Monday, July 21, 2014

Putting the 'Stink' in Extinction

Michael Bay spares no expense keeping the Autobots on their heels with new friends and old adversaries in the noticeably terrible Transformers: Age Of Extinction

ON CONTINUITY

ARTH VADER (AV): The Transformers are changing before our eyes. They are morphing,altering their DNA, becoming newer, bigger and badder. It’s downright Darwinian, Ponty. Moving the established Transformers cinematic universe (TCU) forward. Director Michael Bay introduces a whole new strain of enemies (and some ancient allies) to offer 2 hours and 45 minutes of some of the most beautiful eye-gasming, hi-tech, empty-headed disaster porn this side of Day After Tomorrow (ply or minus one hunky, frosty Dennis Quaid). The action is intense and it shows so many flags and lens flares, you would think J.J. Abrams got together with Betsy Ross. And indeed, in this fourth installment of the TCU, we are bombarded with hi-tech (and other!) eye candy.  

THE PONTIFICATOR (TP): Ah yes…another Transformers film has graced the silver screen, be still my beating heart Vader. Picking up where the last film left off, the continuity seems to be intact for the previous films (for the most part) if you can overlook Optimus Prime’s new arm and new ability to suddenly fly, I’m just not sure I even care anymore.  

CASTING, DIRECTING & ACTING

AV: So after three blockbuster TCU movies, actor-turned-whack-a-do-head case, Shiaf LaBouff is done. So is Megan “Hey, my eyes are up here” Fox, letting us in on a whole new cast of dim-witted robo-sidekicks. Heading up this new list of TCU humans is Mark “Good Vibrations” Wahlberg as the new leading guy with immortal words “I think we’ve found a transformer” (I think so, too, btw). Wonderfully perplexing actor extraordinaire Kelsey Grammar is the evil G-Man who hates transformers as Stan "I am the 1%" Tucci uses his tech and skills (and some help from some not-so-nice off-worlders) make Optimus Prime's life a poo-storm. 


TP: There was a LOT of talent in this cast. Leading off with Mark Wahlberg with support by Stanley Tucci and Kelsey Grammer, it was hard for me to fathom why this film didn’t absolutely blow me away. Add the voice talents of John Goodman and Ken Wantanabe and all you really have to do is provide great material for a hit. Granted, this was not the type of film that was ever going to win Oscar’s for acting, but it certainly could have been better with a better script and more focused directing.

SPECIAL EFFECTS

AV: If I was in the turd-shinning business, I would be rich beyond my wildest dreams working on the visual effects for this movie, old friend. Say what you will about this film's attempt at a plot but this movie looks incredible! The ships, the fights, the Dinobots, a second Transformer invasion of Chicago–not to mention the incredible interiors on the adversaries giant spaceship simply take your breath away.


TP: Special effects is the bread and butter of this film and for the most part they blew me away…as expected. What I didn’t expect was to see any hint or sign of shoddy CGI work anywhere on the screen…after all, this is the fourth Transformers film and if they can’t figure it out now, something is wrong. Well, something is wrong. I was flabbergasted that in the scene where Yeager (Wahlberg) is being chased down the side of a high rise building in China by Savoy (Titus Welliver) it looked as fake on the pullback shot as the first few years of film CGI. Really…?

TAKING A DEEPER LOOK


AV: Okay so if it's not evident by now, I was not a fan of this movie. It did not have a plot, a story that mattered, waaay too many flags and lens flares for my liking and I have learned not to expect much from these films and got exactly that…not much. How many Autobots are there? Every film says there only a few but we have dozens in each film. According to this film, the Transformers were 'seeded' to Earth by a race of cybernetic-enhanced beings. Where did they come from? Are there others? Were they defeated? Why the hell can Optimus Prime Fly all of a sudden? And why couldn't he just do so in the past? So Megatron is now Galvatron? Ugh! This stuff is so frustrating–I can suspend disbelief only so far. This movie goes way beyond that line. 

TP: Let me sum this film up in one word: cliché. There was so much that was unoriginal in this film that it became predictable to the point of being boring and all the explosions and destruction just added to the agony when the film reached this level. Some examples are the scene where Tessa (Nicola Peltz) can’t figure out which direction to run to avoid the danger of the Optimus Prime/ Galvatron/ Lockdown fight…and runs in every direction instead of directly to her father (who is obviously in no danger as he sits and gives her the ridiculous instruction to run everywhere else). There was no doubt in my mind she was going to be taken at that point. The scene where they are all doing their best tightrope impression to escape the alien ship…as if nobody could predict the cables were gonna break. The scene where they are just about to get Joyce (Tucci) and the seed aboard their ship, and they form a human chain to do it (instead of Bumblebee just jumping down, grabbing both, and jumping back in the craft) when (oh surprise!) a lucky shot shakes them all off the ship and into further peril. There were so many moments like this in the film that it was impossible to be thrilled, knowing exactly what was going to happen in the next scene…sigh. 

ON SEQUELS

AV: I am sure there is another in the works already. Don't know how excited I am for it, though. I mean honestly, if this film was the 'Age of Extinction' –who died? No one became extinct. I know, don' t be so literal. I get it, P–Man, I really do. It's a misnomer, not a title. TV Commercial director-turned-Hollywood blockbuster madman, Michael Bay has such a love for the military, scantily clad skirts on near-underage fillies and American flags, he will be busy, I'm sure, getting hard to work on T5: Age of (yawn) .. oh who cares at this point. Pontificator? 

TP: So I hear that this film was the first in the next trilogy of Transformer’s films (groan) with Transformers: 5 set to debut in 2016. Truthfully, when I saw Galvitron (Megatron) escape, I knew I was in for another film…but another two? I didn’t think it was possible to have action-film overload, but here it is…me, overloaded and dreading more films like this one. 

RATE IT!

ARTH VADER rates Transformers: Age Of Extinction: At two hours and 45 minutes runtime, there is very little positive I can say about his film. It's long, cumbersome, horribly cliché and full of itself in so many way its too hard to suggest otherwise. At an expensive of more than $220 million, you could hire a few writers. Shame on you Mr. Bay and shame on Hollywood. Nearly 3-hours and $220 million and we are none the worse for wear. (Sigh) So Transformers: Age Of Extinction morphs two (2) busted blocks into energon cubes with just enough power to make me want to know, begrudgingly, where the Dinobots ran off too. Scratch that, I don't want to know. 

THE PONTIFICATOR rates Transformers:Age of Extinction: Although this film was loaded with action and big budget effects, that was the only entertainment value it held for me. A film full of cliché’s just isn’t fun for me. With such a talented cast, I don’t think the idea should be to make the film even more mindless than usual and thus, only transform six (6) busted blocks. 

Transformers: Age Of Extinction: 4 / 10 Busted Blocks 

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Cruise To The Edge Of Greatness

An alien invasion is no match for the dynamic duo of Emily Blunt and Tom Cruise in Edge of Tomorrow

ON CONTINUITY

ARTH VADER (AV): Derived from the wildly popular Manga graphic novel “All you need is kill” heralding from Japan, Edge of Tomorrow shares a gritty and intriguing story of a soldier rushed to the front-line of an intergalactic war between humanity and a horrifying alien invader who seem to know every move even before we make it. I firmly believe “All You Need is Kill” is likely a poor translation of the Japanese mother IP (Intellectual Property), the story is compelling, pitting the Major William Cage (Cruise) against a ticking clock that resets every time he is killed. Pontificator, this movie has infinite storytelling potential and I am not sure this one wasn’t one of my favorites of the year. What did you think? 

THE PONTIFICATOR (TP): Based on the novel “All You Need is Kill” by Hiroshi Sakurazaka, this film is a loose adaption of the book, keeping the general premise, but changing many details. Although there are changes, the film is still very entertaining even though very different from the novel Vader.

CASTING, DIRECTING  & ACTING

AV: Cruise and Blunt are phenomenal to be sure, but one of my favorite characters in this film is Maj. Sergeant Farell played by Bill Paxton. Playing one of the most predictably atypical archetypes of the over-the-top American drill Sgt. who will bust heads, bust balls and bust a move on any enlisted man who steps out of line. Directed by Doug “Bourne Identity” Liman, this movie has a distinctive look and photographic essence that is unique to this film. Liman’s choice not to start each new ‘day’’ systematically makes for a surprisingly fresh visual approach that kept me guessing if this day is new for us or new for the character. And need I say, Brandon “Braveheart” Gleeson plays the stalwart General Brigham and is a totally solid character that adds nothing but depth and character color.


TP: Tom Cruise is still a box office draw and is able to deliver in the capacity of “action hero” with his own brand of wit and those coveted “Cruise” moments. Emily Blunt is great at playing a hardcore role and really sells her character, even better than Cruise. It was also fun to see Bill Paxton, adding to his trend of recent exposure. The film moved at a quick pace, never staying too long in one place and stayed interesting even as it revisited the same situations.

SPECIAL EFFECTS

AV: Edge of Tomorrow is a visual spectacular, worthy of 3D and certainly worth a look. If you like big-budget films, lots of action and some grounded and clever writing, then this film has them all. The onscreen presence of the mimics (the aliens) is terrifying and awe-inspiring. The combat suits are classically cool and action sequences where the human counterattack is the main plot point, are visually spectacular and add to the nail-biting intensity. What’s more, the visual effects are a tool to the storytelling and not the primary focal point. Thoughts, Ponty? 

TP: A science-fiction film with great actors and an excellent story that doesn’t deliver equally great special effects is a travesty to sci-fi fans everywhere Vader. Fortunately this movie wasn’t one of those films. The special effects were solid and delivered interesting aliens peppered between all the mayhem and explosions. There were a lot of opportunities to go wrong here, but everything stayed on track, right down to the costuming and robotic harnesses.

TAKING A CLOSER LOOK

AV: Here’s what I loved, Pontificator. I loved watching an American big budget movie go way out on a limb to tell a very unexpected and quite frankly, very non-american story. I loved watching the untold depths of rich content in the international graphic novel arena deliver surprisingly good content to American audiences. I also loved that this movie does NOT show a traditional Hollywood ‘Happy Ending’ unless you chose to interpret it that way. What I hated was; poor marketing, a misunderstood film premise and a bad choice of movie title. Honestly, this movie could be anything; Star Wars: Episode VIII Edge of Tomorrow. Star Trek III: Edge of Tomorrow, Ian Fleming’s James Bond in Edge of Tomorrow. See? The title isn’t a title, it’s nondescript. I am convinced audiences didn’t know what the heck an “Edge of Tomorrow” was. 

TP: Right off the bat I was reminded that I’d seen all this before, although not quite in the same way. I’m talking about “Groundhog Day” and “Source Code.” The idea of living a day over and over again isn’t a new one so I was intrigued on how they were going to make this an interesting film. It was an easy recipe though, throw in some aliens bent on destroying humanity, Tom Cruise, and a lot of death and explosions… and voila!  The various paths the story takes from reliving one day are certainly more diverse than of the films I mentioned previously, which say a lot since the goal of the film never changed. Also the number of times the day was repeated was brilliantly handled as it was so many more times than any of the other films, without ever having us on the hook of actually having to go through the entire experience in detail. In short—this film was brilliantly handled.

ON SEQUELS

AV: There is no sequel to this story. Though a caveat to this could be to continue to port over original graphic novels and foreign fiction from around the world. Though given the mediocre reception this film received, that may be a tall order. 

TP: I have heard that the novel will be getting a sequel, but seeing that it is so different than the film, part two might not make it to the big screen… especially when they wrapped the ending up so neatly.

RATE IT!

ARTH VADER rates Edge Of Tomorrow: Going out on a limb here but intelligent action movies tend NOT to fair well in American cinema. This is one such case. If you like your sci-fi with action, comic relief, a strong female and male lead, tons of effects and ‘splosions, then you need look no further than Edge of Tomorrow. That’s why I am giving this movie seven (7) solid busted blocks. And when I wake up tomorrow, I plan to give it the same, all over again.

THE PONTIFICATOR rates Edge of Tomorrow: Although skeptical at first, I was quickly converted to the side of “fan.” This film takes an old and already done idea (reliving a day) and breathes new life into it with its unique approach and brilliant formula for success. This film easily and repeatedly destroys eight (8) busted blocks. 



Edge Of Tomorrow: 7.5 / 10 Busted Blocks


Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Maleficent plays well with others (sort of)

Disney reimagines yet another of its cherished properties with a darker, richer take on the antagonist to Sleeping Beauty 

ON CONTINUITY

ARTH VADER (AV): In 1959, Disney’s classic tale of a young girl deceived by a malevolent sorceress became a an instant classic with children, specifically with young adolescent and teen girls. The classic victim/damsel in distress tale captured the hearts and minds of generations and has spurned a whole new take by the creators themselves. As for this film’s alignment with it’s original manifestation, it’s close enough and does a compelling job of updating the fable with new actors, new effects and a new take on an old tale. As for continuity, it is the second in what looks to be an ongoing series of re-boots of classic Disney properties including the upcoming Cinderella in 2015 and John Faveraau’s The Jungle Book already in production. Personally, I think this is all exciting stuff for Disney whose properties, quite frankly, have grown stale. P-Man?

THE PONTIFICATOR (TP): “Sleeping Beauty” has never been told like this! In life I have found it true that there is always another side to a story, sometimes, many sides. This film tells the other side of this classic tale and enlightens the audience that everything isn’t a clear cut case of “good versus evil.”

CASTING, DIRECTING & ACTING

AV: For me, there is only one name that matters in this film and that’s Angelina Jolie. While not a brilliant performance, her characterization was richly portrayed and she brought a confusingly complex and delightfully troubled woman to the screen. Gone are the days when a character is defined by one simple, one-dimensional character trait (read: ‘she’s evil’). Maleficent is a kaleidoscope of personality contradictions. And that is exactly how we are all made. Most characters in the film run a steady faucet of either chaotic good to untempered rage while Jolie’s Maleficent is often merciful and other times ruthless, bitter when she need be and oddly forgiving and even whimsical to downright playful. Director Robert “ hunger Games” Stromberg brought continuously volatile camerawork to bear to devastating 3D-enhancing effect to the world of Maleficent, would you agree Pontificator? 

TP: Agreed VaderAngelina Jolie is the only name you need to know here and for good reason. She is absolutely electric in her role as Maleficent. Her character grabs hold and never releases as we see her progress from “good” to “evil” and back to “good’ again. She convinced me of the tragedy of her story and had me questioning who the real villain was. Elle Fanning also delivered in her role as Aurora. Being the real life daughter of Jolie and Pitt, I should have expected as much. Sharlto Copley (first seen by me in “A-Team”) surely added some enlightenment by his role as King Stefan (I just have yet to grasp it). The fact that I had such disdain for the character tells me he either did his job or his role was garbage.

SPECIAL EFFECTS

AV: Castles and fairy-folk and woodland creatures live aplenty in Stromberg’s Maleficent. While none are trend-setting or ‘next-generation defining’, all are handsomely handled and bring the magical world of this film right into the viewer’s psyche. It may be that both my daughter and I both have an affinity for dragons, we were beside ourselves with the dragon sequence. The enchanted environment came to life in small part due to exceptional visual effects.

TP: Never passing up an opportunity to watch a film in 3D, I watched this one in that medium and was happy I did. The effects where very nice with bright and flowing scenery, just the sort of look I’d expect from a Disney film. The effects added some depth to the overall story, but never overshadowed the performance of Jolie or detracted from message of the film. There was no new ground broken, just special effects done right.

TAKING A DEEPER LOOK

AV: Like Alice in Wonderland before it, Disney seems to be doubling down on its core properties with re-boots and “re-imaginings” of their ‘princess properties.’ This is a necessary effort in this world of Disney-owned super-IP’s like Star Wars & Marvel studios. Classic IP’s like Cinderella, Snow White and all of them really, run the very real risk of becoming obsolete. In an age of digital animation, high-gloss visual effects and a notoriously endless number of re-boots and re-imaginings. While I would strongly question the staying power of these films in the mind space of their core audience (namely pre-teen and early teen girls), these films keep these characters in the hearts and on the lips of us all. And while the screenplay could use a bit more polishing, I think it handsomely accomplishes its task of staying relevant in an increasingly attention-deficient world. 

TP: The line between good and evil, became very blurred in this film and totally skewed if we are to believe the original version of Sleeping Beauty. Although I loved the performance of Jolie, I just couldn’t get a handle on Stefan. I couldn’t connect with him at all and I suppose that’s par for the course seeing the armies of men besiege their neighbors for no reason at all save for the prospect of new land with untold wealth. It made no sense (as mankind mirrors in real life) and was only compounded when Stefan does a complete one-eighty about how he feels about Maleficent. He grows up with her, falls in love with her (or so we think) only to later become the most tragic and un-relatable character to ever grace the silver screen. Anyone not on the side of Maleficent just didn’t have a heart as we all understand the pain of loss and yearning for retribution. We also understand forgiveness and a willingness to move on. Maleficent may have been the one with horns and wings, but King Stefan was the least human character of all, a sad reflection of how some of can be in reality.

ON SEQUELS

AV: Having pulled more than $500 million in box office revenue worldwide (as of the writing of this post), Maleficent 2 is presently undergoing initial script writing. Disney is in the business of entertainment and nearly 20 million people the world over saw great value in this film, and Disney is hot to strike while the proverbial fire is hot. This film needed to be re-made and for the greater part of things, that part was done well. I am pretty unconvinced that a follow-up is necessary at all and would rather see that money and effort go to the development of original properties and additional ‘re-boots.’ Our daughters are hungrily consuming far lesser-quality movies and franchises, so a Maleficent sequels isn’t the worst idea I’ve ever heard. 

TP: This film doesn’t need, nor should have a sequel. The story is told with complete resolution as just another way of looking at events we are already familiar with. That said, I’m not surprised part two is already in the works. I mean, why let a story stand alone as a classic when you can keep milking the box office cow right? 

RATE IT!

ARTH VADER rates Maleficent: This movie is entertaining is if you can keep your composure through almost two hours of intensive emoting, voiceover and dialogue, the action sequence are compelling and the story, while familiar, is told well. There are moments of greatness tempered by moments of sheer boredom. The presence of Jolie onscreen is impressive but the comic relief to the three fairy Godmothers is just this side of bearable. Still, fun with something everyone and a strong, if not heavy-handed re-boot, Maleficent casts its spell over eight (8) magical busted blocks and starts something wickedly wonderful.

THE PONTIFICATOR rates Maleficent: One of the most tragic stories to come along in a long time, this certainly will appeal to female audiences as it is all about the heart and paints men in a way they are all too familiar with. While the effects and performance of the cast were stellar, there was just a level about the film that I couldn’t relate to and that left me wishing it could break more than seven (7) magical blocks. 

Maleficent: 7.5 / 10 Busted Blocks

Thursday, June 5, 2014

X-Men return to X-cellence

With more Mutants, more conflict and more POW! than ever before, X-MEN: Days Of Future Past dazzles and delights more than any X-Film than ever before.

ON CONTINUITY

ARTH VADER (AV): It has been said that the  “Days Of Future Past” story arc is one of the best in comics, if not in all of pop fiction. Yes, it’s that good. It’s story is that of one mutant hero sent to the past at a critical point in history, to avert a terrible nightmarish future. And while this film is different enough from the original content, this is one of the instances where I didn’t mind. The creative liberties taken by Bryan “Stop trashing my crappy X-MEN movies” Singer is perfectly balanced and seems to unfold naturally onscreen. 

THE PONTIFICATOR (TP): Continuity has always been a major subject with these X-Men films since day one, mainly because they departed from comics almost immediately. That said, continuity between the films is the only real measure left and this film manages to tie up all the loopholes of the previous films, while also delivering an alternate version of a classic X-Men story.

CASTING, DIRECTING AND ACTING 

AV: Never have so many A-List actors appeared in one movie have DoFP. Even though this film is crammed with top acting talent from the X-Men film universe with the addition of Peter “Tyrion Lannister” Dinklage and the return of dozens of old familiar faces like Fassbender, MacAvoy, McKellan, Stewart and… ah heck you get the idea. The direction was remarkably seamless for such a complicate screenplay and so many actors to corral. There is a level of cinematography that few movies can aspire to. Lastly, the acting was solid on all fronts. Lesser (or bad) actors had few-to-no lines and characters with substance and depth were allowed to explore the qualities that make the characters great. What did you think, Pontificator? 


TP: I found the pace of the film to be a bit slow at times Vader, stagnant in areas that could have been abbreviated, making room for a bit more action. The casting was well done though, and the cast was vast. There really isn’t much I can say that hasn’t already been said about Hugh Jackman, James McAvoy, and Michael Fassbender (easily my favorite performance, again). They know their roles and delivered. Jennifer Lawrence got a great amount of screen time and although she was adequate as Mystique, much of the mystique of the character came from the use of her abilities. It’s hard for me to see Peter Dinklage as anyone but Tyrion Lannister, but of course he gave a great performance as Bolivar Trask anyway. Evan Peters as Quicksilver, was perhaps the biggest breath of fresh air to come around in a long time, and with such a simplistic character, was certainly one of the highlights of the film.

SPECIAL EFFECTS

AV: With a full on production budget of more than $180 million, we dang well better get some beautiful set designs, top notch actors and eye-popping special effects. Thankfully, that is pretty much what we got. The vicious conflict between man & mutant is conveyed to horrifying reality on the big screen as we watch X-Man vs machine duke it out to the death. The transitions of Mystique are spectacular and the Sentinel scenes are awesome—in particular the final fight sequence. I was delighted at this film and I am not alone because as the time of this blog writing, the movie has crossed the $500 million mark worldwide and is still going. Well done, Mr. Singer. 


TP: IMAX 3D wasn’t an option for this film, and that is a shame. I still saw it in 3D and it was still a stellar display of special effects, but a film like this needs to be pushed beyond the envelope. That said, the effects displayed in conjunction with the cinematography were awesome, especially the Quicksilver sequence (reminiscent of the Nightcrawler display in X2). I thought the future Sentinels could have been done better, but they still delivered the ominous feel of impending doom, as intended. It should also be pointed out that the sets used were done extremely well and instrumental in establishing the tone of the 70’s and of a future gone horribly wrong.

TAKING A DEEPER LOOK

AV: So when the rubber meets the road, this movie stands as one of the best in it’s genre. The course of events this film leads the audience on quite literally ties up lose ends, resets the history and timeline and threads all the movies together to have a common historical context. What’s more, the film is genuinely fun, even if you don’t watch or care about X-films. Clearly the actors, film production people and everyone affiliated had a great time making this film. What’s more, the laugh-out-loud, scene stealing antics of newcomer Quicksilver makes his part of the film a… wait for it… run away hit. The scene is so good it’s almost worthy the price of admission by itself. Seriously. 

TP: Of course this film is going to raise some questions while giving some answers. Firstly, I’d like to know how Kitty Pryde acquired the ability to shunt someone’s consciousness backward in time? Secondly, I’d like to know exactly how Magneto and his Brotherhood got caught? They were brimming with incredible power when we last saw them at the end First Class, so how a bunch of regular humans catch them is beyond me. Thirdly, if experimentation followed by death was the order of the day for the captured mutants, why was Magneto himself spared this fate when he was easily the most dangerous of any of the captured mutants? How is Emma Frost dead, before she is even born? There were a plethora of questions this film brought up that haven’t been answered (yet). Although I enjoyed the film, am I the only one that realized things would have been a lot easier if they simply brought Quicksilver with them?
ON SEQUELS

AV: This is really two solid X-Movies in a row, now Ponty. We can’t really chat about the future of X-Movies without discussing the post credit sequence Pontificator. The throngs of loyal followers screaming out the name of En Sabah Nur (The comic book name of the ultra mutant badass Apocalypse in Marvel comics) as he constructing the great Pyramids and the four horsemen ride into view at the end of the scene. Might I speak for all of comic fan-boy nations and say a resounding (and I quote): “Yeeesss!” Between the events of this movie and the stellar implications of the post-credit scene, the X-Men as a franchise has a strong set of legs to stand on going forward.


TP: There is no question about this Vader, as X-Men: Apocalypse is already in the works… along with X-Force (BOOM!), and I can’t wait to see where they take us next.



RATE IT!

ARTH VADER rates X-MEN: Days Of Future Past: There are few franchises that can do a complete turnaround as well as this one clearly does. This movie is action-packed, well written and well delivered. It’s a total package that shows that greatness can come if you keep at it. A stellar cast, magnificent effects and non-stop action compel me to give X-MEN: Days Of Future Past 9 busted blocks that may travel back in time and offer an alternate rating. Who knows? Pontificator… you have the con. Bring it home! 


THE PONTIFICATOR rates X-Men: Days of Future Past: Although I feel it could have been a bit heavier on the action, it was certainly a great story that helped out the franchise tremendously. The acting was solid, along with the special effects making this film an instant classic… able to hunt down and destroy eight (8) mutated busted blocks.













XMEN: Days Of Future Past: 8.5 / 10 Busted Blocks

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Godzilla, Still King Of The Monsters

Gojirah returns in a fitting reboot of the world’s most notorious Atomic fire Breathing Lizard. 

ON CONTINUITY

ARTH VADER (AV): In 1953 (1948?) TOHO Japan released the first in what would be a 60+ year love affair the world would have of downright campy films about a giant 300-foot bi-pedal lizard who emerges from the ocean to lay waste to mankind as punishment for all the nuclear testing performed in the Pacific. He also spews radioactive fire like a 19 year-old who swears she can down half a bottle of Taquilla in one sitting. Godzilla captured the imagination of us all and quickly went from destroyer of worlds to savior of mankind. We soon had such a fondness for the big guy, the storyline quickly evolved into tale sod Godzilla saving us from such horrible nightmares as Rodan, King Ghidra and (my favorite) the smog monster. They even had King Kong go a few rounds with Godsy. So it comes as no surprise that Godzilla is not really a terror but an avenging knight who rises from the sea when giant misters threaten us all. Pontificator, you are a giant in your own right, how say you? 


THE PONTIFICATOR (TP): This film is definitely a throwback and nod to the original Godzilla films of our youth Vader. It’s everything we saw as children, but with updated… well, everything! They even set the film in Japan which absolutely had to be done, in my opinion, since doing the film right means going back to his roots and staying true to the character. This is nothing less that an icon getting his due…finally.

CASTING, ACTING AND DIRECTION

AV: When I heard Godzilla was coming out, I thought to myself “Yes! Finally we’ll get an American version done well!” When I go see a Godzilla movie, I want monsters, disaster porn by the zip codes and lots of fire-breathing action. You know what I don’t want to see in a Godzilla flick? A love story. Aaron Taylor Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen spend so much time searching for each other and their young son that there were times I was questioning what film I was watching. Even the uber-talented Bryan Cranston couldn’t make this story matter. So stop it. I want to watch some ugly monsters get stomped by the Big G and I want to watch some tanks get crushed and I don’t want know how Nurse Olsen’s patients are doing. 


TP: Well…uh, ok Vader. Let me say that the supporting cast was very good (I say supporting because Godzilla is obviously the star). I was particularly moved by the performance of Bryan Cranston as Joe Brody. His delivery really gave weight and credibility to the film.  Aaron Taylor-Johnson also did very well, especially in those scenes shared with Cranston as we saw the strained relationship between father and son in the wake of a past tragedy. Going on to play the hero (with Godzilla) was more meaningful in the wake of the character’s past, and present circumstances. Although Ken Watanabe played more of a supporting role, his screen presence is always pronounced and memorable. The film had a moderate flow, knowing when to tug on emotions and when to dazzle with action.

SPECIAL EFFECTS

AV: So this movie is the bomb when it comes to visual effects. A terrific visual event. Loved watching the US Navy escort Godzilla across the Pacific. Seeing the giant buggy-things decimate Las Vegas is funny and fun. And don’t even get me started about the final fight sequence. As Johnny Bravo would say “Ohh-h-h-h—Momma!” From the collapse of the nuclear power plant in Japan to the shootout with the buggy-things in Nevada, the visual effects are top-rate, Ponitificator!


TP: IMAX 3D is always my preferred venue and the roar of Godzilla was certainly made for it. There was really no way to go wrong here, and they didn’t. Giant monsters have been done successfully already (Pacific Rim) and in this film there was more of the same but with probably a bit more refinement. The angles were excellent and the cinematography just enhanced the experience. Although there was no new ground broken, the fact of bringing old material into the present so spectacularly certainly counts for some extra points in my book.

TAKING A DEEPER LOOK

AV: If ever a movie did NOT need a deeper look, it’s a Godzilla flick. If you are looking for deeper meaning, engaging screenplay or solid emotional melodrama, you are looking in the wrong blast crater. The true flaw to this film is the belief that anyone care about Aaron Taylor (Kickass but not yet Quicksilver) Johnson and his dopey family issues. I don’t care about him. Not here. When he shows up as Pietro Maximoff in next year’s “The Avengers 2” I’ll be a big fan. But Aaron, take your dopey family out of my Godzilla movie. Replace his 35+ minutes with more Godzilla kick-assery (see what I did there?) The vapid, empty-headed, lam-duck lives and dialogue of this film’s too-many-to-count one-dimensional characters were less interesting to me than watching a congressional hearing on the national state of crosswalk buttons. The only dialogue I need in a Godzilla flick is “Run!” “Fire!” and “Lookout!” 


TP: Well sue me O’ Dark One…I actually did look a little deeper, my apologies. At the core of this film is the narrative of man versus nature and how nature will always find a way to endure and correct the hubris of man. It is not a fictional narrative, not by a long shot, as we can easily look around in our world and see where nature is being violated by our ignorance and apathy. Godzilla has traditionally been the product of our nuclear carelessness and it’s only fitting that the demise of man be bound to this. Of course, man has to endure (or else Hollywood can’t cash in on a sequel), but it’s only by the forgiving nature of, well, nature…that we are able to do so. Aside from that, the narrative that we can’t trust government (any government) is obviously a given (or at least it should be by now).

ON SEQUELS

AV: In Hollywood, a movie deemed to purposefully be a ‘franchise-starter’ is called a tentpole movie and Godzilla is certainly pitching them tents. I am all aboard minus more scenes of Ken “The Last Samurai” Wantanabe uttering heart-felt please to the US Admiral to “let them fight.” If the teaser shot of Mothra was any indication, we could be in for some more Monster-on-Monster awesomeness in years to come.


TP: I would be surprised if there wasn’t a sequel. The film obviously resonated with everyone that has ever watched classic Godzilla in their youth, and thus there is a proven market for it. While the MUTOS in this film were not the classic Godzilla adversaries, that simply left the door open to introduce more of our childhood favorites down the line.

RATE IT!

ARTH VADER rates Godzilla: If you’re looking for lovey-dovey love story crap, tales of human perseverance in the face of adversity, poor scientific explanations for hyper-fantastic events with lots of monster-riddled disaster porn, then the frustratingly fun eyegasm-inducing hot mess that is Godzilla is for you!  Honestly, the screenplay is all over the darn place but I am nothing if not a dyed-in-the-wool Godzilla fan, right down to my irradiated DNA. I even had a 2-foot plastic Godzilla as a kid that had fire-breathing tongue that emerged when you pressed down on the lever in the back of his head. And for that little boy that still breaths atomic fire who still resides in me, well, he was thoroughly satisfied. With that set up, my tail lights up and blows out 8 radioactive busted blocks. 

THE PONTIFICATOR rates Godzilla: Being an updated version and throwback to the classic Godzilla films, this movie hit all the right cords. From solid acting and story to spectacular special effects, there was very little room for this film to go wrong, and it didn’t operate in those small spaces. Instead it delivered a childhood favorite, vaporizing eight (8) busted blocks with radioactive breath and a thunderous roar.












Godzilla: 8 / 10 Busted Blocks