Monthly Archives: May 2014

Rental Corner: The turth behind “The Invention of Lying”

How one lie can lead to funny possibilities as Ricky Gervais reads his "Ten Commandments."

How one lie can lead to funny possibilities as Ricky Gervais reads his “Ten Commandments.”

It seems Ricky Gervias had a hard career and a lot of hate. I recall seeing a Toyota commercial reflecting this on how his son is going down the list of hate mail and ticking it off. After seeing the recent new Muppet movie and “The Invention of Lying,” it brings me to wonder if its his persona on screen or off. And seeing how I don’t see much of his shtick off-screen, its probably for the best as his on-screen persona is actually likeable. Unlike Adam Sandler where he’s a goof in his recent flicks and kind during interviews, Ricky is funny in movies but from what I heard, not so in public. Probably should do more research on that. But in any case, what “The Invention of Lying” does show is that at least Ricky does have a sense of humor.

The premise for this feature is very clever. Mark Bellison (Ricky) is a struggling movie writer who lives within an entire world where no one can tell a single lie. Everyone says the exact truth as it is without over-exaggerating or fibbing. Now of course, they do over-exaggerate with the truth but only when its talking about someone’s looks or how they cook. This is a concept that sounds like it could be done in the wrong hands, but here it actually works for some really ingenious jokes. Advertisers pitch Coca-Cola as it is and not by the enjoyment factor. Movies are created like lectures by old scholars and Mark’s “lectures” on the Black Plague don’t seem to interest people compared to events like Napoleon that are more exciting.

Then one day, he somehow manages to create the world’s first lie and starts using it for personal gain. It is what you expect but its handled well. Does he use this for getting famous? Yes. Does he use this for obtaining riches? Of course. But does he use this ability to help others? Well, that is where this movie gets interesting but a bit uneven. Without giving too much away, he uses the lying ability to soften the death of someone close to him by saying there is a world waiting for them when they die. Unfortunately,  this catches wind of many as they start to ask them is there truly a place that exists beyond death. So as you can guess, he tells them about a world that is full of riches and the world is controlled by an unseen man in the sky.

This is where things got uneven for me. The idea of satirizing real life and how we can’t escape the truth suddenly becomes a bizarre religious parody. Not to say its bad but this tone feels way different from what was established earlier and almost feels a little too Monty Python familiar. And don’t get me wrong, I love Monty Python and their shtick but it doesn’t fit here. To be fair, there are some creative visual gags like a take on the Ten Commandments with 10 facts written down on two pizza boxes but this material is written in a fair different style that feels way too weird when it comes in. There’s even a moment when he gets depressed about his  love interest and grows enough facial hair to look like a certain religious figure who you already might know. Again, these are great gags and concepts but it just feels a little out of place for me.

When the movie was on the world and how it couldn’t resist lying, it works. But when it stared becoming a comedic commentary on religion, it felt strange to me. I think this was handled better in movies like Monty Python’s Life of Brian and Bruce Almighty because the universe they set up their shtick in fits. Both are comedic take on religion without feeling like its a bash on it. But on the other hand, the Invention of Lying does show the consequences of his lying but not to full greater extent that I hoped for. Its there but it doesn’t feel like a bigger payoff. It does show that you can’t save people with a simple fib and you can’t change others with a fake truth. Life doesn’t work like that and you just have to live with choice you prefer. A world without lying or a world with one.

So, I can’t say this was a bad comedy as I did laugh at the jokes that were funny and I can’t remember a single time I didn’t. At least, till the religious stuff and the predicable love story tossed in. But does that make it bad? No. Most comedies you come across will have problems and some elements will not stick that much with some viewers. I loved the idea of a world with no truth and I was engaged with it. The religious stuff I could do without but its part of the plot so I can let it pass by. It does offer some creative jokes (verbally and visually) but I feel it was done better in other movies. Still, I fun laughing at it and I enjoyed seeing Ricky Gervias trying to twist a world that has no idea what falsehood is to the point of history being rewritten. Its also a rare comedy that shows you don’t need a big budget and heavy special effects to make a good joke work.  If you want a good laugh on a boring Saturday night, this one is for you. 100% honest.

Box-Office: “X-Men” Dominates Box Office Weekend; But No New Franchise Record

For the four day weekend, “X-Men: Days of Future Past” was the victor for Memorial Day weekend as it took top spot with an estimated $111 million. But just looking at the three-day weekend structure for most movies, “Days of Future Past” grossed $$91.4 million. While this is an impressive feat, how does it hold with the franchise? While it was a massive improvement over X-Men First Class’s opening weekend gross of $55 million but it doesn’t match the $102 million The Last Stand snatched in its opening weekend. While a bit low behind other big openers this season like Captain America: The Winter Soldier ($95 million) and Amazing Spider-Man 2 ($91.6 million), one should still regard its solid opening and its certainly a step-up from the previous X-Men flicks judging from its opening gross and “A” CineScore with positive word of mouth. Perhaps this will be a turn around for the franchise after all.

In second place is Godzilla with $31.1 million on its second weekend run ($39.4 millon if you go by Memorial Day standards). While this drop is not a hard one, its still a steep decline. The theory is that everyone went out to see the monster flick due to strong marketing and very much it became the movie viewers wanted or the one that left others half-pleased. My basic throught is that a good majority of folks itching to see its hype were the support for its $93.2 million. Thanks to its mixed word of mouth and though competition this week, its obvious to see why it stumbled a bit. But with $156.8 million already gained, one can be certain that its $160 million production budget will be obtained back in no time.

And not so surprising, the latest Adam Sandler comedy Blended grossed a dismal $14.2 million for third place (again, $18.2 million if you want to go by Memorial Day weekend gross). While a bit higher than That’s My Boy ($13.5 million),  its still a very weak gross when compared to the $25 million opening Jack and Jill brought in (and even that was considered a disappointed gross). The buzz promised a return to the Adam Sandler/Drew Barrymore comedies in hopes of generating enough buzz, but it looks like it wasn’t enough. Interesting as popularity in Adam Sandler comedies have been shrinking over the past years. Oddly enough, even Adam admitted in a recent interview with Jimmy Kimmel that this movie was made so he could take a vacation. Unfortunately, it feels that way already with some of his other entries.

Rental Corner: “Pompeii” blows…literally

How can the most epic and catastrophic moment in history be boring? They found a way....

How can the most epic and catastrophic moment in history be boring? They found a way….

It seems like historical fiction is of the norm these days. While “Gladiator” was inaccurate, it had some effort. “The Eagle” was a good retelling of the struggle between Roman power and Britain. What does “Pompeii” give us? Nice explosions with a  story so done to death that it feels like the writers were only invested in the explosion and tossed in a story to make it somehow connect. What this movie really is just happens to be a mix of Titanic and Braveheart with Gladiator pitted in the most cliché and ludicrous story that has potential but is handled in the wrong hands.

Game of Thornes’ Kit Harrington is a Celtic slave named Milo (and honestly, seeing how they refer to him as “Celt,” I barely remember his name altogether) whose tribe is slaughtered by Corvus, a Roman Senate leader (Kiefer Sutherland) who is in the generic batch of political villains that rule with an iron fist and just want to inject his views into others. Milo finds himself as a gladiator performer in Pompeii days before the volcano erupts and falls in love at first sight Cassia who is daughter to the ruler of the doomed city.

Their first scene they share together is about as strange that it plays out like a moment from a Zucker Brothers comedy but without the comedic stinger. Cassia is on a horse wagon and one of the horses trips onto the ground. Milo offers help and what does he do? To relieve Mr. Ed’s suffering, he snaps his neck. Cassia is not in shock but says it was the “honorable thing to do.” Lady, he killed one of your horses. I would be in more shock seeing my pet that I’ve had since who knows when get murdered like this. Does she find this revolting? No. She is immediately smitten for his choice to kill an innocent horse than try and revive it while on its last legs. That’s Roman times for you…I guess.

While that goes on, Corvus plans to wed Cassia so Roman influence can take over Pompeii as he plans to reconstruct the city in the image of his culture and mythos. But Cassia’s heart beats for the pathetic but will take anything on slave as Corvus pushes the limits to see Milo dead as a doornail and as you can predict, his efforts fail. He stages a reenactment with actual killings and Milo lives. He sends his best Roman champion to defeat him, but he is overcome by the quake of Mt. Vesuvius. He even goes as far to lock Cassia in a basement and tries to escape the impending doom and you can already see the pattern here. Hell, I wouldn’t be surprised if Corvus started to sport a top hat and long moustache while planning his next move to plant Cassia on a railroad track. It got that far.

To say there is a plot is an understatement. The love romance is taken from Titanic but it feels forced and undeveloped. Milo’s boiled revenge against Corvus is directly from Braveheart but feels not very motivated. And everything feels lifted from Gladiator as we partake in scenes in the Amphitheater of Pompeii that feel directly out of Ridley Scott’s historical drama. Even that movie had better effort seeing care was taken in mixing CGI and practical sets.  Here we some shots look well-blended but other times when the camera moves and jitters around, it feels like characters are moving on a CGI set. Even the violence is poorly staged as the PG-13 rating robs the brutal moves and killings as we see swords go in, and no blood gushes out. People are sliced at the torso and neck, but we see no scars. Its like we are watching a TV edit than a full on movie.

Even when the volcano erupts, there isn’t much spectacle to behold. The chaos is structured just like Titanic as civilians flee to boats that get overcome by a giant tidal wave. Ash and smoke fall on the doomed families that can’t get out of the place. People crushed under rubble and fallen pillars that are poorly staged as we just effects crushing effects and no feel for human emotion. Even when falling rocks the size of a baseball started to hail on some heads, I nearly laughed at the unintentional hilarity as it felt like something out of a Three Stooges gag. With a story that doesn’t have proper build-up to the chaos, what is there to care about when it hits them?

All I did was keep asking “so what ?” in this picture. The characters are not interesting, the dialogue is poorly written, the destruction is just the same amount of fire and smoke we have seen before and everything just feels dull and generic as the CGI brick houses that get hit with CGI rock that only makes us wonder if we are watching a special effect demo reel or cut scenes from a video game. Do Uncle Morgan a favor and rent The Eagle or Gladiator if you want a Roman epic. If you want a disaster movie, seek else where. There is a potential for a movie like this but at the end of the day, its a shame to see one of the most catastrophic eruptions in European history be turned into a basic disaster flick.

Rental Corner: “Empire” is crimminally underrated

A lost gem

A lost gem

Even after a few hours after watching “Empire of the Sun,” I feel its beginning to haunt me. Images of Steven Spielberg’s 1987 war drama are floating in my mind from the attack on Shanghai to the scenes in the prisoner’s camp with young Jim struggling to keep his youth from slipping to the harshness of the war and those around them. How can one film already make such an impact on me you ask? Well, you would be surprised.
Based on J. G. Ballard’s semi autobiography novel of the same name, James Graham, a young upper class school boy played by Christian Bale (yes, that Christian Bale) becomes literally lost in a sea of Japan’s battle to take over Shanghai International Settlement and eventually witnesses the horror of war that slowly diminishes his fantasy of it. His investment in airplanes keeps him trudging on and his fond view of pilots that guides his view through a depressing and episodic journey.

Most notable is a scene after the attack where he’s running around “surrendering” to Japanese troops who just shrug him off or see it as a joke. This is reality. Not a fantasy anymore. The streets that were filled with astounding hotels and amazing sights is close to rubble and being overcome by troops and urchins of the streets that try to take advantage of his possessions.

Not long after, he befriends an American Solider name Basie (John Malkovich) who looks like an aviator that the kid has dreamed of but during the film, we slowly see his true colors. Even the audience is duped by his “Artful Dodger” like nature as he tries to sell the kid’s teeth at one point and nearly abandons him as they are no good. The expectations are played around a lot as we don’t know if we should sympathize or hate him. In the end, we are drawn to our own conclusion as the stereotypical war image we see of him earlier is slowly stripped away to nothing more but an empty shell that has some kindness but not enough to deem him a hero.

Even pushed further is the depiction of the Japanese soldiers that hold Jim and a bunch of British and American refuges captive in a prison camp who at times respects some honor Jim responds back with and other times either test his faith or simply view him as a simple bystander. A perfect example is a moment when the general is destroy some of the camp in distraught over an attack on their harbor and is about to destroy the windows to the hospitals. As the doctor tries to prevent it, Jim instead smashes two of them and the general ceases the raid. Why does he do this? Does this mean he thinks Jim has some respect for him? Or was it just the thought of another American doing his work enough to please him? This is mirrored later when he beats Basie for a bar of stolen soap that Jim gave him and the kid tries to do the same thing but instead is fallen to a deaf ear. Moments like this really play with the viewer’s expectation and surrounding of the world. Is this all good faith or is it just action that means little or nothing?

Empire of the Sun is a beautifully filmed feature that I can’t do justice to. Even many have noticed the dream-like quality that carries out as Jim goes through the harsh moments while holding to every bit of innocence. This is brought further when Jim wonders if life is a dream by God or is it the other way around. The curiosity of a child that is even seen slowly eroded further when he sees the true horror of war. I don’t want to give anything too much away but by the end, you really start to feel the same amount of trauma creep into you that he gets.

The only problems I have is the theoretical aspect with Empire. Jim’s constant asking on the existence of God gets a bit redundant and is never given a good payoff. I curiously asked the significance until a certain key scene near the end when he questions it again that has some relevance but moments like that serve either little payoff or none at all.

Also is the transition from its dynamic moments to the light-hearted affairs midway. After much powerful imagery, when we take a five-year jump, it feels oddly uneven for a short bit as we see Jim’s established trading network and relationship with the captives. It’s not a bad scene but it nearly took me out of the movie for a moment for its sheer whimsy. After a long-range of powerful scenes in the tarnished streets and seeing people in reserves close to death, this is what we get. But after that, the film slowly trudges back its to roots that were placed in the beginning so you could argue that it was showing Jim in his prime before the negativity hits him again, but it felt a little off to me.

Even after that, the stuff that comes is nearly equally powerful to what we got earlier. There’s a moment when Jim watches a ceremony take place with a couple of Japanese aviators that causes him to break down and salute them. They look at him with curiosity but not enough to look back and return the honor or even cease his amazement. Let me tell you, not since E.T. have I shed a tear at a moment like this that captures the overall image of the film. In fact, the whole rest of Empire holds up really well and I never felt this emotionally attached to a Spielberg film in a long time or even cried more than once at it.

I really wish more people would check this one out and thanks to its Blu-Ray release, it looks marvelous in HD. This is up there with the Hudsucker Proxy and Pink Floyd’s The Wall as the kind of movie that deserves to be seen a huge screen. Its gripping, powerful, epic and showcases the director’s own view of the war and the tragedy it brings. It’s a coming of age story about the innocence of one boy and its struggle to hold on to it even he knows at some point, it has to be given up. And even as I write this, I’m fortunate to say a lot of it will haunt me to remind how much of our childhood doesn’t stay with us for long.

Box-Office: “Godziila” is the king after all

This was an interesting fight as Godzilla took on the web-head himself and came out with an astounding top weekend spot at #1 with $93.2 million. The $160 million dollar epic has truly payed off in the long run for Warner Bros and Legendary Pictures who finally succeeded in making a monster movie that is enjoyable but yet moving. However, not too many agree as other movie-goers felt it was a good flick but gave mixed reactions. The general consensus is that its well made but the satisfaction is only half there judging form its “B+” rating on CinemaScore and its Rotten Tomatoes score of the audience shows that 76% liked it. Either way, its a huge improvement over last year’s domestic bomb Pacfic Rim (which did better business overseas to save its hide) and far better than Roland Emmerich’s take (which I still have a heart for but for the wrong reasons.)

Else where, hyped as hell flicks Neighbors

He's back...and bigger than before

King of the Box Office!

and The Amazing Spider-Man 2 dipped this weekend as the Seth Rogan comedy took in $25.1 million in second place and Marc Webb’s highly anticipated sequel that is getting a mixed backlash dropped to third place $16.8 million. Still, both movies had a chance to shine in their brief opening runs and so far have gained back its production budget. However, their reception doesn’t match the high praise Legendary Picture’s giant monster is receiving as Marvel’s web-head got a lot of mixed reviews from the critics and Spider-Man fanbase while Neighbors was likened but its bawdy humor is obviously not for everyone.

With the major success of Godzilla, talks have a sequel are already in the works as director Garth Edwards (Monsters) hinted that it would be influenced by Destroy All Monsters with the “Monster Island” concept. Only time can tell when viewers will know which monsters will be retooled (Mothra anyone?….Ghiedorah?) or if any case, which creatures will be newly utilized.

But Godzilla has a new enemy surfacing this coming weekend. The much talked about X-Men: Days of Future Past and the less hyped Adam Sandler comedy Blended that reunites the struggling comic with Drew Barrymore. It seems things are repeat itself a bit with another Marvel property and a low-brow comedy but this time on the same weekend. Will the big lizard be able to hold them off for the top spot? Can Marvel strike again? And when do you think Adam Sandler will finally call in quits? The answers to all depend on what viewers are really champing at the bit for.

The Mysterious Case of “Pacific Rim’s” Box Office Bombing

The movie that divided viewers....

The movie that divided viewers….

I must ask why did “Pacific Rim” bomb in the US while “Grown Ups 2” become a big hit? It seemed predictable that one would be a far better film seeing the hype and buzz but how did Del Toror’s magnum opus about giant robots and fierce sea monsters get taken down by a lame, lame, lame, lame, lame, lame, lame and completely unfunny Adam Sandler comedy?

First, Pacific Rim was a hard movie to sell and after watching it, I can see why. The idea of monsters from another world taking over is not a bad idea and the concept of having a facility where that is taken care of by means of giant robots controlled by people is hair-brained but executed in such a clever way. What the tv and trailer ads didn’t talk about is how it takes TWO to control a massive machine and how the people have to be literally linked together in order for the thing to work. Its an interesting theme on relationships and trying to find balance with one another.

But this leads to one problem with Pacific Rim that I have with it. Its a very well set-up universe with complex concepts but in the long run feels way too complex. Its never easy to make a movie that will please anyone when they are either too simple or stuff with too much rules for the universe its placed in. And here, I think there is too much which I feel should have been saved for a sequel. Things like seeing the home world of the Kajui should have been kept a mystery and while I did enjoy Ron Pearlman’s character as a black market dealer with giant monster organs, I feel his presence hinted a bigger role for a future film in some way. Other ideas like how the monsters are possibly and mentally linked are not explained to the point where it feels like they pay off in the end but once again, it feels like build up to a second feature where more is explained.

I heard rumors that a 3 hour cut exists and if that is possible, maybe it has more material that just couldn’t fit a 2 hour summer blockbuster. But what we get is at least tolerable. The characters are well-developed, the fight scenes are cool (even if its CGI heavy and sometimes go on for too long in spots), the creature designs look amazing (even if they appear to be a bit TOO CLOSE to the monsters in Hellboy), and some shots feel iconic in their own right like a little child seeing a massive fight before her eyes.

So if Pacific Rim had the makings of a good blockbuster amidst its flaws, what does that leave for Grown Ups 2? Well, I have a few theories. Either people were unsure to make of Del Toro’s flick or the advertising just didn’t address the complex nature (as addressed earlier) which harmed a unique gimmick that could have saved the film’s marketing department. (They do address the whole “takes two to operate a giant robot” but not a single one said THEY had to be linked…think about it) Or people just wanted a bright shiny movie that even thought it looked stupid they just went for it because it was dumb fun as opposed to ridiculous but clever fun.

As for my thoughts on Grown Ups 2, what can be said that hasn’t? Well, for one the plot….its nothing. Just a random set of events that either don’t pay off or just conclude in a weak way. There are things like David Spade meeting his estranged son or Adam Sandler trying to bond with his kids while the mother has a day off as well as a group of frat college boys out to seek vengeance on the group, but 100% of them have a weak pay off or not one at all.

Worse is the production values. For a movie budgeted at $80 million, they sure needed a CGI deer and CGI David Spade trapped in a moving tire. For a film with that big of a budget, it feels like good money was wasted to sure a cheap quality. I sat though and only laughed with Shaq

...the movie everyone saw...I wonder if they regret it

…the movie everyone saw…I wonder if they regret it

was on-screen because of his clueless but fun natured performance. Everything else was met with dead silence or the munching of me eating potato chips to drown out the stupidity. Not even Taylor Lautner as a self parody of his wolf pack from the Twlight films can save this flick. Its just an insult waste of your time that once again brings me to my main point.

Grown Ups 2 was nothing. People paid to see nothing. And instead of being risky and seeing a loud blockbuster with explosions, opted for something less complex. Another theory I have deals with the blockbuster fatigue we had this year but I’m saving that discussion for a future FB post. The only hope I can say is that Pacific Rim will get new life over here on home video cause seeing how huge of a hit it was overseas, it makes me wonder if it qualifies as franchise material for both parties. Then again, Del Toro did make Hellboy 2 even if the first one didn’t go highly well domestically, so only time can tell….

 

Rental Corner: Silent cut of “Walking with Dinosaurs” still a rotten egg

Even on mute, this film is terrible

Even on mute, this film is terrible

“Walking with Dinosaurs” was a movie that many were slightly hyped at the start of 2013…and then later trailers showed they were given mental voices. However, the curious thing is that this move was intended to be seen without the voices as studio executives suggested it at the last minute. After finally seeing the Blu-Ray 3D’s “Cretaceous Cut,” I think I understand why they made such a choice as this movie was doomed from the start.

In the Cretaceous Cut, there is no talking and we just sit back and watch dinosaurs grunt and roar their way thought the plot. Its nice at first but then it gets old fast. I don’t mind seeing creatures being treated as natural things but I do think some narration could have been helpful like maybe Morgan Freeman or even Kenneth Brannagh from the original documentary this was based on. One hour and 15 mins of grunts and squeaks is just bothersome even when you have to focus on the plot. Again, I’m saying its not bad but when your movie is just noise, it can be hard to relate to each character.

And I know what you are thinking. Oh, its because they are animated like dinosaurs; show some backbone Morgan. Well, I would view them as dinosaurs if they weren’t animated to act “anthropomorphic.” I mean sure they are designed like dinosaurs and they move like them. But the main characters we are given and some of the side folks give off human expressions that throw me off. I want to view this movie as a recreation of an extinct species but when you have a cutesy Pachyrhinosaurus give off baby-like expressions it makes you connect them to humans and less animal. The dinosaurs in the Rite of Spring segment from Fantasia was more beast like and unique than this.

Now….I know what you are thinking. But Morgan, they are meant to be animated in a cartoony manner because its a movie for kids. True but let me tell you about the plot. The story centers around Patchi (at least that is what he is called in the version with talking), a Pachyrhinosaurus with a hole in its head that I can only guess is trying to migrate with the herd (see why I said narration was needed) and at the same time falls in love with another hatchling of his kind. But his “BIG BAD MEATHEADED” brother doesn’t want him to fall in love with his love interest as later in time he grows up to be a tyrannical herd leader that wants power and doesn’t want Patchi to steal his throne.

Yeah, this story has been done before hasn’t it. I mean its not like they couldn’t do anything new with it right? But no, they even have the dead mother cliché straight from the Land Before Time. And a group of sharp teeth carnivores that stalk the herd. So yeah there is not much new and worse of all is the message. If you have a brother who is a jerk, stand up against and toss him aside like an old glove. Because sympathy doesn’t exist in this world. Hell, Land Before Time did it better with Cera’s character.

Even the landscapes are not much as we are literally stuck in the forest throughout the whole movie. Oh wait, I take that back. We get to see a burning forest…and a beach near a forest…and a river…near a forest…and a giant glacier like valley with snow….NEAR A FOREST! Not only do they have no dynamic range in location but also no range of dinosaurs. What I mean is that we are given a limited number of creatures for the 75 minutes so those expecting a Brontosaurus or even a Velocoraptor will be disappointed. The BBC documentary from 2000s was better as it showed a different range of dinosaurs and had enough air to establish these creatures. And it wasn’t all CGI; sometimes they even had to resort to animatronics or puppets sometimes. This movie only has CGI creatures littering the screen and not making much impact with the ground. And when they do, they don’t even tear up the scenery or interact with it that much so even that is a disappointment.

And don’t get me started with the version that was released in theaters. The new material consists of a bookending segments with a family going off to find a fossil and a teenager learning about the story of one from a John Leguazamo voiced bird. And the dialogue crud ridden nightmare I will spare you from knowing is poorly done even considering the mouths don’t move and feel very last minute.

Even going into the Cretaceous Cut, I thought it was a Thief and Cobble case where scenes were missing from theatrical. In the end, I felt cheated even more as this version is really the entire dinosaur segment with the voices on mute. They didn’t even bother to recut this movie to remove things like a pointless gag that elaborates on the Gorgosauras and his tiny claws or a rewind gag which shows how pointless and distracting they are to the movie when we as a viewer just wants the plot.

They didn’t even make an attempt to do anything special with this “Cretaceous Cut” and just muted the voices thinking that is the only thing people wanted and just left in the pointless bits ALSO WITHOUTH NARRATION. I think the problem stands with this movie being too short and obviously geared to a younger audience who has no idea what a dinosaur is. What an insult to eyes and ears no matter what version it is in. This movie should entertain and not educate. Both cuts are bad in their own right as the overall movie is just bothersome no matter what version you view it in. So I leave this as a warning. If you plan to spend 25 or 40 bucks on the combo pack, just to see this “extra version,” save your money because this entire thing is not even worth your time.

To quote Gene Siskel, when he and Roger Ebert were viewing a French movie called “Little Indian, Big City” (which they later hated) and found a reel was missing and were told from the protectionist the studio would send the “lost reel,” “Even if that reel had the lost footage of Greed, this movie would still suck.” And that very much sums it up.

New “Godzilla” is best of summer

He's back...and bigger than before

He’s back…and bigger than before

Its hard to talk about Godzilla without giving anything away for newcomers and those who wish to go in spoiler free. So I will be fair and for those who wish not to be ruined to read this paragraph till it ends. First, I didn’t see Amazing Spider Man 2 (hell, I didn’t bother) and Neighbors. This was the movie I decided to start my summer on and I’m thankful I went to the Thursday screening. If you enjoy blockbusters that give a lot of character depth, this is the movie for you. But if you wish it was more action packed like World War Z….chances are you’ll still give a damn about it. With that said, those who wish to hear my thoughts….proceed with caution. Again, I will try to make this spoiler free as possible…but I can’t guarantee much….

I was worried when they made plans to do another Godzilla and even after watching Godzilla 1985, I grew a little cautious after seeing what kind of “mockery” they did. Again, I have an upcoming episode on this so I’ll leave that there. But with a new movie on the big monster, I was curious. Trailers showcased his mighty and dynamic ability and presented that monster movies CAN be serious and fun too. I went in hyped as hell and boy, I wasn’t disappointed…well, almost.

The minute the opening credits started, I was hooked. Supposedly this is meant to be an “origin” tale but really they just sum it up in the opening title scene. Smart move. In fact, a lot of this movie is just told though images and subtle actions which give it an almost balletic feel that is moving and haunting at the same time. It knows when to be quiet and when to be serious and I haven’t seen anything like that since last year’s World War Z and The Crow.

The story is centered on the human characters that survive the chaos and most of the film is placed on a “family” kind of theme that doesn’t feel too phoned in. While I’m glad to see we get some heavily developed characters, the problem is that less time is focused on Godzilla. In fact, a good bulk of this movie is a huge tease as every confrontation and bit of monster destruction is saved till the final third when EVERYTHING is seen and not kept secret. Even I found myself rather disappointed with the first Godzilla fight between him and a giant bug like monster (which props to the design) is reduced to a quick news report.

But again, this all build-up and suspense to the final act when a California city is put to rubble from Godzilla’s battle between two “MUTO” creatures that are like giant cockroaches with a fiery bite. If you are able to put up with the character development and patience for the final act where it all pays off, good for you. If not and wish it was action-packed…well, I still say its worth going through it.

You see, most of the Godzilla movies in the past focus on the monsters and little on the human characters. Not sense Godzilla Vs. King Ghiedorah, can I remember an entry in the series when human characters were the focus. They move the plot as they are in the middle of Godzilla’s brawl and the monster’s path of destruction. It really puts you in the moment and has an rather grim throwback to the natural disasters of the past. It treats the monsters like if Mother Nature herself was on a rampage as MUTOs represent the wind and Godzilla controls the tsunamis of the seas. Its funny how when Godzilla is enraged, he creates a tsunami before battle marking his entrance and yet at the end, it is bookended when he returns to the waters and makes calm waves. Nice touch.

Above all, this is truly a vast improvement over the 1998 film and it shows. While you do get less of the big lizard, you still get a very engaging and fun flick that I will admit is by far the darkest Godzilla movie I’ve seen to date since his fight with Destroyah. In a way, it does feel like a reboot of that one considering the insect-like tendencies of the MUTOs. In a way, we feel like ants to them when they battle it out and make us wonder what is it like to be small and in the middle of a monster’s brawl. Director Gareth Edwards of Monsters successfully captures this so well it makes Pacific Rim seem like a TV show and less of a blockbuster. Hell, it blew that movie out of the water tonight and I’m not surprised if it does the same for many. All I can say is go in with low expectations as hopefully by the end, you will see the (or if not) ONE of the best summer movies of the year so far.

Rental Corner: “Godzilla” still powerful since 1954

King of the Monsters since 1954

King of the Monsters since 1954

Before I review the reboot, I figured it would be fair to discuss the original 1954 Godzilla and its American recut. My expectations were very low in this “re-watch” as I didn’t remember much of both cuts aside from the conclusion and some destruction. Well with that said, how well do these two hold up. To be honest, they both do…to an extent.

The original Japanese cut is very much serious with political overtones of weapon testing and themes of when man defies mother nature. It’s interesting to see village folks associate a radioactive creature to their own culture thinking myth over scientific fact. It’s a shame they do go a bit deep in the first half but then it switches over into a message about dealing with two different monsters; man against mother nature and mother nature against man.

This is shown further with a scientific expert that has a deadly weapon that might be the key to stopping Godzilla. The problem is that this is a weapon of ultimate destruction and fears if it gets placed in the wrong hands, it would be a powerful tool that would be used carelessly. Things like this really echoes the after effects of the World War II attacks as we see the true tragedy that strikes the city and its civilians from Godzilla’s rampage. This is more than a monster movie. It’s an allegory for how deadly and tragic war can affect us.

The scenes with Godzilla attacking Tokyo is a marvel in its own right. Its crude but yet something about how it’s staged and the use of models and puppets is mesmerizing. I recall Roger Ebert calling the special effects crude and comparing it to King Kong’s more fluent use of stop motion claiming a 1930s movie having more believable effects. Here is where I beg to differ. King Kong is a far different movie as Godzilla is. And while marvelous, creative and groundbreaking as Kong’s effects were, one must understand these effects were for the time. Even the cuts to Kong’s mechanical head seem off-putting but what holds it together is the effort.

Sure Godzilla is a man in a rubber suit but he is really giving it his all as a real person is near explosions and all sorts of pyrotechnics. Now, which is more putting the effort here? A stop motion creature or a man who has to be near buildings blowing up to the point he could be deaf? You decide.

If I did agree with Ebert on one thing, it’s the ending. After much carnage, things get subtle and quiet as Godzilla’s defeat comes at the same weapon that one professor feared earlier. It’s not a heroic ending where things come out unscathed as one man gives life to bring down a giant monster. Its moving and powerful but maybe a bit too soft. After seeing much destruction, its something that really undermines Godzilla after what damage he can do and is brought down by a simple task.

Even phoned in more is the words of a professor who claims that if more bomb testing is done, more Godzillas would appear. May I remind he is pointing this out after a man sacrificed his life and doesn’t give much comment about that. It still has a haunting tone that will stay with you for a while.

The American recut is a different take. It removes much of the subtle political overtones and instead brings entertainment. Raymound Burr is a reporter caught in the middle of the carnage and gives the film a near documentary style that is unique in its own right. This version goes to great lengths to give the illusion that he is there but yet we can obviously tell when the new scenes come in and when the Japanese cut appears. At least its a better effort than Godzilla 1985 (more on that in the future) and they do try so I’ll give where it is due but wish it was handled better.

Gone is the phoned in message and instead a message of hope is placed. To compare, I miss the message because it gives viewers something to think about. Its a shame much of the debates scenes are axed down and referenced to the Hiroshima bomb are heavily toned down as they would have made a much darker but interesting cut.

Overall, both movies still hold up but I feel the original version is your better bet. At times it does talk about elements on the H-bomb but does it without being too preachy. When Godzilla is on-screen, you feel his dangerous presence which has always been around since he first rose from the sea. Here is hoping that after 60 years of terror and bringing on a franchise that has its huge array for fans, that what we get will honor the king of the monsters at long last.

The Chronicles are back!

After much thought, I decided to resurrect my old blog with new reviews and such. I missed writing about movie reviews and that is something I want to keep on doing. So starting with the new Godzilla and the old, the Blockbuster Chronicles is back in business!!!