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01 June, 2014

Godzilla / The Quiet Ones / The Amazing Spider-Man 2 Drive-In Triple-Feature

Title(s):  Godzilla / The Quiet Ones / The Amazing Spider-Man 2

Date of Theatrical Release(s):  May 16, 2014 / April 25, 2014 / May 2, 2014

MPAA Rating:  PG-13 (all)

On the 16th of May, your friendly ol’ Unimonster loaded the family truckster with food, drink, blankets, the Uni-Nephew, and the Rug-Monkey, and headed out to the local Drive-In.  Our primary goal for the night was to have a great time watching the new Godzilla film, but good timing (plus a little bit of relocating from one screen to the next during intermission) allowed us to score a triple-feature of genre films.  It was also my first chance to check out the Tibbs since they upgraded to Digital over the off-season.

Since the boys and I watched these movies as a team, we’ll review them as a team.  Each review will include their thoughts on the film in question.  So let’s go to the Drive-in!

We were all looking forward to Gareth Edwards’ Godzilla, the big budget reinvention of the King of all Monsters.  Following a spring filled with hype about this movie, we were all a little concerned that it might fail to deliver as much as was promised … I more so than the boys.  I still have vivid recollections of the last time the Big G appeared on American shores, in the 1998 Roland Emmerich-directed GINO (Godzilla … In Name Only) stinkfest.  It too had been massively hyped, only to disappoint legions of loyal Kaijû fans, including the Unimonster.  I hoped history wouldn’t repeat itself, but Hollywood has a poor track record in this area.

After viewing, all I can say is … this movie was fantastic!  For once, the hype wasn’t overdone; if anything, the movie was better than I expected.  This is Godzilla; Americanized, sure … but still recognizable as the Big G.  If the trailers mislead on any point, it’s the impression that Bryan Cranston is the star of the film.  His performance as Joe Brody, the first to give warning of Godzilla’s presence is good, and the character is important to the plot, but his screen time is limited.  Never having seen an episode of Breaking Bad, my impressions of Cranston all revolve around his Emmy-nominated role of Hal, Malcolm’s long-suffering father on the hit series Malcolm in the Middle.  It’s different seeing him in a dramatic role; good, but different.  I kept expecting Hal to pop-up.

The lead is nominally Aaron Taylor-Johnson, familiar to genre fans as Dave Lizewski / Kick-Ass, from Kick-Ass and Kick-Ass 2 (both highly recommended, btw), but make no mistake, the star of this film is 250 feet tall and scaly.  This is Godzilla’s film, and though I would’ve like to see more of him on-screen, his impact is unquestionable.

The one problem I do have with the film is that far too much of it looks as though it was lit with a 40-watt light bulb.  I understand using shadows to conceal something in order to build suspense, but in order for there to be shadows there must also be light.  When you’re seeing one- or two-minute sequences that are essentially just a black screen, that’s not building suspense; that’s taking the audience out of the action.
Still, that’s my one complaint, and it’s not a major one.  Overall, it’s a tremendous movie, and easily vaults to the top of my list for Movie of the Year.

The Uni-Nephew’s Review:  “Godzilla was a great movie, with lots of action and a great story!”
The Rug-Monkey’s Review:  “Great!”

The Quiet Ones
Ever since the resurrection of Hammer Films, and their first unqualified success with The Woman in Black, I’ve been waiting for the follow-up.  Something, anything, to show that the studio’s new incarnation was for real.  The Quiet Ones, the studio’s first release since The Woman in Black, is not that film.

Starring Jared Harris, Sam Claflin, and Olivia Cooke, The Quiet Ones is the type of Supernatural / Psychological horror that Hammer used to do very well, with films such as 1963’s Paranoiac or 1964’s Nightmare.  My issues with this film are that, for a “Horror” film, there’s a distinct lack of … well, Horror.  To describe the film as slow-moving would be an understatement; the movie plods along with the deliberateness of a stagnant creek.  John Pogue directed this tortoise of a film, working from a script he co-wrote with Craig Rosenberg and Oren Moverman.  I don’t know if ‘glacial’ was the pace he was shooting for … if so, then he hit the mark.
The characters are on the whole unlikeable; Claflin’s Brian McNeil is the closest you get to a hero for the piece, though not a very effective one.  Professor Joseph Coupland (Harris), the head of the group, is the perfect example of the ‘creepy uncle’, the kind which parents don’t let their kids visit unsupervised.  Only Cooke, as Jane Harper, the subject of the Professor’s experiments, is entertaining.  And I get the impression that that’s an accidental occurrence.

Despite all this, The Quiet Ones isn't a horrible movie … just a profoundly disappointing one.

The Uni-Nephew’s Review:  “The Quiet Ones was a good movie but could’ve been a bit faster-paced, with more horror aspects to it (considering it’s a horror movie).”
The Rug-Monkey’s Review:  “The Quiet Ones was okay, but wasn’t what I expected.”

The Amazing Spider-Man 2
Okay, confession time … I’ve never been a fan of Marvel’s Superheroes (DC all the WAY!), and Spider-Man was always my least favorite of the bunch.  Still, the recent Marvel blockbusters have made me a (partial) convert—with one exception:  Spidey.  To this old comic-book lovin’ Unimonster, he still comes across as comical, almost a parody of superheroes.  Truthfully, I fell asleep during the last big-screen adaptation of Stan Lee’s most famous creation, and expected to do the same with this one.  No one was more surprised than I that, not only did I make it through the entire film (though some credit has to go to having two rambunctious teenagers in a tightly enclosed space … think ‘pair of chimps in a Gemini space capsule’), I actually enjoyed the movie.

Granted, I know next to nothing of the character’s back story, or the various comic-book iterations of it that exist.  Andrew Garfield did a very good job playing Spider-Man, but more importantly, he did a great job playing Peter Parker, the harder of the two roles.  To be the superhero, the man or woman in the mask, cape, or tights, is easy.  It’s all action.  All one has to do is be heroic.  It’s as their secret selves that you see the cost of being the hero, as with Christian Bale’s Bruce Wayne.

Emma Stone (Garfield’s real-life girlfriend) plays Gwen Stacy, the love-interest of Parker / Spider-Man, as she is aware of his secret.  This threw me at first, as the little that I do recall of the comic book Spider-Man was that his girlfriend was named Mary Jane, but I was enlightened as to the discrepancy by the boys.  Stone gives a very good performance, and there’s no denying that she’s one of the most beautiful actresses in Hollywood.

The cast overall does an excellent job, aided by a superb script from Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci, and Jeff Pinkner.  Kurtzman and Orci have been one of the most successful screenwriting duos of the last decade, penning the Transformers, Spider-Man, and Star Trek franchises to box-office gold.  Marc Webb does well as director; though to be honest, with this level of talent on board, it would be hard not to.

While Spider-Man will never be a favorite Superhero of mine, not even my favorite Marvel hero, this movie surprised me in just how much I enjoyed it.

The Uni-Nephew’s Review:  “The Amazing Spider-Man 2 was a very good movie.  It has many twists to it, and a very good story.”
The Rug-Monkey’s Review:  “The Amazing Spider-Man 2 was really amazing!”

One final word on the Tibbs Drive-In’s digital upgrade is in order.  The picture quality was very good, not as vast an improvement as you would see in a similar upgrade in a conventional theater, but that’s a function of the limited amount of light that can be projected onto the screen when that screen is a hundred or more yards away from the projector, as opposed to a hundred or so feet.  Still, I mourn the loss of film, and the idiosyncrasies associated with it.  Progress may be more efficient, but it’s nostalgia that stirs the heart.

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