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“Thor,” Reviewed

“Thor,” Reviewed (photo)

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In Hollywood, imitation follows innovation. Marvel Studios’ “Thor” is their decent imitation of their runaway hit “Iron Man.” Forget the fact that Thor’s appeared in Marvel Comics longer than Iron Man has, forget the property’s likably goofy mishmash of Norse mythology and Oedipal overtones. Beneath all of that, Kenneth Branagh’s “Thor” is basically just “Iron Man” with a cape and magical hammer instead of a suit of armor.

Like Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark, Chris Hemsworth’s Thor is the brash son of a wealthy and powerful family. Like Stark, Thor believes that a nation’s best defense is a strong offense. And like Stark, he’s an egomaniac in desperate need of a lesson in humility. Over the course of their respective films, with the help of a plucky female sidekick-slash-love interest, each comes to grips with their responsibilities and their festering daddy issues. They also regularly doff their shirts so we can ogle their equally impressive physiques (in summer blockbusters the most important lesson anyone could learn is that with great cardio comes great musculature).

Hemsworth, like Downey, is his film’s secret weapon. After his father Odin (Anthony Hopkins) casts him out of the heavenly realm of Asgard for impudence, Thor lands on Earth sans Mjolnir, his enchanted battle hammer, and we watch with a great deal of satisfaction as this big, burly fish out of water try to adapt to the local customs (his preferred technique for ordering drink refills is particular hoot). Though Thor learns his lesson awfully quickly — about a day and a half with astrophysicists Natalie Portman, Stellan Skarsgård, and Kat Dennings undoes a thousand years of ingrained Asgardian habits — Hemsworth is consistently fun to watch. And his sibling rivalry with his jealous brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) brings a surprising element of pathos to the film. You come to really enjoy the company of these characters and get a kick out of watching them interact.

Where “Thor” thuds, and where it doesn’t match “Iron Man,” is in the action department. Branagh, the great Shakespearean actor and director, really understands Thor’s knotted family tree but he’s a lot less confident about the massive battle scenes, some of which are totally incomprehensible. Though it seems to be the preferred technique of most directors these days, I remain convinced that the best vantage point from which to view a movie fight scene is not six inches from the combatants’ faces. When you take all these choppy close-ups, factor in a dimly lit setting like the homeworld of the malevolent Frost Giants, and pile on the added dinginess from a pair of 3D glasses, what you’re left with is a big, muddy mess.

Like its godly protagonist, “Thor” is a charming film. And its story of an unmotivated invasion by a son who feels empowered by birthright to conquer the evildoers that embarrassed his father adds a clever subtext about American foreign policy. But like a lot of charming people, “Thor” just kind of coasts along on its good looks. It’s also got way too much extraneous material setting up the upcoming “Avengers” movie, including a dreadful post-credits teaser that looks like it was written and shot in about fifteen minutes. Still, you don’t need to be an astrophysicist to know you’re watching a star being born here. I’m looking forward to seeing what Hemsworth does with the character in “The Avengers.” It’ll be interesting to see how he reacts to Tony Stark. They should have a lot to talk about.

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G.I. Jeez

Stomach Bugs and Prom Dates

E.Coli High is in your gut and on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Brothers-in-law Kevin Barker and Ben Miller have just made the mother of all Comedy Crib series, in the sense that their Comedy Crib series is a big deal and features a hot mom. Animated, funny, and full of horrible bacteria, the series juxtaposes timeless teen dilemmas and gut-busting GI infections to create a bite-sized narrative that’s both sketchy and captivating. The two sat down, possibly in the same house, to answer some questions for us about the series. Let’s dig in….

E.coli-class-

IFC: How would you describe E.Coli High to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

BEN: Hi ummm uhh hi ok well its like umm (gets really nervous and blows it)…

KB: It’s like the Super Bowl meets the Oscars.

IFC: How would you describe E.Coli High to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

BEN: Oh wow, she’s really cute isn’t she? I’d definitely blow that too.

KB: It’s a cartoon that is happening inside your stomach RIGHT NOW, that’s why you feel like you need to throw up.

IFC: What was the genesis of E.Coli High?

KB: I had the idea for years, and when Ben (my brother-in-law, who is a special needs teacher in Philly) began drawing hilarious comics, I recruited him to design characters, animate the series, and do some writing. I’m glad I did, because Ben rules!

BEN: Kevin told me about it in a park and I was like yeah that’s a pretty good idea, but I was just being nice. I thought it was dumb at the time.

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IFC: What makes going to proms and dating moms such timeless and oddly-relatable subject matter?

BEN: Since the dawn of time everyone has had at least one friend with a hot mom. It is physically impossible to not at least make a comment about that hot mom.

KB: Who among us hasn’t dated their friend’s mom and levitated tables at a prom?

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

BEN: There’s a lot of content now. I don’t think anyone will even notice, but it’d be cool if they did.

KB: A show about talking food poisoning bacteria is basically the same as just watching the news these days TBH.

Watch E.Coli High below and discover more NYTVF selections from years past on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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Hacked In

Funny or Die Is Taking Over

FOD TV comes to IFC every Saturday night.

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We’ve been fans of Funny or Die since we first met The Landlord. That enduring love makes it more than logical, then, that IFC is totally cool with FOD hijacking the airwaves every Saturday night. Yes, that’s happening.

The appropriately titled FOD TV looks like something pulled from public access television in the nineties. Like lo-fi broken-antenna reception and warped VHS tapes. Equal parts WTF and UHF.

Get ready for characters including The Shirtless Painter, Long-Haired Businessmen, and Pigeon Man. They’re aptly named, but for a better sense of what’s in store, here’s a taste of ASMR with Kelly Whispers:

Watch FOD TV every Saturday night during IFC’s regularly scheduled movies.

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Wicked Good

See More Evil

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is on Hulu.

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Okay, so you missed the entire first season of Stan Against Evil. There’s no shame in that, per se. But here’s the thing: Season 2 is just around the corner and you don’t want to lag behind. After all, Season 1 had some critical character development, not to mention countless plot twists, and a breathless finale cliffhanger that’s been begging for resolution since last fall. It also had this:

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The good news is that you can catch up right now on Hulu. Phew. But if you aren’t streaming yet, here’s a basic primer…

Willards Mill Is Evil

Stan spent his whole career as sheriff oblivious to the fact that his town has a nasty curse. Mostly because his recently-deceased wife was secretly killing demons and keeping Stan alive.

Demons Really Want To Kill Stan

The curse on Willards Mill stipulates that damned souls must hunt and kill each and every town sheriff, or “constable.” Oh, and these demons are shockingly creative.

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They Also Want To Kill Evie

Why? Because Evie’s a sheriff too, and the curse on Willard’s Mill doesn’t have a “one at a time” clause. Bummer, Evie.

Stan and Evie Must Work Together

Beating the curse will take two, baby, but that’s easier said than done because Stan doesn’t always seem to give a damn. Damn!

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Beware of Goats

It goes without saying for anyone who’s seen the show: If you know that ancient evil wants to kill you, be wary of anything that has cloven feet.

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Season 2 Is Lurking

Scary new things are slouching towards Willards Mill. An impending darkness descending on Stan, Evie and their cohort – eviler evil, more demony demons, and whatnot. And if Stan wants to survive, he’ll have to get even Stanlier.

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is now streaming right now on Hulu.

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