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Giant Lizard Love: Godzilla 2014

Published May 19, 2014 by vfdpixie

godzilla

Godzilla (2014, 2 hrs  3 mins)

As a kid, I was a diehard fan of that giant, nubbly-hided, spiny lizard, the one with the pseudo-elephant roar, yes, Godzilla.  Saturdays were made better if I found a channel with a grainy old school Godzilla movie, forfeiting any outdoor adventures for an hour or two.  Because of the nostalgia and all the remake frenzy going on these days, I have become somewhat immovable in my stance of the loveable, kitschy icon with the bouncy stomping action.  Godzilla of the 50’s to the 80’s was all I knew and that was fine with me.  When the 1998 version came out, I didn’t bother seeing it since the reviews skewered it.  I happened to catch it on T.V. one day, and agreed.  It was not the best representation of Godzilla, and I smugly held my stance.

After seeing a trailer for the 2014 version a few months ago, I was dubious.  There seemed to be a touch of cheese to the melodrama unfolding, making both my sister and I giggle.  I wasn’t sure if I would see it because I thought they would screw it up again.  Well, I am happy to say that I was wrong.  Gareth Edwards, who directed the intriguing indie film Monsters, manages to encapsulate all the important elements of an old-fashioned Godzilla movie and make the story current, relevant and bloody entertaining!

In 1991, scientists at an enormous excavation find gigantic fossils and some weird activity.  Joe Brody (Bryan Cranston) is physicist working at a nuclear plant in a city just outside of Tokyo, Japan.  He finds some unusual seismic activity and insists that it is not an earthquake.  His wife, Sandra (Juliette Binoche), works there as well, and perishes during a seismic event and subsequent nuclear disaster that leaves Joe to raise their son Ford (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) on his own.  Ford grows up to be a soldier and somewhat estranged from his father, who is bent on finding out the source of the disaster that ruined his family.  When Ford goes to Japan to bail his father out for trespassing in their quarantined hometown, Joe reveals to him that there is something going on, something that will put a lot of lives in danger.  Add some officials that aren’t telling the whole truth, some radioactive hungry monsters and epic disaster scenes, and you have yourself a sensational monster movie.

I loved this movie!  Edwards added the classic elements from all the Godzilla films such as the cute little Japanese boy with a baseball cap rescued from peril, a tsunami, countless destroyed buildings, and the feverish workings of scientists and the military, to continue the legend and mythology.  The story stayed true to the veiled environmental and political commentaries of past Godzilla movies, without any distracting subplots.  Some of the details were well thought out too, like the opening credits, which showed clever vintage footage of military nuclear “testing” and grainy, Loch Ness type reels, as well as the redacted credits themselves.  I admit, I wasn’t there for the acting, but Cranston was solid as the obsessed grieving father and husband, and Johnson was nice to look at.  I was there for the monsters, and I wasn’t disappointed.  The monster fights were spectacular, bringing this pixie more massive creatures than I could ever dream of.  The scoring was also key for me.  It was overwhelming, ominous and grandiose, giving you the gut wrenching feeling of being tiny and helpless, which is more than fitting for the subject matter.

And I must take a moment to comment on Godzilla and the beautiful creature design.  I read that Edwards wanted to pay homage and respect the “Gojira” designs from the past, and his design team did just that, gaining approval from the original Toho production company that was responsible for Godzilla’s movie fame.  The majestic 2014 Godzilla is awe-inspiring, terrifying and somehow elicits sympathy with its expressive face.  This incarnation is also the biggest in Godzilla’s history. From that fabulous roar to the blue fire spit balls, this lizard fits the bill of his past brethren. I found myself cheering for it in the theatre, even finding it kind of adorable at some points during the film.  I especially liked it when Godzilla stomped on things and we got a close up of the giant clawed foot.  I giggled as I remembered the old school, latex foot bouncing as it decimated miniature houses and cars.  I would also donate to Godzilla’s epic vet bills.  It would be worth it to me, just to see that gorgeous lizard face again.

My only critique, as a monster movie fiend, is that the M.U.T.O. monster villains looked a touch like the Cloverfield monster.  I wanted them to have a separate identity instead of an actual (probably not intended) reference.  Also, I saw the 3-D version which I normally wouldn’t do, but I wanted to go the V.I.P. theatre and that was the only option, so I have no idea if those effects were any good as I have an eye issue that prevents me from experiencing this particular effect.

There has been announcements that a Godzilla sequel is in the works, and I couldn’t be happier.  With Edwards at the helm, I have no doubt that he will respect the O.G. Godzilla legend, this “King of the Monsters”, and will hopefully bring on more daikaiju (I vouch for Gamera, Rodan or Mothra) and more epic battles.  Go see Godzilla if you want to see a legend respected and represented the way a remake should!

Stinkers I Have Known Vol. 1

Published May 7, 2014 by vfdpixie

I don’t usually like to trash films, as I have worked on a few film sets in my day, seeing the blood, sweat and tears that go into a production regardless of how bad the script, acting or sets were.  What is tragic is the hype associated with not-so-great films or a stellar performance in an otherwise terrible movie.  I have come across many in horror movie land, and can stay silent no longer, so pinch yer noses and hold yer breath because here are just a few to hold at arm’s length:

 

i am bad

I Am Bad (2012, 1 hr, 24 mins)

Well where do I start?  Taking a page from the brilliant and horrifically gruesome Maniac (2012), we are subjected to a shoddy version of the P.O.V. serial killer film.  This fella grew up with an abusive, nut job of a mother who only wanted him to be happy.  She is unfortunately hit by a car when she chases him out into traffic after an argument.  Her dying wish?  “You better be happy or mommy will hate you!”  With that to fuel him through his formative years, this guy (who remains nameless and virtually unseen throughout the film-and that’s probably for the best if he wants to work again) goes on a killing spree starting with his absentee father, a teenage girlfriend and countless other unsuspecting victims.  He finally decides to get help from a psychiatrist that his mother ironically recommended when he was a child, but the good doctor dies. This leaves his attractive assistant and PhD student, Anne, out of a job and apparently in need of a friend, which our serial killer is more than ready to be for her.  In fact, he falls in love with her and struggles with killing, which makes him happy, and not killing Anne, who makes him happy.

I was attracted to this film because the love interest was an African-American woman and hoped it would be an interesting take on the serial killer genre.  Boy was I wrong.  So what can I say about it? That it was a bad rip-off of an already classic slasher film?  That it was unsuccessful as a tongue-in-cheek comedy?  That the acting was substandard?  That the story had so many holes in it I expected moths to be flitting around?  And explain to me the cameo appearance from 80’s singer Taylor Dayne please, because I am puzzled by it.  The only redeeming aspect of this movie was Anne played by Caprice Crawford, a beautiful African-American actor based in Germany for some time.   Aside from Crawford’s engaging performance, and Jessica Makinson who played Tasha, a hilarious love interest for the killer, this movie was a stinker.  You have been warned.  As per the title, it is bad.

 

the quiet ones

The Quiet Ones (2014, 1 hr, 38 mins)

I went to see this movie with high hopes.  Some real life paranormal experiments, conducted in my home town Toronto circa 1972, was reworked into the story of a professor determined to prove Jane, a frail young woman, is suffering from mental illness instead of possession and to cure all occurrences of the supernatural.

Great premise.  Great actors, including a maniacal, riveting performance by Jared Harris as Professor Joseph Coupland, the ring leader of the whole gig.  Only problem was the story itself meandered through some salacious affairs and plodding scenes with Jane played by Bates Motel‘s  Olivia Cooke and the naive cameraman Brian played by The Hunger Games‘ Sam Claflin.  I really wanted to like this film too because I love me a Hammer film and I’m glad the studio is being revived.  There were some good jump scares that kept popping up until they started to become predictable, and some of the effects were good, but as a whole, it really put me off as I was expecting more scares, more plot and, well, just more.  If you read about the real story of the Canadian parapsychologists (which would have made a much better movie), this film is nowhere near the original experiments.  And if you miss the opening credits, you miss a good chunk of the story.  The Quiet Ones should just stay mum since this big budget stinker gets a mere “meh” from me.

 

nurse 3d

Nurse 3-D (2013, 1 hr, 24 mins)

This rambling film brings us a very enticing nurse Abby Russell (Paz de la Huerta), who is bent on bloody, gory revenge on men who cheat.  She also wants to control young nurse Danni (Katrina Bowden), who she is mentoring/obsessing over and who also becomes a threat when she finds out what Abby is up to.  These two tasks collide in a crazy, murderous plot filled with camp, blood and lots of Abby sashaying around town in some really hot outfits or in the nude.

I loved that Paz de la Huerta  played the psychotic Abby.  She is a unique actor with interesting range, and was cast really well in this film.  Not to mention the fact that a lot straight men out there would keel over watching her in various states of undress.  I just got tired of her sleepy Betty Boop voice.  The rest of the cast was really interesting too, with Kathleen Turner in a cameo alongside B-movie king Judd Nelson, Boris Kodjoe, the always fun Niecy Nash and Michael Ekland whom I love.  The problem was the script which missed the mark trying to meld a pulp fiction/drive-in/campy slasher type storyline.  As a result, the film became too convoluted to gain any momentum and to keep a proper pace.  And that sucks, because I think Nurse 3-D had real potential as a sexy slasher flick.  To sum this stinker up, if you are a straight dude with a penchant for Playboy, this movie is definitely a work of art.  If you are a gal like me, who is pretty tolerant of weird stuff on film, this gets a resounding P.U.!  And there is a rumor that a sequel is in the works.  Guess the defibrillator is going to get a workout if it becomes a franchise!

You can breathe easy now, because my list is short and sweet.  I want to believe that at some point, these films will become a late night favourite, or part of some film festival honouring movies that are so bad that they are good (ugh!).  At any rate, someone somewhere is going to love one of the above stinkers, and I think that’s o.k because nobody’s perfect.  To each his own, but I got me some standards.  If you have seen some recent time wasters, please let me know.  I may check them out when I feel like punishing myself!  Until next time dear reader, until next time…

Contracted and Disturbed

Published May 5, 2014 by vfdpixie

contracted

Contracted  (2013, 1 hr 18 mins)

During the first 15 minutes of Contracted, I decided not to write a review or finish watching it because I had seen a similar film, Thanatomorphose, at the Blood in the Snow Film Festival last October.  I had read comparisons between the two films and was curious about their similarities.   After sticking it out to the end, however, I changed my mind.  Contracted is the layman’s version of the more avant-garde, artsy Thanatomorphose, becoming almost a better film at times because of a more straightforward plot.

Sam (Najarra Townsend) is a listless, somewhat needy young woman who is a recovered addict.  She is clinging to a failed relationship with Nikki (Kate Stegeman), avoiding advances from the slightly stalkerish Riley (Matt Mercer), who doesn’t quite get that Sam is a lesbian, and bumping heads with her mother (horror veteran Caroline Williams).  One night at her friend’s party, she drinks a tad too much and meets a stranger who drugs her and forces unprotected sex on her.  Oh, and the stranger?  A total creep and necrophiliac.  Sam awakens the next day to a strange period and horrible cramps.  What ensues is a documentation of 3 panic-stricken days where her deteriorating health becomes the consequence of that unwanted, creepy “one-night stand”.

As I watched Contracted, I saw how easy it was to compare it to the Canadian film Thanatomorphose, and as I said before, I was going to skip a review, and the film, all together.  But as the story progressed, I gave it a chance.  I must say that yes, the two films are very similar in terms of the subject matter:  the literal physical and mental decay of a female protagonist in 3 acts, however, Contracted gave the viewer an origin of Sam’s ailment.  The backdrop of a sexually transmitted disease was an interesting take on her transformation into a monster, giving us a visceral account of what happens with unsafe sex and the lack of understanding from Sam’s family and peers.  Thanatomorphose is definitely an art house film, with less direction except for the main character’s obvious decay, leaving a lot of room for speculation as to why she literally dissolves (you can read my review here).

I did have a few issues with Contracted.  I really wanted to know the origins of the necrophiliac, B.J. (played by indie darling and writer/actor of V/H/S and V/H/S 2 Simon Barrett).  The pacing was a little on the slow side (although not as slow as Thanatomorphose), and there were a couple of unbelievable moments like Sam being forced to wait on tables with what looks like a raging case of pink eye and horrible, graying skin.  I don’t know any food server that would be allowed to work in Sam’s condition.  There was also a love scene that was used for obvious shock and gore value, but I challenge anyone to tell me that a touch of makeup and a candlelit room is enough to hide horrific mouth sores and hideously veined skin.  I mean, you are kissing that mouth and NO ONE is that love-sick or horny.  And there was the matter of her being date raped.  That fact seemed to be glossed over as a drunken interlude by her friends, family, ex-girlfriend and doctor which was very disturbing and seemed to make her more of a pariah as her illness progressed.  To be clear (since the director was not), a “one-night stand” and sexual assault are not the same thing.  Finally, Sam’s doctor was a judgemental moron.  I don’t know if the healthcare issue in the U.S. is that bad, but any healthcare worker worth their salt would have admitted her to a hospital immediately after her second visit.  At least in Thanatomorphose, Laura’s reluctance to see a doctor was consistent with her isolation.  As an aside, I also found out that Thanatomorphose was the first of the two films to be released (in October 2012), with director Eric England coming in a close second, apparently writing Contracted in March 2012, filming it in May of the same year, and releasing it in 2013.  Interesting tidbits on these sisters from different misters.

Despite those issues, I did like that Sam was a lesbian, which was a refreshing characterization and really added to the plot, her assault and her contracting this disease, and Townsend did a good job of keeping Sam’s growing panic consistent.  Thanatomorphose had the most unsettling special effects makeup I have seen to date, but Contracted did well for a low-budget film, making me cringe several times as Sam’s body transformed and decayed.  The third day, or act, was also quite good; a culmination of the first two days that snowballed into some really grotesque and horrific scenes, as well as Sam’s final moments in the film.  I also liked the storyline and the paranoia it created around the already real and scary premise of contracting a deadly disease through sex.  There is also talk of a sequel which I normally would look upon with dismay, but I’m actually curious about what director Eric England will bring us.

If you want excruciating, vile and food for thought (gulp!), watch Thanatomorphose.  If you want more mainstream, but still indie, with a slightly (but only slightly) more digestible storyline, watch Contracted.  Both body horrors deal with a woman, her body and loss of control, which to me, is quite horrific.

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