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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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Rev Up

Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Give Back

Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.



Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…

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A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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GIFs via Giphy

Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.

via GIPHY

Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.

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