Sunday, June 8, 2014

Godzilla - Finally, the movie I was hoping for!

This is the Godzilla I grew up watching.
When I was a kid, I was always watching one of three things on TV: cartoons, baseball or sci-fi (and if you ask my wife, she'll say that not much has But for me, Godzilla was a staple of my TV diet growing up. Whether it was Godzilla, Mothra vs. Godzilla, Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla or Godzilla vs. Elmo, I was watching it. So any remake of this classic was going to have to be good for me to like it.

The 1998 version was just wrong.
Enter the 1998 version starring Matthew Broderick and Jean Reno. I saw this one in the theater with high hopes. I came out of that theater with those hopes dashed. The plot was non-existent, the size of Godzilla was all wrong and just about everything else was wrong, too. Director Roland Emmerich reportedly hated the original films and only agreed to direct because the studio had given him permission to do whatever he wanted with the franchise. It kind of reminds me of a recent similar situation with a classic sci-fi series being revived and handed over to a certain director who didn't like it growing up. But that is an entirely different column.

This was an incredible scene in the film.
A few months ago, after viewing the trailer for this new Godzilla film, hope returned to me as I saw the titanic terrible lizard for a fleeting second. I remember turning to my wife and saying, "This one could actually be good!" A couple of weeks ago, when I was in Houston for Comicpalooza, I finally had the pleasure of watching this new version at the Palladium Theater. And I have one word to describe it...magnificent.

Now don't get me wrong, it's not an Oscar worthy film by a long shot. But what the film did that mattered most, was bring back the feeling I had when I watched those old Godzilla movies as a kid. There I was in awe as the creature, that you could always tell was a guy in a suit trampling Styrofoam buildings, looked incredibly real on the giant screen in front of me. This wasn't some overgrown dinosaur or a new stylized version of the gigantic lizard. This was Godzilla! This is what Godzilla would look like if he were real! They got it right!

Gareth Edwards
The first thing they got right was hiring a director who was a fan of the franchise. Gareth Edwards may not have had the credentials of other directors, but he knew that this film had to be more faithful to the originals to work. And after reading further about him, this quote impressed me even more.

Edwards said in an interview, "The way I tried to view it was: imagine Godzilla was a real creature and someone from Toho (the studio that produced the originals) saw him in the 1950s and ran back to the studio to make a movie about the creature and was trying their best to remember and draw it... and in our film you get to see him for real. It was important that this felt like a Toho Godzilla."

This film featured plenty of nods to the originals, including a possible hint of Godzilla's next opponent...a certain giant-sized flying furry insect.

Ken Watanabe
The performances of the actors was secondary to the special effects but I'll give props to Bryan Cranston and Ken Watanabe for standing out in a film dominated by literally larger-than-life characters.

And I won't give anything away, but it was way that Gareth Edwards handled the story, the personality of Godzilla and the ending that truly makes this a great Godzilla film and a great monster movie in general.

Godzilla done right
So if you're going to see Godzilla for it's artistic merits, you're going to be disappointed. Who am I kidding, you're only going to see it to watch giant creatures battle each other, knocking down buildings and blowing stuff up. And for those of you who are trying to recapture the magic of the classic films you loved as a kid, I say...enjoy!

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Comicpalooza 2014 - Is there a Doctor in the house? How about 4!

A Dalek High-Five
This year, Comicpalooza in Houston, Texas was a classic series Doctor Who fan's dream hosting not one...not two...not three...but four Doctors! Add in new Who's John Barrowman, the stars of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Stan Lee, Nichelle Nichols, Cary Elwes, James Marsters, Billy Dee Williams and many others and Comicpalooza sported one of the best lineups in the Southeastern U.S. this year so far.

All of the conventions I attend are essentially as an autograph collector, but with my website and now this blog I'm also part of the media. And at this show, I was also helping out the Doctor Whooligans fan group at their table. So I was figuratively wearing three hats at the show. I was literally wearing one hat, though (a Lost hat which I got a lot of compliments on, by the way). Accompanying me on this trip was BayouCon director and Doctor Whooligans member Justin Toney.

As an autograph collector, this show was absolutely fantastic. The variety of guests was great, and the wait time for the guests I was interested in was very short. I know that there was some frustration for the attendees who waited in line on Saturday morning for the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. guests. While those people were in line, I decided to visit voice actors Chuck Huber and Todd Haberkorn to get Soul Eater autographs for one of my sons. Both actors were very cool and Todd and I discussed our kids for a while. It's always interesting the things you end up talking to people about.

Fifth Doctor Peter Davison
Then I made it over to Peter Davison who had a very short line at the time. If you know me, I am all about catching the shortest lines at a show. And since Peter was my main target autograph for the show, I couldn't pass up the chance. I grew up watching Doctor Who with my dad in reruns on PBS. Tom Baker, Jon Pertwee and Peter Davison have always been "my" Doctors. So meeting Peter Davison was an absolute thrill. We talked about his recent production "The Five(ish) Doctors" which was a Doctor Who 50th anniversary special, mainly featuring Davision, Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy. The special was hilarious and as much of a 50th Anniversary episode of Doctor Who to me as the actual one. Wait...what? You haven't seen "The Five(ish) Doctors?" Okay, CLICK HERE and watch it now. I'll wait.....................Now that you have, I know right?!?!?!

Me and Stargate Universe's Ming-Na Wen!
I waited until the afternoon to get in line for Ming-Na Wen, and it paid off very well as I was in line for far less time than the morning crowd. And plus she was incredibly nice!

On Sunday, I was able to snag Sixth Doctor Colin Baker's autograph with only two people in line. I also talked about "The Five(ish) Doctors" with him and he said he loved doing the project as well. I also grabbed autographs from Stargate Universe creative consultant John Scalzi and Roy Thomas who had written an episode of the classic G.I. Joe series.

Then on Monday, Justin and I both got an autograph from author Peter S. Beagle who wrote "The Last Unicorn." Peter (who is a great guy with lots of incredible stories) had been in the booth next to ours all weekend, but it wasn't until Sunday that we realized that he had written an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. So obviously we had to get an autograph when we found that out.

If you're wondering why I didn't go on to meet the other two Doctors in attendance, I already had Paul McGann's autograph and I am meeting Sylvester McCoy in June at Con Kasterborous in Huntsville, Alabama.

The Four Doctors Panel
But I have to say the highlight of the weekend was not any of the autographs. It was the panel of The Four Doctors. The banter and jabs between the four actors who played the fifth through eighth Doctors, were hilarious and you can tell that these guys really enjoy being around each other. Answers to questions never stayed on topic and insults flew around like birds in a Hitchcock film. But nobody cared as this was the first time ever in America (I least the first time in a very long time) that four former Doctors have been on one stage. And to be there was absolutely one of the best hours I have ever had at a convention.

As a fan table, we had a great weekend as well. Lots of people passed by the table as we were placed in a very good spot. However, as a panelist, things were not as rosy. The Star Trek panel I was on was double booked in the same room with comic book artist Greg Capullo (best known for Batman). Another room was found for us, but we likely lost half our audience and there were no microphones or projectors in the other room as there were in the first room. But we had a good panel discussion despite the snags.

The Time Lords are back!
Overall the weekend was fantastic! My autograph experience was great. The dealers' area was very good with a wide variety of vendors and the artist and author area featured some great talent as well. I even picked up a Darkseid print from artist Preston Asevedo. Also, I must say the quality of the attendees doing cosplay was magnificent as well! I would have liked to have seen a panel with the voice actors, though. But I would say that despite some organization issues throughout the weekend that other attendees expressed frustration over, that Comicpalooza was a resounding success!

Other do and don'ts I found while in Houston. DO visit The Palladium theater in west Houston. We watched Godzilla there and it was incredible! And DO eat at The Cheesecake Factory in the Galleria. DO NOT overpay for parking at the con. Use the $10 lots on the south and north sides of the George R. Brown Convention Center.

Comicpalooza will be on my schedule for next year and even though many people complained about lines and confusion, my experience was a great one.

Next up, reviews of Godzilla and Maleficent. Keep watching for those!

Eric LeBlanc is the owner of and also a graphic designer / photographer by day. Comments, actor listings, complaints, verbal threats, offers of monetary bribes or anything else sci-fi realted can be sent to