I’ve got a lot to get off my chest this week, and thankfully no more near misses from severe weather at the theater, so I’m going to avoid a long introduction this time around.
This week we have a horror film starring Octavia Spencer, a new monster movie featuring everyone’s favorite giant radioactive reptile, and a musical biopic based on the life of Elton John.
Let’s get to the reviews.
First up is “Ma.”
A lonely woman named Sue Ann (Octavia Spencer) befriends a group of teenagers after they ask her to buy some booze for them, ultimately leading to her letting them party at her house.
Just when the kids think their luck couldn’t get any better, things start happening that make them question the intention of their host.
Well, we’ve finally come to the end of our completely disconnected, wholly unrelated, trilogy of horror films featuring evil mother figures.
For some reason three different studios decided to hop on the ‘creepy mom express’ this year, each releasing a movie about a demented maternal figure, all in the timespan of less than three months.
The first was “Greta” at the beginning of March, a movie about an insane lady who lures unsuspecting young women into her house using abandoned handbags and the promise of a mother-daughter type relationship.
The next was “The Curse of La Llorona,” Warner Bros. most recent entry in The Conjuring Universe, which featured a mother who drowned her two sons back in the 1600s and 300 years later is still haunting the children of unsuspecting parents.
Unfortunately, despite killer moms being a hot concept this year, neither one of these films were all that good. In fact, I’d call “The Curse of La Llorona” downright terrible.
Despite that, I still held out hope that “Ma” would turn out okay. Plus just I loved the idea of Octavia Spencer portraying a deranged murderer. She’s such a great actress, and her in a horror role seemed too good to go wrong.
Well, luckily for me, this film didn’t turn out nearly as awful as “La Llorona.” Still, I could see many horror fans leaving this movie fairly disappointed.
On the plus of things though, like I had hoped, Octavia Spencer was quite good here.
In many ways this movie is as much of a revenge film as it is a horror one.
Sue Ann isn’t just trying to befriend a bunch of teenagers so she can lure them to their deaths. She’s also using the kids as a way to get back at their parents, who treated her poorly during their high school days.
Much of the movie is dedicated to delving into Sue Ann’s character, even showing flashbacks to her as a teenager.
I’d go as far to say the main character of this film isn’t actually any of the kids she lures into her house. It’s Sue Ann. And Octavia does great job bringing this deeply troubled woman to life.
I like that the movie doesn’t immediately make Sue Ann seem like a complete psycho. It makes the teens trusting her somewhat believable.
Plus, when the older women begins going completely off the deep end, the teenagers actually try to cut ties. Granted, they do get lured back into her clutches eventually, but at least they have some semblance of self preservation in their thick little skulls, unlike some horror protagonists.
For their part, the actors who portray the teenagers aren’t half bad here. Sure, their dialogue wasn’t always the best, and their delivery was weak at times, but at the very least they weren’t too terribly annoying. In fact, I’d say they even came across as likeable at times.
Really, the major thing that’d keep me from recommending this movie to most horror fans, is this movie just doesn’t have all that many scares. At least not until the very end where Sue Ann really goes off the rails.
That’s not to say I thought the movie was a complete snooze fest.
There are a couple intense moments sprinkled in here and there, and I found the story with Sue Ann compelling enough to keep me interested for most of the runtime. I just doubt it’ll be enough for those looking for a scare-a-minute.
Bottomline, if you really like Octavia Spencer as an actress, and the idea of her being a horror villain sounds fun to you, you’ll probably have a good time. Those looking for constant scares should look elsewhere.
“Ma” is rated R.
Next up is “Godzilla: King of the Monsters.”
This film follows the efforts of the crypto-zoological agency Monarch as its members face off against a battery of god-sized monsters, including the mighty Godzilla, who collides with Mothra, Rodan, and his ultimate nemesis, the three-headed King Ghidorah.
When these ancient super-species, thought to be mere myths, rise again, they all vie for supremacy, leaving humanity’s very existence hanging in the balance.
Oh boy. Godzilla’s back, and this time he brought some friends.
Honestly, I can’t say I have any particularly affection for these movies.
The original 1954 one is obviously a classic, and frankly it’s more of an commentary on the use of nuclear weapons than just a straight up monster movie.
I haven’t nearly watched all 35 Godzilla movies, but my favorite has to be the Japanese produced 2016 film “Shin Godzilla.”
The movie has a really interesting commentary on the bureaucracy of government, especially the failings of it. Plus, despite its campy nature, the destruction scenes in that movie awed me more than any other monster flick I’ve ever seen.
But I’m not here to talk about that movie unfortunately.
“Godzilla: King of the Monsters” is the third film in Legendary Pictures’ so called MonsterVerse.
The series started with the 2014 film “Godzilla” starring Bryan Cranston, a movie that I didn’t hate, but I wasn’t a particularly big fan of it either. Common complaints were the lack of strong characters and, most of all, not enough on-screen action from the titular character.
Then, a few years later Legendary produced a film about a completely different, yet equally famous, larger than life monster, “Kong: Skull Island.”
And out of both of these movies, I enjoyed Kong much more.
It was just more entertaining as a whole. There was a much more action in in it, the human characters weren’t especially deep, but they were likeable for the most part, and it had a really cool post Vietnam setting. And I wasn’t alone. Most fans and critics enjoyed this movie more out of the two films.
So here we are in 2019. Legendary is gearing up for a big team-up movie next year, bringing Godzilla and Kong together for the first time in over 50 years.
Does this next chapter in the MonsterVerse, “Godzilla: King of the Monsters,” excite audiences like “Kong: Skull Island” did? Or does the series regress, dipping even lower in quality than the 2014 film?
Unfortunately, it’s definitely the latter.
I straight up hated this movie. As far as I’m concerned there isn’t a single redeeming thing about it. It’s like the filmmakers learned absolutely nothing from the 2014 movie.
Oh, audiences didn’t like the bland, uninteresting characters in the last movie? Well this time we’ll make them all aggravating brainless morons.
The characters in this film are some of the dumbest human beings I’ve had the displeasure to see on the big screen.
But to keep things mildly brief, let’s just focus on our main group of idiots. The Russell family, composed of mom, Dr. Emma Russell (Vera Farmiga), dad, Dr. Mark Russell (Kyle Chandler), and their 12-year-old daughter Madison (Millie Bobby Brown).
Out of the three, dad probably gets off the easiest. But only because he’s too boring to care about. His main character trait is speaking in gruff whispers.
The daughter is quite a bit more annoying. She enjoys making really dumb decisions, risking her life every opportunity she gets.
Neither one would ruin the movie on their own. Heck, the dad practically acts like every hero in a monster movie.
But then there’s the mom. And let me tell ya, momma Emma is a real piece of work.
She’s a paleobiologist who works for Monarch, a group of halfwits who enjoy coddling monsters the size of mountains, capable of destroying cities without a second thought.
Instead of trying to stop these behemoths from rampaging through your favorite city block, they just like to watch them do their thing, all while getting just close enough to be accidentally murdered by one of them.
But luckily for humanity, the large majority of these city killers are sound asleep, quietly being studied by irresponsible scientists.
Of course we can’t have that though. Emma, being the reasonable level-headed person she is, decides to start awakening these monsters one at a time.
Why does she decide to release armageddon on the planet you might ask?
Well she thinks she’s a super smart activist who believes humans and these so called titans, can exist together in harmony. In releasing all these beasties she thinks she’s restoring balance to the Earth and saving the environment.
To the surprise of no one, she’s actually a moron.
Her plan immediately goes awry after waking up a monster no one in the film seemed to actually understand called the Ghidorah, a three headed lightning breathing hydra.
This Ghidorah, not grasping the carefully laid out plans of our big brained scientist lady, decides to usurp her and wake up all the monsters at once. Something that our Dr. Russell didn’t even consider to be a possibility, despite being an expert in the way these creatures communicate.
Naturally, what follows is rampant destruction on a global scale, threatening the very existence of the human race.
Despite being the single most stupid and irresponsible person on Earth, we as the audience are supposed to feel sorry for her, even though she knowingly pursued worldwide genocide.
After all, she just made an oopsie everyone. She didn’t want to kill all 7.5 billion people on the planet, she just wanted to murder half of them. She’s practically a saint.
If it wasn’t already clear, I hated this character to my very core. Her body count is higher than even the ambitions most Bond villains. The Third Reich wishes they were half as effect at murdering people as she was in this film.
Despite that, the writers of this movie expect us to feel sympathy for Godzilla Hitler because she had a change of heart? That’s not tragic, that’s just her being a imbecile with zero foresight.
I didn’t like a single character in this movie. I haven’t even mentioned the dialogue, which is terrible in its own right, featuring some of the dumbest lines I’ve ever heard in a feature film.
But “Dave,” you might say, “I don’t care about the people in a Godzilla movie. I just want to see monsters fight each other and destroy everything in their path.”
Well this film disappoints on that front too. Surprisingly the action in this movie is almost as bad as the characters themselves.
During the few fights this film actually features, most of the time you can hardly even tell what’s going happening on-screen.
In the filmmakers’ infinite wisdom they decided to set most of the action in dark, lightning filled hellscapes, with constant rain to obscure any rare glimpse of excitement you might see.
Not only that, but for the most part the monsters here are filmed in close up, zoomed in from ground level, similar to Michael Bay’s “Transformers” series, so you can hardly even tell who’s slamming into who.
And the cherry on top? In addition to all the bad weather and ridiculous closeups, the people filming decided to shake the cameras as hard as they could, making it nearly impossible to follow any of the action.
There’s just nothing redeemable about this movie. I guess the design of the monsters doesn’t look half bad. You can hardly ever see them though because, for whatever reason, it never stops storming when they’re on the screen.
I’ve heard from some Godzilla fans that they’ve actually enjoyed this movie, though I can’t for the life of me fathom why. I get that watching all these iconic monsters in a larger than life Hollywood production is really cool in concept, the the execution here is just plain terrible.
Godzilla deserves better. All the monsters here do. I hope the next film in the series, “Godzilla vs. Kong,” learns from this movie’s mistakes, and I pray it doesn’t regress even further.
As of now though, this franchise is as radioactive as the king of monsters himself.
“Godzilla: King of the Monsters” is rated PG-13.
Last this week is “Rocketman.”
The film follows the fantastical journey of transformation from shy piano prodigy Reginald Dwight into international superstar Elton John (Taron Egerton).
Set to Elton John’s most beloved songs, this movie tells the story of how a small-town boy became one of the most iconic figures in pop culture.
Hot off the wild box office success of “Bohemian Rhapsody,” a film which followed Queen’s legendary lead singer Freddie Mercury, here we have another music biopic featuring another one the world’s most popular musicians.
Despite its popularity with audiences, I was not the biggest fan of “Bohemian Rhapsody.” Sure, Rami Malek was fantastic as Freddie, and the music was by Queen, which is incredible to listen to anytime.
But the movie took so many liberties with the story of Freddie’s life, throwing in outright falsehoods. Not only to create a more dramatic narrative, but also to fit the generic music biopic formula we’ve all seen a dozen times, regardless of what actually happened.
And in the process the filmmakers of “Bohemian Rhapsody” completely sanitized Freddie himself, making his life more appealing to a wider audience and earning a coveted PG-13 rating.
“Rocketman” takes a different approach.
Instead of presenting the glamorized history of Elton John, this movie shows the life story of the famous musician, warts and all. Not even attempting to make his life PG-13. But at the same time, the film still keeps a fun and fairly lighthearted tone throughout.
How do they do it? Well, in short, they turned Elton’s life into a fantasy.
Like many biopics, this film begins with a flashback to Elton’s childhood. But instead of just showing a few miserable scenes of him as a kid, the movie opens with a full on musical number, with elaborate dance choreography and everything.
That’s right. “Rocketman” is one of the rare R-rated musicals. And boy is it a treat.
There’s so many surreal elements in this movie. It almost feels dreamlike at times. Which actually works quite well, because the entire framing of the movie is Elton recounting his life story in front of a group of strangers.
It makes sense that the whole thing would be a daze set to song in his mind.
I’m quite certain many events in this film aren’t completely historically accurate, but honestly it doesn’t matter.
The movie is trying to capture what it felt like to be Elton during his rise to fame, and the emotions that came with it.
And like I said before, just because this is a musical fantasy, doesn’t mean the filmmakers hid the less savory aspects of Elton’s life.
While Elton John is a talented musician, back in the 70s and 80s he was also an alcoholic, a drug addict, and a serial fornacator. This movie isn’t intent on hiding any of those facts.
In fact, Elton’s substance abuse is one of the main focuses of the narrative. And rightfully so. To censor that would be doing his story a disservice.
Another aspect of Elton’s life this film doesn’t sanitize is his sexuality. Elton John is an openly gay man, and they don’t hide it one bit here. Fair warning, if the idea of watching two men get it on makes you feel uncomfortable, this probably isn’t the movie for you.
Moving on to the dialogue, I love that this film frequently uses bad language. After all, the people in this movie are rockstars and music executives. Of course they wouldn’t all speak like saints. It really helped add an edge that movies like “Bohemian Rhapsody” are just missing. Not to mention a fair amount of humor.
Performance wise, this film is fantastic across the board.
I don’t know if Taron Egerton will end up winning an Oscar like Rami Malek did for Freddie, but he was great here all the same.
Not only did he nail the emotion and depth of Elton’s character, he actually sings too, and quite well I might add. Sure, it’s not an exact imitation, but that wasn’t the goal here. Again, like with all things in this film, it’s more about capturing the spirit of Elton, not creating a carbon copy.
Overall, I think Taron does a pretty bang up job playing the famous rockstar. It really felt like he put his heart in the role.
Everyone else in this movie was quite good too.
I especially loved Jamie Bell as Elton’s long time lyricist Bernie Taupin. Him and Elton had a fascinating relationship together, and the two actors portraying them did a great job showcasing their musical chemistry on the big screen.
I really don’t know what else to say.
If you love Elton John, and the idea of an R-rated musical doesn’t scare you off, I think you’ll have great time with this movie.
The songs are wonderful, the performances are excellent, and best of all, it’s a unique music biopic which doesn’t completely fall into the same tired, overused formula we’ve seen reused over and over.
All that and more makes this a very easy movie to recommend.
“Rocketman” is rated R.