Film Review: Godzilla (1998)

Release Date: May 18th, 1998 (New York City premiere)
Directed by: Roland Emmerich
Written by: Dean Devlin, Roland Emmerich, Ted Elliot, Terry Rossio
Based on: Godzilla by Toho
Music by: David Arnold
Cast: Matthew Broderick, Jean Reno, Maria Pitillo, Hank Azaria, Kevin Dunn, Michael Lerner, Harry Shearer, Doug Savant, Vicki Lewis, Richard Gant, Nancy Cartwright, Frank Welker (voice)

Centropolis Film Productions, Fried Films, Independent Pictures, TriStar Pictures, Toho Co. Ltd., 139 Minutes

Review:

“What the hell’s the matter with you people? You’ve caused more damage than that goddamn thing did!” – Mayor Ebert

Yes, Mayor Ebert… you’ve got a fucking point, as most of the actual destruction in this movie is committed by the moronic military and not the giant monster.

I’m not sure if that’s because Roland Emmerich wanted to paint the military and the government as incompetent assholes or because he’s just a shitty director that didn’t have the talent to replicate the success of Independence Day. But his first big mistake was making this story’s heroes the absolute antithesis of those from that much better movie.

Whatever the reason though, this movie is so fucking stupid that it’s painful to watch, which is why I have never actually sat down and watched this in its entirety in one sitting. Sure, I’ve seen the whole film in increments thanks to cable television but as a lifelong Godzilla fan, I had no urge to see this in the theater when it came out and all the footage and sequences I’ve seen over the years has only solidified my disdain for this big budget kaiju-sized abortion.

Many people have claimed that this isn’t a true Godzilla film and that it is the worst one ever made. Those people aren’t wrong, as I’d rather be stuck in a room for 24 hours being forced to watch Godzilla’s Revenge, over and over, than have to watch this film ever again.

It’s completely incompetent from top-to-bottom with brainless characters, impressively bad dialogue and a story that feels like it was freestyled from the mind of a child playing with kaiju toys in the bathtub.

There is no traditional three act structure and this is just a string of sequences where some of them feel like they don’t even fit within the same movie. It also gets so far away from the core of what Godzilla is that it truly isn’tGodzilla movie, it’s some sort of generic kaiju flick trying to borrow more from Jurassic Park than its own namesake.

Had this not been given the Godzilla name and branding, it may have been more palatable but there is nothing about this that can win over the fans they assumed they’d lure in just by using the name of the world’s most famous giant monster. While that may have been a run-on sentence, 1998’s Godzilla was a run-on movie.

About two-thirds of the way into the film they “kill” Godzilla, after destroying half of Manhattan. Then suddenly we’re sucked into a different movie where baby Godzillas are chasing the heroes idiots through Madison Square Garden like an army of velociraptors in a cheap attempt at trying to one-up the far superior Jurassic Park movies. Once the babies are killed, Godzilla miraculously rises from the ashes like, “Fuck you, hoes! Ain’t dead!” It’s a clusterfuck that shows that Roland Emmerich doesn’t have time for any sort of traditional narrative structure. And no, that’s not an artistic choice it’s just the incompetence of a moron that cares more about mass destruction than actually making cinematic art.

I haven’t even talked about the special effects yet, which are a mixed bag but mostly shit. Where practical effects are used, things actually look quite good but where the film employs CGI, it looks terrible even for 1998. Hell, this movie came out two years after Roland Emmerich’s Independence Day and it looks significantly cheaper than that film. This is really where big studios started to rely on CGI too much and it killed the immersion into the cinematic world onscreen. I never feel that way when watching Independence Day or Jurassic Park but here, it’s fucking distracting.

The action sequences with dozens of Apache helicopters flying through the canyon-like streets of New York City like swarms of insects just look cartoonish and buffonish. In fact, all these big action sequences between the military and Godzilla look more like a video game than a motion picture. Maybe modern HD makes it look worse than it did in 1998 but the digital flaws are really apparent and it looks like the studio cut corners in post-production or just rushed this out too soon.

Based off of the final product, Roland Emmerich could’ve just invented his own kaiju creature. But I guess less people would’ve gone to see that, so bastardizing something beloved was the easiest route to go when you can’t actually rely on talent.

Rating: 3/10
Pairs well with: other Roland Emmerich schlock that cost way too much to make.

Film Review: Marked For Death (1990)

Also known as: Screwface (working title)
Release Date: October 5th, 1990
Directed by: Dwight H. Little
Written by: Michael Grais, Mark Victor
Music by: James Newton Howard
Cast: Steven Seagal, Joanna Pacula, Keith David, Danny Trejo, Danielle Harris, Kevin Dunn, Peter Jason

Steamroller Productions, 20th Century Fox, 93 Minutes

Review:

“Look upon this madman! Him dead and him don’t even know it!” – Screwface

I’ll be honest, I was never really a Steven Seagal fan. I didn’t dislike him, however. But when I was younger, I was more into Jean-Claude Van Damme because BloodsportKickboxer and Lionheart were just better pictures than anything Seagal put out. However, I did remember liking the one where he fought evil voodoo Jamaicans. So I figured that I would revisit it, all these years later.

Marked For Death isn’t a good movie but it is a passable 1990ish action film. It’s high octane, balls to the wall and well, it features awesome evil voodoo Jamiacans. It also features one of my favorite badasses, not Seagal but Keith David, who will always have a special place in my heart for They Live and The Thing.

The film also features a young Danielle Harris, a still unknown Danny Trejo and a small part by a guy who is in a ton of movies I love, Kevin Dunn.

The story sees a DEA agent come to the realization that he has become just as bad as the criminals he tries to bring down. He quits his job and returns home to decompress. However, his town is overrun by Jamaican drug dealers. Seagal then gets caught up in it and makes it his personal mission to act as a rogue agent and take these bad guys down.

The leader of the baddies is a scary looking voodoo practitioner named Screwface. The guy is legit scary and one of the coolest action movie villains of the era.

There’s guns, explosions, voodoo and all sorts of sinister voodoo trickery. The last act of the film sees Seagal and Keith David track Screwface back to Jamaica for a final showdown. But we get two final showdowns because of some of that sinister voodoo trickery.

Marked For Death is certainly watchable and I’ll be honest, it’s kind of fun. This is the best of the early Seagal movies, as far as I remember, but I’ll probably rework my way through them, as it’s been awhile since I’ve indulged in Mr. Seagal’s flicks.

Rating: 6.25/10

Film Review: The Black Dahlia (2006)

Release Date: August 9th, 2006 (Tokyo premiere)
Directed by: Brian De Palma
Written by: Josh Friedman
Based on: The Black Dahlia by James Ellroy
Music by: Mark Isham
Cast: Josh Hartnett, Scarlett Johansson, Aaron Eckhart, Hilary Swank, Mia Kirshner, Mike Starr, Fiona Shaw, Patrick Fischler, Rose McGowan, Troy Evans, Pepe Serna, William Finley, Kevin Dunn (uncredited)

Davis Films, Millennium Films, Nu Image, Signature Pictures, Universal Pictures, 120 Minutes

Review:

“She looks like that dead girl! How sick are you?” – Kay Lake

For a modern noir picture with a cast this star studded, The Black Dahlia was a real disappointment. It had some positives but it mostly falls flat and is an example of style over substance.

This is not a good example of the work Brian De Palma can do. He is one of the best directors of his generation but this really misses its mark, which is unfortunate, as the subject matter is great and the talent he was able to get in this picture was impressive.

Josh Hartnett is the main star of the picture but his role feels pretty weak. I don’t feel like it is Hartnett’s fault, I feel like it is the direction of De Palma and the emotionless script. However, Hillary Swank, who is more talented than this film is able to show, is kind of just in this movie. It doesn’t really matter that it is her.

Although, everyone else does seem to work with the material. I thought that Aaron Eckhart and Scarlett Johansson were really good in their scenes and Patrick Fischler, a guy who is in everything but doesn’t get the notoriety he should, knocked his scenes out of the park. You also get to see Mike Starr and Troy Evans, two guys who do a lot of cop type roles but always bring their best to the table.

The real scene stealer however, is Mia Kirshner, an actress I’ve been mesmerized by since first seeing her in The Crow: City of Angels, a film where she was the only positive other than the murderous psycho biker played by Iggy Pop. Kirshner truly owns her role in this picture and it may have been the best she’s ever been. She’s really the only character in the film that you feel any emotion for. Honestly, it’s been eleven years since this came out and she should have gotten more prestigious roles but maybe her work was overshadowed by this being such a lackluster film.

Now, despite the overall film falling short, the visuals are top notch. The cinematography is unquestionably superb. Everything within the film feels true and authentic, even the bizarre K.D. Lang performance that pops up in the middle of the movie.

The narrative and the big reveal at the end were all pretty poorly strung together, though. It just made the film too bizarre and frankly, pretty fucking stupid and just really annoying after sitting through this two hour mess.

Typically, I like the work of Brian De Palma. This one just misses its mark.

Rating: 5.25/10

Film Review: The ‘Ghostbusters’ Film Series (1984-1989)

For those who haven’t seen these films, you have wasted your time on this planet. In fact, these are films that should be beamed into the brains of unborn babies. This would eliminate any chance of horrible humorless babies coming into the world. America, or the world for that matter, doesn’t need anymore humorless jerks being born to boring parents.

These films are great. The first is much greater but the second is still damn good. So let me get right into these movies.

Ghostbusters (1984):

Release Date: June 7th, 1984 (Westwood premiere)
Directed by: Ivan Reitman
Written by: Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis
Music by: Elmer Bernstein
Cast: Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, Ernie Hudson, Sigourney Weaver, Rick Moranis, Annie Potts, William Atherton, Slavitza Jovan, Casey Kasem (cameo)

Black Rhino, Delphi Productions, Columbia Pictures, 105 Minutes

ghostbustersReview:

I was five years-old when this came out. I didn’t see it in the theater because my mum thought it was “too intense”. She was wrong, as I saw it when I was six and fell in love with the film and its cast.

My young mind was exposed to Bill Murray, as well as Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis. From that point forward, my lifelong allegiance to those three was solidified. Hell, I also had an allegiance to Ernie Hudson, Rick Moranis, Sigourney Weaver and Annie Potts after this film.

Few films, even great comedy ensembles, are able to assemble a cast this good. Originally, John Belushi was set to play Murray’s part but his death changed things. Eddie Murphy was also cast in the role that went to Ernie Hudson while John Candy had Rick Moranis’ part. All things considered, I’m glad the film turned out the way it did. I think Murray is the gel that makes this unit work.

Great cast aside, the film was fun and original. The story sees three failed scientists and a hired fourth guy go against the paranormal forces that are ravaging 1980s New York City. It is a pretty nonstop film that moves fast from the first scene through the climactic final battle with Gozer the Gozerian.

Peter Venkman is Bill Murray’s greatest character, even though many can just say that he’s playing Bill Murray with a bit more intelligence in the realm of science. It is also Ramis’ and Aykroyd’s most iconic roles. The film is a perfect storm of talent, comedy, action and storytelling.

The special effects, for their time, are top notch and well executed. The diversity in the types of ghosts and supernatural characters is pretty astounding. While this film could’ve played as well with typical one-dimensional ghost characters, the filmmakers got insanely creative and took a lot of liberties.

Ghostbusters isn’t a perfect film.. no, actually, it is.

Rating: 10/10

Ghostbusters II (1989):

Release Date: June 16th, 1989
Directed by: Ivan Reitman
Written by: Harold Ramis, Dan Aykroyd
Music by: Randy Edelman
Cast: Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, Ernie Hudson, Sigourney Weaver, Rick Moranis, Annie Potts, Peter MacNicol, Kurt Fuller, Wilhelm von Homburg, Mary Ellen Trainor, Christopher Neame, Chloe Webb (uncredited), Kevin Dunn (uncredited)

Columbia Pictures, 108 Minutes

ghostbusters_iiReview:

It took five years to get a sequel. Many think that it is inferior to the original, and they aren’t wrong. But it is still great and although it doesn’t capture lightning in a bottle a second time, it does retain some of the magic of the first film.

At its worst, it is a continuation of these characters’ lives. With a talented cast, such as this, it is hard to make a bad film, even if a sequel wasn’t necessary.

The entire cast that I mentioned in my write-up about the first movie, returns in this installment. We also get the addition of Peter MacNicol, who was brilliant and really steals the scenes that he is in – a tremendous feat when sharing the screen with Murray, Aykroyd, Ramis, Hudson, Weaver and Moranis. I’m surprised that MacNicol hasn’t done more comedy like this.

This chapter sees the Ghostbusters go against Vigo the Carpathian, who is an homage to Rasputin and Vlad Tepes (the real Dracula). He is in search of a baby to be his vessel for reincarnation. It just so happens that Weaver’s character is now the mother of a baby.

While not as outright funny as the first film, the humor is still top notch, the gags are funny and it is just nice to see these guys together again for another two hour romp.

Ghostbusters II isn’t an example of a bad sequel, it is a good sequel. While it wasn’t needed, we got it. It could have been much worse but I am happy with the finished product, regardless.

Rating: 8.5/10

Film Review: Draft Day (2014)

Release Date: April 7th, 2014 (Los Angeles premiere)
Directed by: Ivan Reitman
Written by: Rajiv Joseph, Scott Rothman
Music by: John Debney
Cast: Kevin Costner, Jennifer Garner, Denis Leary, Frank Langella, Tom Welling, Sam Elliott, Ellen Burstyn, Chadwick Boseman, Terry Crews, Kevin Dunn, W. Earl Brown

Odd Lot Entertainment, Montecito Picture Company, Summit Entertainment, Lionsgate, 110 Minutes

draft_dayReview:

*Written in 2014.

Being that tomorrow is the real 2014 NFL Draft, I figured that I should finally get to the theater to see the film Draft Day. Being a fan of Kevin Costner and sports movies in general means that I am a really big fan of sports movies starring Kevin Costner. Plus, this film also stars Denis Leary, Frank Langella, Terry Crews, Sam Elliott and a multitude of other stars I like in addition to countless cameos. It’s also directed by Ivan Reitman, who’s work filled my youth with joy – most notably Ghostbusters, Ghostbusters II, Twins, Stripes, Kindergarten Cop and Meatballs.

Now this is hardly Reitman’s best work and certainly not Costner’s best sports movie. That doesn’t mean that this wasn’t a worthwhile and enjoyable film. It was a fresh angle on football films and showed that the action behind the scenes is just as tough, heavy and stressful as it is on the filed, if not more so.

The film showcased the difficult job of being the general manager of a major sports franchise and the level of responsibility that comes with such a position. Kevin Costner did a great job with the material he was given and his presence added a level of respect and charisma to the role that a lesser actor wouldn’t have been able to bring.

Leary was great as the coach. I especially enjoyed the bit where he pretty much dissed the City of Cleveland for being a shithole compared to the wealthy lifestyle he had in Dallas – his previous coaching gig. Leary, along with Langella and Jennifer Garner, added some good depth to the cast. Chadwick Boseman who starred as Jackie Robinson in last year’s 42, did a good job as one of the potential draftees in the film. He was a natural fit and it was nice seeing him move on into a new role after his great performance in 42.

Overall, the film wasn’t great but it was fun and entertaining and certainly not dull or redundant. Sports films are a dime a dozen but this is one that stands a little bit above the average films in the genre. It’s no Rudy but it also isn’t The Replacements.

Rating: 6/10