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SEPTEMBER 16TH, 2014

GODZILLA // The term antihero is becoming a staple in the entertainment that we consume at home and in theaters, mainly because a central character with flaws is much more relatable. “Breaking Bad”, “Guardians Of The Galaxy”, and even last year’s “Texas Chainsaw” sees the main characters lacking some (if not all) of the moral fiber we find synonymous with the ideal hero, yet we all cheer when they save the day or stomp the villain or make it out alive. The revelation experienced at the end of “Texas Chainsaw” is the reason it is mentioned in the tiny list above. Never would I have imagined myself cheering for a character that was sold as a serial killer for forty years. Yet there I was, with an epic change of heart, because the viewer was given a back story and an evil that was worse than Leatherface. That is the idea behind the new “Godzilla” and probably the spotlight on what was missing from the poorly received 1998 version directed by Roland Emmerich.

[SPOILER ALERT: There exists the possibility that some of this review contains spoilers. As I feel with almost any review, if you have not seen the film, read the following at your own risk.]

Aside from Godzilla’s appearance (proclaimed as too fat), for which I had no problem, the biggest complaint one is likely to hear coming out of Edwards’ film is how little the title monster is actually featured. Contrary to this belief, I believe Godzilla was used sparingly for good reasons. Often shrouded, Godzilla really only makes a strong appearance during the climax of the film, with his enemies causing most of the destruction through the rest of the run-time. For better or worse, this allows the human story-lines to take front and center. We get a mere glimpse of Bryan Cranston as he plays Joe, the head engineer at a Japanese nuclear power plant that is destroyed under mysterious circumstances at the beginning of the film. Jumping forward in time, we meet his grown up son, Ford (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) who returns home from the Navy to his wife, Elle (Elizabeth Olsen) and their son, only to be ripped away again when hell starts to break loose. Meanwhile, the team of Ishiro (Ken Watanabe) and Vivienne (Sally Hawkins) attempt to contain the mystery behind the nuclear plant destruction as Joe (Cranston) seeks to uncover the truth. Obviously, in the grand scheme of humans versus nature, this all means very little, with the possibility of human extinction being a likely outcome in the unleashing of these historic beasts.

In Roland Emmerich’s “Godzilla”, the title monster was simply an animal looking to nest under New York City and causing a wake of destruction in the process to which the human characters did not take kindly to and attacked. Many of the same ideas funnel through into Edwards’ vision, with animal instincts and the military playing huge parts in the events that occur. However, instead of forcing Godzilla to play title character and antagonist, we are given two other formidable kaiju. With human civilization getting in between them and their mating ritual, destruction becomes imminent. Earth needs a savior. The kaiju need a predator to even the playing field. Thus, Godzilla, the antihero is born. Dubbed as human’s salvation by Ishiro’s character, the idea of letting nature takes its course is one of the main themes of the film, basically stating that humans can try to control nature, but in the end, there really is no stopping it. Allowing the audience to cheer for Godzilla, with his historic trademarks like glowing blue and breathing fire, not only brings back the spirit of the countless “Godzilla Versus” films that came before it, but creates a climax much like a historic boxer entering the ring for his anticipated final fight.

Even though “Godzilla” is not a Marvel film, it is important to see the window that has been opened because of “The Avengers” bringing on cult director Joss Whedon as the visionary that now carries the franchise. Coming from small beginnings and taking a huge leap to the studio behemoth was one of the first of its kind and now it has become common place, with James Gunn and Shane Black following suit. Before “Godzilla”, you might have known director Gareth Edwards from his independent monster movie titled “Monsters” but that would have been all. So for Warner Brothers to stake their rebooted franchise of the giant Japanese monster on the back of a director with one feature film credit on his IMDB page, it truly shows how far we have come. Now, thanks to the success of “Godzilla”, Edwards finds himself on board for a future “Star Wars” films, setting the trajectory for the rest of his career.

Edwards brings a minimalistic view to the giant scope of “Godzilla”, creating a sense of awe and wonder around a monster that has been around for over sixty years. Watching both of his films in close proximity, one gets a strong sense of the overwhelming nature of the beasts in proportion to the human characters. It is one thing to visually get the idea across, to which Edwards and his visual effects team do a tremendous job, but it is another to emotionally portray how utterly minuscule humans are in comparison. One way this is achieved is by placing the camera from the human perspective through almost the entire film. The massive Godzilla and his enemies are seen through glimpses, like a giant footstep seen through a tram window or a battle happening in the background during the red smoke, halo jump scene, rather than angles that frame the entire monsters. Instead of cutting to these alternate angles, the audience in kept in the moment and allowed to constantly stay in the human’s perspective. Unfortunately, this forces Edwards to use Aaron Taylor-Johnson as a means to that perspective and subsequently places Johnson in almost every single major event that occurs throughout the film. As good as Johnson can be, his likability runs thin and his presence eventually sticks out like a sore thumb.

With “Godzilla”, Gareth Edwards makes huge strides, not only honoring the legendary mythos and creating another potential franchise, but giving the monster a much needed rejuvenation. Edwards also proves the significance in parring down and leveling the ground between a big budget blockbuster and a strong independent darling, providing the best of both worlds. Despite the human element not quite hitting its mark, with much of the talent remaining underutilized, except for the overused Aaron Taylor-Johnson in the lead role, the monsters are eventually allowed to take front and center, the tent-poles of what can only be described as an epic spectacle. Even though antiheroes have taken hold of every facet of our entertainment, Godzilla enters as one of the very first monsters that audiences can actually stand up and cheer for, a concept that seemed foreign to me before the screening of this film. And with that, if I can be extremely over-dramatic, we will never look at Gojira the same way again.

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A FAULT IN OUR STARS // Forming a connection with actress Shailene Woodley and her character, Hazel Grace Lancaster, is the easy part of “The Fault In Our Stars”. Forming a connection with a couple while constantly being reminded that they have or had cancer, on the other hand, is damn near impossible. Allow me to let you into my mindset as I entered this film. In a theater filled with young teenage girls, I ventured in alone, the only male that was not accompanied by any variation of a female (mother, daughter, girlfriend). Being a very sentimental person, I run a huge chance of getting teary eyed during emotional dramas, and even the trailer for fellow young adult adaptation “If I Stay” had me swelling with tears. So as I sat through the actual feature, watching Hazel Grace meet Augustus Waters (Ansel Elgort) at a cancer support group, falling in love despite the troubles in their lives, and found myself not even close to being choked up in a film about young love and cancer (proclaimed with a louder voice than normal), I knew there had to be something wrong.

Before I go any further, let me be perfectly clear. “The Fault In Our Stars” is genuinely entertaining. It captivates, it surprises, and even though I had not read the best-selling John Green novel that it was based on, I still found myself invested. But the problems land in a few different areas. First of all, the greatest cinematic love stories ever told all involve two extremely likable actors with distinct personalities. Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams. John Cusack and Kate Beckinsale. Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield. All of these couples are undeniably charismatic with a strong chemistry on- and off-screen. Shailene Woodley definitely has that likability, attractive with her off-beat humor and down-to-earth good looks. Her counterpoint, Ansel Elgort, on the other hand, simply does not have the same draw. Elgort lacks the star power and trajectory that those other leading men instilled. His performance is flat, unable to be as suave or even close to the same level as his partner, and seeing him with Woodley is uninspiring and the most depressing part of the film.

Another problem with the film is that it is constantly drawing attention to the fact that the characters are suffering from cancer. As Hazel’s parents (Laura Dern and Sam Trammell) walk on eggshells around her, all I could hear from their mouths was “cancer, cancer, cancer”. Trust me when I tell you there is no way a teenager can live a normal life when someone is constantly reminding them of their condition. Along the way, Make A Wish becomes a large subplot driving the film and that again continues to club the viewer over the head with what these teens suffer from. Do not get me wrong, cancer is serious and it is what sets this story apart from other young love adaptations. But other films have done it better, more specifically, Nicholas Sparks and his novel adaptation “A Walk To Remember” starring Shane West and Mandy Moore. Very similar to this film, Moore’s character has leukemia. As the couple falls in love, the leukemia is slowly introduced, with subplots like ugly duckling turned swan and the bucket list playing key parts in the narrative. The leukemia becomes a catalyst that threatens to tear this bright future apart. In “The Fault In Our Stars” we are basically born with the threat, live some menial life events with it, and eventually meet our demise with it. In an analogy used with a friend, I stated, it is the equivalent of someone jabbing you in the side with their finger through the entire run-time of the movie, constantly reminding you that this couple has cancer. What happens to them is hardly heard over that noise.

Badgering aside, Woodley shines like the growing star that she is, carrying the entire film on her shoulders. Bringing a cute and sometimes humorous element to the role, Hazel Grace is the girl that you want to meet and fall madly in love with. Having not read the book, Willem Dafoe’s role as author Peter von Houten was a nice surprise, as his cynical nature and closed off demeanor counters his electronic correspondence with Hazel and the expectations the viewer collects in anticipation for their meeting. Van Houten’s change of heart is the most moving portion of the film and again, for a film about cancer-ladened young love, the fact that a sixty-year-old grouch evokes the most emotional part of the film is saying something. The entire trip to Amsterdam is rather moving, especially when Hazel faces the stairs of the Anne Frank House. The eventual reveal and change of fortune in Amsterdam is rather telegraphed, a twist that I saw coming from a mile away, and adds for a much different third act, which feels forced and feels like cheating the audience out of the ending they deserve. However, with a decent soundtrack backing it up, including Kodaline and Charlie XCX, “The Fault In Our Stars” may not have brought tears to my eyes, but as far as young adult novel adaptations go, it definitely has enough going for it to be at least minimally entertain.

New Releases
Decoding Annie Parker
The Fault in Our Stars: Extended Edition
Godzilla (2014)
Think Like a Man Too (2014) 2-denied2-small

TV Box Set

  • About A Boy: Season One
  • Arrow: Season Two  
  • The Big Bang Theory: Season Seven
  • Bones: Season Nine
  • Castle: Season Six
  • C.S.I.: Season Fourteen
  • Denver the Last Dinosaur: The Complete Series
  • Dragon Ball Z: Season Seven
  • From Dusk Till Dawn: Season One 
  • Grimm: Season Three
  • Hannibal: Season Two  
  • Hawaii Five-0: Season Four
  • The Roosevelts: An Intimate History
  • Sleepy Hollow: Season One  huluplus
  • South Park: Season Seventeen
Special Editions/Other Releases
  • Angel Camouflaged
  • Armed Response
  • Asylum of the Dead
  • Avalanche
  • Barbie and the Secret Door
  • The Battery
  • Ben 10 Omniverse: Galactic Monsters
  • Big Operator
  • Burning Bush   2-denied2-small
  • Burt’s Buzz  2-denied2-small
  • Casting By
  • The Dead 2
  • Disaster L.A.
  • Emancipation Road
  • Eraserhead: Criterion
  • Evil Feed
  • Friend II: The Legacy
  • The Great Train Robbery (1978)
  • Hazmat
  • Honour  2-denied2-small
  • House of Bodies
  • House of the Witch Doctor
  • Ilo Ilo
  • Jesus People 2-denied2-small
  • Las Mujeres Panteras
  • Marvel Knights: Eternals
  • Meteor (1979)
  • The Mighty Humble Blueberry
  • Narx
  • New Jersey’s Red October
  • The Party
  • Petals On The Wind
  • Proof of the Devil
  • Saving Grace (2010)
  • Short Eyes
  • Strawberry Shortcake: Berry Best Friends
  • The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: 40th Anniversary
  • Thomas & Friends: Tale of the Brave
  • Warrior Princess
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