DID YOU READ

“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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New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…

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IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. 

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number! 

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time. 

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by. 

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IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo. 

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim. 

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t? 

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?” 

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud. 

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

The-Craft

The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”

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Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).

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Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.

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And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.

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Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.

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Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.

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Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!

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Inter-not

Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.

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Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.

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If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.