Two lovely ladies. Two very different actors. Two absolutely different Realms.
Kat Dennings plays Darcy in "Thor," a political science major who ends up helping out Jane Foster, played by Natalie Portman, in her research into some strange energy storms in the desert. Jamie Alexander, on the other hand, plays Sif, an Asgardian warrior who grew up with Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and who is one of his very best friends.
The two really couldn't be less alike. Alexander is a strikingly pretty woman up close, but there's something substantial about her, something that suggests she could easily kick your ass up between your ears if she decided to do so. Dennings, on the other hand, has this wonderful eccentric energy about her. I don't find her threatening in the least, but she is a wonderful comic presence. Each of them adds something invaluable to "Thor," and we sat down with both of them to discuss their work in the big Marvel movie.
Dennings is as funny in person as she is onscreen, and she actually taught me a word as we were preparing to talk. She complimented me on my "aubergine" tie, and while I've seen the word, I didn't know what color it referred to. We chatted for a moment before the cameras rolled about her film "Daydream Nation," which is getting a split-second theatrical release but which has already been sent to reviewers on Blu-ray.
Two very different actresses both shine in the new Marvel movie
Two lovely ladies. Two very different actors. Two absolutely different Realms.
The great actor-director talks about both sides of her craft
Jodie Foster is one of those people who has been part of mainstream entertainment as long as I've been paying attention to it, and who always seemed close enough to me in age that I could use her as a sort of milestone for my own life.
As an actor, I think she can be undervalued, despite the Oscars, and I miss her when she doesn't work for a while. As a filmmaker, she has a remarkably small resume, but I think she's proven that she likes unconventional material, and that she brings a considerable intelligence to the choices she makes.
Thankfully, "The Beaver" offers up Foster as both actor and director, scratching both itches at once, and I think it represents a real triumph for her. Of course, thanks to our tabloid society, most of the conversations about the film seem to focus on Mel Gibson, his public meltdown, and his possible career rehab that the film might represent. But for me, what made "The Beaver" compelling from the moment it came together was the notion of Foster behind the camera again.
Sure enough, the film is a quiet marvel of tasteful choices. Just consider the way Foster shoots both Gibson and the puppet as characters instead of treating one as a prop. And also consider the careful handling of depression in the movie. Where one director could easily take this same script and play it as farce, Foster keeps it firmly grounded in real human pain.
Beast, Mystique, Havok, and Banshee all get a moment in the sun
Isn't this the way it's supposed to work?
I think these days, people have this expectation that the moment a studio starts marketing a movie, they're going to throw all the best stuff at the audience right away in a take-no-prisoners approach to getting butts in theater seats.
Personally, I've always been a fan of the slow burn, the gradual reveal as we get closer to a movie, while still trying to hold things back, and so far, I'd say "X-Men: First Class" has been doing everything right in terms of the trailers they've cut.
Now, over at MTV.com, there are three new character trailers that do a nice job of re-introducing us to characters we've met in other films as well as characters that have never appeared in an "X-Men" movie before.
My first reaction is that the film looks better with each new clip, and part of that is because we're getting a look at the way Matthew Vaughn approaches shooting this world and these people, and there's a keen intelligence to his take on things.
He discusses his striking physical transformation and his 'Gene Wilder' hair
I think Chris Hemsworth has already been embraced by Hollywood as a rising star, so the reviews he's getting for "Thor" won't do much except confirm what people already believed.
If anyone's going to get a real bounce out of "Thor" and suddenly get tons of work thrown their way, it's Tom Hiddleston. His Loki is an immediately satisfying addition to the Marvel universe, sly and sullen and emotionally bruised, a villain we can understand. Hiddleston is exceptional at playing the things we're seeing and also playing the things that are simmering just under the surface. He demonstrates a preposterous amount of charisma here, and considering he has to stand equal to Hemsworth, I'd say Marvel lucked out not once but twice on this film.
We chatted with him on the set of the movie a bit, and he struck me there as a guy who was still very much in the middle of a process, not really sure what to think yet. He was enjoying himself, but he was also aware of the scrutiny and the expectation, and I think he was just happy to rely on Kenneth Branagh, who he had just worked with on "Wallender," to guide him through it intact.
How close will this one be to the work of Robert E. Howard?
This will be an excellent opportunity for me to test just how open I can keep my mind when approaching a new movie.
I hold the work of author Robert E. Howard very dear. And I am a near-rabid advocate for 1982's "Conan The Barbarian," directed by John Milius. I think the film is a weird mess as strict adaptations go, but it doesn't matter. It gets the spirit of Howard's work exactly right, and taken strictly as a movie, I think it is tremendous myth-making.
One of the things that always bothered me a little bit about the Milius version of Conan is the way it lathered the image people have in their heads of the character, forever cementing the character as a gigantic muscleman. While Howard wrote him as a powerful fighter, I've always thought that the character he described was a bit more like the way Mark Decascos looks in the last forty minutes or so of "Brotherhood Of The Wolf," lean and ripped and more like a panther than a giant silverback gorilla.
Still, I like everything else about the Milius film, so I've always been willing to accept Schwarzenegger as a particular take on the character. Now, with Lionsgate getting ready to release their new take on the material, it's time for a new Conan, and more importantly, a new interpretation of the Howard stories, and because of my deep love for the source material, I am willing to give this one the benefit of the doubt.
Could live events be the best use of the technology?
I swear to god, if they call it "3-Glee," I will strangle a kitten.
I'm not a big fan of "Glee." I watched the first season on DVD when it was released, curious to see what all the hype was about, and also because I like Ryan Murphy as a TV producer and writer. I think he does strong work. Even though the show fizzled by the time it wrapped up, there was a lot of juicy loony pulp fun to be had in the first few seasons of "Nip/Tuck."
It does not surprise me that "Glee" is a phenomenon right now. The show is absolutely of the moment, both in style and sensibility, and it punches buttons with the topical writing just as adeptly as it repurposes pop songs into emotional revelations. I think it is significant to have teen characters like these on TV, and I think Kurt is an important character for people to see on TV each week.
Having said that, the show just irks me. I can only stomach small doses of it at a time. I think the difference between season one and season two is a nice illustration of what success does to a TV show. Sincerity curdles into something more akin to suffocating smugness, and there is a self-awareness that hobbles the show's better instincts.
Amidst all the punching and flying, was there any lesson learned?
So far, the Film Nerd 2.0 column has dealt primarily with older titles. I can't really speak to how other people share films with their kids, but this column has been driven so far by my desire to help my kids navigate the ocean of media choices available to them.
For the most part, I believe my kids should have a media diet made up of older titles, for the simple inarguable reason that there are far more good films that already exist than you'll find in any multiplex on a given weekend. Yes, there are good films being made all the time, but if you're going to give your kids a healthy diet of film, you have to be willing to dig deep. You have to do more than just slavishly march to the theater and show them whatever blockbuster Hollywood tells you is "for the family" at this particular moment. Over the course of this column so far, we've dealt with films from the '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, and even '90s. And by keeping their intake so diverse, I've seen that my kids aren't just sensation junkies, demanding only big and loud and now.
Having said that, this column came to life one afternoon in a theater for a new release, when I took Toshi to the theater to see the JJ Abrams "Star Trek" reboot. The movie electrified him. It's hard to fully explain the reaction he had if you weren't there to see it, to see his body language. He stood for almost the entire running time, every muscle in his body clenched, and if I tried to touch him at all, he would brush me off, so engrossed in the film that he wanted no other stimulus, nothing to break that connection he was feeling. He was lost in the movie, and that ability to get lost, to get completely absorbed by what you're seeing, that feeling when something goes from being passive entertainment to something immersive, an experience remembered instead of something just watched… well, that's the hit that I've been chasing my whole life, since the first moment I got bit by that exact same bug.
Just how big is Hector Hammond's head gonna get, anyway?
It is one seriously superhero summer, and it's still just warming up.
I'll have a piece up in a little while about my experience watching "Thor" with the boys, and as soon as they were available, I bought them each a toy Mjolnir. They make thunder sounds when you press a button, and they're soft enough that you can hit something without hurting it. Or at least, that was my thought. Within three days, the boys had pushed their mother to the breaking point. I guess she didn't think it was as funny as I did to hear WHACK! THUNDER! "Don't hit me!" over and over from the playroom.
As excited as they were for "Thor," and as much as they've enjoyed watching the "Captain America" trailer over and over, the film that seems to have already won their hearts and minds for this summer is "Green Lantern," and I understand. Ever since they saw that Wonder-Con piece that Warner Bros. put online, they have been absolutely manic about the mythology of the world of Hal Jordan.
I'm going to guess this will not be an uncommon response.
One thing I've realized as a parent is that kids love to learn a new vocabulary for a movie. They love films where there are a million little characters to memorize and play with. The variety on display in the Green Lantern Corps is one of the many things that appeals to them right away. The film's big crazy cosmic scale excites them because it combines so many things they like… monsters and outer space and superheroes and jet planes and creepy-looking things.
We've got the rundown for you on what to expect when the saga arrives
Well, if you were even a few minutes late this morning, you missed it all.
Thanks to a genuinely awful pun, today is the day that "Star Wars" nerds the world over proclaim their fandom, because the other 364 days a year, they are completely silent about the subject. Oh, wait, no they're not. I'm not exactly sure why we'd need to set aside a particular day each year for the celebration of "Star Wars," since fandom seems to be one long, unending celebration of the property already.
Even so, I've been anticipating this day since the news that StarWars.com would be making an announcement about the details of the upcoming "Star Wars" Blu-ray release. There was a countdown clock…. A COUNTDOWN CLOCK, I TELL YOU… so this morning's news had to be a big deal, right?
The new site went live at 6:00 AM PST. As of 6:25 AM PST, the new site is gone. Nuked. Crashed like a cop car in "Fast Five." All the original link does is send you to FoxMovies.com now, where there's no mention at all of the upcoming Blu-ray release.
Good thing we've got the details for you, isn't it?
One of our venerated greats talks about playing the Allfather
It seems like that would have happened already, right? I mean, Hopkins is one of our finest actors, and with his credits and his incredible voice, how is it that he didn't end up in any of Branagh's Shakespeare adaptations? Or in any of his stage productions? How did it take Marvel Studios to end up bringing these two together?
When I sat down with Sir Hopkins last Saturday, it was the very end of a long press day for him, and while I think he was definitely ready to be finished and worn out, he was still joking and gossiping with the camera crew and the lighting guys, and they all seemed to be genuinely enjoying their afternoon with him. He always strikes me as having some private joke playing in his head whenever I see him at an event like this or speak with him. He seems bemused by the whole circus, and he rarely seems to take this part of it all too seriously.
On the other hand, he seems to be enjoying the simple details of the work he does more and more, and when you talk craft with him, you'll have a good conversation. It's inevitable. He's simply done too much and seen too much and he has so much experience to impart, and it seems like the slightest provocation will lead to a great and rollicking chat about any number of subjects.