Godzilla: King of the Monsters – Film Review

Director: Michael Dougherty

Starring: Millie Bobby Brown, Vera Farmiga, Kyle Chandler and Ken Watanabe

Rating: ★★

After the boring Godzilla 2014, I don’t think anyone had much hope for its sequel. Which is probably why Godzilla: King of the Monsters, bombed at the box office when it did finally come out in 2019. It starts in the final act of the first film, showing the Godzilla v Muto fight from the ground perspective and the destruction it causes people. Mark and Emma Russel (Played by Kyle Chandler and Vera Farmiga) lose their son Andrew. Five years skip by and they are no longer together. Emma is working with Monarch to understand the Titans while Mark is off in the wilderness chopping wood, because there needed to be a reason they weren’t at the same place.

Emma and her team witness the awakening of Mothra, and while Emma tries to communicate with her (using a device known as The Orca) an execution style squad comes in and kills the entire team kidnapping Emma and her teenage daughter played by Millie Bobby Brown (Stranger Things). That leads Mark to travel the globe to save his family while working with Monarch and Godzilla to stop the new Titan that is awakened, Monster Zero (Ghidorah).

Much like the previous film, Godzilla King of the Monsters is seriously lacking in likeable and interesting characters. Most of the film is spend following Mark as he shouts as the so-called experts, telling them obvious things that they should have already known. He’s annoying and doesn’t really have a point in the film. If you removed his character completely the same film would happen, almost identically. They make the mistake, like they did in the first film of killing any character worth caring about too early. In the 2014 film everything fell apart once Bryan Cranston was killed off, and while this one isn’t as bad or boring, it does spend way too much time with people who just don’t matter.

There is no actual character building or growth throughout, instead using paper thin characters to carry the plot along. It just makes no sense why we spend so much time with them instead of Godzilla. They even tint the good guy’s vehicle with a blue tint and the bad guys with a red one, just in case you’re so bored you don’t know which one is which.

Once the monsters take battle, the film improves massively. We go to see Godzilla films for destruction and monster fights, and these are enjoyable once you get to them, the issue is that between them there is just a ton of exposition that is simply boring. Again, like in 2014, too much of the film takes place at night or in the rain making parts of it hard to see.

The score is almost forgettable. One of the best things about the original Godzilla from 1954, is the score. It’s haunting, foreboding and instantly recognisable. There is one moment, when Godzilla re-emerges that a riff on the original kicks in and it’s one of the best bits of the movie. What it really does, is make poor quality of the rest of the score stand out even more. The cover of Blue Oyster Cult’s Godzilla, featuring Serj Tankian on vocals is absolutely great and makes the credits even more of a reward as this plays over the top.

For the most part this film is not worth it. It’s way too long, boring and with little pay off. There are some brilliant moments in it, Godzilla’s first appearance, pulsating underwater, is fantastic. There’s an ejector seat mishap which is almost funny enough to give the film some much needed personality. The monsters are really entertaining to watch, you just leave wishing there was more of that.

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Eraserhead – Film Review

Director: David Lynch

Starring: Jack Nance and Charlotte Stewart

Rating:  ★★★★

David Lynch is well known for his odd, strange, unsettling and often quite funny films. His work such as Mulholland Drive, Inland Empire and Lost Highway have divided audiences since they first hit the big screen. It all started with Eraserhead, which last year received a Criterion Collection release on Blu Ray. Your enjoyment of a Lynch film is based on if you need to understand the film to enjoy it or are simply happy to be sucked into a world of the absurd and just let yourself react to what you see.

Near enough nothing in Eraserhead makes sense in the typical way. It’s strange and unsettling and attacks your senses with a loud ambient noise of mechanical whirling and wind and very little dialogue, combined with a vivid black and white picture. Most of the film is up for interpretation and that’s the way Lynch likes it. He has long said that the film is whatever the viewer thinks it is. He calls it his most spiritual film, but that doesn’t give you the key to unlocking this enigma.

The narrative follows Henry Spencer, who after coming home with groceries is told by his neighbour that he has been invited by his girlfriend, Mary X played by Charlotte Stewart, to have dinner at her parent’s house. Things are not what they seem and Henry is confronted by Mary’s Mother about if he has had sexual relations with Mary, which is because Mary is pregnant. Mary and Henry are then destined to wed and live in his small apartment to raise the child. This may seem like a rather ordinary story up to this point, but this is presented in usual Lynch fashion. Mary’s parents are strange, the chicken writhes on the dinner plate, pulsating out blood. Mary’s grandmother is sitting in the kitchen, not moving. There’s a loud mechanical sound pulsating in the background. And that is just the start of the absurdity. The child does not resemble anything close to human, closer to a bird.

Like most of Lynch’s work there is a dream/nightmare style tone throughout. Even Henry with his child-like qualities, is confused by the world that is presented around him. In Henry’s room is a plant, which pretty much sums up the film. The plant isn’t in a pot, instead the soil is just a mound with the dying plant sticking out. The pot that would hold it together is gone¸ in the same way that the walls around Henry’s mind are decayed. He is a broken man, troubled by the world around him and what we are seeing is the way he is projecting the world around him. His mind is escaping, just like the plant next to his bed. Through this we see the absurd and abstract world. The creature-like child, the woman who lives in the radiator, the strange noise that is constantly assaulting you. Everything is seeping from Henry and being projected out for you to witness. He is troubled, worn down by the world around him, his small apartment, job and finally the anxiety of parenthood. At least that’s the way I see it. As Lynch himself says, everyone sees it differently and there is no right answer.

It doesn’t matter if you don’t understand every scene or can’t make heads or tails of every action. If you sit back and let the film take you then you will be unsettled by a creeping dread that builds throughout to the horrific finale that will make you feel sick to your stomach. It’s full of comedy, tension and horror. Jack Nance gives a fantastic performance of Henry and one that will stick with you.

If you’ve already seen Eraserhead, or even if you haven’t, then the Criterion Collection edition is worth your time. Not only has the film never looked better, it comes with an array of features, including early trailers of the film, a few featurettes on the making of the film and a 90-minute documentary. None of which will explain the absurdity of Eraserhead, but it will broaden your understanding and appreciation. Alongside these are a few short films of Lynch, from around the time the main film was released in the last 70s. There is also a 60ish page book that contains a reprint of an interview with Lynch from the 90s, it’s a must read for any Lynch fan. To top it all off there is even a tutorial on the disc on how to set up your TV set, with brightness and contrast to ensure that you see the film the way that Lynch intended.

If you haven’t already seen Eraserhead or any of Lynch’s films, then you need to give it a try. It’s not as accessible as some of Lynch’s later work, but why not start at the beginning. If you have already seen it, then buy the Criterion Collection edition and re-visit it, you won’t be disappointed.

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Dream Horse – Film Review

Director: Euros Lyn

Starring: Toni Collette, Damian Lewis, Joanna Page and Owen Teale

Rating: ★★★★

Every so often a film comes along and picks up your spirits, takes your mind off the world and brings a smile to your face. 2021’s offering is Dream Horse a sports comedy/drama film from director Euros Lyn and screenwriter Neil McKay. Dream Horse tells the true story of Dream Alliance, a race horse that was bred by a syndicate as a bit of fun and ended up competing in the Welsh Grand National. 

Even if you have no prior knowledge of horse racing, like me, it doesn’t matter. The film does a great job of introducing you into that world and even if sports don’t appeal to you in the slightest, you will be routing for Dream Alliance to win every race and wanting to jump for joy in the cinema.

The film is genuinely funny and it would be hard to find a single person who didn’t have at least a smile on their face for the majority of the time watching the film. Even though the running time runs at almost 2 hours, this flies by and by the time the credits start to roll, you will wonder where the time has gone.

The Welsh countryside and scenery is beautiful and is presented nicely throughout complementing the small and rundown town that the syndicate lives in. Rolling green hills compared to run down pubs and old houses that need some love and care.

Even though this is a feel-good comedy, that doesn’t mean that there isn’t substance beyond the horse racing. There are universal themes of loss and feeling stuck. There is even a good sense of the snobbery in horse racing as others look down on Dream Alliance and the syndicate. It’s not shoved in your face, but this film does deal with the snobbery alongside other issues, such as class and wealth division.

The cast do a fantastic job bringing the town and syndicate alive. Toni Collette stars as Jan Vokes, a bartender/cashier at the local Co-op, who is in a rut with life. After hearing Howard Davies (Damian Lewis) speak of his glory days of owning a horse at the club that she works in, it inspires her to take her knowledge of pigeon breeding and competing and translate it into horse breeding.  Joining them are Owen Teale as Brian, Jan’s husband, Joanna Page as Angela Davies, Howard’s wife. There is even a small part from former Doctor Who Peter Davidson.

Every character, most are based on real people, are fully developed and you will care about them and their challenges, outside of the horse racing. If there is one thing that I think brings the film down, it’s that we don’t spend enough times with the characters. The film flies by and maybe a few extra minutes here and there with some of the side-characters would have really brought the film close to perfection. It’s a minor issue and for the most part the characters are vivid and you can’t help but want them to succeed in everything. 

Through great performances from the entire cast, a well told underdog story and a full laughs Dream Horse succeeds in being something we all need from time to time, pure uplifting escapism.

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The Father – Movie Review

Director: Florian Zeller

Starring: Anthony Hopkins, Olivia Coleman, Mark Gatiss and Rufus Sewell

Rating: ★★½

Anthony Hopkins gives one of the best performances of his career as Anthony in The Father, who is suffering from dementia, and relies on his daughter Anne (Olivia Coleman) to live his day-to-day life in his flat. This is a film that thrives on its great performances. Alongside Hopkins, Coleman is also fantastic in her role. Both are completely believable and heart-breaking to watch. The problem is that beyond the great performances, the film is shallow. You’ll feel sad watching it, but there isn’t enough to really draw you in, beyond dementia is a depressing subject.

The film is from the perspective of Anthony, using a disjointed narrative and clever edits, to give you the experience of someone suffering from dementia. It’s confusing and disjointed as you feel that you are living the same day over and over. Characters are replaced by other characters as scenes start to repeat themselves. It’s very clever and original in how it is presented. The highlight of the film is Hopkins. His performance is outstanding. He can change mid-scene so subtly and with so much grace. It’s completely believable, moving from charming and funny to angry in moments. His mood swings are powerful and believable to watch.

I wish there was more to say about the film, but that brings me to my main issue with the film is that it is mostly style over substance. While the film is genius in the way it is presented, there isn’t much beyond that. I didn’t find myself engaged with the characters, because outside of this horrible disease I don’t know who they are. Not much happens throughout the course of the film. There are snippets of day-to-day life. 

Maybe I’m missing something, as it is clearly connecting with others and is getting rave reviews. I do think that Hopkins is very much deserving of the Oscar that he’s won. Coleman deserves massive praise for what she brings to the role as well. There are little moments and facial expressions that she gives that are perfect and make you believe that this is really happening. I just wish that there were more to it. In the end it is forgettable and didn’t engage me. The whole point is that dementia is horrible, but that really goes without saying.  

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Earwig and the Witch – Movie Review

Director: Gorō Miyazaki

Starring: (English Voice Actors) Taylor Paige Henderson, Vanessa Marshall and Richard E. Grant

Rating: ★½

Earwig and the Witch

It’s been over half a decade since we last had a Studio Ghibli film and there is a lot to live up to. Studio Ghibli is known for high quality animation and story, with Spirited Away still being the only non-English language animated film to win the Oscar for best animated picture. Alongside Spirited Away is a whole list of amazing animated films from the studio, most notably from directors Hayoa Miyazaki and Isao Takahata.

The studio is finally back with Hayao’s son, Gorō Miyazaki directing his third film for Studio ghibli, Earwig and the Witch. Notably the first completely 3D animation film from Studio Ghibli, who have always stuck to traditional hand-drawn animation for the most part.

While there is still some of the heart of a Ghibli film in Earwig, for the most part it falls flat. The animation, while pretty in places, especially in the backgrounds, isn’t spectacular. The character models, especially their faces look lifeless and feel off. It’s not Pixar quality and from Studio Ghibli you expect a very high quality and something close to Pixar, which this falls short on. It’s not the worst animation you will ever see, but there is nothing about it that leaves an impression.

Earwig is title character of the film, who is left by her mother at a children’s home. The mother is a witch who has angered the other 12 witches in her coven. The head of the home renames her Erica Wigg. We then follow her growing up and trying to avoid adoption with her best friend Custard. That way of life comes to an end when she is adopted by a witch and ends up becoming essentially her slave. Erica starts to look for ways to escape her new home, and uncover the mystery of her new adoptive parents.

The best part of the film is the rock inspired score. A band also named Earwig is interwoven into the plot, and the film is accompanied by high energy rockish music that gives the film a much needed boost of life. It’s by far the best part of the film. The opening and closing piece of music, featuring lyrics written by Goro Miyazaki, are really enjoyable and are standout parts of the film.

The worst part of the film is the pacing. It’s quiet short at less than 90 minutes. For the most part, it feels like other Ghibli films, building slowly with character development and world building. Once you get used to the animation style it does draw you in. And then with about 5 minutes left it all speeds up and then just ends. It feels like you are missing at least half an hour of story. There are so many unanswered questions, and to really smack you in the face the credits are joined with traditionally drawn story boards showing what happens next, showing how nice the characters could have looked if they didn’t take a 3D style. In the films defence, the book it is based on also leaves a lot of unanswered questions and feels like it ends abruptly.

Earwig and the Witch is a messy film, with poor animation and a bad story that does not reward you for watching. The music is fantastic, but that’s the strongest positive about the film. This is the first Studio Ghibli film that really fails at being a must see. It’s just not worth the time.

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