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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)



Review: Pacific Rim by Jamie

So Pacific Rim hit theatres like Godzilla hitting Tokyo. It’s the film I’ve been looking forward to all summer, the film that I’d laid my hopes on when it came to saving what has been a dreary and disappointing blockbuster season. It made sense. I love Kaiju movies. I’m down with giant robots. This should be a no-brainer, right? This should be a film that was made for me. A modern, big-budget Kaiju vs. Mecha movie. This is what I want right?

Well, it turns out that it wasn’t or at least not this version of it. Honestly I hated this movie. This movie that had so much potential, this movie that I put so much faith into. Maybe it’s me. Maybe I have become overly critical lately. I look at Twitter and see all the people who love this movie and it makes me sad. I’m happy that they got something out of it that I didn’t and I wish I had gotten that out of it too. Still I’m not going to lie and say that I enjoyed it when I didn’t. Overly critical or not, my opinion is still my opinion and I can’t see it changing anytime soon.

So what was it about this movie that irked me so? Ugh, where to begin? It was just so… ugh. Ok, so the basic plot is giant alien monsters have been invading the Earth through a dimensional rift at the bottom of the ocean and mankind has responding by building giant robots to fight them. Will mankind prevail or be wiped out? That’s a question that I literally ended up not caring about by the end of this film. Why? Well I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I can’t care about the stakes if I don’t care about the characters and if there’s one thing that this movie is lacking, it’s characters. Every one is a cliché or a stereotype. Take our main character Raleigh Becket (Charlie Hunman). He’s a Mecha pilot who quits after his brother is killed in action. He drifts from job to job, trying to forget the ghosts of his past. Suddenly his former commanding officer Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba), a gruff military man who’s hard exterior masks a softer side, shows up in order to recruit him for one last mission. Becket finally agrees and at the base he meets two wacky scientists. One is tattooed and doesn’t mind leaving his lab in a messy state and the other is an uptight Englishman who likes a tidy working area. They’re the original odd couple! He also meets Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi), a somewhat meek Japanese girl who, get this, turns out to be really good at martial arts! But wait, I hear you say. Is there a cocky pilot who is great at his job but also an abrasive asshole? You bet your ass there is (Robert Kazinsky)! And let me tell you, he and Raleigh just can’t seem to get along with each other at all. Will they come to respect each other? Who can say? Ok, let’s just say that by the time that the bleached-blonde, sour-faced, statuesque Russian pilots who literally might as well both be Ivan Drago showed up, I was done. Done, done, done.

Look, I get it. This is a movie about giant robots fighting giant monsters. Should I really care so much about how fleshed out the characters are? And you know what, I agree. I wouldn’t have minded a few clichés but EVERY SINGLE FUCKING CHARACTER? No. Now I’m afraid you’ve asked too much of me. And then there’s the story. Oh the story. There are threads which are picked up and then resolved far too quickly to make sense. For example, Pentecost originally refuses Mori’s request to become a pilot only to change his mind moments later with no explanation as to why. The movie also bends and breaks it’s own rules, something which should be a fucking cardinal sin in a Sci-Fi movie. For example, it is explained in the beginning of the film that the robots, which I probably should have mentioned by now are called Jaegers, have to be operated by more than one person because a neural connection with one person outs too much strain on that persons brain. This is broken moments later when a guy pilots his Jaeger solo after a battle. There’s also a far more egregious example of rule-breaking at the end of the film but I can’t say it because it’s a spoiler. Damn.

Speaking of spoilers, the ending is literally lifted almost wholesale from another film. I won’t tell you which one because it would be spoileriffic but if you’ve seen any big blockbusters within the past 100 years, you should be able to tell.

Ok, I still get it. It’s a movie about giant robots punching giant monsters. Isn’t the story just a means to an end to bring us those awesome action scenes? One, think about that the next time you criticise a Transformers movie and two, fair enough and that’d be acceptable if the fights were great to watch. Don’t get me wrong, they were some of the best parts of the film but the fights feature too many close-ups, too many quick cuts, too much of what’s going on being obscured by sea spray, rain or just the fact that all the fights take place at night. When you can tell what’s going on, it is indeed very cool but half the time it’s all just too… too meh. Sometimes there’s something to be said for guys in rubber suits.

Can I think of something I enjoyed before I wrap this up? Uh… The Kaiju looked cool, I guess and Ron Perlman was pretty entertaining…

I really wanted to love this movie. I really did. I wanted it to save my summer. I wanted to be able to smile as I walked out of the cinema and say to myself “You know what self? 2013 wasn’t a complete waste of time.” But I didn’t. I just didn’t. I’m honestly not sure what to rate this. So I guess I just won’t. I mean, I seem to be in the pretty big minority on this one and you’re probably going to go and see it anyway. Enjoy it. I hope you get out of it what I could not. I dunno. Maybe this would’ve been better if all the Kaiju were in a tornado of some kind. Laterz…. Oh, and if your robot has a sword that can cut through Kaiju like butter, why are you not always using it?

Sigh



Review: 2012 by Jamie

Review: 2012

Massive, World Ending Spoilers Ahead! (Including things to do specifically with the films ending. You have been warned)

Roland Emmerich is a guy who has pretty much made a career out of destroying shit. Sure he’s dallied with other projects like Stargate (Which gets an instant pass from me for starring His Holiness Kurt Russell) but at the end of the day what he’ll be most known for is destroying the absolute fuck out of landmarks. Whether it’s blowing up the White House in ‘Independence Day’ or ruining the hopes and dreams of every Godzilla fan with the American ‘Godzilla’, Emmerich just likes to destroy things.

So where do you go after ‘The Day After Tomorrow’ when you’ve managed to destory quite a large portion of the world? Well, you have to destroy the entire world of course! And so he took this logical step with 2009’s ‘2012’.

When I saw the trailer, I pretty much described it as Disaster Porn and on watching the film I’ve gotta say that my opinion of the film in that regard hasn’t really changed much. What I was slightly surprised by, however, was there was actually a fairly enjoyable plot. Nothing world changing or anything but it wasn’t anyway near as bad as I thought is was gonna be and by the end of the film I was genuinely engaged in the characters predicaments and the story as a whole. Admittedly, the plot doesn’t actually really get interesting until the last part of the film, the first hour or so all being filled with set-up, techno-babble and exposition but once the destruction starts you can’t help but take some small delight in what appears to be the near extinction of the human race. Then the cataclysmic events come to a bit of an end and the plot suddenly kicks in and just kinda draws you in somewhat.

Now, as a sceptic I think you can already guess what one of the major problems I have with this film is. Yes, that’s right, I really, really dislike the whole 2012 Mayan prediction aspect of it. It’s a personal problem I understand but it’s these kind of films that are just going to draw more people into believing this kind of shit is somewhat possible. Of course, if you actually take a look into the Mayans you’ll find there’s nothing to suggest that they predicted the world would end in 2012. Not only that but even if they had predicted such a thing, I’m not going to trust the prediction of a civilisation that couldn’t even predict that their civilisation would come to an end.

There’s another slight little problem which, as an Englishman, I feel I just had to mention. What is the deal with Roland Emmerich taking little jabs at Britain in his disaster films? Seriously, in Independence Day there’s a scene where there are some British soldiers just sitting out in the desert when I radio message comes. One of the limey bastards picks up the note and exclaims with delight “It’s from the Americans! They want to organise a counter-attack!” To which his equally posh-accented chap replies “It’s about bloody time!” Yes, that’s right. Whilst the world went to shit, we sat around and waited for the Americans to come up with a bloody plan. May I take this opportunity to point out that whilst America was dithering about whether or not to join World War 2, we successfully defended our country in the Battle of Britain. We weren’t waiting for the Americans too come up with a plan like the bloody French!

Then in ‘The Day After Tomorrow’, we Brits take on a somewhat more heroic role. We’re the ones who provide a lot of the sciencey data that help everyone to figure out what’s going on but when it comes down to it, it’s made very clear that Britain is totally fucked and doomed to freeze to death. Thanks Roland. Finally, in 2012 there is a slightly more comical swipe taking at Ol’ Blighty. The US president Danny Glover has decided that he’s just too old for this getting saved shit and decides to go down with his country. But who do we see shuffling onto one of the rescue ships in a later scene? Her Majesty The Queen walking a couple of corgis! This is ridiculous. Of course the Queen would die with England because a) she knows that no one on a multinational ship would take any of her ‘One is right royal’ bullshit and b) There’s no way she’d be walking her own corgis.

Wait. Didn’t Emmerich direct ‘The Patriot’ as well? Fuck. I don’t understand it Emmerich’s not even American, he’s German… Oh, right.

Anyway, sorry about that. Just had to get that of my chest. So 2012. Yeah, umm… The cast does a pretty decent job. It’s almost impossible not to like John Cusack in anything even though he is kinda playing a douche here. Woody Harrelson is playing a weird conspiracy theorist type and is adequately crazy and who doesn’t love Danny Glover? Nobody. That’s who.

The special effects are pretty mind blowing and do the job that is required of them. Blowing shit up, cracking open land masses and crumbling statues of Christ. It’s all you could really ask for in an apocalypse movie. At the end of the day it’s big, dumb fun and though it sometimes tries to be above what it is, it generally doesn’t take itself too seriously.

Oh, and I also really liked the ending where the last survivors of humanity have to make there way back to Africa. It was kind of like a nice little home-coming for humanity, returning to the cradle of our species. Three pints out of five. Laterz.



Halloweek: Godzilla by Jamie

GodzillaLogo

Good sweet christ. Amongst program crashes and computer crashes this has taken much, much longer than I ever thought. Still, it’s done now. Hurrah!



Top 10 Films That Influenced Me As A Youngling: Part 1 by Jamie

The films you watch as a child will probably go some way to influencing your choice of movies as an adult. Sure, your tastes may refine as you get older. Some art house films may make their way into your collection, the odd underground hit or perhaps a foreign film or two but chances are that if you watched a lot of films of a particular type as a child, you will generally enjoy those kinds of films when you grow up. By the way, some films should just be taken as a given such as E.T. and Star Wars,

So what films then have most influenced my modern preference of cinema viewing? Let’s look, won’t we?

10: Son Of Godzilla

Yeah, that’s right. Son of Godzilla. Admittedly one of the weaker films in the series starring the king of the giant rubber monsters, the G-Man himself but I loved this movie as a kid. It’s got giant praying mantises, a giant spider, a baby Godzilla and glorious bad dubbing. Now I’m generally a subtitles man but fuck it, if I’m watching a Godzilla film, I want bad dubbing! The story revolves around the birth of the big dude’s son, Minilla, and his development. There’s another story revolving some Japanese meteorologists but who cares what the people are doing? Fuck ‘em.
There are some great moments in this film, most of which revolve around Godzilla being mildly abusive towards his son. Ah, giant reptile child abuse. It’s what I live for. There are some fun moments such as Minilla jumping over his dad’s tail whilst he’s sleeping, the baby’s attempt at breathing nuclear fire resulting in nothing but nuclear smoke rings and a few nice moments in which Godzilla protects his son from attacks from mantises and the spider. The ending is also bitter sweet as the monsters island home is covered with a blanket of snow, and Godzilla is shown protecting Minilla from the cold as they go into hibernation.
So this film is the reason that I love Godzilla films. All of them. Well, except for that one Godzilla film. Ugh. You know the one I mean.
One final note about this film. I once saw a poster for it and the tagline read thusly: “Have You Ever Seen A Monster Hatch From A Monster Egg? No? You Will!” Awesome.

9. Short Circuit

I love robots. I love Dr. Pepper. Therefore I love Short Circuit. It’s one of those films that seems to have moulded my life in tiny little ways that I often don’t realise. I’ll sometimes just yell out the word “Input!” whilst reading, so it’s a good thing I generally read while I’m by myself, sometimes I’ll yell “Disassemble!” in a terrified manner, I say the name Stephanie in an odd manner and I can only sing “More Than A Woman” in the style of Number 5.

So what’s the film about? Do I really have to explain it? Fine. It’s about a military robot, Number 5, who gets struck by lightning and comes all to life and that. He escapes from his military compound and goes off about town learning about what it means to be alive and what it means to die. Of course a remake is now in the works and I was one of those people who wasn’t that bothered by the whole remake thing. Sure I wanted to see more original things coming from Hollywood but it’s not like they could possibly detract from the originals at all? Could they? Of course, that was how I felt before the Friday the 13th debacle. I refuse to finish my reviews of the original films simply because I saw that damn film.

8. Dark Crystal

Hell yeah! Puppets are good, Muppets are awesome and this film is rife with them. Not your typical fuzzy animal fare mind you. Rather horrible, freakish nightmare creatures that are based on vultures. Ugh, the Skeksis used to freak me the fuck out when I was a kid, in fact only two things probably freaked me out more, the father alien in Mac and Me and the Child Catcher in Chitty-Chitty Bang Bang. Oh god, I think I’m gonna be sick. Why do you taunt me nightmare monsters from my youth?

Still, the freakishness of the Skeksis is counteracted by the greatness of the UrRu because they look a bit like anthropomorphised giant ground sloths and giant ground sloths are awesome. As for the Gelflings, well, them I can take or leave. They just leave pretty much no impression on me whatsoever.

So what was the influence that Dark Crystal had on me? Well I guess it gave me an appreciation for the fantasy genre and for epic movies in general. As far as I know I hadn’t really seen many films with the kind of scope that this film had, maybe The Neverending Story but I can barely remember that movie at all, and the fact that it was all done with puppetry makes it even more impressive.

7. Explorers

For years I couldn’t remember what this film was called. It was on a video which was full of movie taped for me, simply called “Jamie’s Tape.” So when it came time for me to buy it, I was faced with a bit of a dilemma. The video was up in the loft and I sure as hell wasn’t going to go up there and find it. So I searched and I searched the internet and finally, I found it. It was awesome.

The film is about three kids who build a spaceship after one of them has a surrealistic dream giving them instructions. The spaceship takes them deep into outer space where they meet two aliens obsessed with television. One of the aliens, Wak, seems to enjoy imitating Earth broadcasts such as Bugs Bunny and Mr. Ed. It’s all very fun until a larger ship attacks the aliens. They boys are told it’s space Pirates and warned that they should leave but they soon discover it’s actually the aliens father, reprimanding them for stealing one of the family cars. It’s an all round great sci-fi adventure film and definitely went some way towards my love of sci-fi today. One last interesting fact is that it was the first feature film for both River Phoenix and Ethan Hawke.

6. Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory

This film is the greatness. A surrealistic mind fuck through a chocolate wonders cape, the eponymous factory as owned by Sir William Wonka. From shrinking corridors to fizzy lifting drinks, everything in this film elicits a response of wonderment and sometimes flat out, bat shit crazy terror. I’m thinking of one scene in particular. Let’s take a look:

Did you see that crazy shit? Woah, a chicken got it’s head all chopped off! And that dude with the millipede crawling across his face. That was pretty weird, eh? It would, of course, all just be a random collection of images if not for Gene Wilder’s fantastic, increasingly hysterical singing. Let’s take a look at the lyrics for a minute:

Round the world and home again
That’s the sailor’s way
Faster faster, faster faster

There’s no earthly way of knowing
Which direction we are going
There’s no knowing where we’re rowing
Or which way the river’s flowing

Is it raining, is it snowing
Is a hurricane a-blowing

Not a speck of light is showing
So the danger must be growing
Are the fires of Hell a-glowing
Is the grisly reaper mowing

Yes, the danger must be growing
For the rowers keep on rowing
And they’re certainly not showing
Any signs that they are slowing

Fuck me. That’s awesome.

Well this seems like a good time to take a break, part two will be up tomorrow. If you’re wondering why I’m not going into too much detail on some of these films, well, it’s because I plan to review them. Laterz.




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