Good Views: ‘Thor,’ ‘Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop’

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Thor

Paramount Home Entertainment

★★★

The superhero genre dominated much of the movie scene this summer, and while some of these films seemed more like life-size comic books than movies, some stood out from the pack. “Thor,” arriving Tuesday on a variety of formats, was one of those films.

Broadly entertaining and full of eye-popping special effects, “Thor” was adapted from the popular Marvel comic book about the Norse god of thunder who is cast out of the realm of the gods, Asgard, by his father, Odin (Anthony Hopkins). Arriving on Earth, Thor learns several important lessons about humility and service and pledges to defend his new home and its people against evil, particularly the schemes of his brother, the treacherous Loki (Tom Hiddleston).

One of “Thor’s” biggest assets is the direction of Kenneth Branagh. The skilled Shakespearean actor and director displays a surprisingly graceful touch with material that easily could lend itself to excess or self-mockery. The fact that Mr. Branagh grew up a Marvel fan in Scotland (which he reveals in one of the several commentaries on the Blu-ray edition) explains his deft handling of the story.

He also draws a solid lead performance from Chris Hemsworth as the thunder god. By turns bold, humorous and even a tad outrageous, Mr. Hemsworth crafts a portrait of a man who comes to understand it takes more than sheer bravery to make a true hero. Mr. Hemsworth also possess terrific screen chemistry with his leading lady, Natalie Portman (an Oscar winner for “Black Swan”), who portrays a scientist who finds Thor in the desert after his banishment from Asgard.

The Blu-ray edition of the film contains a ton of features and extras, including commentary tracks by Mr. Branagh about the making of the film and the mythological background of the characters, as well as their connections to the Bard. Short features include the cast members discussing their interaction with the director and a piece about the history of the Thor comic book that includes legendary Marvel publisher-editor Stan Lee, and a collection of deleted scenes.

In addition to the standard DVD combo pack with a digital copy and the Blu-ray edition, “Thor” also will be available in an IMAX Experience edition for viewers with big-screen home theater systems. No matter which you chose, be prepared to be quite entertained - and check out the “Avengers” feature about the next Marvel adaptation arriving on screens next summer.

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some intense action scenes and mild profanity.

Meek’s Cutoff

Oscilloscope

★★

The opening reel of this independently made Western not only sets the tone for the rest of the film, but it also may help you decide if you want to watch it.

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