31 May 2014

Maleficent Fails in an Unusual Way

Maleficent (2014)
Directed by Robert Stromberg. Starring Angelina Jolie, Elle Fanning, Sharlto Copley, Sam Riley, Imelda Staunton, Juno Temple, Lesley Manville, Ella Purnell.

Sometimes, we need the fictional villains in our life to just stay evil. Forget sympathy for the Devil: I don’t want sympathy for the Red Skull, the T-1000, Michael Myers, the Joker, Auric Goldfinger, the Dark Lord Sauron, or King Ghidorah.

I especially don’t want sympathy for the Mistress of All Evil, Sleeping Beauty’s Maleficent. So few movie characters so relish evil for evil’s sake like she does. And Maleficent executes this vileness with such stylish vigor!

Maleficent is the unofficial ruler of Disney’s dark parallel to their Princess line, the Disney Villains. And hoo-boy, does Maleficent do a great job at the top of the wicked food chain. This is a creature so evil that getting a birthday party snub hurls her into a generational revenge plot that consumes a kingdom and all her free time. Her design (courtesy of legendary Disney artist Marc Davis) and voice (Eleanor Audley) emphasize the beautiful allure of evil to make the Middle Ages proud. As bonuses, she has a crafty raven sidekick and can transform through a mushroom cloud explosion into a black and purple dragon that blasts green flames. Give the dark lady a hand!

So what worse way to foul up Maleficent than to try to explain in a feature length film how she got so evil?

Amazingly, Disney found a worse way.

26 May 2014

Mothra vs. King Ghidorah: Which Toho Monster Will Appear in the Next U.S. Godzilla Movie?

Caution: This article discusses some details about Godzilla ‘14 that viewers who have yet to see the film may consider spoilers. (Non-spoiler review here.) Viewers who haven’t seen the film should also go take care of that now.

Cross-posted to Black Gate.

Legendary Pictures and Warner Bros. felt confident enough about the almost $200 million that the new Godzilla took in at the global box office during its opening weekend—the biggest International opening of 2014 at that point—to announce a few days later what everyone knew the moment the movie started pulling in heaps of cash: “Yep, we’re gonna make another one.”

We know little more at the moment. In the build up to Godzilla ‘14, all parties involved avoided sequel speculation. Director Gareth Edwards—whose association in a follow-up is uncertain at this time, especially since he signed on to direct the first Star Wars spin-off movie—made brief mention of doing something with the “Monster Island” concept introduced in Destroy All Monsters (1968), but nothing specific. Which means we can all speculate freely and wildly about what might happen in Godzilla Raids Again or whatever title “Godzilla II” has.

The big question about any Godzilla sequel: What other monster(s) will appear? Although it’s possible for Legendary Pictures to go with an original creature—and they did well with the MUTOs—it’s almost a guarantee they’ll negotiate with Toho Studios for the rights to one of the classic kaiju. Toho is reportedly through the roof with excitement over the new movie, so the negotiations won’t be aggressive.

There are many monster possibilities, but most online speculation has landed on two superstars: Mothra and King Ghidorah. Any Godzilla fan would place these kaiju at the top of a list of “must haves.”

23 May 2014

Godzilla (2014) Is a True Godzilla Film and a Unique Blockbuster

To all of those who saw the new Godzilla this last weekend who have never before fully understood the obsession fans have for this monster… now you will get it. Welcome to our weird world!

Godzilla isn’t just a massive monster that stomps stuff, confronts the military, and grapples with other monsters. Any giant beast can do that without much thought put into it. Godzilla is a character and a legacy. Even when playing the straight-up villain in films like 1962’s Mothra vs. Godzilla, the Big G is larger than larger than life and something you cannot help but stare at in awe and then salute. What a piece of work is a giant radioactive reptile! In apprehension how like a god(zilla)!

Director Gareth Edwards’s 2014 take on Godzilla, only the second film from a U.S. studio featuring the monster (or, if you ask most fans, the first), is a genuine Godzilla movie. Edwards’ creature isn’t the greatest incarnation to grace the silver screen, something I’m sure he would admit, as nothing could re-capture the cultural magic and hands-on effects work of director Ishiro Honda and visual effects creator Eiji Tsubaraya from the classic series. But the Edwards Godzilla is a legitimate and superb version that achieves the gravity of the 1954 original Godzilla and the thrilling monster-on-monster mayhem of the films that followed it through three eras and six decades. For Godzilla fans, this movie is the sheer ecstasy of a dream realized that brings spontaneous cheers, gasps of admiration, and watery-eyed moments of recognition. I could not imagine a better way to craft a U.S.-made Godzilla film, and it is to the immense credit of Edwards and everyone involved that until now I could not have foreseen how such a feat was even possible.

13 May 2014

A History of Godzilla on Film, Part 5: The Travesty and the Millennium Era (1996-2004)

Hey, kids: guess what comes out in theaters this Friday? Oh, wait… I have something I need to finish up here. (Sorry about the delay. It’s a boring story.)

Cross-posted to Black Gate.

Other Installments

Godzilla ‘98: An American Tragedy

Oh, I wish Theodore Dreiser wrote this.

All right, let’s get this mother*&!%ing thing over with as much speed as possible: Godzilla ’98 stinks like rotten limburger. We can all agree on this. It isn’t the worst film in the Godzilla series, but that’s because it doesn’t belong in the series and has no business associated with anything with the name “Godzilla” on it. It has zero connection to any version of Godzilla, nor does it make any attempt to interpret the monster whose name it crassly exploits—which is probably the most insulting thing about this massive heap of industrial Hollywood sewage.

But even ignoring its crippling Godzilla-lessness, Godzilla ‘98 is a terrible movie on its own terms. Have you seen it recently? Damn, it’s almost unwatchable. Screechingly, aggressively horrible. I prefer the ‘70s the Hanna-Barbera cartoon. At least the episodes are short and the theme song is catchy.