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

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The Fly


Viewed – 29 August 2017  Blu-ray

It’s hard to believe this movie came out in 1986.  It’s look and atmosphere still feel contemporary and semi-futuristic bar some 80s fashions and hair styles.  This retelling / remake of the 1950’s b-movie has Jeff Goldblum on star-making form as eccentric scientist Seth Brundel, who after inviting a plucky reporter (Gina Davis) to his lab, reveals he has invented a teleportation device.  However after the initial reveal, Brundel decides to teleport himself but makes the mistake of allowing a common house fly inside the pod, therefore setting into motion a grotesque and alarming physical transformation.

The Fly

This is perfect material for director David Cronenberg (Scanners, Videodrome) who has always had an interest in body-horror and transformation in his movies.  However beyond the gory effects (that still impress and revolt) this is a tragic love story.  Helped immeasurably by convincing chemistry from the leads (who were a real life couple at the time) and a strikingly complex turn from Goldblum … watching events play out is both emotionally draining and exciting.  It’s a very unique kind of horror experience, with no actual evil enemy but more a horrible set of circumstances. In that respect it’s not unlike The Elephant Man.  It may be at it’s core fairly simple and only really has three characters … but what Cronenberg achieves with such simple tools is a revelation and made this an instant classic.

The Blu-ray has a decent if slightly soft image but colours are strong and close-up detail is good.  The soundtrack in 5.1 DTS HD Master Audio is also effective with atmospherics and Howard Shore’s obvious b-movie throwback score both doing their job.  The only slight let down is somewhat mono sounding dialogue that whilst still clear could have done with sprucing up.  Extras are plentiful though with an essential commentary from Cronenberg as well as some worthwhile deleted scenes, press kits, behind the scenes stuff and photo galleries.  Overall a decent job for a genuine horror gem.

Verdict:

(the movie)  5 /5

(the Blu-ray)  4 /5

Jurassic Park


Viewed – 28 April 2012  Blu-ray

Universal Studios 100th Anniversary Edition

Not many movies have had the monumental impact with the box-office that this enjoyed during the nineties.  Directed by Stephen Spielberg, this was going to be the blue print by which all future summer blockbusters would be judged, and pioneered many of the effects we now take for granted.  Two Paliantologists (Sam Neill and Laura Dern) are called to a remote island by a wealthy tycoon (Richard Attenborough) in order to over see the imminent opening of a theme park.  Yet this one isn’t anything like Disney.  This one has living, breathing dinosaurs as it’s star attractions.  Of course something always goes wrong, and soon its a battle to survive against some of the deadliest creatures to ever roam the earth.

At its basic level, this is a monster movie, but with a director like Spielberg behind the camera, it quickly becomes so much more … uplifting, awe-inspiring, exciting as hell and to some extent magical.  He is a grand master at the high-concept picture, being responsible for the likes of Close Encounters Of The Third Kind and Jaws, to name but two of his many achievements.  Add to this some of the finest effects work of their day (that still look good now, even if day-time shots reveal the CGI a bit too much) and set-pieces that have become Hollywood legend (the amazing T-rex attack especially).

The movie does crawl in the quieter moments and there’s too much exposition at the start, but along with some enjoyable performances (with a memorable Jeff Goldblum) and that stirring score from John Williams … this still works magnificently and for me, remains one of the finest blockbusters ever made.

The Blu-ray picture quality whilst not jumping off the screen as I had hoped, still has enough ‘pop’ to satisfy, seems free of noise-redcution and is in pretty good condition.  More importantly the DTS HD Master Audio soundtrack positively roars and really enhances a movie that for me, was always about its sound design not just its effects.  Saying that, in HD some of the CGI is showing its age, but overall this is a movie that has stood the test of time fairly well.  Extras-wise we get a 3 part documentary (not 6 part as stated on the sleeve) as well as archive featurettes, interviews and galleries.  I would have liked a Spielberg commentary, but apparently he doesn’t like doing them, so that isn’t going to happen.  Overall as a tribute to a classic movie, this could have been better, but as it stands, many fans will still find plenty to like.

Verdict:

(the movie) 4 /5

(the Blu-ray) 3.5 /5