Godzilla 2014: King of the Monster Teasers
Godzilla is a 2014 monster film directed by Gareth Edwards and stars Aaron-Taylor Johnson, Bryan Cranston, and Elizabeth Olsen. It is the first major film appearance for Godzilla since Godzilla: Final Wars in 2004.
The film begins in 1954, when an ancient Godzilla is lured to an island in an attempt to kill it with a nuclear bomb. Flash forward to 1999, Joe Brody (Cranston), a supervisor at a Japanese Nuclear Power Plant, sends his wife and a team of technicians to explore strange seismic activity. However, Brody's wife and the team get trapped and are unable to escape. The plant collapses. Fifteen years later, Brody's son Ford (Johnson) works as a U.S. Navy officer, and is living in San Francisco with his wife Elle (Olsen) and son Sam. Ford is summoned back to Japan when his father is arrested for trespassing. Joe convinces Ford to explore the area where the nuclear power plant went down, as Joe believes that the Japanese government is behind some sort of cover up. They learn that this supposed cover-up involves something big and something destructive (it's actually not Godzilla).
America needed this new rendition of nearly everyone's favorite giant, fire-breathing reptilian (Smaug who?). The 1998 Godzilla was a slap in the face to Toho's infamous kaiju, and can now perhaps be seen as just some trial and error for America's "experimentation" with Godzilla. For one, this Godzilla actually looks like Godzilla and not some poorly contrived iguana. This Godzilla is also another nice return for the character after a ten year hiatus following Godzilla: Final Wars. So does America finally get it right this time?
No one should go into a Godzilla movie or, heck, any movie centered on giant monsters and expect deeply layered characters and dramatic human interactions. If you're not going to the theater to watch Godzilla trample buildings and wrestle with other gargantuan monsters, then please do not go and buy a ticket in the first place. This Godzilla does not quite hit it out of the park, but it is still satisfactory service for avid fans of the long-running Japanese franchise.
- Bryan Cranston. Even though human characters will take a back seat to gargantuan monsters nine times out of ten, Cranston delivers a strong and memorable performance, even with limited screen time. He does a quality job displaying that obsessed scientist who believes something wild and unimaginable with nobody else believing him. Brody is convinced that the government is hiding something, and he has put together various clues to support his claim. His son doesn't fully buy into his claims (of course), but Brody will not go down without a fight ("I have a right to know! I deserve answers!"). I almost felt bad for him because he is really the only character to take initiative of anything without somebody or something forcing him along. But then again, he is really the only character that really takes action when it comes to figuring out what the heck is going on. If your spouse died in a tragic accident, I would think that you want to know all you can as to how and why they died. As for the other characters, it's not until when Godzilla and other monsters start a throw-down do they say, "Hey, there's all this bad stuff going down! We'd better figure it all out!" Nobody feels the inclination to address the backgrounds and intentions of the giant monsters until they finally show up.
- I would say Godzilla is another high, but the problem is that Godzilla is not in the movie enough. Gareth Edward's direction and writer David Callaham's script are in question here, because how can one justify your titular character having only 10-15 minutes of screen time in a two hour film? There are two occasions when Godzilla appears, and the movie abruptly cuts away to something else. Godzilla surfaces in Hawaii, which is where we get our first full body shot of him. He lets out a thunderous roar, and just when the childhood-nostalgia in us is about to explode, we cut to Elizabeth Olsen's character with her son marveling at watching dinosaurs (Godzilla) on a TV screen. If you didn't get enough of cursing up a storm over the movie teasing you with not giving you coveted monster visuals, they decide to do the same tease again when Elizabeth Olsen and a crowd of people are running into a safe location. As doors are closing, we see Godzilla about to get into a fight, but then the doors close and we move on to an entirely different scene. It's not until the last half-hour do we finally get some extended and exciting Godzilla sequences. So if for whatever reason you decided to start watching the movie an hour and a half in, you would see a bunch of monsters on screen and probably not care how they got there. The only worthwhile human character moments you would miss are those involving Bryan Cranston.
Godzilla 2014 has its own special quirk in the Godzilla franchise, because it's one of the very few (actually, it might be the first), Godzilla movie to feature a human character in Bryan Cranston who has lines and an overall performance that you will likely remember and think about afterwards. Still, it does not cloak the fact that our titular monster is seen sparingly throughout his American renaissance. The only upside to that is the movie is able to dodge falling into the pitfall of dumb, cornball fun. Then again, isn't Godzilla usually pure cornball fun? Isn't that why we've spent so many years watching him and other monsters pummel each other to death?
The 2014 Godzilla is the equivalent of getting to eat a sandwich that you've been craving for a long time. The only problem is that the sandwich doesn't quite have the savory flavor that it used to. When Godzilla is on screen, he owns the movie. Too bad that Gareth Edwards thinks pulling cruel jokes like cutting away right before Godzilla is about to lay waste is an ideal way to film a monster movie. At least Roland Emmerich tried to give us our money's worth.
Recommend? If you're a die-hard Godzilla fan, then yes. Otherwise, I wouldn't insist on seeing it.
Can Disney keep their winning streak going?
Beauty and the Beast is a 2017 live-action remake of the 1991 Disney animated film of the same name. This one stars Emma Watson, Dan Stevens, Luke Evans, Kevin Kline, Ewan McGregor, Ian McKellan, and Josh Gad.
The story/plot is largely the same as the animated film, which is based on Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont's fairy tale of the same name. An elderly beggar woman approaches the castle of a young and arrogant prince one night. The beggar woman asks for shelter from the bitter cold for the night, offering a rose as payment. The prince rebuffs the woman, who then transforms herself into a gallant enchantress who turns the prince into a hairy and hideous Beast. The enchantress also turns all of the servants into household items. The enchantress warns the Beast prince that if he does not learn to love another and earn that person's love in return, he will remain a Beast forever. The Beast has until the last petal falls from the rose that the enchantress had offered before. Elsewhere, young bookworm girl Belle (Watson) has become progressively unsatisfied with her life in her village home. Belle lives with her father Maurice (Kline), and she must also deal with the advances of self-centered hunter, Gaston (Evans).
The unstoppable hulk that is Disney has been hitting the nail right on the head with just about everything that they have dished out to us for the past several years. If Star Wars and some of their recent animated smash hits Zootopia and Moana weren't enough, their live action updates like The Jungle Book and Pete's Dragon have me convinced that Disney just can't go wrong. Slap the word Disney on pretty much any film now, and people will come in droves.
If anyone should know anything about the 1991 animated Beauty and the Beast, it's that it was the first time in history that an animated film was nominated for Best Picture. For that, I cannot help but feel slightly bothered about this live action take on what was not only a golden moment in Disney's history, but a treasured moment in the history of animation as well. Now, mind you, this was one of my most anticipated films of the year, and I will tell you right now that the film does not disappoint at all. But whatever feelings you might have towards this 2017 version, they may be heavily influenced by your perception of the 1991 animated film.
- Emma Watson as Belle. Watson is very suitable for the role of Belle, and her charming presence gives the film major uplift. Her time as Hermione Granger (who also just happened to be a bookworm) proved that Watson can deliver an arsenal of emotions from joyful laughing to tearful grieving. Here, Watson nicely balances jubilant romance and gloomy sadness without overdoing either one.
- The visuals. Beauty and the Beast provides lush cinematography and vibrant costumes that make the film quite lovely to look at. Lumiere singing Be Our Guest is the top highlights when it comes to visual appeal. The look of the Beast is perfectly acceptable, although I think he more highly represents a water buffalo (the horns!) than a furry monster.
- This live action Beauty and the Beast does a fine job with hanging close to its source material, but that might be the biggest problem too. The film never really takes any risks with any part of its story. The only prominent upgrades are the lengthened "fight" scene when the villagers storm the castle, and when we get a full depiction of what goes down in the beginning when the prince denies shelter to the enchantress. The animated film just shows us pictures of the enchantress visiting the prince's castle and her turning him into a Beast. Everything just seems to feel like an almost beat-for-beat retelling of the animated film. The live action take just happens to be about forty minutes longer. If you go into this film having not seen the animated film or not having it somewhat present in your mind, then this low point does not apply to you. But for the rest of us that have seen the Disney animated classic, it is flat out impossible for us to resist making even the tiniest bit of a comparison. When was there ever a time when someone never compared an older movie to its newer adaptation?
While this Beauty and the Beast may seem a little too conservative, it's still a visual treat that never overwhelms its romance, humor, or characters. Luke Evans is delightfully bombastic as the hunky and narcissistic Gaston. It might be best to block your brain from worsening your movie-going experience by interpreting Gaston's sidekick LaFou as being gay, even though the movie seems to hint at him being so on several occasions. Go read about it online. It's caused quite an uproar, so I've heard. Emma Watson shines as Belle, and the musical numbers all make for a lovely soundtrack that you might be humming to for a couple of days. People of all ages can enjoy this film, and it's further proof that Disney's dominance is still alive and well.
Recommend? Yes, though for some, having seen the 1991 animated film beforehand might diminish the experience a little bit.
The Bridge on the River Kwai is a 1957 war drama film directed by David Lean and stars William Holden, Alec Guinness, and Jack Hawkins. The film is based on the 1952 French novel of the same name. It won 7 Academy Awards, which included Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor for Guinness, and Best Adapted Screenplay.
Taking place in Burma in a Japanese prison camp, British prisoners of war are assigned to construct an important railway bridge over the River Kwai. Colonel Nicholson, the leading British officer, remains defiant against the leading Japanese commando, Saito. Nicholson cites the Geneva Conventions that prevent British officers from manual labor, but Saito instead punishes the British officers and seals Nicholson away in a dinky box known as The Oven. Meanwhile, U.S. Navy Commander Shears, a prisoner on the island, manages to escape. He is later recruited into a British commando to go on a mission and destroy the bridge.
The Bridge on the River Kwai is a war film lacking bloody warfare or jingoism. It focuses on individuals and their mentalities. Alec Guinness is the gutsy and ambitious Nicholson, who sweats and gets smacked in the face by Saito. Saito is aggressive, but desperate because his life is at stake. British major Warden's hot-headed mentality reflects upon his desire to play with explosives. Sure, the film never sees headstrong soldiers duking it out on the battlefield, but there's no denying that it also brings some rough-and-tough excitement. Nicholson's feud with Saito always keeps interest, and watching the British commando team traverse through the thick jungle gives the film its adventurous edge.
I have griped a lot about many of the Best Picture winners being too long, and The Bridge on the River Kwai is quite lengthy as well at 161 minutes. This is one of those rare times where a Best Picture victor actually benefits from its long running time. A story like the one in this film takes time. It takes a while to warm up to Colonel Nicholson and also to understand the attitude and motivations of Saito. The long trip through the dense jungle for the British commando is a humid and tiresome journey, and if we want to be fully impacted by it, we have to feel the same way. None of these men want to sit around and talk about life's goals for hours on end. Shears, Nicholson, and Saito want to walk the walk, even though the walk is long and weary. It's a struggle that we as an audience can easily invest in, and it's a struggle that engrosses us from start to finish.
- The ending. Everything that happens in The Bridge on the River Kwai builds up to an explosive (literally and figuratively) finale that is truly among the greatest endings in cinema. I do not want to say that the film is only as good as its last 10-15 minutes, but that when you grind through the two and a half hours it takes to get to the end, it's a powerful blow that will be ringing in your head for days. It's a headache that you will love to have.
- Alec Guinness as Colonel Nicholson. Guinness might always be best remembered as Obi-Wan Kenobi in Star Wars: A New Hope, but I do not believe there is another role he played that was as masterful and/or memorable as Colonel Nicholson. Nicholson is the most intriguing character in the film, and we so interestingly study him for the whole 161 minutes. Guinness never has to bark lines or force unnecessary testosterone. He is as down to Earth as any upper tier officer in the military can be, and that's why we keep a sharp eye on him.
- I would be grasping at straws to claim that there is a significant low in The Bridge on the River Kwai. This is masterful craft from David Lean from just about every angle that you can look at it. The acting is superb, the story is engaging and simple enough so that you could not get overly confused, and it is a film that still holds up incredibly well today. The movie is exciting without having to rely on bloody war battles or hand-to-hand combat. The characters are three dimensional and realistic. If that all wasn't enough, the film does not feel anywhere near as long as it actually is, provided that you can fully engage yourself into it early on.
I have seen The Bridge on the River Kwai twice now, and the second viewing was even better than the first time. This is a film that I can confidently say cannot diminish in quality no matter how many viewings. To say The Bridge on The River Kwai is a great film is a slight understatement. This is undoubtedly one of the most magnificent films of the 20th century and one of the best Best Picture winners of all time. It gets everything right, and then some. The Bridge on the River Kwai is a true work of cinematic art.
Recommend? Yes. Do not let the run time dissuade you.
Kong: Skull Island stars Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, John Goodman, John C. Reilly, Brie Larson, and Toby Kebbell, and is directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts.
Set in 1973, government agent Bill Randa (Goodman) has gathered satellite images of an uncharted island in the South Pacific known as Skull Island. He gathers a team composed of tracker James Conrad (Hiddleston), Colonel Preston Packard (Jackson), and photographer Mason Weaver (Larson), to go and scope out the island. They reach the island and get a warm welcome from Kong, who scatters the group across the terrain. Conrad and Weaver eventually meet Hank Marlow, a World War II pilot who crash landed on the island nearly 30 years prior. Marlow explains that Kong is regarded as king of the island, but that many other dangerous creatures lurk about on the island as well.
Kong: Skull Island is exactly what you would expect it to be; a fun monster mash for you to stuff your mouth full with popcorn. If we're judging strictly by entertainment factor, Kong is already one of the best movies of the year. I do not go into every movie I see expecting Casablanca or Citizen Kane, and I made sure to go into Kong without the highest of expectations. Why should anyone go into this film expecting something like great character development? We came to see the giant, burly ape smash some choppers and kick some bad monster butt.
- The fun/entertainment. Kong brings the eye candy and giddy excitement that you crave going into it. It's nearly 2 hours of non-stop monster brawling, and the human characters never get in the way. John C. Reilly is the primary source of comic relief, and while he flirted with being annoying through his consistent one-liners, he never reached that point where I wanted him off the screen. Samuel L. Jackson has some laugh-worthy moments as well. I would not say that the film is completely tongue-in-cheek, but it does have a nice dosage of humor to keep the film from seeming too dark or solemn.
- The fast-paced story. This was one of the fastest 2 hour movies that I can recall watching in a long time. The movie quickly skips and jumps from scene to scene, and it was over before I knew it. Time flies when you're having fun.
- Kong: Skull Island's greatest strength is also its greatest flaw, which is that it never makes the effort to be something more than what it is. None of the characters stick out in any meaningful way, and the plot has all the ingredients of a fairly basic adventure story. This addition doesn't really reinvent the character of King Kong in a new way, and Skull Island has largely the same details that it had in the 1933 original and in Peter Jackson's 2005 remake. Kong fights a plethora of other monsters, and the indigenous people worship Kong like a God. The only differences are the presence of John C. Reilly's character, and that Kong fights monsters that aren't necessarily dinosaurs (The Skullcrawlers look like the skeletons of giant lizards).
Kong: Skull Island won't win any awards for character strength or original screenplay, but it's nearly 2 hours of pure entertaining fun. There is nothing that I can say to claim that Kong: Skull Island is a meaningful cinematic landmark, but I can say that I enjoyed nearly every second of it.
Recommend? Yes. It's tons of fun.
Hugh Jackman's swan song as The Wolverine
Logan stars Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart in their final appearances as Wolverine and Professor X, respectively. It is directed by James Mangold, who also directed The Wolverine.
Set in 2029, mutants are all but extinct. A jaded Logan has aged, and his healing factor is progressively failing. The adamantium in his body is now poisoning him, and Logan is spending his remaining days working as a chauffeur and finding ways to get prescription drugs. He lives in a smelting plant with the albino mutant Caliban and a heavily unstable Charles Xavier. Logan is approached by a woman named Gabriela who asks Logan to take her and 11-year old Laura to a safe haven in North Dakota known as Eden. Logan is unwilling, but is forced back into action when Gabriela is killed and discovers that Laura is being hunted by the cybernetic Donald Pierce and his group of Reavers. Logan, Laura, and Xavier manage to escape the Reavers, and begin a long road trip to Eden.
It's amazing to think that Hugh Jackman has been playing Wolverine for almost 20 years. Sadly, all good things must come to an end, and that includes this incredible ride for Jackman. Logan is the emotional farewell that Jackman needs, and it's funny because it's about as anti a superhero film as you'll ever find. Nobody is dressing up in flashy costumes, and no one is giving famous catchphrases. Logan is bloody, gritty, and down-to-earth. If you ever wanted to get a graphic depiction of Wolverine driving his claws into another man's face, Logan will give you exactly that and more.
Logan's R-rating is a sure warning that this is no superhero flick that you can take your kids to. Wolverine is not here to save the day (okay, yes he does) like Superman. He finds himself caught up in a situation that he never asked for. Logan has grown cynical and is devoid of any sort of joy in life. He wants to waste his days away consuming alcohol and driving a limousine. Logan cares for Professor X, but largely because Professor X's chaotic seizures are something that he cannot ignore. This is no superhero. This is a broken man who just happens to have super powers. Just as Logan is drowning himself in his empty indulgences, a woman approaches him, asking a favor that he wants no part of. But when he sees that the quiet Laura has powers like his own, his world turns upside down.
- Dafne Keen as Laura. The titular Logan is the center of attention, but Dafne Keen really delivers a stand-out performance as the dual-clawed Laura. She slashes and kills in just as bloody of a fashion as Logan, and I found myself marveling at her the entire way. She also has that intimidating look in her eye that is convincing enough on its own.
- The dramatic aspect of the film. Aside from the brutal, bloody violence, Logan transcends usual comic-book expectations because of the dramatic highlights of its characters. Logan's previous life is no more. He wants to be left alone from the outside world, and is accepting to the fact that his days are numbered. Laura has no dialogue for the first half of the film, simply observing and listening to everything around her. Charles Xavier is frail and senile, but still cares for Logan and Laura in the way he used to care for the mutants at his school. Logan even downplays what happens in the X-Men comics that Laura reads in the film.
- The villains in the film are not quite as strong as I had hoped them to be. In a film that's as no holds barred as this one, neither Donald Pierce nor the Reavers are as sadistic or menacing as the film has opened the door for them to be. They want to capture Laura for typical bad-guy reasons that usually involve getting wealthy or gaining power. In this case, it involves experimentation with child mutants in a way that is highly similar to the plot of Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
Logan is a dramatic and exciting send-off for Hugh Jackman in his final appearance as the Wolverine. Dafne Keen, though, really steals the show as Laura, with Patrick Stewart making Professor X's appearance also worthwhile. Issues with the villains do linger a little, but the film still brings the gruesome and high-octane action and emotional depth that makes it a very unique addition to the X-Men franchise, and to the superhero/comic-book genre as well. Godspeed Mr. Jackman, and I wish you well in your future endeavors.
Here you'll find my reviews on just about any film you may have seen. I try to avoid major spoilers as much as possible. I structure my reviews in the following way: