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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Veteran actress Jaclyn Smith is still struggling to overcome the death of her mother five years ago, confessing she cries about the loss every day. The original Charlie's Angels star, 68, reveals she had to seek professional help after her beloved mum Margaret passed away in 2009, because losing her exacerbated the pain the actress still felt following the death of her father, Jack, in 1993.
She tells People magazine, "I had to get a grief counselor, and I still cry every single day."
In just about every one of Kevin Hart's scenes in Ride Along, there's a joke that is just aching to find its way out of the diminutive, rascally comic actor. Hart is a small-scale physical comedian — of the same ilk as Jack Black — who puts nuclear-degree energy into his facial contortions, anatomical outbursts, and the delivery of every gag in general. If only he had material that was crafted with the same energy.
Unfortunately, nothing else about Ride Along seems at all "hard at work." Not the script, which pads a lifeless story with lazy comedy, and certainly not his screen partner Ice Cube, whose only stage direction seems to be "frown, and be taller than Kevin Hart." So lifeless is Ice Cube that even his machismo-obsessed straight man bit doesn't really work. Instead of the virile and intimidating "bad cop," he comes off as a disapproving middle aged dad without much to show for his own life.
But the script pairs the wily, overzealous high school security guard and video game junkie Ben (Hart) with no-nonsense lawman James (Ice Cube) on the titular ride along, with the scrappy cop-wannabe hoping to prove to the force veteran that he's good enough to marry the latter's younger sister. In earnest, he's not. Ben never puts any respectable effort into learning the tools of the trade, insisting on employing his amateur style and controlling the radio despite his proclamations that he wants, and deserves, James' trust. And James is no saint either — he's irresponsible on crime scenes, violent with perps, and disgruntled to the point of being unable to work with anybody else on the force. These are not good police officers... of course, you'll say, this is a comedy. But where are the laughs, then?
They're not absent entirely, you just have to look for them. In a movie so focused with big, broad humor, it's the smaller comedy that actually lands best. Hart's background mutterings and fumblings, his emoticon-laden texts to girlfriend Angela (Tika Sumpter, whose only stage direction seems to be "smile, and never wear a full outfit of clothing"), and a bizarre repetition of the word "weird" from supporting player John Leguizamo. All good for unexpected chuckles, while jokes like Hart facing off with a pre-teen or being blown backwards into a brick wall after firing a large gun are all lazy, familiar, and flat.
Structurally, the script is a mess. Ride Along spends far too much time on set up — we get it, Hart and his soon-to-be-brother-in-law Ice Cube don't get along — and far too much time on wrap-up — there's a gigantic, dramatic warehouse shootout that, in any other movie, would be the climax, but there's plenty more to go after that — without any cohesive middle to make the movie feel like... a movie.
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Hart, who leaps at every comic opportunity like a kangaroo (wallaby would be more appropriate), is suited just right for a buddy cop comedy, but he needs something fresh with which to work — a real character, an interesting story, actually funny jokes. Even just one of these would be fine!
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Actress Jaclyn Smith is convinced her Charlie'S Angels co-star Farrah Fawcett would laugh over the legal trouble her Andy Warhol portrait has caused, because she could always find humour in any situation. Fawcett's longtime partner Ryan O'Neal has been locked in a trial with officials from the University of Texas over the ownership of the silkscreen artwork, and the case was handed over to jurors in Los Angeles on Monday (16Dec13).
O'Neal took the valuable piece from Fawcett's home following her death in 2009, claiming it was one of two he had commissioned the iconic artist to paint, while college bosses allege the actress left it to them in her will.
Smith has taken O'Neal's side in the whole dispute and testified on his behalf during the trial, and she is hopeful her old friend will be reunited with the portrait of his late love soon.
She tells U.S. news show Extra, "Over the years that has always been Ryan's painting, so I feel somewhere, why, how, the truth got lost. It's sad because Farrah's not here to set us all straight. It's only people close to her, and when two people are fighting against one another, somehow you know the truth gets diffused and lost in the shuffle, but those who love her and feel her presence know where that painting should be and it should live in the home of Ryan O'Neal."
And Smith is sure Fawcett would find the whole legal furore funny if she was still here today: "She was funny. She was always making you laugh even after her illness. She would probably say, 'Here they are fighting for this painting. I should've made that clearer in that living will!'"
The jury began its second day of deliberations on Wednesday (18Dec13).
Actress Jaclyn Smith has waded into the dispute over the ownership of a portrait of her former Charlie'S Angels co-star Farrah Fawcett. Fawcett's former boyfriend Ryan O'Neal is embroiled in a court battle with the University of Texas over the ownership of an Andy Warhol silkscreen image of the actress, with university bosses insisting she left the artwork to them following her death in 2009.
Smith attended court in Los Angeles on Monday (16Dec13) to hear the closing statements in the civil trial and insisted her former co-star would want the portrait to stay with O'Neal as he was the love of Fawcett's life.
She said, "I think the most important thing would be imagining what Farrah would want. I really feel Farrah would want that portrait with Ryan."
Smith, who broke down in tears outside the courthouse after meeting Fawcett's son Redmond, added that she is backing O'Neal to win the case, saying, "In Ryan winning, Farrah wins."
The University of Texas in Austin, Fawcett's alma mater, is already home to one of the pair of Warhol portraits and officials insist the two images should be displayed together.
Actor Ryan O'Neal's efforts to reclaim an Andy Warhol portrait of his late partner Farrah Fawcett have been given a big boost after a judge ruled her former caregiver will be allowed to testify on his behalf. The Love Story star is currently embroiled in a legal dispute over the valuable work, which he insists is rightfully his, while officials at a university in Texas allege the actress left the silkscreen picture to them, along with all her art, following her death in 2009.
Now Los Angeles Superior Court Judge William MacLaughlin has ruled that Fawcett's former nurse's assistant, Maribel Avila, should be added to the witness list. She only stepped forward last month (Nov13), after the deadline for potential witnesses to be declared had passed, after reading about the court battle in the press and realising her testimony could prove useful.
Avila, who worked for the Charlie's Angels beauty for two years from 2006, recently met with Judge MacLaughlin and recalled that Fawcett had told her the Warhol portrait in question belonged to O'Neal.
She is expected to testify before the jury next week (begs09Dec13).
Other witnesses who may appear in court for the art trial includes O'Neal and Fawcett's son Redmond and her Charlie's Angels co-star Jaclyn Smith.
O'Neal himself took the stand on Monday (02Dec13) and insisted he was not trying to hide the fact he took the Warhol painting, one of two he had commissioned from the iconic artist, from Fawcett's home following her death.
Actor Ryan O'Neal has insisted he was not trying to hide the fact he took an Andy Warhol portrait of his late girlfriend Farrah Fawcett from her home following the actress' death in 2009. O'Neal was in court on Monday (02Dec13) fighting to keep the painting, which he claims is legally his.
Officials at Fawcett's alma mater the University of Texas at Austin, who already own the portrait's twin, insist the former Charlie's Angels star had left the silkscreen to them in a living trust, along with all her art.
Testifying in court, the actor revealed the portrait of his late lover hangs over his bed and he insisted he has no plans to sell it.
He told the court, "I’m going to give it to her son. Our son."
The portrait is worth as much as $30 million (GBP20 million), according to art experts.
A list of potential witnesses who may appear at Los Angeles Superior Court for the art trial includes O'Neal and Fawcett's son Redmond and her Charlie's Angels co-star Jaclyn Smith.
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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Actress Jaclyn Smith is set to testify in Ryan O'Neal's upcoming legal battle over an Andy Warhol portrait of his late parter Farrah Fawcett. O'Neal is heading to trial to fight University of Texas officials who claim the silkscreen, which is valued at around $30 million (£20 million), is rightfully theirs, claiming that Fawcett left her entire art collection to the institution following her death in 2009.
The piece is one of two Fawcett portraits by Warhol - one is hanging in the university's gallery, while O'Neal claims the disputed picture was given to him by the artist, who was a close friend.
During his deposition, the Love Story veteran revealed that Fawcett had taken his version of the painting in 1998, a year after she caught him in bed with another woman. He admitted to retrieving the artwork following his longtime partner's passing in 2009 and placing it in his Malibu, California home.
The case is due to be heard in a Los Angeles court this week (begs11Nov13), and the late actress' Charlie's Angels co-star Smith has been listed on the witness list.
O'Neal is also due to testify, as is his son with Fawcett, Redmond, and the former couple's photographer pal Alana Stewart.
The National Geographic Channel has been releasing a series of photos from their November TV movie Killing Kennedy, each worthy of Zapruder-like scrutiny. First, they gave us Rob Lowe as JFK. And now they've given us our first glimpse of Ginnifer Goodwin as Jackie. With her hair styled into that iconic coif, she's pretty much the spitting image of the former First Lady. Of course, she's following in the footsteps of many, many actresses before her, like Jaclyn Smith in the 1981 TV movie Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy, Katie Holmes in 2011's controversial mini-series The Kennedys, and Minka Kelly in this coming August's The Butler. Check out the photo of Goodwin as Jackie O. (in her pre-O. days) below and see how she compares to others who've played her.
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More: Rob Lowe Is JFK in First Photo from ‘Killing Kennedy’ Rob Lowe to Play JFK, Or At Least Bill O’Reilly’s Version of JFL Who’s Worn Jackie Kennedy’s Look Better?
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