Blu Tuesday: Godzilla and Arrow

Every Tuesday, I review the newest Blu-ray releases and let you know whether they’re worth buying, renting or skipping, along with a breakdown of the included extras. If you see something you like, click on the cover art to purchase the Blu-ray from Amazon, and be sure to share each week’s column on Facebook and Twitter with your friends.

“Godzilla”

WHAT: 15 years after the mysterious demolition of a nuclear power plant in Japan, American scientist Joe Brody (Bryan Cranston) remains adamant that it was more than just an earthquake, and he’s determined to prove it. But before he can convince the government that it’s about to happen again, a pair of insect-like monsters burst from their cocoons to wreak havoc on the planet, awakening the long-dormant Godzilla, whom Dr. Ichiro Serizawa (Ken Watanabe) believes has been created by nature to restore balance.

WHY: How can a movie about giant monsters be so boring? That’s the biggest question surrounding Hollywood’s latest attempt to bring the King of the Monsters stateside. Though not as bad as Roland Emmerich’s 1998 version, “Godzilla” is a bewildering piece of blockbuster filmmaking, stuck somewhere between an old-school monster extravaganza and a po-faced thriller that’s afraid to have too much fun. Director Gareth Edwards delivers some great money shots by the end, but it’s a long, mostly dull slog to get there, relying more on the one-dimensional human drama and generic MUTOs to drive the action. In fact, just about everyone gets more screen time than Godzilla, who takes nearly an hour to make his first, full-fledged appearance before going MIA again until the final climactic battle. There’s nothing wrong with teasing the audience using a slow burn approach (“Jaws” does it masterfully), but you need actual suspense and interesting characters for it to be successful, and “Godzilla” has neither, instead packed with a bunch of unnecessary filler that does nothing to further the story. The one thing that Edwards gets right is Godzilla himself. He looks and sounds incredible, and you’re left wanting more when it’s all over. Sadly, that’s not because the movie is any good, but rather because you see so little of Godzilla that it feels more like an appetizer than the main course.

EXTRAS: The Blu-ray release includes featurettes on creature design, the HALO jump sequence and the Godzilla legacy, as well as some fictional videos about Project Monarch that provide additional backstory.

FINAL VERDICT: RENT

“Arrow: The Complete Second Season”

WHAT: Following the destruction of the Glades, Oliver (Stephen Arnell) ditches his vigilante ways to become the protector that Starling City so desperately needs. But when his old friend Slade Wilson (Manu Bennett), whom he thought had perished on the island, resurfaces under the guise of Deathstroke, Oliver becomes the target of his vengeful plot.

WHY: It’s hard to imagine anything good coming out of The CW, but other networks should take note, because “Arrow” is exactly how you adapt a comic book character for the small screen. Though the first season was pretty hit-and-miss, the series really starts to find its groove in Season Two, focusing more on the superhero elements than the silly love triangles and soapy subplots. Granted, they’re not done away with completely (otherwise there’d be nothing for characters like Moira, Thea and Laurel to do on the show), but this season feels much more like the comic book series that fans were promised than just another a CW drama that happens to be about a superhero, which is an important distinction to make. Stephen Arnell continues to shine as the green-hooded protagonist, and David Ramsey and Emily Bett Rickards provide excellent support, but the show’s real MVP isn’t an individual at all, but rather the rotating cast of characters plucked from Green Arrow’s rich, 60-year history. The stunt work is also some of the best on TV, and the production team does a really good job of grounding everything in reality. “Arrow” still manages to be a little cheesy at times, but it’s almost always good fun, and that’s all you can ask for from a series like this.

EXTRAS: In addition to a featurette on Oliver’s character arc for the season, there’s a behind-the-scenes look at the show’s visual effects and stunts, the 2013 Comic-Con panel, a recap of Season One, some deleted scenes and a gag reel.

FINAL VERDICT: RENT

  

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Movie Review: “Godzilla”

Starring
Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Bryan Cranston, Ken Watanabe, Elizabeth Olsen, Sally Hawkins, David Strathairn
Director
Gareth Edwards

How can a movie about giant monsters be so boring? That’s the biggest question surrounding Hollywood’s latest attempt to bring the King of the Monsters stateside. Though not quite as bad as Roland Emmerich’s farcical 1998 version, “Godzilla” is a bewildering piece of blockbuster filmmaking, stuck somewhere between an old-school monster extravaganza and a po-faced thriller that’s almost afraid to have too much fun. Gareth Edwards may have seemed like the perfect director to revive the scaly beast on the big screen – especially for anyone who saw his 2010 indie, “Monsters” – but it’s possible that he was a little too right for the job, because what worked so well in that movie doesn’t have the same effect here. Of course, it doesn’t take a nuclear physicist to realize that a Godzilla film should probably have more, you know, Godzilla.

The film opens with a lengthy prologue set in 1999 detailing how a mining company in the Philippines inadvertently awakened something deep underground, prompting the massive creature to leave its hiding spot for Japan, where it leveled a nuclear power plant that killed hundreds, including the wife of American scientist Joe Brody (Bryan Cranston). 15 years later, Joe is still obsessing about what happened that day, convinced that it was more than just an earthquake. After he’s arrested for trespassing in the quarantine zone, his military son Ford (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) travels to Tokyo to bail him out of jail.

Joe is adamant that he’s uncovered more evidence that not only confirms his original claim, but proves that it’s about to happen again, and before he can say “I told you so,” a pair of insect-like MUTOs (Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organisms) burst from their cocoons and begin to wreak havoc. The military plans to lure the radiation-fueled MUTOs to a single location (tough luck, San Francisco) using a nuclear missile in the hope that they’ll be destroyed in the blast, but when the long-dormant Godzilla rises from the Pacific Ocean, Japanese scientist Dr. Ichiro Serizawa (Ken Watanabe) believes that nature has already provided them with all the firepower they need to stop the monsters. After all, Godzilla is a nice dude, and he’s more than willing to help.

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Coming Soon: A Moviegoer’s Guide to May

may

The summer movie season has officially begun, and this May promises to be one of the biggest yet, with two massive superhero sequels, the return of Godzilla, and the latest comedies from Seth Rogen, Seth MacFarlane and Adam Sandler. And just to make things interesting, there are also a couple of smaller indie films that you’ll want to squeeze into your schedule to help prevent blockbuster overload. After all, there are still three more months of this to go.

“THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2″

Who: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Jamie Foxx, Dane DeHaan and Sally Field
What: Spider-Man’s biggest battle has always been the struggle between power and responsibility, but Peter Parker is about to discover that a greater conflict lies ahead.
When: May 2nd
Why: The first “Amazing Spider-Man” improved upon Sam Raimi’s original in just about every way, but the one thing it lacked was a memorable villain. Director Marc Webb may have taken the criticisms a little too harshly, however, because the sequel already has fans groaning for making the same mistake that some believe ruined “Spider-Man 3”: too many villains. But instead of playing down these rumors, the studio has embraced them by not only revealing the several villains that appear in this movie, but teasing future one as well. It was actually a pretty smart move, because in the post-“Avengers” landscape, fanboys appreciate this kind of forward thinking. The fact that Webb has managed to cast some great actors in the villain roles is just the icing on top, provided he can strike the necessary balance that Raimi was unable to achieve with his last entry in the franchise.

“NEIGHBORS”

Who: Seth Rogen, Rose Byrne, Zac Efron, Dave Franco and Lisa Kudrow
What: A couple with a newborn baby face unexpected difficulties after they are forced to live next to a fraternity house.
When: May 9th
Why: Nicholas Stoller’s last two films were a bit disappointing compared to his 2008 directorial debut, “Forgetting Sarah Marshall,” but he may have finally stopped the rot with this new frat comedy, which played like gangbusters at SXSW earlier this year. Though Seth Rogen runs really hot and cold with me, the actor appears to be in top form here, while Zac Efron has been begging for a role like this to show people that he’s more than just that dude from “High School Musical.” It’s also nice to see Rose Byrne returning to comedy after scene-stealing turns in “Bridesmaids” and “Get Him to the Greek,” because she’s done some of her best work in the genre. Of course, none of that matters if all the funny material has already been spoiled in the trailers, but judging by the early buzz on this one, it’s safe to say that won’t be an issue.

“CHEF”

Who: Jon Favreau, Sofia Vergara, John Leguizamo and Scarlett Johansson
What: A chef who loses his restaurant job starts up a food truck in an effort to reclaim his creative promise, while piecing back together his estranged family.
When: May 9th
Why: After helping launch the Marvel Cinematic Universe with 2008’s “Iron Man,” it was only natural that Jon Favreau would continue making big Hollywood blockbusters. But following the box office blunder of “Cowboys & Aliens,” nothing pleases me more than to see the “Swingers” scribe returning to his roots with a smaller, more personal film like “Chef.” Though he’s drafted in a couple Avengers friends (Scarlett Johansson and Robert Downey Jr.) for some cameos, his newest movie is a refreshingly CGI-free affair. The only special effects you’ll see here are the copious amounts of food porn teased in the trailer, and that’s all done in service of the story, which Favreau has smartly centered around the red-hot food truck trend, making “Chef” incredibly timely as well. If it’s any bit as good as “Swingers” and “Made,” Favreau could have another cult classic on his hands.

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The Light from the TV Shows: Brace yourself for…”The Aquabats! Super Show!”

Even if he’d left the world of show business behind after hitting his twenties, Christian Jacobs would still deserve a certain amount of respect from pop-culture obsessives, having acted his way through his childhood and teenage years, serving as a regular on the “All in the Family” spin-off “Gloria” (he played Gloria Bunker Stivic’s son, Joey), making one-off appearances in episodes of “V,” “Married…with Children,” and “Roseanne,” and turning up in such films as “Gleaming the Cube” and, most notably, “Pretty in Pink,” where he plays the kid in the record store who Annie Potts’ character comes within half an inch of hitting in the eye with a staple. In the ’90s, however, Jacobs shifted careers, focusing on music and eventually helping to found a rather colorful band known as…The Aquabats!

Music alone couldn’t keep the coffers filled, alas, which forced the Aquabats into second position in favor of a gig that actually paid the bills with more regularity, so Jacobs returned to TV, this time working behind the scenes. In doing so, he was responsible for co-creating one of the most successful kids shows in recent years: “Yo Gabba Gabba!” Flush with the excitement that success brings, Jacobs and company have used a combination of creativity and show-biz connections to simultaneously kick-start a new series for the youth of today and fulfill a dream.

Ladies and gentlemen: The Aquabats! Super Show!

Bullz-Eye: Having seen the first two episodes of “The Aquabats! Super Show!,” it seems safe to suggest that Sid and Marty Krofft have been a major influence on you guys.

Christian Jacobs: [Laughs.] Definitely! I’m glad you caught that point of reference, for sure.

BE: So what are the origins of this “Super Show”? Was the idea of doing an Aquabats TV series always in the back of your mind, or was this a recent development?

CJ: No, it’s always been there, really. I mean, you know, it’s one of those things where…we started the band in ’94, and at the same time, I was doing video production, making music videos and skateboard videos, so I was in production already. And I grew up working in television as well, so we started the band, just for goofing around, but pretty much within a year I was, like, “This could be an amazing kids show! We could incorporate all those fun things we used to watch that were weird and trippy and action-packed…” We were influenced by shows from Japan, too. Those were there right away. So we started to incorporate them into the band, and from there we immediately set out to try and start a TV show…and this was, like, ’95 or ’96. [Laughs.] So it’s taken some time to finally happen, but it was one of those things where, right away, we were telling people, “We’re gonna make a TV show!” And it started to feel a little bit like that book The Carrot Seed, where there’s the little kid and no one believes the carrot’s gonna grow, but the kid does, and he knows the carrot’s gonna come up at some point. I feel like that was us a little bit. It was just up to us to stick it out and keep trying and keep trying and keep trying. But, yeah, it was definitely something that we always wanted to do.

BE: When did it first look like it was going to become a reality? Certainly the success of “Yo Gabba Gabba!” couldn’t have hurt.

CJ: Well, I think that’s what finally took us over the hill. But back in ’98, you know, we did a pilot for this studio, and then in ’99 or 2000, we did another development deal with a different studio, and…it was one setback and weird thing after another. And then we had pitched it to all of the networks by 2002 or 2003 – we pretty much ran the table, so to speak – and no one was biting, so it just seemed like a dead project. But in the back of our minds, we were, like, “I know this can still be a great kids show, but let’s focus on something else.” And that’s when we came up with a bunch of ideas, and one of those ideas was “Yo Gabba Gabba!” And just from pitching the Aquabats so much around the industry, we had some contacts, so we started pitching “Yo Gabba Gabba!,” and we immediately realized that we were going to run into the same problem unless we just took matters into our own hands and independently did it ourselves. And that’s really where the ball started rolling, and we realized, “Hey, if we’re going to do this, then we’re just going to need to go and make it on our own somehow.”

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