Godzilla (1998)

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Directed by Roland Emmerich
Starring Matthew Broderick, Jean Reno, Maria Pitillo, Hank Azaria

BMM Keywords: So bad it hurts, Dull, Wasted potential, Commercial, Huge lizard.

    French nuclear testing creates a monster. Pursued by the US military, a team of loveably flawed scientists (including Broderick as a Greek-American expert on the mutant earthworms of Chernobyl) and a dogged French 'insurance investigator' (Reno, briefly breathing life into the scenes he passes through), this giant, mutant iguana wrecks a few trawlers as it makes its way to New York, where it treads on cars, breaks buildings and generally makes a nuisance of itself. A rookie journalist (Pitillo) and her veteran cameraman (Azaria, again, a passing ray of sunshine in the bleak midwinter night of this movie) pick up the pursuit of the beast, dubbed 'Godzilla'.

    Far from the rubber-suited guy of Toho's creature features, this Godzilla is a fast moving, slickly sophisticated piece of CGI. It crouches like an iguana, and burrows like a mad thing; floats like a butterfly, stings like a bee, and generally escapes all traps set for it by fox-like cunning as much as brute strength. Eventually the scientists discover that the big lizard is pregnant, and Broderick and Reno - really a French secret service agent - team up to track and destroy the eggs, and incidentally a baseball stadium; because its more fun that way. The four principals then lead Godzilla him(her?)self onto the Brooklyn Bridge, where (s)he gets tangled in the wires and rocketed to death.

    In the closing scene, a last, ignored egg hatches, and a baby 'zilla leaps out, with a roar which loosely translates as: "I'll be back".

    The Horror.

What's wrong with it?

    Godzilla is a giant, mutated blob of a movie. Bereft of any significant plot or interesting characters, even its flashy SFX fails to please, and the viewer is left longing for the damn thing to end, especially on video. With the exceptions of Reno, Azaria, and a few supporting turns, the acting is weak at best  -with the drippy 'tough' journalist a particular low - and while the huge lizard is as advertised, he's so much less so than the original Big G. He doesn't even breathe fire for crying out loud.

What's right with it?

    Well, there's Jean Reno and Hank Azaria, plus that huge lizard. Moreover, Godzilla certainly sounds like Godzilla, having a screaming roar close enough to the real thing for government work. There's also a nice moment where the lizard gets called Godzilla because the slimy newsman can't pronounce the Japanese 'Gojira'; an allusion to the fact that the original film was called Godzilla in the States, because it was felt that the American public couldn't cope with Gojira.

How bad is it, really?

    Giant. Mutated. Blob. To be fair, if you went to the cinema for Jean Reno and a huge lizard, you did get what you paid for, but the experience falls rather flat on the small screen, and even the huge lizard and the cool Frenchman can't disguise the fact that the film is overlong and incredibly tedious.

Best bit?

    Jean Reno's French secret service surveillance team bitching about the quality of American coffee, and the dearth of croissants in New York city.

What's up with...?


Production Values - To be fair, pretty good. Some people claim that you can see the buildings through the big lizard, but I didn't get that. My problem with the big lizard is that it's just plain not Godzilla, but for what it is, it looks pretty spiffy. Just wish they'd spent some of the budget on flaming breath though. 4

Dialogue and performances - Ugh. Matthew Broderick in one of his career lows, and could the reporter chick be any more irritating if she tried? Generally solid support playing, especially from Reno and Hank Azaria, can't hide the fact that the central performances blow. the script is also on the naff side, but not so much as to be cringe worthy. The performances however elevate the material to a new height of rubbish. 16

Plot and Execution - What plot? Big lizard. Smash Manhattan. Killee monster. Pretty basic fare, with some added cool Frenchmen. The delivery is workmanlike. 12

Randomness - The giant lizard pregnancy test. The absence of flaming breath (what? was it felt that would damage the suspension of disbelief?) The iguana business. 10

Waste of Potential - It's a big budget Godzilla flick, and they screwed it up! How could they manage that? It must have taken real planning and effort. 17

Overall: 59% (saved from total disaster by a coherent, if sparse plot and low internal randomness)


Gone In 60 Seconds (2000)

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"Ice Cold, Hot Wired."

Reviewed by Simon Drake

Directed by Dominic Sena.
Starring Nicolas Cage, Angelina Jolie, Robert Duvall.

    Memphis Raines (Nicholas Cage) has to steal 50 - count 'em - high-class cars in one night to save his brother's life from Token Brit Villain Christopher "I'll never move to Hollywood film" Eccelston.

What’s wrong with it?

    Basically the film (actually a remake of a 60’s film) is terribly dated and frankly a little dull. Bruckheimer was evidently trying to capture the 80 cheese of Top Gun and Days of Thunder…But in the year 2000. Adding insult to injury, the film, pitched as a car chase movie, only contains one car chase...and that is ten minutes before the end. The rest of the film is spent with long, lingering shots of the cars (admittedly nice) and Angelina Joile (also admittedly nice), who plays the most unlikely mechanic in cinema history, with the implausible moniker of ‘Sway’. Director Dominic Sena (responsible for other dire offerings such as the David Duchovny ass-fest Kalifornia, and the Halle Berry breast-fest Swordfish) obviously thought it was a great idea to punctuate the film with interminable pounding techno and epileptic edits...And Vinnie Jones.

    Ahhhh Vinnie. 15 Minutes almost up!!! ‘Our’ Vinnie plays (wait for it) a violent thug (showing the full extent of his range) called ‘The Sphinx’ (where do they come up with these names!!!). Writer Scott Rosenberg has clearly never seen Mystery Men, or maybe he has as the previously mute Sphinx spouts some cod philosophy at the end of the film (in a very He-Man ‘all laugh together’ ending). Either way he probably misses the irony.

    Finally, the whole questionable moral message of the movie (stealing cars is okay if they are expensive as the owners can afford it). Even the Maverick cop lets Nicolas Cage go despite the fact he’s just dropped a business man (admittedly British, therefore Evil!) into a vat of boiling molten metal.

What’s Good about it?

    To be fair, the film has Nicolas Cage in, who always falls into the watchable category (despite Starring in Snake Eyes, 8MM, Bringing Out the Dead, Family Man…I could go on). It also features a cool car chase at the end (although followed by some sickening ‘all for a brother's love’ moralising). Angelina Jolie disappears for half of the movie, so whether you think that’s a good or a bad point is your own lookout.

How bad is it really?

    It’s just badly written by someone who on occasions has proved himself to be an able hack. It stars 3 Oscar winners, acting badly (I believe the term is ‘phoning it in’), in a film with high production values pitched to 16-year-old boys who read ‘maxpower’ magazine.

    Must try harder!

Best Bit

    Either the line ‘You promised your Mother you’d never steal another car again’, or Christopher Eccelston falling backwards into a pit of Molten Metal (with the obligatory terrible back projection effects).

    The Cars are cool as well.

What’s up with...?


Production Values - High. Lots of expensive cars (some shots if them driving would have been nice though) and stars. 3.

Dialogue and Performance – Pretty lame. A few decent one-liners creep into the mix, but not many. "I’m not messing with anyone who plays with dog shit" ‘quips’ a street punk. 16.

Plot and Execution – The plot is more of an excuse really. The title was fairly apt. 21.

Randomness – High. Subplots involving Parents splitting up, getting Cancer, Diaritic dogs and Geordie thugs are all thrown into the mix. But most bizarrely is the crapness of the car thefts, just shots of various fast cars being loaded into huge crates, then as the film goes on just shots of the crates…Obviously Jeremy Clarkson only allowed half his collection to be filmed. Also lots of techno crap about Carburettors and Tungsten fuel injection ports. 18.

Waste of Potential -

Overall: 58%


Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1992)

"Sometimes it takes more than just good looks to kill."

Directed by Fran Rubel Kuzai
Starring Kristy Swason, Luke Perry and Rutger Hauer

BMM Keywords: Wasted potential.

    High school cheerleader Buffy Summers (Swanson) discovers that she is The Slayer, the one girl in her generation gifted with the superhuman strength and agility to battle against the vampires. She is trained by Merrick (Donald Sutherland), the Watcher, but unfortunately the Slayer has been pursued through the centuries by Lothos (Hauer), the most powerful vampire of all, and he has brought his vampire minions to her sleepy LA suburb in search of her. And as if that were not obstacle enough, Buffy herself would rather be getting ready to go to the prom than fighting the undead. Merrick is killed trying to protect his charge from Lothos, leaving Buffy to face up to her responsibilities, with only the hapless biker-trash Pike (Perry) to help her. In a climactic showdown, Buffy is almost overcome by Lothos's hypnotic powers, but finds her strength again because he can only do the mind-whammy when there's music playing (huh?), and defeats him.

    Five years later, writer Joss Whedon creates a TV series of Buffy the Vampire Slayer that is superior in almost every respect.

What's wrong with it?

    Basically, it's a travesty. The TV series of Buffy has managed to maintain its momentum over 100 episodes, while the movie struggles to make 100 minutes. A script by the funny and incredibly clever Mr Whedon has somehow been reduced to a single joke (she's a vampire Slayer, called Buffy), and populated with bizarrely ineffectual and deeply unintimidating villains. Rutger Hauer chews scenery and Paul Reubens as his senior hench-vamp is a weasely clown, although they are both at least along for the ride. Actually, they'd both be great, if only the whole film was outrageously camp, but it isn't. And then there's Donald Sutherland. According to an interview with the sainted Joss (I like Joss Whedon; didja notice?), Donald Sutherland insisted on rewriting his lines to the point of obscurity. You barely notice, because he is a great actor, but as he is the source of all exposition, it leaves the rest of the plot hanging lost.

What's right with it?

    Well, much of the film is pretty funny, and while much of it has just the one joke, it does do it rather well. It's decently made, and - aside from a few rampant hams - decently acted, but it could have been so much more.

How bad is it really?

    Buffy the Vampire Slayer is really quite watchable, and in places promises to become something very sweet indeed. Of course, eventually it does: Five years later when the central concept got turned into a TV show, on which the talents of geniuses like St Joss Whedon, Lord David Greenwalt and Her Holiness Marti Noxon (and oh so many others) were lavished. In fact, if not for the TV show, I might give the film a better write-up, but as it is, I can only look, and mourn for what might have been.

Best Bit

    Tapping, a la Salem's Lot, on Pike's window, a newly turned vamp (David Arquette) tries to secure the all important invitation to enter. "I'm hungry," he pleads. "You're floating!" Pike points out, alarmed.

    Or Paul Reubens' line: "You ruined my jacket. Kill him a lot."

What's up with...?


Production Values - Dated outfits notwithstanding, the production values aren't too bad, although 'flying Lothos' is fairly visibly on strings. 8

Dialogue and Performances - The script veers between sharp one-liners, slick exchanges, and monumentally garbled - possibly Sutherland-penned - exposition. No-one in the film actually acts badly, but the performances are all over the place. It is almost as if everyone is in a different movie, and were all cut together digitally. 9

Plot and Execution - Fairly solid, but it suffers from a mangled finale. In addition, it is neither as funny, nor as scary as it could be. The greatest failing in the direction however is that the various actors are able to be at such dramatic odds in their performances without being checked in. Luke Perry and Kristy Swanson are in a teen movie, while Donald Sutherland is in something terribly portentous, and Rutger Hauer and Paul Ruebens are in the Rocky Horror Show. the film would have been so much better for just a little more directorial control. 14

Randomness - Aside from that music thing, pretty good, but as that's the climax of the film, it's a pretty big random spot, especially as Buffy only works it out when the music stops and Lothos loses control. She doesn't puzzle out his weakness and use it to defeat him; she just gets lucky, and that's a big let down in a final showdown of this sort. 14

Waste of Potential - We can but be glad that we have had a second chance to see the potential that this film squandered. 15

Overall - 60%