*NEW* THOR: RAGNAROK REVIEW *NEW*

Just as ridiculous as the film title but bloody good fun all the same.

Imprisoned, the mighty Thor (Chris Hemsworth) finds himself in a lethal gladiatorial contest against the Hulk (CGI’d Mark Ruffalo), his former ally. Fighting for survival and racing against time, Thor must prevent the all-powerful Hela (Cate Blanchett) from destroying his home and the Asgardian civilization.

When I first heard the director’s name (Taika Waititi), my first thoughts were: “What a strange name” and then I actually did some research and couldn’t believe my luck.

Count Viago from What We Do in the Shadows?! (A heavy recommendation if you haven’t seen it already). I should have known what to expect.

One mad rollercoaster ride of hilarity, neon, colour and 80s fusion, of course.

Marvel have really hit their stride (*cough* DC *cough*) and seem to have a winning formula.

To be honest, I wasn’t really impressed with the first Avengers movie or Captain America (What?! Sorry) BUT I loved Kenneth Branagh’s introduction of Thor. The Shakespearean King Lear melodrama between the feuding brothers. Hiddleston, Hemsworth, Hopkins, Portman. Perfect.

Thor: The Dark World was a mixed bag. Failing to deliver the right balance of laughs and drama. I was intrigued to see what tone Thor’s third outing would take. The more comical route did have its flaws BUT I was too busy having fun.

And there were still some touching moments (as well as revelations) to be had between Thor and his father Odin (Sir Anthony Hopkins).

Even if it was a little sillier and the story line a tad predictable, Waititi and co made up for it with memorable characters, stellar turns, humour and heart.

It’s hard not to mention one actor, in particular when praising supporting characters. I’m sure you’ve seen the endless memes, gifs and tweets.

Jeff Goldblum.

You can’t help but smile at the guy. His larger than life bohemian approach fitted the role of the Grandmaster perfectly. My only grumble? He wasn’t in it enough.

Tessa Thompson was fantastic as the embittered Valkyrie. Disillusioned and drinking her sorrows out of a bottle. Her stubborn demeanour worked well off the confused Thor.

Cate Blanchett lapped up the role of Hela with aplomb. Despite being pushed into the background far too much; she still managed to make a stern adversary to the Viking god.

Karl Urban (An underrated actor) was hilarious as Skurge. Just wait until he introduces his accomplices Des and Troy. Brilliant.

I was getting a little fed up of Loki and Thor’s fractious fraternal relationship. But this latest foray forced the pair into an uneasy alliance and somebody must have heard me because there was even a gag in which Thor tells Loki that he’s waiting for the next betrayal. A running gag that delivered in buckets.

It helped that Hiddleston and Hemsworth worked well together yet again.

BUT the main duo I was interested in was . . .

Only kidding. Well, not entirely. Waititi even managed to give himself a little cameo as the bumbling bouldered bad ass that was Korg. He had me in stitches. Stealing every scene he featured in.

Anyway, the real duo that made it for me was Thor and Hulk. I loved the dynamic between them. I haven’t really rated Hulk’s multiple reincarnations (Sorry, Team Bana all day) and was unimpressed with Ruffalo. THAT WAS UNTIL Ragnarok.

He nailed Banner and brought a little character and humanity to the green giant.

The only problem with bringing new characters into the mix was that somebody had to take the hit. The absence of Portman and Dennings was missed and Idris Elba was reduced to measly filler sequences. Don’t get me wrong, he still bossed it BUT a waste of a character and an actor.

I will commend how all the silly little clips, that hardcore Marvel fans have endured begrudgingly through endless credits (thanking everyone from the make up assistant’s make up assistant to the chap who brings the coffee), have finally come into play. Most notably with a caped dimension bender (Probably not the best description).

This installment has certainly kept things fresh and fun and spiced things up for the upcoming projects.

Despite my nitpicking, I wasn’t bored. It was entertaining, if a little silly in places BUT had everything you could expect from a big superhero movie. Mad action, fantastic effects, great characters with the right injection of fun.

3.5/5

*How could I forget to commend the soundtack?! I will amend that error by leaving this classic track that welcomed our favourite Norse God to the mix. Enjoy!

 

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*NEW* CAROL REVIEW *NEW*

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Two superb performances reprieve an overhyped and overlong affair.

Set in 1950s New York, a department-store clerk (Rooney Mara) who dreams of a better life falls for an older, married woman (Cate Blanchett).

I think this was another case of hype being a hindrance. I don’t know what I was expecting BUT somehow it didn’t quite deliver.

The pace was far too long. I didn’t mind watching the slow burning romance blossom BUT that there wasn’t much else. Romance movies were never my forte and the subject matter wasn’t as engaging as I had hoped.

I mean it in the best way because their relationship seemed so normal. With the legalisation of gay marriage and the rise of movies focusing on the gay rights movement and gay characters, it has marked a progressive change in perception.

All I saw was a normal relationship between two people. Of course, what helped was good characters and great acting that allowed you to buy into it. Blanchett and Mara were superb. They had fantastic chemistry and really made the relationship work.

The meandering pace really didn’t help things. It dipped in and out. This could have been done in 90 minutes and been better for it. The 50s controversial context gave it the much needed spice and things took a nastier turn when Carol’s husband Harge (Kyle Chandler – Friday Night Lights) came into the mix.

You felt for Carol as Harge battles the court to take her daughter away. Fighting for full custody on the grounds of breaking a “morality cause”. His anger and obsession to control Carol was daunting stuff and allowed for some tense moments. His volatile mood swings and drunken stupor created a threatening menace. But beneath all that bravado was a man scorned.

Carol is soon forced to make a decision to face the “moral” implications and have her dirty laundry about her previous relationships aired in the courts at the risk of losing her daughter or give up the love of her life. It was interesting watching Carol’s relationship with her previous lover Abby (Sarah Poulson – American Horror Story). A future glimpse of what could lie in store. A lonely woman haunting a big house.

The closing 30 minutes picked up the pace. The love scenes were dealt with tactfully BUT it’s not as if both actresses have been shy in front of the camera before. Mara (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) played the confused Therese to perfection while Blanchett proved once again why she deserved that Oscar gold (Blue Jasmine) in a fantastic little scene as she pleaded with Harge one last time.

Edward Lachman’s cinematography was very unflattering. It added a much needed realism to the piece BUT was far too grainy and just terrible to look at. Carter Burwell’s musical score created the perfect mood setting and worked really well with the scenes.

I also didn’t expect to see Cory “The Riddler” Michael Smith from Gotham in a surprising supporting role.

Carol was definitely worth a watch to see two fantastic actresses at their best BUT I needed a little more story told in a shorter pace. There were a couple of things I didn’t expect BUT it still ended with the same end result. Shame.

2.5/5

The Monuments Men Review

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Not a monument that will stand the lengths of time in the huge backlog of war classics we’ve had before. It checked all the boxes but failed to deliver anything new or interesting. Hardly a bomb site, but it lacked the right execution for this operation.

George Clooney takes the helm yet again in an ambitious war effort that just fails to hit the mark. The Monuments Men is based on a real operation that was approved by President Roosevelt himself to help retrieve stolen art and relics from the Nazis and return them to their rightful owners. However, as World War Two is coming to a close, Hitler issues an order to destroy all the art, making it a race against the clock. Now, an intriguing premise that suggested a treasure hunt with a dash of Indiana Jones and a hint of Dad’s Army for good measure. Not at all, old sport. What came was a well acted, if meandering drawn out crusade that if not for a couple of twists, would have been dead in the water. It is difficult to criticize when this is based on a true story, but it still can’t be excused as it raised too many questions.

It reeked of the war movies of old. The sort of maritime viewing you get on a Sunday afternoon. A nice melancholic feel but the problem was that it felt dated before it had even begun. It does start off quite easy going and watchable. The cheeky winking and lighthearted pace as Clooney assembles a talented ensemble of retired veterans and soldiers consisting of Bill Murray, John Goodman, Hugh Bonneville (Downton Abbey), Jean Dujardin (The Artist) and the underrated Bob Balaban (who has always stood out for me after his turn in The Lady in the Lake with his speech on characters. One for the writers, that). And of course, not forgetting the regular Clooney collaborators, Matt Damon and Cate Blanchett.

It’s always going to be hard to make a war film after so many classics but looking at this as a sole text, the tone is all over the place. It has the cheeky twinkle that suggests a Dad’s Army and Allo Allo vibe, especially with Damon’s badly spoken French. A reverse twist that had the odd chuckle, with the French begging him to speak English. There is the occasional titter but the material fails to bring a lot of humour and the partnership between Balaban and Murray could have been so much more. We know Murray is funny, so why not let him apply a little bit of his spiel? He seemed restricted. Well, if we’re honest, they all seem restricted. There was potential with Dujardin and Bonneville, especially in an exchange as to why Hitler only bombs places with no art or culture. Bonneville retorts, “Well they bombed London”. Dujardin smiles, “Yes, I know”. A little bit harsh but there could have been a little rivalry or banter exchange between them, but the two get paired up with the wrong actors, to be honest.

That is also the main problem, the gang inevitably have to split up to cover more ground, which is more miss than hit. Damon aimlessly wonders around the beautiful French countryside before he finally meets his contact, Cate Blanchett. Clooney just drives around, barking orders and taking inventory with young recruit Dmitri Leonidas (you may remember him from the fantasy dud of a TV reboot, Sinbad).  Goodman and Dujardin do have the more interesting adventures with snipers and concluding battle scenes as the Germans were being pushed out. Murray and Balaban bring the odd chuckle and are a good pairing but their adventures are a little nothingy. When Damon meets Blanchett, it does pick up and there is some great chemistry between them but it all gets quite corny and hints at a needless and unnecessary romance. 

There are sobering moments that do bring it back home with some unexpected twists that did surprise, without spoiling, and once the group reunite, the film picks up after a drawn out hour. The land mine scene may have been corny, but was funny and suspenseful. There is a harrowing little touch when the group come across more than they bargained for, when they discover barrels of gold wedding rings and teeth. Clooney’s cigarette speech with the head German officer in charge of disposing the art was brilliant. We finally got to see Clooney come back to the fore and act well, after being quite absent. The pace quickens as the gang have to race against the clock to retrieve all the art before the Russians arrive. There is also a nice aside at the end with a fitting tribute. 

However, The Monuments Men felt more like an extension of the Points episode in Band of Brothers and unfortunately that got the point across a lot better and a lot more riveting in a condensed hour. I couldn’t help feel that in a time of death, loss and destruction, who would care about some pieces of art? Understandably, it is true that by removing the history and culture, you are truly removing the people but it seems less important to the lives that were already lost. A watchable, if drawn out, corny and predictable affair that may get lost like the art in the plethora of war classics before it. 2.5/5

Currently ranks #86 out of 142!