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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Columbia Pictures via Everett Collection
Treading water at the very surface of RoboCop, there is an idea. A dense concept, ready and willing to provide no dearth of dissection for any eager student of philosophy, psychology, political science, physics — hell, any of the Ps. To simplify the idea on hand: What separates man from machine? It's a question that is not just teased by the basic premise of José Padilha's remake of the 1987 sci-fi staple, but asked outright by many of its main characters. And then never really worried about again.
We have principal parties on both sides of the ethical quandary that would place the security of our crime-ridden cities in the hands of automatons. Samuel L. Jackson plays a spitfire Bill O'Reilly who wonders why America hasn't lined its streets with high-efficiency officer droids. Zach Grenier, as a moralistic senator, gobbles his way through an opposition to the Pro-boCop movement. We hear lecture after lecture from pundits, politicians, business moguls (a money-hungry Michael Keaton heads the nefarious OmniCorp...) and scientists (...while his top doc Gary Oldman questions the nature of his assignments while poking at patients' brains and spouting diatribes about "free will"), all working their hardest to lay thematic groundwork. Each character insists that we're watching a movie about the distinction between human and artificial intelligence. That even with an active brain, no robot can understand what it means to have a heart. But when Prof. Oldman tempers his hysterical squawking and Samuel L. Hannity rolls his closing credits, we don't see these ideas taking life.
In earnest, the struggle of rehabilitated police officer Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman) — nearly killed in the line of duty and turned thereafter into OmniCorp's prototype RoboCop — doesn't seem to enlist any of the questions that his aggravated peers have been asking. Murphy is transformed not just physically, but mentally — robbed of his decision-making ability and depleted of emotional brain chemicals — effectively losing himself in the process. But the journey we see take hold of Murphy is not one to reclaim his soul, although the movie touts it as such. It's really just one to become a better robot.
Columbia Pictures via Everett Collection
Meanwhile, RoboCop lays down its motives, and hard: Murphy's wife and son (Abbie Cornish and a puckish young John Paul Ruttan) lament the loss of Alex, condemning his dehumanization at the hands of Raymond Sellars' (Keaton) capitalistic experiments, and sobbing out some torrential pathos so you know just how deep this company is digging. Weaselly stooges (Jay Baruchel, Jennifer Ehle, and Jackie Earl Haley) line the OmniCorp roster with comical wickedness. Overseas, killer combat bots take down peaceful villages, unable to work empathetic judgment into their decision to destroy all deemed as "threats." And at the top, figures of power and money like Sellars and Pat Novak (Jackson) speak the loudest and harshest, literally justifying their agenda with a call for all naysayers to "stop whining." Clearly, RoboCop has something to say.
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And when it's devoted to its outrage, RoboCop is terrifically charming. The buzzing political world is just a tiny step closer to ridiculous than our own; the pitch meetings at OmniCorp are fun enough to provoke a ditching of all the material outside of the company walls. And one particular reference to The Wizard of Oz shows that the movie isn't above having fun with its admittedly silly premise. But it loses its magic when it steps away from goofy gimmicks and satirical monologues and heads back into the story. We don't see enough of Murphy grappling with the complicated balance between his conflicting organic and synthetic selves. In fact, we don't see enough "story" in Murphy at all. First, he's a dad and a cop. Then, he's a RoboCop. But can he also be a RoboDad? With all of its ranting and raving about the question, the film doesn't seem to concerned with actually figuring out the answer.
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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.
Saturday was a big day for the TV world as the 2012 Creative Emmys took place. Hollywood.com was both backstage and on the carpet, bringing you the scoop direct from the source. HBO and its epic hit Game of Thrones were the night's biggest winners, with the network taking home 17 statues — six of them for GoT. CBS wasn't far behind with 13 wins, followed by PBS with 11. Frozen Planet, Great Expectations, and Saturday Night Live each took home four awards, resulting in a three-way-tie for second place after Game of Thrones. See below for the list of winners:
Outstanding Casting for a Drama Series: Junie Lowry Johnson, Libby Goldstein, Judy Henderson, Craig Fincannon, Lisa Mae Fincannon for Homeland
Outstanding Casting for a Miniseries, Movie, or a Special: David Rubin, Richard Hicks, Pat Moran, Kathleen Chopin for Game Change
Outstanding Casting for a Comedy Series: Jennifer Euston for Girls
Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series: Kathy Bates for Two and A Half Men
Outstanding Prosthetic Makeup for a Series, Miniseries, Movie, or a Special: Greg Nicotero, Jake Garber, Andy Schoneberg, Kevin Wasner, Gino Crognale, Carey Jonse, Garrett Immel for The Walking Dead
Outstanding Makeup for a Miniseries or a Movie (Non-Prosthetic): Mario Michisanti, Francesca Tampieri for Hatfields & McCoys
Outstanding Makeup for a Single-Camera Series (Non-Prosthetic): Paul Engelen, Melissa Lackersteen for Game of Thrones
Outstanding Makeup for a Multi-Camera Series or Special (Non-Prosthetic): Zena Shteysel, Angela Moos, Patti Ramsey Bortoli, Barbara Fonte, Sarah Woolf, Nadege Schoenfeld for Dancing With the Stars
Outstanding Costumes for a Series: Michele Clapton, Alexander Fordham, Chloe Aubry for Game of Thrones
Outstanding Costumes for a Miniseries, Movie or a Special: Annie Symons, Yvonne Duckett for Great Expectations
Outstanding Hairstyling for a Miniseries or a Movie: Monte C. Haught, Samantha Wade, Melanie Verkins, Natalie Driscoll, Michelle Ceglia for American Horror Story
Outstanding Hairstyling for a Multi-Camera Series or Special: Bettie O. Rogers, Jodi Mancuso, Inga Thrasher, Jennifer Stauffer, Cara Hannah Sullivan, Christal Schanes for Saturday Night Live
Outstanding Hairstyling for a Single-Camera Series: Anne "Nosh" Oldham, Christine Greenwood for Downton Abbey
Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series: Jeremy Davies for Justified
Outstanding Choreography: Joshua Bergasse for Smash ("National Pastime", "Let's Be Bad", "Never Met A Wolf")
Outstanding Music Direction: Rob Berman, Rob Mathes for The Kennedy Center Honors
Outstanding Music Composition for a Series (Original Dramatic Score): John Lunn for Downton Abbey
Outstanding Music Composition for a Miniseries, Movie, or a Special (Original Dramatic Score): Javier Navarrete for Hemingway & Gellhorn
Outstanding Original Music and Lyrics: Adam Schlesinger, David Javerbaum for the 65th Annual Tony Awards ("It's Not Just for Gays Anymore")
Outstanding Art Direction for a Multi-Camera Series: Glenda Rovello, Amy Feldman for 2 Broke Girls ("And The Rich People Problems", "And The Reality Check", And The Pop Up Sale")
Outstanding Art Direction for Variety or Nonfiction Programming: Brian Stonestreet, Alana Billingsley, Matt Steinbrenner for The 54th Annual Grammy Awards, and Steve Bass, Seth Easter for The 65th Annual Tony Awards
Outstanding Art Direction for a Miniseries or Movie: David Roger, Paul Ghirardani, Jo Kornstein for Great Expectations
Outstanding Art Direction for a Single-Camera Series: Bill Groom, Adam Scher, Carol Silverman for Boardwalk Empire, and Gemma Jackson, Frank Walsh, Tina Jones for Game of Thrones
Outstanding Single-Camera Picture Editing for a Drama Series: Jordan Goldman, David Latham for Homeland
Outstanding Single-Camera Picture Editing for a Comedy Series: Steven A. Rasch for Curb Your Enthusiasm ("Palestinian Chicken")
Outstanding Multi-Camera Picture Editing for a Comedy Series: Sue Federman for How I Met Your Mother ("Trilogy Time")
Outstanding Single-Camera Picture Editing for a Miniseries or a Movie: Don Cassidy for Hatfields & McCoys - Part 2
Outstanding Picture Editing for Short-Form Segments and Variety Specials: Bill DeRonde, Chris Lovett, Mark Stepp, Pi Ware, John Zimmer, Ben Folts for 2012 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony
Outstanding Picture Editing for Nonfiction Programming: Andy Netley, Sharon Gillooly for Frozen Planet ("Ends of the Earth")
Outstanding Picture Editing for Reality Programming: Josh Earl, Alex Durham for Deadliest Catch ("I Don't Wanna Die")
Outstanding Animated Program: Bob Schooley, Mark McCorkle, Bret Haaland, Nick Filippi, Chris Neuhahn, Ant Ward, Andrew Heubner, David Knott, Shaun Cashman, Steve Loter, Christo Stamboliev for The Penguins of Madagascar: The Return of the Revenge of Dr. Blowhole
Outstanding Short-Format Animated Program: Brian A. Miller, Jennifer Pelphrey, Curtis Lelash, Rob Sorcher, JG Quintel, Mike Roth, Janet Dimon, Matt Price, Jack Thomas, John Infantino, Robert Alvarez for Regular Show ("Eggscellent")
Outstanding Voice-Over Performance: Maurice LaMarche for Futurama
Syd Cassyd Founders Award: Dick Askin
Governors Award: Dan Savage, Terry Miller for "It Gets Better"
Outstanding Special Visual Effects: Rainer Gombos, Juri Stanossek, Sven Martin, Steve Kullback, Jan Fielder, Chris Stenner, Tobias Mannewitz, Thilo Ewers, Adam Chazen for Game of Thrones ("Valar Morghulis")
Outstanding Special Visual Effects in a Supporting Role: Dave Taritero, Robert Stromberg, Richard Friedlander, Eran Dinur, David W. Reynolds, Matthew Conner, Austin Meyers, Jonathan Dorfman, Steve Kirshoff for Boardwalk Empire ("Georgia Peaches")
Outstanding Stunt Coordination: Peewee Piemonte for Southland
Outstanding Main Title Design: Nic Benns, Rodi Kaya, Tom Bromwich for Great Expectations
Outstanding Original Main Title Theme Music: Paul Englishby for Page Eight
Outstanding Commercial: "Best Job" (Procter & Gamble Corporate Brand) – Wieden + Kennedy, Ad Agency; Anonymous Content, Production Company
Outstanding Sound Mixing For Nonfiction Programming: Tom Paul for Paul Simon’s Graceland Journey: Under African Skies
Outstanding Sound Mixing for a Comedy or Drama Series (One Hour): Matthew Waters, Onnalee Blank, Ronan Hill, Mervyn Moore for Game Of Thrones ("Blackwater")
Outstanding Sound Mixing for a Miniseries or a Movie: Stanomir Dragos, Christian Cooke, Brad Zoern for Hatfields & McCoys — Part 1
Outstanding Sound Mixing for a Comedy or Drama Series (Half-Hour) and Animation: Stephen A. Tibbo, Dean Okrand, Brian R. Harman for Modern Family ("Dude Ranch")
Outstanding Sound Mixing for a Variety Series or Special: Paul Sandweiss, Tommy Vicari, Pablo Munguia, Kristian Pedregon for 84th Annual Academy Awards
Outstanding Sound Editing for a Miniseries, Movie, or a Special: Douglas Murray, Peter Horner, Kim Foscato, Steve Boeddeker, Casey Langfelder, Andrea Gard, Pat Jackson, Daniel Laurie, Goro Koyama, Andy Malcolm, Joanie Diener for Hemingway & Gellhorn
Outstanding Sound Editing for Nonfiction Programming (Single or Multi-Camera): Kate Hopkins, Tim Owens, Paul Fisher for Frozen Planet — Ends of the Earth
Outstanding Sound Editing For a Series: Peter Brown, Kira Roessler, Tim Hands, Paul Aulicino, Stephen P. Robinson, Vanessa Lapato, Brett Voss, James Moriana, Jeffrey Wilhoit, David Klotz for Game of Thrones ("Blackwater")
Outstanding Cinematography for a Multi-Camera Series: Steven V. Silver for Two and a Half Men ("Sips, Sonnets, and Sodomy")
Outstanding Cinematography for a Single-Camera Series: Jonathan Freeman for Boardwalk Empire ("21")
Outstanding Cinematography for a Miniseries or Movie: Florian Hoffmeister for Great Expectations
Outstanding Cinematography for Reality Programming: The Deadliest Catch team ("I Don't Want To Die")
Outstanding Cinematography for Nonfiction Programming: The Frozen Planet team ("Ends of the Earth")
Outstanding Technical Direction, Camerawork, Video Control for a Series: Steven Cimino, John Pinto, Paul J. Cangialosi, Len Weschler, Barry Frischer, Eric A. Einstein, Susan Noll, Frank Grisanti for Saturday Night Live (Host Mick Jagger)
Outstanding Technical Direction, Camerawork, Video Control for a Miniseries, Movie or Special: Steven Cimino, Paul J. Cangialosi, John Pinto, Chuck Goslin, Barry Frischer, Jeff Latonero, Len Weschler, Susan Noll, J.M. Hurley for Memphis (Great Performances)
Outstanding Lighting Design/Lighting Direction for a Variety Series: Robert Barnhart, Matt Firestone, Pete Radice, Patrick Boozer for So You Think You Can Dance (Season Eight Finale)
Outstanding Lighting Design/Lighting Direction for a Variety Special: Robert A. Dickinson, Jon Kusner, Travis Hagenbuch, Andy O'Reilly for The 54th Annual Grammy Awards
Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series: Jimmy Fallon for Saturday Night Live
Outstanding Directing for Nonfiction Programming: Martin Scorsese for George Harrison: Living in the Material World
Outstanding Writing for Nonfiction Programming: Geoffrey C. Ward for Prohibition — A Nation of Hypocrites
Exceptional Merit in Documentary Filmmaking: Connie Field, Lois Vossen, Sally Jo Fifer for Have You Heard From Johannesburg (Independent Lens)
Outstanding Nonfiction Special: Margaret Bodde, Emma Tillinger Koskoff, Blair Foster, Olivia Harrison, Nigel Sinclair, Martin Scorsese for George Harrison: Living in the Material World
Outstanding Nonfiction Series: Alastair Fothergill, Susan Winslow, Vanessa Berlowitz for Frozen Planet
Outstanding Directing for a Variety Series: Don Roy King for Saturday Night Live (Host Mick Jagger)
Outstanding Writing for a Variety Series: Tim Carvell, Rory Albanese, Kevin Bleyer, Rich Blomquist, Steve Bodow, Wyatt Cenac, Hallie Haglund, JR Havlan, Elliott Kalan, Dan McCoy, Jo Miller, John Oliver, Zhubin Parang, Daniel Radosh, Jason Ross, Jon Stewart for The Daily Show With Jon Stewart
Outstanding Variety Special: George Stevens, Jr., Michael M. Stevens for The Kennedy Center Honors
Outstanding Special Class Programs: Ricky Kirshner, Glenn Weiss, Neil Patrick Harris for 65th Annual Tony Awards
Outstanding Special Class: Short-Format Live-Action Entertainment Programs: Rob Corddry, Jonathan Stern, David Wain, Keith Crofford, Nick Weidenfeld, Rich Rosenthal for Children's Hospital
Outstanding Special-Class: Short-Format Nonfiction Programs: Michael M. Stevens for DGA Moments In Time
Outstanding Creative Achievement in Interactive Media — Enhancement to a Television Program or Series: John Wooden, Aaron Bleyaert, Conan O'Brien, Timothy Campbell for The Team Coco Sync App
Outstanding Creative Achievement in Interactive Media — Original Interactive Television Programming: Fourth Wall Studios for Dirty Work
Outstanding Children's Program: Ben Montanio, Vince Cheung, Todd J. Greenwald, Gigi McCreery, Perry Rein, Richard Goodman, Greg A. Hampson for Wizards of Waverly Place
Outstanding Children's Nonfiction, Reality or Reality-Competition Program: Carol-lynn Parente, Melissa Dino, Mason Rather, Kevin Clash for Sesame Street: Growing Hope Against Hunger
Outstanding Reality Program: Eli Holzman, Stephen Lambert, Chris Carlson, Scott Cooper, Sandi Johnson, Rachelle Mendez, Lety Quintanar, Rebekah Fry for Undercover Boss
Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series: Martha Plimpton for The Good Wife
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