Saturday, May 17, 2014

Godzilla Review

Godzilla Review

Director: Gareth Edwards
Cast Headliners:  Aaron-Taylor Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen, Bryan Cranston, Ken Watanabe

Original Release Date: May 16th, 2014

            He has been called the King of Monsters, a god lizard, Gojira. But to us he is Godzilla, the most classic representation of the idea of a giant monster destroying cities. The Godzilla franchise has a long and storied history of cheesy yet epic bouts between this beast and his many equally frightening foes; they are some of Japan’s defining pop culture exports though however they ended after a point.  The rights to a new Godzilla film have ended up not with Japanese  company Toho again, but with Warner Bros and Legendary Pictures. After the very lame 1998 American version which had Matthew Broderick and radically different atmospheres and visuals to the original, it can gladly be said that this time Godzilla “2014” gets right why these movies can be awesome experiences.
            In some ways the film tries to capture the messages of the original 1954 titular movie. Godzilla was the nightmare climax of the nuclear era, a threat spawned by man.  This movie takes a twist on that by saying the entire Cold War was merely attempts to kill this titanic beast.  Like any good monster movie, at first there is only small references to Godzilla and his kin.  We are introduced to the Brodys, expats living in Japan (clever clever).  15 year prior to the main events of the film, something happens at a nuclear power plant where Joe Brody (Bryan Cranston) is a physicist along with his wife Sandy (Juliette) and their son Ford. After this flashback, and other events which set the cauldron bubbling, happen it jumps to 15 years later where Joe and his son (now played by Aaron-Taylor Johnson) are estranged. Ford returns home from a tour of duty as an EOD military expert to his wife Elle (Elizabeth Olsen) before he has to return to Japan as his father has become involved in shenanigans.
            A question to ask might be, “I thought this movie was about a giant lizard destroying cities?”  A good one to ask, as it seems a large part of the film is about the humans. The slow build to hell breaking loose is interesting, but at times the human element of the film drags it down. Bryan Cranson is absolutely brilliant in his role and the only notable quality acting performance of the movie aside from Godzilla himself, but sadly his time on screen with his ranting about conspiracies to hide Godzilla is only a small segment of the entire experience.  The view of Ford as an on-foot soldier during the monster’s attack is pretty good but not always so, it feels like a distraction from the best parts. However there are effective and awe-inspiring uses of his and other people perspectives of the giant beast’s combat.  Even less entertaining are when we see Elle’s experience (which there are a bit too much as well).  However, another good human element is Dr.Serizawa (Ken Watanabe) who seems to understand the power of Godzilla and whose ideal of “let them fight” enhances the thought provoking factor of nature’s fury.
            When there are not people having dramatic dialogues or military missions happening, there’s massive epic destruction. This is the most exciting part of the movie, and interestingly once “they appear” it gets mixed in with other parts.  For besides Godzilla (who looks perfect in his insanely tremendous size and finely detailed scales and spikes), there are a pair of new monsters in the “mutos.”  It’s interesting enough to see Godzilla just merely exist and be massive, but what makes up the soul of these movies are when he fights against equally deadly enemies.  The mutos resemble the xenomorph aliens from Ridley Scott’s franchise and are just as cool to see tower over and destroy cities as the King of Monsters.  One of them even flies; when fight scenes between the beasts actually do happen there’s some incredible “choreography.”  The fact that director Gareth Edwards was able to have some classic Godzilla vs other giant monster fights in the movie is a wonderful reason why this is so much better than the 1998 American movie. We don’t want to see Godzilla fight tanks and helicopters forever, we want him to throw creatures into buildings and shoot blue laser beams.  Luckily after a point the slow buildup gives way to a mostly constant stream of intense action.  The visuals look gorgeous, it is highly recommended to see this on a IMAX screen if possible.
            Godzilla feels at times a lesser part in a movie which features his name on it, which is perhaps not the best thing.  The atmosphere is very grim and dark, but it is not consistent as sometimes it will feel slightly less so. That is what the original films were though; they jumped all over the place in their style.  It is perhaps best that they didn’t stick with being totally grim. Overall it maintains a quo of epic classic Godzilla spectacle mixed in with a human perspective that’s hit or miss.  It is a really good reboot the big guy deserves and delivers on the simple pure fun that fans or general audiences will like and kicks off the summer blockbuster season in style. (insert Godzilla roar which sounds especially awesome in this version)  for  8.45 out of 10

Thursday, May 8, 2014

The Amazing Spiderman 2 Review

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 Review

Director: Marc Webb

Cast Headliners:  Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Dane Dehaan, Jamie Foxx

Original Release Date: May 2nd, 2014

            It seems like the most famous superheroes have the most troubled careers in the cinemas.  Unlike the stream of Avengers-related movies, Batman and Superman went through periods of downtime and Spiderman faced his own problems. 2012’s The Amazing Spiderman reboot faced the difficulty of having to balance starting things fresh with a new world while also surprising the viewers.  It mostly was a success, and while it did heavily re-use from the 2002 Raimi directed first film it also brought a fresh feeling with its new younger cast of Andrew Garfield as Peter Parker and Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy as highlights. Lurking in the background of the movie was new content to the Spiderman mythos, seeds for deeper meanings to the web-crawling hero.  In The Amazing Spiderman 2, many of those seeds sprout and the results are not always the best.
            Spiderman/Peter Parker continues to roam around New York City doing typical superhero antics (I must mention the great new re-design of his costume, really being nearly perfect to the comics) which is causing friction with both Gwen and his Aunt May (Sally Field). Once again the themes here seem to be borrowed from the previous trilogy but luckily the relationship between Peter and Gwen has some quality charming writing and scenes. Garfield and Stone are the acting heart of this movie and give overarching glue to its many other jagged and jumbled pieces. 
            Let’s get to those jagged and jumbled pieces.  The romantic plotline is fine enough, but when other bits of humor appear they are often very lame.  What makes Garfield portray a good Spiderman is how he brings a charisma even when wearing the costume through one-liners, just as the hero from the comics should. But the lines here are often very cheesy and corny and not even in a comic’s way. At times Garfield seems to be slightly half-trying (although as just Peter Parker he continues the same decent trend from the last film).  This is not helped by overwhelmingly annoying stereotypical characters such as the hardly believable Aleksei Systevich(played by Paul Giamatti in what might be the lowest point of his career) or the minor “Dr.Kafka” head of the Ravencroft prison who reminded me of something out of a Animaniacs cartoon.  There are just a lot of minor things which makes one question why they put them into this movie.  
            What is a superhero movie without its bad guys though?  Don’t be deceived by the promotion, as the Rhino well can be said to be merely a speck on the whole film. The plot involves two supervillains for Spiderman to contend with.  Jamie Foxx plays Max Dillon. Max‘s storyline is a sad one as he is not appreciated by anyone at all because he’s kind of insane which Foxx gives the character a  very different zany kind of depth than the characters he usually plays. An accident transforms him into the fearsome Electro who has dangerous abilities to control energy. He may have some wonky lines and may make dubstep music with his environment (as I said questionable choices on director Marc Webb’s part) but those are also good factors.  The plot in ASM2 is kind of all over the place but he is another strong point of it.
            Now that other villain, and the rest of the plot, does feel like it could have perhaps been suited to have been cut out and put in another film, as this originally featured Mary Jane Watson and Black Cat as well. Another new person in Peter’s life is his old childhood friend Harry Osborne, played by Dane Dehaan. Dehaan was a brilliant choice, but there are some awkward lines delivered by him (not his fault).  Once he assumes, non-surprisingly, the mantle of the Green Goblin he is very laughable which is not helped by the un-convincing design which looks like Harry has just gone through  a bad hair day. Harry is part of the plot fine enough but his transformation into the Green Goblin is offensively late into the film.    There’s also the anti-climactic resolution the plot about Peter’s parents, which had Sony had built up to be some massive mind-blowing mystery but in the end if one doesn’t pay close enough attention they’ll miss the messages its trying to send.
            Despite flaws with some of its characters, plot , and dialogue there are some other bright points. The musical score by Hans Zimmer is notably great, a rare treat for a superhero film these days which have often sounded generic. But the score covers all kinds of genres from electronic to orchestral ; it feels very progressive.  It helps the excitement of the action sequences, which do look very cool and are fun to watch. For better or worse the scale of the world of Spiderman has really been dialed up for this one.
            This movie is trying to do too many things at once. It had to act as a sequel to the first, surprise audiences who have seen the first three Spiderman movies,  followup on the origins/Peter’s parents storyline,  deal with Peter/Gwen’s relationship, introduce not one but two new villians, and also leave hints towards the future Sinister Six/Venom movies.  So its understandable if it turned out rough.  Spiderman’s seen better days, but he also has had a worst day before (Spiderman 3…)  A decent movie, hopefully they learn from the mistakes of this one.  7.6 out of 10