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May 09, 2011 - Image 8

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Publication:
Michigan Daily Summer Weekly, 2011-05-09

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Monday, May 9, 2011
The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

"Son, I'm sending you to Earth. Don't come back until you've figured out how the 'Ironman' movies were so successful."
' Thor'1 fallis short of
itsgolstnad

ABC's 'Endings' off
to a rocky, sad start
By JAMIE BLOCK and funny. Itis refreshing to seea
Daily Arts Writer gay man on television who, even
though all his plotlines seem
"Happy Endings" dares to to center around his sexuality,
ask bold questions like, "Can a defies the stereotypes much of
show about six friends succeed television has furthered. He's
when only a slob, he's clever, he's a good
two are like- ** friend. And he brings outthe best
able?" Follow in everyone else, especially Brad,
ups: "It's really Happy who is only funny when interact-
hard to write Endi s ing with Max. Fortunately, they
female charac- get paired up often. Unfortunate-
ters, isn't it?" Wednesdays ly, not often enough.
and "Are we at10 p.m. And the other four charac-
'Friends' yet?" ters are beyond saving, even by a
The series ABC character so wonderful as Max.
stars six Penny and Jane especially are
quirky friends: three men and simply intolerable. This isn't a
three women. The women are drama, so there doesn't need to
all terrible. There's the oblivious be character growth, but hasn't
and melodramatic Penny (Casey "Community" shown that a sit-
Wilson, "Saturday Night Live"); com is so muchbetter when there
the overly aggressive and always is? Penny and Jane are dumb and
on Jane (Eliza Coupe, "Scrubs"); obnoxious, get into trouble for
and the if-she-has-a-personality- being dumb and obnoxious and
it-hasn't-come-out-yet Alex (Eli- then find resolution by continu-
sha Cuthbert, "24"). All of these ing to be dumb and obnoxious. If
women are incredibly boring, this is how the writers perceive
have only one joke and feel like women, you don't want to meet
caricatures imagined by men - the women in their lives.
which, to be fair, they are. Without strong characters,
Then there are the guys, who it's hard to have funny jokes, but
at least fare somewhat better. some of the jokes wouldn't fly
There's Alex's ex, the equally even with a well-developed cast
lacking-in-personality Dave of goofballs. There's too much
(Zachary Knighton, "Flash- reliance on vaudevillian physi-
Forward"); Jane's husband, the cal comedy, bad puns and people
stereotypical black guy (except being stupid in the face of situa-
when it's convenient for him not tions wherein they can't afford to
to be), Brad (Damon Wayans Jr., be stupid. It's all loud noises and
"My Wife and Kids"); and the funny faces (and out of nowhere,
witty, not-at-all-flamboyant gay a surprising number of Judaism
guy, Max (relative newcomer jokes). Even though many of the
Adam Pally, who has played mul- characters are supposed to be
tiple characters with "douche" in smart and accomplished, Max
their credited name). and Brad are the only two who
of these six, Max is the one ever have smart jokes. And that's
who is consistently endearing abig problem.

New superhero falls
victim to old tricks
By DAVID TAO
DailyFilm Editor
A contemporary Marvel block-
buster is unmistakable. There'll be
the guy in the cape and/or armor
and/or spandex (obviously). Then
there are the bit characters who
constantly name-
drop S.H.LE.L.D **
(for the uncon-
verted, that's the Tor
super-secret spy
agency that runs At Quality16
all the superhe- and Rave
roes). There's the Paramount
traditional post-
'credits appearance by S.H.I.E.L.D.
agent Nick Fury, played by Samuel
L. Jackson ("Snakes on a Plane") and
his badass eye patch. And there are
the Easter eggs littered throughout
each film, props and cameos adver-
tising future blockbusters featur-
ing additional characters from the
unending Marvel pantheon.
"Thor," the latest off the Mar-
vel assembly line, is no exception.
In addition to the titular Thun-
der God (Chris Hemsworth, "Star
Trek"), clad in cape and armor and
what look like spandex leggings,
there's a cameo appearance by Jer-
emy Renner ("The Hurt Locker")
as Hawkeye, hinting at the Aveng-
ers movie currently in production.
And of course, there's a post-credit
- sequence featuring both Jackson
and a comic book MacGuffin teas-

ing the upcoming Captain America
movie. It's a cookie-cutter product
subtly plugging future cookie-cutter
products. And yet at the same time,
it's strangely distinctive.
Unlike his counterparts, who gain
their power through titanium suits
or strange forms of radiation, Thor
is heir to the supernatural realm of
Asgard, a concept lifted by Stan Lee
from Norse mythology. A haughty,
headstrong brat, he's banished to
Earth in the film's first act by his
father, the Norse God Odin (Antho-
ny Hopkins, "Nixon"), stripped of
his power until he learns humility.
Meanwhile, back in Asgard, young-
er brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston,
"Archipelago"), an ambitious trick-
ster with an inferiority complex, is
only too happy to usurp the throne,
plunging the kingdom into chaos.
The bits set in Asgard are the fun,
interesting portions where the film
is at its best. It's here that direc-
tor Kenneth Branagh ("Henry V'),
famous for his past adaptations of
Shakespeare, seems most at home.
In Asgard, situations seem more
consequential. Confrontations seem
more significant and actors' perfor-
mances seem bolder and more dra-
matic. Even the production design
and special effects are more con-
vincingly stunning and fantastical.
But then the script mixes in the
real world, taking magic and placing
it smack dab in the middle of New
Mexico. It could have worked - after
all, it's only awkward if you make
it awkward - but the film makes it
plenty awkward, spending scene
after scene emphasizing how dif-

ferent Thor is from humanity. Thor
complementing a restaurant's coffee
by smashing his mug on the floor.
Thor walking through the streets
and clogging traffic. Thor walking
into a pet store demanding a horse.
These gags are executed repeat-
edly to rapidly decreasing comedic
effect. When worlds inevitably col-
lide as the story reaches its zenith,
the modern world and the many
characters of Asgard clash like hip-
pies and business suits. There's
combat. There are explosions. And
yet we can't really suspend our dis-
belief until our characters return to
Asgard, the only place they seem to
really belong.
We can believe that Hemsworth,
whose claim to fame prior to "Thor"
was the dubious title ofMiley Cyrus's
ex's older brother, is an action hero:
the pounds of muscle he put on for
the movie certainly help, he has a
natural charisma that lends itself
well to cracking heads. Sadly, he's
surrounded by a supporting cast full
of wasted or underutilized talent.
Hopkins, who threw himself into
Hannibal Lecter in "Silence of the
Lambs," owns every second of his
screentime as Odin. Unfortunately,
he doesn't get as many seconds as he
deserves. Recent Oscar-winner Nat-
alie Portman ("Black Swan") gives a
dull, uninspired sideshow of a per-
formance as Thor's obviously-placed
love interest, doing her best with
a role that's little more than a sexy
nerd stereotype. In a way, thesebun-
gled performances are metaphors
for the film itself, a failed experi-
ment with unrealized potential.

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