‘Godzilla: King of the Monsters’ review: Phenomenal titan clash

Godzilla: King of the Monsters takes VFX terror and awe to a skyrocketing high. Those who are out for blood (and radiation) should see this on the biggest screen possible.

Any sensible moviegoer should know that Godzilla is the star of any given Godzilla show. Human characters naturally play second fiddle to the story. After all, the roots of this franchise has always occupied a B-level form of entertainment. You don’t go to this movie looking for Shakespearean character depth. The whole point here is to watch monsters beating the heck out of each other. Right? Hence, it does not bother me that King of the Monsters’ top priority is to showcase more epic monster fights. Actually, this is a course correction to the shortcomings of its 2014 predecessor when it comes to adrenaline department.

Once again, the sequel hails Godzilla as Earth’s unlikely defender. The monster’s intention for saving humanity has always been unclear – the film though offers a quick reasoning that titans are Earth’s “last line of defense” against alien invaders. One of which is the fabled King Ghidorah – a three-headed, beam-blasting dragon which serves as Godzilla’s primary rival for apex predator. The dragon sends out a siren call to awaken all the other dormant Titans around the globe, with one mission in mind: smash everything. This includes a pterodactyl Rodan emerging from a Mexican volcano and a luminous giant moth Mothra which thankfully, has an allegiance to Godzilla.

Meet the titans of ‘Godzilla: King of the Monsters

On a visual level, King of the Monsters is an arresting work of art. There are plenty of money shots here that deliver pure spectacle. It helps that these creatures are crafted with such detail and passion. Ghidorah’s heads seem to have their own distinct personalities. Mothra delivers lyrical beauty through its large flapping wings. Godzilla even gets beefed up and a character comments on its physical upgrade (“Has he been working out?”) With several kaijus in the picture, it only makes sense to make the monster look stronger and more able. Godzilla lights up his nuke-powered tail and lets loose a terrifying roar, followed by an atomic ray. The film instantly commands your undivided attention.

Aside from the top notch visual effects, director Michael Dougherty, along with cinematographer Lawrence Sher, present the terror and awe through human POVs first before finally zooming out to a series of wide shots to remind the audience how massive the stakes are. Aided by The Walking Dead’s musical scorer Bear McCreary, the film takes its rip-roaring action to a skyrocketing high. There’s a thrilling high-speed chase which pits Rodan against a bunch of military aircraft. Elsewhere, most battles are set at night time with only the blue phosphorescence coming from the Godzilla’s back to light up the proceedings. If you don’t want any darkness (similar to Game of Thrones’ Battle of Winterfell) to taint your viewing experience, you’ll have to watch this in an IMAX theater.

Former British Army colonel Alan Jonah (Charles Dance) coerces paleobiologist Dr. Emma Russell (Vera Farmiga) and her daughter Madison (Millie Bobby Brown)

Surprisingly, the human connection has also improved. Instead of being just powerless ciphers of the first film, the human characters take a more proactive role in joining the battle. In here, Dr. Emma Russell (Vera Farmiga) and her daughter Madison (Stranger Things’ Millie Bobby Brown in her debut movie) develop a bioacoustic machine called the ‘Orca’ that can be used to communicate with Titans. Unfortunately, eco-terrorist leader Alan (Charles Dance) abducts them, uses the device to release Ghidorah and allows it to decimate the overpopulated planet in an attempt to restore “ecological balance.” Sounds like someone has a Thanos savior complex.

On the other hand, crypto-zoological organization Monarch enlists Emma’s ex-husband Mark (Kyle Chandler) to help them track Orca’s signal across the globe, as the bad guys release one monster after another. The rest of the supporting casts – Ken Watanabe, Sally Hawkins, Bradley Whitford, Zhang Ziyi and O’Shea Jackson Jr., are mainly present to spout scientific arguments, explain them in layman terms or act as narrative devices. While character motivations can get muddled and the film’s environmental subtext is immediately dropped in favor of more action, the film does not let you dwell on these narrative flaws. The visual splendor is always ready to sweep you off your feet.

Animal behavior and communication specialist Dr. Mark Russell (Kyle Chandler) tries to rescue his family amid the massive chaos.

The potential of Legendary Entertainment’s MonsterVerse can be summed up in the films’ explosive third act royal rumble. Godzilla: King of Monsters is an electrifying and fantastic kaiju extravaganza that satiates one’s appetite for destruction. Suffice to say, if you’re into this stuff, it’s an excellent choice for a popcorn blockbuster. Otherwise, this can end up numbing to the senses.

As references to Kong: Skull Island are made to set up the upcoming Godzilla vs. Kong in 2020, I’m definitely sticking to see more of what this franchise has to offer.

4 out of 5 stars
Directed by Michael Dougherty, written by Michael Dougherty and Zach Shields, ‘Godzilla: King of the Monsters’ stars Kyle Chandler, Vera Farmiga, Millie Bobby Brown, Bradley Whitford, Sally Hawkins, Charles Dance, Thomas Middleditch, Aisha Hinds, O’Shea Jackson Jr., David Strathairn, Ken Watanabe and Zhang Ziyi. With T.J. Storm as Godzilla (via motion capture). Based on the Japanese film Godzilla by Toho. 132 minutes. PG-13.

Vera Farmiga combats demons anew in ‘The Conjuring 2’

Returning in her iconic role as demonologist Lorraine Warren in New Line Cinema’s supernatural thriller “The Conjuring” is Oscar-nominated actress Vera Farmiga (“The Judge,” TV’s “Bates Motel”).

“It was really joyful for me to step into Lorraine Warren’s Mary Janes and sprint another 20 miles,” Farmiga smiles. “It requires you to bring your A+ game, but James Wan really knows our ins and outs and how to reach us, and I think Patrick [Wilson] and I were even more confident and relaxed this time around.”

“The Conjuring 2,” with James Wan once again at the helm following the record-breaking success of “The Conjuring,” brings to the screen another real case from the files of renowned demonologists Ed and Lorraine Warren.

Reprising their roles, Farmiga and Patrick Wilson, star as Lorraine and Ed Warren, who, in one of their most terrifying paranormal investigations, travel to north London to help a single mother raising four children alone in a house plagued by malicious spirits.

“A lot changed for Ed and Lorraine in the years between [the two films.] I think it was six years of spiritual warfare, skepticism and wariness from the outside, six years of demon combat,” Farmiga observes.

When “The Conjuring 2” opens, the Warrens have been called to Amityville, where they hold a séance in order to summon the spirits there. “They’ve been called in as experts to see what was going on,” producer Rob Cowan notes, “so we start the movie with that and we see that they came away from it really believing there was something terrifying in that house.”

In fact, there’s a rather famous photograph their research team captured that shows the image of a little boy peering over a railing from the second floor, believed to be one of the DeFeo family members who’d been murdered in the house many years prior. The film shows how overwhelmed Lorraine is by a demonic presence during the séance, and later, at home, as it continues to plague her.

In the short sequence leading up to their trip to Enfield, we see the enormous toll that period takes on the couple, physically and mentally. Farmiga says, “It took a lot of love between the two of them to get through it, but Lorraine has always said to me, ‘I know that this gig is ordained, it was meant to be, and like it or not, I gird up.’ There was never any doubt for her, and I like that we explore the depths of their partnership in this film.”

“For me, part of the reason I came back to do ‘The Conjuring 2’ is the opportunity to work with Vera and Patrick again,” says Wan. “I had such a great time with them on the first movie, so to expand on this world and work with people I truly love was just great. They really make you care about the Warrens, and I think in horror movies it’s important that you care about the characters—then the scares play out so much stronger.

“I also really admired Ed and Lorraine’s partnership, and the way Patrick and Vera give life to it,” he continues. “I’ve always harbored a secret desire to tell a love story on film, I guess my way to do it is to disguise it as a horror movie!”

Farmiga, too, enjoys collaborating with Wan, and also says, “As a company, we’ve grown so close, and I feel like James’ imagination is almost the adult version of a kid’s fairytale nightmare, there’s eloquence and poetry in his vision.”

The actress also allows that the role, even more so this time around, requires not just faith in her director, but also an extraordinary amount of stamina. “There’s a lot of darkness that we’re portraying and it’s arduous, it’s depleting. And in this kind of genre, you cannot phone it in, it has to be the most authentic, earnest performance you can find in the depths of your heart and soul.”

“We lay the foundation pretty early in the movie that Lorraine has been having troubling visions that affect the people closest to her,” Wan concludes. “So, while she wants to help this family in need, throughout the story she’s very tense, very much on guard, because she’s worried about what is going to happen, and that she could even lose Ed.”

Opening across the Philippines on Thursday, June 9, 2016, “The Conjuring 2” is a New Line Cinema presentation and will be distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures.

WATCH: First trailer of ‘The Conjuring 2’ reveals new haunting

The first trailer for New Line Cinema’s “The Conjuring 2” the sequel to 2014’s acclaimed blockbuster, has arrived, and there seems to be plenty more eerie happenings in store. Watch the trailer below.

With director James Wan (“Fast & Furious 7”) once again at the helm, the supernatural thriller brings to the screen another real case from the files of renowned demonologists Ed and Lorraine Warren.

Reprising their roles, Oscar nominee Vera Farmiga (“Up In the Air,” TV’s “Bates Motel”) and Patrick Wilson (the “Insidious” films), star as Lorraine and Ed Warren, who, in one of their most terrifying paranormal investigations, travel to north London to help a single mother raising four children alone in a house plagued by malicious spirits.

the-conjuring-2-vera-farmiga-patrick-wilson-image

The film follows the phenomenal worldwide reception of Wan’s “The Conjuring,” which marked the largest opening ever for an original horror movie. The film went on to make more than $319 million worldwide and still remains the second highest grossing original horror movie of all time, second only to “The Exorcist.”

In addition to directing the film, Wan wrote the screenplay with Carey Hayes & Chad Hayes, and David Leslie Johnson.

Opening across the Philippines on June 9, 2016, “The Conjuring 2” is a New Line Cinema presentation and will be distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures.