I had heard a lot of good things about this and confess to really enjoying the Thor character and the lore surrounding him, even if I like many was underwhelmed by the last solo Thor outing, Dark World. In this third instalment, sandwiched somewhere between Avengers: Age of Ultron and the forthcoming Avengers: Infinity War, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is captured by a demonic being who is said to bring about Ragnarok, the end of days for Thor’s home world of Asgard. However he sets about preventing this only to return home and find step-brother Loki up to his old tricks again, this time impersonating their father Odin (Anthony Hopkins). However a turn of events brings another family member out of exile in the shape of Hella (Cate Blanchett) who vows to claim her rightful place on the thrown of Asgard even if it means killing everyone who stands in her way.
It would be easy for me to yawn at this plot, it being yet another Marvel disgraced family member coming out of the woodwork and vowing revenge against those that shunned him (or her). It was done in the previous Thor movies and also (spoiler!) Black Panther, that it’s now getting very tired. Thankfully then that isn’t the entire focus of this movie. Oh no, firstly the dialogue is particularly sharp, with very funny banter from various characters, especially a wonderful, awkward buddy set up between Thor and Hulk (Mark Ruffalo). Add to this great support from Jeff Goldblum as the other-worldly ‘grand master’, several quirky side characters (the hilarious rock dude) and of course a still brilliant Tom Hilddleston as Loki – and this was just great entertainment throughout. The movie treads a careful balancing act between all out comedic farce and straight up action adventure, but somehow manages it, and even if Cate Blanchett’s villain is a walking cliché, the actress usual screen presence and charisma stands out and has such a cool design, familiarity can be forgiven in this instance.
It’s often better when these kinds of movies don’t take themselves too seriously, whilst still managing to deliver great action, memorable characters and gob-smacking spectacle. This is one such example. Highly recommended.
Following the death of his father, Prince T’Challa aka Black Panther returns home to claim his birth right and become king of Wakanda. However when news surfaces of a terrorist who has stolen some of his homeland’s resources, T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) springs into action to stop his home’s sacred power being used for evil.
This has had a great deal of attention and is now one of the highest rated Marvel movies on RottenTomatoes.com, surprising when the character has never been what you’d call a household name like Thor, Spiderman etc. For whatever reason this movie has gained such attention, what we actually have is a fairly basic super hero movie with the twist of an African setting and largely black cast. Panther is an interesting, layered character and fairly refreshing compared to the usual machismo we get with other characters; but with a rise and fall and rise again story ark, I failed to see how this was any different than what we’ve been getting for several years now. Add to this an underwhelming Michael B Jordan as the villain who’s character is basically a carbon copy of another Marvel villain, and like in Creed has no screen presence and is instead feels miscast beyond his impressive pecks. Yet we do get a fantastic car chase sequence, decent CGI and some tense fight scenes, along with good support from Martin Freeman and especially Letitia Wright as T’Challa’s sister – who gets all the best lines and funniest gags.
As it stands this was very pretty, often fun but very drawn out considering it’s simple plot, and felt more like an ‘also ran’ in the juggernaut that is the Marvel Cinematic Universe than anything else. I still had a good time, but like a lot of heavily-hyped things these days … I also came away wondering what the fuss was about.
Blumhouse Productions seem to getting quite a reputation for making high concept, well received horror what with the popular Purge franchise and the sleeper hit of Don’t Breathe. So we come to this recent offering that again has a clever concept at it’s heart, and follows a day in the life of University student ‘Tree’ who finds herself stalked by a masked killer and ultimately killed. No, this isn’t spoiler territory as that’s when Tree’s day starts repeating itself ala Groundhog Day, and so it quickly dawns on her that she has to find how who her killer is, to hopefully set things right again.
It’s not a new idea but given a teen-movie twist along with the central character having to solve her own murder is at least a novel spin. Yet despite strong potential in a creepy and played straight opening, once it descends into the day repeating, ill-fitting comedy comes into play and transforms this into a sillier movie than I’d have liked. This is not helped by a mostly unlikeable group of characters, who despite best attempts at quirky pop-culture spouting dialogue, come off as self-absorbed idiots, including our lead. Yep, she’s got some tragedy in her past, but does that mean she should be so utterly stuck up?
It attempts to save itself in some fun, if tame stalk and slash sequences and a couple of twists did keep me guessing … but when we have the final reveal, it’s pretty ‘meh’ again because of it’s wafer-thin characters. There’s some moral lessons to take away here, but overall this was nothing to rush out and see.
It seems there’s so many animated movies these days, its hard to keep up and I’ll admit I’ve missed out on a few big titles. However I managed to get hold of this recent Disney offering and although knowing little about it, rarely does the house of mouse let me down. Moana, the only daughter of a tribe living on a peaceful tropical island finds herself setting out on a journey to find the once-mighty demigod Maui, who her people believe has cursed their oceans after a sacred stone was stolen from a far off island.
This plays very much on Disney tradition; the princess yearning for a life beyond her palace (island) who has to go on a journey of self discovery and finally believe in herself to overcome impossible odds. It’s incredibly clichéd which holds this back a little despite plenty of action and songs. For a musical we do get some enjoyable numbers (stand out: ‘You’re welcome’) and characters are full of personality thanks to some excellent animation. Dwayne ‘the rock’ Johnson especially stands out as Maui. The movie also looks gorgeous too as is expected these days, even if like most CGI it lacks a little artistry. So what does it have we haven’t seen before? Not much but it’s often funny and frequently exciting and leads to a solid, feel good ending that still left me satisfied.
Disney played it safe here but it’s still near impossible not to find something to enjoy when it’s done so slickly. Not essential, but worth a watch if you’re a Disney fan, otherwise there’s more unique animated movies out there.
The original Despicable Me was a great spin on an old idea… a somewhat inept but dedicated villain finds his life and evil world-conquering plans turned upside down when three orphan girls come into his care. It worked great and also happened to (for better or worse) introduce the world ‘the minions’. Now reaching the third entry, following a somewhat underwhelming minions movie spin-off, I approached this with only marginal hype.
Gru (perfectly voiced again by Steve Carell) is now a special agent working for the Anti-Villain-League, who after failing to apprehend for the umpteenth time a wily villain obsessed with the eighties – suddenly gets fired by the agency’s new boss. However whilst sitting on his laurels, tempted to return to a more villainous life, he discovers he’s got a long lost twin brother.
This was a riot of fun. It’s a little jam-packed with story threads but somehow manages to hold it all together, helped by a sharp and laugh-out-loud script and colourful, brilliantly designed characters. South Park’s Trey Parker turns in excellent voice work as comedy moon-walking villain Balthazar Bratt – a former child actor who never got over his career hitting the skids when puberty kicked in. The several spot-on music cues work wonderfully and the gags come thick and fast. ‘Dru’, Gru’s brother is a tad irritating, and I’d have liked much more for the three girls to do other than bonding with Gru’s girlfriend Lucy (Kristen Wiig) and hunting for a unicorn.
By the third outing, ideas of course can get recycled (ahem, Toy Story 3) – but something about the Despicable Me franchise I could just watch and watch. This latest effort doesn’t buck the trend. Recommended.
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