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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Lions Gate via Everett Collection
When we last left our heroes, they had conquered all opponents in the 74th Annual Hunger Games, returned home to their newly refurbished living quarters in District 12, and fallen haplessly to the cannibalism of PTSD. And now we're back! Hitching our wagons once again to laconic Katniss Everdeen and her sweet-natured, just-for-the-camera boyfriend Peeta Mellark as they gear up for a second go at the Capitol's killing fields.
But hold your horses — there's a good hour and a half before we step back into the arena. However, the time spent with Katniss and Peeta before the announcement that they'll be competing again for the ceremonial Quarter Quell does not drag. In fact, it's got some of the film franchise's most interesting commentary about celebrity, reality television, and the media so far, well outweighing the merit of The Hunger Games' satire on the subject matter by having Katniss struggle with her responsibilities as Panem's idol. Does she abide by the command of status quo, delighting in the public's applause for her and keeping them complacently saturated with her smiles and curtsies? Or does Katniss hold three fingers high in opposition to the machine into which she has been thrown? It's a quarrel that the real Jennifer Lawrence would handle with a castigation of the media and a joke about sandwiches, or something... but her stakes are, admittedly, much lower. Harvey Weinstein isn't threatening to kill her secret boyfriend.
Through this chapter, Katniss also grapples with a more personal warfare: her devotion to Gale (despite her inability to commit to the idea of love) and her family, her complicated, moralistic affection for Peeta, her remorse over losing Rue, and her agonizing desire to flee the eye of the public and the Capitol. Oftentimes, Katniss' depression and guilty conscience transcends the bounds of sappy. Her soap opera scenes with a soot-covered Gale really push the limits, saved if only by the undeniable grace and charisma of star Lawrence at every step along the way of this film. So it's sappy, but never too sappy.
In fact, Catching Fire is a masterpiece of pushing limits as far as they'll extend before the point of diminishing returns. Director Francis Lawrence maintains an ambiance that lends to emotional investment but never imposes too much realism as to drip into territories of grit. All of Catching Fire lives in a dreamlike state, a stark contrast to Hunger Games' guttural, grimacing quality that robbed it of the life force Suzanne Collins pumped into her first novel.
Once we get to the thunderdome, our engines are effectively revved for the "fun part." Katniss, Peeta, and their array of allies and enemies traverse a nightmare course that seems perfectly suited for a videogame spin-off. At this point, we've spent just enough time with the secondary characters to grow a bit fond of them — deliberately obnoxious Finnick, jarringly provocative Johanna, offbeat geeks Beedee and Wiress — but not quite enough to dissolve the mystery surrounding any of them or their true intentions (which become more and more enigmatic as the film progresses). We only need adhere to Katniss and Peeta once tossed in the pit of doom that is the 75th Hunger Games arena, but finding real characters in the other tributes makes for a far more fun round of extreme manhunt.
But Catching Fire doesn't vie for anything particularly grand. It entertains and engages, having fun with and anchoring weight to its characters and circumstances, but stays within the expected confines of what a Hunger Games movie can be. It's a good one, but without shooting for succinctly interesting or surprising work with Katniss and her relationships or taking a stab at anything but the obvious in terms of sending up the militant tyrannical autocracy, it never even closes in on the possibility of being a great one.
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Want to look like your life motto is “flower power”? Soon you can. Drew Barrymore is following up the miracle of childbirth with her own makeup line, appropriately called Flower.
She’ll be taking her beauty products to WalMart, with a launch set for January 2013, according to E!. Talk about a quick turnaround. The new mother is certainly keeping herself busy. Perhaps that’s why we feel inclined to offer whatever assistance we can. Many celebs have boldly gone where she’s gone before. Some have failed and some have flourished, so we’ve gathered a few tips for the (potential) beauty industry tycoon.
Mary Kate and Ashley’s (Bland, Totally Personality-Devoid) Makeup for WalMart
This twinly duo launched a handful of WalMart lines during their rosier-cheeked days as sitcom stars and wacky duos in shows like Two of a Kind and movies like New York Minute. They didn’t need to put any effort into their branding – the name said it all. But go to a WalMart later today to look for Mary Kate and Ashley makeup and you’ll be looking for a while; because without the teen-skewing content, the brandless makeup was sort of without an audience.
Lesson: Have an actual brand and viewpoint.
Jessica Simpson’s Desserts – Wait, So It’s Food? For My Face?
Simpson’s line was adorable. And edible. And overly sexual. Boys loved the posters, girls were confused about whether the edible whipped cream body cream was going to be like, sticky or something? And why is this being sold at Claire’s? I’m only 14 and I go shopping here with my mom.
Lesson: Clarity. If you’re selling something sexual, don’t play if off as a fun, innocent toy.
Justin Bieber’s Pun-ny Nail Polish Collection
Luckily for Bieber and OPI, anything with a whiff of his moniker sells out like flashlights in a power outage, but that isn’t going to ring true for every celeb. Shades like “OMB! (Oh My Bieber)” and “One Less Lonely Glitter” (instead of Girl) were endless fodder for jokes – and I’m pretty sure some of the jokesters were the girls flocking to pick up the nail polish at WalMart.
Lesson: You are not Bieber. Name shades/colors/products like a normal person. No one wants a Josie Grossie “Egged on Prom” facemask.
The Kardashians’ Legally Vexing Khroma Makeup Line
The Kardashians have lines for every product imaginable. You could probably assume they even have a line of hiking boots (because who wants to look like crap on the top of a mountain, ladies?) at this point. They also started a makeup line with a name that sounded awfully familiar. That’s probably why Chroma Cosmetics filed a lawsuit against the similarly-named sisters.
Lesson: Get your own name. Even if you’re not in legal trouble over giving your line a “familiar” name, have the guts to be your own brand! It’s better for business and significantly less seedy (ha! Get it? Barrymore's line is called Flower).
Salma Hayek’s “Mature” Cosmetics Line – NUANCE
Yeah, we didn’t mean mature. We meant old. Hayek continues to be a sex symbol and yet her makeup line for CVS looks like it’d make a great gift for your hip grandmother. It's covered in muted colors with wispy flower designs cascading over it all.
Lesson: Don’t cover your makeup in baby’s breath flowers, even if your makeup line is called Flowers. Go modern. It will serve you well.
Follow Kelsea on Twitter @KelseaStahler
[Photo Credit: Gregg DeGuire/WireImage]
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Ever since the Mayans, 2012, and Harold Camping reared their heads and announced that the end of days are near, the Earth's population has become fixated on the possibility that the world will indeed end soon. And because of this, movies, television, and many other methods of storytelling are feeding into audiences' obsession thanks to apocalyptic projects like Melancholia and Doomsday Preppers. Not to mention this weekend's Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, starring Steve Carell and Keira Knightley, in which the plot projects that an asteroid hits and destroys Earth.
We can all dismiss the supposed Mayans' claim that the world will end on Dec. 21, 2012 (even though researchers and scientists worldwide have regularly debunked the myth), but pop culture makes it so damn hard. Well, what if the Mayans are right? So here, without further ado, seven reasons we're starting to think the Mayans might be right.
1. Snooki is pregnant.
Admit it: You thought the news that the 24-year-old MTV reality star's pregnancy was a sign of the apocalypse too. After all, what is she expecting exactly? A mini pickle that will be able to guzzle down shots, walk around in terrifyingly ugly leopard heels, and date any Guido that crosses his or her path? Crying out loud, the world doesn't need another GTL child — we already have the whole cast. And that's enough to send the whole world to hell.
2. Brad and Angelina are engaged.
We never thought we would live to see the day that Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie would get married, and we probably still won't. Six kids later, Pitt and Jolie confirmed that they got engaged in April — but they still have yet to set a date for an actual ceremony (that we know of). This announcement was probably just made to mess with all of us, including Jennifer Aniston.
NEXT: TV Take-Overs mean the end?
3. Bachelor/Bachelorette franchise will never end.
The Bachelorette-Bachelor series is still going strong after 10 years. The world ending seems to be the only way this franchise will come to a close.
4. TV shows prep us for the end.
TV is prepping us for the end with shows like National Geographic's Doomsday Preppers and Discovery's Doomsday Bunkers that show us how normal civilians are "prepping" for the end. (If I have to live off of home-raised Tilapia or make my house in the ground, I think I would rather go). The fact that anyone is actually tuning into these shows for tutorials? Yep, apocalypse.
NEXT: Disney and Mary-Kate Olsen Signal the End
5. Pixar doesn't quite nail it.
A Pixar movie that doesn't make us bawl and pre-order it on Amazon at the first opportunity? Yes, the awkward Brave — a rare misstep for the studio — certainly does indicate the end of times.
6. Mary-Kate Olsen Dating Olivier Sarkozy
Just look at this picture of the 26-year-old fashionista, her 42-year-old boyfriend, and his young daughter. Boom.
NEXT: Reality TV dooms the world.
7. Clint Eastwood is on a reality show.
The 82-year-old Hollywood King has stooped to the level of the Kardashians. In fact, Keeping Up with the Eastwoods — er — Mrs. Eastwood & Company, airs right after the KUWTK Sunday nights on E!.
Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie Are Engaged
Mary-Kate Olsen and Olivier Sarkozy Creep Us Out
Steve Carell Thinks He Would Get Devoured by Zombies — VIDEO