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The Star eCentral: Movie Buzz

On his 60th birthday, Godzilla becomes painful reminder of Fukushima

Posted: 16 May 2014 05:02 AM PDT

Home wrecker: Godzilla, seen above in his original incarnation in the 1954 film directed by Ishiro Honda that launched his 60-year-long career. The latest Godzilla movie, a Hollywood production directed by Gareth Edwards, features an incarnation of the nuclear-birthed monster (below) that some Japanese have called 'fat'. 

In the wake of the world's worst nuclear crisis in 25 years, when a tsunami tore through the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant and touched off meltdowns that spewed radiation over a wide swathe of countryside, Godzilla and his traditional anti-nuclear subtext may simply be too touchy a subject for any Japanese film maker to handle.

"Godzilla gains his strength from nuclear power and he spews radiation everywhere," said Toshio Takahashi, a literature professor at Tokyo's Waseda University. "If Godzilla appeared (in Japan) now, he'd ultimately force people to ask themselves hard questions about Fukushima."

The nuclear disaster at the plant 220km northeast of Tokyo is a sensitive subject in Japan. Directors making mass-market films about Fukushima tiptoe into the debate or set their movies in an unspecified future. Sponsors are skittish and overall film revenues falling, with viewers shying away from anything too political.

Things were different when Godzilla first crashed ashore in 1954, a symbol of both atomic weapons – less than a decade after Hiroshima and Nagasaki – and frustrations with the United States, which had just held a hydrogen bomb test at Bikini atoll that irradiated a boat full of Japanese fishermen.

The high-powered reboot of Godzilla, directed by Gareth Edwards and out in US theatres from May 16 from Warner Bros Pictures and Legendary Pictures, features international stars including French actress Juliette Binoche and Japanese actor Ken Watanabe.

It gives a nod to Fukushima with a tsunami – set off by monsters – hitting Hawaii, and a no-go zone in Japan after a nuclear accident years before. But much of the story, and most of the destruction, takes place in the US, far from Godzilla's birthplace.

Godzilla too radioactive

Japan's March 11, 2011, natural and nuclear disaster killed nearly 20,000 people and forced some 160,000 people to evacuate, with tens of thousands unable to return. The plant still battles radioactive water and decommissioning is expected to take decades and cost billions of dollars.

"You can basically think of Godzilla equaling radiation. It's something that can't be solved by human strength or power, and it attacks," said film critic Yuichi Maeda. "The reactors currently can't be made normal by humans if there's an accident. It's the same with Godzilla."

Sixty years ago, the black-and-white version of the towering, dinosaur-like creature – his Japanese name 'Gojira' combines the Japanese words for gorilla ('gorira') and whale ('kujira') – packed viewers into theatres. "That year was also when Japan was starting to debate the peaceful use of nuclear energy," said Takahashi. "So the movie expressed fears about nuclear power as well as weapons (made from it)."

The nuclear theme was a constant through the Cold War, although Godzilla, who remained a man in a rubber suit stomping through model cities – a touch that humanised him to many – gradually lost his edge and took on a more cuddly tone.

His radioactive connections were blurred in the last few films before film company Toho ended the series, Takahashi noted, perhaps because of a series of accidents at Japanese nuclear facilities around then, including a 1999 criticality accident set off by workers mixing compounds that killed two.

A US version of Godzilla in 1998 was widely panned. Meanwhile, early reviews of the new film are mixed, with many in Japan saying the monster looks 'fat'. It opens in Japan in late July, timed to hit school summer holidays.

A Toho spokesman said the company abandoned the franchise in 2004 on its 50th anniversary because the timing was right, and that no decision has been made about future revivals in Japan "The current movie has a message that is a warning from nature about things mankind has done," he said. "We have to see how people respond, including those who experienced Fukushima."

Takahashi says that Godzilla's longevity shows there is something far deeper at work than the usual monster movie. "Godzilla shows us that we must return to our dark past and then accept it," he said. "His purpose is to make us question ourselves. So I think we need to still walk with him a little more, especially after Fukushima." – Reuters

Cannes opens with bad reviews of Nicole Kidman's 'Grace Of Monaco'

Posted: 15 May 2014 02:20 AM PDT

Monaco's royal family says film bears no resemblance to reality.

The world's biggest film festival opened in Cannes on Wednesday with a blast of controversy as critics mercilessly savaged the opening movie about Hollywood-darling-turned-princess Grace of Monaco.

Nicole Kidman (who stars in the movie Grace Of Monaco), Sofia Coppola, Willem Dafoe, Audrey Tautou and jury head Jane Campion were among the film world luminaries who walked up the 24 steps of the festival hall in the French Riviera resort, under the cool gaze of the late Italian heartthrob Marcello Mastroianni whose giant portrait adorned the facade.

Ryan Gosling, David Cronenberg and Sophia Loren are also set to make an appearance later in the 67th Cannes Film Festival, where directorial big guns will go head-to-head in a year of comebacks, swansongs and star debuts.

But for filmmakers behind the opening movie, the festivities were bittersweet as the Monaco princely family furiously disavowed a film they say bears no resemblance to reality and critics who got a sneak preview made no secret of their contempt.

"The cringe-factor is ionospherically high," The Guardian film maestro Peter Bradshaw wrote. "A fleet of ambulances may have to be stationed outside the Palais to take tuxed audiences to hospital afterwards to have their toes uncurled under general anaesthetic."

'Just smile for everyone, dear.' Nicole Kidman (right) and Spanish actress Paz Vega, who plays Maria Callas in Grace Of Monaco, at Cannes. — EPA/Guillaume Horcajuelo 

On the red carpet, Kidman sparkled in a blue, jewelled strapless dress, smiling for the cameras next to downcast-looking French director Olivier Dahan.

In the film, the Australian-born actress portrays an unhappy Grace who sleeps in a separate bedroom to Prince Rainier, even contemplating divorce before rising to the challenge of being a princess and helping her lost husband solve a 1962 political crisis with France.

Grace's children Prince Albert II and his sisters Caroline and Stephanie have publicly rejected a film they say "has been misappropriated for purely commercial purposes".

"This film should never have existed," Stephanie of Monaco told local daily Nice Matin.

Describing the controversy as "awkward" in a press conference earlier on Wednesday, Kidman sought to reassure the family that the film bore no "malice" towards them or towards Grace and Prince Rainier, played by a chain-smoking Tim Roth.

"It's fictionalised, it's not a biopic," she said, echoing what Dahan has previously said.

Kidman and Tim Roth in 'Grace Of Monaco'.

The French director had been locked in a long-standing tussle with US distributor Harvey Weinstein over the final version of the film.

Weinstein had reportedly considered dropping the rights to the film altogether, but Dahan said Wednesday an agreement had been reached under which the movie mogul will distribute the French director's version in the United States.

"There is no dispute anymore, everything has been resolved. We're working together, and I'm happy about it," Dahan told reporters.

According to entertainment industry magazine Variety, Weinstein will acquire the rights for considerably less money than he had originally planned to pay.

The opening ceremony in the festival hall's biggest movie theatre saw the man behind the spellbinding soundtrack to Campion's 1993 Palme d'Or winner The Piano – Michael Nyman – take to the piano to welcome the jury president on stage.

Master of ceremonies Lambert Wilson, a prolific French actor, also had a cheeky dance with Kidman to much applause.

Chiara Mastroianni and Gravity director Alfonso Cuaron then formally opened the May 14-25 extravaganza, during which 18 films will compete for the top Palme d'Or prize.

Jane Fonda looking gorgeous on the red carpet.

The festival will see Canadian heartthrob Gosling present his directorial debut Lost River, and films by 25-year-old whizz kid Xavier Dolan, veteran director Jean-Luc Godard and Men In Black actor Tommy Lee Jones will also compete.

And while two of the films running for the Palme d'Or are by women – Japan's Naomi Kawase (Still The Water) and Italy's Alice Rohrwacher (The Wonders) – Campion bemoaned the industry's "inherent sexism".

"It does feel very undemocratic and women do notice. Time and time again we don't get our share of representation," she said, adding that men seemed to "eat all the cake".

On the sidelines of the competitions, muscle men Sylvester Stallone, Harrison Ford and Arnold Schwarzenegger will take a trip to the resort on board a tank to promote their film The Expendables 3.

Abel Ferrara's racy Welcome To New York in which Gerard Depardieu plays a character much like the disgraced former head of the IMF Dominique Strauss-Kahn will also get a private industry preview during the festival.

And to round off this year's festivities, US Cannes-lover Quentin Tarantino will showcase A Fistful Of Dollars at the closing ceremony, in a glitzy celebration of the 50th anniversary of spaghetti westerns. — AFP Relaxnews

New trailer alert: 'Transformers Age Of Extinction'

Posted: 15 May 2014 01:15 AM PDT

The latest trailer for the upcoming summer flick has just been released.

Check out the official "payoff" trailer from Michael Bay's Transformers: Age Of Extinction starring Mark Wahlberg, Stanley Tucci, Nicola Peltz, Kelsey Grammer and Li Bingbing. The movie is set to open in the final week of June.

We're not exactly sure what a "payoff" trailer means but we do like what we see in the clip. Watch for yourself and tell us what you think.

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

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