Godzilla

As we continue to roll through summer blockbusters, we encounter the newest, most dynamic version of Godzilla yet, directed by Gareth Edwards. Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of destruction, mayhem and creature violence, it stars Aaron-Taylor Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen, and Bryan Cranston.

Godzilla follows the discovery of two dangerous monsters who threaten the Earth’s well-being, largely thanks to scientific arrogance. In order to restore Earth’s natural balance, the titular character reawakens to counter these forces, resulting in a destructive battle that captures the world’s attention.

6 out of 10

My 6/10 rating may seem low. Okay, it doesn’t seem low, it is low. But oh man, could this movie have been great. Like really great. When Godzilla was on the screen, boy was it amazing. Too bad he didn’t show up till halfway in. And even after his first appearance, he’s only in the movie for like 15-20 minutes the rest of the way through. Shouldn’t a movie called Godzilla have more… Godzilla? It sounds like a stupid reason to give a movie a 6/10, but that’s the reality of it. The rest of it just wasn’t good enough.

I can split this movie into three parts. Part 1: Boring. Part 2: Insanely boring. Part 3: Pretty badass. Part 1, also known as the part with Bryan Cranston, does not feature much action whatsoever. Fine, I guess it’s unfair of me to be expecting all 2 hours of this movie to be action. And there was a little bit with Bryan Cranston running around in an exploding nuclear factory. But come on, the first third of the film did not feature any giant green monster. I would have liked to see a little bit, to prevent me from getting antsy. Instead, I was irritated before the movie really got itself started. *SPOILER ALERT* On top of that, they just had to go and write off Cranston, who ultimately proved to be one of the better human characters in the movie. He was one of the primary reasons I came to see the movie! His death didn’t even have a noticeable effect on Aaron-Taylor Johnson’s character, Cranston’s son. Blatantly unnecessary.

bryan cranston

Then there was part 2, aka the part with Aaron-Taylor Johnson. Aka, the boring part. Aka the part where nothing happens. I guess this section of the movie is supposed to detail Ford Brody’s (Johnson’s character) journey back home, with the obvious obstacle of the monsters in his path. But Brody is an insanely boring character to put it simply. He has no personality. Nothing he does is genuine. This isn’t a knock on Aaron-Taylor Johnson’s acting skills (okay, maybe it is a little), but the character has no reaction to anything that is going on around him. *SPOILER ALERT* Your dad just died, you’re away from your wife and child, and giant monsters are threatening your existence. Show some damn emotion.

On top of that, the entirety of part 2 was just build up. Build up, build up, build up. Build up. A whole lot of traveling, an unnecessary story line involving an Asian kid lost from his parents, and again, TOO LITTLE GODZILLA!!!! At least we actually got to see him. His introduction in the airport in Hawaii was pretty sick, so there is a silver lining.

 I will admit that the last third is pretty great. Godzilla is a magnificent visual creation, and the final scene where he’s going at it with the other monsters is pretty stunning to watch. Great visual effects that are really entertaining to watch. My jaw literally dropped at the final sequence, where Godzilla… well, I won’t spoil anything. It’s just something you have to see for yourself.

Being completely honest, I was pretty disappointed in the end. The final third of the film couldn’t make up for the disappointing, boring, poorly paced beginning and middle. However, I will say that this is something you should watch in theaters (or a 70 inch, HD TV), if you’re going to watch it at all. Godzilla, both the monster and the movie (but mainly the monster), is a visual spectacle. Unfortunately, it’s pacing (and lack of Godzilla, if I haven’t already mentioned that) really screws it over in the end, which is why I’d say hold off on this one unless you’re a big ‘Zilla fan. 

8 out of 10

Can I just start off by saying I was really sad by how little I got of Mr.Cranston/LBJ/Mr. White? He really gives every performance his all and I hate the fact that these sentences aren’t that much of a spoiler. Still, he has a lot of impact so I can be grateful. Now let’s dive in to Godzilla:

The first apocalyptic-monster film I ever saw was Cloverfield. It was a shaky-cam movie in which a giant monster takes a destructive stroll through New York City and it was also my first J.J. Abrams movie. I can’t quite say whether it still holds up but I remember it being very effective by using one very specific tool: there’s very little monster.

S’right. You heard me. Without spoiling too much, our friend/Japanese national treasure Godzilla (Who, in fact, inspired the movie mentioned above) clocks in about fifteen minutes in this flick. But, man, does he make all fifteen of those minutes count.

Still, I found the moments that were most effective in Godzilla were the human ones. The moments where you just put regular people in tense scenarios. Filmmakers tend to forget how much having genuinely endearing characters really helps. All I really needed besides that was a distant roar from the title character and few rumblings to get me hooked on a scene.

For instance, about 90% of the scenes where the monsters strike do not take place in a sprawling urban setting (Tempting as that may be) but instead take us to cramped vehicles where we just have all of the real panic to keep us interested. Making Godzilla a mysterious entity is also a cool decision as it makes his loud moments far more special.

Those loud moments, by the way, will most likely make up for all the closed-in scenes for those who didn’t care for them. For lack of any better phrasings: Godzilla kicks ass. He just does here. That’s all there is to say. I was somewhat thrown off by a decision made to elicit some support for him from the audience but I think it actually works upon evaluation.

I also did enjoy how they broke away from the usual “Godzilla attacks!” plot. I had mentally prepared myself for it but was pleasantly blindsided by some excellent monster vs. monster fights (Thank God for Toho!). I think this had a fair amount of people surprised (Especially the kid in front of me who exclaimed “THAT’S NOT GODZILLA!” upon seeing the first monster)/

All of that being said, the main characters are, well, monster movie main characters. There’s not a lot going on with the core cast and the actors aren’t given a heck of a lot of material to work with. Each one sucumbs to the general formula but that is to be expected with Godzilla. In fact, there are skips between the protagonists’ stories that do seem a bit long.

godzilla

So, if you came to see Godzilla, you’re gonna see Godzilla. Just not all of the time. And, in this case, that’s the best way. It makes the climax stand out all the more once we see him do what Godzilla does best. And what he does isn’t very nice.

IMDB: 6.6
Metacritic: 62
Rotten Tomatoes: 73%

The Amazing Spider-Man 2

This week we’ll take a look at the latest superhero flick to come swinging into theaters, The Amazing Spiderman 2. Directed by Marc Webb, and starring Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, and Jamie Foxx, it is rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi action/violence.

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 continues the events of its prequel, following the life of Peter Parker (Garfield) in his adventures as your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man. Peterdeals with the struggle of being the masked hero, while also attempting to keep the love of his life, Gwen Stacy (Stone), safe. As the movie progresses, the mystery revolving Peter’s parents resurfaces, leading him to discover things about Oscorp that in turn, sends a number of super-villains against him, including the emergence of Electro (Jamie Foxx) and the return of Peter’s long time friend, Harry Osborne (Dane DeHaan).

6 out of 10

I recently re-watched the original Spider-Man, with Tobey Maguire, and it has this certain feel to it that makes it so good. It’s very comic booky and though the special effects don’t really hold up, it’s still a really fun time. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 tries to get that same feel, but a number of things don’t allow it to get to that stage, though it’s still a respectable film.

CGI took over the film. The whole thing was way too video gamey, a surplus of excessive graphics and visual effects that made me feel overwhelmed. It lacked the genuinity that Maguire’s Spider-Man had. I guess that’s the price we pay for advanced technology. It works really well in some situations (as I hope it will in Godzilla), but this is one of those circumstances where there’s got to be a limit on it. It’s nauseating. It’s an impressive use of technology, there’s no doubt about that. But the way they were utilized was not. It was too much.

spiderman

The dialogue was way too cheesy. It just got to be ridiculous. I was convinced that Peter Parker was a California stoner throughout the movie. Garfield’s giving it his best shot at appearing nerdy, but it doesn’t come off that way. The result is silly dialogue that sounds like he’s trying way too hard to be funny. And going back and watching the original Spider-Man, the dialogue is super cheesy in that too, but the whole tone of the film allows it to work. The newer version isn’t as light on the tone. It’s slightly more mysterious, and the cheesy dialogue doesn’t fit nearly as well.

I wasn’t the biggest fan of some of the characters either. I’m not too fond of this version’s Peter Parker. He doesn’t really embody everything that Peter Parker is about. He’s supposed to be a relatable little nerd, but Garfield is a handsome, slick jock. Meanwhile, Electro’s character was just… dumb. He was annoying, to be honest. I didn’t really care for him all too much, and I felt like his motivation for attacking Spider-Man was forced. Harry Osborne was pretty disappointing a character as well. He was too one dimensional and just boring. Dane DeHaan was not a very good choice for the role. I prefer James Franco much more. And Paul Giamatti appearing for like two seconds??? What the hell.

dane dehaan

 

I will say that the chemistry between Gwen Stacy and Peter Parker is phenomenal. It’s really the best thing about the movie. It makes it enjoyable, unlike a certain romance in Thor… not to name names. It definitely helps that Garfield and Stone are dating. They have a real connection and they are so believable as a couple. If we got a Thor-type chemistry, it’s would just be so boring, especially since the movie doesn’t have much else going for it. Gwen and Peter are not boring, thank god, which makes the ending all the better.

I’ll quickly mention the last scene, which was very well executed. It was well-choreographed from the intense beginning versus Electro till the surprising conclusion against the Green Goblin. It was an exciting conclusion to an overall okay film.

Overall, I can’t say I was pleased, but I can’t I say I was super disappointed either. In the end, it did accomplish one thing better than the original, arguably the most important goal for the future; it established potential villains and plotlines, setting up a franchise that can be extremely successful.
~Vig

7 out of 10

Unnecessary would be my choice word for describing the Spiderman movies of the past seven years or so.

The Raimi films were timeless in their own right. We’ll get that out of the way here. I’m obviously biased since I can still vividly imagine me at the age of four and six showing up to both one and two with my rip-off of a web-slinger glove-thingies on hand (Remember those? If you don’t, don’t worry, they shot silly string about four feet before running out)

But, all kidding and cheesy moments aside, I do really like Spiderman one and two from before. In fact, two was the bell cow of the superhero genre before Dark Knight showed up. Three was three. And there’s a lot of commentary you can certainly find out there on three that express disappointment in a much better way than I ever could even if I felt it even worse.

So then the first one of the reboot series came along. It was superfluous but it was good, not enough to justify its existence to me though . It was weighed down and suffocated by its early Peter Parker antics rather than focusing on some of the hero dilemmas that make Spiderman so juicy. I remember seeing it with Mr. Namasivayam two years ago, leaning in about halfway through and saying “I forgot this was a Spiderman movie.” when we finally saw the suit.

This one was the opposite. I walked into the theatre with the film’s gradual descent into a “55%” fresh in mind ready for it to dazzle me and…it did. For a while that is. Let’s go over the factors that I really liked/didn’t, in fact, since there’s a lot to weigh:
Performances: Far and away, the best part of the whole shabang. Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone work off each other brilliantly. Jamie Foxx builds up just enough sympathy that a villain needs. And Dane DeHaan really kept me interested. DeHaan came extremely close to what Harry Osborn is: superficially charming and intelligent but also constantly playing a gruelling game of catch-up with his father (No matter how alive or dead he is).

dane dehaan

Multitasking (First Half and Climax): I had absolutely no issue with the way multiple villains were being introduced in the beginning. Just enough ease and exposition kept it afloat. Meanwhile, the climax was actually fairly harrowing (Much more than I thought it’d be).

Special Effects: Duh.

Problems (These are pretty big):
Multitasking (Middle and some End): I’m a cheater, I know. There are some storylines that were so crammed, I just honestly forgot about them. Important things too like Peter’s past with the Osborn family and his parents. And that closing. It. Just. Wouldn’t. END.

Countin’ its Eggs: Before they hatch. There were parts that were practically a commercial for the next few Spiderman films. Just finish this one, guys.

I’d go into more length about those two issues that take up a way bigger chunk of the movie than they do this review but I do have a word limit. I can only say right now that they are very distracting. What matters, however, is if the good factors can distract you just enough from the bad. For me, the performances moved this show along just enough. Just enough for me to recommend seeing this. Am I interested in the next few? Eh, we’ll see.
~Zach

IMDB: 6.9
Metacritic: 53
Rotten Tomatoes: 53%

Crash

Hey everyone, this week we’ll be looking at the very controversial Best Picture winner Crash, which was released 9 years ago today. Directed by Paul Haggis, it stars Sandra Bullock, Don Cheadle and Matt Dillon. It is rated R for language, sexual content and some violence

Set in a 36 hour period in Los Angeles, a number of different people’s lives intertwine as they experience the intense issue of race that plague the city. This involves a Caucasian DA and his racist white wife  up against two black carjackers who use race as an excuse; a Caucasian police officer who uses his power to harass non-whites; a black film director who sometimes appears to act of his race, and his black wife, who is traumatized by an experience with the racist white cop; a Persian immigrant and a Hispanic locksmith;  and partnered detectives, one black, one Hispanic. All of these characters lives come together in the end of a story that exposes racism and the stereotypes that come with it.

8.5 out of 10

It’s common knowledge that the critics of Crash are extremely split. I guess people hate it even more because it won Best Picture. And I guess it’s not really a Best Picture film by common standards. No standout performances, no concrete storyline. There’s nothing especially standout about it, and to me that’s okay. To the rest of the film world, I guess it just qualifies it as a decent film and not a Best Picture. Haters will hate.

Yes, there is no standout performance. The only Oscar Nominated actor from the movie was Matt Dillon and he was by no means incredible. The story and layout of the whole film does not really allow for any one actor to shine. There is no main arc and every actor in the ensemble cast gets equal time to display their own story. While this may not be appealing to common audiences, it helps the film accomplish its main purpose; exploit the racial tensions that rage through Los Angeles. Focusing on one story doesn’t allow for multiples stories and perspectives to be seen. and I think Crash does this in a way where it doesn’t hurt the film at all. In fact, it’s even better off without a single standout actor. It doesn’t draw focus from a single story. Everything is balanced, assuring that the audience doesn’t have to focus on one certain part of the story and instead looks= at the racism at a whole.

Like I just said, the main purpose of the film is to display the heavy racism in LA, and I think it’s very successful in doing so. It is powerful and emotionally dense, which is what helps make the film successful in my mind. The message is supported by tense sequences of action and dialogue scattered throughout, adding to the intensity and drama of the situation. There is a reality to it as well, a sense of fear that the setting creates. You’re scared for all of the characters, regardless of where they’re white, or black, or Hispanic, or Persian. You understand all of them and try and sympathize with what they’re dealing with. While you may not agree with some of their decisions, you can see they’re all human. The characters and the screenplay are interesting and captivating, which is part of the reason I really like this movie.

michael pena crash

One of the criticism’s I’ve seen about this movie is how blatantly it tries to get it’s message across. I guess you could say that, but that really is the point of the movie. The movie is supposed to be an exploration of racism in Los Angeles, so why should it try to be anything else? In the end, what I received is a deep and impactful film that I really enjoyed, one that deserves more credit. I can honestly go as far to say without hesitation that it deserved Best Picture.
~Vig

6.5 out of 10

Crash is a polarizer. You can tell that by just looking at the audience (Jack Nicholson’s!) reaction to it winning. 2004 was a heckuva a tight competition for movies and Crash became the dark, dark horse that miraculously jockeyed its way to being a Best Picture. People went crazy over it. People are still going crazy over it.

jack nicholson crash

And I would be a liar if I said I didn’t see why. Crash is a cinematic anomaly that just keeps me scratching my head. Is it particularly bad? Nosir. Is it good? Yessir. Does it deserve to be ranked among any of the former Best Picture champs? Hell. No.

My main issue with Crash is that its saying a lot but what its saying has been said. Which absolutely isn’t a problem so long as it gets a handle on its ideas and puts a new spin on them. It doesn’t. Not in particular. Within the same few decades as Crash, we had The Color Purple and Hotel Rwanda both films about race that managed to find a new emotional perspective that kept the audience invested. If you would like to venture in to the same territory as Crash (i.e. racial pieces dealing with an urban atmosphere), then look no further than something like American History X.

All of the former films heavily commented on race. Race was a driving force behind their plots. But did race seep into how the characters acted in some inappropriate ways? No. Many had complex characters that were affected but not clearly defined by their race which, in fact, invites the audience too look in to race more.

Crash, as many have pointed out in an array of reviews and flame-wars, doesn’t boast a strong cast to me but instead gives some fleshed out racial caricatures. It doesn’t really give so much as it does smother. Every other scene is somehow forcing you to face that this is a movie about RACE. Some new, usually stereotype-ridden, figure is being reeled into the story constantly.

As I said a while ago, I would actually be far more intrigued if race was something that was noticeable but also insidious. Something that festers beneath the major plot points and lets the characters really develop in between. That way, it makes the topic more human, more communicable.

That said, it is well-acted, well tied together narrative. I get plenty of what its trying to get across but I doubt it has the spark to carry them effectively. With enough rewrites though, Crash could have made the shift from being an incendiary picture to being an unchallenged analysis of race; one that unquestionably deserved that coveted gold statue.
~Zach

IMDB: 7.9
Metacritic: 69
Rotten Tomatoes: 75%