Film reviews: Godzilla, The Two Faces Of January, In Secret

This week, Bryan Cranston, Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Ken Watanabe face a monstrous threat to humanity in the action-packed blockbuster Godzilla, and a sexually repressed young woman (Elizabeth Olsen) struggles to break free from a loveless marriage in ‘In Secret’.

Film reviews: Godzilla, The Two Faces Of January, In Secret

Godzilla

In Steven Spielberg’s box-office behemoth ‘Jurassic Park’, geneticists arrogantly believe they can tame Mother Nature with cutting-edge science.

“Life finds a way,” warns Jeff Goldblum’s fatalistic chaos mathematician.

These wise words and Spielberg’s entire 1993 blockbuster provide the guiding light for Gareth Edwards’s bombastic resurrection of cinema’s iconic reptile.

The director harks back to Ishiro Honda’s groundbreaking 1954 film ‘Gojira’, which reflected Japanese society’s fears in the aftermath of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

In Edwards’s film, the titular 355-feet tall creature boasts familiar dorsal fins, lumbering gait and fiery radioactive breath, and is securely tethered to timely concerns about the environmental consequences of nuclear power.

‘Godzilla’ is a technically accomplished hunk of large-scale monster-mashing.

You can see every cent of the rumoured US$160m budget and the director makes good use of the 3D format by reflecting carnage in mirrors and glass.

Chilling images of Cranston and Taylor-Johnson entering a Japanese quarantine zone and a tender moment between the two M.U.T.Os (Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organisms) explicitly reference Edwards’s low budget debut, ‘Monsters’.

The director manages to convey the titular reptile’s feelings in the midst of battle.

Human emotions are much harder to unearth.

Taylor-Johnson is a bland all-American hero and heavyweights Cranston and Binoche don’t have sufficient screen time to deliver the wallop we crave.

Ken Watanabe – or Obi-Wan Watanabe as he should be renamed – is reduced to philosophising about our failings and sounding the bell on a final round showdown between Godzilla and his adversaries.

“Let them fight!” he growls.

And fight they do, reducing the Pacific coast to rubble in a titanic tussle of computer-generated sound and fury that should take a large bite out of the UK box office, much like Spielberg’s T-Rex.

Star Rating: 3/5

RottenTomatoes.com Rating:84%

The Two Faces Of January

Like Agatha Christie before her, Patricia Highsmith repeatedly challenged the moral compass of her readers with disturbing psychological thrillers that nudged her characters to the brink of madness.

Almost 50 years later, Anthony Minghella tapped into the disturbing sexual undercurrents of her 1955 novel ‘The Talented Mr Ripley’ for a hauntingly seductively jaunt through Italy that netted five Oscar nominations.

‘The Two Faces Of January’ was published almost a decade after Highsmith unleashed her iconic con artist, Tom Ripley, and once again, she indulges in obsession-fuelled skulduggery albeit against a vivid backdrop of sun-baked 1960s Athens.

Hossein Amini’s slow-burning film conceals its Machiavellian machinations behind an elegant facade of impeccable period costumes and picturesque cinematography.

Yet, while this assured directorial debut is sweeping in scope, the focus of Amini’s lean script is the characters’ strained relationships and notably the frayed bonds of trust between two men, who must rely on each other to escape a hairy predicament of their own making.

Shot on location in Greece and Turkey, ‘The Two Faces Of January’ nods appreciatively to both Highsmith and Hitchcock, ratcheting up tension as the two men trade verbal blows in order to secure Colette’s divided affections.

Mortensen and Isaac relish these fractious exchanges, creating a twisted father-son dynamic with Oedipal yearnings for Dunst’s third wheel.

Her role feels slightly undernourished but she’s pivotal to the on-screen chicanery and the film’s centrepiece sequence in subterranean gloom.

Because it’s under the comforting cloak of darkness that men’s ugly, true natures are revealed.

Star Rating:

RottenTomatoes.com Rating: 90%

In Secret

Bosoms heave, hoop skirts flutter and britches swell in Charlie Stratton’s torrid tale of forbidden passion based on Emile Zola’s scandalous 1867 novel, ‘Therese Raquin’.

For all the lustful glances and whimpering surrenders to carnal desire on-screen, audiences should remain unflustered.

The only thing ‘In Secret’ is likely to arouse is an occasional snort of derision.

This is an artfully composed tableaux of sexual repression and murderous intent in which lovers conduct dangerous liaisons within ear-shot of relatives but are never overheard, and one woman condemns her entire gender to servitude by toiling over an embroidery bearing the motto, “Don’t make a sound. Keep quiet.”

When the film’s heroine dares to disobey this stitched directive and openly questions her spouse, he snaps petulantly, “I am the husband. I make the decisions. I am not asking you, I’m telling you.”

The film follows his lead and signposts every twist.

Nothing is left to nuance in Stratton’s overwrought screenplay and composer Gabriel Yared adopts a similarly heavy-handed approach with his score.

‘In Secret’ piles a powder keg of destructive emotion beneath the lead characters, but when the time comes to light the fuse, we haven’t forged a strong connection to any of the morose protagonists.

Sexual chemistry between Olsen and Isaac barely simmers and Felton’s much abused husband is an insipid wimp.

Only Lange fully enters into the spirit of Zola’s source text, delivering a commanding performance that holds our attention, even when her grief-stricken harridan is recovering from a medical emergency that renders her mute.

Lucas and Henderson provide fleeting comic relief to ensure some of our sniggers are intentional.

Star Rating:

RottenTomatoes.com Rating: 44%

In selected cinemas…

Don’t Stop Believin’ Everyman’s Journey

When the hit TV show Glee included a version of Don’t Stop Believin’ in the pilot episode, American rock band Journey became hip once again.

Documentary filmmaker Ramona S Diaz traces the rise of the latest incarnation of the group through the eyes of lead singer Filipino Arnel Pineda, who grew up in 1970s Philippines and always dreamt of prowling a stage with his own band.

In 2007, guitarist Neal Schon from Journey sent Pineda an email to compliment him on a cover version with his band The Zoo and invited Pineda to San Francisco for an audition that would change his life.

Six months later, Journey announced the Philippine singer as the new front man.

RottenTomatoes.com Rating: 74%

Pulp Fiction

Following his ultra-hip, gangster-cool debut, ‘Reservoir Dogs’, writer-director Quentin Tarantino delivered an equally confident and more ambitious second film, set for re-release to celebrate its 20th anniversary.

You probably know the score by now, but for those who don’t: multiple storylines interweave as characters from one thread bump into those of another, and time sequences are thrown into disarray as the plots unfurl inside-out and upside-down, introducing us to a brutal Los Angeles milieu populated by gangster junkies, honest thieves and tender murderers.

Mob boss Marsellus Wallace (Ving Rhames) entrusts low-rent hit men Vincent Vega (John Travolta) and Jules Winnfield (Samuel L Jackson) to collect a stolen briefcase. He also pays off aging boxer Butch Coolidge (Bruce Willis) to throw his next fight – a literal fall from grace that sits awkwardly with Butch’s competitive spirit.

The fates of these characters collide after Marsellus asks Vincent to ent

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