Film Review: Godzilla vs. Kong (2021)

Release Date: March 24th, 2021 (Asian markets)
Directed by: Adam Wingard
Written by: Eric Pearson, Max Borenstein, Terry Rossio, Michael Dougherty, Zach Shields
Based on: Godzilla by Toho, King Kong by Edgar Wallace, Merian C. Cooper
Music by: Tom Holkenberg
Cast: Alexander Skarsgård, Millie Bobby Brown, Rebecca Hall, Brian Tyree Henry, Shun Oguri, Eiza González, Julian Dennison, Kyle Chandler, Demián Bichir, Lance Reddick, Zhang Ziyi (scenes cut), Jessica Henwick (scenes cut)

Legendary Pictures, Warner Bros. Pictures, Toho, 113 Minutes

Review:

“The myths are real. There was a war. And they’re the last ones standing.” – Ilene Andrews

*There be spoilers here! No, seriously, I spoil the shit out of stuff in this one.

My review of the previous film in the MonsterVerse series ended with:

The moral of the story review is:
Monsters punching monsters: Good!
Human family drama and storytelling: Bad!

That still holds true for this movie but one half of the human story was really good and the best use of human characters, thus far, in this series, which has now made it four films deep.

This is also the best film out of the four, as it found a really good balance between action and storytelling and seemed to have fixed some of the biggest criticisms of the series. Well, except for the human characters but it did get that half right, as I already stated.

Looking at the human stories first, I’ll start with the bad.

This brings back the daughter and father of the family with all the drama from Godzilla: King of the Monsters. With that, it primarily focuses on Millie Bobby Brown’s character and just uses Kyle Chandler pretty sparingly. Honestly, it felt like Chandler probably filmed all of his scenes in a day or two. Also, this isn’t a knock against these actors, it’s just a knock against how they’re used, especially Brown.

In this movie, Brown’s Madison teams up with Julian Dennison, the fat kid from Deadpool 2, and Brian Tyree Henry, who plays a really annoying conspiracy theory podcaster that I can only describe as a male Leslie Jones. Basically, he’s loud, awkward and unfunny while trying so hard to be the comedic relief in a movie that doesn’t need any.

Anyway, this odd trio easily break into high tech, high security facilities and somehow end up in Hong Kong and just accidentally stumble upon MechaGodzilla. When it comes to them stepping up to the plate to save the day, they more or less fail, but then somehow short out an evil supercomputer with booze from a mini flask.

Needless to say, everything that happens around these characters is stupid, convenient and if they were completely edited out, it wouldn’t disrupt the main story and it’d actually be a much better movie.

Now on the flipside, we get the second group of human characters, who were f’n excellent! It’s almost like their scenes were written by someone else than the other group. The stark contrast between the quality of these two different human plot threads is kind of astounding and baffling.

This other group consists of Alexander Skarsgård, a guy I’ve always liked, as well as Rebecca Hall and the orphaned deaf girl she cares for, played by Kaylee Hottle, who ended up giving the best performance out of any human being in these movies.

Hottle’s Jia is a native of Skull Island and she’s the only person that Kong trusts, as they’ve developed a way of communicating with each other, secret from the adults on the island. Jia is the voice of Kong throughout the film and she is also his conscience at times. Frankly, it’s a really beautiful relationship that was crafted exceptionally well. It’s impossible not to get wrapped up in the emotion of their bond and the pain and love they share throughout the picture.

Additionally, Skarsgård and Hall are absolutely perfect in this and if any characters come back for future films again, I sincerely hope its these three.

Now on to the monsters!

As should be expected, both Godzilla and Kong were great in this. Every single battle was visually incredible and it far exceeds what has been done in the previous movies. Plus, we get to see MechaGodzilla show up to the fight in the last twenty minutes of the film.

The special effects in this are just superb. There were even moments where I almost thought that the CGI was a practical effect, that’s how good some shots were. The big final battle in Hong Kong is, hands down, the best action sequence that this film series has given us, thus far. Granted, I hope that now that they’ve really found their footing, it’s just a taste of what could come.

Something I wasn’t expecting and was thoroughly impressed by was the Hollow Earth stuff. Kong and the humans I like in the movie return to Kong’s true home and Kong even sits on the throne of his long dead ancestors. This part of the film also shows us a lot of cool creatures and we see Kong mix it up with some of them.

As far as the story goes, it’s simple, pretty easy to follow but I felt like it left me with a lot of questions that I hope are Easter eggs to be answered in the future. Especially, in regards to the Hollow Earth stuff and the mythos around Kong’s ancestors and their seemingly advanced kingdom.

I honestly feel like this would’ve deserved an 8 out of 10 or possibly higher but that bad human subplot really takes you out of the film when it pops up. I honestly wish all that crap would’ve been wiped from the script and freed up more pages to develop the story and the good characters more. But I think that Brown and Chandler had contracts that had to be honored, regardless of what that meant for the total package of this motion picture.

Still, everything else is so good that I really, really enjoyed this movie. I just hope someone does an edit, removing the bad parts at some point because I’d like to see it and I think it’d make the plot flow better and wouldn’t detract from the movie’s strengths.

I know that nothing is currently announced, following this film, but Warner Bros. needs to get moving on a follow up. Honestly, this is really the only good thing the studio has going for them after they’ve squandered the DC film universe.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: the Legendary Pictures’ King Kong and Godzilla films before this, as well as the original Japanese films King Kong vs. Godzilla and King Kong Escapes.

Book Review: Famous Monsters – Ack-ives, Vol. 1: Godzilla

I recently picked up and read the Famous Monsters – Ack-ives on Hammer Horror. While reviewing it, I noticed that it was the second volume in Famous Monsters new Ack-Ives magazine specials. So when I looked it up and saw that the first one was focused on all things Godzilla, I had to track down a copy of it.

Like the Hammer one, this is basically full of a book’s worth of material in a large, colorful, photo heavy magazine format.

There is a lot here and I really enjoy these releases by Famous Monsters and I hope they keep doing more.

Essentially, these are collected archives of past articles focused on the specific subject. I think that this one was released to tie in and help promote the recent American Godzilla sequel.

Ultimately, this magazine was a treasure trove of Famous Monsters’ best articles on the top kaiju franchise in the world.

For fans of kaiju movies, especially those featuring the King of Monsters, this is definitely worth picking up and adding to your collection.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: other classic horror magazines.

Vids I Dig 096: Filmento: ‘Godzilla: King of the Monsters’: The Second Side of Evil

From Filmento’s YouTube description: Godzilla: King of the Monsters is yet another big blockbuster flop of the year 2019, even with everyone’s favorite Millie Bobbie Brown at the front. And that’s actually sad to hear, because this movie is the perfect example of how to properly make these massive Hollywood monster creature movies. In today’s family friendly PG episode of Youtube’s favorite show Film Perfection, let’s see how Godzilla 2 handles its ancient titan monsters and ties them into its human characters, in a way that results in one unified experience. Now I just need a movie about that Leviathan titan monster, Titanus Leviathan or whatever.

Film Review: Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019)

Also known as: Godzilla 2, Fathom (working titles)
Release Date: May 29th, 2019 (Europe, South Korea, Indonesia)
Directed by: Michael Dougherty
Written by: Michael Dougherty, Zach Shields, Max Borenstein
Based on: Gojira, Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster, Mothra and Rodan by Toho Co. Ltd.
Music by: Bear McCreary
Cast: Kyle Chandler, Vera Farmiga, Millie Bobby Brown, Bradley Whitford, Sally Hawkins, Charles Dance, Thomas Middleditch, Aisha Hinds, O’Shea Jackson Jr., David Strathaim, Ken Watanabe, Zhang Ziyi, Joe Morton

Legendary Pictures, Warner Bros. Pictures, Toho, 132 Minutes

Review:

“We opened Pandora’s box. And there’s no closing it now.” – Jonah Alan

*There be spoilers here! No, seriously, I spoil the shit out of stuff in this one.

It’s been five years since the last American Godzilla film and I hate waiting. Sure, we got Kong: Skull Island two years ago, which is a part of this series, but Godzilla is the true king of kaiju and his return has been long overdue. Plus, we were promised a movie featuring King Ghidorah, Mothra and Rodan, so five years was too damn long to wait.

Now I enjoyed the first movie, even if I had some issues with it but I discussed those in that film’s review. As far as this one goes, I still have some issues but overall, this is a superior chapter in the pretty good American Godzilla series.

The film was certainly well cast with its human being characters but that was a part of my problem with the movie. There was just so much broken family drama and bullshit that it dragged the film down. Sure, you need a human story to ground the picture and make it relatable but I want to see giant monsters punching the shit out of each other, as opposed to an episode of This Is Us.

As far as the monsters go, I was afraid that the movie would have monster overkill, as the trailer mentioned 17 “titans”, which is white people for “kaiju”. Luckily, the only ones we really see fight are the main four we were promised: Godzilla, Ghidorah, Mothra and Rodan. There are several other monsters that appear, including a new M.U.T.O. and a creature similar to Kumonga, but we only really see glimpses of them and then one scene where they appear at the end, after the big action has already gone down. Kong and Skull Island are also mentioned but Kong does not appear, which does create a bit of a plot hole but whatever, everything has plot holes these days.

The origin of the monsters is different in this film too. Mothra is Chinese, Rodan is Mexican, Godzilla is from Atlantis and King Ghidorah is Antarcticese but is later discovered to be from space, so I guess his origin is the most accurate. Well, except for the fact that he has Wolverine healing powers and can grow back heads like a hydra.

Also, Rodan is a dick in this movie and he’s not an ally to Godzilla and Mothra, as he should be. He comes around in the end, after the final fight, but I wanted to see the classic match up of King Ghidorah vs. Godzilla, Mothra and Rodan in a 3-on-1 handicap match.

There’s one point in the film where a general says, “We’ve got a secret weapon…” And my mind immediately screamed, “MECHAGODZILLA!!!” But then the general continued with, “…an oxygen destroyer.” So that was a nice homage to the original Gojira and it was a tremendous use of CGI special effects to make it look much more powerful than the 1954 equivalent but the weapon was used so freely and carelessly that the film missed the whole moral debate over that powerful weapon. However, I guess that was sort of replaced by the humans arguing about this film’s other weapon/device/MacGuffin: the Orca.

But the big monster battles are the most important thing about any kaiju movie and this picture gives us pretty solid kaiju action. At least, it’s much better than the total lack of kaiju action we got with this film’s predecessor, the 2014 Godzilla.

New York Yankees fans will love the big final battle in this film as it takes place in Fenway Park. You see the iconic stadium and all of Boston get leveled. And I’m assuming the Red Sox allowed the film to shoot there, due to some of the specific shots that saw Millie Bobby Brown’s character arrive there for the climax. But I guess the famous saying should now read: “Boston Strong, Godzilla Stronger.”

Anyway, I was mostly happy with the film. The human drama bullshit was grating and Vera Farmiga’s character is an evil, selfish psychopath, no matter how hard this film wants to justify her apocalyptic actions. They kind of try to redeem her in the end with her final act but that bitch wanted to die a hero because of her own ego not because she’s got a heart or anything. Thirty minutes earlier she was releasing giant monsters despite millions of people needing to evacuate from giant monsters. She was an insufferable shithead and her husband, Kyle Chandler a.k.a. Mr. Friday Night Lights was pretty terrible too. But maybe I’m just pissed that he never got killed or arrested on Bloodline.

My favorite moment in the movie was when the deaf chick from that Oscar winning fish fuck movie got eaten by King Ghidorah like a piece of popcorn chicken. I bet she lost a shoe this time too.

This review is probably all over the place but I got shit hammered at the theater, hit the bar pretty hard after and am currently too wired to sleep, so I wrote this now, as it’s approaching 3 in the f’n morning. Thank fuck for spell and grammar check.

But hey, this was a step up from the last one. It had better kaiju action, a better than decent story and good acting apart from the two leads that should have been merked much earlier than Bryan Cranston was in the first flick. Hell, Kyle Chandler survives again and he’s still getting away with killing his own brother and sending his other one to Cuba with his dumb wife that forgot to ditch her phone.

And I’ve also got to ask, what’s with all this need for a plot and shit? Monsters smash monsters, the end! It’s not rocket science! We don’t need story getting in the way of a kaiju Royal Rumble. Other than the original, original Godzilla picture, these don’t need to be thinking movies. When “Stone Cold” Steve Austin was giving Stunners to the Undertaker, we didn’t need him to stop before the attack and recite Shakespeare, we just wanted to see him drop the Deadman with a kick to the gut and a yank of the head.

The moral of the story review is:
Monsters punching monsters: Good!
Human family drama and storytelling: Bad!

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: the American Godzilla film before this, as well as the original Japanese films Ghidorah, the Three Headed Monster, Invasion of Astro-Monster, Destroy All Monsters and Godzilla: Final Wars.

Film Review: Kong: Skull Island (2017)

Release Date: February 28th, 2017 (Odeon Leicester Square premiere)
Directed by: Jordan Vogt-Roberts
Written by: Dan Gilroy, Max Borenstein, Derek Connolly, John Gatnis
Based on: King Kong by James Creelman, Ruth Rose, Merian C. Cooper, Edgar Wallace
Music by: Henry Jackman
Cast: Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, John Goodman, Brie Larson, Jing Tian, Toby Kebbell, John Ortiz, Corey Hawkins, Jason Mitchell, Shea Whigham, Thomas Mann, Terry Notary, John C. Reilly, Robert Taylor

Legendary Pictures, Tencent Pictures, Warner Bros. Pictures, 118 Minutes

Review:

I guess I will forever have a personal connection to this film, as the cigar box that Samuel L. Jackson’s Col. Packard keeps his medals in, is one that I designed in 2004. Strange that a product I had a hand in creating a decade ago ended up in a film that takes place just after the Vietnam War.

Personal connection aside, it should be no surprise to anyone who regularly reads Cinespiria, that I am a massive fan of kaiju movies. So anything with giant monsters is always a treat, especially when it comes with a cast of actors as strong as those in Kong: Skull Island.

While I liked Legendary Pictures’ Godzilla from 2014, it lacked a certain spirit that the giant scaly kaiju always seemed to have in his Japanese films. Kong: Skull Island is also missing that spirit. While it feels like there is some heart put into the film, it was sacrificed for action and the current trend of making films as big and as loud as possible. It is also a CGI fest that doesn’t always work, as it sometimes looks spectacular and other times looks shoddy.

Kong is still a great conflicted character that you feel for, and I guess, to me, that is always the most important part of any Kong story. In this film, you learn that his family was killed by the giant reptiles that live under the island. You even have a scene where our heroes come across a graveyard where the bones of Kong’s parents are on display. You certainly care for the big hulking CGI ape, which is good at building the foundation for what the studio plans to do after this film. Ultimately, we will get to a Godzilla and King Kong showdown after the next solo Godzilla movie.

I thought it was great that this film is just shy of two hours. The Peter Jackson King Kong from 2005 was a tremendous bore at well over three hours and Hollywood has had this trend of making big blockbusters a lot longer than they need to be.

In regards to the story, the setup and the purpose for going to the island is well orchestrated. Once we get to the island however, things move too fast and are very disjointed. I feel like the reveal of Kong came too early. Maybe Legendary Pictures were trying to makeup for the lack of Godzilla in Godzilla but it was too much, too soon in this picture. Seeing Kong destroy a fleet of helicopters minutes after they arrive was surprising. While this Kong doesn’t follow the traditional storylines of its predecessors, Kong typically doesn’t really arrive until the halfway point of his films. Even in the first Toho Kong film from Japan, it was a good third of the way through the movie before the giant ape showed up to crush a giant octopus.

The cast, as great as the ensemble is, wasn’t that exciting to watch. It almost feels like a Marvel movie though, as it features four actors from the Avengers film franchise: Tom Hiddleston (Loki), Samuel L. Jackson (Nick Fury), John C. Reilly (a small part in Guardians of the Galaxy) and Brie Larson (who has been cast to play Captain Marvel). None of the characters were written that well and they all seemed a bit lifeless. It was cool seeing Hiddleston get to be a macho bad ass but there was no real depth to who he was.

Kong: Skull Island was a bit of a disappointment. The first trailer looked really good and I had hoped that Legendary would have corrected some of the mistakes they made with Godzilla. In attempting to do so, they may have gone too far in the other direction, they need to find the balance. Frankly, for movies about giant monsters fighting, neither are as exciting as they should be.

Rating: 7/10

Film Review: Godzilla (2014)

Release Date: May 8th, 2014 (Los Angeles Premiere)
Directed by: Gareth Edwards
Written by: Max Borenstein, David Callaham
Based on: Gojira by Toho Co. Ltd.
Music by: Alexandre Desplat
Cast: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Ken Watanabe, Elizabeth Olsen, Juliette Binoche, Sally Hawkins, David Strathairn, Bryan Cranston, Akira Takarada (scene cut)

Legendary Pictures, Warner Bros. Pictures, Toho, 123 Minutes

godzilla_2014Review:

It has been 60 years! Yes, 60 years since Godzilla first appeared on-screen. In that time we have seen a few different incarnations over dozens of films. There are some things that change from era-to-era and some timeless parts that remain consistent. Well, the new Godzilla follows suit, in that it was a reinvention that took some liberties yet also stayed true to the general nature of the franchise.

Godzilla, as a monster, was pretty damn accurate overall. Some people have complained that he’s too bulky, he is – but he just looks like more of a beast. Others have complained about his face and the fact that it looks human-like, I get that and noticed it but it didn’t bother me. We’re no longer limited by the technology of the rubber suit and truth be told, I haven’t liked most Godzilla faces since the original era came to an end in the mid-70s. At least the monster didn’t have the Jay Leno chin of the 1998 Godzilla monster from that atrocious Roland Emmerich film.

The other monsters in the film, there are two, are variations of one another, as one is the male and has wings, while the other is a much larger female without wings. I wasn’t too keen on these monsters, called M.U.T.O. for “Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organism.” Their design was kind of cool, their backstory and biology was even cooler but they didn’t have that classic Godzilla monster feel. They kind of came across as more streamlined versions of a couple of generic kaiju from Pacific Rim. Maybe their design is just how filmmakers envision contemporary monsters to be. I thought it was pretty unimaginative and they had more resemblances to that shitty Cloverfield monster than anything from the vast Godzilla mythos. I just didn’t like them, I never felt that threatened by them and was kind of just waiting for King Ghidorah to fly on-screen and really tear shit up.

That leads me to one of the beefs I have with the film. With such a deep pool of characters and monsters to pull from, if you really needed Godzilla to battle a threat, why not reinvent some of those iconic monsters and really give fans a fight they want to see instead of this film that could have been titled Godzilla vs. The Unimaginative Insect-Dragon and His Big Angry Wife? I don’t think Hollywood understands that the Godzilla brand isn’t just Godzilla, there is an entire sea of monsters waiting to be exploited. In fact, in the trailer when I saw the flying monster for a split second, I thought Rodan was going to be in this. Nope, no Rodan, just some slightly modified Cloverfield creature with wings – opportunity completely missed.

But then there is the issue with licensing. Apparently, Legendary Pictures didn’t have the rights to any other creatures. I feel like this could have been resolved before this film was made, as they have since acquired the right to several more monsters for the upcoming sequel.

Another beef with the film is that it is called Godzilla but it barely has any Godzilla in it. He doesn’t show up for like an hour and when he makes his first appearance to fight the flying M.U.T.O. at the Honolulu Airport, they cut away just after he roars and right when your fanboy boner goes to full attention. Thank you, Gareth Edwards and Legendary Pictures for giving millions of moviegoers cinematic blue balls.

The lack of Godzilla carried over into the big finale. Godzilla would engage the two monsters, they’d do a power move or two and then the film would cut to the human characters running around trying to complete a nuisance of a mission that didn’t matter all that much considering the state of San Francisco by that point. Godzilla punch, M.U.T.O. bite, cut to overly dramatic white Army dude torching eggs. Godzilla kick, M.U.T.O. jump, cut to overly dramatic white Army dude starting a boat. Screw the humans, show the monster fight, that’s what we paid to see. In fact, scrap the whole plot and just put Godzilla in a cage match with a dozen monsters. Preferably classic kaiju and not some half-assed Level 3 bosses from a 1987 Konami game.

Now getting to the human element of the film, it was pretty good. Bryan Cranston  and Ken Watanabe were fantastic but lacked screen time compared to Aaron Taylor-Johnson, who was better than decent, and Elizabeth Olsen, who felt completely wasted and unnecessary in the film.

Now it probably sounds like I am griping about this a lot but I did really enjoy the movie. There was much more good than bad and it is worth your time if giant monsters engaged in combat is your thing. Tonally, the film felt like it belonged in the same world as the original 1954 Gojira – the original Godzilla film that was darker and a lot more serious and frightening than it’s comedic and campy successors. The tone was perfect, in my opinion, and that is what really makes this movie.

I hope that if this becomes the franchise it is destined to be, the filmmakers going forward tap the well and bring back our favorite kaiju from past films. Because comparatively, no one wants to see Superman fight some scrubs that just walked out of the gym.

Rating: 7/10