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.
Positioned as a memory play When Did You Last See Your Father? attempts to explore the lifelong relationship between a father dying of terminal cancer and his son told through flashbacks and present-day scenes. Arthur Morrison (Broadbent) and his wife Kim (Juliet Stevenson) are both doctors in a small town in England. They have two kids Gillian (Claire Skinner) and older brother Blake (Firth) who is now an author in his 40s with two kids of his own. The story revolves around how Blake tries to come to terms with his father’s mortality and freely travels in time opening with a sequence in which the 8-year-old Blake experiences an embarrassing car incident as his father drives the family to an event. As the film hops and skips through the family’s life--past and present--we see sad and happy moments focusing on Blake’s teen years and early career where dad always seems to upstage him to become the center of attention. Played out against the drama of Arthur’s imminent death Blake grows to accept it--and all that has come before. Although there is a fine supporting cast the film is what they call in the business a two-hander--a searing drama focusing on the relationship between father and son as played by two of Britain’s finest Oscar-winner Jim Broadbent and Colin Firth. They are both superb and by the very nature of the film given great opportunity to show their acting chops. It is Broadbent’s film right from the beginning however as his Arthur spans 40 years while Firth’s role is shared by some other fine actors (Bradley Johnson Matthew Beard) playing younger versions of Blake. Broadbent gives one of those dominating over-the-top confounding portrayals of a proud man whose immense presence permeates every aspect of his son’s life. Against this kind of formidable competition Firth is wonderfully understated and particularly effective in the film’s final few scenes. Stevenson and Skinner along with Gina McKee as the grown Blake’s wife handle the less demanding female roles with skill and compassion. Director Anand Tucker (Hilary and Jackie) doesn’t try to overpower the simple and literate story with any tricks instead letting When Did You Last See Your Father? live and breathe on its own powered by exceptional performances and a first-rate screenplay by David Nichols. Although the film is based on the actual memoir by the real-life Blake Morrison the story itself is universal and earns its laughs--and particularly its tears--by telling universal truths all of us can identify with. Tucker proves himself to be a fine actor’s director especially with Broadbent whose blustery character could have sailed out of control. Instead we understand this man even if we don’t always like him and much of that is due to the nicely nuanced command Tucker has over the proceedings. A small intimate film with numerous flashbacks like this one is trickier than it looks but ultimately it touches the heart and proves a worthwhile journey perfectly timed for Father’s Day.
Two members of the rap group Junior M.A.F.I.A. and a bodyguard employed by the group have been charged in connection with a shooting outside a New York deli, police told The Associated Press.
Rappers Little Caesar--whose real name is James Lloyd, 23--and Banger--Antoine Spain, 23--and their bodyguard Suif Jackson, 31, were arrested Friday and charged with attempted murder, reckless endangerment and criminal possession of a weapon. Two 9mm handguns were found in a hidden compartment of the car they allegedly fired the shots from. The guns are registered to rapper Lil' Kim, who is also a member of Junior M.A.F.I.A., police said.
Actress Tisha Campbell-Martin and her husband, actor Duane Martin, gave birth to Xen Martin, their 8-pound, 11-ounce son, on Wednesday. Both mother and baby are doing well, her manager, Gina Rugolo-Judd, told The Associated Press on Friday. Campbell-Martin played Gina, Martin Lawrence's girlfriend, on the Fox series Martin.
Country music Oak Ridge Boys' member William Lee Golden and wife, Brenda, welcomed a 6 pound baby boy, Solomon Golden, Friday, in Nashville, Tenn. "He looks wise already,'' Golden commented. This is the couple's first child, but Golden has three sons from a previous marriage, reports The Associated Press.
Michael Houston, brother of famed diva Whitney Houston, was arrested Wednesday and charged with cocaine, marijuana and drug paraphernalia possession, and being under the influence of drugs, Launch.com reports. Police searched his car and found 14 partially smoked marijuana cigarettes, a bag of marijuana, and cocaine. Michael Houston was arraigned at 12:30 a.m. Thursday, and released on a $3,500 bail.
A member of the rap group Insane Clown Posse pleaded no contest to charges stemming from a local bar fight. Joseph W. Utsler--also called Shaggy 2 Dope--entered no contest pleas to misdemeanor charges of battery and disorderly conduct Thursday in Wisconsin's Eau Claire County Circuit Court. Utsler paid $396 in fines and court costs, reports The Associated Press.
Singer-songwriter Dale Watson, 37, pays tribute to his fiancée, Terri Herbert, who died in a car accident last September, on his new CD Every Song I Write Is for You. "The album is a chronicle of grief, if you will,'' Watson told The Associated Press.
Lynyrd Skynyrd resumed their tour Saturday at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, following the death of bassist Leon Wilkeson on July 29.
The Backstreet Boys are on course to continue their tour following AJ McLean's release on Aug. 4, from the rehabilitation center where he had been staying since early July. McLean, who underwent treatment for alcoholism, depression and anxiety, has been moved to a "transitional care" facility in Los Angeles, according to the Backstreet Boys' publicists. The Backstreet Boys tour will resume on Aug. 24 at the Bradley Center in Milwaukee, WI and end at the Coors Amphitheater in Oct. 20 in Chula Vista, CA.
Irish pop group U2 has launched a European tour with a plea to Northern Ireland to ''Give peace a chance," reports Reuters. "Compromise is not such a bad word after all,'' lead singer Bono told the crowd in Manchester, England Saturday night. "Our prayer is that this week brave people make brave decisions and this little island across the little channel does not go back to war,'' Bono said.