Archive for the ‘movies’ Category

Ridley Scott knows what he’s doing. He knows damn-well.

The 2012 Alien prequel known as Prometheus, while being a film of grand visuals and ideas, was much maligned by many xeno fans due to the lack of the iconic monster first introduced in 1979. Was it an Alien movie or wasn’t it? Though I knew it was well before seeing it, that question still entered my mind on more than one occasion while viewing it. Not enough creatures, not enough deep space claustrophobia, not enough psychological horror, not enough…well, ALIEN.

Sir Scott has learned from those mistakes and brought back the terrifying face rapist in all its slimy glory. There’s no question – COVENANT is a full on Alien movie, and, at a few frightening points, is a bright highlight of the whole franchise. I read a quote from Scott where he says “okay, you wanted aliens? All right. I’ll give them to you.” Give them to us he does, in a way that would make Giger proud, in a bloody, disgusting (my wife had to look away many times to keep from vomiting), and, yes, scary way.

It didn’t actually scare me (I’ve seen these films since I was four years old), but the pacing and structure of the first two acts truly did fill me with dreadful anticipation. You’re going to be gripping your arm rests, waiting with a racing heart to find out what happens next.

One thing I liked about it was the music. The new score was foreboding and excellent, don’t get me wrong, but the real treat (and there are MANY treats in this movie) was hearing Jerry Goldsmiths score from the 1979 original. Those haunting symphonies haven’t been in a motion picture since 1986, and they will put a smile on any Alien lover’s face that will remain for hours after watching the movie. And that’s just one example of why this film is so excellent. Just like Star Wars, Trek, Godzilla, and Marvel movies, retro is IN. everyone’s bringing back the movies of the 80s and revamping them. Usually it ends up being a rehash of sorts, and seems to indicate that Hollywood has run out of ideas, but with Covenant, the nostalgia is extremely effective. It honors the other films in the franchise, and plays out like an Alien greatest hits collection. The claustrophobia and slow pacing of the original, the intense action of the second one, the existential nihilism of the third, and the beautiful body horror of the fourth – all these elements are combined and hybridized in Covenant like one of David’s unholy mutations. Speaking of David, he and his doppelganger, Walter, are the best parts of the film where characterization is concerned. The dialogue and nuances between them is fascinating to watch, and the parts are played very well by Fassbender. All the acting in the film is great, even if the characters aren’t very memorable. But I didnt see it for the people. And neither will you. It’s all about that xeno, baby. These Aliens are wicked. They move faster, look sleeker, and do more damage than they’ve ever done before. The NEOMORPHS, an early breed in the xeno evolution, are both beautiful and sickening. They enter the body through spores, then burst out from either a back or a neck. These violent eruptions alone make Covenant one of the bloodiest movies I have ever seen. The creatures start out almost “cute”, but quickly mature into living nightmares. With white skin, spiked backs, and human like limbs, they look like a ghastly combination of Giger’s scariest paintings and the Newborn from Alien: Resurrection. There’s one shot in particular where a Neomorph stares into the face of David as he tries to communicate with it. These short few seconds are the epitome of cinematic horror. You actually FEEL like the monster is looking at YOU, and it really is quite a thrilling feeling…

But the movie’s crowning achievement is the traditional chest bursting scene. Though it doesn’t shock us nearly as much as the original did (we are probably all secretly a little sick of it) it still packs quite a punch. There’s no way to ever recapture that particular moment of terror from the first film, but the Alien birthing scene in Covenant is still better than all the chest burster sequences of the other 6 entries. And, despite being visceral and completely over the top, the moment somehow elicits a feeling of beauty and even tenderness, which is something I’ve never felt while watching a horror movie. You’ll just have to watch the scene for yourself to know what I’m talking about. 

Oram: what do you believe in, David?

David (smiling): Creation.

With a subplot focusing on androids retelling the tale of Satan’s rebellion (David is Lucifer, Walter is Adam, the Xenomorphs are the demons, Earth and the xeno home world are both symbols of paradise, and humans and Space Jockeys are “God”), a well paced and well structured screenplay, good acting, fantastic special effects (too many CGI aliens though, as it is with monsters in EVERYTHING nowadays), and horror that makes the blood run cold, Alien: Covenant fixes all of the problems of Prometheus, explains the origin of the Xenomorph, and stands as the third best entry in the franchise, behind Alien and Aliens by only a little bit. This is a better “throwback” movie than the new Star Wars episodes, the American Godzilla, Jurassic World, and all of the superhero movies combined. Long live nostalgia, and long live the facehugger. 

It’s been twelve years since Japan’s last Godzilla film. Final Wars, the ridiculously campy but enjoyable film of 2004 was meant to be the last Goji film for at least ten years. Toho kept their promise and made us wait, until Gareth Edwards’ American reboot was released two years ago. 

I think that film may have created many new fans in the U.S. Either that, or more people like the Gorilla Whale than I thought. The theater for Shin-Godzilla in OKC was packed yesterday. That was honestly the first time I had trouble finding a seat within a theatre. 

It would be awesome if everyone there was a long time fan of the saga, as well as if they were new fans as a result of the American reboot. But part of me thinks they were there to enjoy but still poke fun at “a guy in a rubber monster suit”. If that’s the case, then I’m sort of pissed, because this wasn’t a campy film at all. 

But how does it fare in comparison to the American remake? 

For starters, it’s much darker. Death and destruction are more rampant, the world’s reaction is more believable, and the politics are in total turmoil over what to do about the monster. I’m not Japanese, but I still get it – the recent nuclear meltdown, natural disasters, foreign policy, etc. The dynamic between America is perhaps the most interesting aspect where the humans are concerned. Japan’s leaders are all indecisive bureaucratic old men in the film, who initially contact countries such as Germany, France, and the United States for help to eradicate Godzilla. Naturally, there are interpolitical conflicts between Japan and America over what to do. America wants to drop a nuke on the monster after evacuating Japan, but the Japanese don’t want their homeland destroyed by something with even more destructive power than the monster itself. One character even says, “Man is more terrifying than Godzilla.” 

Deep stuff! Especially for a Godzilla film made after 1954. 

The second thing that sets this apart from the American version is, believe it or not, the special effects. I just couldn’t believe my eyes – Toho finally outdid Hollywood with CGI and motion capture. Godzilla goes through four different life stages, evolving in a way similar to the monster Hedorah from the Showa series. While it’s an innovative idea that makes this Goji incarnation different than all the rest, the second form could have been rendered much more effectively in design. I liked the idea, but a lot of people in the theater laughed when his “slug form” first makes landfall. 

The fourth and final form, which shares the basic body type of the Godzillas in other films, is fantastic though. I actually think it was beautiful. More menacing and cool than he’s looked in all the films put together. It’s like the 1954 design, but more hardened and rotten looking. He literally bleeds radioactive blood and pieces of his flesh all over the place. His behavior matches the original version as well. No emotions, no facial expressions, just a moving atomic bomb that does nothing but walk and kill. I really like this aspect of the creature (he’s like a zombie Godzilla), but I can understand how some fans might have wanted him to show more character. He still could have been an evil God incarnate if the Fx guys had given him facial expressions, but that might have made him less imposing in my opinion. 

But the things this Godzilla can do make this film the strangest kaiju film I have ever seen. Constantly evolving, bleeding, and unleashing never before seen weapons from his body make him drastically different than any Goji we’ve seen before. The only things this one really has in common with the older Godzillas are his body shape and his attitude. Other than that, Shin Godzilla is almost an entirely different creature. The 2014 American reboot was closer to the older Japanese installments than this one in terms of the creature, and no film since the 98 American remake has so drastically changed the character. 

Even so, it’s still Godzilla, and it’s the best version yet. I won’t spoil anything (though I already knew of the monster’s differences via Internet leaks long before seeing this movie yesterday, so I’m sure most fans already know what to expect), but be prepared to be pleasantly surprised by some of the things this beast can do.

After about 30 minutes of some pretty well directed tension with the human characters, sparced with brief cutaways of Godzilla done in just the right amount, shit starts to get real. A nighttime battle sequence is shown between America, Japan, and the monster. 

Best scene in a Godzilla movie.

Period. Just see it for yourself. 

After this, however, the plot drags on with all the politicians and the military trying to figure out what to do. While interesting in concept, their dialogue eventually reaches some incredibly boring moments. About an hour of them. And it’s not like other Godzilla films where the problem may have been not enough dialogue – it’s WAY too much dialogue. There’s hardly any moments of silence when a human is shown, which honestly makes it look like the characters are all hopped up on drugs or something. No tension, no silent pondering, no tense moments of apprehension. Just talking and running. And, as usual in the Goji films, when a Japanese person in this film speaks English, it just sounds awful. I don’t mean the accent or anything like that, I just mean that it sounds like the actors literally only learned a few sentences of English during this movie’s production. It should have either been all in Japanese or only a couple of English sentences when the characters are conversing with America. Instead, about a third(or half) of the dialogue is in English, and it just hit the ear wrong with me. The way this film’s actors were directed wasn’t nearly as good as the way they were in the 2014 movie, or even the sometimes ridiculous ones of the 1970s.

Still, it’s a great story – just a little too much going on at once. 

After about an hour of all that, the film reaches its third act with an impressive joint operation between Japan and the States against Godzilla. The way it’s done is the most original idea the military has ever had in a Godzilla film. It involves a lot of different tactics, and I refuse to spoil it, but I will say that it involves trains and bio weapons, among many other things. 

The music in the movie is phenomenal. Hearing Akira Ifukube’s original themes again, laced with slightly altered versions of them, was a real treat. Sometimes, electric guitar is used, much like in Godzilla: Final Wars, and while it is tolerable, it isn’t very impressive. The riffs in Final Wars were much more interesting and complex, but give me an orchestra for a Kaiju film anyday anyway. 

So, despite some of my complaints, can you tell what I think of this film?

Gold. Pure gold. The best Godzilla film since the original. And while the original was better made and more thought out, it’s still not as enjoyable to watch as Shin Godzilla. Call me a heretic, but I freaking love this movie. 

9 out of 10 

BTW…his atomic breath alone makes this movie worth watching. 

imageI have heard it said before that 1993’s “Jurassic Park” is to the nineties generation what Star Wars was to the 70s generation, introducing kids to the magic of TRUE filmmaking by TRUE directors(not the new releases of CGI celebrities explosions and bullshit that plays weekly at the theaters of today). Yes, Jurassic Park(and Star Wars for that matter) features A list stars and plenty of reliance on computers and action sequences, but there are two differences. One is that despite all the groundbreaking computerized special effects(which still look amazing 22 years later), much of the dinosaur Classic was about practical effects. REAL robotic dinosaurs, REAL SETS, and REAL stunts, which in my opinion haven’t been used very much, or as much as they should be used, on the films of today. The other difference is that despite the massively exciting moments of the jurassic park movies(especially the first one), the action was well paced and seemed to happen magically at just the right points in the film. We can thank the Jaws and ET mastermind Steven Spielberg for this. So, despite all it’s scientific inaccuracies(which can be forgiven because no one knew at the time that Deinonychus, the true name for the movie raptors, had feathers and no one can know for sure whether they were as smart as chimps or not) and it’s fun but lackluster first two sequels, the franchise beginning in 93 had the power of captivating audiences everywhere and generating a true introduction to the public’s interest in dinosaurs(and scifi in general). In my opinion, every movie tries to capture the same essence of wonder portrayed in jurassic park. I’ll leave the question of whether they succeed or not open to all of you kids born in the nineties. So how does this year’s Jurassic World fare in comparison? Well, it has become the third highest grossing motion picture of all time, has gotten great reviews, and has been seen by me in the theater three times(about ten times at home). This article is intended to simply be about how good jurassic world is as a movie, but I will mention really quick that I LOVED seeing the film in theaters with my two year old daughter, who absolutely loves it and still begs to watch it with me. It’s amazing how this movie will be as special to her as the original jurassic park was to me. Anyway, what makes this flick so great? The CGI dinosaurs(which were overused in my opinion with only one robotic dinosaur) look better than they ever have before. The colors and the movement of the velociraptors, which are portrayed with motion capture actors, are literally beautiful. And yet, despite the upgrades, they are completely faithful to the original 93 designs. I think this about all of the film’s creatures, but especially the raptors. In a sort of paradox, the special effects are to me both a good point and a bad point of the movie. Good because CGI has never looked better, but bad because of the lack of robotic creatures actually moving around in the frame. The robots in Jurassic Park still look better than the CGI in Jurassic World, albeit with less color and detail. Practical, real effects will always top digital effects, even 200 years(or 65,000,000) years from now. The next good point is the actors themselves. While not as memorable as Dr Grant, Dr Malcolm, or even Lex and Tim, Chris Pratt’s and Bryce Dallas Howard’s characters are portrayed in a very fun and convincing way. I’ve read that some people thought that their romance was bland and lacked depth, but I disagree. The actors and makers of this film never try to make this movie more than what it’s supposed to be. It’s not meant to be an Oscar winning drama or even a tear jerker(aside from the heartbreaking and ROBOTIC apatosaurus scene). It is meant to be a FUN movie about dinosaurs chasing people. However, that being said, there is actually quite a bit of depth to this picture, such as sticking close to Crichton’s nearly prophetic apprehension of the dangers involved with genetic engineering, the plot point that alludes to how audiences today aren’t “wowed” so much anymore(we have been spoiled by CGI), and the ability of Chris Pratt’s relationship with the raptors to actually convey genuine emotion to the viewer. Also, the pacing of the film is very well done, coming very close to the pacing and the tension of the original. This film is better than both of the prior jurassic sequels put together, and is an honorable homage and testament to Steven Spielberg’s original 1993 masterpiece. My mother actually cried when I saw it in theaters with her the first time. It really does bring you back to your childhood, and brings parents back to their now grown children’s youth(which will happen with me and my daughter in the future as well). So is there anything about this movie that I don’t like? Well, two things keep it from being quite as good as the original: the lack of robotic effects and the music. Yes, John Williams’ original score is still used to great effect, but the new music by Michael Giacchino doesn’t quite get to your heart like John Williams always can(jurassic park, Star Wars). Still well done music though. I guess that probably no one can ever capture the magic of John Williams’ original themes. Jurassic world is a movie that will, just like Jurassic Park, stand the test of time for decades to come. I rate it ten out of ten(MAYBE 9.5 because of my two problems with it). I guess that wraps up this grown up kid’s opinion, but if you want a HUGE spoiler, read on. If you don’t want the movie to be spoiled, you can stop right here with me saying that the last twenty minutes of the movie are pure cinema gold. Thanks for reading!(if you want the spoiler then scroll down)

Attempting to increase tourist attendance, the park’s geneticists combine the DNA of several different dinosaurs as well as a few modern animals together to create the Indominus Rex, an attraction guaranteed to “give the PARENTS nightmares”. It’s appearance, movement, and behavior truly make it like a devil out of hell. What’s amazing about it besides the fact that it looks cool and escaped from it’s enclosure is that in spite of being the film’a antagonist, it is still a character with which you can feel sympathy towards. It was raised in captivity all alone(although it did kill it’s sibling, so maybe the DNA combination just made it evil to begin with), so when it escapes it can only respond to it’s environment by killing everything that moves. After it kills a few helpless apatosaurus for sport, Hoskins and his INGEN military group come up with a plan to use Owen Grady’s(Chris Pratt) “trained” but still quite ferocious velociraptors(THEY ARE REALLY DEINONYCHUS!!!!!!) to track down and kill the abomination. Well, the thing is actually part raptor, so it communicates with the raptor posse and gets them to be on it’s own side against the humans. The three remaining raptors and indominus chase down Grady, Claire, zach, and Gray until they reach the park’s visitor center. The raptors decide that their real loyalties lie with their Alpha human, Owen Grady, and they proceed to trying to fight off the Indominus Rex, which is so reminiscent of the raptors jumping on the T. rex in the first Jurassic Park that it almost seems spiritual. As the brave raptors are being defeated, Gray tells Claire that they “need more teeth”. So she runs to the Tyrannosaur paddock, has fanboy Lowery open it from the control room, and leads the T. Rex to the indominus. There’s a great nod to Jurassic Park 3 here as the T. Rex crashes through a mounted Spinosaurus skeleton and charges the Indominus(T Rex RULES, not that sail backed fish eater). Unfortunately the long arms and thick hide of the Indominus give it the ability to outfight our kingly childhood hero. But not for long. For the last fifteen minutes or so the film has been able to put a huge grin on all the nineties kids’ faces. But from here on out, the audience can quite possibly laugh out loud for pleasure. In a sequence that really tugs on your heart and your memories, Blue, the last surviving raptor, comes to the tyrannosaur’s aid by pouncing on the Indominus. The down but certainly not out T. Rex then gets up and assists the raptor into driving the Indominus towards the water. Then something happens that I don’t think anyone expected, especially myself. The aquatic lizard Mosasaurus leaps out of the water, crashing on the Indominus where an electric fence once stood, and drags the monster down to a watery grave. Now comes the greatest moment in the whole movie. The t. Rex and the raptor stare each other down. Could another fight be brewing? No, for it seems that the two dinosaurs have made their peace that was so maligned in the first movie, and the animals now have a mutual respect for one another. The Rex walks away, king of the island. exactly how we all wanted it. image