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.
Love was in the air in July as a host of celebrities walked down the aisle - Spanish stars Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem tied the knot in the Bahamas, while Emily Blunt became Mrs. John Krasinski after marrying The Office star in romantic Como, Italy.
A pregnant Alicia Keys said 'I do' to Swizz Beatz, while Orlando Bloom and Australian model Miranda Kerr became husband and wife in a secret ceremony. Wedding bells also rang in Georgia as country sweetheart Carrie Underwood married her hockey hunk, Mike Fisher.
But there was also plenty of heartache in Hollywood - Kelly Osbourne called off her engagement to model Luke Worrall over allegations he had cheated on her, and Frasier star Kelsey Grammer's wife filed for divorce after almost 13 years of marriage. R&B singer Christina Milian picked July to announce she was splitting from her producer husband The-Dream - less than a year after the couple wed in Las Vegas.
Celebrations were in order for Christina Applegate after she revealed she was pregnant with her first child, while Vince Vaughn, Zac Hanson, Ugly Betty star Becki Newton and Nine Inch Nails frontman Trent Reznor also announced they were expecting babies with their respective partners.
Director Sam Taylor-Wood and Aaron Johnson became the proud parents of a baby girl - their first child together - while Australian pop star Dannii Minogue welcomed baby boy Ethan with her partner Kris Smith.
But July was not without scandal - Paris Hilton was questioned by authorities at the World Cup soccer tournament in South Africa over allegations she was smoking pot. Just two weeks later, she was held by police in France after she was allegedly caught carrying cannabis in her handbag.
The heiress' former pal Lindsay Lohan also hit headlines for all the wrong reasons - just days after turning 24, she was ordered to spend 90 days in jail for violating the terms of her probation stemming from a 2007 DUI arrest.
Former Wham! star George Michael also had a run-in with the law - he was arrested after driving his car into a shop in London, and Foxy Brown was also taken into custody after allegedly violating a protective order.
Meanwhile, Rosemary's Baby director Roman Polanski was freed from house arrest after officials in Switzerland threw out a request to extradite him to the U.S. for sentencing on a child-sex charge.
Mel Gibson's marital woes continued into July - Los Angeles police launched an official investigation amid claims the Braveheart star punched his ex-girlfriend Oksana Grigorieva during a heated altercation. It came after the leaking of a series of audio recordings in which a man said to be Gibson unleashes a series of foul-mouthed rants at his ex.
There was a health scare for British singer Cheryl Cole as she was diagnosed with malaria after collapsing at a photoshoot, while movie legends Tony Curtis and Zsa Zsa Gabor were also hospitalised. Pink was rushed to the emergency room after a stage stunt went wrong, sending the pop punk flying into a metal barrier during a concert in Germany.
Courtroom battles loomed for bad boy actor David Boreanaz, who was slapped with a sexual harassment lawsuit from a former extra on his hit TV show Bones, and Casey Affleck, who was sued by a producer of his movie I'm Still Here over sexual harassment allegations.
There were festival dramas aplenty in August, with The Libertines and Guns N' Roses dominating headlines at Britain's Reading and Leeds weekenders. Pete Doherty's group reunited earlier this year (10) and played sets at the festivals - but their performances were blighted when overeager fans got crushed and trampled during the frenetic gigs, forcing the rockers off the stage to allow the revellers chance to recover. Axl Rose sparked an ongoing war-of-words with event boss Melvin Benn after he decided to shut the sound off when the band overran its curfew.
Further drama occurred in August when Naomi Campbell took to the stand in The Hague, Netherlands to testify at the war crimes trial of ex-Liberian President Charles Taylor, socialite Paris Hilton was arrested for cocaine possession in Las Vegas, and Charlie Sheen pleaded guilty to a charge of misdemeanour assault relating to a Christmas Day (25Dec09) fight with now-estranged wife Brooke Mueller. The Two And A Half Men actor was sentenced to 30 days in jail, but served time in rehab instead.
Another star seeking help for her personal issues was Lindsay Lohan. The Mean Girls actress walked free from prison before the end of her sentence for violating her probation relating to a 2007 DUI arrest, and immediately entered rehab - only to leave the health centre early as well.
Lohan's woes weren't the only ones in Hollywood - Zsa Zsa Gabor was in and out of hospital due to complications stemming from her summer accident which resulted in several bone fractures, while Aretha Franklin broke her ribs in a freak fall, prompting her to cancel a string of shows.
However, the biggest health shock of the month was the revelation that Michael Douglas had been diagnosed with a throat tumour. The Wall Street legend began radiation and chemotherapy shortly before going public with his battle and helped raise awareness of the disease by appearing on America's Stand Up 2 Cancer TV special to urge fans to raise cash for research.
There was happier health news for many in the public eye in August - Miranda Kerr, Penny Lancaster and Alanis Morissette all announced their pregnancies, while British Prime Minister David Cameron became a father again when his wife Samantha gave birth to their fourth child, Florence, while they were holidaying in Cornwall, south-west England.
Wedding bells were also chiming, with Hilary Duff walking down the aisle to marry ice hockey star Mike Comrie, veteran singer Julio Iglesias exchanging vows with his longtime girlfriend, and James Van Der Beek cementing his union with his then-pregnant girlfriend Kimberly Brook - they've since welcomed baby Olivia.
Lady Gaga was the big winner and talking point at the MTV Video Music Awards this month - she picked up eight accolades and stunned everyone by taking to the stage in a meat dress. Meanwhile, Penelope Cruz confirmed the news she was pregnant with Javier Bardem's baby, and Angelina Jolie - who visited flood-ravaged Pakistan - was named Best Celebrity Role Model in an online poll.
George Michael began his eight-week prison sentence in London after being found guilty of cannabis possession and driving under the influence of drugs, and Guns N' Roses were booed and bottled offstage in Ireland after making fans wait for their performance.
Smashing Pumpkins star Billy Corgan confirmed reports he was dating Aussie pop star Jessica Origliasso, and the Charlatans axed U.S. shows after Jon Brookes collapsed onstage during a concert in Pennsylvania. He was later diagnosed with a brain tumour..
Isla Fisher and Sacha Baron Cohen welcomed their second child, John Lennon's killer Mark Chapman was denied parole for a sixth time, and Sofia Coppola picked up the Golden Lion Award at the Venice Film Festival amid a storm of controversy - her ex-boyfriend, Quentin Tarantino, led the jury!
Meanwhile, Take That bandmates Robbie Williams and Gary Barlow performed together for the first time in 15 years at a benefit for injured British soldiers, but Duff McKagan quit Jane's Addiction after five months and just three gigs.
The Troggs star Reg Presley suffered a stroke while holidaying in Spain and country music duo Brooks & Dunn split after an emotional night at a Nashville charity gig.
Elsewhere, T.I. and his wife were arrested in Los Angeles on suspicion of drug possession, UB40 star Ali Campbell was diagnosed with Epstein-Barr Syndrome, and Leonardo DiCaprio won a three-year restraining order against a woman claiming to be his wife.
Johnny Depp was named the highest paid actor by Forbes magazine, Britney Spears' one-time minder, Fernando Flores, filed suit against the pop star, claiming she had sexually harassed him and exposed herself in front of him, and The xx picked up Britain's prestigious Mercury Music Prize.
Eddie Vedder, Johnny Knoxville and David Essex wed - not to each other - and R&B star Lyfe Jennings was jailed for three and a half years over a violent altercation with his former girlfriend.
Meanwhile, James Gandolfini was caught driving on a suspended licence, Paris Hilton was refused entry to Japan; Kings of Leon star Caleb Followill and hot model Lily Aldridge announced their engagement, and actor Randy Quaid and his wife were arrested and charged with burglary amid allegations they had been illegally squatting in the house they once called home.
Actor Shelley Malil was convicted of attempted murder, Wyclef Jean announced he'd be running for presidential office in Haiti again in 2015 after his 2010 bid was dismissed, and comedian Greg Giraldo died in hospital after suffering an accidental drug overdose. Lindsay Lohan returned to rehab, David Beckham's lawyers served a writ to a hooker who claimed she'd slept with the soccer stud, and Heart rocker Nancy Wilson filed for divorce from moviemaker Cameron Crowe.
There was baby news for Mario Lopez, actresses Jodie Sweetin and Danica McKellar, actor James Van Der Beek, Rascal Flatts star Joe Don Rooney and celebrity chef Jamie Oliver.
ELO star Mike Edwards was killed in a freak accident, while veteran actors Harold Gould, Gloria Stuart and Kevin McCarthy also passed away along with legendary French director Claude Chabrol and filmmakers Arthur Penn and Clive Donner.
Other deaths included that of former boy band star Rich Cronin, who passed away after a stroke, aged 35, and Hollywood lost true legends in Eddie Fisher and Tony Curtis.
Celebrity break-ups were big news in October with a number of high-profile couples calling time on their relationship. Courteney Cox and David Arquette stunned the world by announcing they were taking a break from their 11-year marriage, and just days later singer Christina Aguilera confirmed her split from husband Jordan Bratman. Ben Harper and Laura Dern also filed for divorce after 10 years together.
But October also saw an influx of celebrity weddings - Katy Perry and Russell Brand sealed their love in a lavish Indian ceremony, and both Paul Weller and David Schwimmer hit the news when it emerged they had married their girlfriends in secret earlier in the year.
There was also plenty of baby news - Mariah Carey confirmed she is expecting her first child with husband Nick Cannon after months of speculation, while Celine Dion put the heartache of fertility treatment behind her to become a mum to twin boys. Hip-hop supercouple Alicia Keys and Swizz Beatz welcomed a baby boy named Egypt and Neil Patrick Harris became father to twins born via a surrogate.
Britain was in mourning following the loss of comedy legend Norman Wisdom, who passed away at the age of 95, while the world of music was rocked by the death of legendary soul singer Solomon Burke after he collapsed at an airport in Amsterdam, Holland. The death of soprano Joan Sutherland in Switzerland at the age of 83 prompted an outpouring of grief in her native Australia, and The Slits star Ari Up lost her battle with cancer at the age of 48.
The scandal of the month came courtesy of Charlie Sheen, who hit headlines when cops were called to his trashed suite at a New York City hotel during a night with a young model/actress. The star's reps blamed his meltdown on "an adverse reaction to medication". It was also a bad month for Mel Gibson - his personal problems with ex-girlfriend Oksana Grigorieva cost him a role in The Hangover sequel, while Taylor Swift was hit with a multi-million dollar lawsuit from a former manager. But the country star made up for it by embarking on a new romance with Hollywood hunk Jake Gyllenhaal.
There were also plenty of stars keeping the prison service busy - rapper T.I. was sent back to jail for breaching his probation while Lindsay Lohan escaped her second potential prison sentence of 2010 when a judge ordered her to spend three months in rehab instead. Careless driver George Michael regained his freedom after completing 27 days of his eight-week jail sentence.
The royal news of the year was the talk of the month as Prince William and Kate Middleton announced their engagement and plans to wed in 2011
Teen star Demi Lovato stunned young Hollywood when she quite the Jonas Brothers tour and checked into rehab to address personal and "emotional" issues, and Charlie Sheen and Lil Wayne officially became free men again - the actor's divorce from Brooke Mueller became official, while rapper Wayne was released from prison.
MGM, the studio behind the James Bond film franchise, filed for bankruptcy, actor Justin Long was injured in a car crash, and soul queen Aretha Franklin pulled out of a series of shows to undergo surgery.
Spice Girls star Emma Bunton and Pink announced they were pregnant, Lady Gaga was the big winner at the European Music Awards, and Rachel Weisz and moviemaker Darren Aronofsky split.
The Munsters child star Butch Patrick entered rehab to tackle substance abuse and alcohol issues, Wesley Snipes was ordered to jail after losing his bid for a retrial in his tax case, Audrina Patridge's stalker was jailed for two years when he failed to stay away from the star, and country singer Eddie Montgomery was diagnosed with prostate cancer.
Meanwhile, Ryan Reynolds was named Sexiest Man Alive by People magazine, Eva Longoria split from her husband Tony Parker amid reports he had been cheating on her, Kate Winslet split from boyfriend Louis Dowler, and Hollywood was stunned when top publicist Ronni Chasen was shot dead while driving through Beverly Hills .
In music news, Take That's Progress became Britain's fastest selling album of the century so far, Radiohead's Thom Yorke helped mastermind a piece of human art that could be seen from space, Miley Cyrus celebrated her 18th birthday party with pals Demi Moore and Rumer Willis, and Justin Bieber stole the show at the American Music Awards, taking home four prizes.
Malin Akerman replaced Lindsay Lohan as Linda Lovelace in the much-hyped Inferno, Leonardo DiCaprio was caught up in a mid-air drama when a plane he was flying to Russia in was forced to make an emergency landing after an engine stalled, and there was drama backstage at hit U.S. TV show Dancing With The Stars as studio staff came across an envelope containing a mysterious white powder intended for contestant Bristol Palin - it turned out to be talc!
Emmy Rossum and Counting Crows frontman Adam Duritz split, Jennifer Jason Leigh filed for divorce from filmmaker husband Noah Baumbach, and Ugly Betty actor Michael L. Brea was charged with murder after stabbing his mother with a Samurai sword. Willie Nelson was arrested and charged with drug possession, indie movie Winter's Bone became a big Oscars contender after claiming top prizes at the Stockholm and Gotham Film Festivals, and the Spider-Man musical opened on Broadway after a series of delays - the critics largely hated it.
Meanwhile, David Cassidy pleaded not guilty to DUI charges following his arrest in Florida, Uma Thurman's stalker was arrested after violating a restraining order, and AC/DC drummer Phil Rudd was convicted of cannabis possession in New Zealand.
The baby news of the month came from the Travoltas as movie star John and his wife Kelly Preston welcomed Benjamin into the world and the proud new parents list for November also featured Stella McCartney, Ne-Yo, Vera Farmiga, Green Day star Mike Dirnt and actress Emilia Fox, while rocker Chris Daughtry became a dad to twins.
The music world mourned the loss of Australian rocker James Freud who died just days after his band Models were inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame.
And it was a sad month for Hollywood as movie mogul Dino De Laurentiis passed away alongside actresses Ingrid Pitt and Jill Clayburgh and Naked Gun star Leslie Nielsen.
The film world also bid farewell to The Empire Strikes Back director Irvin Kershner and revered Italian filmmaker Mario Monicelli.
December saw a series of scandals as the stars brought a touch of sex and drugs to the festive season - and wildchild Miley Cyrus led the way. The former Disney star ended 2010 by reminding us all she's a grown up now after she was caught on camera smoking legal hallucinogenic Salvia from a bong, and hit headlines again days later when she was pictured in a girl-on-girl clinch and exposing her bra while surrounded by hunky men.
Her pal Demi Lovato joined the Hannah Montana star in scandal when provocative photos which appeared to show her partly-exposing her breasts leaked on the internet, and Christina Aguilera's reps vowed to hunt down computer hackers who leaked nearly-nude photos of the Beautiful hitmaker.
Pink Floyd rocker David Gilmour told of his shame after his son was arrested for clambering over a war memorial during student riots in London, and Hulk Hogan's wedding to Jennifer McDaniel descended into chaos when cops were called to break up a clash between a bodyguard and a photographer.
Love was in the air for Reese Witherspoon, who got engaged to Hollywood agent Jim Toth, and also making wedding plans this month were Ginnifer Goodwin, Shania Twain, Kelsey Grammer, Jennifer Connelly and Paul Bettany, Poison rocker Bret Michaels, and Hugh Hefner. And it was double delight for Natalie Portman – the actress got engaged and announced she's pregnant by choreographer Benjamin Millepied. Meanwhile, Michael Sheen and Rachel McAdams became Hollywood's hottest new couple.
Actor Vince Vaughn became a father for the first time, and there were also new arrivals for Alanis Morissette, Ali Larter, and Elton John, who became a father at 63 after he and boyfriend David Furnish welcomed a son via a surrogate mother.
Nicole Richie had her father Lionel dancing on the ceiling when she wed Joel Madden, but other stars weren't so lucky in love - Zac Efron and Vanessa Hudgens ended their romance, Elizabeth Hurley confirmed her marriage split from Arun Nayar after she was linked to cricketer Shane Warne, rocker John Mellencamp split from his wife of 18 years, and Ryan Reynolds filed for divorce from Scarlett Johansson.
In the courts, KC and The Sunshine Band co-founder Richard R. Finch was jailed for seven years for sexually abusing young boys, Rip Torn was given a suspended jail term for his drunken bank break-in, and rapper DMX was sent to prison for a year for violating his probation by using drugs. In Florida, officials posthumously pardoned Jim Morrison over his infamous arrest for indecent exposure at a 1969 The Doors concert.
Meanwhile, Heather Locklear was hospitalised for a bacterial infection, Eminem was celebrating after landing 10 Grammy nominations, rap mogul Suge Knight was arrested after missing a court hearing, and exiled moviemaker Roman Polanski's The Ghost Writer was the big winner at the European Film Awards.
Lady Gaga was named Artist of the Year by Billboard magazine editors, veteran entertainers Dame Julie Andrews and Dolly Parton were announced as recipients of lifetime achievement Grammy awards at a special upcoming ceremony in 2011, and Natalie Portman's hopes of Oscar glory for her movie Black Swan received a major boost by landing a record 12 nominations for the 2011 Critics' Choice Movie Awards.
The showbiz world mourned the loss of jazz musicians Billy Taylor and James Moody, Pink Panther creator Blake Edwards, rocker Captain Beefheart, singer/songwriter Teena Marie, and Boney M star Bobby Farrell.
And it was a miserable end to 2010 for Taylor Momsen - the Gossip Girl star spent Christmas in Amsterdam, Holland - away from her family and friends in the U.S. - after she became stranded in Europe due to flights chaos following snowstorms across the continent.
Under the guise of a modern-day Cinderella tale we meet high school senior Sam Montgomery (Hilary Duff) a wallflower who is forced to wait hand and foot on her plastic surgery-obsessed stepmother Fiona (Jennifer Coolidge) and whining stepsisters (Madeline Zima Andrea Avery) as well as work her fingers to the bone at the diner once owned by her deceased father by now run by the evil Fiona. Why does Sam do all this? Because Fiona--or more precisely Fiona's money--is Sam's only way to get into Princeton her dream college. The girl does find some solace in a cyber romance with an anonymous guy from her school a person with whom Sam truly connects. When the fellow sets up a meeting at the Halloween dance she goes but once there masked and in a beautiful white gown Sam discovers her online soul mate is the popular high school quarterback Austin Ames (Chad Michael Murray). Oh no! How could she possibly attract the likes of Austin Ames whose girlfriend is head of the popular girl clique? Even though Austin doesn't find out Sam's true identity at the dance because she rushes off before he can take her mask off (yeah that's right; a mask stops him from recognizing her) he is obsessed on finding out who his mysterious Cinderella is. Can Sam tell him who she really is? Will he love her just the same? And will she get to Princeton? Oh who cares? I'm getting bored just writing this.
Duff certainly has a strong following. Now more than ever with her burgeoning music career on the rise the young actress/singer can command the attention of most 'tweeners and is a very likable screen teen even if she may be a little breathy and squeaky when delivering poignant monologues. Yet the fact her rival Lindsay Lohan (oh come on we know there's a feud going on there) has already scored a major coup with the much better Mean Girls Duff's appeal is dampened a bit especially when the Lizzie McGuire star tries to emulate the same material. Thankfully Cinderella Story has a truly worthy leading man in Murray the cutie from Freaky Friday (which starred Lohan natch) infusing Austin with more soulful and romantic notions than the average high school hunk. He'll definitely make the girls in the audiences swoon right along with Duff. In the supporting bits veteran comic actress Coolidge best known for her hilarious turns in Best in Show and Legally Blonde is adequate doing the evil stepmother thing but is much better as the neurotic liposuction-lovin' botox-injectin' freak. Regina King however who was so good in Jerry Maguire is just plain wasted as Sam's "fairy godmother " a no-nonsense waitress who tells the girl to go out live her dreams. Please.
Cinderella Story not only suffers from bad timing but also retread problems. Are there really that many variations of the classic fairy tale worth seeing? Unfortunately in this case no. Director Mark Rosman whose guided Duff in a few Lizzie McGuire episodes for the Disney Channel does what he can with his young cast crafting a terminally hip Cinderella story--but ultimately all the good intentions in the film fall flat. It just becomes so been-there done-that--from the mean popular girl getting her comeuppances to the geeky best friend/sidekick (played with relish we might add by Dan Byrd) getting the recognition he's always wanted to of course the sappy happily ever after. Gag. Without an original idea hackneyed script and stereotypical performances this means the burden of the film's success which faces formidable summertime fare rests almost completely on young Duff's shoulders just as the disastrous New York Minute (oh wait we forgot to add that mess of a teen movie to the list) did on the Olsen twins. It's time to give these poor girls--and this tired teen milieu--a break ya think?