Godzilla WYSIWYG

I took my wife to go see Godzilla this past weekend and then went again with my daughter on Monday.

Godzilla

 

Godzilla (2014) – Rated PG-13

The world’s most famous monster is pitted against malevolent creatures who, bolstered by humanity’s scientific arrogance, threaten our very existence.

You’re not fooling anybody when you say that what happened was a “natural disaster,”. You’re lying! It was not an earthquake, it wasn’t a typhoon! Because what’s really happening is that you’re hiding something out there! And it is going to send us back to the Stone Age! God help us all…

Clearly an executive saw Gareth Edwards’ 2010 film, Monsters. He wanted that film, only he wanted Godzilla in it. Lo and behold, Godzilla 2014 was born. WYSIWYG – what you see is what you get. This Godzilla film is pretty much exactly what you would expect from a melding of Monsters with the Godzilla franchise.

Unfortunately that is not always a good thing. As with Monsters, the humans are the focus of the picture. While this is good from an audience sympathy perspective, it is terrible from a desire to see monsters smashing scenery point-of-view.

Instead of a normal three act structure, Godzilla consists of two parts. The first half deals with humans and no monsters at all are seen. Yes, opening credits aside, Godzilla neither appears nor is even discussed for almost the first half of the movie.

This is a shame because the trailer basically lies. It not only gives you the impression that there is plenty of monster violence but also that Bryan Cranston is the star. Bryan Cranston is easily the best actor in the film but his screen time is very limited. I think he is just an excuse to tide you over until monsters show up.

Unfortunately our lead actor is Aaron Taylor-Johnson. While I didn’t think he was bad in Kick Ass, he is absolutely terrible here. You know you have a problem when not one but two (not especially good) child actors are better than you. Ken Watanabe looks pained at every ridiculous line he has to utter.

The script is an utter mess, jumping through various logistical hoops to get Ford Brody (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) into every scene, from Japan to Hawaii to California. When his son is not with him to be placed in peril, another child is separated from his parents just so Ford can rescue him.

The second half features plenty of wonderful CGI and rock ’em, sock ’em monsters. This assumes you have managed to stay awake through the first part. Gareth Edwards has a lot of wonderful visuals. He also loves reflections in water, glass, mirrors, and visors. The monster action is seen up close (though not as close as Pacific Rim), in fog and smoke, via telecast, from overhead, etc.and is very inventive.

While the movie is a mess, has terrible acting, and is downright dull for the first half, I still really enjoyed the second half. Just concentrate on enjoying your snacks during the first half.

Spoilers – Entertainment Weekly and Kevin Smith

“A bad day at the movies is still better than a good day exercising.”

I normally never post spoilers. I am basically the anti-Entertainment Weekly. For those who don’t know, EW regularly spoils shows and movies just after they’ve aired. Recently they spoiled a major plot point from the third season of American Horror Story on the cover of their magazine BEFORE the episode even aired.

I have learned to skim or avoid any article about things I like. That said, a spoiler I do like is Kevin Smith’s movie series, Spoilers.

Spoilers

 

Spoilers with Kevin Smith (2014) Рnot rated but foul language is used.

Watch “Spoilers”, Kevin Smith’s movie “revue.” Spoilers is a multi-act film extravaganza mixing lively group chats, interviews with movie and pop¬†culture icons, animated shorts and cinematic reenactments. Each week, Kevin, a special guest and movie lovers passionately sound off on the year’s most anticipated summer blockbusters, breaking down their favorite scenes and what should have been left on the cutting room floor.

After a year and a half hiatus, Kevin Smith’s Spoilers has returned. The first seven episodes of the second season are now available on Hulu. I enjoyed the first season more but the second season is still worth watching.

As the title implies/states, the movies covered are often spoiled so viewer beware.

Breaking Bad

 

* I finally got to finish watching Breaking Bad with only one character arc having been spoiled for me (by Entertainment Weekly naturally). Of course I won’t spoil anything for you but I will say that the ending was leagues more satisfying than the rather poor wrap-up to Dexter.

Good Television – Breaking Bad and Top of the Lake

Top of the Lake is currently available on instant Netflix.

Top of the LakeTop of the Lake (2013) – Rated TV-MA

When pregnant, 12-year-old Tui tries to kill herself in a freezing New Zealand lake, Detective Robin Griffin has plenty of questions for the girl. But when Tui suddenly disappears, Griffin finds herself knee-deep in small-town secrets.”

Normally I vette the shows I put on for my wife. We loved Helen Mirren’s Prime Suspect and enjoyed Mireille Enos in The Killing. Seeing Mad Men’s Elisabeth Moss headline a mystery set in scenic New Zealand seemed a no-brainer.

Top of the Lake is quite good as is Elisabeth Moss. Holly Hunter steals the show as a guru of sorts. The scenery and cinematography are wonderful.

I do have to warn you though that we were surprised as the story deals frequently with rape, incest, child abuse, sexual identity, and sexual abuse. In other words be prepared for a lot of adult content, very little of it of a happy nature.

Breaking BadBreaking Bad (2008-12) – Rated TV-MA

Emmy winner Bryan Cranston stars as Walter White, a high school science teacher who learns that he has terminal lung cancer and teams with a former student to manufacture and sell high-quality crystal meth to secure his family’s future.

Netflix just released the first half (eight episodes) of the last season of Breaking Bad (just in time to catch up for the final eight episodes). I have to say that I loved these eight episodes. Each season of the show has gotten better and better and I’m really glad that it looks like they’re going to go out while they are at the top of their game.

I’m not sure how it will all end but they tease us in the first few minutes with where they are headed.

Drive

Nicholas Winding-Refn’s Drive just became available on instant Netflix.

Drive (2011) – Rated R

“A Hollywood stuntman who moonlights as a getaway driver is lured from his isolated life by a lovely neighbor and her young son. His newfound peace is shattered, however, when her violent husband is released from prison.”

“My hands are a little dirty.” – “So are mine.”

I really hated Nicolas Winding Refn’s Valhalla Rising. The production values were good but the script and direction veered from awful to pretentiously awful. I was not really looking forward to watching Drive.

Refn’s Drive turned out to be a nice little B-movie raised to the level of not-quite-high art by the director. The style is different from but akin to that of Michael Mann. The visuals are slick and cinematography by Newton Thomas Sigel is impressive. Los Angeles by night is absolutely gorgeous.

Sound design on the film is equally impressive and achieves a great balance between dialogue, music and sound effects. Drive was nominated for a Best Achievement in Sound Editing Oscar but lost out to Hugo.

The classic fable of The Scorpion and The Frog is woven throughout the film in a series of nice artistic touches. This ranges from the general theme and plot to visual touches such as Driver (Ryan Gosling’s character is never given a name) wearing a scorpion jacket through much of the film (i.e. carrying the scorpion on his back).

Acting is good but not great. Refn chooses to eschew dialogue in favor of meaningful glances. He did this to extreme in Valhalla Rising. Here it is toned down and less risible. Ryan Gosling is often just there to look cool. He gives his best Steve McQueen impression but comes across as something of a cipher – not really surprising given that his character doesn’t have a name.

Carey Mulligan, Ron Perlman, and Bryan Cranston put in nice performances. Sadly Christina Hendricks, fabulous in Mad Men, is largely wasted here in a very minor role. The surprise here is Albert Brooks in the first serious role I’ve seen him in. I would never have thought of him exuding menace but he nails his role.

Drive also reminded me of The Godfather (no Drive is not a classic). The violence was brutal but often came out of left field and was almost always startling. This is how violence should be handled in action movies. Several of the violent sequences stayed with me long after the movie ended and one in particular is absolutely chilling (no spoilers – it’s the one that takes place in the garage). Reportedly the head-stomping scene had to be cut many times to get Drive an ‘R’ rating.

Drive is definitely a matter of style over substance. If you can appreciate that style, this film is very enjoyable and highly recommended.

People Watch: Look for veteran character actor Russ Tamblyn as Doc. Russ is best known for his role as Riff in West Side Story but has been in everything from Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (Gideon) to Twin Peaks (Dr. Jacoby)