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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…


Mortdecai – ★ ★ ★ DVD Review

Mortdecai3.0 Stars

My, what a moustache.

It’s been over a month since I watched Mortdecai, but there has been a good (in my mind) reason why I’ve been dragging my heels on this review. I wanted to read the book first, and last night I finished the first of several Mortdecai novels.  Charles Mortdecai first appeared in author Kyril Bonfiglioli’s (1928-1985) 1973 novel Don’t Point That Thing at Me, and two more novels to complete the “Mortdecai Trilogy”. A fourth book was started by Bonfiglioli and completed by Craig Brown, which was posthumously published in 1999. It would appear that the film Mortdecai takes bits and pieces from all of the novels to craft it’s tale. Mortdecai is a scoundrel and a rogue; an unscrupulous art dealer and swindler; and an aristocrat.

In the film, Mortdecai (Johnny Depp) has to find a way to pay off his tax debt, save his marriage with wife Johanna (Gwyneth Paltrow), and recover a stolen Goya painting that MI5 Inspector Martland (Ewan McGregor) – who has been in love with Johanna since college – has been led to believe contains a code to a lost bank account filled with Nazi gold, and on top of all that, Mortdecai has to clear his own good name in the theft of the painting and the subsequent murders surrounding the investigation.

What did I think of the film? Well, I thought it could have been a lot better. I did laugh, but I had problems with the Mordecai character (now remember that this opinion was formed before I read the book). I thought he came across as too silly to be believed as a con man or an unscrupulous art dealer. The film struggled, even though I felt like I knew what they were trying to do. I think it was trying to emulate the Pink Panther films of the Peter Sellers era, but Depp is not Peter Sellers. Clouseau at least seemed confident while still bumbling, Depp’s Mortdecai seemed too cowardly and silly, and just didn’t give me that feeling, despite the few scenes where he did show some intelligence.

What did I think of the book? An even better question. The novel was quite short actually, only 166 pages, but for some reason it took me what seemed like forever to finish it.  I should have been able to finish it in a day or so, but the writing style was just not catching on for me at first.  Eventually though, things started to click, and I really enjoyed the book.  I’ve got the next three novels lined up; though while the first book really left a lot of the plot threads open, the second (and third) will have to wait in line as I have several other “to reads” ahead of them.

There were some genuine laughs in the film, and as you know, I do love a good con/caper story, so I was a little disappointed with this one.  I think however that I can pin those disappointments down to just one thing, and that was Johnny Depp’s performance as the lead.  Paul Bettany as Mortdecai’s man servant Jock, was the high point of any of the scenes that Depp was in.  Aside from those quibbles, the action was fun, and the dialogue was fairly clever and witty (which it certainly should be based on the source material – “It was still only nine o’clock when I set off on the last leg of my journey, feeling old and dirty and incapable. You probably know the feeling if you are over eighteen.”), but it did feel forced at times.  Jokes such as Johanna gagging and Mortdecai having a sympathetic gag reflex whenever they discussed Mortdecai’s moustache for example fell flat the first time, but sadly they kept going back to that time and time again.  Witty banter back and forth can carry a film in the right hands, but these didn’t seem to be the right hands, or the left hands for that matter.  In fact it felt like someone let what could have been a cult classic slip through their hands.  Hey, look at that!  I can write witty banter too if I want to.  Someone get me a screenwriting job.

Bottom Line: It seems the moustache is everywhere these days.  Just so you know, I’ve had my particular curly ‘stache for two years now; long before I had ever heard of Charlie Mortdecai – a character that was clean shaven in his first novel, by the way…

Grand Budapest Hotel – DVD review 4/5 Stars

Product Details4 Stars

Well I’ve seen my second Wes Anderson film now (the first was Moonrise Kingdom) and I really enjoyed it.  The story was funny (a great mix of a caper comedy,  murder mystery, broad adventure, and romance); the acting was top notch and the style and visual appeal of the film were trademark Anderson quirk.  That trademark quirk just kind of gnaws at the back of my brain and bothers me a little bit though.  I find a lot of the fans of Wes Anderson’s films to be kind of snooty and pushy and I don’t want to become that type of movie watcher either by association or by osmosis because I’ve enjoyed these last two films.  Now, I have yet to see his earlier work, but I’m told that the “quirk” (sorry, that’s the only way I can think of describing it) has become more and more developed in Anderson’s later works.  It just seems to me that a lot of his fans (and even some of the comments by his actors) can be fairly pretentious.  I just want to enjoy what I enjoy and not be told what to enjoy or why to enjoy it.

In 1932 M. Gustave H (Ralph Fiennes) is the legendary concierge at The Grand Budapest, a famous European hotel.  He; and his hotel; are a faint glimmer of civilization left in the barbaric slaughterhouse that was once known as humanity.  Gustave is a gentleman who not only sees to the needs of the hotel but the guests as well, and as the film opens he has just taken on a new lobby boy, Zero (Tony Revolori) who soon becomes his most trusted friend.  Madame Celine Villenueve Desgoffe-und-Taxis (Tilda Swinton) is dead, and it is quite possibly murder.  When her priceless Renaissance painting “Boy With Apple” is willed to M. Gustave her family has him arrested, as scheming son Dmitri (Adrien Brody) and his thug Jopling (Willem Dafoe) seek to secure the family fortune by any means necessary.  Having to escape from jail to clear his name, Gustave and Zero flee across the Republic of Zubrowka with only Zero’s lovely fiancee Agatha (Saoirse Ronan) to aide them as they encounter a myriad of characters on their way back to the Grand Budapest and their rightful fortune.  The whole story is narrated by a grown Zero (F. Murray Abraham) to an author (Jude Law) who is staying at the now pretty much neglected Grand Budapest while trying to overcome his writer’s block, so the film does jump between the past of the 1930s the 1960s and a “present” with the more aged author (Tom Wilkinson) of 1985.  This was handled very cleverly by Anderson who changed the camera aspect for each different time period.

As I said the film looked incredible, with Anderson’s signature pastel colour palettes and side scrolling camera angles, but the true strength really comes from the cast and the story.  Anderson has seemingly created a repertory company of actors for his films as many of those cast once do return.  My fear of  “too many cooks” doesn’t really apply as Ralph Fiennes, F. Murray Abraham, Adrien Brody, Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum, Harvey Keitel, Jude Law, Bill Murray, Edward Norton, Saoirse Ronan, Jason Schwartzman, Léa Seydoux, Tilda Swinton, Tom Wilkinson, Wes Anderson, Tony Revolori all fit in the film even though they don’t all necessarily have large roles.  Owen Wilson was on screen for probably less than two minutes but somehow found his way to be in the special features talking about “their” film…  I suppose though that it speaks volumes about the quality of the piece if actors just want to be in there regardless.

I really enjoyed The Grand Budapest Hotel, it was visually appealing, thoughtfully written and yet still very very funny.  The humour is definitely a bit more on the darker side which I certainly appreciate, but the movie was a bit of a romantic adventure tale as well, and not just between the characters but with a time period and a way of life.  As Mr. Moustafa looked back and remarked about M. Gustave “I think his world had vanished long before he ever entered it – but, I will say: he certainly sustained the illusion with a marvellous grace!

Bottom Line: Is Wes Anderson being too Wes Anderson?  How much longer can he keep doing “his” style of film before studios and audiences tire?  Will anyone tire of it?  Maybe, maybe not, but I have to wonder what it would be like if he were to direct something completely different.

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