THIS WEEK’S THEATRICAL RELEASES:
“Godzilla” makes a spectacular return in this reimagining of the original, 1954 Japanese “Gojira,” which had the gigantic sea reptile awakened and empowered by nuclear radiation and embarking on a destructive binge, destroying Tokyo and the surrounding countryside. While the original was clearly a metaphorical comment on the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki as well as continued nuclear testing around the world, subsequent “Godzilla” films took away the symbolism and had Godzilla as either a monster to be reckoned with or a savior of mankind as it
fought off a host of otherworldly creatures such as King Ghidorah, Gigan and Mechagodzilla. Director Gareth Edwards takes Godzilla back to its roots as a prehistoric creature reawakened by nuclear radiation in the 1950s; the “nuclear testing” of that decade was really an excuse to try to destroy the creature, who went into hibernation for some 60 years … until now. In a great environmentally-aware plot line, a pair of M.U.T.O.s, moth-like Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organisms, come to life courtesy of a nuclear powerplant in Japan, and threaten to destroy the world by sucking away all the earth’s energy and resources in a campaign of destruction. Because nature corrects itself, Godzilla reappears to fight off the M.U.T.O.s and restore balance to the planet. Pretty cool. The special effects are spectacular, the acting topnotch (Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Ken Watanabe, Elizabeth Olsen, Juliette Binoche, Sally Hawkins, David Strathairn, Bryan Cranston) and the twists and turns exciting. You can have all your super hero cartoon characters; I’ll take a 350-foot-tall avenger any day. Extras are neat: the “Monarch: Declassified” featurette — done in the style of an old-fashioned classified film — uncovers explosive new evidence not contained in the film that unravels the massive 50-year cover-up to keep Godzilla’s existence a secret (Operation: Lucky Dragon, MONARCH: The M.U.T.O. File, The Godzilla Revelation) and the four-part “The Legendary Godzilla” behind the scenes featurettes takes a look at “Godzilla: Force of Nature,” “A Whole New Level of Destruction,” “Into the Void: The H.A.L.O. Jump” and “Ancient Enemy: The M.U.T.O.s.” From Warner.
Also due this week: “Think Like a Man Too,” the sequel to the 2012 box office hit “Think Like a Man,” in which the gang heads off to Las Vegas for the marriage of Michael (Terrence J) and Candace (Regina Hall) and where plans for a romantic getaway go awry when a series of misadventures get them into some compromising situations that threaten to derail the wedding. Fun stuff from Sony … and “The Fault in Our Stars,” a mawkish big-screen adaptation of the No. 1 bestselling young adult novel by John Green about two teenagers whose bouts with cancer link them together in love; unavailable for review, from Fox.
THIS WEEK’S HIGHLIGHTS:
“Eraserhead”: When I first saw “Eraserhead” back in 1977 during the now-defunct Filmex Los Angeles film festival, high above Beverly Hills in the Greystone Mansion (which, at the time, housed the American Film Institute), I was astounded and shocked at what unfurled before my eyeballs. Don’t forget, this was a time in film history when many, many films were released with little or no fanfare; there was no Entertainment Tonight, no TMZ, no Indiewire, no blogging and Internet universe to leave no stone unturned as to the production, filming and gossip surrounding virtually every film that gets made today. It was a time when you could be truly surprised at the cinema, a time when an “El Topo” or an “Eraserhead” could burst upon the scene and change everything that came after it. Lynch’s debut feature — a work of extraordinary craft and beauty — became a lasting cult sensation. Its story — with undercurrents of sex, industrial living and surrealism, shot with mesmerizing black-and-white photography by Frederick Elmes, with bizarre set designs by Jack Fisk and a unique industrial sound design — takes place in a nightmare world and revolves around Henry Spencer (Jack Nance in an unforgettably enigmatic performance), an expressionless man who must marry his girlfriend, Mary X, when she gives birth to an inhuman child —- a swaddled bundle with a snakelike face — and live with her in his small apartment. After Mary leaves him and the child, Spencer begins having visions, including those of a planet with a man pulling levers and some involving the famous singing and dancing Lady in the Radiator. It’s all very mind-blowing and fantastical, a very, very dark dream of life. The folks at The Criterion Collection have put out a director-approved DVD and Blu-ray special editions of the film with a new 4K digital restoration, with uncompressed stereo soundtrack on the Blu-ray. Extras: include “Eraserhead Stories,” a 2001 documentary by David Lynch on the making of the film; new high-definition restorations of six short films by Lynch: “Six Figures Getting Sick” (1966), “The Alphabet” (1968), “The Grandmother” (1970), “The Amputee, Part 1 and Part 2” (1974), and “Premonitions Following an Evil Deed” (1996), all with video introductions by Lynch; new and archival interviews with cast and crew; trailer. Fascinating, freaky stuff.