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Review: Godzilla (2014) by Jamie

I’ve tried to keep this spoiler free but it’s hard to tell what people consider spoilers these days so be forewarned. You may be unintentionally spoiled in some way.

In 1954 the Japanese Toho production company brought a King to the Silver Screen. His name was Gojira, soon to be Americanised to the admittedly better Godzilla, and he would begin a cinematic legacy that would last for sixty years and counting. He has been many things during his storied career from destructive force of nature to wacky good guy who saved Japan from a host of other monsters and back to destructive force of nature again. And there was that American film produced in 1998. That one was… well. Yeah. It just wasn’t Godzilla.
So when I heard the news that the Yanks were going to take another shot at bringing the King of the Monsters back to the screen, I was a little concerned. This concern only grew when I heard that Gareth Edwards was set to direct, my concern originating from the fact that he had only directed one feature length film before, Monsters, which left me slightly underwhelmed. And the trailers started appearing and I was ready to get excited.

It’s hard to describe how it feels to be a fan of a film series that, to be fair, has not always been stellar and then finally looking forward to something new from that series. I grew up watching Godzilla films, Son of Godzilla in particular which is easily one of the worst of the bunch but it played a big part in my childhood so I’ll always have a soft spot for it. Hell, my pet gecko is called Godzilla because a) I love the king of the monsters and b) reptile owners are not the most original people when it comes to names. To be fair, there aren’t that many famous reptiles to go to for names. It’s pretty much Godzilla, Dino from the Flintstones and Rango. Godzilla is clearly the best out of those three… I’m sorry, I seem to have become distracted. Where was I? Oh yes, feeling excitement for a Godzilla movie. It was truly a wonderful thing, especially after that ’98 piece of shit that for all intents and purposes killed Matthew Broderick’s career just like he killed two people that one time in Ireland. Look it up.

And so the weeks went by and the release date grew closer and closer and I took the time to revisit every Godzilla movie ever made, twenty nine films in total. It was a bit of a long haul but overall an enjoyable experience and so I felt properly prepared and primed for the King’s return to the silver screen. Finally, the day of release came and I was working so I went the following day. Would the film see Godzilla reclaim his crown or would it be another American turd in the Tokyo punch bowl? Christ, that was a lot of preamble.

Simple fact straight up: I loved this film. Loved it. Is it a perfect film? No, not by a long shot. There are definitely a few things that could have been done differently, a few casting decisions that could have been corrected and a few special effects decisions that maybe didn’t sit right with me but overall, I loved this film.

Perhaps we should start with the things that weren’t so great. First up, a lot has been made about Aaron Taylor-Johnson and how he’s just not that great in the film and it’s true that he is probably the weakest link in the film. I’m not going to go all the way and say he’s bad, though he does exhibit a few moments of ropey acting here and there. Fact is that he doesn’t have much of a character to work with. He’s something of blank plate which I believe is deliberate attempt by the film maker to allow the audience to put themselves in his position, projecting their thoughts and feelings on to him. It’s an age old storytelling trick, one that was recently most successfully employed in the Twilight series. The fact that a girl can easily imagine herself in the place of Bella is what makes those things so popular despite being poorly written pieces of trash. Yeah, I just bashed Twilight. Deal with it. Unfortunately for Johnson, a lot of people didn’t want to be taking his place, experiencing what he was experiencing. They wanted to see monster fighting and during the middle of the film, it dragged a touch simply because Taylor-Johnson is not a giant monster.

There is also the problem of Taylor-Johnson’s character very conveniently finding himself able to easily move from location to location where all the monster action is taking place. I suppose it could be easily explained by saying that he’s a member of the military so he’d be able to move with the armed forces to where he and they need to be and also what are they gonna do instead? Leave their main character behind whilst the monsters fight elsewhere? Still, it does occasionally stretch the limit of believability in this giant nuclear lizard movie.

Finally, the biggest problem I had was the M.U.T.Os. I was not a major fan of their design, seeming as they did a little bit too Cloverfieldy and then there’s that name. Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organism is what M.U.T.O stands for and it seems like such an unnatural string of words to put together just to get an acronym which sounds a little bit like mutant which is obviously the reason that that name was chosen. Which is a shame because M.U.T.O. just sounds fucking stupid coming out of an adult human beings mouth. Seriously, any time someone said it, particularly David Strathairn, I cringed. Just stupid. Frankly it was the kind of role that could have easily been filled by a second-tier Toho monster like the Praying Mantis-esque Kamacuras.

Now on to the good and frankly this all comes down to this being a Godzilla movie and whether or not it is a worthy continuation of the big guy’s saga. This was a Godzilla movie and frankly, I’m surprised by just how much it followed some of the conventions of the series and not just the original ’54 Godzilla as I was expecting. Villainous monsters showing up first to wreak havoc? Check. Humans trying but failing to solve the problem? Check. Godzilla awakening from his slumber to sort shit out? Check. Even the music was perfect. It was loud, it was bombastic. It was everything I wanted from the score for a Godzilla film though I’m perhaps a little disappointed that Akira Ifukube’s Godzilla March wasn’t used or referenced but I suppose you can’t have everything.

Now on to the main event. The Big G himself, Godzilla. There has been much discussion about the fact that Godzilla has so little screen time in the film. This is true. Personally, I loved this choice. It made all the time that we actually got to spend with Godzilla all the more impressive and impactful. Besides, I never felt as though he was missing from the film. From the first time he shows up in Hawaii, I felt his presence was there. Just scenes where you see his dorsal spikes sticking out of the water, flanked by aircraft carriers, as he hunts his prey help to convey his size and really build up the anticipation for that awesome final fight. Seriously, if there is one thing that this film does great in my opinion, it is building up anticipation.

I love the redesign though I did originally agree with some Japanese fans that he was a touch on the chunky side though once I saw it in action, it fit in with this Godzilla’s more bear-like movement and way of holding himself. And of course there’s the roar. The roar is beautiful and really should be heard in a cinema to truly appreciate it. Yes, just like this IS a Godzilla film, this IS Godzilla. I felt his personality come through in the limited time that he was on-screen and it genuinely felt like a certain Godzilla from a certain period of his film history. There’s even one moment which really caught me off-guard in which is probably the best moment in the film, a moment I shan’t spoil here but when that moment occurs, I was literally grinning from ear to ear. The King had returned.

So yeah, like I said, I love this film. I can understand the frustration that some people have with the film but personally it’s a frustration I do not share. Would I hate this film if it weren’t a Godzilla movie? Hate may be a strong word but I definitely would not have enjoyed it as much. It’s the things that make this a Godzilla movie that largely make it enjoyable to me. So yeah. Four pints out of five… And in my long winded ramblings, I realise that I have largely overlooked the actors so lets just say good cast overall though some are criminally underused. *cough* Bryan Cranston *cough* Laterz.

Snowtown_(film)

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Review: The Tree of Life by Jamie

Terrance Malick is truly a remarkable film maker who seems to have aimed to achieve the impossible and with ‘The Tree of Life’ has reached that goal. Terrance Malick has made dinosaurs boring. For that alone my hat goes off to him.

The Tree of Life features just about everything you could possibly want from an overblown, wanky meditation on existence. Troubled childhood and the conflict caused by being raised by two people with differing personalities? Check. Questioning of God? Check. Endless shots of a variety of things such as trees and skyscrapers at annoying angles? Check. The birth of the universe and consequent evolution of life? Check. A score largely made up of classical music? Check. Breathy, barely audible mumbling passed off as narration? Check. A narrative which may have made sense at one point until it was decided to run it through a machine that seems to edit things together almost randomly? Check. I think you get my point.

What’s the plot of The Tree of Life? Well, that’s a good fucking question. Basically Sean Penn is an architect thinking back to his childhood in 50s Waco, Texas and trying to figure out the kind of person he wants to be. Does he want to follow the path of nature like his somewhat brutish father or the path of grace like his eternally loving mother? Oh, also his brother is dead for some reason that apparently relates to the “plot” somehow. Whilst his reminiscing we are shown some shots of the universe being created for some reason and then dinosaurs happen. For about one goddamn minute dinosaurs happen. And they do nothing. A young parasaurolophus lies down by a riverbed whilst a theropod of some description comes along, treads on it’s head and walks away. And that’s it. What was the point of this? Again, good fucking question.

After the brief interlude of the entire fucking universe being created, we get back to the humans and something resembling a story starts to develop. Turns out that Sean Penn’s father, Brad Pitt, was a bit of an asshole when he was younger and expected nothing but the best from him and his two brothers. Fair enough to be honest. After all the trio do seem to be somewhat in need of a touch of discipline as they seem to enjoy spending their idyllic 50s summer days breaking windows and blowing up frogs. What a bunch of assholes. So you get random scene after random scene of these assholes doing assholey things and then Sean Penn walks through a desert for a bit where he meets a bunch of people from his memory and we’re all supposed to be happy. Or something. Oh and occasionally someone whispers a bit of dialogue which the audience strains to hear.

The film is a ponderous exercise in tedium and when it ended there was an actual audible sigh of relief from the group of people I was essentially forcing to watch it with me. I’m sure there’s a deep, important message about just what it means to be alive or some bullshit like that in there somewhere and I’m probably an uncultured dolt for not being able to find it but I’m quite happy being an uncultured dolt if it means not having to watch pretentious wankery such as this. Hell, I’d rather watch an Adam Sandler marathon than ever, ever watch this film again. Recent Sandler. I’m sure that the whole thing is incredibly personal and meaningful to Malick himself and if it is then maybe he should just edit his childhood home movies into an incomprehensible mess whilst he whispers over the top of it. Then he can watch it at home, by himself as many times as he wants. Just don’t release it for public viewing.

Yes, It’s all very pretty and the classical music is all very nice but it feels like it’s literally trying too hard to get just the right look and feel of an artsy, pretentious film which it certainly succeeds at. I’m sure there are some people out there who think that this was a work of art, a realisation of just what can be achieved through the medium of film. Hell, I’m not sure, I know. A quick glance at the internet hass essentially proven that.

If there’s one film I can really compare this to, it’s ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’. The style and themes are similar but 2001 is a far, far superior film. 2001 may be a little slow but at least it contains a coherent plot which it can hang all of it’s metaphysics on. Also it has a homicidal computer which is just awesome.

So in summary, theirs is really no way I could recommend this to any member of the average of the movie going public or humans in general. Except for maybe Terrance Malick. I bet he’d love it. Zero pints out of five. Laterz.



Review: The Ides Of March by Jamie

I fucking love American politics, especially during election season. They’re so much more ridiculous than the humdrum British politics I have to deal with. They’re basically just a massive spectacle, every candidate bending over backwards in order to please as many people with as many different views and opinions as they possibly can. You want to appease the anti-immigration crowd whilst also trying to attract a portion of the Latino vote. And there’s also the uncompromising religiosity (Christian religiosity, of course) that, if you don’t actually believe it, at least have to pay lip service to. “No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States”, indeed.

So I was quite looking forward to watching ‘The Ides of March’, the George Clooney directed film about Gov. Mike Morris (Clooney), his campaign manager Paul Zara (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and deputy campaign manager Stephen Meyers (Ryan Gosling) as they attempt to defeat Senator Ted Pullman (Michael Mantell) and his campaign manager Tom Duffy (Paul Giamatti) in the Democrat primaries and win Morris the Democrat nomination for president.

As you can imagine in a taut, political drama things don’t go as smoothly as planned. Morris is unapologetically liberal, leaving him slightly unpopular with moderates and deeply unpopular with the more conservative contingent in Ohio, a problem because Ohio has an open primary meaning that registered Republicans are allowed to vote in the Democrat election. Both sides are also hoping to gain the endorsement of Senator Thompson (Jeffrey Wright) who, with his 356 delegates, would be able to secure the nomination for either man. The only problem with this is that Morris deeply dislikes Thompson and refuses to capitulate to his demands in return for the endorsement.

That’s about all I can say about the plot without giving too much away. Suffice to say it is a well acted, well scripted and well paced political drama with the number of twists that you’d expect to see in the week of any average political campaign (See the current Republican primaries for examples). Does it, however, really say anything new about the political process? Honestly, it really doesn’t. Yes, it’s an entertaining film but the commentary it has with regards to the world of politics, it’s ability to corrupt and jade anyone who involves themselves in it for any particular length of time, is something we have pretty much all been aware of since the Watergate scandal if not longer.

Of course, this isn’t the fault of the film. Politics and power corrupts. What more can you really say about that world at this point? Does that mean that we should stop making political dramas at all? Well no. Just because it has nothing new to say doesn’t mean that The Ides of March isn’t a good film. I suppose if there is anything new that it brings to the table it’s that it makes the political process far more personal than I remember seeing before. So there’s that. Anyway, I highly recommend this film, especially if you love the tipsy-topsy world of American politics as much as I do. Four pints out of five. Laterz.



Review: Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows: Part 1 by Jamie

Well the end is nigh for the Harry Potter series and it begins with this film, ‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1’ or Harry Potter 7 for brevity’s sake. Yes it’s been a long, strange trip with it’s ups and its down but how does this film fare as the opening of the close? Let’s find out.

So the basic story is that of Harry, Hermione and Ron roaming Britain trying to find and destroy the horcruxes that contain Voldermort’s soul and the effects that the Dark Lord’s return are having on the wizarding world in general. That’s pretty much it. It’s a pretty simple story and yet it manages to be complex in it’s simplicity. Wow, that might be the wankiest thing I’ve ever written.

Wanky or not, it’s true. The film manages to be both incredibly simple yet deep and complex at the same time. The biggest change from earlier films is that all of the action takes place outside of Hogwarts. Gone are the little whimsical touches that were littered throughout that school in general. Instead what you get is a far more realistically grounded film. Yes, you still have people using magic and that but there’s no keys with insect wings or talking portraits. It’s much more serious fare.

And with good reason. This is a very, very dark film compared to others in the series. For one thing, there’s a very fascistic overtone to Voldermort’s overtaking of the Ministry of Magic. The parallels are obvious with Nazi Germany. There’s a scene where they are actually creating propaganda entitled ‘Mudbloods And The Danger They Pose To A Perfect Pure Blood Society.’ So yeah, you don’t really need to scratch the surface too much to find the analogy.

What I am surprised by is just how far they’re willing to take everything for what is still technically a kids film. There are scenes of Hermione screaming as she’s tortured by having the word ‘mudblood’ scrawled into her skin, an opening scene where someone is killed because they promote the ideas of muggles and wizards ‘mating’ (as Voldermort puts it) and a beautifully animated sequence about three wizards and their encounters with Death himself. Beautiful but dark.

There’s been much talk about the number of scenes where the trio are just camping with some saying that the film is basically just that but I honestly didn’t feel as if that was dragged out at all. In fact the film seemed to be paced relatively well, perhaps a little slow here and there but not egregiously so. Still, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t some problems with the film. For example, one of the horcruxes they find is a locket which, when worn, turns the person wearing it into a bit of a douche bag so my question is why wear it? Hermione had a magical Mary Poppins-esque bag so why not just keep it in there?

Importantly, this is also the first film where the story of the kids was the most interesting part of the film. In earlier instalments I found myself not really caring what the youngest generation of wizards and witches got up to, caring far more about the story of the adults. In fact I really wouldn’t mind a prequel that told the story of Voldermort’s rise to power the first time around and the death of Harry’s parents/ This time round, however, it was all about kids without much input from the adults at all and I went into the film thinking I might have some problems but the story was engaging enough that I didn’t really mind at all.

Still over all, it is a highly, highly enjoyable film. Just don’t see it if you haven’t seen the films that came before it because you really do need to know the story up to this point in order to follow it. I also have to say I wouldn’t recommend it for younger children, no matter how much they beg. Seriously, that scene with Hermione screaming continuously for what seemed like forever was almost too much for me and I like dark shit. Oh and thank fuck there’s no fucking Quidditch. That’s gotta make it one of the best in the series so far. Anyway, overall 4 pints out of five. Laterz.




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