The Bigger They Come Part 14 (Godzilla, the King of the Monsters, 2019)

Godzilla_King_of_the_Monsters_PosterReturning to the present after Kong Skull Island’s 70’s setting, Godzilla: King of the Monsters is our chance for some giant monster against monster action.

With a quick revisit to the destruction of the end of 2014’s Godzilla by Gareth Edwards, we meet the Russell family who are searching for their son while Godzilla fights the MUTOs.

Jumping to the present, Mark and Emma Russell are estranged, with Emma continuing her scientific work with Monarch. When Emma and their daughter Maddie are kidnapped by Echo-Terrorists, along with a weapon that allows for some communication with the titans, Mark is recruited by Monarch to help get them back.

It turns out to be more complex than that, some believe that the Titans are the key to healing the planet.  But their confidence lacks important data that could doom the planet and humanity.

So… One of my complaints with Edward’s Godzilla was it’s slow drawn out reveal of Godzilla. This was the umpteenth version of Godzilla and the slow reveal was unnecessary and pretty annoying. Here, we get to start seeing the titans very quickly and dramatically.  Director Michael Dougherty knows that a movie called Godzilla: King of the Monsters will need to deliver on the monsters.

And boy does he.  The film has several exciting sequences as Godzilla fights the new renditions of classic ToHo monsters. The designs of the creatures are great, they have a sense of life and threat.

I also liked the human characters in this film. It was nice to see Ken Watanabe and Sally Hawkins return from the previous film. Chandler is solid as a character who would just as soon see the titans all dead, but is forced to confront his anger and bitterness to save his family and the world. Vera Farmiga is both sympathetic and frustrating as Emma, who loves her family, but seems to skirt the line of ethics in her choices.  And Stranger Thing’s Millie Bobby Brown is very good as the surviving child who really wants to do what is right and also honor her lost brother.  The film has a fun supporting cast as well.

I really enjoyed this film.  The myth building, the action and the characters came together for crazy monster bashing fun.

 

He’s Back! (Superman Returns, 2006)

superman_returns_posterSo, nearly twenty years later, after numerous failed attempts to bring Superman back to the big screen Warner Brothers managed a major coup.  The wrangled Bryan Singer, Michael Dougherty and Dan Harris away from the X-Men franchise to bring Superman back.  This seemed like a decent idea.  One of the things Singer talked about was a love for the character and the first two Superman films.  He wanted to stay in a loose continuity with those films and ignore films III ad IV entirely.  They set out and found a guy who bore a striking resemblance to Reeve, named Brandon Routh.  Truthfully, it would have been wiser to simply begin again with a new continuity, especially since they were starting with an actress ten years younger than Margot Kidder was in Superman II.  And to facilitate the “Returns” part they had Superman go on a five year journey to explore the floating rocks of Krypton.

Here is part of the problem with that.  In the end of Superman II?  Superman promises the President he will never leave the world in the lurch like that again.  So, if we are to understand this…Superman very quickly breaks that promise.  Superman returns to earth and Clark Kent returns to the Daily Planet…with nobody noticing the huge coincidence.  Lois has a child who may be Superman’s (because they had sex in part 2) and has moved on, now dating Perry white’s son Richard White (James Marsden, in a move that caused Cyclops to be killed in X:3 due to scheduling needs).  Clark struggles with this, and is bothered by an article written in the time he was gone called “Why the World Doesn’t Need Superman”.  In the meantime, Lex Luthor has been scheming by marrying an old wealthy widow who is on her deathbed.  She gives Lex everything in her will, as the family stands outside pounding on the door.  Why wasn’t Lex in Prison?  Superman missed the trial because he left.

Lex goes back to the Fortress of Solitude and starts gathering the green crystals that contain Krypton’s records as well as ones similar to the crystal Clark used to build the Fortress in the first film.  He also steals Kryptonite to facilitate a masterful crime.  Well, not really.  See, Superman is full of loving homages to the first two Superman films.  This would not be a problem if it was done sparingly, but almost every shot seems to re-create Singer’s favorite things from the first movie.  Clark running towards the camera ripping open his shirt?  Of course you pay respects with that.  But Lex Luthor making another land grab?!  Arg.  If they had started over, as a brand new Superman, they could have still used Kevin Spacey and done business man Luthor.  Spacey could have defined the role that way.  He is great in the role…

Superman saves the day in the end, as expected, but not without getting creepy.  Superman keeps watch as he suspects Lois’ son is his son as well.  Can we pause a moment and reflect on this.  Superman wiped Lois’ memory of their time together.  How frightening must it have been to be pregnant with no idea how you got pregnant?  And Superman left shortly after, but his super hearing did not pick up on the forming child?  Superman runs out on his pregnant girlfriend who he has removed any memory of…and now acts like a jilted ex-lover.  It is an embarrassing storyline.

One thing this film does well is it’s actions scenes. Superman’s heroics are grand and exciting.  Superman saves people with great feats of strength and heroism.  The plane sequence is especially fun to watch.

I also really liked Brandon Routh.  I felt that, considering what he was given in the story, he made the most of it.  He is likeable most of the time, except those stalker moments.  I was sorry to see that this film ended any chance he would return as Superman.  If they had started over, we might have seen him begin a new and exciting franchise.

Superman Returns was a disappointing return, ironically enough.  It did not revitalize a dormant franchise, it nearly put it to sleep.

No Santa (Krampus, 2015)

krampus-winter-posterThe Krampus is a part of Christmas folklore largely unknown to the U.S., he is not part of our tales of Santa.  It is a popular bit of European folklore though.  But, as the film states, he is the dark shadow of Santa.  Santa rewards goodness, but the Krampus condemns the naughty.

It only makes sense that there would be a Christmas film for the Krampus.  Christmas horror stories have been around for quite some time.  A Christmas Carol is a Christmas horror story.

Mike Dougherty, most well known as a screenwriter of numerous super-hero films, this is his second feature as Director.  His first was the very entertaining Halloween themed Trick R’ Treat.  And now he returns to the holiday theme with a Christmas Monster movie.

Young Max is frustrated that his family Christmas is not like it onvce was.  There is fighting, cruel put downs and tension.  After being humiliated with his letter to Santa, Max is angry and heart broken, tearing up his letter to Santa.  He does not realize he has called forth a terrible wish.

The family wakes to discover there was a terrible snowstorm and they are out of power.  And that is not the really bad news.  what follows is the family discovering they are in for a terrible night.

The Krampus and his minions work to take the family to hell.  The thing about Dougherty is he has a skill with letting a horror film have the right amount of dark humor.  The monsters are wonderfully whimsical and creepy, which results in some enjoyable laughs.  I mean, the giggling evil gingerbread men cookies were crazy enough.  The designs are terrific.  The Krampus is almost like a melted Santa…his skin hanging loose, like ill fitting cloth.

The use of a frigid winter and snow are well used.  It is harsh and unforgiving.  The cast (including Toni Collette, Adam Scott and David Koechner) are great.  I genuinely found myself wanting this family to succeed, stop the Krampus and get out alive.

Krampus is a fun and enjoyable ride.  It won’t be winning any awards, but it was great fun for a horror fan.

It’s All Treats (Trick’r Treat, 2007)

trickrtreat_posterYou know, usually when a movie sits on a shelf for two years, there is a good reason for it.  But in the case of Michael Dougherty’s Trick’r Treat?  I cannot see why Warner Brothers took so long.  It was ready in 2007, yet Warner Brothers was hesitant to release it.

When I sat down to watch this film, I had built up some high hopes.  The trailer looked good and people I respect were singing it’s praises.

It’s easily the best horror anthology since Creepshow.  Horror Anthologies are a mixed bag, and filmmakers get them wrong far more than they get them right.  All to often they are silly in the wrong ways, lack punch, have a lame host, are to reliant on the host, etc.  The framing device can also make or break a film.  Creepshow’s comic book framing device is an example of getting it right.

Trick’rTreat’s framing device is the small town Halloween celebration.  We are treated to a series of four stories that are loosely connected, as characters wander in and out of other stories.  The stories are also unified by the presence of Sam, the creepy childlike trick or treating creature who appears ever so randomly in all but one story, where he plays a larger role.

The cast is stellar, with Anna Paquin playing the young virgin seeking her first partner, Dylan Baker as the creepy Principal and Brian Cox as the guy who hates Halloween.  Part of what really works is the film’s dark sense of humor.  The film is clearly meant to be fun, not merely a frightfest.  It’s gory, but not like Saw, where it is a slow indulgence…the gore serves the film, not the other way around.  Oh, and pretty girls.

There have been comparisons to Pulp Fiction, mainly because the film has that whole “jumping around in time” thing going on.  But that is really part of the fun, you see glimpses of event or people wandering by, and later you discover just where they were coming from.  The way the stories are intertwined is a wonderful bit of storytelling.  Director and writer Michael Dougherty tells some great stories, and shows that he understands visual storytelling and makes the most of his visuals.  There are so many moments that are just… awesome to see (including two instances of houses immersed in pumpkins).  I really feel like I cannot say much without giving away the many great moments.  This is a love letter to Halloween, which makes it perfect for me.  Halloween is honestly my favoritest holiday.  Just let me say, rent Trick’r Treat or better yet?  Buy it.  I agree with Jeffrey Wells, Warner Brothers has a potential franchise here.  I hope Dougherty gives us at least one more.

A side note…Cox wanted the make up people to make him look like John Carpenter-director/writer of Halloween.  Dougherty was only all to happy to oblige.

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