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Viewing pleasures: Summer cinematic heroics now on DVD

Chris Hemsworth and Natalie Portman in Thor

Remember way back in 1984, when Bonnie Tyler informed us musically on the Footloose soundtrack that “I Need A Hero?” Well, she must have been beside herself this summer with so many cinematic heroics to choose from. Let’s just say there were some good efforts, and at least one celluloid case of “better luck next time” that are making their way to home viewing in the guise of recently released DVDs.


Speaking of the latter, at about the halfway mark for Thor, it becomes rather apparent that the inevitable sequel will be great. But, as it stands as a one-off superhero feature film, it was a tad disappointing. Whether, it was the fact that True Blood vampire Alexander Skarsgard (sigh, he’s dreamy) might have made a better God of Thunder than Chris Hemsworth (although, he’s a bit more on the beefcake side of body types), or that Natalie Portman seems to be perpetuating the post-Oscar win acting role curse in her not-much-to-do role as beautiful scientist Jane Foster, the film, for all of its special effects bravado comes off feeling flat.

And, that’s partly to blame with this origin story of how the titular superhero is banished from his home planet of Asgard, and sent to live among mere mortals on Earth. There is too much time spent on the whole stranger-in-a-strange-land plot element, yet not enough of what I like to term “superhero stuff” for Thor to do, such as … oh, I don’t know … maybe using his powers more.

Still, it’s more watchable than the 2003 failure of director Ang Lee’s vision for The Hulk, and its failed 2008 reboot, The Incredible Hulk combined. Here’s hoping that these two comic book adaptations will fare better in the much anticipated The Avengers movie, which will bring them together with Captain America and Iron Man (among other Marvel Comics creations) in 2012. Now available.

X-Men: First Class

By contrast, X-Men: First Class is a better type of “origin” film (although it’s technically the fifth film in this particular superhero franchise). It’s much better executed than 2009’s semi-disappointing X-Men Origins: Wolverine.

X-Men: First Class has action sequences to spare, plus a much better plotline about how Professor X began his school for mutants, and how his life once intersected with Magneto as allies and not as enemies.

Erik Lehnsherr in X-Men: First Class

The plot itself feels a little bit like a tip of the hat to James Bond films of yesteryear, and focuses on the Cuban missile crisis circa 1962 – maybe that’s because January Jones plays a character that reeks of 007 as Emma Frost?

Even though Kevin Bacon’s Sebastian Shaw character isn’t stroking a white cat, the actor does stretch his good guy image as the villain of the piece.

Both James McAvoy as Charles Xavier/Professor X and Michael Fassbender as Erik Lehnsherr/ Magneto do their best to walk in the cinematic shoes that Patrick Stewart and Sir Ian McKellen vacated with 2006’s X-Men: The Last Stand.

The only mutants, aside from these two aforementioned reincarnates, that will be familiar to fans of the films (but not the Comic-Con crowd) are Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) and Hank McCoy/Beast (Nicholas Hoult). Those looking for the guy candy angle won’t be disappointed with Lucas Till’s turn as Alex Summers/Havok. Now available.

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Tomorrow’s World

For their 14th studio album, Tomorrow’s World, the synthpop duo of Andy Bell and Vince Clarke deliver the goods, proving that their latest music has the ability to surpass their ’80s roots.

A synthesized blend of upbeat dance-inspired tracks, such as the first track on the new CD, “Be With You,” has all of the hallmarks of classic Erasure, while still showcasing the talent pool that they currently draw from. That pool still swims with Bell’s pitch-perfect approach to harmonizing, and Clarke’s requisite electronic adornments, such as the synthesized bells and whistles that propel the song ever forward.

The tracks’ moods vary from longing for acceptance on “Fill Us With Fire,” while “What Will I Say When You’re Gone?” covers another familiar Erasure theme of love found and lost. But, rather than being soaked in melancholia, their latest opus serves as another example of how the duo can play off each other with their individual abilities, as is the case with “Just When I Thought It Was Ending,” which highlights the recipe they have perfected since their 1986 debut, Wonderland.

You’ve Got To Save Me” is akin to an anthem of self respect, while “I Lose Myself” may end up being the song that gets put on repeat the most. Their first new single in four years, “When I Start To (Break It All Down)” is a hybrid of their musical strength of combining meaningful lyrics with strong beats and impeccable vocals. You can catch Erasure in concert at The House of Blues on Oct. 2. Available Oct. 4.

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Posted by on Sep 22, 2011. Filed under The Media Closet. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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