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"Days of Future Past", the previous X-Men entry, had visions of a stark
post- apocalyptic future ala Terminator, and now comes "Apocalypse",
taking cues from eschatological lore with its titular megavillain
threatening to destroy all to achieve his own vision of grandeur,
forcing the X-Men to unite as one to stop this fallen god. It's pretty
Do not be fooled by its comic-book brand; this is a biblical quasi-disaster film disguised as a superhero film, chock full of thrilling action and urgent, no- nonsense heroics, something that is sorely lacking in most superhero films today (I'm looking at you, BvS and Civil War). Both movies lack the human touch that Singer has given ever-so generously in his films, making the X-Men grounded and human while blossoming with their gifts. The stark difference between this film and Civil War/the DCU shows during one particularly harrowing scene involving Fassbender's Magneto in a Polish forest, which elevates this into a real film with real characters. The humor seems natural, too, save for another scene of fine trolling involving audience favorite Quicksilver that is all too similar to his scene in the previous film.
Still, despite a script that offers nothing new to the table, hats off to director Bryan Singer, proving himself yet again as the golden goose of the franchise, for delivering the superhero goods with balanced, kinda old-fashioned storytelling and a plethora of fine performances from all cast members, especially Oscar Isaac as its titular villainous anti-Messiah. It's very operatic, overtly theatrical without being hammy, and it contrasts nicely with the rest of the grounded characters, truly fitting for a villain named "Apocalypse."
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Once upon a time, predatory animals were either the sinister villains
or the square-jawed heroes of Disney Animated films, with the cuddly
animals ("prey" if I'd go further) being either comic relief or the
central protagonist. With "Zootopia", where anthropomorphic mammals
live and breathe in a bustling metropolis ala humans (with nary a homo
sapien in sight), the tables have turned - cuddly animals such as our
heroine, a rabbit cop named Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin) has shifted
into figures of empowerment and inspiration, while big predatory
animals have become either the cute ones - as seen in an overweight
man-child cheetah cop who obsesses over a famous pop star while on desk
duty - or a mischievous comic relief as per con-artist fox Nick Wilde
Wilde is the archetypal wily fox there's not a word that he says that isn't cynical or sarcastic. Although the character is animated, this is essentially Bateman being his laid-back self, which strongly anchors this film down to earth. Wilde provides a pleasant foil against Goodwin's Hopps, who is eager to do good (not unlike co- director Rich Moore's "Wreck-It Ralph") and make Zootopia a better place, but constantly finds her naiveté not only challenged by Wilde's put- downs, but also by her own parents' over-protectiveness and even the Zootopia police chief, a bison (voiced by Idris Elba) and caricature of the stereotypical cop-movie chief, who bluntly tells Hopps that being a cop "isn't some fairy tale with songs and dance. Let it go."
Indeed, "Zootopia" is not the usual Disney fare the similarity ends with the talking animals, extremely likable characters and rapid- fire humor I lost it in numerous scenes, particularly an adorable riff on "The Godfather" that will entertain kids and adults alike. What we have here is essentially a buddy cop movie (think "48 Hrs", "Rush Hour", "Lethal Weapon") that skirts into noir territory at times - where one's a do-gooder cop and the other's a rebel, and they both team up to stop a bigger threat towards the city, bonding in the process. The Disney version, at least. Spoilers ahead.
How this leads into a political conspiracy involving a plot to segregate the prey from predators, I will not reveal. Here Disney makes a bold move, not only subverting their decades-old predator/prey animal tropes, but not-so-subtly confronting the media blitz against race-induced crimes. I am instantly reminded of the American media who gobble up any news involving multi-racial crimes and subsequent controversies with law enforcement, with no qualms given to either side of the fence to express their proper opinion. Howard and Moore, along with their writers, remarkably handle their material sensibly and level-headedness and with Disney's lesson of the movie about acceptance and unity, delivered with care.
This could be one of the year's best films.
Alex Proyas' "Gods of Egypt" is a film that is boldly and unabashedly
silly and preposterous. Few other words can describe it. It has the
pratfalls that beset typical Hollywood fare. It is already the subject
of controversy due to its preeminently Caucasian cast. It has both
critics and audiences sharpening their knives, a film supposedly
destined for failure.
Oh, but it works because the film truly bonkers. Truly insane. Truly out of its mind.
Proyas, a gifted and visionary filmmaker, is renowned for having thought-provoking and striking imagery in all of his films, and this film is without exception. Where in any other film do you get to see goddesses horse-riding giant fire-breathing serpents? Or wagons carrying infinite amounts of gold dumping their load in a funnel-like tube ala dump trucks? Or for that matter, gods bleeding gold? Or Gerard butler riding gold- chromed giant beetles into battle? Or gods that have body parts that, when disfigured, instantly become detachable jewelry? Or...
Admittedlly the plot is indeed silly even by blockbuster Hollywood standards, however a lesser Proyas film is still more visually inventive than the usual Hollywood movie factory output, and that is always a plus. Whereas a film like "Pan" bludgeons us over the head with its disgusting cynicism and disrespect for the source material by portraying its titular hero as a clichéd messiah figure, Proyas directs with the exuberance of a kid in Disneyland - with Disneyland replaced with an Egyptian museum exhibit eager at the chance to create his own action packed tale while still respecting the gods as, well, gods.
What is there to say about the plot, except that it has gods and it has Egypt? You get exactly what's on the tin. You get a chiseled hero in the form of Horus (Nikolaj Coaster-Waldau), his athletic and quippy comic sidekick (Brenton Thwaites) and beautiful love (Courtney Eaton), who set out to defeat Horus' evil uncle Set (Gerard Butler, simultaneously parodying his "300" persona while being supremely sinister).
The whole thing sounds very Greek. But rather than eschewing the silly tone and making it "Gladiator"-style dark and dreary ala the recent "Clash of the Titans" movies, Proyas and the actors let loose and have a ball with the material, never being too self aware while being silly enough to make for compelling viewing. Even rising star Chadwick Boseman (terrific in both "42" and "Get on Up"), as Thoth the god of knowledge, relishes in chewing the scenery with every moment, never afraid of being campy. Not bad.
Look, it's clear that the film is a B-grade Saturday night matinée film straight from the 1950s. Ever heard your grandparents told you about those? The ones where there's usually a double feature showcasing silly low budget sci-fi/horror/fantasy plots with handsome men and gorgeous gals, supremely cheesy one liners and having no purpose other than to put a goofy smile on your face from start to finish, almost guaranteeing a good time out? Well, this is one such movie, but with a blockbuster budget and the added pleasure of having Proyas wrapping the fun around with his wonderful thought-provoking visuals and production design, and going wild with this thing. Two set pieces involving a gigantic worm-like demon and the Egyptian afterlife are visual marvels, triumphs of set design and visual effects, evoking senses of awe and wonder like films from yesteryear and other gifted visionaries. For mainstream filmmakers, CGI is the cheat sheet. For Proyas, it's his toy box. This is eye candy on a spectacular scale, and audiences won't get short-changed.
Bear with me here, but if you were to replace the cast with genuine Egyptian actors, I think the film would be mired in even bigger controversies because it will definitely look more inaccurate and seemingly insulting than it supposedly already is. It's stupid, yes, but it's gloriously stupid and never succumbs to taking itself ever so seriously. Proyas sort of knew what he was doing here, and he didn't give a damn about what others thought. And that's the kind of filmmaker I admire the most.
I want you readers to pay attention to the plot outline describing this
film: 'A team of Malaysian footballers struggle and rise through all
odds to qualify for the 1980 Moscow Olympics.' The keyword here is
struggle. Readers and audiences who know their history will realize
that Malaysia boycotted the Moscow Olympics following the Soviet
Invasion of Afghanistan. Although that knowledge looms with dread over
the suspecting audience member throughout the film, I had not imagined
what actual feelings went through the minds of the football team the
moment they realize they were competing for a Pyrrhic victory. This
film, and the obligatory "inspirational speech" that comes with all
sports movies, captures that moment quite beautifully.
Chiu Keng Guan's "Ola Bola" is a film that won't just be described as very good solely in Malaysian cinema terms, but also very good, period. This pleasantly surprising underdog soccer/football story by born filmmaker Chiu is blockbuster filmmaking of superlative calibre; about as viable and inspiring as other major Hollywood sports films such as "Hoosiers" and "Rudy", and even better than some entries. This perhaps is the first mainstream local film of our generation to be proud of, proudly showcasing just what our country has to offer alongside the big boys in the global cinema arena.
Yes, it does tick off the sports genre tropes; that speech at the end is a must; but dial it back a notch and think for a while. Those American sports films focused on ragtag underdogs defying all odds and ultimately winning the grand championship. That qualifying match between us and South Korea was the only chance we got in entering a major football/soccer arena, and was sadly blown to hell due to a political boycott. A quick glance at Wikipedia shows that the Malaysian football team had not once qualify for the FIFA World Cup. So the odds are pretty much stacked against us there.
For Malaysian cinema, this is an important film it comes at a time when there is clear political strife within the country (and it would be a bald-faced lie to ever think otherwise), and racial tensions feared simmering to a boil. It would not be a mistake for the cynical and jaded to proclaim this film a callback to the "good- ol-days", a nostalgia for the days of old where racial unity was prevalent but never paraded. But it is also false not to call this a rally cry for hope for us to come together as a nation again; it is an unabashedly patriotic film that wonderfully does not condescend its audience with saccharine overtones. When things get tough they really get tough. But the rally cry in the film stands tall and true "we win together, or we lose together".
Truly - without the slightest ounce of sarcasm and cynicism - Malaysia Boleh.
Well people, another day, another crappy movie hitting our shores.
Actually, this was filmed on our shores Pinewood Iskandar Studios in
Johor, to be exact, so I guess that's something. That's about it for
If writer-director Vincent Zhou intended for this to show the world what Chinese cinema is made of, he has failed. The People's Republic has been kind to cineastes and mainstream movie-goers alike in the past decade, ranging from the beautifully thought-provoking (Jia Zhangke's "A Touch of Sin"), to the big and bombastic (John Woo's mega-blockbuster "Red Cliff"), even veering off into the hysterical (Stephen Chow's recent "The Mermaid"). They do not need to cater to Western audiences at all rather, it is the Western bigwigs that need to learn how to market these films properly. After all, if Ang Lee's "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" can gross over US$100 million in the United States alone, why can't others, right?
Alas, my plea falls on deaf ears, and here we are, relegated to a C- movie starring struggling actors and made by a filmmaker who apparently conceded to the "everyone-watches-only-English-movies" mentality. Imagine a Muppet Babies version of "Snakes on a Plane" and TV's "Lost" meshed together in an unholy mess; sprinkle some stilted English dialogue ("She died so horribLE. .. so tragicALLY") and some truly bad and overdone VFX, the kind that's as half-assed as those in "A Sound of Thunder" if not worse. In this day and age, are mutant cats scary at all, especially if they look like an evil version of Jiji from "Kiki's Delivery Service"?
Hell, the film even goes so far as to hiring attractive Chinese stars like Zhang YuQi to dress up the nonexistent plot (she tries, dammit), but I must confess, dear reader, to feeling a little sad for still-hunky ex-Superman Brandon Routh, who's film career is relegated to thankless roles such as this - a nonsensical riff on Steven Seagal's "Under Siege" character. Was "Superman Returns" really that toxic?
Sci-Fi Channel this ain't.
Patrick Hughes' "The Expendables 3" is an odd action film. Starring
nearly the entire roster of '80s to '90s action heroes, coupled with a
few unknown young faces desperate to be the next big action star, it
bears the mark of a bloated mess. That its PG-13 restrictions not only
abandons its core fanbase but also leads to rushed editing at times
that leave slightly sour aftertastes after each kill, only adds to the
negatives, apart from some truly dreadful CG effects. That it all boils
down to another Stallone film, as he uses said action icons merely as
back-up fodder to appease his egotistical lead character.
And yet, despite all of that, I enjoyed it as much as the first two. How on Earth did that happen?
Firstly, "The Expendables" franchises are what I like to describe as "fanboy" movies. There is no need for a plot, as long as it appeases the core fanbase, with every one liner, every weapon of choice, down to the costumes they wear. One might argue that the vastly overrated "The Avengers" as well as other Marvel films fall under that same category - it appeals to the fanbase.
"The Expendables 3" is an attempt to bridge the gap between the old and young generation of action, but Stallone and the "Olympus Has Fallen" co-writers Creighton Rothenberger and Katrin Benedikt swerves back the direction back to "you know what, we need the old band after all". This isn't merely in the film's story, it's also outside - the blending of styles are uneven at first, but somehow come together well in the preposterously over-the-top stunt-filled finale, with both young and old getting caught into the frenzily-edited chaos. The absence of the old guards in the film's second third merely underlines the fact that we need these icons more than ever, because none of these modern day "stars" can carry a movie by themselves because their combined charisma is miles away compared to icons like Schwarzenegger, Gibson or Snipes alone. I don't mean this as an insult, I was amused that I managed to see what Stallone was trying to do (or perhaps I've seen way too many movies).
I would strongly agree however that this film was not meant for PG-13, in many parts due to the annoying editing. No one can ever disguise R- rated tendencies as PG-13. Yes, there are a couple of sensational action sequences (particularly in the climax), but the level of violence is so clearly neutered down that one would just go "If only". Well, we'd have the Unrated blu-ray for that. Disappointing, because these action sequences truly have the potential to be among the best in the franchise, courtesy of Hughes and stunt coordinator Dan Bradley of the Bourne series. Ah well, Blu Ray shall await. I'm not going to mention the dreadful CGI (that thankfully weren't that abundant), but I've seen people complain of a lot of shaky-cam in the film. I didn't notice many, so kudos to that for making most of the action well-shot and framed.
And yet, why did I still enjoy the film? It's because of Patrick Hughes. Only his second film (following the solid Aussie western "Red Hill"), Hughes approaches the story with a dead-on seriousness that makes the action sequences more fun when they do come, and takes his time to invest in Barney's plight into replacing his old team with new ones, following the near-loss of one of his own, and in the hopes that the new team will subdue the villain Stonebanks with less complications. All of this is essentially a build up to a stunt-filled, sensational climax involving an abandoned hotel and an entire army against The Expendables. And also some shoddy CG helicopters.
The 2nd act is a pale imitation of Kurosawa's "Seven Samurai", though Kelsey Grammar is surprisingly good in the role he's given. In fact, most of the actors seem to have a grand time in the film, especially Gibson and Banderas, the former delightfully and menacingly ravishing each second he's on the screen like a King Cobra, and the latter akin to a screw-loose monkey that borders on being the Jar-Jar Binks of the franchise (but not quite). Ford and Schwarzenegger seem to be game in the film, but the old gang comprised of Statham, Lundgren, Couture, and Crews look tired. Again, it's great to see Wesley Snipes back in action and having some funny moments on his own, but Jet Li is again underutilized, this time more so than the previous one (though it can't be helped that his disease is worsening at this stage).
"The Expendables" franchise is one which never quite satisfies its core audience and never reaches its full potential - it's too ironic for older fans to appreciate yet it's too old-school for the new generation to "get it". This presumably final one ambitiously attempts to fill the gap, and although it doesn't quite succeed, when all is said and done it does get the job done very well when all one is looking for is some good old-fashioned action and mayhem. Don't be surprised though when the extended cut does in fact arrive. It should be even more polished than it is now.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The key factor in Richard Linklater's "Boyhood" is that it relies on
life as its main plot point, not just the characters and their
motivations. Like life, they change as the years go by in spirit and
in goals. For young children coming of age, their youth is a turbulent
time full of raging hormones and confused emotions, questioning
themselves about their place in this life you only live once, so they
Life never favors other people. There are others who seem to have it all and there are others who are always struggling. Mason's parents are the perfect example they separate on amicable terms, and one seems to be more successful than the other, but then it shifts so gradually that their fates balance each other's out, making it unavoidably fair. Unpredictable, that life.
So it goes with little Mason's youth. We first see him as a kid, gazing into the sky, wondering about life at an age where he is supposedly carefree. His sister with an attitude constantly teases him in a realistically annoying manner, and their single mother is struggling to find a better life for them all. Man men enter their lives, most unfortunately alcoholic and troubled. Mason, like most boys in that situation, logically seeks out advice from his father from time to time. He never really says it, but he's feeling confused and needs proper guidance.
We've all been in his shoes. We were (some still are) all confused, lonely, trying to comprehend this thing call life. We were all spoilt brats with attitudes that would make our parents tear their hair off their heads. We were all their bundles of joy whenever we succeeded in something. Yet they are still human like us, and at their age are still trying to find out where life is taking them, for better or for worse. Linklater perfectly captures that essence, and spreads it out perfectly across nearly three hours of condensed life. He does the rarity - create an experimental film that sounds well enough to perform well with indie audiences, yet retain the emotional energy of classic Hollywood melodramas down to its barest, realistic form and lays it all out in front of the audience to see.
That's the beauty of his film, it isn't one-sided. It ebbs and flows with the current, and surrounds the audience with its unforced, genuine emotions. I did not feel much empathy for Mason as much as I did feeling LIKE Mason as he went through this crazy, subtle adventure. I felt moved and touched with every poignant scene Mason has to go through, enlightened whenever his father gives him some advice, as bewildered as he is at life.
We don't have many movies like this anymore nowadays. Few movies are willing to evoke the senses purely, both independent and mainstream one either cops out and goes for audience sentimentality (and Oscar votes) while the other becomes pretentious fluff that thinks its art but it isn't, just an artist on a stage full of sound and fury. "Boyhood" is that rare gem that isn't an incredibly beautiful film with many layers that provoke the mind and emotions, and left me feeling bittersweet with a tidal wave of nostalgia and poignancy, but ultimately left me feeling optimistic about the future.
Mason's journey has been quite the ride, indeed. That this was filmed in 12 years is no easy task by itself - this is a film that speaks of our time perfectly, defining the current generation with aplomb where so many other modern filmmakers grasped. If you are, or are parents with kids who were, born within the 1990s and early 2000s, you owe it to yourself to see this film.
This is one mean movie. It seduces, wraps your arms around you, and
they guts you and leaves you stunned. Directed with striking precision
and focus by Stephen Frears ("Philomena", "The Queen"), and written by
Donald E. Westlake, one of the literary princes of crime fiction, and
based off pulp author Jim Thompson's pulpy novel, in a manner so
intricate with detail, so hardboiled that it cracks under the weight of
each step it takes, one twist of the knife after another.
It's all too good to be true for this neo-noir, even when Martin Scorsese's producing it. Then comes the actors and my word, are they fantastic in their roles John Cusack is sly yet undeterred in a role that is a slightly more edgier variation on Humphrey Bogart, with a cross of Lee Marvin, to boot; Annette Bening is simply drop-dead sexy as the woman who thinks she knows it all, yet is a timebomb waiting to explode. The real star of the show is Angelica Huston in a well-deserved Oscar nominated performance, perfectly balancing the ruthless, desperate act with a honest, focused, motherly concern that doesn't feel cliché at all.
Who knew modern day, sunny Los Angeles and Phoenix can be the backdrop of so seedy a neo-noir, perhaps the best since Chinatown? Frears, Huston, Cusack, Bening, Westlake, cinematographer Oliver Stapleton and composer Elmer Bernstein deserve all the praise they can get for creating something so seedy yet starkly beautiful in retrospect.
30 years down the road, James Cameron's "The Terminator" remains an
enthralling science fiction thriller, perhaps now more relevant than
ever. By now nearly everyone would have heard about how Cameron
miraculously made such an excellent film on a miniscule US$6 million
budget or so, or perhaps how the eponymous character turned
bodybuilder- cum-actor Arnold Schwarzenegger into literally Hollywood's
next big thing. It is a testament to Cameron's genius into crafting his
unique vision despite and because of his budget limitations, and
perfectly casting his stars to suit said vision.
We all know the drill by now, so let's talk quality. Linda Hamilton portrays Sarah so well as a normal young woman, confused by this sudden chain of events, that she has logically no choice but to buy into Reese's story. Michael Biehn fits Reese to a T with a gruff yet youthful look, a perfect look for a determined soldier fighting a war he wants to end badly, despite his limitations. Though it's under a relatively short amount of time, Cameron takes his time for the audience to really get to understand both Sarah and Reese's predicaments to have characters to root and care for, to see them find a way out despite the odds. And a romantic twist is added by Cameron that surprisingly doesn't feel forced, yet somehow perfectly (and ironically) completes the time travel loop that secures John's existence. We're dealing with a romance that transcends both time and space, and Cameron handles it so well, he would revisit these romantic traits with greater detail in his future megalith "Titanic".
What makes the film work more than it should is Cameron's genius in casting Schwarzenegger as The Terminator. A former Mr. Olympian, Schwarzenegger is renowned for his sculpted body straight out of a Greek stone garden more than his acting prowess. No matter, his manner of speaking less, and frighteningly intimidating stare clearly unnerve the hell out of audiences, and they still do today. Say what you will about Schwarzenegger's career as an action icon/live-action meme, the man still has a stare that can kill. His strong, iconic Austrian accent works wonders with the machine-like delivery that Cameron was intending. With Schwarzenegger's casting, the stakes are higher for both Sarah and Reese to escape this monstrosity.
Because time-travel is involved and explained in an easily digestible way (physics be damned), and because Cameron directs with such efficiency and confidence it might as well be made today, the film has aged exceptionally well despite some cornball stop-motion effects that show off its low budget all due praise to the late Stan Winston though for his remarkable, if not grotesque, make-up effects and design that add to the sheer horror aspect of the film. It is a testament to Cameron's genius that he has managed to combine great talent both in front of and behind the camera, into creating one of the seminal and memorable films of the '80s decade, and one that will spawn a successful sci-fi franchise with a dedicated fanbase. Make no mistake that the basic framework of "The Terminator" essentially represents a B-movie at its surface (Cameron did tutor under B-legend Roger Corman, after all), but Cameron pulls off more tricks up his sleeve. There is a lean, mean atmosphere that permeates each scene throughout, making 1984 Los Angeles seem like a lurid fever nightmare, but that's secondary compared to the hellish, poverty-stricken future he has envisioned for us humans. Brad Fiedel's metallic, iconic score seeps through every alley and night- painted street with a sense of dread and gloom, the synthesized, electronic score complementing Adam Greenberg's cyan-tinted, industrial cinematography to make it feel all the more nightmarish.
Most people back than would have balked or be amazed at a wireless internet connection for everyday use, as if we are surrendering our will to technology for it to take over our lives. And I'm seeing it being endorsed in many a commercial or article. Is the development of technology a bad thing? Not at all. But a good servant can be a bad master, especially if left out of control. Cameron had a fear of that, saw the vision, and ran with it all the way. If we were to leave our household chores to artificial intelligence, or the military leaving unmanned drones to scour the battlefield, what's there to say that eventually artificial intelligence would be used to secure nuclear weapons? Or that they might even become sentient - Cleverbot and Siri may be precursors to Skynet, and Japanese technology is developing robotic humanoids that can deduce for themselves in the near future. The war shown in the film may take place in 2029, but Judgment Day can still happen. Better never than late, I say.
"The Terminator" may be surpassed by its immediate successor in terms of scale and action sequences, but this is a leaner, meaner film, and its initial allegory remains superior and more clear-cut; in the realms of science fiction it remains unmatched, as a bleak reminder of the future and technology gone wrong, perfectly represented by its unstoppable, merciless eponymous monster of a character, but also that of humanity's undying spirit to create their own fates. Cameron might have come a long way since then, having helmed two of the most expensive and highest- grossing films in history back-to-back with some truly groundbreaking visual effects technology implemented in both, but this only highlights his original, cautionary vision for the future, one that we are all far too willing to embrace wholeheartedly.
There is a scene in Gareth Edwards' "Godzilla" that made my skin crawl.
It is the HALO jump sequence, promoted heavily in the teaser trailer,
accompanied by György Ligeti's hair-curling orchestral piece "Requiem",
made famous in Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey" when Dave Bowman
entered that portal. The sight of minuscule soldiers falling down into
apocalyptic clouds as they see destruction all around them with
gigantic, moving shadows is a work of terrifying, spectacular beauty;
one of the best recent film sequences I've seen and heard. To
experience it in IMAX 3D adds to the nightmare fuel.
Some other startling bits involve numerous disaster sequences that so closely echoes various natural disasters of the past decade. Viewers may be reminded of terrible events like the tsunamis and earthquakes of 2004 and 2011 and the Fukushima nuclear disaster. Scenes like these will definitely strike a chord in those who fear mother nature's wrath, but of course they play second fiddle to the real star of the show, who like Colonel Kurtz in "Apocalypse Now", doesn't show up until the latter half of the film, but one can definitely sense its brooding, commanding presence.
Yes, 60 Years since it laid waste to Tokyo, the King of the Monsters triumphantly returns to the big screen after a 10-year sabbatical in this mammoth-sized entertainment that shifts the Big G into summer blockbuster territory, obliterating Roland Emmerich's turkey into smithereens.
Like last summer's "Pacific Rim", "Godzilla" features gigantic-scale action set-pieces and crowd-pleasing moments, though in large part due to Edwards' skillful and intelligent direction, it entirely eclipses the latter film. Edwards (in only his second directorial feature following the 2010 microbudget "Monster") probably felt the same thing a lot of people did in "Pacific Rim" - too much action sequences that were dragged out for the purpose of pleasing its core audience. He is wise to limit Godzilla's appearance until the second half of the film, and even so limit his presence until the explosively entertaining climax, taking a page or two from Hitchcock and Spielberg's "Jaws" about restraint. The film was made with a "spectator" point of view - the audience sees Godzilla as if they were really seeing him, be it the TV screen or while avoiding the unrelenting chaos around them. Edwards didn't just learn from Spielberg as much as he pays a glowing tribute ala J.J. Abrams' "Super 8". See if you can spot the references to "Jaws" and "Close Encounters" in this review. There's even references to "War of the Worlds" and "Saving Private Ryan", among other movies.
Not that it isn't a real film. Whilst "Pacific Rim" is a film tailor-made for fans of the kaiju/mecha genre, in the same mold that most Marvel superhero films and 'Expendables' films cater to their target audiences, "Godzilla" is made like an old-fashioned blockbuster, down from its gripping, foreboding opening to its doom-shrouded action-packed climax that provides a well-earned catharsis to the ominous buildup from the previous 90-minutes. The action sequences are a combination of the classic kaiju franchise with the ominous Biblical paintings of Gustave Doré, especially in the final 30 minutes. Seamus McGarvey's tactful cinematography and Alexandre Desplat's brooding, wildly unleashing orchestral score complement some truly awesome visual effects perfectly to make for the most visually stunning outing of the King yet.
Not that there isn't a plot. Max Borenstein's screenplay details something too spoiler that even the mere mention of the basic plot will give away too much, so I won't But the trailers do a damn good job about hiding the true plot of the film, which I must say is formulaic on the human characters' side, but pretty well-written and frenetic for the most part.
Oh right, there are other cast members in the film too, all A-listers, ranging from a brief Bryan Cranston giving a combination of Roy Neary and Walter White, Ken Watanabe looking as wise and mournful as the great Takashi Shimura in the original, and a military David Strathairn giving heavy-duty exposition as usual. Add Juliette Binoche, Sally Hawkins and Elizabeth Olsen as obligatory female characters and we have ourselves a heck of a cast that is severely underused. But we didn't come to see a Godzilla movie for a cast surely deserving of an Oscar Bait film. Pretty much the only human who takes center stage is tough, stoic military vet Ford Brody (Aaron Taylor-Johnson of "Kick-Ass" fame), who defiantly holds his own against all odds and comes off as a character who demands attention as to what his next plan of action is as chaos rumbles all around him.
Bottom line is, I liked what I saw, and Edwards has done a truly bang-up job resurrecting the King of the Monsters from cult fascination. If possible, watch it in IMAX 3D to savor the visual effects and sheer scale, and to hear that famous, mighty roar in terrifying rumbles. It's been a long time coming, but the King is back, and the monster movie is replenished with a vengeance. Would Toho/Legendary mind if I request a future outing?
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