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: Straight Outta Compton (2015)

Release Date: August 11th, 2015 (Los Angeles premiere)
Directed by: F. Gary Gray
Written by: Jonathan Herman, Andrea Berloff, S. Leigh Savidge, Alan Wenkus
Music by: Joseph Trapanese, N.W.A.
Cast: O’Shea Jackson Jr., Corey Hawkins, Jason Mitchell, Paul Giamatti, Aldis Hodge, Neil Brown Jr.

Legendary Pictures, New Line Cinema, Cube Vision, Crucial Films, Broken Chair Flickz, Universal Pictures, 147 Minutes

Review:

“They want N.W.A, let’s give em N.W.A.” – Eazy-E

*Written in 2015.

I have been waiting for this film to come out since I first heard about its development a few years ago.

N.W.A. is a group that I listened to almost since their inception and they had a big influence over me as a kid. Sure, my parents didn’t like me listening to them when I was in middle school but I really didn’t care and record stores didn’t really police their sale of explicit products to minors in the early ’90s. Well, some stores did but I avoided those.

This film was pretty fantastic. In fact, I’m going to go on and say that this is my favorite film of the year thus far. It was, by far, F. Gary Gray’s finest work as a director. Being that he has been a long time collaborator with the men who were the subject of this film, made it feel real personal and he had legitimate insight into the relationships of these guys. Additionally, with Dr. Dre and Ice Cube consulting heavily on this film, we got one of the most accurate music biopics ever made. Granted, I’m sure they filtered in their own bias.

This, above all else, was a film about friendship – even more so than the history of N.W.A., Ruthless Records and Death Row. It showed five close friends coming up together and challenging a corrupt and oppressive system. It showed how they fought for freedom of speech and how they became the voice of a generation that was fed up – transcending their neighborhood and their race: effecting millions of people all over the world. Even when friendship dissolved, in the end, the love was still there and through all the bullshit and really bad blood, they were still brothers.

The acting was on point. Ice Cube was played by his real life son and he looked and sounded exactly like his father. In fact, most of the time, you only see him as Ice Cube and get lost in the performance. Pretty damn impressive for a kid who has never acted. Jason Mitchell was perfect as Eazy-E, Paul Giamatti was a great choice for Jerry Heller and Neil Brown Jr. truly felt like DJ Yella. Corey Hawkins was good as Dr. Dre but was the weakest of the main actors. Aldis Hodge was okay as MC Ren but I felt like Ren really got the shaft in this film, as he was just in it. He wasn’t shown as a character of significance and someone of Ren’s presence, which he has a hell of a presence, should have been featured more. This film makes MC Ren just seem like the odd man out of the group and maybe that is because he never found the individual success of Ice Cube, Dr. Dre and Eazy-E.

Arabian Prince was completely shafted. He wasn’t even mentioned in the film. But if you remember the cover of the “Straight Outta Compton” album from 1988, there were six men in the photo. He was the sixth man, lost to history and forgotten. And I guess his role was so minimal, they really didn’t need to include him in the movie.

I did like how they featured the D.O.C., Warren G, Snoop Dogg, 2pac and mentioned Bone Thugs. I like how they tied in the Rodney King beating and the L.A. Riots, showing how N.W.A.’s music was almost prophetic without the film beating you over the head with it. The scene featuring the unity between the Bloods and Crips against the police was beautifully shot and executed.

Moving on, there are a few things I have to nitpick about with the film. For one, in 1986, Eazy-E is wearing a black White Sox cap. Well, the White Sox didn’t wear the black uniforms until 1991 or so. In another scene, which takes place in 1993, Eazy-E is using a cordless phone model that didn’t come out until around 2000. I know, because I owned that same phone. Also, 2pac was recording “All Eyez On Me” in the studio with Dr. Dre while Eazy-E was still alive in the film. Eazy died in early 1995 while “All Eyez On Me” was recorded late in 1995 and released in early 1996. There were a few other weird discrepancies but I’ll stop being an asshole.

Besides, the film’s narrative was strong. The movie told a great story and that is the most important thing.

While I do feel that the film shows both the good and bad of Eazy-E and Jerry Heller, I feel like this is through the eyes of Dre and Cube, which it is. I wish Eazy would’ve lived and would’ve been able to consult and flesh out his side of the story in the same way that Dre and Cube were able to do with the director. But to be fair, despite Eazy’s faults, he is still shown as a loveable yet tragic character and Dr. Dre and Ice Cube honored him for who he was.

The only big plot point that I felt was missing, was showcasing how heated the beef got between Dr. Dre and Eazy-E. For those that experienced it, it was a big deal at the time and from a fan’s perspective, the beef felt irreconcilable. Dre and Eazy both expressed regret about it in the film but it wasn’t shown or discussed in any sort of detail.

Also, the film jumps over the whole NWA & The Posse era.

I feel that it is also important to point out how funny this film is. It isn’t a comedy but there are so many great comedic moments throughout the picture. Yes, it is a serious film that has very dark moments for each character but their is a light-hardheartedness about this film that really showcases the soul of these men.

In closing, Straight Outta Compton is a spectacular film whether or not you even care about hip-hop. For those that do care about this group, it gives you an intimate look into their lives and shows how everything went down, as accurately as can be portrayed on film. And being that I am a person that lived through all of this and remember it from the perspective of a fan, it is impossible to not fall victim to nostalgia. But in that nostalgia, one walks away feeling more intimately connected to something that has been a part of your life for a long time. This was a film just as much about those of us who rode along with N.W.A. from 1988-1992, as it was about the band itself.

F. Gary Gray, Dr. Dre and Ice Cube truly have a piece of work to be proud of. Don’t take your family though, unless you want Little Jimmy yelling “Fuck the Police” as he walks out of the theater. Then again, I was once Little Jimmy and I turned out just fine.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: Any top tier music biopic, really. This is just as good as the best of them.

Film Review: Ingrid Goes West (2017)

Release Date: January 20th, 2017 (Sundance)
Directed by: Matt Spicer
Written by: David Branson Smith, Matt Spicer
Music by: Jonathan Sadoff, Nick Thorburn
Cast: Aubrey Plaza, Elizabeth Olsen, O’Shea Jackson Jr., Wyatt Russell, Billy Magnussen, Pom Klementieff

Star Thrower Entertainment, 141 Entertainment, Mighty Engine, Neon, 97 Minutes

Review:

“…and also, no Batman talk!” – Ingrid, “What am I supposed to talk about? I don’t know these people!” – Dan, “Talk about something cool, like food or clothes or Joan Didion!” – Ingrid

I wanted to see this in the theater around mid-2017, when it came out. But it was only in my town for a cup of coffee and I was traveling for work at the time.

The film follows a young woman, Ingrid (Aubrey Plaza), who obsesses over social media and stalks the girls she follows, trying to emulate them and essentially become them. The opening scene sees the final moments of her “relationship” with one of the people she follows. We then see her move on to Taylor (Elizabeth Olsen), a girl who lives in California. Ingrid takes the inheritance from her mother’s death and moves to Cali, in an effort to become friends with Taylor and to emulate her cool, social media projected lifestyle.

The film’s cast is rounded out by O’Shea Jackson Jr., who plays a lovable character who is an aspiring screenwriter and has an obsession with Batman, Wyatt Russell as Taylor’s disenchanted and withdrawn “artist” husband, Billy Magnussen as Taylor’s incredibly douchey brother and Pom Klementieff in a fairly small but important role, as she drives the initial wedge between Ingrid and Taylor.

I liked this film for a lot of reasons but mostly because of how good Aubrey Plaza was in it. She is able to convey loneliness and an obsessive need for belonging in such a sad and tragic way that you almost excuse her behavior and just want to help her. She’s not dissimilar from a lot of people out there who obsess over this new breed of celebrities: social media “influencers”.

Really, Ingrid just wants a friend and wants to feel like she is someone but completely misses out on the fact that social media is mainly just manufactured bullshit that people use to project their ideal persona. None of it is really genuine or real and the film doesn’t just examine Ingrid’s side of the equation, it also examines Taylor’s and who she really is. This is kind of a necessary movie for this day and age.

In the end, Ingrid actually has what she needs in the character of O’Shea Jackson Jr.’s Dan. He loves her, cares for her and treats her better than anyone else in the film and ultimately, even when she burns him, he doesn’t leave her side and is a good support system.

I do have a problem with the film though and that is in how it wraps up. The first 90 percent of the picture was really good. I just felt that maybe the writers didn’t know how to conclude the story after using this well-crafted tale to make their points. Ingrid’s actions just feel too predictable at the end and the final moment brings things full circle to a point where you know that Ingrid didn’t really learn the lessons she should have and she’s now attained the superficial and artificial online life she craved.

Despite an unsatisfying ending, the rest of the story was well paced and pieced together nicely. The film is accented by nice cinematography and really effective lighting. Plaza and Jackson were the real highlight of this movie and had spectacular chemistry.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: Other films where Aubrey Plaza is the focal point.