Godzilla

Godzilla
by John Seedhouse

Friday night seems as good a night as any to unwind with some large scale nostalgio-destruction and so Mrs L and yours truly found ourselves at the Giant Screen with tickets for Godzilla.

 

This is a movie that has been teased, trailed and social media shared to the nth degree in recent weeks. Inevitably there has been backlash with a few decent memes flying around online. I watch teasers and I pay attention to the promo that the studios throw around (I mean market) online and to be honest I was starting to get a similar feeling of dread to the one that I have towards a defunct giraffe owned by a retail park toy merchant – a malaise shared by Emma Goddard on Bustle who was (SPOILER ALERTish) hoping for 123 minutes of Bryan Cranston.

For a generation of school-kids, Godzilla was the playground game of choice. I am sure some of you can remember running around terrifying buildings and soldiers with your arms pulled up to your elbows into the sleeves of that school jumper that mum or dad would berate you for stretching. You remember doing that, right? It was a really important game.

“Let me make you think that I am attacking your city as you shoot me, even though I am really saving you from a giant moth,” we would shout. “I am Gojira!”

We shouted that every single break. Except we didn’t. It wasn’t in the tellybox of the 1980s playground. What we got was watered down and re-dubbed versions of Japanese culture. Remember Battle of the Planets? Look it up. It’s pretty bad. It was once a great cartoon with some seriously screwy elements like cross-gender baddies and devious betrayal by the “hero”. We got a dodgy inserted pedal bin character and bemusement at re-used scenes.

 

During their recent Monster Season the guys at the Giant Screen played out the rebuilt original version of Gojira – the one that wasn’t screwed up by smart alec execs in Hollywood trying to hit an audience demographic by including audience pacifiers and characters. It’s a great film when you take out the excessive add-on crap.

I had been hurriedly revisiting the source material that was part of my childhood. This involved this thing from Hanna Barbera Studios.

Bundle this with some classic Marvel Comics pulp from random charity shops and you can see why this wasn’t a playground staple as far as break time games went.

Godzilla Comic 23 from Marvel

Blockbuster mash-up from the vaults of Marvel Comics. America really didn’t get the whole Monster thing really. It got worse too…

The work of Toho Studios is very much a cultural element of Japanese entertainment. Couple this with the popularity of long book manga and the differences between East and West become glaringly obvious. Our dinosaurs are “realistic” – they don’t breathe fire. They don’t inhabit that semi-mystical ghost world that permeates Japanese pop culture.

This leads us to the movie itself. This is not Breaking Bad with a bloody great mutant nuclear lizard involved. I could tell that at least half the audience were hoping for this. Walter, I mean Bryan Cranston, makes a good stab at the role of concerned scientist/forgetful father and presents a pretty decent slightly mad, jailed for law breaking, broken man on a mission. I wonder if he has recently done a similar role? Juliette Binoche doesn’t trouble us overly with screen time and it does seem that she is largely wasted here with half a dozen lines, a bit of dramatic running and a tragic death.

We are left with Aaron Perry Johnson from Kick-Ass and High Wycombe (I didn’t know that) and younger Olsen, Elizabeth, who at least seems more competent on screen than her more monied sibling twins. Johnson runs around a lot from set piece to set piece whilst Olsen, who appears both too young to have the child they have and too young for her job, makes a series of perplexingly bad decisions.

Stand out part must be Ken Watanabe as Dr Ishiro Serizawa. The pain in his eyes underlines the schism between the cinema cultures. He is there and you feel that at times his character would rather not be. In probably the most meta moment of the film he mentions Hiroshima and shows a stopped pocket watch. It’s pretty poignant and kind of sums up just where Hollywood goes so badly wrong by attempting to “correct” perfectly good foreign cinema.

Director Gareth Edwards must have been a sure thing for this movie following on from his 2010 Monsters and again he uses the teasing snippet approach to his monster tension build-up. It seems that by reel 3, the studio must have grumbled as we get an awful lot of monster from that point on. It jars. It really jars. By the time we get the whole nuclear warhead egg impregnation monster semi porn-fest you start to worry that the ocean that Godzilla is swimming in might just have few airbourne sharks exiting it.

Is it bad?

In a word, no. It isn’t terrible. It isn’t great. It is what it is – a monster romp. It could have been awesome had it given us Japanimation with Hollywood whammo but instead we get far too much Planes, Trains and Automobiles without John Candy and with added lizard.

Should you wait for DVD? No. It’s made to be big screen and you should punt a few quid at the entry price. You won’t leave hating it. You might really enjoy it. Mrs L thought it was a decent flick for a Friday night. I wasn’t despairing either but I think that secretly I wanted something a bit more something else.

Some of the rows around us left markedly pointing out that they did not get 123 minutes of Bryan Cranston…

Result? Better than kiss chase but not as good as cops and robbers.

 

We saw Godzilla courtesy of The Giant Screen at Millennium Point.

 

John always took a distinct dislike to Godzooky but always secretly fancied owning a ship called the Calico with a big red button onboard. In between getting distracted from work and reminiscing unfondly about the 80s he can be found online at a number of places like here and here and also here

 

Amazing Spider-Man 2

Amazing Spider-Man 2
by John Seedhouse

Comic readers in those dour days of the 1980s (pre-internet and stuck in the small towns) relied on black and white re-prints of the American superheroes for their fix. Much of the time the stories were a ramshackle mash-up of Marvel’s vaults. Chronology and the long-game of storytelling was pretty much hoofed out of the window of the printing rooms of Marvel UK. What did we get? We got Spider-Man. We got Spider-Man in action. Did we care that things made no sense from week to week? We didn’t give a toss – as long as he was punching Electro or the Green Goblin whilst suffering some form of self-identifiable personal angst then we would force our 10p into the hands of the newsagent.

Amazing Spider-Man 2 Promo poster

Amazing Spidey being… Amazing

SONY has a bugger of a problem with Spider-Man. Not only are there 40 odd years of stories for the character, 3 fairly successful films with Tobey Maguire and an audience demographic that actually does scream “everyone”, they also have to contend with a protagonist who is basically a tragedy led crap-magnet. Peter Parker is luckless. Nothing goes right for him for long. He is doomed to grab defeat from the jaws of victory on most occasions, and probably not by his own hand. In short – he is us. This, more than anything, is what SONY have to contend with. How the hell do you please the audience? Fanboys will hate you for messing with “canon”. The inevitable deaths will upset the 12A kiddies. The date movie partners will grumble at the “action-film” choice.

 

Andrew Garfield is Peter Parker. I mean he gets the character in the exact way that Tobey Maguire didn’t. Garfield does that type of broody that doesn’t quite hit the “I want to punch him in the face” level of Pattinson in Twilight. You get the feeling that the Peter Parker in this film is winging it. He is trying to figure out how to be a hero. You want to support his almost cockiness in the opening reel and yet he doesn’t alienate you to the point of wanting him to crash and burn when the inevitable fall comes.

Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci both worked on Star Trek Into Darkness and bring that character/ flawed hero driven approach to Spider-Man. There are enough pick-ups from the first film of the rebooted franchise to remind you of its salient points – foreshadowing of doom is handled by the returning Dennis Leary as the vision of Parker’s conscience) – whilst distilling the mythos of 40 years comics into a pretty decent story.

As you would expect from SONY there is some bumper cash thrown at the CGI and FX. The highlight of the first film was the web-slinging over New York and again this is truly breath-taking (helped by the size of the Giant Screen.) The problem with this is that there are a couple of points where the exposition drags out a little – always a balancing issue between narrative and boom and bang. Jamie Foxx’s Jerry Lewis-lite sections seem a little laboured, as though the editors have worried too much that we might miss the story-line – personally I didn’t but then I am at the upper end of the demographic.

Unlike Captain America: The Winter Soldier (which I reviewed here) which focuses on the BIG issues, Amazing Spider-Man 2 is the “little guy” Marvel movie of the year. Steve Rogers is the “hero by design” whereas Peter Parker is the hapless bystander forced to deal with circumstance. It’s probably why our comic books back then featured Spidey – he made us feel okay to be us.

 Should you go to watch it?

This is a cinema movie. It won’t be the same in the living room. It needs 3D and a big theatre experience. It’s worth the walk to the newsagent to fork over the 10p. I went with Mrs L who pointed out that it’s a love story. She is right. It is.

If you wait around for halfway through the credits then FOX has paid a huge sum to shoe-horn in a promo for X-Men: Days of Future Past. It’s a crap trailer. Clearly SONY have not let them tease with any brinkmanship footage…

We saw The Amazing Spider-Man 2 from the comfy seats courtesy of the Giant Screen at Millenium Point.

John is a ten year old boy walking to the newsagent with his pocket money. There is no Giant Screen in Birmingham yet, but if there was he would probably bug his parents into taking him to it. John does not swing across the skyline in latex, he drives a Nissan. You can follow him on Twitter.

The Muppets: Most Wanted

The Muppets: Most Wanted
by John Seedhouse

My favourite members of the Muppet cast were always Statler and Waldorf. They were cynical and yet, that pragmatic view on the shambles that tended to be occurring on-screen and off stage kind of sums up why a generation (or 2) of vaguely cynical and pragmatic adults get a secret kick out of a new bit of screen foolishness.

Statler and Waldorf

Statler and Waldorf, the Ant and Dec of the reviewers slightly skewed childhood…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ricky Gervais seems to get it and does a decent job of tempering his more dark and bitter tones whilst still providing a mildly downtrodden second fiddle to a maniacal Kermit imposter.

Muppets: Most Wanted Cast

Ricky Gervais joins the will they/ won’t they couple.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As you can probably guess, plot is not really the major purpose of the movie. It is more a series of set pieces with narrative interludes. Think back to the original show and the behind the scenes bits and you get the idea. This is no bad thing – remember that you probably need to bring kids to this film unless you want to get some awkward glances. We didn’t although given that it was 6pm midweek before Easter there were very few bodies to cast glances at us.

This is the trailer. It tells you everything you need to know about the plot. You watch this while I nip to the concession stand…

 

Anyway, this is the 7th (I think) sequel to the original Muppets Movie and, as this is possibly a musical, there is a well put together self-effacing parody number to get you in the mood. With an opening that borders on mildly confusing and that happily breaks down the 4th wall, whilst sprinkling enough theatre-land fairy dust to satisfy a younger audience, the film sets it’s stall as a treat for adults too.

Factor in, 30 Rock’s, Tina Fey as a frog-stalking Gulag commmandant(e) and a song and dance number with Danny Trejo and Ray Liota and you have sufficient promise of the car-crash set pieces of the original Tv series to make this a worthwhile couple of hours. Scene stealer Ty Burrell (Modern Family) hams up his best Inspector Clouseau impression and does a fine job of picking up the couple of flagging moments.

If you need a film to entertain the kids without making you wish for sensory deprivation then there is enough here to feed a nostalgic yearning and it’s a pretty good value for money romp. It does feature the Mad Bomber, which can only be a good thing.

4 out of 5 Gonzos.

We saw The Muppets: Most Wanted from the comfy seats courtesy of the Giant Screen at Millenium Point.

John is a 8 year old child at heart, still living in the 1970s. This made getting home after the film just that little bit harder… You can follow him on Twitter.

 

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Captain America: The Winter Soldier
by John Seedhouse

Captain America: The Winter Soldier Poster

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

 

Did you avoid the “leaked” first 10 minutes which has been doing the hide and seek routine across the net for the last few weeks? If so then well done. If not? Well it’s not going to wreck the story for you.

2 Warnings.

Firstly there are SPOILERS in this review.

Secondly? I am a huge fan of the original Ed Brubaker series of Captain America that this film borrows from.

 

Anyway here is the synopsis from IMDB 

Steve Rogers struggles to embrace his role in the modern world and battles a new threat from old history: the Soviet agent known as the Winter Soldier.

Not all comic book readers are “hyper-critical armchair forum warriors” however, as countless bad movies show, they can be the destroyers of a film before the camera even rolls – perhaps even more of a poison chalice than including Ryan Reynolds in the cast…

Do I need to see the first film?

No. Added to that, you probably shouldn’t. It was a film about the Second World War that failed to mention either Germany or the Nazis… All you need to know is that Cap (the hero) got bumped into the future whilst his best mate Bucky (spoiler – he is the Winter Soldier of this movie) gets killed falling off a cliff being heroic.

Did you just wreck the film you are reviewing?

Have you been living under a rock? I assume that you may not have read anything about the film and that you didn’t notice that Sebastian Stan (the very likeable insane Mad Hatter from Once Upon a Time) is listed in the main cast. If these 2 facts are true then possibly, yes, sorry.

Why did you just do that?

I did mention that I was a fan of the comic books the plot is kind of based on. Unlike Fox and Sony’s approach to the Marvel properties (X-Men and Spider-man) which it plays quite fast and loose with the original comics and at times causes fan-boy head explosions, Disney (maybe due to Joss Wheedon and Jeff Loeb) products seem to be more selective and less embarrassed by the source material. In the same way that Iron Man 3 borrowed swathes of story ideas from Warren Ellis’ brief tenure as book writer, Cap 2 picks out the core thriller-esque elements of Brubaker’s run.

So it’s just a hand-job for the fanboys then?

I am not going to lie to you here. We saw this in the Giant Screen at Millennium Point and it was a fan-boy (plus the odd date) audience. It was maybe 1/3 full (probably down to the fact that nobody in Birmingham seems to realise that the cinema exists rather than it being a poor film – spoiler – it isn’t…) Anyway there were quite a few happy gasps (mumbled discussions) at the mention of Stephen Strange (Rumours abound that Dr Strange may be the unlisted 2016 product,) the appearance of the unnamed Agent 13 (Sharon Carter – longterm comic love interest) and a certain quote from Ezekiel on a gravestone. Easter eggs yes but hardly a distraction to the story.

Is it a 2 hour crescendo of explodo-gasm with CGI replacing a strong narrative?

There are explosions. Some very good ones. Some very big ones. There are also some non-flammable moments. When Cap chases across the roof top it is more like Bourne than spandex. This is an espionage film that just happens to contain some BIG BANGY ramifications to the choices the characters make. It’s a SHIELD movie more than a mask and flag film.

You lost me there. Explain?

The narrative focusses more on clever solutions than by solving the problem through pulling on a mask and hitting something hard. In the first reel Cap throws off his mask before indulging in some Streetfighter II style kicky-punchy with baddy number one.

This is a rubbish explanation…

Patience. The important bit was the whole chucking the mask aside bit. A lot of the story relies on the idea of masks and intentions. This is a story with deceit woven into it. It may seem a clumsy metaphor but there is a lovely echo in reel 3…

So there is an element of cleverness somewhere?

The story impacts on the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. There is actually greater purpose to the film in the context that it will affect other properties on-screen. If you watch the TV show Marvel’s Agents of Shield then this film sits in between the last episode you saw and the next. It probably also means that pitching season 2 of that show may have been quite difficult prior to the movie release.

No happy ending then?

Yes and no. Remember how all 2nd franchise movies tend to be better than the first? This has the Empire Strikes Back factor. It’s not a lock up the bad guy, let’s all have a cuppa and start again type story.

What about the acting?

These are comic book characters – what are you expecting? Everyone who wishes they could get time back after watching Green Lantern will know that this is point and speak stuff, right? Actually this is a tightly directed ensemble. Chris Evans plays the “less is more” type of lead, tipping a nod to the muscle stereotype with a gratuitous vest scene. If anything the show is stolen by a superb Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) who probably deserves a character film of her own and Samuel L. Jackson as a grumpy and belligerent Nick Fury.

Should I go? 

If you enjoy the whole super-hero thing then you probably already went. If you are reading this and want to go enjoy a couple of hours of well put together action story then yeah I would. I actually paid to go and didn’t mind. Did I like it? Yes I did. I went with the wife. She liked it. A lot. She went home and spent the weekend reading the comic books.

My name is John Seedhouse and I am a 40+ year old who reads comics…

I talk rubbish on twitter @Leftlung post stuff on Google Plus

Classes Vs Masses

Dubbed as “The New Voice of Indian Cinema”, Abhay Deol is bucking the Bollywood trend with his offbeat movies that he claims demonstrate Hindi cinema with “A ‘real’ element”.

Famous for his roles in Dev.D, Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye!, Shanghai and Six Feet Under, among others, Deol is part of a new generation of Bollywood actors and actresses who are keen to portray a true message within a contemporary style that doesn’t fit the traditional Bollywood mold, often tackling edgy subjects that others tend to avoid.

photoThe Nephew of Hindi Cinema legend Dharmendra, Abhay has this week been in Birmingham to take in the Bollywood 100, a month-long festival that is celebrating 100 years of Indian Cinema. We were lucky enough to catch up with him at a screening of Dev.D at Millennium Point.

photo-2

 

 

”Media was a part of life, I was exposed to it younger but it wasn’t until later in my life where I decided upon to make it a career.”

 

 

 

The offbeat nature of Deol’s films can sometimes be of detriment to their overall commercial success. He was keen to speak of the importance of distribution and marketing of films in order for them to be enjoyed and appreciated by the target market, whether it be for the classes or for the masses, terminology Deol was eager to explain.

“You need to work with the right people, one that knows if they are making a film for the classes or for the masses. You should be clear as to who your audience is, in India you classify it as ‘is it a mass movie or a class movie?’ that’s the lingo I hear back at home, if it has songs, dances and is happy it’s for the masses, in a movie for the classes the actors and actresses are unlikely to sing.”

Deol stressed the importance of working with the right directors and producers when taking on a role and feels that it is important for the film to have a clear direction.

“An important part of the game is to know how to distribute and market your film, when producers cannot distribute nor market it right, then it doesn’t matter how good your film is, it really kills it.”

An important rule before making a film is to have an understanding of who the audience is. Sometimes it takes years after the film is completed to realise who the real audience is and therefore the wrong kind of target audience means the marketing and distribution lack direction.

Deol also spoke of the difficulties new unproven producers face when selling their film to a studio and the problems they can face with regards to control and freedom. When they do not yet have a proven track record in the industry, they are open to being exploited and dominated by studios who are reluctant to give up control of a film.

“When you are new producer working on a new subject, I’m not sure if you can have any control or say in what the studio wishes to do with your film. Sometimes a studio can bully a producer because the producer is new. You don’t want to be stuck with that.”

The Bollywood 100 in Birmingham continues throughout June and will capture the glitz, glamour, music, dance, drama and style of one of the biggest film industries in the world through screenings, events and workshops.

 

Words, pictures and video by Film Futures student Yossuana Aguilar