Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Movie Review: Alien

            As many may already know, one of the most anticipated summer movies of 2012, apart from The Avengers, is Prometheus, a science fiction film about a spaceship’s crew that sets off to find the origins of humanity, but instead stumbles across a threat that could wipe out the human race.  One of the reasons why so many people are looking forward to this movie is because it is set in the same universe as the 1979 film Alien, and was initially meant to be a prequel to the movie trilogy.  While Prometheus will not share a direct connection to the Alien franchise, fans of the Alien saga who watch the trailer for Prometheus will notice an appearance of HR Giger’s large chair-like structure that appears in the original Alien movie, when the crew of The Nostromo is exploring the unidentified planet, as well as that whooping siren-like sound that also was heard in the Alien movie’s trailer.  Thus, while there is not a direct connection, there is bound to be enough to leave Alien fans excited.   So what better way to commemorate this upcoming cinematic experience than to review the Alien Trilogy, starting with the movie that started it all, Alien?
            To start off, I must confess that the Alien Trilogy has a particularly special meaning for me, especially since Alien was the very first R-rated movie I ever saw.  And while I can sit through the movies with no difficulty, I can admit that I would be extremely terrified if I saw the featured aliens in real life.  To be honest, I actually have a secret phobia of the Xenomorph species, as the alien is known as within the fan-base, and this phobia is rivaled only by my deep-rooted fear of demonic entities.
            The movie’s opening is quite slow, and it takes about two minutes before we see the refinery spaceship called The Nostromo.  As the on-screen caption informs us, this ship contains a crew of seven, and it is currently on its way back to Earth with 20,000,000 tons of mineral ore that was taken from a planet that will later be referred to as Thedus.  A lot of this opening sequence is spent setting up the atmosphere, by giving the audience a thorough tour of The Nostromo.   After a few minutes of this atmospheric set-up, the ship’s computer starts up on its own, resulting in the crew being woken up from stasis, which is apparently a state of suspended animation that the crew is placed into during long voyages.  I gotta admit this is a rather nifty idea, as it’s bound to spare the crew from the issues of sheer boredom and cabin fever that would expectedly accompany a trip that lasts either months or years.  Plus, it would conceivably cut down on the amount of food that would be needed for the trip.
            A while later, the crew is enjoying their first meal after being woken up, having friendly chats and discussing the payment they hope to receive for bringing the mineral ore back.  The conversation is interrupted when Mother, The Nostromo’s computer system, calls up Captain Dallas to report to the main computer room.  While he’s gone, the rest of the crew discovers that Earth is not appearing in their general vicinity, and they’re not even in their proper solar system.  Captain Dallas informs the crew that Mother woke them up prematurely because she intercepted a transmission of unknown origin, which might be an S.O.S., and therefore woke up the crew so they could investigate.  After a brief debate, The Nostromo crew decides to comply and tracks down the transmission to a strange planet that bears some resemblance to Saturn.  They take a portable shuttle-craft down to the planet.  Upon landing, the shuttle-craft sustains some damage and becomes dry-docked.  While Warrant Officer Ripley, Science Officer Ash and the engineers Brett and Parker stay behind to make repairs, Captain Dallas, Executive Officer Kane, and Navigator Lambert don spacesuits and venture out onto the planet to find the source of the transmission.  It’s during this point in the movie where we see there’s an orange cat running around.  Even though I realize that this is the far future (the movie takes place in 2122), I still find it odd that space explorers would be allowed to bring their pet cat with them.  You’d think that this would present an issue, since it’s very possible for cats to chew on electrical wires and such.  Plus, if the cat in question is a male, they might start spraying.  Cat urine and electrical computer consoles seem like a bad combo to me.  But maybe the cat received special training prior to being brought out, sorta like how seeing eye dogs must undergo special training before they can be issued to a blind person.
            Anyway, Captain Dallas, Kane and Lambert come across an alien spacecraft during their trek across the planet.  Inside the ship, they discover the fossilized remains of an alien lifeform.  Dallas and Lambert notice that the bones of the lifeform have been bent outward, as if the lifeform had exploded from the outside.   
After this discovery, Kane comes across a gaping hole in the ship’s floor.  He decides to head down the hole, and discovers a large number of leathery eggs.  When Kane moves in to get closer to one of the eggs, the top splits open, and something burst out, latching itself to Kane’s face.
            Meanwhile, Ripley has been examining the transmission, and realizes that it appears to be more of a warning than an S.O.S.  She considers going out to tell Captain Dallas, but Ash waves off her concern, telling her by the time she finds them; they probably already would have figured it out themselves.  When Captain Dallas and Lambert return with Kane’s unconscious form, they beg Ripley to let them inside the ship to bring Kane to the infirmary.  Ripley refuses, stating that she ship’s protocol dictates that Kane must be quarantined for 24 hours first, otherwise they run the risk of the whole crew becoming contaminated from potential contagions.  However, Ash goes against the quarantine procedure and opens the hatch, allowing them inside.
Kane is brought to the infirmary, where they try to remove the creature from his face.  Unfortunately, their efforts are foiled when they discover that the creature’s blood is highly corrosive, enough to eat through the ship.  Ash announces that removing the creature could kill Kane. 
A while later, Ripley has a conversation with Ash, in which they discuss the creature.  Ash reveals that he’s discovered that the creature exhibits the ability to have a prolonged resistance to adverse environmental conditions.  Ripley then scolds Ash for breaking quarantine procedure and jeopardizing the whole crew, pointing out that because Captain Dallas and Kane were off the ship, she was the one in charge, and that a science officer, he knew full well about the quarantine procedure.  Ash responds by giving Ripley an icy look and pretty much tells her to get off his back.
Following this, the crew is amazed to discover that the creature has removed itself from Kane on its own.  Ripley discovers the creature when it falls from the ceiling, and it’s determined that the creature is dead.  Ash announces that he wants to study the creature, but Ripley insists that they get rid of it, on the grounds that it might be too dangerous.  Captain Dallas decides to leave the decision up to Ash, resulting in a fight between him and Ripley.  Ripley states that she doesn’t trust Ash, but when she tells Captain Dallas that the repairs have been mostly completed, he chooses to leave immediately.  During this scene, we also learn that Ash wasn’t originally meant to come with them on the journey back to Earth. The original science officer, someone Captain Dallas had previously worked with more than once, was replaced with Ash two days before they left for the return trip to Earth.
Kane is then revealed to have regained consciousness, and is apparently unharmed from the ordeal.  They celebrate with one last meal before returning to stasis.  In the middle of the meal, Kane starts to choke and then convulses.  Before the horrified eyes of the rest of the crew, an alien creature explodes out of his chest, killing Kane in the process.   
The alien creature runs off and disappears.  After Kain’s body is wrapped up and jettisoned from the ship in a funeral-like manner, Captain Dallas breaks the crew into two teams so they can find the alien, arming them with weapons and motion-sensing tracking devices.  Ripley’s team detects movement, but instead of the alien, they discover that they were actually hunting the cat, Jones.  (See? I told you that having a cat tag along was not the best idea.)  To ensure that they won’t accidentally start tracking the cat again, Brett heads off to fetch Jones and place him into a cat-carrier.  However, as Brett is searching for Jones, he stumbles across the alien’s shed skin, followed by the alien itself.  The alien, who is now fully grown, pulls the screaming Brett up into the airshafts.
Captain Dallas tries to turn to Mother to determine the best course of action.  However, Mother does not provide any information on possible protocol on eliminating the Alien.  Realizing that the alien is using the airshafts to move about the ship, the crew decides to use that to their advantage.  Captain Dallas enters the airshafts to force the alien to the airlock, with Ripley standing by to open the airlock at a moments notice.  After a while, Lambert picks up the alien’s signal, which indicates that it’s practically on top of Captain Dallas.  Dallas tries to escape, but accidentally runs right into the alien.  When the others go to try and help Captain Dallas, all they find is his gun.
With the crew diminished down to four, Lambert slips into hysterics, insisting that they abandon ship and take an escape pod.  Ripley calmly informs Lambert that the escape pod won’t hold four people, and suggests they continue trying Captain Dallas’ plan to force the alien into the airlock.  Ripley accesses Mother’s databanks, hoping to figure out what to do.  In doing so, she discovers the existence of Special Order 937, an ulterior mission no one knew about.  It turns out that the company The Nostromo crew works for, which has been unnamed thus far, knew about the mysterious transmission and the existence of the alien from the get-go.  Thus, they intentionally set the crew up, intending for them to head over to the Saturn-like planet to collect the alien and bring it back to Earth for analysis at all costs, with the crew being seen as expendable.  It’s also revealed that Ash was aware of this from the very beginning.  When Ripley tries to warn Parker and Lambert, Ash attacks Ripley and attempts to smother her with a rolled up magazine.  Thankfully, Parker and Lambert step in just in time, and Parker decapitates Ash with an iron bar.  In the process, they discover Ash is actually a robot.  Ripley, Parker and Lambert interrogate Ash and learn that Ash was specifically assigned to go with them to ensure that the alien made it back to Earth, and that there’s no way to kill the alien.  Before Ripley disconnects Ash, he expresses his sympathies to the three remaining crew members.
Ripley then decides that they’ll take Lambert’s earlier suggestion and blow up the ship, taking their chances in the escape pod.  While Ripley goes off to get the pod ready for launch, Parker and Lambert get the necessary supplies together.  Just as Ripley begins to start up the escape pod's engines, she hears a cat’s meow and realizes Jones the cat is still loose on the ship.  She goes off to collect him and places him in the cat carrier.  Meanwhile, Parker and Lambert are busy with collecting what they need, but are discovered by the alien, who promptly kills Parker before turning on Lambert.
Ripley, who was unfortunate enough to overhear the disturbing sounds of the pair's last moments through The Nostromo’s radio and finds their bodies immediately afterward, initiates the emergency self-destruct sequence, giving her ten minutes to make it to the escape pod.  However she finds her way blocked by the alien.  In desperation, she tries to override the self-destruct sequence, but fails to do so in time.  Realizing that she’s now going to die either way, she decides to take her chance with the alien, and returns to the escape pod.  This time, the alien seems to have disappeared, enabling Ripley to escape The Nostromo before it blows up at the last possible second.
            Here, Ripley, and the audience, can breathe a sigh of relief, but don’t be fooled, because it’s not quite over yet.  As Ripley is getting ready to go into stasis with Jones the cat so they can have a peaceful trip back to Earth, she discovers that the alien actually stowed away inside the escape pod.  Acting quickly, Ripley slips into a spacesuit and manages to draw the alien out of its hiding spot.  Once the alien is about to attack her, Ripley opens up the hatch and the explosive decompression forces the alien out of the ship.  The alien grabs on to the doorframe to stop itself from falling out into space, but Ripley forces it all the way out by shooting it with a grappling hook.  The alien tries to get back on by crawling into the engines, but Ripley responds by firing off the engine, causing the alien to be driven off the escape pod and simply float away.
            In a brief epilogue, Ripley makes an entry into the ship’s data log, stating that the rest of the crew all perished, and the ship and cargo were destroyed.  Her exact words are as follows:
“Final report of the commercial starship Nostromo, third officer reporting. The other members of the crew, Kane, Lambert, Parker, Brett, Ash and Captain Dallas, are dead. Cargo and ship destroyed. I should reach the frontier in about six weeks. With a little luck, the network will pick me up. This is Ripley, last survivor of the Nostromo, signing off.”
After making this entry, Ripley enters stasis, and the camera focuses on her face as the movie comes to an end.
Alien is quite possibly one of the greatest horror/thriller films ever created.  While things start happening right away, it’s hard to realize it until the ball’s already rolling, something that makes repeat viewings even more enjoyable than the first time.  If you doze off for a second or two, or let your mind wander during the movie’s opening, you might not be able to realize what’s going on when the action picks up.  While the film is filled with scary and frightening moments, the majority of the time focuses on the characters as they react to the events unfolding around them.  Unlike many of the modern-day horror movies I could name, this one doesn’t have the usual dumb horror movie elements that run rampant these days, such as how the person running from the killer ALWAYS trips, or how the protagonist’s friend inconsiderately sneaks up behind them to tap their shoulder.  Oh, and the black guy ISN’T the one who gets it first.  In this movie, he is one of the last people to be killed off.  Plus, there’s also no use of the irritating exposition sequences.  This movie allows us to figure stuff out on our own.  It would be really great if future horror movies looked back at this film and took some lessons.  Because THIS is how you do horror.
When it comes to the set designs, one really has to give props to the production crew, particularly  H. R. Giger and Ridley Scott.  That pair really did an incredible job of designing the Xenomorph alien, the alien spaceship, and even the world within The Nostromo.  It's such a magnificent display of futuristic but slightly recognizable technology for The Nostromo, and elegant Wow-ness on the alien planet.  Even the Xenomorh is beautiful but menacing at the same time, combining human-like features with terrifying alien.
What is particularly intriguing about this movie is that there are actually multiple ‘monsters’ that threaten the crew of The Nostromo.  Obviously, the first is the alien itself, who puts the crew into danger simply because of its very nature and instincts.  This alien isn’t a chainsaw-wielding madman or a child’s toy possessed by a deranged serial killer.  It attacks and kills the crew because that’s what the Xenomorph species does.  The alien species is simply born to kill.  Even their reproduction is parasitic in nature. 
In addition to the alien, there’s also the faceless and nameless company they work for.  This company, as we eventually discover, intentionally sent out their own employees to collect the alien creature and bring it back, not even caring about how the entire crew would undoubtedly die as a result.  For that reason, this movie is not just about a group of space explorers trying to escape from an alien monster, it’s also about the evil nature of mankind who place more value upon money and power than the lives of others.  There is also the element of Ash, the science officer who turns out to be a robot.  Initially, the audience is led to believe that Ash is simply showing compassion for Kane when he breaks protocol and allows him back onto the ship, and everything else he does, such as his reluctance in removing the facehugger from Kane, initially places no suspicion on him.  But once it’s revealed that Ash was a robot that was placed aboard The Nostromo to ensure the alien’s survival, all of his previous actions are seen in a new light, and we realize that for the entire time, he was only concerned about the alien monster.  And thus, we have the third ‘monster’ in the form of the internal enemy.
Finally, we have the existence of Mother, the ship’s main computer, and the movie’s underlying chilling factor.  It is more-or-less a universal fact that a mother’s main duty is to protect those under her care.  But in this movie, Mother is nothing more than a machine that is only able to follow her set programming, and cares nothing for the crew as the alien wipes them out one-by-one.  She is unable to do anything more than what she’s been programmed to do, so she is incapable of forming an emotional bond with the crew members and feels no sympathy for them as they are killed off.  Thus, the fact that she is called Mother makes for some rather cruel irony.
When it comes to the characters themselves, we generally know very little about their personal history, but it comes apparent that they share a certain bond and synergy, as indicated by their friendly banter in a few scenes  In spite of this, I admittedly have no true opinion on most of the characters in this movie.  I neither like nor hate them, but I do grant them more leeway than I would for characters in other movies.  For example, in one scene, the character of Lambert is sniveling and crying, and pretty much acting like your run-of-the-mill damsel in distress.  However, while I would usually be irritated by characters like that, in Lambert’s case, I can forgive her, because I realize how terrified she is about what’s happening, and cannot blame her for that.  To be perfectly honest, the only character I have a personal gripe about is Captain Dallas.  He simply strikes me as shoddy excuse for a captain who constantly refuses to take responsibility for what happens on his ship.  When Ash and Ripley have their disagreement about what to do with the dead Facehugger, Captain Dallas neglects to step up to the plate and leaves the final choice to Ash.  And even in a deleted scene, Captain Dallas tells Ripley off for refusing to let them on-board when he and Lambert were carrying the unconscious Kane, even though Ripley was following a law that was created to ensure the safety of the majority of the crew.  These instances seem to suggest that Captain Dallas either doesn’t realize the full extent of his responsibilities as captain, or simply refuses to consider the well being of the entire crew.
That wraps up my review of Alien.  But keep an eye out for the next review, which will focus on the sequel, Aliens.

P.S. Why WAS Jones the cat brought aboard The Nostromo in the first place?

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Movie Review: Godzilla '98

           I understand how there is a lot of flak directed at the movie I’m reviewing today, but seeing as how I’ve always felt affection for the film, I really don’t care.  Today’s review is all about the movie that has been unofficially dubbed Godzilla ’98.   
         As I’ve just said, I do like this movie, but does that mean it’s a guilty pleasure of mine?  Well, I personally don’t see any reason for me to refer to Godzilla ’98 as a ‘guilty pleasure,’ because that phase implies that I have a certain level of guilt or shame for liking the movie, and I’d be embarrassed to admit it in public.  However, I don’t feel ashamed of liking it.  Not even close.  I like this movie, and I don’t care who knows it.  I don’t see any reason why I should be ashamed of liking this movie, even if it is widely criticized.  Maybe my brain was wired differently, but I’ve always felt that you should be allowed to like what you like, regardless of what others say.
            The movie’s opening prologue is quite inventive, as far as I’m concerned.  It’s made to look like an old government film reel.  Considering that the French National Anthem is initially playing in the background, it’s probably a safe bet that the film reel in question is the property of the French government.  Anyway, as the film reel plays, we see French government agents performing a test of a nuclear bomb, with one of the French Polynesian islands being used as the test site.  Although, the film reel also contains various images of marine iguanas swimming, lounging around on the beach, or tending to their eggs (even though I think there’s a shot of a monitor lizard thrown in there for a second or two).  Obviously, this is meant to show that the star monster in this movie is a marine iguana that was exposed to the radioactive fallout of these nuclear tests.  This is further implied as the prologue reaches its conclusion, with the camera focusing on a particular marine iguana egg.  And that brings us to what I personally think is a rather awesome scene transition.  As we focus on this egg, a crack forms in the egg, indicating that the egg is hatching.  Well, this crack in the egg is quite seamlessly overlapped with a lightning bolt, which brings us into the first scene in the main portion of the movie.  If you want to see this opening for yourself, just check out the YouTube video I found below.

Before I go on, I feel as if I should bring this up.  I’ve already stated that I like this movie.  However, that doesn’t mean I don’t notice a few problems with it.  For starters, I do have one nitpick about this prologue.  It’s about the marine iguana thing.  To be honest, I have absolutely no problem with the Godzilla in this movie being a mutant marine iguana.  While fans of the classic Godzilla movies from Japan may flame me brutally for this, I actually prefer this version of Godzilla because I think it makes much more sense for Godzilla to be mutated from an animal that's alive today than for him to be some sort of mutant dinosaur..  Especially since dinosaurs were supposed to have died out eons ago.  For Godzilla to have been a dinosaur, he would either have to be immortal or there would have had to be a rather sizable breeding population that survived all this time and managed to avoid detection from the human race.  Both possibilities seem hard for me to swallow, especially when you also make this dinosaur a mutant to boot.  In addition, when you actually see this version of Godzilla later on, there are still some elements of the marine iguana in the creature’s design and movements, particularly in the scenes when Godzilla is shown swimming.  However, like I said, I do have one tiny nitpick: as far as I know, marine iguanas do not exist in French Polynesia.  They can only be found on the Galapagos Islands, roughly 5,679 kilometers away.  So for Godzilla to be a mutated marine iguana, it would have made more sense to have the nuclear test site be located in the Galapagos.  However, if the movie writers had done it that way, they probably still would have still faced some heated backlash because there were never any nuclear tests done on the Galapagos, possibly because of the high number of rare plant and animal species that can only be found on those islands.  French Polynesia, on the other hand, actually did serve as a nuclear test site in the past.  So to be fair, the people who came up with the movie’s back-story were stuck either way.  Thus, I suppose I can cut them some slack.  After all, it’s a movie about a giant mutated creature.  If we only allowed the movies that had absolutely no factual inconsistencies to be filmed, the number of titles available in this genre would probably be pretty scarce.
Anyway, back to the movie.  As I said earlier, the egg hatching/lightning bolt overlap serves as a transition to the South Pacific Ocean, where a Japanese fishing boat is sailing along in the middle of a storm.  One of the Japanese fishermen is busy eating what looks like Udon noodles while watching a Sumo wrestling match on a portable TV, but he is interrupted when the ship’s radar picks up something approaching their fishing boat rather fast.  Despite the crew’s efforts to warn off this incoming vessel via radio, the object collides with the fishing boat.  Immediately after the collision, a gigantic set of claws pierces the side of the boat, and an equally-large tail crashes into the window of the ship’s control room.
Here, there is an instant transition to Chernobyl, where we get our first glimpse of our movie’s main hero.  This is Nick Tatopoulos, a young biologist who is studying the lasting effects of the famous nuclear meltdown on the resident earthworms.  Nick also keeps quite a few pictures of a young woman in the back of his truck.  This woman will later be revealed as Nick’s long-lost college girlfriend, whom he hasn’t seen or spoken to in eight years.  Anyway, as Nick is gathering up his earthworm test subjects, which he’s coaxed to the surface with the use of jumper cables and steel rods, one of those Chinook helicopters lands nearby, and a bunch of gun-wielding GIs run out, collecting Nick’s equipment.  Nick is then informed by some guy from the US state department that he has just been reassigned. 
Elsewhere, in Tahiti, a mysterious man enters this one-story hospital and has a brief conversation with someone in French.  As we’ll learn later, Mystery Man is called Philippe Roaché.  Anyway, Philippe is brought into a hospital room where the sole survivor from that Japanese fishing boat is lying in bed, seemingly in a state of traumatized shock.  At Philippe’s request, the doctors try asking the survivor what he saw, but it’s not until Philippe whips out a lighter and holds the flame near the man’s hands that the survivor snaps out of his paralyzed state to utter just one word: ‘Gojira.’
Back to Nick, who is on a plane that’s landing in Panama.  He’s immediately approached by Colonel Hicks, whom Nick regales all about his study of the Chernobyl earthworm.  He finishes off by telling Hicks that he only studies nuclear samples.  Hicks responds by gesturing to the ground and saying ‘here’s your sample, study it’.  Nick is confused for a while, but after about a minute, he realizes that he’s actually standing inside a humongous footprint.

After Nick realizes this, he is promptly introduced to Dr. Elsie Chapman and Dr. Mendel Craven, two other experts who have been called in to be part of the research team.  Dr. Craven reveals a tape that the French have just released to the American military, which shows images of the remains of the Japanese fishing ship we saw being attacked earlier, as well as the survivor muttering ‘Gojira.’
The scene then changes to New York City, where we get to meet Audrey, the girl from Nick’s photographs.  Audrey is an aspiring reporter who is hoping to get picked for a job with a higher-up named Humphries, a job that may very well help kick start her career as a reporter.  She approaches her boss, Charles Caiman, whom she has been working for as an assistant for the past three years, and asks him if he could put in a good word for her.  However, Caiman is one of those sleezeball bosses who sees nothing wrong with objectifying women and pretty much tells Audrey that he’ll suggest her to Humphries if she has sex with him.  Audrey turns him down without hesitation, but for some reason, doesn’t think to report this little exhibit of sexual harassment in the workplace.  While I’ll be the first to admit I don’t know much about how news stations are run, I’m sure they do have some people on the payroll who are paid to deal with preventing other employees from getting away with stuff like this.
While this is going on, the research team/military arrives in Jamaica, where the remains of a fishing boat has washed up on shore.  I’m not sure if this is the same boat from the beginning of the movie or a completely new one, but I suppose it doesn’t really matter.  Colonel Hicks notices some French-speaking people standing around the site.  When he asks a random army man who these people are, he is instantly approached by Philippe, who announces that they’re with an insurance company and are preparing a report.  Meanwhile, Nick has found something lining the gaping holes in the boat’s hull.  To be honest, I can never make out what exactly it is that he finds, regardless of how many times I see this movie.  Maybe it’s supposed to be the skin from the monster or something?  I don’t really know.  Regardless of what it is, he collects some of it as a sample.  As he’s doing this, however, he notices Philippe is standing nearby, giving him a dark look.
Sometime later, Nick is studying the sample he found on the fishing boat in Jamaica.  After the military receives word that a trio of fishing boats was pulled underwater by an unseen entity, somewhere off the US Eastern Seaboard, Elsie suggests that the creature they’re tracking could be an Allosaurus of some kind.  (Yet, she doesn't have an answer to the obvious question that Mendel points out: where would an Allosaur hide all this time?)  Nick, however, has his own theory.  He reminds the others about how at all the sites where the creature was sighted, Geiger counters had picked up significant radiation readings.  Believing that this is more than just a coincidence, Nick announces his belief that the creature was created by the radiation fallout on French Polynesia.
Back in New York, Audrey is having lunch at a diner with her friend and coworker, Lucy, as well as Lucy’s cameraman husband, who usually goes by the nickname ‘Animal.’  While I’m not sure why this guy decided to share a name with a Muppet, that’s what everyone seems to call him in this movie.  Come to think of it, out of all the characters in this movie, only Lucy seems to call him by his real name of Victor.
As they’re eating lunch, Audrey vents to her two friends about Caiman’s ‘offer’.  Lucy and Animal respond by preaching to Audrey about how she’s just too nice, and how her natural kindness is holding her back as a reporter.  Animal even uses that old ‘nice guys finish last’ line to back up their argument that you have to be ruthless to get ahead.  Really, Animal and Lucy?  That’s your big advice to your friend after her boss violated the sexual harassment policies and asked for a sexual favor?  Honestly, ‘nice guys finish last?’  While I know that’s a saying as old as dirt, I’ve never met someone who’ll actually use it as a founding principle in real life.  What’s next?  Approaching a woman who was just date-raped and saying ‘oh, boys will be boys?’  Why is no one planning a visit to the newsroom’s personnel department to report this occurrence of quid pro quo?
Anyway, while Lucy and Animal are continuing being passé about the subject matter, Audrey notices the TV screen in the diner, which is currently showing a news broadcast about what’s been going on in Panama and Jamaica.  Audrey is stunned upon seeing that Nick in the news report, and is in the company of the military to boot.
 Meanwhile, at one of the piers located on the Battery Park end of Manhattan (I think that’s where we are now), some poor shlump is going fishing in the East River, despite his friends heckling him.  Seconds after he sits down and casts his line, he gets a bite.  However, the fishing pole is quickly pulled from his hands, and a large swell appears in the water, moving quickly at the dock, which is torn apart upon impact.  Ladies and gentlemen, the movie’s big monster, Godzilla herself, has just arrived in New York.  (And yes, I choose to refer to this Godzilla as female.  Why you might ask?  Well, I have two reasons.  The first reason will be touched upon later, but the second reason is because of a desire to try and even up the playing field a bit.  Maybe I’m alone, but I’m a bit irritated about how the majority of movie monsters automatically get classified as male.  Off the top of my head, I can only think of one movie monster that’s officially viewed as female, and that is Mothra.  While I realize I might be coming across as a feminist extremist here, next time you watch a monster movie, stop and ask yourself if you’re thinking of the featured monster in that movie as male or female.)
What follows are various scenes of Godzilla making her way through the city streets, and the New Yorkers running away in a panic.  During these scenes, we see Mayor Ebert making a public speech, hoping to get re-elected, only to be interrupted by Godzilla as she continues to make her way through the city.  While I know all about how Mayor Ebert and his aide were put into this movie in order to spoof the well-renowned movie critics, Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel, I honestly would not have made that connection if I hadn’t been told about it straight out.  Call me dense if you will.
Back with Audrey and company, Audrey is telling Lucy and Animal about her history with Nick, including how they were together for nearly four years, and how Nick even proposed.  Like Mayor Ebert’s speech, their conversation is also interrupted when Godzilla walks by.  As everyone else in the restaurant reacts in panic and fear, Animal runs out to the news van and grabs his camera, running after the creature in order to capture her on film.  He gets his shot, but is very nearly stepped on.  Thankfully, he is survives, as he happened to be standing between Godzilla’s toes.


A while later, the research team/military arrives in New Jersey, where they are informed by Sergeant O’Neil that the entire island of Manhattan is currently being evacuated, and that Godzilla has somehow disappeared.  While it is asked in the movie how the giant mutant could have just disappeared, I think the answer is rather obvious.  I mean, I can’t be the only one to realize how the city is filled with a conveniently high number  of subway tunnels that Godzilla could hide out in.  Even if Godzilla isn’t there, Manhattan is a concrete island surrounded by water.  I imagine it’ll be very easy for the creature to create a makeshift underwater cavern beneath the city.  After all, the water surrounding Manhattan is supposed to be murky enough that no one would be able to see Godzilla doing something like that.
Anyway, Audrey, realizing that Nick is with the research team that keeps appearing in the news, tries to tell Caiman that she has a connection on the inside.  Of course, Caiman dismisses her without even listening.  Understandably frustrated, Audrey secretly swipes Caiman’s news-reporter badge.  With Lucy’s help, she manages to affix her own picture on the badge to make it appear like she’s a genuine reporter, enabling her to go out and prove herself in the field.
As the evacuation of Manhattan continues, Mayor Ebert makes his way to join up with the research team/military, but en route, he is approached by Philippe, who secretly affixes a tiny microphone to the mayor’s coat.  It turns out that Philippe is actually a member of the French secret service, and he and his team of agents are keeping tabs on what the American military are doing, using the microphone on Mayor Ebert’s coat to eavesdrop.  They’ve even got one of those cool portable spy rooms disguised as a UPS truck.  And while this is ingenious of Philippe to bug the mayor, and that he’s no doubt well-practiced enough to pull it off without Mayor Ebert noticing, I still think someone would have happened to notice the microphone.  Maybe everyone was too focused on the issue with Godzilla to chance a glance at the back of Mayor Ebert’s neck?
As they search for Godzilla, Nick suggests to Hicks that instead of combing Manhattan in a long and possibly fruitless search, perhaps it would be beneficial to draw Godzilla out into the open.  They figure out, based on how the creature had attacked multiple boats involved in the fishing industry, that Godzilla is a piscivore.  They create a large bait pile of fish in the middle of the city and form waiting stations around the fish pile.  In an attempt to ensure that the creature will smell the fish, Nick helps some military men remove the manhole covers.  The plan works a bit too nicely, and the instant Nick removes the last manhole cover, Godzilla bursts out from below the street, right in front of the young biologist.  What follows is what I consider to be a really awesome scene in which Godzilla and Nick have a brief interaction.  I particularly like it because when I see it, I get my very first impression that Godzilla might have near-human intelligence.  I tried to find the clip for this interaction online, since my expertise in loading my own movie clips onto my computer are sorely lacking, but unfortunately, I had no luck in finding the clip.  If you have better luck than I did, I would appreciate it if you gave me a link.
Following this encounter, Godzilla then proceeds to the fish pile and begins to eat.  Before she can finish her meal, the military immediately starts shooting their guns and missile launchers.  So, it’s no surprise that Godzilla turns and runs off, with military planes in hot pursuit.  After a long chase sequence, Godzilla manages to cleverly turn the tides and one-by-one, she destroys the helicopters and escapes.
Now, this brings me to the bit that enrages me the most about this movie.  And when I say this bit enrages me, I am not exaggerating.  Every time I think about the scene I’m about to discuss, I very nearly grind my teeth in anger.  After Godzilla has destroyed all the army helicopters that had been pursuing her and went back into hiding, O’Neil has an aside-talk with Nick, in which O’Neil states that Godzilla did all this damage, and they never did anything to Godzilla. You know something O’Neil?  You’re a bloody moron!  You say you did nothing to Godzilla?  Were you out getting popcorn for the past few minutes?  Or are you simply just too mentally challenged to realize that Godzilla only got aggressive AFTER you started shooting at her?  If some obnoxious punk popped up and started firing missiles and bullets at me when I was simply enjoying a nice fish dinner, I think I would be well within in my rights to retaliate.  How much you want to bet that O’Neil was one of those awful kids who would constantly harass and bully his classmates, and then would run to the teacher to act like he was the completely innocent victim when the classmate he was bullying had enough and decked him one?  I think it goes without saying that I completely despise this O’Neil character.
Moving away from the crappy character and back to the storyline, Audrey is taking advantage of her fake reporter ID badge in order to slip behind the civilian barrier that the military had set up.  She spots Nick stepping into a drugstore and summons up enough courage to approach him.  Insert awkward-meeting-after-eight-years here.  While Nick admits he’s still a bit angry at Audrey for walking out on him without a goodbye or explanation, he still invites her back to his military-issued research tent for some coffee.  As they talk and catch up, Nick performs tests on a sample of Godzilla’s blood, which he must have obtained after the military’s current attack on the giant mutant.  He determines, using the pregnancy tests he purchased from the drug store, that Godzilla’s blood contains hormone patterns that suggest she is either about to lay eggs, or has done so very recently.   

And that is the other reason I refer to this Godzilla as a female.  Even though it’s theorized that Godzilla is asexual in this movie, for all we know, that’s only a theory that no one really has the means to put to the test.  And besides, Godzilla lays eggs in this movie.  In the wide world of nature, there is only animal species that has the eggs laid by the male, and that animal is the seahorse.  Since Godzilla does not resemble the seahorse in any shape or form, I’m going to go along with the pattern and declare her a female. 
Now, I’m sure you’re probably asking how Nick thought to test Godzilla’s blood for pregnancy.  While this angle does seem to come completely out of left field in the actual movie, the novelization written by Stephen Molstad does expand on Nick’s thought process beforehand, and what led him to considering the possibility in the first place.  After Nick hurries out to confirm his findings and inform the rest of the research team, Audrey stumbles across the military’s tape that contains the footage of Godzilla’s path through Panama and Jamaica, as well as the Japanese sailor muttering ‘Gojira’.  Taking advantage of Nick’s absence, Audrey steals the tape and uses the footage on the tape to create a news report to air on TV that night, in the hopes that doing so will finally help her launch the reporter job she’s been wanting for years.  However, Caiman, being the slime ball that he is, manages to steal Audrey’s report and presents it as his own, much to Audrey’s dismay.  In addition, the military has been keeping tabs on all current broadcasts and monitoring the news reports.  As a result, they also see the report that contains the top-secret footage.  When the news report mentions Nick by name, the military concludes that he went to the press with the story and immediately boots him off the research team.  As Nick packs his gear into a taxi, a remorseful Audrey approaches him and tries to apologize for taking the tape and betraying his trust.  Nick, however, gives her the cold shoulder, getting into the taxi to leave for the airport.  Much to Nick’s confusion, the taxi he’s taken doesn’t bring him to the airport like he'd requested.  It’s revealed that the person driving the taxi is actually Philippe.  After revealing to Nick his true identity as an operative of the French Secret Service, Philippe brings him to their headquarters, telling him that the American military is not going to heed Nick’s warning and look for Godzilla’s nest.  Philippe and his agents, however, intend to do just that, in order to help clean up the mess their country made during their nuclear testing on French Polynesia.  Nick agrees to help the French agents find the nest.
Unbeknownst to Nick, Philippe and the other French agents, Audrey’s friend, Animal, had witnessed the earlier exchange between Nick and Audrey, and had followed after the taxi hoping to try and convince Nick to forgive Audrey.  After spying on Nick forming an alliance with Philippe and his team, he goes back to fetch Audrey.  He tells her about what he witnessed and explains that he’s going after them, telling her that she should come along and redeem herself by helping Nick prove that he was right about Godzilla’s nest.
Meanwhile, the military has another go in luring Godzilla into the open with the use of a fish pile.  This time, however, while Godzilla does appear, she clearly remembers what happened last time and refuses to come into the open.  Instead, she slips away into the Hudson River.  But apparently, someone in the military anticipated this outcome, and had arranged for a few submarines to be ready and waiting.  The submarines fire torpedoes, but Godzilla cleverly evades the torpedoes, even manages to trick some of the torpedoes into hitting and destroying one of the submarines, by using one of the oldest maneuvers in the book.  Unfortunately, two other torpedoes take advantage of Godzilla’s attempts to burrow back under Manhattan underwater, and hit her dead on.  Thus, it appears Godzilla has been successfully killed.
While all this has been going on, Nick and the French agents have discovered Godzilla’s nest, which is located in what used to be Madison Square Gardens.  It is only now that they discover that, instead of the earlier estimated number of only around 12 mutant eggs, there are actually over 200 of them.  The French agents start affixing explosives to the eggs, but quickly realize they don’t have enough for all the eggs.  That doesn’t matter, however, because the eggs start hatching right then and there.  Nick and Philippe, realizing that they and the other French agents all smell like the fish that Mama Godzilla left lying around for her babies sometime earlier, decide to make a run for it before the baby Godzillas follow their piscivore instincts, but two of the French agents, Jean-Philippe and Jean-Pierre, don’t make it.  Philippe instructs Nick to get out of Madison Square Gardens while he and the other two surviving agents, Jean-Luc and Jean-Claude, hold the baby Godzillas inside.  But despite their best efforts, Jean-Luc and Jean-Claude also meet a grizzly end.  In addition, Nick finds every exit out of Madison Square blocked by the baby Godzillas, and is forced to rejoin Philippe.   
As soon as Nick and Philippe reunite, they discover Animal and Audrey, who have also successfully located the nest and managed to evade the baby Godzillas.  Audrey announces that she knows how to contact the people on the outside, and leads them up to the Gardens’ control room, explaining that the news station she works for often covers the Ranger games.  And for those of you who enjoy movie Easter eggs, make sure to keep your eyes peeled during the scenes when the heroes are inside the Gardens’ control room.  Atop one of the computer monitors is a plastic figurine of one of the Independence Day Aliens.  (For the select few who may not already know, this movie was directed by the same man who brought us Independence Day two years prior.)
Audrey manages to contact Ed, a tech from the news station.  With the help of Animal’s coercing, she manages to convince Ed to help them create a live news broadcast.  Using the live broadcast, Nick and Audrey manages to tell everyone in the city, including the members of the military, about the baby Godzillas, instructing the military to destroy Madison Square Gardens to keep the babies from escaping into the city.  The military responds by telling Nick and company that they have exactly 11 minutes to get out before they bomb the Gardens.  While they cut it extremely close, the four of them successfully get out in time.
For a few seconds, it appears like the movie is over, with Nick and Audrey deciding to tentatively pick up where they left off eight years ago.  But then, Mama Godzilla reappears, revealing she had somehow survived the torpedo attack.  When she finds the motionless bodies of her offspring, she reacts with well-called-for fury.  Seeing as how Nick, Audrey, Animal and Philippe are the only people present, she takes it out on them and proceeds to chase after them, with the heroes commandeering a taxi that Philippe quickly hotwires.  With the use of some quick thinking, Nick manages to contact O’Neil using the taxi’s radio, and together, they come up with a plan.   Philippe leads Godzilla to the Brooklyn Bridge, where she becomes entangled in the suspension cables.  Now that Godzilla is restrained, the military F-14 are able to gun her down, this time for good. 

As the city celebrates the demise of Godzilla, Philippe slips away unnoticed, and Audrey informs Caiman that she’s quitting as she walks off with Nick.  But the movie’s not quite over yet.  In a brief epilogue, we return to the burning remains of Madison Square Gardens, just in time to see one remaining Godzilla egg, which managed to survive the bombing unscathed.  As the camera focuses on this egg, it the baby Godzilla inside emerges.  And that’s when the movie officially ends and the credits begin.  

While I’ve mentioned repeatedly that I like this movie and don’t really get why it was so poorly received, there were quite a few bits that even rubbed me the wrong way, all of which I think I covered in this review.  Plus, the ongoing joke of people constantly butchering Nick’s last name does get old rather fast.  Especially since Tatopoulos doesn’t look like a name that would be particularly difficult to pronounce.  It’s not like it’s anything like Mrs. Zbygn, A.K.A Mrs. Thing, from episode 20 of the British sitcom, Keeping Up Appearances.  But all that aside, I think the movie did quite good.  I can't help but wonder if one of the reasons why this movie is so reviled is because a lot of people try comparing it to the original Godzilla movie from 1954.  I think that's a really silly thing to do.  It's like trying to compare DreamWorks' Prince of Egypt to the 1956 film, The Ten Commandments, especially since Prince of Egypt wasn't trying to be like Ten Commandments.  Likewise, Godzilla '98 appeared to be trying to create its own story and mythos.  At least, that's the way I interpreted it.
Regardless of the reportedly poor reviews this movie received, it was still popular enough to inspire an animated TV show, simply entitled Godzilla: the Animated Series, which lasted for two years on Fox Kids.   

The two-part pilot episode was an immediate sequel to the movie, and it showed how Nick discovered the egg that survived the bombing of Madison Square Gardens, and how the baby mutant hatches and immediately imprints on Nick, ‘adopting’ the biologist as his parent.  The duration of the series focused on how Nick formed a team of researchers/adventures, which consisted of himself, Elsie Chapman, Mendel Craven, and two new characters, Randy Hernandez, a teen computer hacker, and Monique Dupré, a French operative who was instructed by Philippe Roaché to ‘supervise’ the new Godzilla.  Each episode had the team battling an assortment of giant mutants with Godzilla's aid.  Overall, the show did quite well, and was quite mature in terms of kids programs of the era.  The monsters were creative, the plots and subplots entertaining, and there was even a nice blend of action, adventure and pseudo-science thrown into the mix.  Some episodes focused on things like aliens, experimental bio-weapons and nanotechnology.  There were even episodes that featured the legendary Loch Ness monster and Area 51.  One of the most epic of the episodes, however, was the season 2 premiere, which had the protagonists somehow traveling through time and finding themselves in a post-apcoalyptic future, in which the human race had been driven to near-extinction by creatures called Dragmas, which were originally created by a technophobic scientist who wanted to put an end to mankind’s over-reliance on technology.  Unfortunately, despite the show’s success, the animated TV series met its downfall in the mist of the infamous war between the rival Anime shows, Pokémon and Digimon.  Godzilla: the Animated Series was continuously being shoved into different timeslots to accommodate the Digimon marathons and back-to-back episodes.  In the end, GTS was removed from the air, with three episodes that were never broadcast.  Thankfully, the show lives on in the hearts of the still-loyal fans, as well as three DVD releases, and a rare VHS tape called Trouble Hatches, which contains the two-part pilot episode.  (How rare are we talking?  Well, over on Amazon, the cheapest copy of this tape is $456.95, so that should give you some frame of reference.)  In addition, I've even heard that the entire series is available through the Netflix Instant Streaming service, so if you have the chance, by all means, check it out.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Obscure Movies from my Childhood

I'm sure everyone has at least one movie that they remember watching during their childhood that no one else seems to remember.  Believe me, I'm no exception to that, and I find it quite frustrating when I'm the only person who seems to remember those lost treasures from my youth.  For that reason, I'm doing something a little different this week.  Instead of posting a review of one movie, I'm making a list of the movies that I retained a fond memory of, particularly the ones you have to search long and hard for today.  Hopefully, this list will not only refresh some people's memories, it might also help increase some popularity for the films listed.  So without further ado, here is my list off Obscure Movies from my Childhood

1) Brown Bear’s Wedding/White Bear’s Secret- These two mini-movies almost didn’t make it onto this list, but I remembered them both at the last minute.  In Brown Bear’s Wedding, Brown Bear, voiced by Joss Ackland, is content with his solitary life in his log cabin, until he sees White Bear skating on the village pond and is instantly attracted to her.  With the help of his best friend, Owl, voiced by Hugh Laurie long before his days as Dr. Gregory House, Brown Bear sets out in his quest to win White Bear’s heart.  The story continues in White Bear’s Secret, which basically covers the events leading up to the birth of Brown Bear and White Bear’s firstborn child.  And just to try and finish up my attempt at promoting these two mini-movies: White Bear is actually voiced by Helena Bonham Carter
The Dragon That Wasn t (Or Was He?).
2) The Dragon Who Wasn’t (Or Was He?)- Also known as Dexter the Dragon & Bumble the Bear, this was a Dutch film made in 1983 that was produced in the Netherlands.  It’s about a rich bear named Oliver.  After a stormy night, Oliver’s servant, a dog named Yost, discovers dragon tracks on the ground.  However, Oliver is a practical bear and doesn’t believe that dragons exist. In order to find something to convince his master that dragons DO exist, Yost heads into the woods where he comes across a spherical object.  Upon taking it back to the mansion, Oliver announces that it’s a beach ball.  The next morning, however, while Oliver is cleaning up his mansion for a party he’s throwing that night, the so-called beach ball is revealed to be an egg, from which a baby dragon hatches.  The baby dragon immediately starts showing affection towards Oliver.  Oliver’s neighbor, Kit Cat, points out that the baby dragon thinks Oliver is his father. Oliver then names his new dragon Dexter, after his great grandfather.  What follows is a series of events that involves Dexter the Dragon getting into a multitude of trouble due to his inability to change his dragon nature.  Because of these events, Oliver’s friends try to convince him that the best thing he could do for Dexter would be to set him free in the Misty Mountains, where dragons are believed to roam free.  While this movie can be found on YouTube, it’s the original Dutch version with no subtitles.  However, it can be found on Amazon in VHS format.  To my knowledge, there was never a DVD release. No, this movie has no connection to the popular phone app game.  This is a rare Disney movie from 1991.  It’s never been released on DVD, and to my knowledge, it’s nearly impossible to find it on VHS.  I can’t even locate it on Amazon.  That’s how rare it is.  Thankfully, someone was kind enough to load it onto YouTube so unless the YouTube copyright Nazis have found and removed the uploaded videos, be sure to check it out.  It begins with an old woman writing out her will, which states her priceless collection of jewels would not be inherited by her niece as originally planned, but will instead be donated to the museum, which will ensure that everyone can enjoy them.  Immediately after she writes this, she apparently croaks right then and there, as indicated by the sound of her offscreen wheeze and moan.  Sometime later, the old woman’s niece, Stacey, is working at the museum where the jewels are on display.  The jewels are apparently going to be loaned to the London museum, but Stacey’s boyfriend/boss, Gordon, refuses to pay for a curator to transport the jewels.  Instead, he coerces Stacey to transport them herself in a hatbox in lieu of a reinforced briefcase.  So big surprise, the inevitable mix-up we’re all expecting happens.  Due to an incident at the London airport, Stacey ends up with a hatbox that had been transporting a doll, which belonged to a little girl she met on the plane.  When Stacey tracks the little girl down to try and correct the switch, they learn that the little girl doesn’t have Stacy’s hatbox either.  So who has the jewels now?  Hilarious hijinks ensue as Stacey teams up with the little girl and her older brother, with the assistance of their male nanny, in order to get the priceless jewels back. 

Peter-No Tail4) Peter No Tail- This is a Swedish animated movie from 1981 about a cat named Peter who was born without a tail.  Because the owner of the farm Peter is born on thinks that having more cats around will cost too much money, he orders one of his workers to have Peter drowned.  The worker, however, is unable to kill Peter.  Instead, Peter is given to a family living in the city of Uppsala.  In Uppsala, Peter attracts a lot of attention because of his lack of a tail, including that of the bully Måns, who cruelly teases Peter, and Molly Silk-Nose, a female cat who becomes quite taken with the gentle and kind Peter.  Unfortunately, Måns also has his sights set on Molly.  This movie also had a sequel, Peter-No-Tail in Americat, which premiered four years later.  In the sequel, Peter has received a fancy university degree, which very few cats in Uppsala have obtained.  Shortly afterwards, Peter’s American relative, Pelle Swanson, asks him to visit.  In America, Peter experiences just how different the big city is, and along the way, he encounters ghetto-rats, a cat mob, and a Native American cat who presents Peter with a magical long golden tail, earning Peter the new name of Peter-Gold-Tail.

The Richest Cat in the World (DVD) (Disney) for sale 
5) The Richest Cat in the World- The Richest Cat in the World, which was released by Disney, was a made-for-TV movie from 1986.  After millionaire Oscar Kohlmeyer passes away, he leaves his entire estate and five million dollars to his cat, Leo.  While this seems like a typical move by an eccentric wealthy man who dearly loves his pet, there’s a twist: Leo can actually speak English!  Oscar and Leo discovered Leo’s extraordinary talent from the moment they met, when Leo instinctively warned Oscar that the pizza he was cooking in the oven was starting to burn.  Now that Oscar is gone, however, Leo is deeply saddened by the loss of his long-time friend, and not even being visited by Bart and Veronica, the children of Oscar’s in-laws, cheer him up.  However, Bart and Veronica eventually discover Leo’s gift of gab.  While Bart and Veronica agree to keep the fact that Leo can talk a secret, Oscar’s nephew and his scheming wife plot to get rid of Leo so they can claim the inheritance.  Since I haven’t seen this movie in years, I can’t remember what happens in the end, but seeing as the movie is property of the Disney Company, it’s probably a safe bet that the movie has a happy ending.

6) Tommy Tricker and the Stamp Traveler- This movie is rather strange when you think about it.  It’s about a pair of boys, Tommy Tricker and Ralph James, two friends who collect stamps.  One day, Tommy cons Ralph out of a rare stamp that belongs to Ralph's father.  This kick-starts a series of events that leads to Ralph and his younger sister discovering the well-kept secret of stamp travel, which enables you to travel the world by actually entering postage stamps.  Naturally, there are a complicated series of rules, and Ralph ends up being sent to China and then to Australia in his quest to locate Charles Merriweather, who apparently has been lost within a stamp for 75 years.  If you need some convincing on how this coming-of-age movie is pure gold, consider the fact that towards the end, there’s a moment when a kangaroo actually goes up to a mailbox and mails a letter.  This is shortly followed by an incredible sequence when the two main characters burst out of an open envelope in the form of some sort of weird colored-penciled animated boys who proceed to float through the air before the eyes of Ralph’s family, all while goofy kazoo music plays in the background.


8) Prehisteria- Prehisteria is actually a trilogy of movies created by Moonbeam Entertainment, a company that specialized in B-list family-oriented sci-fi and fantasy movies.  In the first of these three movies, which was released in 1993, a museum curator named Rico Sarno is exploring a temple in South America and comes across five eggs.  However, a mix-up results in the cooler transporting the eggs being picked up by a dog owned by the Taylor family.  The family’s two kids, Monica and Jerry, discover the eggs which hatch into living dinosaurs.  Jerry ends up naming the five dinos after famous pop musicians: Elvis the T-Rex, Paula the Brachiosaurus, Jagger, the Stegosaurus, Hammer the Chasmosaurus, and Madonna the Pteranodon.  The first sequel aired in 1994, and it had the five dinosaurs accidentally being shipped in a crate full of raisins and ending up under the care of a lonely rich kid named Brendan and his friend Naomi.  In this sequel, the dinosaurs help heal the rift between Brendan and his workaholic father.  The following year, the third and final movie in the Prehisteria series was released.  In this movie, the dinosaurs find their way to yet another family and help them save their family-run mini-putt golf coarse from going under.
9) Dragonworld- In this movie from 1994, which was also released by Moonbean Entertainment, John McGowan is sent to Scotland to live in his grandfather’s castle after loosing his parents in a car accident.  Sometime after he is brought to Scotland, John’s grandfather shows him a magical wishing tree that grows on the estate.  With the tree’s magic, John ends up conjuring up a baby dragon he dubs Yowler.  John and Yowler become instant friends, and the pair grow up together.  One day, a man named Bob Armstrong comes to Scotland to film a documentary.  He is accompanied by his teenage daughter, Beth, and their pilot, Brownie McGee.  All three newcomers discover the existence of Yowler, and Bob, eager for the prestige, tries to talk John into ‘renting’ Yowler to Lester McIntyre, a corrupt businessman.  John eventually agrees because of the pressing need to pay off the mounting taxes on his now-deceased grandfather’s castle.  However, it soon becomes clear that McIntyre duped them and plans to exploit Yowler.  To John decides to do whatever it takes to save his childhood friend, even if it means sending Yowler away forever.  While this movie does have a sequel, it bears little connection to the original movie and has received mostly negative reviews.  For that reason, I suppose it’s a good thing I never saw it.

Pet Shop 
10) Pet Shop- Here is the third film created by Moonbeam Entertainment, which was released in 1995.  It is undeniably goofy with cheap special effects that adults might find painful without the use of nostalgia goggles, but kids will most likely love it.  It begins with a Brooklyn family being brought to live in Arizona under the Witness Relocation Program.  The family’s young daughter, Dena, comes across a pet shop that’s run by two people who dress like archetypal cowboys.  The pet shop owners give Dena a dog, free of charge.  While Dena is surprised by the fact that she is given her dog for free, she shrugs it off and names the dog Geisel.  However, while out playing with her new dog, Geisel suddenly morphs into an alien dog.  Dena soon finds out that she’s not the only kid in town with these weird alien pets, and she quickly forms friendships with the other three kids, along with their alien pets.  However, the four kids soon discover that their pets have stopped eating.  When they take them back to the pet store to figure out what’s going on, the cowboy-impersonating owners reveal that they are also aliens, and they plan on kidnapping the kids and selling them to an extraterrestrial zoo.
11) Wild Hearts Can’t be Broken- This movie is based on the life of a woman named Sondra Webster Carver, who earned a living riding diving horses.  For those who don’t know, diving horses was a popular attraction in the mid 1880s.  It involved a horse and rider diving into pool of water from a platform that could be as high as 60 feet off the ground.  Naturally, diving horses receive a lot of criticism in modern times due to the attraction being seen as a form of animal abuse.  The movie begins in the days of the Great Depression, with orphaned Sondra living with her aunt.  Due in part to the family’s financial situation, Sondra’s aunt plans to place Sondra into an orphanage.  Unwilling to go along with this, Sondra slips out of the house during the night and runs away.  She ends up at a county fair where she watches another girl named Marie performing as a diving girl.  Sondra approaches the manager of the diving horse attraction, Doc Carver, requesting to become his new diving girl.  At first, Doc won’t even consider Sondra due to her age, but Sondra refuses to give in and after some time goes by, Sondra manages to prove to Doc that she has what it takes.  Sondra’s career as a diving girl takes off and she bonds with a horse called Lightning, as well as Doc’s son, Al.  However, when Sondra is performing in Atlantic City in front of her largest audience yet, she has to use another horse instead of Lightning, who had developed colic after eating moldy hay.  The stand-in horse is a jittery stallion, and right before the jump can be made, the sound of a cymbal crash startles the stallion, who falters and trips.  Sondra’s eyes are opened when she and the horse fall into the water, and as a result, the retinas in both of her eyes become detached.  Because of the injury, Sondra becomes permanently blind.  Without her eyesight, it looks as if Sondra’s life as a diver girl is over, but Sondra finds herself missing it too much, and she’s determined to continue, believing that her bond with the horse Lightning will be enough to allow her to continue diving, even while she is blind.  In the end, Sondra manages to find a way to continue being a diving girl in spite of her blindness, and she continues to dive for another 11 years.  Even though the real-life Sondra voiced her dissatisfaction with how the movie over-romanticized her life, the movie still appealed to the general public.
12) Peter and the Magic Egg- I’m sure we’ve all seen those cute cartoon animals that are featured on the PAAS Easter Egg Dye kits.  Well, did you know that those animals were once featured in a TV-movie from 1983?  It’s true.  PAAS really did adopt the animals featured in this movie as their mascots.  And as you might expect from a movie that inspired the mascots for a popular Easter Egg dye manufacturer, Peter and the Magic Egg is an Easter-themed film.  However, there is one negative aspect to the movie that probably should be addressed.  The movie does present the viewer with a stereotypical portrayal of the Amish.  But the PC issues aside, it’s still a rather decent holiday film for young children.  The movie takes place on a country farm, where the story’s villain, the evil Tobias Tinwhiskers, has taken over the entire town and uses his extensive wealth to make everyone miserable.  A married couple seeks help, and receive it in the form of a small boy named Peter, who was left in their chicken coup by a fairy.  Peter, of course, is magical, and uses his gifts to help the other farmers get enough money to keep their farms.  What’s more, he even makes the farm animals anthropomorphic.  As you might expect, Tinwiskers is not pleased by Peter thwarting his efforts to make everyone’s lives horrible, and he plots to get rid of the boy.

13) The Wonderful World of Puss 'n Boots movie series- Released in 1969, this movie was created by Tōei Animation, arguably one of the most popular distributor of Anime shows and movies.  In fact, it is this movie that gave the company their mascot.  The movie series features the star feline, Pero, who is portrayed as a musketeer-like cat.  Pero has been declared an outlaw among other cats because of his refusal to chase mice.  In fact, Pero even becomes friends with a particular group of mice.  Pero is therefore constantly being chased by three police cats, who are thankfully bumbling dolts that Pero always manages to get away from.  The original movie was essentially a retelling of the original fairy tale story of Puss in Boots, with Pero helping a young boy named Pierre to pose as a prince and suitor to a princess, leading to a climatic battle with a shape-shifting giant.  The movie was followed by two sequels.  The first of these was The Three Musketeers in Boots.  While I have never seen this movie, it apparently featured Pero ending up in a Western-style town where he aids a boy named Jimmy in helping Annie, the daughter of a murdered saloon owner.  It is the third movie that I remember the most, mostly because I used to watch the English dubbed version as a child at my grandparents’ house.  In this film, Pero (or Pussy in the dub) is working at a restaurant in Paris.  It his here where he makes a bet with the richest man in town, a pig named Gourmont (Sir Rumblehog in the dub).  Pero has to travel around the whole world and make the trip in 80 days or less.  If he succeeds, Gourmont will give everything he owns to Pero, but if he fails, he has to become Gourmont’s personal slave forever.  Accompanying Pero are a goofy hippo and two of Pero’s mice friends.  Of course, Gourmont secretly hires goons to try and foil Pero’s attempts at winning the bet.

14) Adventures in Dinosaur City- Have you ever wanted to actually meet the characters from your favorite television program?  Well, in this movie, three kids get to do just that!  Timmy and his two friends, Jamie and Mick, absolutely love the TV show called Dinosaurs, which feature anthropomorphic dinosaurs.  Meanwhile, Timmy’s parents are inventors who have a full-blown laboratory in the house.  One of the projects Timmy’s patents are working on involves sending objects through some sort of dimensional vortex with the use of a large TV screen.  When Timmy’s parents go off to a convention, the three kids sneak into the laboratory in order to watch their dinosaur program on that big screen.  As a result, they accidently start up the vortex project, and they are instantly warped into the TV show, where they help the show’s main characters, Rex, Tops and Forry, battle the evil Mr. Big and his cavemen flunkies known as The Rockies.  The whole movie is pleasantly wacky, and it was successful enough to inspire a video game called DinoCity, which was released for Super Nintendo in 1991.

15) Baby: Secret of the Lost Legend- In this American adventure fantasy film from 1985, an American couple, George and Dr. Susan Loomis, journey to Central Africa, where they hear legends from the natives about a mysterious creature that lives in the jungle.  The couple eventually discovers that these creatures are actually a family of Apatosaurus (or Brontosaurus, as they were incorrectly known as when this movie was made).  Of course, George and Susan are not the only ones who come across the dinosaur family, and it’s not too long before they have to protect the baby Apatosaurus from greedy scientist, Dr. Eric Kiviat, especially when Papa Apatosaurus is killed by the military and Mama Apatosaurus is captured.  While it might be the nostalgia goggles talking, I was surprised to discover that the film received mostly negative reviews.  In spite of this, I had fond memories of this movie and the animatronic dinosaurs it featured.  Plus, I have a very vivid memory of the character Kenge Obe, and his main catchphrase ‘No Problem!’  As a special treat, I even found a clip from the movie, which is posted below to give you an idea of what the movie was like.

16) Mother Goose Rock ‘n Rhyme- Also known as Shelly Duvall's Rock n' Rhymeland; I used to LOVE this movie.  As the movie starts, we’re immediately introduced to Gordon Goose, the son of Mother Goose herself.  When Gordon leaves for his job at a pillow factory, he runs into Little Bo Peep, who informs him that Mother Goose has gone missing.  When people all over Rhymeland start to vanish into thin air, it becomes clear that Mother Goose has been somehow removed from their world.  Gordon and Bo Peep team up to find and rescue Mother Goose, and along the way, they cross paths with other Nursery Rhyme characters, including the Three Blind Mice, the Itsy Bitsy Spider, Mary and her Little Lamb (who’s not so little anymore) Humpty Dumpty, and Old King Cole, who is portrayed by Little Richard.  As the title of this movie implies, it’s filled with musical numbers, but don’t let that scare you away.  It’s still an entertaining movie with a cast that consisted of numerous stars from that era.

Unico      17) Unico Films- A charming and cutesy movie that was based on a manga, the Unico films follow a baby unicorn named Unico who was born with the ability to make the people around him happy.  As the first movie in the series, The Fantastic Adventures of Unico, (or simply Unico as it’s known in Japan) explains, Unico’s gift angers the gods, who think that only they should have the ability to control the emotions of others.  The gods order the West Wind to bring Unico to the Hill of Oblivion, which will apparently remove all living memory of Unico from the world forever.  The West Wind takes pity on Unico, and is therefore unable to fulfill the command.  Instead, the West Wind continually transports Unico from place to place, taking the little unicorn to a new location whenever the gods discover his whereabouts, erasing Unico’s memories of the friends he made each time.  In the first film, which introduces Unico and explains his plight, the little unicorn befriends a baby devil named Beezle and Chao (Katy in the English dub), a kitten who wants to become a witch.  Unico and Beezle eventually team up to rescue Chao/Katy from a demon who is attempting to seduce her.  In the sequel, entitled Unico in the Island of Magic, Unico ends up aiding a young girl, Cheri, whose older brother, Toby, is working for/enslaved by the evil Lord Kuruku, who plots to turn everyone, human and animal alike, into living puppet slaves.  Sadly, each film ends with the gods discovering Unico’s location, and the West Wind is forced to take Unico away from his newfound friends in order to bring him somewhere else, denying Unico the chance to say goodbye to his friends.  The one thing that continues to disappoint me about these movies is that we never see if Unico gets his happy ending, and a part of me is forever hoping that Unico eventually grew into an adult and managed to get the gods off his back, enabling him to become reunited with Beezle, Chao/Katy, and Cheri once again.  There was a third Unico film that was made before the other two were, in order to serve as an ecologically-themed pilot film for a proposed TV series.  However, not only was this TV series never picked up, the film in question, entitled Black Cloud, White Feather, was never released in English, and is quite hard to come by today.

18) The Mouse and his Child- An animated film from 1977, this was based on Russell Hoban’s novel of the same name, which was released a decade earlier.  The story’s protagonists are a father mouse and his son, who are two parts of a single wind-up toy.  Their lives begin in a toy shop, where they befriend a toy elephant and toy seal.  After the clockwork father and son fall off a counter and break, they wind up in the trash and quickly become enslaved by a rat called Manny.  Manny brings the father and son to his casino to join his legion of broken wind-up toys, who are all forced into undergoing slave labor for the rats.  The mice soon escape from Manny with the help of a psychic frog. The rest of the movie follows the father and son mouse in their quest to become free and independent ‘self-winding’ toys.  Be warned, however, that for a children’s film, this movie has shockingly dark moments.  For example, in one particular scene, the viewer gets to see a clockwork donkey get straight-up murdered onscreen.  Even though we only see this happen through the use of shadows, it still has the potential to be as emotionally scarring as the shoe-dipping scene in Roger Rabbit. Phantom Toll Booth- Like Mouse and his Child, this was also a movie adaptation of a book written by Norton Juster.  In this 1970 film that combined live action and Chuck Jones animation, we meet Milo, a San Franciscan boy who is completely bored and jaded with his life.  His ho-hum life comes to and end when a large gift wrapped package instantly appears in his living room.  The package is revealed to be tollbooth, which turns out to be a gateway to a parallel universe.  Milo ventures though the tollbooth and winds up in the enchanted Kingdom off Wisdom.  Along with his newfound friends, Tock the watchdog and the Humbug, Milo undergoes a series of adventures.  In the process, he helps end an ongoing feud between the king of Digitopolis and the king Dictionopolis, and eventually rescues the Princesses Rhyme and Reason from their prison in the Castle in the Air.  In February 2010, work began on developing a remake, but there is no information on how long it will take before this project is finished

20) Flight of Dragons- In this direct to video movie from 1982, which contains an opening song sung by Don McLean, a wizard named Carolinus is discovering that magic is beginning to die away as mankind begins to place more emphasis on science.  Carolinus summons his four wizard colleges and proposes that they create a Last Realm of Magic, where all magical beings can live.  However, one of the wizards, Ommadon, desires to take control of this world himself.  To stop Ommadon, it is decided that the other wizards must seize and destroy Ommadon’s crown, which is the source of his power.  To achieve this end, three protagonists must be selected.  Immediately, Carolinus’ dragon, Gorbash, and the knight Sir Orrin Neville-Smythe are elected, but when it comes to the third protagonist, Carolinus selects a young man named Peter Dickinson, who he comes across in a pawnshop discussing a game he created to the pawnshop owner; a game that has pieces resembling the five wizards and Gorbash.  When Ommadon learns of the plan to defeat him, he sends his own dragon to capture Peter.  In an attempt to save Peter, Carolinus casts a spell and accidentally places Peter’s mind into Gorbash’s body.  Because Carolinus cannot undo the spell, Sir Orrin and Peter/Gorbash have to set off as they are, with an older dragon named Smrgol accompanying them in order to help mentor Peter about magic and being a dragon.  The group is eventually joined by Aragh the wolf, Giles the elf and an archer named Danielle who band together in their quest to obtain Ommadon’s crown.  While The Flight of Dragons was made using the possibly-dated animation of Rankin/Bass, it is still well worth a viewing, as its one of the rare fantasy-themed movies that actually discusses the concept of science, and presents the question of whether or not magic and science can co-exist.

21) Cheetah- This movie has always held a special place in my heart.  It’s a live-action film shot in Nairobi, Kenya and released by Disney in 1989.  As the movie opens, two American siblings, Ted and Susan, have just arrived in Kenya to spend six months there with their scientist parents.  Shortly after their arrival, they meet and befriend Morogo, a young boy from a Masai tribe.  While Ted, Susan and Morogo are off exploring one day, they come across a cheetah cub, whose mother had been killed and skinned by poachers.  Realizing the cheetah cub will die if she’s left alone, the three friends take her home and name her Duma.  However, once the six months have passed and Ted and Susan have to return to America to go back to school, they are faced with the fact that Duma, now fully grown, will have to return to the wild.  Before they can fully train Duma how to hunt and fend for herself, a group of corrupt men, including the poacher who skinned Duma’s mother, kidnap the cheetah with the intent to race her against greyhounds.  To save Duma, Ted, Susan and Morogo head off on a journey that takes them across the African wilderness.  While this movie is available on DVD, it sadly was released with absolutely no bonus features.  This is a shame, because while Cheetah may not be one of Disney’s most well-known films, it certainly was among the most beautifully filmed, giving the viewer plenty of visuals of Africa’s landscapes and wildlife.  (Plus, it also featured the phrase ‘Hakuna Matata,’ five years before it became famous with the release of The Lion King)

So that was my list of obscure movies.  Hopefully, if you also watched these movies during your youth, you have enjoyed seeing that you're not alone in remembering them.  If not, maybe you'll feel the need to hunt down the movies to see them for yourself for the first time.  Perhaps if we get enough people to remember these movies, the ones that deserve it will get the prestige they've been long denied.  And for the ones that aren't able to stand up against the test of time, well, what value can you really put upon childhood memories?