Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Countdown To Godzilla: Pacific Rim Review

     Hey, everyone!  Here we are 79 days until May 16th when Gareth Edward's Godzilla hits the theaters with a vengeance.  Yesterday the internet was presented with a new trailer for the film (which helped us nerds ease the sadness of the loss of Ghostbusters writer/star Harold Ramis the day before) and so...what do you mean you haven't seen it?  Here, check it out below.  I'll wait.

     Okay, now that we've gotten that out of the way and we've wiped the drool from our gaping mouths, upon seeing that I was thinking to myself, "Damn, I gotta get on that next review.  May'll be here before we know it!"  After the kids had gone off to bed, I parked my ass down and finally got around to watching Guillermo del Toro's Pacific Rim.

     Gypsy Danger vs Knifehead

     The plot of Pacific Rim is that giant creatures begin emerging from the Pacific Ocean called Kaiju (Japanese for 'Giant Beast').  The first creature takes six days to kill using conventional military weapons.  As more Kaiju show up, the world realizes that their tanks and jets aren't going to cut it, so the nations set aside their differences and pool their resources to make giant robots named Jaegers (German for 'Hunter') to combat this threat.  At first the Jaegers are a monumental success and the Kaiju almost becomes something of a joke to humanity, but then the Kaiju begin adapting to the Jaegers and humanity's future is put into question.

     To be honest, Pacific Rim was one of the big summer '13 releases where try as the trailers might, it just couldn't draw me in enough to buy a ticket  (the other was Man Of Steel)Sure, I like giant monster movies and creature features in general but for whatever reason, Pacific Rim just wasn't doing it for me.  The film's theatrical run came and went and feedback from my friends varied from "Very articulate and well thought out" to "so horribly stupid that it's enjoyable, much like the Mario Brothers movie."  I still hummed and hawed about it once the film hit home release, but then I watched the Honest Trailer for it and decided, "Okay, let's give it a shot for Countdown To Godzilla."  Minor spoiler alert.

Heimdall and Jax in the same movie?  Man, the Kaiju are so screwed.
      Well, where to start?  Let's go with the actors.  At first, I groaned a little at Raleigh Becket's (Charlie Hunnam of Sons Of Anarchy fame) narration at the beginning of the movie, feeling that it lacked...enthusiasm, for the lack of better term.  I kept an open mind though because some actors work better on screen then they do with voice overs and, hey, the narration wasn't as bad as The Last Airbender.  It wasn't until Raleigh's backstory was told that I understood why he lacked enthusiasm (his brother got killed during the fight with Knifehead) and was more forgiving with that.  Hey, how upbeat would you be if your brother got killed while you were neurally connected?  The rest of the cast does a decent enough job with their roles, although I'd be lying if I said that the switches between English and Chinese during Mako Mori's (Rinko Kikuchi) lines were a tad distracting because the film never really gave a reason for it.  If it was established that Mako's English was limited, I'd shrug it off but I never got that impression.  As far as Idris Elba's role as Commander Pentecost goes, it's not like it was phoned in but I didn't find myself clenching my fists and thinking, "Fuck yeah," whenever he was onscreen, unlike when I watch the Thor films.  The cameos from del Toro alumni Ron Perlman as a Kaiju Organ Black Market dealer and Ellen McClain in her GLaDOS voice from the Portal game series were welcome additions.
Maquette for the Kaiju "Otachi."
      Okay, not surprisingly, this movie gives enough to its human cast so that the audience doesn't get up and leave during the slower scenes and tosses everything else at the special effects department, and I don't just mean the CGI.  Legacy Effects (formed by Stan Winston Studio almuni Lindsay Macgowen, Shane Mahan, Alan Scott and John Rosengrant) contributed the practical effects to the film, giving amazing detail to the Kaiju skin parasites and body parts in Dr. Newton Geiszler's (Charlie Day) lab, amongst others.  As far as the CGI goes, Industrial Light & Magic really outdid themselves on this film, making their efforts from the Transformers and Pirates Of The Caribbean films look cheap in comparison.  The first appearance of the Kaiju is an image that'll give you chills with how detailed everything looks as it rips apart the Golden Gate Bridge.  I don't think the rest of the Kaiju shots quite live up to that first one, but they all look quite remarkable.
       Am I sorry I didn't catch this one in the theaters?  No, not really.  Pacific Rim doesn't really blow your mind with its storytelling but I don't think it wants to.  It wants you to be a kid again, enjoy giant robots feeding giant monsters knuckle sandwiches and depart from the dark, gritty Christopher Nolan-esque style blockbusters seem to be taking lately.  While some parts closer to the end of the film felt a little too Independence Day for my liking, overall Pacific Rim gets an "okay" from yours truly.  The film may run a little longer than it probably should but it is far from a waste of time.  That being said, I don't think I'm on board for that potential sequel that Guillermo del Toro has talked about (the ending doesn't really leave an opening for a sequel, but hey, neither did Independence Day and look how that's going).  If you dig CGI spectacle creature features, put this in your movie que.  If nothing else, it's a helluva lot better than Q: The Winged Serpent was.
     Check back in a little while for our next entry in Countdown To Godzilla, where we look at the one that started it all: 1954's Gojira.
-The Cynic

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Countdown To Godzilla: Q The Winged Serpent Review

Theatrical poster painted by the awesome Boris Vallejo.
     Here we are, once again looking at a giant monster media while we await Godzilla's release.  Last time, we looked at IDW's publication of Dinosaurs Attack!. Today, we're going back even further in time to 1982 to look at the film Q, or more commonly known as Q: The Winged Serpent.
     The movie starts off with some creepy pervert window washer getting his head bitten off by some unseen creature.  As the police investigate, Shepard (David Carrodine) suggests out of frustration that maybe the washer's head came loose and fell off while he tries to connect this latest murder to the string of mutilations that have occurred..  Meanwhile, a sleazeball small-time crook named Quinn (Michael Moriarty) abandons his colleagues in the midst of a heist and loses the merchandise.  While on the run trying to hide, he stumbles upon the creature's nest and tries to use his knowledge of the lair as a "Get Out Of Jail Free" card once he gets taken in by the police.  After some unorthodox investigations, Shepard comes to the conclusion that the mutilations were ritual sacrifices done by a modern day Aztec worshipper that has brought back the ancient god Quetzalcoatl and now Shepard and Quinn have to devise a plan to stop the creature before it can kill again and breed.
The title creature, after having been fed a few bullets.
     This film seems to be one of those movies that is making me stall at the keyboard trying to figure out what to say about it, which is nothing short of frustrating.  Even if doing reviews is just a hobby, I try to word it the best that I can as if I were being paid for doing so...and then a movie like this comes along that leaves you feeling like you don't have a lot to work with.  Was it a masterpiece?  No but I wouldn't go so far as to say that it was a total disaster either.  If you're into scenery chewing, this movie is right up your alley.  Carrodine handles the situation very calmly and open minded unlike most other monster movies that have the authority figures going, "Hogwash!  There's no such thing as monsters!"  Perhaps Carrodine merely nips at the scenery, come to think of it.  This is especially true when in the company of co-stars Moriarty and Richard Roundtree.  Whenever these two are on screen, I swear if you look close enough, you can see chunks of the decorum between their teeth.

Mmmm, brick...
     Alright, what good is a monster movie review if we don"t talk about the monster?  The special effects in Q are pretty decent, with the creature being brought to life via a leg puppet prop and stop motion animation by Randy Cook (whose other works include The Thing and Ghostbusters, amongst others) and David Allen.  Now I know a lot of people groan with stop motion animation but I seem to be one of the few people who find it creepier than CGI probably because it looks so jerky and unnatural, making the monsters it animates seem that much more not of this world.  This movie also takes the same approach that Jaws & Predator did where you do not get a clear look at the creature until at least 45 minutes into the movie.  I've always liked this approach just as long as the rest of the movie can tide you over until the creature is on screen, which I don't necessarily felt that Q did.  To tell the truth, Q is one of those movies where I found the production of the film more interesting than the film itself.  I guess in the end, I'd say this movie was okay but you'd probably really have to twist my arm to get me to recommend it to anyone.  I know this is kind of an odd way to end a review, but I really don't know what else to say about it.
     Check back in a while when we take a look at Guillermo del Toro's Kaiju smackdown romp, Pacific Rim.  Hopefully it'll give me more to work with.

-The Cynic