Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019) – Worth it for the Monsters

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   “Godzilla: King of the Monsters” was a lot of fun. I’m a huge fan of monster films and this film does the monsters very well. Some of the human characters are a bit weakly written but the overall themes of the movie never change. I enjoyed this more than both of the other American Godzilla films (1998 and 2014). It doesn’t touch the original “Godzilla” though in quality. That film is one of my favorites to this day and I’ll be surprised if lightning strikes that again for any monster film. For non-spoiler thoughts it is worth checking out for how the monsters or Titans as they are called in this, are handled. So much personality is given to each creature and they really are the stars of the film.

The film was directed by Michael Dougherty and who co-wrote the film with Zach Shields.

The story follows the scientific organization Monarch as they seek to stop a terrorist organization lead by Alan Jonah (Charles Dance) from releasing King Ghidorah and the Titans upon the world.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Action – Whenever the monsters it fight it is some of the best action on the screen. Whether it is Rodan taking out Monarch’s ships while facing Ghidorah and the last few fights of Godzilla against Ghidorah are simply beautiful. Cities are destroyed and we see just how entrancing these Titans (as they are called) are.

The Soundtrack -Bear McCreary is one of my favorite composers and he did a fantastic job here. Each monster has their own theme that captures the true epic scale of each of the Titans. He also captures a sense of forboding that permeates the soundtrack and plays into the themes of destruction and balance that give the film it’s strength.

Alan Jonah – Charles Dance is an amazing actor and this film is a great example of this. We never get his personal reasons for wanting to destroy the world but he still manages to give empathy even as he is wreaking destruction everywhere around him with the releasing of the Titans. He survives the film so I hope we get more of his backstory as I enjoyed the scenes he was in.

Dr. Serizawa – Ken Watanabe has always been one of the strongest characters in this Franchise. He is a scientist obsessed with the Titans and hoping that they can bring balance to the world. Here is sacrifices his own life to bring Godzilla back to life after humanity nearly kills Godzilla with an oxygen bomb. It is a touching scene and it completes his arc beautifully as he’s always been rooting for Godzilla and been right about Godzilla overall being a Titan protector rather than a destroyer.

The Monsters – The monsters are the best part of this film. They are given so much personality and their dynamics with one another are powerful. We have Ghidorah who has three heads, each with a different personality, you have Rodan who is aggressive but values staying alive that it will submit after a fight and you have the guardianesque Mothra who seeks to protect Godzilla and the planet even at the expense of it’s own life. Rodan was my favorite and I’m glad he survives the film. Watching them fight is leading me back to the Toho films post the original “Godzilla” and I can’t wait to review them later.

Balance versus Destruction – The main theme of the film is that between balance and destruction. Balance comes through union of humanity with the Titans which in this case is through Mothra and Godzilla while destruction is alien King Ghidorah who wants to destroy all life on Earth. This is expressed in our characters such as Madison, Mark and Monarch who seek to keep the balance and help Godzilla against Ghidorah and destruction is through Alan Jonah and his organization who bring death wherever they go. This illustration is beautiful and I loved how the people mirrored the monsters they represented.

Okay:

The Russells – The Russell family is really where we see a lot of the core themes of balance versus destruction. Emma is part of Jonah’s group and causing destruction until the end she embraces balance that her daughter and husband were following in seeking to protect and save Godzilla. The arc itself is alright but I felt the Russells were the weakest human characters. They at least got arcs though. Mark forgives Godzilla for killing their son in the last film and his actions along with their daughter Madison help Godzilla eventually defeat Ghidorah…along with Emma’s final sacrifice in her distracting of Ghidorah from going for the killing blow.

The Cons:

When the Action is Hidden – There are a few action sequences where the action is hidden and it is annoying. When Ghidorah is first released in Antarctica so much of the fight against Godzilla is hidden by snow and darkness. This was a major problem in “Godzilla” 2014 and I’m glad it isn’t as bad here, but it is still present.

The Comedy – The comedy is bad. The jokes are cringy and I wish they’d avoided humor all together. The only scene I kind of laughed at is when Alan Jonah is trying to help Madison relax after his men have slaughtered a bunch of people and she flips him off. The rest felt like them trying to shove in jokes when they shouldn’t have been there in the first place.

This was a film that I enjoyed. The monsters and themes are well executed and the only things that really bring down the film is the fact that some human characters could have been developed better in regards to their motivation. This film should have stayed away from comedy as well and I hate how studios get around showing action by covering it in snow or mist. Here it doesn’t happen a lot but the times it does hurt the great action we do see. If you are a fan of monster films or any of the “Godzilla” films I’d say it is worth your time. It is definitely the best of the American Godzilla films and I hope more of the monsters we see get explored further.

Final Score: 8 / 10 A solidly good monster film.

The monsters in this film made me want to check out their originals from the Toho films, which will definitely be reviews in the future as out of all the Toho films I’ve only seen and reviewed the original “Godzilla.”

 

Kong: Skull Island (2017) – Good Casting Keeps This Film at Level but the Film Never Reaches Great

   This was the first official “King Kong” movie I’ve ever watched. My familiarity with this genre as far a giant ape interacting humans was only the remake of “Mighty Joe Young” that Disney made back in the 90’s, though culturally I’ve always been familiar with the great ape and the tropes that usually surround his genre. Tropes that I find troublesome that this film does a good job at not using (presentation of islanders as Cannibals ready to sacrifice visitors and of course Kong being attracted to a human lady). Avoiding these tropes gave the film strength, though it suffers from other issues that keep it from reaching greatness.

    The film was directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts, written by Dan Gilroy, Max Borenstein and Derek Connolly, and produced by Jon Jashni, Alex Garcia, Thomas Tull and Mary Parent.

    The story takes place at the end of the Vietnam War as Bill (John Goodman) wants to get his organization Monarch (organization that researches monsters and was in the last American “Godzilla” movie) to Skull Island while U.S. Forces are still near the Island. He gets the approval is joined by a tracker named James (Tom Hiddleson) an anti-war photographer Mason (Brie Larson) and troops lead by Colonel Packard (Samuel L. Jackson) who when they all reach Island realizes what information Bill was holding back and that Kong is not the worst threat on the Island.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros: The World – The world is fantastic! It is our world but with untouchable islands, monsters underneath the ground and giant creatures that feel complicated emotions and are more complex than us at times.

The Cinematography – The cinematography is beautiful and really captures the beauty and danger of “Skull Island.” This movie has a lot of color, which is a nice change of pace from WB’s coloring everything in drab and grey (Hell the DC Cinematic Universe). This helped give the story more life when the dialogue wasn’t cutting it.

Colonel Packard – Samuel L. Jackson’s character is very much a Captain Ahab as he is overwhelmed by what he thinks the war took from him (the U.S. leaving Vietnam he took to be his own failure) and in turn he is itching for a fight. We see him become obsessed with taking out Kong after his men die when they bombing Kong’s Island. It finally ends with one of his men turning on him as his care for them lead to his obsession with killing Kong and that being all that mattered. Jackson truly is remarkable in the world.

Hank Marlow – John C. Reilly plays a half-mad pilot from World War 2 who made friends with the Japanese pilot who crashed on the island with him and with the people in the tribe. He is a fun character and we see him facing his fear of the Skullcrawlers and in the end he gets to meet his wife and son back in America. I enjoyed his arc and really enjoyed how this role showed just how great Reilly’s range is.

Kong – Kong is humanized in this! In the film he protects the tribe from the Skullcrawlers who come from below. Kong is the last of his kind and we see him judge humans based off how they treat him. There is a lot of great emotion shown in his eyes on a few different scenes and it is wonderful when we see him team up with the heroes to take out the gaint Skullcrawler.

Okay: The Characters – This is an ensemble cast and because of it being an ensemble cast I never felt that we got to know anyone outside of 2 characters. Mason and James tell us a lot about themselves, but we never see it. They are ciphers that we can put ourselves into but that doesn’t make good character. Goodman’s character gets some exploration too but he ceases to do anything once he reaches Skull Island. His tory is taken over by Colonel Packard. The other two members of Monarch don’t get any exploration at all and are just kind of there. Most of the characters die randomly as well.

The Tribe – The tribe is non-verbal and worships Kong. I like how they are presented in that they aren’t the usual cannibals that these films sadly take the path of doing and they are still complicated as in you mess up their sacred areas, they will kill you. I didn’t put them as a pro only because they exist as one unit when they should have been more explored as individuals.

The Cons: The Sullcrawlers – Like the villains in the new American “Godzilla,” these guys are kind of lame. They are giant two legged lizards that eat and kill anything. They are monsters but their design isn’t memorable or unique and they never felt like a giant threat. Colonel Packard felt like a larger threat than these guys ever were.

Structure is a Mess – At first it looks like Goodman’s Bill is the main character, than he gets killed off and the film tries to make Mason and James the main characters, but that never works because they aren’t written fully formed so minor characters like Reilly’s Hank or antagonists like Packard take over the weight which leaves the structure imbalanced. The ending is also left open as we see that the U.S. army clearly sees Kong when he screams to them. This was stupid given that the film was over and they should have just returned home. In that way I think Franchise management is a big part of what ruined the structure. We had to know we’d see Kong later (that didn’t need to be shown) and in doing so editing the script or better exploring a main character fell to the wayside.

   In the end I still enjoyed this movie enough to call it a good B movie. It isn’t great by any stretch of the imagination. It is well cast though which fills in some of the lack of character development as both Hiddleson and Larson have great charisma in their roles, which keeps them from becoming a con. I also enjoyed the idea of Kong as a protector and how fantasy the movie felt with all the giant monsters living under the ground (“Pacific Rim” style almost). I’m curious to see what else happens in this universe and after this film, I may have to give the other “King Kong” films a chance.

Final Score: 8 / 10

The Venture Bros. – Season 1, Episode 10 – “Tag Sale – You’re It!” – Of Rivalries and Has-Beens

Tag Sale - You're it!

   “Tag Sale – You’re It!” is a chance to see more of our characters interact with one another as well as see the legacy Dr. Venture in a way has left behind as well as funny antics by both the Monarch and Dr. Orpheus.

   The episode was directed by Jackson Publick and written by Doc Hammer.

  The episode involves Dr. Venture hosting a yard sale where all his old enemies and rivals come to buy his technology. Things soon unfold as the Monarch plots chaos to get into Dr. Venture’s lab.

The Pros: The Yard Sale – The Yard Sale is fantastic! Pete and Wizkid are looking to form an evil team. We meet Dr. Girlfriend’s old partner Phantom Limb, Baron Underbheit and Richard Impossible show up and quite a few others we have never met. They are all a lot of fun.

Dr. Orpheus – This guy spends the episode harassing super villains in order to a nemesis and rival. Sadly to no avail though, as none of them have a personal reason to hate him. Also, he’s Dr. Orpheus. Even when he’s a dick, he’s still the best person on Team Venture.

Monarch Henchmen – These two are funny. At one point one them buys a lightsaber and finds that Dr. Venture jipped him as when he attacks Brock it just goes through Brock and doesn’t hurt him. These two are great and I’m glad the show kept them around.

Dr. Girlfriend – In this we see how much Dr. Girlfriend cares for the Monarch as Phantom Limb from the Guild and offers to make her a member as she once held more power than she does now. I like how she stood her ground. We also see her soft side again when she feels bad for Dr. Venture and sees the echoes of the great man he once was.

the Monarch – The Monarch feels bad for Dr. Venture! We also see how good he is at causing chaos when he causes the fight that allows him to get into the Venture Compoud where it is very under-dramatic. He is disappointed in his arch-nemesis countless times and just feels bad for him, even as he affirms revenge once more at the end, showing just how deep his obession goes.

Okay: Team Venture – Team Venture is largely the ones spectating. We have Hank Venture start a business with Dean as one of his employees but it not go anywhere when brawling breaks out and Brock is just in charge of security and really doesn’t do anything noteworthy.

This was a great and fun episode. I like the sadness Dr. Girlfriend and the Monarch feel in Dr. Venture’s lab as they realize just how much of washed up has-been he’s become. This of course doesn’t stop Monarch with his obsession as he vows revenge as upstairs the boys watch him and Dr. Venture suggests calling the cops nonchalantly. It’s a great scene and was a big reason I like the episode so much.

Final Score: 9.3 / 10

The Venture Bros. – Season 1, Episode 8 – “Mid-Life Chrysalis” – Brock Finds His Groove and Dr. Girlfriend Rocks

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    “Mid-Life Chrysalis” manages to be a very heartfelt drama keeps the drama and heart up consistently, even with Dr. Venture being transformed into a giant caterpillar. Dr. Girlfriend and Brock Samson are easily the best parts of the episode and make it a favorite.

   The episode was directed and written by Jackson Publick, with Doc Hammer as co-writer.

    The story involves one the Monarch’s plans to turn Dr. Venture into a butterfly by having Dr. Girlfriend seduce him to inject him with a substance that will transform him. Elsewhere Brock must renew his licence to kill after he is pulled over with an expired licence.

The Pros: Dr. Venture’s Mid-Life Crisis – Dr. Venture is called grandpa by two military pilots which throws him into a mid-life crisis. His approach to this is hilarious as he throws on a wig and a suit out of the 70’s. We also learn he is only 43. In the end he falls for Dr. Girlfriend who is on a mission from the Monarch to seduce him and is transformed by her into a caterpillar. He never blames her even when she is the only suspect and we see he genuinely cares for her (he knows her has Charlene) which is sweet and she turns him back.

The Messed up Mind of the Monarch – The fact that the Monarch used his girlfriend to seduce another guy is kind of messed up on its own but when you add him masturbating to them making out you see just how twisted this guy is. He and Dr. Venture were made for one another as both don’t really consider the lives of those around them, just their vendettas and goals.

Brock Samson’s Training Montage – This is done in the style of an 80’s sports montage with Hank and Dean as Brock’s trainers, though in the end it doesn’t matter as the guy who administers the test was a kid who Brock had babysat when he was younger.

Brock Samson – In this episode we see that even though Brock is unhinged he’s by the book and won’t raise a hand unless he has a licence to kill. For this reason he spends the episode getting back into his groove so he can renew his licence.

Dr. Venture – Dr. Venture is both a creep and a sweet guy as we see him have a level of awareness around Dr. Girlfriend that he doesn’t have around anyone else…he really did care about her which is both sad and kind of sweet.

Dr. Girlfriend – Dr. Girlfriend shows she’s more than just a tool when she ends up falling in love with Dr. Venture and saving him from mutating into a monarch. She shows that she isn’t all about the vendetta and also cares about Dr. Venture (which makes sense as Dr. Venture is much kinder to her than the Monarch is).

   This was an amazing episode that hits all the right notes. I felt bad for Dr. Venture (which is hard to feel) and felt bad for Dr. Girlfriend as she is as much a pawn to the Monarch as all his other minions as all he lives for is revenge against Dr. Venture. In this we see that characters can become more and just how connected or not connected they are to their different identities.

Final Score: 10 / 10