Godzilla – Film Review

Godzilla 4

The history of Godzilla goes back to 1954 when a Japanese film was released featuring a fire breathing dinosaur-like colossus rampaging its way through Tokyo. The film was a huge hit and acted as a scathing morality tale about the horrors that the country suffered during Atomic bombings in World War II.

Sadly my personal history of Godzilla only goes back to 1998 when an American film was released featuring a giant T-Rex that somehow manages to hide in downtown Manhattan. The film was negatively received and a potential trilogy was abandoned. This iteration was perfect for the ten-year-old me who saw the film in the cinema but subsequent viewing revealed it for the astonishing Matthew Broderick starring mess it was. This particular Godzilla was just a bit of fun, some light entertainment for a Sunday afternoon in front of the TV but nothing more than that.

The history of 2014’s Godzilla goes back to 2010 when British visual effects whiz Gareth Edwards released his debut feature as writer and director; Monsters. The film was a small story about two people trying to get back to America from Mexico in a time when the American border has been turned into a quarantine zone filled with extraterrestrial creatures. Working on a micro-budget, and creating his own visual effects, Edwards demonstrated a great visual eye and an ability to put characters first ahead of relying on the, admittedly excellent, CGI beasts. The question going into Godzilla is whether Edwards can learn from Roland Emmerich’s mistakes and make a film worthy of the 1954 original utlising the talents he showcased in Monsters.

Godzilla Still 7

On most fronts Edwards’ Godzilla is hugely successful. The sheer scale, bulk, and scope of both the monster and its setting is frankly jaw-dropping. Godzilla is big. I mean BIG. Seriously though, Godzilla is BIG. The press notes alone were over 40 pages long; everything about this film is done on a bigger scale than I have seen in a cinema before. In what is a film with a relatively serious tone the only laughter I allowed myself (aside from a few amusingly convenient plot contrivances) was when I just had to giggle at the spectacle of what I was seeing on screen. It was just plain ridiculous. Ridiculous and sublime. And BIG. As the chaos got more and more chaotic I couldn’t help but chuckle to myself and shake my head in disbelief – a wonderful thing to be able to do at the cinema I’m sure you will agree.

With Godzilla as his second film Edwards is displaying some serious chops when it comes to a striking visual. While initially being coy about showing us the titular creature he is sure to give us our eyeful of monolithic prehistoric riotous beast before the film is done. When we aren’t feasting on creature visuals the film is littered with gorgeous photography filled with gloomy smoke, looming shadows, and this film’s signature red hue. While the 1998 Godzilla was a lumbering mess this is a gorgeous piece of cinema with endless treats for the eyes that need to be seen on the big screen. While I’m not going to be plugging the IMAX or 3D experience I really do think that this is a film that deserves a large cinema screen with loud speakers surrounding you.

Godzilla Still 4

All that Godzilla lacks, something Monsters had in spades, is intimacy. While we follow the action through the experiences of a soldier (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and his family (Bryan Cranston, Elizabeth Olsen, and Juliette Binoche) the characters are rarely seen together so their disparate experiences don’t tie together in a satisfying way. The superb cast list is rounded out by Sally Hawkins and Ken Watanabe as Godzilla experts but they too feel a little underserved. The fact that I didn’t care who lived and who died is definitely a flaw but at the end of the day this is a story on a global scale with a large monster as its star. If you want a more intimate story about a big beasty might I suggest both Cloverfield and The Host? Both are films that take their stories down a notch to give a real human experience amongst the madness of a monster movie.

Godzilla is a big and beautiful film that knows what it needs to deliver to impress its audience. Special effects can so often leave me numb and disconnected but Edwards has a way of dealing with fantastical scenes to make them seem real and grounded. Both Godzilla and Godzilla have a real heft to them and the idea of a gargantuan creature and its effect on mankind is taken as seriously as is possible.

When the film was over my heart was pounding and I let out a quiet “bloody hell”. For well crafted spectacle you can’t do much better than Godzilla. There is room alongside the smaller, independant fare to enjoy big meaty blockbusters and I only wish they were all as good as this was.

Godzilla is in UK cinemas from today.

Braff Promises an “Ass-ton” of Funding for Kickstarter Film

Zach Braff

In a bid to remain unbiased and balanced (HA!) I figured I should share with you Zach Braff’s message from last week. I’d have done it sooner but it was sunny outside and I got distracted. For a background on Braff’s Kickstarter project click here and read me rant.

Last week Braff posted a public update to the Wish I Were Here Kickstarter page. The fact that it was public makes me think that it was less a message to his backers and more a response to those of us who remain sceptical about giving him our money.

In the update Braff raises the issue of “stretch goals”, a funding goal way beyond someone’s initial Kickstarter target funding which will enable a specific extra something to be created, then sort of meanders away from the topic and never really sets one. What he does do is make it clear that Kickstarter alone will not be funding the film:

The budget will be comprised of 3 elements:

  • The money raised here on Kickstarter. (That’s you. You rule. I love you.)
  • My own money. (Don’t worry. A LOT! An ass-ton.)
  • Pre-selling select foreign distribution rights to a few countries.

This at least reduces my concern that he is using Kickstarter as a way to fund his film without any financial risk of his own. I don’t know how much an ass-ton is (With a total budget target of “somewhere between 4 and 6 million dollars” it depends on how much he can get from selling distribution rights. So somewhere between nothing and $4-million? I suppose this is why we don’t use ass-tons as standard units.) but it is always reassuring when someone asking for my money has something at stake too.

Braff goes on to list the expensive parts of his production which include “fantasy sequences with special effects” and “a computer generated flying droid”. If he manages that on such a small budget I will be incredibly impressed. Maybe he should give Gareth Edwards from Monsters a call?

I have yet to give any money but know plenty of people who have, and plenty more who look at me like I’m insane when I mention the mere idea of paying to get a film made. And if Zach Braff wants to be interviewed by the UK’s 18th most influential film blog, just send us an email.

2010’s Best 20 Films

Bank holidays are gone for a while so it’s time to look back at 2010, and then maybe look forward at 2011. I messed about with this list a lot, made some graphics, lost them and decided to simply list the films without too much flair.

These may not be the top 20 films I’ve seen this year but are the top 20 that have been released in cinemas. I think I may have already seen some of the best of 2011.

20. Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows: Part I
This slot is more of a token than a definitive “Top 20 Film” as Deathly Hallows deserves to be highlighted for making the Potter series credible at last. It’s the film equivalent of Doctor Who, another British series to finally finding its feet in 2010. The kids can act and the plot is finally given time to unfold. Lovely.

19. Greenberg
Ben Stiller in an understated role in a film that bridged the gap between mumblecore and mainstream should get a bit of respect. It’s not going to blow you away but will certainly help heal the wounds left by the Focker franchise.

18. Piranha
The only 3D film to make it onto the list, because it didn’t take itself seriously and brought plenty of laughs, gore and boobs to the big screen. A sequel is on its way and I hope James Cameron gets invited to the premiere.

17. World’s Greatest Dad
I can’t help but love the unseen underdog, especially one featuring a comic actor giving a subdued performance. Try to see this, the darkest comedy of 2010. A must for anyone curious to see the genie from Aladdin in the buff.

16. The Kids Are All Right
It’s a comedy, it’s a drama, it’s a truly modern family! From laugh out loud funny to cry into your sleeve devastating, this is the film so many others want to be.

15. Eccentricities of a Blonde Haired Girl
Drawn in by an intriguing review, we were delighted by a hilarious and eccentric film about one young man’s love for the girl he sees from his office window. Directed in a unique fashion by a 100 year old Portuguese film-maker, you won’t see anything like it again.

14. Four Lions
A black comedy from Chris Morris was always going to be brilliant, though could possibly have been better. Still proud to see a British film this funny, brave and with no romance in sight.

13. Monsters
A subtle sci-fi with amazing effects on a shoe-string budget, and from the UK. Slightly shaky dialogue and inexperienced actors are easily masked by the sheer beauty of every shot, with the film climaxing visually in its final scene.

12. Buried
A wonderfully tense thriller all set in a tiny coffin. Ryan Reynolds proves himself as a proper actor and the ninety minutes fly by. It’s enough to make Phone Booth look like a good idea. Bonus points for having a great poster.

11. Kick Ass
After the first viewing this could have been in the top three films of the year, but a second viewing reminded me of the annoying beginning and the less than perfect lead. Still a brilliant black comedy and awesome showcase for Chloe Moretz. Shame Scott Pilgrim came along and showed how much better a comic book film could be.

10. Please Give
I may regret giving this film such a high position but it was surprisingly enjoyable and genuinely emotional. Not a film for everyone but worth a look if you’re into more subtle comedies that don’t have happy endings.

9. Up in the Air
Almost forgotten but a re-watch over Christmas brought this early gem back to my attention. Lots of good performances, an unpredictable plot and a little bit of heartbreak thrown in. If only Clooney hadn’t gone on to do The American.

8. Catfish
The most surprising film of the year and for a moment the most terrifying. If you still haven’t seen it and have managed to remain unspoiled then get watching, you’ll never add someone on Facebook again.

7. Black Dynamite
Finally another decent parody, burying the like of Date Movie simply by actually being funny. Were it not for a few familiar faces this could have come straight from the era it is parodying as the aesthetic is pitch perfect.

6. Let Me In
The highest horror on the list is a truly classy example of the genre. Not relying on fake scares, nudity or gore, we instead have a character study filled with tragedy, heart and intrigue. Chloe Moretz puts in her second performance on this list, a totally different but equally well crafted character. Arguably better than the original, this is a tale of love and horror.

5. Another Year
The most genuine film of the lot, so easily relatable and filled with characters you feel you could meet out here in the real world. Lesley Manville comes out of nowhere with a powerhouse of a performance. Heartbreaking and hilarious, a bit of a theme in 2010.

4. Inception
Lower down the list than I expected, and I’m the one who put the list together. Inception is as good as an action film can get as the usual set pieces are presented in wonderful new ways, the audience is made to think and small indie actors get their chance at the mainstream.

3. Whip It
Ranking so high for the sheer delight the film brings and the way it was overlooked by most people. The ugly poster hid away what is this year’s ultimate feel good film. Ellen Page is doing something right.

2. The Social Network
Aaron Sorkin wrote the tightest script to be released in 2010 and was lucky to have it so well taken care of. Eisenberg and Garfield made the world take notice and even Timberlake managed to impress. Not so much a tale of how Facebook came to be but a look at friendship and the price of success.

1. Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World
No surprise here considering the sheer number of times we’ve had to use the “Scott Pilgrim” tag this year. Almost perfect and equally enjoyable at every repeat viewing. Never before has a film been so carefully crafted, every cut planned years in advance and every eye movement accompanied by a subtle noise. And how this is not long-listed for best original song I have no idea. Edgar Wright has shown just what he can do when given the freedom to run wild and the cinema audiences of the world have shown why we don’t get many good films as the weakest of romantic comedies could beat it at the box office. For me 2010 will always be the year Scott Pilgrim came out and I’ll be re-watching long after 3D has it’s next revival.

So there you have it, my top 20 picks. Do you agree?

Out Now – 3rd December 2010

Hey, haven’t seen you in a while. I’m going to end the four day silence in honour of Leslie Nielson that was in no way completely accidental and due to laziness. Buy hey films are out today and I reviewed a DVD for you too. SPOILER ALERT: I did not enjoy it.

Megamind
As much as I can figure from the trailer a bad guy become a good guy with hilarious results. A solid 70% on Rotten Tomatoes means not many hate it and everyone else is probably only lukewarm but hey Rotten Tomatoes only has two choices for each review, rotten or fresh, and that’s a totally balanced way to judge films.

Monsters
It’s the home-made film sensation of the month. Special effects man made a film about monsters and it’s really good and made for no money. Everyone will love it and once again we’ll think that maybe films don’t have to cost loads to be good. Then Avatar 2 will come out and everyone will get all silly again.

Of Gods and Men
Who wants to see a French film about monks standing up for their beliefs? Well, actually, maybe.

Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale
The Christmas film with attitude that has created a bit of buzz for itself and is going nationwide. We’ve even seen and reviewed it as part of the London Film Festival bonanza.

Secretariat
It’s a film about a horse. And women. Not like that.

The Warrior’s Way
“A warrior-assassin is forced to hide in a small town in the American Badlands after refusing a mission.” Not even Geoffrey Rush could tempt me.

Bathory (limited release)
Anna Friel plays a countess assassin in a film only on at one cinema in London. Boo! London! (I love you really)

The Be All & End All (limited release)
“At fifteen, Robbie has only one thing on his mind – losing his virginity. The problem is that he’s in hospital with a fatal heart condition. And who has to overcome the odds and help him fulfill his final wish? His best friend Ziggy.” I’ll meet you at the cinema, whoever gets there first should get the tickets.

Easier with Practice (limited release)
Indie road trip movie in which a guy starts a relationship with a girl over the phone. Sounds like The Go-Getter but without Zooey Deschanel, Lou Taylor Pucci or Jena Malone. Wonder if that’s on DVD…

Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen (limited release)
The plot confuses me but I figure you can tell if you’d like the film just from the title.

Miral (limited release)
“A drama centered on an orphaned Palestinian girl growing up in the wake of the first Arab-Israeli war who finds herself drawn into the conflict.” Lots of praise for Miral and yet we missed it at the Film Festival, go see it and take me with you.