Archive for May, 2014

Godzilla *** (out of five)

Godzilla-Comic-Con-posterJapan has never stopped making Godzilla movies but the US studios only try occasionally. The last attempt, Roland Emmerich’s in 1998, was the worst film of that year – by a long shot. Having no reason for being, it created one: replicate “first-person shooter” video games. It was boring, stupid and a monumental waste of time.

Emmerich's folly.

Emmerich’s folly.

What lessons have been learned? Indeed, why make an American Godzilla? What is a Godzilla film anyway? A horror film? An action movie? A thriller? A disaster movie?

Gareth Edwards, who made a wee splash with his DIY monster flick Monsters in 2010, has realised that Godzilla is exactly, and only, that – a “monster flick”, a sub-genre with its own rules, and, unlike Emmerich, he loyally and thankfully follows them all.

The US version (re-cut and with many added scenes) of the Japanese original.

The US version (re-cut and with many added scenes) of the Japanese original.

The result won’t win any Oscars outside of the sound categories, but, if you’re the type of customer who will consider going to a Godzilla movie, this one is worth your while. Edwards borrows the Spielbergian style in every way – from camera moves to use of music to the gradual rolling out of the big effects – and it’s the right choice. If the monster flick is close to any other genre, it’s not horror or action, it’s “adventure”, and Godzilla is an adventurous romp with a very healthy budget, a surprisingly good cast doing surprisingly committed work, and, of course, awesome effects.Godzilla_2000_American_poster_01

(Incidentally, I feel that special visual effects have plateaued. They can still be used very cleverly or in service to a better degree of story – see Life of Pi and Gravity – but, really, Godzilla in Godzilla is no “better” an effect than the ape in Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Iron Man in Iron Man, or anything in the Lord of the Rings movies).

The elephant in the room, when dealing with a Japanese nuclear disaster theme, of course, is Fukushima, and it’s obliquely referenced with taste. In fact the whole film is tasteful – and that’s a great compliment for a monster flick, a Godzilla movie, or anything else.godzilla_bfi

Child’s Pose ****1/2 (out of five)

pozitia_copiluluiThe trouble with reviewing a film as good as Child’s Pose is to revel in superlatives and over-hype the poor thing. Know straight off then, that Calin Peter Netzer’s third feature is astonishingly written (with Razvan Radulescu), shot and performed. It’s sensational.

Luminita Gheorghiu, in the performance of the year thus far, plays Corelia, a wealthy and well-connected Bucharest society architect who finds renewed purpose when her too-adored son is involved in an accident and she throws herself into cleaning up the dreadful mess.

Netzer’s story continually telescopes, at first powerfully revealing the endless everyday corruption inherent in Romanian (and, by implication, most) society, then focusing its gaze to issues of class, family, and ultimately the painfully intimate bond between mother and son. This latter theme is dealt with on a level of universal honesty and unforced pathos such that I have never seen before; the scenes between Gheorghiu and Bogdan Dumitrache are intensely true: writing, direction and performance all borne of perfect observation turned into perfect dramatic art.ch02

Netzer uses hand-held camera, no music score and a very abbreviated time period (the film takes place over about four or five days) and achieves an almost documentary feel, which would have been impossible were his entire ensemble not so brilliant. This is naturalistic acting at its finest and filmmaking at its least bombastic.

Child’s Pose is, essentially, a thriller, but, like the recent films of Asghar Farhadi  – A Separation and The Past – it offers a depth of meaningful, emotional engagement far beyond your average thriller, and, indeed, far beyond your average “straight drama”. Its thrills are thrilling, but its drama is intense, moving, and extremely rewarding.maxresdefault

Rose Burns

Posted: May 9, 2014 in movie reviews

(Bad) Neighbo(u)rs *** (out of five)

neighbors-poster02Full of endless genuinely funny lines, most tossed off and probably improvised, Neighbors, called Bad Neighbours in markets that have grown up with the Aussie soap Neighbours and which enjoy the letter ‘u’, and not a remake of the John Belushi / Dan Aykroyd Neighbors (but somewhat inspired by it), is a loose, free-wheeling, cameo-studded jaunty romp that achieves its single, noble aim: to make you laugh.

Rose Byrne again proves herself the funniest of the new batch of Hollywood comedy queens, this time allowed to play in her own, Australian accent (as Rebel Wilson should always be allowed). Seth Rogan plays her husband in his Seth Rogan way; they play parents of a toddler whose lives are upset when a frat house moves in next door. Disputes, power games and gags follow, a lot of it to do with sex, drugs and booze.tumblr_my0m4nkQqC1qjaa1to1_1280

The meta-conceit of 1981’s Neighbors was that Belushi played the “straight” neighbour and Ackroyd played the freaky interloper. Here a similar gag has Rogan as the family man and Zac Efron as the leader of the frat house. It’s not the same: Rogan and Efron aren’t established as a team, Efron has already played the bad boy, and Rogan doesn’t by any means play it straight. But they’re both good in their roles, and Efron’s clean-cut, all-American look works very well as a frat boy. Dave Franco is very good as Efron’s aide-de-camp and Lisa Kudrow makes a meal of the college Dean. But it’s Byrne who steals the movie. She is one funny actor, bringing fresh stylings to every film she does.