Monday, May 23, 2011

From Ferocious to Endearing

At times I think about how some of the most ferocious or dangerous animals, or people for that matter, have been transformed by pop culture into cuddly, quirky and endearing characters.

Who has ever hugged or cuddled a teddy bear? Come on, be truthful. Whether Paddington, a Care Bear or a no name stuffed teddy you won at a local carnival, you’ve embraced the bear. Real-life bears are quite the opposite.

Walt Disney was a pro at making surly animals, as well as dangerous humans, like pirates, well, lovable. The Pirates of Caribbean franchise originated as an attraction at Disneyland in 1967. Now more than 40 years later, this past weekend in the U.S. Walt Disney Pictures released “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tide,” the fourth film in their highly successful “Pirates of the Caribbean” series, which began in 2003 with “The Curse of the Black Pearl.”

This all ran through my mind May 20 as I chatted with Capt. Jack Sparrow amidst a band playing and swashbucklers shouting “En Garde!” On my way to Fro-Yotopia, a self-serve frozen yogurt place, I walked into a Pirate Party at Downtown at the Gardens, a shopping and entertainment complex in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. The party coincided with the release of “On Stanger Tide.” It wasn’t Johnny Depp I spoke to by the way, just so you know.

He was a friendly guy who participated in the party, and drew a crowd of children and adults wanting to take pictures with him. I wondered if the 10-year-olds smiling and posing for pictures knew what real-life pirates do. Then I thought that perhaps I was being too philosophical about kids enjoying a movie character. Their history teaches will eventually clue them in, hopefully.

Enveloped in the spirit of the evening, my friend Felicia and I decided to see the film. I would say “On Stranger Tide” is not my favorite out of the series. Though I think Depp’s performance as Capt. Jack Sparrow is good; he actually carries the film himself. The supporting characters were kind of just – there. The storyline, which centers around the search for the Fountain of Youth, is not that exciting. The most unique additions are what I call “Anti-Ariel not-so-little Mermaids.” They give new definition to the term “mean girls.” And, I must say the 3D element is not effective. If there is a fifth in the series, hopefully it will be a comeback.

Back to my pondering. Is the creative transformation of traditionally unfriendly inhabitants of our world wrong? Nah. I don’t think so. As long as you know not to embrace a grizzly bear if one shows up at your backdoor.

Sunday, May 1, 2011


Thanks to a meet up orchestrated by South Florida Social Geeks: Geeks with Social Skills, promoted on Twitter, (I'm chic, but there's also my geek side ) I was able to attend an complementary advance screening of Marvel Studios' "Thor" April 30 at the Regal Royal Palm Stadium 18, 1003 N. State Road 7, Royal Palm Beach, Fla.     "Thor" directed by Kenneth Branagh, also director of "Hamlet" and "Henry V," is based on the comic book character, "The Mighty Thor" published by Marvel Comics. I must admit, Thor is not one of the Marvel superheroes I followed as a kid. Spider-Man is my fave, perhaps because of the journalism aspect.

I actually first became acquainted with Thor through the 1987 film, "Adventures in Babysitting." As a kid myself, I identified with 8-year-old, Sarah (Maia Brewton), who was infatuated with Thor, wearing a plastic replica of his helmet. Sarah eventually gives the helmet to a mechanic, Dawson (Vincent D'Onofrio) who she believes is the superhero. So, when I saw the nod to the "Thor" movie after the ending credits of "Iron Man 2," I looked forward to seeing it.

The film depicts a soon-to-be hero's humbling journey to a destiny of greatness, amidst a battle to save the Asgard realm from Jotunheim's Frost Giants and their leader Laufey; and also a battle of sibling rivalry. Odin, Thor's father played by Anthony Hopkins, is the wise king of Asgard who seeks peace between the two kingdoms. He also wishes, for his eldest son, Thor, to be worthy of wielding his hammer, even if it means sending him to Earth. Hopkins secured the drama element of the film gracefully.

Chris Hemsworth's portrayal of Thor combines comedy and drama. Especially humorous is the pre-humble Thor, and his first exploits among mortals in New Mexico. Natalie Portman shows her comedic side as the quirky scientist, Jane Foster of New Mexico. Jane is dedicated to her research, wants to be taken seriously, and is dangerous behind the wheel. The site of Thor's physique, and a chivalrous kiss by him on her hand, has her quickly falling for him and assisting him in his pursuits. Tom Hiddleston's portrayal of Thor's brother, an awkward, sneaky and snark Loki, is also very good and compelling. And, Idris Elba gave a strong performance as the gatekeeper between worlds.

As I finished watching the film, I thought, 'Would staunch Thor fans like this film?' I'd say, yes. Between Thor's time mingling with mortals on Earth, finding himself, falling in love, hammer throwing, supernatural fight sequences, a strong cast and good special effects, I found "Thor" entertaining. Also, what Hemsworth manages to do through the character's development is make you like superhero Thor, and be willing to follow him to the next adventure. The film opens May 6.

Isaiah Mustafa will host's live-streaming U.S. red carpet movie premiere of "Thor" May 2 at 8:30 p.m. It's a first for the website. Click here for more info:

Lessons I Learned from "Thor":
  • Don't sass your elders
  • Always be kind to the gatekeeper
  • Back up all your computer data to a USB flash drive, especially if you're doing research
  • Sometimes it pays to stay until after the closing credits