Tag Archives: godzilla

Kong: Skull Island – Review

13 Mar

I love monster movies. Like I really, really love monster movies, so the fact that Legendary is giving us a whole universe dedicated to giant monster brawls is almost too exciting. The first film in the MonsterVerse, Godzilla, came out in 2014, and despite some mixed reviews, I thought it was pretty badass. It did have some flaws, but when it got down to the monster mayhem, it really knew what it was doing. Now we have the second film, Kong: Skull Island, which introduces King Kong and the island to the universe. This beloved ape has been around since 1933, and it’s awesome to see that he has no intentions of giving up his big screen glory. This film is excessive, yes, but it’s also an extremely entertaining and action packed thrill ride.

William Randa (John Goodman) is a government official who has all the proof he needs to lead an expedition to an undiscovered island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean called Skill Island. After fighting for approval, he finally gets the go ahead and begins assembling his team. His first order of business is to find a tracker, which he finds with James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston), a former SAS captain that served in the Vietnam War. He also recruits the help of Lt. Col. Preston Packard (Samuel L. Jackson) and his regiment, the Sky Devils, as a military escort. Photojournalist Mason Weaver (Brie Larson) also joins the expedition with hopes of uncovering some unknown government conspiracy. When the group finally gets to the island, it doesn’t take long for the protector of the realm, a 100 foot tall ape named Kong, to show up and defend his land. This attack splits the group in two, which forces them to work together and keep their eyes peeled for Kong and the other horrors that wait for them on the island.

I had such a blast with Kong: Skull Island, that I’m still getting excited thinking back on it. It’s exactly what I wanted from this movie, and based on what some other critics were saying, I was kind of worried I was going to be let down. One thing that’s worth noting that can be seen as a negative are some of the characters. Samuel L. Jackson’s Packard and John C. Reily’s Hank Marlow are two examples of well thought out and fully realized characters. I understand their motivations and they stand out amongst the rest. There are other side characters that also have large personalities that make them memorable, but there’s no real development with any of them. Tome Hiddleston and Brie Larson, however, seem to hardly be in character at all. They’re just the stereotypical heroes you would expect to see in this movie. They try to add a little back story to them, but that exposition doesn’t really help at all. They’re just there to save the day, and that’s about it.

The original King Kong has one of the most classic stories in the history of film, and no sequel or remake since then has been able to capture that same essence and feeling. Kong: Skull Island doesn’t even try, and it’s all the better for it. Sure, it has the same kind of set up with the characters being introduced and sailing to the island, and there are natives which are to be expected on Skull Island, but that’s where the similarities end. The story of this movie pretty much revolves around Hiddleston and company trying to stay alive and get to the rendezvous point on the other side of the island. This is really all I needed, but there’s a cool subplot added in with Jackson’s character that raises the stakes even more. I was so thrilled to see this movie not get bogged down in trying to be something more than it is. The plot was there to drive the movie forward, but it wasn’t so stale and uninteresting that I lost track of what I was really watching. This keeps the pace fast with the action always moving forward. It’s cool to say that I was never once bored watching this movie.

Let’s talk about the man of the hour though. Toby Kebbel is tasked with being a side character soldier, but also was the motion capture actor for Kong. This seems appropriate since he did the motion capture for Koba in the new Planet of the Apes movies. He really brings Kong to life in this movie, which is awesome, and the physicality of the role is not to be forgotten. Kong has major throw downs in this movie that will force any viewer to go into popcorn munching overdrive. This is where the movie really shines, and I appreciate the visuals that add to the excessiveness that I mentioned I loved so much. Sure, the close ups and the crazy compositions of Kong back lit by the sun may seem cheesy, but they’re really just too cool to look at, and provided some of my favorite parts of the movie.

Is Kong: Skull Island going to match the classic status that Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack did with the original back in 1933? Of course not, but it does add a fulfilling new chapter to the MonsterVerse, and also was just a highly entertaining film. Once the characters get to the island, the action very rarely slows down and I found myself getting lost in the visuals of the island and the monster brawls that seemed larger than life happening before my very eyes. This isn’t a movie about characters nor does it have any important lessons to teach the viewer. This is about giant monsters throwing down for a couple of hours. In that way, it did not disappoint.

Final Grade: B+

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Shin Godzilla – Review

17 Oct

It’s a very exciting day, and the reason is because I finally get to talk about a new Godzilla movie. Shin Godzilla is Toho’s first movie featuring the King of the Monsters in 12 years, which makes this all the more exciting. I’m a huge fan of this franchise, from the goofiness of Godzilla jumping around on the moon in Destroy all Monsters to the much darker entries like Godzilla vs. Destoroyah and even the 2014 America remake. Shin Godzilla does something very interesting and moves the tone into a much more realistic direction. This makes for a very interesting and surprisingly intelligent entry into the series that also happens to have some of the best scenes of destruction and mayhem in the entire franchise.

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After a boat is attacked in Tokyo Bay and the Tokyo Bay Aqua-Line is collapsed, both by some mysterious aquatic creature, the Japanese government assures everyone that this monster will not come on land. Of course, they couldn’t have been more wrong as a bipedal, gilled fish creature begins making its way through the city and destroying everything in its path. Things are made worse after the JSDF attacks the creature, which causes it to stop its war path and begin growing and evolving into a giant reptilian monster that is named Godzilla. With Godzilla moving further into Tokyo and causing rampant destruction with countless casualties, the government scrambles to rebuild itself from the initial attack and work together with foreign powers from around the world in helping them take down this behemoth before it’s too late.

Where do I even begin? There’s so much that I want to say. I guess let’s start with the monster of the hour. Godzilla looks outstanding in this movie. The first time you see him he looks like this weird salamander with legs, which is a great introduction believe it or not. You then get the pleasure of watching him evolve into the creature that we all know and love. It’s also a treat to see that this Godzilla is the biggest ever to be put on screen, even beating out the Godzilla in the 2014 American film. This is a ferocious Godzilla and certainly not the one you may remember from the earlier films where he often time played the hero. Shin Godzilla is, in many ways, a reboot of the original film from 1954, which works really well. While it’s similar to that movie, Godzilla has a lot more to do and, without spoiling anything, has received a lot of badass enhancements that you’ve never seen in a Godzilla movie before.

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One thing that the newest American remake has over any of the other Toho versions is the special effects. Save for the shock of seeing a monster destroying a city in the original movie, the effects in this franchise haven’t really been too spectacular. This made me have no real expectations for how Shin Godzilla would look. I’m shocked at how great the effects were. There’s a few kinda strange looking scenes, but as a whole it looks great. Godzilla looks massive against the backdrop of the cities and his atomic breath has never been better. The effect work for the military is also really good. The tanks and helicopters hot on Godzilla’s trail move and sound great. I also have to give a lot of credit to directors Hideaki Anno and Shinji Higuchi for their creative abilities in shooting this movie. The camera always seems to be in motion and there are some really interesting shots that heighten the action more than I’ve ever seen in a Godzilla movie. You can tell these film makers had a vision and they executed that vision very well.

A big part of any Godzilla movie, or even any kaiju movie in general, are the people who are either trying to stop or help the monsters. Normally, those are the most boring parts of the movie, and it’s rare that there are ever any really interesting characters. Shin Godzilla follows a group of government officials and scientists who are constantly brainstorming ways to stop Godzilla from completely destroying everything. While there still really aren’t many characters in this movie that I cared for too much, I cared about their mission and it was interesting watching the process they went through. It’s a very modern take on this story that has a lot of allusions to the 2011 earthquake and tsunami that still has an affect on Japan to this day. This brought the politics and the economic fallout of a disaster as fantastical as Godzilla seem real and grounded. The most exciting parts of this movie of course revolved around Godzilla and the military strikes, but the scenes that take place in offices and labs still hold up well and brought a lot to the story when all of that information could have simply been lost in the action.

I had some doubts going into Shin Godzilla despite all of my excitement. Luckily, I’m in no way disappointed. This is a great entry into the franchise and possibly one of the best one since the 1954 original. There’s great special effects, outstanding action, and a story that feels very current and smart. This is a Godzilla movie that is made for the people who know and love the franchise, but is also a great place to start for people with no experience with these movies at all. This is how a monster movie is done and I couldn’t be happier with it.

Final Grade: A

Godzilla – Review

18 May

Godzilla is a name that any person knows, even if they’ve never seen a movie starring the King of Monsters in their entire life. This larger than life lizard has had plenty of chances in his 60 years in the film business to show just how tough he is wether he’s engaged in a monster rumble with King Ghidorah in Destroy all Monsters or running around New York City, destroying whatever is in sight in his 1998 American remake. Now we have the 2014 Godzilla, and I’d say there is a lot riding on this to be good, especially after so many people despise his 1998 run. This version hearkens back to the original 1954 Gojira in more ways than one, and even though there’s some terrible flaws in this movie, it made for some excellent monster movie madness.

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In the Philippines, scientists Ishiro Serizawa (Ken Watanabe) and Vivienne Graham (Sally Hawkins) are investigating a collapse in a mine when they find two giant pod-like eggs that have recently hatched. In Tokyo, Joe Brody (Bryan Cranston) and his wife Sandra (Juliette Binoche) are working in the Janjira Nuclear Plant when unexplained seismic activity causes disaster not only for the plant, but also for Joe. Cut to 15 years later. Joe has become obsessed with exposing the cover up that was put in place after the accident at the plant, causing his son Ford (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) to become more and more estranged from him. Ford now works for the army as a bomb specialist and has a wife (Elizabeth Olson) and a son, but all of that is put in jeopardy when he goes with his father to investigate further, only to find giant winged monsters called MUTOs begins a path of destruction for breeding purposes. Now, mankind’s only hope is lies in the actions of another awakened behemoth. One that is called “Gojira.”

To start off with, this is not a movie that is like other entries in the franchise like Mothra vs Godzilla or Godzilla vs Gigan. Sure, we get to see Godzilla fight, but that doesn’t happen right away. Think of Godzilla in the same way that you think of the 1954 original. That film is mostly about the human characters with Godzilla showing up a little bit, until the climax in Tokyo where we really get to see the destruction he is capable of. That’s how this movie is. Godzilla isn’t in this a whole hell of a lot, but when he is it is nothing short of epic. Director Gareth Edwards stated that he got inspiration from films like Jaws, where the monster isn’t always seen, but it’s unseen presence is enough to create an even greater amount of suspense.

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So keeping Godzilla pretty much hidden until the end isn’t necessarily a bad thing. What is a bad thing is that every time I thought I was going to see at least a little bit of action, the scene cut away. That would be fine if it happened once, but it happened at least three times. That’s just overkill. One time is enough to make me crave to see some monster action, but the amount of times the film did that just started to annoy me. Another problem I had with the movie was with Aaron Taylor-Johnson. Now, he’s a fine actor in the Kick-Ass movies, but I couldn’t really get into him too much here. He is the main character, but he was pretty one-dimensional. Cranston and Watanabe’s characters were far more interesting and into their roles, but sadly they weren’t in it nearly as much as they should have been, especially with Watanabe playing Serizawa who was a very important character in the original film.

Still, there was plenty in Godzilla that kept me more than entertained. The MUTO monsters are cool, especially their reveals and how they are differentiated between male and female. They had some really awesome scenes and powers that made them more the welcome in the Godzilla canon. Godzilla also looks and sounds great. My absolute favorite part of the movie is when he finally gets around to using his atomic breath. I was waiting patiently for it to happen, and when I finally saw that blue glow break through the fog all the way up Godzilla’s back, I knew what I was in for and I wasn’t disappointed.

Being a huge fan of Godzilla movies, I can honestly say that this one didn’t disappoint even though it was nowhere like what I thought it was going to be. It is the Christopher Nolan Batman compared to Tim Burton’s Batman. They may be very different, but that isn’t a bad thing. This is a much more realistic way to show the monster and his possible effects on the world, but I still really enjoyed it. I do wish there was a little bit more monster action and interesting characters, but that’s not enough to totally ruin the movie for me. This is still an excellent popcorn flick that should please Godzilla fans enough to make them ask for more.