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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Kong: Skull Island


Viewed – 14 March 2017  Cinema

I can’t say I was all that hyped for this but some friends were wanting to see it so I thought I’d tag along.  This latest exploration of the legendary franchise about a massive, mythical ape follows a group of geologists and a band of fresh outta ‘Nam marines as they travel to a newly discovered, unexplored island.  John Goodman leads the scientists, whilst Samuel L. Jackson leads the marines and along the way they bring in Tom Hiddleston’s tracker.

kong-skull-island

This began promising … a dramatic prologue set the stage and when introduced to Goodman, Jackson etc but for a slightly larger-than-life aesthetic, it seemed I was in for a good time.  Sad then, that not long after the team arrive at the island did it dawn on this viewer that there was something worryingly cartoonish to the performances and action, and despite some epic monster smack downs once Kong gets screen time and is punching helicopters out of the air etc … what initial potential any of these characters had is rapidly replaced with cheesy, clichéd caricatures displaying over the top attempts at drama, melo-drama and awkward-comedy, most of which miss their target.  When it’s trying to be serious it comes off as amusing (sometimes hilarious) and when it’s trying to be exciting it comes off as slow-motion Michael Bay dialled up to ten.  This caused me to gradually zone out as any character moments or parts where you’re meant to route for anyone except Kong, fell flat.  Even seasoned veterans like Goodman and Jackson came off hammy, especially Jackson who has a silly amount of lingering stares, complete with that bulging left eye, and Hiddleston is woefully miss-cast, struggling as the rugged hero-type despite (fake)tanned good looks and perfect hair.  Add to this Brie Larson who initially appeared as a ballsy photographer, but half way through descended into just another objectified pair of boobs.  Sigh.

Thankfully we do get some reprieve from the mediocrity and cheese in a wonderfully dead-pan John C Reilly, and the effects and the locations are decent (bar some obvious green screen segments), which means it isn’t a total shot in the foot.  However like initial expectations, there’s very little to warrant this one existing in an industry that’s previously given us so much better.

Verdict:  2 /5

Crimson Peak


Viewed – 22 October 2015  Cinema

I had been looking forward to this gothic horror / romance for a while and it was one of my most anticipated movies of the year.  Director Guillermo Del Toro had become one of my go-to directors in recent years, especially for his two Hellboy movies and the seminal masterpiece that is Pan’s Labyrinth.  So anything with him at the helm seemed guaranteed for success.  However my expectations were set a little lower after the stunning looking but disappointing Pacific Rim.

Crimson Peak

This follows the period-set story of Edith (Mia Wasikowska) whose father is a big shot and attracts the attention of mysterious clay miner (?) Thomas (Tom Hiddelston) out to raise money for an invention but needs Edith’s father’s backing.  Yet Edith’s father doesn’t like the look of him or Thomas’s creepy sister, Lucille (Jessica Chastain).  Yet intent on swaying the man, Thomas sets out to win the heart of Edith after muscling his way into a ball put on for the local dignitaries.  Very Pride and Prejudice so far you may think.  However following a turn of events I won’t spoil, Edith is whisked off by Thomas & Lucille, to an ancient creepy old house with more than it’s share of ghouls and ghosts, and so Edith must unravell a mystery surrounding the house and the brother and sister who have come into her life.

crimsonFor a start, this is one of the most breath-taking visual treats I’ve had at the cinema in a long time.  Every shot and camera angle and corridor, room and costume is a work of art – it really is a gothic visual masterpiece.  How then, you might ask can the movie be so uninvolving and lacking in depth or personality?  The performances are decent (especially Hiddleston) but with a plodding script, zero chemistry between Thomas and Edith despite their insistence on being in love and scenes I’m sure were meant to be scary or disturbing, much of this just came off as ‘meh’.  It goes as far as how the characters react to stuff, like Edith witnessing some grotesque legless creature coming out of the floor and crawling after her down a corridor – only for Edith to look puzzled and run away.  Yeah, I see that sort of thing every day!  What doesn’t help either is that the ghosts seem overly CGI – Del Toro is known for pioneering some amazing creature designs over the years and has used prosthetic make up to brilliant effect (Pan’s Labyrinth’s awesome Pale Man).  These sequences just didn’t have the same impact.  Add to this the eventual reveal and point of the whole story coming off as ‘…is that it?’ – and I just came away feeling deflated.  From early word I’d read I hadn’t expected a full on horror, but did hope for characters I would care about and a story that pulled me in – but beyond the obvious artistry of the visuals, this did anything but.  I have a feeling a second viewing may fair better, but as it stands this was disappointing.

Verdict:  3 /5

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