The audacity of a far-fetched plot in the latest remake of The Invisible Man (B) all but vanishes under the steady direction of Leigh Whannell and spellbinding central performance of Elisabeth Moss. The H.G. Wells story and classic films have been modernized with a strong woman at the center and a streamlined narrative about recovering from manipulation and abuse. Aldis Hodge is also fantastic as the heroine’s policeman friend; and while his role is somewhat “transparent,” Oliver Jackson-Cohen makes an impression in the title role, a controlling husband and Silicon Valley magnate who has invented an optical illusion suit allowing him to be fully invisible. The film is more thriller than horror film, despite the sense of dread in its first half. The stunts and visual effects are pretty nifty, and Benjamin Wallfisch’s score is sufficiently macabre, with ostinati aplenty. The film was a little too much like 1991’s Sleeping with the Enemy at times, but the twists and turns dialed up the novelty. Moss, who is seen in virtually every scene, delivers richly here and makes the entire enterprise fresh and believable. It’s nice to see popular entertainment with a smidgen of topicality so wonderfully packaged.
Gareth Edwards’ vision for a new Godzilla (B+) is a you-are-there disaster epic with undertones of family drama and a down-to-earth reality undergirding its myth and mayhem. There’s no camp or comedy in this mighty, muscular take on the classic monster legend. Gorgeous retro news reels and a globetrotting travelogue of sequences help plot out the possibilities early, even as surprises lurk behind every corner and cavern. Grounding the proceedings in its serious sphere is Aaron Taylor-Johnson as an extremely likable protagonist, balancing duties as father, husband, son and military operative against the backdrop of worldwide catastrophe. Bryan Cranston and Ken Watanabe provide additional heft to the proceedings in supporting roles as men who have studied conspiracies that are finally resurfacing. The monsters and their powers are wisely revealed over time during the film’s somewhat long duration, and the slow burn glimpses help build realism and suspense. The stunt work, art direction and effects are quite remarkable, presenting a modern look and feel while hearkening back to some of the iconography purists will crave. Although Edwards can’t sustain his taut atmosphere through every beat of the obligatory final showdowns in San Francisco, he certainly gives a summer movie audience its packed punch of epic thrills. There’s not gonna be a 13-year-old boy on earth who will be able to resist this action flick; and luckily for folks of all ages, it’s a pretty spectacularly well-made film for this genre if you’re going to venture to the cinema for a big screen blockbuster.