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.
Actor/comedian Bernie Mac has died from complications of pneumonia, his publicist told The Associated Press on Saturday. He was 50 years old.
Mac, whose real name was Bernard Jeffrey McCullough, “passed away this morning from complications due to pneumonia in a Chicago area hospital,” said his publicist, Danica Smith, in a statement. “No other details are available at this time. We ask that his family's privacy continues to be respected.”
Movie and television studio Fox, with which Mac had a working relationship throughout his career, issued the following statement on Saturday afternoon: “Bernie Mac was a gifted talent whose comedy came from an authentic and highly personal place. He was a tremendous live performer and a wonderful actor. FOX was proud to be the home of The Bernie Mac Show, and all of us at FOX and 20th Century Fox Television extend our deepest sympathies to his wife Rhonda and daughter JeNiece.”
The sad news came after a roller-coaster week of reports both grim and optimistic.
On Monday, amid rumors that Mac had passed away, Smith had this to say regarding his condition: “Bernie Mac is still alive and being treated in a Chicago hospital for pneumonia and is expected to make a full recovery. (He is) responding well to treatment and will be released soon.”
And just Thursday, Smith said that the beloved “King of Comedy” was “stable,” responding well to treatment and expected to make a full recovery.
Mac, a Chicago native, was a longtime sufferer of the immune-system disorder sarcoidosis, which Smith said on Monday had been in remission since 2005 and was unrelated to his hospitalization.
The Emmy- and Golden Globe-nominated actor had film and TV projects in various stages of production, including 2009’s Old Dogs with John Travolta and Robin Williams.
Two of Mac’s films will be released in November: the highly anticipated Madagascar sequel and Soul Men, a comedy starring Samuel L. Jackson.
Top Story: Aretha Franklin Hospitalized
Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin was hospitalized Saturday for an undisclosed ailment and is in stable condition, her New York City-based publicist told The Associated Press Monday. Publicist Gwendolyn Quinn declined to say where the singer had been hospitalized and said she had no further information about Franklin's illness or how long she would be hospitalized. Franklin, who lives in Detroit, turns 62 on Thursday. She won a Grammy Award last month for best traditional R&B vocal performance for "Wonderful" from her latest album, So Damn Happy.
Bobby Brown Released From Jail Early
R&B singer Bobby Brown was released from a DeKalb County, Ga., jail Monday--three days earlier than scheduled--to appear in family court in an emergency hearing in Roanoke, Va., on Wednesday. But DeKalb County Sheriff Thomas Brown declined to say why Brown had been ordered to appear in Virginia, Reuters reports. On Feb. 27, Brown was sentenced to 60 days in jail after the singer violated his probation terms on a drunken driving charge. The 35-year-old singer was sentenced for five violations including refusing to take drug tests and paying his probation fees; failing to provide proof that he underwent counseling and completed his house arrest; and a December misdemeanor battery charge in which police said Brown hit his wife, Grammy-winning singer Whitney Houston.
Madonna Launches Tour in May
Madonna will hit the road in May for the first time in three years in support of her album American Life, which has sold a disappointing 630,000 copies in the United States since it was release in May 2003. According to Billboard.com, the tour will kick off May 24 in Los Angeles and will consist primarily of North American arena dates, as well as 12 European shows and a stop in Israel. "Madonna has already started rehearsals and she can't wait to get back on stage to re-create her songs from the earliest days of her career up until the present," manager Caresse Henry said in a statement. There will be no supporting acts. Madonna's 2001 Drowned World tour grossed $75 million from 47 sellouts.
Pierce Brosnan Doubts Spears/Bond Rumor
In February, the syndicated television show Extra reported that while in London, pop princess Britney Spears had requested a meeting with the producers of the James Bond movies. But James Bond star Pierce Brosnan told the AP Tuesday that if the singer is going to be a Bond girl, it is news to him. "Bless her cotton socks and good luck to her," said Brosnan, who added he'd prefer Keira Knightley or Monica Bellucci be the next Bond girl. The untitled 21st Bond movie is slated to hit theaters Nov. 18, 2005, but Brosnan said the producers are having a hard time getting the project off the ground. "There's a certain sense of paralysis that has kind of blanketed production at the moment," Brosnan told the AP. "The last Bond broke all records. They don't know what to do."
Kevin Smith/Michael Jackson Hot Rod Project?
Jersey Girl director Kevin Smith said he once got an offer to direct pop oddity Michael Jackson in a film about a man who turns into a car that gets ridden around by a boy. Smith told Playboy in the magazine's April issue that Jackson wanted to play the car/man role and that the proposed title of the project was Hot Rod. Smith said it was probably the weirdest script he was ever asked to direct and in retrospect, should have made the movie. The director, however, added: ""It wouldn't be anything like the version Jackson or the studio wanted to see."
Schwarzenegger Won't Have To Give Deposition in Libel Suit
Judge Robert L. Hess ruled Monday that while Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger must answer written questions, he doesn't have to give a deposition in a libel lawsuit filed by a Hollywood stuntwoman who alleged the action star groped her on film sets of Terminator 2 and True Lies. Hours after Rhonda Miller made the allegations, Schwarzenegger campaign spokesman Sean Walsh sent an e-mail to reporters directing them to a court Web site, where records for a Rhonda Miller showed a history including prostitution and disorderly conduct, but it was a different Rhonda Miller. Schwarzenegger's attorney said the questions will be very limited, and will be answered within 10 days, the AP reports.
Valenti Worried About Free Speech
Jack Valenti, head of The Motion Picture Association of America, said Monday at the ShoWest movie theater convention in Las Vegas that the recent crackdown by federal authorities on decency standards for U.S. airwaves would be worrisome if it infringed on people's free speech rights, Reuters reports. The First Amendment "is the one (part) of the Constitution that guarantees all others. If you don't have freedom of speech, what do you have? So, I worry about that," Valenti said. But the MPAA chief also warned that entertainers and distribution companies bear the responsibility of letting audiences know what type of content they will be getting before they receive it.
Role Call: Love Boat Making Another Run; Hunter, Reynolds Play Ball
After being docked for more than five years, Paramount Pictures is reviving The Love Boat movie. The film will be a broadly comic reinvention of Aaron Spelling's hit TV series, which ran from 1977-86, with the Bermuda Triangle as a destination. Producer David Permut is seeking writers and planning a hip-hop version of the show's theme song ... Supermodel Rachel Hunter will join Burt Reynolds in Cloud Nine, about a has-been coach who launches a women's volleyball team whose players are strippers.