Godzilla -2014-

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Directed by Gareth Edwards. 123 mins.

Worth my time? Yes. (Seen at Arclight Hollywood)

This film is the best totally unnecessary franchise reboot since 2012’s surprisingly good Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Director Gareth Edwards, who made the decent Monsters for next to nothing in 2010, packs Godzilla with a (relatively) old-fashioned sense of blockbuster awe, coming off as a second-generation Abrams (or third-generation Spielberg). While it’s wise to imitate the best if you’re going to imitate at all, Edwards’ stylistic inspiration is a double-edged sword. For every awesome shot, there’s a distractingly derivative shot of a stoic child looking at an approaching threat (á la Close Encounters, ET, Empire of the Sun, Schindler’s List, War of the Worlds) or some other tired device.

Edwards’ roots in microbudget filmmaking is a blessing and a curse in the execution of the titular monster. While his decision to focus on human drama rather than dumb Bayish or Emmerichian action works more often than not, I think the film is a little too conservative with its use of Godzilla. Like, I don’t need the dude to be in every frame, but may we please have a little more Godzilla? Godzilla appears in Godzilla about as much as Julius Caesar appears in Julius Caesar. He appears late in the game and sporadically from there on out. At least Peter Jackson made King Kong all about Kong once you waited two hours to see him.

Aside: Ken Watanabe and Sally Hawkins do a splendid job of looking eternally incredulous.

Aside: Aren’t we kind of over the insectoid kaiju thing? We’ve already seen Cloverfield and Pacific Rim. Think of something new.

Aside: The opening  music (composed by Alexandre Desplat) and credits are fantastic.

(Seen and written on 2014-05-19)

Blue Jasmine -2013-

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Directed by Woody Allen. 98 mins.

 Worth my time? Yes, but you can pass if you aren’t a fan of Allen and/or delirious women. (Seen at Arclight Hollywood)

 Let me start by personally recommending this film to Ryan Lattanzio, a buddy of mine from college and all-around swell film dude (if you don’t follow him on Twitter, you should).

Ryan: I know you well enough to say with near-certainty that Cate Blanchett’s performance is worth the price of your admission ticket.

 For the rest of the world, I’ll go into further detail.

 Woody Allen’s filmography is a bit like an elderly loved one suffering from Alzheimer’s. The afflicted may have occasional moments of clarity that remind you of everything that made him or her so wonderful in the past, but those are merely interruptions in the degeneration, not improvements. Yet you remain by his or her side, not only out of loyalty, but out of the delights that such moments provide.

 Such is the case with Blue Jasmine. If Midnight in Paris was Allen’s last hurrah in comedy (and judging from To Rome with Love, it probably will be), BJ is how his career in drama goes softly into that good night. It features all of the Allenisms that make you cringe – designer brand-name dropping, ruminations on fate and the starts, interior FUCKIN’ decoration, just to name a few. And, of course, the character age below which Allen can write convincing dialogue continues its ascent. I feel particularly bad for Alden Ehrenreich, cast in the role of Blanchett’s stepson. He’s a very good actor, but we’re the same age, and I have never heard anyone in my generation talk in such a contrived, wooden (or might I say Woody?)* way.

 With the possible exception of this one dude up in Berkeley who thought he was the second coming of Janis Joplin. But there’s always that exception which proves the rule.

 There are some interesting twists and turns in this fable of deception and self-deception, but the main draw is the cast. BJ has the best ensemble of any Allen film since Deconstructing Harry. Longtime Allen casting director Juliet Taylor saves the film by bringing on a bundle of established character actors (Sally Hawkins [she’s close enough to a character actor], Bobby Cannavale, Andrew Dice Clay, Louis C.K., Michael Stuhlbarg). Whether or not you like these players and their respective shticks, it’s nice to see so many people in an Allen film not attempt to imitate the director.

 Blanchett – the titular Jasmine – provides the best performance in an Allen picture in shit-I-don’t-know-how-long. Her character isn’t perfectly written (well, duh), but she does a near-excellent job with the role she has. The result is a believable woman whose slow-motion car crash of a life will make you laugh, but only when it hurts.

 *No, you might not.

 Aside: It’s fascinating finally to see Louis C.K. play a charismatic, sociable character.

 (Seen and originally written on 2013-07-26)