Jaws (1975)

Released: June 20, 1975. Directed by: Steven Spielberg. Starring: Roy Schneider, Robert Shaw, Richard Dreyfuss. Runtime: 2h 4 min.

I’ve only seen Steven Spielberg’s masterpiece “Jaws” three times. The first time I watched it was when I was 11 years old at school, weirdly enough. The next time was in August 2012 when I was 17.

For some reason I keep waiting six years between watches as I just watched it again the other day, but with each new viewing – I still feel the suspense, like the suspense of fisherman Quint (Robert Shaw) simply catching something on his hook.

I still feel the thrill of John Williams’ score as we see the shark’s underwater point of view before it attacks. As our fear of the unknown, and the ocean, builds throughout the film, it makes the big reveal of the shark that much more effective.

The film starts with such a memorable beginning of a young woman being killed by a shark while skinny dipping on Amity Island, a New England tourist town.

Despite suggestions that it’s a shark attack from Chief Martin Brody (Roy Schneider), the town’s mayor (Murray Hamilton) doesn’t want to shut down the beach because it’s the Fourth of July.

He doesn’t want a panic on his hands and he doesn’t want to lose money because of this. It has dire consequences. When the Great White shark continues to terrorize the town’s waters, the police chief, marine biologist Matt Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss) and ship captain Quint take the fight to it.

One of my favourite things about “Jaws” is that it is so well-paced. The second half of the film is the actual hunt and it doesn’t feel like an hour at all. This is helped by, of course, the film’s tension and its non-stop thrills.

Jaws in reviewwwI just love how the trio think they’re being the hunters going out to take down the shark and then it turns the tables on them.

Also helping the pacing is the great acting and chemistry between the three main characters, which makes their banter so natural. I always forget how funny Richard Dreyfuss is as Matt Hooper and the scene on the boat with him and Quint comparing their scars is great. Quint’s monologue about the USS Indianapolis is so compelling. He’s such a character and the songs he sings are amusing.

Chief Brody isn’t as funny as the other two, but he’s perfectly developed as someone who feels guilty about the deaths by the shark even though the fault is really on the Mayor for not shutting down the beach.

I know I’m probably not saying anything new about the film, but it’s because it’s just so great. The film’s shark attacks are just so brutal and they still make me have second thoughts of going into the ocean but it’s why it’s still so effective 43 years later.

Score: 100/100

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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

Super 8 (2011)

Super 8Super 8

Release Date: June 10, 2011

Director: J.J. Abrams

Stars: Elle Fanning, AJ Michalka, Joel Courtney

Runtime: 112 min

Tagline: It arrives.

Plot: During the summer of 1979, a group of friends witness a train crash and investigate subsequent unexplained events in their small town.

Quick Thoughts review.

– A problem with this one is the expectations of it. A lot of people were expecting pure gold, and the results are a tad sub par. What you get isn’t quite pure gold, but it is somewhere between a fine silver and a fine silver with some dashes of gold. I wasn’t one of those people who had anticipated this, so my low expectations were exceeded

– The finale really isn’t incredible, it’s only pretty good

– The young stars (particularly Joel Courtney and Elle Fanning) and old stars do quite well

– I only liked a select few characters, like Charles, even though he was pretty irritating

– It’s well-cast like The Goonies, but the unlike that film, most the characters aren’t anything special

– There are great homages to 1980s Steven Spielberg – it has elements of E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial and The Goonies. There’s a great sense of 80s nostalgia for the 2011 season. The atmosphere is quite great. There’s fine elements of science fiction and a bit of horror

– There are spikes of poignancy within the character development

– The cinematography is fine

– It’s a pretty awesome science fiction mystery that is quite memorable

75/100

Lincoln (2012)

Lincoln

Release Date: November 16, 2012

Director: Steven Spielberg

Stars: Daniel Day-Lewis, Sally Field, David Strathairn

Runtime: 149 min

Lincoln is a film that is much easier to respect or admire, than it is to enjoy and be thoroughly entertained. While it does have sparks of humour here and there, it goes more for fascination than anything else. Speaking of the humour, it is quite impressive that the writers threw that in because of the serious subject matter. Lincoln follows Abraham Lincoln’s endeavours, during the American Civil War, to pass a constitutional Amendment to free the slaves. The performance by the great Daniel Day-Lewis adds layers to Lincoln. His reserved and kind voice makes him seem quite real – and he is. The relationships he has with everyone are all very kind, and he even treats his enemies with respect. He’s the sort of guy one would want as a neighbour, or maybe even the president of the United States of America. Oh wait, he was.

The cast is great (especially Day-Lewis, Fields, Tommy Lee Jones and Joseph Gordon-Levitt), the cinematography is great, just about everything that is done here is impressive. Steven Spielberg feels like a director, at this time that is not interested in directing blockbusters like Jaws or Jurassic Park, but ambitious biographies like this. With past works like War Horse, Schindler’s List, or Munich, it is evident that he [Spielberg] possesses a flaring interest for history. Though, those audience members who don’t share at least a small interest for history, may not like this all that much. It is impressive, but at times it is difficult to grasp the events that are unfolding. In that way, it’s a film better watched in a home setting – so one could pause the film after most scenes, and absorb and make sure they can comprehend the information that was just told to them. Monologue after intelligent monologue just gets packed on, and sometimes they can be hard to follow. There’s a bunch of movie buffs out there, but there may not be as many history buffs. That’s why this is quite the impressive achievement that shall be an Oscar front-runner, but it simply may not be the right choice for a casual moviegoer. Make sure your mind is fresh before you see it, and be open to having two and a half hours of information intricately thrown your way.

80/100

New film poster for the movie ‘Lincoln’.

 

I like the look of this poster. Simple, but effective. The ‘A STEVEN SPIELBERG Film’ (which is barely eligible here), and the credit for Daniel Day-Lewis should bring in quite the crowd.

I’ve read about the film before, but was just reminded of it now. It’s a film that I’ll wait to get when it gets released as home media, but it does seem like an interesting flick.

It’s about how Abraham Lincoln (evidently), the sixteenth President of the United States, guided the North to victory during the Civil War. It gets released on November 16, 2012. It seems like a really interesting biopic, and Day-Lewis seems like he’d be great in this role.

The film also stars Tommy Lee Jones, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Jackie Earle Haley (who played Freddy Krueger in that awful Nightmare remake), David Strathairn, Sally Field and James Spader, to name a few. Pretty stellar cast I’d say.

I’m also quite excited to see what Spielberg will bring to the project; he’s such a great director.