Natalie Portman

Thor Review



♣♣♣♣♣  out of  ♣♣♣♣♣

I come from a place where magic and science are one…

Marvel Comics has been mining it’s treasure trove of material, at a multi-million dollar level anyway, for over a decade now. It started with their holy grail: The X-Men, the penultimate, be all/end all of superhero flicks, in 2000 and hasn’t

stopped since. From Blade to Iron Man to Spiderman to Hulk, the catalog of muscle-bound, leather-wearing, public-shying characters is nearly endless… nearly…

With all of this money spent both behind the camera and in the theater, Marvel and all of the studios, actors, crews, and writers have successfully jump started a genre that was all but dead just a few years ago. (Did YOU see the 1994 version of Fantastic Four? Well no one else did either) Now they can even take comics that seem like horrible ideas, and make excellent movies out of them. Case in point: Thor, a norse god, son of Odin, and just all around reeking of cheese. The brunt of innumerable jokes over the years, Thor and his “magic” hammer burst on to the big screen in Hollywood epic fashion this weekend… kicking off the big summer movie season for 2011.

When I first took Thor seriously was when I realized that Kenneth Branagh was directing it. The Shakespearean actor/writer/director is known more for his 4+ hour depictions of 500 year old plays than an uber-CGI action blockbuster. Then I heard about Natalie Portman and didn’t care how bad it was going to be… cause I’ll sit in a theater seat for 2 hours and watch her drink a Pepsi or something… it doesn’t matter… as long as the camera is on her.

Well I can say I’m extremely happy I was wrong. Thor is a great movie, in the vein of Iron Man (1, not the victim of the writer’s strike that was 2), and nearly as awesome as the immaculate Batman movies from Christopher Nolan (hands-down the best “hero” movies ever made, super or not). Kenneth Branagh hits the nail on the head, pun intended. Thor has everything a superhero movie should, and to tell the God’s (I’ve got a million of ’em) honest truth, I think this is the best Marvel movie yet. As good as the X-Men movies were, I hate Bryan Singer and think he should be banished from Earth, because he did them wronger than wrong.

Thor treads a very fine line between cheesey and cartoony, yet weaves between them like a figure skater.

Thor belongs to a race of beings that live in space, in the city/galaxy (calaxy?) of Asgard, son of Odin and brother to Loki. The movie side-steps the whole “god” issue by telling a backstory where early man worshiped these beings “like gods.”

Sir Anthony

Anthony Hopkins is… well… Anthony Hopkins as Odin, the King of Asgard, and possibly the Universe. When he was young, a race of aliens called the Frost Giants obtained a very powerful item that allowed them to destroy and take over much of the universe. Odin and the vikings from space vanquished the Frost Giants to their home planet, a frozen wasteland, and peace was known across the galaxy.

Flashforward: when Odin’s sons, Thor and Loki grow older, one of them will be king. Thor, the first born, is of course the first choice, but the subtext needs to be established for the future “struggle for the crown.” So when the coronation day comes, Loki pulls a little prank and opens a back door for a few Frost Giants to sneak into the castle and attempt to steal back the source of all their power- a glowing blue box. Loki didn’t mean to bring about the end of the universe as he knew it, he just wanted to mess with his brother on his big day. This “invasion” gives an arrogant Thor all the reason to chase the Frost Giants back to their homeworld and kill them all for good, but Odin tells him to chill (that one was a reach). You can see where this is going right?

Thor defies his father and takes his team o’ BA’s to the frosty homeworld in search of how and why the creatures had snuck into the palace when the only way into Asgard is through a very, very cool transport system called “the rainbow road” (or the Bifröst Bridge). There is an epic hammer-tossing fight scene, a big-bad nasty thing, and ultimately, a banishment to Earth. Thor’s actions prove him brash, greedy, and unworthy of the crown and the power of Odin… and he doesn’t get it.

Chris Hemsworth (Thor) previously played Tiberius Kirk (James T’s pappy) in the reboot of Star Trek and blew me away. Seriously, try to watch the first 15 minutes of Star Trek without crying, just try.  I don’t know what it is about Aussies that makes them the most charismatic and adorable peeps, but Hemsworth is going to be much more well known than he his right this minute, mark my words. He’s about the size of a house, and it looks like he’s benching one too. He manages some of the most silly dialogue in recent memory, but it all comes out with the grace and poise of… well… Shakespeare…

So kudos to Kenneth Branagh and crew for defying the odds and making one of the best “super”hero movies yet. Stellan Skarsgard, Kat Dennings, and the radiant Natalie Portman all give great humanity to the film in it’s Earth scenes. A great contrast against the sheer magnitude of the awesome CGI universe we are shown. This is an important aspect of a great movie, that the setting must be a character in itself. So many times do movies imply, tell, and gloss over settings, especially when they’re as big as the universe in Thor… but in this case Branagh does an excellent job of making the universe of Thor feel like our neighborhood. If you aren’t able to suspend your disbelief, this isn’t the movie for you, a giant floating city in the heavens with cascading waterfalls that spill off into space will seem hoaky and not majestic. A universe where science and magic exist as one. Very good flick, and very, very fun.

How Danny McBride and James Franco Saved The Princess (and the Movie Business)


♣ ♣ ♣ ♣ 1/2   out of   ♣ ♣ ♣ ♣ ♣


Sometime after the brave “knights ‘a questin'” are captured, hauled into a giant wicker pit, then forced to battle their captor’s greatest warrior… the evil, strangely-special-looking medicine man (surrounded by crowds of threatening warrior-women, topless of course), sticks his hand into a “cauldron” of mustard. Suddenly a giant five-headed snake hand erupts from the ground and menaces our heroes with razor-sharp fangs and venom that melts the flesh from bones.

It wasn’t this scene alone that made me realize I was watching possibly the greatest movie ever made, but by this point my stomach and my face hurt from laughing. From the opening scene, the medieval-action/romance/stoner-comedy Your Highness, starring Danny McBride, James Franco, Zooey Deschanel, and Natalie Portman, amongst others, is a rip-roaring adventure that will keep you in stitches. Believe me when I say, these guys are plowing through more weed than a tanker full of Roundup the entire time. With echoes of Monty Python and the Holy Grail going on here, Your Highness is a perfect blend of humor, action, and low-brow comedy.

Director David Gordon Green, who previously directed McBride and Franco in the buddy-action/stoner-comedy Pineapple Express, is running all cylinders here. While Pineapple Express might have hit a few bumps in the road, this time around the mix is perfect… and it’s mostly due to Danny McBride. The man is a genius in a curly mullet, he commands laughs merely by walking on screen and delivers lines so dead-pan you could fry a dead-egg. Did I mention his character in the movie is completely unlikable for the first 3/4 of the movie? In fact, that might be the film’s only fault. That there came a point in which I actually wanted something bad to happen to him. Director Green must have intended this because not a few minutes later, a giant, Minotaur (let’s just say his name could be “Randy”)scene turns everything around for a fantastic 3rd act.

I really can’t give too much of the plot away, because it will begin to sound like a movie that you won’t want to go see. So let’s just say it’s a spoof, a really, really well done spoof. Green and Co. tread a fine line here, where on either side lay the wastes of lesser-movies’ attempts at pulling this kind of funny off. Where only Men in Tights and Princess Bride have gone, many a Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey’s, Cabin Boy’s and Black Knight’s have failed.

“It has been handed down throughout Hollywood’s history, a prophecy where every generation is bestowed a brilliant comedy with dragons, witches, and hero’s quests. That prophecy has been fulfilled this era with Your Highness.” In a far-away land, prince Thadeous (McBride) laments his life-long curse of living in his brother Fabious’s (Franco) shadow. Fabious is ever-questing, bringing home riches and tales of danger with his band of merry men. When Fabious returns from his latest quest, he tells of slaying the dreaded sorcerer Leezar’s (played fantastically by Justin Theroux) latest magic-beast, and pulls a cyclops’ head from his belongings. He also tells the tale of rescuing fair Belladonna (Deschanel) from a far-away tower, where she has been held captive by Leezar (who plans to impregnate her with a dragon on the night of the two-moon eclipse, once again, of course).

When Fabious and Belladonna ready to marry, Leezar appears and tells of his evil plans for the virgin girl. He snatches her away, “using, MAGIC!” (as he likes to say), and returns her to the tower. Fabious and Thadeous leave immediately to save her, this being Thadeous’s first quest and last chance to redeem himself as a man in the eyes of his father, his brother, and his kingdom. Cut to McBride and his squire Courtney riding in a carriage complaining about the traveling conditions and whether they would be bored out of their minds on this quest. Thadeous’s only plan, in fact, is “to get thoroughly f*ed up.” Whether or not such “sticky-icky” existed in medieval times isn’t the point, certainly their foul-mouths aren’t historically accurate either- but I was giggling non-stop… because it’s just plain funny.

I went to see Your Highness at the Cinemark 17 in Springfield, mainly because it’s a perfectly fine theater, and because they show first-run movies for over $2.00 cheaper than Regal Cinemas. I’m not sure how long Cinemark will be able to keep this up, but I know I’m not the only one who is extremely happy they are, and I intend to keep returning. (As long as they keep their prices down, otherwise, sorry Springfield).

In closing, Your Highness is one of the better medieval stoner-comedies I’ve seen, well, ever… and James Franco’s performance alone in this movie made it a great flick for me. Pile the gorgeous Natalie Portman, buxom Zooey Deschanel, and hilarious Danny McBride, plus the best special effects this side of an episode of Xeena: Warrior Princess, and you’ve got the perfect Sunday morning mimosas movie. Have a great week, and stay classy Eugene.