Cinema Review: Godzilla

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DIR: Gareth Edwards • WRIMax Borenstein PRO: Jon Jashni, Mary Parent, Brian Rogers, Thomas Tull • DOP: Seamus McGarvey • ED: Bob Ducsay • MUS: Alexandre Desplat • DES: Richard Bullock • CAST: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen, Bryan Cranston

Godzilla, the most famous monster of them all, is unleashed on a modern-day San Francisco. Unfortunately, Godzilla is not the only monster to be awoken… Can the might of the US Navy, led by Admiral Stenz (Strathairn) and scientist Dr. Serizawa (Watanabe), stop the King of the Monsters before it’s too late?

Godzilla – originally created by Japanese film director Ishiro Honda and the Toho Co. Ltd. production company in the 1950s – is the most iconic movie monster in film history, whose filmic infamy remains unsurpassed (not even by King Kong) to this day.

Honda’s 1954 original spawned over a dozen sequels and has its fingerprints all over nearly every creature feature since. It still continues to inspire today’s contemporary directors such as J.J. Abrams (Cloverfield) and Guillermo Del Toro (Pacific Rim).

Bringing an up-to-date version of the story to an American audience was always going to happen sooner or later, but the less said about Roland Emmerich’s 1998 monstrous flop the better.

This time around the reins were handed to a relative newcomer, Gareth Edwards.

Edwards filmed his debut feature (Monsters, 2010) – about two people travelling across America six years after aliens invaded Earth – on a shoestring budget of just $800,000 with a minuscule crew of just seven people.

He had to be imaginative in the way he showed the dangers at hand by merely alluding to them, rather than explicitly revealing them. It was a technique Edwards used effectively in Monsters and it’s also one he’s migrated to the much bigger budget (an estimated $160 million) of Godzilla.

Instead of splurging the cash on extended action scenes early in the running time, Edwards instead gives us mere peripheral glimpses of the action through TV news coverage or unexpected cut-aways at the last moment. Thus Edwards deftly keeps the big reveal of Godzilla doing his thing relatively obscured until the third act.

As with all big-budget monster movies, the fortunes of the film live or die by the quality of the CGI. The effects on show here are near faultless. Edwards and his visual effects team (as well as the Irish director of photography, Seamus McGarvey) deserve high praise for the stunning visuals – not just for the computer-generated monsters, but also the battle-ravaged cities and landscapes. A scene showing a military parachute jump into the middle of Godzilla battling through San Francisco is a particularly impressive highlight (although its impact was somewhat diminished by its inclusion in the trailer).

Sound is also noticeably well used. Rather than a constant ear-bashing similar to a Transformers films, you get moments of desolate quiet, allowing Godzilla’s signature roar to pack an even mightier punch.

Clocking in at just over two hours, Godzilla is not a compact film and the plot takes some time to get into its stride. Getting the most from your (excellent) cast early on to flesh out the relevant back story and character development rather than jumping straight into the action was a smart move by Edwards but after half an hour you do find yourself ready for something big and loud to break something expensive.

It’s a bit of a surprise to find such a wealth of acting talent in a big-budget blockbuster such as this, but it’s an extremely welcome one. Aaron Taylor-Johnson, as the army bomb disposal expert whom we follow through the story, proves an able body in the action stakes. Ken Watanabe has very little to do other than wear a look of perpetual shellshock throughout and Sally Hawkins is equally underused – providing nothing more than plot exposition. Bryan Cranston, meanwhile, is a joy to watch and steals every scene he’s in.

Honda’s original Godzilla was borne out of a nation still recovering from the nuclear devastation of World War II and came to be a representation of such. In Edwards’ update, similar contemporary parallels are noticeable by their absence. Threat of nuclear war is not as prevalent today as the 1950s, thereby making Edwards’ Godzilla a more diversionary spectacle rather than a contemporary social metaphor. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. With Godzilla, Edwards has produced an entertaining, engaging, superior blockbuster and a worthy addition to the King of the Monster’s canon of films.

Chris Lavery

12A (See IFCO for details)
122 mins

Godzilla is released on 16th May 2014

Godzilla – Official Website

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Oscar® Nominations Announced

This year’s  Oscar® nominations were announced by host Seth MacFarlane, along with Emma Stone, earlier toady at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles, where the ceremony will take place on 24th February .
 Lincoln leads the race with 12 nominations.  Life of Pi received  11, and Silver Linings Playbook got eight.
 Les Miserables and Argo both received seven. While Django Unchained,  Zero Dark Thirty and Amour each got five nominations.

Armagh-born Seamus McGarvey was nominated for his cinematography work on Anna Karenina and Head Over Heels, the short animated movie from Irish producer Fodhla Cronin O’Reilly was  nominated for Best Short Animated Film.

The main categories:


Best picture

Amour
Argo
Beasts of the Southern Wild
Django Unchained
Les Miserables
Life of Pi
Lincoln
Silver Linings Playbook
Zero Dark Thirty

Best director

Michael Haneke, Amour
Ang Lee, Life of Pi
David O. Russell, Silver Linings Playbook
Steven Spielberg, Lincoln
Benh Zeitlin, Beasts of the Southern Wild
Best actor

Bradley Cooper, Silver Linings Playbook
Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln
Hugh Jackman, Les Miserables
Joaquin Phoenix, The Master
Denzel Washington, Flight
Best actress

Jessica Chastain, Zero Dark Thirty
Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook
Emmanuelle Riva, Amour
Quvenzhané Wallis, Beasts of the Southern Wild
Naomi Watts, The Impossible

Click here for the full list

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Avengers Assemble Masterclass in Visual Effects & Seamus McGarvey In Conversation

Darklight Festival in association with FAS Screen Training Ireland present

Avengers Assemble Masterclass in Visual Effects:
“From Shooting to Computing”
With Seamus McGarvey (DOP) & Jake Morrison (VFX Supervisor, Marvel)
Friday August 24th | 3.30pm – 6.30pm | The Factory

Followed by
In Conversation With Seamus McGarvey, presented in association with the Irish Film & Television Academy (IFTA)
Saturday August 25th| 1pm | The Factory

From Shooting to Computing

Seamus McGarvey and Jake Morrison, key members of the team behind the multi-billion dollar hit, Avengers Assemble, talk through the technical and creative processes behind the third highest grossing film of all time.

From prep to shoot: How to ensure the best possible results for the post production stage of the production. Shooting 2D for 3D, working on in-camera effects, filming green screen, lighting, 360 tracking shots, plus the best ways to prep for high end VFX.

Seamus and Jake will bring us through the special relationship of the DP and VFX Supervisor. Taking scenes from the film, they will walk through how they came to their creative decisions, trouble shoot technical problems, talk about solutions and workarounds. How, often the same problems arise when shooting on a mega budget, as do on lower budget films, and finding the solutions can be the same.

The Masterclass will be hosted by Award winning Cinematographer PJ Dillon (The Runway, Her Mother’s Daughter, 32A), who recently premiered charming retro Sci-Fi film Earthbound

Seamus McGarvey In Conversation

A rare opportunity to hear Seamus talk about his creative process as a cinematographer, perfect for film fans who want to gain an insight into the filmmaking experience from a less technical point of view. Seamus will take part in an in-depth discussion about his work on titles such as We Need To Talk About Kevin, Atonement, and the soon to be released Anna Karenina.

The common theme that connects the entire Darklight programme this year is creative collaboration and the symbiotic relationships that exist between directors and cinematographers, musicians, animators, VFX supervisors and developers. After talking to Seamus a number of times in the lead up to the festival, we know this is going to be a very special event. Darklight are delighted to welcome this celebrated and critically acclaimed cinematographer to the festival.

Full programme and screening times available on www.darklight.ie

Darklight is primarily funded by the Arts Council of Ireland.

Darklight wish to thank the Irish Film & Television Academy (IFTA) and Bord Scannán na hÉireann/the Irish Film Board for their help in programming these events.

Avengers Assemble DVD is in shops Friday, September 14th

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IFTA ‘In Conversation With…’ Irish cinematographer Seamus McGarvey

IFTA welcomes Members of Irish Film & Television Academy’s Cinematography Chapter to an exclusive ‘In Conversation With…’ Irish cinematographer Seamus McGarvey.

As part of this event IFTA also has a number of tickets to the Irish Premiere of Marvel’s The Avengers Assemble, Seamus McGarvey’s most recent work, taking place on Monday, 23rd April at 7.00pm in the Savoy Cinema, O’Connell Street.

Tickets for the Premiere are available for IFTA Cinematography Chapter Members attending the event with Seamus McGarvey

Multi Award-winning cinematographer Seamus McGarvey (Avengers Assemble, We Need To Talk About Kevin, Atonement) will be the subject of this Masterclass as part of the IFTA Chapter Focus Event.

Born in Armagh in Northern Ireland, Seamus McGarvey began his career as a stills photographer, quickly progressing to cinematography by shooting short films and documentaries. His early work swiftly gained him notoriety in the film industry, resulting in him being nominated for the Turner Prize and working with celebrated directors such as Sam Taylor-Wood.

In 1998, Seamus McGarvey became the youngest member of the British Society of Cinematographers, and won the Royal Photographic Society’s prestigious Lumière medal for contributions to the art of cinematography. Throughout his 24-year career, he has worked on Academy Award-winning drama Atonement gaining him an Oscar nomination. McGarvey has won IFTA Awards for Best Cinematography in 2005 for adventure film Sahara and most recently for the acclaimed adaptation of We Need to Talk About Kevin. He has also worked on various commercials including Chanel, with Atonement director Joe Wright, and will collaborate with the director again on the upcoming adaptation of the Tolstoy classic Anna Karenina.

IFTA Academy members will have a rare opportunity to hear first-hand from Seamus about his work on these productions, including his most recent work with director Joss Whedon on Marvel’s Avengers Assemble.

www.ifta.ie

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