REVIEW: GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS (2019)

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GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS (2019)

Sequel takes place five years after the events of Godzilla 2014 with Godzilla keeping a low profile and being monitored diligently by the Monarch organization. Other creatures, or “Titans” have been discovered across the globe and the military wants them all destroyed, while Monarch believes they represent a balance in nature. Eco-terrorist Colonel Alan Jonah (Charles Dance) feels the Titans should all be freed to restore that balance and plans to steal the Orca…a device capable of communicating with, and possibly controlling the monsters…to accomplish this. He kidnaps Orca creator Dr. Emma Russell (Verga Farmiga), her daughter Madison (Millie Bobby Brown) and her invention and thus sends Monarch and Emma’s estranged husband Dr. Mark Russell (Kyle Chandler) in hot pursuit. But Jonah gets more than he bargained for, when he uses it to release the three-headed space monster Ghidorah from his icy prison and the beast challenges Godzilla for the title of King of the Monsters. Add in the Queen of the Monsters Mothra and the fire demon Rodan and earth soon becomes a monster sized war zone.

Trick r Treat director Michael Dougherty takes over from Gareth Edwards and seems to have a far better grasp of the material. He also does script duties along with Zach Shields, from a story by they and Max Borenstein. What we get is far closer to a Toho Godzilla film than the 2014 flick and one that is a lot more fun. Sure the plot is a bit goofy, but no goofier than an alien race building a robot Godzilla or a creature created completely from pollution. It’s filled not only with tons of fun references to Godzilla flicks of the past, but we get all the traditional story elements like devious villains, stalwart scientists, brave military types and a smarter than the adults kid. Not only are all the tropes proudly paraded out for those familiar with the series, but it has some of the most spectacular monster battles ever presented, as Godzilla, Ghidorah, Rodan and Mothra all converge to duke it out and destroy everything in their paths. The final showdown in the city of Boston is absolutely amazing and Yankee fans might even get a giggle over Godzilla and Ghidorah throwing down in the middle of Fenway Park. It’s also a true popcorn blockbuster, so even those not too familiar with the Big G and his 65 year history, can still enjoy the flick on a purely entertainment spectacle level and monstrously entertaining it is. Not to mention, the film’s final image is something every Godzilla fan has wanted to see from day one. On a technical level, the SPFX are amazing, the monsters are truly titanic and majestic and their destruction is on a totally massive scale. The score by Bear McCreary is far more fitting than Alexandre Desplat’s ho-hum score for Zilla 2014 and delightfully mixes in some of Akira Ifukube’s classic Godzilla themes to add a nice touch of nostalgia to the film.

The cast are good and all of them get the material. They play it seriously…but not too seriously. Leads Farminga, Chandler, Brown and Dance all do well in essaying their roles. Vera Farming as the scientist with a personal reason to get involved, is solid and helps us understand her decisions, even when they are the wrong ones. Chandler is fun as the father and husband trying to get his estranged family back. He’s a good lead and his old fashioned character fits this kind of movie well. Charles Dance is impeccable as ever as the villainous Alan Jonah, who like Thanos, thinks he is doing the right thing by trying to unleash these creatures. Millie Bobby Brown is especially endearing as Madison and in many ways is the emotional center of the flick. The supporting cast are all good, too, especially Ken Watanabe returning as Dr. Ishirō Serizawa and Zhang Ziyi playing Dr. Ilene Chen, a character who pays tribute to a familiar Mothra trope in a very fun and clever way. A good cast that even give some very corny dialogue a little dramatic weight.

Overall, this was a really fun and action packed sequel to a film widely criticized for skimping on the monster action. It has monster battles to spare, but still gives us some people time along with a very Toho-esque storyline. Michael Dougherty keeps the 132 minute flick moving very fast and pays loving tribute to the classic Godzilla flicks in some fun and very clever ways. Stay through the credits for not only an end credits scene, but for some amusing interwoven news items that echo what is to come. A gargantuan blast of a good time!

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 and 1/2 (out of 4) King of the Monsters.

 

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: GET OUT (2017)

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GET OUT (2017)

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Get Out is another movie surround by massive hype that it does’t really live up to, but is certainly worth seeing. The film tells of young black man, Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) going up to a wealthy white community to meet the parents (Bradley Whitford and Catherine Keener) of his white girlfriend, Rose (Allison Williams). Chris immediately starts to feel something is wrong, as her parents are a little too eager to see him and appear open-minded to him. Worse still, the only black people he encounters are behaving quite strangely and the neighbors are a bit “off” to say the least. The longer he stays, the more he comes to believe something sinister is going on and he might be in danger if he stays…but will they let him leave?

Written and directed by Jordan Peele, this is a sort of combination of Stepford Wives and Disturbing Behavior with an African-American angle added. The film is obviously filled with statements on race relations and the status of black Americans in today’s world. And important though they be, the film’s messages were a little too obvious, at times, when subtlety was working much better, such as the party scene where Chris meets the neighbors. The film works best when dealing with paranoia and Chris not being sure if this hidden threat is real or imagined. Also, the flick isn’t nearly as scary as the hype surrounding it suggests, but Peele does create some nice atmosphere and tension and there are some scenes where there are some unsettling and yet darkly humorous moments. The film stumbles a bit with some intrusive comedy bits involving Chris’ TSA friend Rod (Lil Rel Howery) and an over-the-top Franenstein-ish twist in it’s last act which dangerously borders on silly…though does work. It’s also obvious from the first scene at the house that Rose’s parents, Dean and Missy, are complete phonies, so it’s no surprise when we realize they are up to no good…and certain betrayals are also no surprise either, with that in mind. Peele still shows some strong potential, as he has a nice visual eye, constructed some spooky hallucinogenic sequences that are very effective and the last act has some impact as Chris enters in a fight for his life. There is some startling violence and the script is clever with connecting the dots from what we’ve seen during the course of the film to it’s big reveal. Not a great film, but one that works more than it doesn’t and shows that Peele has a cleverness to his writing we are interested in seeing more of.

Another thing that helps Peele is a good cast. Daniel Kaluuya makes for a down to earth, but solid hero. He is likable and seems like a genuinely nice guy. He conveys Chris’ paranoia well and even a reluctance as he is forced to act violently when thrust in a life and death situation. Catherine Keener nearly steals the show as Rose’s therapist mother. She oozes malevolence, once things get going and the sequences of her using her hypnotherapy on Chris are some of the creepiest in the film. Bradley Whitford is fine as Rose’s surgeon dad. He comes across as a bit too phony and obvious, though and his liberal banter to impress Chris comes across as exactly that and should have set alarms off right away. Allison Williams is also fine as Rose and while she doesn’t get much to do early on, she does deliver some nice malice once her true nature is revealed. Lil Rel Howery is the only character that I felt didn’t fit in. He is a little too over-the-top comic and that didn’t quite fit with the more subtly satirical nature of the rest of the film. He would be fine in an outright comedy, but his bits got in the way of the tension that Peele was trying to build. This seemed, however, due more to directing and script than an actor doing his job. Finally, Caleb Landry Jones is suitably creepy as Rose’s brother who is a little less eager to hide his true self and is the first character to signal to Chris that he may not be as welcome here as he is led to believe.

A horror masterpiece?…no…an instant classic?…not really, but once you ignore the hype and take it for what it is, it is an interesting horror debut from Jordan Peele that isn’t perfect, but has enough that works to make it worth a watch. While Peele’s messages and social commentary can be a little too obvious at times and the film’s comic moments are a bit intrusive, a slightly satirical slant keeps the film from getting too preachy, which is in it’s favor. There is also some nice tension, an engaging climax and some really good performances especially from our leading man and Keener’s villainous therapist. It’s not nearly as scary as over-active hype would suggest, but it does have some intense and purposely uncomfortable sequences and does leave one thinking about how we are seen by and behave toward our fellow Americans. So flaws aside, this makes Jordan Peele a filmmaker to watch and Get Out a film that warrants watching as well…just don’t let the hype set standards for the film that it cannot possibly live up to.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 deer…you’ll have to see the movie

 

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