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.
Since separating from husband David Arquette in 2010, the Friends star has been romantically linked to her Cougar Town co-stars Brian Van Holt and Josh Hopkins - and she even vacationed with the latter in St. Barts last week (ends01Apr11).
But Cox insists her co-stars are just friend who have been offering her their support at a difficult time in her life.
She tells Harper's Bazaar, "He's (Brian Van Holt) a really good friend of mine, so I don't care. It just doesn't matter. He's a great guy, and he's definitely been a part of my support system.
'We (Brian Van Holt and I) were doing a scene out on a dock in Marina del Rey (California), and there were pictures of the two of us. As if that's where I'm going to go (to) have a private moment.
"How about the camera that was right there and all the cast members to the left that were completely cut out? But I'm used to it. It happened on Friends... That's just a part of life."
The former Friends star separated from husband David Arquette late last year (10) and she was subsequently linked to her Cougar Town co-star Brian Van Holt.
Cox denied the romance reports but now she has been paired with another co-star - her onscreen lover Hopkins, who was previously rumoured to be dating her close pal Jennifer Aniston.
The pair was photographed holidaying in St. Bart's and enjoying time on the beach together earlier this week (beg28Mar11), sparking gossip they are more than friends.
But Cox's rep has now spoken out to explain the pictures, telling People.com, "The relationship is strictly platonic and they are away with a group of friends on vacation."
The 1969 heist classic, about a group of criminals who attempt to steal a van full of gold, notched up 15 per cent of votes in a survey of 1,000 film fans to find the best movie to come out of the U.K.
Monty Python's Life of Brian came in second, while The Full Monty trailed in third with six per cent of votes in the Sky Movies HD poll.
Meanwhile, Sir Anthony Hopkins was crowned Britain's favourite actor with 12 per cent of the vote and Laurence Olivier was a close runner-up with 10 per cent. The Italian Job's lead actor Caine rounded out the top three.
Dame Judi Dench was hailed the country's top actress with a quarter of the votes cast, while her closest rival, Dame Helen Mirren, took 14 per cent.
Rear Window director Alfred Hitchcock was voted Britain's best filmmaker.
Ian Lewis, Director of Sky Movies, says, "The results of the Greatest British Film poll speak volumes about the nation's favourite homegrown talent, and the dream line-up would be a truly spectacular film. As we approach awards season and the competition escalates, we wanted to celebrate the best of British talent... We are rooting for the likes of Colin Firth, Helena Bonham Carter and Christopher Nolan during this year's awards."
Source: Heat Vision Blog
Hopkins to Play Villain in 'Arabian Nights'?
Anthony Hopkins might be adding another bad-guy role to his resume, albeit a decidedly different type than Hannibal Lecter.
The Oscar winner is reportedly very close to joining the cast of Arabian Nights -- as the villain.
Liam Hemsworth is already attached to play the lead role of a commander who teams up with Sinbad, Ali Baba and the Genie (yes, the one from the magic lamp).
Hopkins would play their chief adversary, Pharotu, in Arabian, which is expected to start shooting at the end of the summer.
Kat Dennings has joined the cast of Thor -- according to the movie’s leading lady, Natalie Portman.
Portman told MTV of the news while promoting her soon-to-be-released drama Brothers: "Kat Dennings is going to be in it with me and she's a good friend and an amazing actress, so I'm looking forward to that."
It's not yet known which role Dennings (Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist) would fill (the Enchantress?!), but the up-and-coming actress joins a strong cast that already boasts Anthony Hopkins, Idris Elba, Samuel L. Jackson and Chris Hemsworth as the title character.
Thor, directed by Kenneth Branagh, will be released on May 20, 2011.
Movie star Shia LaBeouf had a one-date wonder with Rihanna -- but the couple failed to hit it off as potential lovers.
The Transformers star reveals he became "infatuated" with the "Umbrella" hitmaker and was stunned to find out Rihanna was trying to get in touch with him.
A mutual stylist friend eventually passed Rihanna's details to LaBeouf while he was filming Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystall Skull in Hawaii.
He recalls, "(I was) filming a sword fight when I got the message. I said to myself, 'Can this be my life?'"
The actor tells Playboy magazine he texted the R&B pin-up and they set up a dinner date: "It never got beyond one date. The spark wasn't there. We weren't passionate about each other in that way, so we remain friends."
LaBeouf admits the passion definitely was there on the Transformers movie sets -- between him and co-star Megan Fox, who plays his girlfriend in the action blockbusters.
And the actor still holds out hope he and Fox can become lovers in the future.
He admits they both had to be professional about their relationship while they were working together: "It hasn't been a romantic thing because you're trying to respect the work environment. You don't push anything. And, with sex and romance, things become convoluted so fast... You're playing with the devil.
"We could be shooting, and the relationship is suddenly on the rocks and then what? So we just never did anything about it. We were very smart. We're attracted to each other, and I think you can see that in our scenes together. It's very real and tangible, and you can tell something exists.
"I'm going to know the girl forever. She's a beautiful, intelligent girl, and when you make a movie with someone like that... you feel things. I know a relationship between us isn't an option for us right now for a variety of reasons... (but) I get to kiss her in the fantasy world."
Fox is involved in a committed relationship with actor Brian Austin Green, but the couple recently called off its engagement.
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MORE NEWS: Hopkins to Feast As Hannibal Again
Wonder what Hannibal Lecter (Gaspard Ulliel) was like as a boy? Well even as a youngster he had a keen interest in (eating) human anatomy but as we see in Hannibal Rising he wasn’t born a cannibal. It all started in World War II Lithuania where a young Hannibal is left an orphan after he watches his whole family die at the hands of war criminals. In the eight years that pass only the hope of revenge has kept him afloat. After escaping the orphanage at which he was bullied Hannibal finds his uncle’s Japenese widow Lady Murasaki (Gong Li) who lives in a similarly lonesome state. They strike up a very close bond in which she helps him tap into the memory of his family’s death--most importantly and painfully his young sister’s--while he more or less let’s her live. Not the case for those who wronged him but hot on Hannibal’s murderous trail is a French inspector (Dominic West) who both sympathizes with and greatly fears the madman-child Lecter. And given that Anthony Hopkins has thrice played a grown-up Hannibal and Brian Cox once everyone should know how this prequel ends. With Anthony Hopkins having lent his unmistakable visage to his now iconic Lecter no actor would be given a fair chance to do the same for a young Hannibal. Ulliel (A Very Long Engagement) often tries his darndest to contort his makeup-scarred face so that it alone will frighten viewers but an actor either looks like a psychopath or doesn’t; Hopkins with the utmost respect looks like a straightjacket escapee whereas Ulliel looks like an over-exerting actor. Forced scowl aside he’s creepy as a near mute in the movie but it’s almost impossible to believe that this is the young man who would go on to become Hopkins’ Lecter. Li (Miami Vice) looks incredible and easily 20 years younger than her actual age. She does what she can with her mysterious and emotionally stunted Lady Murasaki but it’s an odd character to begin with. In a supporting role Englishman West (HBO’s The Wire) adds a needed subtle performance and fits well alongside the past lawmen in the Hannibal series and Rhys Ifans as a villain continues his trend of unpredictable role choices. Hannibal Rising is astonishingly the fifth installment in a franchise that truly lost its luster after Silence of the Lambs and the neglected Manhunter. Of course the franchise is only kaput if the latest doesn’t make enough money but this should have been stopped years ago—at least as a movie series. As novels the saga is much more sustainable because author Thomas Harris who makes his Lecter screenplay debut with Rising can get away with murder (no pun intended). But while Rising is far from over the top director Peter Webber (Girl with a Pearl Earring) and Harris can’t make the movie nearly as tense as any of its novel or film predecessors. Webber is an editor-turned-director and it shows: The film is masterfully shot by Ben Davis (Layer Cake) and put together by the director but once Webber gets down to the movie’s blood and guts (pun intended this time) he can’t deliver much excitement at all. Ultimately Webber takes his restraint too far.
Because I Said So could be as a public service announcement to all those meddling mothers out there—but also to their complaining daughters. See Daphne Wilder (Diane Keaton) has raised her three daughters—Maggie (Lauren Graham) Mae (Piper Perabo) and Milly (Mandy Moore)—by herself so it’s only natural for her to butt in especially when she fears her youngest Milly will never find Mr. Right. Taking matters into her own hands Daphne runs an Internet ad to meet and evaluate potential suitors for Milly. The results are positively disastrous except for two possible matches: a guitarist Johnny (Gabriel Macht) in the band playing background music during the matchmaking session and a well-off architect named Jason (Tom Everett Scott). Daphne however only deems Jason “long-term” enough for her daughter writing off the tattooed Johnny as more of a fling. Luckily Johnny manages to get Milly’s phone number and before long Milly is forced to choose between the two men after being single for the longest time. But what she doesn’t know is that her mom is responsible—well at least for one of the guys. Okay it may be time for a chick-flick intervention for Keaton. The Oprah of romantic comedies Keaton has the talent and everything else necessary to steal some of Meryl Streep’s meaty dramatic roles but she seems to prefer the safe stuff. Her performance here is no different than those in her last two movies (The Family Stone Something's Gotta Give) and the movies are all somewhat similar too. Point is nice job yet again Diane—now give us an effin’ feel-bad movie! Keaton’s interplay with Moore is genuinely heartfelt even if it’s not physically or biologically credible. The latter is neither actress’s fault though and Moore trying to shed her teenybopper past actually displays the most growth of the two. But despite solid crying scenes and overall cutesiness Moore also should make this her last rom-com role—unless a halfway decent script happens to come along. The supporting gals (Perabo and Gilmore Girls’ Graham) fare better than the guys in the acting department but the likely all-female audience will fall hard for Macht (A Love Song for Bobby Long). Scott (TV's Saved) is badly miscast as an affluent Romeo only to be outdone by Arrested Development’s Tony Hale who would’ve lost less cred if his tiny role were reduced to a mere cameo. You have to start to think that director Michael Lehmann’s 1989 cult classic Heathers might have been a fluke because his career has been on a decline ever since culminating with Said So. This time around Lehmann should’ve stuck solely with the tender cheesy feel-good theme which is at times at least effective. But when the director tries to switch to comedy covering everything from female orgasms to Asian-masseuse gags fit for a Cedric the Entertainer movie the film goes so far south that it never recovers (and the masseuse bit comes early on). Unfortunately it’s not just the comedy that misfires. The male characters are barely there or even necessary making it seem like writers Karen Leigh Hopkins (Stepmom) and Jessie Nelson (the upcoming Fred Claus co-writer of Stepmom) merely exploited them to get to the predictable conclusion. Of course this is a by-the-book chick flick we’re talking about but the writers and director apparently didn’t want to push the envelope when it came to the supporting characters—or the main characters. Or any aspect of the movie whatsoever!
In his effort to recall and contrast the enthusiastic optimism that surrounded the presidential campaign of RFK with the heartbreaking illusion-shattering reality of his assassination Estevez wisely bypasses conventional biopic storytelling or even conspiracy-minded cinematic razzle-dazzle of JFK. Instead he tells the tale from the ground level focusing on a large disparate cast of characters of differing social status – some interconnected some not – who’ve assembled at Los Angeles’ swank Ambassador Hotel on the fateful day in 1968 and as a group they’re both as troubled as that turbulent year and still each clinging to hope in their own individual ways. There’s the Dodger-loving busboy (Freddy Rodriguez) contending with a brooding racist kitchen boss (Christian Slater) and bolstered by an eloquent chef (Laurence Fishburne); the head of staff (William H. Macy) who’s sleeping with a comely switchboard girl (Heather Graham) while seemingly happily married to the hotel’s compassionate beauty salon operator (Sharon Stone); she in turn counsels both a young teen bride-to-be (Lindsay Lohan) marrying a friend (Elijah Wood) to protect him from service in Vietnam and the faded boozy lounge singer (Demi Moore) whose self-destructive cruelty alienates her subservient husband (Emilio Estevez); a veteran hotel manager (Anthony Hopkins) and his retiring crony (Harry Belafonte) reflect on their lifetime of experience while an idealistic Kennedy campaigner (Joshua Jackson) dispatches two volunteers (Shia LaBeoufand Brian Geraghty) to recruit last-minute voters but they head off on an acid trip with a high-minded hippie (Ashton Kutcher); the disconnected May-December couple (Martin Sheen and Helen Hunt) the black campaign volunteer (Nick Cannon) who’s already lost too many leaders; the crusading Czechoslovakian journalist (Lenka Janacek) scrambling for an interview with the candidate; and Kennedy himself appearing in news and archival footage the most eerily effective presence in the film. While such an A-list ensemble of actors initially seems like a director’s dream team they are also responsible for the biggest hurdle the film faces. While most films have a handful of stars and the luxury of time to help audiences forget their celebrity status and embrace them as the characters they’re playing Bobby keeps shoehorning more and more famous faces into short scenes which makes it somewhat more difficult to shake the initial distraction of “Hey there’s so-and-so!” Some of skilled cast—particularly Hopkins Belafonte Macy Sheen Hunt Rodriguez and Fishburne—make the transition easier but with others who are known more as “stars” than actors (Moore Stone Lohan and Kutcher) it takes longer to adjust. And that’s not to say those performances are bad: Moore is terrific reminding us more of her innate watchability on screen than her well-preserved looks and much-younger husband; Stone is in top form despite her overly dowdy get-up; and Kutcher shows his skill with a slightly subtler form of comedy than he usually delivers. Lohan is only passable however trying too self-consciously to appear vulnerable. Still other performances are revelations: Cannon shows as-yet-unseen depth and fire Jackson displays a Clooney-esque self-assured poise and Estevez smartly underplays his role. Understatement definitely seems to be Estevez’s watchword. He typically eschews an overly flashy cinematic approach and simply allows his actors to bring the scenes to emotional life even as he takes great pains to get the period details just right. When he does bring his technical filmmaking savvy more obviously to the forefront primarily in the scenes that integrate real scenes of Kennedy into the story it’s especially potent. Indeed the first three-quarters of the film are well-shot well-acted vignettes that evoke an era but it’s the thoughtful and clever integration of RFK into the third act that unifies and ultimately gives each of the stories—and the film as a whole—genuine dramatic power. Ultimately Estevez uses Kennedy’s own words to deliver a solemn respectful eulogy for the man and a hopeful call to keep the man’s dreams alive.