As I watching the events unfold in latest screen incarnation of Godzilla, several thoughts entered my mind, including, why so much Aaron Taylor Johnson, who must be one of the more colorless leads in movie history–and why so little Godzilla? Not that I need to see wall-to-wall Godzilla, but the big fella has been relegated here to a supporting role in his own mega-budget blockbuster.
Another thought had to do with the misbegotten Al Pacino epic Revolution. You may have blocked this film out of your memory (with good reason), but it concerns poor put-upon Pacino’s dogged attempts to avoid involvement in the Revolutionary War, and yet that darned war follows him and his kid everywhere–much like the Martians followed Tom Cruise in War of the Worlds (if he had only gone to Connecticut, he would have been safe), or the way bad news, monsters, and imminent destruction seem to follow Aaron Taylor-Johnson around for the entire movie.
There are some good things about Godzilla: the early scenes with Bryan Cranston do convincingly establish a sense of urgency and dread; the first bridge attack is gripping and suspenseful, and there is some excitement to be had in some of the monster battles–once Godzilla becomes an actual participant, instead of being the pursuer in what is ultimately a monster chase movie (albeit with some passing comments about the dangers of radioactivity, not to mention scientific experimentation and the U.S. military, none of which is shown in a flattering light).
However, there are flaws aplenty, starting with the script; it’s not that we’re expecting a literate, trenchant script, but this screenplay squanders any opportunity at witty commentary in terms of how it utilizes its locales—or its human characters, none of whom have anything interesting to contribute (save one line, I’ll mention it later—spoiler alert). Furthermore the impact Godzilla (or any monster) seems to have on the shore once he (it?) emerges from the water depends on the writer’s mood—Godzilla can either cause a tsunami—or not. In the last half of Godzilla, the wise scientist (he must be wise, since he speaks very slowly and is played by Ken Watanabe) prevails upon the ineffectual commanders to abandon their plan to nuke all the monsters and instead urges the military to “let them fight.” How does scientist Ken know Godzilla will be on our side? Why wouldn’t Godzilla join up with these predators and help destroy mankind? Supposedly Godzilla is “nature’s equalizer” but I’m not so sure; witness the cavalier way he strolls out to sea, stomping on everything in sight—yet managing to miss Aaron Taylor-Johnson. Sometimes, there is no justice.
I did enjoy Jon Favreau’s Chef; in fact I enjoyed it so much I’ll avoid referring to it as a tasty concoction, and instead just give you food for thought, should you want to sample it. Favreau (who also wrote and directed) plays a restaurant chef who bristles under owner Dustin Hoffman’s admonition to “play it safe” for a visiting food critic (Oliver Platt). The resulting visit leads to a series of crushing developments (including Favreau’s blow-up at Platt which turns viral) that lead Favreau to question how he can recapture his earlier culinary passion. Fate and his ex-wife (a charming, subdued Sofia Vergara) lend a hand in securing a food truck, which may be the instrument of the chef’s rebirth. Chef has plenty of delectable scenes in the kitchen, exuding passion and enjoyment in one’s craft that you rarely see on film these days. What also lends texture to the film is the lovingly developed relationship between Favreau and his neglected son (Emjay Anthony), as well as the interplay between Favreau and a host of characters, including good friend and sous chef John Leguziamo, Scarlett Johansson’s appealing confidant (in the first half), and an amusing Robert Downey as Vergara’s first husband and food truck benefactor. Chef is a delightful, feel-good film that is well worth taking the time to see.
Another movie that is worth seeing is Ida, a black and white film set in 1962 Poland, wherein an orphaned young woman (Agata Trezbuchowska) about to take her final vows as a nun, who discovers from her only relative that she is indeed Jewish, and that her parents suffered some unknown, perhaps unspeakable fate during the occupation. Ida’s quest to discover the truth, in the company of her Aunt Wanda (beautifully portrayed by Agata Kulesza) unfolds as a haunting, mainly visual journey through a n emotionally ravaged landscape. Ida is introduced to a bleak world outside the cloisters, yet one filled with temptations that lead her to rethink what had been a certainty only days earlier. Wanda, on the other hand, a lawyer in the Communist state, is consumed with feelings of guilt that she tries to drown in alcohol. Their journey is bleak, quietly unnerving and undeniably powerful. Ida is a film that will stay with you.