Ishiro Honda’s 1954 monster movie Godzilla isn’t scary now. Maybe it wasn’t scary then.  It possesses a certain eerie power, though, because of what’s outside the frame: its context. You’re watching two of Japan’s deep cultural fears (the deep ocean, and nuclear weapons) collide on the screen, in the form of a huge mutated creature rising from the sea, destroying city.

Forty years later Roland Emmerich resurrected the franchise and shot it full of steroids.

The good part is that there’s no phoned in “humans are the REAL monsters!” subtext, a’la every other monster movie from the period.

The bad parts can be generally defined as “the rest of the film”. The CGI Godzilla is never even slightly believable. There’s never the sense that it’s a skyscraper-sized colossus that weighs a hundred thousand tons. It dives into the sea and makes a tiny splash. It sneaks around New York as inaudibly as Solid Snake.

The film’s best moments are the ones where the monster is outside the shot, or barely seen. This is an effective touch. It gives the impression that we’re looking at a beast of uncontainable size, a beast too big to film. But that’s also an indictment of how shitty Godzilla looks in this. His every appearance does to our faith in the film what the monster does to buildings.

The movie is badly cast and written. About half the cast is from the Simpsons, and there’s comedic moments (such as the Roger Ebert mayor) that ruin the tension and aren’t even theoretically funny. The characters are extremely stupid – deciding to lure the monster to one of the world’s most densely populated urban metropolises, where mass civilian casualties are almost guaranteed. It’s also one of those movies full of shots of marines firing magazine after magazine at a monster that we’ve long-since established isn’t hurt by gunfire.

I was into kaiju shit when this movie came out. Godzilla caused me to go out of it again.

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This was the film covering Arnold’s surprise comeback (and surprise victory) at the 1980 Mr Olympia bodybuilding contest after five years in the abyss. Stories abound about The Oak’s final appearance. He broke the rules by entering, nearly started a fist-fight backstage, and caused the retirement of Mike Mentzer, who was convinced the contest was a fix.

This video covers none of that. In fact, it doesn’t cover anything much. We have some gym footage, some contest footage, and some interviews with Arnold and his compatriots, in no particular arrangement or order.

Let’s get it out of the way that if you’re expecting a riveting clash of titans like in Pumping Iron, this isn’t for you. This isn’t about a story. You should watch Total Rebuild because it’s a slice of Arnold’s life. It seems like a more honest and “real” documentary than Pumping Iron, although maybe that’s because they didn’t have time to edit it properly. Apparently, Total Rebuild was filmed by an Australian promoter, using equipment borrowed from some friends, and as a result it has a gritty indy quality. Unfortunately, the contest footage here is the best we have of the 1980 Mr Olympia (I’ve heard that CBS filmed the entire contest at great expense, and then threw the footage away because like Mentzer, they felt the contest was clearly rigged in Arnold’s favor).

The interviews with celebrities such as Bill Pearl and Tom Platz are fascinating. Tom hero worships Arnold, while Bill gently tries to cut him down to size. Arnold is his usual Alpha Male self. This guy could start a successful cult. He injects some humor into the proceedings, too, such as when he sees a bodybuilder put a 10 pound plate on a barbell without making enough noise. “We’re on camera! You have to make it sound like a thousand pounds!”

The training scenes are lackluster. I’ve heard that Arnold suffered a shoulder injury, which restricted his training poundages. He does some smith squats and cable rows. There’s nothing as awe-inspiring or intense as Pumping Iron’s training sequences here (in the order they appear in my mind: Ed Corney’s squats, Lou Ferrigno’s military presses, Arnold’s dumbbell flys, etc).

So…was the 1980 Mr Olympia rigged? There’s no question, Arnold wasn’t as good as his previous contest appearances. But in my opinion, he still took down the other guys with his trademark Arnold body parts: big arms, big calves, huge chest. His weak points (such as quads) were his weak points in previous contests, too. It might be true that Arnold at 90% power is better than anyone else from his time period at 100% shape, weak legs and weak shoulders be damned.

So, this is very different to Pumping Iron, and mostly the bad sort of different, but it’s still well worth looking for. This is an important part of old-school bodybuilding, just like the guy who stars in it.

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This CD is just really bad. PM5K should not have put it out. It’s worse than anything they did before, and one of those things was apparently so bad the singer refused to release it. So last we heard, they had put out Transform, which was sorta interesting, and now they’re trying out a new style and identity.

They jumped on the retro-punk bandwagon with both feet this time. “Enemies” and “Walking Disaster” are loaded with Sex Pistols riffs and other assorted musical cliches. The slick industrial riffs are gone completely. And Spider’s vocals don’t exactly clash, but they don’t sound right either, and he compensates by piling on retarded grunts and other gimmicky tricks. Get ready to hear “huh” and “yeah” and “riiight” frequently.

While in most albums you remember the highlights, in this album you remember the lowlights, because everything’s pretty bad but it’s the especially bad ones that stick out. “Wild World” is the most offensive the non-joke songs. Just an Avril Lavigne song with a male singer. The title track can be thought of as bad music that is competently performed. All the musicians have their shit together. None of them are overdosing on coke or smearing feces across the recording studio walls. But they’re obviously not trying. There’s a vibe here of “let’s listen to the new Drowning Pool CD and write something that sort of sounds the same.”

Most of the songs here is like that. “Return to the City of the Dead” brings some of the trademark PM5K energy, everything else sounds like a tired band, bored to tears by the music they’re writing, thinking they can remain edgy and hip by playing punk. There’s no inspiration to speak of, this is just a phase they were trying out, and for all I know they chose their new style using a roulette wheel.

Lurking near the end of the CD is the hellish crapstorm of “Miss America”. Dude, this is not funny or cute. STOP IT. I have no patience for wacky joke songs when the serious songs are jokes in themselves.

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