An emotive, Italian-American pop singer in the vein of Perry Como and Tony Bennett, Al Martino enjoyed a lengthy string of hit singles and albums for over 20 years, beginning with 1952's "Here in My H...
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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Top Story: Madonna's Label Sues Warner Music
Madonna's Maverick Recording Co., who handles such artists as Michelle Branch and Alanis Morissette, has filed a breach of contract lawsuit against Warner Music Thursday, seeking $200 million in damages, Reuters reports. The suit, which alleges fraud and false accounting, stems from a year-long dispute between Maverick and Warner and predates the recent sale of Warner Music to a group of investors led by Edgar Bronfman Jr. In the joint venture between the two companies, Warner has the option of buying out the 60 percent of Maverick it doesn't own when the partnership deal expires at the end of the year, but sources say negotiations broke down when Madonna's price was too steep for Warner, Reuters reports. Madonna's lawsuit also comes one day after Warner Music filed a claim in a Delaware court asking a judge to rule it had met its commitments in its deal with Maverick and that any claims to the contrary were without merit, Reuters reports. Calling the Delaware lawsuit a "sneak attack," Maverick's attorney Bert Fields told Reuters he was doubtful the issues would be resolved out of court. "We've been trying to get these people to settle for a year now and we don't think we'll have any success in the future," said Fields.
Spears Tops Aussie Mag's Sexy Women List
Britney Spears was named the No. 1 sexiest woman by the Australian and New Zealand magazine FHM, The Associated Press reports. The pop princess was followed by Australian singer/actress Delta Goodrem, while Aussie singer/actress Kylie Minogue came in fifth.
Swank-y Calvin Klein Ads
Oscar-winning actress Hilary Swank has signed on to be the exclusive celebrity model for the Calvin Klein Sensual Support intimate apparel collection, AP reports. "Hilary is the perfect choice for this campaign. She looks absolutely beautiful and easily conveys the sensuality that we want," Kim Vernon, senior vice president of global advertising and communications for Calvin Klein Inc., said in a statement Wednesday. The new collection will be available in July.
Tribeca Film Fest Announces Slate
The Tribeca Film Festival unveiled its lineup for its third annual New York event, including six international premieres and 10 U.S. bows. The festival opens May 1 with Garry Marshall's Raising Helen, starring Kate Hudson and runs through May 9. Other films featured include Dear Frankie, starring Emily Mortimer and Gerard Butler; Whore starring Daryl Hannah and Denise Richards; and Poster Boy, starring Karen Allen and Michael Lerner.
Alias' Garner Gets a Sister
Mia Maestro (Frida) is set to join ABC's Alias, playing star Jennifer Garner's sister. According to the Hollywood Reporter, Maestro will appear in the last three episodes of the show this season and is expected to return as a regular next season. In other pilot casting news, William Devane has joined an untitled ABC family comedy about a man (Tom Everett Scott) and his estranged father (Devane) who become dads at the same time.
Former Wiseguy To Host Wiseguy Show
Actor Vincent Pastore, best known for playing the ill-fated Salvatore "Big Pussy" Bonpensiero on HBO's The Sopranos, will host The Wiseguy Show, a weekly celebration of Italian-American culture for Sirius Satellite Radio, AP reports. Pastore will interview guests from the Italian-American community, discuss world events, review movies, perform skits, give sex advice and interact with listeners as well as play music from Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Al Martino, Jerry Vale and other classic crooners. The show premieres Saturday.
Costello Writes the Books
Taking his popular song "Everyday I Write the Book" to heart, singer-songwriter Elvis Costello cinched a deal with publisher Simon & Schuster to write two books, Reuters reports. The first, due in the fall of 2005, promises to be a work of "intimate narrative chapters taking their cue from the styles, themes and characters" found in Costello's lyrics, the publisher said. The second book, titled How to Play the Guitar, Sing Loudly and Impress Girls ... or Boys, is described as a "work of comic philosophy," Reuters reports.
Role Call: Beckham Bends Panther; Bridges Becoming Mogul
Soccer star David Beckham is in negotiations to make his feature film debut in the upcoming comedy remake The Pink Panther. According to the Hollywood Reporter, the story follows bumbling French detective Inspector Clouseau (Steve Martin) as he investigates the murder of a famous soccer coach and the theft of the Pink Panther diamond and also stars Kevin Kline, Beyonce Knowles and Jean Reno. Beckham would play a cameo role as a soccer player, natch…Jeff Bridges is set to star in the indie The Moguls, a comedy about a small town that bands together to make a porno film. Writer Michael Traeger (Dead Man on Campus) will make his directorial debut.
An emotive, Italian-American pop singer in the vein of Perry Como and Tony Bennett, Al Martino enjoyed a lengthy string of hit singles and albums for over 20 years, beginning with 1952's "Here in My Heart" and running through the early 1970s. He was also the first American performer to score a No. 1 hit on the British charts, an achievement which landed him in the record books, thanks to its popularity with record buyers. The influence of criminal elements took him out of the business at a crucial point, but his unflagging determination brought him back to the limelight in the 1960s, culminating with his signature hit, "Spanish Eyes" in 1965. In 1972, he received an unlikely career boost with his turn as a failed, Sinatra-esque singer in "The Godfather" and its subsequent sequels. An impressive body of work and an irrefutable talent helped to make Al Martino a vibrant reminder of the golden days of pop crooners and a popular concert draw right up until his death in 2009.<p>Born Alfred Cini in Philadelphia, PA on Oct. 7, 1927, he was the son of Italian immigrants who ran a masonry business. During his formative years, he dutifully worked alongside his brothers as a bricklayer, but found his true passion in singing. In the evenings after work, he began performing at local clubs, sharpening his already impressive vocal skills. However, like many men of that era, service in the United States Navy during World War II interrupted his aspirations. Even though he was only a teenager, he enlisted and was sent to the Pacific Theater. After being wounded in the invasion of Iwo Jima, he returned home and renewed his goal of becoming a professional singer. At the encouragement of childhood friend Mario Lanza, who had gone on to international stardom as an opera singer, he relocated to New York City in 1948, where, now billed as Al Martino (the surname was taken from his maternal grandfather), he began to work the club circuit. A turn singing "If" by his idol, Perry Como, on the popular radio program "Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts" yielded a first place win and a recording contract with the Philadelphia-based independent label, BBS.<p>He was an immediate success with his first single, a ballad called "Here in My Heart." Ironically, Lanza had also planned to release a version of the same song, but Martino begged him to reconsider, knowing that Lanza's take would overshadow his. His friend relented, and the single - released in November of 1952 - was a smash, rocketing to the top position on both the United States pop chart and the UK singles chart. It remained in that position on the latter chart for nine weeks, earning him not only enduring fame in that country, but a spot in the <i>Guinness Book of World Records</i> for the single with the longest consecutive run in that position, bested only by four other tracks in the half-century since its release. It also earned him a contract with Capitol, for which he release three additional singles - "Take My Heart," "Rachel" and "When You're Mine" - all of which reached the Top 40 in 1953.<p>Unfortunately, Martino's career was derailed almost as quickly as it had taken off. His contract with Capitol was forcibly taken over by a management team with connections to organized crime, and Martino was forced to pay $75,000 to the team in order to safeguard their investment. After paying a portion in order to protect his family, he fled to England, where his popularity afforded him steady work. He continued to record during this period, and while the songs were hits in Europe, he was virtually ignored in the United States. By the time he returned in 1958 after a family friend intervened on his behalf with the Philadelphia chapter of the Mob, he had returned to unknown status among music listeners. To make matters worse, rock 'n' roll had taken hold of the industry, leaving crooners like Martino largely passé. He signed with 20th Century Fox at the end of the 1950s, but was dropped after none of his singles broke the Top 40. <p>Martino rose to the challenge by financing his own LP, <i>The Exciting Voice of Al Martino</i>, which brought him back into the Capitol fold. Though the LP and its single, an updated take on "Here in My Heart," failed to make a dent on the charts, it brought the singer back into the public consciousness, and he wisely followed it with <i>The Italian Voice of Al Martino</i>, which featured him singing mostly in Italian, and which he promoted tirelessly on television variety programs. The gambit worked - Martino scored a Top Five pop hit with a 1963 cover of country and western performer Leon Payne's "I Love You Because." The tune, which featured a new and understated vocal performance by Martino, later hit the top of the easy listening charts, and the album on which it was featured - also called <i>I Love You Because</i> - went Top Ten.<p>For the next few years, Martino enjoyed a string of Top Five and Top Ten hits with records like "Painted, Tainted Rose," "Always Together," "Tears and Roses" and "We Could," among others. In 1965, Martino recorded "Spanish Eyes," a reworking of an instrumental number by German composer Bert Kaempfert called "Moon Over Naples." It broke the Top 20 on the pop charts, but became a massive easy listening hit with over a month at the top position on that list and widespread popularity across Europe. The song eventually became his signature tune and generated his third Top Ten album. Two more easy listening hits - "Think I'll Go Home and Cry Myself to Sleep" and "Wiederseh'n" followed in 1966, and two more - "Mary in the Morning" and "More Than The Eye Can See" - in 1967.<p>Martino's career began to wind down in the late 1960s, but a turn of events in an entirely different medium brought him back to fame in the early-1970s. His friend, singer Phyllis McGuire of the pop vocal group The McGuire Sisters, had learned that Paramount was adapting Mario Puzo's sprawling crime drama, "The Godfather" (1972) into a film. The book featured a character called Johnny Fontane - a pop singer based on Frank Sinatra who employs Mafia help to land a role in a major film that will revive his career - and McGuire encouraged him to try out for the role. He won the part, and his performance, as well as his version of the film's "Speak Softly Love" and reprisals of the role in "The Godfather Part II" (1974) and "The Godfather Part III" (1990) reinvigorated Martino in the public eye. In fact, outside of the "horse head in the bed" scene, Marlon Brando smacking the singer and berating him to "act like a man!" became one of the film's most iconic moments.<p>In 1975, he scored another Top 20 hit with "To the Door to the Sun," an English-language version of an Italian-language number, and 1976, he scored a European chart hit with a disco version of "Volare." His final easy listening hit came two years later with 1978's "The Next Hundred Years," after which Martino settled into a steady if low-key career playing to loyal fans in clubs and casinos. In 1993, he recorded an album with German pop producer Dieter Bohlen, which reached the Top 100 on the German singles chart; a final album, <i>Style</i>, followed in 2000. He also made one last film appearance in the short "Cutout" (2006), which cast him, appropriately enough, as an aging pop singer. The project was featured at numerous film festivals around the world. Into his 80s, the singer continued to book concert tours and record, so it came as a bit of a shock to many when on Oct. 13, 2009, Martino died at his childhood home in Springfield, PA, just six days after his 82nd birthday. His loss, as well as his numerous contributions to popular music around the world - to say nothing of his iconic cinematic contribution to "The Godfather" franchise - received heartfelt tributes from around the world in the wake of his passing.