Godzilla: The History and Future of the King of the Monsters 0 42

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New to the website in 2015, this is a guest post by Maria Ramos.

Godzilla: Reigning Again

Godzilla is the king of all monster movies and with recently confirmed rumors that Toho (the company that produced the 1954 original) will be making a new Godzilla film in 2016, there are high hopes and standards. In preparation for the release of the new movie, it’s necessary that we take a look back at the original and examine some important aspects that really made the movie and the creature’s ongoing reign so legendary.

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Giant Strange Creature

Gojira (or Godzilla in English) first appeared in Japan in 1954 and was produced by Toho, who later made many sequels and spinoffs. Godzilla is a “daikaiju,” – “dai” meaning “giant” and “kaiju” meaning “strange creature” – and is one of the first of its kind. Some other prime examples are Mothra and Mechagodzilla, both of whom co-starred with Godzilla in different Toho films. Kaiju is often used to refer to “tokusatsu,” a Japanese term that applies to film or television that uses special effects. Literally translated, it means “special filming.” Kaiju often includes monsters attacking Japanese cities or engaging in battle with other monsters, both of which Godzilla has been and remains an expert at.

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A Nuclear Weapon

In 1945, during the final stages of World War II, the United States dropped atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, killing more than 120,000 people. Come 1954, the Japanese were still left with an open and festering wound and it was an accidental hydrogen bomb testing in Japan that inspired Godzilla. In Godzilla, the monster is said to be awakened as a result of repeated nuclear tests, evident in his atomic breath which releases nuclear blasts. In the original film, we can see that Godzilla is a strong metaphor for nuclear weapons, destroying everything in his path and killing all those he can. In some later movies, however, this important metaphor was dropped in favour of portraying him as a hero.

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King of the Monsters Worldwide

An altered version of Godzilla, renamed Godzilla, King of the Monsters!, was released in American theaters in 1956. This version was heavily re-edited and lacked the political and anti-nuclear themes that the original so clearly presented. The American film lost the significance of Godzilla and what it represented entirely and erased evidence of the monster being a symbol of the United States’ nuclear weapons. Possibly the most significant change in this American version was that it featured a new protagonist, an American journalist named Steve Martin (Raymond Burr), who investigates a series of disasters happening in Tokyo. Later he discovers Godzilla, who was awakened by repeated H-bomb testings. Despite the completely revamped way it was presented, it was a big success in the United States and earned positive reviews. It remains immensely popular throughout the US, from marathons on DirecTV in Pennsylvania to matinee screenings in Chicago.

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The Godzilla Franchise and Future Movies

Sequels such as Godzilla Raids Again, King Kong vs. Godzilla, Godzilla vs. Mothra, and Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla are only a few of the films spawned from the original. It has been one of the longest running movie series since the fifties, with 28 officially released Japanese productions and six American ones, one of which was the 1998 disaster movie (in all senses of the word) so hated by the Japanese that they made a film, Godzilla: Final Wars, in which the proper Godzilla fought and defeated the weak Americanized version by throwing him into the Sydney Opera House!

In addition to Toho’s new film in 2016, Warner Brothers will be releasing a sequel to their successful 2014 Godzilla remake – currently entitled Godzilla 2, although I’m sure they will add a colon in there somewhere – in summer 2018 with director Gareth Edwards reportedly returning. It will supposedly feature other giant monsters such as Mothra, Rodan, and King Ghidorah. However, it is Toho’s Godzilla that monster movie fans are especially excited about. This is not a surprise considering the company created one of the best monster movies of all time.

It seems like Gojira will very much reign again!

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Movie Review: Home Again 0 203

This review was previously published at The National.

Despite an obviously talented leading lady in Reese Witherspoon and a family pedigree behind the camera in making this sort of rom-com flutter sweetly off the screen, Home Again struggles to finds its way out of cloying cliché and narrative contrivance.

This is the directorial debut of Hallie Myers-Shyer, daughter of genre stalwart Nancy Meyers (The Holiday, What Women Want). It focuses on the life of Alice Kinney (Witherspoon), a single mum who has just turned 40 and tries her best to raise her two daughters Isabel (Lola Flanery) and Rosie (Eden Grace Redfield) in Los Angeles with her job as an interior decorator.

Freshly separated from her British music mogul husband Austen (Michael Sheen), she embarks on a drunken birthday night celebration that leads to her meeting a trio of 20-something lads – Harry (Pico Alexander), George (Jon Rudnitsky) and Teddy (Nat Wolff) – who are trying their best to break into the Hollywood movie business.

The young men improbably end up staying in Alice’s guest house while they work on finishing the script for their first film. Before long they become an integral part of her life, from Alice embarking on a romantic relationship with Harry to George helping out Isabel with her school play. To quote the title of the director’s mother’s 2009 film – it’s complicated.

Except the film mistakes the kind of enjoyably frothy complexity exemplified by the best of the genre for skin-clawing convolution that renders much of the romantic and comedically-tinged drama of Alice’s life lacking in authenticity. Not that it needs the ring of truth that comes with, say, a Ken Loach picture but you need to be able to invest and believe in these characters’ lives as presented.

The approach to gender and generational relationships is simplistic which, of course, is nothing new to a genre that, at least in its Hollywoodized state, so often throws up films meant to be taken as easy-going fluff. But it’s particularly frustrating here when it squanders the potential thrown up with the initial concept of a woman trying to find herself again once she’s out of a stale relationship by entering into one with a much younger man.

It strangely seems far more interested in the plight of the three young men working as three cogs of one creative machine – director/producer, writer and actor – to get ahead in the movie business.  But even then it smacks of implausibility, like a cheap rom-com version of the bromance found in Entourage but without any of the snarky wit or Hollywood satire. Despite decent chemistry between a likeable assembled cast, Home Again is a tough pill to swallow as it rings false through and through.

3.5 out of 10

Movie Review: Goodbye Christopher Robin 0 227

This review was previously published at The National.

The world of celebrated children’s author A. A. Milne and the creation of his beloved Winnie the Pooh stories are chronicled in this frightfully polite biopic from director Simon Curtis (My Week with Marilyn) that flirts with dipping its toes into darker waters but steadfastly clings to safe tropes and always with its top button firmly fastened.

We start off in 1941 where we find an ageing Milne (Domhnall Gleeson in questionable make-up and greyed hair) and his wife Daphne (Margot Robbie) living on their secluded East Sussex farm. They receive a telegram informing them that their son, C.R. Milne, is missing presumed dead after heading off to fight in World War Two.

We then jump back in time to Milne on the front lines of the First World War. He returns from the fighting a changed man; suffering from PTSD (popped balloons evoking sudden gunfire et al.), becoming increasingly sick of just making people laugh with his West End plays and the general hustle-bustle that comes with big city life.

He convinces his reluctant wife to move to the country for some peace and quiet and where his infant son, Christopher Robin (played by Will Tilston at the younger age, Alex Lawther as he gets older), can go on the childhood adventures he deserves with the support of loving nanny Olive (Kelly Macdonald).

Settling into the kind of serene life he craves, he is inspired to create Winnie the Pooh and the rest of his soon-to-be-beloved friends inspired by the stuffed animals with which his young son has become so enamoured. Unfortunately for Christopher – referred to by everyone as “Billy Moon” – his father uses his real name in the stories, turning him into one of the most famous boys in the nation.

Despite the obvious attraction of it exploring the world famous Pooh stories, it’s a film much more interested in the effect it has on a fractured family clinging on to peacefulness, not least the unwanted attention thrust upon a young boy who simply isn’t equipped to handle it and how his parents carry on oblivious.

If anything it takes a curiously bleak outlook on what these stories mean to the world once they’ve been put out there, conveying a somewhat confusing message for a film that ultimately wants us to celebrate these stories as immortally cherished tales; that the Winnie the Pooh embraced immediately by the public and has now stood the test of time for almost a century is in some way missing the point of what it truly means to the author and a son who, inadvertently or not, was used as a tool of innocence to sell the idea of an idyllic childhood in Milne’s Hundred Acre Wood.

It’s bolstered by almost uniformly moving performances; Gleeson plays Milne with a kind of damaged empathy that makes you feel like you get to know the author beyond the public persona. Macdonald is oftentimes heart-breaking as Christopher’s devoted caregiver and Tilston walks away with the film as the adorably sweet-natured young Christopher. It’s only with Robbie that the film makes a misstep; she’s miscast as Milne’s wife and never stepping out of the shadow of cold motherly cliché.

In spite of its darker leanings, the film remains too buttoned up to properly wrestle with those themes in any sort of lasting way, far too polite to ever dive head first into the murky waters into which the drama intermittently peers.

Wrapped in Ben Smithard’s handsomely old-fashioned cinematography and soaked in Carter Burwell’s perpetually swelling score, it’s an aesthetically and emotionally appealing but nevertheless fairly vanilla period biopic best suited to being enjoyed on a rainy Sunday afternoon with tea and biscuits.

6.5 out of 10