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.
Top Story: Two More Academy Screeners Online
Hot on the heels of the revelation that two screeners intended for Academy members' use only were available online comes the news that two more screeners have been found floating around on the Internet, Associated Press reports. A VHS copy of House of Sand and Fog was found up for sale on eBay, and Cold Mountain was found available for download. The Los Angeles Times reports that while the latter has not been traced, House was found to belong to Ivan Kruglak, an Academy member who firmly denies putting the video on eBay, blaming the duplication house that made his copy. The DVD/video screeners, so dubbed because they allow Academy members to screen and judge Oscar contenders without having to attend theater screenings, have been the subjects of vociferous debate since their ban and its subsequent repeal last year. The Academy added tracking codes to each tape so any Academy member's copy found for sale or online for download could be easily traced back to its owner. Earlier in the week, the Academy said copies of Something's Gotta Give and The Last Samurai had been posted online.
Law Is Stronger and Happier Post-Divorce
In the wake of his breakup with Sadie Frost, his wife of nearly seven years, Jude Law says he is happier and stronger than before, AP reports. The 31-year-old star of Cold Mountain is looking on the bright side when it comes to his divorce: "It changes your life, I think, when you enter into a marriage and it can change it just as much as when you're part of a breakup," he said on British TV, "But I certainly feel stronger emotionally and happier in myself, if not a little battered and bruised." Frost cited Law's "unreasonable behavior" for adding to her post-natal depression after the birth of their third child, Rudy. They were divorced in October of last year.
Spears Blames Vegas Vibe For Wedding
Speaking on MTV's Total Request Live, Britney Spears claimed it was the atmosphere of Las Vegas that made her marry her childhood friend Jason Alexander in a late night ceremony, AP reports, and her belief in the institution of marriage remains unshaken. "I do believe in the sanctity of marriage, I totally do," said Spears, "(But) I was in Vegas, and it took over me." The marriage between the 22-year-olds was annulled two days after the January 3rd ceremony at the Little White Chapel. Spears declined to comment on her feelings for Alexander saying that information was "personal."
White Stripes Singer Pleads Innocent
Jack White, lead singer of the band the White Stripes, pleaded innocent in the misdemeanor aggravated assault case against him, AP reports. The Detroit native is charged with assaulting Von Blondies singer Jason Stollsteimer at a Detroit concert last month. White reportedly punched Stollsteimer in the face seven times, leaving him with a swollen eye and a bloody nose, according to police. White claims he struck in self-defense. The 28-year-old faces up to one year in jail and a $1,000 fine if convicted. White is currently appearing in a small role in the film, Cold Mountain and will soon attend the Grammy Awards where he and fellow Stripe Meg White are nominated for three Grammys.
Diana Ross' Ex-Husband Killed
Diana Ross' ex-husband, avid mountaineer Arne Naess, was killed Tuesday in a mountain climbing accident in South Africa, AFP reports. Naess, who was in his 60s, fell to his death sometime around 12:30 p.m. in the Western Cape Province town of Franschoek where he was visiting. The Norway native was married to Ross for 13 years in a union that produced two sons. The couple divorced in 1999. A formal inquest will be held to determine what lead to Naess' death.
The Passion To Open on 2,000 Screens
In an unusual move for a partially self-financed non-studio film, Mel Gibson's directorial effort The Passion of Christ will open in 2,000 theaters on Feb. 25, Reuters reports. The film, which depicts the last 12 hours in the life of Jesus and features Latin and Aramaic dialog, had trouble even finding a distributor due to its controversial subject matter. Gibson's own Icon Productions and independent distributor Newmarket Films will distribute the film, which has been praised by Christian religious groups for its accuracy. Some Jewish groups have expressed concern that the film might promote anti-Semitic feeling with its depiction of Jesus' death according to the New Testament.
MTV Reality Shows for Diaz, Duff
After the recent shuttering of Ashton Kutcher's successful Punk'd, MTV is ready to find new reality programming. MTV will begin airing a new round of programming this year starring such teen and teen-friendly stars as Cameron Diaz, Hilary Duff and Frankie Muniz, Variety reports. Diaz will be featured traveling the world, while Duff's project remains unspecified. Frankie Muniz of Fox's Malcolm in the Middle will co-create and star in a show in which high-school students get to live out their fantasies. All the projects are still listed as being in development.
Trump Slams CBS Boss Moonves
Real-estate mogul and newly minted reality star Donald Trump lashed out at CBS head Leslie Moonves Wednesday at a press conference to promote his NBC show, The Apprentice, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Trump, whose first attempt at reality programming seems to be a hit, attacked Moonves repeatedly during the press conference, calling CBS top dog, "the most highly overrated person in television." Moonves apparently incurred Trump's wrath when he failed to renew his contract to air Trump's Miss Universe pageant as well as two other beauty pageants also owned by the tycoon. "If Les Moonves was a contestant [on Apprentice], he would have been fired by the third episode," Trump told reporters, who responded with a mixture of gasps and nervous laughter.
Singer Gloria Estefan and her husband Emilio have obtained a permanent restraining order against Venezuelan actor-singer Juan Carlos Diaz, the Associated Press reports. Diaz, 33, was ordered to keep away from the Estefan family, home, businesses and gym. Diaz had previously accused Emilio Estefan of making unwelcome sexual advances toward him at the gym, but the Estefans sued Diaz for defamation and accused him of stalking them.
Warren Beatty has dropped out of the lead role in Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill and will be replaced by David Carradine. Tarantino told Variety: "Me and Warren and Lawrence [Bender] were having dinner the other night, and Warren said, 'Why haven't you gone to David Carradine with this?' And it became mutually obvious to us that this wasn't the one for me and Warren to do together." Carradine, who starred in the 1992 television series Kung Fu: The Legend Continues, will join Uma Thurman, Daryl Hannah and Lucy Liu when filming begins in June.
Paramount Pictures and Deep River Productions have acquired the screen rights to the classic CBS TV series The Honeymooners, Variety reports. Mad About You co-creator Danny Jacobson, who will be writing the script, said he will concentrate on the actual honeymoon rather than replicating the original episodes.
ABC has pulled the plug on the drama Once and Again starring Sela Ward, the New York Daily News reports. The show debuted in September 1999 to rave reviews, but a steady decline in ratings, which some speculate was caused by frequent scheduling moves, left programming executives wondering about the show's future. The final episode will air on April 15.
Following weeks of speculation, it appears as though the Grammy award show may be heading back to New York. According to Reuters, Grammys chief Michael Greene moved the awards show to Los Angeles in 1998 after a feud of sorts with former mayor Rudy Giuliani. Although officials at the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences declined to comment on the rumors, they did say a major announcement will be made next Wednesday at Madison Square Garden.
It seems Jennifer Lopez's plans to open her new Cuban-style family restaurant in Pasadena, Calif., in time for the Oscar rush didn't pan out. Although the necessary permits are in place, her publicist told People the eatery would open some time in April. The restaurant is located in Pasadena's historic retail shopping district.
Backstreet Boy A.J. McLean has put his two-year-old waterfront Orlando home up for sale, Launch.com reports. The 6,200-square-foot home--which has six bedrooms, five full bathrooms, an in-ground screen-enclosed swimming pool and a THX-equipped theater--can be yours for a cool $1.95 million. McLean is apparently interested in buying a bigger place in southern California.
George Clinton & Parliament/Funkadelic have announced the tour dates for the first leg of their upcoming spring tour, Launch.com reports. Known for their legendary showmanship, outrageous costumes and theatrical sets that feature a spacecraft called the Mothership, the funk musicians will begin their tour April 2 in Washington, D.C. No word on whether the Mothership will accompany the group.
Rodney Dangerfield received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on Wednesday, the AP. The 80-year-old comedian and star of Caddyshack was honored at a ceremony and praised by Jay Leno and Bob Saget. Although he suffered a mild heart attack last November, Dangerfield continues to perform regularly at Las Vegas' MGM Grand hotel and casino and is finishing his autobiography, It's Not Easy Being Me.
A hospital spokesman said Thursday that Grammy-winning singer Lyle Lovett was resting comfortably after being trampled by a bull Wednesday. Dr. Kevin Coupe, who performed the three-hour surgery on Lovett's badly broken leg, said 20 pieces of bone were broken in his leg and that a full recovery could take at least six months, CNN reports.
Rollling Stones guitarist Ron Wood has fallen off the wagon and checked himself into a rehabilitation clinic in Arizona, Sky News reports. This is not Wood's first time in rehab. In 2000, the musician checked into UK's The Priory for treatment of alcohol addiction. Wood is currently working on a solo album and will be joining the Stones' 40th anniversary tour later this year.