Posts Tagged ‘natalie portman’

So, the story goes that director Kenneth Brangah, distinguished Shakespearean actor that he is, had never so much as opened a single, solitary “Thor” comic book before agreeing to direct Marvel Studios” mega-budget blockbuster adaptation of said material. He dutifully then spent all of 15 minutes perusing old 1960s back-issues of the book before deciding more or less immediately that Jack Kirby was an absolute genius and dictating to his as-yet-unformed visual effects team that his primary goal was to adapt as much of the Kirby “look” as possible for his film.

Now, your friendly neighborhood TFG just happens to be a massive Jack Kirby fan and the one thing I hate above all others about the marvel cinematic boom of recent years is that Stan Lee, a no-talent hack whose uncle got him his job at Marvel, seems to be getting all the credit for “creating” the Marvel Universe, while The King Of Comics himself seems to warrant nary a mention. Thor, however, goes some way toward redressing the balance on this score — in addition to being a whole ton of fun, it’s the first honest-to-God Jack Kirby flick from top to bottom. Oh, sure, Stan “The Man” makes his usual pointless cameo, but everything from the dialogue to the epic scope of the story to the overall visual aesthetic of Asgard to the bold, bad-ass character portrayals is pure Kirby. in fact, you could argue that the look, feel, and even the story itself of Thor all bear a lot more resemblance to Kirby’s later magnum opus for DC, The Fourth World, than they do to anything he did for Marvel, but that’s another matter for another time, I suppose.

As such, given that he’s passed onto the land beyond and can theoretically now observe everything that’s happening, I thought it would be interesting to see if I could find out what Jack himself had to say about the film, so with that in mind your host broke out his trusty Ouija board and kept firing questions into the ether until I found The King’s spirit. Once I started to get responses with lots of quotation marks and exclamation points, I knew I’d found him (and those who wish to be pedantic and point out that a Ouija board features neither exclamation points nor quotation marks can now duly fuck off).

And so, without further ado, I hereby present my dutifully transcribed notes on what the spirit of the late, great Jack Kirby himself had to say in regards to Kenneth Branagh’s film Thor

Greetings and salutations dear reader! You and I are about to embark on an epic journey together of “block-buster” proportions! For truly never has a saga such as this one unfolded on our local neighborhood movie theater screens!

Yes, friends, the “silver screen” is alive with magic and awe-inspiring, “earth-shattering” wonder! Never before has the much-maligned “comic-book industry” given rise to such a mighty spectacle of awe and cosmic wonder! The scale is unparalleled! The action “non-stop!” The splendor and majesty truly the stuff of legend!

I’ve worked before in the field of animated productions, but never have I seen my work so faithfully and expertly adapted in a “live-action” motion picture as director Kenneth Branagh has done here with “Thor!” I am awed,amazed,and humbled by his sheer dedication and faithfulness! Mr. Branagh, “The King” salutes you, sir!

As for the acting, well, truly never has such an “all-star” cast been assembled! Chris Hemsworth shines as the God of Thunder himself! Natalie Portman is enchaning as his love interest! Anthony Hopkins is majesty and wisdom incarnate as Odin! And the supporting cast of Kat Dennings, Stellan Skarsgard, rene Russo, Colm Feore, and especially Idris Elba as the stoic Heindall, reign supreme!!!!!!!!!

I am ecstatic at the sheer splendor and scale of this mighty, mythological epic and couldn’t have written a better script for this “motion-picture spectacular” myself! “Thor” is the perfect summer movie full of grand and mighty feats of destruction, devastation, love, and most of all, heroism! It smashes all that has come before and reaches spectacular new heights of soon-to-be-legendary grandeur! “Comic-book movies” have never looksed so good or seemed so real! You will be “blown away,” dear friends — and you’ve got the word of Jack Kirby on that!!!!!!!!!!

And with that, my Ouija board overloaded from sheer excitement and and fast letter-pointing (or whatever you call it), burst into flames, and the spirit of Jack left the room. And since I heartily agree with everything he had to say about Thor and couldn’t possibly put it any better than that myself, I won’t even try. See it now if you haven’t already, and see it again if you have.

"Black Swan" Movie Poster

I’m just gonna come right out and say it — am I the only person who was just a little bit disappointed with this flick?

I know, I know — after Natalie Portman walking off with the best actress award at the Golden Globes last night this hardly puts me in the “popular opinion” camp. And I don’t want to slag her performance off in the least. She’s really solid as a hyper-competetive ballerina losing herself into the darker side of her starring role in “Swan Lake” and trying to hold onto her sanity as she explores a side to her nature she’s always kept under control. When she truly lets herself go and become the titular black swan, the resulting transformation from calm, cool, and collected to ferociously alluring is downright incredible . And so was everyone else in it, to be honest. Mila Kunis is terrific as her possiblly-looking-to-usurp-her “friend.” Vincent cassel is by turns understandably creepy and flat-out creepy as her boss at the ballet. Winona Ryder — who I didn’t even know was in the film — is great as the mentally-and-physically broken former lead dancer of the troupe. And Barbara Hershey turns in possibly the stongest performance in the entire film as Portman’s neurotic mother.

In addition, director Darren Aronofsky is back in top form here. After losing himself underneath heaping mountains of auteurism in The Fountain and then reigning in his strong visual and stylistic instincts a bit too much with The Wrestler, he really seems to have found his voice again here and turns in his best directorial effort since Requiem for a Dream. Aronofsky has a very real talent for bringing out the best in all his performers — always has — and that’s never been on display more grandly than it is here.

So why did I leave the theater feelingĀ  a bit flat about the whole thing? Good question.

Maybe it’s just that my expectations had been pumped up so high — in fact, I’m sure that’s a big part of it, and it’s not fair in the least to judge Black Swan based on all the incredible buzz that’s been swirling around it. Hey, they can’t help it if people loved the movie and have been saying so at top volume. But mostly, I think, what left me feeling a little bit lukewarm to the proceedings was the fact that this type of story has been done before and, frankly, better.

Both Roman Polanski’s criminally-underrated The Tenant and, more recently, David Lynch’s Inland Empire dealt with similar subject matter — sure, in The Tenant the title character was “turning into” his dead predecessor in the apartment, aided and abetted (perhaps) by the other residents of the building, but the idea of losing oneself in another persona was the same. And with Inland Empire the parallels are even more striking, as Laura Dern and Justin Theroux literally find themselves becoming the characters they’re portraying in a film production.

So I guess my main “beef,” if you will, with Black Swan is that this isn’t particularly new thematic territory to be mining, and it’s following in the footsteps of some better — if less universally-lauded — work that concerned itself with largely the same type of thing.

I don’t want to give the wrong impression here — I definitely think this is a film most folks will enjoy the heck out of and that everyone should see. the striking performances alone are more than worth it. But if I could offer just one piece of advice, it would be this — temper your expectations a bit. There’s plenty to enjoy here, but there’s nothing actually new going on.