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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The actress portrays attorney Linda Kenney Baden, who defended Spector throughout his murder trial, in the new TV movie, and admits she studied up on the hitmaker by chatting to her husband Taylor Hackford about the time he spent with him.
She tells WENN, "I've heard so many extraordinary stories about him. My husband actually worked for Phil Spector, so my husband had some incredible stories about him. You get the sense of someone who permanently lived in a dream.
"All of the stories about Phil, you can't exaggerate, it's impossible; they are so extreme, so out there. A man of such incredible contradiction. I recently met a youngish woman who had known him very well and said that she had only ever seen the very, very sweet side of him; how incredibly kind he could be.
"He was obviously a schizophrenic character with these real extremes battling it out within him. The stories my husband has of him, it was when he was making his first film, The Idolmaker. And Phil originally was going to be the guy writing music for it. So he had a lot of meetings with Phil and some pretty hair raising stories, which I won't go into right now."
But Mirren admits she never got the chance to chat with Baden before starting the film, because she was brought in at the last minute to replace the injured Midler, who had studied the defence attorney at length after signing on to join Al Pacino in the movie, Phil Spector.
Mirren says, "I didn't actually meet Linda before I started the film. I'm sure you all know that Bette Midler originally was playing the role and would have been absolutely brilliant in the role, I might add, but unfortunately had to drop out because she had an injury to her neck. She was in too much pain to continue. So I stepped in very late in the day.
"I didn't get to spend a lot of time with Linda, but, in a funny way, I think that helped - because the film is a strange amalgamation of imagination and reality. And the imaginative part of the film, I think, is as important as the realistic element in it.
"I didn't feel I had to do the most perfect, immaculate impersonation. It's always a tricky little tightrope that you walk in those areas."
The Oscar-winning actor declined a visit to meet Spector at a prison in Corcoran, California, where the music legend is currently serving out a life sentence for the murder of actress Lana Clarkson in 2003.
Pacino plays the convicted killer in Phil Spector, a television movie about the music mogul's relationship with his attorney Linda Kenney Baden, played by Dame Helen Mirren, during his first trial in 2007.
The initial court proceedings ended in a mistrial, while a second trial the following year (08) ended with a guilty verdict and a sentence of 19-years to life.
Speaking at a press conference on Friday (05Jan13), Pacino insisted he did not want to meet Spector in prison because he was worried incarceration would have changed him, as Spector in the film is not yet convicted of his crime.
Instead, the actor chose to watch archive footage of Spector to help with his performance.
He said, "I didn't know anything about him, except that he was responsible for a lot of great music and this strange case."
The biopic is set to air in America in March (13).
Birds do it, bees do it, even Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones do it. In fact, it seemed like just about every A-list star was doing it on the big screen this year, thanks to sex scenes featuring the likes of Jennifer Aniston, Michelle Williams, Daniel Craig, Marion Cotillard, Zac Efron, and Robert Pattinson. (Not all at once, mind you, although that would make for one heck of a must-see movie.)
But while many of Hollywood's biggest names shed their inhibitions — and, yes, oftentimes their clothes — this year for the sake of their art on film, it was rarely gratuitous or horrifying. (Okay, the sex scene in Cosmopolis was a little bit horrifying.) In honor of their bold and beautiful moves, we've ranked the very best sex scenes in movies in 2012. Hey, it's a tough job, but somebody's gotta — you know — do it. As to be expected, some of these photos are NSFW.
Wanderlust: Jennifer Aniston living at a free-love commune with Paul Rudd? The premise of this comedy sells itself. Unfortunately, it didn't sell too many tickets at the box office as it earned a disappointing $21 million. Still, that doesn't mean Aniston's sex scenes didn't get tongues wagging, particularly when she wound up in bed with Malin Akerman, Lauren Ambrose, and Kerri Kenney. Not to mention the hot on-screen chemistry of Aniston with her future fiance Justin Thoreaux.
Take This Waltz: Sure the coffee shop scene — in which Daniel (Luke Kirby) tells the married Margot (Michelle Williams) exactly what he'd do to her in bed in graphic, agonizing detail — is inarguably the most erotic part of Sarah Polley's indie drama, but the sex montage in which Daniel and Margot finally do get it on (sometimes, as we see, with a variety of different partners and positions) is still one of the best love scenes (plural) we saw all year.
Skyfall: The streamy (quite literally) scene between Daniel Craig and Bérénice Marlohe marks off a veritable checklist of sexy location scenarios: In the shower? Check. On a boat? Check. With Daniel Craig and/or Bérénice Marlohe ? CHECK, PLEASE.
The Sessions: The premise of the movie may sound clinical — a man with an iron lung (an Oscar-worthy John Hawkes) hires a professional sex surrogate (played by Helen Hunt) to help him lose his virginity — but the result is an emotional and yes, erotic, journey. After their many sessions of touching and talking, when they two finally consumate their relationship, it's worth the wait, in every sense of the word.
Rust and Bone: Like the violence in Jacques Audiard's haunting drama, the sex is just as unflinching and rooted in realism. After suffering a devastating injury that leaves her a double amputee, Stéphanie (Marion Cotillard) is faced with learning to adapt to an entirely new life, including her sex life. Her first time, post-accident is with the handsome, troubled drifter Ali (Matthias Schoenaerts). Like The Sessions, Rust and Bone doesn't shy away from or sugarcoat the sex lives of the disabled, making for two of the most honest, refreshing, and sexy sex scenes all year.
Hope Springs: One could argue for the tender love scene between the once-struggling, romance-challenged older married couple Kay and Arnold (Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones) is one of the best sex scenes from 2012. But let's be honest: it's when the esteemed three-time Oscar winner/greatest actress of all-time pulls an Alanis Morissette and goes down on TLJ in a theater. That's one way to get out of a sex rut.
Cosmopolis: Sorry, Twihards, but this one takes the cake for sex scenes with R-Pattz in 2012. The dreamboat hunk receives a prostate exam in a scene that doesn't actually involve sex (though there are some in this infinitely bizarre David Cronenberg flick, including an alluded-to one with the timelessly sexy Juliette Binoche) but it sure was memorable, wasn't it?
The Lucky One: Speaking of heartthrobs all grown up into bona fide grown-up sex symbols, Zac Efron in the soapy Nicholas Sparks drama ups the shower sex ante and takes the action outside with Taylor Schilling. Sure, it's too glossy and too well-orchestrated to be taken seriously and it doesn't have the same effect as the famous The Notebook scene, but as far as PG-13 love scenes went this year, this one actually got hearts racing. Plus, it was a way to enjoy Efron without having to endure any Paperboy ickiness.
For A Good Time Call: Hey, phone sex counts.
Titanic 3D: Yes, yes, we know the sex scene in Titanic technically constitutes as one of the best movie sex scenes in 1997, but you don't truly experience the sweaty, window-slamming sex between Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio's Rose and Jack until you've experienced it in 3D.
[Photo credits: Universal; Magnolia Pictures; Fox Searchlight; Columbia Pictures; Sony Pictures Classics; Entertainment One; Fox Searchlight; Warner Bros.]
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Fun Size may be the only production from kid-centric studio Nickelodeon to also feature underage drinking (complete with red solo cups) and boob groping. The murky demographic for the movie ends up hurting the well-intentioned Halloween flick — it's not quite suitable for the young ones nor is it funny or wild enough for the Gossip Girl crowd which director Josh Schwartz (creator of the show) knows well. Instead we get a floundering trick or treat adventure that reduces the colorful twisted holiday to a meandering situational comedy.
Nick TV grad Victoria Justice (Victorious) stars as Wren a high school "geek" who finds herself unable to bag the guy of her dreams (who adores her) but finds a glimmer of hope in the big cool kids' Halloween party. Ready for a night out with her best friend April (Jane Levy) Wren thinks life is finally going her way until her Mom (Chelsea Handler) sticks her with her troublemaking little brother Albert (Jackson Nicoll) for the night. If chaperoning Albert wasn't already the worst thing in the world Wren finds herself in an even bigger dilemma when her brother wanders off into his own night of mischievous debauchery.
The "one crazy night" formula fits perfectly with Halloween but Fun Size struggles to find interesting material for its eclectic ensemble. Unlike many of the young actresses who have previously collaborated with Schwartz Justice seems unable to crack his voice and comedic style. She's too hip to too aware to play someone struggling with high school. The material doesn't serve her or Levy either; off-color jokes and a bizarre sense of entitlement turn them into two people you don't want to see succeed. Luckily for the audience during their sweeping search for Albert Wren and April cross paths with two true nerd-looking boys: Roosevelt (Thomas Mann) and Peng (Osric Chau) who along with feeling like real teenagers actually land a joke or two.
Interwoven into this speedy adventure — Fun Size clocks in at a little over 75 minutes giving little time to flesh out our teenage heroes — is Albert's encounter with a convenience store clerk named Fuzzy. The adults of Fun Size see the ten-year-old Albert as a parter-in-crime rather than a lost little boy. Fuzzy recruits him for a raid on his ex-girlfriend's house; after running away he meets a lady who brings him to a nightclub. At one point a sleazebag kidnaps Albert and locks him in his bedroom. If Fun Size were madcap it may all make sense. Instead things just happen — and it's not hilarious scary or even deranged.
Nick's '90s sitcom Pete & Pete created an amazing sense of weirdness and heart in its exploits of two teenage brothers. Anyone could watch and enjoy it. Fun Size has a beautiful look (the colors of Halloween are mesmerizing) and Schwartz as always has impeccable soundtrack tastes but when it comes to telling a story that feels both relatable and wonderfully weird — what Pete & Pete did so well — the movie falls flat. It's stereotype humor (the movie packs many a fat and gay joke) doesn't cut it — when paired to Nick's best efforts the movie lives up to the title: a bite-size portion of a bigger better cinematic sweet.
Theatrics slapstick and cheer are cinematic qualities you rarely find outside the realm of animation. Disney perfected it with their pantheon of cartoon classics mixing music humor spectacle and light-hearted drama that swept up children while still capturing the imaginations and hearts of their parents. But these days even reinterpretations of fairy tales get the gritty make-over leaving little room for silliness and unfiltered glee. Emerging through that dark cloud is Mirror Mirror a film that achieves every bit of imagination crafted by its two-dimensional predecessors and then some. Under the eye of master visualist Tarsem Singh (The Fall Immortals) Mirror Mirror's heightened realism imbues it with the power to pull off anything — and the movie never skimps on the anything.
Like its animated counterparts Mirror Mirror stays faithful to its source material but twists it just enough to feel unique. When Snow White (Lily Collins) was a little girl her father the King ventured into a nearby dark forest to do battle with an evil creature and was never seen or heard from again. The kingdom was inherited by The Queen (Julia Roberts) Snow's evil stepmother and the fair-skinned beauty lived locked up in the castle until her 18th birthday. Grown up and tired of her wicked parental substitute White sneaks out of the castle to the village for the first time. There she witnesses the economic horrors The Queen has imposed upon the people of her land all to fuel her expensive beautification. Along the way Snow also meets Prince Alcott (Armie Hammer) who is suffering from his own money troubles — mainly being robbed by a band of stilt-wearing dwarves. When the Queen catches wind of the secret excursion she casts Snow out of the castle to be murdered by her assistant Brighton (Nathan Lane).
Fairy tales take flack for rejecting the idea of women being capable but even with its flighty presentation and dedication to the old school Disney method Mirror Mirror empowers its Snow White in a genuine way thanks to Collins' snappy charming performance. After being set free by Brighton Snow crosses paths with the thieving dwarves and quickly takes a role on their pilfering team (which she helps turn in to a Robin Hooding business). Tarsem wisely mines a spectrum of personalities out of the seven dwarves instead of simply playing them for one note comedy. Sure there's plenty of slapstick and pun humor (purposefully and wonderfully corny) but each member of the septet stands out as a warm compassionate companion to Snow even in the fantasy world.
Mirror Mirror is richly designed and executed in true Tarsem-fashion with breathtaking costumes (everything from ball gowns to the dwarf expando-stilts to ridiculous pirate ship hats with working canons) whimsical sets and a pitch-perfect score by Disney-mainstay Alan Menken. The world is a storybook and even its monsters look like illustrations rather than photo-real creations. But what makes it all click is the actors. Collins holds her own against the legendary Julia Roberts who relishes in the fun she's having playing someone despicable. She delivers every word with playful bite and her rapport with Lane is off-the-wall fun. Armie Hammer riffs on his own Prince Charming physique as Alcott. The only real misgiving of the film is the undercooked relationship between him and Snow. We know they'll get together but the journey's half the fun and Mirror Mirror serves that portion undercooked.
Children will swoon for Mirror Mirror but there's plenty here for adults — dialogue peppered with sharp wisecracks and a visual style ripped from an elegant tapestry. The movie wears its heart on its sleeve and rarely do we get a picture where both the heart and the sleeve feel truly magical.
"I was in my trailer shaving my legs before a nude scene and she came in the trailer and I'm in, like, pasties (nipple covers) and my robe... and she was like, 'Oh that's new, shaving your legs, I've never done that before.' I was like, 'Yeah, let's do it...' We were lathering her up and she's shaving and of course when I called my mum when I got home... she said, 'You robbed her mother of that experience,' so I felt terrible." Actress Emmy Rossum on teaching teenage Shameless co-star Emma Kenney how to shave.
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.
"I'm not saying it glamorises him, but you can't avoid the sort of, not the spectacular... the fascination of that kind of personality. You can't avoid the eccentricity of it, the extremeness of it, you can't avoid that." Dame Helen Mirren on her new TV movie about Phil Spector's lengthy murder trial. The actress plays Spector's attorney, Linda Kenney Baden, in the untitled new film, opposite Al Pacino as the disgraced record producer.
The singer/actress was cast as Linda Kenney Baden in May (11) and was set to star alongside Al Pacino, who portrays the jailed producer in the film.
Production began on the as-yet-untitled HBO project in New York earlier this month (Jul11), but TV producers are now scrambling to find a replacement for Midler after she was diagnosed with a slipped disc and ordered to rest by doctors.
In a Twitter.com post to fans on Wednesday (13Jul11), Midler writes, "People, I'm in pain! Herniated disk (sic) in cervical spine! No HBO movie for me!"
Spector was sentenced to serve 19 years to life behind bars after he was convicted of the 2003 murder of actress Lana Clarkson in 2009.