Clint Eastwood's daughter Alison is fronting a new documentary series about the owners of exotic pets. In Animal Intervention, she and wild creature expert Donald Schultz confront overwhelmed owners who house exotic animals in confined and potentially hazardous environments.
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.
S10E10: It’s the tenth episode of the tenth season of American Idol; shouldn’t we be making a wish or something? My wish would probably be that Casey Abrams makes it to the top 12, but you could wish for something more important like World Peace or the return of Steven’s “fuck a duck” phrases. Anyway, last night was a swift journey through a handful of favorites’ solo auditions and not everyone fared so well. However, by the time it came down to the cuts, many who delivered disappointing performances were ushered through based on their past performances. I understand that logic, but I think for some of these contestants, these flubs are indicative of what their future performances will hold. For now, we’ll have to deal with the judges’ choices, but we don’t have to like it, that’s for damn sure.
“We almost sent her home. Remember?” –JLo
For this round, the contestants can elect to sing a capella, with a backup band, or with their own instruments – for some people this was an issue. For the first singer of the day, Haley Reinhart, nothing seemed to hold back her voice. After screwing the pooch during the group performances, she was graciously given a second chance, that personally, I wouldn’t have allowed. However, when she took the stage, her strong, jazzy voice said it all.
Following her with equally powerful performances were Ashthon Jones with “And I’m Telling You” (which is incredibly difficult to sing) and Thia Megia with an amazing version of “What a Wonderful World.” Megia is only 15 years old, but her voice continues to amaze the judges (and me).
Then came the problem children. Some people just can’t own up to their own faults and Adrian Michael, Caleb Johnson, and Frances Coontz are some of those people. Both Adrian and Caleb flubbed their auditions then had the audacity to say that the professional musicians, who have been getting PAID to play music for years, were the ones screwing with THEIR Idol auditions. Get a grip and go home, guys.
Frances Coontz wasn’t so much an ingrate as she was off-key. They stopped her to have the band help her find it. Yikes. That’s embarrassing – but thank God someone did it because my ear drums were about to burst.
“Y’all are gonna make me cry.” –Sophia Shorai
“Well, you made us.” –Steven
Next came the traitorous (and not that incredibly talented) Clint Jun Gamboa. Okay, so technically this guy is talented, but he’s a self-important dick – maybe you forgot, but he heartlessly kicked out adorable Jacee Badeaux with only hours before auditions because “he didn’t vibe right” with the group. I call bullshit. Gamboa can hit notes properly, but the fact of the matter is he’s not likable and the tone of his voice is straight up not enjoyable. Let’s send him home already.
Gamboa sang “Georgia On My Mind” well, but two ladies came up after and showed that song a little more life. Both Kendra Chantelle and Sophia Shorai sang beautifully; no complaints here. (Maybe that’s because I don’t know about whatever selfish things they’ve done, but hey part of being a famous musician is having people know your personal business, so Gamboa can deal with it.)
“That blonde guy is crazy.” –Randy
Continuing on in the category of people who sang the same song, are former group mates Carson Higgins and Chris Medina. They both sang “My Prerogative” and Medina’s version sort of redeemed him from his frankly sad performance on group day but in my mind, he’s not strong enough to make it through to the end. Carson also gave a rousing performance; this guy is just pure fun to watch. His vocals were a little wild this time around, but to be honest, I think a lot of folks listen to music to enjoy it instead of looking for something that fulfills their technical needs.
“Am I like Neil Armstrong?” –Casey Abrams
Now we’ve got the folks who brought the music with them in the form of instruments. For some, this only heightened their appeal, but for a few it was obvious that the instrument just distracted them from their previously on-point vocals. Now, I understand it’s more difficult to play an instrument while singing, but when you have folks like Casey Abrams who waltzes in with an UPRIGHT BASS and blows everyone’s minds, it’s hard to give credit to folks like Julie Zorilla who managed to sing alright in spite of the instrument in front of them. Brett Lowenstern (love him), Caleb Hawley, Colton Dixon and his ridiculous hair, and Robbie Rosen (another one of my favorites) also benefited from the use of their instruments.
Can I just take one more second to praise Casey Abrams? The man can sing, he can play the bass, and from what Idol has shown us, he’s a pretty cool guy. If America is too stupid to vote for him (because I’m not accepting that he won’t make it to that Idol stage) then I may just throw in the towel. He’s AWESOME.
“I don’t cry.” –Jacob Lusk
“You coulda fooled me.” –Ryan
Before we get back to the good ones, we have to make a stop in coupleville. With Rob Bolin and Nick Fink sent packing, only Jaqueline Dunford and Chelsee Oaks are left. Jaqueline falls ill and has to bow out of the competition and the pressure gets to Chelsee, causing her to deliver an awful performance of “Because of You.” It was saddening to see, for sure, but she didn’t seem to have the chops last time around so I can’t say that I expected her to stick around.
On a cheerier note, Lauren Alaina took the stage for an encore of “I Don’t Want To Miss a Thing.” Of course she rocked it; that voice isn’t a fluke. She’s got some serious pipes. Another one with some serious pipes was Jacob Lusk, who is an actual jazz singer. He’s incredible (meriting that standing ovation) but it’s something I’ve never seen fare well on Idol – then again, we’ve had country singers make it to the top of a mainly pop music contest, why not a bluesy singer?
Next up was unreal John Wayne Schultz (remember, the mama’s boy who had a great voice, was adorable and was named after JOHN FUCKING WAYNE?) who sand “Landslide.” It was a sleepy, enjoyable version of the song and he’s definitely talented, but I don’t know if he has the presence to captivate the people who are watching at home on their televisions.
“That’s our song, so I scream it out loud to him all the time” –Ashley Sullivan
Despite singing the song that she supposedly sings to her boyfriend all the time, Ashley Sullivan forgets the words to “Everything” multiple times before leaving the stage. They end up giving her another chance by the end of the show, but it seems that she can’t handle the stress of performing, so I’m not sure that furthering her pursuit in this industry is healthy.
Other forgetful folks included Scotty McCreery, who only seems to remember the words to that “baby lock the doors” country song, and Tatynisa Wilson who not only forgot the words but flat out sang terribly. At least Scotty accepted that he hadn’t earned the right to stay with that performance (though he had just learned the lyrics overnight) but luckily for him, he got another shot.
“This is our lives. This is it” –Stefano Langone
Finally, we have Stefano Langone, Jovany Baretto, and Jacee Badeaux. Jovany did just fine (just as we expected), Stefano was alright and Jacee was just the darling little angel that we’ve come to love. I just want to pinch his cheeks or hug him or something. He’s adorable.
“Now this is the worst part for me.” –JLo
“No, no; it’s going to be good.” –Randy
Now for the news. It turns out that favorites Jacee Badeaux, Robbie Rosen, Casey Abrams, Lauren Alaina, James Durbin, Brett Lowenstern, Scotty McCreery, Rachel Zavita, Ashley Sullivan (I’m surprised too), Carson Higgins, and Julie Zorilla were amongst those staying. Those being sent home included Chelsee Oaks, Mark Gutierrez, Brielle Von Hugel, Frances Coontz, and Corey Levoy. You may be sad, but based on what they showed us, I’m really not that surprised.
With that, Ryan finally revealed the big surprise! Guess what? It’s what we already knew! Next week, they’ll have 24 hours to learn a Beatles song and perform it in Las Vegas. Really? REALLY? Giving someone 24 hours to learn a Beatles song is like giving someone three days to learn the names of all their siblings. EVERYONE knows at least one Beatles song. How about you try something more difficult or own up to the cross promotion with the Beatles LOVE show in Vegas and stop trying to make it sound so exciting.