May 09, 2014 | 10:00 a.m.

‘Godzilla’: Gareth Edwards aims for awe, tears with monster reboot

Inside an editing bay on Warner Bros.’ Burbank lot, Gareth Edwards listened carefully to the sounds of war spool out from a cluster of speakers. The young director kept his eyes locked on a high-definition screen as crimson flares illuminated the night sky over Oahu, watching as explosive blasts demolished stands of trees and helicopters in mid-flight violently plummeted to Earth, threatening a battalion of soldiers tearing through the Hawaiian jungle. “I’m always trying to get a bit of ‘Apocalypse Now’ into anything I do,” said Edwards back in January, when the soft-spoken Brit was still in the throes of completing his Hollywood debut. But it wasn’t a conventional war movie Edwards was crafting; rather, it was another new take on “Godzilla.” Due in theaters Friday, Edwards’ “Godzilla” reboot might not necessarily inspire comparisons to Francis Ford Coppola’s meditative epic, […]
May 08, 2013 | 2:24 p.m.

Ray Harryhausen: Pixar’s Pete Docter on the monster king

In the 2001 Pixar movie “Monsters, Inc.,” Mike, the one-eyed green orb voiced by Billy Crystal, takes his scaly, snake-haired girlfriend Celia out for sushi at a local haunt called Harryhausen’s. The name of the restaurant was a nod to a man who influenced “Monsters, Inc.” director Pete Docter — special effects pioneer Ray Harryhausen, who died Tuesday in London at age 92. Before the kind of computer animation pioneered at Pixar became Hollywood’s standard tool for crafting its fantasies, Harryhausen used the methodical, frame-by-frame technique of stop-motion animation to place dinosaurs in New York City in 1953’s “The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms,” to pit Jason against an army of skeleton warriors in “Jason and the Argonauts” (1963), and to release the kraken in the 1981 version of “Clash of the Titans.” It was an approach that captured the imaginations […]
Oct. 20, 2011 | 2:59 p.m.

Aliens! Zombies! L.A. convention attacks pop culture

Monsters enthusiasts of all stripes will congregate this weekend in Hollywood for the inaugural Aliens to Zombies Convention, an event that will bring together visual-effects artists with specialists in the other-worldly for panel discussions, creature-crafting competitions and more. Todd Masters, a monster-maker himself, co-organized the event with Bruce Haring, the director of JM Northern Media, which runs the DIY Convention and multiple book festivals. Masters, who founded MASTERSFX, the company that handles effects for shows including “True Blood” and “Falling Skies,” used his industry connections to assemble panels that kick off Saturday starting at 11 a.m. at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. Participants will include “I Am Legend” effects artist Shaun Smith, Zombie Research Society founder Matt Mogk, “Encyclopaedia of Hell” author Martin Olson and Amalgamated Dynamics co-founders Alec Gillis and Tom Woodruff Jr., whose effects resume includes “The Thing” prequel […]
Oct. 05, 2011 | 12:23 p.m.

John Landis celebrates movie monsters in new book

John Landis is best known for his hit comedies — films such as 1978’s “Animal House,” 1980’s “The Blues Brothers,” 1983’s “Trading Places” and 1988’s “Coming to America” — but he’s also walked on the dark side. The 61-year-old directed the 1981 horror classic “An American Werewolf in London,” which featured Rick Baker’s Oscar-winning makeup design. Landis and Baker reunited two years later for Michael Jackson’s landmark 1983 music video “Thriller,” and in 1992, Landis directed the vampire movie “Innocent Blood.” Now he’s exploring his love of the genre in the new book “Monsters in the Movies: 100 Years of Cinematic Nightmares.” The 320-page book, which features glorious photographs from the famed John Kobal Collection, is divided into types of monsters: vampires, werewolves, mad scientists, zombies, ghosts and mummies. Landis also engages in conversation with his longtime friends who have […]
Oct. 30, 2010 | 5:19 a.m.

‘Monsters’ is haunted by 1950s creature-feature legacy

The low-budget sci-fi thriller “Monsters,” which opened Friday in New York and Los Angeles, is just the latest in the never-ending line of alien and monsters flicks that have been popular for decades. Directed by Gareth Edwards, the movie revolves around a news photographer and his boss’ daughter who must travel through an “infected zone” in Mexico filled with aliens to reach the U.S. border. Though the film concentrates more on the budding romance between the characters than the massive creepy crawlies, it does recall the classic creature features from the 1950s — a decade obsessed with alien encounters and fears of nuclear war.  What follows is a look back at some of the best of the genre from that decade. “The Day the Earth Stood Still” (1951) Science fiction always has been a perfect lens for authors and filmmakers […]
Oct. 28, 2010 | 11:44 a.m.

‘Monsters’ arrives Friday with ‘District 9’ aspirations

My colleague John Horn has been raving about “Monsters,” Gareth Edwards’ low-budget thriller about a young couple forced to travel through some very dangerous territory. Horn says Edwards tried to shoot his film, which opens in New York and Los Angeles on Friday, on the run, relying as much on improvisation as scripted dialogue.  That approach was informed by the frustration Edwards felt when he had to deal with difficult visual-effects departments on the British television productions “End Day” and “Perfect Disaster.” “I got so frustrated with the process,” Edwards told Horn. “I have 50 people around me who are supposed to make my life easier, and they’re really making it harder. There has to be an easier way. The whole point of the digital revolution is pointless if you still need so many people following you around.” With just a […]
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