Godzilla

May 16, 2014

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“I don’t want to disappoint our Japanese public, especially Godzilla.  Haha! I’m just kidding, I know he doesn’t care what humans do.”

-Tracy Jordan, 30 Rock

 

The Godzilla property is a difficult one, to say the least.  It’s greatest effort is largely considered to be it’s first, back in 1954, because it so effectively harnessed what was great about romping science fiction in the nuclear era.  Less than a decade after the national trauma wrought by nuclear weapons in Japan, not to mention the vast destruction of Tokyo experienced by so many, it directly confronted national fears about the nuclear age while still firmly rooted in B-movie territory.  That kind of smuggling genre picture gave way fairly quickly to high camp, especially as Toho studios saw the merchandising potential and box office receipts that kids fare brought to their coffers, and Godzilla became a leathery fun guy hero.  Neither would be particularly easy to pull off in 2014, certainly not for American audiences not pre-geared to the campy aspects of the legendary character, oft considered an affectionate cult curio that’s most famous Stateside these days for a resurgence in the 90s that saw a terrible American version that not only couldn’t avoid the pitfalls inherent to the picture, but decided to create a whole slew of new ones, as well as a Nike ad campaign that saw the man in suit version going head to head with Charles Barkley in one-on-one basketball.  Read the rest of this entry »

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Derek Cianfrance’s previous film – and the only of his I have seen – was Blue Valentine, a somewhat inelegant but certainly affecting (really trying to avoid “raw” here) two-hander about the blossoming and breakdown of a relationship.  What it lacked in visual interest (grainy, handheld, American Indie by-the-numbers) it made up for with pacing and, of course, performances.  That picture worked through incredible acting, and it had to, as there wasn’t much else to rely on.  It was an exercise in reactions, movement, and glances.  It was a picture of big emotions because of its small proportions.  His follow-up, The Place Beyond the Pines, takes a different tack, although one suspects he was hoping to work within the same emotional model.  It’s a sprawling, 140-minute saga, with a triptych structure that unfortunately makes it feel like it is going on for a lot longer than it’s already lengthy running time.  It’s a shame he couldn’t have learned a lesson from his last film, then, and realized that Big Emotions don’t necessarily need a Big Story.  Read the rest of this entry »

Pain & Gain

April 26, 2013

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When I read Pete Collins’ bizarre, incredible “Pain and Gain” story, recounting the events in the mid-90s of the “Sun Gym Gang”, my first thought was, “this is a Coen Brothers film.”  The elements were all there: deluded moron criminals, ever increasing amounts of absurdity, horrific events that seamlessly combine tragedy and farce.  I already knew at the time that it was set to be Michael Bay’s next picture, however, and when I eventually saw the trailer, I predicted it would be crass, stupid, and not at all respectful of the real crimes or the victims.  I was basically right about all of that, and yet… Read the rest of this entry »

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Easy is nice.  The world is difficult and indifferent, and as such there’s nothing wrong with opting for something easy when you can.  I get that.  I’m not against that.  But there’s “easy” and then there’s “easy”.  The Twilight Saga film franchise has, it turns out, been easy in a way that’s so unbelievably lazy and dull that I can’t imagine how a thinking human being can find it entertaining.  People talk a lot about liking films they can just “turn their brains off” and watch, but surely there are some basic elements of storytelling that require at least some semblance of a conflict to make it work, even if it is perfunctory or dumb or obvious.  I finally watched the final part of the series, Breaking Dawn Part 2, and I have come to the conclusion that nothing at all of interest happened in the 9 or so hours of time I spent watching them over the years.  Of the many, many problems that have plagued this $3 billion franchise, the worst is quite possibly that it plays like a young child’s imagining of a narrative for his toys.  My incredible, adorable nephew was once playing with some toy cars and figurines, and was explaining to me, “this truck has to get over here so he can see the cows!”  “That’s great”, I said, “but where’s the conflict? The truck just has to get over there to see the cows, and that’s it.”  He was all of five years old at the time, so what did I expect?  I should add I said it in a playful way and I’m sure he didn’t pick up on my criticism, so I didn’t rudely offend a child.  Still, there’s nothing to what he was trying to achieve, and that, in a nutshell, is what The Twilight Saga has turned out to be.  Read the rest of this entry »

There’s a relatively tedious, though not unfounded at all, cliché about Hollywood making market-tested films that appeal to x demographic by including x types of characters embodied by beautiful stars and putting them in romantic/funny/exciting/all three situations and BOOM:  Instahit.  It’s generally a lot more complicated than that, as there’s bound to be someone along the creative line who has a whiff of the artist about them, or at the very least actors who know how to work a script in their favour, and a director or an editor who can nurture that into something vaguely entertaining.  I don’t know know anything at all about the development or the production of McG’s This Means War, but if there ever was a film that played right into that cliché about clueless moneymen suits at the studio putting an entire movie together and creating exactly what they think a “successful” (not “good”, mind) product would be, this is it.  Read the rest of this entry »

Supposedly free of the trappings of Hollywood Romantic Dramas and all the fantasy that they entail, Drake Doremus’ Like Crazy is a standard indie romance that owes a lot more to those Hollywood versions than it cares to admit.  It was a hit at Sundance, winning a Grand Jury Prize, and if ever there was a giant red flag, that must be it.  Still, there’s always hope that something in the film might elevate it above its genre trappings – and believe you me, indie romances are about as tied to those trappings as any Jennifer Aniston rom-com.  Read the rest of this entry »

Easy

January 21, 2012

If Jane Weinstock’s 2003 romantic comedy Easy had been made for a Hollywood studio, with attendant bigger budget and presumably bigger stars, I probably would have praised it as a noble failure.  Sure, it is not a good film, but in those circumstances, it would certainly be trying to do something interesting in that blandest and most uninspired of genres.  Unfortunately, Easy is a low-budget indie that should understand the trade-off between having no budget is having no market expectations, freeing the filmmaker to break the mold of the everyday genre fare and explore the possibilities it offers in elucidating the travails of romance in modern society.  The fact that it was written and directed by a woman, something that still happens all-to-rarely, only makes it worse.  Read the rest of this entry »