Tuesday, April 6, 2021
Two weird movies are now playing at local theaters. One of them is an arthouse offering that takes some bizarre twists, while another is as big as movies get on the dollars scale. Both...pretty damn weird.
MOVIE REVIEW: GODZILLA VS. KONG
Now Playing at Roadhouse Cinemas and Harkins Tucson Spectrum 18 (also streaming on HBO Max)
The Monsterverse goes full-tilt bonkers with Godzilla vs. Kong, a good enough smackdown between the infamous big boys, as long as they are punching each other or somebody else. As for the humans in this series, I wish they would just shut up.
Well, let’s step back for a second. Gareth Edwards started the Monsterverse in 2014 with his Godzilla, which did fine on the human front because it had Bryan Cranston, albeit only for part of its running time, delivering some real acting. Since Cranston kicked the bucket in the series, the likes of Aaron Taylor Johnson, Millie Bobbie Brown and a confused Sally Hawkins have had to handle the drama, and they, for the most part, have sucked.
Human suckage continues in this installment, with dopey subplots involving Brown, an embarrassed Rebecca Hall and Alexander Skarsgard that provide nothing but opportunities for the producers to save on huge special effects scenes.
As for those, they are some of the best in the franchise. Director Adam Wingard goes for big battles between the monsters in broad daylight and a neon-lit Hong Kong that make the movie totally worth seeing. A few years ago, when this battle was announced, it seemed crazy because Godzilla is so damn gigantic, and King Kong is just a big gorilla.
Kong has been constantly growing over the years and now he is REALLY BIG in this movie, and the matchup definitely comes off as a convincingly equal battle. Yes, Godzilla has the radiation breath, but Kong is squirrely enough to figure out ways to avoid it. Kong can also throw a haymaker that gives Godzilla a definite run for his money. As Wingard promised during the pre-release hype, one of them does fall, but it’s entirely unpredictable which one that will be.
Why are they fighting? Godzilla is pissed that humans are messing with his status as the King of Monsters by building a Mechagodzilla, so he’s running around the planet pissed off and destroying cities. In addition to that, he wants to be the top dog, so the still alive and, for some reason, sheltered by humans Kong is also on his radar. When they eventually meet, Godzilla is definitely the “bad guy.”
There’s some nonsense involving the hollow earth and Kong’s birthplace. There’s some sort of energy source down there that humans need, so everybody races into the earth in futuristic cars after tricking Kong to get sucked down there first. This stuff is nutty and handled poorly. The film suffers from taking these plot elements too seriously and melodramatically. If anything, the writers should’ve gone for a crazier, even comedic tone with these scenes. As they stand, they just distract from the fun.
As for this film’s ranking in the Monsterverse, the first Godzilla is still the best of the bunch, followed by Kong Skull Island, Godzilla vs. Kong and Godzilla: King of the Monsters. King of the Monsters is a truly bad film, while the others get passing grades.
There’s no telling where the series goes from here now that the two stars have battled. Perhaps Godzilla vs. Kong 2, 3, 4 and 5 are on the way? Now that the two have faced each other, the idea of Godzilla fighting another moth or giant lizard sounds boring. I’m calling for a prequel where humans are just cave dwellers, and the monsters just stomp on them and use them as hors d'oeuvres for their monster parties.
MOVIE REVIEW: FRENCH EXIT
Now playing at Harkins Tucson Spectrum 18
Director Azazel Jacobs has delivered a slow, somber and ultimately bizarre affair with French Exit, a movie made watchable thanks to the strong work of Michelle Pfeiffer as Frances, a socialite who runs out of money, then runs off to Paris to live rent-free in a friend's apartment, her wayward son (Lucas Hedges) along for the ride.
The money has disappeared a few years after the death of husband and father Franklin, whose soul has seemingly transferred into a black tabby named Frank, always at Frances' side. This leads to some seance chats with the real Franklin that indicate the soul in the cat is real, so let's just accept it. It's not played for laughs, either. The cat is a vessel for a dead guy, which is pretty funny.
Pfeiffer embraces the weirdness, and the sadness of it all, to deliver some of her best work in years. Hedges, always good, gets a less showier role, along with Imogen Poots as his annoyed girlfriend. The film requires some patience in that it drags in parts, but it always comes back to life thanks to Pfeiffer.