Sunday, May 18, 2014

Review: "Godzilla"

I saw a picture of one of those digital signs above a multiplex auditorium door that announces the title and show time: "GODZILLA - In IMAX" and under that, a very funny sign programmer added "Now with 100% Less Matthew Broderick." And thank goodness!

Fellow Kaiju fans, wipe the stench of Roland Emmerich's 1998 fiasco of a remake from your noses forever. Dry the disappointed tears of Guillermo del Toro's Pacific Rim from your eyes. Director Gareth Edwards (2010's indie fave, Monsters) and his team have crafted the modern Godzilla movie true Godzilla fans have been waiting for.

Writers Max Borenstein and David Callahan (The Expendables films) wisely don't try to give us an origin story and assume the events of 1954's Gojira did take place. 15 years after a catastrophic accident at a Japanese nuclear plant kills his wife n 1999 (not really a spoiler as that's part of the prologue), the plant's engineer Joe Brody (Bryan Cranston) is arrested for trespassing in the contaminated area, still looking for answers. When son Ford (Kick-Ass star Aaron Taylor-Johnson) arrives to bail him out, Joe convinces him the site is experiencing the same type of disturbances that preceded the last accident. Of course, his warnings come too late for Dr. Ichiro Serizowa (Ken Watanabe) to prevent the birth of an insectoid behemoth they soon dub a M.U.T.O. (Massive Unidentified Target Organism). Think of a cross between a praying mantis, a bat and steam shovel. When the MUTO's mate hatches in Nevada (it makes sense, trust me) their meeting place is apparently San Francisco, where Ford has just left his wife (Elizabeth Olsen) and young son. 

When the King of Monsters does show up, the Army drafts a plan to draw all three radiation-hungry monsters out to sea and blow them up, despite Serizowa's insistence that Godzilla has come to kill the MUTOs and restore nature's balance. There is, as in every great Kaiju movie, massive destruction (though this time it's Honolulu, Las Vegas and San Francisco that take the beatings) and an intense battle between three super-gigantic (Big G is at least 10 times his original size) monsters, two of whom should have known better. What little plot there is, mostly revolves around Ford trying to both save the world and get home to his family. Everyone seems to be having a grand time, despite the hyperbolic circumstances of the story. Cranston is as wonderful as always, while Juliette Binoche is wasted in a what amounts to a cameo as Joe's wife. But this is Taylor-Johnson's movie, and his beautiful green eyes (the same shade as my mother's) don't make up for the fact that he never takes his shirt off. Seriously though, it's nice to see an action hero outside of a Marvel movie who can actually act, despite not being given much more than genre tropes with which to work (not that those tropes don't serve the film - they are actually de rigeur.

The CGI is just terrific and the astonishing score by the prolific Alexandre Desplat really works to help Edwards paint moments of nearly silent terror in what could have been an ear-splittingly loud movie from start to finish (far from it). Expect Oscar noms for Sound, Sound Editing and Sound Effects on top of those for Special Visual Effects and Cinematography. My companion specifically requested that we not see it in 3D (his eyes are worse than mine) and I didn't miss it, per se, though I think I really need to see it again in 3D for the fullest effect.

For my first big Tent-Pole of the season, Godzilla  really had the potential to go either way. Thankfully it totally went the right way! Do yourselves a favor and see Godzilla on the big screen in a theater with a good sound system. **** (Four Out of Four Stars). Godzilla is rated PG-13 for "intense sequences of destruction, mayhem and creature violence."

I must admit, Godzilla was a very happy cap to Uncle P's most excellent weekend. It started with a completely painless purchase of a new washing machine (finally and thank His Noodly Appendages) at h.h.gregg. If you don't have them where you live, write them and ask them to open a store near you (that is a rare and completely unsolicited endorsement -- I have found that major appliance purchases are often painful, drawn-out affairs, but they were terrific). I then celebrated the last trip to the laundromat I ever want to take. That same evening, my dear K, who has been in a show for what seemed like forever, came over for cheese-steaks; "Will and Grace;" "Grimm;" "Face-Off" and Yahtzee! (I kicked her butt!) Today, after a thorough dusting, I made a very successful and yummy batch of mozzarella-stuffed meatballs and sauce for dinner and then met M for a terrifically fun movie! It's the little things... life finally seems to be getting back to (or gaining a new version of) some semblance of 'normal' in my life. That's a very good thing.

More, anon.

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