Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019)

Director: Michael Dougherty

Cast: Kyle Chandler, Vera Farmiga, Millie Bobby Brown, Bradley Whitford, Sally Hawkins, Charles Dance, Thomas Middleditch, Aisha Hinds, O’Shea Jackson Jr., David Straithairn, Ken Watanabe, Ziyi Zhang

Screenplay: Michael Dougherty, Zach Shields

132 mins. Rated PG-13 for sequences of monster action violence and destruction, and for some language.

 

The MonsterVerse is one of the more successful cinematic universe to rise out of the shadow of Marvel, probably the fourth best one after the MCU, the DCEU, and The Conjuring Universe. It’s also the one that feels more easily connected, but it also feels like if has nowhere to go after next year’s Godzilla vs. King Kong. That is, until King of the Monsters blew open the floodgates for franchise expansion.

It’s been five years since Godzilla faced off against the MUTOs, and the world has been trying to recover, until a group of eco-terrorists under the command of Alan Jonah (Charles Dance, Gosford Park, Johnny English Strikes Again) kidnap Dr. Emma Russell (Vera Farmiga, Up in the Air, Annabelle Comes Home) and her daughter Madison (Millie Bobby Brown, TV’s Stranger Things) with the intention of using them to help wake up the numerous Titans slumbering all around the world. Now, Emma’s ex-husband Mark (Kyle Chandler, Argo, First Man) has been tasked by MONARCH to help track them down, but he wants nothing to do with Titans after the death of his son during the attacks of 2014. He is forced to come to terms with his hatred for Godzilla as the Titans keep waking up, from the fiery Rodan to the great alien beast King Ghidorah, in order to stop them and save the human race from possible extinction at the hands of the kaiju.

Godzilla 2014 had a problem with the handling of the title creature. Godzilla movies actually do not feature a lot of the great kaiju, but when he is used, it is wonderful. The way Godzilla was hidden for a bulk of the film didn’t work all that well for me, so I’m glad to report that King of the Monsters puts those kaiju on display from the opening scene to the epic finale. In fact, while I liked the previous Godzilla film, it seems like all the problems of the last film are somewhat corrected or at least bettered by King of the Monsters.

The human characters are nothing really special in the sequel, but compared to the human story of the first film, I prefer this rag-tag group of monster hunters trying to track the kaiju awakenings around the work. From Chandler’s Mark to returning favorites Dr. Vivienne Graham (Sally Hawkins, The Shape of Water, Paddington 2) and Dr. Ishiro Serizawa (Ken Watanabe, The Last Samurai, Pokemon: Detective Pikachu). I at least generally liked this group of humans, and I wanted to see them succeed, with one exception.

The way Emma’s character is written is downright terrible. It would be nearly impossible for her character arc to work well given the arc she is given, and Farmiga does what she can in the role, but the character just flat-out doesn’t work, and it takes a lot out of the film given that she’s one of our human leads.

Thankfully, though, this Godzilla movie is about the kaiju, and that’s what really matters. Looking back at the mission statement of this site, to look at what a film is trying to accomplish, King of the Monsters is about the kaiju, and for that, the films works quite well. Godzilla has a fully realized arc, and he is most definitely the king and star of the film. Where director Michael Dougherty (Trick ‘r Treat, Krampus) shines here is that he gives great attention and love to the lore of the Godzilla expanded franchise. He picks his versions of each of the kaiju quite well, especially where he takes on Mothra. Mothra can be a trickier kaiju to stay grounded with because of all the mythos of the character, but Doughtery showcases his love of this world with his incredible attention to detail.

Dougherty’s favorite kaiju is Rodan, and he takes the opportunity to include the famed creature in his film. The only problem is that Rodan has such a rich history and stands as a kaiju I really love, and I don’t think it has any purpose in this film. For a character with such an interesting background, Rodan could be a film’s main antagonist, but in this film, it stands as just another lackey of Ghidorah, and I didn’t like the way it was put in the film. It could’ve been replaced with just about any other kaiju and the film would feel the exact same.

The director and his co-screenwriter Zach Shields had to expand upon this world, and in that way, the world feels extremely well expanded for future films. There are so many kaiju in the film, and they are merely cameos or introductions to monsters we may see in future films, but the groundwork has been laid quite well. I can see a lot of possibilities for the future of this cinematic universe, using both established characters or the new ones created in this film. It even nicely lays the groundwork for the next film in the franchise without forcing it by introducing the idea that MONARCH has been following Kong’s life since Skull Island. This is a problem tackled in this film that many fledgling cinematic universes can’t get past. BvS and Iron Man 2 tried to shoehorn a cinematic universe together with references and connections abound, and it could have buried their universe. The Mummy tried to do all that in the first film and killed its franchise. What needs to be done is to make a fun and entertaining experience first, and give blink-and-you’ll-miss-it details next while using your credits to set up the future. That’s why I never understood the aversion to post-credits scenes after the success of the MCU. It’s like a teaser for what comes next without ending every film on a cliffhanger. King of the Monsters is one of the most successful universe-building installments ever.

Dougherty has fun with the film because he understands the tone of his stories, and that’s what has made him such a fun storyteller to watch, from his work on Trick ‘r Treat to Krampus, he’s just a blast of a filmmaker. He finally used the Blue Oyster Cult song Godzilla, and he used it well!

Godzilla: King of the Monsters is a better film than its predecessor, and while it doesn’t perfect the art of kaiju films with its occasionally flawed characters and reliance on spectacle over story, it’s a damn fun movie, one that kept me looking on with childhood glee and praising its visual sense and creative creature design. This is a fun movie, done.

 

3.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Jordan Vogt-Roberts’s Kong: Skull Island, click here.

For my review of Gareth Edwards’s Godzilla, click here.

Pokemon: Detective Pikachu (2019)

Director: Rob Letterman

Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Justice Smith, Kathryn Newton, Suki Waterhouse, Omar Chaparro, Chris Geere, Ken Watanabe, Bill Nighy

Screenplay: Dan Hernandez, Benji Samit, Rob Letterman, Nicole Perlman

104 mins. Rated PG for action/peril, some rude and suggestive humor, and thematic elements.

 

After decades of waiting, a live-action Pokemon movie exists, and it follows Ash Ketchum from Pallet Town as he…wait? It doesn’t? Then who’s it about? Detective Pikachu? Seriously? Okay, let’s start this one again.

Tim Goodman (Justice Smith, Paper Towns, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom) works in the high-stakes world of insurance, and he has no interest in being a Pokemon trainer, but when Tim learns of his father’s death, he goes to Ryme City to settle things. When Tim arrives at his father’s apartment, he comes across a Pikachu (Ryan Reynolds, Deadpool, The Croods) sporting detective wear and claiming to belong to Harry, Tim’s father. The crazy thing is that he and the Pikachu completely understand each other as if they’re speaking the same language. Pikachu wants to solve the case of Harry’s possible murder, but he has amnesia and doesn’t remember anything. The two unlikely heroes join forces to find the culprits, and their search brings them to a conspiracy neither one ever expected.

I was really disappointed to hear that the first live-action Pokemon movie would be a Detective Pikachu movie, mostly because there was so much material to be mined in the Pokemon Universe, and choosing to focus on a game that was largely unreleased in North America until recently seemed like a really odd choice. Then, I heard Ryan Reynolds was voicing Pikachu and I got really concerned. It seemed to me like this whole franchise was coming together in a really bad way. Then, the poster looked okay. Then, the trailer looked silly, but it also looked like fun, so I became increasingly excited about the prospect of a Detective Pikachu movie, but there was still that lingering confusion as to the narrative purpose of a Detective Pikachu movie. It was only after seeing the film that I got it. There is a very important narrative purpose to this movie, and while I still would have like to see a straight-forward Pokemon adventure, Detective Pikachu is a great introductory course for Pokemon fans, and it has the potential to bring in a lot of new fans.

For the most part, Ryan Reynold’s voice work is pretty solid for him and the writing gives him a lot to play with. His chemistry as a CG-character actually melded pretty well with Justice Smith’s Tim. Their central relationship is the reason for watching the movie, as many of the secondary characters serve a purpose to that central relationship but little else.

Director Rob Letterman (Monsters vs. Aliens, Goosebumps) injected a lot of little references and visually appealing fan moments into the movie. I had some concern about the use of legendary characters like Mewtwo in this movie, and how they would be incorporated in an interesting way, and overall, it was mostly done with care. Again, the whole Mewtwo has a purpose in the film and a narrative reason to appear, albeit a thin one. What’s great is that, even with Mewtwo, his lore from the animated films and games appears to be intact and built into the character’s past. That’s one of reasons that I couldn’t look away from the screen during the movie. I have been a Pokemon fan since it hit stateside, and I was glued to the screen for every little CG critter to show up.

The biggest flaw of the film is that it caters to one demographic age range, which was a silly choice. This is a kid’s movie, and before you say DUH! I want to say that Pokemon, as a franchise is now multi-generational, much like the Toy Story movies. Kids who grew up with Pokemon when it started are not adults with their very own children, and if Detective Pikachu aimed their narrative at both kids and adults, it would have been more successful. I had a lot of fun watching, but the plotting was a little simplistic and I put it together rather easily. The final turn of the film surprised me a bit, and it was a good little hook to the narrative, but the overarching plotline was rather simplistic. Too much so.

Pokemon: Detective Pikachu now holds the distinction of being the best video game movie ever, at least from a critical viewpoint, and I truly enjoyed it. It’s the kind of movie that Pokemon fans will like and non-Pokemon fans can at least understand. It’s plot is a little too rudimentary, but the central comradery between Pikachu and Tim is strong enough to carry, and it has plenty of cute little monsters to keep the spectacle alive.

 

3.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my theory involving Detective Pikachu’s connection to Home Alone, click here.

[Box Office Report] Aladdin Grants a Memorial Day Wish for Earnings

Memorial Day weekend just ended here in the United States, and the four-day box office earnings have come out, and it looks like Disney’s newest live-action redo Aladdin has unsurprisingly taken the top spot with $112.7 million, but what is surprising is how much it made this weekend, even with trailer criticism and rumors of problems on set surfaced for months leading up to its release. The film initially garnered good reviews from critics which have somewhat middled-out since its premiere. The $112.7 was not enough to unseat Disney’s own Memorial Day weekend record of $139 million with Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End. It looks like people are willing to give Disney a chance on Aladdin. I personally thought the trailers looked fun, and I wasn’t going to give into trolls and critics on Will Smith’s take on the Genie because it is unfair to compare him to the late great Robin Williams and his classic vocal performance.

John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum held onto #2 this weekend with $31 million. The dropoff wasn’t terrible for the Keanu Reeves action film which is celebrating its best box office run in the series still. John Wick 4 has already been officially greenlit and will open in theaters in 2021, so don’t be too concerned for the John Wick franchise. This newest installment boasts some of the most intense and gripping action ever put to film, even if the story isn’t as strong as the original’s.

Avengers: Endgame took third place this weekend with $22.3 million. The long-awaited end to the Infinity Saga edges ever closer to Avatar’s worldwide record gross, but I doubt it will have the legs to make it past the James Cameron-directed sci-fi epic. The only factor still at play for the MCU’s latest is a possible bump when Spider-Man: Far From Home drops, but will it be enough?

In fourth this weekend is Pokemon: Detective Pikachu with $17 million. I was still hoping that the first live-action Pokemon film would have performed better, but give the hesitancy to see video game movies and the juggernaut of Endgame, I think the studio should still be proud of Detective Pikachu’s run. You also have to remember that Detective Pikachu was a popular game in Japan, but I’m pretty sure it didn’t even hit stateside until 2018.

The horror-film take on the superhero myth, Brightburn, opened in fifth place this weekend with $9.5 million, below forecast. Both this film and Booksmart took in less-than-stellar hauls, but I think timing on release was a problematic factor. There’s just too much out there right now and people made decisions with their dollars.

This weekend, I didn’t get a chance to nab any of the new releases mentioned here. I was only able to catch the somewhat wider release for the Ralph Fiennes-directed The White Crow. What did you see this weekend? Did you pick with your dollars? Let me know/Drop a comment below!

 

-Kyle A. Goethe

[The Untruth] The Pokemon, Home Alone, and Seinfeld Cinematic Universe

This is The Untruth, a new series of articles examining the craziest theories I have come up while watching movies. But it’s all true, I swear!

Today, we will be examining how the Pokemon Universe actually contains Home Alone and Seinfeld.

I saw Pokemon: Detective Pikachu recently (actual review coming soon), and there two moments that stood out to me. Actually, there were probably a hundred moments, but we are just going to focus on two. The first moment happens when Tim Goodman returns to his father’s apartment to clean it out, and the second is a shared moment in a supply closet/office between Pikachu and Psyduck. Follow me here…

 

Point #1: Angles with Filthy Souls

Tim Goodman arrives at his dead father’s apartment to clean up and get it over with. As he enters the apartment, he hears something playing on the television. His father’s television is playing Angels with Filthy Souls, an old mobster noir film. This film appears in Home Alone as well.

You say, “Big whoop! It’s a classic mobster movie, isn’t it?”

Here’s the ticket: Angels with Filthy Souls isn’t a real movie. It was a fake film only created by the production team behind Home Alone. So if it isn’t real except in the world of Home Alone, then obviously Pokemon: Detective Pikachu exists in that world.

POINT MADE!

 

Okay, okay, okay, but it’s probably just a little fun easter egg for the fanbase, right?

Wrong! Careful consideration was put into placing Angels with Filthy Souls into Pokemon: Detective Pikachu. Sure, it’s a reference to noir films that Harry Goodman liked so much to watch, but is it really? Because according to the Home Alone wiki, the film only really has one scene of note, and it features two gangsters in a duel of wits and weapons. Even the sequel, Angels with Even Filthier Souls, doesn’t feature detectives, nor does the actual film that the title is based on, Angels with Dirty Faces. If it’s only there to denote the noir detective story that Detective Pikachu is, then why not use the myriad of other noir detective films of merit, like The Big Heat or Out of the Past, both featuring great detective characters.

So the choice to put Angels with Filthy Souls on the screen was deliberately to reference Home Alone, not the detective subgenre of noir. Therefore, it exists only in a world where Angels with Filthy Souls exist: The Home Alone Pokemon Cinematic Universe, or The HAPCU.

POINT DEFENDED!

But wait, there’s more…

 

Point #2: Serenity Now, Insanity Later

For those of you that do not spend a lot of time in the Pokemon Universe, Psyduck, the Pokemon partner of Lucy Stevens, is a Pokemon with a lot of power, but in the film, we see that Psyduck’s power breaks free when it becomes too stressed. Pikachu knows this, and tries to calm the concerned and frustrated Psyduck down by saying “Serenity Now” to it.

You say, “Big whoop! I’ve heard people say that before, what of it?”

Here’s the ticket: The phrase Serenity Now only entered the lexicon in the last twenty-some years. Where did it come from? Seinfeld, a show about nothing. Okay, so what does this mean? It means that Pikachu would have to exist in a world with Seinfeld, because there’s no other explanation for this phrasing’s inclusion in the film.

POINT MADE!

 

But I’m not done here, folks…

Because it is possible that the fictional version of Jerry Seinfeld from the television series doesn’t exist in the HAPCU, but instead is a show within the universe. Why would this matter? Because there is another piece of pop culture that contains Seinfeld as an in-universe show. What’s that, you ask?

Curb Your Enthusiasm.

 

Point #3: A pretty…pretty…pretty good argument.

Throughout Curb Your Enthusiasm’s Nine-Season run on HBO (with reportedly more on the way), we’ve seen the fictional version of Larry David credited and known for creating Seinfeld with Jerry Seinfeld. So just like the argument for Angels with Filthy Souls being a fictional film within the Home Alone franchise and the Pokemon franchise, Seinfeld is a fictional show in the Pokemon franchise and the Curb Your Enthusiasm series. If that is indeed the case (which it is), then Pikachu would have to have seen Seinfeld, the television series, created by the Larry David of Curb Your Enthusiasm.

Therefore, Pokemon exists in the same universe as Curb Your Enthusiasm.

POINT MADE AND DEFENDED!

 

So what does it all mean?

It means that Pokemon: Detective Pikachu has constructed a fictional universe which contains Kevin McCallister, Larry David, and a talking sentient Pikachu who solves crimes and loves coffee. The Home Alone Pokemon Curb Your Enthusiasm Cinematic Universe, or the HAPCYEUCU for short.

-It means that, if Kevin really wanted to defend his home from the Wet Bandits, he need only a Charizard.

-It means that, if the Wet Bandits really wanted to rob the McCallister home, they could’ve used a Gengar with much better results.

-It means that, if Jerry Seinfeld really wanted to put his girlfriend to sleep so he can play with her toys, he should catch a Jigglypuff and have it sing to her.

-It means that, if Larry David really wanted to use the carpool lane at all times, he should catch a Ditto and then have it transform into a passenger.

 

It’s all so simple now!

And the most important thing, It’s The Untruth. All of it. I swear.

 

-Kyle A. Goethe

[Box Office Report] John Wick Takes the Avengers Out

So consider this your box office report.

The weekend numbers are rolling in and it sounds like the Avengers have been taken out of the top spot domestically by John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum. The third film in the John Wick franchise earned $57 million dollars. This is a huge increase from the opening numbers for the second film and sure signs that audiences are still turning out huge for Keanu Reeves and his master killer. It’s no surprise that the film is set to do well with critics (see Rotten Tomatoes) and fans (see Cinemascore) praising the film.

I wouldn’t be too concerned for Avengers: Endgame, though, with taking second place this weekend. The film brought in $29 million and has passed Avatar at the domestic box office. I’m officially off the certainty wagon for the film’s chances to pass Avatar at the worldwide take, but either way, this one is going to a close race. Domestically, though, Endgame sits behind The Force Awakens for the #1 domestic of all time, a feat which I also do not believe it has the stamina for. I think the deciding factor will be Endgame’s legs and resurgence once Spider-Man: Far From Home comes out.

In third is Pokemon: Detective Pikachu, bringing in $24 million and now sitting with $93 million domestically. It’s been a hard road for Detective Pikachu opening just two weeks after Endgame snapped out all competition, but Pikachu is chugging right along. Globally, it has $287 million on a $150 million budget, so here’s hoping it can keep those little yellow legs scurrying toward some more take if we are to see franchise potential here.

A Dog’s Journey plopped into fourth with $8 million, making less than half of its predecessor’s opening weekend back in 2017. For someone like me who did not have much interest in the first film, I thought the ideas presented in the sequel were at least interesting and worth checking out, but the audience numbers just weren’t there.

The Hustle took fifth place this weekend with $6 million. The film, starring Rebel Wilson and Anne Hathaway, has not performed to expectations and was met with scathing reviews upon release. It’s no wonder it has ceased to find an audience. I personally was more than underwhelmed by its marketing campaign.

Finally, The Sun is Also a Star, the last major new release of the weekend, opened to a disappointing eighth place with $2.6 million. These types of films tend to do pretty good on streaming platforms, but as theatrical releases, this is a sub-genre that just struggles to bring asses to the seats.

So there you have it. The box office reporting for last week. I’m glad to see that John Wick, Avengers, and Pokemon are seeing good returns in the top three spots and as May continues to drop heavy-hitters, it will be an interesting box office battle to say the least.

Did you see anything this last weekend? What did you think? Let me know/Drop a comment below.

 

-Kyle A. Goethe

Kyle’s Top Ten Most Anticipated Films of 2019

Well, 2018 is done. What do we do now? Talk about 2019.

Just a couple of quick notes again this year:

  • This list is most anticipated, not what I think will be the best by any stretch. These are the films I’m most looking forward to as of right now, so there will be more blockbusters than indies because that’s just how it plays out. With that being said…

NOTE: I’M GOING TO TRY THE COUNTDOWN THIS YEAR RATHER THAN JUST A LIST.

 

10. Captain Marvel

-What excites me so much about Captain Marvel is its timing. This will be Marvel’s second true prequel in setting the film in the 1990s. I like the idea that this film could tie into Avengers: Infinity War and Guardians of the Galaxy. I love Brie Larson and I think her addition to this story is very exciting. This just feels like a great space adventure that we are less likely to get for some time now that the third Guardians film has kind of disappeared. This one is a blockbuster want for me.

 

9. Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark

-I’m happy that Guillermo del Toro has a Best Picture under his belt so he can do what he wants. One of the exciting projects from him in 2019 is Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, based on the popular horror story collections for youths. I grew up reading these stories and they gave me chills and have kept me awake at night. I chose this over Nickelodeon’s big-screen version of Are You Afraid of the Dark? because I think del Toro will push the horror whereas I worry that Nick will not take the horror seriously. We are seeing a small possibility of scary children films due to The House with a Clock in its Walls in 2018. This one excites me.

 

8. Pokemon: Detective Pikachu

-This is the batshit crazy film of 2018. Until I saw the trailer, I was not looking forward to it. Why would you choose to make the first live-action Pokemon about Detective Pikachu instead of a traditional Pokemon story? Why would you select Ryan Reynolds to voice Pikachu? Why? Well, the trailer seemed like a lot of fun. I’m still not sure about the film as a whole, but I want to support a Pokemon film universe, and if that starts with Detective Pikachu, so be it.

 

7. Pet Sematary

-This new adaptation of Stephen King’s classic novel (it’s my wife’s favorite King novel) is getting me very excited. As much as I enjoy the original adaptation, I have to admit that it didn’t follow the masterful source material as much as it could. This new film features the incredible Jason Clarke and John Lithgow, and the first trailer got me going. I love the look of Church the cat, and I love the visual look of the film overall.

 

6. Glass

-Where the hell did Glass come from? How did this happen? When Split came out, nobody expected the [SPOILER ALERT] twist that Split was connected to Unbreakable. Nobody expected that this would further in a third film called Glass which would bring together Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson, James McAvoy, and Anya Taylor-Joy for a final confrontation. Glass is one of the most unexpected films of the last few years, and I’m overjoyed to see what it brings.

 

5. It: Chapter 2

It was a film that surprised everyone. I enjoyed the trailer even though the first images were lacking that bite. Director Andy Muschietti brought a much more emotional experience to the film than I expected, and while it doesn’t contain literal translations of some of King’s massive tome, it does translate the feeling and tone of the book quite nicely. Breaking It into 2 films is strange because a bulk of the film is set during the childhood, so I’m curious where it could go with that. The second half of the 1990 miniseries is where it loses me, so Muschietti has a lot on his plate for this follow-up.

 

4. Avengers: Endgame

-Okay, this had to be on here somewhere, right. It’s a testament to the great plate of films we have before us in 2019 that Avengers 4 is below three other films. Yes, we have to find out how this thing finishes. We knew a lot of where Avengers: Infinity War was going to travel, but I have no idea where we go from here. Yes, I feel like we will have a lot of the third film reversed, but I cannot deny the palpable excitement for this one.

 

3. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

-When Quentin Tarantino makes a film, I get excited. When he sets it in the 1960s, I get more excited. When he compares it to Pulp Fiction, I lose my freaking mind. Brad Pitt, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Margot Robbie star in this new film from the master which also features Al Pacino in his first collaboration with Tarantino. Not much is known still but I cannot wait.

 

2. Us

-In about 3 minutes, Us became one of my most-anticipated films of 2019. That trailer. That trailer! Oh! I was already looking forward to this follow-up from the director of Get Out, and then I saw that trailer. His usage of popular music in a horror setting with some oozingly creepy imagery is what made me most excited for this film, and it comes out on my birthday too. So much win.

 

1. Star Wars: Episode IX

-C’mon, you had to know this. It’s been called the culmination of the Skywalker saga, and it brings back J.J. Abrams who killed it with The Force Awakens. After The Last Jedi (my favorite of the new films), I simply cannot wait to see where this new film goes, and it just has so much riding on it. It has to be Star Wars. It’s my most anticipated film of 2019.

 

So there you have it. What are you most excited to see in 2019? Let me know/Drop a comment below!

-Kyle A. Goethe

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