Warner Bros. Pictures via Everett Collection
With only a week and change having passed since the release of The Amazing Spider-Man 2, we no doubt feel the question living fresh in our minds: can we ever judge a remake without considering its predecessors? The conversation about the stark contrast in critical favor between Marc Webb's release and Sam Raimi's trilogy (the second installment of his franchise in particular) buzzed loudly, and we imagine the volume will keep in regards to Gareth Edwards' Godzilla. But it'll be a different sound altogether.
The original Godzilla, a Japanese film released in 1954, reinvented the identity of the monster movie, launched a 30-film legacy, and spoke legions about the political climate of its era. The most recent of these films — Roland Emmerich's 1998 American production — is universally bemoaned as a bigger disaster than anything to befall Tokyo at the hands of the giant reptile. With these two entries likely standing out as the most prominent in the minds of contemporary audiences, Edwards' Godzilla has some long shadows cast before it. And in approaching the new movie, one might not be able to avoid comparisons to either. It's fair — by taking on an existing property, a filmmaker knowingly takes on the connotations of that property. But the 2014 installment's great success is that it isn't much like any Godzilla movie we've seen before. In a great, great way.
This isn't 1954's Godzilla, a dire and occasionally dreary allegory that uses the supernatural to tell an important story about nuclear holocaust. A complete reversal, in fact, first and foremost Edwards' Godzilla is about its monsters. Any grand themes strewn throughout — the perseverence of nature, the follies of mankind, fatherhood, madness, faith — are all in service to the very simple mission to give us some cool, weighty, articulate sci-fi disaster. Elements of gravity are plotted all over the film's surface, with scientists, military men (kudos to Edwards for not going the typical "scientists = good/smart, military = bad/dumb" route in this film — everybody here is at least open to suggestion), doctors, police officers, and a compassionate bus driver all wrestling with options in the face of behemoth danger. The humanity is everpresent, but never especially intrusive. To reiterate, this isn't a film about any of these people, or what they do.
Warner Bros. Pictures via Everett Collection
The closest thing to a helping of thematic (or human) significance comes with Ken Watanabe's Dr. Serizawa, who spouts awe-stricken maxims about cryptozoology, the Earth, and the inevitable powerlessness of man. He might not be supplying anything more substantial than our central heroes (soft-hearted soldier Aaron Taylor-Johnson, dutiful medic and mom Elizabeth Olsen, right-all-along conspiracy theorist Bryan Cranston), but Watanabe's bonkers performance as the harried scientist is so bizarrely good that you might actually believe, for a scene or two, that it all does mean something.
Ultimately, the beauty of our latest taste of Godzilla lies not in the commitment to a message that made the original so important nor in the commitment to levity that made Emmerich's so pointless, but in its commitment to imagination. Edwards' creature design is dazzling, his deus ex machina are riveting, and the ultimate payoff to which he treats his audience is the sort of gangbusters crowd-pleaser that your average contemporary monster movie is too afraid to consider.
In fairness, this year's Godzilla might not be considered an adequate remake, not quite reciprocating the ideals, tone, or importance of the original. Sure, anyone looking for a 2014 answer to 1954's game-changing paragon will find sincere philosophy traded for pulsing adventure... but they'd have a hard time ignoring the emphatic charm of this new lens for the 60-year-old lizard, both a highly original composition and a tribute in its way to the very history of monster movies (a history that owes so much to the creature in question). So does Godzilla '14 successfully fill the shoes of Godzilla '54? No — it rips them apart and dons a totally new pair... though it still has a lot of nice things to say about the first kicks.
Oh, and the '98 Godzilla? Yeah, it's better than that.
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He shoots, he doesn't "Score!" Oscar winner Russell Crowe is allegedly an aficionado of Scores strip club in Manhattan, reportedly dropping five grand on three strippers at Christmas-time, PageSix.com reports. The report also reveals that the hunky actor failed to convince the strippers to remove their G-strings or accompany him back to his hotel room.
Nicole Kidman's bank account isn't the only thing that's growing bigger these days. For the upcoming flick The Hours the star of Moulin Rouge had to endure two hours in the make-up chair (which Sky News says she "hated") to add some needed mass to her proboscis to approximate that of author Virginia Woolf. Ah, the sacrifices Nicole's willing to make for her art--first kissing Ewan McGregor and now this.
Disturbed director David Lynch (Mulholland Drive) has been tapped to head the panel of judges at the next Cannes Film Festival. And here we thought the only American entertainer the French liked was Jerry Lewis.
Third time's the charm? Former Seinfeld cast member Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Elaine) is trying her hand at a prime time sitcom, following in the failed footsteps of Michael Richards (Kramer) and Jason Alexander (George), whose projects both failed to last a full season. Watching Ellie debuts Feb. 26 on NBC, and will likely be cancelled by mid-April.
Comedian Chris Rock and wife Malaak Compton-Rock are expecting their first child, People magazine reports. The couple has been married for five years.
The Laramie Project officially opened the Sundance Film Festival on Thursday night. The Laramie Project deals with the murder of a gay man in Laramie, Wyo., whose only crime was being openly gay. Shocked viewers were heard to say, "That doesn't look like a bobsled." The Winter Olympics start in Park City, Utah about a month after Sundance ends.
Another day, another awards announcement. The Producers Guild of America has released their nominations for the best of TV and film. Shrek becomes the first animated film to be considered for the PGA's Darryl F. Zanuck Producer of the Year Award in Theatrical Motion Pictures. Shrek is also the first ogre and the first fully green creature to be considered for such an honor.
On Wednesday, Michael Jackson came in first and third in the television ratings for 18-49 year olds. Jacko's appearance on the American Music Awards propelled ABC to a victory in the most coveted demographic, while his repeated special on CBS finished third. No word on whether Jacko pulled in the highly coveted llama demographic.
Showtime and MTV have confirmed that they are working on a cable network targeted at gays and lesbians. This news crushes Jerry Falwell's plans to do the same.
Leaving No Doubt about her future matrimonial plans, a spokesman for Gwen Stefani said the 32-year-old Ska-rocker is getting hitched to Bush frontman Gavin Rossdale, 34, Reuters reports. Rossdale admitted that Stefani was pressuring him to make a commitment last November.
Ray Charles has Australia on his mind? The 71-year-old legendary musician is headed down under in February for a series of concerts in Oz, Reuters announces.
In an ironic twist that only the U.S. court system could come up with, Rapper DMX has worked out an astounding plea agreement with Bergen County, N.J., prosecutors. DMX, who was charged with 13 counts of animal cruelty, two counts of maintaining a nuisance and one count each of disorderly conduct and possession of drug paraphernalia in 2001--and charged with possession of a deadly weapon and child endangerment in 1999--will make public service announcements for kids telling them of the dangers of guns and asking them to be kinder to animals. Otherwise, they might become successful recording artists who cross over to making movies...
Martin Luther King's life (and 73rd birthday) will be celebrated in a Smithsonian exhibit starting on King's birthday this Sunday at Detroit's Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, The Associated Press reports. The traveling exhibit, which features works of more than 100 artists who carry on King's work through their art, will visit six cities over the next two years.
Doubling their displeasure, twin teen stars Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen have dropped out of So Little Time, their highly successful sitcom on ABC Family Channel. ABC cites the twins' demands for a $400,000 raise in their allowance as the sticking point. Mary-Kate and Ashley are currently looking to get onboard a movie ride, but can only do so if they're this tall.
The Highlands Grand opened with a gala fest Wednesday night. Attendees--including Jennifer Love Hewitt, Jerri Manthey (Survivor) and former NBA hoopster John Salley--were treated to designer grub by Wolfgang Puck, choreographed dance numbers by Alex Magno (Madonna's Drowned World Tour) and places to sit.
Moviegoers will "Cast" most of their box office votes for Tom Hanks this weekend.
"Cast Away," 20th Century Fox's PG-13-rated drama reteaming Hanks and "Forrest Gump" director Robert Zemeckis, opens at nearly 2,800 theaters.
"Sunday is going to be off because its Christmas Eve, but with Christmas on a Monday this year it's going to be a four-day weekend," an insider explains. "Based on what 'What Women Want' did last week (opening to $33.6 million), 'Cast Away' could open to $30 million-plus for four days. They'll be number one."
"A lot of business is going to happen over the four days," predicts another studio source. "I assume 'Cast Away' is going to be number one. I think it's going to do around $35 million."
Directed by Robert Zemeckis, "Cast Away" stars Tom Hanks and Helen Hunt.
Second place could see competition between Paramount's PG-13-rated romantic comedy from Icon Productions "What Women Want" and Universal's opening at about 2,400 theaters of its PG-13 romantic fantasy from Beacon Communications "The Family Man," with each looking at mid-week like they could do $20-25 million.
Insiders expressed varying views of which film will be the strongest. With about half of its marketing campaign running this week, "Family Man" should see some major benefit in terms of boosting moviegoer awareness just as it opens.
"'Women' should do $25-28 million," predicts a more enthusiastic distributor, claiming the close race will be for third place and will be between "Family Man" and "The Grinch."
"'Family Man' could be number two," counters another observer, "and 'Grinch' could be sitting there (in fourth place) with $15 million for four days."
Directed by Nancy Meyers, "Want" stars Mel Gibson and Helen Hunt.
Directed by Brett Ratner, "The Family Man" stars Nicolas Cage, Tea Leoni and Don Cheadle.
Universal and Imagine Entertainment's PG-rated blockbuster "Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas" will have overtaken "Mission: Impossible 2" by Christmas Day to become the year's biggest-grossing film with over $215.4 million. "Grinch" is well on its way to a domestic theatrical gross of $250 million-plus.
Directed by Ron Howard and produced by Brian Grazer, "Grinch" stars Jim Carrey.
Dimension Films' R-rated horror genre film "Wes Craven Presents Dracula 2000," opening at 1,500-plus theatres, should round out the Top Five.
"I think 'Dracula's' going to outgross 'Miss Congeniality,'" one distributor speculates after studying the Hollywood radar screen. "I think 'Dude, Where's My Car' will go south. That young audience will switch over to 'Dracula.' Let's say $10-12 million there."
"I don't think 'Dracula' is going to open to more than 'Dude' did (with $13.8 million)," agrees another source. "Let's say it does $12-14 million."
Directed by Patrick Lussier, "Wes Craven Presents Dracula 2000" stars Jonny Lee Miller and Justine Waddell.
Warner Bros.' launch of Castle Rock Entertainment's PG-13-rated comedy "Miss Congeniality" should arrive in sixth place. Opening at about 2,700 theaters, "Congeniality" could walk off with about $10 million.
"Wait till the word gets out on that film," snaps a pessimistic insider, agreeing that a marketing-driven $10 million opening is probably in the cards.
Directed by Donald Petrie, "Miss Congeniality" stars Sandra Bullock, Michael Caine, Benjamin Bratt and Candice Bergen.
Filling out lower rungs: "The Emperor's New Groove," "Vertical Limit," "Dude, Where's My Car" and "Proof Of Life."
On the limited release front: Buena Vista/Touchstone opens its PG-13-rated dark comedy "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" in New York and Los Angeles to qualify for Oscar consideration.
Directed by Joel Coen and written by Ethan and Joel Coen, it stars George Clooney and John Turturro.
Lions Gate Films opens its unrated suspense thriller "Nowhere To Hide" in New York and L.A.
Directed by Lee Myeong-Se, it stars Park Jung-Hun.
Fine Line opens its R-rated comedy "State and Main" in the top 12 markets.
Directed and written by David Mamet, it stars Alec Baldwin.
Sony Pictures Classics opens its PG-rated drama "The House Of Mirth" in New York and L.A.
Directed and written by Terence Davies, it stars Gillian Anderson, Eric Stoltz and Dan Aykroyd.
Fine Line opens its R-rated drama "Before Night Falls" in New York, L.A. and San Francisco.
Directed by Julian Schnabel, it stars Javier Bardem.
On the expansion front: Miramax goes into the top 50 markets with its romantic comedy drama "Chocolat," a likely contender for Golden Globe and Oscar nominations.
Directed by Lasse Hallstrom, "Chocolat" stars Juliette Binoche, Judi Dench, Alfred Molina, Lena Olin and Johnny Depp.
Also, "Finding Forrester" opens Dec. 19 in New York and L.A. and "The Gift" opens in L.A. Dec. 20. Opening Christmas Day: "All the Pretty Horses" (wide), "An Everlasting Piece" (limited), and "13 Days" (limited).
CHRISTMAS BOX OFFICE Unlike Thanksgiving, which, of course, always falls on a Thursday and always generates a five-day box office period (from Wednesday through Sunday), Christmas falls on a different day of the week every year. As a result, comparisons of Christmas box office business are difficult to make. Some years Christmas is part of a four-day holiday weekend, while in other years the holiday is part of a three-day weekend, and in other years the holiday falls mid-week and is not connected to the weekend that follows it.
Having Christmas fall on a Monday, explains one distribution executive, "is not ideal, but it's certainly better than Christmas on a Sunday, which kills your Saturday night business. There should be a strong Friday and Saturday. People are obviously off for the weekend. Christmas Eve will slump, but then Christmas Day will be good. Then the mid-week business will be strong."
Focusing on the same question, another distributor says Christmas falling on a Monday "is good because Christmas eve on a Sunday is a day off for everybody and they can go to movies during the day, not at night, and still participate in Christmas Eve activities."
If we could work things out to have Christmas always fall on the same day of the week, which day would Hollywood pick? "I'd probably pick a Tuesday or Thursday," replies one insider, "because then there's a tendency for people to just take the extra day off. When it's on Thursday, then it becomes like Thanksgiving. So you're off on Thursday for Christmas Day -- well, who's going to go back to the office for one day? Now, all of a sudden, you've got a four-day weekend, and your Christmas Eve was only a week night (that got hurt), so who cares?
"I don't like Christmas Eve to ever be one of the weekend nights. But I like Christmas to be close enough to the weekend. Thursday is really ideal because even it's on Tuesday, then people take off Monday, but they're taking off a day when they're not going to go to the movies at night."
Wednesday is seen as a bad day for Christmas, this source adds, because "it's sort of neither here nor there. It's smack right in the middle of the week and it's harder for people to say, 'Oh, I'll take an extra two days off.' The worst day is Sunday because it kills Saturday night. That was last year. It's one of those things like the weather. You can speculate, but you can't do a darn thing about it."
In 1999, Christmas fell on a Saturday. Key films -- those grossing $500,000 or more for the weekend -- did $95.0 million for the weekend of Dec. 24-26. Warner Bros.' opening of "Any Given Sunday" led the pack with $13.58 million and a five-day cume of $20.6 million. Paramount's opening of "The Talented Mr. Ripley" was second with $12.74 million for two days.
In 1998, Christmas fell on a Frida . Key films took in $142.4 million for the weekend of Dec. 25-27. Universal's opening of "Patch Adams" was first with $25.26 million. Sony's launch of "Stepmom" was second with $19.14 million.
In 1997, Christmas fell on a Thursday. Key films grossed $140.1 million for the weekend of Dec. 26-28. Paramount's "Titanic" topped the chart with $35.46 million and had a 10-day cume (from its opening until the end of the Christmas weekend) of $88.4 million. MGM's James Bond epic "Tomorrow Never Dies" was second with $20.48 million and a 10-day cume of $62.2 million. Sony's opening of "As Good As It Gets" finished third with $12.61 million and a four-day cume of $16.2 million.
In 1996, Christmas fell on a Wednesday. Key films did $109.4 million for the post-Christmas weekend of Dec. 27-29. New Line's opening of "Michael" was first with $17.44 million and a five-day cume of $27.6 million. Sony's "Jerry Maguire" was second with $14.02 million and a 17-day cume of $60.4 million.
In 1995, Christmas fell on a Monday. Key films collected $90.6 million for the four-day weekend of Dec. 22-25. 20th Century Fox's opening of "Waiting To Exhale" was first with $14.13 million for four days. Buena Vista/Disney's "Toy Story" was second with $12.11 million and a 34-day cume of $115.7 million.
In 1994, Christmas fell on a Sunday. Key films did $86.28 million for the four day weekend of Dec. 23-26. New Line's "Dumb and Dumber" was first with $15.59 million and an 11-day cume of $40.7 million. Buena Vista/Disney's "The Santa Clause" was second with $9.78 million and a 46-day cume of $123.2 million.