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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Rod Stewart, Idris Elba, Anna Friel, Melanie Chisholm and Britain's princes William and Harry were among the stars who manned the phones on a trading floor in London on Wednesday (11Sep13) as part of a 9/11 charity event. A whole host of actors, musicians and royals joined the British leg of Cantor Fitzgerald's and BGC Partners' annual Charity Day, which commemorates the victims of America's 2001 terrorist attacks.
As part of the event, famous faces man the phones and the day's profits are donated to good causes.
Stewart was there with his wife Penny Lancaster while Prince William and his brother Prince Harry also took calls during the star-studded event.
Other celebrities who turned out for the day's trading in London included Sir Ian McKellen, Sean Bean, David Hasselhoff, Cerys Matthews, Danny Dyer and Ashley Roberts, while on the other side of the Atlantic, Mariah Carey's husband Nick Cannon, Sean 'Diddy' Combs, actor Zachary Quinto, and The Sopranos stars Edie Falco and Bobby Cannavale turned out in New York.
Last year's (13) event raised millions of dollars for good causes worldwide.
Dave Hogan/Getty Images
Some things should just be left as they are, and that definitely goes for certain bands getting back together. Whether it’s pop, rock, R&B, or metal acts, reuniting with your long-lost band has become something of a trend as of late. Many bands claim to get back together to revive their creative talent, but it’s really not too hard to see that bands get together when bank accounts start to empty out.
Recently, Joan Jett wisely refused to do a Runaways reunion, and it got us thinking about what other bands should’ve done the same to keep their legacy intact.
Spice Girls Though the tour may have been a success, the Spice Girls reunion tour in 2008 was more than awkward. The girls were all grown up, and all that was left from the platform-shoed, UK-flag-clothing empire that the Spice Girls created in the mid-'90s was a bunch of washed up pop stars trying to relive their glory. Posh Spice couldn’t even be bothered to show up to certain promotional events, and spent most of the concerts posing and lip synching for her life.
The Velvet Underground The Velvet Underground was always known to be a talented band full of quick-tempered divas, so when they announced a VU reunion in 1992, fans everywhere were pretty shocked. The group got together for a European tour in 1993, with John Cale filling in vocal parts for Nico, who had passed away in 1988. The European tour went well, and the band decided to move forward with an American tour, as well as an MTV Unplugged set and maybe even a new record. Not surprisingly, though, the legendary beef between Cale and Lou Reed reared its arty head, and Cale stormed out of the group before any of their future plans could move any further.
The Jacksons What are the Jacksons without Michael? Jackie, Tito, Jermaine, and Marlon got together in 2012 for the Unity tour, supposedly dedicated to their late brother, Michael (Randy sensibly declined to join the tour). The tour seemed doomed from the get-go, having being met by the public with more eye-rolls than excitement, especially with rumors going around that the group might use a MJ hologram on the tour. Not surprisingly, the ill-fated vibes surrounding the tour at its inception ended up being legit – out of the thirty-eight tour dates that the Jacksons announced, eleven U.S. shows were canceled, and although the tour was supposed to last from June to December, wound up ending in late July. Should've listened to LaToya, boys!
The Police The Police was legendary for the tension between lead singer/bassist Sting and drummer Stewart Copeland, which culminated in many dramatic moments, like the time Copeland “accidentally” broke one of Sting’s ribs in the studio. The band broke up in 1984, so it was surprising to hear that they were getting back together in 2007. However, it didn’t take long for the claws to come out –after their first performance, Copeland published a statement on his website, giving his own band a phenomenally crappy review. Copeland compared the beginning of the show to premature ejaculation, called the show "lame," said that Sting looked like a “petulant pansy” (points for awesome alliteration), and declared that the band was merely playing “avant-garde twelve-tone hodgepodges.” Now that’s pure poetry.
New Order This reunion was awkward for a lot of reasons. For starters, if New Order is Joy Division without Ian Curtis, shouldn’t New Order only be New Order when bassist Peter Hook is around? Clearly, the band didn’t think so, going forward with a 2011 reunion with a different line-up. Hook had refused to join the band for a series of tour dates, but the band went forward with their reunion, anyway. Hook released a series of zings in response, including “The truth is, [singer] Bernard’s a twat and he always has been” and “I don’t think they’re New Order, because I was in that band.” Ruined in a day, indeed.
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A kids’ movie without the cheeky jokes for adults is like a big juicy BLT without the B… or the T. Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted may have a title that sounds like it was made up in a cartoon sequel laboratory but when it comes to serving up laughs just think of the film as a BLT with enough extra bacon to satisfy even the wildest of animals — or even a parent with a gaggle of tots in tow. Yes even with that whole "Afro Circus" nonsense.
It’s not often that we find exhaustively franchised films like the Madagascar set that still work after almost seven years. Despite being spun off into TV shows and Christmas specials in addition to its big screen adventures the series has not only maintained its momentum it has maintained the part we were pleasantly surprised by the first time around: great jokes.
In this third installment of the series – the trilogy-maker if you will – directing duo Eric Darnell and Tom McGrath add Conrad Vernon (director Monsters Vs. Aliens) to the helm as our trusty gang swings back into action. Alex the lion (Ben Stiller) Marty the zebra (Chris Rock) Gloria the hippo (Jada Pinkett Smith) and Melman the giraffe (David Schwimmer) are stuck in Africa after the hullaballoo of Madagascar 2 and they’ll do anything to get back to their beloved New York. Just a hop skip and a jump away in Monte Carlo the penguins are doing their usual greedy schtick but the zoo animals catch up with them just in time to catch the eye of the sinister animal control stickler Captain Dubois (Frances McDormand). And just like that the practically super human captain is chasing them through Monte Carlo and the rest of Europe in hopes of planting Alex’s perfectly coifed lion head on her wall of prized animals.
Luckily for pint-sized viewers Dubois’ terrifying presence is balanced out by her sheer inhuman strength uncanny guiles and Stretch Armstrong flexibility (ah the wonder of cartoons) as well as Alex’s escape plan: the New Yorkers run away with the European circus. While Dubois’ terrifying Doberman-like presence looms over the entire film a sense of levity (which is a word the kiddies might learn from Stiller’s eloquent lion) comes from the plan for salvation in which the circus animals and the zoo animals band together to revamp the circus and catch the eye of a big-time American agent. Sure the pacing throughout the first act is practically nonexistent running like a stampede through the jungle but by the time we're palling around under the big top the film finds its footing.
The visual splendor of the film (and man is there a champion size serving of it) the magnificent danger and suspense is enhanced to great effect by the addition of 3D technology – and not once is there a gratuitous beverage or desperate Crocodile Dundee knife waved in our faces to prove its worth. The caveat is that the soundtrack employs a certain infectious Katy Perry ditty at the height of the 3D spectacular so parents get ready to hear that on repeat until the leaves turn yellow.
But visual delights and adventurous zoo animals aside Madagascar 3’s real strength is in its script. With the addition of Noah Baumbach (Greenberg The Squid and the Whale) to the screenwriting team the script is infused with a heightened level of almost sarcastic gravitas – a welcome addition to the characteristically adult-friendly reference-heavy humor of the other Madagascar films. To bring the script to life Paramount enlisted three more than able actors: Vitaly the Siberian tiger (Bryan Cranston) Gia the Leopard (Jessica Chastain) and Stefano the Italian Sealion (Martin Short). With all three actors draped in European accents it might take viewers a minute to realize that the cantankerous tiger is one and the same as the man who plays an Albuquerque drug lord on Breaking Bad but that makes it that much sweeter to hear him utter slant-curse words like “Bolshevik” with his usual gusto.
Between the laughs the terror of McDormand’s Captain Dubois and the breathtaking virtual European tour the Zoosters’ accidental vacation is one worth taking. Madagascar 3 is by no means an insta-classic but it’s a perfectly suited for your Summer-at-the-movies oasis.
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.
Law received a nomination in the Best Actor category for his role in the West End run of Hamlet, which recently transferred to Broadway.
He will go up against former The Wire star Dominic West, who has been recognised for his part in philosophical epic Life Is a Dream.
Mirren will compete against Weisz for the Best Actress trophy for her starring role in Phedre, while the Mummy star received a nod for her turn in A Streetcar Named Desire.
Stewart's role in Hamlet earned him a nomination for the Best Supporting Actor prize, while he also received a nod in the Theatre Event of the Year category alongside Sir Ian McKellen for their pairing in Waiting for Godot.
Former Spice Girls star Melanie Chisholm has also received a nod for the Best Takeover in a Role for her West End debut in musical Blood Brothers.
The awards will be handed out at a ceremony in London on 14 February (10).