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.
Follow @Michael Arbeiter| Follow @Hollywood_com
Enigmatic and deliberate Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy makes no reservations while unraveling its heady spy story for better or worse. The film based on the bestselling novel by John Le Carre is purposefully perplexing effectively mirroring the central character George Smiley's (Gary Oldman) own mind-bending investigation of the British MI6's mole problem. But the slow burn pacing clinical shooting style and air of intrigue only go so far—Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy sports an incredible cast that can't dramatically translate the movie's impenetrable narrative. Almost from the get go the movie collapses under its own weight.
After a botched mission in Hungary that saw his colleague Jim (Mark Strong) gunned down in the streets Smiley and his boss Control (John Hurt) are released from the "Circus" (codename for England's Secret Intelligence Service). But soon after Smiley is brought back on board as an impartial observer tasked to uncover the possible infiltration of the organization. The former agent already dealing with the crippling of his own marriage attempts to sift through the history and current goings on of the Circus narrowing his hunt down to four colleagues: Percy aka "Tinker" (Toby Jones) Bill aka "Tailor" (Colin Firth) Roy aka "Soldier" (Ciaran Hinds) and Toy aka "Poor Man" (David Dencik). Working with Peter (Benedict Cumberbatch) a conflicted younger member of the service and Ricki (Tom Hardy) a rogue agent who has information of his own Smiley slowly uncovers the muddled truth—occasionally breaking in to his own work place and crossing his own friends to do so.
Describing Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy as dense doesn't seem complicated enough. The first hour of the monster mystery moves at a sloth's pace trickling out information like the tedious drips of a leaky faucet. The talent on display is undeniable but the characters Smiley included are so cold that a connection can never be made. TTSS sporadically jumps around from past to present timelines without any indication: a tactic that proves especially confusing when scenes play out in reoccurring locations. It's not until halfway through that the movie decides to kick into high gear Smiley's search for a culprit finally becoming clear enough to thrill. A film that takes its time is one thing but Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy does so without any edge or hook.
What the movie lacks in coherency it makes up for in style and thespian gravitas. Director Tomas Alfredson has assembled some of the finest British performers working today and they turn the script's inaccessible spy jargon into poetry. Firth stands out as the group's suave slimeball a departure from his usual nice guy roles. Hardy assures us he's the next big thing once again as the agency's resident moppet a lover who breaks down after a romantic fling uncovers horrifying truth. Oldman is given the most difficult task of the bunch turning the reserved contemplative Smiley into a real human. He half succeeds—his observational slant in the beginning feels like an extension of the movie's bigger problems but once gets going in the second half of the film he's quite a bit of fun.
Alfredson constructs Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy like a cinematic architect each frame dripping with perfectly kitschy '70s production design and camera angles that make the spine tingle. He creates paranoia through framing similar to the Coppola's terrifying The Conversation but unlike that film TTSS doesn't have the characters or story to match. The movie strives to withhold information and succeeds—too much so. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy wants us to solve a mystery with George Smiley but it never clues us in to exactly why we should want to.
Dawson gets arrested near GOP protests
Actress Rosario Dawson (25th Hour, The Rundown) was arrested near the route of anti-Republican protests in New York after she refused to get off the road, authorities told The Associated Press. In New York filming the indie film This Revolution, the actress and the film's director, Stephen Marshall, were both arrested after they were spotted in a road with about 30 people gathered around them, wearing handkerchiefs as masks with only their eyes showing. A police officer told Dawson and the other person that they had to leave the roadway, the complaint said, but they reportedly refused, AP reports. Marshall reportedly tried to show police his city film permit but was arrested anyway. Each was charged with two counts of disorderly conduct and one charge of obstructing governmental administration. They were released without bail and told to return to court Nov. 9.
Jackson tops CMS nominations
The Country Music Association announced their nominations for the 38th annual CMA Awards, with Alan Jackson garnered seven, including entertainer of the year and male vocalist, AP reports. Toby Keith followed with six nominations including album of the year for Shock'N Y'all. The other best album nominees are Brad Paisley for Mud on the Tires, Brooks & Dunn for Red Dirt Road, Kenny Chesney for When the Sun Goes Down and newcomer Gretchen Wilson for Here for the Party. CBS will broadcast the CMA awards show, hosted by Brooks & Dunn, live from Nashville's Grand Ole Opry House on Nov. 9.
Avril Lavigne stalker charged
James Speedy, 30, was charged with stalking Canadian singer Avril Lavigne after making repeated attempts to contact her and traveling to her parents' home in Ontario, local authorities told Reuters, but has said through a lawyer that while he was a big fan of the 19-year-old rock singer, he did not stalk her. Speedy was arrested in April just before Lavigne was scheduled to give a free concert at a Seattle area shopping mall, and told police he had sent e-mails and gifts to Lavigne, her family and managers. He was released on bail at the time and was formally charged late on Friday, Lynnwood police said. Speedy traveled to Napanee, Ontario, last year, where he was arrested and told to leave Canada and not return within a year, according to Canadian news reports.
Dave Matthews Band cooperates in sewage investigation
Apparently the Dave Matthews Band wants to help. Following a lawsuit filed by the state of Illinois who contends the band's tour bus emptied its septic tank while crossing a grated bridge over the Chicago River, dousing a boatload of tourist underneath the bridge, the Dave Matthews Band says it is cooperating with authorities to determine what happened, AP reports. The band issued a statement on its Web site saying members have offered to provide DNA evidence to help authorities determine the source of the sewage. In its statement, the band also said that if its bus is found to be responsible for the incident, the band will "work quickly to make amends, with the people on the boat and with Chicago." "We care deeply about what happened to the people on the boat that day, which was terrible, and the damage that occurred to Chicago's environment," the letter states. "We are not attempting to avoid any responsibility we may have for the incident."
NBC's Olympic ratings rocket
A total of 203 million viewers watched at least some of NBC Universal's 17-day coverage of the Summer Olympics, making it the most-watched non-U.S. Summer Olympics in history, The Hollywood Reporter reports. According to Nielsen Media Research, viewership for the games surpassed the 2000 games in Sydney (185 million), the 1992 games in Barcelona (192 million) and 1988 games in Seoul (194 million). NBC Universal telecast 1,200 hours of Olympics programming across its networks Bravo and USA Network, which along with CNBC and MSNBC, brought in 69 million viewers. NBC, meanwhile, won every half-hour in primetime for each of the 17 days. An average 19.6 million viewers watched Sunday night's closing ceremony in Athens.
Kelsey Grammer and wife welcome second child
Kelsey Grammer and wife Camille Donatacci welcomed a new addition to their family Saturday. The baby boy, named Jude Gordon, was born in Sacramento, California via a surrogate mother, the actor's spokesman said Monday. Grammer, 49, and Donatacci, 36, have a daughter, Mason Olivia, who was born to a surrogate mother in 2001. Grammer, who is best known for playing the pompous but likable psychiatrist Dr. Frasier Crane on NBC's hit sitcoms Cheers (1984-1993) and Frasier (1993-2004), also has a 20-year-old daughter with his first wife, Doreen Alderman, and a 12-year-old daughter with ex-girlfriend Barrie Buckner.
Major Dad actor hospitalized
Gerald McRaney, who played the no-nonsense military man on the long-running sitcom Major Dad, underwent surgery Monday to remove a cancerous growth from his lung, the AP reports. His Los Angeles publicist said Mc Raney, a 56-year-old longtime smoker, had the surgery at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. "I'm sure that he will plan to quit," spokesman Henri Bollinger said. The growth was detected during a physical examination McRaney underwent before minor knee surgery two weeks ago. McRaney will remain in the hospital for several days before returning to work on the new TV series Commando Nanny, set to air this fall on the WB network.