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
Summit via Everett Collection
You can imagine that Renny Harlin, director and one quadrant of the writing team for The Legend of Hercules, began his pitch as such: We'll start with a war, because lots of these things start with wars. It feels like this was the principal maxim behind a good deal of the creative choices in this latest update of the Ancient Greek myth. There are always horse riding scenes. There are generally arena battles. There are CGI lions, when you can afford 'em. Oh, and you've got to have a romantic couple canoodling at the base of a waterfall. Weaving them all together cohesively would be a waste of time — just let the common threads take form in a remarkably shouldered Kellan Lutz and action sequences that transubstantiate abjectly to and fro slow-motion.
But pervading through Lutz's shirtless smirks and accent continuity that calls envy from Johnny Depp's Alice in Wonderland performance is the obtrusive lack of thought that went into this picture. A proverbial grab bag of "the basics" of the classic epic genre, The Legend of Hercules boasts familiarity over originality. So much so that the filmmakers didn't stop at Hercules mythology... they barely started with it, in fact. There's more Jesus Christ in the character than there is the Ancient Greek demigod, with no lack of Gladiator to keep things moreover relevant. But even more outrageous than the void of imagination in the construct of Hercules' world is its script — a piece so comically dim, thin, and idiotic that you will laugh. So we can't exactly say this is a totally joyless time at the movies.
Summit via Everett Collection
Surrounding Hercules, a character whose arc takes him from being a nice enough strong dude to a nice enough strong dude who kills people and finally owns up to his fate — "Okay, fine, yes, I guess I'm a god" — are a legion of characters whose makeup and motivations are instituted in their opening scenes and never change thereafter. His de facto stepdad, the teeth-baring King Amphitryon (Scott Adkins), despises the boy for being a living tribute to his supernatural cuckolding; his half-brother Iphicles (Liam Garrigan) is the archetypical scheming, neutered, jealous brother figure right down to the facial scar. The dialogue this family of mongoloids tosses around is stunningly brainless, ditto their character beats. Hercules can't understand how a mystical stranger knows his identity, even though he just moments ago exited a packed coliseum chanting his name. Iphicles defies villainy and menace when he threatens his betrothed Hebe (Gaia Weiss), long in love with Hercules, with the terrible fate of "accepting [him] and loving [their] children equally!" And the dad... jeez, that guy must really be proud of his teeth.
With no artistic feat successfully accomplished (or even braved, really) by this movie, we can at the very least call it inoffensive. There is nothing in The Legend of Hercules with which to take issue beyond its dismal intellect, and in a genre especially prone to regressive activity, this is a noteworthy triumph. But you might not have enough energy by the end to award The Legend of Hercules with this superlative. Either because you'll have laughed yourself into a coma at the film's idiocy, or because you'll have lost all strength trying to fend it off.
Follow @Michael Arbeiter
| Follow @Hollywood_com
Alec Baldwin's latest co-star Jan Maxwell has quit the New York production of Entertaining Mr. Sloane, before launching a lawsuit against the Hollywood star.
Maxwell quit the Roundabout Theatre Company's revival of the Joe Orton play at the Laura Pels Theatre on Sunday and has been replaced by her understudy, Barbara Sims.
Maxwell's reasons for leaving were detailed in a personal email leaked to the New York Post on Wednesday.
In the email, Maxwell wrote, "The bottom line was my physical safety, mental health and artistic integrity--none of which Roundabout was supporting."
The actress claimed the Beetlejuice star put his fist through a wall during an argument about onstage air-conditioning and was "throwing things around with all of us cowering."
Her agent Sheldon Lubliner says, "Ms. Maxwell has nothing to add to what has already been written about this incident. She regrets that a personal email found its way to the press."
Maxwell filed legal papers in New York this week, alleging the actor created an "unhealthy and oppressive situation onstage and off."
In his defense, Baldwin says, "(The actress) has been unhappy in the play from the beginning for reasons that only Jan's doctor knows."
In response to Maxwell's claims, the Roundabout Theatre Company issued a statement, saying, "Mr. Baldwin has been totally professional in all dealings with the company and management throughout the engagement of Entertaining Mr. Sloane and we are delighted to have him in the show.
"After Ms. Maxwell made it clear that she did not want to stay, Roundabout decided for the benefit of the entire Sloane company to let her know that she need not return to the production (of course receiving payment for the notice period of her contract) which she gladly accepted."
Article Copyright World Entertainment News Network All Rights Reserved.
Top Story: Is Jackson Leaving the Country?
Michael Jackson, whose confiscated passport had been returned to him so he could fulfill contractual obligations to promote his new CD Number Ones overseas, has been ordered by Santa Barbara County District Attorney Tom Sneddon to provide "documented confirmation" that his upcoming promotional trip to Britain is still happening, The Associated Press reports. London's Sun newspaper reported Sunday that Jackson, who is facing child molestation charges, had cancelled the planned Christmas tour, and if that's the case, the singer must once again surrender his passport to authorities, according to the District Attorney's office. But Jackson's spokesman, Stuart Backerman, told the AP Monday that he believed the trip was still on. Jackson was originally scheduled to travel to Britain on Dec. 20 and stay until Jan. 6. "I'm not aware of any cancellation," Backerman said. "He still is planning to go as far as I know."
Ozzy Released From Intensive Care
After fracturing his collarbone, eight ribs and a neck vertebra in an all-terrain vehicle accident Dec. 8, Ozzy Osbourne was finally moved out of intensive care Tuesday, AP reports. In a written statement, the Osbourne family said Ozzy had been moved from Wexham Park Hospital in Slough, west of London, to a private clinic. "The Osbourne family are very happy that Ozzy has been allowed out of the intensive care unit for Christmas and would like to thank everyone for their kind support, well wishes and prayers," the statement said.
Horn Gets To Go Home
After spending two months at the University of California, Los Angeles, hospital recovering from a tiger attack, animal trainer and entertainer Roy Horn has returned to his home in Las Vegas, Reuters reports. Horn, 59, part of the duo Siegfried and Roy, was nearly killed Oct. 3 when a male white tiger grabbed him by the neck and dragged him offstage at the Mirage resort in Las Vegas. Horn is able to write notes, his spokesman told Reuters, but no other details of the extent of his recovery were available.
Rings Tops African American Film Critics List
The African American Film Critics Association has picked The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King as the top movie for 2003, AP reports, followed by Lost in Translation and In America. Director F. Gary Gray, who helmed the hit film The Italian Job, will receive a special achievement award. The African American Film Critics Association, which consists of print, broadcast and online movie reviewers, aims to draw attention to works that appeal to black audiences, star black actors or are made by black filmmakers, AP reports.
Palm Springs Fetes Johansson
Golden Globe-nominated actress Scarlett Johansson, who received nods for her work in Lost in Translation and Girl With a Pearl Earring, will be honored at the 15th annual Palm Springs International Film Festival, along with Oscar-winning writer Sidney Sheldon and Cold Mountain production designer Dante Ferretti, according to the Hollywood Reporter. The awards gala will be held Jan. 11.
Judge Grants Magazine Excerpt of Eminem Song
Manhattan federal Judge Gerald Lynch will allow the hip-hop magazine The Source to publish CDs containing limited excerpts of a previously unreleased track by rapper Eminem that includes lyrics such as "black girls are dumb," AP reports, but the magazine can only print 20 seconds of material from the recording, rather than the entire song. The Source said it uncovered the recording while investigating the forces corrupting hip-hop, including racism, and had planned extensive coverage of it in their February issue, AP reports. Eminem has called the recording "foolishness," something he made as a teen "out of anger, stupidity and frustration" after breaking up with a black girlfriend."
White Stripes Singer Charged With Assault
Jack White, frontman to the Grammy-nominated band The White Stripes, was charged with aggravated assault Monday stemming from an unprovoked attack on another singer, Jason Stollsteimer, at a Detroit, Mich., club Dec. 13, Reuters reports. Witnesses say White approached Stollsteimer, 25, who sings for a local Detroit band the Von Bondies, spat on him and punched him in the face, continuing to hit Stollesteimer as he fell to the floor. White, 28, could face up to a year in prison if convicted.
Role Call: Lion Roars to the Big Screen
With the huge success of The Lord of the Rings trilogy and the Harry Potter series, another classic fantasy epic, C.S. Lewis' The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, is coming to the big screen, AP reports. New Zealander Andrew Adamson, best known for the Oscar-winning animated feature Shrek, will direct the film and shoot it entirely on location in New Zealand. The movie is expected to be the first of five films based on Lewis' seven Chronicles of Narnia books. Lion, the second and most popular of the novels, centers on the tale of four British children who, to escape the blitz during World War II, are packed off to the rambling country mansion of an old professor. There they discover a wardrobe that is a gateway to the magical land of Narnia, with its fauns, centaurs, dwarves and giants, as well as a witch and a lion named Aslan.