Godzilla: King of the Monsters, Review by Case Wright, Dir: Michael Dougherty


GOD.jpg

Godzilla: King of the Monsters is like eating a huge handful of different colored Jelly Bellys all at once; it’s fun and kinda sticky.  It was written and directed by Michael Dougherty (Trick ‘r Treat, Krampus, or anything that’s filmed for a few hundred bucks and a sandwich).  Dougherty is known for inexpensive genre films like Krampus, which was kind of fun in a goofy way.  This is a much bigger budget and if it weren’t for the dialogue, it would’ve been great.  Honestly, you don’t really need to listen to the dialogue and Dougherty is a lousy writer; so you’re better off tuning the people out.

The cast was everyone you like: Coach Taylor, Eleven, Tywin Lannister, That Lady from the Conjuring, That Science Teacher from Stranger Things, West Wing Guy, What’s His Face, and the guy who was in the last one who wanted the monsters to fight.  On the monster side: there was Mothra, King Ghidora, Rodan, Michaelangelo, Godzilla, and the rest.  They were all thrown at the screen like water balloons hitting you in the face.

The movie opens with Dr Emma Russell (Vera Farmiga) and Madison (Millie Bobby Brown) at a Monarch facility where baby Mothra wakes up and everyone seems to want to touch it.  Gross.  They’re gonna get a dino-rash! Terrorists enter, kill everyone, and take ….. did I write take … I meant pick up Dr. Russell and Madison.

Why? Dr. Russell lost her son to the last Godzilla attack and has decided that everyone should die because that makes sense…somehow. So, she sets up her Doctor Doolittle machine to talk/wake up all the Kaijus to kill everyone.  Her argument is really annoying and has a makeshift powerpoint presentation.  She is the embodiment of every sanctimonious Seattleite, Vegan, Composting, Apologist, Whiner all rolled into one; she figures if the monsters kill all the people that the world will be better off- think if that horrible Lorax finally got the money to kill for the trees.  They’re why I refuse to recycle …. EVER!

Anywho….she wakes up all the monsters and Coach Taylor who is Dr Russell’s quasi-ex-husband scientist is granted crazy authority over the military to figure out how to stop all the monsters from killing everyone.  And man do they ever fight?!!! I mean it do they ever fight?  I counted only four monster on monster fight scenes- kinda skimpy.  Also, Godzilla had to be recharged with nukes or radioactive spa time to keep going; I guess Godzilla decided to upload the latest Apple Update.

Godzilla ends up on top….literally. He gets on top of a mound in Boston and all the other monsters bow down to Godzilla, except Mothra – She curtsies (she’s from another time).  There’s good CGI and Monster fighting- when they do fight.  Just don’t go trying to find deeper meaning.  I loved these movies because they’d be on tv for the nerd set when I was a kid.  I saw them all.  In fact, in King Ghidora v Godzilla, Godzilla tries to help the Japanese win world war II or at least one battle. It was awesome.  These movies are great because you can unplug and watch some awesome destruction.  This movie brings the boom.  Enjoy!

Clear eyes.gifgod3.gif

 

Godzilla: King of Monsters 2nd Official Trailer


Godzilla King of Monsters

This past summer we saw the first trailer to Godzilla: King of Monsters. To say that the reaction to that trailer was positive would be an understatement. It was one of the highlights of San Diego Comic-Con 2018.

Now, Warner Brothers Pictures saw fit to release the second trailer for the film. This time with less classical music and more Kaiju mayhem visuals instead. Michael Dougherty takes over directing duties from Gareth Edwards and this time it shows as the film stresses the action in the film rather than the human interactions underfoot.

Kaiju films have been fan-favorites for decades upon decades because of the monsters and less about the humans. The humans really were just there to give voice to the different factions of monsters duking it out. It looks like this time this sequel will follow the same formula.

Godzilla: King of Monsters is set for May 31, 2019.

Playing Catch-Up With The Films of 2017: Transformers: The Last Knight (dir by Michael Bay)


So, I’m just going to be honest here.

I did watch Transformers: The Last Knight.  I didn’t see it at the theaters, of course.  To date, I’ve only seen one Transformers movie on the big screen.  It was the fourth one and not only did I get motion sick but when I left the theater, I discovered that I was having trouble hearing.  Even though I watched Transformers: The Last Knight on a small screen, I still made sure to take some Dramamine beforehand.  That may have been a mistake because this movie somehow drags things out for 2 hours and 30 minutes.  That’s a lot of time to spend trying to stay awake while watching something that doesn’t even try to make sense.

So, yes, I did watch Transformers: The Last Knight but I’m not really sure what I watched.  I know that there was a lot of camera movement.  There was a lot of stuff blowing up.  Robots would fly into space.  Robots would return to Earth.  Robots turned into cars.  All of the robots spoke in these gravelly voices and half the time, I couldn’t really understand what they were saying.  Mark Wahlberg was around and he spent the entire movie with this kind of confused look on his face.  His Boston accent really came out whenever he had to deliver his dialogue.  One thing I’ve noticed about Wahlberg is that the less he cares about a movie, the more likely he is to go full Boston.  To be honest, if I just closed my eyes and listened to Wahlberg’s accent and tuned out all of the explosions and robot talk, I probably would have thought I was watching Manchester By The Sea.

Anthony Hopkins was also in the movie, playing a character who might as well have just been named “Esteemed British Person.”  It’s always fun to see Hopkins in a bad movie, just because he knows that his deserved reputation for being a great actor isn’t going to suffer no matter how much crap he appears in.  He always goes through these movies with a slightly bemused smirk on his face.  It’s almost as if he’s looking out at the audience and saying, “Laugh all you want.  I’ll still kick anyone’s ass when it comes to Shakespeare…”  Anyway, Hopkins is mostly around so that he can reveal that the Transformers have been on Earth since time began.  Why, they even saved King Arthur!

The plot has to do with a powerful staff that can be used to bring life back to the Transformers’s home planet.  The problem is that using the staff will also destroy all life on Earth or something like that.  So, of course, the good Transformers are trying to save Earth and the bad Transformers are like, “Fuck Earth, let’s blow stuff up.”  Or something like that.  The main good Transformer — Optimus Prime, I guess — gets brainwashed into becoming an evil Transformer.  Of course, since Anthony Hopkins is in the movie, the majority of the film takes place in England and that can only mean a trip to Stonehenge!

And…

Look, I’ve exhausted myself.  I’m not going to say that Transformers: The Last Knight is a terrible movie because, obviously, someone out there loves this stuff.  I mean, they’ve made five of these movies so someone has to be looking forward to them.  They’re not for me, though.

Some day, I hope Micheal Bay directs a Fifty Shades of Grey movie.  I look forward to watching Christian and Ana discuss consent while the world explodes behind them.

Film Review: The Sea of Trees (dir by Gus Van Sant)


The_Sea_of_Trees

Nobody wants to admit it but there was a time when all of us self-styled award divas were convinced that Gus Van Sant’s latest film, The Sea of Trees, would be a huge Oscar contender.

Can you blame us?

Sure, you can!  But, before you do, look at it from our point of view.  Gus Van Sant is an acclaimed director who has split his time between Oscar-baity mainstream movies (Good Will Hunting, Milk) and deliberately obscure art films (Elephant).  Two of Van Sant’s films have been nominated for best picture and he has twice been nominated for best director.  The Sea of Trees stars two Oscar nominees (Naomi Watts and Ken Watanabe) and an Oscar winner (Matthew McConaughey).  Much like the 2003 best picture nominee Lost in Translation, The Sea of Trees dealt with an American in Japan.

Yep, The Sea of Trees definitely looked like a contender but then it premiered at the Cannes Film Festival and everything went downhill.  The audience laughed.  The critics booed.  The negative reaction to the film quickly became legendary.  Suddenly, it looked like this former Oscar contender would be lucky to even get an American release.  Both Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions acquired the U.S. distribution rights and both companies dropped the film.

As a result, I found myself growing fascinated with The Sea of Trees.  How bad could it be, I wondered.  The fact that I might never get a chance to actually see the movie only added to my interest.

Well, fortunately, A24 eventually acquired the distribution rights to The Sea of Trees and they have now given the film a limited release in the States.  I saw it last night and…

Meh.

Seriously, after all the publicity and drama, I was expecting that The Sea of Trees would be a total and complete fiasco, one of those train wreck movies that you just can’t look away from.  But, to be honest, The Sea of Trees is not an artistic fiasco in the style of Batman v Superman, nor is it unintentionally amusing like April Rain.  Instead, it’s just a really boring film.

When I heard the plot of the film, I thought it would be an unofficial companion piece to Van Sant’s acclaimed Death Trilogy.  In many ways, the plot sounded a lot like the plot of Gerry.  Arthur Brennan (Matthew McConaughey) is a widowed professor who goes to Japan and visits Aokigahara Forest, the famous suicide forest at the foot of Mt. Fiji.  Brennan is planning to end his life but he’s distracted by a Japanese man, Takumi Nakamura (Ken Watanabe), who claims to be lost in the forest.  However, Nakamura has deep cuts on his wrists.

Brennan tries to help Nakamura find his way out of the forest but soon, the two of them discover themselves to be lost.  Brennan spends a lot of time talking about life philosophy and I have to admit that I had a hard time following what he was saying because I was bored out of my mind.  (It doesn’t help that McConaughey delivers his dialogue in the same style that he used for his infamous car commercials.)  Nakamura doesn’t say much at all.

We also get several flashbacks to Brennan’s former life with his wife (played by Naomi Watts).  The scenes all have a definite Nicholas Sparks feel to them.  And yet, the flashbacks were the best part of the film because of the chemistry between McConaughey and Watts.  The flashbacks are openly and unapologetically sentimental, without any of the pretension that mars the scenes between Brennan and Nakamura.

On a positive note, the film’s cinematography is often striking and the opening, with Brennan walking past random corpses while looking for the perfect place to end his life, is nicely done.  Otherwise, almost the entire film is a misfire.  Matthew McConaughey is one of those actors who is naturally so full of life that it’s hard to buy him as a suicidal academic and the film, which is already overlong at nearly two hours, drags.  This is one of those films that has about a dozen false endings before the final credits finally roll.  Meanwhile, as the action slowly plays out, the original score pounds you over the head.  Important Important Important, the score demands even as the film fails to deliver.

And so, that’s The Sea of Trees.  

It’s not exactly a fiasco but it is unforgivably forgettable.

You gotta keep livin', man! L-I-V-I-N!

You gotta keep livin’, man! L-I-V-I-N!

Here’s Another (!) Trailer For The Sea of Trees!


You know what?

After all the delays and all the negative reviews, I have become rather obsessed with finally getting the chance to actually see Gus Van Sant’s The Sea of Trees.  At this point, it really is a case of simply having to know if it’s truly as bad as people have been saying since last year.

Well, it looks like I’m finally going to get a chance!  The Sea of Trees finally has a release date here in the States and that date is August 26th!

Here’s the latest trailer for The Sea of Trees:

 

Hey, It’s The Trailer For The Sea of Trees!


PCAS

If I wanted to play a really mean April Fools Day joke, I would announce that, after getting thoroughly booed at Cannes last year and suffering from some of the worst word-of-mouth in cinematic history, Gus Van Sant’s The Sea Of Trees has finally gotten an American release date.

But I’m not mean and I’m not going to play that joke on you.

Instead, I’m going to tell you that not only is Van Sant’s Sea of Trees never going to be released in the U.S. but that the script is also currently being reshot by Terrence Malick…

April Fools!

Bleh, what a stupid holiday.

Anyway, the truth of the matter is that Sea of Trees still does not have an American release date but it will be released in Europe later this month.  Eventually, if nothing else, Sea of Trees will make it to Netflix and we’ll get to discover what everyone was booing about in Cannes.

Here’s the international trailer!

Trash Film Guru Vs. The Summer Blockbusters : “Godzilla”


godzilla2014_poster2

Here’s the thing when it comes to any and all Westernized takes on Japan’s most famous movie monster — Hollywood’s just never going to “get it” because, frankly, it can’t. Oh, sure, Gareth Edwards’ 2014 Godzilla is head and shoulders above Roland Emmerich’s 1998 abomination of a film, but the simple fact is that the Big Green Guy and all of his scaly, serpentine brethren that came to us courtesy of the venerable Toho studios were, at their core, celluloid manifestations of a deep-seated atomic angst that only a country that had been on the receiving end of, as Sting put it, “Oppenheimer’s deadly toy” could ever really give birth to. And while Ken Watanabe’s Dr. Ichiro Serizawa character does, in fact, explicitly mention Hiroshima and Nagasaki in this flick, it’s pure window dressing — Edwards and screenwriters Max Borenstein and Dave Callaham didn’t actually live through a time when they had to actively wonder what sort of nuclear fission-induced mutations were lurking beneath the waves just a few miles offshore, so they just can’t communicate that sort of unease with the same authenticity that the original Godzilla did.

And to those who would argue that a young Japanese filmmaker wouldn’t be able to imbue a project such as this with any more immediacy than Edwards does because they wouldn’t have lived though those horrific final days of WWII either, I’ve got one word for you : Fukushima.

Godzilla-2014-Roar

There’s also something about CGI in these flicks that always has, and always will, suck, no matter how “good” it is : you know, in the back of your mind, that it’s just not there. To be sure, Edwards and his visual effects crew do a bang-up job of realizing their monster once they do, finally, reveal him, but no matter how “unrealistic” watching the original Godzilla smash cardboard miniatures of buildings may be by today’s standards, it still feels more “real” than the essentially flawless computer graphics of 2014 can ever hope to. But maybe that’s just me —-

godzilla-trailer-02

Still, don’t get the wrong idea : I’m not so much “down on” the new Godzilla as I am completely indifferent to it. To be sure, Edwards’ heart seem to be in the right place here, and he’s very likely doing the best job that he can do — it’s just that his best is nowhere near good enough. A slow-burn plot doesn’t help matters much, either, and while I’m all for a prolonged buildup that leads to a big payoff, frankly the “character arcs” of all the principal players are so dull and uninvolving that when Compu-Zilla finally does make the scene, it feels more like a relief from soap opera-style tedium than anything else. Thankfully, there’s some effectively-realized mass destruction to bump up the “wow” factor a bit, and Godzilla doesn’t turn out to a solo act (that’s all I’ll say about that), but it’s still definitely a case of “too little, too late” as far as excitement here goes and a smorgasbord of good performances (Bryan Cranston, Juliette Binoche, David Strathairn, Sally Hawkins, and the aforementioned Ken Watanabe) and bad (Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen) find themselves having equally gone, more or less, to waste when the proverbial train finally leaves the station.

Plot recaps probably make as much sense here as they do for a Hulk comic book — sure, the set-up matters on some level, but it’s all about “Hulk smash!” at the end of the day, isn’t it? Suffice to say that the main reason the various intermingling sub-plots here really don’t work is because the film goes from small-scale to so-big-it’s-off-the-scale at the drop of hat, with no transition period in between for either the characters or the audience. It’s all just a bit jarring — but maybe that’s not such a bad thing when I think about it because, truth be told, I was getting a little sleepy.

The “who are the real monsters?” theme that Edwards toys with is frankly a little bit old, too, and honestly represents something of a cop-out ( and here’s where my “Westerners will never get this right” thesis comes into play, by the way) :  sure, humans are bad news, we’re destroying everything, etc. I know that. But some of us are worse than others, and any side willing to drop a nuclear bomb and murder hundreds of thousands of innocent people in order to “win” a war is due for some special criticism, in my view . The makers of the original Godzilla understood that fact, even if they couldn’t say so explicitly, while in the franchise’s 2014 iteration we just all suck. No one, specifically, is to blame, and hey, it’s too late for recriminations anyway when you’ve got an overgrown reptile tearing up the town. Or something like that.

godzilla-attacks-golden-gate

Still, the film’s third act is enough to make even a hardened cynic like me gasp in awe on numerous occasions, and the “childlike wonder factor,” for lack of a batter term, really does kick into high gear here as events steamroll toward their conclusion. It’s worth the price of admission for the awesome (even if it is computer-generated) spectacle the final 45-or-so-minutes deliver. Sure, I wish we’d gotten nothing but a bad ride on a  bumpy road from start to finish, but I guess I’m still willing to take what I can get. Felling like you’re 12 years old all over again for even a little while is better than never feeling like it at all.

And yet — in addition to being this film’s greatest (perhaps even only) saving grace, perhaps that last act is also its greatest weakness, because it exposes the essential, unavoidable truth at the heart of Edwards’ Godzilla : it’s good enough to make you remember why you love monster movies in the first place, but nowhere near good enough to actually be one of those monster movies  that you love.