Roland Emmerich

June 4, 2014

Godzilla (2014)

MYTHIC
Godzilla – Mythic

Sometimes the Devil is in the details and films need a high brow plot that grows right in front of an audience. Characters need to be fleshed out and there is a need to feel an attachment. Sometimes you need that in a film. Sometimes in a film, however, all you need are giant monsters punching, biting, and clawing each other until only one is left standing. Sometimes you need…….”Godzilla.” 2014 marks the return of everyone’s favorite “kaiju” who loves to climb out of the sea, destroy buildings, or a few monsters, and after he’s done, walk back into the sea. You don’t need Matthew Broderick, you don’t need baby Godzillas, because there’s a twist we didn’t see coming, and you don’t need a twist where there is always one more egg left. What you do need is a mythic monster that destroys things. You get all of that, and more, in “Godzilla.”

If you’ve seen any of the Japanese import “Godzilla” films, you might have a good idea of what you’re in for this time around. Basic premise; there are rumblings in the Pan Pacific area……and for sake of spoilers and other important plot points, I’ll leave it there. Yes, Godzilla is in this film, and there are a lot of moments of nostalgia that I got excited about, and overall I got to see the mythic rebirth of an icon.

Gareth Edwards honed his craft with the underrated, and little seen indie, “Monsters,” and just like “Monsters” there is a lot of build-up to the eventual return or sighting of a giant monster. This might be a turn-off to some members of the audience who might be expecting most of the film to be starring “The King of the Monsters.” Instead, we get a plot that involves a soldier (Aaron Johnson) and his father (Bryan Cranston) seeking the reason for the disturbances in the Pacific and the possible conspiracy between the Japanese government and the Monarch Corporation. You also have Elizabeth Olsen floating around as a nurse who is maybe trying to save people, and trust me, I like Olsen, I think she is an actress on the rise, but its plot and exposition for the sake of plot and exposition, and while the film might lag a little bit, it’s well worth the lead-up to the return of Godzilla.

The one comparison that you won’t be able to get away from will be the inevitable comparison to “Pacific Rim.” First of all, “Godzilla” is not “Pacific Rim.” The only comparison is that there are giant monsters that fight. It stops there. From a storytelling and world building perspective I would still give “Rim” a leg up. However, with “Godzilla” there is a sense of nostalgia and a lot of little odes to films of old. Being that this is the last collaboration between Legendary Pictures and Warner Bros. it could be a while before we see another “Godzilla” flick grace the screen for a while.

At the end of the day, it’s great to see “Godzilla” back and in the capable hands of people who understand what “Godzilla” is at heart. Sure, some of the plot points are a little corny and ham handed, but when you finally get passed the mandatory exposition, the action is well worth it, and to be honest, quite convincing, for a giant monster film that is.

Fun Fact: Ironically enough, Guillermo del Toro, director of “Pacific Rim” was the first choice to direct the “Godzilla” reboot.

July 6, 2013

White House Down

NO

Wash.  Rinse.  Repeat.  In this case, however, what we are washing is the previously TERRIBLE White House take over movie that came out only months ago in Olympus Has Fallen.  What we are rinsing it with is water more akin to the foul waste that made The Toxic Avenger and Emil from Robocop what they are today.  And what we are repeating is an idea that would only work for an easy to please audience perpetually living in the year 1992.  White House Down, surprisingly isn’t the worst movie to come out this year. (Hi Lone Ranger)  But boy oh boy it misses that mark by only an ant hair.  I honestly had to go back and reread my previous review of Olympus Has Fallen just so I wouldn’t duplicate it here.  White House Down makes all of the same ridiculous, clichéd, laughable, absurd mistakes as Olympus Has Fallen, but does it with a smile on it’s face.  Because…that’s…better?  Because director Roland Emmerich winks at us as he slips money out of our wallets, we should accept it?  NO.  And I don’t want to hear how we should really lower our expectations when watching such a film.  I did.  What I ended up witnessing was even lower than my already low expectations.

For those who didn’t watch the thousand and one ads run during the NBA playoffs, or…well…didn’t see Olympus Has Fallen, White House Down is about a terrorist attack and take over of the aforementioned White House by a highly trained, highly committed paramilitary group.  A lone, not supposed to be there, regular joe/cop/bodyguard must rescue the President and take back the building.  To follow the lazy, insultingly daft parlance used by most…it is Die Hard…in the White House…again.  That is to say, it is Die Hard in the White House if Die Hard was a comedically awful film with brainless, horribly shot set pieces and bland, underwhelming performance AND NOT…THE BEST ACTION FILM EVER MADE.  Yeah, just like Die Hard.  Watching White House Down is not a popcorn flick experience.  It is merely a test of patience.  How long can you sit there and take stupidity masqueraded as brillance?  How long does the parent who knows their child has begun lying to them let their child continue?  How long do you let that strange and jittery pamphlet guy at the mall talk to you before you tell him you’re not interested?  Not to get too political, but this would be a more Geneva Convention friendly, yet, still effective means of torture to inflict on the prisoners at Guantanamo Mr. President.   Perhaps you think I’m being too harsh?  NO.  This is me bitting my tongue.  It is that bad.

Hey remember when we saw Jamie Foxx win an Oscar for Ray…then we immediately saw him in the horrid Rob Cohen movie Stealth and were like, “Why the hell did Jamie Foxx do this?  He’s better than this.”  Then the sobering realization washed over us as that even celebrities like easy money too?  Well, yeah.  Wash.  Rinse.  Repeat.  Jamie is coming off of Django Unchained for crying out loud.  A terrific and under-appreciated performance that wonderfully captured the stoic and quiet hero of the Sergio Leone Spaghetti Westerns.  What does Roland Emmerich have him do here?  A two hour Obama impersonation.  NO.  I’m not sh%tting you.  The difference between Jamie’s performance in White House Down as The President and a performance on SNL as President Obama is a studio audience.  You are better than this Jamie.  Damn!  I did it again.

My dislike of Channing Tatum stopped somewhere in between Haywire and 21 Jump Street.  He began not taking himself so seriously, stopped making Step Up movies, started working with really talented people, and found his niche as a performer.  However, his name in White House Down might as well be Channing Tatum because there is nothing here for him personality or character-wise.  Father and estranged daughter stuff you say?  NO.  It is a two minute, go through the motions, plot contrivance.  Good rapport with President Obama/Foxx?  NO.  The two of them displayed better chemistry in a mock rap video making fun of Channing’s name.  It is funny and a bit disappointing that the best action vehicles Tatum has managed to star in either have him in it for less then ten minutes or is clearly a comedy.

The rest of the actors hopping on this paycheck train may not be as well-known as the inexplicably star studded cast of Olympus Has Fallen.  However, you’ll still scratch your head wondering how Emmerich managed to cast them.  The always great Richard Jenkins, the undervalued Maggie Gllyennhaal, James Woods, Jason Clarke, Lance Reddick.  All of them seem so out of place here.  My only solace after seeing this was knowing that their 4th of July was probably spent on a newly bought boat instead of inside a quaint and quiet apartment.

To ask me what is better between Olympus Has Fallen and White House Down is like asking me is it better to be shot in the dick or to be shot in the dick.  They are both bad.  Both films try to force feed you bile while pretending it’s caviare.  However, one just plays itself seriously while the other has a lousier poker face about it.  If I can offer an olive branch to these two films, I’d say this.   There is NO way to make a film about a White House take over in modern day and it not be ridiculous.  Solution?  STOP MAKING THEM!  NO more money shots of D.C. buildings blowing up.  NO more lax security at the most SECURED BUILDING IN THE WORLD.  I don’t care how many inside men you have.  NO more poor attempts to portray the president as Rambo.  NO more misunderstandings and misuse of the constitution for plot convenience.   NO more dumb converting of famous quotes from our forefathers into groan inducing one liners.  NO more ripping off Die Hard.  Hell, Die Hard can’t even rip off Die Hard anymore, so stop trying to do friggin’ Die Hard!  Just…NO.  DON’T watch it…DON’T compare it to Die Hard…DON’T make anymore…and DON’T even bother telling me I’m wrong.

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