‘Godzilla: King of the Monsters’ Review

Director: Michael Dougherty

Writers: Michael Dougherty & Zach Shields

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

Synopsis: The crypto-zoological agency Monarch faces off against a battery of god-sized monsters, including the mighty Godzilla, who collies with Mothra, Rodan and his ultimate nemesis, the three-headed King Ghidorah.

 

*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*

*Reviewer Note 2: There is a post-credit scene.*

 

The Gareth Edwards-directed Godzilla in 2014 divided many fans over how it handled our beloved giant monster. While many wanted more kaiju action, the slow-build worked for me. So when it was promised that the sequel King of the Monsters would have more giant monster fighting, fans were eager to watch. Then it was announced that we’d be getting three of the most well-known kaiju’s in film history – Rodan, Mothra and King Ghidorah. Needless to say, fans flipped and wanted to see all four of these behemoths go at it on the big screen once more. So, does the massive sequel live up to the hype, or does it trip over its gigantic feet?

Picking up years after the first film, “titans” are on the rise and the organization Monarch is on a tight leash with the government, who wants to kills all the titans, where as Monarch thinks that humans and titans can co-exist. This introduces Dr. Emma Russell (Vera Farmiga), a scientist for Monarch, who has built a device called the ORCA to communicate with the titans somehow. However, after Emma and her daughter Madison (Millie Bobby Brown) are kidnapped by eco-terrorist Jonah Alan (Charles Dance), along with the device, Monarch brings in Emma’s estranged husband Mark (Kyle Chandler), who also has experience with the machine, to track everyone down. This puts everyone on track to go face-to-face with the new taints, Rodan, Mothra and the new three-head beast, King Ghidorah, and the only hope for everyone is Godzilla.

Like I mentioned, King of the Monsters gives fans that were not pleased with the 2014 Godzilla – giants monsters beating the crap out of each other. While the sequel does take its time to show off Godzilla himself, once it does, it doesn’t keep him hidden. It shows him in all his glory as he goes toe-to-toe with Ghidorah on multiple occasions. Mothra and Rodan also have their moments, but talking more about them would get into spoiler territory. Needless to say, seeing all of these three together on the big screen with big-budget effects is truly a sight to see – especially if you see it in IMAX like I did.

It’s when we get to the human characters were things get a little iffy. We get our returning characters like Ken Watanabe’s Dr. Ishiro Serizawa and Sally Hawkins’ Dr. Vivienne Graham (who thankfully gets a little more to do this time around), who help drive the grand scale of everything that is going on, along with new Monarch characters played by Bradley Whitford, Thomas Middleditch and Ziyi Zhang. We also got our military characters in Aisha Hinds and O’Shea Jackson Jr. who provide some help, but they don’t really have anything real substantial to add other than some quips.

The main human story revolves around the Russell family. Although I won’t get too into it, but the reasoning behind some of their actions don’t make too much sense and kind of goes a bit too far. It’s not against the actors, but more of what was given to them. There are also probably too many characters in the movie for its own good, and even though almost all of them have their moments to shine, their moments come right after a monster battle, so the air kind of gets sucked out of the room a bit. There’s also one character that gets quickly introduced that feels more important than it should, but it’s kind of glossed over that I sat there confused for a second that it took me completely out of the movie.

All in all, Godzilla: King of the Monsters delivers on the monster mayhem that fans will love. While the human characters story muddles and slows things down a bit – and some are not used properly – director Michael Dougherty (Trick ‘r Treat, Krampus) keeps everything tight enough for audiences to enjoy. The ending also opens up this universe a lot that should be really interesting if done right.

Godzilla: King of the Monsters

3.5 out of 5

‘The Conjuring 2’ Review

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Director: James Wan

Writers: Carey Hayes, Chad Hayes, James Wan and David Leslie Johnson

Cast: Patrick Wilson, Vera Farmiga, Madison Wolfe, Frances O’Connor, Lauren Esposito, Benjamin Haigh, Patrick McAuley, Simon McBurney, Maria Doyle Kennedy, Simon Delaney, Franka Potente, Bob Adrian, Javier Botet and Bonnie Aarons

Synopsis: Lorraine and Ed Warren travel to north London to help a single mother raising four children alone in a house plagued by malicious spirits.

 

*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

James Wan surprised everyone back in 2013 with his surprise summer horror hit film The Conjuring. Based off the case files of real life paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren, the film put Wan back on the map. When it was announced that a sequel would happen, many thought that maybe Wan wouldn’t make an equally good film that The Conjuring was. Well, it turns out, it is, and arguably better than the first.

The Conjuring 2 is based and inspired (as some things were added for the sake of story) by the Warren’s case, the Enfield Poltergeist in London. The case follows single mother of four, Peggy Hodgson (O’Connor), who is just trying to get by. However, when her children in Margaret (Esposito), Johnny (McAuley), Billy (Haigh) and Janet (Wolfe) starts experiencing strange occurrences throughout the house and Janet starts showing signs of demonic possession, Peggy has no choice but to call for help. Enter Ed and Lorraine Warren (Wilson and Farmiga), who are called in at first to just oversee and report if this is truly a case of demonic activity or a hoax, which many believe it is. Of course, thing progress very fast and dangerously that the Warren’s have no choice but to help and save the family, especially Janet.

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The Conjuring 2 had some big shoes to fill, but thankfully, the film steps up its game and brings a little more scares and ups the creepiness factor from the previous film. Wan has already established himself as a great horror director, but if it wasn’t clear by now, Wan is a great director, period. The way he sets up the shots and brings the story together is done effectively, and his collaboration with cinematographer Don Burgess makes the film feel more eerie than the first. There are a few particular shots that still give me chills just thinking about them, one of them involves an out of focus character.

Wan is also able to make some horror clichés work for him. Like his previous horror films, the jump scares are scattered throughout, but still manage to work and don’t feel like there are forced like other horror films. Also, the dreadful scenes are enhanced by the villains. There is Bill Wilkins (Adrian), the demon scaring the Hodgson family and seemingly possessing Margaret. The Demon Nun (Aaron), which is creepy in name itself, but more creepier in the film I assure you, and one of the standouts The Crooked Man (Botet), who I won’t ruin, and I sure many will think is mostly CGI, but he isn’t.

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Like The Conjuring, the leads may be Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga’s Ed and Lorraine Warren, but the sequel spends a lot of time with the Hodgson’s that we feel emotionally connected to them and worry for them when things start to go down. However, we do spend most time with Janet, played impressively by Madison Wolfe. Wolfe really owns every scene she’s in and you can feel the dread along with her. Frances O’Connor’s mother character Peggy starts by not believing her children until she sees it herself and will do anything to project her children no matter the cost. Patrick McAuley and Laruen Esposito don’t really get too much screen time, but you can sense that they want will stand by their sister. Finally, Benjamin Haigh, who plays the youngest child Billy, is given a different trait than the others that shows that the family is dealing with their own problems.

Wilson and Farmiga, once again, are fantastic as the Warrens with Farmiga getting more of the meatier material. Lorraine is still struggling to adjust and control her ability to tap into the supernatural, but also trying to live a normal life with her family, which is always at risk with their line of work. Wilson takes a bit of a backseat this time around, but does have his moments to break through.

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All in all, The Conjuring 2 is as effective, if not more, than its predecessor. The cast, more specifically Madison Wolfe, bring life to the dreadful and scary story of the Enfield Poltergeist. Filled with great scary moments and overall terrific cinematography, The Conjuring 2 is worth the watch for horror fans and people that love being scared alike.

The Conjuring 2

4.5 out of 5

‘The Conjuring’ Review

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Dir: James Wan

Cast: Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Lili Taylor, Ron Livingston, Shanley Caswell, Hayley McFarland, Joey King, Mackenzie Foy, Kyla Deaver, Shannon Kook, John Brotherton and Sterling Jerins

Synopsis: Paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren work to help a family terrorized by a dark presence in their farmhouse. Forced to confront a powerful entity, the Warrens find themselves caught in the most terrifying case of their lives.

 

*Review Note: This is a non-spoiler review as always.*

 

The synopsis for movie seems like maybe every other haunted house movie right? A family dealing with their nice new house with a troubled history that they don’t know about and when it becomes too much to bare they hired someone to help. The Conjuring is based on a true story off a case by the Warrens and the Perron family. But unlike other movies this is a refreshing take on the story.

In the 1970’s Ed and Lorraine Warren (Wilson and Farmiga) made a name for themselves as paranormal investigators. He was a demonologist, she was a clairvoyant, and together they gave lectures and visited homes to help people get rid of any darkness lurking about. The movie even starts with them working on a case (the famous Annabelle Doll).

After setting up the Warrens and what they do, the film introduces us to Carolyn and Roger Perron (Taylor and Livingston) and their five daughters, who have just moved to a beautiful old lake house in Rhode Island. They soon experience terrifying, unexplainable happenings, which leads Carolyn to beg the Warrens to come and help them. When they do encounter something even the Warrens know this is something truly evil.

As the paranormal events escalate the five young actresses playing the girls do a great job making us feel for them when the entity starts messing with them. The same goes for Lili Taylor playing their mother who steps up her game in the third act. The highlight of the cast is Wilson and Farmiga who, next to Taylor, carries a bit of the emotional aspects of the story. That secondary plot line, which we get just a tiny bit of, is about the Warrens and offers a tiny bit of relaxation from the otherwise tense action. Make no mistake even though we start off with Perron family the movie really is about the Warrens.

Also, in true James Wan fashion and unlike other horror films the movie starts off a bit slow but not too slow and the scares come pretty early. So if you’re easily scared the movie will likely give you some nightmares for awhile. James Wan, in my eyes, has become the go to man for modern horror films using old-school horror tricks and using little to no CGI to his best advantage. Even though we get some similar sequences from other horror movies that Wan is clear paying homage to it still works. The atmosphere that Wan and cinematography Frank Leonetti created really puts the viewer in the mood and the music that Wan uses it makes the tension and scary moments work better.

Another couple things that make the movie work is that it stays in the time period. Meaning there’s no cell phones that add to the helplessness that the characters feel when they are getting haunted. And even with the R rating the movie doesn’t have gore or nudity that most horror movies sometimes rely on.

All in all, The Conjuring is said to be James Wan’s last horror movie (Insidious Chapter 2 comes out in September but I’m talking about filming wise) and if it is he truly went out with a bang. Filled with tense and terrifying moments the movie does have some humor to it too which is nice to see before Wan scares the crap out of you

 

The Conjuring

5 out of 5