Monthly Archives: May 2014

Godzilla (2014)

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Whether you’re a casual filmgoer or a diehard cinephile, it’s deceitfully easy to get caught up in hype, no matter how adamant one may oppose influence. The truth is, usually it isn’t even external pressures that wind up persuading us to a predetermined conclusion. We form our own biases, niches, and preferences, completely devoid of any convincing, leverage, or sway originating from peers, media, society, etc… Either way, a genuine, uninhibited opinion, free from preconceived notions is nearly impossible to form nowadays. And as much as I’d like to be one of the remaining few who can birth such a rarity, I cannot. I found myself lost amidst the chaos and destruction of “Godzilla’s” mammoth awareness campaign a few months beforehand, even as far back as the comic-con teaser released roughly a year ago. Needless to say, the sheer size of this beast and the terror insinuated through the film’s publicity endeavours snagged me irrevocably.

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Originally what drew me to Gareth Edwards’ “Godzilla” reboot was the foreboding magnitude and apocalyptic nature of the film’s teasers and trailers. To be honest, the disgraceful, cliche-infested outing from 1998 still left a distinctly potent, gag-inducing taste in my mouth, and I was eagerly looking to wash it out. That being said, apart from Edwards himself, this revamping didn’t exactly have me from the get go. As I mentioned, the debacle starring the wonderful Jean Reno still lingered and the cast chosen for this reimagining left a lot to be desired. Not that I dislike any specific member of the ensemble, I just thought that those chosen weren’t able to handle the spotlight individually, so I remained slightly skeptical still. However, the helplessness and disturbing reality of the film’s tone towards humanities extinction overwhelmed me. Combine that with the monstrous, sky-scraper size of the creature itself and its defining, eardrum shattering roar…and I was won over.

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Heading into the theatre on opening weekend (surprise), there was only one thing on my mind. Did “Godzilla” keep its tone and atmosphere? I was very much on board with Edwards’ vision that would introduce the original movie monster into the modern day and I ached with anticipation, hoping he could pull it off. Unfortunately, upon conclusion, I don’t know what’s more tragic, the fact that Edwards didn’t fully realize the film I was hoping for, or that he almost did. Edwards is a talented filmmaker no doubt. “Monsters” is something to be immensely proud of, in my opinion. With “Godzilla” however, it does feel as if the plausibility and human aspect of the film clashed with the typical monster goodness we’ve come to expect from the “Godzilla” franchise. While both segments are individually entertaining, together, they didn’t meld as seamlessly as I’d hoped.

No one is readily to blame, and by no means is the film’s lacklustre delivery Edwards’ fault. I’ve simply deduced that plausibility and “Godzilla” (and everything that comes with it) do not go hand-in-hand. I feel that what I envisioned before seeing the film is precisely what Edwards’ wanted to end up on screen. Sadly, I struggle to imagine a scenario in which “Godzilla” and humanity co-exist, both thematically and physically on screen.

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As I stated earlier, the film can be separated into two segments. For roughly the first forty minutes, there’s little-to-no action, something I didn’t anticipate heading in. Drama takes centre stage and while consistently captivating, the characters aren’t nearly compelling enough. Because the characters are so bland and their stories, predictable, the cast feels like a slapped-together ensemble of supporting players. This should never be the case when you’ve got the likes of Bryan Cranston, Elizabeth Olsen, Ken Watanabe, David Strathairn, and Aaron-Taylor Johnson at your disposal. All critique and judgement aside though, the cast does do their best with what they’re given, it’s just that not one of their performances will be remembered years down the road. Thankfully however, those who comprise the cast are talented enough and have already proven their worth, so we shouldn’t worry about their future being affected by this film.

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Now, for a significant chunk of this review, I’ve been rather neutral to negative. The truth is, in the same breathe that I harshly judge Edwards’ reboot, I applaud it for making an action film watchable again, for me anyway. I’m not the biggest fan of the genre and I don’t give top marks for sublime CGI. Most films try to pass on their looks alone, and while “Godzilla” is stunning to look at, it doesn’t solely rely on this fact. Even though it becomes, rather ironically, the only admirable trait of the film. Although its ambition and scale are rather stupendous in their own right, but not to the same effect. The best way to watch this giant-monster flick is to throw every preconceived notion aside and take it for what it is. It’s an action film with gigantic monsters and Edwards does the illustrious lizard and his companions justice. After all, we’re all here for the big guy and nothing else, although some memorable character turns would have been a nice addition.

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“Godzilla” delivers what we’re ultimately paying to see, but is rather lacklustre otherwise. One can’t help but feel that the premise and cast went to waste. That being said, we get enough of a look at the big guy and the carnage that ensues to make Edwards’ “Godzilla” worth the watch and immensely more successful than the 1998 debacle.

Godzilla: 7 out of 10.

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Poll Results: Favourite Sequel

I know it’s taken me quite some time to release the results of our latest poll, but the running was so tight, I decided to give it a little bit of an extended window. Now though, after receiving a record number of total votes, I feel it’s the perfect time to unleash the results.

If you don’t recall, which I’m sure most of you don’t seeing as the poll originated so long ago, I asked you which sequel is your all-time favourite. To be honest, it’s the usual culprits at the top of the list. That being said, I think you’ll be fairly surprised at where the film’s ended up in the voting and how close films two through four finished.

Really quick however, just a little administrative work to get out of the way before I present the results. The Guest List segment is still running and I’m completely out of brilliant top 10s from you lovely people. I know there’s quite a few who expressed interest, even presented topics, but never actually sent in anything. So, if you’d like to contribute, I’ll post the criteria below and we can get your entry published as soon as possible!

All you need to do is shoot me an e mail (thecinemamonster@gmail.com) with your name, website info (if you have one), and the topic you have chosen for your top 10. If I like what I see, I’ll give you the all clear and you can begin composing your entry. Make sure to include a descriptive, yet brief introduction and a picture or clip for every entry in your top 10. Use my own top 10s and other Guest List entries as references. Then, send it back to me and we will discuss a date of publish!

Now, without further delay, on to the results!

 

THE DARK KNIGHT (Christopher Nolan) 30%

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STAR WARS: EPISODE V – THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK (Irvin Kershner) 18%

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ALIENS (James Cameron) 16%

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TERMINATOR 2: JUDGEMENT DAY (James Cameron) 14%

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LORD OF THE RINGS: THE TWO TOWERS (Peter Jackson) 5%

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THE GODFATHER: PART 2 (Francis Ford Coppola) 5%

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Neighbours (2014)

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As I’m sure most of you have already been briefed in regards to my, let’s call it…halfhearted hatred and disinterested disconnect towards the comedy genre, I’ll spare you the agony of sitting through another directionless, yet passionate speech. Now, comedy in film isn’t good for much, but it does occasionally allow me to rant harshly and aimlessly, that is if I can make it through one of these dreadful, contrived, structureless abominations that miraculously find funding and a wide-release…but I digress. As I was saying, I don’t get many opportunities to publish posts that display my opinion raw and unedited. That being said, when I do get the chance to speak unrefined, it’s usually a comedy film that’ll feel the brunt of my coarse, critical onslaught. And for some reason, I feel that readers appreciate brutal honesty, so without further delay, let’s get into “Neighbours!”

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Drugs, nudity, vulgarity, and a preposterous plot? There must be a new Seth Rogen film out! Seriously though, all kidding aside I do love Rogen. He’s a talented, intelligent, honest Canadian boy and back in 2007, when I was at the height of my teenage years, “Superbad” and “Knocked Up” defined popular culture. Since then however, to say he’s been struggling would be putting it lightly in my opinion, of course that’s with the exception of the brilliant film “50/50.” I don’t know what happened, either I grew up or his shtick became all too familiar. Whatever it was, I haven’t been excited to see a Rogen film in a good, long while. Nevertheless, with early reviews holding strong and a cast that with respectable merit, I decided to give “Neighbours” a chance. Do I regret it, you ask? Well I’m not exactly thrilled whenever I make a mistake, but the film has some respectable qualities and memorable moments? I put a question mark as I’m not exactly confident that this statement will hold up with the passage of time…or for the duration of this review…

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With “Neighbours'” incessant awareness campaign set to overkill, I’m not sure there are many who don’t know the film’s plot and selling points. Nonetheless, for those of you who have been fortunate enough to escape the film’s black hole of mediocrity, you’ve managed to save a significant amount of hilarity for the actually viewing of the film, granted you view it at all. Yes, a sizeable chunk of the film’s most memorable, hilarious scenes are plastered all over the internet and television for free, so enjoy. Now, essentially “Neighbours” is a tale of two childish, unfulfilled men at different stages in their lives trying to prevail and dominate over the other. Yes, that’s the premise and yes, it is as immature in its delivery as it is script-wise. In layman’s terms, a frat somehow manages to move into a quiet neighbourhood and soon is at war with their new neighbours.

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Directed by Nicholas Stoller (Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Get Him to the Greek), and starring, apart from Seth Rogen, the lovely and immensely talented Rose Byrne, Zac Efron, and Dave Franco, “Neighbours,” on paper, should have been a laugh riot, not a measly chuckle and whimper. Apart from a few laughs, the film offers nothing of value cinematically. I’m sure the ladies will get a kick out of Efron shirtless, hell, even the male section of the film’s audience will see more of Rose Byrne than preferred, but these aren’t exactly facets to be proud of.

The film would have been infinitely better if they actually focused on the maturing aspect of birthing a child. After the all, the entire film is symbolic of couples rushing into parenthood. Stoller and Rogen are usually geniuses when it comes to displaying the emotional, consequential side of their comedies, but completely ignore that element in “Neighbours.”

I do assume it’s a positive that Rogen hasn’t been this effective in a while and that Efron has never been so charismatic, but in all fairness, their track records aren’t exactly top-notch of late. In Efron’s case, we really don’t have a resume to begin with. Byrne is as beautiful and entrancing as ever, but the vulgar humour doesn’t fit her well. Not surprisingly, the underrated Dave Franco truly steals the show here with his comedic prowess and impeccable impression of Robert De Niro.

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Look, It’s not that I’m pretentious or hate laughter, far from it. I simply prefer subtle, intelligent, timely, sympathetic, relatable humour rather than an alternative that consists of the raunchy, idiotic, unfathomable approach of modern comedy, you know what I’m talking about, films like “Neighbours” or Adam Sandler abortions. I know that sounds conceded, even ostentatious, but honest to god that’s my preference. However, that doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate the dirty, unflinching, harsh, truthful approach of today’s comedians. It’s just, I find that humour occurs so naturally and fluidly that it is nearly impossible to capture true hilarity on demand for the sake of cinema. Additionally, where films of other genres rely on dialogue, performances, story, direction, cinematography, music, etc…comedy films, for the majority, solely depend on the appeal and material of its leading cast members, and “Neighbours” doesn’t meet any of the aforementioned criteria wholeheartedly.

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It’s extremely hard for me to write-up a post regarding comedy as I’m sure you can tell by the incoherence and simplicity of this article, not to mention the uncomfortable feeling that washed over you as it continued, so I’ll just end it. “Neighbours” is about as good as purely comedic films get nowadays, sadly. Without much stimulation and an abundance of unintelligent humour, I can guarantee this film will be a distant memory in the not too distant future. I might be a little to bias and it seems as if I’m having a little too much fun ripping comedy apart. If it’s any consolation, the film is watchable and consistently has your attention, which is a huge bonus when considering the state of current comedy films. It might not be as bad as I’m making it seem, but not by much.

Neighbours: 6 out of 10.

Locke (2014)

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There’s really nothing special about Ivan Locke, he’s actually quite common. He has a wife and two children. He departs for work every morning in a respectable vehicle and returns home to his family at day’s end. He dresses satisfactory, has a scruffy beard, and catches colds like the rest of us. At his place of employment, he answers to his superiors and manages those with an inferior title. He struggles mightily with his own mortality and cheers on his favourite football team. For reasons beyond his control, Ivan was deprived of a father figure growing up and sadly lives his life to achieve an unreachable status of fatherhood immaculacy, a goal his neglectful dad could never dream of fulfilling.

Ivan has lived his life as if it were a blueprint. He takes excruciating precautions not to misstep, as he understands the consequences of an error, no matter how small. Unfortunately however, Ivan has made but one mistake in his trivial existence and it will end up costing him everything. For you see, on any other day, Locke would be retuning home about now, but he should have realized that a single mistake sets off a chain reaction. And like a series of dominoes tumbling over one another, Ivan’s empire, slowly but surely, will collapse… Yes, I guess you could say Ivan Locke is nothing special.

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If I’m to be honest, there’s a multitude of reasons why Steven Knight’s “Locke” is such a triumph. It’s incredibly strong dialogue, endless chain of symbolic metaphors, and brilliant use of rhetoric and pathos sets a marvellous, nearly flawless foundation which allows director/writer Steven Knight, his crew, and ensemble to not only take risks and part ways with convention, but to thrive inside their own trial and error. They consistently violate and push their own discoveries to an extreme like no filmmakers have done before them. I mean, some of the things done in this film left me flabbergasted. Not to mention that the realism of “Locke’s” premise, dialogue, and circumstances gracefully and painfully transcend the screen. In fact, it’s so revolutionary that regardless of the fact if you enjoy the film or not, one can’t help but admire and revere what Knight and company have done here. With “Locke,” less is truly more.

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I do find it odd however, rather ironic actually, that a film centred around the notion that safety comes with structure and convention has such disdain towards method and canon. I mean, at countless moments we are gagged with the premise that to build something concrete, one needs feasibility, rules, design and stability. And yet, Steven Knight’s “Locke” is existing, contradictory proof. It’s quite the paradox when you think about it.

“Locke” is experimental, minimalist cinema at its finest. The film was shot entirely on three cameras mounted inside a BMW with only a handful of external shots sparsely spliced in. In addition to a minuscule budget, “Locke” was filmed in its entirety from start to finish each night twice during production, with Hardy inside the vehicle and the voice actors in a hotel room calling the number connected to the X5. There are so many little quirks and factual tidbits about the film that you just have to investigate and experience for your self. Like Tom Hardy having come down with a head cold immediately before production so the script was changed so his character could accommodate the sickness. Additionally, Hardy’s seemingly brilliant sporadic anger fits are just a bi-product of the X5’s incessant “low fuel warning” alarm interrupting his performance.

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Now, with a director like Terrence Malick, for example, the scope can never be too large. Knight’s latest on the other hand, takes it down to the microscopic scale. And although the amplitude may vary, I can assure you there are equal amounts of talent and dedication on either end. And while Knight isn’t exactly new to filmmaking, actually he’s quite the wily veteran, he is still getting ahold of directing as “Locke” is only his second full-length feature behind the camera. It’s rather comical actually seeing as one would think Knight had been directing his entire life judging by the caliber of “Locke.” His mastery of the film’s mood is nothing short of superb. His ability to create this dark, almost apocalyptic atmosphere that lingers so heavy on the screen translates to his characters and the film’s overall effectiveness. Of course, it does help that the film’s soundtrack is as hauntingly ambient and foreboding as they come.

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If you know me at all, it should be crystal clear that I can’t say enough good things about Tom Hardy. The guy’s a one man show, literally. I honestly thought I’d seen his best, but once again Hardy manages to dazzle in ways I never thought possible. I know I’ve been praising Knight’s technique, inventiveness, and ingenuity a lot in this review, but his efforts would have been for nothing had Hardy not carried the film in the manner he did. Shifting from a stoic, control hungry realist to an inconsolable and flawed man with seemingly little-to-no effort, Hardy appears to get better with each outing. His voice, eyes, and demeanour give Hardy unbelievable control of the screen, and the fact that the film takes place in such a confined space only enhances his abilities. I know it’s early, but Hardy’s performance in “Locke” is easily the best of 2014 thus far.

Ingenious, hard-hitting, and undoubtedly simple, “Locke” is an expressionistic piece that is, without question, one of a kind. Featuring a phenomenal performance from Tom Hardy and stern, resourceful direction from Steven Knight, “Locke” is one of 2014’s must-see.

Locke: 9 out of 10.