REVIEW: THE ONE

CAST

Jet Li (The Mummy 3)
Carla Gugino (Watchmen)
Delroy Lindo (Gone In 60 Seconds)
Jason Statham (Spy)
James Morrison (24)
Dylan Bruno (Numbers)
Tucker Smallwood (Contact)
Dean Norris (Breaking Bad)
Joel Stoffer (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.)
Archie Kao (Power Rangers Lost Galaxy)
Doug Savant (Desperate Housewives)

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A high concept film that offers the possibility of the existence of a number of parallel universes wherein a person actually exists in each as an individual entity, yet is linked to the others by a life force that enables one to draw power and strength from another, `The One,’ directed by James Wong, is ultimately a showcase for the martial arts prowess of Jet Li. Li plays the dual role of Yulaw, a former policeman of the `Multiverse,’ who at some point happened onto the fact that if his own counterpart in one universe dies, his strength is increased; and Gabriel, a member of the L.A.P.D., who knows nothing of the existence of Yulaw or the parallel universes until he finds himself suddenly and inexplicably being hunted down by an unknown predator. Gabriel, it seems, is the last of Yulaw’s counterparts; and he has thus far disposed of one hundred, twenty-three others already. And, if the theory of the Multiverse proves to be true, with Gabriel’s demise Yulaw will become a kind of god, invincible and unstoppable. But there is another theory that states that if such a thing in fact occurs, it will mean the destruction of the universe in which it transpires. So there is a lot on the line, with only two policemen from the Multiverse, Roedecker (Delroy Lindo) and Funsch (Jason Statham) on Yulaw’s trail, hoping to stop him before it’s too late.
Wong has crafted a clever and fast-paced, action-packed adventure in which his star, Li, proves more than capable of maintaining the excitement, especially in the scenes in which he squares off with himself (with a nod of thanks to the F/X wizards-at-large). In this case, more is better, and `two’ Li’s equals twice the action, which is the name of the game in this movie. But though the action is plentiful– and extremely well done and choreographed– the story, even with it’s interesting premise, never seems to be fully realized, or at least not up to it’s potential.

On the acting front, Carla Gugino gives a solid performance as T.K., Gabriel’s wife, and though her supporting role is little more than a diversion between the action sequences, she is a welcome presence to the proceedings and makes the most of the screen time she is allotted. Most importantly, she makes T.K. believable, which adds some needed strength and emotional involvement to the story. Lindo does a good job, as well, but his character, Roedecker, lacks the development that would’ve made him a more integral part of the story. The same can be said of Statham, also, and Funsch seems to be little more than a means by which to move the story along. Not a bad device, but it adds so much more to a film when the characters involved have some real life of their own in them.

The supporting cast includes Brandon Molale (Stygian Prisoner), Scott L. Schwartz (Prisoner) and Kim McKamy (Doctor). A film that seems to fly by as fast as Jet Li’s feet and fists, `The One’ is definitely an exciting experience and makes for some satisfying entertainment. It’s a what-you-see-is-what-you-get kind of a movie, and the chances are pretty good that you’re going to get exactly what you expected going in.

REVIEW: FIREFLY

MAIN CAST

Nathan Fillion (Slither)
Gina Torres (Angel)
Alan Tudyk (I Robot)
Morena Baccarin (Gotham)
Adam Baldwin (Chuck)
Jewel Staite (Stargate: Atlantis)
Ron Glass (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.)
Sean Maher (Arrow)
Summer Glau (Arrow)
Adam Baldwin in Firefly (2002)
RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Andrew Bryniarski (Batman Returns)
Gregg Henry (Payback)
Eric Lange (Lost)
Doug Savant (Desperate Housewives)
Christina Hendricks (Drive)
Gregory Itzin (The IDes of March)
Kevin Gage (May)
Zachary Kranzler (Playing Mona Lisa)
ILia Volok (Power Rangers Wild Force)
Mark Sheppard (Dollhouse)
Larry Drake (Darkman)
Edward Atterton (Alias)
Zac Efron (Bad Neighbours)
Michael Fairman (Dead Silence)
Richard Brooks (The Hidden)
Carlos Jacott (Big Love)

Adam Baldwin, Nathan Fillion, Gina Torres, and Alan Tudyk in Firefly (2002)I could watch Firefly every year for the rest of my life and not get bored with it. IHow does one get tired of well-written characters and entertaining dialogue?Adam Baldwin, Nathan Fillion, and Gina Torres in Firefly (2002)Firefly aired, on Fox, for part of the 2002-03 season. The powers that be at Fox were crack-smoking morons and did their best to make sure nobody saw the series. They aired the episodes out of order and often skipped a week or two, with something else in its place. It worked because the show was soon canceled.

While the series is set in the year 2517, and much takes place on a spaceship, it is really a western at heart. Even the theme song has a western/country vibe to it.Adam Baldwin, Nathan Fillion, Ron Glass, Sean Maher, Jewel Staite, Gina Torres, Alan Tudyk, Morena Baccarin, and Summer Glau in Firefly (2002)Mal Reynolds (Nathan Fillion) is the captain of the Serenity. Mal, along with his second in command Zoe (Gina Torres) fought on the losing side of a brutal civil war six years earlier. While Zoe seems to have accepted her fate, Mal is still bitter and comes across as a surly opportunist that does whatever he has to for a buck. It becomes clear early on that he has a set of principals that he holds dear. With them are Wash (Alan Tudyk) , the ship’s pilot and husband of Zoe. Kaylee (Jewel Staite) is the ship’s engineer and is an odd mix of tomboy and sweet young thing (Except that her first visit on the ship was while she was getting busy with the original engineer). Jane Cobb (Adam Baldwin) is a mercenary that acts as the muscle, though it is never quite clear just how loyal he is to them.Adam Baldwin, Nathan Fillion, Ron Glass, Sean Maher, Jewel Staite, Gina Torres, Alan Tudyk, Morena Baccarin, and Summer Glau in Firefly (2002)The Serenity has a handful of passengers that are also regulars. Inarra (Morena Baccarin) is an Ambassador (It seems that prostitution is not only legal in the future, but organized and ever semi-respected) that rents space on the ship. Her presence works because she provides them with access to places they might not normally be able to go (She and Mal also have chemistry in the love/hate sense). Book (Ron Glass) is a reverend with a mysterious past. Dr. Simon Tam (Sean Maher) comes on board with his sister River (Summer Glau) in tow. They are on the run from the government as River was part of an experiment that has left her a bit scattered, but with great skills and even powers that lie just beneath her surface.

Jewel Staite and Morena Baccarin in Firefly (2002)The galaxy is governed by the Alliance, which appears to be a semi-fascist organization. The outer reaches of the galaxy is full of colonized planets that often appear to resemble border towns in the wild west. The Alliance’s presence is only slightly felt there, with civilization being in the early stages…kind like Iowa or North Dakota only more interesting.MV5BNGE0MjY2MDctN2U1ZC00Y2I4LWI5OTUtNzMzM2QyZjlkZDBkXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTM3MDMyMDQ@._V1_Most shows spend their first season developing chemistry, but Firefly hit the ground running with a cast that seems to have known each other for years. The interaction is often magical. Joss Whedon created a show with a very distinct style and feel. The dialogue is peppered with Chinese, to suggest that the Chinese culture became a global influence over the centuries between now and the time of the show. No funky sound effects are used in the space scenes, no roar of engines or squeal of laser cannons (In the reality, there is no sound in space). Even though there are rockets and lasers, most of the weapons are bullet based (adding to the western feel) and the most of the ships have a worn, dirty look to them.

REVIEW: GODZILLA (1998)

CAST

Matthew Broderick (Election)
Jean Reno (Leon)
Maria Pitillo (True Romance)
Hank Azaria (The Simpsons)
Kevin Dunn (Transformers)
Michael Lerner (Elf)
Harry Shearer (This Is Spinal Tap)
Doug Savant (Desperate Housewives)
Nancy Cartwright (The Simpsons)
Glenn Morshower (Supergirl TV)
Derek Webster (Stargate)
Ali Afshar (Power Rangers Turbo)
James Black (Kick-Ass 2)
Clyde Kusatsu (Midway)
Frank Welker (Transformers)
George Cheung (Rush Hour)
Ken Lerner (Robocop 2)
Lance Reddick (John Wick)

MV5BYzVjY2QyZjktMWQ5NS00OTZlLTk1NGQtY2Y0YmJiMWUxNjY5XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNzc5NjM0NA@@._V1_Roland Emmerich specializes in movies that are practically critic proof. He populates his films with amazing spectacle, blockbusters packed with explosions, disasters, and well known landmarks destroyed in various ridiculous ways — exactly what people want to see when they desire entertainment that won’t spoil the taste of their movie theater popcorn with intellectually challenging issues or drama. Emmerich therefore makes sure to keep things simple with his films, which means a sacrifice of character development and depth, logic, and general believability. Emmerich’s 1998 remake of Godzilla is no exception to the rule. While there’s a definite sense of grandeur and epic destruction, it is like a paper-mache pinata. When you hit it hard enough with a bat, there is certainly some disposable candy to be found. But what’s truly there is now a broken, empty hull that never really had any substance.MV5BNDI4M2RkZjgtZDhkZS00YzczLWFhYWUtNDhiMjY0MjAwMjEwXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNzc5NjM0NA@@._V1_

The plot manages to be simple and yet garbled. The US military recruits a humble Nuclear Regulatory Commission scientist, Niko Tatopoulos (Matthew Broderick), to investigate some strange discoveries, namely a shipwreck with giant claw marks in the hull and equally giant footprints in the French Pacific. Before Niko figures out what’s really going on, a giant pregnant lizard starts attacking New York City. It lays eggs in Madison Square Garden and smashes up the skyline. There’s also some business with the French Secret Service, and Niko’s college sweetheart, but these subplots are thin and underdeveloped. The focus of the movie is really about a giant lizard destroying NYC.  What Emmerich gets right is the spectacle. While nothing on the scale of global destruction of his earlier Independance Day, he again shows that he knows how to deliver shock and awe in an entertaining way. The sequence where Godzilla chases a taxi through the streets of New York, and the taxi (defying all reason) desperately manages to evade the giant lizard is just one of many that simply work on a visual and visceral level. The action keeps a swift pace punctuated with destruction, distracting your brain with explosions and the like so you don’t have time to think about any flaws in logic that might come up. You can’t really knock the effects and the action sequences, even if the CGI of Godzilla seems a little clunky and obvious by modern standards. The reason Emmerich manages to keep getting audiences to come see his films is that he delivers pure eye candy, the kind that appeals to a mass audience.This would work just fine and dandy if Emmerich kept the pace plowing forward without pausing. Sadly, he takes the time to try and explain things. The instant the pace slows down and we return to the characters, we can’t help but notice that they’re cardboard cutouts, shambling around New York City having conversations that don’t sound anything like how real people talk. Every time we get into a slow sequence, there’s practically has a neon sign in the background flashing the word ‘Exposition’ just in case anyone was missing that fact. We are taken out of the action into these sequences that are utterly useless and draw attention to the weaknesses of Emmerich’s style. Lets face it, do any of us really care about the particulars of why Godzilla is smashing up New York? No. We just want him to carry on doing it, while we enjoy our buttery popcorn and big gulp sodas. Now, Emmerich does have a reason for this exposition. It’s a sad attempt to make us feel for this Godzilla creature. In many ways, he’s trying to set up this empathy, in that ‘the animal was just scared and doing what came natural, it didn’t want to hurt anyone’ sort of way. You see, Godzilla is rampaging New York just because he came to lay some eggs and make a nest. So it’s just Godzilla’s hermaphroditic mother bear rage, and who can’t empathize with that, right?

…Okay, yeah, it’s totally ridiculous and feels like the plot point was plucked straight from Jurassic Park. The entire effort to make Godzilla empathetic while at the same time more beastly and unintelligent than the old Toho version simply doesn’t work. Godzilla in this movie is a completely different creature than the familiar dinosaur of the Toho incarnation. Patrick Tatopoulos’ design is much more lizard-like, and is nominally more realistic looking (if giant monstrous lizards can be realistic at all). The difficulty here is that the beast is almost too based in reality. It’s just a giant grey lizard, with little true character or feeling of intelligence. When we get flooded by a ton of raptor-like baby-zillas, it’s again feels like an attempt to cash in on the success of Jurassic Park. This Godzilla, often mockingly labelled ‘Notzilla’, is so bland and characterless that we miss the joy of watching a Godzilla movie.  Emmerich’s movie gives us a generic monster with the name Godzilla slapped on, and it really isn’t worthy of the name.The human characters fare no better than the title character. You can easily sum up all of them in a single sentence. Niko Tatopoulos is the goodnatured scientist who’s still hung-up on his college sweetheart. Victor Palotti (Hank Azaria) is a snarky Brooklyn-born camera man. They get little backstory, and in most cases none. You simply take them at their face value, stereotypes that are tired yet familiar. If you form any sort of attachment to these characters, its for reasons external to the movie. Maybe you really love Ferris Bueller, and that will help you be attached to Niko. Personally, I’m a fan of Jean Reno, so I really only cared about his character solely on that basis. This is utterly ridiculous for a film, that we form no sort of real attachment. We have no reason to actually care if Godzilla actually murders them all. In fact, given how obnoxious some of the characters are, you might actually hope Godzilla wins. The most ridiculous of the characters is actually the mayor of New York. This is not merely a cardboard-depth character. It is a wafer-thin caricature of famous film critic Roger Ebert. Emmerich’s earlier films had been rightly blasted by the man, so Emmerich takes revenge in a childish and immature way. He places Ebert into the film as an inept, sleazy, sugar-guzzling political opportunist. Mayor Ebert is constantly making decisions for his own sake, not the good of the city. He’s probably the least sympathetic character in the whole film, and it just feels like a stupid joke gone too far. It detracts from the film immensely.

I also have to make note of something that is of no fault of the filmmakers. Godzilla was released in 1998, three years before the 9/11 tragedy. Every time you see NYC skyline, you can’t help but stare at the World Trade Center. The film even has a terribly creepy line from Harry Shearer’s reporter character, talking about how the initial devastation from Godzilla is “worst since the World Trade Center bombing.” Obviously, this is in reference to the 1993 bombing, but now it serves as a terrible reminder of the more recent tragedy. When the helicopters blow up the Chrysler building, it hits the viewer in a terrible and unsettling way, and a dreadful unease takes you out of the movie.
1-godzilla-1998-1438781993Emmerich brings nothing new to the giant monster table other than a large budget, creating something that is pure edifice and no real substance. His Godzilla is full of sound and fury, signifying nothing — which is really not too much of a problem for the undiscerning movie goer. Going back to the earlier analogy, there’s nothing wrong with a pinata full of candy. You just have to ignore the sad, broken hull that remains afterward. So either you can shut off your brain and enjoy this bastard child of Emmerich’s making, or you don’t bother and watch something like Cloverfield instead.