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: Thornton's Girlfriend in Family Way
Billy Bob Thornton and his girlfriend Connie Angland announced Thursday that they are expecting a child this fall, The Associated Press reports. "The due date is set for sometime in October," Thornton publicist Arnold Robinson said. Angland, 39, doesn't work in the entertainment industry. Thornton, who will be seen in the upcoming The Alamo, has three children from two previous marriages.
Rodriguez Resigns From DGA
Spy Kids director Robert Rodriguez resigned from the Directors Guild of America, due to his desire to co-direct Sin City with novel series creator Frank Miller, Variety reports. DGA rules dictate that there be only one director assigned to direct a motion picture at any given time, although the guild occasionally grants a waiver, such as with the Coen brothers. "I didn't want Frank (Miller) to be treated as just a writer, because he is the only one who has actually been to Sin City, " Rodriguez told Variety. "I am making such a literal interpretation of his book that I'd have felt weird taking directing credit without him." Rodriguez also quit the DGA a decade ago so he could direct a segment in the Quentin Tarantino-orchestrated film Four Rooms. Rodriguez's resignation has also puts his other film project, Paramount Pictures' Princess of Mars, in jeopardy since Paramount is required to employ only guild directors.
Stern Dumped for Good by Clear Channel
Clear Channel Communications Inc. has severed all ties with shock jock Howard Stern, Reuters reports, after the FCC imposed a $495,000 fine for indecent comments on his show, John Hogan, president and chief executive of Clear Channel Radio, said the company was not willing to shoulder the "great liability" of broadcasting Stern's popular radio show. Stern issued a statement on his Web site calling the FCC's actions part of a "McCarthy-type 'witch hunt."' "It is pretty shocking that governmental interference into our rights and free speech takes place in the U.S.," Stern said in the statement.
Are They or Aren't They?
James Brown and his wife, Tomi Rae Brown, who apparently are not legally married, will likely have a second legitimate wedding if she's able to annul her previous marriage to Javed Ahmed of Pakistan, his lawyer told AP. Tomi Rae Brown filed a formal petition for annulment in December, saying the marriage lasted three days and was "done under the pretense of a man trying to stay in the country." Meanwhile, the Godfather of Soul himself filed for an annulment from Tomi Rae after he was charged with criminal domestic violence in January, but the couple has since reconciled. "The hope is once she gets the annulment from Mr. Ahmed finalized, we will be able to do the annulment [with James Brown] in Aiken County very swiftly, then it's my impression the parties would be able to enter into a marriage without these entanglements," Jim Huff, Brown's lawyer, said Wednesday.
Media Want Jackson Ban To Be Lifted
Representation for news organizations, including AP, have asked an appeals court to immediately lift a gag order that bars those involved in the Michael Jackson child molestation case from speaking about it publicly, AP reports. In a filing before the state Court of Appeals, attorney Theodore Boutrous said the order imposed unconstitutional "prior restraint" on attorneys and potential witnesses and blocked the media's ability to address false rumors and news reports. Jackson attorney Mark Geragos remained opposed. "Our position remains the same," he said.
Christians Offended by Madonna's Sunday Concert in Ireland
Madonna, whose Re-Invention tour stops in Ireland in August, has come under fire from Christians for booking her first ever concert in the country on a Sunday. The show is scheduled for Aug. 29 at Slane Castle, 30 miles north of Dublin, leading many to believe Madonna, who has developed an interest in Jewish mysticism, refused to play on Saturday because it is the Jewish Sabbath. Joe Deegan, Slane's parish priest, told Reuters Friday the decision was insensitive in a country where 90 percent of the population is Roman Catholic. The last time Slane Castle hosted a major concert on a Sunday was in 1984 when Bob Dylan played, a show that sparked riots.
Embattled Singer Scott Weiland Set To Tour
California authorities will allow former Stone Temple Pilots frontman Scott Weiland to tour with his bandmates in their new group, Velvet Revolver, Billboard.com reports. Weiland has spent the past several months in a court-ordered drug rehabilitation center after pleading no contest last year to heroin possession. The band, which consists of Slash's former Guns N' Roses colleagues, bassist Duff McKagan and drummer Matt Sorum, and guitarist David Kushner of Suicidal Tendencies, will play medium-sized venues leading up to the June 8 release of their RCA debut album Contraband.
Police Arrest Avril Lavigne's Stalker
Police in Lynnwood, Wash., arrested a man for allegedly stalking teen pop singer Avril Lavigne, the AP reports. Thirty-year-old James Speedy was booked into jail for investigation of stalking after police searched his home in suburban Seattle Wednesday--the same day Lavigne played a free concert at a mall south of Seattle. He later posted $5,000 bail and was released. Police have been investigating the case since last summer, when they were contacted by authorities in Ontario, Canada, about harassing letters and e-mails sent to the 19-year-old Canadian singer.
Eric Clapton Launches Tour
Guitarist Eric Clapton has confirmed a two-month North American tour of arenas and outdoor amphitheaters. According to Billboard.com, the tour kicks off June 9 in Oklahoma City and wraps Aug. 2 in Los Angeles. Clapton will be touring in support of his just-released Warner Bros. album Me and Mr. Johnson, which debuted at No. 6 Wednesday on the Billboard 200. The album features new interpretations of songs by Robert Johnson, the Mississippi Delta-bred, hard-living folk blues legend who died at age 27, just months after his only recording sessions in 1936-37.
Top Story: More Absences on Raymond Set
As production for the season premiere of CBS' Everybody Loves Raymond got under way Monday, two more co-stars--Peter Boyle and Doris Roberts--called in sick, while Brad Garrett remained on strike asking for an increase in salary, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Patricia Heaton, however, returned to work on Monday after calling in sick last week and delaying production. Dale Olson, a spokesman for Roberts, told The Reporter the actress was still grappling with pain from a knee injury she sustained Aug. 7 during a photo shoot for Glamour magazine at her Hollywood Hills home. "She has nothing to do at all with what else is going on there," Olson said. "It is just unfortunate timing." The trade paper reports a source close to the show said that Boyle has been struggling in recent months with adverse reactions to a prescription drug.
Azaria Wins Emmy in Animation
The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences announced Monday winners of the 55th annual Primetime Emmy Awards in selected animation categories, also called juried awards, which do not have nominations and may include more than one winner in each category judged by members of ATAS' animation peer group, Reuters reports. Hank Azaria won his third Emmy for his voiceover work on Fox's The Simpsons. Other winners included technical awards for Cartoon Network's Samurai Jack and HBO's Through a Child's Eye: September 11, 2001 . The juried animation awards will be presented Sept. 13 at the Creative Arts Emmy Awards ceremony at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, Reuters reports. The remaining Emmy Awards will be handed out Sept. 21.
Mystic Kicks Off New York Film Festival
Clint Eastwood's mystery/drama Mystic River will open the 41st annual New York Film Festival Oct. 3. Reminiscent of the Cannes Film Festival, other films in competition at the NY Film Fest includes Gus Van Sant's Elephant, which won the Palme d'Or at Cannes, Lars Von Trier's Dogville and Denys Arcand's The Barbarian Invasions. The festival runs Oct. 3-19.
Ferrell Honored by ShowEast
Former Saturday Night Live alum Will Ferrell will received the comedy star of the year award at ShowEast 2003, Variety reports. His upcoming film Elf, co-starring James Caan, Ed Asner and Bob Newhart, will be also shown at ShowEast. "Will Ferrell has proven to be one of the most exciting, versatile talents in comedy, and Elf represents a major step in his career, making it the ideal linchpin for this much-deserved award," ShowEast co-director Mitch Neuhauser told Variety. ShowEast is scheduled for Sept. 29-Oct. 2 in Orlando, Fla.
ABC Family has pulled the plug on Roseanne Barr's upcoming cooking show Domestic Goddess due to the actress's health problems, The Associated Press reports. The 50-year-old Barr is scheduled to undergo a planned hysterectomy on Wednesday and had only recently begun production on the new show, which was to begin airing Sept. 20. The reality show The Real Roseanne Show, which chronicled the development of Goddess, has been playing on ABC since Aug. 6. Despite low ratings, the reality show will run through Sept. 17.
Actor Max Baer Jr., who played Jethro on the popular '60s TV show The Beverly Hillbillies, is planning to capitalize on the show's theme by building a $54 million Hillbillies-style hotel-casino resort in Reno, Nevada, called appropriately Jethro's Beverly Hillbillies Mansion and Casino, AP reports. Some of the highlights will include a 200-foot-tall, flame-belching oil derrick, a "Granny's Shotgun Wedding Chapel," "Uncle Jed's Gift Shop," "Jethro's Buffet" and "Elly May's Buns Bakery." Baer also envisions a nine-screen movie theater and a dancehall-show lounge, AP reports.
T3 DVD Release To Follow Schwarzenegger's Political Run
Whether he'll be governor of California or not, the two-disc DVD of Arnold Schwarzenegger's Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines will be released Nov. 11, a month after California's gubernatorial recall election, AP reports. Schwarzenegger and director Jonathan Mostow recorded a commentary for the Warner Home Video version, which includes additional scenes, an on-set gag reel and four visual effects labs that allow viewers to build their own action scene, AP reports.
Rock Singer Gets Three Years Probation
Scott Weiland, lead singer for the band Stone Temple Pilots and Velvet Revolver, was sentenced last Thursday to three years' probation on two felony drug possession charges, Reuters reports. Weiland, 35, was arrested in May during a traffic stop in Burbank, Calif., when police found drug paraphernalia inside the car. Weiland went to prison in 1999 on similar drug charges after he repeatedly violated his probation and failed to complete a rehab program. This time the singer is required to continue counseling and rehab sessions, as well as submit to random drug testing.
Top Story: McDermott, Boyle Aren't Practice-ing
Six actors--including Dylan McDermott, Lara Flynn Boyle, Kelli Williams, Lisa Gay Hamilton, Marla Sokoloff and Chyler Leigh--will not be returning to the Emmy-winning ABC show The Practice for an eighth season, The Hollywood Reporter reports. In an effort to cut down on production costs due to a 50 percent reduction in the license fee paid by ABC, the actors' options were not picked up by David E. Kelley Prods. and 20th Century Fox TV. "Due to economic and creative realities, many key people will not be returning, including Dylan," David E. Kelley told The Reporter Monday. "It hurts, professionally and personally. This is perhaps the finest group of actors and people one could ever hope to work with; I hope for all of them to recur if possible, and if I'm lucky, I'll get to work with them on future projects as well. I'm indebted to each and every one of them."
Kidman Willing To Give It All Up
In Cannes promoting her new film Dogville, a favorite to win the Palme d'Or this year, Oscar winner Nicole Kidman told reporters she would gladly give up the Hollywood life if she met the right person, Reuters reports. "I probably won't do this for the rest of my life. There are other things to do that interest me and I think that when I fall in love, that's when I will stop and settle down," Kidman said.
Bring On The Matrix Defense
We knew the movies were killer, but in the literal sense? Producer Joel Silver is defending The Matrix movies against accusations that they invoke violence, The Washington Post reports. Lawyers for a 19-year-old Virginia man who recently killed both his parents say he believed he was living in the Matrix, an Ohio woman and a San Francisco man both killed their landlords but pleaded not guilty by reason of Matrix-related insanity, and even the boy involved in last October's D.C.- area sniper attacks has cited the film, Reuters reports. Matrix trilogy producer Joel Silver defended the film's violence at a press conference in London, reminding fans the movies were just fantasy. "I only can comment that 15 million people have seen the movie," Silver said.
Rocker Weiland Arrested on Drug Charge
Stone Temple Pilots lead singer Scott Weiland was arrested over the weekend in Burbank, Calif. for possessing cocaine and heroin and released on bail Monday, Reuters reports. Police discovered the drugs during a routine traffic stop of a car that Weiland was riding in shortly before midnight on Saturday. The car's driver, Jennifer Sires, was also arrested. The rocker's arrest comes two years after he completed a jail term for violating his probation on the same charges.
Oprah Signs for Two More Years
Ka-ching! Oprah Winfrey has agreed to host her popular talk show through 2008 for an undisclosed amount, inking the deal with Viacom Inc.'s King World Productions, Reuters reports. "It's fulfilling being able to do this kind of television," Winfrey said in the announcement, "and I believe continuing to have a voice and a platform to speak to the world is still the right thing to do."
Jackman To Host Tony Awards
Wolverine a Broadway enthusiast? Apparently so. Hugh Jackman, currently starring in the hit film X2: X-Men United, is set to host the 2003 Tony Awards. The Aussie actor will also make his Broadway debut Oct. 16 playing entertainer Peter Allen in the musical The Boy From Oz. The Tonys air on CBS June 8, live from Radio City Music Hall.
Disney Tests New Home Viewing Technology
The Walt Disney Co. will test two new home viewing options this fall--one enabling consumers to download a movie directly to their televisions, and one where a rented DVD will self-destruct after a period of time, The Associated Press reports. The new technology is being designed to broaden film distribution, boosting profits and taking out the middleman, such as Blockbuster.
Role Call: Scorsese Takes on Dylan, Griffin Voices "Bunyan"
Director Martin Scorsese is set to direct a documentary about folk singer Bob Dylan and how his early music had an impact on the cultural and political landscape, Variety reports. The Oscar-nominated director, who featured Dylan in his screen version of the Band's The Last Waltz, will have full cooperation from the singer, who'll give his first filmed interview in 20 years...meanwhile, funny guy Eddie Griffin has inked a deal to provide the voice of Babe the Blue Ox in the live-action/CGI feature Paul Bunyan. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the story follows two children spending the summer at their grandparents' Minnesota farm located near the Dead Forest, where Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox disappeared decades earlier. One of the children stumbles upon a secret underworld where Bunyan has resided in solitude with his ox since their disappearance.