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 age-old debate over fate vs. free will has been and always will be a tough theme to crack in any medium but with the benefits of modern filmmaking technology the theory can be explored in ways that Philip K. Dick never imagined. However when one relies too heavily on spectacle to tell a story a piece of cerebral science fiction can quickly become just another action extravaganza. In this day and age there’s a fine line between the two; The Matrix walked that tightrope with style and grace while Next never found its footing in the first place. Fortunately the precious work of novelist Dick has for the most part been treated with respect by Hollywood (the aforementioned Nic Cage dud notwithstanding) but that doesn’t necessarily mean movies based on his stories are completely faithful to his vision.
Case in point: George Nolfi’s directorial debut The Adjustment Bureau an adaptation of Dick’s short story “Adjustment Team.” The film stars Matt Damon as David Norris a successful businessman and rising political candidate who after a chance encounter with the girl of his dreams (Emily Blunt) loses a crucial election. He happens to run into her on a Manhattan bus the following week before finding his office swarming with masked men who are “adjusting” everyone inside. Richardson (John Slattery) the man in charge captures Norris who unsuccessfully flees the scene after seeing behind “a curtain he wasn’t even supposed to know existed” as the enigmatic figure puts it. From that point on Norris must live with the knowledge that he (and we for that matter) is not in control of his own life. Rather the choices he makes fit perfectly into “The Plan” that’s been written by “the Chairman”.
In relation to my earlier statement I have to say that Nolfi’s picture looks stunning but his natural urban aesthetic doesn’t overpower the story. Sleek contemporary production design and elegant costumes characterize the high-concept story and the wraithlike agents who shape our destinies. Topically we’re dealing with some heavy material but Nolfi and editor Jay Rabinowitz move the action along at a brisk pace that keeps you engaged and entertained without having to try. The film is properly proportioned as a chase thriller romantic adventure and sci-fi fantasy and thankfully no component overshadows another.
Setting the film in the world of politics and big business helps make its larger-than-life revelations a bit more accessible (as do appearances from Michael Bloomberg Jon Stewart and Chuck Scarborough) while providing sub-text about the corruption involved in elections and campaigns (there are conspicuous shades of The Manchurian Candidate in the movie) but the writer-director often tries too hard for broad appeal. For a film with existential implications as severe as they are here the dialogue is at times hokey and superficial. Dick’s source material is far more abstract and Nolfi for the sake of commercial success panders to the palette of soccer moms and mallrats.
What’s worse is his unwarranted exposition of the Bureau a shadowy organization whose major allure is anonymity. Some secrets are best kept and less can be so much more when crafting a mysterious atmosphere; Nolfi reaches that level of magnetic curiosity but squanders it as he reveals the truth about the Bureau and its grand scheme. On the other hand he brushes over the technical lingo between agents Harry Mitchell (Anthony Mackie) McCrady (Anthony Ruivivar) and others without explanation perhaps hoping that the ambiguous terminology will fool you into thinking that his script is smarter than it really is.
Even though Nolfi’s allegorical conclusions are uncomfortably ham-fisted the chemistry between Damon and Blunt alone is enough to enchant you; this is one highly watchable cinematic pairing that should be revisited as soon as possible. Their innocent relationship blossoms organically and together they make it seem as natural on screen as it is for their star-crossed characters. Even if you have a hard time believing in higher powers or manipulative Orwellian forces you’ll have faith in David and Elise’s fated relationship one of the most captivating couplings I’ve seen on the big-screen in some time.
Laurie Bembenek passed away on Saturday (20Nov10) due to complications from hepatitis C and kidney failure, according to the New York Post.
She quit modeling and became a police officer in Milwaukee, Wisconsin but hit headlines again when she was convicted of murdering her then-husband, Milwaukee Police Department detective Elfred 'Fred' Schultz's ex-wife, Christine Schultz, in 1981.
Bembenek escaped prison in 1990 with the help of an incarcerated boyfriend and was on the run for three months until she was captured in Canada. She was nicknamed 'Bambi' by the media during the chase.
Her sensational story was documented in the 1993 TV movie, with O'Neal in the starring role. Actress Lindsay Frost also played her in 1992 film Calendar Girl, Cop, Killer? The Bambi Bembenek Story.
Bembenek always maintained she had been framed by the Milwaukee Police Department, allegedly so that her ex would no longer have to pay alimony.
Following her prison release, she wrote a book about the ordeal, entitled Woman on Trial.
In 2002, the story took a bizarre turn when TV psychologist Dr. Phil McGraw agreed to conduct a DNA test on evidence from the case.
She was holed up in an apartment to prevent her from talking to other press, but Bembenek suffered a panic attack while in hiding and tried to escape by climbing out of a window. She fell and injured her foot so badly it had to be amputated.
Bembenek is survived by two sisters, Melanie and Colette.
The funnyman first found fame in the U.K. for his comedy double act with Hugh Laurie, before a successful move into theatre, film, and radio work.
He was selected as one of ten Honorary Fellows by bosses at Cardiff University in recognition of his "international distinction" and attended a ceremony at the campus on Tuesday.
And in a bid to impress his hosts, Fry learned some handy phrases in the native tongue - with help from Welsh actors Michael Sheen and Matthew Rhys.
In a post on his Twitter.com blog, he writes: "Time for Cardiff Uni ceremony. The darlings are making me an hon fellow. Sweet Matthew Rhys & Michael Sheen have given me Welsh to say. Eek!"
Fry then posted a picture of himself wearing flowing robes as he prepared to receive the award.
Animation particularly when it comes out of the Disney/Pixar stable is one of those areas of filmmaking that regularly inspires the phrase "They don't make them like they used to." In the case of Toy Story 3 however it's more accurate to say "They have never made them like this." It's certainly not unheard of for an animated film to be good for a Pixar film to be great or for the third film in a trilogy to be outstanding (though that's the rarest of the three) but in the case of Lee Unkrich's film the sheer degree at which it exceeds at all three is not just rare it's unprecedented.
Eleven years have elapsed since Woody (Tom Hanks) Buzz (Tim Allen) and all of Andy's favorite playthings had their last adventure -- rather 11 years have elapsed since Andy stopped playing with his toys. Buoyed by Woody's never-failing devotion the gang is all optimistic that Andy will elect to bring them with him to his first year of college but as that fateful empty-nest day approaches it becomes clearer and clearer that the only toy that will be making the trek to school is Woody. The rest are all by a series of unfortunate events consigned to live out their remaining days at Sunnyside daycare. Things are actually looking up for the neglected entertainers until they realize just how careless the ankle-biters are when it comes to playing with toys.
Unfortunately there is no escape in sight for the lovable personalities Pixar has been refining for over a decade. Lotso Huggin' Bear (Ned Beatty) runs a tight ship at Sunnyside; the new toys are just going to have to be sacrificed to the aggressive toddlers so the old veterans can have a relaxing time with their more mature counterparts. Eventually Woody catches wind of what kind of life his old pals are being forced to live and Toy Story 3 quite brilliantly becomes a riff on classic prison escape movies as Woody seeks to breach Lotso's security measures and bring his bunch back to Andy where they belong. And while this on-the-run chunk of the film is some of the most thrilling material Pixar has ever delivered it's also some of the most touching.
Unlike most sequels not a moment of Toy Story 3 feels artificial. There's no sense that Pixar decided to make a third film because it knew that the box office would gladly support another entry; no sense that this is a cash grab (unlike a certain green ogre's most recent trip to the big screen). All of those typical sequel pitfalls are carefully avoided by a swelling sense of finality. Toy Story 3 isn't just another adventure with these characters -- there is in fact no doubt that this is their final adventure their final hoorah together. Director Lee Unkrich and screenwriter Michael Arndt meticulously lead the audience along with bated breath the entire time culminating in a life-or-death scenario for the toys that is more heartfelt and genuine than most live-action films can ever muster.
It's astonishing how the creative team at Pixar can make you forget that what you're watching is all a bunch of digital wizardry. Maybe it's the 3D this time around maybe it's that this is the studio's most accomplished technical feat to date (there are single shots at a landfill that pack in richer detail than the entirety of the pioneering first film) that makes Toy Story 3 such an immersive experience. Or maybe it's simply because Pixar treats its property which is ostensibly for children with the utmost sincerity. The result is an overwhelming success the rare kind of film that were it a human being would be your best friend.
One could reasonably make the case that Toy Story 3 is the single best animated film ever made. I wouldn't outright agree with such grandiose claims but it's certainly not a baseless proposition that you'd be laughed at for bringing up. However with part three now tucked under Pixar's belt one could present an even better case that Toy Story is the best film trilogy ever made -- a claim I am far more comfortable signing on the dotted line for.
Former U.S. vice president Gore announced he had split from his wife of 40 years at the beginning of June (10) and recent reports linked him to Laurie David.
But a rep for David says, "This is completely and totally untrue."
In a new article, U.S. tabloid the Star suggests Gore and David have been romantically involved for two years after working together on the 2007 Oscar-winning documentary An Inconvenient Truth.
David herself went to blog site the Huffington Post to set the record straight.
She states, "It's a total fabrication. I adore both Al and Tipper. I look at them both as family. And I have happily been in a serious relationship since my divorce."
Gore, 62, called his split from Tipper "a mutual and mutually supportive decision that we have made together following a process of long and careful consideration".
Controversy has ahem dogged director Deborah Kampmeier’s 1950s-era coming-of-age story for obvious reasons since its lukewarm reception at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival. Police in North Carolina--where the Alabama-set Hounddog was shot--even investigated whether the sexual assault of Fanning’s precocious 12-year-old Elvis Presley devotee broke local child pornography laws (it didn’t). Kampmeier has reedited Hounddog since its Sundance premiere--hence the delay getting the film into theaters--but she’s retained the scene that will likely be among the most discussed dissected and unjustly condemned this year. Fanning’s Lewellen isn’t raped until an hour into Hounddog. By that time Kampmeier’s established Lewellen as a wayward young girl desperately in need of a parental role model. Her mother died years earlier. Her loving but oft-absent Daddy (David Morse) disappears for days on end leaving her with her Grammie (Piper Laurie) or one of his girlfriends such as the visiting “Stranger Lady” (Robin Wright Penn). Then Daddy’s struck by lightning. Money was tight before Daddy’s accident; now that his injuries have rendered him unfit to work and reliant upon Lewellen to take care of his needs there’s nothing coming in. So Lewellen--who seeks solace in the songs of Elvis Presley--is willing to do almost anything to get her hands on a ticket to see her idol in concert. And that’s when things go from bad to worse … Wasn’t it only a matter of time that Fanning the most talented child actress working today would attempt to tap her inner Jodie Foster? And it’s evident during the first few minutes we’re in Lewellen’s company that Fanning’s as capable portraying emotionally fragile characters as she is spreading light and joy in Charlotte's Web or Dreamer. “I’m going to kill my daddy one day ” Lewellen says with a coolness and confidence that sends shivers down your back. Fanning effortlessly acts beyond her young age though this also means her renditions of “Hounddog” too sexualized for comfort. Not that it’s Lewellen’s intention to be provocative or Kampmeier's goal to turn her into Lolita. But it’s easy to see how her behavior attracts the wrong kind of attention. During the rape scene Kampmeier keeps the cameras on Lewellen’s face. It’s terrifying to watch as Fanning struggles and screams. After the rape Fanning communicates a silenced Lewellen’s intense pain in an eloquent and subtle way that allows you to empathize with her. Too bad Fanning’s let down by Morse and Wright Penn. Then Daddy’s struck by lightning. Money was tight before Daddy’s accident; now that his injuries have rendered him unfit to work and reliant upon Lewellen . At first Morse promises to offer a study in parental neglect. But after Daddy’s accident he laughably turns into “Simple Jack.” Looking tired and downtrodden Wright Penn fails to give her “Stranger Lady” any mystery tipping us off that she’s not the stranger she’s made out to be. Knowing Lewellen’s fate in advance puts you on pins and needles as you prepare yourself for the inevitable. It’s not something anyone wants to watch--there are fewer things more sickening than the sexual assault of a defenseless child--but Kampmeier deserves applause for handling this disturbing event in a delicate but purposeful manner. The act is brutal enough in itself that Kampmeier can cut away from it as quickly as possible and still achieve her goal of establishing the rape as the catalyst for Lewellen to find her true voice. Still you sit through Hounddog eyeballing every man or boy Lewellen encounters--Presley excluded--with suspicion which distracts from the compelling events that unfold before the rape. Afterward you can’t help but feel Kampmeier’s fallen into the trap of punishing those who listen to “the Devil’s music ” as Grammie likes to label rock’n’roll. After all it’s Lewellen and her Daddy who suffer the most for their purported sins against God but Lewellen’s rapist is never judged for his actions. While Kampmeier does a great job getting inside Lewellen’s head and taking us back to a time when gyrating your hips prompted moral outrage she doesn’t seem too concerned that Hounddog limps along slower than a three-legged mutt with arthritic knees. Or that Morse’s post-accident performance would be better suited to a Rain Man spoof. At the very least though Hounddog confirms that the mesmerizing Fanning will be as good an actress when she grows up as we hope and expect she will be.
Funnyman Larry David has confirmed he has split from Laurie, his wife of 14 years.
It was reported the pair's marriage was in trouble in yesterday's New York Post's Page Six column - but a spokesperson for the pair has made the split official.
Heather Lylis said the split "very amicable and ... they're going to continue to raise their two (daughters) together as friends."
David co-created the hugely successful TV show Seinfeld, before finding fame on the other side of the camera in Curb Your Enthusiasm, which he wrote and starred in.
Laurie David has found success of her own as an environmental campaigner and the producer of documentary An Inconvenient Truth.
COPYRIGHT 2007 WORLD ENTERTAINMENT NEWS NETWORK LTD. All Global Rights Reserved.
Comedy star Larry David has split from Laurie, his wife of 14 years, according to reports.
The New York Post's Page Six column claims the pair has ended their marriage amicably.
David made $200 million from his role as co-creator of the hugely successful Seinfeld, before finding fame on the other side of the camera in Curb Your Enthusiasm, which he wrote and starred in.
Laurie has found success of her own as an environmental campaigner and the producer of documentary An Inconvenient Truth.
A representative for the couple has refused to comment on the reports.
COPYRIGHT 2007 WORLD ENTERTAINMENT NEWS NETWORK LTD. All Global Rights Reserved.