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.
Dangerfield in coma
Comedian Rodney Dangerfield slipped into a coma while recovering from heart surgery in recent weeks but "is starting to show signs of awareness," his wife told Reuters on Monday. Dangerfield fell into a "light coma" a couple of weeks ago, but "after recent visits from his family and close friends, Rodney is starting to show signs of awareness, and we are all hopeful that he will regain full consciousness soon," she said in a statement issued through his publicist, Kevin Sasaki. The 82-year-old performer, who was reported by his spokesman to have been hooked to a respirator in intensive care since undergoing a heart-valve replacement on Aug. 25, was able to breathe on his own for the past 24 hours, Reuters reports.
Culkin charged with drug possession
Prosecutors formally charged former child star Macaulay Culkin with two misdemeanor drug counts Monday in connection with a traffic stop in Oklahoma City, Okla., where police found marijuana and prescription drugs, The Associated Press reports. Police found just over a half ounce of marijuana and several Xanax tablets, prescription medication used to treat depression and panic disorders, in a rental car driven by Brett M. Tabisel, 22, of New York City. Tabisel had been pulled over for speeding and making an improper lane change, according to a police report. Oklahoma County District Attorney Wes Lane told AP that his office would insist that the actor receive drug treatment as part of any plea agreement.
The Emmy Awards draw smallest audience
ABC's telecast of the 56th annual Primetime Emmy Awards apparently was far less riveting than the shows it lauded, proving to be one of the least watched editions of the show in years. With only 14 million viewers tuning in, Sunday's broadcast attracted the Emmys' smallest audience since the show aired in 1990 on the then-fledgling Fox network, averaging just 12.3 million viewers, according to the Hollywood Reporter. CBS managed to surpass ABC for Sunday night in ratings with its primetime slate of 60 Minutes and drama reruns, according to Nielsen, as well as benefiting from the Miami Dolphins/Cincinnati Bengals football match up, which into prime time.
Dan Rather apologizes to viewers
CBS News anchor Dan Rather apologized to viewers Monday night, saying the network had been deceived over the authenticity of four documents it aired in a report challenging President Bush's military service. "I want to say personally and directly I'm sorry," Rather said. The network also aired an interview with retired National Guard Lt. Col. Bill Burkett, who admitted he had purposely misled CBS regarding the documents' origins. Reuters reports CBS News released a statement saying it should not have used the document, adding it had launched an internal investigation of the matter. "Based on what we now know, CBS News cannot prove that the documents are authentic, which is the only acceptable journalistic standard to justify using them in a report," the network said.
TV producer Mark Burnett in talks with Martha Stewart
TV producer Mark Burnett, the reality guru behind Survivor and The Apprentice, is in talks with homemaking maven Martha Stewart, CNN/Money reports. But Burnett told the New York Daily News the show would be a reinvention of Martha Stewart Living and not about her time in prison. "The fundamental core will have to remain the same," Burnett told the paper. "It has to be about Martha helping people--cooking, lifestyles, that kind of thing." Last week, Stewart, who was sentenced in July to the 10 months for obstruction of justice related to her sale of shares of ImClone Systems stock, said she wanted to start serving her five months in federal prison now, to be followed by five months of house arrest.
Madonna wraps visit to Holy Land
Madonna completed her five-day pilgrimage to the Holy Land Sunday by calling for peace at a conference on Jewish mysticism in Tel Aviv, Israel. The pop star said the people she met during her trip share a common goal: "We want to put an end to chaos and suffering, but most of all we want to put an end to hatred with no reason." Madonna, who has adopted the Hebrew name Esther, has become an avid Kabbalah devotee in recent years. The singer said she was not representing a religion but was there as "a student of Kabbalah." On Sunday, Madonna and her husband, director Guy Ritchie, went to the Givat Shaul cemetery outside Jerusalem to visit the grave of Kabbalist sage Rabbi Yehuda Ashlag, AP reports. Led by a rabbi, Madonna and her small entourage recited blessings over food and wine and circled his raised stone grave.
Video of the tiger attack isn't being released
Despite two subpoenas from federal authorities, the company behind the Siegfried & Roy Las Vegas magic show has refused to turn over video of last year's tiger attack on illusionist Roy Horn, The Associated Press reports. In an investigation into the incident, where Horn was mauled by a 300-pound tiger during an Oct. 3 live performance at The Mirage hotel-casino, the U.S. Department of Agriculture attempted to obtain video of the show under the federal Animal Welfare Act to see if there were possible violations of the act. Feld Entertainment, however, would not hand over the footage, a USDA source familiar with the case told AP. USDA spokesman Jim Rogers said Tuesday from Washington D.C. that the probe into the tiger attack remains open and if violations did occur, the USDA can take action against violators, imposing fines and suspending or revoking licenses.
No ****! Dave Matthews Band sued for dumping poop
The state of Illinois sued the Dave Matthews Band on Tuesday for allegedly dumping up to 800 pounds of liquid human waste from a bus into the Chicago River and dousing a tour boat filled with passengers, the AP reports. According to the lawsuit, a bus leased by the band was heading to a Chicago hotel on Aug. 8 where members were staying. The driver allegedly emptied the contents of the septic tank through Kinzie Street Bridge's metal grating into the river below. More than 100 people on an architecture tour were showered with the waste. After the incident, the boat's captain turned the vessel around and took passengers back to the dock and given refunds. The boat was cleaned with disinfectant. The lawsuit seeks $70,000 in civil penalties. A spokesman for the band said the driver stated he was not involved in this incident, and added that the band "will continue to be cooperative in this investigation."
Rodney Dangerfield hospitalized for heart trouble
Comedian Rodney Dangerfield, best known for his trademark line "I don't get no respect!" was admitted on Tuesday to a Los Angeles hospital for heart valve replacement surgery, his publicist told Reuters. The surgery at UCLA Medical Center had been planned since last year when Dangerfield had brain bypass surgery to reduce the chances of stroke during the heart procedure. The surgery is scheduled for Wednesday morning and Dangerfield is expected to make a full recovery, his publicist, Kevin Sasaki, said. The 82-year-old comedian quipped that he planned on a brief hospital stay. "If things go right, I'll be there about a week, and if things don't go right, I'll be there about an hour and a half," he said.
Toronto Film Fest announces complete lineup
The Toronto International Film Festival unveiled its 328-film lineup, which includes 100 world premieres and 81 North American premieres, Reuters reports. The festival opens Sept. 9 with the world premiere of Istvan Szabo's Being Julia, starring Annette Bening, and closes Sept. 18 with the Martin Short starrer Jiminy Glick in Lalawood. Among the other 20 high-profile films to receive red-carpet treatment are Mike Barker's A Good Woman, a comedy about Americans in Italy that stars Helen Hunt and Scarlett Johansson; and Beyond the Sea, which Kevin Spacey directed and stars in as Bobby Darin.
Apprentice runner-up scores major deal
Kwame Jackson, last year's runner-up in the hit NBC reality show The Apprentice, is turning into his former boss, Donald Trump, after completing a multibillion dollar real-estate deal of his own, AP reports. With two other partners, Jackson has made a deal with officials in Prince George's County in Maryland to develop an 80-to-130-acre area into commercial and residential property. The deal is worth $3.8 billion and will provide over 32,000 jobs, Jackson explained. "For me, The Apprentice was the beginning," he told AP. "It's not a ceiling, it's a floor."
Whoopi returns to Broadway
Whoopi Goldberg is returning to Broadway in the show that jump-started her career 20 years ago, the AP reports. Goldberg's self-titled show opens Nov. 17 at the Lyceum Theatre in New York, the same house where her one-woman show premiered in October 1984 and ran for 156 performances. Since then, the comedian has appeared on Broadway in the revivals of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum and Ma Rainey's Black Bottom. Goldberg, who won a supporting actress Oscar in 1991 for her role in Ghost, will first try out her show in Philadelphia, playing a week's engagement at the Merriam Theatre starting Oct. 13. Preview performances will start in New York Nov. 6.
Spector hires former Gotti attorney
Music producer Phil Spector has hired an attorney who used to work for mob boss John Gotti to defend him on murder charges after his previous attorney resigned from the case, the AP reports. But Leslie Abramson said Tuesday she and her co-counsel were taken by surprise when Bruce Cutler filed a motion to take over the case. "We were put in an untenable position, and we were forced to resign," Abramson told the AP. Cutler, however, said he signed on as Spector's personal attorney before Abramson and Marcia Morrissey took over the criminal case. "Leslie and Marcia were brought on in February, and they quit in July. They just jumped ship, and I had to take control of the ship and bring it into port," Cutler said. Spector, 64, is charged in the fatal shooting of 40-year-old actress Lana Clarkson at his home in February 2003. He is free on $1 million bail.
Metallica to release vinyl box set
Heavy metal group Metallica will release a boxed set of albums on vinyl on Oct. 26, Billboard.com reports. Vinyl Box will include special editions of the group's first four studio albums along with the long-out-of-print Garage Days Re-Revisited EP and the Creeping Death picture disc, which was previously unavailable in the U.S. Metallica, currently in the middle of a North American tour, has been in perpetual spotlight this year: The band has already released a documentary feature, Metallica: Some Kind of Monster, and published a coffee table book tiled So What! The Good, the Mad, and the Ugly. Vinyl Box, distributed by Elektra/Rhino Vinyl, will be limited to 5,000 numbered copies and will carry a suggested retail price of $99.98.
TV director Petrie dies
Emmy Award-winning television and film director Daniel Petrie Sr., who also made such motion pictures as A Raisin in the Sun and Fort Apache the Bronx, died of cancer Sunday at his home in Los Angeles, Reuters reports. He was 83. Petrie, who earned his Emmys for the TV miniseries Eleanor and Franklin: The White House Years in 1976, also earned television's Peabody Award in 1977 for Sybil, starring Sally Field. Petrie is survived by his wife of 57 years, TV producer Dorothea Petrie, and their four children--screenwriter Dan Petrie Jr., director Donald Petrie, actress Mary Petrie, and producer June Petrie. The family has asked that memorial donations be sent to the American Film Institute or the Motion Picture and Television Fund.
Guylaine Cadorette contributed to this report.