Thor Ragnarok


Viewed – 13 March 2017  Blu-ray

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.

Thor Ragnarok

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.

Verdict:  4 /5

2016 a look back


Regular visitors to this blog will already know what my major highlight of 2016 was … hey, I still can’t stop talking about it.  Yes it was going to watch my favourite band Garbage perform at the Troxy theatre in London and to actually meet them.  Wow, I still pinch myself that it actually happened but it did and I feel so proud of myself for achieving a true dream of mine.  Their latest studio album ‘Strange Little Birds’ also impressed.

garbage troxy

Other than that event, I think 2016 has been a decent year for quality movies, something that will be reflected in my end of year Top Ten coming on New Years Eve (make sure you check back here then!).  But it hasn’t all been great.  There’s also been a number of disappointments and rubbish I’ve had to sit through just to bring my opinion to you, my readers.  Particular disappointments include the rather poor Legend, a new movie about the British gangsters Ronnie & Reggie Kray, and despite the casting of Tom Hardy in both roles, this was a borderline insulting Hollywood-isation of a violent and gritty true story that was done so much better when the Kemp brothers from Spandau Ballet did it in the early nineties.  I really didn’t get much out of The Coen Brothers’ Hail Caesar! either, which should have been a fun, fascinating snapshot of old Hollywood, but had a limp script and a confusing plot that just felt like a slog despite good production values.  Also along the way I felt underwhelmed by Deadpool … probably the most hyped and acclaimed comic book movie of the year that left me a little ‘meh’ despite finding it funny, it just seemed a bit of a one note show.  The summer also brought with it some further disappointments … let’s all agree that Batman V Superman could have been better, and well, wasn’t Suicide Squad a let down, promising so much and delivered so little?  I wasn’t that impressed with Richard Linklater’s Everybody Wants Some!! either – a deflating spiritual follow up to his classic Dazed & Confused.

deadpool

It was also the year that I tried to branch out, listen to more music (not just the aforementioned band) and discovered new artists like Kristin Kontrol, PVRIS and Against The Current … yeah, thankyou Apple Music.  So broadening my horizons has been fun, even if in the music industry it has been sad to see the passing of legends such as David Bowie and Prince this year.  With that said, the music industry continues to irritate me however and I find myself left cold by much of today’s most popular music (Beyoncé, Lady Gaga and to an extent Gwen Stefani all delivered rather ‘average’ albums despite plenty of publicity and hype).  Yet I find solace in those artists existing outside of the heavily publicised, record label controlled mainstream and well, there’s some really good stuff to find if you’re willing to look beyond what you’re told to listen to.

game of thrones

On the TV route highlights of the year for me have definitely been the last season of Game of Thrones, arguably the best yet and some of the best TV I’ve witnessed all year.  I also got a lot of enjoyment out of House of Cards (I’m still behind…currently on season 3).  Daredevil was also good, despite a slow start.  However the big surprise this year has been just how good West World turned out to be, of which I’m due to watch the final episode any day now.    Orange Is The New Black was underwhelming this year though and despite some shocks towards the end, really needs to step up it’s writing and characterisation for the next season or I can see myself switching off.

titanfall 2

Oh and hasn’t it been a packed year for videogames?  I enjoyed and completed the following:  Uncharted 4, Deus Ex Mankind Divided and Titan Fall 2 … but have played many other titles, some of which have been too huge to finish (yet) or have caused me to lose interest.  One such game like that has been The Division, which managed to lose it’s appeal after a while and I haven’t gone back to it in ages … something I can’t say for the similar Destiny which with it’s expansions and still-intriguing concept keeps on pulling me back even two years since release.  The news of updated versions of current systems wasn’t so good however, having spent a great deal of money on owning the PS4 and Xbox One only to have the advent of PS4 Pro and Xbox One Scorpio to eventually replace them.  But for now I’m still happy with what I’ve got and will continue to be until games stop getting released for these machines.

I wanted with this post to touch on the various things that have interested me and stood out for good or bad this year and with that I’ll sign off for now.  There’s some more reviews on the horizon and of course my end of year Top Ten.  So watch this space for much more soon.

Craig.

Thor: The Dark World


Viewed – 21 November 2013  Cinema

Big special effects blockbusters are an easy type of movie to like – they have plenty of action, larger than life characters and are usually a great deal of fun.  The onslaught of the comic book super hero has quickly become a genre of it’s own with such big hitters as the Iron Man series and Avengers Assemble being personal favourites.  Here we have the follow up to the highly entertaining Thor with beefcake Chris Hemsworth (Snow White and the Huntsman) reprising his role as the mighty Norse God, who comes to the aid of earth-bound scientist Natalie Portman when she becomes infected by a deadly virus known as the aether – an ancient weapon created by the Dark Elves centuries ago in an attempt to turn the various realms into permanent darkness. 

Thor-The-Dark-World

Of course this rather convoluted and throw-away plot is merely an excuse to watch Thor bash and hammer his foes and see buildings get demolished.  I liked how we get a lot more of Asgard this time around, even if Thor’s siblings are mostly forgotten about but for the boo-hiss of Loki, everyone’s favourite grinning villain (or is he?) from the first film and Avengers.  Yes he’s getting a bit over-used but Tom Hiddleston does a fine job, paring with Thor so well he pretty much stole the show for me.  Add to this a tired looking Anthony Hopkins returning as Odin, Thor’s dad, as well as appearances from Rene Russo (remember her?) and Idris Elba – making this easy to watch and get caught up in.

Less can be said for the mostly clichéd villain (with an unrecognisable Christopher Eccleston as lead baddie Malekith under the sort of makeup these kind of characters ALWAYS have).  Yet a large portion of the story being set in London was welcome, and the action and general banter between the characters decent – with some fun jokes and cameos along the way (was that Captain America?).  Ultimately though Thor 2 is a rather by-the-numbers sequel and lacks some of the heart of the original, bringing nothing new to what is already becoming very familiar territory.  But you’ll still find me in line for Thor 3.  Weird huh?

Verdict:  3 /5

The Silence of the Lambs


Viewed – 12 April 2013  Blu-ray

Always nice to revisit a classic, especially on Blu-ray.  I have long loved this Oscar-winning thriller, that for me is still the finest serial killer movie ever made (with Seven being a close second).  Sitting down to this last night it wasn’t hard to see why it gained such acclaim.  The performances are perfect, with a vulnerable but tough Jodie Foster, near unrecognizable in a black hair dye-job (or wig?).  Mentored by Scott Glen’s equally well cast Jack Crawford.  Yet the big selling point for me, and what has gone on to define a career is Anthony Hopkins’ amazingly creepy but charismatic turn as Dr Hannibal Lecter – one of the greatest creations in movie villain history.

silence-of-the-lambs-hannibal-560

Foster plays FBI agent Clarice Starling, given the task of interviewing imprisoned serial killer and former psychiatrist Hannibal Lecter as the FBI attempt to track down currently at large killer Buffalo Bill.  This is a movie that is just as much character study as it is a thriller, with exceptional performances across the board (with a very unnerving Ted Levine as Bill – ‘it puts the lotion in the basket’), and very well observed and realistic direction from Jonathan Demme.    Silence of the Lambs has become the blue-print for all serial killer movies from Seven, to Copycat and even has echoes in current TV series The Following, that for me it just can’t be faulted.  Yes over the years it has been satirized  which I think is a shame, because on its original release this hit viewers hard, and in my opinion still should.

The Blu-ray isn’t quite as impressive.  The picture, whilst acceptable and with moments of good detail, seems overly soft.  The sound in 5.1 DTS Master Audio is decent and punchy however with good crisp dialogue, which is very important in this particular movie.  Extras are mostly carry-overs from the previous DVD editions, but remain extensive with several documentaries and featurettes, trailers, deleted scenes and outtakes.  The only exclusive to this HD release is a feature-length bonus called ‘breaking the silence’ that has the movie playing as interviews with the cast and film makers pop up as well as interesting bits of trivia.  An audio commentary would have been nice but is sadly absent.

Verdict:

(the movie)  5 /5

(the Blu-ray)  3.5 /5

Missing links…


It baffles me some times, as a movie fan the amount of highly regarded movies I just haven’t seen.  With the current buzz surrounding  the Anthony Hopkins starring Hitchcock, I still have yet to view classics such as The Birds and Vertigo.  Only the other night I noticed that the cult favorite 300 was on TV, so have recorded it for some future viewing, as have I the two previously mentioned movies.  Will I actually get around to them?  Who knows.  Sometimes life gets in the way, work, personal stuff, you name it!  Hell, even video game playing with the completion of such titles as Mass Effect 3 and DMC: Devil May Cry in my recent past.

Over the years I have been ticking off those movies from the ‘films I must see before I die’ list in my head, and finally got around to the likes of 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Godfather, Casablanca (erm, expect a review of this one soon, just out on Blu-ray) and Some Like It Hot.  There are possibly many more if I was to put my mind to it, and trawling the likes of IMDB’s top 250 would be a good start.  So apart from the aforementioned movies, what is out there, past, present, classics etc I still would like to see some day, hmm…

A quick list I think…

12 Angry Men

Cool Hand Luke

There Will Be Blood

Barton Fink

Quadrophenia

Easy Rider

The Wicker Man

… I could go on but for now I’ll stop there.  You can expect some if not all of the above to get full reviews on this site in the months (years?) to come as I do intend on seeing them, eventually.  For now back to blogging and watching stuff that’s probably not as good.