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Godzilla_(2014)_posterWhen I was a kid, I used to LOVE Godzilla movies.  Sure I knew it was a guy in a monster suit stomping around on a set, crushing fake buildings and smashing another fake monster to hell and gone, but I still had fun watching them.  But as I got older, they lost their charm.  And then, really awful updates, like the waste of time that starred Matthew Broderick.  Still, boys will be boys, so I wasn’t surprised when the first time my son saw a Godzilla movie, he was hooked.  He started to borrow them from the library.  He would watch them On Demand.  And he would talk about them.  And talk about them.  And talk about them.

So last summer, when he suggested we go see the latest big screen outing of the gigantic lizard at the cheap show, my wife suggested that such a screening fell under my Dadly duty, and that I needed to take one for the team.  So we went.  And much to my surprise, I enjoyed it.

Last night, I watched the Blu-Ray version of this movie again, and again, I enjoyed it.

This movie will never win an Academy Award.  But at the same time, there is no reason to limit oneself only to movies that could.  The medium, at its core, is the exercise of telling a story.  The ones that do this well find a way to invest the audience in the story and in the characters.  That is why certain “franchises” are so successful.  And the latest telling of Godzilla does this in a way that managed to engage both a 14 year old and his 42 year old father.  The former with the unfolding of a mystery surrounding the discovery of evidence of something huge having recently left an underground cavern in the Philippines and the later with the sudden and startling “accident” at a nuclear plant in Japan that forever altered an American family working there, and separated the surviving members of that family with sorrow, regret, and inconsolable loss, which fueled an obsession which was to continue for 15 years.

I don’t think “horror” is the right word to describe the human’s eye views that the viewer is treated to with the unfolding tale of unthinkable monsters set loose upon the modern world.  But you do get to experience, however vicariously, the sense of terror and helplessness of the people in the movie dealing with the negation of technology, and the loss of control that comes with having most of the trappings of modern life rendered inert and useless, as gigantic beings thrash about and destroy the cities these newly primitive people live in.  You share in their wonder as the military very visibly attempts to prepare for the coming of such beasts, as nature itself heralds their arrival.  And I think that is the genius of this movie.  For two hours, it immerses you in the human experience of a world where humans are insignificant to titanic creatures that walk the Earth.  It is a world in which our dominance is swept aside as if it never existed, and suddenly, we don’t even rate as prey for the new masters of the planet.  This is a restoration of the wonders experienced as a child viewing a man in a monster suit, smashing and destroying a model city in to rubble around him, not by looking down, as we did when I was a child, but by looking up, and using the perspective to create a very real, and more tactile sense of terror.

GODZILLA

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Jonah-HexBefore I get started, I have to confess that before I watched this movie, I was prepared to hate it.  The reviews that I was aware of were brutal and punishing, and knowing the treatment that many DC characters had gotten on the big screen, it wasn’t difficult to believe that once again, the Hollywood treatment had messed up yet another in the comic company’s vast pantheon of heroes. I forgot that critics make their bones not by fair reviews, but by bruising ones.  Jonah Hex isn’t The Dark Knight, but it isn’t Green Lantern, either. First, let me say that I was surprised at who was in this movie.  I recall that when it came out, much was made of the inclusion of Megan Fox in the cast.  I’ve never been impressed with her acting skills, or the unscripted words to tumble from her lips, but neither one of those things is why she is cast in movies, and she appears to have been cast in this film for precisely the same reason.  John Malkovich plays the villain, a Confederate general who decided in the late days of the war that civilians were legitimate targets, and who killed Hex’s family in front of him after Hex disobeyed Malkovich’s order to blow up a hospital, and killed Malkovich’s son, who was also his best friend, played by Jeffrey Dean Morgan, after he drew on him.   Other familiar faces in the cast include Will Arnett, Michael Fasbender, and Adian Quinn. The movie opens with Hex, played by Josh Brolin, explaining how he found himself to be better at waging war than he had expected, until he’d made a decision to abide by his conscience, and what that decision had cost him.  That decision also left him with one foot still stuck in the afterlife, and the ability to talk to the dead…a skill that comes in handy in his post-war career as shadowy bounty hunter with a price on his own head.  We soon learn why his own head carries a price, as his aimless existence once again becomes focused when he learns from agents of the US government that the man who took everything from him, played by Malkovich, wasn’t dead after all, and with the aid of a doomsday weapon never built by the Federal government, means to finish the war with the destruction of Washington D.C. on the Fourth of July. The film proceeds to from confrontation to confrontation until Hex finally gets it right, and rids himself, and the world, of his old commanding officer, earning himself a pardon, and an interesting job offer, from the President, played by Aidan Quinn.  I enjoyed Josh Brolin’s portrayal of Hex, a disfigured man shaped by the brutality of war and the loss of his family, who seems at peace with the unusual ability to talk to the dead, and his quick and sometimes humorous responses to the dead, and to the living who are about to join them.  I am aware that this film is sometimes compared to the truly awful big screen adaptation of Wild, Wild West, which I can only assume is because of the doomsday weapon Malkovich intends to use against Washington D.C.   I understand the comparison, but it isn’t a fair one.   The acting is better, the script is more coherent, and Jonah Hex is paced much better than Wild, Wild West. In closing, this is not an edifying film.  You will not become a better person because you watched this movie.  It is not uplifting, although the ending makes clear that Hex understands that he has been given a second chance.  It won’t change your life, and you won’t rave to your friends about how great it is.  But it is a fun movie to watch while eating popcorn, and not taking it, or yourself, too seriously.

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