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Godzilla and five more kaiju I have loved

Godzilla and five more kaiju I have loved

This week, Denver residents have a rare opportunity to see the genesis and current pinnacle of the kaiju genre with showings of both the original 1954 Japanese classic Godzilla (at the Sie FilmCenter) and the brand-new iteration (screening pretty much everywhere else movie tickets are sold). The original is better than you'd think, given its legacy of rubber-suited dudes laying waste to HO scale cities, and the new one not only is getting a fair number of positive reviews, it also stars current Best Living Actor Bryan Cranston. More important, both feature giant monsters doing what giant monsters do best: laying waste to giant swathes of civilization.

See also: Zombies are so yesterday: Six candidates for America's next top monster

Once you've seen the original classic and the latest, greatest model, I have no doubt you'll come to love kaiju (Japanese term for "strange creature") movies as much as I do (okay, maybe not quite as much, unless you also spent your childhood watching shitty dubs of Gamera and Mothra movies on late-night TV) and if that happens, you're going to need a few pointers on where to look for your next kaiju fix. To help guide you on your magical journey of kaiju love, I offer a few of my favorites as humble suggestions. (Note to kaiju purists: I take a pretty lose definition of what qualifies as a kaiju film: if it has a giant monster, it's good enough for me. Feel free to tell me what a moron I am for this in the comments section.)

Cloverfield

Not all aliens are little green/gray men. Sometimes they're giant, city-crushing beasts, like in

Cloverfield

. This one's also a found-footage film, which can be a turn-off for some, but on the plus side, it serves up one-time Denver resident TJ Miller in one of the lead roles, plus one of the biggest, baddest most terrifying

kaiju

this side of the international date line.

Shark Attack 3: Megalodon

Can a killer shark movie also be a

kaiju

film? It can be when the shark is the size of a city bus. This one is for the so-bad-it's-good crowd, because this movie is seriously fucking awful. It's also seriously awesome at the same time, thanks to the generous use of terrible CGI and a loopy, nonsensical plot. Plus, both John Barrowman (

Torchwood

) and Ryan Cutrona (Grandpa Gene on

Mad Men

) are in it, which makes it one of the best casts you'll ever see in a direct-to-DVD movie about a plus-sized shark.

 

Destroy All Monsters

If you're only going to see one classic Japanese

kaiju

film (besides the original

, of course!), this is the one to see. It's a battle royale between all of the best Japanese kaiju, including Godzilla, Mothra, Rodan and the three-headed thing known as King Ghidorah, all controlled by weird female aliens bent on total domination of Earth. This may be the best premise of any movie, ever. The execution is ... pretty okay, too.
Reign of Fire How did a post-apocalyptic movie about dragons laying waste to Earth, starring Matthew McConaughey, Christian Bale and Gerard Butler, not become the biggest blockbuster of all time? It is a true mystery. Perhaps because the whole thing is kind of dumb? Maybe, but that didn't prevent plenty of other less dragon-filled films find huge success, and this one is actually pretty fun if you can shut your brain off for ninety minutes (pro tip: pot is legal in Colorado).
Tremors Kevin Bacon and worm-style kaiju mix it up in one of the greatest Saturday afternoon matinee movies of all time. Usually giant monsters choose bustling cities to stomp, crush and mangle, but the weird sandworm critters of Tremors prefer the laidback, rural charms of friendly Perfection, Nevada to wreak their havoc upon, which makes for a nice change of pace. Plus, it has the dad from Family Ties as a redneck gun nut and Reba McEntire as his wife, which is like the triple-word score equivalent of the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon game.

Find me on Twitter, where I tweet about geeky stuff and waste an inordinate amount of time: @casciato.


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