “Supernatural” it would have annoyed me big time, but the genuineness of everyone in this made it feel real and fun rather than cheap.

The episode was written and directed by Darin Morgan.

The story involves a mystery surrounding a reptilian creature who Mulder and Scully are tracking for the murder of a bunch of people around town. During this time Mulder is dealing with his skepticism and trying and find other explanations for events.

The Pros: Guy Mann – Guy is the monster who is turned into a man after the killer bites him. He’s a lot of fun as he gains anxiety, intelligence and even gets a job working at a shop because he is so good at bsing. He was a fun character.

Scully – Scully is the one who is more open to the stories being true (another subversion as she’s usually the skeptical one) and in the end she finds the actual human killer and is the one who finishes the case while Mulder is tracking Mann. We see at the end this was purposeful to help Mulder with his doubt.

Mulder – Mulder is skeptical in this and isn’t all together there this episode. It isn’t until the end when he shakes Mann’s hand before Mann goes into hibernation that he is back to a full believer again and in awe of the mysteries that are still out there as he had just befriended the monster of the week.

Subverting “Monster of the Week” – In this the whole idea is that we are the monster as it is a normal human sociopath who is the killer versus the Reptile-like monster who is a guy just trying to live as a human when he is turned into one against his will. He even befriends Mulder eventually and he is the normal guy in the episode, which is a great subversion. The monster is normal and just trying to live.

The Cons: Side Characters – Episode starts out with a few people huffing paint and the killer is just a dog catcher. They are flat characters and easily the weakest part of the episode.

This was an enjoyable and good episode. The subverting of concepts and X-Files tropes was handled intelligently and the show was strong, outside of the side characters who were very poorly written. Guy Mann was the best part and I really liked how they handled his story this episode.

Final Score: 8.5 / 10

The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993): Great World But Story Doesn’t Quite Deliver

The Nightmare Before Christmas

    Before I get into my thoughts, this is going to be one of a few Holiday themed film reviews leading up to Christmas. This review is probably going to be one of my more controversial ones as I know I am most likely in the minority here, but I don’t think “The Nightmare Before Christmas” is great. I think it’s alright but when it came to characters and story it didn’t quite deliver, even though the world it takes place in is fascinating and I see why “Kingdom Hearts” keeps returning to it. Tim Burton is a director and artist who creates wonderful worlds, sadly what I’ve noticed is he doesn’t always fully flesh out the events or characters of said world and this movie truly is a good example of that.

       The film was directed by Henry Selick, written by Caroline Thompson with story by Michael McDowell and produced by Tim Burton and Denise De Novi.

     The story involves Jack Skellington the “Pumpkin King” of Halloween Town having a crisis of want and identity that changes him when falls into Christmas Town. From here he brings Christmas back to Halloween Town and takes up the identity of Santa Claus which causes dire consequences around the world.

The Pros: The World – Tim Burton created an amazing world. The basic theory is each holiday has a town where the denzines of the holiday live…whether it Halloween, Christmas, Easter, etc. They can crossover to one another as well, as seen by Jack’s discovery of the place.

The Animation – The stop motion animation is really beautiful. Each place whether it is Halloween Town, Christmas Town or our world has a distinct flavor and tone to it, which lend strength to the events that go down.

Halloween Town – Halloween Town is the best town and is based all around scaring people. The monsters in this town have great designs and everyone in the town is either mad or demented. Sally and Jack are the most normal members of the population.

The Mayor of Halloween Town – The Mayor is literally two faced and has a happy and unhappy face that turns on his head. He can’t do anything himself and is all about Jack the celebrity. He’s a funny character and has some great lines.

Oogie Boogie – Oogie Boogie is a fun villain as he loves to gamble with lives and is a sentient living mass of bugs. He is threatening and is very much the bully of the town who lives to stick to himself unless his boys bring him lives to play with. Ken Page was great.

Okay: The Soundtrack – This isn’t Elfman’s best work, mostly because the songs aren’t all that good. They are okay but “Darkman” had a much stronger soundtrack, as did “Batman.” This one is a very weak Disney soundtrack and I can’t think of any song that really stood out beyond the main theme.

Jack Skellington – Jack is okay, if he wasn’t a major celebrity he would have been more sympathetic but from the beginning he is the man who has everything. All the people of Halloween Town love him, he always wins the Halloween events and the only thing not going for him is he’s bored and feels lonely. I didn’t get the loneliness given everyone wanted to be with him and he just had to open up. He was okay, Chris Sarandon was a good voice acting choice though.

Sally – Sally is the woman trapped in the castle by her evil creator Dr. Finklestein. She keeps poisoning him and escaping, so she is an active character…but I didn’t know why she liked Jack beyond the fact that everyone liked Jack because he was popular. She could have done a lot more and I wish she’d gone from quiet to active. She tries to stop the Nightmare Before Christmas with Fog with Jack’s ghost dog Zero had a glowing nose. I really liked the idea of her character, but like Jack she didn’t feel fully formed.

Message – The message is largely to be comfortable in yourself and don’t try to be other people. This is good but I felt the execution would have been better if Santa had been more explicit to Jack or if Sally had.

The Cons: Santa Claus – The character is pretty useless. All he does is fix the Nightmare Christmas Jack causes on the populace, but for a Magic guy he was useless against Oogie Boogie.

    This is a film that even given my criticisms of it, and the fact that it is a bit overrated is still worth seeing at least once. Tim Burton’s creativity is on full display and Halloween Town is a lot of fun. This is a also chance to see some beautiful Stop Motion animation and even though this world isn’t fully formed on screen, it is still a lot of fun to visit.

Final Score: 7.3 / 10