It was the trickle of pee heard around the world. Cannes attendees were aghast and/or amused an infamous scene from The Paperboy that shows Nicole Kidman urinating on Zac Efron; this is apparently a great salve for jellyfish burns which were covering our Ken Doll-like protagonist. (In fact the term protagonist should be used very loosely for Efron's character Jack who is mostly acted upon than active throughout.)
Lurid! Sexy! Perverse! Trashy! Whether or not it's actually effective is overshadowed by all the hubbub that's attached itself to the movie for better or worse. In fact the movie is all of these things — but that's actually not a compliment. What could have become somethingmemorable is jaw-droppingly bad (when it's not hilarious). Director Lee Daniels uses a few different visual styles throughout from a stark black and white palette for a crime scene recreation at the beginning to a '70s porno aesthetic that oscillates between psychedelic and straight-up sweaty with an emphasis on Efron's tighty-whiteys. This only enhances the sloppiness of the script which uses lines like narrator/housekeeper/nanny Anita's (Macy Gray) "You ain't tired enough to be retired " to conjure up the down-home wisdom of the South. Despite Gray's musical talents she is not a good choice for a narrator or an actor for that matter. In a way — insofar as they're perhaps the only female characters given a chunk of screen time — her foil is Charlotte Bless Nicole Kidman's character. Anita is the mother figure who wears as we see in an early scene control-top pantyhose whereas Charlotte is all clam diggers and Barbie doll make-up. Or as Anita puts it "an oversexed Barbie doll."
The slapdash plot is that Jack's older brother Ward (Matthew McConaughey) comes back to town with his colleague Yardley (David Oyelowo) to investigate the case of a death row criminal named Hillary Van Wetter. Yardley is black and British which seems to confuse many of the people he meets in this backwoods town. Hillary (John Cusack) hidden under a mop of greasy black hair) is a slack-jawed yokel who could care less if he's going to be killed for a crime he might or might not have committed. He is way more interested in his bride-to-be Charlotte who has fallen in love with him through letters — this is her thing apparently writing letters and falling in love with inmates — and has rushed to help Ward and Yardley free her man. In the meantime we're subjected to at least one simulated sex scene that will haunt your dreams forever. Besides Hillary's shortcomings as a character that could rustle up any sort of empathy the case itself is so boring it begs the question why a respected journalist would be interested enough to pursue it.
The rest of the movie is filled with longing an attempt to place any the story in some sort of social context via class and race even more Zac Efron's underwear sexual violence alligator innards swamp people in comically ramshackle homes and a glimpse of one glistening McConaughey 'tock. Harmony Korine called and he wants his Gummo back.
It's probably tantalizing for this cast to take on "serious" "edgy" work by an Oscar-nominated director. Cusack ditched his boombox blasting "In Your Eyes" long ago and Efron's been trying to shed his squeaky clean image for so long that he finally dropped a condom on the red carpet for The Lorax so we'd know he's not smooth like a Ken doll despite how he was filmed by Daniels. On the other hand Nicole Kidman has been making interesting and varied career choices for years so it's confounding why she'd be interested in a one-dimensional character like Charlotte. McConaughey's on a roll and like the rest of the cast he's got plenty of interesting projects worth watching so this probably won't slow him down. Even Daniels is already shooting a new film The Butler as we can see from Oprah's dazzling Instagram feed. It's as if they all want to put The Paperboy behind them as soon as possible. It's hard to blame them.
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: The End of the Road for "Raymond"?
Say it isn't so! Comedian Ray Romano is dropping hints that the ninth season of his hit CBS comedy Everybody Loves Raymond may be its last. Romano, who attended a concert Saturday in Las Vegas to benefit the Tiger Woods Foundation, joked about how he keeps the series fresh and original: "You stop after one more year." The comedian credited his writers for always drawing on their own lives and bringing new material to the show, but said it's hard work. "You start to repeat yourself," Romano, 45, told The Associated Press. "The trick is to get out when you're still wanted--not too soon, but not too late."
Juliette Lewis Files for Divorce
Natural Born Killers star Juliette Lewis has filed for divorce from her husband of nearly four years, professional skateboarder Steve Berra. Lewis' publicist told the AP Thursday "the divorce is mutual and amicable." It was Lewis' first marriage. The 29-year-old actress was nominated for an Oscar for playing a teenager stalked by a deranged convict in the 1991 remake of Cape Fear.
Buscemi Protests Close of NY Firehouse
Actor Steve Buscemi joined about 50 demonstrators in New York Saturday to protest Mayor Michael Bloomberg's cost cutting proposal to close eight firehouses. Buscemi, who starred in films such as Fargo and Reservoir Dogs, was a New York City firefighter from 1980 to 1984. Bloomberg said last week at least 30 more might have to be closed if the city does not receive state or federal to close a $3.4 billion budget deficit, the AP reports.
Dangerfield Moved From ICU
Rodney Dangerfield was moved from the UCLA Medical Center's intensive care unit to a private room Friday, the AP reports. The comedian's publicist said he might be allowed to go home in the next few days if he continues to recover. Dangerfield, 81, underwent a 12-hour brain surgery April 8 to improve his blood flow for an upcoming heart valve replacement, tentatively planned for late May.
Grammys, American Music Awards Change Dates
The 2004 Grammys are switching from its usual late-February date to Sunday, Feb. 8 to avoid a head-on collision with the Academy Awards, which will move next year from March to late February. Billboard reports that next year's Grammys are also expected to return to L.A. after this year's stint in New York. The American Music Awards, meanwhile, are set to move from early January to Nov. 16, 2003 so the show can air during sweeps. In its January slot, the AMAs found itself competing with too many awards shows.
Pop Stars Unite for Iraqi Children
Pop stars including Paul McCartney, George Michael, David Bowie and Avril Lavigne released an album Monday to raise money for child war victims in Iraq, Reuters reports. Profits from the album will go to War Child, a relief and development charity set up after the war in former Yugoslavia. The charity said the album, Hope, was not political. "The plight of children transcends politics. These songs are a plea for hope without which the children of Iraq have nothing at all."
New Museum Dedicated to Science Fiction
A museum dedicated to the art, literature and film of science entertainment is set to open in Seattle thanks to billionaire Paul Allen. Tentatively named the Science Fiction Experience, the exhibit is slated to open in the summer of 2004 in Allen's Experience Music Project (EMP). Visitors can expect to see science fiction props, including Captain Kirk's original command chair from the Star Trek TV series, a complete set of autographed first editions of the Foundation Trilogy by Isaac Asimov and a collection of Astounding Science Fiction magazines and artwork depicting the future.
Blacklisted Actress Karen Morley Dies
Actress Karen Morley, who starred in early 1930's movies such as Mata Hari and Dinner at Eight, died of pneumonia on March 8 at the Motion Picture Country House in Woodland Hills, Calif., the AP reports. She was 93. Morley's film career was cut short in 1947 when she testified before the House Committee on Un-American Activities and refused to answer questions about her possible enrollment in the Communist Party. Afterward, she continued promoting left-wing causes and, in 1954, ran unsuccessfully as a New York lieutenant governor candidate for the American Labor Party.
Quintessential Western "Shane" Turns 50
Paramount Pictures premiered the Western Shane starring Alan Ladd 50 years ago this week in New York, the AP reports. The cowboy pic, based on a 1949 book by Jack Schaefer, went into general release over a five-month period and garnered six Oscar nominations, including one for Best Picture. It only won one for cinematography (Loyal Griggs). Shane follows a disillusioned gunfighter who becomes an unwilling participant in a feud between an old ranching family and new homesteaders. It is told through the eyes of the son of a family that takes Shane in and famously ends with Shane riding off after he's been shot in the climactic gunfight with the boy hollering "Shane ... Shane ... come back!"
Role Call: Silverstone Joins "Scooby-Doo" Sequel
Alicia Silverstone, best known as Cher in the 1995 hit Clueless, will star opposite Sarah Michelle Gellar, Freddie Prinze Jr., Matthew Lillard, Linda Cardellini and Seth Green in Warner Bros.' Scooby-Doo sequel for director Raja Gosnell. Silverstone will play a relentless reporter named Heather. The sequel begins shooting April 14 in Vancouver and is slated for release March 26, 2004.