Getty/Andy SheppardHaving recently topped the U.K. charts and entered the U.S. Top 10 with their debut album Days Are Gone, Los Angeles siblings Haim certainly appear to have justified the hype that was showered upon their sun-soaked soft-rock sound at the beginning of the year. But in case you've been living under a rock over the past twelve months, here's a quick everything you need to know guide to Este, Danielle and Alaina.They've Always Kept It in the FamilyProof that the trio have always kept it in the family, the girls began their music career in a band named Rockinhaim with their father Mordechai on drums and their mother Donna on guitar.They Were Once Valli GirlsDanielle & Este also cut their teeth as part of The Valli Girls, an all girl-group inspired by the likes of Blondie and The Pretenders who appeared on the soundtracks to both The Sisterhood Of The Travelling Pants and the 2005 Nickelodeon Kids Choice Awards.Julian Casablancas was Their Unofficial MentorAfter inviting Danielle to perform percussion and guitar on his solo tour, The Strokes frontman Julian Casablancas then became the band's unofficial mentor, advising them to take a break from playing live and instead concentrate on their songwriting.Este is a Musical ProdigyRenowned for her incredible bass-face performances, Este is also something of a musical prodigy having completed her five-year degree in Ethnomusicology at UCLA in just two years.They Won the BBC's Sound of 2013Pipping the likes of AlunaGeorge, Angel Haze and Laura Mvula to the post, Haim were crowned the winners of the BBC's prestigious industry poll earlier this year to join such illustrious company as Adele, Florence + The Machine and Ellie Goulding.They Like CollaboratingAs well as hooking up with Jessie Ware on their own record, various members have also popped up on tracks this year by Major Lazer ("You're No Good"), Kid Cudi ("Red Eye") and Portugal. The Man ("Purple Yellow Red & Blue")Este Almost Died at GlastonburyDiabetic Este claimed that she feared she was going to die in front of a live audience after she was forced to abandon their first set at this year's Glastonbury when her blood sugar levels ran dangerously low.David Cameron is a FanDavid Cameron tweeted how he was looking forward to listening to their album after the trio dedicated a performance of "The Wire" to the Prime Minister when they both appeared on the BBC's The Andrew Marr Show.
WENN/Chris JepsonThose eleven artists who will walk away from London's The Roundhouse empty-handed on Wednesday night shouldn't feel too disheartened as while the Mercury Prize remains arguably the most prestigious award in British music, it's by no means a guarantee for a long-lasting career. Indeed, although the likes of Arctic Monkeys, Dizzee Rascal and two-time winner PJ Harvey have only gone from strength to strength since picking up the £20,000 cheque, the history of the ceremony is littered with artists who disappeared off everyone's radar virtually the moment their name was read out. Here's a look at five forgotten recipients.Roni SizeInstrumental in drum 'n' bass' mainstream breakthrough, Roni Size's win over Radiohead's OK Computer and The Prodigy's The Fat Of The Land with his 1997 debut, New Forms, may have come as a shock but certainly wasn't undeserved. However, the dreadlocked producer then appeared to scurry back into the underground almost as quickly as he'd escaped from it. Talvin SinghArguably the most leftfield winner, Talvin Singh's re-interpretation of Indian classical music on 1999's OK beat the likes of Blur's 13 and The Chemical Brothers' Surrender to the prize. A William Orbit-esque career path appeared to await when Madonna recruited the tabla player for 2000's Music but his contribution only appeared as a Japanese bonus track and his subsequent releases sank without trace.Ms DynamiteHailed as the voice of her generation, Ms Dynamite's blend of hip-hop, R&B and socially-conscious lyrics enamoured the judges enough to award her inventive debut, A Little Deeper, the prize back in 2002. However, preachy 2005 follow-up Judgement Days forgot to include any semblance of a tune, while her peace-loving reputation took a bit of a battering a year later when she pleaded guilty to punching a male police officer.KlaxonsThe leading figures of the mid-'00s nu-rave scene, The Klaxons triumphed over Amy Winehouse's Back To Black in 2007 with their trippy debut, Myths Of The Near Future. But originally rejected by their label for being too experimental, second album Surfing The Void was released to near total apathy in 2010.Speech DebellePerhaps the reason for the panel's play-it-safe approach in recent years, Speech Debelle was a virtual unknown before she was unexpectedly handed the prize ahead of Florence + The Machine and La Roux with 2009's Speech Therapy. Responsible for the lowest-selling Mercury Prize winning album ever (just 15,000 copies), she still remains a virtual unknown.
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.