Saturday, May 28, 2011

The Case for Four More Years, NZ Style

Sometimes, I wonder if writers are aware of the reality of NZ Rugby. 

Take this article on the re-signing of super-All Black, Richie McCaw, following hard on the heels of the reporting of Daniel Carter’s decision to stay in New Zealand, also with the Canterbury Crusaders (though by his own admission, Carter spends a lot of his time in Auckland).

First off, let me just say I have nothing against the deal made with either McCaw or Carter, or Sonny Bill Williams for that matter.  That’s what employees and employers do – the employees demand what they want and it’s up to the employer to determine if that is what they are willing to pay.

What gets my goat is the praise heaped upon these people for accepting vast sums of money and conditions that they decided had to be worked into their agreements.  Sure, the players have decided to stay in New Zealand, and their decision to do so may not have been done on the lawns of Parliament, but lets get real here: these people got what they wanted and are getting handsomely paid.  Could they have earned more overseas?  Probably – and, for Carter at least, the promise of “sabbatical” time in his four-year contract means he still can go abroad and demand quite a bit for the experience. 

Of course, the money these men get from the NZRFU is just one source of income: Carter has quite a few highly visible endorsement earners with other companies (I would love to see the advertisement, “Dan Carter would choose Nikon cameras, even if he had to pay for them”, though I have my doubts that this would ever happen); Williams has a sideline in pugilism which I am sure is well remunerated; and McCaw shows up in fliers I find in my letterbox every so often advertising very solid and reliable and trustworthy things that I am sure he is meant to embody.  All of these endorsements would (I imagine) be reconsidered if these people were not playing in New Zealand, as their “patriotic” currency would be somewhat diluted by them working and playing abroad long term.

So, and again, here’s hoping that these gushing media reports and rabid fans get real: Rugby Union in New Zealand is a money-making venture, and these players, while no doubt getting a lot of satisfaction in playing for New Zealand and for local clubs, are in no way staying here purely out of the goodness of their hearts.  They are making sure they are getting the best deal that they possibly can, and all power to them – but let’s not paint them in martyrs’ colours, please.

Verdict: Good on the major All Blacks players for resigning to play in New Zealand for the next few years at least.  But it would be disingenuous to pretend that these men get nothing for staying and playing in New Zealand: they are getting some pretty sweet deals, and have negotiated opportunities within their rugby agreements as well with other organisations to earn quite a bit more.  Considering their calibre and class, they deserve their rewards – but New Zealanders should stop trying to fool themselves that rugby is still “grass roots” at heart.  These men are professionals, being paid as such, and should be treated and seen as such too.  7 shots of reality out of 15.


As an aside, why I like Joan: 

"Oprah Winfrey is so powerful that she had the Rapture postponed until after her final show airs." - Joan Rivers.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Case for Four More Pirates

Can there ever be too many pirates?

Well the answer is of course yes, but Pirates of the Carribean: On Stranger Tides, the fourth outing in the series, does not outstay its welcome.  Bereft of the need to give Kiera Knightly and Orlando Bloom something to do, the film hangs on every staggering syllable and swaying step of Johnny Depp's awesome Captain Jack Sparrow.  

Back this time around are Keith Richards and Geoffrey Rush, and I am sure there was a miniscule cameo appearance by Judy Dench, who obviously jumped at the chance to share a kiss with Depp.  Ian McShane is also along for this ride, bringing a wonderful sense of menace to his otherwise quite pleasant Blackbeard, and Penelope Cruz adds an extra level of hotness - and a few good jokes at Sparrow's expense.

As enjoyable as this romp is, it makes no consideration for pacing or intelligence.  There are lots of action sequences, and the ones at the start just seem to play for time, their over-elaborateness acting against them in the awe-inspiring stakes.  And as to the plot... well, who really knows what is really going on or cares about the complete obviousness of plot twists and motivations - this is Pirates of the Carribean, after all.

But, especially on the big screen at the Embassy and well cushioned in the Platinum seats, Pirates of the Carribean: On Stranger Tides was definitely an enjoyable event worthy of the big screen, with its rousing soundtrack swirling around in a much more manly and proper style than Sparrow ever quite manages at any stage in the film.

I have to say though, the film did a very good job of distracting me from the awesomely titillating preview for the final Harry Potter film - and to do that, it had to be pretty entertaining.

Verdict:  Pirates of the Carribean: On Stranger Tides lives up to the what it says on the box.  It is big, stupid, lots of Johnny and swashbuckling and then some more Johnny thrown in for awesome measure.  Sure, it does seem a little long, because it is, but worth the ride, especially in an awesome cinema.  6 Arrs out of 10.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

The Case for Bookfairs in Wainui, 2011 Edition

Wainuiomata may get a bad rap for a number of reasons, but one thing that undeniably it does better than almost anyone else is book fairs.  They usually have a great selection of books in relatively good condition, and the venue is never too crowded possibly as the location wards off some of those more aggressive at book fairs than in almost any other aspect of their lives.

This year, the book fair was a bit disappointing in some ways - smaller selections of books, some categories almost non existent, and some very dubious signage - but it still managed to surprise and be highly pleasant.  

A big thank you to Stretch for getting me there when my car let me down, and a major thank you to LittleHall for finding me a cookbook that I have been needing for a while.

Verdict:  Good, but not great.  But at least there were no insane people with bullhorns and intercom systems - we have the Wellington Downtown Community Ministry book fair to look forward to for that.  7 pre-loved literature out of 10.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Case for Finding the Source

I can break down what I thought about Source Code into two words: enjoyable bollocks.

To elaborate, Source Code is a lot of fun, well put together, well acted by Jake Gyllenhaal as Captain Colter Stevens, Michelle Monaghan and the hypnotically awesome Vera Farmiga and well worth the effort to see.  But, don't try and make sense of any of the supposed "science" going on, as that is all a complete load of rubbish.


I can't really explain how much drivel the concept behind Source Code is without revealing a lot about how the movie unfolds.  True, the idea of hopping back in time for a short while to save the planet or people from certain disaster is nothing new (remember the awesome 12 Monkeys?  Avoid the seemingly stupid Déjà vu?).  But these kind of films always try and have some form of internal logic to explain how these things happen - the "rules" as it were that govern something that currently seems completely implausible.  But, in Source Code, the rules themselves are very open to interpretation, and a bit morally ambiguous. 

The main rule (and I think I can reveal this without giving away too much, but stop now if you don't want to know) is that Stevens is reliving the last moments of a "host" man who died in a train explosion, the last memories of whom were captured by a computer programme in some unspecified yet quite sophisticated way (considering he was pretty close to the blast, I imagine there might not be much brain left to get these glimmers from).  So, if that is the case, how does Stevens move "outside" of this person's experiences to track down the guilty parties?  Is the computer programme filling in the gaps of places and things the "host" experienced, and so these details and any information that might be gathered may not be right at all? 

Putting aside this and every other head-scratching "but" moment, the rest of the film flows really well.  As previously mentioned, any scene with Vera Farmiga is infinitely watchable, and the scenes on the train are quick enough that Stevens' acclimatization and wilder antics as he tries to find the guilty party don't really drag.  Meanwhile, Monaghan is all sweetness and light and unbelievably appealing, and I dare anyone not to want take her home with them.

The film also makes Chicago look like an amazing place I would love to visit, though I would have to go with ear muffs on to ensure I avoided the incredibly irritating soundtrack that seems to dominate the movie and the city.  Indeed the first 5 minutes of the film make the windy city seem incredibly interesting while at the same time have me reaching for the neck of the score's composer so that I can wring it.

All up though, the film is really well put together, even if the parts are not equal to the sum of the whole.  It's also one of those films that won't really lose anything on the small screen, but I appreciated seeing it at the cinema nonetheless.

Verdict: Source Code passes much better when it stops trying to make sense and just increases the action, tension and makes liberal use of Vera Farmiga.  6 clips of a Chicago city rail ticket out of 10.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Case for Teenage Dreaming

I was not terribly surprised when my decision to go to the Katy Perry concert generated a certain amount of sniggering when I mentioned it to a few people (mainly at the gym). The actual decision to go came about because I had been discussing acts I would like to see, and Ms Perry's sugary pop music and her own fairly off kilter attitude (from what I gleaned from the media of course) struck chords with me that made me think seeing a concert of hers would be fun. And so, an off the cuff remark that I would go and see her if she came to Wellington came home to roost (if cuffs can do that) when a Wellington date for her California Dreams tour was announced. Luckily, I knew others also attending, and so the stage was set for a fairly... youth-oriented evening.

Unfortunately, the venue chosen for the show was the TSB Arena. I have been to a few performances there, and while the Split Enz concert went quite well, I took that to be more because I was seated facing the stage rather than the venue itself, as I have paid for "more expensive" seats and ended up in the elevated seats looking sideways at the stage - or at least, what I can see through some annoying people who refuse to sit down (ah, that Billy Connolly stage show...).

Luckily, this time around, the TSB arena worked out perfectly. Sure, there was a queue for the entrance that stretched back almost as far as the Bluebridge Ferry terminal, and the egress was about as easy as having a calm debate with Titewhai Harawira, with people heading "against the stream" of the crowd, others determined to overtake those already trying to get out, and then the terrible decision to sell merchandise just near the main - and only - exit which led to a huge bottleneck just before heading out of the building. But the forced intimacy of the venue and the fact that there was standing room only on the floor gave the whole occasion a wonderful party atmosphere.

When I arrived, local act Zowie was wowing the early arrivals with her angry girl power attitude anthems. I had only heard of her in passing and knew nothing of her songs before I saw her perform, but I thought her stuff was pretty good, though not really aimed at my demographic. She was swiftly followed by a speed talking DJ who I could barely understand, but who made the crowd go wild by counting down the number of songs left in his set before the main act arrived. His songs got progressively slower and less catchy as the countdown continued, and it was a little bit of a surprise when his final song led to a 15 minute hiatus before the main show began (not sure if a countdown is really meant to work that way), but his set got everyone in a jumpy, arm wavy mood, and set the fun tone for the rest of the evening.

And when Katy Perry came out, that tone was ramped up to "awesome" fun. The show was amazing: the costumes, the set design, the lighting, the effects, the dancers, the singers, the songs - and of course, central to it all, the incredible performer that is Katy Perry. It got off to a great start when my favourite, Teenage Dream, got the party underway. Mixed in amongst an almost incomprehensible story about a trip to candy land that unfolded on the large screens above us, the songs may or may not have contributed something to the plot, but it didn't matter. There were quite a few songs I didn't know, but then Perry has had quite a few hits despite only releasing a few albums, and they were all mixed up amongst the "unknown" tracks, and so struck just the right balance between the two.

The highlight of the evening had to be the amazing performance of ET, which has quite a slow, aggressive beat. All the words were flashed up on the screen (helping everyone sing along), and the lighting effects went all 1980s disco fantasy, with green lasers bathing the venue in a funky retro-futuristic light. Of course, the crowd went wild for Perry's classic I Kissed a Girl, and everyone was hanging out for the great belting-it-out anthem of Firework (with real fireworks blasting across the venue) that signalled the almost end of the show.

And in between all that, Perry proved to be a completely amazing person. Her call for people to take their shirts off was answered by a young man whose speed and/or athletic build earned him a call on stage and the chance to peck Perry on the cheek. Girls were not left out, as a later "name that tune" challenge resulted in one woman earning a kiss. And at one stage Perry seemed to be pimping out her male back up dancers to any girls or guys willing to meet up with them after the show.

There were a few slower parts. A call to the audience for songs for Katy to perform was a nice idea, but the outcome was pre-ordained to appeal to the very poppy songs (like that Friday song and the whipping hair back and forth one) and so seemed to slow things down for no reason. Perry talked to the audience a few times as well, thrilling the crowd with lots of local references and reassuring everyone she knew she was in Wellington, New Zealand, thought he odd references to pouches and Summer Heights High, while very antipodean, were probably meant to appeal to a more Ocker audience. Bless.

But the crowd - with me amongst them - were willing to forgive any such lapses. The music was amazing, even if I wasn't overly impressed with her version of Whitney Houston's I Want To Dance With Somebody, though it was a great excuse to get some members of the audience on stage, with one lucky lady even brought back to get an up close and personal photo on her i-phone. Speaking of which, one thing that did surprise me was the number of cameras in attendance, with my view occasionally obscured by a dozen people raising their digital recording devices above their head to capture the performance for posterity.

Perry is stunning, her Wonder Womanly outfits emphasising her incredible Lynda Carter-esque curves, and the screens made the most of her dazzling blue eyes. A couple of mildly drunk guys behind me repeatedly yelled - in their deepest possible voices - a generous offer of lodgings at their place for the night should Perry require it, and though she herself made that request to the audience later in the evening, I think the men behind me would not have had their offers accepted. There were plenty of people who made the effort to get dressed up too, with blue and pink wigs galore (though not on sale at the merchandise counter), and the brigade of Girl Scouts at the back of the venue got special mention.

The show finished at just the right time for me to catch my train home, and as everyone left, the crowd was abuzz with praise. I have been to a few amazing concerts, but in terms of sheer spectacle, energy and fun, I don't think anything could come close or outdo this one. And, in a case of cosmic synergy framing the evening, as I walked back to my house under a starry sky smeared with a light dusting of autumnal mist, the final song on the radio was Perry's Firework. Brilliant.

Verdict: Not quite perfect, but the California Dream tour concert by Katy Perry was pretty close. Were the universe to tilt on its axis and a few million possibilities and probabilities change, I would marry Perry in an instant and bear her fine females. She is awesome, as was the show, and I will definitely go to one of her concerts again - despite any sniggering my enthusiasm might arouse. 9.5 fireworks out of 10.

Monday, May 9, 2011

The Case for Relating to Music

For a bit of a change, I went along to a movie of which I had heard absolutely nothing.
Mozart’s Sister is a French film that I initially thought might be about some woman’s personal development through listening to the collected works of the maestro, much like Julia and Julia. But a quick glance at the synopsis before entering the theatre relieved me of that notion and confirmed that the movie was very much going to be about what it said on the box.

Nannerl was the nickname for Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s sister who was apparently almost equally as talented but hindered from becoming as famous as her brother because of the limitations imposed on women at the time. Due to this fact, I am not sure how factual the rest of the movie actually was, but it paints a fairly realistic picture of those life and times.

Well, kind of: for the most part, the Mozart family spend their time speaking French to each other, and while I am sure they spoke it, I am not altogether sure it would have been their language at home. Besides that though, life in those times is painted as sumptuous but creaking and drafty, cold but warmed by the use of fire and multiple layers. Versailles in particular is shown as incredibly opulent but at the same time I got the impression it would have been a not terribly comfortable (by modern standards) place to stay, with paper thin walls and retainers hanging around the whole time. The encounter with a toilet is seen as something close to magic, and the family live on top of each other making romantic encounters and the trials of growing up a more… family affair.

And a family affair the whole production seems to be. I am not sure of the name Feret is the French equivalent of Smith, but the fact that every other name in the cast and production list seems to end with that nom de famille made me incredibly suspicious that nepotism is alive and well in modern France. And, should that suspicion be correct, it probably explains a lot of the weaknesses in the film.

While there can be no doubt that the people playing Nannerl and Wolfgang make a convincing show of being able to play the violin, there is more doubt about the acting ability of the younger members of the cast. Wolfgang is not expected to do much, so his abilities as an actor are hard to judge, though he appears to display quite a proficiency when it comes to music. Nannerl appears likewise very adept with a violin, though it is obvious throughout that her singing voice is dubbed and we never see her hands at the clavichord keyboard.

But Nannerl, like all the younger women, seem to be part of the director’s family and so, no matter their musical qualifications, their attempts at acting are pretty monotone. The youngest daughter of the French King who befriends Nannerl is particularly painful to watch. All her dialogue is delivered in the careful, slow and flat pace of someone being very careful to read the script properly and to treat it with respect, rather than actually talking like people normally do. Even her walking is rehearsed and stilted. The actress playing Nannerl, in contrast, is miles better, but I couldn’t really say she made a particularly engaging protagonist. And the almost insane intensity of the actor playing the Dauphin was disturbing to say the least.

Most unnerving though was the use of a handheld camera for every shot, While it does give the illusion of fly-on-the-wall, “cinema verite” kind of thing, it can be completely nauseating and pretty much is throughout the film. The constant motion also robs a lot of the scenes of any intensity they might have, as I found myself combatting motion sickness rather than concentrating on what was going on before me.

Of course, what was going on behind me was equally as distracting, with a couple related to the person who sat behind me in
Thor holding a conversation-level volume discussion about the goings on in the movie before me. Being a subtitled film, it did seem a bit harder to demand silence from those others in attendance, but I was still not terribly impressed by their constant blathering, though luckily they seemed to run out of things to say after the first hour or so. I wonder if I will have another of their family behind me at my next movie?

Verdict: I cannot say that I like
Mozart’s Sister. It certainly felt like it was nailing the reality of life in that era, so from a scene-setting sense it was very convincing, but the actual story and abysmal acting were completely unengaging and, adding in the unceasing motion of the camera, it all felt a lot like a school play filmed with the production values of a major motion picture. It’s perhaps a bit ungenerous to say it might have been a case of nepotism gone mad (and bad), but the credit list at the end of the movie definitely gave the impression that it was a family affair in the worst sense of the word. The supporting actors were actually pretty decent, but the main cast were flat, despite their apparent musical aptitude. 2 out of an octave.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

The Case for Oil and Money

I had a very informative day the other day. Not in a life lessons kind of way, not really, but more in the way that happens when you watch two different documentaries about two different topics, and your mind starts making relationships between them.

The two documentaries in question were: 1) A Crude Awakening: The Oil Crash, about the human civilisation's relationship to fossil fuels especially oil, a DVD loaned to my by a friend; and 2) Mind Over Money, a one hour documentary shown on the soon to be defunct TVNZ7 (only now at the end do I understand what this channel had to offer!) about one of the principles of economics, that people will react rationally.

On one level, both documentaries irritated me: the former because of the incessant and distracting soundtrack and the very sound-bite style of talking heads; the latter by its occasional gee-whiz kind of attitude. But, on many other levels, they really got me thinking about how much humankind has been influenced by both of these factors, and how hard it will be to change, no matter how much that might be necessary.

A Crude Awakening: The Oil Crash
explored the past and the present of the need for oil - not the oil industry itself, which was perhaps both a blessing and a failure of the documentary. It stuck squarely to the supply and need for oil, and how the supply is running out while the need just keeps growing. I was surprised (perhaps showing my ignorance) by how the USA started off as a major supplier of oil (I suppose that is what the Beverley Hillbillies was all about), the Saudi Arabia of the time, and used that to grow their industry to such an extent that the local supplies were depleted and the need to secure off-shore supplies began. It was no surprise when the experts questioned cited oil as the main reason for intervention in the Gulf states (Lybia isn't a Gulf State, but it sure has heaps of oil, so were the documentary a little more recent, I am sure this would have been used as an example too), though I was a bit more skeptical about the claim that democracy is seen as a more secure political system under which to guarantee oil supply, when I would have thought a dictatorship far more malleable to foreign influence. It was also no surprise when the predicament the world now faces was explained: increasing demand for oil, especially in India and China; decreasing supplies of easy to find sources; the global economy built on the assumption of cheap oil and limitless supply; the lifestyle of the USA, predicated on the individual freedom granted by the products and services provided by oil, that is unsustainable in the face of the rest of the world, China and India in particular, racing to catch up; and the increasing militarism of oil, where the national interest of most Western nations is tied perhaps inextricably with the supply of oil, and so new ways of legitimising military intervention in sovereign nations ("for the sake of the human rights/democracy/stability of the region" etc) to ensure that supply is secured.

It's a pretty grim picture, but that picture was made grimmer by the Mind Over Money. Why? Well, this documentary pointed out that, given the choice between the quick and easy fix or the more sensible but longer term investment, individuals will go for quick and easy. Economic theory was apparently based on the fact people are inherently sensible, when in fact we all know we are all as mad an mongeese. Well, perhaps not that bad, but people do relish immediate gratification and are a bit selfish.

Hell, I know I am, but I do try and at least admit it to myself: for example, you might have noticed that I love to travel. Airline travel may be completely detrimental to the environment, but as much as I may appreciate the environment, there is no way I am giving up my flights abroad - and I don't tend to buy carbon credits as a way of off-setting that travel as, if I really cared that much about the environment, I reckon I just wouldn't travel at all. Long term, this is a terrible idea for a variety of reasons, and completely selfish on my part; short term, I love it and it is totally worth it.

And that underlying selfishness that, feeding back into A Crude Awakening: The Oil Crash, really highlighted the problem we have when discussing the oil issue. A Crude Awakening: The Oil Crash made a point of not really investigating the oil industry and what it is doing to combat either the growing oil shortage or the barriers to them getting access to oil. Chairpeople of the major companies, paid a pretty penny for their "Strategic Leadership" I am sure, were not questioned as to what their long term plans were or their corporate responsibilities were. The "green" BP advertisements from a while ago annoyed me more in the fact that the company was trying to portray itself as an environmental leader when, in fact, there is no evidence to show that it is trying to find an alternative to oil and, as shown in the Gulf of Mexico, when oil spills go wrong, there are massive consequences (as an aside: perhaps the spin doctors will see the depletion of oil reserves as a very positive thing for the environment, even as a the price of petrol sky rockets and civilisation as we know it ends).

As I previously mentioned, it's a very bleak picture painted by these documentaries, with A Crude Awakening: The Oil Crash pointing out the predicament in which human civilisation finds itself and Mind Over Money pointing out how humanity is probably completely unable psychologically to take the steps necessary to stop the oil crisis from happening.

Verdict: Well, what I gleaned from seeing these two documentaries so close together is that civilisation as we know it is basically screwed. The fact one of the interviewees in A Crude Awakening: The Oil Crash was filmed in front of his survivalist supply caches did a great job of emphasising his main message of doom. Hopefully the Chinese and Indians can get us out of this as, from the looks of it, the Western world has been grappling with this for decades and still does not have a clue. 2 hopes for the future out of 10.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The Case for Thor Day on Tuesday

One lesson I should have learned from Thor: always carry a hammer. That way, one has a very handy projectile weapon to throw at people in the audience who may be the size of ice warriors but have the intelligence and emotional maturity of 12 year olds and who thus insist on stating what is happening on screen and commenting on all the action sequences, all in their normal speaking voice. Would that I had Thor's handy rage, and imposing physique, to sort someone like that out without a weapon in hand. Instead, all I did was sit and seethe.

Well no, I also did watch the film. And, even with Mr Irritating behind me, I quite enjoyed the film before me. It was sufficiently distracting.

It was a 3D screening, and while the earth-bound scenes were fairly normal looking, the 3D effects used in the other mystic realms of existence were spectacular. Asgard in particular looked stunning, inspiring and very heroic, if not exactly keeping to the laws of physics of this world.

Adding to the scenic beauty was a pretty attractive cast: the always gorgeous Natalie Portman plays an intelligent, headstrong, stunningly beautiful physicist who falls for Thor the instant she sees him without a shirt. Thor, played by Aussie Chris Hemsworth, is a fine specimen of manhood with an accent set on Received Pronunciation though there are many lapses where I am sure his American accent training comes through (he is miles better than Sam Worthington though). The other cast members are all attractive in their own ways too, and pretty good looking to boot: there are the familiar faces like Anthony Hopkins, Scandanavian Stellan Skarsgard and the little-used Rene Russo; and the less familiar faces like Tom Hiddleston as the wickedly helmeted Loki, and the awesome "Stringer Bell" Idris Elba as... some other character who is just very cool.

Less successful are Thor's group of godling buddies. That is perhaps an understatement: I am sure they are meant to be comic relief, but their scenes end up almost painful to watch. Cut these scenes out, and the movie would be tighter and shorter, and very little would be lost.

Those scenes notwithstanding, I can't claim the film moves at a terribly quick pace. While the extra-terrestrial scenes are all lovingly shot and move about ceaselessly, the scenes on Earth just seem to stumble around. A lot of money went into realising Asgard, but there didn't seem much left for anything else, with the local SHIELD regiment having to make do a giant hamster cage as their base of operations.

There are moments of humour, and while the characters have history, there is no real attempt at bringing anyone off the two-dimensional comic book page - only the images get that special treatment. But, reflecting on it after, how could I complain about that? I know nothing about the Marvel version of Thor, but the film portrays him as a god come to earth, sure of himself, on a quest to get back home. He isn't burdened with inner conflict nor turmoil, no murdered parents nor desire to be normal, no attempting to change the world nor overcoming a physical problem, and no alienation from normal society. Thor just... is.

So, taking that into consideration, I can see why it is getting fairly high ratings on IMDB. Thor is spectacularly stunning, intellectually undemanding film, with a strong current of anticipation as it all builds to the grand Avengers movie. There are plenty of weak spots, a few cameos (Lee and Strazynski, take a bow), a few chuckles, but plenty to treat the eyes. And a brief "post script" at the end of the movie if one waits around to see it.

Verdict: Thor aims squarely at the popcorn market, and hits its target with its mighty hammer. It is a mix of some great and gorgeous actors giving enough gravitas to a simplistic script to make it entertaining, with a pretty substantial special effects budget giving all the worlds involved an amazing look and feel. I am not sure what they could do for a Thor-alone sequel, but this movie passes the time. Just pray to Odin that you don't have an imbecile spouting distracting nonsense behind you - or that some hearty Nordic warrior will descend from Asgard to smite him. 7 Almighty Johnsons out of 10.