The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas on May 22, 1998 · Page 27
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The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas · Page 27

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Salina, Kansas
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Friday, May 22, 1998
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Page 27
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THE SALINA JOURNAL encore! FRIDAY, MAY 22, 1998 D3 Courtesy photo Realizing that he is standing inside one of Godzilla's colossal footprints, a dumbfounded Dr. Nick Tatopoulos, played by Matthew Broderick, becomes fully aware of the creature's Immense size. Updated 'Godzilla'fails to match the charm of earlier, B-movie attempts FROM PAGE D1 He doesn't lumber across Manhattan — he sprints. You've seen his foot — lean and muscular, not flabby and rubber. The whole design is top secret — but I've seen the new "Godzilla," and most of his fat has been chiseled away, reinventing Godzilla as more of a monster triathlete. How did this happen? Patrick Tatopoulos, who designed the aliens for "Independence Day," was asked by Emmerich to design Godzilla. "I said, 'It's already designed. Why would you want to do a remake? People like the man in the suit,' " Tatopoulos recalled. Emmerich had a 1990s version of Godzilla in mind. "Roland told me he wanted to create more of an animal creature that could run 500 miles per hour through the streets of New York," Tatopoulos said. "So, obviously, I couldn't use the old design. I tried to be very respectful of Godzilla and do something new. I started from scratch." One TriStar employee wasn't impressed with the new Godzilla. "He looks like the alien in 'Alien,' " the employee said. Audiences probably won't snicker when Godzilla takes out Madison Square Garden and flattens the Brooklyn Bridge. Thanks to digital special effects, Godzilla fights submarines, swallows helicopters, burrows under Manhattan — and he looks smashing doing it. But critics have lamblasted the movie, saying its the latest in a line of Hollywood spectacles that are . strong on special effects and woefully short on story. Still, everyone expects it to bring in movie-goers. "'Godzilla' will be a flat-out, no-questions hit," said Harold Vogel, an entertainment analyst with Cowen & Co., a New York brokerage firm. "It will dominate movie theaters for a week or two and flatten everything in its path." A monster without heart TriStar's parent company, Sony, is spending $120 million on worldwide marketing. You've seen the Taco Bell tie-ins. The toys went on the shelves Wednesday. Also planned are Godzilla Band-aids, beer, underwear and watches. Sony didn't make a movie. Sony is building a cottage industry. But can you make a slick, expensive version of a sweetly naive B-movie icon without losing the charm that made it an icon in the first place? "I'm worried a lot of the heart will be gone (in the new movie)," said Jim Cirronella, who owns Club Daikaiju, a New Jersey mail-order business that sells Japanese monster merchandise. "I don't think the filmmakers will capture the essence of 'Godzilla.' They want to make a big event, like 'Independence Day.' But they also make movies everyone forgets. "I saw 'ID' the first weekend it was out, and I've never wanted to see it again. What's the point? The story stinks, and I've already seen the effects." Sure, old Godzilla movies have much in common with porn flicks: a lot of pointless plot and bad acting sandwiched between a few minutes of action. And that's partly the point. A healthy suspension of disbelief and an active imagination goes a long way. Since "Jurassic Park" in 1993, who is still in awe of computer-generated dinosaurs? Computer-generated tidal waves? Cool and realistic, but the wonder is waning. "Hollywood has always thought Godzilla was just campy and hokey and that they could do it better," said John Roberto, the Brooklynite who organizes the annual Godzilla conventions. "The problem is, he lasted 40 years as campy and hokey." The New York shoot Last summer, a couple weeks after Nakajima, the man in the Godzilla suit, sat in that hotel bar, a fake rain poured on 20 yellow taxis in New York City's Flatiron district. The pavement was black and slick. A couple yards away it was gray and dry. This was halfway into "Godzilla's" four-week Manhattan shoot, and the big lizard was nowhere to be seen. He'd be added later in a computer. Instead he was felt. Sort of. Hydraulic jacks were hidden under the cabs. Emmerich yelled, "Action!" into a bullhorn and the jacks sprang, bouncing cars on the left side of the street a few inches into the air. Then someone yelled, "Go!" and Godzilla's invisible right foot dropped. Taxis on the right side of the street bounced a few inches into the air. The movie crew applauded. I watched from an office window. A businessman with red suspenders stood beside me. He slapped the wall with an open palm and yelled, "That is the single coolest thing I have ever seen in my entire life!" Birthed by the bomb Watching old "Godzilla" movies is like watching the best toy box on the planet spring to life — quite literally. Fire trucks flip with the smooth grace of balsa wood. Walls don't crumble so much as snap. Oceans curdle suspiciously like bath water. Monster skin doesn't glisten so much as sag like blubber. Or rubber. But the Big G's birth was pretty serious. "Godzilla" was created in Japan in 1954 at Toho studios, eight years after World War II ended and intended as a metaphor for the atom bomb. Months before filming began, a Japanese tuna boat got too close to Bikini Atoll, where the U.S. had been testing A-bombs. One fisherman died from radiation poisoning. Some of the contaminated fish were sold in Japanese markets. Creator Tomoyuki Tanaka decided then that his monster should be a creature spawned by atomic radiation. When "Godzilla, King of the Monsters" was released in Japan, the political subtext was obvious. The scenes of Tokyo laid to waste didn't look much different from archival footage of the destruction at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In the United States, additional scenes with Raymond Burr were inserted and the movie grossed a huge (for its time) $2 million. This, naturally led to Godzilla tangling with King Kong, a giant moth, a monster bird, a jumbo shrimp, a ball of pollution, a monster plant, and giant grasshoppers. By the late 1960s, Godzilla movies became monster tag-team wrestling matches. He was a good guy and friend of all annoying Japanese children. Pointless remake? Since then, Toho has made seven new Godzilla flicks with better special effects, but, more importantly, Godzilla has become a cultural icon on the order of Mickey Mouse and Superman. He has killed Bambi and had his own comic books, Saturday morning cartoons and toy lines. He even played a little one-on-one with Charles Barkley in Nike commercials. "We were subjected to some of the second-tier Godzilla movies on Mystery Science Theater 3000," said Mike Nelson, star and head writer of the weekly Sci-Fi Channel B-movie fest. "They were pretty bad. But you know, a lot of current, big-budget movies try hard to entertain and fail miserably on all levels because so many people have put their hands in the final product. "You can feel the focus groups lurking in the shadows. At least with B-movies, however fun or misguided they turned out to be, you could tell it came from a single vision." Godzilla is back, ironically, at a moment in Hollywood history when B-movie material ("Jurassic Park," "Twister") is being wrapped in A-budgets and A-pretense. "And aside from the money spent, you get the sense Hollywood isn't even trying to get over the hump of the B-movie," Nelson said. Devlin and Emmerich have said they would do "Godzilla" only if the new design was right — the story was always meant to be a retread of the original. Even Tatopoulos says, "No matter what we do, people are still going to be very attached to the old 'Godzilla.' That's because those movies are better." So why bother with a remake? "So people will believe now a dragon is alive." "We're going through a drought of strong filmmakers," said Jon Alexander, technical director at Industrial Light and Magic, the ground-breaking visual effects wing of Lucas Films. "So, much of the business is run by accountants. And special effects are going through a renaissance, so directors get like a kid in a candy shop. They don't know what they want, and they don't know how to use the tools yet. "Take 'Deep Impact.' It made a lot of money so far, but we did the effects for it, and special effects still couldn't make a bad movie wonderful." But can special effects make a wonderfully bad movie wonderful? Reeve won't jump into political career By The Associated Press '; WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. — From ''Superman" to congressman? Christopher Reeve isn't making that leap. Democratic leaders in New York were hoping to enlist the actor to run against Republican Rep. Sue Kelly in Reeve's home district in V^stchester County. But the actor said Thursday he's not interested. "I am flattered by people's interest but running for office is not something I am considering at this time," Reeve said. Dave Alpert, Westchester County's Democratic chairman, had written Reeve urging him to consider entering poetics. Reeve had dismissed similareuggestions two years ago, but Alpert was hoping to change the actor's mind. "A lot of people in the county want him to run," Alpert said. "He seems to be terrifically popular and very knowledgeable." Reeve, who gained fame playing Superman in movies, has urged politicians to devote more money to spinal cord research after he fell from a horse and was paralyzed. Birdhouses & Claire Burke Home Fragrances MUSEUM 211 Went Iron 'IV-8.-SaL 1U-S, Sun, l-fi T TELEVISION 'Seinfeld' viewers should grow up Acting like children is fun and fun to watch, but it's time to move on By FRAZIER MOORE The Associated Press NEW YORK — At the dawn of this uncertain new age — Life After "Seinfeld" — we can guess what Jerry is up to. He's in his fabulous new Upper West Side apartment, organizing his cereal boxes and running shoes. We know what NBC has settled on. This fall, it moves "Frasier" to fill Thursday's gaping "Seinfeld" hole. But what are we viewers doing? What in God's name are we doing?! What kind of lives are these, without "Seinfeld" pumping out more episodes to make light of the follies and frailties we share with its heroes? Last week, after years of glibly promising "No soupcon of a message for you," this glorious sitcom left us with a message. Its essence: "Repent, ye viewers!" Gulp. The wink "Seinfeld" had long shared with us was replaced with a glare. And if we don't mend our ways? Then we may fare no better than Jerry, Kramer, Elaine and George, last seen behind bars, atoning for the sins of their hilarious nine-season run. After 168 episodes of carte-blanche immaturity, Jerry and his pals got their comeuppance in a New England courtroom, found guilty of criminal indifference to society. Thus did "Seinfeld" sign off, turning against itself in order to warn its audience: Grow up, already! Not that there's anything wrong with that. In fact, there was a tune when kids wanted to grow up and be like the grownups they observed. Not now, of course. Now, youngsters only want adulthood's rights and privileges. Come to think of it, just like adults, who yearn to be children, and, in many cases, are. Oh, sure, occasionally someone on "Seinfeld" has had a startling brush with self-realization. "What are we doing?" sighed Jerry, beset by an epiphany several seasons ago. "What in God's name are we doing? What kind of lives are these? We're like children. We're not men!" "No, we're not," George sneered. "We're notmen!" Nor would they ever reach manhood. But Ricky Nelson did. His 21st birthday not only signaled an epochal name change to "Rick," but also inspired a rite-of-passage episode of "Ozzie and Harriet": Ozzie sponsored his son for membership in his men's club. The amazing truth is, Ricky and David saw their father as their role model. Jim Anderson, fedora and all, was a god to his son Bud on "Father Knows Best," as was Alex Stone with his doctor's bag to Jeff on "Donna Reed." No wonder we find shows like these hilarious to watch now. It's not because the clothes they wear are out-dated and the slang they use is square. No, we chortle at "Leave It to Beaver" because poor, misguided Beaver and Wally want to be just like their dad — and, if we're old enough, because we did too when we watched "Beaver" the first time. Soon we decided otherwise. In 1966, the year the earnest "Ozzie and Harriet" shuttered after 14 seasons on ABC, that network launched "Batman" with its Boom! Pow! Zotz! campiness. "Batman" certified a new era of ironic distance that rules pop culture to this day. And around the same time, this rallying cry caught on: "Don't trust anybody over 30." More than 30 years later, it's a philosophy still heeded, perhaps more widely than ever before. Even those of us who have passed into our 30s, and beyond, refuse to trust ourselves. Rather than solicit the wisdom of our elders, and let it percolate its way down to the young, we join the rest of society in taking our cues from youth, whose ideas are siphoned up the line, defying gravity and, oftentimes, good sense. But you can't fight growing old, so you might as well grow up. Band-Orchestra- Accessories 210 s. Santa Fe.Sallia 825-6296 1-800-202-1576 School Instrument Rental Headquarters Violins • Violas • Cello: Rent Them Today 1

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