Although primarily a renowned stage actress Carole Shelley is probably best recalled by non-theater goers as Gwendolyn Pigeon, one of the upstairs neighbor sisters Oscar Madison wants to bed in "The O...
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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Once again reprised role for the ABC TV series version of "The Odd Couple"
Reprised role for the feature film version of "The Odd Couple"
Replaced Blair Brown in role of Frau Schneider in the hit revival of "Cabaret"
Created the role of Madame Morrible in the original Broadway cast of the musical "Wicked"
Co-starred in the acclaimed Broadway revival of "Show Boat"
Made Broadway debut in the original production of "The Odd Couple"
Made film debut in "Give Us This Day"
Received first Tony Award nomination for her performance as Jane in "Absurd Person Singular"
Played Mrs. Kendal in the Broadway production of "The Elephant Man"
Played the role of Grandma in the Broadway production of "Billy Elliot, The Musical"; earned a Tony Award nomination for Featured Actress in a Musical
Succeeded Piper Laurie in the Off-Broadway production of Larry Kramer's "The Destiny of Me"
Made London stage debut in "Simon and Laura"
Succeeded Dana Ivey in Alfred Uhry's Tony-winning play "The Last Night of Ballyhoo"
Featured as Aunt Clara alongside Nicole Kidman in the film "Bewitched"
Made professional stage debut as Little Nell in "The Old Curiosity Shop"
Earned another Tony Award nomination for her role as Maxine in "Stepping Out"
Although primarily a renowned stage actress Carole Shelley is probably best recalled by non-theater goers as Gwendolyn Pigeon, one of the upstairs neighbor sisters Oscar Madison wants to bed in "The Odd Couple". It was a role she played in 1965 on Broadway, in the 1968 feature film and from 1970-71 in the ABC TV series.<p>The petite London-born daughter of a composer and a singer, Shelley was acting from an early age and was not even 10 years old when she worked in small roles in two British features, "Give Us This Day" and "Cure For Love" (both 1949). The next year, she made her professional stage debut in Southwark playing Little Nell in a production of "The Old Curiosity Shop". Her London debut did not come until five years later with "Simon and Laura". Shelley also performed in numerous revues during the next decade, before migrating to New York to do "The Odd Couple" in 1965. She stayed in the US and has become one of Broadway's most prolific actresses. She was Fay in the Broadway company of Joe Orton's "Loot" (1968), and won her first Tony nomination for her role in the ensemble piece, "Absurd Person Singular" (1975). She received a Tony for Best Actress in a Play (tying with Constance Cummings who was cited for "Wings") for her sensitive portrayal of actress Madge Kendal who befriends "The Elephant Man" (1979). She earned a third Tony nomination in the supporting category playing the assertive Maxine in "Stepping Out" (1987). Among her other notable stage credits are succeeding Dorothy Loudon as Dotty Otley the actress playing the maid in the uproarious farce "Noises Off" (1983), and as one of several actresses who played Kate, the mother, in Neil Simon's "Broadway Bound" (1987), a role in which she also toured for a year following her Broadway stint. She returned to the London stage to replace Dame Maggie Smith as Lettice in Peter Shaffer's "Lettice and Lovage" (1989-90). Back in the US, she won praise for her multiple roles in A.R. Gurney's comedy "Later Life" (1993), for succeeding Piper Laurie as the mother in Larry Kramer's searing family drama "The Destiny of Me" (also 1993), portraying Diana, the English actress first introduced to audiences in "California Suite" (and played by Maggie Smith in the film) in Neil Simon's "London Suite" (1995) and following Elaine Stritch in the role of Parthy in Harold Prince's acclaimed revival of "Show Boat" (1995-96).<p>Shelley's American film appearances have been limited, but she has lent her soft dulcet tones to character voices for "The Aristocats" (1971), "Robin Hood" (1974), and other films and had small roles in "Quiz Show" and "The Road to Wellville" (both 1994). On TV, she appeared in numerous "Brian Rix" farces in England and in the US was one of the participants in "A Salute to Noel Coward" on CBS. She played Lloyd Bridges' daughter in "Devlin", a 1992 Showtime original movie, and made the busted pilot "Coconut Downs" (ABC, 1991), about life at a posh hotel near a racetrack.