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.
The second-in-line to the British throne and his longterm sweetheart became husband and wife in a traditional ceremony at London's Westminster Abbey.
The couple, who began dating in 2003 after they met while studying at university, married in front of a hushed congregation of 1,900 guests, including Britain's royal family, 50 foreign heads of state from across the world, and an array of close friends and showbiz pals.
Outside the abbey, an estimated one million royal-watchers gathered on the streets of London to join in the celebrations. Two billion people are thought to have watched the event live on television around the world.
The groom, wearing the famous red tunic of the Irish Guards and a garter sash of the Royal Air Force, and his best man, brother Prince Harry - in his Blues & Royals army officer's uniform - arrived at the venue in a two-car convoy at 10.18am local time, some 25 minutes ahead of their father, Charles, Prince of Wales and his wife Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, and 30 minutes before Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.
The bride arrived at the venue by chauffeur-driven Rolls-Royce Phantom VI, with her father Michael, at 11am.
Wearing a dress by Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen, and the late Queen Mother's halo tiara, she walked up the aisle to the coronation anthem, "I was glad", trailed by her Maid of Honour - sister Philippa Middleton - bridesmaids Lady Louise Windsor, seven, The Honourable Margarita Armstrong-Jones, eight, and three year olds Eliza Lopes and Grace van Cutsem, along with page boys William Lowther-Pinkerton, 10, and Tom Pettifer, eight.
The royal couple chose the Series One (1966) Book of Common Prayer ceremony, and the occasion was soundtracked by classical compositions by Elgar, Britten and Vaughan Williams, as well as the hymns Jerusalem and Guide me, O Thou Great Redeemer, and the English melody Greensleeves.
During the service, conducted by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, the couple said "I will", vowing to "love, comfort, honour and keep" each other, as the official witnesses - Prince William's father and stepmother, Prince Harry, the bride's parents Carole and Michael Middleton, her sister Philippa and brother James - looked on.
James Middleton then gave The Lesson, reading Romans 12: 1-2, 9-18 before an address by the Bishop of London, the Right Reverend Dr Richard John Carew Chartres, a recital of the Lord's Prayer, and the blessing of the marriage by the Dean of Westminster. The 50-minute ceremony was concluded with a rendition of the National Anthem and the signing of the marriage register.
As the newlyweds - now officially the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge - left the abbey hand-in-hand to be greeted by thousands of cheering, flag-waving fans, two groups of 12 military personnel lined their route as they headed to the horse-drawn 1902 State Landau carriage.
The open-top carriage - escorted by the Household Cavalry and followed by the Queen's procession with a sovereign's escort - will then make its way along Parliament Square and Whitehall, through Horse Guards Arch into Horse Guards Parade and then along The Mall to Buckingham Palace.
Tens of thousands of onlookers lined the entire route, cheering, applauding, waving flags, and shouting their best wishes to the beaming couple, who responded by smiling and waving at the assembled crowds.
On arrival at the palace, the band of the Welsh Guards will play the British National Anthem before the royal couple is expected to appear with Queen Elizabeth II on the palace balcony to greet their adoring public. A fly-past by the Royal Air Force and Battle of Britain Memorial Flight will take place before the Queen hosts a private lunchtime reception for selected guests.
On Friday evening, the groom's father Charles will host a private dinner at Buckingham Palace before the newlyweds relax with 650 family and friends.
The Coen brothers could be adding a third Writers Guild of America Award to their impressive trophy case next month if they can nab best original screenplay for their quirky comedy Burn After Reading. The WGA, who announced their nominees today, presented Joel and Ethan Coen with best adapted screenplay last year for No Country for Old Men and best original screenplay in 1997 for Fargo.
Rounding out the contenders this year are Dustin Lance Black for Milk, Woody Allen for Vicky Cristina Barcelona, Tom McCarthy for The Visitor and Robert Siegel for The Wrestler.
The WGA’s best adapted screenplay noms include Eric Roth for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button with story by Roth and Robin Swicord; Jonathan Nolan and Christopher Nolan for The Dark Knight with story by Christopher Nolan and David S. Goyer; John Patrick Shanley for Doubt, based on the stage play; Peter Morgan for Frost/Nixon, based on his stage play; and Simon Beaufoy for Slumdog Millionaire.
WGA members will meet simultaneously in New York and Los Angeles for the award ceremony on Feb. 7.
Burn After Reading, Written by Joel Coen & Ethan Coen, Focus Features
Milk, Written by Dustin Lance Black, Focus Features
Vicky Cristina Barcelona, Written by Woody Allen, The Weinstein Company
The Visitor, Written by Tom McCarthy, Overture Films
The Wrestler, Written by Robert Siegel, Fox Searchlight Pictures
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Screenplay by Eric Roth; Screen Story by Eric Roth and Robin Swicord; Based on the Short Story by F. Scott Fitzgerald, Paramount Pictures and Warner Bros. Pictures
The Dark Knight, Screenplay by Jonathan Nolan and Christopher Nolan; Story by Christopher Nolan & David S. Goyer; Based on Characters Appearing in Comic Books Published by DC Comics; Batman Created by Bob Kane, Warner Bros. Pictures
Doubt, Screenplay by John Patrick Shanley, Based on his Stage Play, Miramax Films
Frost/Nixon, Screenplay by Peter Morgan, Based on his Stage Play, Universal Pictures
Slumdog Millionaire, Screenplay by Simon Beaufoy, Based on the Novel Q and A by Vikas Swarup, Fox Searchlight Pictures
Boogie Man: The Lee Atwater Story, Written by Stefan Forbes and Noland Walker, InterPositive Media
Chicago 10, Written by Brett Morgen, Roadside Attractions
Fuel, Written by Johnny O'Hara, Greenlight Theatrical / Intention Media
Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson, Screenplay by Alex Gibney, From the Words of Hunter S. Thompson, Magnolia Pictures
Waltz with Bashir, Written by Ari Folman, Sony Pictures Classics
Dramatic Series Dexter, Written by Scott Buck, Daniel Cerone, Charles H. Eglee, Adam E. Fierro, Lauren Gussis, Clyde Phillips, Scott Reynolds, Melissa Rosenberg, Tim Schlattmann; Showtime
Friday Night Lights, Written by Bridget Carpenter, Kerry Ehrin, Brent Fletcher, Jason Gavin, Carter Harris, Elizabeth Heldens, David Hudgins, Jason Katims, Patrick Massett, Aaron Rahsaan Thomas, John Zinman; NBC
Lost, Written by Carlton Cuse, Drew Goddard, Adam Horowitz, Christina M. Kim, Edward Kitsis, Damon L. Lindelof, Greggory Nations, Kyle Pennington, Elizabeth Sarnoff, Brian K. Vaughan; ABC
Mad Men, Written by Lisa Albert, Jane Anderson, Rick Cleveland, Kater Gordon, David Isaacs, Andre Jacquemetton, Maria Jacquemetton, Marti Noxon, Robin Veith, Matthew Weiner; AMC
The Wire, Written by Ed Burns, Chris Collins, David Mills, David Simon, William F. Zorzi, Richard Price, Dennis Lehane, George Pelecanos; HBO
30 Rock, Written by Jack Burditt, Kay Cannon, Robert Carlock, Tina Fey, Donald Glover, Andrew Guest, Matt Hubbard, Jon Pollack, John Riggi, Tami Sagher, Ron Weiner; NBC
Entourage, Written by Doug Ellin, Jeremy Miller, Ally Musika, Steve Pink, Rob Weiss; HBO
The Office, Written by Steve Carell, Jennifer Celotta, Greg Daniels, Lee Eisenberg, Anthony Farrell, Brent Forrester, Dan Goor, Charlie Grandy, Mindy Kaling, Ryan Koh, Lester Lewis, Paul Lieberstein, Warren Lieberstein, B.J. Novak, Michael Schur, Aaron Shure, Justin Spitzer, Gene Stupnitsky, Halsted Sullivan; NBC
The Simpsons, Written by J. Stewart Burns, Daniel Chun, Joel H. Cohen, Kevin Curran, John Frink, Tom Gammill, Valentina Garza, Stephanie Gillis, Dan Greaney, Reid Harrison, Ron Hauge, Al Jean, Brian Kelly, Billy Kimball, Rob LaZebnik, Tim Long, Ian Maxtone-Graham, David Mirkin, Bill Odenkirk, Carolyn Omine, Don Payne, Michael Price, Max Pross, Mike Reiss, Mike Scully, Matt Selman, Matt Warburton, Jeff Westbrook, Marc Wilmore, William Wright; Fox
Weeds, Written by Roberto Benabib, Mark A. Burley, Ron Fitzgerald, David Holstein, Rolin Jones, Brendan Kelly, Jenji Kohan, Victoria Morrow, Matthew Salsberg; Showtime
Breaking Bad, Written by Vince Gilligan, Peter Gould, Patty Lin, George Mastras, J Roberts; AMC
Fringe, Written by JJ Abrams, Jason Cahill, Julia Cho, David H. Goodman, Felicia Henderson, Brad Caleb Kane, Alex Kurtzman, Darin Morgan, J.R. Orci, Roberto Orci, Jeff Pinkner, Zack Whedon; Fox
In Treatment, Written by Rodrigo Garcia, Bryan Goluboff, Davey Holmes, William Meritt Johnson, Amy Lippman, Sarah Treem; HBO
Life on Mars, Written by Josh Appelbaum, Andre Nemec, Scott Rosenberg, Becky Hartman Edwards, David Wilcox, Adele Lim, Bryan Oh, Tracy McMillan, Sonny Postiglione, Phil M. Rosenberg, Meredith Averill; ABC
True Blood, Written by Alan Ball, Brian Buckner, Raelle Tucker, Alexander Woo, Nancy Oliver, Chris Offutt; HBO
Episodic Drama - any length - one airing time
“Don’t Ever Change” (House), Written by Doris Egan & Leonard Dick; Fox
“Double Booked” (Burn Notice), Written by Craig O’Neill & Jason Tracey; USA
“Gray Matter” (Breaking Bad), Written by Patty Lin; AMC
“Pilot” (Breaking Bad), Written by Vince Gilligan; AMC
“Pilot” (Eli Stone), Written by Greg Berlanti & Marc Guggenheim; ABC
“There’s Something About Harry” (Dexter), Written by Scott Reynolds; Showtime
Episodic Comedy - any length - one airing time
“Believe in the Stars” (30 Rock), Written by Robert Carlock; NBC
“Cooter” (30 Rock), Written by Tina Fey; NBC
“Crime Aid” (The Office), Written by Charlie Grandy; NBC
“Crush’d” (Ugly Betty), Written by Tracy Poust & Jon Kinnally; ABC
“Succession” (30 Rock), Written by Andrew Guest & John Riggi; NBC
“Vote for This and I Promise to Do Something Crazy at the Emmys” (My Name is Earl), Written by Greg Garcia; NBC
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From the time he was a wee lad Brian Jackson (James McAvoy) yearned to be on University Challenge a popular British TV quiz show. He watched the show with his family as a child but never thought of himself as very clever like his streetwise buddy Spencer (Dominic Cooper). So when the working class Essex youth is ready to go to college Brian jumps at the chance of joining the college brainiac team. Even better Brian finds an added incentive—the sexy and smart team member Alice (Alice Eve). The team is run by a persnickety and uptight geek named Patrick (Benedict Cumberbatch) who makes people take their shoes off before entering his immaculate apartment. But as a group they're unstoppable. Along the way Brian meets some unconventional roommates including the politically conscious Rebecca (Rebecca Hall) who would rather organize rallies than go to school. Brian's worlds clash when Spencer comes to visit him at college just before their team goes on the show. McAvoy is the unsung hero of The Last King of Scotland co-starring with Oscar winner Forest Whitaker as the young doctor. He's a fine actor although you may only recognize him as Mr. Tumnus the faun from The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe. As Brian McAvoy plays the romantic lead well--an affable ordinary guy who remains impossibly tied to his working-class roots. He alternately proud and embarrassed by his mum and her salesman boyfriend who are in sharp contrast to Alice's more liberal intellectual—and ultimately nude--parents (played by veteran British actors Lindsay Duncan and Charles Dance). McAvoy’s reactions are priceless. Starter for 10 also has a strong supporting cast even if their characters are a tad one-note at times. Stand out is Hall who plays Rebecca as a super-smart Annie Hall. Newbie director Tom Vaughan has successfully recreated college in the 1980s even for those people who didn’t live it. The clothing cars styles are all realistic charming in that ‘80s innocence. Particularly fantastic is the New Wave soundtrack which includes Motorhead Psychedelic Furs and Wham! It's obvious the British director has spent the decade in his hometown attending Tarts & Vicars parties (where you come dressed up as a prostitute or a priest) and listening to this music. The tender and painful love scenes such as the New Year's Eve moment between Brian and Rebecca are directed with lots of humor as is the inevitable fight scene that breaks out when Brian's worlds collide. Vaughan's sensibility to keep it tongue-in-cheek stops the movie from falling into a silly teen period romance. And although the phrase Starter for 10 is a particularly British expression the film translates well to a U.S. audience.
Michael Jackson is denying reports that he appears to be facing an "immediate cash crisis" due to a $70 million loan coming due to Bank of America next week that sources say he has no money to repay, AFP reports. According to a story in The New York Times, financial advisers close to Jackson say two groups of investors have opted out of business deals with the singer in recent weeks.
The story reports Jackson, currently embroiled in a child molestation case, faces insolvency as banks are scared off by his tarnished image. In addition to the $70 million, the self-named "King of Pop" also has $200 million and $250 million loans guaranteed by his music catalog holdings that include co-ownership of the Beatles songbook valued at $900 million.
However the 45-year-old singer's music manager, Charles Koppelman, told The Associated Press in a phone interview today that Jackson did not owe Bank of America or any other money lending agency $70 million. Koppelman also denied the allegations that Jackson is in financial trouble, reporting that the star's assets far exceed his debts.
He also claimed that many people with a large net worth have many loans that are renegotiated on a regular basis. Koppelman acknowledged that Jackson would be involved with a large transaction within the next few days, but did not elaborate. A Bank of America representative declined to comment.
Financial advisers to Jackson point out that his weak record sales, inability to tour during his trial, and the rumor that Nation of Islam leaders are running his financial affairs all serve to frighten off potential lenders.
Jackson and his team of lawyers are currently preparing to defend the singer charged with seven counts of performing lewd and lascivious acts with a 13-year-old boy.
Jackson's lawyers also announced today that he would not appear in court at the pretrial hearing to be held Friday in Santa Maria, Calif., according to Reuters. Law enforcement in Santa Maria expressed relief upon hearing that the superstar would not be coming to town, "Any time a celebrity of (Jackson's magnitude) comes to town it taxes our resources. It's a relief that he's not coming," said Santa Maria police Lt. Chris Vaughan.
Last month Jackson was 20 minutes late to his first court appearance after taking time to greet the hordes of fans and well wishers outside the Santa Maria courthouse. Jackson has already pled "not guilty" to charges that he gave the young accuser alcohol before molesting him. Jackson has referred to the charges against him as "a big lie."