Godzilla (2014)

GodzillaReleased: May 16, 2014. Directed by: Gareth Edwards. Starring: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen, Bryan Cranston. Runtime: 123 min.

Gareth Edwards brings his latest film to life with ambition and a great scope. Edwards previously dabbled in the monster genre with his refreshing low-budget film called Monsters, which was impressive in its effectiveness. This time, Edwards gets a gargantuan budget of $160 million for Godzilla, which only seems right for the King of the monsters. Godzilla thrives in its cinematography, visuals and score. It’s a visually stunning film, but it’s disappointing that there’s only twenty seconds of daylight monster clashes. At least there isn’t as much rain as in Pacific Rim, but it’s a bit disappointing that the monster clashes are basically all at night. It must be less expensive to render the creature effects in a darker setting. 

The plot is that Godzilla has to stop these malevolent creatures who threaten humanity. They gain their strength by absorbing radiation as a food source, and there’s no short amount of that in 2014. The strange creature design makes them look like hybrids of a praying mantis and a pterodactyl covered in some sort-of metal coating. Well, that might be the worst explanation of what they look like, but trust me – they look weird. A team of anthropologists and scientists were experimenting on the radiation beasts to learn about their species. Ken Watanabe is only okay but that’s basically because his character, the boss behind the research in Japan, is so boring. David Strathairn has a role as a military general who orders bombs to be brought into this whole situation. Their interference is how the film suggests that humans only make matters worse. Just let the giant lizard handle it. Why not, right? 

Godzilla is the star of the show, even if his screen time is basically the same amount as Judi Dench in Shakespeare in Love. But when he’s on-screen, the film is an absolute blast. And when fire-breathing is brought into the mix, it’s truly exciting. Director Gareth Edwards is able to orchestrate fine intensity throughout the film. He does it like a master with the film’s phenomenal score. Edwards has Godzilla swim beneath boats, teasing characters like Bruce the Shark of Jaws might. (Edwards is smart to take tension building inspiration from Spielberg’s films.) Since Godzilla has mildly limited screen time, Edwards spaces out four nifty action set pieces with intelligence – the HALO jump is awe-inspiring, made even better being set to the Monolith scene from 2001: A Space Odyssey – teasing us with little tastes of what’s to come before a memorable finale. 

His direction is the film’s saving grace. Godzilla’s most disappointing aspect is that it is phenomenal in so many areas but just awful in so many others. When action isn’t happening, or when Godzilla isn’t on-screen, this is so boring – save a great opening half an hour, because they are emotionally charged and gripping. During those thirty minutes, Bryan Cranston compels as Joe, the film’s strongest character. He delivers the film’s only strong performance. Joe becomes obsessed with a project after a loss (his drive as a character, as well as sacrifice and love) which leads his son Ford (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) to assume that he’s bat sh-t crazy. The strong character development for one person is strange, because this way you’re allowed to expect other characters to be solid as well, but nope – the others are quite poor.

Elizabeth Olsen’s Elle Brody is mediocre. She’s okay for what she is, either a crying or smiling character. She’s only elevated by Olsen’s appealing tenderness as an actress. Aaron Taylor-Johnson’s Ford is a different story. After the death of his mother, he picks the basic human reaction of the latter of the fight or flight concept, while his father goes deep into the former. Ford, a military Lieutenant whose expertise is bombs, initially gets separated from his wife when he is called to Japan to pay his dad’s bail after he is arrested for trespassing on an evacuated radiation site, which is the location of his old home. Ford’s motivations are his family – and that’s the only reason you’ll want him to get home safely and see his lovely movie family again. He’s one of those average guy characters plunged into a greater situation, but he’s so freaking boring. Taylor-Johnson isn’t able to make this character remotely interesting. Where’s his charisma from Kick-Ass? He doesn’t bring any of that to the table, and he’s like a different actor with little charisma. The only strong aspect of his performance is his chemistry with Olsen. 

The boring characters might stem from the film’s grave tone and Gareth Evans’ inability to make his film consistently fun. I haven’t felt this dead inside since August: Osage County. This is like the monster movie equivalent of Man of Steel because it will either be perceived as fun or boring, and if anyone makes a joke, it feels foreign. You will beg for the so-called comic relief character that is usually a point on the modern summer blockbuster checklist. Couldn’t have they broken tone by having a well-known comedian roaring back at Godzilla? That would be welcome as one of his long roars feels empty. Maybe Godzilla could have broken the fourth wall and said something witty. Like this for example: “If I’m monster royalty, I need a stronger Hollywood film for me to headline next time.” 

Score: 58/100

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Re-review of Cloverfield (2008)

CloverfieldReleased: January 18, 2008. Director: Matt Reeves. Stars: Lizzy Caplan, Jessica Lucas, T.J. Miller. Runtime: 85 min.

Dave over at Dave Examines Movies asked me some time ago to re-watch “Cloverfield.” He asked me to watch the movie in a different light; as he thought my score of 66 was a bit too low. I watched this on July 10th, I believe, when I was getting excited for “Pacific Rim.” I wanted to get a bit more excited for it, so I thought it was the best time to re-watch this, one of the only monster movies I own. I watched it with an open mind,

The film revolves around a monster attack in New York as told from the point of view of a small group of people.

It’s impressive to think that J.J. Abrams kept this project for what it truly was secret for so long (many thought it was another Godzilla movie), especially in a society where even J.K. Rowling’s pseudonym isn’t safe. It’s also an impressive directorial debut from Matt Reeves (“Let Me In” is a really good flick, too) and features some good writing from Drew Goddard. It’s rarely boring, and the movie doesn’t last too long — so that’s pretty good if the viewer isn’t liking it so much. I’m usually not a big fan of found footage movies, as I think a found footage flick gem comes around only so often (“Chronicle” is my favourite of the bunch), but the insane camerawork of this film captures the true chaos of this situation. They’re like real people, and this is a seriously terrifying situation, even if there aren’t many big scares. The tiny cast carries the film well.

This is a fun monster movie with a cool, you know, monster; even if I’m not sure I’ll re-visit it again after watching it twice. The ending is a bit too abrupt for my tastes, as well. Maybe I’ll have to check out some of those Godzilla movies soon, before that remake comes out next year. Admittedly, this does seem like a movie that gets better with each viewing, and it helps that I was in the mood for a monster flick.

Score75/100

Here’s my original review of “Cloverfield.”

Recap of July, Most Anticipated of August

Overall, at least based on the movies I saw, July was mostly an okay month for movies. But then again, I only saw five (out of 15 of the) major theatrical releases. And out of those five I saw, I only enjoyed two. “Despicable Me 2” was the strongest of the ones I saw. “Pacific Rim” was the second best. “R.I.P.D.” was right in the middle with a score of 50. “The Lone Ranger” didn’t get a passing score because it was dull; and “Grown Ups 2” was torture. The average score for the five movies was 54.8, but take away “GU2,” the adjusted score is 65.5.

Most anticipated of August

Fifth most-anticipated movie of August: "The Spectacular Now"

There are a few releases coming out this month that I highly doubt I’ll be seeing. One of them is “Planes,” because “Cars” was a hard enough sell on me, and that’s Pixar. This is just a lame spin-off. I won’t be seeing “This is Us” because I’m not fond of One Direction. I don’t think I’ll be seeing “The Smurfs 2” because I really didn’t like the first one. I liked the first “Percy Jackson” enough to give it a pass (I’ll post my review early this week), but I don’t think I’ll be itching to watch the sequel that comes out this Wednesday. But, if I’ve seen everything and it’s at my cheap theatre, I might watch it.

Fourth most-anticipated: "You're Next"

“You’re Next”

I’ll be watching “jOBS,” but I’m not extremely excited for it. I like a good bio pic, but my expectations aren’t high. Hopefully Ashton Kutcher impresses. The horror movie called “Random” could be okay, but Ashley Greene hasn’t impressed regarding the horror genre so far.

Paranoia” looks decent because of the cast, mostly, and I’d like to see more corporate thrillers. “Closed Circuit” looks like a good thriller, as well. “We’re the Millers” could be very funny. I missed “2 Guns” this weekend, and since it looks like fun, I’ll check it out next weekend. “Getaway” looks like a good thriller, like “Closed Circuit.” “The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones” looks as if it could be a good movie, and I enjoyed the book. (Though, I always envisioned Alex Pettyfer as Jace while reading, not Jamie Campbell Bower.)

Third most-anticipated: "Elysium"

The Butler” looks like a great bio pic, and civil rights movies can be interesting. “Prince Avalanche” looks like my kind-of oddball humour. I’m mostly excited for “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints” because of its cast.

My fifth most anticipated movie of August is “The Spectacular Now” because I love the look of it and Shailene Woodley. My fourth most anticipated is “You’re Next” because I like a good home invasion flick, and I’m hoping for a great home invasion flick to make me forget about “The Purge.”

The World's EndMy third most anticipated is “Elysium“. I haven’t seen “District 9” yet (I might check it out if I like this one a lot), but the story of this one seems really cool. Jodie Foster’s awesome. “The World’s End” is my second most anticipated because I love “Shaun of the Dead” and “Hot Fuzz,” and it seems like a great finish to the trilogy. The team of Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost is comedy magic. “Kick-Ass 2” is my most anticipated movie of August (and one of my most anticipated of the year) because I LOVE the first one, and this one looks like a lot of fun. I can’t wait to see Jim Carrey be downright hilarious again. (“Hahaha, yeah, there’s a dog on your balls!”)

What are you excited for this month? Let me know in the comments!

Kick-Ass 2

August 2-4 Box Office Predictions

The Smurfs 2“The Smurfs 2” is being released two days early to beat the rush. Now, that worked wonders for “Despicable Me 2,” but didn’t do anything for “Turbo.” After families have emptied their pockets out on legitimately good animated movies like “Monsters University” and “DM2,” their budgets for movies are running on empty (as shown by the soft first weekend for “Turbo”). (That’s okay by me — because this and the summer’s last animated movie, “Planes,” don’t peak my interest.) Movies similar to “The Smurfs 2” open to an average $25.96 million. 2011’s “The Smurfs” opened to $35.6 million. Two years between the original and the first sequel isn’t so bad. Families might have grown a bit wiser in that time – though. For the three-day weekend, I’ll predict this at $26.5 million; and for the five-day frame, I’ll predict it at $39.34 million.

2 Guns

“2 Guns” is the other major release this weekend. It’s an action comedy starring Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg, so it already has an appeal with the cast. The last major buddy comedy, “The Heat,” was aimed at women; so now it’s time to show that men still like their action comedies. This still has an appeal to women, as well, because buddy comedies usually do well. “The Heat” had an $39.115 million debut, so this actioner should open roughly in the same neighbourhood, maybe a bit lower since this film’s marketing campaign wasn’t as aggressive as the campaign of “The Heat.” And since “The Wolverine” will have a good holdover, my prediction is $33.8 million.

Title: Prediction
1. “2 Guns”: $33.8 million
2. “The Wolverine”: $27.15 million
3. “The Smurfs 2”: $26.5 million (Five-day: $39.34 million)
4. “The Conjuring”: $12.85 million
5. “Despicable Me 2“: $10.1 million
6. “Turbo”: $8.56 million
7. “Grown Ups 2“: $6.96 million
8. “Red 2”: $5.26 million
9. “The Heat“: $4.844 million
10. “Pacific Rim“: $4.035 million

Box Office Results July 26-28. (I can’t think of a clever title.)

The Wolverine“The Wolverine” did good business this weekend, but not nearly as great as everyone thought it would be. While it was tracking for a $70 million opening, it was only able to nab a $53.114 million opening. This opening should be attributed to the fact that the disappointing “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” disappointed many, so it kept some people away, and audiences are probably just fatigued of this superhero craze and all the explosions. (That makes me question how well “Kick-Ass 2” might do?) Since “Wolverine” did receive an ‘A-‘ Cinemascore, that should say it’ll have good legs. More good news: It’s already earned back its $120-million budget with its $139.2M worldwide tally.

As for the holdovers, “The Conjuring” continues to scare everyone as it had a drop of -46.9% to $22.2 million. That is a great hold for a horror film, where they traditionally face drops over 50%. (“The Purge” faced a drop of 76%!) “Turbo” also held well, dropping 35.5% to $13.74 million. Its box office performance will be thrown off pace when “The Smurfs 2” gets released on Wednesday, and it will be killed by the competition of “Planes”, come August 9th. It’s a very competitive market for animated movies, as “Despicable Me 2” is still going strong with a weekend gross of $16.4 million. “Grown Ups 2” was also in the Top 5 this weekend with $11.6 million, and it’s the 14th Adam Sandler movie to gross over $100 million. That isn’t exactly music to my ears, since I have such a low opinion of “GU2.”

“Fruitvale Station” found its way into the Top 10 with $4.59 million this weekend. “The Way, Way Back” earned $3.44 million and Woody Allen’s “Blue Jasmine” made $612, 064 at just six theatres, marking a career best Per Theatre Average for Woody Allen, and the best PTA of the year so far. Finally, “The To-Do List” grossed a miniature $1.58 million at 591 theatres, which is surprising considering I’ve basically seen the trailer before every comedy I’ve seen for the past month.

What did you all see this weekend? I didn’t get out to the theatre (well, I did last Thursday to see “White House Down”) this weekend, but I’m planning to see “The Way, Way Back” and “Much Ado About Nothing” this week. Maybe “2 Guns” on the weekend. I won’t be seeing “The Smurfs 2.” I just couldn’t take it. I’ll see what happens. I’m thinking of going through a comedian’s full filmography throughout the first half of August and posting the reviews throughout the second half. I’ll make an announcement post soon, but in the meantime, you’ll have to wonder who the comedian is. (Note: Half of their filmography is torture, and half of it I like. So I’m watching half of the comedian’s filmography for your entertainment, and half of it for mine.) Anyway, here’s how much I was off by for each movie in the Top 10:

Title: Result/Prediction/Difference

1. The Wolverine: $53.114M/$69.825M/$16.711M over
2. The Conjuring: $22.208M/$24.258M/$2.05M over
3. Despicable Me 2: $16.424M/$16.2M/$224, 000 under
4. Turbo: $13.74M/$13.5M/$240, 000 under
5. Grown Ups 2: $11.6M/$10M/$1.6M under
6. Red 2: $9.337M/$12.5M/$3.163M over
7. Pacific Rim: $7.703M/$7.8M/$97, 000 over
8. The Heat: $6.915M/$5.6M/$1.315M under
9. R.I.P.D.: $6.071M/5.5M/$571, 000 under
10. Fruitvale Station: $4.59M/$5.2M/$610, 000 over

For the one new release, I was off by $16.711 million.
For the nine holdovers, I was off by $9.87 million.

Remember to get your predictions in at Box Office Ace! You can get your prediction in for 2 Guns here, and your prediction for The Smurfs 2 here.

Remember to

R.I.P.D. (2013)

R.I.P.D.Release Date: July 19, 2013. Director: Robert Schwentke. Stars: Jeff Bridges, Ryan Reynolds, Kevin Bacon. Runtime: 96 min.

A recently slain cop joins a team of undead police officers working for the Rest in Peace Department, that hunt Deados (ugly spirits who slipped through the cracks of the system and are now rotting on earth), and tries to find the man who murdered him.

It isn’t truly fair to compare films; but with “R.I.P.D.,” it’s nearly impossible to not make comparisons to the “Men in Black” franchise. They’re both buddy action comedies. Cops from both films battle otherworldly beings. The characters are similar, even if the character arcs are different. (More on that later.) There is one fundamental difference: The “Men in Black” franchise is smart, funny and fun; while “R.I.P.D.” is only one of those things. (Note: The “MIB” comparisons stop here, for the most part.)

Unoriginality and laziness are a few of the main problems that plague this film. The story is a basic save-the-world narrative. The story also isn’t enthralling, and there are few surprises in this safe feature. At one point, when the film seems to be holding a potentially awesome reveal for the end, it cowers away and restrains itself. The movie is never boring because there’s a lot going on and it’s loud. Its goofy tone helps it to be moderately fun. It’s never downright hilarious because, as much as The Dude and Van Wilder try, the writers don’t write many great jokes for them to deliver. The last time director Robert Schwentke made a comic book a movie (“Red”), it ended being a great success. This movie can’t be a great success, because this moderately entertaining time-waster is insanely disposable.

A fair deal of the content is chuckle-worthy throughout and the fact that the movie doesn’t take itself seriously is welcome. There’s only one laugh-out-loud moment, delivered by Jeff Bridges. Bridges is the most amusing part of the film, playing a cop who thinks he is the best lawman to ever live and die. He’s doing his best impersonation of John Wayne’s Rooster Cogburn. He is the most memorable part of the movie – because for audiences, it will be fun to impersonate his impersonation of Cogburn. Ryan Reynolds is okay, his character’s arc is interesting; he hasn’t yet come to terms with his unexpected death, because he didn’t get closure with his wife (Stephanie Szostak). However, this thought-out arc almost feels strange in such a silly movie.

“R.I.P.D.” is just forgettable. It’s hard on the eyes, because the darkly tinted glasses make the ugly 3-D effects even worse. (If you do end up seeing this, do yourself a favour and watch it in 2-D.) The Deados are also hard on the eyes because they’re so damn ugly, and not in the awesomely ugly way some creatures are, like in “Pacific Rim.” They’re all a bit too similar, too, even the underwhelming leader. One of the coolest things about the movie are the guns. However, they look like they’re stolen from the set of “MIB.”

It’s amusing when we get to see the avatars of Reynolds and Bridges. Reynolds appears to the real world as an Asian man (James Hong, “Balls of Fury”) shooting a banana, instead of a gun. Bridges appears as a supermodel (Marisa Miller) who, appropriately, everyone gawks at while Marvin Gaye plays over the soundtrack. (Those scenes are chuckle-worthy, and it’s where the writers show shades of cleverness.) It would be welcome to see entire sequences with the characters’ respective avatars, rather than only the bit-sized periods of time they are on-screen. It’s distracting to constantly see the characters go from Bridges to Miller; from Reynolds to Hong.

If you see “R.I.P.D.,” you might or might not like it, but you surely won’t care if you ever see it again. Suffice to say, you could see worse this summer (“Grown Ups 2“), but you could see so much better. Or you could even re-watch “Men in Black.” This movie will struggle to linger in the mind, because it will be known as that one movie that’s a lot like “Men in Black,” but isn’t “Men in Black.”

Score50/100

Box Office Predictions: July 26-28

The Wolverine“The Wolverine” has the benefit of opening on a weekend where there isn’t any other blockbuster. Of course, there are the holdovers, but they don’t pose much direct competition.

The five previous X-Men films open to a weighted average of $76.58 million. It will earn less than that number, but not by a wide margin. There are a few bumps in the road this film must overcome.

“X-Men: First Class” showed audiences the X-Men universe can still impress. It was also the lowest-grossing film in the franchise at $146.4 domestically, mostly because of “X-Men Origins: Wolverine”, which faced generally negative reactions. I liked some of it, but the general memory of it leaves a bland taste in my mouth. That film might directly affect this film’s gross, as audience members hate to be disappointed twice. People will come out to see it, but not nearly as many as “X-Men Origins: Wolverine”, because, like I said, some people won’t take the risk. So good word-of-mouth will really help this movie out. I’m going to predict this at $69.8 million. 

I’m thinking “The To Do List” performs similar to “Adventureland” at about $4.9 million for its opening, and “The Way, Way Back” has earned $4.6 million domestically so far, so I think it’ll do $4.4 million this weekend.

Here’s how I see the Top 10:
1. “The Wolverine”: $69, 825, 000
2. “The Conjuring”: $24, 258, 000
3. “Despicable Me 2“: $16, 200, 000
4. “Turbo”: $13, 500, 000
5. “Red 2”: $12, 500, 000
6. “Grown Ups 2“: $10, 000, 000
7. “Pacific Rim“: $7, 800, 000
8. “The Heat“: $5, 600, 000
9. “R.I.P.D.”: $5, 500, 000
10. “Fruitvale Station”: $5, 200, 000

Remember to get your predictions in over at Box Office Ace, it’s lots of fun!