Posted in Film Review

One Mann’s Movies Film Review: Godzilla (2014)

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A terrifying creature is approaching the coast and Brody – half crazed with fear and loss – is trying to convince sceptical authorities of the impending disaster without success.   And what a great 5-Fad film Jaws was!   Godzilla on the other hand…

It’s not as if the film is absolutely terrible. As an example of the genre of dumb-arsed, popcorn-munching summer blockbusters, it has its diverting moments.   Certainly if you get turned on my giant dinosaurs fighting each other and smashing up San Francisco, this is definitely the film for you. But it’s not going to set the awards season alight, in just about any category as far as I can see.

It starts promisingly enough, with a Jurassic Park-style helicopter ride over lush Philippine jungle to a Raiders of the Lost Ark-style dig where some Alien-style eggs have been discovered. So far, so plagerised.  The ever reliable Ken Watanabe (probably hired solely for the way he pronounces “Godzilla”) plays the investigating scientist with his rather unlikely side-kick Sally Hawkins (‘Blue Jasmine’).

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The action then moves to one of the best segments of the film in Japan where nuclear plant boss Brody (Snr), played by Malcolm in the Middle / Breaking Bad’s Bryan Cranston, has to contend with the tragic consequences of what has been disturbed.

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We then skip 15 years forwards to where explosives expert Ford Brody (Jnr) (Aaron Taylor-Johnson of Kick-Ass fame) has to leave his young family in San Francisco to fly to Japan to bail out his dad from jail.   (Yes, I couldn’t work that one out either… doesn’t Japan do Paypal?).   The basic premise here is that Godzilla is the good guy in the picture (even though the Americans seem to want to try and shoot him at every opportunity) helping to “restore balance” to the prehistoric world by defeating the horny preying-mantis-like monsters (aka MUTOs) before they can have rumpy-pumpy and make thousands of other preying-mantis like monsters, so returning “man to the stone age”. Much mayhem and destruction naturally follows, showing once again (“Man of Steel”, “Avengers Assemble”, etc, etc) that the US economic recovery is based solely on jobs for builders, decorators and glaziers.

In the acting stakes, Taylor-Johnson is very good (channelling a brooding Jake Gyllenhaal look) but Cranston seems rather over the top.   It is also a very sexist films, with the female leads being given scandalously little to do: Elizabeth Olsen (looking wonderfully un-skinny and gorgeous in a non-Hollywood sort of way) is confined to running and screaming and the wonderful Sally Hawkins has even less to do, confined to being Watanabe’s bag-carrier for the majority of the film.

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Where I could get very critical is in the nonsensical story. Leaving aside the scientific problems I have with “radioactive levels reducing” due to “catalysation” (whatever that means), the story plays fast and loose with the concept of the MUTOs feeding on radioactive materials.   In one scene, a MUTO leaves the main US stockpile of radioactive waste voluntarily, but is supposed to be ‘lured out to sea’ by a single nuclear warhead. Like, WHAT? And why the US army would try to transport said ‘bait’ through the enemy territory by train rather than fly it out is bizarre. The story is also strong on Watanabe’s claim that letting Godzilla duke it out with the MUTOs is the way forwards, and yet there are at least two occasions when Godzilla and one or more of the MUTOs are together, and yet nothing seems to come of that confrontation. The story just moves on to another pursuit of monster vs monster. Like, WHAT?  Very unsatisfactory.

In other departments, the special effects are passable if not outstanding, but there are some memorably cinematic scenes: notably the free-fall parachuting into San Francisco set to Ligeti’s music (as used in 2001: A Space Odyssey), which is impressive. And the rest of the music by the omnipresent Alexandre Duplat is also noteworthy (no pun intended).  Relative newcomer Gareth Edwards directs, and clearly made an impact as Disney have just given him a Star Wars spin-off film to direct.

 A decent early salvo for the summer blockbuster season, but (unlike Godzilla and the MUTOs), unlikely to set the world alight.

Fad Rating:  FFf.

 

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Posted in Film Review

One Mann’s Movies Film Review: The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014)

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OK, OK…. so if I’m not exactly the last person (who wanted) to see this at the cinema to actually go and see it then I must be NEARLY the last one.  So in that case, treat this as an early DVD release review!

I won’t start this review by harping on again about the tired nature of Marvel/DC ‘re-imaginings’ of the more popular elements of their respective portfolios – (if you want a recap of this particular rant, see my review of last year’s Man of Steel at http://wp.me/p3bNxg-bJ ).

Actually, the first film of this reboot series was pretty good:  much less earnest and quirkier than the original Tobey Maguire series, and revelling more in the fun to be had around a superhero’s schooldays.   The finale of that film saw police chief Stacey – father of his girlfriend Gwen Stacey – make Spidey swear with his dying breath that he would stay away from Gwen in order not to put her in danger.  So the first – very enjoyable – half of this film sees Parker (Andrew Garfield) struggling with this promise against his better hormones:  she is Emma Stone after all, and he is only human!

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Garfield is as good in this film as in the first, bringing a depth of feeling and emotion to the role of the split-personality Parker/Spidey, caught between his duty and his feelings.  And he has real chemistry with Stone:  the couple are genuinely funny together and she looks just drop-dead gorgeous.

There was a suggestion in the run up to this film’s release that there would be only one main villain:  a key learning from the true awfulness that was Spiderman 3.  They lied.  There are two main villains in this flick – two and a half if you count ‘Rhino man’.  (Seriously, anyone who has recently spectated at the London Marathon couldn’t take this villain seriously… I certainly wanted to chant “Rhino, Rhino, Rhino…” at that bit).

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But I digress.  The two primary villains of the piece are Electro,  played rather well, in nerdy-janitor mode at least, by Jamie Foxx and The Green Goblin, played by up-and-coming star Dane DeHaan, whose first memorable movie appearance was as the kid-with-superpowers in the sleeper hit “Chronicle” from 2012.  DeHaan has such a memorably strange and mesmerising face – somewhat reminiscent of the intensity of a young Leo DiCaprio – that his transformation into the leering Green Goblin is genuinely memorable.

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However, my main gripe with the second half of this film is that there is just too much going on.  Both of these villains are quite good, but both together are complete overload (or in the case of Electro, over-voltage).   Having two and a half villains means that there are two and a half finales to work your way through.  And it’s pointless:  one of these main villains would have been fine and dandy, so save the other one to live another day until The Amazing Spider-Man 3.   Less is more Hollywood! 

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Given the choice, I would have ditched the rather ridiculous Electro ending and kept the ‘Goblin in the bell-tower’ scene.  Whilst curiously reminiscent of a certain Keaton/Nicholson finale in the first Batman film, the ending – where Spidey falls for Gwen Stacey in a wholly different kind of way – is both thrilling and shocking in equal measure.

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So – in my view a game of two halves:  first half FFFF, second half FFF – overall…

Fad Rating:  FFFf.  

Posted in Film Review

One Mann’s Movies Film Review: The Two Faces of January (2014)

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(All work and no play makes the Fad a very poor film reviewer!  My apologies to my regular blog followers for the lack of recent posts).

The Two Faces of January is a gripping and highly watchable film which I would highly recommend.  Set in the sixties, it is undeniably “old school” – a twisted tale of murder, treachery and double-dealing, based on the novel by Patricia Highsmith, where you half expect Alfred Hitchcock to appear in cameo at some point.

Viggo Mortensen (Lord of the Rings) and Kirsten Dunst (Spiderman) play Chester and Colette Macfarland a rich and affluent couple touring the sites and sounds of Europe, with us first catching up with them in a glorious looking Athens. 

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Appearing to be relaxed and happy together, they hide a dark secret that is about to catch up with them.  Oscar Isaac – so fabulous in Finding Llewyn Davis earlier this year, and about to hit mega-stardom in the Star Wars reboot – plays American rogue Rydal, who seems to stare intently at Chester.  Is he part of the impending storm, or just an innocent caught up in events he can’t control?   Tensions rise, not just because of the plot pressures but also because of the obvious sexual tension growing between the charismatic Rydal and Chester’s lovely and much younger wife.  

The compelling story – albeit somewhat predictable in places – takes in some fabulously atmospheric locations in Athens, Crete and Istanbul.  

This is the feature directorial debut of Iranian-born Hossein Amini, who also wrote the screenplay – this being his forte have written a range of films including Drive and Snow White and the Huntsman.  And what a good job he does, orchestrating location, lighting and music to great effect.  Some of the editing is also very tight, cutting away from scenes at crucial points to maintain the story’s mystery.

The trio of actors also bring great star power to their roles.  Mortensen and Dunst are very watchable, but it is Isaac that again really shines in his role.   In turns enchanting, brooding and cowed like a cornered animal, he plays the perfect James Stewart character in this Hitchcockian homage.     

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In the coming blitzkrieg of summer blockbusters, here is a jewel of a film that will be particularly enjoyed by older viewers who remember when story and location were put far ahead of CGI-based special effects.

Fad Rating:  FFFF.