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 State alum Ken Marino has just been cast in David Caspe's new NBC pilot Marry Me. The project will follow Jake and Annie, a newly engaged couple coping with the challenges of commitment. Marino will star opposite Casey Wilson, who also appeared in Caspe's previous show, Happy Endings. Marino's casting had us wonding what happened to the rest of the funny people that made up The State. It turns out that they've all stayed relatively busy.
Even though The State only ran on MTV for two short years and 26 episodes, that was long enough for the series to create a splash big enough to soak every inch of modern sketch comedy with its influence, and the cast has since traveled to the far reaches of the comedy world. Even after the end of the MTV sketch show, much of the original cast have worked together quite frequently, including the 2001 film Wet Hot American Summer, Reno 911!, and Stella. So what is the cast of The State up to these days?
Ken MarinoBesides his newest show with Caspe, Marino is appearing in the medical drama satire Childrens Hospital along with fellow The State cast member David Wain and lends his voice to the animated comedy Axe Cop. Additionally, Marino has recently concluded his Bachelor parody web series, Burning Love. The actor will reprise his Vinnie Van Lowe role in the upcoming Veronica Mars movie
Michael ShowalterSchowalter recently released the comedy book Guys Can Be Cat Ladies Too, and is currently writing for Rebel Wilson's ABC sitcom Super Fun Night.
David WainSince The State, Wain's career has taken off as a director. His latest film, They Came Together, starring Amy Poehler and Paul Rudd, just premiered at the Sundance Film Festival.
Thomas Lennon and Robert Ben GarantLennon and Garant still work together, primarily behind camera, writing the Night at the Museum movies and last year's horror comedy Hell Baby. Lennon also stars on the NBC sitcom Sean Saves the World, and will (oddly) appear in the upcoming Terence Malick movie Knight of Cups.
Kerri Kenney-SilverKenny-Silver will star in the upcoming Fox sitcom Us & Them and the animated comedy Hell & Back.
Kevin AllisonAllison hosts the weekly podcast RISK! which focuses on storytelling and comedy.Todd HoloubekWe have no idea.
Joe Lo TruglioYou've seen him in a few Seth Rogen films, and Lo Truglio is presently one of Golden Globe winner Brooklyn Nine-Nine's long array of breakout stars (policeman/foodie Charles Boyle).
Michael Ian BlackBlack has been busy. The I Love the '80s vet is developing his own Adult Swim series, a self-help satire titled You're Whole, and will appear in Wain's They Came Together, the aforementioned sitcom Us & Them, and a developing platform for comedian Jim Gaffigan.
Michael Patrick JannJann is almost exclusively a director now, helming episodes of Community, The Michael J. Fox Show, The Crazy Ones, The Goldbergs, upcoming sitcoms Us & Them and Growing Up Fisher, and the developing comedy film Mantivities, which will star Chris Pine.
Chris Hardwick has fashioned quite a nice career for himself by celebrating his geeky inclinations. And on Monday, Jan. 27, he played host to the reunion of the favorite troupe of many a comedy nerd: The State.
The episode of @midnight started with three comic contestants, just like any other — this time, The State veterans Michael Showalter, Kerri Kenney-Silver, and Michael Ian Black. As they off-handedly insulted their “absent” or possibly “dead” friends, each one of them popped up in the studio. Soon, all eleven members of group were on stage.
The venue makes sense, since Hardwick and The State are all survivors of '90s MTV and must have crossed paths in the hallways a few times. And that makes this episode of @midnight essential viewing for anyone who stayed up late to catch Singled Out or Black and Thomas Lennon as Barry and Levon, rubbing their butts in “$240 worth of pudding.”
If this is the jumping off point for a larger scale reunion, we now know what to expect. We'll get to hear our favorite catchphrases, for sure. Showalter was cut from the game first and reacted as his most famous character, disaffected teen Doug, certainly would have. ("I'm outta heee-reee.") And Ken Marino cut right to the chase when he was introduced, letting us know exactly what he wanted to do with Louie's famous ping pong balls. Joe Lo Truglio will probably wear a tux, as he has been ever since Brooklyn Nine-Nine won a couple of Golden Globes. And the comics will continue trying everything they can to make each other laugh. In the final round, when the contestants threw joke after joke at their straight-faced former costars, Michael Ian Black pointed out that it looked a lot like a The State pitch meeting.
For the love of Barry Lutz and everyone down at the Porcupine Racetrack, let's hope that this little get-together was a sign of bigger things to come.
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.
S1E6: Last night on The X Factor, the 100 remaining contestants were split into groups and given the challenge of learning a song which they had to perform in front of the judges together in five hours time. Some cracked under the pressure, while others rose above the expectations and proved that they were star material. So tonight we picked up right where we left off by watching the remaining groups strut their stuff with the help of vocal coaches, stylists, and choreographers. And after all the ensembles tried to sing their way to safety, the judges had to make some tough decisions - more cuts had to be made.
Once they dwindled the acts down even further, the remaining 64 contestants were presented with one more final challenge: they were given a list of 35 songs and had to choose whichever one they wanted to perform in front of 3,000 people. Oh, and they only had 15 hours to prepare. By the end of the night only 32 acts remained and the judges were finally assigned which category they would mentor for the rest of the competition: boys, girls, over 30's, and groups. So who were the 32 contestants chosen and which judge got assigned what group?
Find out below!
The Girls: Caitlin Koch, Tora Woloshin, Simone Battle, Drew Ryniewicz, Rachel Crow, Jazzlyn Little, Melanie Amaro and Tiah Tolliver.
The Boys: Brennin Hunt, Brian Bradley, Skyelor Anderson, Nick Voss, Tim CIfers, Phillip Lomax, Marcus Canty and Chris Rene.
Over 30s: Elaine Gibbs, Tiger Budbill, Leroy Bell, James Kenney, Josh Krajcik, Christa Collins, Dexter Goodman, and Stacey Francis.
Groups: the Stereo Hogzz, 2squared, 4Shore, The Brewer Boys, Illusion Confusion, The Anser and two groups composed out of those who were initially rejected as soloists.
As for the judges:
Nicole will be mentoring the Over 30s group, L.A. was assigned the boys, Paula is working with the groups, and that leaves Simon with the girls.
So what do you think? Do you think the girls have an edge with Simon as their mentor or is it an even playing field? Which judge would you have wanted? Next week we'll journey into the judges homes where they will help their groups get ready for the live shows!
“Story” is a pejorative term when applied to The Comebacks. The entire concept of the film is basically an excuse to string together and spoof famous scenes from a variety of sports movies including Field of Dreams Bend It Like Beckham Seabiscuit Remember the Titans Rudy Invincible Stick It Drumline et al. David Koechner stars as Lambeau Fields the worst coach in the history of sports who takes one more stab at gridiron glory when he agrees to coach Heartland State University’s luckless football squad. Needless to say this assemblage of losers misfits and malcontents is turned into a winning team under Coach’s somewhat unorthodox tutelage. Unlike most coaches Fields encourages his players to cut class take drugs drink to excess and behave as badly as he does. It all culminates in the championship game (“The Toilet Bowl”) between Coach Fields’ Comebacks and the mighty Invincibles coached by Fields’ one-time friend-turned-rival Freddie Wiseman (Carl Weathers). Despite being down 35-0 at halftime the Comebacks...well you can guess the rest. The collective enthusiasm of the cast goes a long way toward keeping The Comebacks watchable. Koechner enjoying his first big-screen lead has a likable lunk-headed quality that makes Coach Fields an endearing idiot. Melora Hardin scores too as his neglected wife and Brooke Nevin is a looker as their rebellious teenage daughter who also happens to be a gymnastics wiz (Stick It anyone?). Weathers a one-time pro-football player before stardom (in Rocky beckoned) has a good time playing the duplicitous Coach Wiseman and some of the more memorable members of the Comebacks include Matthew Lawrence Jackie Long Noureen DeWulf and Robert Ri’chard. A lot of familiar faces turn up in cameo roles: Will Arnett Dax Shepard Jonathan Gries Kerri Kenney Jillian Grace Eric Christian Olsen Stacy Kiebler Frank Caliendo (doing his impressions of John Madden and Al Michaels) and Andy Dick whose role as the referee during the climactic football game isn’t big enough for him to be as truly annoying as he can be. (That’s a good thing.) Not surprisingly a number of real-life sports personalities turn up in cameos as well: Dennis Rodman (as a prison warden no less!) Michael Irvin Eric Dickerson Lawrence Taylor John Salley Chris Rose and Bill Buckner (reprising his infamous error from the 1986 World Series). Director Tom Brady not to be mistaken for the New England Patriots quarterback previously directed the 2002 Rob Schneider vehicle The Hot Chick. This is unquestionably an improvement. The Comebacks may be dumb--intentionally so--but it’s never dull. There are a good number of groans along with laughs but the film never really runs out of steam. The football scenes are surprisingly well-rendered and are realistic enough that they could easily have come from a straightforward football movie--without the punch lines of course. There’s a pretty even ratio between the gags that work and the ones that don’t and the film’s formula seems to be: When all else fails hit below the belt with repeated crotch jokes. Those looking for a sophisticated highbrow comedy should look elsewhere.