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Thor Ragnarok – ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ Theatrical Review

Baby Driver  


Wow, I haven’t posted anything since February?  Okay, I get it, I’m really behind in my reviews, and I did see Thor in theatres… back in probably December…  It was great!  I loved it.  There was maybe a bit too much humour to it for some, but I still loved it.


Now, there were lots of trailers, and lots of clips, I have to say that Marvel knows how to put those together.  The trailers left me wanting more and put more questions in my mind as to how things got to where they were, even though the trailer pretty much plays out the same order of events as they happen in the film.


Thor returns to Asgard with the helm/skull of Surtur, a fire demon who according to prophecy will bring about Ragnarok, the Asgardian apocalypse.  With Surtur defeated, Thor sets about finding his father Odin, who Loki hypnotized and left on Earth at the end of Thor 2: The Dark World.   At least that’s what I think happened, I can’t honestly remember, as it’s been quite a while since I saw that one.  All I know is that Loki (Tom Hiddleston) took the throne, impersonating Odin (Anthony Hopkins).  Thor (Chris Hemsworth) has figured this out, and once he publicly unmasks Loki, the two brothers set off to find their father, making a side trip to the Sanctum Sanctorum where Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) sends Thor and Loki to Odin.  Nice bits of comedy here, and nice to see Doctor Strange, but the scene really just seemed like an extension of the “after the credits scene” from his own movie.  The sons of Odin meet up with Odin in Norway one last time, as he surrenders his life force and moves on, freeing his trapped first born child, Hela, the Goddess of Death (Cate Blanchett) who breaks Thor’s hammer (as we saw in the trailers) and sends he and Loki through space via the Bifrost, where they become trapped on a planet run by the Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum).  Loki arrived several weeks earlier than Thor and has aligned himself with the Grandmaster, leaving  to be captured by a woman known as “Scrapper 142” (Tessa Thompson) to be thrown into the arena to fight for the Grandmaster’s amusement.  Thor’s first opponent is the reigning champion, the incredible… Hulk (Mark Ruffalo).  Fighting and fun, the two heroes eventually bury their differences and escape the planet with Loki and Scrapper 142, who is in fact an Asgardian Valkyrie.  Returning to Asgard to stop Hela who has killed and enslaved much of the population, Thor and his team set out to free their people, but can the Prince of Asgard win without his hammer?


Okay, that was a rather long-winded summary, and I left out a lot of key things.  The story was great fun, and it was full of great comic-book action.  It worked in a lot of great new characters from the comics, and I think it laid some very important groundwork for Avengers Infinity War, and the future of the entire MCU.  The scene after the credits leads directly to the opening scene of Infinity War (I know because I saw it the other day).


As I mentioned earlier, there was a lot of humour in the film.  I personally loved it, but I can see where some fans of comic book movies might be a little put off by it.  Thor Ragnarok still had some rather serious plot points and undertones, but I think director Taika Waititi (What We Do In The Shadows, Flight of the Conchords) balanced the humour and the darkness masterfully.  I think that is something that Marvel does better than DC does in their movies, and that can be very divisive in the comic book and comic book movie fandoms.  I like my heroes to be powerful and fun, not dark and brooding all the time, but that’s just me.  To each their own.  Check it out, it was fun.


Bottom Line: My favourite Marvel movie was the first Thor for the longest time, but then Doctor Strange came out quickly becoming my favourite, but now….Ragnarok may have put Thor back into first place again….at least until there’s a Doctor Strange 2…

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Solace – ★ ★ ★ ★ DVD Review

Solace40


Anthony Hopkins working alongside the FBI to catch a serial killer? Hmmmm…… and he’s a psychic?  Yeah, I was hooked by the premise of this one.


Hopkins plays John Clancy, an actual psychic who assisted the FBI.  Though he’s retired after losing his daughter to leukemia, his former handler agent Joe Merriwether (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) calls him to assist with a string of unsolved murders that look to be the work of a serial killer.  Though he clashes at first with Merriwether’s partner (Abbie Cornish playing FBI Agent Katherine Cowles) they soon learn that the killer is also psychic and one step ahead of them all the time.

Okay, it should come as no surprise that the killer is Colin Farrell.  If you’ve got a big named actor listed in the cast and they don’t make an early appearance, 99% of the time they’re the bad guy.  This isn’t really a spoiler because when his character is introduced to us it is only as the killer.  When we find out how he’s choosing his victims and why he’s killing them, Solace turns from a standard crime thriller into a clever, thoughtful crime thriller. The casting was excellent as was the acting, but what I really enjoyed were the visuals.  When Clancy was having a vision, the way they showed events that happened in the past and possible events to happen in the future was really well done.  In one scene where they’re investigating a woman found murdered in her bathtub, you get to see the events leading up to the murder, but you see the person splitting into multiple versions of herself as the events unfold.  In a foot chase a vision of the killer splits into multiple versions, each taking a different path, representing the different choices he could have made as the psychic follows him.  I thought it was a very unique way of telling a story dealing with psychics.  If something like this has been done before, I don’t remember seeing it, so I really enjoyed this facet of the film.


At the end I think Solace works because even though it can be brushed off as a simple crime thriller, it leaves you with something to talk about, but it’s something I really can’t touch on because I think it would be a really big spoiler.  It will definitely raise questions about euthanasia and murder.….


Bottom Line: Kind of reminded me of Red Lights from a few years ago, which I really should re-watch.

The Dresser – ★ ★ ★ DVD Review

Film Title3.0 Stars


The Dresser was originally a play, and then a film in 1983 starring Albert Finney and Tom Courtenay, and now a TV movie starring Anthony Hopkins and Ian McKellen.  “Sir” (Hopkins) is the aging star of a theatrical company who is clearly suffering from some sort of dementia.  He was found running half naked through the streets by Norman (McKellen), his “dresser”, the man who preps him for the performances by doing his makeup, getting the costumes ready, and covering up for his employer’s indiscretions.  Now, even though they’re in the middle of the blitz, the motto is that “the show must go on”, but how can it if the star can’t be found, and even if he can, will he be able to perform?  Norman struggles to keep the troupe equally on track and in the dark as to Sir’s situation and the fate of the night’s production of King Lear.


The Dresser was good, but rather slow.  It was very dramatic, and a great representation of stage actors, and probably of actors in general.  The loyalty of the dresser to the star was admirable though it is hinted that their relationship was not as altruistic as it would seem but did parallel the relationship between Shakespeare’s Lear and The Fool.  While the film did focus mainly on the friendship between the two, it also featured the ailing Sir reconciling his relationships with the rest of the cast.  From those who love him such as Her Ladyship (Emily Watson) to those who wish to replace him like Oxenby (Tom Brooke) all appear before Sir and Norman.  What stood out as the high point for me was Edward Fox (A Bridge Too Far) as Thornton who played the Fool in the play, giving a wonderful, heartwarming speech to Sir near the close of the film.  Ironically Fox was in the 1983 version of The Dresser as Oxenby, completely opposite of the gracious Thornton character.


The box stated that “The Dresser is a wickedly funny and deeply moving story of friendship and loyalty”, but it was not “wickedly funny”, it did have some subtle laughs, but was really all drama, and that is what disappointed me.  Not being familiar with either the play or the original film, I was half expecting some sort of theatrical shenanigans to take place, but they didn’t.  Ah well, it was still enjoyable enough, though not what I expected.


Bottom Line: Naturally both Hopkins and McKellen gave excellent performances and made the film worth watching.

RED 2 – DVD Review 3½ stars

Product Details3.5 Stars


Sequels are rarely as good as their originals, but that doesn’t mean they can’t still be fun.  Tonight I watched RED 2, and must admit it was a lot of fun.  Highly enjoyable but similar to my thoughts on The World’s End, it suffers from coming too late.  Everything that clicked just right in the first film was almost carbon copied into the second film, but copies always lose a bit of detail.  I know they say “if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it” but RED 2 didn’t really do anything different from RED.  I really enjoyed the first one, in fact I think I may have ranked it as my favourite film of 2010, so maybe I expected too much from the sequel.


Frank Moses (Bruce Willis) is still retired, but now trying to live a quiet domestic life with Sarah (Mary-Louise Parker) when Marvin (John Malkovich) contacts him.  During the Cold War, Frank and Marvin worked on an operation called Nightshade that involved smuggling a nuclear weapon into Moscow piece by piece for reassembly.  This information was somehow publicized by Wiki-leaks and now various governments are after the pair in hopes of finding the hidden weapon.  Russian agents are after them led by Frank’s former flame the femme fatale Katja (Catherine Zeta-Jones); MI-6 is after them, and have hired their friend Victoria (Helen Mirren) to kill them; and after failing to stop them themselves, the Americans led by Rogue Agent Jack Horton (Neal McDonough) have hired Korean assassin Han Cho Bai (Byung-hun Lee) to kill Frank and Marvin too.  Frank just wants to keep Sarah safe, but she wants to be involved and help Frank.  She’s also a bit jealous after learning of Frank and Katja’s past.  The trio team up, betray, and are betrayed by everyone on the board as they dig deeper and eventually find the path leading to Dr. Bailey (Anthony Hopkins), who created Nightshade and is being held in an asylum by the British with his memory being suppressed by drugs so he can’t speak of the weapon.  Bailey gets broken out, they all head to Russia to find the bomb (which is hidden in the heart of the Kremlin, because it’s the one place the Russians would never look) dodging bullets all along the way.


The action was great, the humour was sharp and the acting was good.   Helen Mirren was of course excellent and really shines in these movies because you don’t expect her to be in them.  Mary-Louise Parker was good, but Sarah this time around had lost a bit of her vulnerability and some of her innocence, two things that really drew me to the character in the first film.  Malkovich’s Marvin was funny again, but not as paranoid or crazy as round one.  Actually Anthony Hopkins was a little crazier than Marvin which was kind of interesting.  Bruce Willis’ Frank still delivered a lot of the action, but even acknowledged in the film that he was getting older during his fights with Han.  In my opinion Byung-hun Lee (Han) really stood out well amongst a stellar cast of actors.  He may be best known as Storm Shadow in the G.I. Joe movies, but I’ve been impressed by him since I saw him in The Good, The Bad and the Weird, and Masquerade: King of Facade.  He did not disappoint here either; bringing a bit of class, a lot of action and dry humour to his assassin character.


RED 2 was a lot of fun, in a lot of ways I suppose it is a much lighter (and much better) version of The Expendables.  We’ve got recognizable faces, Oscar nominees, Oscar winners, Dames and Knights,  delivering all the action, car chases, and explosions, the screen can handle.  Yes, similar to The Expendables, only this time we have much better actors and a better story.

Thor: Dark World theatrical review 4/5 Stars

OllyMossThor24 Stars


I treated myself to a night out tonight and went and saw Thor The Dark World, or Thor 2 if you will.  The first Thor movie was my favourite of the Marvel movies so far (and will likely remain that way until they make a Doctor Strange movie), now Thor 2 comes in at a definite second.


The story this time out concerns the return of the evil Dark Elves, led by Malekith (Christopher Eccleston) who are set on returning the universe and all the nine realms to the darkness that existed before there was light.  The nine realms are aligning in a cosmic convergence and the barriers between the worlds are weakened which leads to the return of the Dark Elves’ weapon the Aether.  On Earth, Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) is told of strange gravitational energies by her intern Darcy (Kat Dennings) who takes her to a place in London where a truck can float and objects are transported through dimensions.  It’s not just objects that can pass through these rifts though, Jane herself is pulled through one and finds herself trapped with the Aether, hidden away thousands of years ago by Bor, Odin’s father.  The Aether takes Foster as a living host, which awakens the sleeping Dark Elves who attack Asgard in search of the Aether after Thor (Chris Hemsworth) finds and rescues Jane and brings her to his home.  After fending off the first attack of the Dark Elves,  Odin (Anthony Hopkins) is distraught after Malekith attacks his wife Frigga (Rene Russo) and chooses to wait for them to return rather than follow them or to take the Aether away from Asgard and fight them in an unpopulated area.  Thor seeks out help from his brother Loki (Tim Hiddleston) to save Jane from the Aether, save Asgard from the Dark Elves’ next attack, and avenge Malekith’s attack on their mother.  Melekith absorbs the Aether from Jane Foster and heads to Earth to launch his attack on all reality, where his only opposition is Thor and his human friends Jane, Darcy and Dr. Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgård) who may have a weapon to use against the gravitational anomalies that could stop Malekith once and for all.


Whew, that was hard to type up without spoilers.  I really enjoyed the film, which thankfully I got to see in theatres and got to see in 2D.  There were several moments in the film that I could guess were shot specially for 3D, but they don’t really add to the experience for me.  Sure these things look nice, but the overall look of the film I think suffers.  The “super 3D” parts look great, but the more mundane scenes always appear too dark.  Thor 2 was a lot of fun, just like the first movie.  It was definitely a science-fiction/fantasy film and not really a mythological take of the Norse god.  There were lots of lasers and spaceships, which if memory serves me lines up fairly close with the Thor comics Marvel did in the ’80’s with Walt Simonson’s run.  There were nice nods with the Warriors Three (Zachary Levi as Fandral, Ray Stevenson as Volstagg, and Tadanobu Asano as Hogun) which brought a fair bit of levity to the tale.  Jaimie Alexander as Sif was great if not a bit underused, but really everyone had great chemistry with Tim Hiddleston.  As much of a fan of Hemsworth’s Thor that I am, Loki may have stolen a bit of his thunder.  Pun intended.  Thor was great for the action and I really enjoyed the battles and struggles, but Loki was just a great “tweener” character; not really a villain this time around, but also not exactly a good guy.  His character may have been in-between, but his performance was top notch.


Of course there was an excellent Stan Lee cameo in Thor 2, but also we were treated to a light hearted Chris Evans/Captain America cameo just to remind us that Captain America: Winter Soldier is coming soon.  I think they missed out on a potential cameo appearance though.  After the first battle with the Dark Elves in Asgard, there is an Asgardian funeral scene where the dead warriors are set to drive at sea in boats that are then set aflame.  Great scene, but why didn’t they include a few Valkyries to escort the honoured dead to Valhalla?  It would have been a nice nod to the fans to see Brunnhilde and possibly setup future films or appearances.  Marvel is going all out these days with Agents of SHIELD on television and apparently four planned series on Netflix that are supposed to culminate in a Defenders mini-series, so why not introduce some characters on the big screen, who were key members of Marvel’s famous “non-team”?


We were also treated to some “after the credits” scenes, as with Avengers there were two scenes, a serious one part way through the credits and a second, more humourous one at the very end as a treat to the fans who really stick it out.  I’ve always sat through the credits to every movie I watch; though it’s easier at home when you can just fast forward, which may be something the theatre operators may want to consider doing.  Speed it up, get to the scene we want to see and get us out of there, then the staff can set to cleaning up for the next showing a few minutes earlier, because we’re not really reading them or interested that Richard Glass was the contact lens optician.  Though how ironic is that given his last name?  Ah well, in case you missed them I’ll list the scenes below, as usual for my spoilers, highlight to read:

Mid-credits:
Sif and Volstagg meet The Collector (Benicio Del Toro) and they hand him a container that holds the Aether.  He asks why they don’t just keep it in their own vault, and they tell him that the Tesseract is already there in Asgard and having two Infinity Stones so close to each other would be dangerous. When they leave, The Collector states, “One down, five to go.”  Knowing that we saw Thanos in the Avengers after credit scene and now the Collector, somewhere down the line we’ll be getting an Infinity War story.

After-credits:
Jane is sitting at the table by herself when it starts to thunder.  She goes outside to find Thor. She runs to him and they kiss passionately.  Meanwhile, the Jotunheim beast that came through the rifts earlier is running by the factory chasing birds.

Hitchcock

Product Details3 Stars

When I heard about Hitchcock it immediately went to the top of my “to watch” list.  It was a film that I wanted to see in theatres but I don’t think it played anywhere short of a half hour drive away.  I fear now that after seeing it myself, it would have been a repeat of the J. Edgar fiasco.  I would have enjoyed it, as I did tonight, but I’m doubtful that any of my old movie going friends would have.  I’ve learned not to make suggestions anymore.

Hitchcock tells the “behind the scenes” story of the famed director’s struggles to make Psycho.  Touching on the problems with the studios, the censors, his cast (particularly his leading ladies) and of course his wife Alma Reville who assisted writing and editing some of “Hitch’s” most famed works.  There were hints of infidelity on Alma’s part and also hints that she was more of a driving force to the great director.  Their relationship was played out very nicely by Anthony Hopkins and Helen Mirren as the movie is more about Alfred and Alma than “Hitchcock” himself, or his films.  Also starring Scarlett Johansson playing Janet Leigh, did an excellent job especially in the recreation of the famous “shower scene”.   I was quite impressed by the acting overall but I always find it curious to watch actors that I know playing the parts of other actors, nested in their roles acting in another film.  I often wonder when actors play “real” characters (not just playing other actors, but anyone of any public fame) if they are acting, interpreting or just imitating their subjects.  A good part of Hopkin’s performance was the makeup, the voice, and the mannerisms, which I suppose is Hopkins doing a Hitchcock “impression”.

The film was enjoyable enough but I guess my complaint is that the film didn’t really do anything.  Was it just a very trimmed down look at the making of another movie?  Hitchcock really just seemed to scratch the surface of some truly interesting subject matters, by showing us how directors have to sometimes fight for their films to be made, but it also shied away from any kind of depth.  I guess the “tell” in this one is that minutes after watching Hitchcock, I put in (and thoroughly enjoyed) Psycho.

Product Details5 Stars

Simply amazing, an example of true horror and suspense, with Hitch at his peak.  Loosely based on Robert Bloch’s pulp novel, which was itself loosely based on killer Ed Gein, Psycho presents us with the tale of Marion Crane — who, in a moment of madness, steals forty-thousand dollars. Running scared, Marion checks into the out-of-the-way Bates Motel, and the rest is cinematic history.  The suspense and horror are heightened by the excellent choice to use black and white cinematography and Bernard Herrmann’s often imitated but never duplicated score making Psycho about as close to perfect as a film can get.  Anthony Perkins, Janet Leigh, Martin Balsam and Vera Miles give great performances rounding out a night at the movies that will make you think twice before showering.

There we go, a 2 for 1 of movie reviews tonight, as I’ve been away from movie watching for a few weeks now.  I’ve been hooked on TV lately; pushing my way through disc after disc of Castle (which I got hooked on when I stumbled upon the first episode on TV but quickly grew tired of commercials and waiting a whole day for the next syndicated episode); stressing out about the last few episodes of Walking Dead (Season 3); and anxiously awaiting the return of the Doctor.

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