GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS is an old-school monster smackdown [reviews]

Commentary, Film and Television
State-of-the-art CGI techniques should have ushered in a golden age of movies in which giant monsters fight each other – and thus, the Legendary MonsterVerse is a welcome addition to the cinematic landscape.

Michael Dougherty’s Godzilla: King of the Monsters delivers a menagerie of skyscraper-sized beasts leveling international landmarks. Unfortunately, it also forces you to spend time with dull humans in dreary bunkers.

As the movie kicks off, world governments are debating what to do about the re-emergence of a race of ancient super-beasts known as the Titans. Secretive government agency Monarch has developed technology to communicate with (and hopefully control) these cryptids – but the department, alas, has been infiltrated by eco-terrorists who believe large-scale destruction to be part of the natural order of things. Complicating matters further is the arrival of King Ghidorah, an outer-space Hydra who threatens to replace Godzilla as earth’s apex predator.

The creature design shows an old-school charm, and the film boasts a number of wicked monster fights and cool shots of iconic cities being leveled. Regrettably, the film succumbs to the bad Hollywood habit of cutting away from glorious carnage to show its human stars gaping in shock and awe.

The cast is actually fairly good, benefiting from the inclusion of Charles Dance as a humanity-hating terrorist and Vera Farmiga as the grieving mother he recruits. Stranger Things star Millie Bobby Brown gives the film’s strongest performance as the plucky daughter of a rogue Monarch scientist, adding gravitas to her stock character. Unfortunately, they’re saddled with a confusing and often corny script; this is the kind of movie where a stock smart-ass responds to the obliteration of Fenway Park by saying, “it’s a bad day to be a Red Sox fan.” 

The film’s sole intriguing line goes to Zhang Ziyi as a thoughtful Monarch researcher who advocates co-existence with the Titans: “Slaying dragons is a western concept.”

King of the Monsters is at its best when it forsakes technobabble in favour of outright myth, as Monarch analysts draw from classical folklore and hollow earth theories to identify and locate the Titans. I wish it had dug deeper into these out-there elements: its MonsterVerse predecessor, sixties period piece Kong: Skull Island,  used Vietnam-era cynicism to add an anti-colonial edge to its familiar story, and a better version of Godzilla could have mined the American obsession with pseudoscience and conspiracy theories.

Ultimately, any movie in which Godzilla and Mothra face off with Ghidorah and fire demon Rodan is a good time; I look forward to seeing the king lizard battle Kong in the next installment.

I was also impressed by the movie’s bold ending, in which an entirely new social order is installed. Stick around for a sequel-setting post-credits scene and a montage of absurd news clippings that could have been straight out of Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey.


Title: Godzilla: King of the Monsters

Director: Michael Dougherty

Screenwriter: Michael Dougherty and Zach Shields

Year: 2019

 

The Killers / The Psychedelic Furs / James / William Prince @ Ottawa Bluesfest

Arts Coverage, Bluesfest 2019

Las Vegas indie rockers The Killers headlined Bluesfest Sunday night, delivering a flashy spectacle worthy of their hometown.

With charismatic frontman Brandon Flowers at centre stage, the group opened with two tracks off their 2004 debut Hot Fuss: “Jenny Was a Friend of Mine” and hard-edged new wave hit “Somebody Told Me.” Killers songs straddle genres while maintaining their standard slick sound, fusing the sometimes contradictory pleasures of power pop and arena rock with a splash of Broadway theatricality.

The visual accompaniment was delightfully devoid of subtlety. Giddy 2008 single “Spaceman,” for instance, employed trippy imagery that wouldn’t have been out of place at a prog show. With mismatched flashing lights and skyward-pointing laser beams (not to mention confetti and fireworks), the show felt like being inside of a casino.

They slowed things down a bit with 2012 power ballad “The Way It Was” and “Shot at the Night,” an anthem that could have been ripped right out of the eighties.

K3

Flowers ironically donned a cowboy hat for braggadocios disco track “The Man,” which saw neon reliefs of cowboys and cowgirls flashing on the screens. 

The band shifted gears again with “Run for Cover,” a propulsive track that was one of the more straight rock songs of the night. Next up was “Smile Like You Mean It” and anguished synth-pop banger “For Reasons Unknown,” one of the highlights of the set.

The Killers

Americana story-song “Dustbowl Fairytale” was followed by an abridged acoustic cover of “Lovers in a Dangerous Time” (originated by Ottawa’s own Bruce Cockburn), before arena rock love song “Runaways.”

The next song, “Read My Mind,” almost felt like a showstopper; however, the lingering silhouette of Flowers against the spotlights dispelled any doubts that there would be an encore. They returned in fine form for crowd favourites “All These Things That I’ve Done” and “When You Were Young.”

Lebreton Flats felt like a karaoke bar as thousands of people sang along to the bare-bones sung/spoken intro of “Mr. Brightside;” the field felt like it was about to explode when the song finally kicked into gear.

It was, pardon the pun, a killer show.


PF

Earlier in the evening, the City Stage showcased two other influential alternative acts.

Manchester indie rock band James showed off their diverse catalog, which ranged from raunchy breakout hit “Laid” (prominently featured in the American Pie movies, and buried in the middle of their Sunday setlist) to intense protest songs like “Heads.” Lead vocalist Tim Booth paused to condemn “fascists and racists” after the latter track, before switching gears for “non-political”  (but still apocalyptic) love song “Leviathan.”

Next on the main stage were eighties new wave icons The Psychedelic Furs. The group displayed a quintessential British post-punk sound, with punky vocals and artsy arrangements in the service of effervescent pop-adjacent songs like “Pretty in Pink” and “Heartbreak Beat.”

Lead singer Richard Butler’s compelling and at times confrontational stage presence added some welcome bite, particularly on political songs like the scathing “President Gas.”


William Prince

Acclaimed folk singer William Prince started the evening at the Bluesville Stage.

Armed with an acoustic guitar and his deep baritone voice, Prince played a mix of unreleased songs (he’s in the process of creating his second album) and tracks from his debut record Earthly Days. 

The JUNO winner endeared himself to the crowd with his tender, earnest songs, as well as his humble stage presence and self-deprecating sense of humour. He occasionally poked fun at his propensity for slow, sad songs; towards the end of the show, he joked that “Eddy Boy” (a touching portrait of his late father, gospel singer Ed Prince) could be his “Free Bird.”

Prince concluded the set with his breakout hit “Breathless,” a moving tribute to the classic songs he grew up listening to his parents perform. “Never heard a song sound quite like Elvis,” he sang wistfully, capturing the magic of those long-ago moments.

After a brief absence (during which the house music came back on), he returned to the stage for an apparently unplanned encore. After reminiscing about his father on “Eddy Boy,” he closed with the cautiously optimistic “All I Know,” leading the crowd on a subdued sing-along after a melancholy chorus of “All I know, is all of this will all pay off…We pay the dues while they watch the clock.”


Line-up: William Prince (Bluesville Stage) / James / The Psychedelic Furs / The Killers (City Stage)

Venue: RBC Bluesfest, Lebreton Flats, Ottawa

Date: Sunday, July 7/2019

 

 

 

Blog #6: Canada Day, poems, and more

Blog

Greetings all, and happy birthday Canada!

Read on for a wicked CanCon playlist, a snapshot of how Ottawa residents are celebrating Canada Day, and a brand-new (and very Canadian) poem:


Canada Day Playlist 2019

If you’re looking for some new CanCon to blast today, I have the playlist for you: fifteen (give or take) of my favourite Canadian tracks from 2019, ranging from rap to rock to folk and everything in between.

You can read my comments here – or, if you would rather dispense with my commentary, you can just listen to the songs below:

 

 

 


Canada Day in Ottawa

Canada Day festivities were already in full force in Canada’s capital yesterday.

Just down the street from Parliament Hill, Major’s Hill Park featured a number of family-friendly activities and performances, including a set by synth-pop trio CHANCES:

The group took the stage at Ottawa’s Major’s Hill Park at around 2 pm. Accompanied by drummer Vincent Carré, singers Chloé Lacasse and Geneviève Toupin showed off strong vocal harmonies on darkly-gleaming songs that were alternately lively and ecstatic.

-CHANCES ft. Iskwe @ Major’s Hill Park; July 1/2019

The grounds were decked out with a ton of neat displays, including large yellow signs with excerpts from works by Canadian poets:

Poetry


Speaking of poems…

I celebrated by sharing my poem “Ghosts of Parliament,” perhaps the most Canadian thing I’ve ever written, to Twitter and Instagram in the form of a ten-part photo series.

 

 

With photos taken in and around Parliament Hill’s Centre Block before it closed for renovations, the poem takes the form of a conversation between the various gargoyles, statues and carvings that lurk on the premises.

 


Happy Canada Day, everyone! Get out there and watch some fireworks (or stay in and watch a David Cronenberg movie; I don’t judge).

-Madison