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By midlandsmovies, May 31 2019 07:40AM



Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019) Directed by Michael Dougherty


OH NO! THERE GOES TOKYO, GO GO GODZILLA!


When the 2014 Godzilla came out, audiences had two big criticisms: firstly, that Godzilla was chunkier than expected, and secondly that he wasn’t on-screen nearly long enough.


With this year’s Godzilla: King of Monsters, director Michael Doherty certainly can’t be accused of holding him back – there’s plenty of the big green guy on show as he smashes his way through buildings and throws down to show the roster of revived kaiju who’s boss. He’s also no less hench this time around, as his neck seems to have disappeared completely. I’m not body-shaming, he looks great!


Set five years after Godzilla duked it out with the MUTOs in San Francisco, the film follows estranged couple Emma (Vera Farmiga) and Mark (Kyle Chandler) along with their daughter Madison (Millie Bobby Brown). Emma is a scientist at Monarch, the global organisation introduced in the first film as the people charged with finding and researching Godzilla and the other Titans.


Mark left the organisation and retired after their son died at the hands (or feet) of Godzilla, but when a group of eco-terrorists (led by the always-great Charles Dance) kidnap Emma and Madison and threaten to unleash the Titans upon the world, he’s out of retirement to rescue them faster than you can say ‘that trope is so old it’s got false teeth in’.


Ken Watanabe and Sally Hawkins reprise their roles from the first film, but are relegated to side-kicks and exposition providers; one of the film’s most awkward moments has Chandler explaining Godzilla’s motives and how to handle him to Watanabe, who’s been established as having been researching and hunting for Godzilla for decades. Having the American man school the Japanese man on Godzilla of all things makes for uncomfortable viewing!


The actors all put in terrific performances, especially Farmiga and Brown, though I could have done with more Charles Dance because I love him very much. The film really hits it stride when all hell breaks loose and the Titans clash as the trailer promised that they would. The plot may have had some structural weaknesses, but it’s clear that this part of the film is what the filmmakers wanted to focus on; big monsters knocking the crap out of each other.


The effects are superb, as you would expect, with Godzilla and Rodan especially characterful. It’s easy to see these creatures as individuals with personalities rather than just dumb beasts with a penchant for stepping on people. I watched this in the IMAX and the film really makes use of that, especially in the battle scenes; make sure you see this on the biggest screen possible. The 3D feels tacked-on and unnecessary, though, as it was barely utilised at all; in fact it often set the actors apart from the action in a way that made me unconsciously aware of how the actors are acting against a green screen.


The film is far from perfect; certain characters deserved better treatment, the plot is hokey an predictable at times and there’s an alarming dynamic of White Heroes and Sidekicks of Colour (all the people of colour in the film are subordinate to the main heroes), but if you disengage your brain and go in expecting a fun spectacle where big monsters smash things up then you won’t leave disappointed. Plus it sets up next year’s Godzilla vs Kong quite neatly.


★★★½


Sam Kurd

Twitter @splend


By midlandsmovies, Feb 13 2018 03:52PM



The Shape of Water (2018) Dir. Guillermo del Toro


Sally Hawkins plays Elisa, a mute janitor at a secret government facility who begins to bond with a strange water-based creature in The Shape of Water – a new fantasy romance from creative force Guillermo del Toro.


Like the much lauded Pan's Labyrinth, Del Toro’s new film crosses the historical with the unbelievable and the director also mixes cold-war fears with a timeless love in a tale like no other. The story begins in 1962 when American Colonel Richard Strickland (Michael Shannon adding another fantastic villain to his career) brings a human-like water creature to the facility and cruelly tortures it in an attempt to discover any secrets this animal may have in their battle against the Russians.


Del Toro’s simple camera moves and basic structure give a pureness to the film allowing the subtle layers and themes of isolation, technology and communication to come to the forefront. Like all his films, this simplicity also harks back to his love of fairy tale myths. In this movie he punctuates the screen with colours of green and images of eggs – a symbol as much of creation and fertility as it is the cracked nature of Humpty Dumpty.


Hawkins’ Elisa secretly communicates via sign language which helps her bond with the creature – and whose familiarity to Abe Sapien from del Toro’s Hellboy films does not go unnoticed – and the swamp-man responds to her affections in the face of Shannon’s awful villain.


The great and deep characterisation continues as Elisa is quiet, but not lonely as such, with her being acknowledged at work and having a variety of friends including Richard Jenkins as Giles and Octavia Spencer as her fellow janitor, and sometimes interpreter, Zelda.


The symbolism continues as even her surname (Esposito) has etymological links to being an orphan as well as deriving from the Latin exponere ("to place outside"). It’s even claimed she was found by the river in an obvious parallel. During the blossoming connection we see Elisa masturbating in her bath and the great nuanced screenplay doesn’t shy away from covering themes of masculinity and femininity. Shannon’s excellent turn as the antagonist is pure male villainy yet his physical prowess take a hammering as he loses a phallic finger in an attack from the creature.


As well as sex, there are underlying nods to race and integration that echo the changing nature of society at the time - with the repressive 50s making way for equal-rights, sexual freedom and the burgeoning technology of the 60s. People begin to challenge the fact they are spoken to like second-class citizens whilst Giles loses his advertising design job in the face of photography. More obvious themes come in the form of the space-race and the rivalry between USA and Russia. This is personified by the fantastic Michael Stuhlbarg as Dr. Robert Hoffstetler, a caring scientist whose allegiances are less than clear cut.


With the inclusion of some poetic violence and exciting chase sequences there are arguments that it is unnecessary violent at times but like the best fairy tale stories it has a contrast between light and dark. The expressive dainty and subtle harp music may feel quaint at times but gives the film an ethereal quality and is broken up by loud gunshots and bloody encounters.


We mustn’t forget Doug Jones in all this as the ‘Amphibian Man’ as well. He mimes his way through heavy prosthetics to give the character plenty of feeling and empathy but it’s Sally Hawkins who really is the main draw here. Without verbal language at her disposal, her body movement, eyes and the physicality she gives to the role is key to the film’s winning charm.


Del Toro’s always had a flair for the colourful and enjoys the mix of reality and dream worlds. Yet after a few throwaway gems like Crimson Peak and Pacific Rim, he has hooked all the prize pieces together in this film. A fishy fable like no other, the stupendous Shape of Water is as simple as a child’s story yet at the same time goes to depths only a master filmmaker of del Toro’s skill can reach.


8/10


Midlands Movies Mike



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