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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Sony Pictures via Everett Collection
There is a certain level of enjoyment you are guaranteed when signing on for a movie that boasts a cast of George Clooney, Matt Damon, John Goodman, and Bill Murray. And that's the precise level of enjoyment you'll get from The Monuments Men — that bare minimum smirk factor inherent the idea that your favorite stars are getting to play together. In FDR-era army helmets, no less. But what we also get from the film is an aura of smug self-confidence from project captain Clooney, who seems all too ready to take for granted that we're perfectly satisfied peering into his backyard clubhouse.
So assured is the director/co-writer that we're happy to be in on the game that there doesn't seem to be any effort taken to refine the product for the benefit of a viewing audience. An introductory speech from art historian Frank Stokes (Clooney) sets up the premise straight away: the Nazis are stealing and destroying all of Europe's paintings and sculptures, and by gum we need to stop them! The concept doesn't complicate from there, save for a batting back and forth of the throughline question about whether the preservation of these pieces is "really worth it." Stokes rallies his own Ocean's Seven on a fine arts rescue mission, instigating an old fashioned go-get-'em-boys montage where we learn everything we need to know about the band mates in question: Damon has a wife, Goodman has gumption, Murray doesn't smile, Bob Balaban is uppity, and Jean Dujardin is French.
The closest thing to a character in The Monuments Men comes in the form of Hugh Bonneville, a recovering alcoholic whose motivation to take on the dangerous mission is planted in a festering desire to absolve himself of a lifetime of f**king up. When we're away from Bonneville, the weight disspears, as does most of the joy. Without identifiable characters, even master funnymen like Goodman, Murray, and Balaban don't have much to offer... especially since the movie's jokes feel like first draft placeholders born on a tired night.
Sony Pictures via Everett Collection
But wait a minute, is this even supposed to be a comedy? After all, it's about World War II. And no matter what Alexandre Desplat's impossibly merry score would have you believe (coupled with The Lego Movie, this opening weekend might be responsible for more musical jubilance than any other since the days of "Make 'Em Laugh!"), warfare, genocide, and desecration of international culture all make for some pretty heavy material. But The Monuments Men's drama is just as fatigued as its humor, clumsily piecing together a collection of mini missions wherein the stakes, somehow, never seem to jump. We're dragged through military bases, battered towns, and salt mines by Clooney and the gang — occasionally jumping over to France to watch Damon work his least effective magic in years on an uptight Cate Blanchett, who holds the key to the scruffy American's mission but doesn't quite trust him... until, for no apparent reason, she suddenly does. We never feel like any of these people matter, not even to each other, so we never really feel like their adventures do.
The Monuments Men doesn't have much of a challenge ahead of it. Its heroes are movie stars, its bad guys are Nazis, and its message is one that nobody's going to refute: art is important — a maxim it pounds home with the subtlety of a sledgehammer, through countless scenes of men staring in awe at the works of Michelangelo and Rembrandt. And in this easy endeavor, Clooney decides to coast. How could it possibly go wrong? Just grab hold of the fellas, toss 'em in the trenches, and let the laughs and danger write themselves. "This is what they came to see," Monuments Men insists. "Just us guys havin' a ball." But we never feel in on the game, and it isn't one that looks like that much fun anyhow.
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Before Hollywood's biggest stars deliver their acceptance speeches at Sunday's Academy Awards, the 2013 Writers Guild Awards have honored the folks who supply A-list actors and actresses with words. The 65th annual ceremony kicked off Sunday, celebrating the best and the brightest behind the scenes — and behind the pen — in television, film, and beyond in 2012.
But there were few surprises at the awards — Mark Boal picked up his second WGA win for Zero Dark Thirty (he won his first for Hurt Locker in 2010) while television's critical darlings, Breaking Bad and Louie proved to be victorious.
Who else was a big winner at the WGA awards? See below to find out!
MOTION PICTURE CATEGORIES
Zero Dark Thirty, written by Mark Boal; Columbia Pictures
Argo, screenplay by Chris Terrio; based on a selection from The Master of Disguise by Antonio J. Mendez and the Wired magazine article “The Great Escape” by Joshuah Bearman; Warner Bros. Pictures
Searching for Sugar Man, written by Malik Bendejelloul; Sony Pictures Classics
Breaking Bad, Written by Sam Catlin, Vince Gilligan, Peter Gould, Gennifer Hutchison, George Mastras, Thomas Schnauz, Moira Walley-Beckett; AMC
Louie, Written by Pamela Adlon, Vernon Chatman, Louis C.K.; FX
Girls, Written by Judd Apatow, Lesley Arfin, Lena Dunham, Sarah Heyward, Bruce Eric Kaplan, Jenni Konner, Deborah Schoeneman, Dan Sterling; HBO
Mad Men (AMC), Written by Semi Chellas and Matthew Weiner, "The Other Woman"
LONG FORM – ORIGINAL
Hatfields & McCoys (History Channel), Teleplay by Ted Mann and Ronald Parker, Story by Bill Kerby and Ted Mann, Nights Two and Three
LONG FORM – ADAPTED
Game Change (HBO), Written by Danny Strong, Based on the book by Mark Halperin and John Heilemann
Modern Family (ABC), Written By Elaine Ko; ABC, "Virgin Territory"
COMEDY/VARIETY (INCLUDING TALK) — SERIES
Portlandia, Written by Fred Armisen, Carrie Brownstein, Karey Dornetto, Jonathan Krisel, Bill Oakley
COMEDY/VARIETY — MUSIC, AWARDS, TRIBUTES — SPECIALS
66th Annual Tony Awards, Written by Dave Boone, Special Material by Paul Greenberg; Opening and Closing Songs by David Javerbaum, Adam Schlesinger; CBS
CHILDREN'S – EPISODIC & SPECIALS
Sesame Street (PBS), Written by Christine Ferraro, "The Good Sport"
CHILDREN'S — LONG FORM OR SPECIAL
"Girl vs. Monster," Story by Annie De Young; Teleplay by Annie De Young and Ron McGee; Disney Channel
The Simpsons, Written by David Mandel & Brian Kelley; Fox, "Ned and Edna's Blend Agenda"
The Young & the Restless, Written by Amanda Beall, Jeff Beldner, Brent Boyd, Susan Dansby, Janice Ferri Esser, Jay Gibson, Scott Hamner, Maria Kanelos, Natalie Minardi Slater, Beth Milstein, Michael Montgomery, Anne Schoettle, Linda Schreiber, Lisa Seidman, Sarah K. Smith, Christopher J. Whitesell, Teresa Zimmerman; CBS
DOCUMENTARY — CURRENT EVENTS
Frontline, Written by Martin Smith and Marcela Gaviria; PBS, "Money, Power and Wall Street: Episode One"
DOCUMENTARY — OTHER THAN CURRENT EVENTS
Nova, Written by Randall MacLowry; PBS, "The Fabric of the Cosmos: The Illusion of Time"
NEWS — REGULALRY SCHEDULED, BULLETIN, OR BREAKING REPORT
"Tragedy in Colorado: The Movie Theatre Massacre," Written by Lisa Ferri, Joel Siegel; ABC News
NEWS — REGULARLY SCHEDULED OR BREAKING REPORT
"World News This Year 2011," Written by Darren Reynolds; ABC News Radio
NEWS — ANALYSIS, FEATURE OR COMMENTARY
"Dishin Digital," Written by Robert Hawley, WCBS-AM
PROMOTIONAL WRITING AND GRAPHIC ANIMATION CATEGORIES
ON-AIR PROMOTION (RADIO OR TELEVISION)
"Partners," Written by Dan A. Greenberger, CBS
TELEVISION GRAPHIC ANIMATION
Sunday Morning with Charles Osgood, Animation by Bob Pook; CBS, "The Oscars"
NEW MEDIA AND VIDEOGAME CATEGORIES
OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT IN WRITING DERIVATIVE NEW MEDIA
The Walking Dead: Cold Storage, Written by John Esposito (amctv.com) – “Hide And Seek,” “Keys to the Kingdom,” “The Chosen Ones,” “Parting Shots”
OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT IN WRITING ORIGINAL NEW MEDIA
Jack In A Box, Written by Michael Cyril Creighton (jackinaboxsite.com) – “The Compromises, Episode 1,” “The Pest, Episode 3,” The Snake, Episode 4,” “The Bonding, Episode 6,” “The Future, Episode 7/Series Finale”
OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT IN VIDEOGAME WRITING
Assassin's Creed III: Liberation, Scriptwriting by Richard Farrese, Jill Murray; Ubisoft
What do you think of this year's winners? Let us know in the comments!
Follow Alicia on Twitter @alicialutes.
A decade-long gap between sequels could leave a franchise stale but in the case of Men in Black 3 it's the launch pad for an unexpectedly great blockbuster. The kooky antics of Agent J (Will Smith) and Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) don't stray far from their 1997 and 2002 adventures but without a bombardment of follow-ups to keep the series in mind the wonderfully weird sensibilities of Men in Black feel fresh Smith's natural charisma once again on full display. Barry Sonnenfeld returns for the threequel another space alien romp with a time travel twist — which turns out to be Pandora's Box for the director's deranged imagination.
As time passed in the real world so did it for the timeline in the world of Men in Black. Picking up ten years after MIB 2 J and K are continuing to protect the Earth from alien threats and enforce the law on those who live incognito. While dealing with their own personal issues — K is at his all-time crabbiest for seemingly no reason — the suited duo encounter an old enemy Boris the Animal (Jemaine Clement) a prickly assassin seeking revenge on K who blew his arm off back in the '60s. Their street fight is more of a warning; Boris' real plan is to head back in time to save his arm and kill off K. He's successful prompting J to take his own leap through the time-space continuum — and team up with a younger K (Josh Brolin) to put an end to Boris plans for world domination.
Men in Black 3 is the Will Smith show. Splitting his time between the brick personalities of Jones and Brolin's K Smith struts his stuff with all the fast-talking comedic style that made him a star in yesteryears. In present day he's still the laid back normal guy in a world of oddities — J raises an eyebrow as new head honcho O (Emma Thompson) delivers a eulogy in a screeching alien tongue but coming up with real world explanations for flying saucer crashes comes a little easier. But back in 1969 he's an even bigger fish out water. Surprisingly director Barry Sonnenfeld and writer Etan Cohen dabble in the inherent issues that would spring up if a black gentlemen decked out in a slick suit paraded around New York in the late '60s. A star of Smith's caliber may stray away from that type of racy humor but the hook of Men in Black 3 is the actor's readiness for anything. He turns J's jokey anachronisms into genuine laughs and doesn't mind letting the special effect artists stretch him into an unrecognizable Twizzler for the movie's epic time jump sequence.
Unlike other summer blockbusters Men in Black 3 is light on the action Sonnenfeld utilizing his effects budget and dazzling creature work (by the legendary Rick Baker) to push the comedy forward. J's fight with an oversized extraterrestrial fish won't keep you on the edge of your seat but his slapstick escape and the marine animal's eventual demise are genuinely amusing. Sonnenfeld carries over the twisted sensibilities he displayed in small screen work like Pushing Daisies favoring bizarre banter and elaborating on the kookiness of the alien underworld than battle scenes. MIB3's chase scene is passable but the movie in its prime when Smith is sparring with Brolin and newcomer Michael Stuhlbarg who steals the show as a being capable of seeing the future. His twitchy character keeps Smith and the audience on their toes.
Men in Black 3 digs up nostalgia I wasn't aware I had. Smith's the golden boy of summer and even with modern ingenuity keeping it fresh — Sonnenfeld uses the mandatory 3D to full and fun effect — there's an element to the film that feels plucked from another era. The movie is economical and slight with plenty of lapses in logic that will provoke head scratching on the walk out of the theater but it's also perfectly executed. After ten years of cinematic neutralizing the folks behind Men in Black haven't forgotten what made the first movie work so well. After al these years Smith continues to make the goofy plot wild spectacle and crazed alien antics look good.
HOLLYWOOD, June 9, 2000 – OK, let's get the cliché out of the way: "Who's the Black private dick that's a sex machine to all the chicks?" If you answered "Shaft," well, you're only half right.
Because in the new "Shaft" (opening next Friday), Samuel L. Jackson doesn't get any booty.
Sure, there's some lovemaking going on during the opening credits, and there's one scene where Jackson (as the titular Black private dick) picks up a female bartender by asking if she wants him to hold her, or to give her the "L.D." (and we're guessing that's not code for cheap long-distance rates).
But when you recall that the original Shaft, Richard Roundtree, went to bed with at least two women in his three "Shaft" movies (and yes, you saw him in the sack with the chicks) -- including sexy Vonetta McGee and the woman who propositioned him by asking, "How long is your phallus?" -- Jackson's Shaft starts looking a little limp.
"You know, it's politically incorrect to have five girlfriends in 2000. In the 70s, that was OK," is how Jackson explained the de-sexing of "Shaft" at a recent press junket in Beverly Hills, Calif.
However, Roundtree doesn't equivocate: "That is one thing that was really missing for me. I don't understand how you can do a Shaft film and not have some sex in it. When I read it [the script], I remember thinking, 'I must have missed something. What is the deal?'"
Roundtree, who plays Jackson's uncle in the new film, actually gets more action than the star. In one scene, Roundtree leaves a tavern with three (much younger, and very attractive) ladies under his arm. But that's as far as it goes.
"At least I got to walk out of the bar with them. But I would have liked to follow up on it," Roundtree muses.
So, will the masses accept a Shaft that doesn't have unprotected intercourse with multiple partners?
"That's not P.C., but James Bond still does it," says David Walker, publisher of BadAzz Mofo magazine (www.badazzmofo.com). "They tried having Bond only have sex with one woman, and it was one of the biggest bombs.
"I'm not sure why they did it, but I think it was a big mistake. 'Shaft' has the potential to be a big franchise over at Paramount, but getting John Singleton to do this movie was like getting Joel Schumacher to do 'Batman and Robin.'"
As they say, "Meow."