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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We can picture a young John Wells, staring merrily out of a classroom window in grade school, dreaming of his future in show business. "Someday," he said, "I'm going to make a movie. And it's going to have Julia Roberts, and Meryl Streep, and Obi-Wan Kenobi, and a Star Trek villain, and the guy who shot Kevin Spacey." We realize that there might be some anachronisms in there, but we'll chalk it up to clairvoyance on the boy Wells' part. After all, he was right. August: Osage County is only the director's second feature film, and he has amounted an ensemble cast that would make Garry Marshall revert to the behaviors of a Tex Avery cartoon wolf.
The Weinstein Company
From the looks of the new trailer, the family drama might seem like surprisingly weightless material to amount such a stellar troupe, which alongside Roberts, Streep, Ewan McGregor (the Kenobi), Benedict Cumberbatch (the Trek baddie), and Chris Cooper (the Spacey killer — American Beauty), also includes Margo Martindale, Dermot Mulroney, Juliette Lewis, Sam Shepard, and Abigail Breslin. But the play on which the film is based (playwright Tracy Letts is also handling the film adaptation's script) has earned a great deal of positive attention from rave reviews and a handful of award wins. Plus, this might turn out to be one of those simple dramas whose performances alone make it unforgettable.
Check out the trailer, and catch August: Osage County in theaters Jan. 2, 2014 (sure, the release date isn't a great sign, but not all movies that come out in January are bad).
More:Streep and Roberts Have a Drawl-Off in 'Osage County'Funcomfortable Movies: An OverviewColin Firth and Nicole Kidman in 'The Railway Man' Trailer
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The Moët British Independent Film Awards have announced this year's nominees—and most of them are very, very good. Among the films nominated are the espionage mystery/thriller Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy starring Gary Oldman, Colin Firth and Tom Hardy, Steve McQueen's severe human drama Shame starring Michael Fassbender, the horrifyingly tragic We Need to Talk About Kevin, Richard Ayoade's artistic novel adaptation Submarine, and many others. Expect many of these to be Oscar possibilities.
The 14th Annual Moët British Independent Film Awards will take place on Sunday, December 4th, 2011.
BEST BRITISH INDEPENDENT FILM
TINKER, TAILOR, SOLDIER, SPY
WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN BEST DIRECTOR
Ben Wheatley – KILL LIST
Steve McQueen – SHAME
Tomas Alfredson – TINKER, TAILOR, SOLDIER, SPY
Paddy Considine – TYRANNOSAUR
Lynne Ramsay – WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN
THE DOUGLAS HICKOX AWARD [BEST DEBUT DIRECTOR]
Joe Cornish – ATTACK THE BLOCK
Ralph Fiennes – CORIOLANUS
John Michael McDonagh – THE GUARD
Richard Ayoade – SUBMARINE
Paddy Considine – TYRANNOSAUR
John Michael McDonagh – THE GUARD
Ben Wheatley, Amy Jump – KILL LIST
Abi Morgan, Steve McQueen – SHAME
Richard Ayoade – SUBMARINE
Lynne Ramsay, Rory Kinnear – WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN
Rebecca Hall – THE AWAKENING
Mia Wasikowska – JANE EYRE
MyAnna Buring – KILL LIST
Olivia Colman – TYRANNOSAUR
Tilda Swinton – WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN
Brendan Gleeson – THE GUARD
Neil Maskell – KILL LIST
Michael Fassbender – SHAME
Gary Oldman – TINKER, TAILOR, SOLDIER, SPY
Peter Mullan – TYRANNOSAUR
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Felicity Jones – ALBATROSS
Vanessa Redgrave – CORIOLANUS
Carey Mulligan – SHAME
Sally Hawkins – SUBMARINE
Kathy Burke – TINKER, TAILOR, SOLDIER, SPY
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Michael Smiley – KILL LIST
Tom Hardy – TINKER, TAILOR, SOLDIER, SPY
Benedict Cumberbatch – TINKER, TAILOR, SOLDIER, SPY
Eddie Marsan – TYRANNOSAUR
Ezra Miller – WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN
MOST PROMISING NEWCOMER
Jessica Brown Findlay – ALBATROSS
John Boyega – ATTACK THE BLOCK
Craig Roberts – SUBMARINE
Yasmin Paige – SUBMARINE
Tom Cullen – WEEKEND
BEST ACHIEVEMENT IN PRODUCTION
YOU INSTEAD BEST TECHNICAL ACHIEVEMENT
Chris King, Gregers Sall – Editing – SENNA
Sean Bobbitt – Cinematography – SHAME
Joe Walker – Editing – SHAME
Maria Djurkovic – Production Design – TINKER, TAILOR, SOLDIER, SPY
Seamus McGarvey – Cinematography – WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN
HELL AND BACK AGAIN
LIFE IN A DAY
TT3D: CLOSER TO THE EDGE
BEST BRITISH SHORT
LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT
BEST FOREIGN INDEPENDENT FILM
THE SKIN I LIVE IN
THE RAINDANCE AWARD
ACTS OF GODFREY
A THOUSAND KISSES DEEP
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy
Attack the Block
Most end-of-the-year "best of" lists from critics deplore the current state of movies before telling you about the few nuggets that came out that were actually (according to them) worth your time. The year 1999 was different. The critics didn't complain, and rightfully so.
The last of the 1900s marked a groundbreaking revolution in cinema. Films like "Three Kings," "American Beauty," "The Sixth Sense" and "The Blair Witch Project" expanded the boundaries of what traditional generic films could become. True oddballs like "Being John Malkovich" were made and even turned a profit. Sequels like "Toy Story 2" didn't suck.
Overall, going to the movies was about as dreadful as living through Y2K. Instead of suffering through a bunch of bummers, audiences were treated to a diverse, colorful celebration of life as we live it, and where it's headed.
Here is our list of the Top 10 films that quickened the pulses, stimulated our minds and sent us soaring. In an era of yuppie-fied java-pushing theater concessions, these babies required absolutely no additives to achieve maximum effect.
THE HOLLYWOOD.COM TOP 10
1. "The Insider": Who would have guessed that a story based on the cigarette industry could be so excellent, let alone interesting? Arguments could be made that director Michael Mann's absorbing and powerful tale about a "60 Minutes" producer and a tobacco-industry whistleblower is even more thrilling and consistently involving than his crime epic masterpiece, "Heat." No explosions or gun battles needed here. Believable human drama, real relationships and a time-tested theme about a thing called truth are all that's needed, plus some of the best performances of the year.
2. "Anna and the King": That's right. We'll chalk this one up as being the most unrecognized, unheralded classic in the making. Some would say the story's been done before -- but so what? This one, sans music, gets to the basics of the inherent poignancy of the relationship between the King of Siam and British schoolteacher Anna Leonowens. As portrayed by Chow Yun-Fat (our vote for best leading man of the '90s) and reliable Jodie Foster, the couple is a doozy. Add in some amazing cinematography, and this affecting period piece's built to last for future generations.
3. "Toy Story 2": As with its predecessor, "Toy Story 2" proves that the best cartoons are those made for kids and adults. Woody, Buzz and the rest of the gang made it back for another amazing, hilarious adventure. The pop-culture in-jokes were a bonus. The most surprising thing here was how much the people at Pixar and the voice talent (led by Tom Hanks and Tim Allen) could make you care about a toy's feelings. With a thing this good, another manufactured product doesn't sound half-bad.
4. "American Beauty": Praised for its blunt appraisal of suburban dystopia, this feature debut from theater director Sam Mendes burned with creative fervor, not to mention a cast working at the top of its collective talent. Kevin Spacey continued to show why he's America's favorite satirical Everyman, and newcomer Wes Bentley shone as the odd, mysterious peeping Tom next door. Every shot was a marvel to behold, and the movie itself was unlike any middle-American drama ever released. It's the Cleavers gone to hell -- and then some.
5. "The Winslow Boy": David Mamet fans had a hard time believing he could be responsible for this G-rated period piece set in proper Britain circa World War I. But the street poet is one smart cookie who realizes great drama and tension when he sees it. This tale of a court case to redeem a boy and his family's honor made perfect sense as a Mamet tale. It was also highly entertaining and enthralling, using the powers of subtlety and things left unsaid to sell its boiling dynamics. Combined with a command performance from Jeremy Northam, the film and its accompanying love story made for powerful, memorable stuff.
6. "Liberty Heights": Barry Levinson complimented his Baltimore trilogy ("Diner," "Tin Men," "Avalon") with another personal bit of filmmaking set in his hometown. Dealing directly with issues of racial separation in the 1950s, the director and his cast of fresh-faced talents provided painful, funny truth-telling. The look and feel was right, and Joe Mantegna gave the production the right air of fallible humanity as the patriarch of a Jewish family dealing with issues in an imperfect America.
7. "Bowfinger": Overlooked by the Golden Globes nominating committee was Steve Martin's dead-on, affectionate lambasting of the Hollywood industry and all its assorted characters. Martin's smart screenplay and Frank Oz's good direction were simply the trimmings. Eddie Murphy provided the final coup, playing both a lovable, earnest dummy and an egotistical action movie star. The scenes between Martin and Murphy were worth the price of admission alone. Same goes for the scenes with just Murphy.
8. "Last Night": Never seen or heard of it? Stay tuned to your local independent movie house, which could be showing this amazing gem from Canada, the winner of the country's equivalent of the Oscar for best picture and several other awards. Forget "Armageddon," "Deep Impact" or any other Hollywood-derived disaster flick. This movie's the real deal about what people would say or do to each other if the world were really going to end in six hours. Expect the unexpected from this defiantly independent and haunting film.
9. "The Hurricane": Denzel Washington's performance as real-life boxer Rubin "Hurricane" Carter, imprisoned for 19 years for murders he didn't commit, was a true phenomenon. Norman Jewison told the story in expert fashion, and the supporting cast was excellent, especially Vicellous Shannon as a boy who sets out to help free Carter. But Washington rose above his (lofty) surroundings with a charismatic portrayal that is the embodiment of dignity and integrity. It's a landmark performance that ranks on par with his work in "Malcolm X" and his Academy Award-winning part in "Glory."
10. "Go": Largely overlooked by youth audiences and twentysomethings, this second effort from "Swingers" director Doug Liman was the perfect follow-up to "Pulp Fiction," and blew away all the hack, "Pulp" wannabes. Instead of copping Tarantino entirely, Liman cast a talented group of young actors including Sarah Polley and Taye Diggs, and threw them into a believable world of wild all-night raves and quick trips to Vegas. The end result was colorful, decadent, energetic and wonderfully cinematic. "Go," more than any other film of '99, captured the millennial spirit of the party in all its gross, absurd and youthful glory.