Thor Love and Thunder


Viewed – 16 September 2022 Disney+

I was quite hyped for this when I saw the trailer. Thor Ragnorok remains for me one of the more enjoyable Marvel movies, so going into this follow-up I was hoping for another dose of entertainment. This time we have Thor (Chris Hemsworth) out to stop a maniac warlord called ‘Gorr the God Butcher’, who blames the gods for the death of his daughter. Back on earth, Thor’s ex girlfriend Jane (Natalie Portman) is dying of cancer until she discovers hope in Thor’s shattered hammer.

Directed again by Taika Waititi (Jo Jo Rabbit) this mostly light-hearted adventure is full of jokes and visual pyrotechnics as Thor wages war and bumps into characters like The Guardians of the Galaxy and Zeus (Russell Crowe), all to the soundtrack of Guns N Roses. Yeah, sometimes the jokes don’t always land, there’s a few poor effects shots and I grew tired of the screaming goats quickly. Yet the action is fun, the tone is fun and the story good enough for this kind of thing.

It’s a shame then that, despite best efforts Christian Bale is simply ‘ok’ as the villain, failing to figuratively ‘jump out of the screen’. Otherwise, it’s hard to find much fault here. Many of the scenes are very enjoyable and I got caught up in the action and entertainment factor the movie was clearly going for. Natalie Portman also held her own alongside the gods (whilst avoiding ‘woke’ pitfalls of other recent movies). Overall better than critics and the generally negative culture of the internet might have you believe. Simply put – I’d watch it again.

Verdict: Good+

Top Ten movies 2020


2020 has been a very strange year, due to a global pandemic resulting in the pushing back of big names movies, closing cinemas or forcing some movies to get released on streaming platforms for a premium price. So watching movies hasn’t been as simple or as accessible as we’ve been used to. During the year I’ve found myself watching older catalogue titles on Blu-ray or focusing more on TV, gaming or doing challenges like my A-Z challenge during the summer.

However that doesn’t mean I missed out on some quality movies, and the count down that follows, showcases for me the cream of the crop. Please note these are movies i enjoyed the most during the year … but some may have been released earlier than 2020.

10

Birds of Prey

9

Knives Out

8

Tenet

7

Dark Waters

6

Midsommar

5

Parasite

4

Onward

3

Ford V Ferrari (aka Le Mans ‘66)

2

Fighting With My Family

drum roll……

1

Jo Jo Rabbit

Honourable mentions: Greyhound, Incident in a Ghostland

Well there you have it. Here’s to hoping 2021 goes a little more smoothly. Like 2020, I think we’re in for some treats as far as movies are concerned and of course I’ll try and watch and review as many as I can. Happy New Year folks!

Craig.

Ford v Ferrari


Viewed – 13 April 2020. Online rental

Aka Le Mans ‘66.

Although good casting does not guarantee a great movie, here we have two of Hollywood’s best as real-life motor racing icons Caroll Shelby and Ken Miles in the at-the-time unbelievable true story of how American motor company Ford went up against motor racing giants Ferrari in the epic 24hr Le Mans race.

Matt Damon plays retired racing champ and car designer Shelby who gets approached by the big wigs at Ford who see the potential to liven up their brand by entering the racing circuit. However they feel less appalled by the wild card that is Ken Miles, played by a brilliant Christian Bale. However Shelby is committed to Miles being the guy to race and plans on delivering a car that will beat Ferrari at their own game. This was absorbing and fascinating stuff. I can’t say I’m familiar with the events depicted but with assured direction and two solid performances, I found myself fully invested. The friendship between Shelby and Miles as well as the relationship between Miles and his son give this the emotional weight to aid the racing … and between exhilarating and viscerally-edited racing we get some great character moments that are both emotionally driven and at time’s comical.

I’d have liked a bit more detail on just how the iconic Ford GT40 came to be (it just sort of appears), and a significant moment towards the end is rather down-played, lacking the impact it deserved. However none of this detracted from what is a thoroughly engaging true story that I can easily say is a must-watch.

Verdict: Essential

American Hustle


Viewed – 02 May 2014  Blu-ray

Kind of a blind purchase this one.  I won’t automatically leap to watch a movie based on it’s awards or nominations or general buzz … been there before and came away disappointed (The Life Of Pie, anyone?).  Yet with a cast consisting of Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner – it seemed an invitation very hard to turn down.

AmericanHustle

Bale is professional con man Irving Rosenfeld, who along with girlfriend Sydney Prosser (Adams) go about scamming art dealers, accountants and pretty much anyone else to make a lot of money.  Business is good until FBI agent Richi DiMaso (Cooper) busts them and offers them a deal – whether go to jail, or have them use their expertise at conning people to help him nail a group of corrupt politicians.

The late 70s setting, the costumes and the atmosphere, all set the tone for an energetic, detailed and very absorbing tale of cons, relationships and who is back stabbing who.  Bale, an actor I’ve felt was starting to get a bit old news these days, is superb in the lead role, sporting what appears to be a very good Robert DeNiro impression (hopefully intended), which is fitting considering this has the pace, the feel (and the narration) of a Martin Scorsese picture.  The cast all get a chance to shine, especially Cooper’s over-eager, charismatic FBI agent … and Adams’ dangerously-sexy Sydney really marks her out as one of the best (and hottest) actresses’ around.  For a hustle movie, despite initial fears I was never left confused as to what was going on, loved every bit of the plan and every comical development … it just all sucked me in like a perfect hustle might, but at least didn’t leave me feeling conned by the end.  No, this was quality filmmaking, with a great cast, a superb soundtrack (Donna Summers’ I Feel Love, Wings’ Live & Let Die…) and genuine name-making direction from the mostly underrated David O Russell.

Essential.

Verdict:  5 /5

Howl’s Moving Castle


Viewed – 02 February 2013. Blu-ray

I am not sure why I’ve taken so long to see this acclaimed entry in famed Japanese animation house Studio Ghibli’s cannon.  Telling the story of a young woman who is cursed by a witch and turned into an elderly lady.  As a war ravages the city where she lives, she takes refuge in wizard Howl’s legendary moving castle.  Can she lift the curse, or are Howl’s own problems more pressing?

Howl-s-Moving-Castle-howls-moving-castle-4919316-853-480

Directed by studio head Hayao Myazaki (Ponyo, Princess Mononoke) and boasting quite boundless imagination and visual beauty, this is one of those movies that you can easily lose yourself in.  The story is utterly charming, told gracefully and packed with ideas.  Voice acting from Christian Bale, Emily Mortimer and Billy Crystal (as a lovable fire demon) amongst others is also enjoyable and although at nearly two hours it can feel a bit hard going, this remained classic fantasy storytelling that kept me glued throughout.

I think compared to similar Ghibli movie Spirited Away; being based on the children’s novel by British writer Diana Wynne Jones helps it break free from the studio’s otherwise very Japanese style.  Sometimes the bizarreness of Ghibli can leave me cold, but that wasn’t the case here.  Although, what was that war about? Never the less, an enchanting, very well made and totally gorgeous evening’s entertainment.

The blu-ray from Optimum is very pleasing. The image is vibrant and sharp. Some slight juddering during fast movement seems evident occasionally but not very noticeable. The soundtrack in DTS HD Master Audio is immersive and full of little details, with the music and quality voice acting all impressing. Extras consist of several featurettes, including Myazaki’s visit to Pixar as well as behind the scenes voice over footage. Sadly many are in 1:33:1 format so we get ugly black boarders either side of the screen.

Verdict:

(the movie) 5 /5

(the Blu-ray) 4 /5