The penultimate pre-Avengers Marvel franchise hit like a thunderbolt! Well, a severe summer shower at least. Chris Hemsworth (Papa Kirk from Abrams’ Star Trek) plays the titular Thunder God, an impetuous and brash young warrior eager to earn the respect of his father Odin (Anthony Hopkins). Instead, he reignites a war with his people’s ancient enemies the Frost Giants, and finds himself exiled, penitent and powerless, to Earth. There’s a rushed romance with a sexy scientist (Natalie Portman); a fun but sadly bloodless battle to reclaim his birthright Mjolnir, the literal hammer of the gods; and a final showdown with his half-brother, the once and future God of Mischief. But the real highlights of the film aren’t the action set pieces: Hemsworth is a joy, with the muscles and the cocky but charming smirk; Hopkins chews the scenery appropriately, adding to the Shakespearean vibe director Kenneth Branagh was aiming for; and Tom Hiddleston as Loki steals the show with his wounded-little-boy-in-the-body-of-a-god routine. My earlier review was perhaps a bit glowing for what is probably just a good-not-great summer popcorn film…but then perhaps not. I look forward to watching it again and seeing if the ol’ Asgardian magic can still enchant me like it did before. – Paul Smith
Ironic that Game of Thrones creator George R.R. Martin has found himself embroiled in an intardweb feud (not really) with Lost creator Damon Lindelof, seeing as his sword-and-sorcery-and-politics (-and-politics-and-politics-and-more-politics) epic is positively brimming with an enormous cast of characters and a complex web of interconnected stories and plotlines. I’ve not yet read the series of novels from which the new HBO series is adapted, but I can already tell that there are going to be at least as many, if not more, threads that will need to be woven or cut in the tapestry of this tale than there were in Lost. So Martin’s stance on that show’s narrative failures (in his opinion), as well as those of Battlestar Galactica and even Citizen Kane, theoretically set him in an awkward position of now having to seriously bust his ass to pay off his own magnum opus or draw uncomfortable comparisons.
But that’s not why we’re here. We’re here to talk about tonight’s premier, “Winter is Coming.”
Mad Men fans, rejoice! In recent weeks, the show’s future seemed up in the air as talks between network American Movie Classics and creator Matthew Weiner seemed on the brink of collapsing due to the kind of ordinary Hollywood bullshit negotiating that derails many a project. AMC wanted two cast members cut and more product placement; Weiner wanted neither, plus more money. Weiner even decided to take a ski vacation during negotiations, and just as he hit the slopes, AMC announced that Mad Men would officially return for a fifth season in 2012. Though they didn’t say as much, the implication was clear: “We can get all mad about men with or without you, Weiner.”
Though popular shows changing showrunners isn’t abnormal, Weiner occupies a rarified position among showrunners. He doesn’t just run the show, he is its creative voice. It would be like Buffy the Vampire Slayer without Joss Whedon, or The Sopranos without David Chase. In fact, for the last two seasons of Buffy, Marti Noxon was the showrunner–which some cite as the reason for those seasons’ relative weaknesses–but Whedon was still involved, and his voice and guidance was evident in every major plot twist or character development. What almost happened with Mad Men is that Weiner wouldn’t have been involved at all; not to be hyperbolic, but it would have been like removing Orson Welles from Citizen Kane three-quarters of the way through and replacing him with, say, Frank Capra. That’s not to say the movie still wouldn’t have been decent, but the ending would have been markedly different and it certainly wouldn’t be revered as possibly the greatest film ever made. In essence, we would have seen an ending to a story about the people of Mad Men, but not the ending to the story we’ve been watching for the last few years.
On last night’s show, Paul and I continued our countdown of the Top 100 Characters in Modern Pop Culture with #s 40-31. Be sure to listen to the show for our full run-downs, but here are some choice excerpts:
PAUL: Jesse Custer (Preacher)
He’s a good ol’ Southern boy, with a hard-drinking work ethic and a code of honor that he follows to an almost fundamentalist extreme.
AJ: The Joker (DC Comics)
Though the Joker is frightening on his own, as has been explored in many comics and filmic adaptations, he would mean nothing without the Batman. He is Batman reflected through a funhouse mirror, living to terrorize and provoke Gotham City as much as Batman exists solely to protect it and keep watch over it.
Above is our first non-zombie production photo from the set of AMC’s The Walking Dead, a forthcoming series based on Robert Kirkman’s acclaimed comic book. It’s of Andrew Lincoln as Rick Grimes, the police officer who serves as the main protagonist in Kirkman’s tale of a post-apocalyptic, zombie-ravaged planet. This photo arrives at a pretty good time for me, as I just finished reading all 72 current issues of the comic this afternoon, and I watched Frank Darabont’s The Mist last night.