Sunday, May 8, 2011

Reviews - Thor and Law & Order Criminal Intent

  Yesterday, I went with my son Ben and our neighbor Don to see ‘Thor’ at the mall in Marshalltown. I grew up reading the Thor comic books and it is a treat to see a childhood icon on the big-screen with the advantage of 21st century special effects.

  The only issue I have with most of the superhero movies I go to is that the first movie uses half of the screen time going over the origin and then the rest of the movie has a rushed feel to it to get the super-villain introduced, the plot line established, and the final battle set up. Batman and Spiderman avoided this by having the villains established as part of the origin story, but I thought the initial Fantastic Four, X-Men, and Hulk movies would have been better by just spending a couple of minutes on the origin and then getting on with the action. The latest Hulk movie was a great example of just spending a couple of minutes recapping the origin and then on to the movie.

  The Thor movie gives up a few minutes setting up the background of Thor, his brother Loki, their all powerful father Odin, and the realm of Asgard, but even this introduction contains a lot of action between the Asgard warriors and the evil Frost Giants. The movie quickly evolves into an adventure of Thor’s, who gets banished by his father to Earth to be taught a lesson in humility. While Thor is trapped on earth, his evil brother Loki manages to take over Asgard and sends the dreaded Destroyer to kill Thor and his friends and the action continues on Earth and Asgard.

  Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston look and act just like the Thor the Viking hero and Loki the ultimate deceiver from the comic books and it was a nice touch to see the Warriors 3 from the comics including the oafish Volstagg who eats more than he fights. The special effects are nothing groundbreaking, although I thought Thor’s hammer was used especially well. If you like superhero movies, Thor won’t disappoint you. It captures the power of Thor, the evilness of Loki, and the coolness of Asgard in a story that sets the stage to reintroduce Thor in next year’s Avengers movie. If you're not a comics fan, you're probably better off waiting a few months and renting it at a Redbox for a buck.

  Of all the Law & Order shows, the Criminal Intent version was my favorite. Vincent D’Onofrio’s Detective Charles Goren was the closest thing to my all time favorite TV detective, Columbo. Goren would appear to not be as smart as the suspect, but subtly get them to incriminate themselves. Some of my favorite episodes have Goren matching wits with accomplices and getting them to turn on each other like rabid dogs.

  I don’t know whether it was new writers or the need to change the show for ratings, but CI started going away from the tried and true formula and started doing more episodes exploring Goren and his partner Eames private lives and personalities. Chris Noth was transferred from the flagship L&O to play his Mike Logan role in alternating episodes. D’Onofrio started putting on a lot of weight and the Goren episodes started getting pretty bad. In some scenes, Goren would have a scruffy beard and in the next scene, he’d be clean shaven.

  Last year, D’Onofrio left CI and Jeff Goldbum took over the lead role as a detective Zach Nichols. Nichols was played by Goldblum as a quirky master of psychology who muttered to himself a lot. The shows were interesting but Nichols seems inhuman to me and I was never that interested in watching him solve the case with his deductive and psychological prowess. Goldblum left the show last year and it was not scheduled to be on the USA network this year.

  A few months ago, it was announced that CI was coming back to the USA network and that D’Onofrio was going to reprise his role as Detective Charles Goren. I watched the premiere show last week. D’Onofrio has lost weight, looks like his old self, and the show was written back to its old formula of Goren getting on the nerves of his suspects in order to get them to confess. It was like meeting an old friend and I’m looking forward to the rest of the season. It is being billed as the final season of CI, but if the ratings are good enough, it will surely be renewed.