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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COOL STUFF: GODZILLA 2014 on BLU-RAY

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GODZILLA 2014 Blu-Ray

I liked Gareth Edwards’ Godzilla reboot (see full review here) but, I didn’t love it like the Godzilla fan in me wanted to. It split audiences and fans alike but, did fairly well at the box office, especially overseas… but, is it worth owning? if you like the film, I’d say yes.

Obviously, as with most HD releases of these Hollywood blockbusters, the picture looks great… though the night scenes seemed a tad too dark… and the colors are rich and sharp. Gareth Edwards has a nice visual eye and so, the shots all look good and the King Of  The Monsters does look quite majestic when he finally is on screen… more on that later. The sound is really good, though I don’t have a top of the line sound system so, I can’t comment on the maximum effect as it may be enjoyed by someone who has the full 7.1 set-up. But, I think it should sound splendid.

The movie aside… extras are a mixed bag with there being three featurettes focusing on Monarch and the M.U.T.O. cover-up conspiracy in the Monarch Declassified section. These are thankfully short as they are only moderately interesting and get repetitive when you watch them together. The extras recover with a lot of cool stuff in the Legendary Godzilla section which has 4 behind the scenes features on the making of the film with a lot of interviews and production footage that takes you deep into the creation of the movie and it’s monsters. As for Godzilla’s limited screen time… told you I’d get to that… You get to hear Gareth Edwards explain his reasoning for Godzilla’s significantly limited appearance in his own movie, as well as, the cutaways from the action that many found frustrating. I can’t guarantee you’ll agree with his methods and reasoning, but, he does explain himself. Over all, this segment more than makes up for the lackluster Monarch section though, I was still disappointed that there were no deleted scenes or gag real.

So, If you liked this movie, the disc is definitely worth owning. The movie looks and sounds great and the extras may be uneven when viewed separately but, even out as a whole. It is a fun movie and entertains well enough though, not the ultimate screen appearance of Godzilla that his many fans, like myself, were hoping for.

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MONSTERZERO NJ’S SUMMER 2014 MOVIE FAVORITES AND FLOPS!

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I didn’t get to see every Summer release. Some, like the latest Transformers And Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, are not flicks that interest me so, they will be curiosity rentals at some point. But here is a rundown of what I did see and thus what were favorites, surprises and, in turn, the disappointments for the Summer of 2014. Click on the poster for the full review!

THE FAVORITES

  1. guardians of the galaxy

    GUARDIAN’S OF THE GALAXY – Not at all familiar with the comic but, the movie was a lot of fun with a devious sense of humor and a lot of action to go along with the eccentric but, endearing characters. I had a blast! ***1/2expendables 3

  2. THE EXPENDABLES 3 – I don’t care what the box office results were, I had a rip roaring good time with this third installment and loved seeing the cast in action especially the return of Snipes. ***1/2
  3. godzilla-new-posterGODZILLA – I really enjoyed the true King Of The Monsters’ return to the big screen but, will admit I didn’t absolutely love it like I wanted to. I didn’t mind it taking over an hour for him to finally appear but, once he did, the annoying cut-aways got frustrating fast. At least the last act smack-down in San Francisco made up for a lot of that. ***1/2dawn_of_apes_teaser_poster
  4. DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES – The second installment of this really good reboot series is an action packed epic from Cloverfield’s Matt Reeves and it is not only a very entertaining film but, takes the plot of the worst of the original Apes films, Battle For The Planet Of The Apes, and puts it to much better use. *** 1/2MALEFICENT-poster
  5. MALEFICENT – Angelina Jolie stars in one of the Summers biggest hits and for me a very pleasant surprise and a very entertaining fantasy adventure with lots of eye candy. Jolie gives an enchanting performance as the classic villainess with a new twist and knows when to go over the top and when to be subtle. Sure she should have been evil for a bit longer but, Jolie chews up the scenery masterfully and we are right there with her! ***1/2

HONORABLE MENTIONS

Lucy-2014-Movie-Poster

  1. LUCY – Sure Lucy was a dumb movie with some very skewed science but, it was an audaciously fun popcorn flick with loads of over the top action and another good performance by Johansson and it pairs her with the ever endearing Morgan Freeman. Silly… yes… fun… hell, yea! ***deliver-us-from-evil
  2. DELIVER US FROM EVIL – Not a great movie but, an effective mix of cop thriller and supernatural horror, supposedly based on the true case files of NY detective Ralph Sarchie, that delivers some action and chills and manages to give us one of the more effective exorcism scenes in the very overplayed exorcism film sub-genre.  ***

THE FLOPS  (and NEAR MISSES)

  1. amazing-spider-man-2-posterTHE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2  – Avoids Spider-Man 3 territory but, still makes many of it’s same mistakes and even drags in a few from Batman And Robin. Thankfully saved from being a complete mess by some really fun action scenes and the great chemistry between Garfield and Stone that lights up the screen whenever they are together. I have lightened up on it a bit since revisiting it on Blu-Ray but, it’s still the second weakest of the combined Raimi/Webb films. **1/2xmen_DOFP-poster
  2. X-MEN DAYS OF FUTURE PAST  – Not a mess or anything, just not very involving and none of the action scenes really stayed with me or overly impressed me. It was never boring but, was far from the delightfully hip and entertaining First Class. The 70s nostalgia fell flat and that really irked me as First Class was so 60s! **1/2

Source: MonsterZero NJ

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REVIEW: GODZILLA (2014)

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GODZILLA (2014)

HARD TO REVIEW THIS WITHOUT SOME DETAILS SO, THERE MIGHT BE SOME VERY MINOR SPOILERS HERE, YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED. 

I have been a Godzilla fan since seeing my first Godzilla flick… Ghidorah, The Three Headed Monster… on TV in the late 60s. And one of the things I have always wanted to see was a big budget Godzilla with all the bells and whistles that come with it. After being horribly disappointed by shlockmeister Roland Emmerich’s awful attempt in 1998, I was really looking forward to this new reboot attempt by Monsters director Gareth Edwards. And while the film has it’s flaws, I did enjoy the new Godzilla, maybe not as much as I’d hoped but, I did really like a lot of it and at least it was a Godzilla movie.

The film opens with footage from 1954 of a massive creature sighted in the South Pacific and the use of the H-Bomb in an effort to destroy it. This incident was obviously covered up by all governments involved and the beast thought dead. We then cut to 1999 with the discovery of a giant skeleton in an underground cavern in the Philippines and two mysterious egg sacks that are in proximity. One sack vacated, the other appears dormant. Across the Pacific in Japan, seismic disturbances are being monitored at a nuclear power plant emanating from the Philippines and drawing closer. Nuclear physicist Joe Brody (Bryan Cranston) fears the worst and his fears come true as the plant suffers a mysterious reactor breach and he barely escapes with his life, though his wife (Juliette Binoche) tragically does not. The area is then permanently quarantined. Now in 2014, Joe is still obsessed with finding the answers to what actually happened and it gets him in trouble bringing his estranged son Ford (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) to Japan to bail him out. But, Joe is persistent and they soon find themselves back in the quarantined zone and incarcerated at the supposed dead reactor. Upon meeting a Dr. Serizawa (Ken Watanabe), they finally learn the horrifying truth. Something primordial and quite deadly… designated a M.U.T.O.-Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organism… sleeps cocooned around the reactor feeding on it. And when the M.U.T.O. awakens and escapes before their eyes, Godzilla, the massive creature long thought destroyed in 1954, rises again from the Pacific ocean to hunt down the monstrous abomination and it’s even larger mate which has been laying dormant and hidden by the U.S. government in the Nevada desert… with the world hanging in the balance as the three are destined to collide.

I’ll get the negatives out of the way first…The thing that really holds Godzilla back from being the monster masterpiece I have always dreamed of, is the same problem that left me a little cold to Edwards’ first flick… his human characters and drama is weak. It is the same here. I was never bored and I really liked the way Max Borenstein’s script cleverly updated the mythos… though I was not really sold on Serizawa’s insistence that the M.U.T.O.’s awakening would draw Godzilla up from the depths to destroy them, how did he know this?… but, Edwards really doesn’t give the scenes of human drama the strength it needed to rivet us till Godzilla and Mr. and Mrs. M.U.T.O. have their triple threat match in San Francisco. The characters were fine but, weren’t really endearing. Maybe they were a little too down to earth and low key. Except for Cranston’s Joe Brody, no one else seems all that shocked or emotionally distressed that there are now three massive creatures stalking the earth and two are ready to repopulate the planet. Edwards handles much of the film well and has a great visual style but, he needs to get more life out of his cast and add more impact and intensity to the proceedings, Other minor gripes include the relative confidence that the military has that Godzilla is an ally or at least not a immediate threat. Having never faced a creature like this, they seem to be fairly unconcerned with his appearance and it does neuter his badass persona a bit till we get to see him in action. And once Godzilla makes his big entrance, which Edwards does make us wait till the second act for, his first encounter with the male M.U.T.O. is relayed mostly from news footage after the battle is over. We could have used an opening bout to get the audience warmed up for the main event. And finally the hands down weakest part of the film is Alexandre Desplat’s completely generic score. It really is underwhelming and a far stronger score could have helped pick up some of the weaker moments and add even more strength to the stuff that really worked.

Now to the good stuff. First off, unlike the 1998 joke, this is a Godzilla movie. And as with Edward’s Monsters, Godzilla really comes to life when the creatures are on screen. The film is visually spectacular and while I understand Edwards using a slow burn to build the anticipation, he could have given us a few more minutes on some of the earlier monster action scenes because, they really rock and needed more time to resonate. I wish his humans had the personality of his beasties. The thing that really won me over with this flick is the monster stuff and the massive throw-down that takes up the last act of the film. Here we get what we came for and in the last act, I was glued to my kaiju loving chair as San Francisco is laid to utter waste as Godzilla does what the does best in all his atomic fire breathing glory. The battle is massive and the SPFX are top notch as three colossal animals fight tooth and nail between, over and through the buildings of one of America’s most beautiful cities. It was as epic as I’d hoped for and made up a lot for the first 90 minutes not having the impact to make this a real crowd pleaser. Godzilla is excellently rendered and has a lot of personality despite not a lot of screen time… though I just watched the original Gojira and he really isn’t onscreen much in that either and it also takes him an hour to show up in the 1991 Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah so, it’s not the first time he’s made us wait. The M.U.T.O.’s are dangerous and threatening and ooze malice and it adds to their creepiness and effectiveness when they coordinate their attack on the Big G and act as a vicious unit. And the throw-down does get vicious. Their design evokes some classic kaiju but, are still unique enough to be fresh. And the last act battle with Godzilla was worth the price of admission alone.

As for the cast, obviously they all could have used a little life from Edwards. Cranston is the only one that knows what to do and gives his character some passion and fire. He plays a man obsessed but, not crazy, very well. Taylor-Johnson is OK. I didn’t mind him as much as some early word indicated but, he could have simply emoted more like he really was concerned that this wife and child were at the center of a monster mosh pit. He was much livelier in Kick-Ass and hopefully Joss Whedon gets some more out of him in Avengers: Age Of Ultron. Same can be said for Elizabeth Olsen as Ford’s wife, Elle. I have seen her give strong performances especially in Martha Marcy May Marlene. Here she plays the long suffering wife and isn’t required to really do much but, look upset and scared. An underuse of a talented actress. Ken Watanabe is fine but, again, could have used a little passion in his performance. His Serizawa has a lot of exposition and he sometimes seems a bit distant, when his scientist should be more excited/frightened about what is transpiring. Rounding out the main cast is David Strathairn as a navy admiral who is another character that is way too calm and confident despite that giant monsters actually exist and are wrecking some of our most famous landmarks while ignoring military firepower. Again, Edwards needing to inspire his actors to perform with more urgency to get the audience to feel more excited/frightened about what is occuring. It is the emotions of the characters that provoke the audience into sharing in their feelings and the audience I was with was pretty quiet throughout… though seemed to generally like it, once it was over.

So, overall Godzilla is dramatically weak early on, though I did like the story, but, more then makes up for a lot of that with a truly spectacular monster battle last act that is as visually stunning as it is exciting. I only wish the human drama came close, then this would have been an Avengers level entertainment. I did really enjoy Godzilla. It had enough interesting ideas, a larger scale then any other Godzilla production and a unique approach to a monster flick. And when it finally delivered, it delivered big. I’d like to see Gareth Edwards tackle a sequel but, this time don’t hold back on the monsters and give your drama a bit more juice and inspire your cast to emote stronger. I still recommend it highly but, just turn down the expectations a few notches and you should enjoy it. A fun summer flick though I was hoping for more.

A generous 3 and 1/2 Godzillas because I got to see the monster throw-down I always wanted to and Godzilla himself was epic.

godzilla 3 and 1-2 rating

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