Godzilla DVD

It’s been a bad year for New York. First the city finds itself inundated by a giant tidal wave in “Deep Impact.” Splinters of a comet smack into Manhattan in “Armageddon,” making the afternoon commute even more horrendous.


godzillaThen there’s that giant green lizard. Born from ground zero of French nuclear testing in the Pacific, the lizard has a couple of days to kill before nesting, so why not take a bite out of the big apple. “Godzilla” is back, and if this is news to you, welcome back to Earth. After more than 20 Toho treats (and men in rubber suits), the King of the Monsters gets the big-budget, big-screen treatment from the creative team of “Independence Day.” The results make for an epic dose of silliness and breathtaking visual effects.

Despite a clunky script by producer Dean Devlin and director Roland Emmerich, “Godzilla” has a lot to recommend it. First and foremost is the 20-story title star, a computer generated effect so realistic it’s scary. Designed and created by Patrick Tatopoulos, “Godzilla” becomes a living, breathing creature that can evoke both fear and sympathy. “Godzilla” starts off with a bang, literally, and then quickly cuts to a mid-sea attack on a Japanese freighter. Nasty bit of business that leaves only one survivor.

Then there are those strange footprints dotting the Jamaican countryside. The military is baffled, so they call in Dr. Niko Tatopoulos (Matthew Broderick), an expert on the effects of nuclear fallout. Tatopoulos immediately realizes what they’re dealing with, but that realization comes too late as “Godzilla” has already made his way to the Eastern seaboard. After taking three boats on a deep sea fishing expedition, “Godzilla” enters the city of Manhattan, and has no problem catching a cab.

The giant green guys sudden appearance is exactly what aspiring newscaster Audrey Timmonds (Maria Pitillo) needs to break in to prime time. It doesn’t hurt that Audrey was once Niko’s college sweetheart. With the military in tow, Niko arrives in Manhattan, ready to take on “Godzilla.” Unbeknownst to them, the lizard has nested in Madison Square Garden, where dozens of eggs wait to be hatched. While the military forces do combat with “Godzilla” above ground, Niko, Audrey, her cameraman Animal (Hank Azaria), French agent Philippe Roache (Jean Reno) and his crew look under the city for the nest.

They won’t like what they find. Designed for maximum thrills and excitement, “Godzilla” is the perfect summer popcorn movie. It’s filled with dazzling special effects and engaging characters, both which go the distance to make the best out of mediocre screenplay. Thank goodness “Godzilla” moves along at a fast clip, because any lull in the action would allow the audience time to realize how silly most of it is. I really liked the film on a “gee whiz” level. I found myself rooting for the good guys, and even felt a little sorry for “Godzilla” during the final few frames. It packs the same type of bang that made “Independence Day” such an enjoyable romp. Manhattan gets a workout, with some of the city’s most beloved landmarks taking a dive.

Matthew Broderick is just super as Niko Tatopoulos (affectionately named after the creature’s designer), the scientist who can’t resist the opportunity to get up close and personal with “Godzilla.” Jean Reno also shines as the French agent who hides his intentions from everyone but Niko. It’s a strong, solid role, the type that Reno excels in. Pitillo is pleasant as the eager journalist ready to reconcile her feelings for Niko, but not until she uses him to advance her career. Hank Azaria does an admirable job as the gonzo cameraman who learns early on not to stand in “Godzilla’s” way.

Emmerich directs with a sure hand, never once giving in to the camp appeal of the original Toho features. This “Godzilla” means serious business. Cinematographer Ueli Steiger manages to make New York even more menacing than it appears, capturing production designer Oliver Scholl’s cold, concrete world with a foreboding eye. I especially appreciated David Arnold’s eerie score. Adults will appreciate the film’s in-jokes (the Mayor and his assistant are clones of film critics Siskel & Ebert) while teens and older children will marvel at the mass destruction and dazzling aerial battles that fill the screen. Oh yeah, there’s also that big green guy.

COMPLETE CHECK-UP

VISION: [ X ] 20/20 [ ] Good [ ] Cataracts [ ] Blind

Stunning, vibrant images captured in a digital transfer of the film’s original 2.35:1 widescreen ratio. The RSDL disc offers a flawless transfer that is as gorgeous and sharp as they come. You won’t find a trace of compression artifact, noise or pixelation here. Instead, you’ll find brilliantly rendered images, perfect color saturation, solid as a brick blacks and flesh tones that are so natural you could almost reach out and touch them. There are a lot of complex images in “Godzilla,” all of which are dealt with in a practically perfect transfer that holds up under the tightest of scrutiny. If all DVD’s looked and sounded this good there would be no reason for these reviews.

HEARING: [ X ] Excellent [ ] Minor Hearing Loss [ ] Needs Hearing Aid [ ] Deaf

I’m still sweeping up the debris that fell from my ceiling while I was watching “Godzilla.” Kick ass sound that completely engulfs your environment, deluging you with powerful basses that leave bruises. The 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround track is outrageously effective, pumping a high definition waves of sound through the room. The stereo separation is awesome and accurate, while the dialogue mix is strong. The “Godzilla” Dolby Digital mix will flex your sound system’s muscles, so be prepared to pump up the jam. The ambient noise is extraordinary, filling the room with subtle little touches that complete the illusion. You won’t find any noise or distortion here, or on the 2-Channel Dolby Surround track that’s just as impressive in it’s ability to put you right in the middle of the action.

ORAL: [ ] Excellent [ X ] Good [ ] Poor

Closed captions in English for the hard of hearing.

COORDINATION: [ X ] Excellent [ ] Good [ ] Clumsy [ ] Weak

Nice little package of extras, especially for a non-special edition DVD.

§ First up at bat is the alternate running audio commentary with Visual Effects Supervisor Volker Engel, “Godzilla” designer Patrick Tatopoulos, and Associate Visual Effects Supervisor Karen Goulekas. Since “Godzilla” is a special-effects film, it makes sense to have the visual effects supervisors on hand to explain how they accomplished the task. Their conversation is lively and informative, and they do provide lots of insight and detail. I especially liked the little details that went in to the film, like having to digitally erase the label of a beer bottle, or remove the date from a press pass so the film would remain timeless. The trio walks us through some of the trickier moments in the film, and the amount of work and movie magic that went into some scenes is truly awesome.

§ The DVD features the two teaser trailers and the original theatrical trailer.

§ Harry Shearer stays in character for a mock-umentary featurette about the making of the film that goes behind the scenes with the stars and the crew. It’s a fun little piece.

§ The DVD includes The Wallflower’s music video of “Heroes.”

§ There’s a special effects comparison section called “Godzilla Takes New York,” that shows the master shot of a scene and then the same scene with the digitally created “Godzilla.”

§ Plus there’s a photo gallery of scenes from the film and behind the camera.

§ Director and producer biographies, plus cast filmographies.

§ Incredibly imaginative interactive menus that capture the theme of the film with perfection. The main menu looks like it was shot through the lens of a television camera. The menu options are listed across the top of the frame. When you click on them, Godzilla’s foot comes down and flattens the menu, and the new menu pops up as the foot raises. Very clever. The scene access menus feature clips from the film, and are easy to navigate. The menus are so much fun it might be a while before you get to the movie.

PROGNOSIS: [ X ] Excellent [ ] Will Live [ ] Resuscitate [ ] Terminal

Whether or not you like the movie, the DVD is superior in sound and image, and will most likely become the disc of choice to demonstrate the system’s capabilities.

VITALS: $24.95/Rated PG-13/139 Minutes/Color/RSDL/28 Chapter Stops/Keepcase/#23129

John Larsen ATTENDING RESIDENT

ATTENDING RESIDENT: John Larsen

PATIENT: GODZILLA

BIRTH DATE: 1998

HMO: Columbia-TriStar Home Video



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