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.
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
Carbon copying the already overly convoluted idea from the previous Final Destination movies the latest worst installment continues on the theme of one unlucky twentysomething being able to predict who’s going to die and when; this time it’s Nick. After attending a NASCAR race with his girlfriend Lori and their friends Hunt and Janet Nick has a premonition about an elaborate horrific accident that threatens everyone present. Naturally it comes true — and even though plenty of people die in the stands Death (you know the bogeyman) has only just begun. But Nick realizes that he might be able to save the survivors of that day by remembering the order in which they're supposed to die and warning them of their imminent demise. Unfortunately though not everyone believes him and they carry on with their dangerous activities ... like going to a hair salon or — gulp! — through a carwash.
WHO’S IN IT?
Up-and-coming actor Bobby Campo plays the main pretty young thing and he makes the best of what is ultimately an untenable and God-awful role to have to accept. Still fresh faces capable of pulling off his part are a dime a dozen and Destination’s past leads like Mary Elizabeth Winstead at least left us feeling their fear. Supporting actresses Shantel VanSanten as Lori and Haley Webb as Janet are there for little more than eye candy and ear-shredding screams while former MTV 'It' dude Nick Zano as the obnoxious clichéd — and obnoxiously clichéd — Hunt can’t even provide the occasional comic relief for which he was brought on. The lone bright spot comes courtesy of an evidently desperate-for-work Mykelti Williamson (aka Bubba in Forrest Gump) who plays a widowed security guard adding a shred of cred to the otherwise disposable cast (which includes a barely there Krista Allen).
Clocking in at a mercifully brisk hour and 15 minutes the makers of TFD find one way to not essentially call us stupid: They know we want our scares quickly and they deliver — except for actually scaring us. Aside from its running time the aforementioned credible performance by Williamson is literally all the movie has going for it.
Wow where to begin? Destination another in a loooong line of wholly unnecessary sequels is riddled with problems — from the are-you-kidding-me? “special” effects (even in 3-D) to the jaw-droppingly horrendous writing. Director David R. Ellis (helmer of the infinitely better Final Destination 2) should bear much of the blame. He seems uninterested in delivering anything that people go to the movies for; this Destination is nothing more than tenuously connected scenes of video-game-like deaths that try to one-up each other. And not one of the sequences is even mildly suspenseful or scary — just disturbing in the sense that some people will actually smirk in earnest at the cartoonishness of it all.
The writing though is the real culprit. Eric Bress’ (also an FD2 alum) script is incredibly unimaginative merely recycling similar but better executed scenarios from the three previous movies and swapping out the settings. With ideas so bad Bress makes it abundantly clear that there’s no inane death massacre left to explore at this point; it's basically a metaphorical surrender. And yet the dialogue is even worse — with stock stereotypical block characters muttering it to boot.
LEAST FAVORITE SCENE?
Not to completely give it away — lest we make the movie predictable! — but one of the death scenes is just so far beyond ridiculous that it transcends even sarcastic laughter. Hint: It involves water and it’s about midway through the movie … if you dare stay that long.
Even if you’re not a cinephile and you couldn’t care less about things like character depth and plot development and you’re looking for a very quick thrill The Final Destination is well beneath you. It makes recent straight-to-DVD releases look like fully coherent masterpieces. Whether in 3-D or 2-D it’s a mustn't-see!
That's the sound of 14-year-old girls' hearts breaking across America. MSNBC cites an unnamed source as saying that famed boy band 'N Sync will break up, and as soon as this fall. MSNBC's insider is quoted as saying that friction among the band members is not an issue; it's that "they just have their own interests and would like to pursue solo careers. They've been together for something like four years now, and in the pop world, that's a lifetime." Actually, listening to any one of 'N Sync's songs in its entirety seems like a lifetime.
The rights to the 1974 horror classic The Texas Chain Saw Massacre have been bought by New Line Cinema, which promises to deliver a "fresh and thrilling post-modern" and toned-down retelling of the cult classic. Toned-down in this case would mean that only 24 people get butchered by the chainsaw-wielding Leatherface, and not 25.
So what would you do if you're Jerry Seinfeld and you have no place to park your Porsche collection (20 strong and growing) near your Manhattan home? You simply build a $1.39 million parking structure just a few blocks from your Upper West Side duplex, reports People magazine. Clearly, Jerry is the master of his domain.
Jude Law (A.I.: Artificial Intelligence) and wife Sadie Frost will give birth to their third child sometime in August, the Associated Press reports. The delighted couple is already parents to son Rafferty, 5, and daughter Iris, 18 months. Contrary to popular belief, Haley Joel Osment is not part of the family.
Comedian Bob Hope has donated $1 million of his own money to the organization behind the Primetime Emmys (the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences) to help build an archive of classic comedy performances. Hope turns 99 at the end of May and has clearly decided that if you can't take it with you, you might as well let a Hollywood academy waste it for you.
First, Gary Condit gets whitewashed in his bid for re-election, and now this: According to the New York Post, Carolyn Condit, Gary's wife, asked NBC for an on-air retraction following the Feb. 6 episode of Law & Order, which dealt with a politico's missing aide. The show, which echoed the Condit affair with missing intern Chandra Levy, later revealed that the murderer was the politico's wife. A spokesperson for the TV show's producers denied any connection to reality, stating, "The show is fictional." Anyone who watched the Connie Chung/Condit interview knows not to believe everything they see on TV.
DC Comics is suing the makers of Kryptonite gel, a new hair product that, according to Wella Corp., is "excellent for smooth, chunky spikes or textured styles," the AP reports. While Wella goes on to state that the gel is safe for humans, there's no word on what it does to Superman's powers--or his hair.
Alicia Keys has added her name to Jay-Z's and P. Diddy's--where are Heavy D and Master P?--who are headliners for the charity UrbanAID 2 concert next month. The concert hopes to raise awareness about AIDS (and not awareness about the plight of under-talented, over-hyped rappers with one-letter monikers).
Alanis Morissette's latest creation held off the Grammy-winning O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack to claim the top spot on SoundScan's music chart this week. Under Rug Swept, the grammatically challenged title from the Canadian songbird, sold more than 215,000 copies, besting country-compilation O Brother's 209,000. Last week's top spot holder, Jennifer Lopez's J to tha L-O!, slipped toward the bottom of the Top 10. (Mmm, we like the idea of Jennifer on the bottom almost as much as the idea of Jennifer on the top.)
Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin will be the headliner (and final performer) of the inaugural Rochester International Jazz Festival in June. The festival will also feature performances from jazz greats Sonny Rollins, Dianne Reeves and The Rippingtons. In what could be the understatement of the year, Chamber of Commerce President Tom Mooney told the AP, "This is easily the biggest music festival this city has ever seen."
ABC has forced Drew Carey, the eponymous star of The Drew Carey Show, to rewrite an episode that made fun of airport security guards, and the heavyset comedian is none too happy about it. Carey told the Los Angeles Times, "If you can't satirize authority institutions, what's the point?"