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Monday, May 19, 2014

Some thoughts on Godzilla 2014

I'm going to preface this by saying there's bound to be spoilers ahead. If that thought bothers you, avert your eyes.

That said, this isn't going to be a review or a recap. Just a few thoughts I took away from my screening of the new Godzilla film. I'll start out by saying that overall I enjoyed the film. It's not a Toho Godzilla film, but it's not the Tri-Star Godzilla either. This Godzilla is kind of it's own monster (ha!) and if you go in with that in mind, and you're a fan of kaiju, you're bound to find something you'll like.

The monsters look great...when you can see them. I'm not 100% in love with the design of Godzilla, but it is growing on me. At the very least, it's clearly in the tradition and completely recognizable as a Godzilla. The movement is great and I especially liked how expressive the face and tail were. I really loved when he had to stop and catch his breath while fighting off the MUTOs. It gave the character a bit of vulnerability that I think worked well. The MUTOs were pretty cool, but I couldn't help be reminded of the Heisei Gamera era Gyaos especially when looking at the male MUTO.

The battles were fun to watch. Loved Godzilla's atomic breath. Loved seeing Honolulu, Las Vegas and San Francisco get destroyed. What I didn't like was the way Gareth Edwards filmed some of the battles. For example, you'd see a big, juicy chunk of action, but it's just reflected in a bus window. Or there's the peep booth window effect where just when things are getting good, a door literally closes and the action fades to black. I'm all for teasing it to add tension, but too often I felt let down that Edwards chose a more artsy shot over directly looking at what's going on.

The human element is kind of a problem as well. For me, the best, most fleshed out character was Joe Brody (played by Bryan Cranson) and he got killed off early in the film. His son, Ford (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) is pretty mechanical and barely shows much emotion. The token scientist, Dr. Serizawa (Ken Watanabe,) plays to stereotype, looking shellshocked throughout and warning against using nuclear weapons on the creatures. The military folks are the stereotypical two-dimensional types we see in every kaiju film. Considering the movie focuses so much on the people rather than the monsters, it's surprisingly hard to get very involved in any of their stories. The film touched a bit on the actual human cost of a giant monster battle, which I liked, but, the Heisei Gamera films did it better.

The only other thing I can really think to add at the moment is that this is a pretty dark and serious movie. While Godzilla plays the hero, the mood and tone harkens back to the original Godzilla. It's got a pretty heavy vibe for a film that is based on a pretty silly premise. I think it works, though the sequel ready ending left me a little cold. It'll be interesting to see where Legendary Pictures takes things in that already announced sequel.

Monday, May 05, 2014

Record StoreDay 2014 Wrap-up Part 2

Part one is done, so here's part two. Again sorry for the crap pictures. 

I'd initially passed LCD Soundsystem's The Long Goodbye over thinking I'd get the much cheaper Blu-Ray instead. Then I remembered how concert films usually bore me and decided to pick this up anyway. It's expensive and pressed in a manner that is DJ friendly but a little weird for those of us rocking a solo turntable (odd sides appear on one record, evens in another, so you have to keep changing records.) Still, the performance is pretty epic and if you're a fan, you're going to want this one. 

I have a subscription to Light In The Attic, so I got both their RSD releases as part of that. Sorry to say, as I love this label a lot, I think they kind of dropped the ball this year. Pictured above is Playing Guitar The Easy Way by Michael Chapman. I don't know the back story, so I'mjust going to tell you what I hear. Each track starts out with a couple of scales, then he launches into a kind of typical late 70's folky instrumental thing. Really does nothing much for me, though the package with a big booklet is nice. 

A World of Peace Must Come is a vinyl reissue of LITA's 2008 release by Stephen John Kalinich. Long story short, this was recorded in Brian Wilson's living room and sounds every bit of it. It's half almost madrigal and half hippy dippy spoken word. Maybe I was in a bad mood when I listened to this, but it just was a little too pot and patchouli for my tastes. 

Another label I love did deliver this year. Death Waltz delivered a quartet of their usual cult movie soundtrack goodness, three of which shared the above sleeve. The fourth was In The Wall and looked like this:

Not sure why they did it that way, but there it is. Death Waltz is a label that just gets it. All this year's releases came on cool multi-colored vinyl, had a big poster and 12"x12" slick. They all were pretty good with the 1990: Bronx Warriors soundtrack standing out for me. Good work and well worth the investment. 

Speaking of soundtracks, here's One Way Static's picture disc release of The Last House On The Left. This is an interesting soundtrack, dated to be sure, but if you're into that early 70's vibe, you'll dig it. There's some groovy tunes, some Moog noodling, some hoedown stuff, etc. Noisy, like most picture discs are, but the source material is kind of lo-fi anyway. 

Finally, here's the annual "what was I thinking" pick up. Now, I love Spacemen 3, especially the early stuff. The problem being, the entire contents of this set is readily available on an inexpensive CD, also titled Translucent Flashbacks, where as this three 12" single set ran $80. Ouch. But it did come with a download card, for untagged 128kbp mp3s. In 2014, that's just unacceptable.