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.
S2: E5 When The Rocky Horror Glee Show started with an homage to the crimson-lipped intro to the 1970’s cult classic, I have to admit, I was pretty stoked. Unfortunately it was all downhill from there because, well, as most people have been speculating for weeks, Rocky Horror just doesn’t work in high school. Luckily, the show’s writers were aware of that fact and used it as fuel instead of ignoring it.
The episode goes straight from “Science Fiction/Double Feature” into Rachel and Finn performing “Over at the Frankenstein Place” in full costume on a fully decked out set in the school auditorium. Okay, this doesn’t seem too bad so far. Everything comes to a screeching halt when Carl the dentist (John Stamos) barges on stage and accuses Schue of “messing with his woman.” Yo, dudes. This is Rocky Horror, not Jerry Springer.
We go back a few days an it turns out that Schue had a talk with Emma, and Carl’s been coaxing her out of her obsessive compulsive box and his latest victory was getting her to go out to a midnight showing of Rocky Horror at the local run-down theater. Schue is immediately jealous and lies, saying he planned weeks ago for the glee club to perform Rocky Horror for the school musical. Wow, Schue, this is low. Emma says he’ll have to edit the whole thing out if they want to get school approval, but he’s already stuck in the lie now. Way to go Schue.
Schue breaks the news to the glee club and even they can see he’s off his rocker, noting that the play will cause controversy – Kurt notes they couldn’t even perform Rent at a school in Texas. Schue gives a mini-monologue about how the arts are supposed to break boundaries, yeah but these kids are all supposed to 16 and 17. Chill out, dude. He decides he’s going through with it anyway, cutting out the “more risqué” sections – if this was true, they’d never be able to get past the “Time Warp” – and sending everyone home with permission slips.
Casting is a cinch at first, Rachel and Finn as Brad and Janet, Sam as Rocky, the rest of the girls as double Magentas and Columbias, but who will be the sweet transvestite himself, Frank-N-Furter? Mike Chang steps up to the plate (yes, Mike Chang) and says he’ll take on the lead role. Wow, trying to win points with Tina, Ab-man?
Rachel takes it upon herself to walk Finn through the play, he’s thoroughly confused (and not in a “cool, Inception sort of way”) but his real problem is with the scene where Magenta and Columbia take Brad and Janet’s wet clothes, leaving them onstage in their underwear. Apparently, the former star quarterback has body image issues and is afraid to show his stomach and chest in public. Here’s our lesson for the week: boys have body issues too. Apparently not Sam though, he’s perfectly sure that his abs are sexy and he takes every measure to keep them that way. Ugh. He’s quickly becoming really obnoxious, and not in the lovable Puck sort of way.
Then comes the best part of the episode: Sue’s back! And she’s back with another Sue’s Corner on the local news, explaining that kids need fear, not trick-or-treating and calling on parents to pretend grandma’s a grizzly bear and dad’s a zombie. This earns her the notice of the new station managers at WOH-N (a cameo by Rocky Horror vets Barry Bostwick and Meat Loaf), they’ve found out that Rocky Horror is being performed and they want Sue to due an exposé of the “secular leftist agenda” in Ohio high schools. Sue’s onboard. she and her disabled sister had to endure the torture of a Rocky Horror audience pelting them with toast (apparently she’s not aware that throwing toast is a tradition in Rocky Horror showings).
Rehearsals start, and while Finn and Rachel perform “Dammit Janet” (actually one of Finn’s best performances this season), Sue pulls Schue aside and says she must be involved. He offers her a part, and her evil plot is in motion. Schue is naïve and thinks that the reason she’s been awful all along was that she wanted to be included.
Back in the locker room, in one of the best conversations on this show in a while, Sam, Finn, and Artie discuss staying in shape and why girls expect so much of them. Artie blames internet porn. Hello. His theory, girls can find internet porn without the shame of the video store and it’s altered the chemistry of their brains. (I think girls have always liked dudes with abs, but nice try, Artie.)
Meanwhile Schue enlists Emma as a costume designer right before Mike Chang drops the bomb: his parents won’t let him perform in the play and with no lead the show is over. Schue breaks the news to Sue, but she needs the play to happen so she can do her exposé. After catching Emma and Carl looking at their risqué Rocky Horror Halloween costumes in her office, she convinces Schue to let Carl audition for the play. Carl treats the glee club to a fun rendition of “Hot Patootie – Bless My Soul” (yes, Uncle Jesse’s still got it) and even though Schue needed a Frank-N-furter, not an Eddie, he wins the rockabilly role. (He’s only willing to wear women’s lingerie in the privacy of his own home – “I’m freaky like that.” Whoa, Uncle Jesse.) Mercedes stands up and volunteers to be Frank-N-furter because it will make her dream of playing the lead come true.
On to dress rehearsal, and after Sam expresses his worries about exposing some “nuttage” in his tiny gold Rocky shorts, Mercedes makes her debut with “Sweet Transvestite.” Now, Mercedes has an amazing voice but she’s no Tim Curry. Besides the fact that the song is still far to risqué for high school, it loses all its edge when it’s done by a fabulous woman. Sorry, gleeks.
Schue is jealous of how impressed Emma is with Carl’s involvement in the play, so he uses the risqué element to push Sam out of the Rocky role so he could take it. He enlists Emma’s help so he can rehearse “Touch-a-Touch Me.” Seriously, that song is staying in the play? That’s the most risqué one! She’s somehow possessed by the song, rehearsing with Schue in a dark classroom while Santana and Brittany watch through the window like Magenta and Columbia do in the film version. Emma’s voice is a little bird-like and annoying but overall, her performance was on-point.
Sam approaches Finn to talk about his new-found body issues - he’s worried that his rolls were hanging over his gold shorts - and this gives Finn an idea for getting over his body issues. The gang is rehearsing a scene from Rocky Horror without Finn, as Sue comments from the sidelines that “this play has terrible timing." (Uh, Sue, that’s kind of the point; it’s a parody of horror B-movies.) Anyway, Principal Figgins bursts in and we find out what Finn was going to do to feel confident. He decided to walk down the hall in his Rocky Horror costume – a.k.a. his boxers – so he'd feel comfortable wearing them onstage, but now Figgins wants to suspend him. Schue uses the ammunition of double standards – Santana pantsed Brittany last year and no one was suspended. Finn gets off with a warning, but Figgins states that the production is putting Schue's job and the glee club on the line should they get any heat for the production.
Cheerio Becky stops by Schue’s office in her Sue Sylvester costume (damnit, Becky, that was going to be my Halloween costume) hoping for Halloween candy, but she ends up leading him to Sue’s office where he finds Sue’s pre-taped expose on his Rocky Horror production. For once, Sue is the sane one, stating that artists should be free to push boundaries, but not just for the sake of pushing them and not in public school with minors. She finishes it up by noting that squeamishness about what kids are exposed to isn’t necessarily bigotry. (It’s interesting that this debate comes up in the wake of the Gleek’s GQ controversy as well.) Sue schools Schue, and lectures him for leading the kids to risqué material and her rational points convince him to cancel it. Whoops, now her exposé is kaput. No local Emmy for you, Miss Sylvester.
Schue breaks the news to Emma, and finally acknowledges that he needs to back off and that Carl is actually good for her. It’s almost like Schue is the bratty teenager – going to extremes first before figuring it out. No offense, but can we get more about the kids and less about Schue? (But maybe it’s just me.)
Finally, Schue tells the glee club they can’t perform the show for the school but that they’ll still do it for themselves – they’ve got to put those extensive sets and costumes to use. (Side note: aren’t they supposed to be without funding? The Cheerios can’t have glitter cannons, but they can have elaborate sets and incredible costumes? Oh, this is TV and I should shut up? Okay.)
The gleeks send us off with one final Rocky Horror tribute, “The Time Warp.” While there’s no way they could make the song itself bad, they certainly cutesied it up. Kurt rocks it out (as always) as Riff Raf, Quinn goes in and out of an effective Magenta, and Brittany is an awesome Columbia (this girl is awesome, more Brittany!). The big lesson this episode? Rocky Horror is not a PG movie for a reason.