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.
Follow @Michael Arbeiter| Follow @Hollywood_com
Although we'll always think of Harrison Ford when we think of Indiana Jones, Keanue Reeves when we picture Neo, and Michael J. Fox when we reminisce about the adventures of Marty McFly, it's funny to acknowledge that these parts — as with many now-iconic movie characters — came very close to landing other actors entirely. Indy could have been Tom Selleck, Neo could have been Will Smith, McFly could have been Eric Stoltz. And the latest to be revealed in this line of alternate timelines is that which nearly embraced Cameron Crowe's classic romance, Jerry Maguire. On Wednesday, Nashville and Friday Night Lights star Connie Britton revealed to The New York Times that she was almost given Renee Zellweger's role.
Britton explains that director Crowe sent her the script back during production on the movie. "So I took it home and I read it," she says. "I was blown away. I loved the script, the role — I was like, ‘Oh, my gosh, this is incredible.’"
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Having yet to really break out into show business, Britton was passionate about earning the role of Dorothy Boyd. She says, "And I walked into my brand-new agent’s office the next day, and I put the script down on his desk, and I was like, ‘I have two words for you: Jerry Maguire.’”
And while Britton's screen test may have brought her very close to starring opposite Tom Cruise in the oft-quoted film, she explains that there was one minor issue: “they just want to screen-test one other actress.” And that, of course, was Zellweger. “It was heartbreak,” Britton says.
So what gave Zellweger the edge over the indelibly talented Tami Taylor to be? Britton speculates: "Maybe I was too tall." After all, at around 5'8", Britton would have had an inch or two on her potential costar Cruise (a dealbreaker in the Hollywood world). Zellweger, at only 5'4", would fit more snugly into a frame opposite Mr. Maguire.
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But we can't be too displeased with the fate we were dealt: in the absence of Jerry Maguire, Britton kicked off a long, much adored television career — 1996 placed her in the pithy sitcom Spin City, which she would eventually follow with occasional appearances on 24 and her beloved starring spot on Friday Night Lights. And now, following her haunting turn on American Horror Story, the world is treated to weekly doses of Britton on ABC's Nashville.
So we can't be too remiss about the actress' missing out on Jerry Maguire. You may not have snagged this role, Britton, but with everything you've done since, we can still sincerely profess: you complete us.
Follow Michael Arbeiter on Twitter @MichaelArbeiter.
[Photo Credit: TriStar Pictures; Ivan Nikolov/Wenn]
We all go a little mad sometimes. At least, so says Norman Bates in Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho.
Though one of cinema’s preeminent madmen hit upon a fundamental truth, the fact is that there are those who occupy Crazytown with far more frequency than just “sometimes.” Martin McDonagh’s upcoming film Seven Psychopaths gathers a cadre of perpetually unhinged characters and makes the bold, if somewhat ill advised decision to house them all in one story. What makes this insane undertaking work so well? It may have something to do with the fact that the assembled cast, collectively, has extensive experience in the area of filmic lunacy. Here’s a breakdown of our favorite psycho roles from these psychos’ past.
Colin Farrell - Daredevil
Though far from the best example of cinematic adaptations of comic book heroes, 2003’s Daredevil does provide adequate showcase for Colin Farrell’s ability to play unstable antagonists. In the film, Farrell plays Daredevil’s (Ben Affleck’s) nemesis Bullseye, whose super power is his staggering marksmanship that allows him to transform any object into a weapon; so yeah, basically a more resourceful version of Hawkeye. The amount of maniacal glee with which Farrell inhabits Bullseye is one of the film’s few enjoyable elements. If nothing else, he finds inventive new use for airline peanuts.
Sam Rockwell - Confessions of a Dangerous Mind
In Seven Psychopaths, Sam Rockwell is his trademark impressive as a man who makes his living kidnapping dogs just to return them to claim the inevitable reward. The character is far more complicated than that paltry description, which calls to mind the layered lunatic Rockwell played in George Clooney’s Confessions of a Dangerous Mind. Supposedly based on a true story, Rockwell plays a game show host who moonlights as a government assassin. Whether truth or the manifestations of a kook, no one makes sociopaths as compelling as Rockwell.
Woody Harrelson - Natural Born Killers
Remember when Woody Harrelson was best known as the lovable dope bartender on Cheers? Oh how far we have come. Since the close of that iconic TV bar, Harrelson has established himself as one of the most talented leading men in the biz, and one capable of a fantastic range of characters. He’s played cowboys, zombie hunters, and real-life smut peddlers. But no role allowed him as much crazed freedom as his turn in Oliver Stone’s Natural Born Killers. Harrelson plays one half of a disturbed, mass murdering young couple that becomes celebrities in the media for their homicidal rampage. Makes us want to take a shower just thinking about it.
Kevin Corrigan - Some Guy Who Kills People
Kevin Corrigan is a character actor in the truest sense of the term; one of those performers whose face you always recognize even if his name doesn’t leap immediately to your mind. So you’re always saying to yourself, “oh hey, that guy.” Well last year, that guy took on the role of Some Guy Who Kills People. Corrigan plays Ken Boyd, former asylum inmate. The townspeople come to believe that Boyd balances his screen time between scooping out ice cream and doling out delicious vengeance on those he deems at fault for his derailed life. You might say his road to recovery was a bit rockier than most, except don’t say that at all.
Tom Waits - Bram Stoker’s Dracula
It’s not often that the transition from musician to actor yields a wealth of memorable roles, but such is certainly the case with singer-turned-thesp Tom Waits. The gravely voiced crooner has proven time and time again his natural screen presence and timing. In 1992, Waits got the chance to take on one of literature’s most notable loons, Renfield, in Francis Ford Coppola’s adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula. What’s so fantastic about Waits’ portrayal of Renfield, apart from his Eraserhead haircut, is how incredibly genuine he is in his madness. You truly believe the savory pleasure he derives from the consuming of each and every insect.
Michael Pitt - Murder by Numbers
Michael Pitt found recent resurgence on HBO’s Boardwalk Empire, so he proved to be a welcome sight in McDonagh’s film. However, he’s no stranger to playing complete whackjobs. In fact, one of his earliest starring roles was as the troubled teen Justin Pendleton in Murder by Numbers. Pitt plays one of two incredibly smart high school students who, along with Ryan Gosling, commit the perfect murder just to see if they can. What makes him so unsettling here is that he essential destroys another human life to fend off boredom; apparently never having heard of videogames.
Christopher Walken - The Rundown
Of all the psychopaths in Martin McDonah’s new movie, the one who posed the biggest challenge in terms of this list was the legendary Christopher Walken. He’s played so many mentally unbalanced characters throughout his celebrated career that choosing just one was a maddening task. But his turn as the villainous Hatcher in Peter Berg’s The Rundown is more or less a hilarious and entertaining tribute to the nuttiest bad guys he’s ever inhabited. It is the epitome of Walken’s signature blend of humor and menace, and the tooth fairy rant is one of The Rundown’s greatest moments.
Follow Matt Patches on Twitter @misterpatches
[Photo Credit: CBS Films (2)]
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Widening the thematic scope without sacrificing too much of the claustrophobia that made the original 1979 Alien universally spooky Prometheus takes the trophy for this summer's most adult-oriented blockbuster entertainment. The movie will leave your mouth agape for its entire runtime first with its majestic exploration of an alien planet and conjectures on the origins of the human race second with its gross-out body horror that leaves no spilled gut to the imagination. Thin characters feel more like pawns in Scott's sci-fi prequel but stunning visuals shocking turns and grand questions more than make up for the shallow ensemble. "Epic" comes in many forms. Prometheus sports all of them.
Based on their discovery of a series of cave drawings all sharing a similar painted design Elizabeth (Noomi Rapace) and Charlie (Logan Marshall-Green) are recruited by Weyland to head a mission to another planet one they believe holds the answers to the creation of life on Earth. Along for the journey are Vickers (Charlize Theron) the ruthless Weyland proxy Janek (Idris Elba) a blue collar captain a slew of faceless scientists and David (Michael Fassbender) HAL 9000-esque resident android who awakens the crew of spaceship Prometheus when they arrive to their destination. Immediately upon descent there's a discovery: a giant mound that's anything but natural. The crew immediately prepares to scope out the scene zipping up high-tech spacesuits jumping in futuristic humvees and heading out to the site. What they discover are the awe-inspiring creations of another race. What they bring back to the ship is what they realize may kill their own.
The first half of Prometheus could be easily mistaken for Steven Spielberg's Alien a sense of wonder glowing from every frame not too unlike Close Encounters. Scott takes full advantage of his fictional settings and imbues them with a reality that makes them even more tantalizing. He shoots the vistas of space and the alien planet like National Geographic porn and savors the interior moments on board the Prometheus full of hologram maps sleeping pods and do-it-yourself surgery modules with the same attention. Prometheus is beautiful shot in immersive 3D that never dampers Dariusz Wolski's sharp photography. Scott's direction seems less interested in the run-or-die scenario set up in the latter half of the film but the film maintains tension and mood from beginning to end. It all just gets a bit…bloodier.
Jon Spaihts' and Damon Lindelof's script doesn't do the performers any favors shuffling them to and fro between the ship and the alien construction without much room for development. Reveals are shoehorned in without much setup (one involving Theron's Vickers that's shockingly mishandled) but for the most part the ensemble is ready to chomp into the script's bigger picture conceits. Rapace is a physical performer capable of pulling off a grisly scene involving an alien some sharp objects and a painful procedure (sure to be the scene of the blockbuster season. Among the rest of the crew Fassbender's David stands out as the film's revelatory performance delivering a digestible ambiguity to his mechanical man that playfully toys with expectations from his first entrance. The creature effects in Prometheus will wow you but even Fassbender's smallest gesture can send the mind spinning. The power of his smile packs more of a punch than any facehugger.
Much like Lindelof's Lost Prometheus aims to explore the idea of asking questions and seeking answers and on Scott's scale it's a tremendous unexpected ride. A few ideas introduced to spur action fall to the way side in the logic department but with a clear mission and end point Prometheus works as a sweeping sci-fi that doesn't require choppy editing or endless explosions to keep us on the edge of our seats. Prometheus isn't too far off from the Alien xenomorphs: born from existing DNA of another creature the movie breaks out as its own beast. And it's wilder than ever.
Director Alexander Payne's (Election Sideways) new film opens over sprawling landscape shots of Hawaii's scenic suburbia accompanied by George Clooney's character Matt King summing up his current predicament: "Paradise can go fuck itself." The reaction unfortunately is reasonable.
We pick up with King an ancestor of Hawaiian royalty in the middle of deliberations over a plot of land handed down through his family over generations. With every uncle aunt and cosign whispering opinions into his ear King is suddenly presented with an even greater problem: taking care of his two daughters. A boating accident leaves his wife in a coma forcing Matt to take a true parenting role with his young socially-troubled daughter Scottie (Amara Miller) and his rebellious teen Alexandra (Shailene Woodley) who was previously shipped off to boarding school. Matt awkwardly hunts for the emotional glue necessary for the mismatched bunch to become "a family " but matters are made even more complicated when Alex reveals that her mother was cheating on him before the accident. Murphy's Law is in full effect.
With The Descendants Payne continues to explore and discover the inherent humor in life's melancholic situations unfolding Matt's quest for understanding like a road movie across Hawaii's many islands. Simultaneously preparing for the end of his wife's death and searching for the identity of her lover Matt crosses paths with a number of perfectly cast side characters who act as mirrors to his best and worst qualities: his father-in-law Scott (Robert Foster) who belittles Matt for never taking care of his daughter; Hugh (Beau Bridges) an opportunistic cousin who pressures Matt to sell the land; Alexandra's dunce of a boyfriend Sid (Nick Krause) who always has the wrong thing to say; and Julie (Judy Greer) the wife of the adulterer in question. Colorful yet real Matt experiences a definitive moment with each of them yet the picture never feels sporadic or episodic.
Clooney and Woodley help gel these sequences together as they observe experience and butt heads as equals. Clooney's own magnetism stands in the way of making Matt a fully dimensional character but he shines when playing off his quick-witted daughter. His reactions are heartbreaking—but it's the moments when he has to put himself out there that never quite ring true. But the script by Nat Faxon Jim Rash and Payne gives Clooney plenty of opportunities to work his magic visualizing his struggle as opposed to vomiting it out like so many of today's talky dramas.
The Descendants is a tender cinematic experience an introspective and heartwarming film unafraid to convey its story with pleasing simplicity. Clooney stands out with a solid performance but like many of Payne's films it's the eclectic ensemble and muted backdrop that give the movie its real texture. The paradise of Descendants isn't all its cracked up to be but for movie-goers it's bliss.
On the eve of the release of Paul, a movie about two aging geeks who find an alien while on a road trip to Comic-Con, we figured it would be a good time to revisit our favorite sci-fi road trips. We’re not talking about a sci-fi journeys, either. These movies aren’t just about a group of people hiking toward some far off destination, they’re about that great American tradition of hoping in a vehicle (of some sort) and heading off on a mission, be it to accomplish a precise goal or to simply wander. As long as they’re in a vehicle when they do it, it’s up for consideration-- and the great thing about sci-fi is that the vehicles can get pretty crazy.
Also, be wary of spoilers below for any of the films you haven’t seen.
The Vehicle: 1977 Ford Mustang Cobra II
The Travelers: Jenny Hayden (Karen Allen) and the Starman (Jeff Bridges)
The Destination: From Wisconsin to Arizona so the Starman can catch an intergalactic ride away from the stupid people who shot down his peace-bringing spaceship.
Trip Highlight: There’s a lot to pick from in John Carpenter’s Starman - resurrecting a deer, fighting the truckers, fleeing the NSA - but the highlight would have to be Starman driving their car directly into a gas tanker while they’re both inside. It takes balls to intentionally blow up your road-tripping ride, even if you are a space alien.
Close Encounters of the Third Kind
The Vehicle: A variety of station wagons and trucks, but it all begins in a yellow Ford-F250.
The Travelers: Roy Neary (Richard Dreyfuss) and Jillian (Melinda Dillon)
The Destination: Devils Tower National Monument in Wyoming
Trip Highlight: The arrival of the mothership, of course. It technically happens after they’ve reached their destination, but we’re still counting it since it’s the start of a second road trip for Roy. Except where he’s going, they don’t need roads. (Sorry, it had to be said.)
The Vehicle: The spaceship Icarus II
The Travelers: A team of eight scientists
The Destination: The sun
Trip Highlight: Some crazy stuff goes down in Sunshine, but as insane as stuff gets, the trip highlight has to be the spacewalk Kaneda and Capa take to make repairs after Trey forgets to adjust the heat shield for their new trajectory. Not only is it a visually awesome scene, but it’s essentially the most high-stakes tire change ever seen in a road trip movie.
2001: A Space Odyssey
The Vehicle: The spaceship Discovery One
The Travelers: David Bowman (Keir Dullea), Dr. Franke Poole (Gary Lockwood) and Hal 9000
The Destination: Jupiter, though no one knows what to expect when they get there.
Trip Highlight: Dave’s mind-bending trip into the monolith orbiting Jupiter, which in turn sent countless college kids on acid trips of their own while trying to figure out just what in the hell the ending of 2001: A Space Odyssey means.
The Vehicle: A pimped-out Winnebago Chieftain
The Travelers: Lone Star (Bill Pullman) and Barf (John Candy)
The Destination: Planet Druidia to stop President Skroob (Mel Brooks) from stealing all of its air.
Trip Highlight: Lone Star and Dark Helmet’s duel inside Mega Maid’s ear, which taught the world over the heartwarming message that you don’t need a special ring to use the Schwartz as long as you’re pure of heart. Or something.
The Vehicle: A 1984 Chevy Van
The Travelers: A group of geeks on a mission to see Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace early.
The Destination: Skywalker Ranch
Trip Highlight: A surprise encounter with William Shatner in Las Vegas, who then tells them what they need to do to infiltrate Skywalker Ranch. Sure, the movie may not be all that great, but it’s scenes like this that prove its intentions were in the right place.
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
The Vehicle: Treebeard, the oldest Ent of Middle Earth
The Travelers: Merry (Dominic Monaghan) and Pippin (Billy Boyd)
The Destination: Isengard
Trip Highlight: Merry and Pippin going to battle riding atop giant, ancient walking trees of doom. Enough said.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
The Vehicle: The spaceship Heart of Gold
The Travelers: Arthur Dent (Martin Freeman), Ford Prefect (Mos Def) Zaphond Beeblebrox (Sam Rockwell), Trillian (Zooey Deschanel) and Marvin (Alan Rickman/Warwick Davis)
The Destination: The planet Magrathea, which contains the answer to the Question of Life, the Universe and Everything
Trip Highlight: All manner of insane and improbable things happen in The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, so it’s hard to pick just a single highlight. However, we’ve got to hand it to Marvin the Paranoid Android for saving the day by turning the Point-of-View gun on the Vogons, causing them to be overcome with crippling despair.
The Vehicle: Virgil, a deep-Earth drilling vessel.
The Travelers: A team of scientists and astronauts trying to restart the Earth’s molten core, which has stopped spinning.
The Destination: The Core, duh.
Trip Highlight: Let’s be clear, The Core is only a movie worth talking about because of how joyously silly it is. To that end, we can’t help but give a bit of a slowclap to its cheesiest moment: getting rescued because a pod of whales singing a song that alerts the surface that Virgil survived the nuclear explosions at the core.
Star Trek: The Voyage Home
The Vehicle: A Bird-of-Prey starship
The Travelers: The exiled officers of the USS Enterprise.
The Destination: Earth, 1986, where the crew plan to abduct a humpback whale and bring it back to the future.
Trip Highlight: Well if it isn’t another whale-related sci-fi plot point (if only we had gone with the falling whale in Hitchhiker’s Guide, we’d have a hat trick going on)... Strange obsession with whales aside, it’s hard not to love the scene where Kirk saves the day (and the future) by decloaking the Bird-of-Prey right in front of a group of angry whalers who most likely all had to change their underwear afterward.