Godzilla (2014)

maxresdefault

Original Theatrical Release Date: May 16, 2014
Director: Gareth Edwards

A Japanese power plant is destroyed by an unknown force in 1999. Joe Brody (Bryan Cranston) narrowly avoids death, but his wife is not so lucky. Years later, Ford Brody (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), Joe’s son,  has mostly severed contact with his obsessed father, who searches for answers to the disaster in Japan. When Joe is arrested, Ford reluctantly travels to Japan to bail him out and the two of them find themselves witness to the awakening of a creature who lurks in the ocean’s waters underneath the radioactive ruins of the Janjira nuclear plant. To battle this new menace, Godzilla rises from the deep once more.

There are a couple of weird things about this movie.

1. It’s more of a disaster movie than anything else.
2. Godzilla, for whom the movie was named, is barely in it.

With that said – this movie was very enjoyable, at least to me. It was by no means perfect, but considering all the Godzilla and Godzilla-inspired garbage we’ve had to collectively endure since the big lizard made his debut back in the day, I’ll take that as a solid win.

Gareth Edwards and the screenwriters made the right decision by including more of the human side to get us, as the audience, invested in what’s happening. Sure, it could’ve been all “Hey, it’s Godzilla – lets have him pound on an irradiated unicorn to Nikki Minaj’s Anaconda as the backdrop for 45 minutes”, and maybe that still would’ve been fun…but when we know the humans who are about to take a dirt nap, we care a bit more. Still, I think they could’ve brought in Godzilla a bit earlier, or at least stretched out Bryan Cranston’s part a bit more. Aaron Taylor-Johnson was pretty vanilla in his depiction of a son with a dead mother and an insanely obsessed father, which made Cranston’s small screen time seem like the entire focus of the film for the first hour or so.

When Godzilla finally does emerge from the sea and start kicking kaiju ass, it’s handled very well. There are casualties that one would expect from big monsters duking it out in the city. They also managed to give Godzilla a decent look and the special effects were pretty nice as well, despite being CGI. They integrated that aspect much better than some other films out there.

If you’re looking for some decent kaiju action or if you are a Godzilla fan or even a disaster movie junkie – give this one a try. It’s just enough to satisfy and well-done enough to not leaving you feeling empty like some of its predecessors managed to do.

JOE Rating: ★★★★

Movie Trailer For Godzilla

Advertisements

Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace (1999)

sw1i

Original Theatrical Release Date: May 19, 1999
Director: George Lucas

Two Jedi Knights – Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson) and Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) – are in the middle of a trade dispute and narrowly escape a hostile blockade by the Trade Federation army. Making their way to the desert planet of Tatooine, the two Jedi warriors find a young boy named Anakin Skywalker (Jake Lloyd) who may be the one prophesied to bring balance to the Force. Qui-Gon takes an interest in freeing the boy from a savvy gambler named Watto (Andy Secombe), but meanwhile the threat of the Sith is rising – with a vicious Sith lord, Darth Maul (Ray Park), hot on the heels of the two Jedi.

I’ve been a Star Wars fan for as long as I can remember. When I was a kid, I used to have hand-me-down action figures from my uncle. They came in a carrying case shaped like Darth Vader’s helmet and I would play with them for hours. So, naturally – when this movie came out during my high school years – back in 1999….I was more than excited. I’d seen previews where Darth Maul was speeding across the desert surface of Tatooine, only to leap from his speeder and attack some Jedi and it gave me goosebumps. Darth Maul truly looked like a badass.

The real experience in the theater wasn’t as amazing as I’d hoped. There was a certain quality to it that I didn’t like. Everything was too clean – even in the dirty, rundown slums of Tatooine. The CGI looked out of place for the Jim Henson style Star Wars experience I remembered as a kid. Everything was bright. The ships were polished and sounded like high-end vibrators. (Not that I’d know about that or anything)

In short, it didn’t feel real. Despite the excitement of the initial ambush sequence and the eventual podrace – I fell asleep in the theater. This is, to date, the only movie I’ve ever fallen asleep to during the time it was showing on the big screen. This hasn’t changed fifteen years later. The film boasts one of the best fight scenes in Star Wars history between Darth Maul, Obi-Wan, and Qui-Gon – but other than that it’s a lot of politics and talk of trade embargoes and underhanded dealings. Jar-Jar Binks is MUY ANNOYING and seeing Darth Vader as a youngster is sort of a letdown. And don’t get me started on Midichlorians.

Recently, I’ve reverted to watching the Star Wars films in the “Machete Order“. I recommend you do the same, which enables you to skip out on Episode I entirely. As snarky as some hardcore Star Wars fans are about the prequel films – there is actually some decent stuff in them. When combined into a single narrative with every film aside from Episode I – it actually makes a lot more sense and is more enjoyable to watch.

In any case, after all the hype – Episode I just has way too many problems as a film – let alone as an installment of a beloved franchise. So, while I may watch it once in a while (mostly for the fight scenes), I will usually avoid this Lucas offering altogether.

PS – In case you didn’t know – I cosplay as Obi-Wan Kenobi. Exhibit A

10464368_253761558148430_8934216931598601412_n

I was recently at Super Megafest 2013 in Framingham, Mass last November and I ran into Ray Park (the actor who played Darth Maul in Episode I) at his booth. He was only doing one photo per person, but after finishing with mine (I let him use my lightsaber) he told me to pretend I was being impaled so he could get his “revenge” on me. Exhibit B

Me with Ray Park (Darth Maul from Star Wars: Episode One) at Super Megafest

Me with Ray Park (Darth Maul from Star Wars: Episode One) at Super Megafest

SuperMegafest2013 037

JOE Rating: ★★

Movie Trailer For Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace

Fight Club (1999)

Fight Club (1999)

Original Theatrical Release: October 15, 1999
Director: David Fincher

An office worker (Edward Norton) caught up in the doldrums of his job meets up with an eccentric soap maker (Brad Pitt) who challenges his views on everything he’s ever known. The two of them conceive and begin a new form of therapy called Fight Club, and the idea catches on, sparking a new underground club that nobody is supposed to talk about. When Marla Singer (Helena Bonham Carter) starts to come between the soap maker and the office jockey, things start to spiral out of control and in the end, the very fibers of reality are tested.

This is one of my favorite movies and it’s based on a book of the same name, written by Chuck Pahlaniuk. When I first saw this film, I had no idea who Chuck Pahlaniuk even was. (Lemme tell you, I soon went out and tried to read everything of his I could) However, I knew who David Fincher was and this movie was perfect for him to direct.

Edward Norton and Brad Pitt are amazing in this film. At the time, I wasn’t even a big Pitt fan, but this is one of his roles that definitely turned the tables on that. Actually, for that matter, the same goes for Helena Bonham Carter. She was perfect in this (unlike some of her other films, in my opinion).

The snappy narration and dialogue, the dark tone, the testosterone-fueled punching matches, the commentary. It’s all great. It’s a trip through someone’s brain, that’s for sure. Also, with a twist at the end that puts Shyamalan to shame, it was an awesome movie for its time and still holds up more than ten years later.

Go see it, go see it, go see it.

JOE Rating: ★★★★★

Movie Trailer For Fight Club

Cruel intentions (1999)

Cruel intentions (1999)

Original Theatrical Release: March 5, 1999
Director: Roger Kumble

Kathryn Merteuil (Sarah Michelle Gellar) and Sebastian Valmont (Ryan Phillippe) are step-siblings. Both are extremely attractive and twisted individuals. Sebastian can have any woman he wants. Well, almost…except for Kathryn and it drives him crazy. Kathryn decides to make a wager with Sebastian, betting him that he can’t bed a virgin waiting for true love, named Annette (Reese Witherspoon). If he loses, she gets his jaguar. If he wins, she has to sleep with him. How far is he willing to go?

I watched this back when it first came out (I had a thing for Sarah Michelle Gellar. Yes, I did.) I think I appreciated the film less then, than I do now.

On its surface, it’s just a vehicle for the twenty-something actors to look edgy in their fledgling careers, flaunting skin and excess. However, at its core is an express message of sexuality, temptation and virtue that reveals itself at a slow pace throughout the length of the film. (Albeit through the POV of jaded, rich white kids from New York)

Some of the movie watches like a high-school dramatic play, but other times it shines with devious tittilation and complex character motivations. Overall, it’s better than some films in its genre (Such as Wild Things) but it’s not amazing by any definition of the word.

PS – I have never read the novel, Les Liaisons Dangereuses, that it was based on (Choderlos de Lacios) so I can’t speak as to the differences from the book to the film.

JOE Rating: ★★★

Movie Trailer For Cruel Intentions

 

The Matrix (1999)

The Matrix (1999)

Original Theatrical Release: March 31, 1999
Director: Andy Wachowski, Lana Wachowski (As the Wachowski Brothers)

Neo (Keanu Reeves), a computer hacker, feels a bit out of place in the world. He’s constantly on the search for something he feels is missing in his life and finds it in the form of Trinity (Carrie-Ann Moss) who explains to him that not everything is what he thinks. She leads him to Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne), who tells Neo that he may just be the one who can save mankind from their evil machine overlords.

When I first saw this movie in theaters, I don’t remember having any special expectations of it. My uncle and I had just returned from a trip to Boston, where we tried out the Omnitheater; a massive screen that wraps around you and makes you feel like you’re actually there. Still jittery from that experience, we were uncomfortable in the normal theater as The Matrix started, re-living the discomfort we experienced just a day or two before in Boston.

When the movie started, though, and the beautiful images and great story unfolded on the screen, it was all forgotten. From the moment Trinity leaped into the air and froze before kicking the police officer in the chest, I was hooked and my jaw was dropped open in enjoyment and appreciation the entire time.

I hadn’t seen anything like it, up until that time. I don’t really like the sequels as much, but Matrix: Reloaded isn’t bad. (I really disliked Revolutions, but I will get to that in another review)

This movie changed the game in cinema-land and we are still seeing copycats and works inspired by the Matrix even in 2013.

The actors were all great (yeah, even Keanu). The soundtrack was amazing. The cinematography and special effects were astounding. The fight choreography from Yuen Woo Ping was great, and the script by the Wachowski Brothers was tight. The film was just one slick package all around, and I don’t think we’ll have another great spectacle like it for quite a while. (Watch, I bet there will be a re-boot soon).

JOE Rating: ★★★★★

Movie Trailer For The Matrix