Five Ways that Godzilla 2014 is the Best Godzilla of All Time

Godzilla_Empire_RevealLast night I went with a friend to see Godzilla 2014. I have spent months anticipating this movie. The trailers looked beautiful and to pull in the acting of Brian Cranston, Juliette Binoche, and David Stratham is not to be sniffed at. The director, Gareth Edwards, had only a single film to his credit (Monsters) but it is a delightful film in its own right.

That still left me a bit hesitant. The biggest fans are also the harshest critics. An example of this would be how very angry I would have been if Godzilla 1998 were a Godzilla movie. Really, it is just a mistitled film about a giant lizard rampaging in New York.

So you can imagine my delight when this film exceeded my expectations to become the best movie of the whole franchise. How so? I’m glad you asked.

5. The Special Effects and Godzilla’s Design

This is the first movie to truly make Godzilla look real. Ironically, the next best film in this respect is Godzilla 1954 which did use cutting edge techniques for its time. Godzilla 1998 did have beautiful effects and would count on this list were it a Godzilla movie. But this film brings it to a whole new level. There was not a single time in the whole movie where I questioned the realism of the monsters. This is not a cartoon drawn over a live action background. It is a lovely film with the best rendering of Godzilla ever.

4. The Acting

Godzilla films are not known for their spectacular acting. Godzilla 1954 and Godzilla 1985 have some fine acting and Raymond Burr has such an amazing on-screen presence that I think he could read the phonebook and we would be spellbound. The other films in the franchise are cursed with some laughable acting at times. Godzilla 1998 also had weak acting but I don’t hold that against the franchise as it is not a Godzilla movie.

This film has many OK acting moments and some good ones. Brian Cranston is compelling as is David Stratham and Ken Watanabe bring a great deal to their roles. While this is not the best acted movie ever, there are no moments where I feel uncomfortable because of the acting. Compared to other Godzilla films, this is the best acted of all time.

3. The Monster Battles

Every monster movie has to deal with the temptation to have too much fighting and not enough character development. Godzilla 2014 did an amazing job of keeping the action fresh and intense. I have never seen a monster movie that starts a fight and then it drifts into the background because we are following the human characters. It left me on my seat anxious to see what the humans are doing AND anxious to see how the monsters are doing. It made it exciting every time there was a cut back to the monsters. Excellently done.

They also did not commit the sin of making the monsters part of a WWE Monster Smackdown. The battles were realistic to what the creatures might be actually able to do. In this respect, Godzilla 2014 is equal to Godzilla 1954 and 1985 which also kept it realistic, but Godzilla 2014 took a lot more risks and pulled them off. If Godzilla 1998 were a Godzilla movie, it would have failed miserably on this account because there is no way you would lose a critter that big no matter how well it hid. Thankfully, it is not a Godzilla movie.

2. The Story

This is by far the strongest Godzilla story of all time with only Godzilla 1954 being in its category. There are almost no plot holes and the consistency of the story is a true accomplishment. Gareth Edwards does an amazing job of keeping this story about interesting people in an interesting situation. Many a writer/director has fallen into the trap of believing these stories are about monsters when they really should be about people. The monsters are simply the interesting situation the people find themselves in.

In Godzilla 1998, the characters are never compelling enough to really care that much if they died so when they are nearly stepped on, I am OK with them. Fortunately, it isn’t a Godzilla movie.

1. The Plausibility

No other monster movie I know of takes such pains to have a consistent and believable plot. All of my concerns going in about plot weaknesses going into the film were addressed. This film found a way to be fully in the Godzilla cannon complete with nuclear arms being a central theme and yet had a realistic picture of how two sets of monsters were no known to the public. Even Godzilla’s radiation breath, one of his most fantastic abilities, seems to fit in this story.

Maybe the real power of the film is that even when I have to suspend disbelief, it is not a chore. I WANT to suspend it and enter into the story.

This film is the strongest of the whole franchise and will sit well with the great films that have come before it. It was a pleasure to watch and I look forward to seeing it many times to come.

-Chip

P.S. As a side note, Godzilla 1998 isn’t really a Godzilla movie. The creature in it is a monster, it just isn’t Godzilla.

The image above is owned by Empire Magazine andis used under a Fair Use rationale.

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Thank God for Noah (in Theaters now)

Noah2014PosterWhen The Prince of Egypt came out in 1998, I was excited to see it and a little nervous. I had heard that it was good and had some questionable additions to the story of the Exodus. When I did go and see it, I found it to be an engaging, well-told story, that was faithful to the story and, very importantly, has one of the best movie soundtracks ever.

But why had a heard all those negative things about the movie. it was a good movie and faithful to the story. Why take shots at it? It seemed that Christians were a nearly unpleasable group when their stories were told in movies. Then The Passion of the Christ came out and I saw a similar pattern. Many Christians were upset when our story is told, but not perfectly. I saw it again when The Nativity Story came out.

It seemed that no matter how much honest effort was made to be faithful to our stories and to make it a good film, we always found reasons to be outraged.

Fast forward to today, Darren Aronofsky chose to tell another one of our stories, the story of Noah. Christians, including myself, pulled out our prickles and prepared ourselves to be outraged. When we learned that Aronofsky was an atheist, we went ahead and panned the film without knowing anything about it. We were ready to be outraged and incensed by whatever popped up on the movie screen.

And outraged we were.

But yesterday, I imagined what it would be like to be Darren Aronofsky. He is trying to tell a story from our scriptures in the best way he knows how. He was able to get an enormous budget for the movie and many high quality actors and actresses. Additionally, he seems to have told a compelling story. If this were not our story that we are so prickly about, we probably would like the movie. It seems to me that it is not kind to the many people who worked hard to tell our story to prejudge it harshly.

This is not to say that loving the story of Noah is a problem. Certainly we should be vigilant in out churches and homes about keeping the story accurate. God was, in fact, punishing a desperately evil world for its sin. We should be very mindful of the fact that sin is that serious and that God is that powerful.

But I suspect much of our motivation for being angry at this movie is not a fierce love of the story of Noah, but out of a sense of being oppressed. We have this pervasive feeling that there is this evil liberal culture out there that is intentionally and harshly twisting our stories. We wince every time Christianity is discussed because we will be called intolerant and mocked. We feel our slipping cultural and political influence and it makes us afraid.

While I understand this feeling, it is silly. If we really serve the God of Noah who can cover the world in a flood and rescue a single family, I think he can handle a change in the religious demographics. We should not feel like an oppressed people who are being marginalized by our society. We are being embraced by a God who really loves us and is really in control. We should not be afraid, we should be free.

And what we should be free to do is love. We should love Darren Aronofsky and treat him like we would want to be treated. If I made a film about Mohammed, I would want the Muslim community to at least give the film a chance before condemning it.

Additionally, Darren Aronofsky has given us a wonderful gift. He is, in fact, telling our story. Sure he added some environmentalism and tossed out most of the idea of sin, but he still has a guy name Noah and a flood that wipes out almost all of humanity. He has presented our story to a huge audience. We should not condemn this, we should embrace it. Let’s let him tell our story  and get it 80% right, and let’s take responsibility for teaching our world the missing 20%.

Thank you, Darren Aronofksy. We appreciate you bringing Noah and his family to the forefront and allowing us the opportunity to talk about something that is precious to us. I’m sorry for my fellow believers that have been unkind to you. We love you and appreciate the lovely piece of art you have made.

-Chip

Married People Don’t Have Sex…in the Movies

I have a challenge for you. Name for me three movies where a married couple have sex with each other.

No, I mean it. Think of three movies.

Nope, they weren’t married in that one, try again.

Sorry, in Rocky they weren’t married yet,

Tougher than you thought, isn’t it?

Times up. Here are all the movies I could think of.

  1. Mr. and Mrs. Smith
  2. 300
  3. Don’t Say a Word
  4. The Sixth Day
  5. Twilight: Breaking Dawn, Part 1

And that was after thinking about it for a while. Clearly, single people have the most and best sex, right?

Wrong!

Study after study after study has demonstrated that married couples have more sex than singles or couples who cohabitate.  The numbers on the quality of sex are a little less clear. Most of the studies I found showed married people having better sex, but there were some that contradicted that.

So popular culture would lead us to believe that the path to passion and lots of sex is to be single and in serial relationships. No sooner does a couple get married in a movie than they seem to hate each other. It’s like the focus in a movie is on all the positives of the passion of a young relationship and only on the negatives of a long-term relationship. It is a misleading image.

The fact is that both younger and older relationships have pluses and minuses. My wife is still irritated when I leave laundry on the floor. But it is not up to debate as to who has more sex. Married people have more and (most likely) better sex no matter what the movies say.

-Chip

Should you see Don Jon?

I am always on the lookout for a film that has real redeeming value so I was excited to hear of the release of a film that was a look at the life of a man addicted to pornography.

Here is the plot as described by IMDB.

Jon Martello objectifies everything in his life: his apartment, his car, his family, his church, and, of course, women. His buddies even call him Don Jon because of his ability to pull “10s” every weekend without fail. Yet even the finest flings don’t compare to the transcendent bliss he achieves alone in front of the computer watching pornography. Dissatisfied, he embarks on a journey to find a more gratifying sex life, but ends up learning larger lessons of life and love through relationships with two very different women. Written by SophiaLB

Sounds good. The direction of the film has definitely piqued my interest. Then I scroll a few lines down and it is Rated R for sexual content and nudity.

Suspicious.

I then read the parental advisory on IMDB.

Frequent sex scenes and jokes, usually in a very funny context, though very graphic.

Crap!

On reading further, the original version that was played at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival was rated NC-17. The movie was then toned down to being rated R.

So this movie is the equivalent of having an AA meeting in a bar. Sure it might be helpful, but more likely we will just end up staring at the naked girls. Unfortunately, this is a movie that anyone in the recovery community should sit out.

-Chip