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.
Colombian folk singer Carlos Vives topped the Latin Grammy nominations with six nods Wednesday, including album, record and song of the year.
Vives, who also won a Grammy this year for best traditional tropical Latin album, performs in the style of Vallenato, the traditional music of Colombia's northern plains, which is known for its simple lyrics about village life, The Associated Press reports.
"Me and my people are very happy," Vives told AP through a translator. "This shows that traditional music and rhythms that come from the heart can have appeal no matter the language."
The third annual Latin Grammys ceremony will take place Sept. 18 at the new Kodak Theatre in Hollywood, airing live on CBS.
Here is a list of nominations in some of the top categories:
Record of the Year
La Negra Tiene Tumbao, Celia Cruz; Sergio George, producer; Jon Fausty, engineer/mixer
Mentira, La Ley; Humberto Gatica and Kenny O'Brien, producers; Humberto Gatica, Cristian Robles and Eric Schilling, engineers/mixers
Se Me Olvido, Gian Marco; Emilio Estefan Jr. and Archie Pena, producers; Javier Garza, engineer/mixer
Y Solo Se Me Ocurre Amarte, Alejandro Sanz; Humberto Gatica and Kenny O'Brien, producers; Chris Brooke, Humberto Gatica and Eric Schilling, engineers/mixers
Dejame Entrar, Carlos Vives; Andres Castro, Emilio Estefan Jr., Sebastian Krys and Carlos Vives, producers; Javier Garza, engineer/mixer
Album of the Year
Sereno, Miguel Bose; Peter Walsh, producer; Alessandro Benedetti and Peter Walsh, engineers/mixers
La Negra Tiene Tumbao, Celia Cruz; Sergio George, Isidro Infante and Johnny Pacheco, producers; Mario deJesus and Jon Fausty, engineers/mixers
Jobiniando, Ivan Lins; Roberto Menescal, producer; Guilherme Reis, engineer/mixer
MTV Unplugged, Alejandro Sanz; Humberto Gatica and Kenny O'Brien, producers; Humberto Gatica, engineer/mixer
Dejame Entrar, Carlos Vives; Andres Castro, Emilio Estefan Jr., Sebastian Krys and Carlos Vives, producers; Javier Garza and Sebastian Krys, engineers/mixers
Song of the Year
A Dios Le Pido, Juanes; Juanes, songwriter
Dejame Entrar, Carlos Vives; Andres Castro, Martin Madera and Carlos Vives, songwriters
La Negra Tiene Tumbao, Celia Cruz; Sergio George and Fernando Osorio, songwriters
Morenamia, Miguel Bose; Miguel Bose, Lanfranco Ferrario and Massimo Grilli, songwriters
Y Solo Se Me Ocurre Amarte, Alejandro Sanz; Alejandro Sanz, songwriter
Best New Artist
Best Female Pop Vocal Album
Peces De Ciudad, Ana Belen
Secreta Intimidad, Cecilia Echenique
Vuela, Monica Molina
Viaje Infinito, Nicole
Muchas Flores, Rosario
Best Male Pop Vocal Album
Sereno, Miguel Bose
Sea, Jorge Drexler
Lerner Vivo, Alejandro Lerner
A Tiempo, Gian Marco
Mas De Mi Alma, Marco Antonio Solis
Producer Of The Year
Geronimo Labrada Jr., X Alfonso
Ana Lourdes Martinez Nodarse
Actress Jennifer Grey married actor-screenwriter Clark Gregg on the Martha's Vineyard beach on Saturday, People.com reports. Grey, 41, is best known for her role as Baby in the 1987 dance drama Dirty Dancing alongside Patrick Swayze. The two have been dating for about one year and are expecting their first child in December. Grey is the daughter of Joel Grey, who won an Oscar for Cabaret in 1972. Gregg's father, who is an Episcopal minister, performed the ceremony, which was an interdenominational mix of Jewish and Christian customs.
Twenty-one-year-old plus-size model Natasha Duncan reportedly committed suicide in her New York apartment on Saturday, ETonline.com reports. Duncan was discovered by her roommate, Johanna Edelberg, in the kitchen of their apartment lying face up in a pool of blood with a 12-inch kitchen knife near by. She apparently stabbed herself in the neck several times. A medical examiner will determine the exact cause of death. Though there was no suicide note, police found some indication that Duncan was depressed. Duncan's brother Alec told authorities he spoke to her just hours earlier and that she seemed upbeat but complained about her boyfriend, a kick boxing instructor.
Director Pedro Almodovar and his production company, El Deseo, are being accused by animal rights activists of violating an animal protection law during the filming Talk to Her in near Madrid, according to The Associated Press. The film is about a female bullfighter, played by Spanish singer Rosario Flores. El Deseo confirmed that Almodovar shot a scene and that four bulls died, but said that they have the necessary permits. A spokeswoman for the company said that the animals were killed in the least painful way possible. Animal Amnesty in Madrid told a news agency that an inexperienced bullfighter had made a slaughter with the animals in order to shoot a scene in the film. Almodovar could face a fine of up to $13,513.
A prisoner who escaped from jail with the help of an Eddie Murphy picture is back behind bars, Reuters reports. Kevin Pullum walked out of a Los Angeles jail on July 6 two hours after being convicted of attempted murder by presenting an identification card bearing a photo of Murphy. Pullum found an ad for the film Dr. Dolittle 2 and pasted Murphy's image on to an ID card. He walked out of the jailhouse wearing street clothes he had concealed under his prison uniform. Pullum was found sitting on a milk crate in the city's skid row area on Sunday. Police said he was a nervous Pullum produced another fake ID.
The trial for a man accused of burglarizing the home of model Jerry Hall in London has been delayed, Reuters reports. The burglary took place Sept. 27 while Hall was appearing in the London stage version of The Graduate. David Michael Bryce is accused of stealing jewelry, a candlestick and a laptop computer worth over $10,000. Hall is the former wife of Rolling Stones front man Mick Jagger.
Conan O'Brien has apologized and said he takes full responsibility for not bleeping out a racial slur by a comedian on his NBC late-night talk show, Reuters reports. Sarah Silverman used a derogatory term for Chinese people while telling a joke about trying to avoid jury duty by making herself out to be a bigot. After Media Action Network for Asian Americans demanded an apology from the network, NBC issued a statement last week saying it erred in airing the epithet. Silverman also issued a statement, calling the joke a social satire that was not intended to offend.
Writer Stephen King is working on a television series for ABC that will feature tales of a haunted hospital built over a graveyard, The Associated Press Reports. The Kingdom, which is based on a Danish TV miniseries directed by Lars von Trier, will be aired during the 2002-2003 season. It will begin with a two-hour installment, followed by 13 one-hour episodes. The series is being described as Twin Peaks meets E.R..
Napster will replace its interim CEO Hank Barry with an executive from its German backer, Bertelsmann AG, The Associated Press reports. Konard Hilbers, who was executive vice president and chief administrative officer at BMG Entertainment, will become CEO. Barry will remain with the company, serving on Napster's board of directors. The song-swapping network has not resumed service since July 12 when U.S. District Judge Marilyn Patel forced them to monitor its filtering system for pirated music more closely. No word yet on when the new legitimate pay-for-music Napster site will launch.
Actor Tom Hanks was elected governor to the actors branch of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the BBC News reports. Hanks will replace Gregory Peck, who could not complete the remaining year of his three-year term. The position will be up for re-election next year. Kathy Bates, who also serves as governor, was returned for a second three-year term. Other new board members include Curtis Hanson in the directors branch, Mark Johnson in the producers branch, and Freida Lee Mock in the new documentary branch.