Thursday, September 25, 2014

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014) Review

     Yeah...we're talking about this movie today.  From the get go, this remake was plagued with internet haters, mostly due to the producer chair being occupied by one Michael Bay.  Granted, the man certainly doesn't do himself any favors but I was still trying to be open minded about this project.  Being 28, my brothers and I were around and in the right age demographic to get caught up in the Turtles Craze of the late 80s and early 90s and naturally, we all have fond memories of our fandom of those Heroes In The Halfshell and the subsequent media that we all devoured using our parents' wages (man, they put up with a LOT of shit from us with this kinda thing...).  Having said that, I approached this one without the Nostalgia Goggles because those can really blur your vision, especially when the original medium that introduced you to the franchise doesn't hold up.

Not saying I hate the cartoon now, but there is a difference between "good" and "watchable."

       Regardless, I kept as open of a mind as possible, but let's just get right to the point: was Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014) any good?  In a word, no.  In a few words, this movie is a fucking wreck.  I'm not trying to jump on any bandwagons or parrot anyone else and I will acknowledge that I am still something of a Turtles fan but this movie was just awful.  I'm having a helluva time even putting it into words as to how bad this movie is, I really am.

     Are there any good parts of the movie?  Well, the effects for the Turtles are alright and the opening credits looked pretty decent in that comic-esque style but those were ruined by Splinter's narration by the very out of place Tony Shalhoub.

     What was bad?  Everything else.  Seriously, any time this movie tried to be humorous, it came off as either immature, irritating or piggish.  The plot is so lame and doesn't make a whole lot of sense when you really stop and think about it (If Splinter was a lab rat born in New York, why would he mutate into a Japanese persona, how in the hell did he learn ninjitsu well enough from a friggin' book to teach it, why does Sack and Shredder want to hold the city ransom with a chemical weapon that the only cure that can be made from the Turtles blood when he owns his own company as well as four offshoots of said company, why would a little girl name four lab turtles after Renaissance painters, why are the Turtles acting like wannabe gangstas, why in the hell is Whoopi Goldberg in this movie, etc).  The personalities of the Turtles may be present, but the charm is not.  They are no fun to watch them do their thing.  The dialogue is horrendous, actually making me cringe and facepalm in parts, even shouting at my monitor in frustration over it (Raphael's speech at the end immediately comes to mind, as well as the improv "Shush-Off").  The cast is terrible with Megan Fox as April O'Neil, Will Arnett as a really creepy Vernon Fenwick and one of the biggest WTF's I had with the movie, Johnny Knoxville as the voice of Leonardo, plus Karai was just thrown in for good measure even though she didn't really do anything.  The overall look and feel of the film reminded me way, way too much of the Transformers films and having The Shredder (whose Asian identity was shoehorned in after internet backlash over William Ficthner being originally cast and some how made the character of Shredder worse) look like human-sized Megatron certainly didn't help.

Or the love child of an orgy between Wolverine, The Predator, Darth Vader, Freddy Krueger and Edward Scissorhands.

     I'm sorry that I haven't been able to provide you with a review of this movie in the usual way that I write them but this movie just made me feel dirty, even going in with low expectations.  I was actually experiencing physical discomfort watching this movie, the same discomfort in your shoulders you get when nails go down a chalkboard or some really creepy dude keeps eying you up like a meal after you tell him to leave you alone.  That creepy dude has a name, and it's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  If this looks and feels like a cop out to you, I apologize.  Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is by far one of the shittiest movies I've had the misfortune of sitting through in a long, long time and if I had paid to see this movie, I'd be pouring myself a Crown Royal and cola to calm myself down.  This film goes down as my worst movie of 2014 and my worst Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle film ever.  Yes, let me repeat that: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014) is WORSE than Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III: Turtles In Time.  At least Turtles In Time had ZZ Top and Corey Feldman.  For the record, my Turtles film preferences are:

     - Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990)
     - TMNT (2007)
     - Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret Of The Ooze
     - Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III: Turtles In Time
     - Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014)
     In fact, at the risk out sounding over dramatic, this one is probably one of the worst movies I've ever sat down and watched for the sake of writing a review.  After watching this movie, I immediately texted my brother in Calgary and flat out told him to not see it, regardless of how much of a lifelong Turtles fan he is, which is exactly what I will tell anyone reading this: do not see this movie.  I know that this is just my opinion and that a sequel has already been greenlit, but I'm gonna say this anyway: if you are in the crowd of people who have not seen this movie yet, please, PLEASE keep it that way.

     Now I'm not going to sit here and say, "Wah wah, this movie raped my childhood, blah blah blah" because it didn't.  It's not like this film was so terrible that I can't even look at Ninja Turtles as a whole anymore (unlike what Kid Rock's "All Summer Long" did to Warren Zevon's "Werewolves Of London") and to tell the truth, I hate the term "raped my childhood" and am doing everything in my power to eliminate it from my vocabulary entirely.  I had mentioned that the original cartoon had not aged well but my son and I watched a couple episodes of the cartoon after we watched this film and the cartoon didn't seem that bad in comparison.  Really, I think that's basically how people should treat this movie.  Much like the 1998 Godzilla film, if this film can serve as a gateway or a jumping point for fans new to the franchise to look into the older and better material, then Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2014 can justify its existence.

-The Cynic

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Kurt Reason Jr & The Dinosaurium Kickstarter Campaign

Like dinosaurs? Or cartoons? Or both? Know anyone who does? Help support my friend David Cowles-Brooks' Kickstarter Project "Kurt Reason Jr & The Dinosaurium." It sounds like a really neat project, combining elements from "Back To The Future," "Prehistoric Park" and "Jurassic Park," David is asking for your help to make his dream project a reality.  Click the link and give a pledge.

Oh, as further incentive, there's an option to submit character designs for a dinosaur to be featured on the show as well as the new female main character. On top of that, David also helped animate Baby Groot in Guardians Of The Galaxy. CLICK NOW.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Cynical Musings: Suggestions For Jurassic World (SPOILERS)



     Am I jumping the gun on this one?  Yeah, but when has that stopped me before?  This has been bugging me and I need to get it off my chest so, please, hear me out.

     It's been over a year and a half since Jurassic Park 4 was first announced via Twitter feed.  I gave some reasons why I wasn't excited at that time and haven't really mentioned the project since on the blog, largely in part because some other lesser known feature was in my sights.  Well, a lot has changed since the project was announced and I've been reading every single article about it (spoilers be damned) to see if something can ignite genuine excitement within me.  Alas, I'm still not excited for this film and I cannot decide whether any info I've heard hasn't given me much to work with or if out of fear of getting horribly disappointed again that I have some sort of mental block that is not allowing me to get excited.  That's not to say that I haven't been able to make some progress.  I've made peace with the fact that they've changed the name to not have Jurassic Park in the title and that they're returning to the first island for this one.  I'm incredibly happy for a couple of my friends and fellow Dan's JP3 Page alumni that were able to be extras for the film because how cool is it to say that you were able to be part of a Jurassic Park film?
     I've also let my mind wander about the subject long enough that I've been able to analyze the speculation and confirmed details from the articles and I've come up with some suggestions for the film so that even though I'm not excited for Jurassic World, these tips and pointers could save the film from being a potential disaster.  So, in a similar vein of Screen Junkies' "How To Fix" series, here's my not expectations but suggestions for Jurassic World.  Just in case the text at the start didn't drive the point home enough, Fucking Spoiler Alert!

     1.  Give The Movie A Minimum Two Hour Runtime
     If we're going to go back to Isla Nublar for this one, I wanna get a damn good look at how much the island has changed in the last 22 years.  I also wanna take in as much of this new park before we start shoving the paying customers into the sharp teeth and claws of the eighteen species on the island, sixteen of which listed here.  This was one of the reasons why I hated the third film because they figured all people care about are dinosaurs killing people so they just jumped straight into that, when in reality that's just one part of the series.  Let us get to know the characters the story focuses on, show us some "Oooos" and "Aaahhhs" or even some "Aw, cools," maybe tease us with some peril that just turn out to be false alarms at first.  Just don't rush it, especially if you're going to include THAT many different animals in the movie.

     2.  More Animatronics, Less CGI
     I'm not saying that CGI (Computer Generated Imagery) is a bad thing because it really isn't...when it's done right and done sparingly.  Obviously, there's going to be some parts that will require CGI like a full body dinosaur running or when the Diabolus Rex uses its cuttlefish-like camouflage (more on him later), but I see a lot of movies out there where a shot comes up that uses CGI when it could've easily been done with practical onscreen effects.  Also, CGI is so rampant nowadays that it would be a nice change of pace to see a movie where there isn't a lot of things added visually in post production.  I'm thinking with the involvement of Legacy Effects Studios (which was started by former members of Stan Winston Studios), not to mention this Velociraptor photo that was posted, this is probably one of my lesser...worries, for lack of better term, but I would hate to see a Jurassic Park film going primarily digital just for the sake of doing so when the original(s) did such a good job of balancing practical and visual effects.

     3.  Do Something Interesting With The Human Villain
     So a little while back it was announced that Edgar himself, Vincent D'Onofrio, was cast as the role of the CFO of the Patel Corporation (the company that owns the new park) that, as The Wrap puts it, "projects the image of a normal family man to mask a hidden edge."  So far, any human villains in the series have been influenced by money, so do something different this time around.  Make D'Onofrio a villain that we can relate to, maybe even feel sorry or root for.  Hell, take a page from Batman: The Animated Series' book and give his character a distraught back story so that his actions aren't necessarily greedy or evil but perhaps just...misguided so that despite any wrong doings on his part, we want to see him succeed and then feel genuine pity for him when he doesn't.  I just don't want to see a retread of Arliss Howard's Peter Ludlow from The Lost World: Jurassic Park where he twiddles his proverbial mustache and starts humming Shane McMahon's entrance theme whenever he sees the dinosaurs.

     4.  Make Diabolus Rex A Carnotaurus
     In May, a spoiler-ific article was posted on that explained that one of the new attractions and the main baddie in the film would be a new genetically spliced super predator that can terrorize like the T-Rex, is as smart as the Velociraptors, can unhinge its jaw to swallow larger prey like a snake and use camouflage like a cuttlefish.  At first when I heard this, my mind immediately jumped to the old John Sayles JP4 script that had Raptor/Human/Dog hybrids (no joke).  However, director Colin Trevorrow stated that it may sound crazy but the genetic splicing of species isn't anything that wasn't suggested in the original novels.  Okay, so when you say "terrorize like the T-Rex," I'm picturing a theropod larger than a human that runs fairly fast, like the Carnotaurus, only the size would have to be exaggerated if they want a Carnotaurus/T-Rex fight.  It can unhinge its jaw like a snake?  That sounds similar to paleontological evidence of the Carnotaurus' jaws.  Cuttlefish-like camouflage?  Well, guess what had that ability in Michael Crichton's novel of The Lost World?  Stop pissing around the bush and just make the D-Rex a fucking Carnotaurus already!  You'll be serving up a warm, hefty bowl of fan service if you do.

     5.  Keep The Dinosaurs On The Island
     When the title of Jurassic World was announced, there was a lot of speculation as to why it was called such.  Why World?  Is there going to be a planet full of dinosaurs?  Is the movie going to be about the dinosaurs taking over the Earth?  If there's going to be a movie about dinosaurs munching on the human race on a global scale, it'd better be called Dinosaurs Attack! and have absolutely nothing to do with Jurassic Park.  One of the key elements in the Jurassic movies is isolation: having to fend for yourself, being cut off from immediate help, not being able to just pick up the phone and call someone with a big gun to come save you.  There's already a franchise that has an unlikely species taking dominance over the planet, let the apes have it!  Frankly, the whole "dinosaurs-getting-off-the-island" thing has been done before: once in film and four times in comics.  Out of those five instances, only one of them felt successful.

Costa Rican biker gangs vs Dilophosaurs?  Hell yeah!

     Hell, if you REALLY wanna have a story/film about a dinosaurmageddon, either make a Dinosaurs Attack film or make an offer on my script "Earth2" once I tweak it.  Just keep the Jurassic franchise on the islands, where it works best.  PLEASE.

     And my final and largest suggestion for Jurassic World is...

     Alright, I'm not going to sit here and pretend that I'm one of those people who is sick of movie franchises.  I've mostly had a blast with the Marvel films thus far and can't wait for more.  Hell, after Godzilla had a very successful opening, a sequel was greenlit that weekend and I'm already on board for it.  So why am I calling for the curtains on Jurassic?  The thing is that Jurassic Park was never meant to be a franchise, simply a one shot deal.  However, like how many other franchises get their start, it was so bloody successful (becoming the highest grossing film of all time until Titanic came out) that there was a popular demand for a sequel, both for the book and the film.  However, the last 13 years, perhaps more, have NOT been kind to this series.  The last film sucked, the toys have become lazy repaints and what few new sculpts are released look terrible and I've made it no secret that ventures into the park through other media were, for the most part, less than impressive.  I have said it for years that the only reason why we should have a fourth installment is to bring the series to a solid conclusion.  However, in an interview with Empire, Colin Trevorrow said that Universal has plans for further Jurassic films and that he'd like to partake in them if they'll have him.

 My reaction to the Empire interview.

     Rather than dragging it out further and risk having the series take a monumental dip in quality (again), I really would rather that Jurassic World try to recapture the magic of the first film and have the series go out on a high note.  Perhaps instead of this movie being called Jurassic World, it should be called Jurassic Park: Sorry About Part Three So Here's One To Wash The Taste Out And Cap Off The Series.  See You In Five Years With The Remake.  Just rolls off the tongue, don't you think?  Like I said in my last Jurassic post, there really is nothing worse in fandom than watching your favorite film blossom into a franchise that consists mostly of mediocrity or garbage rather than the true greatness that started it in the first place, so please end it!  End it here!

     Now before anyone starts jumping down my back calling me a Negative Neddy or anything of that sort, lemme clarify a few things:
     1.  This blog is called Coffee With The Cynic, not Coffee With The Cheery Chubby Canadian.  My skepticism/pessimism should really come as no surprise at this point.
     2.  I take Jurassic Park very seriously and dearly to my heart.  I'm only being honest in my views.
     3.  If you are excited for or were involved with Jurassic World, this blog is not a personal attack on you.  Do not take it as such.  I do not wish ill fate upon you.
     4.  I want to be excited for this movie.  I want this movie to be GOOD!  I really do!  I want to have Godzilla levels of excitement and optimism for this one, but...sorry.  This one is on my viewing list not for excitement sake but for obligatory reasons.
     5.  The odds of any suggestions listed here actually being in the film are almost non-existent.  I know this.  Doesn't mean I can't still suggest them.
     6.  Something may come along to negate these suggestions and finally ignite that spark of excitement for this movie.  I'm not ruling it out, but at the time of this blog's production, it has not happened nor am I really holding my breath for it to do so.

     There.  I've said my piece.  We'll see how things turn out next summer when Jurassic World reopens the gates on June 12, 2015.

     -The Cynic

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The Final Countdown: Godzilla (2014) Review

     Okay, lemme get something out of the way before we get started.

     Lemme just regain my composure here and let's get on with it.  Sunday night, the two year wait finally ended as my son and I hit up the theatre and we caught Gareth Edwards' Godzilla.  As you can tell from the mini-gif library above, I found it was worth the wait.  My brother actually joined us as well and he's not really a Godzilla fan but even he was impressed.

     Let's get to the finer details.  I'm not entirely sure what everyone knows about this movie so just to cover my ass, minor spoiler alert.  In 1999, a paleontological discovery is made that also ties in to a nuclear power plant accident that kills the wife of plant supervisor Joe Brody (Bryan Cranston of Breaking Bad).  Cut to present day where Joe's estranged son Ford (Kick Ass' Aaron Taylor-Johnson), a US Navy Bomb Diffusion Expert, is called away from his wife Elle (Oldboy's Elizabeth Olsen) and son (Carson Bolde) because Joe has been arrested for trespassing in the quarantine zone.  Again.  Ford meets up with his father and Joe convinces him to help him with one last trip to their old home for seismic data from that day so that Joe can prove that it wasn't a natural disaster.  They retrieve the data, only to be captured and interrogated at the remains of the plant.  There, they witness a discovery that not only puts the world in peril, but brings the planet's one possible hope to the surface...

...and it has a thing for neck workouts.

     Since the movie has been out for a few days, I'm sure you've heard plenty of feedback regarding it.  Godzilla has gotten fairly mixed to positive reviews online and it's nice to see that an American studio has given their spin on The King Of The Monsters with much better results than the last time.  That being said, there's a lot of pissing and moaning about this movie that I can't help but wonder what these people were expecting or whether we saw the same movie.  I'm not here to say that these people are a bunch of wrong whiners because different strokes for different folks and all that, but I will provide my own personal counter arguments to some of the common complaints that I keep hearing and hopefully this will provide you with some insight on the film.

     #1: The Movie Focuses Too Much On The Boring Humans And Not Enough On The Monsters
     Any creature feature knows that the best ones are the ones that focus on the human characters so that you root for them to survive and not just for the creatures (be them saurian, kaiju, undead, etc) to rip them apart.  Godzilla is no exception but just because other films have done it before and done it "better" doesn't make Godzilla's terrible in its own right.  Hell, even many of the original Toho films follow this same formula so it shouldn't come as a shock to anyone who has seen them.  Much of the negative feedback that I've heard in this sense is that the film's main focus is Ford, who Johnson portrays "with as much enthusiasm as a mannequin."  I actually appreciated that his performance may have been "held back" because Ford didn't feel like an action film archetype spouting off tough-guy one-liners but rather a real, average, run of the mill family man who just so happens to be in the Navy.  One of the big things that director Gareth Edwards was trying to do with this film was to treat it as if this were to actually happen so it made sense that our main focus would be a believable family man trying to get back to his wife and son as opposed to some hunky chiseled cocky man (although to be fair, Johnson's not a terrible looking fellow) who wants to go toe to toe with giant monsters.  This more or less applies to the rest of the cast.

Johnson & Cranston goofing off at San Diego Comic-Con.
     #2.  Godzilla Doesn't Show Up Until An Hour Into The Film
     To tell the truth, much like the last point, I think anyone who says this is a bad thing obviously has not seen any of the originals (serious or campy).  Say what you will about this one, but you cannot say that it doesn't pay tribute to the originals.  In 1954's Gojira, the titular creature doesn't make its first good look appearance until the 27 minute mark of the approximate 90 minute run-time and is only in the film for a grand total of 14 minutes.  Proceeding into the franchise, a lot of the cheesy movies don't really have that much of Godzilla in them in the grand scheme of things.  It's usually main character set up, other monster arrives, military tries to stop it,  main characters see military fail, other monster wreaks havoc, Godzilla intervenes, punch punch roar fire breath, Godzilla wins.  For fuck's sake, people, even the awful 1998 film didn't have (God)Zilla make landfall until half an hour in, and then it took another half hour for the full reveal so this should come as little to no surprise.  Edwards and screenwriter Max Borenstein took the approach of classic Spielberg movies like Jaws, Close Encounters Of The Third Kind and Jurassic Park of holding the monsters back and showing them and their abilities as little as possible so that when they ARE on screen, their presence is that much more powerful.  Was I a little disappointed that after Godzilla's full reveal, we didn't get a detailed fight against the other monster?  Well, at first but at least we got a little bit of it on the news screen and the final thirty minutes made up for it, which is a damn sure sight better than the battle between Michael Cera and Chris Evans' stunt doubles in Scott Pilgrim vs The World.  Just stop and ask yourself this, "If the movie had been two hours of nothing but Godzilla and the other monster(s) whaling on each other, would you have been invested the entire time?"  No, that would've gotten old pretty fast and then the movie would've been blasted for being nothing but mindless action.  This movie takes its time to deliver the goods and doesn't fuck on the first date.

     #3.  Bryan Cranston and Ken Watanabe Are Hardly In The Movie
     Don't get me wrong, I really dig Cranston and Watanabe, not just in this movie but in general.  However, to say that they're "hardly in the movie" is just silly.  Ken Watanabe plays Dr. Ishiro Serizawa (the name is a nod to both Gojira director Ishiro Honda and character Dr. Daisuke Serizawa, the man who creates the Oxygen Destroyer that kills the first Godzilla) who helps investigate the discovery in the Philippines and insists that Godzilla is not there to cause mayhem on the human race but to restore balance to nature.  He is advising the military for pretty much the entire film and makes his scenes count whenever he's onscreen (including a squeal-inducing-Hallelujah-blaring namedrop of the titular creature in his native tongue).
     The same can be said about Cranston, despite having less screen time than Watanabe.  Cranston's Joe is an obsessive conspiracy theorist who is adamant in finding out the cause of the seismic activity that lead to the core breach and the death of his wife.  When he and Ford are taken to the remains of the Janjiri Power Plant to be interrogated for their trespassing, you get the whole "You are not fooling anyone" tangent that was in the trailers and it is far more chilling and emotional to hear it in it's entirety.  When Cranston is onscreen, he owns every scene, much like Tom Hardy's Bane in The Dark Knight Rises so yeah, he may not be in the film for terribly long and I think this would only be a legitimate complaint if Bryan had top billing in the film, but he doesn't.  Look at this poster and tell me whose name is first.  Not Cranston's.  Besides, *HIGHLIGHT FOR MASSIVE SPOILERS* it's kind of difficult to give lines to a guy after he dies, don't you think?  Perhaps some day we'll get a movie of Cranston and Watanabe bantering with each other and I'll be all for it.  However, today is not that day.
     Actually, this kind of leads me to the next point...

     #4.  The Trailers Seem To Advertise A Different Movie
     Seriously?  This is a legit complaint people have about the film?  In the off chance that you haven't seen the trailers for the movie, they do seem to focus more on Bryan Cranston's narration and with the exception of the Asian trailer, do a fairly good job of hiding the fact that Godzilla isn't the only monster in the film.  While some may take this as a bait-and-switch-middle-finger-to-the-audience play, I'm totally okay with it because like I said earlier, Cranston doesn't even have top billing and it's nice that there was a film that was marketed without the entire thing pretty much given away in the advertising (like The Amazing Spider-Man 2) and the stuff that wasn't shown in the previews still keeps you engaged in the story (unlike Zombieland) and at least Godzilla feels like you are watching a Godzilla movie.  After hearing so many complaints of various movies over the years giving away too much in the trailers, it baffles me that this one reared its head.

    I'm not really sure what else to say about this movie.  Given how this movie met my expectations that were built up by two years of anticipation, plus the best effects in the series to date as well as a very emotional feeling throughout that while powerful wasn't overwhelming (unlike TellTale's The Walking Dead game), I'm going to outright say that Godzilla is the best film I've seen thus far this year.  While Captain America: The Winter Soldier had a lot of heavy stuff with Bucky as well as Steve still adjusting to the modern world (not to mention what was really going on within S.H.I.E.L.D.), there weren't too many scenes that really hit you in the feels or make you gasp and say, "Oh my God," the way Godzilla does (the tsunami and bridge scenes, just as a couple immediate examples).  I'm not saying this to be biased, I genuinely mean it.  Gareth Edwards' Godzilla packs a whallop in this department and is arguably the best entry in the Godzilla franchise since Gojira, marking a welcomed return to form for The King Of The Monsters.  I think a lot of people were expecting something more like Pacific Rim but really, Rim has NOTHING on Godzilla.  Even Toho Studios expressed their satisfaction with Legendary and Gareth Edwards.

     In closing, while it may not be what many were expecting, I had a superb time with Godzilla and I really hope that the other monsters in the film get adopted into Toho's library for use in future media.  The characters were easy to relate with, Godzilla himself has never looked better, Alexandre Desplat really emphasizes the tone of the film and it didn't drag on leaving you wondering where the ending was.  When Gareth Edwards and company went through Canadian Customs to film in Vancouver, upon discovering what movie they were actually shooting (the cast and crew were told to use the code word "Nautilus"), two Customs Agents flat out told Gareth, "Don't fuck it up," even holding him there for twenty minutes to say what had to be and couldn't be in the movie.  Whoever these guys are, I think they can rest easy.  In closing, I'll tell you what I told my son and brother once the credits started to roll, "And THAT, ladies and gentlemen, is how you make a fucking Godzilla movie!"
     Check back later when I'll rewatch and review Gareth Edwards' previous effort, Monsters.  Hopefully, there'll be no distractions.

     -The Cynic

     BONUS STORY: Before my son and I went to the movie, we zipped up to Wal-Mart to see if they had any of the toys because his birthday's coming up and I wanted to grab him some stuff from the new movie while they were still in stock.  We skimmed the aisles really quickly and didn't see anything so we asked the lady stocking toys if they had any Godzilla toys in stock.  Now, she had what I believe was a German accent and she looked to be in her mid-thirties so given the fact that y'know, he's been a worldwide phenomenon for the last sixty years she'd be able to help but the rep looked at me and said, "Godzilla?  Vut...vut is zis Godzilla?  I've never heard of zis Godzilla..."

This is what went through my head.

     I politely told her that we'd keep looking and went on my way, muttering to myself, "What do you mean, 'What is Godzilla?'  He's only been around for sixty fucking years, how do you not know who Godzilla is mumblemumblemumble."

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Countdown To Godzilla: The Godzilla 30 Day Challenge (in one post)

     Look, I know that this is supposed to be a review of Gareth Edwards' Monsters but I need to rewatch that movie when I am not struggling to stay awake after doing a full day at a new job on a couple hours of sleep and when my kids are in bed and not fussing over the dialogue or asking me a million questions about the goddamned movie when I just want some goddamned peace and quiet to watch the goddamned movie.  So, in lieu of this, we are one day away from Godzilla's theatrical release (I've got tickets for Sunday night) and we're going to do the 30 Days Of Godzilla Challenge, as originally featured on the Facebook group Toho Kaiju Union, in one post.

     Before we get started, I'm not sure if I've ever gotten this out in the open but despite the fact that I consider myself a Godzilla fan, I have NOT seen all of the Godzilla films.  Here is a complete list of them and I have scratched out the ones I have seen (I won't bother specifying which dub I've seen).

     Gojira/Godzilla: King Of The Monsters
     Godzilla Raids Again/Gigantis The Fire Monster
     King Kong vs Godzilla
     Godzilla vs Mothra/Godzilla vs The Thing
     Ghidorah, The Three Headed Monster
     Invasion of Astro-Monster/Monster Zero
     Ebirah, Horror Of The Deep/Godzilla vs The Sea Monster
     Son Of Godzilla
     Destroy All Monsters
     All Monsters Attack/Godzilla's Revenge (unfortunately)
     Godzilla vs Hedorah/Godzilla vs The Smog Monster
     Godzilla vs Gigan
     Godzilla vs Megalon
     Godzilla vs MechaGodzilla
     Terror Of MechaGodzilla
     The Return Of Godzilla/Godzilla 1985
     Godzilla vs Biollante
     Godzilla vs King Ghidorah
     Godzilla vs Mothra/Godzilla vs Mothra: The Battle For Earth
     Godzilla vs MechaGodzilla/Godzilla vs MechaGodzilla 2
     Godzilla vs SpaceGodzilla
     Godzilla vs Destoroyah
     Godzilla 2000: Millenium/Godzilla 2000
     Godzilla vs Megaguirus
     Godzilla, Mothra & King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All Out Attack
     Godzilla Against MechaGodzilla
     Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S.
     Godzilla: Final Wars

     Let the falling of my credibility as a Godzilla fan commence, as well as this challenge!

     1.  How Were You Introduced To The Godzilla Franchise?
     I don't remember which one exactly, but when I was five I really got into dinosaurs and when you look at the dinosaur books that talk about dinosaur movies, the Godzilla series was their go-to feature (this was pre-Jurassic Park).

     2.  What was the first Godzilla film you ever saw?
     Is it bad that I honestly don't remember?  It was probably one of the later films in the Showa era, if I had to guess.  Most likely Godzilla vs Megalon or Godzilla vs MechaGodzilla.

     3.  Favorite Showa Era (1954-1975) film?
     Gojira, easily.  Having picked up Gojira: The Original Masterpiece recently, it's a very emotional film that has unfortunately been overshadowed by the campy films that followed it.  Granted, Godzilla probably wouldn't have become the pop culture icon that he is today without those campy films, but upon watching the film again, a part of me wishes that the Godzilla films kept a more serious tone throughout the series instead of waiting until the Heisei era.

     4.  Favorite Heisei Era (1984-1995) film?
     Probably Godzilla 1985.  I haven't seen the Japanese cut, The Return Of Godzilla, but this one was probably one of the more badass representations of him.

     5.  Favorite Millenium Era (1999-2004) film?
     Well, given how I've only seen two of the Millenium Era films, I'm going with Final Wars.  Sure, the movie was way longer than it needed to be and many of the monsters were underused and shoehorned in (*cough*Zilla*cough*), but there's enough batshit craziness to have fun with.

     6.  Least Favorite Godzilla Film?  Tristar's 1998 film doesn't count.
     Godzilla's Revenge, hands down.  I just watched The Cinema Snob's take on it and was pleasantly reminded of how seeing that movie once was once too many.  I never want to see it again.

     7.  Favorite Suit/Version of Godzilla?
     Either the 1973-1975 or the 1985 suit.  These are suits that come to mind when I think of him as either the defender or destroyer of Earth, respectively.

     8.  Favorite Kaiju from the Godzilla franchise?
     Aside from the Big Guy himself?  Uh...

     9.  Least Favorite Kaiju from the Godzilla franchise?
     GODDAMED GABARASuch a stupid monster with stupid powers from a stupid movie!  FUCK this guy!

     10.  Favorite Battle Of The Godzilla Franchise?
     I don't really know.  Either the final battle from Godzilla vs MechaGodzilla or the battle in IDW's Godzilla: Defenders Of Earth between Godzilla and Zilla (if comics count).

     11.  In your opinion, what was Godzilla's toughest fight/greatest adversary?
     Physically, probably Destoroyah or King Ghidorah.  Pride-wise, Zilla.

     12.  Favorite moment from the Showa era?
     When the mother assures her daughters that they'll be reunited with their father as Godzilla rampages in Gojira.  So powerful, so unsettling.

     13.  Favorite moment from the Heisei era?
     The flashback to World War II in Godzilla vs King Ghidorah.  The acting from the American soldiers is hilariously terrible.

     14.  Favorite moment from the Millenium era?
     The New York scene in Final Wars.  Love it for the same reason as #13.

     15.  What is your opinion on Tristar's 1998 film?
     Used to like it.  Love the creature's redesign, hate the movie.  The animated series was better.

     16.  Favorite non-Kaiju character from the series?
     Probably the wanna-be Neo alien from Final Wars.  That guy was a riot!

     17.  Favorite score/song from the series?
     Probably the Gojira main theme.

     18.  What is the first piece of Godzilla merchandise you remember owning?
     Probably this. 

     19.  What is your favorite piece of Godzilla merchandise that you own?
     Probably the 1995 Godzillas (red and white), Baby Godzilla and Zilla mini figures my wife and I used as cake toppers at our wedding.

     20.  What is the newest piece of Godzilla merchandise that you remember getting?
     Godzilla: The Complete Animated Series DVD.

     21.  Favorite Godzilla poster of the franchise?
     This one.  Doesn't give anything away but makes you go, "Holy shit, he's coming back!"

     22.  Favorite quote from the Godzilla series?
     "The arrogance of man is thinking nature is in their control...and not the other way around."

     23.  Favorite sound effect/Kaiju roar from the series?
     The main roar from Godzilla 2000.

     24.  Favorite Kaiju weapon/special ability from the series?
     Flight.  Simple, crude, yet effective.

     25.  Favorite pop culture reference to Godzilla?
     You really have to ask?

     26.  Name one thing you would change about the Godzilla franchise?
     Make Godzilla vs Zilla the final fight in Final Wars.  I know it's been ten years and I really should just get the fuck over it but it still disappoints me.

     27.  Favorite moment from any trailer or TV spot from Legendary's Godzilla film?
     The entire San Diego Comic-Con 2012 teaser that took over a year to find its way online.  It is was spawned my mindset that is perfectly summed up in my Facebook profile picture.

     28.  When did you first hear about Legendary's Godzilla film?
     An article from when it was originally supposed to be a 40 minute short film to be released in 2012.
     29.  What is your favorite thing about the original 1954 film?
     How it still ropes you in and hits you in the feels, dated special effects and acting styles be damned...
     30.  What is your favorite thing about being a Godzilla fan?
     How non-fans think that Godzilla was always a tongue-in-cheek cheesefest when you know better, if that doesn't make me sound too much like an asshole.
     And there you have it!  Gonna try and watch Monsters again to slap a review up on here before Sunday.  Failing that, the next review you'll see on here will be Legendary Pictures' Godzilla, which I will attempt to put up on Sunday night once I come home.

     -The Cynic

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Countdown To Godzilla: Cloverfield Review

     Wow, it is really only 16 days until Godzilla?  It still seems so far away but we have come a long way since the Comic Con 2012 Teaser Trailer description was put up online.  Well, let's keep the reviews going to tide us over and today we're looking at the found-footage kaiju film, Cloverfield.

     The plot of Cloverfield follows the friends of family of Robert Hawkins (Micheal Stahl-David) as they throw a going away party for him as he has accepted a job promotion in Japan.  Filmed entirely from a first person perspective by his brother Jason (Mike Vogel) and his best friend Hud Platt (T.J. Miller), they also capture some tension between Rob and his long-time friend Beth MacIntyre (Odette Yustman).  After they have a bit of a fight and Beth storms off with her date, Rob feels terrible about it and before he can try to fix it a giant creature attacks the city.  Unwilling to find the "off" switch for the camera, Hud captures the carnage of New York under seige and their battle for survival.


     Much like most of the world, my first exposure to Cloverfield was the amazing teaser that was attached to the first Transformers film in 2007.  At this point, the title "Cloverfield" was merely a rumor and had not yet been attached to the film but the teaser did it's job.  What caused the explosion?  What tossed the Statue Of Liberty's head like a baseball?  Is it a new Godzilla movie?  Cthulhu?  Jesus?  The Stay Puft Marshmallow Man?  The (now defunct) viral website had viral images that I never actually did get to see but from what I've read, it left people scratching their heads more instead of giving them answers (as viral media should be).  Well, we all paced around for a few months and a new trailer was released, confirming the title.  Speculation of the monster's identity was still running rampant but any guesses anyone had weren't even close.  Finally, January 18th, 2008 rolled around so we finally got to see what the hype was about.  It was one of the most intense cinematic experiences of my life (probably in the top 3 or 5 if I had to make a list), but that was 2008.  How is it in 2014 on a 39" LED?

The cast gets rounded up by the military.

     Okay, where to start?  Given that this is a "found footage" movie, you're gonna get a lot of shaky cam.  Does this get nauseating?  When you're watching it on your TV, it's not too bad.  Maybe I'm just saying that because I've seen the movie a couple times but the shaky cam really isn't as bad as everyone makes it out to be and it helps sell the whole premise of the movie (even prompting theatre promoters to warn of potential motion sickness to viewers), much like having relatively unknown actors in the leads.  Don't think that unknowns in the lead tampers the quality of the film because they all feel like real people that you see on the streets and in your social circles and not actors.  Watching this film again, not once did I feel that I was simply watching a movie but rather watching a real event as it unfolded before my eyes.
     Watching the film, I figured that it was simply shot on location in New York with the creature and damaged buildings added on top of existing buildings via CGI.  Nope.  There were a few shots filmed on location in New York with a couple of scenes filmed in Los Angelas and the rest filmed on sound stages with green screen filling the cityscape backdrop.  However, these shots were so well done that it feels like your smackdab in the middle of New York City when "it" arrives.
Speaking of "It..."

     Okay, so then of course there's the Cloverfield monster.  Did it turn out to be any of the guesses we had?  Nope.  From what little you do see of it, it has very long forelimbs, shorter back legs, a tail long enough to slice through the Brooklyn Bridge, exterior esophogi dangling from its stomach (that according to the Cloverfield Wiki, it used to eat people and horses) and as you can tell from this shot, is really fucking bigGiven the style that the movie was shot in, you never do get a truly great look at the monster, even when Hud is only a couple of feet in front of it near the end of the film.  Thankfully, Hasbro made a 14 inch figure that shows Clover, as the crew dubbed him, in all of its glory.  This is one of the more bizarre kaiju I've seen and given some of the kaiju that have crawled out of the woodwork, that's saying something but holy crap is it effective.
     You're probably wondering where this creature comes from.  Well, according to the manga tie-in Cloverfield/Kishin, Clover is an undersea life form that was discovered by the fictional drilling company Tagruato.  However, the Kinshin story spirals into stuff that's so out of left field that it is not considered canon to the film.  Producer J.J. Abrams has denied that the creature is an alien, saying the item crashing into the sea at the end of the film is a Chimpanzill satellite, added into the film as a nod to those who followed the viral marketing.
     As if Clover wasn't enough, it also has these parasites that fall off of the creature and attack the people of New York.  They're about the size of a wolf and their bite is extremely fatal, causing the chest cavities of their victims to expand and burst, as Marlena finds out firsthand.  While Clover himself is in the film more than the parasites are, it is his smaller counterparts that provide more of the "BOO" moments in the story and they make them count, despite the fact that the CGI may not hold up as well as Clover's.

My face when Tim Hortons doesn't have my favorite donut...

     Well, I don't think there's really a whole lot else I can say about Cloverfield.  While the movie was met with fairly warm reception upon its release, I find it surprising how many people hate on the movie now.  Did we see the same movie?  Six years later and I still LOVED Cloverfield.  The acting is top notch, the shaky cam helps sell the terror and atmosphere of the film and this movie looks absolutely amazing considering it only had a budget of $25 million.  I've seen movies with quadruple (or more) the budget that this movie had and they don't look as good as this one did.  Does this mean I'd like to see a sequel?  Well, maybe but I don't know how that would work.  Would it be another found footage taken by someone else during that fateful night?  Would it be the monster attacking another city?  If so, you'd have to ignore J.J. Abrams' comment of saying that the creature is dead despite the inclusion of the cryptic "It's Still Alive" soundbite at the end of the credits.  Well, Cloverfield II is still just a rumor at this point so my perspective is this: if a sequel comes out, sure, I'll go see it but if it never happens, Cloverfield works just fine as a standalone film and I will take great pleasure revisiting it again in the future.  If you haven't seen this movie yet, you should really check it out.

     Check back in a little bit as we only have two more entries in the blog to go before the Godzilla review.  Next up will be director Gareth Edwards' Monsters, the project that helped him land the director's chair for Godzilla.

     -The Cynic