Godzilla: King of the Monsters (Michael Dougherty, 2019). By now, Hollywood has offered up a mountain of evidence of their collective inability to do right by the fire-breathing behemoth first brought to the screen by Toho Studios and director Ishirō Honda over sixty-five years ago. Let’s send this to the jury and be done with it already. Clearly overcompensating for complaints about director Gareth Edwards’s decision to slow play the action in Godzilla, released in 2014, the filmmakers behind this sequel opt for all carnage all the time. Concocting a nonsensical narrative to incorporate modernized versions other famous monsters who popped up in various Godzilla films over the years — such as Mothra and Rodan — writer-director Michael Dougherty (he’s co-credited with Zach Shields on the screenplay) opts for the shammy storytelling approach once mastered by the team of Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin (who once took their own crack at Godzilla), populating the screen with generically colorful characters mired in the most hackneyed interpersonal conflicts and having them peer fretfully upwards at digitally rendered destruction. Godzilla: King of the Monsters is an exhausting slog.
The Hustle (Chris Addison, 2019). Stanley Shapiro is one of the credited screenwriters of The Hustle, an impressive feat considering he’s been dead for almost thirty years. Co-screenwriter Paul Henning has been gone for a mere fifteen years. That attests to how much this new feature carries over the fundamentals of Bedtime Story, the 1964 con artist comedy on which it’s original based. Dale Launer, writer of the 1988 remake, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, is similarly given his due in the credits, leaving one to wonder how much work there was to do for newcomer Jac Schaeffer, Marvel Studios’ go-to writer for their girl movies. She certainly didn’t come up with anything especially novel for stars Anne Hathaway and Rebel Wilson, both of whom deliver variants of their well-worn screen schtick. Chris Addison directs the film with an apparent disregard for maintaining energy or even any particular level of craft. The Hustle is a two-minutes pitch unconvincingly disguised as a whole movie.
The Dead Don’t Die (Jim Jarmusch, 2019). It’s difficult to fathom what Jim Jarmusch thinks he’s up to with The Dead Don’t Die. Does he think he’s making a spoof of zombie movies? Or maybe it’s meant to be a broader social and political satire? Filled with painfully unfunny meta moments (Adam Driver’s small-town cop is sure this is going to end badly because, he reports, he’s read the entire script), the film wants to have its brains and eat them, too. Unlike Jarmusch’s 2014 vampire film, Only Lovers Left Alive, there’s no wit nor cleverness to this appropriation of a popular supernatural genre typically deemed outside the realm of achingly indie filmmakers. The trademark deadpan of the filmmaker serves the material especially poorly, giving the whole project a shockingly amateurish air. It’s borderline miraculous to see a film so drained of joyful spirit that the casting of Tilda Swinton as a samurai sword–wielding Scottish woman is devoid of fun.