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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Joan Rivers is one of the most enduring comics in show business. She began her career as a guest on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson in 1965 and recently returned to The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon after a 26-year ban. This is a moment of vindication for Rivers and her loyal fans, as she experienced many professional and personal highs and lows in between. The fact that Rivers is still in show business is amazing, but it is not unfathomable. Rivers is a hard worker, and below are significant lessons that we can learn from her sustained success throughout the years.
Dare to Be Different
Rivers made a name for herself by being one of the first female comics of her day, and she wasn't afraid to tackle grand subjects like marriage, materialism, sexism, and social and cultural identity. It may be difficult to comprehend, but when Rivers began her career, she was pushing the envelope. The risk paid off and it established Rivers as a fearless female comic in a business dominated by men. Below is a clip from one of Rivers' early stand-up performances.
Work harder than anyone else
Despite Rivers' status as the first female late night talk show host, she hasn't rested on her laurels. She continues to do stand-up in less than desirable towns across America, and she currently appears on three separate programs, Fashion Police on E!, Joan & Melissa: Joan Knows Best? on WE, and In Bed with Joan, an internet talk show. Rivers proves that you have to work hard to become successful, and you should never consider yourself "above" a certain job. Below is a clip from the television series Louie in which Rivers teaches fellow comic Louis C.K. a valuable lesson about success.
Always Maintain a Sense of Humor
Rivers has gotten through many tough times, including the suicide of her husband Edgar Rosenberg after he and Rivers were fired from The Late Show by FOX executives over creative differences. After Rosenberg killed himself, Rivers struggled with numerous debts and a young daughter to raise. Rivers describes this as the low point of her life, and claims that her sense of humor helps her persevere through difficult experiences. Below is an example of this, as Rivers jokes her way through a less than desirable gig in Wisconsin.
Unlike other public figures, Rivers doesn't hold anything back. In the conversation below, she is asked whether or not her public image represents her true self. "Who knows? Who cares?" Rivers candidly responds. She is self-aware enough to admit that fame has changed her, and that her devotion to her career has clouded her view of herself. The lesson here is that it's important to be honest and truthful, and in Rivers' case, this means owning up to the idea that she may not have an authentic self. How many other celebrities are brave enough to admit this?
Splash News / Marvel
It seems that Marvel has hit the ground running with its four upcoming Netflix series. Hot off the news that Drew Goddard has been approached to write and produce Daredevil, Marvel has also approached Twilight writer Melissa Rosenberg to write and produce its Jessica Jones series. Now before the pitchforks are brandished and several villages are burned to the ground by the comic book fans who are instantly turned off by the Twilight brand, Rosenberg has had a wealth of experience in television and film beyond the realm of sparkly vampires. It should also be noted that the writer was involved with ABC's now defunct attempt to bring Jessica Jones to the small screen, AKA Jessica Jones, so she has experience with the character. It also helps that a woman is writing a series that finally features a female superhero, something which the cinematic Marvel universe has been in serious need of.
In the comics, Jessica Jones is a costumed superhero/private investigator that has rubbed shoulders with the likes of Daredevil and Spider-Man. She is romantically involved with fellow superhero Luke Cage, who will also be getting his own Netflix series in the coming years. The character was introduced in the critically acclaimed comic book series Alias, a book that many consider to be a landmark title in comic book history.
Hopefully, Rosenberg is as up for the task as her résumé leads us to believe. Her previous work includes writing for the early seasons of Dexter (the good ones) and a number of episodes for strong, clever shows like The O.C. and Ally Mcbeal, both of which feature some strong female characters and a fun amount of wit that every comic book series needs.
This news coupled with Goddard's Daredevil signing shows that the Marvel brass is doing its best to select the perfect creator to write and produce each one of their series. The comic giant has found success in allowing its creatives to steer the ship on their projects. Marvel's key to success is in the way that its characters feel distinctive in their solo outings. Just as each individual comic book series has its own writer and penciler to fill in and color the world with their own sensibilities, Marvel has let the writers and directors of their films put their own style and influence into each film. Kenneth Brannagh was allowed to give Thor a nice helping of Shakespearian gravitas and tragedy that made the God of Thunder feel mythic. Joss Whedon put his trademark wit into the mouths of The Avengers, which helped each member of the team shine. James Gunn and Edgar Wright, who are directing Guardians of the Galaxy and Ant-Man respectively, also stand to give each film their own individual touch that will fit in and highlight the best parts of the properties' characters. Most importantly, Marvel is choosing writers and directors that fans feel safe entrusting their beloved characters to. Hopefully, their winning streak continues when Jessica Jones hits Netfix's streaming service.
The first and most important thing you should know about Paramount Pictures’ Thor is that it’s not a laughably corny comic book adaptation. Though you might find it hokey to hear a bunch of muscled heroes talk like British royalty while walking around the American Southwest in LARP garb director Kenneth Branagh has condensed vast Marvel mythology to make an accessible straightforward fantasy epic. Like most films of its ilk I’ve got some issues with its internal logic aesthetic and dialogue but the flaws didn’t keep me from having fun with this extra dimensional adventure.
Taking notes from fellow Avenger Iron Man the story begins with an enthralling event that takes place in a remote desert but quickly jumps back in time to tell the prologue which introduces the audience to the shining kingdom of Asgard and its various champions. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) son of Odin is heir to the throne but is an arrogant overeager and ill-tempered rogue whose aggressive antics threaten a shaky truce between his people and the frost giants of Jotunheim one of the universe’s many realms. Odin (played with aristocratic boldness by Anthony Hopkins) enraged by his son’s blatant disregard of his orders to forgo an assault on their enemies after they attempt to reclaim a powerful artifact banishes the boy to a life among the mortals of Earth leaving Asgard defenseless against the treachery of Loki his mischievous “other son” who’s always felt inferior to Thor. Powerless and confused the disgraced Prince finds unlikely allies in a trio of scientists (Natalie Portman Stellan Skarsgard and Kat Dennings) who help him reclaim his former glory and defend our world from total destruction.
Individually the make-up visual effects CGI production design and art direction are all wondrous to behold but when fused together to create larger-than-life set pieces and action sequences the collaborative result is often unharmonious. I’m not knocking the 3D presentation; unlike 2010’s genre counterpart Clash of the Titans the filmmakers had plenty of time to perfect the third dimension and there are only a few moments that make the decision to convert look like it was a bad one. It’s the unavoidable overload of visual trickery that’s to blame for the frost giants’ icy weaponized constructs and other hybrids of the production looking noticeably artificial. Though there’s some imagery to nitpick the same can’t be said of Thor’s thunderous sound design which is amped with enough wattage to power The Avengers’ headquarters for a century.
Chock full of nods to the comics the screenplay is both a strength and weakness for the film. The story is well sequenced giving the audience enough time between action scenes to grasp the characters motivations and the plot but there are tangential narrative threads that disrupt the focus of the film. Chief amongst them is the frost giants’ fore mentioned relic which is given lots of attention in the first act but has little effect on the outcome. In addition I felt that S.H.I.E.L.D. was nearly irrelevant this time around; other than introducing Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye the secret security faction just gets in the way of the movie’s momentum.
While most of the comedy crashes and burns there are a few laughs to be found in the film. Most come from star Hemsworth’s charismatic portrayal of the God of Thunder. He plays up the stranger-in-a-strange-land aspect of the story with his cavalier but charming attitude and by breaking all rules of diner etiquette in a particularly funny scene with the scientists whose respective roles as love interest (Portman) friendly father figure (Skarsgaard) and POV character (Dennings) are ripped right out of a screenwriters handbook.
Though he handles the humorous moments without a problem Hemsworth struggles with some of the more dramatic scenes in the movie; the result of over-acting and too much time spent on the Australian soap opera Home and Away. Luckily he’s surrounded by a stellar supporting cast that fills the void. Most impressive is Tom Hiddleston who gives a truly humanistic performance as the jealous Loki. His arc steeped in Shakespearean tragedy (like Thor’s) drums up genuine sympathy that one rarely has for a comic book movie villain.
My grievances with the technical aspects of the production aside Branagh has succeeded in further exploring the Marvel Universe with a film that works both as a standalone superhero flick and as the next chapter in the story of The Avengers. Thor is very much a comic book film and doesn’t hide from the reputation that its predecessors have given the sub-genre or the tropes that define it. Balanced pretty evenly between “serious” and “silly ” its scope is large enough to please fans well versed in the source material but its tone is light enough to make it a mainstream hit.
Norm Zada, 59, admits he has been in love with 76-year-old Rivers for over 30 years after meeting her backstage at a comedy show.
He told her about his lasting crush when he became a subject on her new TV show How Did You Get So Rich - and Rivers was so taken by his loyalty she agreed to date the former mathematics professor-turned-publisher.
What makes the odd romance even odder is Zada made a name for himself by refusing to work with cosmetically-enhanced models - and now he's dating perhaps the world's poster woman for nips and tucks.
Zada reportedly launched Perfect 10 in the mid-1990s after a friend was rejected from the pages of Playboy magazine because her proportions did not fit the magazine's tastes.
But despite his own personal taste for 'real' women, Zada has always found Rivers "intriguing" and "fascinating".
He says, "I was in love with Joan for quite a while back, about 30 years ago... but I had to admire from afar. I got that. She was happily married.
"Then all of sudden they decide to do this show about how I made my money and I had an opportunity to meet her in person - and we got along very well.
"I've always had a lot of respect for her and now we're dating. It's just started and I'm supposed to see her in L.A. when she next comes here. She is a very intriguing lady.
"I would say I have a fascination with her. I've met a lot of natural beautiful models in my time, but I can appreciate women who are incredibly intelligent and are so interesting to be around and learn from, I've always told people that without a high IQ I don't care how attractive the women is, I can't personally get interested in her. Joan is at the very end of the spectrum in terms of IQ.
And Rivers has confirmed she and Zada are an item; her publicist states, "Joan is dating Norm Zada.
Zada, the son of Fuzzy Logic computer scientist Lotfi Zadeh, previously worked at IBM and was an adjunct mathematics professor at Stanford University, Columbia University and UCLA, where he penned textbooks on computer science.
He turned his back on academia to become a professional poker player before starting up the Perfect 10 empire.
His glossy full of lovelies wrapped up business in 2007, but the enterprising businessman still oversees the spin-off website and remains one of Los Angeles' most powerful players, living among the rich and famous like Denzel Washington, Sylvester Stallone and Rod Stewart in Beverly Park, where Rivers was a recent guest.
And he's already planning a future with the comedienne, who has been single since her beloved husband Edgar Rosenberg died in 1987.
Zada adds, "I would like to go out to lunch with her for the next five years, absolutely, because every meeting would be intriguing.
"I absolutely adore her and just love the IQ and the knowledge and the enlightenment. She's a great dinner companion. We're going to have fun together because I'm going to love talking to her and hopefully she won't hate talking to me.
Rivers isn't Zada's first funny gal - he briefly romanced beloved comedienne Lucille Ball.
Zada reveals, "She used to call me 'The Computer' and I would go visit her at her home on Roxbury in Beverly Hills, and we basically just played backgammon... We were very close.
"But Joan is actually a lot funnier in person than Lucy was... Joan Rivers is in a class by herself.".