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Godzilla goes on rampage; Black Keys turn blue

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Godzilla

MOVIES

Big release: Godzilla (May 16)

Big picture: We all know the mighty Godzilla can take down the likes of Tokyo, New York and Mothra! But how will the monster fare against a one-time monstrous meth cook? Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad) headlines this remake alongside a strong cast, including Elizabeth Olsen and Juliette Binoche. It's a major improvement on Hollywood's disastrous 1998 remake of Godzilla, in which I spent the entire film hoping the big guy would turn Matthew Broderick into an appetizer. This time around, Godzilla looks more sinister and organic -- a plausible force of nature instead of solely a force of CG. The movie's scenes of big-city devastation are by now familiar to lovers of the disaster genre, although it's comforting to know the Statue of Liberty would only lose an arm and bruise a cheek if she went up against Godzilla (she's a tough lady). This 3D reimagining of Godzilla is also about humanity getting its comeuppance. You know, payback for nuclear waste, playing god, poisoning our environment -- all that fun stuff we're good at. We helped create -- or at least provoke -- this scaly, long-tailed apocalypse; He is the ultimate "natural disaster."

Forecast: You had me at "Bryan Cranston versus Giant Lizard." In fact, I would have made that the film's title. Maybe Godzilla can land a new public service gig like Smokey Bear: "Only you can prevent climate change... and me."

Honourable Mention: Million Dollar Arm: Brought to you by Disney, this one takes its playbook from a combination of Slumdog Millionaire, Major League and Jerry Maguire. Jon Hamm takes time away from playing a scheming ad man to play a J.B., a scheming sports agent. In this biographical, family-friendly sports drama, J.B. travels to India with a truly wacky scheme to find baseball's next ace pitcher on the cricket pitch. Sure enough, he discovers two young, rural boys who might have what takes to be the next Cy Young, but they'll have to come to America and learn how to play baseball first -- likely during various cheesy, orchestra-scored montages! Of course, they'll also teach J.B. that life isn't all about money and career success. (I guarantee you'll see Hamm smile more in two hours than you have in seven seasons of Mad Men.)

TV

Big Event: Riot (May 13, FOX, 9 p.m.)

Big picture: It's Whose Line is it Anyway? meets American Gladiator. Hosted by Australian comic Rove McManus, this Steve Carell-produced competition pits comedians and other celebs against one another in improv challenges on a shifting, slanted stage. Special guest competitors include Carell himself, Jason Alexander and Canada's Tom Green. See a weekly roster of modern-day clowns embrace challenges involving song, dance and sketches -- all while trying to keep their wit razor sharp and their feet firmly planted.

Forecast: A stage where flailing comics literally fall flat! The Muppets' Statler and Waldorf will be in heaven. (Riot is Fozzie Bear's own personal hell.)

MUSIC

Big releases on May 13: Michael Jackson (Xscape); The Black Keys (Turn Blue)

Big picture: How should you feel about a hodgepodge of unreleased Michael Jackson material (1983-1989) delivered to us by a hodge-podge of producers and featuring cameos by the likes of Justin Timberlake and Mary J. Blige? If your answer is "like I need a shower," you're on my wavelength. Disco-pop track Love Never Felt So Good, co-written by Canadian Paul Anka shortly after the release of Thriller, reminds us of Michael's old magic. But this album feels like it's finishing unfinished business the King of Pop never wanted finished to begin with. Meanwhile, today's greatest rock band, The Black Keys (sorry Coldplay; keep trying) is ready to paint the town blue. This dazzling duo returns with more fuzzy rock, irresistible bass hooks and infectious percussion. Producer Brian Burton (Danger Mouse) proves he knows which keys to push.

Forecast: Xscape offers no moonwalk; it feels more like a calculated walk to the bank. (It won't be long before Jackson's hologram is on tour.) As for Turn Blue, I'll add it to my collection of must-have albums with the title "blue" in it: Joni Mitchell's Blue, Miles Davis' Kind of Blue, Wilco's Sky Blue Sky... and Backstreet Boys' Black & Blue.

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Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 11, 2014 ??65527

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