Saturday, February 06, 2010
Friday, February 05, 2010
Wait – what? What’s the Showa series? Well, I’m glad you asked: pull up a chair! The Showa series ran from 1954-1975. It consisted of the first 15 Godzilla pictures, beginning with the genuinely scary GOJIRA and proceeding through a variety of entries ranging from the decent (MOTHRA VS. GODZILLA) to the lazy (GODZILLA RAIDS AGAIN) to the ridiculous (GODZILLA VS. THE SEA MONSTER). There’s also a 7-film Heisei series, which ran from 1984-1995; and a 6-film Millenium series, which featured the second-best of all the Godzilla films: GODZILLA, MOTHRA, AND KING GHIDORAH: GIANT MONSTERS ALL-OUT ATTACK.
Ok, back to the film at hand.
As I said, TERROR OF MECHAGODZILLA starts poorly. It treats us to a full ten minutes of a droning voice over recycled footage from previous entries in the series, ostensibly to bring us up to speed on the deep and complex Godzilla history. It felt like padding to me. Then we see this film’s villains: alien invaders in costumes so silly that one surmises they’re here merely to access our textile infrastructure.
I’ll admit it: I fell asleep fifteen minutes in. Not even Inishiro Honda’s name under the director’s credit could keep me up much longer than that.
But the next day, I reattacked. And I’m glad I did. Once I got past the silly costuming, I found TERROR OF MECHAGODZILLA to be a fine alien invasion yarn. It features heroic cops, mad scientists, young women torn between conflicting duties, and plenty of hot Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla action.
A note about the aforementioned action: cinematographer Sokei Tomioka TERROR OF MECHAGODZILLA nails it in this one. The monsters look monstrous (yet just fake enough to not unduly frighten the little ones), the miniatures look fantastic, and the action sequences made thematic and practical sense.
This is a fun movie that delivers everything you could want from a film entitled TERROR OF MECHAGODZILLA. See it with a 9-year-old boy.
Thursday, February 04, 2010
AMREEKA is one such story. Nisreen Faour is Muna Farah, an Palestinian who wins the green card lottery and, along with her son, is granted entrance to the United States. At Customs, she replies to the question “Occupation?” with, “Yes, we are occupied.”
Things do not begin well.
It’s hard to find a job or find your place in a new school in America if you’re an Arab fresh from the Levant. People stare. Your prior achievements don’t hold much weight. And there’s a difference between studying a language and actually speaking its vernacular.
But Muna gives it her best shot and takes her lumps. It isn’t easy, and AMREEKA gives us no assurances that it ever will be easy. But, step by step, she and her son begin to get it. And little by little, they begin to share their culture with Americans they come to know. That’s how it works.
I hate to give the impression that AMREEKA is a Hallmark card about the Great American Melting Pot. It’s too honest for that. Instead, it stands as a fine retelling of the Immigration Story, one that reminds us of this crucial part of the American Experience.
Now I need to call my mother and thank her for working ‘til her fingers bled to provide my sister and me with the opportunity for a better life. I need to thank her for coming to America.
Wednesday, February 03, 2010
Here's a review by my eldest son & Godzilla aficionado, Ian:
“GODZILLA (1998)" Is a cool movie. It has a good tune in the beginning of the movie that sounds mysterious, which I think they were going for. They used it when they showed the thing’s origin, & used it some more throughout the movie.
“GODZILLA (1998)” has a cool monster with a good “to be continued” ending.
ON TO THE STORY: in “GODZILLA (1998)” Zilla is a mutated hybrid created from a nuclear French test, & attacks fishing boats, then rampages through New York city. Finally the navy kills it....Or so they thought…Anyway the hero, & some French guys disguised as American soldiers go after the creature’s nest while the female hero and another dude follow them. Then they meet. Then after the baby Zillas already hatched, the main characters call the military to destroy the nest. So they send some pilots to bomb the nest in their fighter planes, which they succeed in doing. But then it turns out adult Zilla survived , so it chases them. Then they hop into an unguarded taxi, & Zilla goes after them. Then the military comes, & bombs Zilla. Then, for less than a second, Zilla looks the hero in the eye. They were probably trying to make you feel pitty for the gigantic dying creature. It ends with one Zilla egg that hasn’t hatched yet, & survived the bombing , hatching, makin’ way for the show GODZILLA THE SERIES.
I recommend watching this. I liked the monster .’Twas a cool monster, because it could sprint. Most giant monsters can’t do that.
Monday, February 01, 2010
First among them we find Kelly MacDonald in the lead role. Before anyone utters the film’s first line of dialogue, we learn that her husband beat her, that she ran, and that she set up a new life in a new town far away. This matters as more than a reason to isolate her and give her character some texture, for her experience as both a victim of abuse and a woman with the courage to escape informs nearly every word she says, every thing she does. Watch her in this film. Watch her eyes and her body language. Watch the choices she makes and the way she makes them. Keaton the director was surely watching, and he showed the wisdom to follow her with his camera, to observe her as she thought and spoke and acted.
Next, we have Tom Bastounes, with whom I’m unfamiliar, as a detective who investigates a crime to which MacDonald has borne witness. He’s a large man, gone to seed and following a bottle on an inexorable down slope. But he has a ways to go, and his professional policeman’s demeanor hides a vulnerability that makes him all the more surprising when it’s time to play hardball.
And then there’s Keaton himself, playing the supporting role without which nothing else in the film would be possible. This is the best I’ve seen him, contained and mature, seeing everything and revealing nothing. Twenty years ago, I wouldn’t have believed it if you’d told me that Michael Keaton could be scary. But he can, particularly when he’s trying not to be.
THE MERRY GENTLEMAN won’t change your life. It isn’t big, it isn’t flashy, it isn’t groundbreaking. But it is a carefully told story, well performed and realized. I’m impressed.
Sunday, January 31, 2010
In FUNNY PEOPLE, Sandler plays a smart and sensitive comedian who makes vulgar and childish movies. Then he learns that he’s going to die. Now what? He has no friends, not really, and he’s pushed away everyone who’s ever loved him. Maybe he can hire a guy.
Does this sound like comic material to you? I suppose it could be, if played broadly. But director Judd Apatow doesn’t play it broadly. He plays it close to the bone, eliciting one of Sandler’s best performances and surprising us with the first real work of Seth Rogen, who shows us that he’s capable of handling more than straight comedy. FUNNY PEOPLE is, indeed, a funny movie, but it’s more a human drama set in the world of professional comedy than a laugh fest. It works.