DVD Reviews: Hemsworth a Great Force in 'Thor'
Conti, Garrett, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
One of the biggest surprises in the film industry over the past few years has been Kenneth Branagh taking on "Thor." The director has a specific background, and it's crowded with classic material from writers including Shakespeare. Branagh does an OK job with another Marvel character, but "Thor" isn't the best superhero picture. The latest Avenger addition gives the viewer the background on Thor, a powerful man not born of Earth. Thor is from Asgard, and he's sent to Earth as a punishment from his father for his reckless ways. On Earth, Thor learns to be a true hero, and develops new skills without the full use of his powers. When his home planet falls under attack, Thor is brought back to Asgard, and he is tasked with saving the day. With his new humility, Thor is an even greater force. Great visuals and some decent battle scenes lift "Thor," but, like its main character, this is one movie that is torn between two worlds. Ultimately, it leads to Thor's time on Asgard and Earth being underdeveloped. There are moments on both landscapes, but never enough to become attached. One other positive of the film is Chris Hemsworth, who plays the Thor. He carries the role superbly with his physicality, and Anthony Hopkins, Natalie Portman, Idris Elba and Tom Hiddleston help in support. The combo pack -- featuring Blu-ray and standard DVD -- is the best buy for consumers. A ton of featurettes covers every inch of the film, and there`s also a preview for the upcoming Avengers film. A handful of deleted scenes with commentary, and Branagh commentary are included. PG-13; 2011. 2.5 Stars.
"Old Joy" (2006) and "Wendy and Lucy" (2008) established filmmaker Kelly Reichardt as a force on the independent stage, but "Meek`s Cutoff" just might propel her over the top. It is a film about three families and a hired guide getting lost on a voyage over the Cascade Mountains on the Oregon Trail. When the guide (Bruce Greenwood in a memorable role) decides to take a shortcut, the group soon comes to the realization that they are lost. With that, the road gets rougher with a lack of water and an Native American who is suddenly tracking them. When the guide and another member of the travel party capture the tracker, the group struggles with what to do with him. So, they decide to use him to lead them to water. As time goes by, members of the group begin to trust in the tracker more than their guide, and it leads to a tension-filled trip. Like other Reichardt films, this film moves at a slow pace, but does wonders in developing the characters and storytelling through experience. In this case, it's an arduous experience, but it's one that leads the viewer into a fantastic home stretch that's just astonishing. Extras consisting of just an average making-of featurette with no interviews. PG; 2011. 3.5 Stars.
'Conan O'Brien Can't Stop'
This film by Rodman Flender is about what O'Brien did between losing his NBC gig at "The Tonight Show" and landing another show on TBS. Basically, that time is spent putting on a stage show filled with a comedic monologue, a couple of bits, musical numbers and guests. O'Brien played to sellout crowds in numerous cities. Flender's doc starts at the end of the NBC run, as O'Brien gathers his people to put together the show. So, the viewer is in on the planning stages and the whole run of the show. The stage performances play a key part in the documentary, but where this one stands out is getting to know O'Brien. Flender was granted incredible access, and the viewer is given a personal look at O'Brien, good and bad. The comedian is also candid in discussing NBC, and that's another boon for this wonderfully fresh documentary that has an even amount of intriguing and hilarious moments. Special features are decent, and the additional interview outtakes and deleted scenes, found with most documentaries, are on the menu. …