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

 

The Grand Budapest Hotel

The Grand Budapest Hotel
by John Seedhouse

There is something about a Wes Anderson movie that makes you sit up when the trailer comes on. We were in a gigaplex somewhere when The Grand Budapest Hotel jumped up and waved at us for two and a half minutes. It seemed incongruous really. We laughed and put it on the must watch list there and then. Watch the trailer and then we can reconvene in around two inches time and I’ll tell you where, why, how and if.

 

 

See what I mean? Looks like a good romp doesn’t it. You kind of have to be a fan I suppose. I enjoyed The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, and 75% got with The Darjeeling Limited, so maybe there is a bias there to begin with. Anyway, you are either going to go and watch this film or not and I doubt that anyone will be walking in without some prior consideration of either hotels or Wes Anderson’s previous work.

Where?

The thought of going to a large impersonal multiplex seemed somehow wrong and we figured we may well be the 2 lone audience members shivering in the cold. We decided to hunt down a little localish bespoke place. Friendly old Google pointed us either north or south.

Cinema interior

Inside the cinema of The Red Carpet.

Having already done the Electric Cinema in Birmingham we settled on 15 mins up the A38 to Barton Marina. There is a little purpose build 2 screen palace called The Red Carpet. Good choice I reckon.

Why?

They were nice on the phone and you couldn’t pay via the website.

“Don’t worry” said the man, “we just take a card when you get here.”

We didn’t and they did. We went before 4pm and it was a fiver each. We were in the “small cinema” – maybe 20 seats. 6 others were occupied by pensioners. It was rather like nipping round some friend’s house for a DVD night.

Perfect location for an intimate film really.

How?

I take photographs of stuff sometimes. I enjoy doing that. The lush cinematography and clockwork nature of the edits made me smile. I went with Mrs L and she will tell you that smiles and me are a rare combination.

There is a “scene” early in the film when Ralph Fiennes’ character, the masterful M.Gustave choreographs his staff to set up for the departure of a dear guest which could well be the perfect illustration of how and why Wes Anderson is and does.

 

M.Gustave and Zero.

Ralph Fiennes and Tony Revolori as M. Gustave and his protege Zero.

Arty is arty and therefore potentially farty if there is no substance to a narrative. Mrs. L is an appreciator of image but does want some good dialogue and character interplay. She got it. Bill Murray makes an appearance. He doesn’t say a lot. He doesn’t need to. Nobody needs to say too much and that is a good thing. Good actors play the spaces in-between the words and that is why you remember them. Fiennes says “fuck” a lot. It’s not a Joe Pesci fuck-a-thon. It’s a profanessionally measured dramatic series of snipped percussion and given that there were 6 pensioners to potentially annoy there were no tuts only giggles.

If?

Or maybe should? Yes I would suggest it. You probably already have though. This is more a gentle reminder than a sales pitch from me. I will probably buy it on DVD too. Just don’t try to watch it in a popcorn and screaming kids palace.

If it were a bell-hop then I would tip well.

 

John has been to hotels. He has been to cinemas. John has never stolen the complimentary shower cap. You can find him elsewhere on this blog or here as a professional or here as a grumpy old sod.

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.