Last of the Monster Kids

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Monday, May 26, 2014

Director Report Card: Bryan Singer (2014)

9. X-Men: Days of Future Past

It’s hard to believe that the “X-Men” franchise has been running for fourteen years now. 2000’s “X-Men” was the movie to truly throw the gates open on blockbuster comic book adaptions, making it partially responsible for the current, exhausting summer season cycle we’re stuck in. However, the superhero movie landscape of 2014 is very different then 2000. The Marvel Cinematic Universe changed everything and now every major studio wants one of their own. Fox is hoping to extend its already long-running X-franchise into a series of interconnected spin-off films. Which makes “X-Men: Days of Future Past” Fox’s “Avengers,” the massive cross-over movie, the pay-off to years of build-up that will, ideally, set up countless future films.

It’s also a direct sequel to 2011’s well received “X-Men: First Class” and an adaptation of a beloved classic comic storyline. The storyline plays out over two different eras. The cast members of the first three “X-Men” movies live in a dystopian future were mutant-hunting super robots called Sentinels are very close to making man and mutant both extinct. In a last ditch effort to save the world, Professor Xavier has Kitty Pryde send series mascot Wolverine back in time. Or, at least, his mind anyway. In the past of 1971, he meets the younger version of the X-cast, last seen in “First Class.” Wolverine has to get Xavier back in shape, spring Magneto from a highly guarded prison, and stop Mystique from murdering the man who invents the Sentinels, thus sparking a wave of anti-mutant sentiments.

The split storyline of “Days of Future Past” presents some interesting opportunities. The film does not follow the traditional time travel premise of someone going back in time, body and soul. Instead, Wolverine has to remain perfectly still and safe in the future while he does what needs to be done in the past. Should anything happen to his future body, or should his past self receive a major shock, he’ll snap back, the mission failing. This device winds up creating far more suspense then expected. The climax plays out in two eras. The action in 1971 threatens to send Logan’s mind reeling back into the future. The action in 2014, giant doom-robots attempting to break in and kill his comrades, threatens his body. Cutting between two time periods like that might have damaged the movie’s pacing but “Days of Future Past” makes it work, both story lines affecting the other.

The future sequences are effectively grim. The movie opens with an extended scene of the Sentinels murdering X-Men, some of them established characters, some of them new introductions. Amusingly, after slashing through the cast members, the timeline snaps back, leaving the audience confused for a minute. The script seems to delight in dark moments like this. Throughout the future scenes, numerous familiar characters are killed, usually impaled on giant robot spikes. Perhaps the film was aiming for pathos with these deaths. Instead, it plays like a kid delighting in destroying his toys. Bryan Singer has returned to the franchise he started to end it, never hesitating to cleave through his established cast. It provides an exciting, “anything can happen” edge to the film.

As an apocalyptic conclusion to the original “X-Men” series, “Days of Future Past” is fairly successful. As a direct sequel to “First Class,” it’s less satisfying. That film’s ending set up a number of interesting ideas, Xavier’s fresh team of X-Men battling Magneto’s newly formed Brotherhood of (Evil) Mutants. “Days” dispenses with all of that entirely. Save for a cameo from Lucas Till’s Havok, all of the previous film’s supporting cast has disappeared in the margins, most killed off between movies. Charles Xavier is broken down, like Bruce Wayne at the start of "The Dark Knight Rises." The academy is closed and in disrepair. His powers are suppressed by a drug that allows him to walk. This is a clumsy plot device, mostly there to get Xavier’s plot-breaking superpowers out of the way. MacAvoy’s stringy hair, shaky moments of need, and syringe dependency is awkwardly modeled after heroine addiction. That’s a questionable comparison and one not truly fitting the character. Magneto, meanwhile, is in prison at story’s start. The plot forces Xavier and him to work together again. Basically, “First Class” promised a proper adaptation of Silver Age X-Men, the good X-Men fighting the Evil Brotherhood. The sequel skips over all of that, consigning the potentially fun stuff to the space between movies.

“First Class” was also the first X-Men movie without Wolverine in a major role, allowing other characters to take the spotlight and shine. “Days” does away with that too. Logan is at the story’s center, determined to be the only person who could survive the time jump. This forces the character into a story he doesn’t truly belong in. Wolverine works best as a berserking warrior. Here, he has to be the heart of the group, healing the damaged Charles and convincing Erik to stick around. It’s an awkward fit for the character. Furthermore, Logan doesn’t truthfully have that much affect on the plot. He’s mostly there in the background, navigating from scene to scene. The moments where he’d be truly useful, the action scenes, deliberately cripple him. A mental blow takes him out of one fight scene while he’s dispatch early on before the big finale. All signs point towards Hugh Jackman’s Canadian crusader being inserted into the story for the sake of commerce. “Days of Future Past” is supposed to be the biggest X-Men movie so Wolverine, the series’ overexposed MVP, had to be in it.

This is all the more distracting since the story is supposed to be about Charles and Erik. Disappointingly, their shared plot line is mostly taken back to square one. The direction of their arc is the same as in “First Class.” The two start out working for the shared good of mutantkind. During the big, action-packed conclusion, Magneto takes things too far, revealing himself as a dangerous extremist. Both movies climax with a terse stand-off, the fate of the world in one character’s hand. Both end with Magneto giving a call to arms to his fellow mutants. The script doesn’t explore the nuances of the two character’s relationship. They’re still BBFs and worst enemies, willing to work together but ultimately forced apart by their differing ideologies.

Going into “Days,” my biggest concern is that the movie was cramming in too many characters. This is a lesser problem in the finished film. By compartmentalizing the original cast to the future scenes, it prevents them from mucking up the past-set story. The new mutants that are introduced are mostly defined by their abilities, playing out in action scenes. However, the scenes set in the past still have a lot of balls to juggle. Wolverine, Charles, and Beast are trying to prevent the apocalypse. Meanwhile, Magneto and Mystique are pursing their own objectives. The government is eager to get the ball rolling on the Seninel program. The finale is especially fractured, the four groups all headed in the same direction for totally different reasons. With so many things happening, it’s no surprise the more focused future set scenes are far more satisfying.

With such a packed script, some characters get the short shaft. Problematically, two of those characters are the most important plot-wise. “First Class” had Mystique shifting from merely Magneto’s number one henchwoman to a tragic character, torn between two worlds. Her plot line here is supposed to be an epic battle for the morality of her soul. Will she give into her hate and inadvertently trigger doomsday? Or will she forgive and forget, possibly opening the path to redemption? The character’s part was no doubt beefed up for now Oscar winning actress Jennifer Lawrence. Unfortunately, Lawrence has no idea how to play the character. There’s no soul behind her eyes. Her Mystique has no inner life, instead bounced around by the script’s demands. An especially clumsy plot twist has her and Magneto at each other’s throats. The climax is depended entirely on Lawrence’s acting and she simply can’t pull it off. The audience doesn’t care about Mystique’s fate, the character not proving particularly captivating. I’m beginning to think that the earthy, exciting talent we saw in “Winter’s Bone” was a fluke. Lawrence has given increasingly dull performances in her action blockbusters.

The more-or-less villain of the film is Peter Dinklage’s Bolivar Trask, the inventor of the Sentinels. However, the script seems very uncertain about how to treat the character. The movie is split, unable to decide if Trask is an amoral scientist or an idealist sent down a cruel path. Most of the movie has him pursuing the Sentinel program ferociously, seemingly doing it for the money and out of a hatred for mutants. Yet a curious scene clarifies that Trask doesn’t hate mutants. Instead, he claims to be inspired by their potential. Then why is he so eager to wipe them out? Was that little speech a moment of self-denial? Who knows. Dinklage is a talented actor but, like Lawrence, his character mostly serves the plot. He’s there to set up the story and neither movie nor actor plum his motivations much.

Perhaps all my discussion of plot balancing and character development is missing the point. “Days of Future Past” is an action movie. On that level, it succeeds rather spectacularly. The opening future sequence has a new team of X-Men battling the neigh-invulnerable Sentinels. Dynamic superpowers are nicely displayed. Blink tosses portals, a fantastically realized special effect, while Iceman ice surfs and Sunspot spews flames. When it was announced that Quicksilver was going to be in the film, seemingly out of spite against Marvel for using the same character in the next “Avengers” movie, the internet starting yelling. Bizarrely, Quicksilver winds up being one of the best parts of the movie. Evan Peters nails the character’s chaotic energy and care-free tone. The character provides a lot of humor and his speedster superpowers are realized in a surprisingly creative fashion. A howler of a sequence, goofily scored to Jim Croce’s “Time in a Bottle,” has Quicksilver manipulating a whole room of people, screwing around with the frozen folks mostly for laughs, only stopping the life threatening bullets at the very end. The movie never quite tops it.

The effects packed finale features robots exploding cars and Magneto lifting a sports stadium into the air. By that point, the humorous energy of the Quicksilver scenes has mostly left. “Days of Future Past” is dead serious by then. Yet explosions and levitating sports stadiums have their own pleasures, don’t they? The future half of this equation has Ian McKellen’s Magneto cutting loose with his power for the first time. He tears apart an entire squadron of machines, tossing the shrapnel around like spears.

The movie doesn’t take the time to explain each character’s powers. If audiences aren’t familiar with Blink or Warpath, played by the improbably named Fan Bingbing and Booboo Stewert, they might not understand what they can do exactly. However, there’s something refreshing about this approach. Instead of the script stopping and saying what they can do, the movie just goes with it. Non-comic readers might not leave with an exact idea of what Bishop and Sunspot’s powers are but they’ll at least have a general idea. These newly introduced characters are mostly there as action figures, fighting robots without delving much into their personality. This is actually a-okay with me. Half of the fun of the X-Men series, whether it be in comic, cartoon, or movie format, is seeing what crazy super powers the writers can cook up. Similarly, fans have long been wanting to see the Sentinels on-screen. The future designs rather smartly recall Nimrod, their power shifting ability brought to life well. The retro designs, meanwhile, look plausible in the time period while more accurately representing the classic Sentinel look.

 “Days of Future Past” does something else interesting too. Superhero comics are notorious for retconning unpopular previous events out of existence. When histories span on for decades, over thousands of issues and millions of pages, that’s not surprising. This movie might present the first time such an act was carried out during a superhero movie franchise. By the end, Bryan Singer has successfully removed most of the widely loathed “Last Stand” and “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” from continuity. Jean Grey, Cyclops, and Professor X are still alive. The Kitty Pryde/Iceman love affair has been completely sunk, both characters back with their director-preferred partners of Rogue and Colossus. Meanwhile, the ending seems to set up a new “Wolverine” solo flick that will completely retell his origins. Whether this is petty or not, one director stamping out another’s work, is up for debate. I’ve never hated “The Last Stand.” I actually sort of admire the way it closed off so many storyline. But there’s no denying that the happy ending Singer creates for his characters here are more satisfying and more true to the franchise’s overall spirit. Frustratingly, the director still refuses to acknowledge the plot holes “First Class” created, like Beast inventing Cerebro or Xavier and Mystique’s relationship being totally changed. Oh well. That’s comics for ya’.

The X-Men movies have always had fairly excellent cast and “Days of Future Past” is no exception. Patrick Stewert and Ian McKellen have been playing these characters for so long that they have no problem inhabiting the roles. Even if James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender have their talent repressed by the whims of the screenplay, the two actors still share a unique, fascinating chemistry. As a long time Ellen Page fan, it’s nice to see her having a bigger role then expected. Kitty might be reduced to a walking plot device but Page still gets some prime moments. The continually underrated Nicholas Hoult has some fun as Beast, getting to play with some refreshingly home-made, Bond-style gadgetry. The movie is even smart enough to push problematic actors, like Halle Berry’s Storm or Daniel Cudmore’s Colossus, to the background.

Like all modern superhero flicks, “Days of Future Past” ends up on a teaser, setting up fan-favorite supervillain Apocalypse. (And 2016’s “X-Men: Apocalypse.”) I can’t help but roll my eyes at this a little bit and not just because I think Apocalypse is lame. Must every superhero movie have a sequel, even those that seemingly wrap of their stories? By returning to the franchise he started, Bryan Singer makes “Days of Future Past” a proper send-off to the original X-Men class. However, as a sequel to the excellent “First Class,” the movie is far more problematic. I suppose those are the perils of the comic book crossover. For what it’s worth, the movie is still frequently successful at what it sets out to do. This might be one of the most unenthusiastic “Bs” I ever give out but it’s a “B” never the less. [Grade: B-]

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Bangers n' Mash 42: Godzilla: The Millennium Age

As promised, here's the last part of the Banger n' Mash Show's tour down Godzilla-related memory lane. Here we discuss the most recent era of the Godzilla series, the Millennium era which ran from 1999 to 2004. After working through "GMK," "Final Wars," and the rest, we share our extensive thoughts on the latest big screen appearance of the King of the Monsters. If you're reading this, I'm assuming you've seen it already but, if not, extensive spoilers are expected.

With this episode, my recent foray into the world of kaiju is over. On one level, I'm happy to move on to other stuff after dealing with guys in rubber suits for nearly three months. On the other hand, I'm sort of sad to see it go. Don't be totally shocked if giant monsters come up again before 2014 is over.

You'll notice updates have been a bit laid back this month. I'm more or less willing to write off May at this point, especially since I updated nearly daily in April. However, expect things to get back on track soon. My review of "X-Men: Days of Future Past" will be up tomorrow, probably, fulfilling my duties to my Bryan Singer report card. In June, I plan on starting a new Director Report Card, one that will come with a bunch of extras. Look forward to it. As for the Bangers n' Mash Show, we'll return to our more relaxed release schedule now. I told not to get used to weekly shows. 

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Series Report Card: Godzilla (2014)

30. Godzilla

I can’t remember the last time I’ve been as excited for a movie as I was for “Godzilla.” Maybe “The Avengers.” Once I think about it though, I’ve loved Godzilla longer then I’ve loved the Marvel superheroes. The increasingly impressive trailers, and director Gareth Edwards’ promise to make a great Godzilla movie, had this fan boy chomping at the bit. However, as I stepped into the theater, I had to remind myself: The bar this film needed to clear was not the massively entertaining, wildly imaginative, beloved Toho originals. Instead, the grading rubric should be against the infamous 1998 Godzilla film, the previous attempt to Americanize the character. I have no idea if this thought kept my expectations in check and it ended up not mattering. 2014’s “Godzilla’ is a roaring success and more then satisfied this life-long Godzilla fan.

In 1999, an accident at a Japanese nuclear power plant tears the Brody family apart. Father Joe continues to obsess over that day for the next fifteen years, over the mysterious circumstances of the core breach and his wife’s death. His son Ford, now a bomb disposal expert with a wife and son, has tried to move on. However, events pull father and son back together and it becomes clear that crazy ol’ dad was right all along. The government has been covering up the truth, that a giant monster that feeds on radiation was responsible for the breach. That creature, identified as a M.U.T.O. (Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organism), lived near the Earth’s core for millennia before the bomb test in the fifties drew it to the surface. The monster’s reappearance has drawn something else to out of hiding as well: Godzilla. Now, as the monsters battle, carving a path of destruction through the country, Ford tries to find a way home, hoping his family is safe.

The first and foremost question on every one’s mind going into this film is “Does it get Godzilla right?” This I can answer with a definitive “Yes!” Edwards’ Godzilla is a force of nature, paid the proper respect of awe and terror, that battles for the Earth and not necessarily mankind. Unlike Roland Emmerich, Edwards isn’t afraid of the creature’s real life subtext. The dangers of nuclear energy are a major theme in the film. Moreover, the director focuses on the people on the ground, the devastation the monsters wreck. The terms “dark and gritty” and “realistic and grounded” are overused these days as studio buzzwords. However, “Godzilla” is both of these things in the best meaning of the word. Amazingly, the movie successfully has it both ways. The new film is obviously indebted to the 1954 original for its dark tone. Yet it also delivers on the bad ass monster fights Godzilla fans want to see.

Something the filmmakers definitely understood about Godzilla is his design. They realize that slapping some back spines on a Velociraptor does not a Godzilla make. Instead, Edwards and his team maintain Godzilla’s basic outline. He’s a massive saurian creature, with a long, dragging tail, and jagged spines jutting from his back. At one point in the film, a little boy points at a television report of the monsters fighting and says “Look! A dinosaur!” Godzilla should be immediately recognizable as, well, Godzilla. While some Japanese fans have complained that the monster looks fat, this is an example of the film’s realistic approach. A creature as massive as Godzilla obviously needs a huge frame to support him. Since Godzilla is bigger then ever, the beefed-up approach is especially appropriate. Godzilla’s latest design combines elements of bears, crocodiles, komodo dragons, sharks, dogs, and dinosaurs. Even the addition of gills or flat, stubby feet don’t bother me. The look is different but this creature is unmistakably Godzilla.

The film is upfront about Godzilla’s nature, referring to him as “like a god.” Upon surfacing in Hawaii, Godzilla brings a massive flood with him, killing thousands of people. In his battle with the MUTOs, he doesn’t care about the buildings that get destroyed. Godzilla is a raw force of nature, not caring if the cities of man get demolished while he’s on his mission. Yet it may surprise viewers that Godzilla is also, quite explicitly, the film’s hero. Should the MUTOs reproduce, it would mean the end of mankind. Godzilla opposes them, saving the world. Whether he’s doing this just because he’s an apex predator or out of some sense of duty is left ambiguous. Yoshimitsu Banno, the director of “Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster,” was a producer on this film. The Big G is in a similar mode as he was in that film. A representation of nature’s wrath, Godzilla begrudgingly cleans up man’s mess. Should people get stomped or cities destroyed in the process, it’s no concern of his. We probably deserve it.

Any time an outside adaptation adds a new member to an established character’s supporting cast, fans are right to be skeptical. However, the MUTOs prove a great addition to Godzilla’s rogue gallery. The male MUTO is given a startling entrance, exploding out of a hook-shaped cocoon. One of his first acts is to stomp a fleeing soldier, establishing him as a very real threat. The creature can produce an Electric Magnetic Pulse so his appearances are frequently preceded by lights going out, a nice touch. The monster is treated as blatantly horrific. A memorable moment has him dropping a slime covered submarine in the middle of a Hawaiian field. The monster slinks around in the dark, his red, visor-like eyes reflecting ominously. It’s a nice touch that the MUTO mostly moves like a man in a suit, recalling the franchise’s roots. He has weight and a realistic gait. When he takes to the skies, it’s truly impressive, it’s black, bat wings swooping through the air, the monster gliding like a missile. The creature also intentionally recalls other famous kaiju. Various elements like the cocoon, the flight, the black wings, and the curved feet recall Mothra, Rodan, Battra, and Gigan. The film’s influences might even step outside of the Godzilla universe. The monster’s long legs remind me of Clover while its flat head reminds me of Gyaos.

The female MUTO is a distinct design as well. Towering over the male, the massive beast recalls both a gorilla and an elephant. The extra set of arms and pregnant, glowing belly make it a busier design. However, I still like the monster. Moreover, the film takes the time to gift the creatures with a personality. When passing a nuclear missile between their mouths, the two MUTOs appear to be kissing. When the monster’s nest is inevitably destroyed by the human hero, Mama MUTO glares at him, rightfully enraged. Despite being apocalyptic beast and the film’s de-facto villains, the audience still has a tinge of sympathy for the monsters. As it should be.

You might expect a Hollywood Godzilla film to shy away from the original’s anti-nuclear moral. Considering Gareth Edwards’ last film, “Monsters,” had a blatant political subtext, maybe it shouldn’t be surprising that his “Godzilla” maintains that message. The monsters are mutated by nuclear tests. They feed on nuclear energy and are called forth by our continued use of it. Repeatedly, they are lured out by nukes. It’s no mistake that the film nearly ends with an atomic missile detonating in the middle of a crowded city. Thus, the creatures are an indirect results of man’s abuse of the planet. We brought this destruction on our selves. The script nails this home by intentionally recalling the Fukushima incident. The MUTOs are the terrible results of man’s incompetence. Godzilla is the manifestation of how pissed off the Earth is by this. The latest “Godzilla” isn’t afraid of the King of the Monsters’ subtext, it engages with it explicitly.

The presentation of the monsters is what truly impressed me about the film. When Godzilla surfaces in Hawaii, attention is paid to his sheer scales. Buildings are dwarfed next to the massive monster, the people even tinier. When he stomps down near an airport, the ground shakes under his massive weight. The monster’s full reveal, punctuated with a thundering roar, is the first of the film’s many “FUCK YEAH!” moments. An often repeated image is of Godzilla swimming through the ocean, Navy battleships flanking him on both sides, looking like toys compared to the giant beast. As his back spines rise through the waves, huge ships are tossed aside casually. One of the film’s highlights involves Godzilla surfacing next to the Golden Gate Bridge. He stands tall over the structure, many looking on in fear, some in awe. A very suspenseful moment involves the female MUTO looming over a railway bridge. She’s enormous and the humans are tiny. By emphasizing the kaiju’s enormous size, the film returns the subgenre to its horror roots. The giant monsters are terrifying, as you’d expect an animal that big to be.

Also contributing to the film’s horror element is the amount of destruction the creatures reap. Special attention is paid to what the giant monsters do to the cities of man. At times, we see more of the aftermath then the actual creatures. The camera pans around, over, and through the ruined buildings. Planes are tossed out of the sky like stones. In a moment that rather uncomfortably recalls 9/11, a comparison the movie mostly avoids, has a jet suddenly crashing into a building. Near the film’s end, we see survivors pulled out of the rubble, firefighters running from their trucks. There’s even a small moment of humor, a public service announcement telling people to stay off the road crash-cutting to a packed freeway. That humor comes crashing down as we see why traffic has stopped suddenly: An airliner has smashed in the middle. In a world where Superman can punch through a skyscraper and the film never acknowledges it, “Godzilla” should be commended for showing the effect the destruction has on the innocents.

Gareth Edwards shoots with a wide lens. An early shot shows a massive sinkhole in glorious widescreen. Later, a man on a bridge is framed against the kaiju walking behind him. An early sequence is set in the ruins of the town abandoned after the nuclear disaster. There’s an eerie beauty to these scenes. The green moss that covers all the homes cast an unearthly glow. Edwards showed a strong visual eye in his first film and didn’t loose any of that talent as he transferred to Hollywood. So many summer blockbusters apathetically paint collapsing buildings with the same grey, drab brush. “Godzilla” distinguish itself from the pack. The final battle is painted in bold shades of red, purple, orange, white, and earthy brown. It’s a fantastic looking film.

“Godzilla” is an epic horror film that also functions as a crowd-pleasing action movie. The movie has an interesting approach to its monster battle. Godzilla stomping through Honolulu builds fantastically, the audience already aware of how dangerous the MUTO is. Just as the two monsters are facing down, ready to fight, the camera cuts away. We see parts of the scuffle briefly on a television afterwards. At the half-way point, the female MUTO destroys Las Vegas, pulling down the imitation Eiffel Tower. Godzilla and the villainous creature stare down each other, both unleashing a battle cry. The two move towards one another, ready to fight, before the movie cuts away again. This creative choice has been widely criticized by internet commenters. I don’t entirely disagree with that. It’s a risky move, intentionally toying with audience’s expectations like that. However, Edwards pulls it off, leaving the viewer wanting more.

Turns out the movie was building towards something, the delays having a purpose. The last half-hour of “Godzilla” is solidly devoted to monster wrasslin’. Going into the film, I knew there were two enemy monsters in it. I didn’t know there was going to be a three-way monster brawl. The smaller MUTO climbs on Godzilla’s back, stabbing him in the back and head with its legs. The flyer lands on his back, the monster grabbing and biting at him, tossing him aside. The bulkier female tackles him through skyscrapers. It’s extended and fantastic. A scene that caused an audible cheer, perhaps the biggest moment of fan service in the film, is when Godzilla finally reveals his atomic breath. Through the smoke and dust, his tail swings into view. The spines start to glow, spreading up his back, before the monster unleashes fiery death from his mouth. The defeats of the rival monsters are immensely satisfying. The killing blow Godzilla delivers on one of the monsters is a move I can’t believe the Monster King hasn’t done before in his sixty year history. “Godzilla” is not a movie just about Godzilla kicking ass but it doesn’t skimp on that either.

Aside from the movie not having enough monster action in, the other thing people are bitching about is the human characters. It’s true that, like “Pacific Rim,” the human characters are the weakest element of the film. Like Sam Worthington and Luke Evans before him, Aaron Taylor-Johnson is one of those actors Hollywood just decided is going to be a big star. Taylor-Johnson has yet to really blow anyone away with his talent. He seems too young and boyish in many of the scenes. His character survives all of the monster encounters through no will of his own. He’s tossed around by the script’s whim, surviving because he needs too. As his suffering wife, Elisabeth Olsen does a lot better. Olsen has proven adapt at playing panicked before and has plenty of opportunity to do just that. I honestly suspect the film would have been had she been the star instead. The story forces her off-screen far too frequently.

I suspect some of the disappointment from the film has come from Bryan Cranston’s role. The trailers made it seem like he’s the star. This isn’t “Godzilla vs. Heisenberg.” In truth, his role is actually rather small. In the screen time, Cranston tears its up, hamming his way through his line with assurance and boldness. As the in-jokey named Ishiro Serizawa, Ken Watanabe mostly glares off-screen, grimly delivering exposition. It’s not the best part but Watanabe plays it to the hilt. His best moment is a brief monologue concerning a pocket watch. Sadly, the same can’t be said of Sally Hawkins, one of the most likable actresses working today, who essentially plays Serizawa’s secretary. Similarly, Juilette Binoche’s part isn’t much more then a cameo. Still, I suppose one Academy Award winner and two nominees is an impressive pedigree for a giant monster movie.

My overall enjoyment of “Godzilla” can probably be measured in how few complaints I had about it. My biggest point of contention is that Akira Ifukube’s iconic score isn’t anywhere in the movie. Alexandre Desplat’s score is fine but he really should have incorporated some of Ifukube’s motifs. Oh, also the military tries the same dumb plan three times. You’d think the first time luring a monster out with a nuclear missile failed they wouldn’t try it again. Oh well.

“Godzilla’ is a daring blockbuster, a film that tries some really interesting things while also functioning perfectly as popcorn entertainment. More importantly, it gets Godzilla right. Toho’s famous creation finally has an American film that measures up to his legacy. As he wades back into the ocean in the final frame, releasing a triumphant shreeonk, all I could think was “The King is back.” Hail to the king, baby. [Grade: A-]

Bangers n' Mash 41: Godzilla: The Heisei Age

I'm going to publish stuff other then "podcast" episodes this month, I swear. I've been busy with stuff, you know?

I've seen the new "Godzilla" movie and my review of that will be going up in probably a half-hour or so. Until then, here's the latest episode of the Bangers n' Mash Show, continuing our own Godzilla marathon. After covering the classic films last time, we continue on to the Heisei era, of which you probably know I'm already a big fan of. We also rag on the TriStar "Godzilla" a little too. Sorry, couldn't resist.

Anyway, there's only one more episode in our Godzilla series left, which has already been recorded and I'm currently editing. Meaning I'll finally be putting kaiju movies behind me. At least for a while anyway.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Bangers n' Mash 40: Godzilla: The Showa Age Pt. 2

Would you believe I'm actually a little tired of talking about Godzilla movies? I guess after a month and a half of reviewing all the movies, talking about the series on my podcast/Youtube show feels a bit extraneous. However, I assume that my blog and the Bangers n' Show reach different audiences. Thus far, the evidence has shown this out. There's still two more episode left in this series though, so hopefully I'll learn to stop worrying and love Godzilla. Again. Not that I ever really stopped.

Highlights of this episode: JD and I performing an impromptu U2 sing-along, expounding on our shared enthusiasm for King Caesar, and sharing our hatred for Godzooky. More coming soon. Probably.