Godzilla (2014)


He’s big, he’s bad and he’s worldwide! Once again, Godzilla stomps his way onto the big screen, hoping to attract a new wave of fans and a bigger audience. Unlike the previous “Godzilla,” which featured Ferris Bueller, this film takes itself VERY seriously. And, in the end, that’s what effectively kills this movie, rendering it top heavy with too much drama and too little Godzilla.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about summer action movies it’s this…keep the action coming fast and the scientific mumbo-jumbo at a minimum. “World War X” did an effective job of that last summer and I thought it was a great popcorn movie! And then came “Pacific Rim,” which was a bombastic, over-the-top, fanboy dream with robots fighting monsters and action galore! Nevermind the ridiculous plot and generic characters…it was the action that kept me entertained and it did its job well (on the BIG screen. Not so much on my iPad). “Godzilla” spends too much time gearing us up for the “Big Showdown” between our friendly neighborhood monster and 2 ginormous bugs who are trying to mate to take over the world. Yes…I said it. Two 50-story bugs are awakened from their slumber and they are set on reproducing and taking over the world. And with that notion, their pillow talk has also awoken Godzilla from HIS long winter’s nap somewhere in the Pacific Ocean. In order to keep ecological balance, Godzilla sets out to destroy the 2 baddies and most of San Francisco & Las Vegas in order to keep the world order.

Ok…so there you have THAT plot…so let’s introduce you to a slew of characters, none of which are ever fully developed, and see if they can draw you in with their performances alone (because the script is terrible)…
Bryan Cranston – wasted as a scientist who just KNOWS there is something going on at a nuclear plant in Japan.
Juliette Binoche – an incredible actress who is TOTALLY wasted in this film in a role so ridiculous that I have no idea why it’s in this movie.
Elizabeth Olsen – an indie darling who is an up & comer who deserves a MUCH better role than this. She plays the wife of the “hero” of the movie and does nothing but act worried the entire time.
Aaron Taylor-Johnson – the “hero” who is a global jumping military bomb defuser who seems to know how to get everywhere and knows everything about how to stop the destruction. As good as this guy was in the first “Kick Ass,” he’s a total bore in this film.
Gareth Edwards – Although he doesn’t have a role in this movie because he’s the director, he is the most important person involved here and I’m sorry to say…this movie is a HUGE disappointment for me. In 2010, Edwards directed and edited the independent movie “Monsters,” a classic film about 2 people who must travel through alien invaded territory in Mexico to get back to the United States. It’s a beautiful film with 2 well-developed characters and a very unique way of looking at human relationships with a sci-fi twist. A lot of people didn’t know what to make of “Monsters” because it’s not a tradition monster movie. I loved that movie and so, when I heard Edwards was helming “Godzilla,” I HAD to see what he could do with the classic monster character. Sad to say, he didn’t add much. Despite the fact that Godzilla LOOKS great, there’s not much else you can do with him other than have him knock down buildings and roar. THAT he does very well in this version but unfortunately we’ve seen it all before. So there needs to be more…but there isn’t. None of the characters have HALF the personality of the 2 main leads in “Monsters” and so this movie heads south quickly. The big finale is even a letdown after seeing “Pacific Rim” and it’s action-packed battles. I was expecting so much more and it didn’t happen.

Needless to say, I imagine “Godzilla” will rank right up there with “Spider-Man 2” as one of the more disappointing movies of 2014. You can’t win them all, I suppose, but there was potential here and it was squandered with too little action and too much talking. Let Godzilla stomp, don’t make him tip-toe. And in this movie…the 15 minutes of stomping can’t save this one from being a ginormous bore.

Overall Rating: D


Liberal Arts

How I have been pining for a movie to come along and pull me into a small, entertaining story without there being a huge story arc or some complex twist and this…thankfully…is it. This little romance comes along at just the right time. It’s quite simple in its premise: 35-year old Jesse Fisher (played by Josh Radnor, who also directed and wrote the screenplay), a college administrator in New York City, is called upon by his favorite college professor to speak at his retirement party. Upon his return to his former college, he finds himself attracted to a 19-year old student who seems older beyond her years. Will Jesse throw caution to the wind and pursue Zibby (played by doe-eyed Elizabeth Olsen in a breakout role) or will his conscience get the best of him?

There is so much to like about this movie and it’s easy to get lost in its easy-going banter. With Richard Jenkins in the role of the retiring professor who isn’t quite ready to say goodbye to his 37-year old career to Zac Efron as a health-happy hippy who is quirky but not overbearing, the characters in this film carry the load without seemingly batting an eye. There are no character issues here…each and every one of them plays an important role and each one is perfectly cast (especially Allison Janney as a professor who has her own issues).

Setting the scene is the college itself. Filmed at Kenyon College in Gambier, OH, the small liberal arts school has rolling greens and beautiful old architecture which accents the dialogue as the characters walk and talk about their lives and where they want their lives to go. In its own way, this reminded me of my love for MY alma mater, Ohio University, and so the location itself drew me in simply because of that. I remember spending hours talking with friends, wandering around the campus and just soaking up the atmosphere. This film highlights that and it now has me aching to return to Athens, OH to relive some old memories.

I highly recommend “Liberal Arts” on a cold winter night. Wrap up with your loved one, have some hot cocoa and enjoy this fun comedy that will warm its way into your heart…

Overall Rating: A