Boxing legend Mickey Duff has died, aged 84. The revered trainer, who was born in Poland in 1929, emigrated to England in the late 1930s and changed his name from Monek Prager.
He started boxing as a teenager but retired in his early 20s and became a young promoter.
He was involved with a stable of top British fighters, including Frank Bruno, Joe Calzaghe, John Conteh, Lloyd Honeyghan and Alan Minter.
Duff was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1999.
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: Duff and Disney Part Ways
'Tween girls everywhere are going to be bummed. Hilary Duff, star of the Disney Channel's hit show Lizzie McGuire and the recent movie of the same name, has decided to take her leave from the company that helped launch her career. A spokeswoman for the Walt Disney Co. told Reuters the studio and the 15-year-old actress were "going their separate ways," after contract negotiations between Disney and Duff's representatives broke down. Reports say Duff was asking for $5 million for a Lizzie McGuire sequel and $100,000 per episode of the show. "We gave them a very generous offer and unfortunately they passed. Hilary is a great girl and we truly wish her the best of luck," the spokeswoman said. A Disney Channel spokesman told Reuters there were no plans to produce new episodes of the Lizzie McGuire show, but said the cable network plans to continue broadcasting the program.
Minnelli Show Must Go On
Liza Minnelli broke her right kneecap in a fall in Italy Sunday but continued her plans to sing in a charity concert for Iraqi refugees, doing a duet with opera tenor Luciano Pavarotti Monday. "She will leave hospital [Monday] evening to sing 'New York, New York' in a duet with Pavarotti. After the concert, she will return to hospital to undergo a knee operation," Pavarotti's spokeswoman told Reuters. The "Pavarotti and Friends Annual Charity Show" in Modena, northern Italy, aims to raise money to help Iraqi refugees return home after the war.
Simpsons' Groening Named Best Cartoonist
Matt Groening, the mad genius behind The Simpsons, was awarded the Outstanding Cartoonist of the Year at the 2003 Reuben Awards, The Associated Press reports. The 57th annual award ceremony was held Saturday at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco, with presenters and past Reuben winners such as "Dilbert" creator Scott Adams, "Doonesbury" creator Gary Trudeau, and Cathy Guisewite, creator of "Cathy," AP reports.
Gay Reality Show Gets a Shot
Cable network Bravo, owned by NBC, will air the first primetime gay-themed reality dating series called Boy Meets Boy. As usual, an eligible bachelor will choose among 15 potential mates--the twist is some of the men are actually heterosexual who have been paid to pretend to be gay. "I think this will be truly groundbreaking television," series executive producer and co-creator Douglas Ross told The Hollywood Reporter. "Several of the straight men have very intense experiences," he said, declining to divulge specific behavior. "We anticipate a lot of both gay and straight viewers will have their assumptions challenged about what it means to be gay and what it means to be straight."
Mighty Wind Singers Give Free Concert
They enjoyed it so much on-screen they decided to do it for real. The cast of the mockumentary A Mighty Wind, which follows three sets of folk singing icons as they come together for a memorial concert, gave their own free concert at the Getty Center museum in Los Angeles Friday, AP reports. Performing were Christopher Guest, Harry Shearer and Michael McKean as the Folksmen; Eugene Levy and Catherine O'Hara as Mitch & Mickey; and John Michael Higgins, Jane Lynch and Parker Posey as young members of the nine-person New Main Street Singers.
Once-Blacklisted Actress Gets Star
Betty Garrett, best known for her role as Edna Babish on the TV sitcom Laverne & Shirley, got her own Hollywood Walk of Fame star Friday. Garrett, 84, and her late husband, Larry Parks, were both briefly blacklisted in the early 1950s during the McCarthy era.
Role Call: Curtis Hanson Turns Crimson, Old School's Boys Go Back to Class, Miramax Lands Barbarian
Director Curtis Hanson (8 Mile) is in final negotiations to direct The Crimson Petal and the White. Based on Michael Farber's Victorian novel, the story focuses on a 19-year-old prostitute living in 1860s London who becomes the secret mistress to a member of a powerful London family…meanwhile, the trio of funny guys--Will Ferrell, Luke Wilson and Vince Vaughn--who made Old School a hit will likely return to make the sequel, currently in development, Variety reports…and also in Variety news, Miramax picked up the distribution rights to director Denys Arcand's French-Canadian film The Barbarian Invasions, which recently won awards at the Cannes Film Festival for best screenplay and best actress (Marie-Josee Croze). The story follows an estranged son who reunites with his divorced parents when his father faces a life-threatening illness.