Thursday, May 22, 2014
The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com
Run, it's 'Godzilla'
Thursday, May 22, 2014 1AV>"
The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com S
'We Were Liars'
'Million Dollar Arm'
update of a monster
By SEAN CZARNECKI
Godzilla has been killed at least
twice. The exact number depends
on the fans you ask and their inter-
pretations of the
franchise, but one B+
can never mistake
the feeling oftrag- Godia'
edy that comes
with his fall. No At Rave and
one within ten Quality16
miles is outside Wamer Bros
the thunder of his
approach or his
roar, which alone
puts the fear of God into you. That a
beast of such power can be killed by
humans is cause for mourning, not
In 1998 it seemed Roland Emm-
erich's grievous reimagining
might've killed Godzilla for good.
Lifelong fans cried foul, enthu-
siasm dropped and its sequels
were scrapped. The challenge this
"Godzilla" faces then, sixteen years
since Emmerich's tailspin, and
sixty years since the 1954 Japanese
original, is resurrecting a God and
returning him to his former glory.
Perhaps I am being grandiose.
As my friend had said on the car
ride to the theater, "It just needed to
not suck for me to be happy." Most
moviegoers consider the Godzilla
franchise low-brow junk, best when
Director Gareth Edwards ("Mon-
sters") and his team of artists and
screenwriters must therefore re-bill
the Godzilla franchise. They have
to tailor him to the demands of an
American audience, and make him
vital to a cinema industry that in this
modern CGI age, has leveled more
than a few metropolises. Godzilla
has always been a ferocious mon-
ster, compelling because of his com-
plex sense of morality, sympathetic
because of his rage. Edwards taps
into this part of the mythology bet-
ter than any other Godzilla movie I
have seen. I expect to see a sequel in
the next few years, and (I hope) even
Like most disaster movies, the
scope of "Godzilla" is sprawling.
The plot attempts to anchor this
Godzilla awakens from his ocean slumber
ordeal through its main character,
USN Lieutenant Ford Brody (Aaron
Taylor-Johnson, "Kick-Ass"), son of
a nuclear physicist named Joe Brody
(Bryan Cranston, TV's "Breaking
Bad") who is searching for answers.
Only Dr. Ishiro Serizawa (Ken
Watanabe, "Unforgiven") knows the
truth: Mankind's arrogant forays
into nuclear science has brought two
prehistoric monsters out of hiber-
nation to feed on the radiation, and
Godzilla is their predator.
The actors and actresses play
their parts well, with Cranston and
Watanabe as the predictable stand-
outs. But too often is "Godzilla,"with
its two hour runtime, sidetracked
by its obnoxious supporting cast.
You know the types: some military
adviser talks through a spiel filled
with jargon meant to impress us,
some stone-faced officer delivers a
speech he probably wrote on a nap-
kin, some mother looks out for a kid
too cute for his owngood, and so on.
Really, we just want to see Godzilla
punch a hole through San Francis-
co's City Hall.
A monster movie operates in
much the same WWE does. Two
headliner heroes stand opposite
of each other, size each other up -
smash. Destruction and blunt-force
trauma provides its own payoff, and
we do get to see the Big Guy slug it
out, but not for as long as most fans
The hoary tropes of past entries
are gone; "smashing" plays second-
fiddle. Edwards's "Godzilla" chan-
nels instead an apocalyptic energy,
an adrenal feeling of suspense and
even dread. Gyfrgy Ligeti's "Requi-
em," which you might remember
from Stanley Kubrick's "2001: A
Space Odyssey," plays throughout
several sequences. There is won-
der and despair in that clamorous
wailing, and the imagery, resonant
with Biblical undertones, electri-
fies the audience. "Godzilla" is filled
with moments like these, often with
"Jaws" and "Jurassic Park"-inspired
touches, and often masterfully so.
It seems there is always one char-
acter in every Godzilla film that
attempts to understand the monster.
Serizawahas chased Godzilla all his
life, and he is the character we ulti-
mately admire most. in one scene
of breathtaking suspense, Godzilla
is swimming in the ocean when
he turns toward an aircraft car-
rier with such force and mass that
he produces a wake almost power-
ful enough to tip the warship, all
100,000 tons of it.
"I have to see this," Serizawa
says. And he races up to the deck
of the aircraft carrier, just in time
to witness the mountainous ridge
of Godzilla's dorsal spine break the
water and pass underneath.
It reminds me of my all-time
favorite Godzilla scene, the end of
"Godzilla 2000." Another scien-
tist of sorts stands at the edge of
a skyscraper to meet the monster.
His friends beg him to run, but he
stays. He wants to look him in the
eye, and he wants to die doing it. As
this scientist does, and as Serizawa
and Ford after him, I tried to read
Godzilla's face when I was a kid and
saw only wrath. For one moment, all
that power is focused on us alone,
and itis humbling.
This 2014 reboot has thought
through what makes Godzilla so
terrible and sympathetic. He is a
sentinel, a terror, filled with rage -
the King of the Monsters fully real-
ized. Fans will watch him roar, and
they willthink, satisfied, "That's the
Author e. lockhart
By ALEX BERNARD
Daily Arts Writer
Dear readers, you are all too
familiar with the novel and its
tricks, traps, and tropes that reel
like fish chas-
ing bait on fan-
fiction, as you
is designed to
People like to know that jus-
tice will be done or that injustice
will prove some sort of grandiose
point about humanity or exis-
tence or capital-S Something.
And yet, in e. lockhart's ("The
Disreputable History of Frankie
Landau-Banks," "The Boyfriend
List") new novel, "We Were
Liars," the pieces to the puzzle
are tossed out the metaphori-
cal window and replaced with
square pegs that just don't seem
to fit into the round holes, at least
as far as the reader is concerned.
In fact, in the first few lines, the
reader is told:
"No one is a criminal. No one
is an addict. No one is a failure."
Welcome to the Land of Liars,
where the stories are made up
and the truths don't matter.
Please leave your reliable narra-
tors at the door.
In "We Were Liars," Lockhart
tells the story of the Sinclairs,
a family with about as many
problems as dollars and enough
secrets to last through 240
deceitful pages. The narrator is
Cadence Sinclair, the seventeen
year-old heir to her grandfa-
ther's fortune, who spends her
summers on the family island
- Beechwood - just off the East
Coast. SPOILER ALERT: She is
Once on Beechwood, Cady
passes her time with cousins
Johnny and Mirren and with
handsome love interest and out-
sider Gat. Together, the four dub
themselves the "Liars," and serve
as the novel's protagonists, fuel-
ing the story by reeking havoc
on the other Sinclairs while also
providing an emotional hook that
reels the reader into their tale.
Welcome to the
land of liars.
At first, "We Were Liars"
reads like a typical summer
young adult novel, full of quirky
relatives, nosy grandfathers, and
kisses in the attic that are both
"electric and soft".
The mood turns, however,
when Cady vaguely describes
an "accident" during "summer
fifteen" (when she was 15 years
old), but is unable to recall the
events leading up to and follow-
ing her injury. The result? She
skips the next summer at Beech-
wood, not returning until she's
seventeen, newly obsessed with
unveiling the truth.
Now do not be deceived, dear
reader, this is no story of begin-
See LIARS, Page 7
more about money
By GIANCARLO BUONOMO
Americans are suckers for
movies about dogs, boxers and
baseball. Especially baseball,
because it's "our thing," as Amer-
ican as apple pie
and pre-emptive C
sics like "Field Million
of Dreams" and DollarAl
effortlessly com- At Rave and
bine jargon and Quality6 J.B. "coaching" his prospects
romance into a . episode is a montage of cliched
film that is both Walt Disney "white guy goes to India for the
about baseball Pictures first time" tropes. J.B. gets food
and, at the same poisoning. He gets stuck in traf-
time, not base- fic. The t-shirts manufacturer
ball. They remind us why we love must be bribed. A family drives by
the game so much, but also why on a motorbike clutching a goat.
we love so many other things. Despite all of this, J.B finally finds
The newest addition to the two young men: Dinesh Patel
baseball movie genre is "Million (Madhur Mittal, "Slumdog Mil-
Dollar Arm," directed by Craig lionaire") and Rinku Singh (Suraj
Gillespie ("Lars and the Real Sharma, "Life of Pi"). Neither boy
Girl") and written by Thomas plays cricket, nor particularly
McCarthy ("The Visitor"). But likes it, but they can throw a base-
"Million Dollar Arm," a well shot, ball over 80 miles per hour.
well acted, biopic about the first Now, this indifferent treat-
two Indian men to be signed by a ment of India would be, if not
Major League organization, is no forgiven, at least tempered if the
classic. Despite it's subject matter, rest of the movie were a deep
it's not really a baseball movie. character analysis of Dinesh and
You won't be reminded why you Rinku, and their undoubtedly
love baseball, and you won't be confusing journey to America to
reminded of why you love any- learn a sport they've never played
thing else, besides maybe money. before. But the focus is all on
Sports agent J.B. Bernstein J.B. Forced to allow the boys and
(Jon Hamm, "The Town") and his their interpreter/baseball enthu-
partner Ash (Aasif Mandvi, "The siast Amit (Pitobash Tripathy,
Internship,") have struck it out "Shor in the City") to live in his
on their own, and they're strik- home after they unwittingly set
ing out. Having lost the chance off the hotel elevator's fire alarm,
to represent star linebacker Popo J.B. becomes both coach and sur-
Vanuatu, they make the ballsy rogate mother hen to a trio of
decision to "tap" the unexploit- clumsy chicks. This is where the
ed potential of Indians in Major film really becomes a Disney-
League Baseball. J.B travels to fied version of "Jerry Maguire."
India to set up a nationwide con- Popo comes calling again, but
test called "Million Dollar Arm," J.B. loses him when he is forced
where young men will demon- to leave their meeting to fetch
strate their throwing arms, and Dinesh, Rinkhu and Amit, who
the winners will get shipped back got drunk for the first time. Popo
to Los Angeles for training and an is Cush, the boys Rod Tidwell.
eventual tryout with major league There's even a Dorothy Boyd, this
teams. time in the form of J.B.'s neighbor
The first part of the movie Brenda (Lake Bell, "No Strings
depicts J.B.'s search across India Attached"), who teaches him to
to find his prospects. This whole stop being such a heartless wank-
From Page 6
ning, middle and end. Truth be
told (for once), the end is in the
middle, the middle is the end and
the beginning was never really a
beginning to begin with - read
the book. (Then reread this para-
graph, nod your head and say,
"Yeah that's true.")
And it is in this backwards,
forwards, and altogether scram-
bled action that Lockhart suc-
ceeds in pulling a shroud over
the behind-the-scenes mechan-
ics. Fueled by smart dialogue,
heart-pounding suspense and a
narrator whose voice and pas-
sion fuel the novel's engine like
coal in a train (do trains still use
coal anymore?), "We Were Liars"
lulls its readers into a false sense
of trust, only to flip the script in
the last few pages.
Before this final twist though,
the novel operates somewhat
flatly. While amusing, the char-
acters are trope-like and static,
save for Cadence, whose wit,
reactions and interpretations
carry an otherwise rhyth-.
mic and predictable series of
events. Throughout the entire
novel, Lockhart makes up for
this insufficiency through solid
detail, sharp observation and a
narrator whose thoughts will
bounce around your head for
Without Cady though, the
novel itself is merely an excep-
tional piece of work without that
extraordinary dash of unforget-
table action. Not only the teenag-
ers, but also the adults come off
as two-dimensional and some-
what undynamic. The result is
a beaten-down experience that
makes one wish a paramedic
would come around with a defi-
brillator and shock the charac-
ters into life.
And lo! The paramedics arrive
by the droves! One for every
character and each plotline!
Yes, a good novel is certainly'
not a good novel without a good
ending. Lockhart knows it too
and delivers big time.
Just as the reader expects the
narration to drift into an exposi-
tory tone, the last few chapters
deliver a shock that jolts the
spine, gooses the bumps, and
"I'm notcrying; Ijusthavesome-
thing in both of my eyes!"
A stunning, "what just hap-
pened?" twist gives precious
life to an expertly crafted piece
of work that relies heavily
upon its unpredictability and
dishonesty. Through a truly
unforgettable - and quite jar-
ring - reveal, Lockhart keeps
the reader questioning until
the bitter end.
Yet do not be deceived again,
dear reader. You may expect
Lockhart's conclusion to leave
you with answers to your ques-
tions, but that's not quite the
case. Instead, the turn of events
will weigh on your thoughts,
making your brain feel like a
heavy burlap sack filled with
nickels and quarters.
"We Were Liars," more than
anything, is a defibrillator itself,
shocking the reader to life and
awareness, forcing us to recon-
sider why bad things happen to
anyone at all. Lockhart challeng-
es the nature of grief and shows
us that, in the face of pointless
tragedy, people are still people.
In this hard truth lies the crux
of Lockhart's best work to date:
an honest, thrilling story about a
kid who discovers that life isn't
fair and everyone is a liar.
Welcome to the land of liars.
Check your trust at the door.
er. But whereas "Jerry Maguire"
is all about how "show me the
money" is the wrong attitude,
"Million Dollar Arm" shameless-
ly embraces it. Instead of leading
you to root for Dinesh and Rinkhu
to become great baseball players,
the film leads you to root for J.B.
to succeed in creating the illusion
that Dinesh and Rinkhu can play
baseball. We're never given an
idea of why Dinesh and Rinkhu
are playing baseball, other than
the antiquated assumption that
anything is better than living
in India. Mittal and Sharma's
talents are wasted on the char-
acters, because all they seem to
do is sheepishly say "Sorry Mr.
J.B. Sir," whenever they throw a
wild pitch or otherwise endanger
The film definitely falters on
the human side of things, in part
because it flat out fails in its por-
trayal of baseball. It gives the
impression that all Rinkhu and
Dinesh need to do is throw a ball
about 90 miles per hour over the
plate a few times, and that will
tempt MLB teams to sign them.
Being able to throw a ball fast and
over the plate is as much of an
indication of one becoming pitch-
er as the ability to play "Hot Cross
Buns" is of becoming a musician.
So what are we left with, after the
film cuts to some archival footage
of the real Dinesh and Rinkhu
getting signed by the Pittsburgh
Pirates, and J.B and Brenda mar-
rying? A reminder of the market-
ing power of exploitation, and
that a heartwarming story is only
heartwarming if it has a hand-
some price tag.
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