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New Releases for Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Godzilla: King of the Monsters

Genre: Horror/Sequel

Directed by: Michael Dougherty

Run time: 132 minutes

Rating: PG-13

Format: Blu-Ray

The Lowdown: How damn difficult is it to make a good giant monster movie?

Following 2014’s decent but not amazing Godzilla and 2017’s lackluster Kong: Skull Island, which relied too heavily on Samuel L. Jackson, I had such high hopes for the third film in this expanding franchise, Godzilla: King of the Monsters.

First, it marked Michael Dougherty’s return to high-profile horror, and it promised the debut of a host of Kaiju from my childhood, including Rodan, Mothra and King Ghidorah, as well as other “Titans,” as they’re called by Monarch, the giant-monster-hunting secret organization.

Once again, however, all it takes is some uninspired, annoying human characters to ruin what should have been a monster brawl for the ages. The humans mostly involve the Russell family – papa Mark (Kyle Chandler), mom Emma (Vera Farmiga) and daughter Madison (Millie Bobby Brown).

Mark has been M.I.A. for three years after backsliding into a bottle. Meanwhile, Emma and Madison have been living at a Monarch substation called Castle Bravo, watching for any sign of Godzilla’s return.

And there are eco-terrorists who want to upend Monarch’s plan for humankind to capitulate to the “Titans,” by allowing Godzilla to serve as Earth’s protector. Naturally, the terrorists decide to wake up the biggest, baddest Titan of all, Ghidorah, to start wreaking havoc.

Here's the thing – Godzilla: King of the Monsters is not a bad movie, but it’s also not a great one either.

It drags when it should be ramping up. It gets bogged down in maudlin, hokey subplots when it should be showcasing fisticuffs between the giant monsters. And it doesn’t make a compelling argument for the whole ‘let’s burn down the planet and rebuild’ approach that is basically the terrorist’s endgame.

The monster battles are cool, but not like jump out of your seat and cheer awesome.

Godzilla still doesn’t look quite right. He actually kind of resembles David Harbour as Hellboy in giant monster form.

Surprisingly, the best and coolest of them all is freaking Mothra, who was actually my least favorite character in the original Toho Studios films. Mothra is so badass that he/she gets two introductions.

And despite all the heavy lifting to set the stage for the next installment where Godzilla and King Kong finally go head to head, I just wasn’t feeling the enthusiasm once the credits rolled.

At this point, I’m honestly worried that this franchise may end up doing more damage to my childhood love of Godzilla than making me believe once more in the magnificence of the big green guy’s atomic breath.

The Stuff You Care About: Hot chicks – Not really.

Nudity – No. Gore – Monster violence.

Drug use – No.

Bad Guys/Killers – King Ghidorah!

Buy/Rent – Rent it.

Safe Space (Wild Eye Releasing/MVD, 80 minutes, Unrated, DVD): The entire marketing team behind Safe Space should be tar and feathered for doing such an egregious disservice to writer-director Sharad Kant Patel’s wildly inventive thriller.

Filmed in 2016 as Somebody’s Darling, Patel’s movie is now getting new life on DVD as Safe Space, complete with cover art and theme music that blatantly rips of Fifty Shades of Gray.

Trust me, this is not Fifty Shades. It’s much better.

Sarah Stein (Jessa Settle) goes to a swank fraternity party where she catches the eye of fraternity president Christian Roane (Paul Galvan), who tries to be nice, but it’s just not his nature. He tries to kiss her minutes after meeting.

Meanwhile, upstairs, another party-going female stumbles into a nightmare scenario where things are happening that she should not have seen.

Christian is like the college equivalent of Patrick Bateman just before Bateman learned how fulfilling it felt to commit wholesale slaughter.

He has strange visions of himself sitting on a mountain throne next to an empty chair while bodies litter the craggy rocks below. Eventually, he envisions Sarah sitting next to him.

And so he becomes obsessed with her, so much so that the rest of his fraternity bros stage an intervention of sorts and remind him of what he is risking by pursuing one single girl.

Of course, those brothers are the same douchebags drugging random women on campus and turning them into sex slaves (I think).

Christian resists the intervention and the urgings of his compatriots, even as his health seems to decline and he becomes a weaker, less cocksure version of himself.

Trust me when I say that there will be stretches where you think, what the hell is going on, but just wait.

Safe Space is not a movie that provides easy answers early on, but thankfully Patel advances with purpose toward one of the better, and more unexpected, twists in a genre film that I’ve seen in quite some time.

Seriously, it’s both shocking and wholly rewarding, in part because you never see the big reveal coming, and even in the seconds leading up to it, you still don’t expect Safe Space to go all-in the way it does.

If you haven’t heard of Safe Space, this is your call to action. Seek it out. You won’t be disappointed.

Rocketman (Paramount, 121 minutes, R, Blu-Ray): Rocketman is, hands down, superior to Bohemian Rhapsody in every conceivable way, but especially this: I walked away from Rocketman not with a newfound appreciation for Elton John, but with an ENORMOUS appreciation for the genius of Bernie Taupin and a genuine respect for how the film made me reconsider and fall in love with their timeless songs all over again.

Rocketman also boasts a fantastic performance from both Taron Egerton as John and Jamie Bell as Taupin.

Ladyworld (Cleopatra, 93 minutes, Unrated, DVD): Ladyworld, the second feature from writer-director Amanda Kramer, could easily be dismissed as a female-centric Lord of the Flies.

The film, which imagines a group of young women suddenly trapped below ground in a house, after an unexplained “event” has occurred above-ground, plays conquer-and-divide with its group of ill-prepared protagonists, immediately setting up factions whereby the stronger women turn on those perceived as being weak.

It's an interesting premise that Kramer handles with dexterity for much of the movie’s runtime, but she never digs deep enough to allow audiences to understand whether the actions unfolding on-screen are a metaphor for something more substantial. It also doesn’t help that the ending is extremely, purposefully vague and open to interpretation.

Also Available:

A Thought of Ecstasy

Now on Video-on-Demand:

Itsy Bitsy (Shout! Factory, 95 minutes, Unrated, Video-on-Demand): Let’s face it, most people are terrified of spiders, and the larger the arachnid, the more debilitating that fear becomes.

Itsy Bitsy only focuses on one spider, which is about as big as a medium-sized dog, but the film doesn’t do enough with its eight-legged antagonist to reach the same unsettling terror as other, better man-versus-nature flicks like Arachnophobia or even the low-budget cheese of Kingdom of the Spiders.

There’s a bunch of mythology that’s never fully realized, or explored, and an entire subplot about one characters’ drug addiction feels wholly unnecessary.

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