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: Pitt To Host BBC Radio Documentary
Brad Pitt will host a music documentary on the late British singer-songwriter Nick Drake for BBC Radio 2, Reuters reports. Drake, who died of a drug overdose in 1974 at the age of 26, is regularly cited as an influence by some of Radio 2's core artists, including REM, Paul Weller and Badly Drawn Boy," said Lesley Douglas, Controller BBC Radio 2 and 6 Music. "I was introduced to Nick Drake's music about five years ago, and am a huge admirer of his records," Pitt said in a BBC statement. "When Radio 2 approached me to get involved in this project, I was delighted to be asked." The program, which airs on May 22, includes a Norah Jones version of Drake's song "Day is Done."
Queer Eye Aims at Straight Girls
Bravo has greenlit 13 episodes of their newest reality series Queer Eye for the Straight Girl, which spins off their hugely successful Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. "It's something our female fans have been requesting since Queer Eye became a hit," Bravo topper Jeff Gaspin told Variety, adding that he isn't concerned the channel would be overpowered by the franchise. " Straight Girl goes on the air a year and a half after the original launched, so I think enough time will have passed," he opined. Variety reports a new team of gay lifestyle coaches will come to the aid of frumpy femmes. Casting is under way for a debut next year.
Limbaugh's Appeal May Keep Him Out of Court
Rush Limbaugh's attorney will argue before an appeals court in Florida Wednesday to keep Limbaugh's medical records sealed, citing patient/doctor confidentiality, in the criminal investigation currently brewing against the conservative radio host, AP reports. Limbaugh, 53, who sought treatment for an addiction to painkillers late last year, has been accused of illegally buying prescription drugs by "doctor shopping" or visiting several doctors to receive duplicate prescriptions of controlled narcotics, AP reports. Limbaugh--who believes he is being pursued by Palm Beach State Attorney Barry Krischer, a Democrat, for political gain--has not been charged with a crime as yet and if the appeal goes through, the investigation against him could be stalled for good.
3000 Degrees Gets Cold
The production start on Warner Bros.' fire disaster flick 3000 Degrees, directed by Danny Boyle and starring Ed Harris and Woody Harrelson, has been indefinitely put on hold, Variety reports. The film, which centered on the real-life 1999 blaze at the Worcester Cold Storage warehouse in Massachusetts that claimed the lives of six firefighters, had been strongly opposed by relatives of some of the victims and firefighter groups in Worcester. But Variety reports the studio finally nixed the production when the International Assn. of Fire Fighters, the union that represents 85 percent of all firefighters in North America, told producers that out of allegiance to those families, its members would not assist the film's production, in effect denying production crews access to fire stations, fire trucks, other equipment and technical consultation services to ensure the accuracy of the film.
Motown Special To Air
The taping of ABC's television special Motown 45, which will air in May, featured the talents of Gladys Knight, Smokey Robinson, Lionel Ritchie and Cedric the Entertainer, commemorating the label's legacy, Reuters reports. Performances taped on Sunday also included Destiny's Child's Kelly Rowland teaming with Supremes' Mary Wilson and Cindy Birdsong on a Supremes medley and with Richie on "Endless Love," Michael McDonald covering Stevie Wonder's "Signed, Sealed, Delivered" and Nick Lachey and Jermaine Jackson dueting on "I'll Be There." Click here to see the photo gallery!
Stone Speaks at Tribeca Film Festival
Actress Sharon Stone is scheduled to take part in panels during next month's Tribeca Film Festival, joining other distinguished celebrities such as director Martin Scorsese and news anchor Peter Jennings, The Associated Press reports. Stone, known for sexy turns in films such as Basic Instinct, will discuss the evolution of sex in the cinema along with John Cameron Mitchell, the director, co-writer and star of Hedwig and the Angry Inch. Scorsese, who helped found the festival with Robert De Niro and Jane Rosenthal of Tribeca Films, is set to talk about the use of music in his movies, while Jennings will moderate a discussion on "Jesus as Celebrity." Tribeca Film Festival will run from May 1-9.
Role Call, Part I: Fantastic Four Gets Director, John Woo Gets Metroid
Barbershop director Tim Story has been tagged to direct Marvel Comics' The Fantastic Four for 20th Century Fox. The film will follow follows the exploits of venerable Marvel Comics characters Reed and Sue Richards, Benjamin Grimm and Johnny Storm--better known to comic fans as Mr. Fantastic, the Invisible Woman, the Thing and the Human Torch. No cast has been set as …Director John Woo (Mission: Impossible 2) has optioned Nintendo's best-selling video game franchise Metroid for the big screen. The movie will center on the origins of the game's female protagonist, sexy bounty hunter Samus Aran, and relate her adventures battling the insidious life-sucking Metroids and their controlling force, Mother Brain.
Role Call, Part II: Diane Lane is Fierce, King's Men Remake in Works
Diane Lane has set her sights on Lions Gate's thriller Fierce People as her next project. The film revolves around a woman (Lane) who tries to start anew with her son after his brush with the law, when she is attacked and her new life is shattered…Schindler's List writer Steven Zaillian will direct a remake of All the King's Men, with Sean Penn being touted for the lead. Based on Robert Penn Warren's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, the story follows the rise and fall of populist Southern poli
Jackson will hold a star-studded concert tonight at Madison Square Garden to celebrate his 30th anniversary as a solo artist. Scheduled to join him on stage in either appearances or performances are 'NSync, Gladys Knight, Eminem, Destiny's Child, Yoko Ono, Jill Scott, Alicia Keys, Shaquille O'Neal, Chris Tucker, Samuel L. Jackson, Elizabeth Taylor, Marlon Brando and many more. Jackson is promoting his upcoming album Invincible and is trying to reclaim his "King of Pop" title after a six-year absence from the music world.
The concert also marked the reunion of the Jackson 5, with brothers Jackie, Tito, Jermaine, Michael and Marlon making an appearance. Ticket prices for the sold out first night ranged from $45 to $2,500. There will be a second concert on Monday, and the show will also air on CBS at a later date.
Alternative band Limp Bizkit's frontman Fred Durst is now the father of his second child. A 7-pound, 3-ounce son, Dallas, was born last week. The mother has not been identified.
French "New Wave" director Eric Rohmer was honored for his lifetime achievements at the Venice Film Festival Friday. The 81-year-old Rohmer had directed such French classics as Ma Nuit Chez Maud (My Night at Maud's), which won an Academy Award for Best Screenplay in 1969, and L'Amour l'Apres-midi (Love in the Afternoon).
Television commentator and sports correspondent Heywood Hale "Woodie" Broun died Wednesday at Kingston Hospital in New York. He was 83. Broun worked for 19 years as a CBS sports correspondent and wrote three books. The cause of death has not been released.
A federal judge rejected a temporary restraining order filed by a Little League Baseball coach to block next week's opening of the movie Hardball, a movie about Little League Baseball starring Keanu Reeves. The coach, Bob Muzikowski, brought a defamation suit against Viacom Inc.'s Paramount Pictures over the film because it depicts Reeves' character, who is based on Muzikowski real-life role, as a gambling and alcoholic coach who bullies the players and shows the 9- to -12-year-old players cursing.
Fox News filed suit Thursday against newly hired CNN anchorwoman Paula Zahn's agent N.S. Bienstock. Fox is accusing the agency of breaching Zahn's contract with Fox in order to broker the deal with CNN.
The premiere of the highly anticipated film Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone has been set for Nov. 4 in London. The screening at the Odeon cinema in Leicester Square is expected to attract a host of celebrities and will be followed by a glittering party.
Anne Heche's mother and sister have come forth to express outrage at Heche's claims of sexual abuse at the hands of her father in her new memoirs Call Me Crazy. Anne's mother, Nancy Heche, told PreviewPort.com, "I am trying to find a place for myself in this writing, a place where I as Anne's mother do not feel violated or scandalized. I find no places among the lies and blasphemies in the pages of this book." Anne's sister, Abigail Heche, believes her sister remembers the events of her childhood sporadically and doesn't feel Anne's claims are true, especially on the fact that their mother knew of the sexual abuse.
Garry Trudeau, creator of the popular satirical comic strip Doonesbury, made a half-hearted apology to President George W. Bush for his Sunday comic, which cited an Internet hoax saying Bush had the lowest IQ of any president in the past 50 years, according to what has now been determined as a study from a fictional institute. The Doonesbury site acknowledges the error, stating "Trudeau takes full responsibility, acknowledging the use of fictional material from an outside source instead of simply making it up as he usually does..The creator deeply apologizes for unsettling anyone who was under the impression that the president is, in fact, quite intelligent."
Gladys Knight is feeling the pressures of both work and life. Her family, especially her husband, needs her and she is pushed to the limits while recording a new album, being on tour, having a song in a blockbuster film and, on top of it all, opening a restaurant. Her chaotic work schedule is taking a toll on her personal life, but she works her magic to juggle it all.