In today’s Journal, we take a look at the 2012 indie comedy LOLA VERSUS, the psychological horror film AFTER.LIFE and the original King of the Monsters, GODZILLA. In each of the films covered in today’s installment, people face monsters. Sometimes the monsters people face are literal manifestations of the term. Elsewhere, our characters face off against death or more terrifying still… life.
DAY 24: FEBRUARY 18, 2013
GOJIRA (a.k.a. GODZILLA, KING OF THE MONSTERS) (1954) – Japan, still reeling from the devastation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki less than ten years prior, faces a new threat as a result of American atomic testing. Bombs set off in the Pacific awaken and mutate a giant prehistoric monster which goes on a rampage, destroying parts of Japan.
GOJIRA is the film we know in this country as GODZILLA – an Anglicized pronunciation of the name. The version being reviewed here is the original Japanese version and not the shorter American cut, with added scenes featuring Raymond Burr.
The series is beloved by people all over the world. Despite such American giant monster movies like KING KONG (one of my all-time favorites), MIGHTY JOE YOUNG or even the previous year’s BEAST FROM 20,000 FATHOMS, this was the film that kick-started a whole new sub-genre of monster movie – the kaiju film.
Knowing in advance how this series and it’s offspring would segue into family-friendly sci-fi and fantasy, it’s still startling to see just how serious and intense the original film is. Godzilla (we’ll just call him that, okay?) is no lovable or misunderstood monster. It is nature’s wrath against mankind’s destructive nature, unleashed upon a terrified populace. It’s a while before we even see the full scale of the beast, as it strikes out like an unknown fury. When we do see the whole of Godzilla, the familiar shots of people running away from the thunderlizard are not campy in the slightest but quite chilling.
The characters are compelling, far more so than many genre films that would follow. GOJIRA is also a film not without irony as it presents the revelation that a monster born of weapon of unspeakable cruelty might only be destroyed by a weapon of unspeakable cruelty. Give props to Ishiro Honda – the father of the kaiju film – for creating a bona fide horror classic. ★★★★ (out of ★★★★)
AFTER.LIFE (2009) – A troubled young woman (Christina Ricci) gets into a car accident. She wakes up on a slab in a funeral parlor. The funeral director (Liam Neeson) casually informs her that she has died. The only reason she can communicate with him is that he has a gift for seeing people who have not moved on. As he continues to prepare her body, she refuses to accept that she is dead and the director gets more and more impatient with her impertinence. Meanwhile, her boyfriend (Justin Long) also has a hard time admitting she’s gone and plagued by feelings of guilt over how he treated her, tries to find out what’s really going on.
You can clearly see the potential for this psychological horror film. The set-up is after all intriguing and the film boasts a fine cast. Unfortunately, it doesn’t take long for the film to fall apart. Even the most dedicated performances can’t cover up the shoddy writing or the predictable nature of this surprisingly tired film. ★ (out of ★★★★)
LOLA VERSUS (2012) – This comedy follows a year in the life of a twentysomething woman in New York. During this time, her life falls apart, starting with her engagement and soon followed by her rebound relationships and friendships.
So, what makes this film any different from every other indie film that boasts an identical plot to LOLA VERSUS? The main reason is that those other films can’t boast an actress as natural and endlessly inspired as Greta Gerwig. She’s in virtually every scene of this film and she elevates the material from typical indie self-absorption to an almost endlessly amusing and quirky film. A trap of this film would be to not feel sorry for Lola, who acts selfishly much of the time. But Gerwig fleshes the character out to such detail that we don’t only sympathize with Lola, we’re pulling for her.
The result is much better than your typical Parker Posey-ish indie cliché’. It winds up being a feminine counterpoint to the type of film Woody Allen did in the mid-1970s. ★★★ (out of ★★★★)
HEIMAT (a.k.a. HEIMAT: EINE DEUTSCHE CHRONIK) (1984) – This is an insanely ambitious and epic film about a small town in the German countryside from 1920-1983. The main focus is on the Simon family, including several generations and how they change (and sometimes stay the same) amidst the changing world. I can’t reveal much about this film at this point. I will say that it is part, but not all of the reason why there was such a long gap between Journal entries recently.
It was also released in the United States in 1985. This means it will be covered on a future episode of FILM GEEK CENTRAL PRESENTS: THE FILMS OF 1985. In the meantime, check out the previous episodes we’ve done and take a look at what’s in store for the weeks ahead.
Total films watched in 2013 so far: 78
My soundtrack for February 18, 2013: