Category Archives: Uncategorized

Bargain Bin(ge): MovieStop

MovieStop has got to be my favorite location for digging up DVDs. It doesn’t have the local charm of a lot of places, but they make up with it with their massive stock. I’m never quite sure what I’ve going to find in a MovieStop, but I always know that I am going to dig up something excellent / obscure (and that I’m not going to injure my wallet in the process).

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As you might gather, MovieStop is essentially a GameStop for movies. It was, in fact,  previously run under the same company, but has since branched out into independent operations. And personally, I’d say the service you find at MovieStops is far and away better than what you would find at your average GameStop.

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Based out of Atlanta, the company has already done a lot of expanding in the Southeast. I have actually been to just about every MovieStop in the region through my travels, and they have been pretty consistently impressive. Currently, they are still only operating out of 10 states, but I have seen (and heard) every indication that further expansion is just around the corner.

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Ever since I have been going to my local MovieStop in Huntsville, AL, they have been running a bargain bin sale: movies on the rack are 2.99, and ‘buy one get one free’. Rarely can one find a better deal than that. I have picked up a ton of features for this blog through that sale alone, and have quite the impressive backlog because of it.  (Also, MovieStops consistently have used BibleMan DVDs in stock. Except for the Huntsville, AL one, because I bought them all)

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Last but not least, MovieStop stores are almost always pretty. Most DVD spots are usually run down and dingy, sometimes even located next to sex shops…
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…or tagged as a juggalo hangouts.

store4So, MovieStops kind of nicely break up the typical pattern.  They even go above and beyond on some of the design and frills in the stores:

moviestop5 moviestop7So, if you are ever traveling through (or live in) an area with a MovieStop, I highly recommend checking them out. They are not all equal in quality (the Tuscaloosa, AL one is particularly disappointing), but in general they are great places to find movies: obscure foreign films, classic B-movies, indies from the 90s, current Blu-ray releases, and just about anything else you might be looking for.

IMDb Bottom 100: Friday the 13th (Parts V and VIII)

Happy Friday the 13th everybody! To celebrate the occasion, I have a double feature of two IMDb Bottom 100 alumni from the infamous “Friday the 13th” franchise. There’s also a Stanley Cup Final game tonight, so you should dig out your hockey masks either way.

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Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning

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“Friday the 13th: Part V” is probably the most intensely reviled of all of the “Friday the 13th” movies. “Part V” has even been ignored in the continuity of the subsequent films in the franchise. There are a lot of reasons why this film ultimately failed so spectacularly, but the most famous reason is related to a key aspect of the previous movie, “Part IV: The Final Chapter”: Jason was killed in the end, and is actually still dead for once.

That’s right: Jason, the iconic hockey-masked star of the franchise, is not in “Part V”. Instead, the killings are being perpetrated by a copycat, whose identity is withheld until the end of the movie.

It plays out like a particularly dark episode of Scooby-Doo. In the end, the dude under the mask is “the one guy from earlier”

Most fans of the franchise felt quite cheated by the absence of Jason, particularly due to the heavy implications from the promotional materials that the super-zombie would be returning.

friday3The problems don’t end with just Jason’s absence and the deceptive marketing. Rumor has it that the MPAA ratings board was lax with their judgements on “The Final Chapter” due to their belief that it would, indeed, be the concluding movie in the franchise. When “A New Beginning” came up for review, evidently the ratings board was harsher than ever. In order to avoid a NC-17 (and the significant hindrance that brings to distribution and box office revenues), massive cuts had to be made to any graphic scenes. The results of this are a number of off-screen deaths, minimized gore effects, and an overall underwhelming “Friday the 13th” experience in the violence department, which did not go over well with franchise fans.

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This is as bloody as the movie gets

Alas, there are even more issues with “Part V”. The soundtrack elects to use “updated” 80s style pop music instead of the traditional horror music you might expect. The characters are mostly shallow caricatures and stereotypes (more-so than usual), and comic-relief comes in the form of unexpected and unnecessary poop jokes. There also isn’t a true protagonist, as Tommy (a character returning from “Part IV”) is absent from most of the movie, and acts as the primary red herring for the audience. Because of this lack of focus, the audience doesn’t get enough time with any characters to form emotional connections, and thus the story doesn’t have any sense of gravity. When a character dies, the audience needs to feel a sense of loss. In this movie, the lack of character depth means that effect doesn’t happen.

While “Friday the 13th: Part V” has plenty of problems and is a long way from being good, I feel like it doesn’t deserve all of the ire that it gets. It seems to me that it spurned the fan base, but mostly in a way that was outside of the film-makers control (the ratings cuts and the deceptive marketing). I personally think that using a Jason copycat is a pretty interesting concept that could have panned out better. It played with the established mythos of the franchise, which is a cool way to mix things up in a formula that was on the verge of going stale.

Still, this is widely regarded as the worst movie in the franchise, and I agree that it is certainly a heavy contender for that title. The other most common candidate for that claim (outside of the semi-parody “Jason X”) is…

Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan

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Much like “Part V”, “Part VIII” drew an immense amount of ire from franchise fans and general audiences alike for its deceptive marketing. The movie known as “Jason Takes Manhattan” in fact mostly takes place on a cruise ship, and is primarily filmed in Canada. That wouldn’t be such a huge deal if the film’s marketing didn’t look like this:

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To say the least, the marketing didn’t do the movie any favors with audiences.

Personally, I like the idea of relocating Jason to mix the movies up a bit. And honestly, a cruise ship works splendidly for the “Friday the 13th” formula: you have a large group of people who are isolated from society, and prone to all sorts of youthful shenanigans. I’m actually quite curious if this setting clicked with the writer more-so than having Jason wander the streets of the Big Apple, which is pretty far outside of his usual style. My guess is that the script needed a reason for Jason to be in New York, and the ship was intended initially as just a story mechanism, maybe with just a kill or two. I’m willing to wager that the urban setting caused a lot of problems for the Jason formula, so the writer ultimately relegated the NYC portion of the story to what is essentially an extended chase scene.

friday14 friday19Once again, there are a lot of issues with “Part VIII” that go beyond the deceptive marketing. The protagonist has a number of hallucinations of Jason as a child, which are never fully explained. She is also afraid of water due to a traumatic experience at Crystal Lake as a young child, which is implied to have been Jason attempting to drown her, despite that not being Jason’s M.O. Further, the New York sewers are conveniently filled with a toxic waste that melts skin, which is used to defeat Jason at the end of the movie. During that death sequence, Jason’s under-mask makeup is absolutely miserable when compared to previous films, and worse yet, he somehow reverts to his child-form after being thoroughly melted by the toxic sludge. Even worse yet, the child-form of Jason looks almost nothing like the previous depictions of his younger self. These are all generally small things, but the missed details stack up eventually. Also, a character has a fist-fight with Jason. I still can’t decide whether that was dumb or amazing.

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“So…we’re going with that?”
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You can guess how well this goes

In general, “Jason Takes Manhattan” is primarily a victim of fan rage at the deceptive marketing for the movie. The film is technically better than “A New Beginning” in my opinion, but a long way off from being good. Yet, once again, I feel like it gets far more loathing than it really deserves. With both of these movies, the filmmakers took risks to mix up a formula that was wearing thin. They didn’t wind up panning out, but I can’t help but appreciate the creative efforts in both of these movies. Personally, I think I like both of them more than “Part VII”, which features a telekinetic psychic who battles Jason with her superpowers. That movie, while probably more competent than either of these, is just damn stupid.

Unless you are dedicated to watching the entire “Friday the 13th” franchise, both “Part V” and “Part VIII” are totally skippable. If you are curious, I recommend just looking up the highlights from each. “Part VII”, however, is a bizarre love-hate experience that i can definitely recommend to bad movie fans.

IMDb Bottom 100: Red Zone Cuba

Red Zone Cuba

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“Red Zone Cuba” (or “Night Train to Mundo Fine”) is a devastatingly boring movie. I have had a more pleasant and entertaining time waiting in line at the DMV. Coleman Francis, the star/writer/director of this fine mess, is lauded as one of the worst fim-makers in history. Aside from “Red Zone Cuba”, he is also responsible for fellow IMDb Bottom 100 movie “The Beast of Yucca Flats”. Francis’s work is often justifiably compared in quality to Ed Wood’s features, though Francis doesn’t have nearly the same cult following as the “Plan 9 From Outer Space” auteur. Personally, I find Wood’s films far easier to suffer through, which gives them the upper hand if you ask me.

redzone1“Red Zone Cuba” follows a band of criminals as they elude the law, get wrapped up in the Bay of Pigs invasion, and get up to general criminal shenanigans. Even that brief synopsis makes this movie sound more interesting than it actually is. The premise actually seems promising at first glance (and might have made for a good movie in other hands), but the execution of this film is beyond disappointing. This is one of those cases where there is no ambiguity as to who is at fault for the miserable end product, because Coleman Francis did damn near everything on screen and behind the scenes of this mess. Predictably, his writing, directing, and acting are all massive weak spots in the film, which doesn’t leave a whole lot to be decent. More than anything, the pacing of the film is truly abysmal. Plot points don’t come quick enough, and there isn’t much sense of motion or urgency for a movie that features a prison break, a shootout, and outlaws generally tearing their way across the country.

redzone2There is no reason at all to sit through “Red Zone Cuba”. Even the MST3k riff doesn’t liven up the experience much. Surprisingly, this movie has recently fallen out of the IMDb Bottom 100, despite it being one of the worst (quality-wise) movies I have watched so far. The will of the internet masses is perplexing and strange.

The only thing about this film I can recommend is the theme song. It has been stuck in my head ever since I watched the movie, and is gleefully one of the few things I can honestly recall about it. Listen if you dare.

 

IMDb Bottom 100: Troll 2

Troll 2

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I don’t have to say anything about “Troll 2”. It is a stalwart of B-movie cinema, and an essential watch for anyone who considers themselves a bad movie aficionado. The culture and following around “Troll 2” is only perhaps rivaled in the b-movie world by “The Room”. I can’t recommend it highly enough, even to casual moviegoers. There is an astounding amount of entertainment to pull from this movie’s delightful incompetence.

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For those of you with Netflix and a healthy curiosity for the inner workings of incompetent film-making, check out “Best Worst Movie”. The child actor who starred in “Troll 2” decided to round up the central cast and crew, and fanned the flames of the movie’s cult status with a number of live events. “Best Worst Movie” follows up with all of the major players, and offers some insight into how “Troll 2” came to be. It also spends some time digging into the cult status of the film, and the passionate fans who have managed to raise the movie’s profile to near-classic status. It is a really well-crafted doc, and definitely worth a watch. It was touring the country with “Troll 2” at one point, which makes for a spectacular double feature I’m sure. Try to catch a live screening if you can, I bet the Q+A sessions are a blast.

troll21The “Best Worst Movie” documentary also brings up an interesting question, and one that looms over the IMDb Bottom 100. How does one rank “bad movies”? What actually makes a “Best Worst Movie”? There are some clear issues with the all-out democratic system of the IMDb Bottom 100, as is made clear with the current “Gunday” fiasco, and the Bad Movie Fiends Podcast team raised some good points about the ranking system’s other faults when I poked them about the list. As I have said before, I think what sets apart the upper echelon of B-movies from the rest of the pack are not just the over-the-top pieces of the puzzle (or else every Troma flick would be a treasure), but an honesty and earnestness on the part of the filmmakers.

troll24The common threads between “Troll 2”, “The Room”, “Manos”, “Birdemic”, and “Plan 9” don’t end at poor quality: Claudio Fragasso, Tommy Wiseau, Ed Wood, and James Nguyen all believed / believe that they made great movies. None of them set out to fail. Part of what makes their movies what they are is a precious mixture of genuine failure, the filmmakers’ often inflated egos, and collapsed aspirations all around added into the rest of the film’s concoction. The magic of good-bad movies is a sort of quantum intangible that can’t be replicated intentionally: Sharknados, Mega-Sharks, and Toxic Avengers be damned. Check out the excellent video below for more on this concept:

So, is “Troll 2” the Best Worst Movie? I’m not willing to go that far, but it makes a damn compelling case. It has contributed to setting a new bar for the next oblivious film-maker to limbo under. I think of “Troll 2” as part of the “new elite” of good-bad movies that has collectively set that bar: kind of like the new generation of X-Men introduced in Giant Size X-Men #1.

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I’d rather have the Colossus on my side than Claudio, personally

More importantly for this challenge, where does “Troll 2” belong on the IMDb Bottom 100? Should it just be locked in at the #1 spot to recognize all of the good-bad qualities we love? I don’t think so. “Troll 2” has been hovering towards the top of the Bottom 100, likely due to people giving it ironic 10/10 ratings. And honestly, that’s the nature of the list. Good or bad, the IMDb Bottom 100 ranking is unique. It is a chaotic wasteland of crappy movies that is ruled by the mindless internet mob, but that is what it is supposed to be. It evolves and changes with the will of the people, which makes it equally volatile and fascinating. It deserves consideration as a barometer of the zeitgeist of good-bad movies: there is a lot to glean from it, but it is certainly not sophisticated, just, or conclusive in its rankings. “Troll 2” is plenty incompetent enough for an authoritative list by almost any critic, but that isn’t the way the Bottom 100 works. I will be shocked if it drops out of the ranking, just because I am sure there are many fans who will contribute votes to keep it in for visibility’s sake (then again, “Plan 9” fell off the list), but I don’t see it rising to the forefront. There are other, more fitting lists for it to top out there.

IMDb Bottom 100: The Album!

After reviewing “Night Train to Mundo Fine”/”Red Zone Cuba” recently (it’ll be up this week), it occurred to me that there are a lot of fantastic (read: awful) musical numbers in the IMDb Bottom 100 movies. So, here is a collection of a dozen songs from 11 IMDb Bottom 100 films. It is by no means an exhaustive list, but this should be a good sampling of what you can expect out of these movies as far as songs go.

Pod People

Girl in Gold Boots

Night Train to Mundo Fine

The Creeping Terror

The Starfighters

Titanic: And The Legend Continues…

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The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-up Zombies

Puma Man

Manos: The Hands of Fate

Birdemic: Shock and Terror

S.O.S.

Welcome to yet another installment of (God)Awful Movies! This time around, I’m checking out the baffling Christian music video compilation “S.O.S.”, which was brought to my attention through the most recent episode of RedLetterMedia’s “Best of the Worst”. You can check out the whole video below (and you should, it is a great episode).

Something that you may note from the episode is that the RLM gang’s copy of “S.O.S.” is completely in Japanese, so they do their best to piece together the themes from the visuals alone. They also weren’t able to do much research on the video, given the language barrier. Lucky for me, I found an english copy of “S.O.S.” on YouTube, and was able to learn about the video’s background…sort of.

“S.O.S.” was produced by “The Family International”, which is a sort of peculiar hippie cult version of Evangelical Christianity. I highly recommend reading the wikipedia page on the group, as their theology is nothing short of baffling. Here is an excerpt for you:

“[Loving Jesus] is a term that TFI members use to describe their intimate, sexual relationship with Jesus. TFI describes the “Loving Jesus” teachings as a radical form of bridal theology.[18] It is their understanding of the Bible that the followers of Christ are his bride, called to love and serve him with the fervor of a wife. They took bridal theology further than mainstream Christians by encouraging members to imagine that Jesus is having sex with them during sexual intercourse and masturbation. Male members were encouraged to visualize themselves as women, in order to avoid a homosexual relationship with Jesus.”

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That’s sure something, isn’t it? The only thing I knew about TFI prior to reading that entry was that River and Joaquin Phoenix were both raised as part of the organization for a time, and that it was a bit out of left field. It looks like there is a deep, dark hole to dig into in regards to some shady practices by the organization, but I’m not going to go any deeper into it here. I’d much rather ridicule some ridiculous music videos.

The first segment doesn’t dig explicitly into Christianity, but does give us a ton of goofy robots and early CGI. Watching it in English, it is clearly a luddite/anti-technology song, which comes back in a big way later on. To my dismay, the title song “S.O.S.” in this segment is ridiculously catchy, so I suppose the people behind this have to get kudos for that. It is definitely interesting that without the context of the later videos, it is easy to think that the “angels” in this section are either aliens, greek god-creatures, or sprites of some sort. Given how heavy-handed the segments get later on, this part definitely feels like a “wedge” or “hook” to get general audiences into the fold.

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Surely this technology will save us from the technology
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Worshiping a trash compacter makes about as much sense as cult that produced this mess.
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The cupid/angel/overlords of love. I was a little disappointed that they didn’t fight the robots.

The second segment is probably the most forgettable of all of them. The first couple of minutes show a band repeating the same two lines of a song about a billion times while a “party” commences in front of them. This bit segues immediately into a romantic song (via some of the worst transitions you will ever see) in which two partygoers leer at each other across a room and fantasize about each other. It is astoundingly uncomfortable to watch.

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It holds on this shot for way too long. Try not to make eye contact.

The third segment is nothing short of a beautiful treasure of nonsense. You could basically boil it down to being a “God’s Not Dead” musical comedy. There are a lot of monkey suits (and monkeys in suits?) involved, and you will be left wondering just how our education system managed to fail so many so completely. They even cap it off with a reference to Charles Darwin’s “deathbed conversion”. Oh joy!

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So, we have a guy in a suit being a monkey, and a guy in a suit AND a monkey suit just being a guy. Got it.
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Cronenberg’s Theory of Evolution by Nightmare Selection

The fourth segment is pretty straight-forward anti-abortion propaganda. All subtleties have long been jettisoned by the time this portion gears up, so this song is written from the perspective of the fetus singing to the would-be mother, featuring such lyrics as “Mother keep me, I’m your baby! / Oh Mother let me live, don’t take away my life”. I was completely unprepared for the lyrics to this one, as I initially just saw clips of the Japanese version on RedLetterMedia. With the translations, this segment is by far the most abysmal. Not only is there nothing to laugh at in it, but the damn thing is just disgustingly predatory.

I'm not a doctor or anything, but I'm pretty sure that is just an x-acto knife.
I’m not a doctor or anything, but I’m pretty sure that is just an x-acto knife.

The fifth segment enlightens the audience to the inherent evils of grocery stores, and encourages everyone to abandon technology entirely in favor of living in the woods to count down to the rapture. Yeah, that’s where this is all going. This may be the best segment, just due to the creepy makeup and baffling premise. Once again, the song is undeservedly catchy for a tune about the evil of grocery store scanners.

angels11 angels9Segment six follows up with the same grocery-phobic commune that concludes segment five, and we get to go full-on rapture. There are some lovely interpretive drawings of the rapture featured for some reason, a handy rapture calendar is shown, a lot of vague pointing happens, and Jesus himself makes a fly-by cameo! It all finishes up with the green-screened rapture of the central characters, where they narrowly escape the satanic grocery stormtroopers. It is all quite good fun if you can distance yourself from the fact that people took/take this seriously.

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“awww yisss, rapture!”
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Do rapture calendars involve candy or something, like those advent calendars?
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Vaguely pointing upward. I assume at the flying, crucified Jesus.
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A smiling, crucified Jesus flies overhead. Kind of like a kite I guess.
Google image search hasn’t failed me yet.

For the record, after a green-screened rapture, anything else is going to be an anticlimax. There’s just nowhere to go from there. Nevertheless, there is a segment seven. Outside of some excellent Rick Astley dancing, there isn’t a whole lot to see in this one. The way this segment is shot is really jarring and unpleasant to watch (odd effects mostly), and it doesn’t have any kind of plot within itself. We get some visual recaps from each section over a song about rebirth and the aforementioned Astley-dancing, and then the YouTube video bluescreens for about five minutes. That was my favorite part.

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I’ve never been so happy to see this

So, is “S.O.S.” worth watching? Abso-fucking-lutely, yes. This is a mind-boggling experience to sit through. It had me laughing at cheesy effects and dated fashions, creeped-out by the cultishness of it all, furious at the bullshit propagated by it, and confused beyond any measure. This is a golden find. I don’t know how RedLetterMedia came by this thing, but somebody knew perfectly well what they were passing on. I can only hope for something this gloriously awful when I rummage through bargain bins. Knowing more about the organization behind this video makes it all the creepier and more perplexing to watch, so I’m a little sad that the RLM people didn’t try to dig up more info ahead of time. On the plus side, they get completely blind-sided by the content, which is damn entertaining.

If you are interested in watching the full English version of “S.O.S.”, you can find it below:

 

Godzilla vs Gigan

I love Godzilla movies. I grew up watching both the Hesei and Showa movies on VHS, and actually remember waiting intently for some of the Heisei movies to premiere on video in the US. So, I have a lot of fond memories of watching old Godzilla movies.

With the recent Godzilla movie rocking the box office, a lot of the old flicks have been getting re-releases on blu-ray. Giddily, I’ve been revisiting a good number of them.

gigan1One of my favorites of the Showa era is “Godzilla vs Gigan”. There is a goofy human plot, lots of monster fighting action, cockroaches try to take over the world, Godzilla gets lines, Godzilla bleeds profusely, Godzilla loses a fight with a stationary object, Anguirus casually defies gravity, and the be-buzz-sawed Gigan gets introduced to the franchise. There is a whole lot to love/hate.

Godzilla get beat up by Gigan pretty bad, but beat worse by a stationary building
Godzilla get beat up by Gigan pretty bad, but beat worse by a stationary building
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Specifically, this building defeats Godzilla

I can’t recommend this movie enough. Outside of “Godzilla vs. Monster Zero”, this is my favorite cheeseball flick from the Showa era of Godzilla. A lot of people point to “Godzilla vs Megalon” as the best of the worst of Showa, but “Megalon” doesn’t have cockroach aliens wearing human skin, or a Japanese Tommy Chong. It has nothing on this.

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Japanese Tommy Chong kidnaps someone with that ear of corn
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Space roaches have a divine sense of style

Trust me on this one, “Godzilla vs. Gigan” is well worth the watch. Unfortunately, I don’t believe it is on Netflix or online anywhere at the moment, but the DVD and bluray are readily available.