What if #Godzilla starred in a big new movie and he couldn’t find his motivation?

Big on spectacle ... short on substance. Gareth Edwards's 'Godzilla' collapses under the weight of its own misguided expectations.

Big on spectacle … short on substance. Gareth Edwards’s ‘Godzilla’ collapses under the weight of its own misguided expectations.

There’s precious little that will get my ass into a Cineplex seat these days. For me to descend (or, rather, condescend) from my state of mountaintop seclusion and mingle with the Free-Range Rude and their ill-behaved spawn requires some serious reputation and/or calculated titillation on the part of Hollywood. I’d still go unquestioningly to see a Peter Jackson movie with popcorn in hand and a couple of loaded, $15 apiece (“Grade-A Angus Beef!”) hot-dogs already greedily consumed and in the process of gurgling digestion. The name of Steven Spielberg (if he can even get a big-screen picture made these days) will always lure me, sight unseen, to darkened recesses where one might dream of giant interstellar death-machines emerging magically from the screen to annihilate the mouth-breathers behind and in front of me who are busy texting or proffering endless streams of inane babble throughout the duration of the movie. To catch the latest James Cameron flick, I will overlook the grim likelihood of glimpsing and/or smelling morbidly obese people packed like barely sentient sausage-meat in neon spandex, milling about a lobby with all the decorum of insecure elephant seals, barking uncouth syllables to assert their presence beyond a shadow of doubt, in case anyone could possibly miss them. George Lucas lost me years and years ago, and I don’t care how many pounds Carrie Fisher lost to reprise her “Princess Leia” role in the upcoming Disney re-mangling of Star Wars … I ain’t getting within ten miles of that blasphemy.

I can’t think of a single movie star today who would get my money due to their mere presence in a general-release, Summer “tent-pole” picture. Nor at any other time of the year, frankly. Will Smith ceased to be amusing in the mid-1990s. So did Ben Stiller and Jim Carrey. I’d pay good money to slap Matt Damon or Ryan Reynolds or George Clooney, but not to watch them perform. Meryl Streep is overacting in way too many vehicles, these days, so she holds no allure for me. Sandra Bullock? Maybe, if it wasn’t yet another attempt at blatant romantic comedy. Julia Roberts? Never. I’d probably still drop everything if Tim Burton made another film and it received praise from critics whose opinions I respected. Anybody who adapts a Cormac McCarthy novel has my blind allegiance. If someone is playing an art-house film or a gloomy foreign-language feature on a big white bed-sheet pinned to the wall of some back alley, I’ll be the first one in line with a bottle of wine and a folding chair from Walmart, but products derived from mainstream Hollywood and its immediate collaterals? No.

Clearly, I’m an unapologetic film snob with little use for crowds and rampant mediocrity. At the very least, I’m a film snob like millions of other film snobs in the sense that I am game to watch most anything remotely intriguing so long as I can hold the remote … so long as a movie makes its way to Netflix and I can pull a blanket over my toes while the chips & salsa are within easy reach. Hell, even Tom Cruise is welcome in my living-room in that capacity. Barely.

Imagine my excitement, then, when not one, but FIVE of my favorite entertainment personalities of all-time gave me come-hither glances via clever YouTube trailers in director Gareth Edwards’s new blockbuster! How could such a thing be possible? Bryan Cranston, the Luminous Juliette Binoche (Yes, her legal name really is The Luminous Juliette Binoche), David Strathairn, Ken Watanabe and GODZILLA. FIVE GENIUSES!

Well, Godzilla ended-up being an entertaining disappointment. It grieves me to say so. Mind you, this comes from a dude who knows the words to (and can sing!) the entire chant that those twin fairies of Infant Island use to summon Mothra, larvae or pupae. So, there.

The blame for the big flaws in Godzilla rests squarely with Edwards, who was clearly in over his head, and who should (among other things) have secured a truly outstanding scriptwriter for this reboot. Instead, we see a film that is herkily and jerkily straining to imitate motifs and techniques and styles made famous by Steven Spielberg … and showing every ounce of the strain. Edwards and his bunch made no secret about their desire to pay “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery” tribute to Spielberg in crafting this epic, but they forgot or else utterly screwed the pooch when it came to remembering Spielberg’s greatest gift: namely, that characterizations do not have to be sacrificed, EVER, at the altar of spectacle. Some critics are muttering comparisons of Godzilla with Jaws and Close Encounters of the Third Kind and War of the Worlds, but I simply don’t see it, in terms of quality, beyond some painfully obvious cardboard similarities. This movie had a two-hour running time; it damned well could have offered a better overall product. The story stunk to high heaven. Edwards seems to waffle, from scene to scene, between the sort of gravitas this movie could have (and should have) communicated and some need to plunge perilously along through choppy narrative waters without regard for coherence or humanity.

None of the actors are at fault, not too much. They simply aren’t given much to work with. Bryan Cranston and Juliet Binoche are criminally underused: the lethal rift in the story, wherein Cranston and Binoche relinquish what could have been a powerful trajectory throughout the film, and proceedings are taken over by Aaron Taylor-Johnson, is the fateful torpedo-shot that sinks any chance this film might have had for true greatness. And it could have been great, instead of just “better than Emmerich’s lame 1998 Godzilla and not quite as engaging as Spielberg’s War of the Worlds.”

I simply didn’t care about any of the film’s human characters and was unimpressed by any of the performances, aside from Godzilla’s. The script and the plotting were so bad that even Cranston could not rise above the rudimentary pap of his role (much less his distracting hairpiece). Juliette Binoche was marvelous in a part that couldn’t have lasted two minutes, or perhaps four lines, so that doesn’t do anyone any good at all. Ken Watanabe, quite frankly, looked like he was coming off a ten-day sake-bender; pasty and dazed and bereft of significant words. David Strathairn was flat-out miscast because he looked and acted bored to death with his part. Who cold blame him? Aaron Taylor-Johnson doesn’t deserve all the bad notices he’s been getting for his part as Ford Brody –again, the guy was given a crap script smothered in the artery-clogging gravy of a crap narrative. If anyone thinks that it is “not necessary” for the characters to be engaging in a disaster film, or that “no one wants to see a typical Godzilla-movie for the characterizations,” then they’re as lost as the director clearly was. First, I’ll guarantee you that audiences related to the human characters in Jaws and Close Encounters–films that Edwards & Co. were apparently feverish to emulate. It’s not about the amount of lines the human characters get, or the complexity of the story … it’s about the quality. Second, this was not to be a “typical Godzilla-movie.” This was supposed to be a powerful and epic reimagining. Epic? Sure. Powerful? Hell, no.

But the whole thing was reimagined, alright.

Some of the set pieces and shots are quite stunning, but most of them were nothing extraordinary in terms of innovative thinking or creativity. The CGI effects were admittedly satisfying throughout the film. I had no quibble with Godzilla’s late-arrival to the proceedings, nor with Edwards’s coy pull-away shots: the guy was clearly trying to build to a tease, but because his whole damned story stunk from the very beginning, the “big reveal” did not inspire anywhere near the amount wonder and emotion I was expecting based upon the very clever way Warner Bros. assembled those misleading trailers and teasers. I had to manufacture almost all of my excitement and wonder by myself, watching this movie … out of sheer hope. The Godzilla vs. MUTO battle-scenes were superb and the irony of it all is that the most compelling, human presence in the entire film is Godzilla himself.

The Big G evoked empathy as he fought and struggled against the MUTOs. The Big G, when the center of attention, summoned emotion beyond that of mere nostalgia for Godzillian-adventures past. Godzilla himself was wonderful and worth the price of admission, but I was expecting a damned story to accompany this Godzilla, we were all promised one, and the one we got was half-baked, to say the least. I would have eliminated the whole Elizabeth Olsen subplot, gotten rid of Watanabe and Hawkins, and found a way to make Cranston, Binoche, and their adult son (Taylor-Johnson) the three chief human protagonists and monster-hunters throughout the length of the picture. A Japanese kid separated from his parents ’til the end of the movie would have provided a superb “child’s eye view,” as well. Godzilla nearly dies at the end. Mother Binoche dies at the end: you would’ve had a movie people could talk about for years.

But you don’t, Blanche. You don’t.

Edwards admittedly had a lot of weight on his plate, and on his shoulders, here. I get that, and his movie is not exactly a wreck. The need to get Godzilla and the other beasties from the Phillipines, to Japan, to Honolulu, to Las Vegas, and then to San Francisco was straining an already limp story-structure. That damnation for your narrative trajectory from the outset. I feel for Edwards, because he clearly knows how to make a thoughtful movie for not a lot of money. Maybe they shouldn’t have given him so much for this one, but they should have given him a script. That would have been the Easter Egg to end all Easter Eggs in this visually satisfying, reasonably entertaining, but substantially flawed epic. I’ll buy it on Blu-Ray because I am a lifelong Godzilla-fan, but if I weren’t, I wouldn’t, and I wouldn’t go back to the theater to see this a second time in the theater, either.

Here’s hoping someone else (or even Edwards himself) can improve the state of affairs within the framework of the inevitable sequel. *** (Three Stars)
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Jonathan Kieran’s new book (a work of non-fiction) is slated for release in Autumn 2014. Look for news about the release here and at Amazon.com in the coming weeks and months.

Jonathan is also the author of the classically appointed Rowan Blaize series of modern fairy-tales and novels. Visit Jonathan Kieran’s Official Facebook Page and give it a “Like,” if you are so inclined. Meanwhile …

Escape the Imminent Collapse of Civilization, if only for a few hours. A sweeping modern fairy-tale is born with the Rowan Blaize series of books. Click on the book covers to the right or have a look below …

Watch the Rowan Blaize Book Trailer HERE.

Book One = The magical cornerstone – a lavishly illustrated epic narrative poem … a genuine “spell” for the young and young-at-heart to treasure for a lifetime, telling the story of sorcerer Rowan Blaize’s battle to regain his magic powers. (Think Beowulf-meets-Dr.Seuss or an epic story-in-verse of a scope similar to Tolkien’s soon-to-be-released The Fall of Arthur, only contemporary.)

Book Two = The rip-roaring novel that continues the adventures of Rowan Blaize and introduces the three hilarious witches of the Ancient City, along with its dysfunctional werewolves, wraiths, ghosts, vampires, dryads, banshees and a beauty pageant brat that just might destroy the world.

Book Three = The next novel that finds Rowan trapped by a spell in another world, caught between a faery-squashing sorceress who’ll stop at nothing to conquer the kingdom … and a feisty teenage prince who’s determined to get it back.

Click here to purchase the Kindle e-books and watch a video of Jonathan discussing his work.
__________________________________________
Barnes and Noble
IndieBound
Books-A-Million
Rowan Blaize Official Website
Goodreads

After the Food, Friend & Beverage Orgies … Get Ready to Twirl. #bookrelease #donewriting

pondersea

There’s a great deal to be said for the first, fecund, felicitous forays of the Springtime social calendar, particularly in Northern California. The atmospheric stasis occasioned by the weird workings of winter always seems to give way to a somewhat rejuvenated sense of ambition, for me. At the very least, the advent of beach-worthy weather affords various opportunities to commune with friends who are likewise climbing out of their respective doldrums, and this quickening of personal activity and interaction can retroactively energize the artistic work you’ve slogged through for months without much satisfaction or sense of reward. Believe me: the writer seems by turns isolated and interrupted in the winter months — navigating temperatures that make him want to sleep far more than he wants to write and fielding invitations to any number of Food, Friend & Beverage Orgies (aka “The Holidays”) that tempt a craftsman with far more seductive festivity than can be enjoyed hovering over a keyboard.

I’ve been writing non-stop since June 25, 2013, and have completed, beyond my own rather panoramic sense of comprehension, two novels in that time. That’s usually not in my wheelhouse. Normally, I believe a truly worthy long-form work ought to take at least a year to complete, not including a full edit. Nevertheless, the industry has undergone its eighty-eighth metamorphosis in the last ten years or so, and its demands, which seem as unpredictable and arbitrary as the flailing of a multi-headed Hydra, must be met with some measure of mettle and elbow grease. In this sense, the accelerated nose-to-the-grindstone process has been both challenging and revelatory … at least now that my “foolish boat” has sailed around the churning Aegean vortex into calmer waters.

The second of the two novels I finished was delivered to my editor on May 1 after a month and a half of rewrites and assorted fussings and fidgetings. This is the book that will be published in October of this year, with the other novel (the one started in late June 2013) to follow next year, presumably. There will be a reasonable amount of promotion and preening and as much ballyhoo as can be mustered for the October release, and that roll-out promises to be filled with new, perfunctory “adventures” I am certain to loathe, but it must be done. These children must be given the privilege of birth, after all, seeing as how they survived the wordy womb of the author’s addled brain. Let them be fruitful and multiply. Let them possibly even subdue the earth.

That last bit would be nice, in a monetarily metaphorical sense.

News about the new book, from what I can gather, will start to manifest itself in the form of drum-beats about a month from now, with review copies going out by July. I’ll believe it when I see it. Fellow authors–you all know what I’m talking about, here. That being said, much gratitude goes to my agent, the indefatigable KR, and to all who have so not helped me complete these major projects (Just kidding, support-system peeps! Calm yourselves. Have a little mojito. That’s the way. Now chew a couple of Klonopin. Feel better? Sure, you do. Who wouldn’t?)

In the meantime, May is a great month for writers (who aren’t working Spring releases) to take a deep breath before any ensuing literary plunge. Go to the beach, if you live near one. Walk in the woods. Breathe. Get drunk (responsibly) and laugh with a few trusted friends who won’t make fun of your incessant ramblings and do try to shut your mind off for a bit. That’s what I appear to be doing in the photo above, which was taken on May 1, after an impromptu invitation to a bonfire on Carmel Beach, a little shindig put-together by some dear friends — one of whom cooked a fabulously authentic Cajun gumbo (complete with okra and Andouille and all the “fixins”) right there amid the sands to the accompaniment of music, mellifluous laughter and a memorable sunset.

Then again, I could also be undergoing an existential/spiritual crisis of catastrophic proportions in that photo. Hard to say … or remember. Either way, I look pretty good. So it can’t be all bad.

Stay tuned for hijinks galore. Ciao, babes.
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Jonathan Kieran’s new novel is slated for release in Autumn 2014. Look for news about the book here and at Amazon.com in the coming weeks and months.

Jonathan is also the author of the classically appointed Rowan Blaize series of modern fairy-tales and novels. Visit Jonathan Kieran’s Official Facebook Page and give it a “Like,” if you are so inclined. Meanwhile …

Escape the Imminent Collapse of Civilization, if only for a few hours. A sweeping modern fairy-tale is born with the Rowan Blaize series of books. Click on the book covers to the right or have a look below …

Watch the Rowan Blaize Book Trailer HERE.

Book One = The magical cornerstone – a lavishly illustrated epic narrative poem … a genuine “spell” for the young and young-at-heart to treasure for a lifetime, telling the story of sorcerer Rowan Blaize’s battle to regain his magic powers. (Think Beowulf-meets-Dr.Seuss or an epic story-in-verse of a scope similar to Tolkien’s soon-to-be-released The Fall of Arthur, only contemporary.)

Book Two = The rip-roaring novel that continues the adventures of Rowan Blaize and introduces the three hilarious witches of the Ancient City, along with its dysfunctional werewolves, wraiths, ghosts, vampires, dryads, banshees and a beauty pageant brat that just might destroy the world.

Book Three = The next novel that finds Rowan trapped by a spell in another world, caught between a faery-squashing sorceress who’ll stop at nothing to conquer the kingdom … and a feisty teenage prince who’s determined to get it back.

Click here to purchase the Kindle e-books and watch a video of Jonathan discussing his work.
__________________________________________
Barnes and Noble
IndieBound
Books-A-Million
Rowan Blaize Official Website
Goodreads