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.
The royal drama, about stuttering British monarch George VI, led the competition with 12 nominations going into this year's (11) Oscars, and edged out the likes of Black Swan, The Fighter, Inception and The Social Network to claim the most coveted title of the night.
Firth was crowned Best Actor in a Leading Role, emerging triumphant over Javier Bardem (Biutiful), Jeff Bridges (True Grit), Jesse Eisenberg (The Social Network) and James Franco (127 Hours).
Filmmaker Tom Hooper also basked in Oscar glory as he was hailed Best Director, beating Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan), David O. Russell (The Fighter), David Fincher (The Social Network) and Joel and Ethan Coen (True Grit).
Pregnant Natalie Portman fought back tears as she walked away with Best Actress in a Leading Role for her portrayal of a tormented ballet dancer in Black Swan, ahead of Annette Bening (The Kids Are All Right), Nicole Kidman (Rabbit Hole), Jennifer Lawrence (Winter's Bone) and Michelle Williams (Blue Valentine).
She gave special thanks to her Black Swan choreographer and fiance Benjamin Millepied, telling the audience, "So many people helped me prepare for this role... my beautiful love, Benjamin Millepied who choreographed the film and has now given me the most important role of my life."
It was also a golden night for The Fighter, about tough Boston, Massachusetts boxing legends Mickey Ward and Dickie Eklund, as Christian Bale and Melissa Leo dominated the Best Supporting categories.
Meanwhile, moviemaker Francis Ford Coppola, actor Eli Wallach and historian Kevin Brownlow were given a standing ovation in recognition of the lifetime achievement honours they received at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' Governors Awards in November (10). Fellow honouree Jean-Luc Godard did not attend the ceremony.
Oscars co-hosts Anne Hathaway and James Franco opened the 2011 Academy Awards with a hilarious spoof poking fun at the Best Picture nominees, while 2010 presenter Alec Baldwin and Morgan Freeman also made surprise appearances in the skit.
Gwyneth Paltrow, Mandy Moore and Zachary Levi, Randy Newman, and Florence Welch and A.R. Rahman provided the music for the night as they performed the tracks nominated for Best Original Song.
And Celine Dion took to the Kodak Theatre stage in Los Angeles to sing Smile during the ceremony's annual In Memorium segment, remembering the stars lost in the past 12 months, including Tony Curtis, Leslie Nielsen, Dennis Hopper, Pete Postlethwaite and Gloria Stuart.
The complete list of winners at the 83rd Annual Academy Awards is as follows:
The King's Speech
Best Actor in a Leading Role:
Colin Firth, The King's Speech
Best Actress in a Leading Role:
Natalie Portman, Black Swan
Best Actor in a Supporting Role:
Christian Bale, The Fighter
Best Actress in a Supporting Role:
Melissa Leo, The Fighter
Tom Hooper, The King's Speech
Best Screenplay - Adapted:
Aaron Sorkin, The Social Network
Best Screenplay - Original:
David Seidler, The King's Speech
Best Foreign Language Film:
In a Better World (Denmark)
Best Animated Feature:
Toy Story 3
Best Documentary (Feature):
Best Art Direction:
Robert Stromberg and Karen O'Hara, Alice In Wonderland
Wally Pfister, Inception
Best Sound Mixing:
Lora Hirschberg, Gary A. Rizzo and Ed Novick, Inception
Best Sound Editing:
Richard King, Inception
Best Original Score:
Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, The Social Network
Best Original Song:
We Belong Together from Toy Story 3, Randy Newman
Colleen Atwood, Alice in Wonderland
Best Documentary (Short Subject):
Strangers No More
Best Film Editing:
The Social Network
Best Animated Short Film:
The Lost Thing
Best Live Action Short Film:
God of Love
Best Visual Effects:
The French-Swiss star was lauded at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' Governors Awards in Los Angeles on Saturday (13Nov10), but was unable to accept the trophy in person as he did not want to fly to the U.S.
And Godard, 79, thinks it's "strange" he was honoured at the glitzy event - as the award is meaningless to him.
He tells The Hollywood Reporter, "(The award means) nothing. If the Academy likes to do it, let them do it. But I think it's strange.
"I asked myself: Which of my films have they seen? Do they actually know my films? The award is called The Governor's Award. Does this mean that (Arnold) Schwarzenegger gives me the award?"
Moviemaker Francis Ford Coppola, historian Kevin Brownlow and actor Eli Wallach were also honoured at the ceremony.
The Godfather director was handed the coveted Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award for his work as a producer at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' Governors Awards in Los Angeles.
The night saw many stars take to the stage to honour Coppola, with De Niro calling him "an inspiration and one of my biggest influences".
Star Wars creator Lucas added, "(Coppola) taught me how to write. He taught me how to direct. He actually personified a whole era of the American film industry. He was our leader. He was our inspiration."
As he accepted the prize, Coppola told the crowd, "I have a great love of the original Hollywood tradition and admiration for the tradition of Irving Thalberg."
The honour wasn't Coppola's first Academy Award - he already has five trophies; four of them for his Godfather films.
Other stars honoured at the ceremony included historian Kevin Brownlow, director Jean-Luc Godard and actor Eli Wallach.
Kevin Spacey presented Brownlow with his trophy, while Clint Eastwood took to the stage to honour Wallach, branding him "a great performer and a great friend".
The Godfather director will be feted at the organisation's second annual Governors Awards on Sunday (14Nov10) when he collects the coveted Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award for his work as a producer.
But Coppola admits he was keen to delay calling the Academy back because he is overcome with nerves whenever friends in the industry reach out to him unexpectedly.
He says, "Well, I am always nervous when I get a phone call from folks where I am living. (It's a) 'Why are they calling me?' kind of thing and 'Who's sick?' or 'Who's passed away?' But it was happy news."
And the filmmaker is honoured to have been selected to receive the top accolade for his production credits, reports the Associated Press.
He adds, "It is sort of the ultimate award for producing. I've been a writer, a director and I have gotten more than my share of those honours. The Thalberg award for me is kind of a trifecta."
Coppola will join film historian Kevin Brownlow, director Jean-Luc Godard and actor Eli Wallach as an honouree at the pre-Oscars event.
The film icon was invited to accept a lifetime-achievement prize at the Governor's Awards next month (13Nov10) but the 79 year old would not confirm his attendance, telling organisers in September (10) he would be there if his schedule permitted.
But the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences President Tom Sherak announced on Monday (25Oct10) that the Breathless director will not come to the event after a "two month long, cordial exchange of correspondence".
According to Sherak, Godard thanked Academy officials for the award, which will be delivered to him in Switzerland after the ceremony.
In a statement, Sherak tells Reuters, "He reiterated his thanks for the award and also sent his good wishes to the other individuals being honored the same night - Kevin Brownlow, Francis Ford Coppola and Eli Wallach - who he refers to as 'the three other musketeers.'"
The filmmaker's wife released a statement over the weekend (04Sep10) declaring the 79-year-old Breathless director would not be attending the prestigious event in Los Angeles to receive "a bit of metal".
Anne-Marie Mieville told The Australian, "He just told me, 'It's not the Oscars'. At first he thought it was going to be part
of the same ceremony, then he realised it was a separate thing in November. Jean-Luc won't go to America, he's getting old for that kind of thing."
But Academy bosses have revealed Godard has responded to them directly, explaining he will be there if he can make it.
A spokesperson reveals the director has already written back, explaining, "In his letter, he graciously thanked the organisation for the honour and referred to himself as 'the fourth musketeer,' in acknowledgement of the fact that three others (Kevin Brownlow, Francis Ford Coppola and Eli Wallach) are among the year's honorees.
"His note, relayed to the Academy late last week via an assistant to Godard, indicated that, schedule permitting, he would come to Los Angeles for the November 13 Governors Awards event."
The Godfather director will join film historian Kevin Brownlow, director Jean-Luc Godard and actor Eli Wallach as an honoree at the pre-Oscars event in November (10).
Academy President Tom Sherak says, "Each of these honorees has touched movie audiences worldwide and influenced the motion picture industry through their work. It will be an honour to celebrate their extraordinary achievements and contributions at the Governors Awards."
Coppola has already been honoured by the Academy - the filmmaker has five Oscars for writing, producing and directing.
By both critical and commercial measures live-action anime adaptations boast a record of futility second perhaps only to videogame adaptations. Some essential aspect of the source material is irretrievably lost during the process of translating Japanese cartoon to Hollywood tentpole something that even the most bloated visual effects budget can’t conceal. Think Dragonball Evolution and Speed Racer.
And yet Hollywood keeps trying lured by tantalizing visions of cash-cow franchises fed by loyal built-in — and most importantly international — audiences. The latest casualty of this misguided ambition is The Last Airbender based on the hit Nickelodeon series Avatar: The Last Airbender. To be fair Avatar isn’t anime in the orthodox sense in that it was conceived and produced in the States but its style and soul are almost exclusively anime-inspired. As such its big-screen fate is similarly sealed.
Who could possibly break such a rueful trend? For some reason the minds at Paramount thought M. Night Shyamalan that notorious purveyor of ponderous and increasingly shlocky supernatural thrillers might succeed where so many other directors had failed. Even worse they saw fit to hire him to pen the screenplay as well ensuring that every vital aspect of the film would feel the crushing weight of his heavy hand. With such a hacky burden to bear it comes as no surprise that The Last Airbender never really takes flight.
The film's story is set in a world divided into four tribes each aligned to an element: Air Earth Water and Fire. Certain gifted tribe members known as a “benders ” can manipulate the properties of their assigned element to suit their ends. In order to do so they must first perform an elaborate and utterly ridiculous kung fu dance after which a torrent of fire water or whatever arises to obey their command.
For the better part of a century the oppressive and warlike Firebenders have besieged the other nations gradually thinning their respective ranks. The Air Nomads have faired the worst of the lot and are presumed to be extinct until Water peeps Katara (Nicola Peltz) and Sokka (Jackson Rathbone) discover a boy named Aang (Noah Ringer) trapped in a giant ball of ice. Not only is Unfrozen Kung Fu Warrior the last remaining Airbender (thus the title) he is also an Avatar the only being on the planet capable of wielding all four elements. And only he can bring an end to the Firebenders’ evil reign.
Blessed with an opportunity to reinvent himself in a new genre and with a new demographic Shyamalan can’t avoid falling back on old habits most notably his penchant for awkward and cumbersome dialogue. It’s difficult enough for adults to deliver his lines but it’s absolute hell for The Last Airbender’s youthful protagonists whose not yet fully-developed temporal lobes can’t hope to adequately process the inanities of Shyamalan-speak. One can almost see the smoke coming from little Noah’s ears as he labors to complete each portentous sentence. Poor kid. Where are the Child Labor people when you need them?
But bad dialogue is only one of a litany of problems that plagues The Last Airbender which suffers from mediocre CGI inexplicable casting decisions (caucasians actors none of whom are especially talented are tabbed for asian roles when sufficiently mediocre race-appropriate actors were surely available) and a plot comprehensible only to the most ardent fans of the Nickelodeon series. Much as Aang bends the air Shyamalan tries to bend the laws of quality cinema to his will but they refuse to yield to the force of his ego. I only wish the execs at Paramount had been as stalwart.
Kevin Spacey is in talks to join the cast of Horrible Bosses, media outlets are reporting.
The New Line comedy will start production next month in the tale of three co-workers who hatch a plan to kill one another's bosses. Harkening back to his turn in Swimming with Sharks, Spacey will play one of the bosses along with Colin Farrell and Jennifer Aniston. Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis and Charlie Day are set to play the co-workers. Jamie Foxx is also on board.
Spacey's role, per The Hollywood Reporter, is described as meaty and integral to the movie and New Line was in talks with several names, including Tom Cruise, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Jeff Bridges, before nabbing Spacey.
Brett Ratner and Jay Stern are producing with Seth Gordon directing.
The project was set up in early 2005 based on Michael Markowitz's spec script. Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley rewrote the script.