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Godzilla (2014)
Godzilla (2014)
2014 | Mystery, Sci-Fi
Simply Stunning
The king of the Kaiju, Godzilla, has had a very chequered cinematic history. From the classic original Japanese films to Roland Emmerich’s 1998 disaster, the famous beast hasn’t always been given the respect deserved of such an iconic monster.

Now, 16 years after Emmerich’s critical flop, Monsters director Gareth Edwards resurrects the gargantuan reptile in this year’s reboot, simply titled Godzilla, but is it a return to form?

Yes, is the short answer. From an engaging story to a stellar cast, Edwards recreates the fan favourite with the utmost care and attention, and comes out smelling of roses.

Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad) stars as Joe Brody, an American nuclear power officer living and working in Japan with his wife Sandra (Juliette Binoche) and their son Ford,bryan-cranston-fans-will-be-disappointed-with-godzilla just as a nuclear disaster begins. Fast-forward 15 years and a disheveled Joe is trying to find the truth about what happened at the nuclear plant, believing the authorities are trying to hide something from the general public. As his descent into madness continues, a fully grown Ford, played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson decides to come to his aid.

What ensues is a great story of father bonding with son as they try to work out exactly what is going on together. Though what they find shocks the globe.

Within the first hour of Godzilla, the titular monster’s appearances are limited to shots of spines poking from the ocean, keeping the audience guessing as to how the creature has been designed by Edwards and his team.

This can become increasingly tiresome as we make do with the film’s primary antagonists MUTO, and as impressive as they are to look at, all we really want to see is Godzilla in all his glory. Though Edwards’ constant teasers are brilliantly varied.

Thankfully after numerous jaw-dropping set pieces ranging from a Japanese nuclear plant to a Hawaiian airport, Godzilla is finally revealed and the result is exceptional.

Gone is the T-Rex on steroids look that Emmerich shoved down our throats in the 1998 monstrosity and in its place is how the beast used to look in the original foreign classics – of course with revolutionary special effects to keep things looking tip-top.

The CGI, of which there is a huge amount, is breath-taking. Godzilla, the MUTO and all of the set pieces are of the highest quality, with no visible lapses whatsoever, and what Edwards does that so many other directors don’t is to keep the story going instead of letting the CGI take over, it never becomes overly loud and obnoxious.

One scene in particular, involving a group of paratroopers infiltrating a desolate San Francisco as Godzilla and the MUTO do battle is probably one of the most beautifully shot and eerily quiet action sequences in cinematic history with one section involving some perfectly positioned Chinese lanterns being the highlight.

A really enjoyable aspect of the film is spotting the homages to previous Godzilla films as well as other monster classics like Jurassic Park. There are many scattered throughout the film.

Moreover, the acting is generally very good. Cranston is sublime and shows what a brilliant actor he is. The character of Joe is the one you care about the most throughout the film. Taylor-Johnson is good, if a little staid as the generic armed forces stereotype.

Elizabeth Olsen, David Strathairn and Sally Hawkins also star. Unfortunately, a weak link is Ken Watanabe who plays Dr Ishiro Serizawa. His over-the-top and hammy performance begins to grate after an hour of seeing him on screen.

Thankfully though, Godzilla’s inevitable weak points are far outshone by the incredible special effects, interesting story and excellent acting. Bryan Cranston is a real highlight and the beast himself is a wonder to behold.

Gareth Edwards has not only created one of the best monster films ever with some of the most breath-taking shots ever seen on celluloid, he has also whet our appetites for Colin Trevorrow’s Jurassic World set to be released in June next year – that can only be a good thing.
Cold Pursuit (2019)
Cold Pursuit (2019)
2019 | Action, Drama, Thriller
Entertaining Neeson revenge-porn offering (0 more)
Bonkers and nonsensical at times plotting. (0 more)
Comments on revenge are best kept on the screen.
I'd completely forgotten the furore about Liam Neeson's comments back last February during the press-tour preceding the film's release. In discussing the destructive feelings of revenge experienced by his character, Nels Coxman, Neeson revealed something he did 40 years ago: after the rape of a friend by "a black man", Neeson went out on the streets to find another "black man" and do them harm. (As a fellow Ballymena-born man, David Moody (from the "Mark and Dave" blog) has an interesting theory about this... that it was not a "rascist" statement in the true sense, but something else entirely. See here -

The comments undoubtedly impacted the movie at the box office. Which is a shame. Because in his catalogue of bonkers and violent revenge-porn flicks, this is one of Neeson's more entertaining ones.

Revenge is a dish best served cold. And where colder to serve it than in the ski-resort of Kehoe where Nels Coxman is the local snowplow operative and "man of the year" for his services to the community. But the tracks are about to fall off his orderly life. For his son Kyle (Micheál Richardson) winds up dead through a drugs overdose and his strained marriage with wife Grace (Laura Dern) disintegrates. (One of the most cutting and best-written "Bye" notes ever seen in the movies).

With revenge in mind, Coxman pursues the Denver-based drugs lord Trevor Calcote (Tom Bateman) who dished out the drugs to his son. But he inadvertently manages to stay just below the parapet as he sets in train a gang war between Calcote and a Kehoe-based native-American drugs gang led by White Bull (Tom Jackson). The snow turned progressively pinker as the body count rises.

Calcote (aka "Viking") is painted as a colourful family man, with an annoyingly bright son Ryan (Nicholas Holmes) that he controls with a rod of iron. Viking is estranged from wife Aya (Julia Jones), who seems completely unafraid of him and happily embarrasses him in front of his men. This relationship never really works. Since given all the terrible and irrational things Viking does to people, whether they obstruct him or help him in equal measure, putting a quiet bullet into Aya's head seems to be to least he could do!

Where there is fun to be had is in the "Stockholm syndrome" linkage between young Ryan and Coxman. When his father insists on controlling his diet, feeding him the same insipidly healthy meals morning, noon and night, the alternative of being kidnapped and fed burgers seems eminently more preferable!

The film is at times really difficult to follow. There are lots of inexplicable leaps of logic and really inexplicably bonkers scenes that you can only patch together later. It's as if the filmmakers randomly filmed 5 hours of footage and then tried to edit it all into a cohesive plot!

As one example of this, the relationship between Coxman and "Wingman" (William Forsythe) was poorly introduced such that I was left baffled by a later plot twist.

In another scene, Neeson smashes the head of enforcer "Santa" (Michael Adamthwaite) into his steering wheel, but in the next scene collapses with him utterly exhausted in the snow. There was clearly a significant fight here that was cut out of the finished cut. But as a result the final cut makes no sense at all!

Of course, the local law enforcement team are average at best. Average because although young and keen-as-mustard detective Kim Dash (Emmy Rossum) is hot on the trail of the truth, her partner Gip (John Doman) is f*ckin' useless... wanting to do nothing but drink coffee and eat donuts in true Simpsons style.

Normally with these sort of films, it's difficult to keep track of the body count. No such problem here. Every death is celebrated with a tombstone graphic so it's easy to keep count! Needless to say, there are a lot of tombstones registered.

Directed by Norwegian Hans Petter Moland, it's all good violent cartoonish fun, that keeps its tongue firmly in its cheek for most of the running time. The snowy setting, the partly native-American cast and the presence of Julia Jones brings to mind the truly excellent Jeremy Renner / Elizabeth Olsen movie "Wind River". But there the similarities (and quality levels) definitely stop. It's not a clever movie; it's borderline bonkers for most of its running time (never more so than with a totally bizarre "joke" final shot); but it is entertaining. As a 'park brain at door' action comedy it just about makes the grade.

(For the full graphical review, please check out One Mann's Movies here - Thanks.)
The Thing (2011)
The Thing (2011)
2011 | Drama, Horror, Mystery
After the success of a videogame based on the original film, rumors of a sequel arose many times but never came to fruition, with creative differences between Universal and John Carpenter cited as the main reason. It was oft-speculated that Carpenter made a deal to write and produce a sequel provided he got to name has director. But when he opted to name himself director the studio balked and the project fell apart. In the aftermath, rumors of a miniseries on the SyfY channel arose along with the possibility of retelling the story with 20-somethings on a tropical island but (thankfully) they never saw the light of day.

Rather than do a sequel or remake, Universal opted to jump start the franchise with a prequel that covers the events leading up to the John Carpenter film. It is set in 1982 at a Norwegian research station in Antarctica shortly before the scientists make an amazing discovery. When they uncover an alien craft that had been buried in the ice for over 100,000 years, as well as a frozen crewmember from the craft, they quickly celebrate the scientific discovery of a lifetime.

Kate Lloyd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), is recruited by a famed scientist to travel to the desolate continent to research the find. Told only that they are about to research an amazing discovery, Kate and a team of specialists arrive and are absolutely stunned by the magnitude of their discovery. Kate urges caution but is overridden by the expedition leader Dr. Halvorsan (Ulrich Thomsen), who insists on taking a tissue sample of the frozen creature encassed in a block of ice.

Later that evening while celebrating, the very much alive creature escapes from its icy prison and begins to systematically hunt the members of the research team. The creature is eventually trapped and burned which causes some consternation over the loss of the creature for further scientific study, but many in the camp applaud its loss after seeing firsthand the destruction it is capable of.

After a bizarre series of events, Kate makes the startling discovery that the cells of the creature are able to imitate and perfectly replicate any thing that it comes in contact with. As a result, not only is the creature very much alive, but the individuals in the camp may no longer be human. Trapped in a remote location with an advancing winter storm, suspicions and paranoia go through the roof as the survivors are pitted against one another, unsure of who is still human. What follows is a high-octane adventure awash in action and grisly special-effects as the two species are locked in the ultimate battle for survival.

The film has a good supporting cast and Joel Edgerton does solid supporting work as an American helicopter pilot assigned to the camp. Eric Christian Olsen provides a steadying presence as a research assistant but his character is not as developed as it could be. It is known that he and Kate know each other but their past history is undefined which makes their relationship a bit puzzling in the film especially when the survivors begin to pick sides.

While the movie is not going to make fans forget the original, it is a very worthy companion piece. As the film was winding down I found myself checking off a couple of inconsistencies with the original film, but was very pleasantly surprised when this was all explained during the end credits which perfectly synced the end of this film with the opening of John Carpenter’s classic.

In many ways the weakness of film is due to the success of John Carpenter’s previous film, in that the creature is not that much of a mystery this time around. Part of the suspense of the previous film was not knowing how the creature operated nor how it was capable of infecting and replicating numerous individuals.

This time around the suspense is lost due to the familiarity with the creature. As a result, director Matthijs van Heijningen focused his efforts on a more action adventure oriented film that gave very little time for character development. We are not told very much about many of the characters in the film as they simply exist to serve as potential victims for the creature. All one really needs to know is they are scientists or support staff as aside from a handful of characters we’re not really given much reason to care whether they survive.

Visually the film is sharp and it is clear that a lot of attention was paid to replicate the look of the previous film. The shots of vast fields of ice and snow emphasized the remote and isolated setting that the characters find themselves in and served as a reminder that danger lurks all around. The special-effects have obviously been upgraded since 1982 and it was nice to see that the creative elements did not go overboard on CGI effects, and actually used puppetry and animatronics to provide updated creature effects that were still in keeping with the look and tone from the previous film.

While the film is not likely to reach the iconic status of the previous film, it is still a worthy companion piece that has enough action and effects to keep it interesting to fans of the series – just so long as they keep their expectations reasonable and do not expect a film on par with the previous one.