Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Godzilla X Megaguirus: G Extermination Strategy (2000) movie review

Overall verdict: 5.5/10

The one where Godzilla is green and purple, fighting a giant bug (no not mothra)

The Good: Impressive monster designs, engaging lead character, well crafted miniatures

The Bad: overall cheap look, sub par special effects, serviceable directing, uninspired camerawork, boring battles, more style than substance, lacks any deeper themes in the narrative
With the success of Godzilla 2000, Toho green lit a new Godzilla movie which for some reason is not a sequel to Godzilla 2000. Despite featuring the same Godzilla design, albeit painted a bright green with purple spikes, GODZILLA X MEGAGUIRUS serves as another reboot in the millennium era of the franchise.
Godzilla's many attacks on Japan across the years led to the formation of the G-Graspers, an elite tactical unit tasked with fending off the attacks. By 2001, Japan has invented the Dimension Tide, a weapon capable of opening miniature black holes which can consume anything in its path, and they plan to use it on Godzilla. A test run accidentally transports ancient mutant dragonflies into Japan which take refuge in the sewers.  During this time, a "moby dick/Ahab" style relationship develops between Godzilla and the vengeful Major Tsujimori who is obsessed with taking down the giant beast. 

At first she finds an unlikely ally in the dragonflies, dubbed meganula, who attack Godzilla and drain his nuclear energy. However, unknown to the humans, that energy is used to empower the meganula queen, Megaguirus.
As can be seen by the lengthy synopsis, GXM has many sub plots to resolve. There is the issue of illegal plasma energy experimentation which attracts Godzilla, there is major Tsujimori's journey of revenge, there is the Monster dragonflies, there is the sub plot of professor Yoshino and the Dimension Tide. 
I found Tsujimori's arc of vengeance to be the easiest to follow. She was made out to be a rather sympathetic character despite her tough exterior and it is easy to become invested in her tale. Other than that, the film does drag its feet in many of the human scenes with all the sub plots intertwined nicely but resolved hurriedly. The movie is paced as if the Creative team forgot about the "Megaguirus" in the title and then had her come out only in the third act.
While impressive in design, Megaguirus is essentially Mothra and Battara all over again; an insectile giant monster who is fragile but uses speed and cunning to fight Godzilla. Sadly the tangling between the two titans is quite disappointing. Megaguirus is a puppet on strings and Godzilla is an intricately designed but very stiff suit. 
Do not expect the savage, up close and personal, tooth and claw type duels. These are overly choreographed affairs, complete with a samurai sword duel homage with anime-style visual cues. The fight easily degenerates into distinct formula thanks to the limited movements that the stiff suit and puppet can do. Then the director chooses to have half of the fight done in this choppy jerky slow motion style that too many tv directors abuse.
All this and more give the movie a very cheap "tv episode" kind of feel, barely doing justice to the painstakingly crafted monsters. While GODZILLA X MEGAGUIRUS boasts decent special effects, decent acting and a well written though one dimensional human protagonist, it establishes itself as a mere middling entry into this rich franchise due to uninspired directing, cheesy Monster fights, and a an unevenly paced and shallow narrative.

Entertainment: C
Story: B-
Acting: B-
Characters: B-
Music: C-
Replay value: C+
"Brains": C-

Monday, July 3, 2017

The Mummy (2017) remake review

Generic Tom Cruise action movie about Tom's hot stalker

Overall verdict: 5.5/10

The Good: Comedic timing between Cruise and Johnson, incredible performance by Russell Crowe, genuinely eerie creature designs and effects, decent action, sets up greater shared universe with other films.

The Bad: uninspired directing, dark murky cinematography, not scary, shallow narrative, lacks any deeper themes, convoluted plot that is not resolved well, underdeveloped antagonist, bland protagonist

The Mummy heralds the genesis of Universal Studio's very own shared cinematic universe, christened the "Dark Universe". And boy they weren't kidding! Directed by writer Alex Kurtzman in his directorial debut, has coated the entire movie in a murky light dimming filter. Daylight scenes look muted and dull without strong shadows, serving no conceivable thematic purpose other than to have a darkness filter over everything. Kutzman's barely serviceable directing style, with its constant shaky cam, close ups, tight shots and slightly off focus action scenes, all point to a director acting off a checklist of "typical action movie shots". To make matters worse, most of the action scenes are set in dark underground locales or at night, which requires much strain to make out what is going on.
Not that it is entirely a bad thing. This darkness does serve the horror element of the movie. After all this is a remake of the classic horror movie franchise "The Mummy" which saw one remake by Stephen Sommers done in more of a classic swashbuckling adventure style. The big twist this time is that the mummy is a lady.
Ahmanet was an Egyptian princess who was denied her rightful place as ruler of ancient Egypt. She made a pact with the God of chaos, Set, to get revenge on her family and in turn she would bring Set into the world through a chosen individual so she could rule by his side. She was found out and mummified alive as punishment, far away from Egypt. Five thousand years later, rogue soldier Nick Morton and his pal Chris unwittingly discover Ahmanet's tomb in the middle of the war torn Iraqi desert. Unknown to Nick, Ahmanet is still alive in her sarcophagus and uses her arcane magic to manipulate events and people into bringing her body to London. There she hopes to find an ancient weapon belonging to Set, and Nick is the key to her plan.
Unfortunately it is a stretch to call this a horror movie. The darkness of the footage does attempt to convey the look of a horror film, and the effects are hauntingly good. The scenes immediately after Ahmanet resurrects as a desiccated anatomically twisted mockery of humanity are particularly effective as is the look of the zombies. But other than that, this movie has more in common with an action comedy than a horror. 
Though the make-up and effects are meant to be scary, the way scenes are set up, shot and scripted end up more hilarious than horrific. A shocking moment where forgettable love interest Jenny accidentally barges in on Ahmanet straddling a captive Nick, surrounded by rotting minions and about to perform an arcane ritual on him, is scripted as if she barged in on a couple making love. Or when Chris is cursed and haunts Nick as a disembodied spirit bearing the scars of his death, it is played less like a spooky spectral encounter and more like one of those Scary Movie parodies.
Nick himself is a standard morally ambiguous, selfish,arrogant, snarky, action movie protagonist and his sarcastic partner is the standard comic relief. Tom cruise and Jake Johnson as Nick and Chris have great chemistry making the action very fun to watch. Simplicity seems to be the order of the day and any character who was not a monster is portrayed as a one dimensional archetype. In a grave misstep, the script decides to try and develop the already uninteresting Nick and this takes time away from developing the titular mummy Ahmanet. Only Russell Crowe's Dr Jekyll was able to hold my attention and be an interesting addition to the dark universe.
A part of that intrigue comes from Crowe's performance and the stark contrast in the Jekyll and Hyde characters. Unlike past portrayals, Jekyll and Hyde here do not look much different aside from some CGI details. Crowe's performance gets the credit for selling this contrast and comes off as genuinely unsettling. I had hoped to see more of his character in this movie or future ones.
I also liked the gender flipped premise of a dude in distress chased by a female undead necromancer as well as the amount of world building that went into crafting this shared cinematic universe. And perhaps that is where the problem lies: this movie succeeds in being enticing for what is promised rather than what is delivered. Too funny to be a horror, too bland to be a comedy, THE MUMMY succeeds in setting up a new shared cinematic universe but fails to exploit its full potential and fails in delivering a professionally made movie that stands on its own.


Entertainment: B-
Story: B
Acting: B+
Characters: C-
Music: C-
Replay value: B-
"Brains": D