On DVD & Blu-Ray: September 16, 2014

Admittedly, I have never been a fan or seen much of the supposed entertainment value in what a giant lizard fighting other monsters brings to the table other than spectacle, but for some reason Hollywood feels a need to keep going back to this well to the point it seems they have something they really want to unearth, but can't put their finger on. I was only eleven years old when Roland Emmerich's version of the King of the Monsters hit the screen and for the most part I enjoyed that one with my easy to mesmerize mentality. It has been a long while since I've re-visited that take and was never able to get into the string of films featuring the creature produced by the Toho Co. What has always evaded me is where audiences find substance in this idea that watching a mythological monster, sometimes played up as the lesser of two threats, has anything more to say other than it looks pretty awesome when he fights these creatures, but only if we know the city's they are destroying in the wake of their battles to determine who resides at the top of the food chain are completely abandoned. Otherwise, we just feel bad for the countless lives being lost in one seemingly small motion of this monster rather than being able to enjoy the majesty of what is taking place before us. Coming around to director Gareth Edwards take on the monster though, simply titled Godzilla, the marketing did something unexpected and actually had me fairly excited to see what this new film might bring to the table and if the studios may finally have been able to press that button or unearth that value they so desperately were searching for. I guess, if I were to say anything without giving away specifics it would be that Edwards has given over to the more serious undertones that were the point of origin for the character in the first place and with that he has crafted a film as much about the story and the impact of the fact Godzilla exists rather than simply producing a film that goes exactly where your instincts want to take you. That the film subverts the obvious ideas and goes in a completely different direction assured me that audiences don't really know what they want when it comes to a Godzilla movie, but would no doubt be satisfied with monster-fighting on an epic scale and while Edwards Godzilla is not the exceptional piece of popcorn entertainment I was hoping for, he still delivers on many levels. Full review here. B-

What makes The Fault in Our Stars such a massive yet precise story is that in its universal themes we find the story of young love. You can call young love universal as everyone's lives have no doubt been touched with some slight experience of it. To couple that young love with the less innocent, more universally crushing realities of knowing someone who suffers from the malady we call cancer make it all the more affecting. The Fault in Our Stars, a film based on a young adult novel that features a different kind of lead female heroine is not so much a story intent on making you cry, but at the very least intent on making you realize. As written by John Green we experience the trials and tribulations of being a teenager with cancer through the eyes of Hazel Grace Lancaster. Hazel Grace, as she is so lovingly and consistently referred to by the great star-crossed love of her life, is a highly articulate and intelligent young woman whose diagnosis (because to say battle or fight would be to label the situation as something it so clearly isn't in the way we typically think of those terms) has allowed her serious perspective for her age. For Hazel everything is about perspective and everything that consumes her life is a measure of leaving as little hurt as possible behind when, not if, she dies. This selflessness is admirable and we understand her reasoning despite the fact our natural tendencies are to make sure we leave some kind of legacy, but it is this string of thought, and this need to feel substantial that comes to form the backbone of the relationship that develops between Hazel and Augustus Waters. As a film, this story is still able to exist solely within the view of Hazel and how she appropriately approaches her world. As she tells her story there is never a sense of pretension or ingenuity that would strike one of expounding these ideas on others solely for the satisfaction of the attention it might receive. Hazel's ideas instead simply relay a story that meant a lot to her as Peter Van Houten and his novel, "An Imperial Affliction", did for her. She doesn't need the acknowledgments or the congratulations to know she and her love story are appreciated. It is in the power that has come in the form of the real-world reaction to this material that we believe in Hazel Grace and that the tears she causes come from the most sincere of places. Full review here. B+

In the two years since the adaptation of Steve Harvey's best-selling book became a "surprise" box-office smash Kevin Hart has gone on to become one of the biggest box-office draws when it comes to comedies. The makers of Think Like A Man Too would have been remiss not to take advantage of that. Don't worry, they do and if you didn't know how big Hart was before you will after this. The pint-sized comedian goes so far as to get his own dancing in his underwear montage that lasts a good two minutes if not more. I'm not saying there is anything wrong with this, I find Hart an appealing and funny guy even if his features haven't been anything special (though I enjoyed his About Last Night re-make much more than I expected). Last summer, the man had a successful stand-up movie run in theaters and any comedian with that kind of power has every right to flex his muscles any way he wants and headlining a summer comedy sequel isn't a bad way to go. While I didn't catch Think Like A Man in its initial theater run the buzz around it was enough to warrant a rental and though I don't remember much of what occurred in that first film the one thing that did pop up as reminiscent as I flipped through info about the sequel was the fun character dynamics that were created. If there was any need for a sequel it would be to further explore the developing relationships between these men and women and to use them as examples to spell out the lessons that I'm assuming Harvey speaks of in his book. Returning screenwriters Keith Merryman and David A. Newman make sure to imbue these little encouragements or lessons through Hart's narration, but it never melds in the way it should. It is almost as if the writers are attempting to say one thing while the actual movie is trying to be another. It isn't obvious that the movie has some kind of identity crisis, but it does become painfully apparent that there is little in the way of genuine emotion going on here. Each of the men are an archetype who play into these manufactured roles that lead to easily overcome obstacles that would never be as effortless were the film grounded in any kind of reality. Think Like A Man Too is a light comedy by nature though and so it plays everything safe, from the jokes to the conflict and thus the result is little more than a colorful distraction. Full review here. D

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