Wednesday, September 24, 2014

WHAT NO MOTHRA?! Godzilla Sacrifices a Strong Plot to Stay True to the Originals

I had extremely high hopes when it came to the 2014 reboot of Godzilla.  As a kid, I used to watch all the classic Godzilla monster movies with my dad and brother and they were some of the coolest movies I had ever seen.  I always appreciated the fact that at the end of the day, Godzilla is one of the good guys.  The destruction he causes is collateral damage; a necessary evil to prevent the destruction of the world.  After several attempts to recapture the magic of the early Godzilla monster flicks, I had given up hope that we would ever see the blue breath wielding “King of the Monsters” in his true form ever again.  I’m happy to say that this film proved my wrong, but it wasn’t without its faults.
                The films plot centers around Joe Brody, a supervisor at the Janjira Nuclear Plant in Japan and his son Ford.  Over a decade after a mysterious earthquake destroyed the plant, Ford travels back to Japan to assist his father who has been trying for years to determine the true cause of the disaster.  They come to realize that a cover up has been in place and that the “quarantine zone” around the destroyed plant is really a containment area for a “massive, unidentified, terrestrial organism” which the scientists call a “MUTO”.  After the MUTO escapes and a second one emerges thousands of miles away, the military personnel and scientists alike defer to Ishiro Serizawa (played by Ken Watanabe) who is a member of Project Monarch a secretive agency set up in the 1950’s to study Godzilla, a large monster discovered during nuclear testing in the Philippines.  Serizawa insists that Godzilla will help them save the world from the monsters and after much convincing the three titans are allowed to fight it out to the death.
                The film was a massive success in the overall sense.  Similar to the Godzilla films of the 50’s and 60’s, the movie was simply the sudden appearance of two evil monsters and the necessary arrival of Godzilla to preserve balance in the world and destroy them.  Godzilla was back to being the “good guy” so to speak and ends up being cheered on by the very humans who were initially trying to destroy him.  The ending scenes in which Godzilla actually gets down to brawling with the MUTOs are spectacular.  Godzilla looks just like he’s supposed to with the massive stegosaurus-like plates running down his back and the stubby nose and face which look almost canine.  His roar has the same pleasing echo as his earlier counterparts and when he leans back and unleashes his radioactive blue fire breath the movie reaches its cinematic, monster movie apex. 
                However, while plot holes and storyline flaws are easily overlooked in the now campy Godzilla films from 50 years ago, they are harder to get past in today’s modern cinema.  The plot was very chunky and felt like we jumped from one thing to the next almost as if you could tell when one page of the screenplay ended and the next began.  This made the movie feel blocked out and almost episodic, as if it was a miniseries condensed into a feature film.  Brian Cranston plays Joe Brody whose character turns out to be a disappointment rather than a strong focal point which I was really hoping for.  All in all, I felt happy at the end of the film.  I got to see what I wanted which was an accurate portrayal of my favorite movie monster in all his epic glory, destroying the monsters in a heroic battle which looked marvelous with today’s special effects.  I just wish the plot and character development was better thought out.  I would have loved to know more about Project Monarch and Watanabe’s character Serizawa.  But I guess there is always hope for a sequel because as is the case in every true Godzilla movie, the King of the Monsters slowly makes his way back into the deep sea abyss from whence he came waiting until the time he is needed again.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

This Morning's Playlist

1. No Hair No Flair - White Pages
2. Brill Bruisers - The New Pornographers
3. Drown the the Monster - White Lung
4. Cheap Talk - Death From Above 1979
5. Something Came Over Me - Wild Flag

Bob Mould In All His Alternative Glory

Bob Mould has once again succeeded at creating alternative rock gold.  His latest solo album Beauty and Ruin has the same raw intensity seen in his time with Husker Du while maintaining the more alt rock oriented sound of his early solo albums and influential 90’s band Sugar.  The albums 10 tracks combine elements of alternative, punk, grunge, and rock in a way which can best be described as a mash up between the Foo Fighters and Bad Religion if you must draw a comparison.  Lead in track “Low Season” starts with a haunting and mesmerizing guitar riff which navigates slowly through a melancholy drum beat and comes crashing down with the symbols during the chorus setting a dark and mystifying tone which is abandoned on second track “Little Glass Pill” which hits you like a ton of bricks after chilling out to the slow opener.  The tracks fast, punk rock tempo startles you at first but reminds you that this is in fact the ex-guitarist for one of the preeminent 80’s hardcore bands of the Midwest.  “I Don’t Know You Anymore” follows with a more pop rock, radio friendly sound before continuing into “Kid With Crooked Face” which brings us right back to the blistering tempo and punk sound of Glass Pill and ends up sounding the most like Husker Du on the album alongside the later track “Tomorrow Morning”.  “Nemeses are Laughing” comes next and again returns to the radio rock of some of the earlier tracks.  Mould manages to switch back and forth almost seamlessly providing catchy songs for both mainstream rock fans and underground die-hards.  “The War” comes next and is one of the best songs on the album employing a mix of 70’s punk influences and pop rock to craft a sound similar to the Foo’s.  This sound is continued on “Hey Mr. Grey” but not before cooling off, as is the style of the record, with “Forgiveness” a soft rock ballad with no central guitar riff and a xylophone in the background which definitely sounds the most out of place on the record.  The album comes to a close with two songs which again vary greatly in sound while still maintaining a cohesiveness which ties the album together.  “Let the Beauty Be” is an acoustic soft rock gem which calms your pulse before the record finishes with a bang.  Closing track “Fix It” is some incredible alterna-pop and has the best drums out of all 12 songs which is only fitting as any self-respecting rock album should leave your pulse racing at the end.  In the same vein as Ian Mackaye and his band The Evens, Bob Mould has shown that it is not only possible for the early 80’s hardcore sound to evolve and grow over time but that it’s influences can be used to create something totally new which exemplifies the fact that music is too great and varied to restrict yourself to one style.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

First New Album from U2 in Five Years is FREE!!

So it seems that secret albums are all the rage nowadays after Beyonce dropped her self titled new album nearly a year ago.  This week U2 surprised the world with the announcement of a new album now available online and on iTunes which is FREE to download.  This isn't an EP or a single but a full length album, their 13th to date.  Titled "Songs of Innocence" the album has received very positive reviews and lets be honest, it's free music so who cares what it sounds like?

Only Lovers Left Alive - A Different Take on the Vampire Story

                The Vampire story has been done to death (pun intentional).  Movies, TV, books, virtually every platform there is has been dominated in recent memory by peoples fascination with the blood sucking Dracula descendants.  That being said, there are still some films which tackle the genre without giving in to popular demand for violent action sequences like in Underworld, or teen romance and alienation like in Twilight
                Such is the case with the British/German film Only Lovers Left Alive which takes on the vampire myth similar to the first season of True Blood in which the focus is heavily on both the history of the vampires themselves and who they are as people.  The film focuses on Adam and Eve played by Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton.  The couple has lived for centuries and has had a hand in influencing many great works of art and music as well as breakthroughs in the fields of science and technology (Adam’s house in the abandoned slums of Detroit is run by technology he helped develop with Nicola Tesla).  Despite all their achievements, knowledge, and wealth, the two have become increasingly disillusioned with not just life, but humanity as a whole; particularly Adam who frequently refers to humans as “zombies” and sees them as mindless drones incapable of any true creation or discovery.  Adam goes so far as to ask a human boy who routinely acquires rare musical equipment for him to get him a wooden bullet as he sits alone in his home and contemplates suicide.  After a quick video call to his wife Eve who has lived the past several years in Tangier, he convinces her to return from her extended holiday where she has spent time rapidly pouring through endless stacks of books.  The two have moved beyond the need to feed on humans and instead get sustenance from a blood bank where Adam has paid off a doctor.  After increased attention from locals, and an unwelcome visit from Eve’s younger sister Ava who is both immature and unpredictable, the two decide to return to Eve’s home in Tangier.  After arriving the two pay a visit to Eve’s source of blood, an ancient vampire named Christopher Marlowe (played by John Hurt) who gets them their sustenance from various sources.  However, they find a sickly and dying Marlowe in bed after consuming a batch of tainted blood.  Now Adam and Eve, stumbling through the streets in a hunger stricken daze notice a young couple in an alley and realize that there is no escaping what must be done.
           Overall, I did have some problems with the film.  Much of the historical references are difficult to ascertain which coupled with the lack of any sort of vampire activity like feeding on humans makes it hard to see Adam and Eve as vampires and not just reclusive intellectuals.  In addition, when the two consume blood it has a euphoric, almost drug induced effect on them which leads to drawn out scenes of psychedelic dancing and other activities which starts to get a little annoying.  That being said, I understand why the film does it as it shows that at their core, they are still creatures with the primal need to feed on the blood of humans.  Something that is inescapable despite their extremely civilized and intellectual existence. 
           In the end, the film is a very interesting take on the vampire myth and is done in a way that allows you to focus on the experience of a vampire; what their day to day mentality is and what their personality has developed into over centuries of life as opposed to watching them fight werewolves.  While I would have LOVED to see some historical reenactment in the form of flashbacks as I think that is what contributes to some of the greatest vampire movies ever, I still think that there was enough historical reference to keep you smiling.  Only Lovers Left Alive is a film that sacrifices the big budget blockbuster aspects of most vampire stories of today in favor of a more low key love story.  It is simply another chapter in the long lives of these two lovers which we get to look in on, and that is what makes the film so unique.

Today's Playlist

1. Low Season - Bob Mould
2. Dreams - Sebadoh
3. Drunken Butterfly - Sonic Youth
4. A Mirror - Sonic Youth
5. Giving Into Seeing - Cloud Nothings