By G. Michael Dobbs
A summer movie that satisfies, a direct to DVD release that tries hard and a classic film collection you shouldn’t pass up are featured in this week’s movie review column.
In theaters: Pacific Rim
I’ve loved horror, science fiction and fantasy films since junior high, but I readily admit I’ve never really embraced the Japanese giant monster movies such as “Godzilla.”
While some of the many films in this genre are well made, too many of them just seem repetitious in story and theme.
I also thought the “Transformers” movies were big, loud and stupid examples of the kind of mainstream filmmaking that I hate.
So a movie that combines giant robotic fighting machines and monsters was not a film I anticipated enjoying. Of course, there was one factor that gave me hope: director Guillermo del Toro.
del Toro is the man responsible for the two “Hellboy” movies, “Pan’s Labyrinth,” “Mimic,” among other films.
He is a major talent and he has brought all of his skills to tell this science fiction story in which giant monsters have emerged from a fissure deep in the Pacific to exterminate mankind.
The world’s response is to fabricate immense robotic fighting machines that are operated by two pilots who have to think as one person.
This is a summer movie that is tightly written and performed. Every scene builds toward the next.
Unlike too many action movies that have fight sequences for the sake of the action itself, “Pacific Rim” always keeps the story in mind.
This is not a star-driven movie and the performances are sincere and moving. Idris Elba is compelling as the man who is behind the effort to rid the world of the monsters, while Charlie Hunnam and Rinko Kikuchi fit the bill as the primary heroes. Ron Perlman, one of our best character actors today and a del Toro regular, has a great scene-stealing part.
The monsters themselves are top-notch creations that pay homage to the original Japanese ones, but have a more aggressive, nastier edge.
Now is this “Transformers versus Godzilla?” No way. Go see this movie. You’ll enjoy it and stay for the last scene, which is in the middle of the credits.
On DVD: Knife Fight
To a certain degree, this film mines the same vein as “The Ides of March,” the political thriller starring Ryan Gosling and George Clooney. The film is a behind the scenes look at the work of a “fixer,” someone who can turn around the public relations disasters in which elected officials often find themselves.
Rob Lowe plays Paul Turner, who runs campaigns and addresses messes and the film tells stories about three of Turner’s clients: a U.S. senator who is accused of having a sexual interlude with a massage therapist; a southern governor who is caught having sex with an intern; and an idealistic doctor who wants to run for governor of California.
This is an adult, earnest film with a great cast (including Carrie-Anne Moss, Eric McCormack and Julie Bowen, among others) but ultimately it misses the mark. The multiple stories don’t allow the filmmakers to dig deeper into any one of the plotlines or the characters.
Lowe gives a balanced, mature performance as the political operative who has seen it all, but it only goes as far as the script allows. We know very little about this guy and what motivates him to do this job.
Unlike “The Ides of March,” none of the political problems have a sinister tone to them instead they really show how stupid and otherwise brilliant and sincere politicians can be when it comes to sex.
I really wanted to like this film and I do admire what they tried to accomplish on clearly low budget. If they had presented a more focused story, it would have been a better film.
Buy for your library: W.C. Fields Comedy Favorites Collection
I’ve been thinking about hunting down and buying the two Fields DVD collections that were released in 2007 about $100 but I spotted this new collection and snagged it immediately, since it offered 10 of his best films for less than $20!
How could any movie buff go wrong?
Fields is one of my movie gods and remains one of the greatest American comic voices. For me, he is on the same level as Mark Twain and Ambrose Bierce.
The films in this set include “International House, “It’s a Gift,” “You’re Telling Me,” “The Old Fashioned Way,” “Man on the Flying Trapeze” and “Poppy” from his tenure at Paramount and his four Universal films, “You Can’t Cheat an Honest Man,” “My Little Chickadee,” “The Bank Dick” and “Never Give a Sucker an Even Break.”
No serious movie library should include this collection.