Independence Day

Godzilla 2014

In order to convince David Straithairn’s Admiral Stenz not to use nuclear power to annihilate the giant behemoths quickly approaching American soil, Ken Watanabe’s Dr. Serizawa brandishes a deceivingly quotidian object: a stopped pocket watch. It was Dr. Serizawa’s father’s during the bombing of Hiroshima, an instructive moment in history now literally frozen in time as a cautionary token. Though Ken Watanabe looks nowhere near 70, my (I thought, reasonable) assumption during this scene of Gareth Edwards’ Godzilla was that Dr. Serizawa’s father had immediately perished alongside tens of thousands of others during the infamous 1945 atomic bombing. But regardless of this emblem’s status as a memento of death on a massive scale, that Dr. Serizawa’s father survived Hiroshima and Dr. Serizawa is a healthy mid-50s man now seems far more likely considering this film’s view of tragedy. Despite its keeping with the summer movie tradition of mass destruction, despite its conflagration of images evoking recent tragedies from the Fukushima to Katrina, and despite updating a film 60 years its junior that was in no way afraid of dealing with violent devastation head-on, 2014’s Godzilla is not a monster movie about understanding tragedy. It is instead a rather strange film about survivors, and it demonstrates how disingenuously low-stakes studio summer movies have become.

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Independence Day White House

Will Smith isn’t going to star in the promised/threatened Independence Day sequel. If we’re all being honest, that’s not really a big deal except to Hollywood accountants still using actuarial tables from 2008 — he was hardly the only lifeline in the 1996 alien invasion flick, and a cigar-chomping cameo might be more exciting than seeing him monopolize the plot. The bigger question is why we need a sequel to it in the first place, but not in the typical insta-response way that decades-later sequels (and remakes) typically provoke. After all, you could look at Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps and think, “Fine, there’s something new to say about greed in a post-Goldman Sachs era.” For ID Forever Part One (Part one!), it’s an exhausting prospect that we’ve got to fight the aliens again and save the planet again and escape that flaming traffic tunnel with the Labrador again. I hope you’ve all been training.

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the_last_starfighter_3

By the time I read Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game, I had already read a few Harry Potter books and I couldn’t help but think of the earlier sci-fi work initially as “Harry Potter in space.” It’s a comparison that continues for many now that the movie is out. “Harry Potter meets Star Wars,” claims a blurb used in UK ads credited to Sky Movies host Craig Stevens. And if you search Twitter for “Ender’s Game and Harry Potter” the results of both titles mentioned together is aplenty. All this is natural for the lazy way we relate movies to each other. The sad thing is some kids might think of the new movie as a derivative piece of YA fiction modeled after J.K. Rowling’s boy wizard. I don’t know if Potter was at all influenced by Ender’s Game. It’s not like Card’s book was the first messianic tale. The website TV Tropes even labels the relevant trope as “A Child Shall Lead Them,” a Biblical quote that also appears at the top of the New York Times review of the movie, in which critic Manohla Dargis breaks out the ol’ “Christ figure” descriptor for the main character. Still, I wish that I’d both read and seen the Harry Potters after reading/seeing Ender’s Game. If you’ve somehow avoided all the Hogwarts adventures before going to Battle School with the new Ender’s adaptation, consider yourself lucky. Watch the entire series now to see what I’m talking about. And right there I’ve got […]

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lawrence-mystique

We’re a little bit exhausted by the summer of 2013. To take a break from it, we wanted to look into the future, and even though there’s a giant conversation to be had about Untitled Marvel Studios Movie hitting in 2016, we figured we’d keep it simple by only jumping ahead a year. So we’ll be getting excited about the bursting-with-potential summer movies of 2014, and Geoff will answer a listener’s screenwriting question focused on which character romantic comedies should focus on. Plus, we’ve got an outstanding piece of orchestral music fresh out of a Warner Bros. studio to share with you. It’s from a promising young composer with a Reddit-worthy story. For more from us on a daily basis, follow the show (@brokenprojector), Geoff (@drgmlatulippe) and Scott (@scottmbeggs) on the Twitter. And, as always, we welcome your feedback. Download Episode #23 Directly Or subscribe Through iTunes

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commentary-id4

In the summer of 1996, Will Smith became a bona fide box office star with the blockbuster hit Independence Day. It was a time of sunny outlooks for all involved. Co-star Jeff Goldblum was fresh off two successful Jurassic Park movies. Director Roland Emmerich had not yet made the disastrous Godzilla. Smith was a good decade away from making movies that star his yet-to-be-born son Jaden. Emmerich and writing/producing partner Dean Devlin recorded a commentary for Independence Day several years after its release when it hit DVD. Recorded at a time before full-blown CGI effects were the norm for pretty much everything in a Hollywood production, Emmerich and Devlin tend to focus on the spectacle of the film, but they still offer some interesting insight into its development and writing.

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The_Impossible_13454997278218

This weekend’s release of The Impossible has reminded me of another film involving the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, a documentary titled From Dust. You’ve likely never seen it. The IMDb listing shows only 13 users have rated the film (compare that to the already 3,786 voters on The Impossible‘s page), and my review from the 2006 Tribeca Film Festival remains the only one linked there. But it is easily rented or bought through Amazon Instant Video (or seen free on CultureUnplugged.com). And I think a producer or screenwriter looking for an idea for a movie could be inspired by the David vs. Goliath tale it tells. From Dust is about a fishing village and a coastal city in Sri Lanka dealing with the aftermath of the disaster, which destroyed the area with 13-foot-high tidal waves. The people have been forbidden from rebuilding their homes through a government mandate, which is either for their safety or for the opportunistic benefit of the state, depending on what you believe. Eight years later, I’m unaware of what happened to the subjects in the documentary, or their land, but the idea and the issue of building hotels and resorts upon the ashes of a catastrophe is not exactly limited to this story. Nor is, as we’ve seen post-Sandy, the argument over who is responsible for rebuilding after devastation.

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When I first heard there was going to be a Red Dawn remake, I didn’t see the need. Even in a post-9/11 world, in which we have experienced a foreign attack on U.S. soil — unlike when the 1984 original could tout its related tagline of “In our time, no foreign army has ever occupied American soil. Until now.” — we don’t have the sort of Cold War worries of being taken over by an enemy superpower, regardless of the plausibility. We’ve entered a different kind of era of fear, of terrorists striking rather than foreign armies invading. In the last 20 years it has made more sense to see alien invasion films like Independence Day and War of the Worlds, because extraterrestrials seemed the more likely foreigners to conquer America if any. And to an extent — especially given a certain ID4-ish plan involving defeating the invaders via their own communications system — the producers could have just changed the enemy in the Red Dawn remake from Chinese to aliens rather than to North Koreans. For one thing, it would remove any claims of racism or direct xenophobia on the part of the film. For another thing, we once saw aliens often employed as stand-ins for our “red” enemies and could just reference that as logic for how it could still be “Red Dawn” but now be science fiction (actually, the original Red Dawn is a kind of sci-fi). More than anything, though, it just doesn’t matter who the […]

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So, Barack Obama is keeping his job as our next President of the United States. Neat. While morale is no doubt varied because of this, I’m sure the one thing we can all agree is that 100% of us would rather see our mother get punched in the face than deal with another second of politics. So to ease us back into reality and adjust our eyes to the light, here is a list of made up presidents in films. Guys who, no matter what party affiliation, we can all agree would beat out either of this year’s candidates. And by “beat out,” I mean with fists.

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Independence Day (1996) Movie

Our new best friend, German movie site FilmStarts, appears to be getting a hell of a lot of mileage out of their White House Down set visit, as their latest exclusive (“exklusiv” in German, which is much better) reveals the apparent titles for the upcoming Independence Day sequels. And, much like last week’s late reveal of the Star Trek sequel title, let’s prepare for everyone to flip their wigs over something that doesn’t really amount to much. The site shares that director Roland Emmerich informed them that this two sequels to his beloved American classic (this is our beloved American classic!) would be called ID Forever – Part 1 and ID Forever – Part 2. Stirring stuff. Any relation to Batman Forever? Emmerich also revealed that, per Google Translate, the films are “not used individually, therefore, but a package to be.” The assumed meaning is that the films will be shot together, which makes the most sense, at least technically and economically speaking. Emmerich also let on that’s he “has an aversion to 3D” and won’t film in the format, though he does assume that his sequels would be available in said format, thanks to the magic of post-production. [FilmStarts, via Bleeding Cool and ComingSoon]

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Patton After Dark

What is Movie News After Dark? It’s a nightly movie news column that is often written drunk, especially on national holidays. We spent all day celebrating America in all her imperfect, boldly designed glory. No matter where you fall on the current state of American politics and culture, the beauty of it is that you’re free to think and say whatever you want. Around here, we like to say all kinds of things about moving pictures. Some call them movies. They are the backbone of this very nightly column, one that takes you around the movie blogosphere, already in the midst of its celebration of America. If you’re still sober enough to read these words, then you’re ready to do the news.

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A League of Their Own

There have been times in my life when I’ve been invited to things. I usually end up having to work or sleep or do something far less interesting, but I’ve been known, from time to time, to make my presence known at a holiday gathering or two. One particular holiday of which I’ve long been a fan is the fourth of July. From fireworks on the National Mall to suburban block parties to back yard BBQs that end with various limbs in danger (thanks to the backyard BBQ’s constant cohort, the backyard fireworks display), I’ve never been one to shy from a few cold ones and grilled meat in celebration of this wonderful nation. It’s for the troops, for the American dream and for future generations that I imbibe. And because it’s a good time, of course. Another great Fourth of July tradition is that of getting out of the heat, before the fireworks start, and seeing a movie in a nice air conditioned theater, be it the multiplex or the couchiplex. Nothing says America like some good old fashioned Hollywood commerce. Which brings us to this week’s Pop Quiz question: what is your go-to Fourth of July movie? 

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Criterion Files

Of the 600+ films in The Criterion Collection, almost 200 are listed as from the United States. While not all of these films are explicitly thematically based  around life in the US, the American selections for the Collection do make up a mosaic of diverse perspectives on life in this country, proving that there is no sustainable solitary understanding of what it means to be an “American,” but there exists instead an array of possibilities for interpreting American identity. What the American films do have in common, though, is provide proof that excellent films have been made in the US for quite some time. So, after exhausting yourself with Independence Day Parades, firecracker-lighting, and Budweiser, settle down with a great American movie. Here are a dozen great titles from the Criterion Collection about “America” and “freedom” in the many senses of those terms.

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So I was watching the film The Descendants, and I couldn’t help but to laugh my ass off when the grandfather points to Nick Krause’s dumb-ass character and says “I’m going to hit you.” – Then, without any room for discussion he proves to be a man of his word. It got me thinking about some of the other great comedic punches out there, and soon enough I was assigning my wonder into list form. Violence and comedy together at last!

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What is Movie News After Dark? It’s a nightly movie news column that would like to be the first to welcome you to Earf… We begin tonight with news that will make all 4 of you die hard Roland Emmerich fans out there: Fox is looking to make two Independence Day sequels, with or without Will Smith. It feels like an outlandish rumor, but it wouldn’t surprise anyone if it really came to fruition. Either way, we’ll all probably watch them, right?

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Back in 1996, a little movie about Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum saving the world from aliens was a gigantic success. It was called Independence Day, it showed the White House getting blown up, and it raked in about $800m in worldwide sales. I don’t have any numbers in front of me to prove this next statement, but let me shuffle some papers around on my desk to pretend like I have them somewhere and then just say it: Independence Day is one of the biggest box office successes of the last 20 years to not get a sequel. In a society where everyone is always asking for more, it’s crazy that we’ve only seen Smith punch an alien once. And that’s not just me talking, Fox thinks it’s crazy too. That’s why, since back in 2009, they’ve been doing everything they can to get back-to-back Independence Day sequels off the ground. The holdup has been money issues. First, director Roland Emmerich wanted an undisclosed, but very hefty sum of money to come back and blow up some more famous landmarks. And then star Will Smith was reportedly asking for $50mto come on board the lengthy shoot. Spending that much money just to get two men attached to a project would be pretty asinine, so things had stalled out on the Independence Day sequels front, until very recently. Vulture is reporting that an inside source has let them know that the finishing touches are being put on the scripts for […]

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When Zoolander came out on September 28, 2001, the production had digitally removed The World Trade Center’s Twin Towers from the New York City skyline in an effort to avoid displaying a devastating image in the middle of a comedy about the world of fashion. If they’d have left it in, it wouldn’t have been the first time the buildings had been featured on film or television. Since they didn’t, it marks the first time the buildings were ever erased. With the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on 9/11 coming this Sunday, it’s impossible not to be consumed a bit by the gravity of an action that killed so many and lowered a different world view onto all of us. Landon and I talked on Reject Radio regarding the effect that the day had on movies and movie-watchers, but that mostly dealt with the last decade – the world that came after that morning. As a counterpart, here’s a simply-edited montage of the past. Dan Meth has built a view to the movies where the Twin Towers either stood proudly in the background, made prominent appearances in the front of the action, or acted as the set. It’s stirring in its matter-of-factness, and it’s more than a little moving, but it’s ultimately a celebration of a symbol that no longer (physically) exists. Check it out for yourself:

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Culture Warrior

A genre nearly as old as filmmaking itself, the western thrived throughout the years of the studio system but has zigzagged across rough terrain for the past forty or so years. For the last fifteen-ish years, the struggling, commercially unfriendly genre was either manifested in a neoclassical nostalgic form limited in potential mass appeal (Appaloosa, Open Range) or in reimagined approaches that ran the gamut between contrived pap and inspired deconstructions (anything from Wild Wild West to The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford). But last December, True Grit – a bona fide western remake that relied on the opportunities available in the genre’s conventions rather than bells, whistles, or ironic tongues in their respective cheeks – became a smash hit. Did this film reinvigorate a genre that was on life support, as the supposed revitalization of the musical is thought to have done a decade ago, or are westerns surviving by moving along a different route altogether? Three westerns released so far this year – Gore Verbinski’s Rango, Kelly Reichardt’s Meek’s Cutoff, and, as of this weekend, Jon Favreau’s Cowboys & Aliens – suggest mixed directions for the dusty ol’ genre.

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Boiling Point

Science Fiction has seen somewhat of a resurgence these past few years, bringing dozens of different aliens to Earth’s surface via cinema screens. Tom Cruise battled aliens in War of the Worlds, aliens broke down in South Africa over District 9, and more recently Transformers waged war on our planet, Los Angeles was invaded, and a subterranean alien was interrogated in a small town, only to escape. No matter what year it happened, one thing is clear: when aliens come in peace, all is well. When they don’t, well, they’re the ones in for an ass whooping. Not that it makes much sense, considering alien species that manage to make it to Earth are often technologically advanced, super strong, intelligent, and sporting a massive boner for our resources, not to mention laser guns. Despite all of this, when have aliens ever managed a successful takeover? Not only that – when have aliens ever managed to not look like completely retarded asshats, who pretty much design their own downfall as if they were Death Star engineers?

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Why Watch? Because Dr. Seuss wants to tell you how to behave now that the war is over. Dr. Seuss and Frank Capra teamed up for this educational film shown to military personnel stationed in Germany after the war was won. As they point out, it’s a delicate peace. There can be a comedic quality to the way this film is presented (especially in light of its treatment of German history), but it’s also important to see this in the context of when and why it was created. It was a film specifically meant to keep its audience on its guard long after they finished watching it. It was also a serious flick made by two men with strong senses of humor. Sadly, unlike Seuss’s other work, none of it rhymes. What does it cost? Just 12 minutes of your time. Check out Your Job in Germany for yourself:

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Junkfood Cinema

Welcome back to Junkfood Cinema; we will not go quietly into the night. You are about to read one of the worst internet columns in the history of mankind. No longer consumed by our petty need for legitimately good films, we here at Junkfood Cinema are united by our common interest in the utterly schlocky. First we will examine how the chosen film has earned its freedom from the tyranny of nuance and the oppression of critical measures of quality. We will then triumphantly raise our voices to proclaim what it is about the film that allows it to survive total annihilation and win not only the day, but our hearts as well. Finally, we will pair the film with an appropriately themed snack food item in order to prove that our waistlines will not vanish without a fight. Today we celebrate Roland Emmerich’s Independence Day!

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