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Jun 20 14

“Jesus, what’s that smell?” Leon grimaced in the dark.

“It’s not me,” Marco said. “What did you eat, Gunther?”

“Nothing…yet.” Gunther’s stomach growled ominously. He was supposed to be in Central Park by now, not trapped in an elevator with two co-workers.

“Laverne Finkelstein’s gonna be pissed,” Leon said. “This’ll make the third time I’ve stood her up for dinner.”

“Ain’t your fault, man.” Marco blew out a sigh. “How long do you think we’ll be stuck in here? It already feels hot – and the air ain’t too fresh either.”

Gunther wiped the sweat off his bald head with a trembling hand. The power would be out for several more hours. What was he going to do about this latest screw-up?

“Hold on, I think I’m gettin’ a Jersey station on this thing,” Leon said.

The men heard static coming from the pocket transistor radio and then the mellow tones of an announcer. He was talking about Eisenhower’s trip to the hospital.

“This just in, folks – history in the making. Nearly the entire northeastern seaboard has suffered a blackout. The FBI and Department of Defense are investigating the possibility of widespread sabotage as a prelude to an enemy attack. Some sources fear that Unidentified Flying Objects may be responsible for disrupting the earth’s magnetic fields, as there have been numerous sightings across the nation this year.”

Leon made a rude noise and switched off his radio. “Crap, the Russians are to blame for this if anybody is. Those jealous bastards just wanna make us Yanks miserable, and they hate New Yorkers the most.”

“I don’t care who caused it – I just want it to be over,” Marco said, his voice strained. “I’m gonna go nuts in here pretty soon. Claustrophobia, remember?”

Leon laughed. “Don’t worry, if you get too crazy, Gunther will sit on ya, right pal?”


“Right, Gunther?”

The elevator filled with a mysterious greenish-yellow light.

I couldn’t help it, Gunther thought. My watch must be slow. Stupid, inferior technology.

“What the hell…?” Leon backed into a corner. “Gunther, man, you’re freakin’ glowing.”

“That’s not the worst part,” Gunther said, as his head began to spin. This wouldn’t be happening if he’d been allowed to have a decent meal every week.

Marco screamed like a little girl. “We’re being attacked by aliens! Gunther’s a Martian!”

The two men jumped over to the elevator door and tried to claw it open.

Gunther grabbed his head with both hands and stopped it from spinning. He felt sorry for his new friends, but he couldn’t possibly hold off any longer.

His body swelled to twice its normal human size, tearing his cheap business suit to shreds. Then the top of his head opened up and two long, wart-covered tentacles snaked out onto the floor.

Leon and Marco gave up on their escape attempt and tried frantically to stomp on Gunther’s hollow, gray appendages.

Marco started to cry.

The tentacles danced around, easily avoiding injury. The men were grabbed quickly around the ankles and lifted high into the air.

Gunther stared into their terrified, upside-down faces. “Listen, guys, I’m terribly sorry about all this. It’s embarrassing, really, but I can’t look human again if I don’t eat something right away, understand? I wish there was another solution.”

The alien slung the men against the walls of the elevator until their heads cracked open. Brains made for a messy meal, but they were the only edible part of an Earthling’s body.

Gunther sucked their skulls dry and then pried the doors of the elevator open with his powerful tentacles. He had stopped glowing already.

The hall looked pitch-black to everyone but him. By the time he reached the empty offices of the Worthmore Insurance Company, he had once again assumed his human shape – albeit bloody and naked – without anyone being the wiser.

Gunther rinsed off in the bathroom and donned a spare suit that hung in his office’s closet. Afterwards, he rummaged through the drawers of his mammoth desk until he found PATTI, hidden in a leather eyeglass case.

In English, the device was referred to as a Portable Automatic Time Travel Instigator. It looked like a cell phone from Earth’s not too distant future. The one drawback was that it could only be used to travel forward – not back. That meant he would have to meet up with the Mother Ship at some point.

Gunther didn’t want to think about that yet.

It was a shame he had to use the gadget again so soon, but he’d broken too many rules in 1965 to continue his studies.

The next full-scale invasions were due in 1977 and 2003. He’d heard all about the New York City riots of the ’77 blackout, and figured it would be the perfect time and place to go. No one would notice his solo arrival. He could get lost in the chaos.

Okay, what was that new password? He needed it to activate PATTI.

Ah, now he remembered.

Gunther punched in the letters R-O-S-W-E-L-L.



Jun 6 14

I had no intention of seeing the new “Godzilla” when I first learned its 2014 release date. But then I saw that excellent, intriguing trailer and I changed my mind. After all, I didn’t think I’d like “Pacific Rim” and I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed it. And “Godzilla” had Bryan Cranston. I missed “Breaking Bad” and was jonesing to see that actor again on any screen. I rushed to the cinema that first Friday, hoping for the best.

I was expecting a darker film more like the original movie “Gojira” (1954), with Godzilla as the destroyer of mankind. (I’ve always heard that the old monster was considered to be a metaphor for the atomic bomb and the destruction of two Japanese cities, with helpless citizens and a no hope scenario.) In the current remake, directed by Gareth Edwards, Godzilla is a hero – a creature whose purpose is to restore balance in our world and save humanity.

The film had a promising beginning. Bryan Cranston and Juliette Binoche play nuclear experts living and working in Japan with their young son. When an unexplained disaster occurs at the plant, causing the death of his wife and other workers, Joe Brody (Cranston) spends fifteen years looking for the truth. His son Ford (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) thinks he’s lost his mind. Joe might be a little crazy but he’s right about the cover-up. And humans will always be foolish.

The main premise is this: Two bat-like creatures (both referred to as a MUTO: Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organism) arise from the ground and wreak havoc, awakening Godzilla’s slumber beneath the sea. He is compelled to track them down and do battle, resulting in much property damage.

And all that mayhem is exactly what diehard fans of Godzilla want to see. If you loved all the sequels that came after the original movie, then you will probably love this one, too. The special effects are truly awesome. No complaints there. The impressive monsters looked and sounded real.

But for some reason my temporary suspension of disbelief never fully kicked in. I was totally sucked into the “Pacific Rim” (robots vs. kaiju) universe. I think now it was mainly due to the degree of characterization present in that film. I cared about all the characters and that elevated the suspense for me. The main players in “Godzilla” all seemed one-dimensional in comparison.

Major spoilers ahead.

Bryan Cranston’s role was important, but it should have been a bigger one. I was disappointed that he didn’t appear in most of the film. I would have liked it better if he’d survived and fought the good fight with his son for a longer period of time. And Ken Watanabe was dreadfully under-used in his role as a scientist who stands around looking constipated and stating the obvious. David Strathairn plays a stereotypical over-zealous military commander.

Elizabeth Olson appears as war veteran Ford Brody’s wife, Elle. She’s a good actress, but her whining eventually got on my nerves. I also found it too coincidental when Godzilla and the other monsters decide to take their fight to San Francisco, where the Brody family now lives, putting Ford’s wife and son in danger. Taylor-Johnson (Ford) didn’t seem too invested in his role. I wanted to like his character, but I could never feel much empathy for Mr. Bland.

There were a couple of decent suspenseful scenes, involving children of course. And though I understand why one would want to save the best beast for last, I expected Godzilla to show up sooner and have more screen time. As for those close-up shots of the giant lizard staring knowingly into the lead character’s eyes after a near defeat, I just didn’t buy it. That would be like a human trying to communicate with an annoying insect.

Speaking of insects, I have to admit that I began to giggle during the military action, seeing the soldiers continue to shoot their machine guns when it was obviously having no effect on the monsters.

For me, the ending felt a bit abrupt and a tad hokey. I think Godzilla should have made the ultimate sacrifice in order to win the final battle. Instead, he gets up the next morning as though he’s suffering from a century-long hangover and staggers back into the sea – The End. I was hoping the final scene would have the camera slipping beneath the waves, showing us that his death had awakened his mate – the power behind the throne – thereby setting up a revenge flick for the sequel starring Mrs. Godzilla.

I shouldn’t have admitted any of this to a good friend of mine, who’s been a rabid fan of all the old movies since he was a kid.

“You just don’t get it. You’re not a true fan so you don’t understand the mythology. Godzilla is asexual. And this movie was almost perfect. You can’t totally trash such a classic monster.”

I backed off. “His radioactive dragon breath was pretty cool.”

“Of course it was! You can’t give ‘Godzilla’ less than three out of five stars. I mean it.”

Okay. Three stars it is.

But many of you out there might think it deserves five.