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.
Breslin made her Broadway debut in the show, about a young deaf and blind Helen Keller and her instructor, played by Pill, in New York on Wednesday night (03Mar10).
But the pair's performance, along with that of co-stars Matthew Modine and Jennifer Morrison, who play Keller's parents, were met with a lukewarm response - with director Kate Whoriskey being criticised by writers at trade publication Backstage for her "troubled staging".
A critic from the New York Times echoes the sentiment: "Surely this production, the first revival of The Miracle Worker to come to Broadway, could have highlighted the play's strengths more effectively... Ms. Whoriskey's production never finds its focus."
The reviewer also questions casting and direction, calling 13-year-old Breslin "probably a tad mature for the role of Helen", while adding Modine "appears to have been directed to speak loudly and in italics, as if the audience itself might be hearing-impaired".
The Hollywood Reporter was more receptive to Breslin's performance, dubbing it "deeply touching".
However, the publication was less kind to Whoriskey and supporting actors Modine and Morrison: "The action takes place in numerous locations, with pieces of furniture distractingly descending from the ceiling at various times... The supporting performances are less effective, with Matthew Modine too blustery as Helen's Civil War veteran father; Jennifer Morrison not making much of an impression as Helen's devoted mother."
The Miracle Worker is not the only big-name Broadway production to struggle to win over critics in the past year - Hugh Jackman and Daniel Craig's turn in A Steady Rain proved to be a big hit with fans, but it was largely panned by theatre reviewers when it opened in September (09).
Meanwhile, Jude Law's Hamlet had writers split in their opinion and in October (09), Bill Pullman and Julia Stiles failed to wow critics with their performance in Oleanna.
Best Motion Picture – Drama:
The Hurt Locker
Up in the Air Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama:
Emily Blunt, The Young Victoria
Sandra Bullock, The Blind Side WINNER!
Helen Mirren, The Last Station
Carey Mulligan, An Education
Gabourey Sidibe, Precious
Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama:
Jeff Bridges, Crazy Heart WINNER!
George Clooney, Up in the Air
Colin Firth, A Single Man
Morgan Freeman, Invictus
Tobey Maguire, Brothers
Best Motion Picture -- Musical or Comedy:
(500) Days of Summer
The Hangover WINNER!
Julie & Julia
Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture -- Musical or Comedy:
Sandra Bullock, The Proposal
Marion Cotillard, Nine
Julia Roberts, Duplicity
Meryl Streep, It’s Complicated
Meryl Streep, Julie & Julia WINNER!
Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture -- Musical or Comedy:
Matt Damon, The Informant
Daniel Day-Lewis, Nine
Robert Downey Jr., Sherlock Holmes WINNER!
Joseph Gordon-Levitt, (500) Days of Summer
Michael Stuhlbarg, A Serious Man
Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture:
Mo'Nique, Precious WINNER!
Julianne Moore, A Single Man
Anna Kendrick, Up in the Air
Vera Farmiga, Up in the Air
Penelope Cruz, Nine
Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture:
Matt Damon, Invictus
Stanley Tucci, The Lovely Bones
Christopher Plummer, The Last Station
Christoph Waltz, Inglorious Basterds WINNER!
Woody Harrelson, The Messenger Best Animated Feature Film: Coraline Fantastic Mr. Fox Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs The Princess and the Frog Up WINNER! Best Foreign Language Film: Baaria Broken Embraces The Maid A Prophet The White Ribbon WINNER! Best Director -- Motion Picture: Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker James Cameron, Avatar WINNER! Clint Eastwood, Invictus Jason Reitman, Up in the Air Quentin Tarantino, Inglourious Basterds Best Screenplay -- Motion Picture: Neill Blomkamp and Terri Tatchell, District 9 Mark Boal, The Hurt Locker Nancy Meyers, It’s Complicated Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner, Up in the Air WINNER! Quentin Tarantino, Inglourious Basterds TELEVISION Best Television Series - Drama: Big Love Dexter House Mad Men WINNER! True Blood Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series - Drama: Glenn Close - Damages January Jones - Mad Men Julianna Margulies - The Good Wife WINNER! Anna Paquin - True Blood Kyra Sedgwick - The Closer Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series - Drama: Simon Baker - The Mentalist Michael C. Hall - Dexter WINNER! Jon Hamm - Mad Men Hugh Laurie - House Bill Paxton - Big Love Best Television Series - Comedy or Musical: 30 Rock Entourage Glee WINNER! Modern Family The Office Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series - Comedy or Musical: Toni Collette - United States Of Tara WINNER! Courteney Cox - Cougar Town Edie Falco - Nurse Jackie Tina Fey - 30 Rock Lea Michele - Glee Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series - Comedy or Musical: Alec Baldwin - 30 Rock WINNER! Steve Carell - The Office David Duchovny - Californication Thomas Jane - Hung Matthew Morrison – Glee
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, set to debut in 3,672 theaters on Friday, looks to be on its way to breaking weekend box office records, Reuters reports. The record for widest opening belongs to Mission: Impossible, which opened in 3,653 theaters last summer and made $56.8 million. The record number of theaters scheduled to show Harry Potter could push the movie to surpass the $72.1 million three-day opening of The Lost World: Jurassic Park in 1997.
Singer Van Morrison won a libel suit against the London paper Sunday Independent over statements that he had an affair with singer Linda Gail Lewis. The paper has fully accepted that there was absolutely no truth in the allegation and agreed to pay substantial damages to Morrison, including legal costs, BBC News reports. Morrison, who recently recorded an album with Lewis, called the allegations a complete and utter fabrication.
In the soon-to-be-released documentary Being Mick, Mick Jagger pokes fun at Britain's royal family for not awarding him any royal honors, The Associated Press reports. Right before a meeting with Prince Charles, Jagger puts on an exaggerated upper-class English accent and jokes, "Is it true that you haven't got anything at all? That is rather odd, isn't it." Paul McCartney and Elton John both wear the title of "sir." The documentary will air on ABC on Thanksgiving.
Michael Jackson: 30th Anniversary Special surprised CBS execs with a stunning 25.73 million viewers, the largest audience for a music special on any network since ABC's Beatles Anthology in 1995. Variety, which dubbed it the "Wacko Jacko" effect, claims viewers tuned in not so much for the music, but to get a glimpse at the frighteningly pale and surgically altered Jackson.
For the first time in its 18-year history, Jeopardy! will increase the dollar amount on its question-and-answer board, raising the minimum amount to $200 from the current $100 and the top amount to $2,000 from $1,000, Reuters reports. The show's longtime host Alex Trebek said he is happy that contestants will be rewarded even more for their hard work and vast knowledge.
Author Jonathan Franzen won the National Book Award for fiction Wednesday for his novel The Corrections, Reuters reports. Franzen found himself embroiled in controversy last month when he voiced reservations about having the novel included in Oprah Winfrey's book club. After complaining about having the club's logo on the dust cover of his novel, Winfrey took back her invitation to have Franzen appear on her show.
Over the next two months, Jerry Springer, Sally Jessy Raphael, Penn & Teller, Dave Holmes, Cindy Adams, Gilbert Gottfried and Robin Leach will temporarily replace Dick Cavett as the narrator of The Rocky Horror Picture Show on Broadway. After Cavett warned his successors about the show's crazed fans, daytime talk Raphael told AP, "People throw things? That's part of my daily existence. I'm afraid that is not a stretch."
A study by researchers at the University of Tuebingen in Germany indicates that the brain waves of professional musicians respond to music in a way that suggests they have an intuitive sense of the notes. Using brain-scanning MRI machines to peer into the minds of professional German violinists, neuroscientists found the subjects could hear the music by simply thinking about it, AP reports.