Spoiler alert: Godzilla has form: he’s flattened Tokyo, made a fool of himself in New York and teamed up with a cute sidekick for a best-forgotten cartoon series. Now everyone’s favourite mean, green, city-stomping machine gets the big-budget 3D treatment courtesy of Brit director Gareth Edwards, whose 2010 DIY indie Monsters impressed. If all you need for a good time is full-on shots of wondrously realised CGI creatures turning to the camera and giving an almighty spit-flecked roar, you’re in luck. But those hoping this Godzilla might have brains as well as bulk could be disappointed. It starts strongly, with eerie stock footage of Pacific nuclear tests followed by a nail-biting opening sequence at a Fukushima-style power plant, bluntly but effectively echoing the original 1954 film’s post-Hiroshima atomic angst. Flash forward 14 years and we find chief engineer Joe (Bryan Cranston) obsessed with theories about the accident, while his estranged son Ford (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) tries to bring his dad back down to Earth. Then something stirs in the deep…
Edwards is an absolute whiz when it comes to creature design. Godzilla himself is chunky, tactile and pleasingly old fashioned, particularly in comparison with Roland Emmerich’s ornate, spiky 1998 reboot, while his adversaries, the winged, insectoid Muto (aka Mothra), are delightfully grotesque.
But his handling of storytelling is not so confident: following a couple of gripping action scenes, Godzilla settles into a fairly standard cross-Pacific chase movie. The script lacks humour, and the characterisation is weak. It’s fun to watch skyscraper-sized behemoths lay waste to civilisation, but more human drama would be welcome. Tom Huddleston
The Face of Love Director: Arie Posin Stars: Robin Williams, Ed Harris, Annette Bening 3/5
Melodrama often risks the ridiculous to achieve the sublime, and though this unabashedly earnest tearjerker doesn’t completely transcend its narrative absurdities, it’s enough of a distinctively odd duck to keep you engaged. In the first few minutes, vacationing L.A. interior designer Nikki (Annette Bening) discovers her husband, Garrett (Ed Harris), dead on the seashore, the victim of a riptide. Fast-forward five years, when our still-hurting protagonist – shades of Vertigo – starts pursuing Garrett’s almost exact physical double, Tom (also Harris), a local art teacher. Can romance possibly bloom again?
In a film of this sort, the actor is the auteur; turn the clock back to Old Hollywood and this could have been a vehicle for Bette Davis or Joan Crawford. Bening holds similarly captivating court, unearthing heartbreak in every gesture. The scene in which Nikki first approaches Tom is a masterful display of outer awkwardness masking inner torment. Harris is every bit her equal, both hardened and sensitive to the point that he can make a ludicrous line like ‘I could take a bath in how you look at me’ ring with swoonworthy sincerity, while Robin Williams lends strong support as the neighbour who harbours an unrequited crush on Nikki. It’s refreshing to find a love story, even one of modest aims and accomplishments, that plays all its heated emotions with a completely straight face. Keith Uhlich
Grace of Monaco Director: Olivier Dahan Stars: Nicole Kidman, Tim Roth, André Penvern
You wait for ages for a tear-jerking biopic of a tragic princess, and then two come along at once – although Grace of Monaco has been delayed a while now amid release-date changes and stories of conflict between director Olivier Dahan and producer Harvey Weinstein. We’re hoping that it will be better liked than Diana though. Here, Grace Kelly – Princess of Monaco and ultimate Hitchcock blonde – is played by fellow icy blonde Nicole Kidman. The trailer is all classical music, expensive jewels, Riviera sunsets and dangerously winding roads. The film is directed by Dahan, whose La Vie en Rose so poignantly portrayed another Gallic icon, Édith Piaf. But then again, not even Oliver Hirschbiegel’s experience with Downfall could save Diana. Fingers crossed.
The Factory Director: Morgan O'Neill Stars: John Cusack, Dallas Roberts, Vincent Messina
John Cuscak stars in this psychological crime thriller as a New York cop on the trail of a serial killer who has been targeting women. The case goes cold until another woman is kidnapped and the cop’s own daughter goes missing. The film is directed by Morgan O’Neill, who created surf film Drift.
Battle of the Damned Director: Christopher Hatton Stars: Dolph Lundgren, Melanie Zanetti, Matt Doran
Veteran action hunk Dolph plays a private military soldier who is amid a few survivors of a deadly virus. He trains up a squad of robot soldiers to defeat a city full of disease-carrying zombies in this zombies v robots action flick.
Chef Director: Jon Favreau Stars: Jon Favreau, Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson
The original Iron Man team of writer-director-actor Jon Favreau and star Robert Downey Jr reunite for a film which sounds as far as possible from metal-clad superheroic antics. It’s the tale of a chef, played by Favreau, whose swanky new LA restaurant flops, forcing him to fix up a taco truck and drive it across the country. If Favreau’s work as a director can be patchy, his work as a screenwriter is even more so. Yes, Swingers was fantastic, but what about Couple’s Retreat or Cowboys and Aliens? The presence of Downey Jr and love interest Scarlett Johanssen does make the prospect a little juicier, but we’ll have to wait and see if Chef turns out to be a three-course comedy banquet or a fatty, forgettable little burger.
Fish n Chips: Best Enemies Forever Director: Dan Krech Stars: John Leguizamo, Mario Cantone, Martin Villafana
Animated family fun this is the cute story of a goldfish, imaginatively named Fish, and a cat called Chips in New York. The unlikely pair form a friendship and join forces on a mission and fall in love with the same catfish. John Leguizamo, lends his characteristic New York voice to Chips.