Godzilla (2014) Movie Review

Godzilla [2014]

Godzilla [2014] 
Director: Gareth Edwards
Writers: Max Borenstein (screenplay), Dave Callaham (story)
Genre: Action/Adventure/Sci-Fi
Starring: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen, Bryan Cranston, Ken Watanabe
Running Time: 123 minutes

Sixteen years.

That’s how long it has taken for another American attempt at a Godzilla film after Roland Emmerich’s critically-maligned 1998 blockbuster. With up-and-coming director Gareth Edwards (Monsters, and soon-to-be director of Star Wars), a star-studded international cast and a massive budget, all of the pieces appeared to be in place for a proper reboot. Yet while impressive in spots, Edwards’s Godzilla unfortunately manages to be underwhelming overall.

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2012 Movie Mini-Reviews: Jiro Dreams of Sushi, The Kid with a Bike, Silent House

February has been a bit of a slow month for me in terms of movie watching, but I have still managed to catch a few more of last year’s films. One of them would likely even make my top 10 list if I were to update it today. Let’s take a look:

Jiro Dreams of Sushi [2012]
Jiro Dreams of Sushi [dir. David Gelb]
Jiro Ono is an 85-year-old sushi chef who is considered by many to be the greatest in the world. His Tokyo restaurant, Sukiyabashi Jiro, only seats ten people, and its patrons have no say in what sushi they receive. Reservations are required months in advance, and a meal costs roughly $300. Jiro’s restaurant also has the distinction of being the smallest to receive the coveted 3-star Michelin review, which it receives year after year.

This documentary details Jiro’s dedication to his craft, and his work ethic is infectious. Even his two sons are sushi chefs, though perhaps not by their own choice. His eldest son is actually his top chef, and he will be taking over the reigns when the inevitable happens. Jiro’s youngest son was pushed out and told to essentially sink or swim with his own sushi business. Spoiler: he’s still working today. It’s a testament to just how persistent Jiro is, and how strong of a leader he remains. Jiro Dreams of Sushi is a wonderful, inspirational film that will make you want to work even harder to reach your goals. 8/10

The Kid with a Bike [2012]
The Kid with a Bike [dir. Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Luc Dardenne]
In this latest film from the beloved Dardenne brothers, newcomer Thomas Doret stars as the titular character, a young boy abandoned by his father who now lives in a shelter. A chance encounter with a local hairdresser (the beautiful and extremely talented Cécile De France) leads to her agreeing to adopt him on weekends. The boy is reckless and rebellious, struggling to come to terms that his father wants nothing to do with him. This makes him an easy target for a local teen “gang” leader who rewards him with video games in order to employ him in petty crime. The film and its plot are incredibly simplistic in nature, but there is a rewarding sense of warmth and compassion underneath.

This is a film that feels very real, and anyone who grew up in a broken home can immediately emphathize with Doret’s character. I have heard others complain that he is too whiny, insufferable, etc., but he comes across exactly how I would expect a young boy to act in this situation. Doret’s performance is revelatory, and the warmth provided by De France is felt through the screen, even if her character is perhaps a tad unqualified to raise a child. This is a beautiful little film, and a worthy entry to the Criterion Collection. 8.5/10

Silent House [2012]
Silent House [dir. Chris Kentis, Laura Lau]
This remake of the 2010 Uruguayan horror film, La casa muda, relies heavily on a simple gimmick: to make the film appear to have been shot in one single, continuous take. This isn’t anything new — Alfred Hitchcock crafted a fantastic thriller around the concept with 1948’s Rope — but it seems rather pointless in the context of this film. The plot is standard fare, with Elizabeth Olsen starring as a young woman who is terrorized in a house by persons unknown. The situation quickly grows worse for her once her father and uncle disappear, seemingly due to the strangers.

As is wont with modern horror films, there is a big twist at the end, and it’s so obvious that I’m willing to bet most viewers will know what’s up within the first ten minutes of the movie. Predictable or not, it is an interesting concept; that’s why it’s a shame that it is a dull, monotonous ride to get there. There’s only so much stupid character behavior and shaky camerawork I can take without being rewarded in some fashion. Instead, all we get is a terrible script, amateur acting (aside from Olsen, who makes the best of the poor source material), and a lame payoff. Quite frankly, this may very well be the worst film I have seen from 2012. 2/10

Now let’s hear your thoughts! Have you seen any of these? What do you think of them?

Movie Review: Martha Marcy May Marlene [2011]

Martha Marcy May Marlene [2011]

Martha Marcy May Marlene [2011]
Director: Sean Durkin
Genre: Drama/Thriller
Starring: Elizabeth Olsen, Sarah Paulson, John Hawkes
Runtime: 120 Minutes

Ever wanted to peer into the mind of a disillusioned cult member? I can’t think of a better film that presents this ability than Martha Marcy May Marlene.

Elizabeth Olsen (yes, the younger sister of the Olsen Twins) stars as Martha, a young girl who has fled a farmhouse cult in the Catskills. With no one else to turn to, she goes to a pay phone and calls her sister, Lucy (Sarah Paulson), who lives three hours away. Despite not having communicated in at least two years, Lucy drops what she is doing, picks her up and brings her back to her vacation home. Upon arriving, it is clear that the difference between the two sisters is like night and day. Lucy and her rich husband, Ted (Hugh Dancy), are very well off but live a hectic lifestyle. From her two years on the farm, Martha has developed some bizarre habits and has trouble fitting in with the norms of society.

Martha Marcy May Marlene [2011]

The movie dives directly into Martha’s mind, as we are shown interwoven clips from present day (at the lake house) as well as her time in the cult. At the farmhouse, the group’s leader, Patrick (the always incredible John Hawkes), has such a commanding presence that he makes everyone feel as if they are living the good life. There is a sense of community within them that brings them all together, even as Patrick demands unreasonable things from them. It’s frightening to watch all of this first hand, especially as most of the cult members are innocent young girls. This shit happens in real life, yet it’s something we don’t really see or hear about until tragedy strikes.

Martha Marcy May Marlene is a slow burn that moves at a very deliberate pace. While intriguing for the most part, there were moments in the second half where I felt things dragged a bit. The movie probably didn’t need to run the full two hours, but it was hard not to get entranced with Sean Durkin’s direction. The cuts between present and past were seamless, feeling like one long, flowing thought in Martha’s mind.

Martha Marcy May Marlene [2011]

One thing that will be a huge issue for some viewers is the movie’s ending. I won’t discuss specifics for fear of spoilers, but man, talk about a polarizing conclusion. It’s something you will either love or hate, and my theater’s reaction was decidedly to the latter. Frankly, it pissed me off at first as well, but I grew to like it. It’s one of those endings that really makes you think, and it definitely succeeded in getting everyone talking about it afterward.

While the film has some aspects that won’t please everyone, it is still a very moving experience that showcases a rather interesting character study. It was a real treat to see Elizabeth Olsen step out from her famous siblings’ shadows and put together a truly powerful performance. This girl has big things in her future, folks. It was also awesome to see John Hawkes in another major role, as his performance gave me flashbacks to his memorable role as Teardrop in last year’s Winter’s Bone.

Is Martha Marcy May Marlene essential viewing? No, but it’s a well-made film that shows that both Durkin and Olsen have big things in their futures.