Thor: Ragnarok (2017) – Movie Review

thor ragnarok

The ultimate cinematic dilemma is how to make the next comic book movie stand out from the (many, many) others? The brilliant answer comes from director Taika Waititi and co-writers Eric Pearson, Craig Kyle and Christopher Yost – a screwball superhero action film that delivers not only intense action scenes, but also a compelling villain for the ages in a movie that may be the funniest of 2017.

For those who prefer their superheroes dark and brooding, you’ll be in for a shock. Prepare for Jeff Goldblum as the Grandmaster – the most polite villain we’ve seen in awhile, and one who looks to be straight out of the 1960’s “Batman” series. Chris Hemsworth as Thor is one of many returning actors/characters, only this time he really gets to flex his comedic timing on top of his Thunder God biceps. His love- hate, trust-no trust, see-saw relationship with brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) is in full force, as is the rivalry and banter with The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo). It’s certainly more in line with Guardians of the Galaxy than the previous Avengers installments.

As much fun as Goldblum brings to the party, this is really Cate Blanchett’s show. She is the frightening Goddess of Death, long-lost sister of Thor and Loki, and daughter of Odin (Anthony Hopkins). With a costume which is very faithful to the comics (and we get a few versions throughout the movie), Hela’s enormous powers are powerful enough to destroy Mjolnir with little effort, not to mention much of Asgard and key players within.

Of course, with that title, we know that the story revolves around what could be the end of Asgard. Joining in the fun are: Idris Elba who is back as Heimdall, Tessa Thompson as a master of one-liners Valkyrie, Karl Urban as Skurge – rewarded with a wonderful exit scene, Ray Stevenson returns as Volstagg, and rocky alien Korg who is voiced by director Waititi. Fans of the series will be happy to know other familiar faces pop up periodically – one especially magical sequence teaches Loki a quick lesson.

In addition to the main rescue story line, the powerful villains, and crazy aliens, there are numerous nods and tributes to well known storylines from the comic books (notably Planet Hulk, and Fantastic Four), and a hilarious early stage play with three cameos that sets the tone for the rest of the movie.

Special acknowledgment goes to director Taika Waititi for adeptly taking the comic book film world down a different path. While he’s mostly known for his comedic projects like Hunt for the Wilderpeople, What We Do in the Shadows, and his work on the brilliant but short-lived “Flight of the Conchords”, this is still very much a Marvel movie, with the visible fingerprints of Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, and Jack Kirby. It’s also a fantastic adventure film that sets the stage for 2018’s Avengers: Infinity War, while also featuring the best use ever of Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song”. This is without a doubt a great addition to the MCU.

 

9 out of 10 stars

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The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014) – Movie Review

grand budapest hotel

A former lobby boy, Zero Moustafaw tells a story to a writer, who tells this tale of a hotel, it’s guests and the outstanding concierge Monsieur Gustav H to us. It’s about (blind) loyalty, duty beyond the required, greed, stupidity, love for women in any age … and the power of influence when treating persons with the grace of that person’s beauty.

It’s (black) comedy at its best. The ridiculous becomes brilliant through cleverly constructed dialog, impeccable executed timing and timbre change. Many camera shots are little art pieces like in Moonrise Kingdom, beautifully constructed with cuts that ad to the timing, visually. The production design takes you from the shabby to over-the-top kitsch to breath taking wooden interiors and mountains. The CGI reminds me of Monty Python, deliberately unrealistic which is part of the humor yet makes it at the same time oddly believable.

I’ve never thought of Ralph Fiennes as a comedic actor, however he convinced me here. Tony Revolori as young Zero Saoirse Ronan as Agatha are remarkable. And then there were: F. Murray Abraham, Jude Law, Tilda Swinton, Adrien Brody, Willem Defoe, Jeff Goldblum, Edward Norton, Léa Seydoux, Harvey Keitel, Tom Wilkinson, Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, (I think I saw George Cloony for 2 sec)… Just to be able to get all these heavy weights to sign up for minor roles, demands respect. To get them all set their mark in a few minutes, is awesome.

“He retained the illusion with remarkable grace.” is one of the last lines in the movie. It describes both the main character and also the heart of the movie. This is a real 9 – beauty combined with dirt, great cinematography with dry jokes and art with silliness. If you like to be amazed, see something out of the ordinary, are able to go with a flow, you will LOVE this movie.

 

9 out of 10 stars

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