Established May 2010.

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Chris: Definitely.
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Chris: Yeah, but so what? Everybody's weird.

Film Critic for Twin Cities Live

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Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Movie Review: GODZILLA

Director: Gareth Edwards
Starring: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen, Bryan Cranston, Juliette Binoche, Ken Watanabe, Sally Hawkins, David Strathairn

That big scaly monster has stayed dormant for too long, and now Godzilla is back to wreak havoc upon the Pacific. Seismic activity occurs around a nuclear plant near Tokyo, Japan causing a massive explosion which leads to the collapse of the plant and the area to be quarantined due to radiation. Plant supervisor Joe Brody (Cranston) feels a responsibility toward the events and tragedies that occurred on that day. Over the next fifteen years, he becomes a paranoid conspiracy theorist who believes there is more to the seismic activity than what the government is leading on to as he tries to connect it to a previous nuclear bomb that was detonated to kill Godzilla.

When he and his son Ford (Taylor-Johnson), a US NAVY officer, return to the quarantined area for more research, they are arrested and taken to a secret facility. The facility has been built around a giant chrysalis being studied by scientists Ishiro Serizawa (Watanabe) and Vivienne Graham (Hawkins). There Joe and Ford learn that not only Godzilla exists but he may not be the only creature seeking the destruction of the Pacific. I typically go into a bit more plot detail when it comes to my reviews, but I am stopping right there with Godzilla. No spoilers as it is best to just go on this high octane ride without knowing a lot about it. The less you know, the more thrilling it is!

I should say that I have never seen a Godzilla movie before. I know it is a bit shocking for a film buff to have never seen those old black and white classics, nor have I watched that Matthew Broderick remake from 1998. I hear that is completely wretched and not worth a viewing. This review comes with a fresh open mind. With an all-star cast consisting of Oscar and Emmy nominees with Bryan Cranston, Juliette Binoche, Ken Watanabe, and Sally Hawkins, I felt I could trust that if these guys were going to star in a CGI heavy monster flick, this was going to have potential. Director Gareth Edwards catapults the audience with a huge jolt early on with some shocking choices and I thought “They are going there already? Okay! I like this unexpected choice.” Some moviegoers may roll their eyes at times and think there is some over the top acting or cheap shots, but I find there is a tongue in cheek quality to it. Edwards lets his actors have fun here as they are fully aware they are making a Godzilla movie. You can’t take yourself too seriously here. Bryan Cranston plays the paranoid guy that believes something is out there. You can find this type of character in many of these types of movies. I had no problem with some of Cranston’s heightened line deliveries. This is a far cry from his character Walter White on Breaking Bad. The other characters are a bit more on the realistic side with Aaron Taylor-Johnson playing the US NAVY officer and Elizabeth Olsen playing his doting and concerned wife back at home. These two will also be appearing in Avengers: Age of Ultron next summer.

Playing off the concept of knowing what kind of film they are making, it is quite evident that the director is playing homage to Steven Spielberg films like Jurassic Park and Jaws. I would not say that Edwards is ripping Spielberg off, but learning from what he did in those films to scare the audience. Like the T-Rex and the shark, Godzilla doesn’t appear until much later on in the film. There is a buildup of suspense and tension as our title character is slowly revealed, and you hear that loud roar that rattles the walls of the movie theater you are in. This feeling is also amplified by Alexandre Desplat’s score. I was surprised to see his name down as the composer as I am more familiar with his scores for films like Philomena and The Grand Budapest Hotel, which have a very different feel to them. I feel like there are some elements of John Williams and Bernard Hermann in there with his grandiose full symphony sound.

The best way I can describe Godzilla is that it is huge just like our title character. I felt like it was a two hour roller coaster ride that never lets up. I get very critical when I feel like directors just rely on overblown CGI effects to create the story they are telling. If you need an example of this, watch The Hobbit movies versus The Lord of the Rings trilogy and see which ones look better. With Godzilla, the visual and sound effects are stunning and may be some of the best we see all summer, if not of the year. I would not be opposed to it being recognized with a few nominations from the Academy next year. This is the kind of film that you want to see on the biggest screen with the best sound system. If you live near a theater that is showing it in the in new Dolby ATMOS sound system, I cannot recommend it enough. Holy crap! You will feel like you are in the middle of the action. I did not see it in 3D, but I would be leery about. 3D typically makes the picture quality far darker than its 2D counterpart. Godzilla is already so dark at times that the 3D could muddle that even further. It’s nice to see a monster movie back on the big screen that is done correctly. It should be no surprise that a sequel is already in the works.

Is it worth your trip to the movies? Godzilla will be one of the best films of the summer. This is the type of movie that defines the idea of a summer blockbuster popcorn flick.

RATING: 4 out of 5 Ticket Stubs

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