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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When we heard the premise for ABC’s new comedy Mixology, we were dubious — a show that takes place over the course of one night? Yes, it's been done well before: 24 stretched their seasons out to encompass a whole day, and the ninth season of How I Met Your Mother a weekend. However, Mixology seems like it’s going to be a very long version of Garry Marshall’s two holiday themed romantic comedies: Valentine’s Day and New Years Eve.
That’s not to say we have anything against rom-coms with huge casts of characters — who doesn’t enjoy Love Actually? But one of the great parts of a romantic comedy is watching it all in one sitting. Viewers of Mixology, however, will have to come back week after week in order to find out what happens to the characters.
For this reason, we think Mixology would work better with binge watching. Who hasn’t, at some point in their life, wished a rom-com lasted hours and hours on end? (Okay, maybe not a lot of people — maybe just me.) But many people have had day long marathons of their favorite romantic comedies.
Because of the way Mixology is set up, it would definitely be more enjoyable to watch all in one day, plus it would make for the most epic romcom binge watch experience. Too bad ABC hasn’t caught up to how we like to watch TV.
In December, the Twitter account for ABC’s cancelled show, Happy Endings, began promoting the network’s new comedy series Mixology. The account, formerly @HappyEndingsABC, requested fans to follow the new show’s Twitter as part of a Follow Friday promotion.
It's #FF & we have the perfect show for our #HappyEndings fans that we know you'll love! Follow @MixologyABC to learn more! #FollowFriday
— Happy Endings (@HappyEndingsVH1) December 27, 2013
However, fans of the fallen Happy Endings were not pleased with the social media promotion for another series — especially one that doesn’t look very promising. Sure, someone could argue that Happy Endings and Mixology have something in common. Both shows are about single people trying to find love in a city. However, the entire first season of Mixology is set to take place over the course of one night. Think: Garry Marshall’s New Year’s Eve and Valentine’s Day but in a television show.
Given the slow trek that has been this season of How I Met Your Mother — which is a slowed down timeline to follow the wedding weekend of Barney and Robin — it’s safe to say TV fans are a little dubious of a whole series pulling this kind of stunt. But we suppose we should give Mixology and chance before we completely knock it (if we have to.) Still, it will never fill the void left by Happy Endings because nothing ever will.
For fans of Happy Endings, there is some good in all this: VH1 has picked up old seasons of the series and will be playing them every Wednesday night on the network. They even had a New Year’s Day marathon — sorry if you missed it!
The genesis of Universal's 47 Ronin is almost as tragic as the actual history that the movie is culling from. As the story goes, Universal saw the sprigs of talent sprouting from fresh faced director Carl Rinsch, whose previous experience was limited to just a couple of commercials and a nifty short film. The studio decided to ease the new director into feature filmmaking by cutting him what amounts to virtually a blank check, and giving him charge over a multi-national samurai fantasy epic. Almost impossibly, the film isn't a complete disaster. It's just a minor one.
47 Ronin follows the classic story of the titular team of warriors, a group of disgraced samurai who band together to seek revenge against a merciless warlord that betrayed and killed their master. But this isn't your grandfather's version of the story. 47 Ronin is an international affair, and it's covered with a veneer of Japanese mysticism and a thick coating of Hollywood lacquer, but east meets west rather uncomfortably, and it's mostly due to Keanu Reeves. Reeves' character is clearly crowbarred into the story that has no room for him, and it's plainly obvious where the seams of the story were stretched in order to patch him into the narrative. Reeves plays Kai, a half Japanese, half English orphan who is adopted by the samurai clan. His character serves no real purpose beyond being white, slicing things until they die, and playing the male lead of the most superfluous love story of the year. Rinsch simply can't make the inclusion of the character feel organic in any way, and "Kai" ends up feeling like a calculated studio move. It's a shame that the film spends so much time on Reeves when the real star is clearly Hiroyuki Sanada, who plays off the stoic samurai most believably among the rest of the cast.
It's also shame that with all the mysticism pumped into the story, there's no magic in the actual center of the film, the ronin themselves. The only personality trait a samurai is allowed to possess seems to be unerring stoicism, and between all 47 ronin, there are probably only three distinct samurai with any discernible character traits beyond an intense need to brood, and you'll probably only remember those three by the time the credits roll, only to promptly forget about them only a few hours later. Thankfully, Rinko Kikuchi's slinky and treacherous witch adds some much needed camp and personality to the mostly forgettable human characters.
And that's the issue with 47 Ronin. It's largely forgettable. When your film takes on a historical legend like the tale of the 47 ronin, a story that has been told and told again ad nauseum over the years, you really need to justify your own version. There are reels and reels of film dedicated to this story, and 47 Ronin doesn't manage to add anything significant to the canon. It promises to weld myth and history together, but does so clumsily, and while some of the action scenes are exciting, especially a particularly inspired set piece that involves the ronin noiselessly breaking into a heavily guarded fortress, the film is a bore when it's not clanking swords together.
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47 Ronin is a film with many stories. As much as it is a tale about the revenge of four dozen masterless samurai, it's also the tale of an inexperienced filmmaker swallowed up by the enormity of blockbuster filmmaking. Most of all though, It's proof that you shouldn't cram Keanu Reeves into a movie that doesn't really need Keanu Reeves. What you're left with is a dull and bloated samurai epic that has its moments, but feels largely unnecessary.
Moviegoers celebrated "Mummy"'s Day this weekend with a record setting $70 million opening.
Universal's PG-13 rated adventure sequel The Mummy Returns kicked off Hollywood's pre-summer season with a staggering ESTIMATED $70.11 million at 3,104 theaters ($20,615 per theater). Mummy accounted for about 65% of the weekend's total key films gross of $107.5 million.
Mummy is well on its way to what looks like it could be a $200 million gross in domestic theaters. That would be about $45 million more than the first Mummy did domestically in 1999.
Mummy goes into the record books as the biggest three day non-holiday opening ever, beating the record set by 20th Century Fox and Lucasfilm's Star Wars: Episode One -- The Phantom Menace with $64.81 million the weekend of May 21-23, 1999, at 2,970 theaters ($21,822 per theater). Having opened on a Wednesday, Phantom Menace's cume for five days was $105.7 million.
The 1999 original The Mummy opened to $43.4 million the weekend of May 7-9 at 3,209 theaters ($13,515 per theater). In its second weekend it fell 43% to $24.86 million at 3,226 theaters ($7,705 per theater). Its cume after 10 days was $80.6 million. Mummy went on to do $155.2 million domestically and $258.1 million internationally for a worldwide total of $413.3 million. In its third weekend, Mummy was knocked down to second place by the blockbuster arrival of Phantom Menace.
Mummy Returns's average per theater was the highest for any film playing in wide or limited release this weekend.
Written and directed by Stephen Sommers, Mummy stars Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz. It also features an appearance by wrestling star The Rock. The Alphaville Production was produced by James Jacks and Sean Daniel and executive produced by Bob Ducsay and Don Zepfel.
"Except for Lost World, which was a holiday weekend, it's the greatest opening ever," Universal distribution president Nikki Rocco said Sunday morning. Universal's The Lost World: Jurassic Park opened in 1997 to $74.7 million for the three day weekend portion of the four day Memorial Day holiday (May 23-26) weekend.
"What we did was we went into the history of Universal and we created a franchise that we truly believed could dominate the marketplace," Rocco explained. "We took a piece of Universal's history and created an unbelievable franchise. With appropriate sequel management, we brought back the cast, we brought back the director, we managed the cost and we had a great story. That's what made this so unique.
"Our exit polls are 90% in the Top Two Boxes (excellent and very good) and a 70% Definite Recommend. That's huge."
The film's PG-13 rating, she added, "broadened the base. Because of the fact that it's a bit fantasy, parents and kids alike can enjoy it. There's no blood. It's part of comic book fantasy. This is a picture that's an absolute thrill ride that will certainly have tons of repeat business."
Universal's 1932 classic The Mummy, directed by Karl Freund and starring Boris Karloff, was a horror film. So were the studio's continuation of the Mummy story in the 1940s in such films as The Mummy's Hand, The Mummy's Tomb, The Mummy's Ghost and The Mummy's Curse.
"They were horror films," Rocco noted. "That's what's so unique about how we built the franchise. We took a piece of the history and created this whole new thing."
Assessing the film's impact in the marketplace, Rocco observed, "We kicked off summer early. We reinvigorated the marketplace to record breaking numbers (of about $107.5 million for key films). Last year was a record (for this weekend) of $82.2 million. We also hold the biggest Friday opening with $23.4 million and the biggest Saturday opening with $26.8 million." Those are the biggest ever for any Friday or Saturday, she said, adding that "Lost World did $21.9 million on Friday."
Warner Bros. and Franchise Pictures' PG-13 rated action drama Driven fell one notch in its second week to a slower ESTIMATED $6.06 million (-50%) at 2,905 theaters (theater count unchanged; $2,084 per theater). Its cume is approximately $21.6 million.
Directed by Renny Harlin, Driven stars Sylvester Stallone. It was produced by Elie Samaha, Stallone and Harlin and written by Stallone.
Bridget Jones's Diary, the R rated romantic comedy co-financed by Miramax Films, Universal Pictures and StudioCanal and produced by Britain's Working Title, slid one peg to third place in its fourth week with a still attractive ESTIMATED $6.0 million (-20%) at 2,547 theaters (+15 theaters; $2,355 per theater). Its cume is approximately $44.7 million, heading for $55-60 million in domestic theaters.
Directed by Sharon Maguire, Bridget stars Renee Zellweger, Colin Firth and Hugh Grant.
Having only cost about $25 million to produce, Bridget will be profitable for its financing partners.
Dimension's PG rated family appeal thriller Spy Kids fell one rung to fourth place in its sixth week with a less playful ESTIMATED $4.0 million (-31%) at 2,815 theaters (-290 theaters; $1,420 per theater). Its cume is approximately $98.5 million, heading for $105-110 million in domestic theaters.
"It should hit $100 million by next weekend," Miramax senior vice president, marketing David Kaminow said Sunday morning.
With a production cost of only $35 million, Spy Kidswill be very profitable for Dimension.
Written and directed by Robert Rodriguez, Spy Kids stars Antonio Banderas and Carla Gugino.
Paramount Pictures' R rated suspense thriller Along Came A Spider dropped one slot to fifth place in its fifth week with a quieter ESTIMATED $3.8 million (-32%) at 2,573 theaters (theater count unchanged; $1,477 per theater). Its cume is approximately $60.0 million, heading for $65-70 million in domestic theaters.
Directed by Lee Tamahori, Spider stars Morgan Freeman and Monica Potter.
"It's where we had it pretty much targeted," Paramount distribution president Wayne Lewellen said Sunday morning.
"I had it in the low $60 millions originally. I think it has a shot to get into the higher $60 millions (like) $67 or $68 million. If it continues to hang on at this level, it could get even closer to $70 million."
Spider is the prequel to the 1997 hit Kiss the Girls, which did $60.5 million in domestic theatrical release.
Paramount's PG rated sequel Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles skidded one rung to sixth place in its third week with a dull ESTIMATED $3.2 million (-31%) at 2,141 theaters (+17 theaters; $1,495 per theater). Its cume is approximately $18.0 million.
Directed by Simon Wincer, Crocodile stars Paul Hogan.
New Line Cinema's R rated drama Blow fell one step to seventh place in its fifth week with a quiet ESTIMATED $2.4 million (-28%) at 1,558 theaters (-155 theaters; $1,540 per theater). Its cume is approximately $44.2 million, heading for $50 million in domestic theaters.
Directed by Ted Demme, Blow stars Johnny Depp and Penelope Cruz.
Columbia Pictures PG-13 rated youth appeal comedy Joe Dirt, which was ninth last week, tied for eighth place in its fourth week with a slow ESTIMATED $1.5 million (-45%) at 1,783 theaters (-701 theaters; $841 per theater). Its cume is approximately $24.7 million.
Directed by Dennis Gordon, Joe stars David Spade.
Sony's Screen Gems division's R rated vampire tale The Forsaken, which was eighth last week, tied for eight place in its second week with a calm ESTIMATED $1.5 million (-50%) at 1,514 theaters (theater count unchanged; $991 per theater). Its cume is approximately $5.2 million.
Written and directed by J.S. Cardone, Forsaken stars Kerr Smith and Brendan Fehr.
There was a close race for tenth place based on studio ESTIMATES Sunday morning.
USA Films' R rated comedy drama One Night at McCool's, which was 11th last week, in its second week did a slow ESTIMATED $1.33 million (-47%) at 1,814 theaters (-4 theaters; $734 per theater). Its cume is approximately $4.7 million.
Directed by Harald Swart, McCool's stars Liv Tyler, Matt Dillon, John Goodman, Paul Reiser and Michael Douglas.
New Line Cinema's R rated comedy drama Town & Country, which was seventh last week, in its second week did a depressing ESTIMATED $1.3 million (-58%) at 2,222 theaters (theater count unchanged; $576 per theater). Its cume is approximately $5.2 million.
Directed by Peter Chelsom, Town stars Warren Beatty, Diane Keaton, Andie MacDowell, Garry Shandling, Jenna Elfman, Nastassja Kinski and Goldie Hawn.
This weekend also saw the arrival of Universal's Pavilion of Women, arriving quietly to an ESTIMATED $0.016 million at 7 theaters ($2,312 per theater).
Directed by Yim Ho, Women stars Willem Dafoe and Luo Yan.
Columbia held 766 national sneak previews Saturday night of its PG-13 rated pre-summer youth appeal adventure A Knight's Tale.
The studio said Sunday morning that the sneaks were 75% full and generated very encouraging exit polls. Those on hand scored the film 85% in the Top Two Boxes (excellent and very good) with an 80% Definite Recommend. Columbia said the audience was divided evenly between males and females and those under and over the age of 25.
Tale opens May 11 at 2,800-plus theaters.
Written and directed by Brian Helgeland, Tale stars Heath Ledger.
On the expansion front, this weekend saw Newmarket's R rated film noir thriller Memento widen in its eighth week, still holding well with an ESTIMATED $1.29 million (+1%) at 410 theaters (+86 theaters; $3,140 per theater). Its cume is approximately $8.4 million.
Directed by Christopher Nolan, it stars Guy Pearce, Carrie-Anne Moss and Joe Pantoliano.
Columbia went wider with its R rated thriller The Tailor of Panama, continuing to hold well in its sixth week with an ESTIMATED $1.0 million (+7%) at 436 theaters (+77 theaters; $2,249 per theater). Its cume is approximately $9.4 million.
Directed by John Boorman, Tailor stars Pierce Brosnan and Geoffrey Rush.
Lions Gate Films' R rated drama Amores Perros went wider in its sixth week with a quiet ESTIMATED $0.3 million (-41%) at 184 theaters (+11 theaters; $1,610 per theater). Its cume is approximately $3.4 million.
Directed and produced by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Perros stars Emilio Echevarria and Gael Garcia Bernal.
Warner Bros.' PG-13 rated comedy The Dish added theaters in its eighth week, continuing to hold well with an ESTIMATED $0.16 million (+5%) at 82 theaters (+22 theaters; $1,951 per theater). Its cume is approximately $1.3 million.
Directed by Rob Stich, The Dish stars Sam Neill and Kevin Harrington.
Miramax's R rated French thriller With a Friend Like Harry... continued to widen in its third week with a still encouraging ESTIMATED $0.16 million at 25 theaters (+13 theaters; $6,400 per theater). Its North American cume is approximately $0.6 million.
Harry is being released under Miramax's French film banner Miramax Zoe.
Directed by Dominik Moll, it stars Laurent Lucas, Sergi Lopez, Mathilde Seigner and Sophie Guillemin.
Artisan Entertainment's controversial unrated The Center of the World added theaters in its third week with an okay ESTIMATED $0.12 million at 32 theaters (+24 theaters; $3,885 per theater). Its cume is approximately $0.3 million.
Directed by Wayne Wang, it stars Molly Parker and Peter Sarsgaard.
Key films -- those grossing more than $500,000 -- took in approximately $107.46 million, up about 30.7% from the comparable weekend last year when key films grossed $82.22 million.
This weekend's key film gross was up about 71.67% from last weekend this year when key films did $62.60 million.
Last year, DreamWorks' opening week of Gladiator was first with $34.82 million at 2,938 theaters ($11,851 per theater); and Universal's third week of U-571 was second with $7.77 million at 2,701 theaters ($2,875 per theater). The top two films one year ago grossed $42.6 million. This year, the top two films grossed an ESTIMATED $76.2 million.