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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.
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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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Stephen King's The Stand needs to be made into a big-budget film. There was a decently made mini-series that included some notable actors. That version was even produced by King himself. However, the television medium doesn't allow the story to explore the haunting parts of King's vision of the end of the world. The mini-series also felt a little bland at times. The film may have lost Ben Affleck to his infamous run as Batman and may end up casting Christian Bale, but here's our fantasy casting for the film series.
Johnny Depp as Randall Flagg
Randall Flagg is charming, attractive, and can seduce people out of their souls. Yet, in the next moment beat them mercilessly to death or make them go mad with just a look. Depp has the good looks and the convincing darkness to portray an agent of the devil. His roles in films like Dark Shadows and Sweeney Todd show he can be dark and twisted while still maintaining his charm, humor, and sex appeal. He also created the definitive anti-hero in Jack Sparrow.
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Cicely Tyson as Mother Abigail
Mother Abigail is a 108-year-old woman, the oldest living human being, and a prophet of God. She becomes a lightning rod for all the good people left in the world to gather together. At 80 years old, Tyson just won a Tony for her role in The Trip to Bountiful. She is an amazing actress and her recent role in The Help has proven that nothing can stop her.
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Emma Stone as Frances Goldsmith
Frannie is pregnant and in her early twenties. As the flu strikes, she questions if she should keep the baby. She’s smart, funny, and attractive enough to get a bit of a love triangle going. Stone is attractive, quirky, and has already seen the apocalypse starring in Zombieland. While most of her films have been comedies, she did show her dramatic muscles in The Help. She also has shown she has the edge to potentially kick ass and it would be great to see her actually do it on screen.
Walt Disney Co via Everett Collection
Matthew McConaughey as Stu Redman
Stu is affectionately known as East Texas. He is one of the first known survivors of the super flu. He plays a major part in the story and the survival of Mother Abigail's followers. When you think of Texas you think of McConaughey. His recent success and Oscar buzz with Dallas Buyer's Club show that the dramatic actor is back along with the comedian we remember from movies like Magic Mike. He has the right level of folksy charm that would encourage a community of survivors to rally behind him.
Millennium Entertainment via Everett Collection
Ryan Gosling as Larry Underwood
Larry Underwood is a sexy rockstar. He spends the bulk of the story with multiple women who want the best for him but sadly he disappoints them. Tons of women in America would love to see Gosling in this role. He has the huge fan following to be believable as a rock star. His role as a ne'er do well stunt driver in Drive and as a lothario in Crazy Stupid Love make him well suited for this role.
FilmDistrict via Everett Collection
Taylor Schilling as Nadine Cross
Nadine Cross is a former school teacher that meets Larry on the road. They connect and bond but she's a virgin and can't be with him. Who is she saving herself for ... who do you think? Randall Flagg. Schilling is huge right now given the success of Orange is the New Black. In the show, she's able to play a virginal innocence while still maintaining a slightly dark and twisted edge. After all, how pure can you be in prison?
Warner Bros. via Everett Collection
Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Nick Andros
Nick Andros is a deaf-mute that is introduced to the audience when he is savagely beaten. He becomes a major player in Mother Abigail's society despite being only able to communicate by writing notes. Levitt has the acting chops to breathe life into this challenging role. He has played off-beat characters in films like Hesher and Don John.
Relativity Media via Everett Collection
Helen Mirren as Glen Bateman
Glen Bateman is a retired sociology professor that loves painting and Kojack the dog. In the book, Bateman is a man. However, given her success in the Red films, Mirren proves she is part of the boy's club. Also, the book is a little light on female characters so it would be great to have such a dynamic actor as Mirren in such a pivotal role. Bateman helps re-establish society in the post-flu community. Plus, in an alternate life, couldn't you imagine Mirren as a ballsy sociology professor. We can pretend Teaching Mrs. Tingle never happened.
Focus Features via Everett Collection
Jonah Hill as Harold Lauder
Harold Lauder is a chubby, know-it-all teenager with some pretty dark thoughts. Now, Hill isn't that chubby anymore, however he is really stretching into dramas. He also proved in 21 Jump Street that he can play a believable teenager, even if its a grown man playing a grown man pretending to be a teenager. He'd be great as this slightly homicidal genius that becomes obsessed with Frannie.
Columbia Pictures via Everett Collection
John Cho as Lloyd Henreid
Lloyd Henreid is a petty criminal that gets caught in a murder spree right before the flu breaks. Flagg rescues him from prison and makes Lloyd his right-hand man. Given his recent run as a villain in Sleepy Hollow, Cho clearly can play bad. Also, it would be great if the film adaptation could not only break convention by having a male character played by an actress like Mirren but also to have a criminal played by an Asian-American actor. Stereotypes have to be broken somewhere.
New Line Cinema via Everett Collection
While recent animated blockbusters have aimed to viewers of all ages starting with fantastical concepts and breathtaking visuals but tackling complex emotional issues along the way Ice Age: Continental Drift is crafted especially for the wee ones — and it works. Venturing back to prehistoric times once again the fourth Ice Age film paints broad strokes on the theme of familial relationships throwing in plenty of physical comedy along the way. The movie isn't that far off from one of the many Land Before Time direct-to-video sequels: not particularly innovative or necessary but harmless thrilling fun for anyone with a sense of humor. Unless they have a particular distaste for wooly mammoths the kids will love it.
Ice Age: Continental Drift continues to snowball its cartoon roster bringing back the original film's trio (Ray Romano as Manny the Mammoth Denis Leary as Diego the Sabertooth Tiger and John Leguizamo as Sid the Sloth) new faces acquired over the course of the franchise (Queen Latifah as Manny's wife Ellie) and a handful of new characters to spice things up everyone from Nicki Minaj as Manny's daughter Steffie to Wanda Sykes as Sid's wily grandma. The whole gang is living a pleasant existence as a herd with Manny's biggest problem being playing overbearing dad to the rebellious daughter. Teen mammoths they always want to go out and play by the waterfall! Whippersnappers.
The main thrust of the film comes when Scratch the Rat (whose silent comedy routines in the vein of Tex Avery/WB cartoons continue to be the series highlight) accidentally cracks the singular continent Pangea into the world we know today. Manny Diego and Sid find themselves stranded on an iceberg once again forced on a road trip journey of survival. The rest of the herd embarks to meet them giving Steffie time to realize the true meaning of friendship with help from her mole pal Louis (Josh Gad).
The ham-handed lessons may drag for those who've passed Kindergarten but Ice Age: Continental Drift is a lot of fun when the main gang crosses paths with a group of villainous pirates. (Back then monkeys rabbits and seals were hitting the high seas together pillaging via boat-shaped icebergs. Obviously.) Quickly Ice Age becomes an old school pirate adventure complete with maritime navigation buried treasure and sword fights. Gut (Peter Dinklage) an evil ape with a deadly... fingernail leads the evil-doers who pose an entertaining threat for the familiar bunch. Jennifer Lopez pops by as Gut's second-in-command Shira the White Tiger and the film's two cats have a chase scene that should rouse even the most apathetic adults. Hearing Dinklage (of Game of Thrones fame) belt out a pirate shanty may be worth the price of admission alone.
With solid action (that doesn't need the 3D addition) cartoony animation and gags out the wazoo Ice Age: Continental Drift is entertainment to enjoy with the whole family. Revelatory? Not quite. Until we get a feature length silent film of Scratch's acorn pursuit we may never see a "classic" Ice Age film but Continental Drift keeps it together long enough to tell a simple story with delightful flare that should hold attention spans of any length. Massive amounts of sugar not even required.
[Photo Credit: 20th Century Fox]
Sultry culinary genius Isabella (Penélope Cruz) leads an idyllic life running a seaside restaurant in Brazil with her husband Toninho (Murilo Benício) - until she finds Toninho in bed with another woman that is. Heartbroken she heads off to San Francisco and immediately finds work as -- what else? -- the host of a TV cooking show. Screwball comedy complications ensue as a prayer to a Brazilian goddess goes awry Isabella's show becomes a hit and a penitent Toninho arrives to try and win his wife back.
Perma-pouting Spanish dish Cruz ("All About My Mother") is a solid actress with an excess of on-screen charisma but she isn't particularly well served by her first Hollywood starring vehicle. Hampered by their thick accents she and hunky Brazilian co-star Benício ("Orfeu") fight their way through hokey exchanges that have no business being in English anyway. (The whole film would have gone down more smoothly in Brazil's romantic tongue Portuguese.) Of the supporting players Harold Perrineau ("The Best Man") generates the most sparks putting a surprisingly fresh spin on one of the more tired modern screen clichés: the strapping black drag queen.
Venezuelan-born helmer Fina Torres ("Celestial Clockwork") adopts the candy-shop approach to commercial storytelling packing her film with enough sexy stars bright South American colors and tangy bossa nova tunes to distract viewers from the lame predictability of Vera Blasi's script. Pinching ingredients from the Mexican food-and-sex smash "Like Water For Chocolate " the filmmakers cobble together a passable romantic fantasy in the Latin American magical-realist tradition. Too bad most of the comedy falls flatter than a Brazilian crèpe.