Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019)

Image is property of Warner Bros and Legendary

Godzilla: King of the Monsters – Film Review

Cast: Kyle Chandler, Vera Farmiga, Millie Bobby Brown, Bradley Whitford, Sally Hawkins, Charles Dance, Thomas Middleditch, Aisha Hinds, O’Shea Jackson Jr., David Strathairn, Ken Watanabe, Zhang Ziyi

Directors: Michael Dougherty

Synopsis: Since the emergence of Godzilla, the monster organisation Monarch has uncovered several other titans hidden in locations around the world, and a battle ensues between man and titan for global supremacy…

Review: It was the major aspect of 2014’s Godzilla that left hardcore fans of the King of the Kaiju so disappointed. Namely that for a film called Godzilla, he was but a minor spectator for the most part. Though when he did atomically roar his way into the proceedings, it was marvellous movie Monster magic. Hence, for the third film in the MonsterVerse, after a trip to Skull Island, the King is back and there are quite a few new monsters who are challenging for his throne.

In the aftermath of the Godzilla VS MUTO battle that laid waste to San Francisco, humanity has found themselves recovering from the devastation and preparing themselves for the eventuality of Godzilla resurfacing. We see this primarily through the perspective of the Russell family, with Emma ( Farmiga) and her daughter Madison (Brown), who’s torn between her mum and her father (Chandler). Simultaneously, the Monster organisation Monarch, has been working to discover the locations of other gargantuan monsters that are in hidden locations on the planet, posing the very real risk of these titans being unleashed upon our world.

Definitely not a fan of the man upstairs it would seem…

As entertaining as it would be to just watch two uninterrupted hours of Godzilla scrapping it out with other monsters, a core component of these monsters movies is the accompanying human element. The previous film had a compelling human element that started off brightly, but was ultimately horrendously squandered. Here there is potential to recapture that promise, but in spite of a staggeringly large collection of human characters, very few really stand out. Millie Bobby Brown’s Madison and the emotion that her family is dealing with shows the most intrigue, and the ever reliable Charles Dance delivers some compelling moments. Yet for the most part, all these characters are basically just exposition mouthpieces to move the story along.

Though admittedly they are the secondary characters, it would have helped enormously if the script could have given these actors more, and in some cases better material to work with. The script leaves an awful lot to be desired as there’s no development on the vast majority of them, and nearly all of the attempts to cracks some jokes rarely get the laughter muscles moving. The bigger problem though is that there are far too many characters all vying for screen time, and it really bogs down the over-arching story, which could definitely have done with some refining.

However, the big selling point of these films is the throw-downs between Godzilla and the other titans. Director Michael Dougherty ensures that anyone who was left frustrated by the lack of Godzilla will not be disappointed this time around. These scenes are what these films are really about, giant monster mayhem, and it’s all edge-of-your-seat stuff. The epic scraps especially between Godzilla and his fellow titans are edge-of-your seat entertainment.  The design and CGI for these monsters is fantastic, and King Ghidorah makes for an extremely compelling villain.

Yet, in spite of the three films that the MonsterVerse has provided us, it simply hasn’t quite managed to capture that perfect balance between crafting compelling human characters, and the enthralling movie monster carnage. Though it definitely has, for the most part, got the latter right so far. It’s clear from what we have seen that all of the elements of the perfect monster movie are there within their reach. With the fourth film set to stomp onto the big screen, one can hope they can perfect that formula and unleash the mother of monster movies that pleases man and titan alike.

The scraps between Godzilla and his fellow monsters are glorious, but the film is hampered by mostly bland human characters and a shaky script that prevent this monster melee from soaring to great heights. 

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Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

First Man (2018)

Image is property of Universal and Dreamworks

First Man  – Film Review

Cast: Ryan Gosling, Claire Foy, Jason Clarke, Kyle Chandler, Corey Stoll, Ciarán Hinds

Director: Damien Chazelle

Synopsis: Telling the true story of astronaut Neil Armstrong and how, through many years of intense training at NASA, he became the first man to walk on the surface of the Moon.

Review: In terms of the greatest historical moments of the 20th century, there is perhaps few that could rival the moment where for the very first time, the world watched as the human race set foot upon the surface of the moon. The man who took that very first step, and uttered the immortal line “One small step for [a] man, one giant leap for Mankind,” was Neil Armstrong.  It is this man’s remarkable life and journey that incredibly hasn’t really been explored to such an extent on the big screen before, this is until Damien Chazelle came along.

After working together so successfully on La La Land, Gosling re-teams with Chazelle to play Armstrong, and Gosling once again excels. Right from when we meet him, you get the impression that this guy is focused and determined, something that has run through both of Chazelle’s last two films. He’s much more stoic here, but no less resolute in his mission, except there’s no jazz clubs involved this time. Josh Singer’s script goes into some quite personal detail that people might know about Armstrong including his family life, and the deeply personal tragedy that he goes through in the early stages, whilst also focusing on his NASA training, and all the perils that he faced on his journey to becoming the first man to walk on the moon.

Claire Foy, having donned the crown of Queen Elizabeth II, steps into a very different role as Armstrong’s wife Janet. A role that is quite clichéd for sure, yet it’s one she absolutely shines in alongside Gosling to be there as his figure of support, and at the same time, when it comes to the eve of his lunar mission, to voice her fury at the very real possibility that her husband might never see their kids again. Their relationship is the fierce beating heart of this story, and while the rest of the cast all give solid performances to complete a solid ensemble cast, no one else apart from Foy really has enough time to shine alongside Gosling.

For a director who’s only 33, he has already had a remarkable run of success with his previous two films Whiplash and La La Land, both garnering critical praise and awards aplenty, including the Best Director Oscar for Chazelle for the latter. The ambition for a film like this almost goes without saying, but Chazelle rises to the challenge and delivers another immensely well crafted film. Re-teaming with some of his frequent collaborators in the cinematography (Linus Sandgren), score (Justin Hurwitz) and editing (Tom Cross) departments, the film is crafted to perfection. The space scenes, especially the final lunar landing are so masterfully executed, it feels so real and authentic, and Hurwitz’s score is just superb.

Given the scope of this story, spanning almost over a decade into just over two hours, seems like an impossible task but Singer manages to streamline it as effectively as he can. Yet the pacing does suffer around the second act, especially when there is not a great deal happening down on Earth. However once, we gear up for the all important third act, the spectacle is turned up to ten, and never ceases for the rest of the film. For a director as young as Chazelle, to have an absolutely stellar hat-trick of films already under his belt is a remarkable accomplishment.

A remarkable and fascinating look at the mission to the moon and the man at the centre of it, with superb performances from Foy and Gosling. Another out of this world addition to the stellar filmography of Damien Chazelle.