Thor: Ragnarok – Review

Why wasn’t Thor in Civil War? That’s because he was dealing with his own problems searching for the Infinity Stones he saw in his weird dream in Avengers: Age of Ultron. His journey brought him to Muspelheim in front of Surtur in order to prevent Ragnarok, a prophecy that foretells the destruction of Asguard.

The movie opens brilliantly with the sort of jovial humour and full on action one comes to expect from Thor’s character (portrayed by Chris Hemsworth). Thor’s showdown with Surtur though is short lived and the God of Fire is defeated quickly. Because the film isn’t about him, it’s about Hela (Cate Blanchett), the Goddess of Death who returns from exile to rule Asgard and conquer more than just the nine realms.

Thor’s first confrontation with Hela sends him to Sakaar a world where those who are outcast and lost end up. It’s there he is captured by Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) and drafted in to the gladiatorial games overseen by Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum). To win his freedom, he must confront Grandmaster’s champion, which as you’ve all seen in the trailer is Thor’s ‘friend from work’, Hulk (Mark Ruffalo). Add Loki (Tom Hiddleston) and Heimdall (Idris Elba) in to the mix and you have your main cast in a movie full of characters from the previous Thor films and a few from other entries in to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Chris Hemsworth was in his element in this film, he wanted this film to be different for Thor and working under Taika Waititi is exactly what he needed. His character kept much of the charisma and charm that made him one of the MCU’s most loved characters and added more comedy, depth and strength to the character. Tom Hiddleston’s Loki has been through a lot and you can see that while still a trickster god, he has matured somewhat in to someone who cares. You can tell Cate Blanchett had a lot of fun portraying Hela, she hasn’t had much of a chance to play a character so completely evil and she pulls it off very well. She does seem to use many standard, ‘I’m an evil lady’ traits, (the standard; snake like movements, sexy walk, baring teeth, snarling, etc.) but it works for the Goddess of Death and Blanchett is great!

Tessa Thompson joins the Marvel Cinematic Universe as Valkyrie and she is a welcome addition. She is a tough Asgardian warrior who had faced Hela before. The fight against the evil goddess decimated her army and she is the sole survivor, she resides on Sakaar drinking, fighting and making a living for herself far away from Asgard. While they didn’t delve too much in to her character in Thor: Ragnarok, Valkyrie is set up enough that I’m looking forward to seeing more of her in Avengers: Infinity War and beyond.

I blame Transformers: The Last Knight for what I’m about to say next. I guess if there was one thing I didn’t enjoy about this film, it would be that I couldn’t take Anthony Hopkins seriously. His portrayal of Odin in Ragnarok is a far cry from the Odin we saw in Thor  and Thor: The Dark World. I feel that he was ready to say ‘dude’ at any moment. So thanks for that, Michael Bay.

Thor: Ragnarok is a beautiful looking movie and a nice departure from the first two Thor films who, while being colourful, still had a muted layer over the top. This film does not, and there is so much colour! The muted pallet that plagued many of the Marvel movies is hopefully gone for good. The VFX are really nice and some of the alien characters look fantastic – especially fan-favourite, Korg (voiced by Taika Waititi in a brilliant extended cameo).

Which brings me to the directing. Taika Waititi, who has brought us What We Do in the Shadows and Hunt for the Wilderpeople was not many people’s choice to direct a mega-franchise film. What we did expect was good quality humour and we got it. What we didn’t expect were great action scenes and stunning visuals, but we got that too! The story was developed by the team that wrote Thor: The Dark World while the screenplay was written by the man responsible for many of the Marvel One-Shots from a few years ago, Eric Pearson. Throw his comedy writing with Waititi’s comedic direction and we were bound to be in for a treat!

Thor: Ragnarok tells a concise story that while involving other members of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, is largely its own thing. The film does its job of putting Thor in the place he needs to be for next year’s Avengers: Infinity War but is still free to tell a very Thor centric story. Which is what the MCU has done reasonably well in the last few years (Captain America: Civil War excepted), but I understand that some set-up is required for the big-banner Avengers films.

Thor returns to the MCU in this brilliant film that combines the extravagance of the previous Thor films and the gritty lived-in feel of Guardians of the Galaxy movies and expands the galactic part of the universe. Thor: Ragnarok is funny, colourful and action-packed and probably the best entry in the Thor series of films yet!

Thor: Ragnarok: Above Average

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Geostorm – Review

I have been looking forward to this movie ever since I first heard about it in 2014. The premise was simple but it was already two separate films, A satellite engineer tries to save the world from a storm of epic proportions caused by malfunctioning climate-controlling satellites while his brother attempts to thwart a plan to assassinate the President. I mean how could any one say no to a movie like that? A few months ago, a teaser trailer for the film came out and it was exactly what I’d hoped for all these years. So did the film hold up?

Yes and No. I was excited for this film because right from the start I knew it was going to be a play by the numbers disaster movie coupled with a play by the numbers save the president movie, and it was. Tick. I knew that there would be some very clichéd moments and lines that would make you cringe. Tick. I also knew that no to expect anything wildly out there from a first-time director and that he was probably just going to go through the standard checklist for any film in this genre. Tick. Tick. Tick. But he missed something…

There were not enough storms in Geostorm. There were a lot of VFX shots of the space station that the main character was on but I would have loved to see more storms. Is it really a global disaster movie with only two tidal waves and one of those is then instantly frozen? In that respect the film falls a little short of expectations for me. While the B-story involving the President was silly and gave a lot of fun moments, it would have been good to see an actual Geostorm. The film went in to production in late 2014 and then went under re-shoots after poor test screenings in late 2015. So they had a long time in post-production and it shows. The film looks pretty good for the most part the odd weather effect was a little fake looking but you come to expect that from a movie like this. The re-shoots though didn’t impact on the film as it didn’t feel disjointed as productions like this can sometimes lead to.

Gerard Butler plays an American version of himself in this film, which is pretty standard for him these days and that’s fine, because we know what to expect. (This film did have me thinking what if they got Nicolas Cage to be the lead, it would have made the movie worse but in a great and entertaining way). The supporting cast including Jim Sturgess, Abbie Cornish and Alexandra Maria Lara all do play the role they needed to but not much more. The acting on whole is mediocre with no one really standing out, everyone does their job and within the world of Geostorm everyone seems to fit, even the “goddam President of the United States” (yes, that’s a line from the movie). Which brings me to the writing.

I usually describe these sorts of films a box-tickers or checklist movies, it does the job they need it to by using every trope people have come to expect from the genre. They might add one extra detail that might change it up a bit, but that is another feature of the checklist – Make it different. Someone I saw the film with said that in the conference room where they were developing the story, they must have had a no idea is a bad idea policy, because this film tries to be everything. The dialogue is clichéd, the characters don’t progress that much and they use the movie title far too much (although it is one of my favourite things when a movie does that).

I don’t want to criticise this movie that much because I think it know what it is and it knows what it wanted to achieve and for the most part, it did that. It is an example of a film that you can switch off to and have fun. (I feel I’ve said that about a lot of films this year, this movie is more fun than The Mummy and WAY better than Transformers: The Last Knight.) It’s not worth a $20 movie ticket, but if you can get a cheap ticket to see Geostorm take it! It is not a cinematic masterpiece, not in any way but it is an enjoyable adventure through the disaster movie tropes.

Geostorm (in my opinion, the current holder of Popcorn Movie of the Year), hits cinemas today! Don’t forget to leave a comment on what you thought of the movie!

Geostorm: Below Average (But in the best way.)

Jumaniji: Welcome to the Jungle – Trailer

When four high-school kids discover an old video game console with a game they’ve never heard of – Jumanji – they are immediately drawn into the game’s jungle setting, literally becoming the avatars they chose: gamer Spencer becomes a brawny adventurer (Dwayne Johnson); football jock Fridge loses (in his words) “the top two feet of his body” and becomes an Einstein (Kevin Hart); popular girl Bethany becomes a middle-aged male professor (Jack Black); and wallflower Martha becomes a badass warrior (Karen Gillan). What they discover is that you don’t just play Jumanji – you must survive it. To beat the game and return to the real world, they’ll have to go on the most dangerous adventure of their lives, discover what Alan Parrish left 20 years ago, and change the way they think about themselves – or they’ll be stuck in the game forever…

I like the concept that they’ve gone with here. Taking the Jumanji mythos and running with it, giving it a bit of modern flavour and most of all, having fun with it!

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle will open in December.

Okja – Review

A heart-warming commentary on the food industry and one girl’s fight to save her best friend, Okja is step forward in digital release films.

Okja is a Netflix production by South Korean director Bong Joon-ho. The film revolves around Okja, a Super Pig born from the first genetically modified Super Pig and raised by a farmer and his grand-daughter, Mija, in the South Korean mountains as part of an experiment/competition. After ten years, the Mirando Corporation – the owners of the Super Pig program come to take Okja, who has become the best Super Pig, and turn her in to food.

Mija follows the company to a holding facility to free her friend, she meets and is aided by the A.L.F. (Animal Liberation Front) who are trying to expose Mirando for the injustices and crimes they have committed against the Super Pigs.

Ahn Seo-hyun delivers a fantastic performance as Mija, a strong and brave character, and portrays the love and the connection between her and Okja beautifully.

Paul Dano plays Jay, the leader of the A.L.F and brings some nice complexities to his character. There is something about Jay and the A.L.F (including Steven Yeun, Lily Collins, Daniel Henshall and Devon Bostick) that felt very Wes Anderson-esque, the characters all had their little quirks yet were all committed to the cause. The animal rights group at some points felt like they were in a different movie, something slightly hyper-realistic.

Tilda Swinton plays Mirando Corporation CEO, Lucy Mirando a slightly bizarre character who is driven to make this Super Pig scheme of hers succeed. Swinton has an amazing diversity in the many characters she plays, Lucy Mirando is no exception. She was a character that felt like she was never quite real and that’s the point. She has a facade of a caring and exciting CEO but behind closed doors wants only to differentiate herself from her father and her sister and will lie and bumble her way to that goal.

Now lets get to one of the standouts of Okja, Jake Gyllenhaal as Dr. Johnny Wilcox. At the inception of the Super Pig Program, Johnny Wilcox, a TV star zoologist was attached to work with the farmers and eventually judge who would be crowned the best Super Pig. Now, ten years later, he has fallen out of the spotlight and is now a washed up pawn for the Mirando Corporation who has had to make some moral compromises in the time he has worked for the company. Towards the end of the film, the reality really sets in on Wilcox bringing out a perfect example of why Gyllenhaal should play the Joker in the DCEU instead of Jared Leto.

The visual effects used to make Okja were fantastic, It was believable for majority of the film. She’s a cute Super Pig, so are her friends, the Super Pigs are sweet and passive creatures, which makes the Mirando Corporation’s practices all the more heartbreaking.

Okja is a unique film that wants you to think about where your food comes from and see through the spin that multi-national corporations try to sell you. With out revealing too much about the plot of the film, it’s also an example that while these companies may hit road blocks, the corporate machine can still carry on.

This film was produced by Netflix and has faced some criticism from traditional cinemas and critics before the film had even been seen.

Okja had its world premiere at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival on May 18, 2017. The film was met with boos, mixed with applause, during its premiere at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival, once the Netflix logo appeared on screen and again during a technical glitch (which got the movie projected in an incorrect aspect ratio for its first seven minutes). The festival later issued an apology to the filmmakers. However, despite the studio’s negative response, the film itself received a four-minute standing ovation.

Wikipedia

This is a step in the right direction for digital releases, there are many more notable directors and studios getting behind this sort of release and we can expect to see more high-quality original films coming out on Netflix.

Okja is a nice film with a talented cast and a big heart. It has a message but doesn’t beat you over the head with it. Purely and simply, its a bout a young girl who will stop at nothing to save her best friend.

Okja: Above Average

Cinema Forecast: June 29th, 2017

The House

Scott and his wife Kate team up with their neighbors to start an illegal casino in his basement to earn money, after they destroy their daughter’s college fund.

Director: Andrew Jay Cohen
Cast: Will Ferrell, Amy Poehler, Jason Mantzoukas

WARNING: THE FOLLOWING TRAILER IS A ‘RED BAND’. THIS TRAILER HAS ADULT THEMES.

The First Girl I Loved

Seventeen-year-old Anne just fell in love with Sasha, the most popular girl at her LA public high school. But when Anne tells her best friend Clifton – who has always harbored a secret crush – he does his best to get in the way.

Director: Kerem Sanga
Cast: Dylan Gelula, Brianna Hildebrand

Monsieur Chocolat

From the circus to the music hall, from anonymity to glory, this is the incredible story of Monsieur Chocolat, the first black artist of the French stage.
The duo he formed with Footit met with huge and popular success in Belle Epoque Paris, before fame, easy money, gambling, and
discrimination wore out their friendship and Monsieur Chocolat’s career. The film retraces the story of this remarkable artist.

Director: Roschdy Zem
Cast: Omar Sy, James Thierree, Clotilde Hesme

It’s Official: Ron Howard will take over directing the Han Solo project

The front runner of the choice of directors to take over from Phil Lord and Chris Miller on the untitled young Han Solo film has been confirmed by Lucasfilm. The announcement came in a press release on StarWars.com:

Lucasfilm is pleased to announce that Academy Award-winning filmmaker Ron Howard has been named director of the untitled Han Solo film.

“At Lucasfilm, we believe the highest goal of each film is to delight, carrying forward the spirit of the saga that George Lucas began forty years ago,” said Kathleen Kennedy, president of Lucasfilm. “With that in mind, we’re thrilled to announce that Ron Howard will step in to direct the untitled Han Solo film. We have a wonderful script, an incredible cast and crew, and the absolute commitment to make a great movie. Filming will resume the 10th of July.”

Howard has made some of the biggest hits and most critically-acclaimed movies of the modern era. Among his many films are Lucasfilm’s Willow, Apollo 13, A Beautiful Mind (winner of four Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director), The Da Vinci CodeFrost/Nixon, and Rush. He also narrated and produced the beloved comedy series Arrested Development, starred in George Lucas’ American Graffiti, and remains a TV icon for his roles in The Andy Griffith Show and Happy Days.

The untitled Han Solo film is slated for a May 25, 2018, release.

They still have about 3 weeks or so of production where Howard will have to review footage they already have and make the tough choices of what to keep and what to re-shoot, for which another 5 weeks have been scheduled. There could be some clashes in the future that the production will have to keep in mind with Emilia Clarke likely to return to filming for Game of Thrones (provided she doesn’t die in season 7) and Donald Glover to shoot Atlanta season 2 soon.

What will this mean for the film? Good question. Ron Howard is a safe choice and he will produce the best movie he can. He is a competent director who has work on a few average films in the last little while, the best recent film he has directed was Rush so we’ll see how we go. I can give you a proper answer in May next year.

The Fundamentals of Caring – Review

The Fundamentals of Caring is an indie comedy-drama that was distributed on Netflix. It’s one of those feel-good, feel-bad, feel-good-again movies, nice to just sit down and watch some time.

The film follows Ben (played by Paul Rudd), a retired writer who completes a course to become a caregiver. He gets a job looking after Trevor (Craig Roberts), and eighteen-year-old who suffers from Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Ben and Trevor go on a road-trip to see the worlds deepest pit. During the road-trip they meet many people and learn about each other, you know the usual.

Rob Burnett, the writer and director of this film adapted his script from a novel by Jonathan Evison titled ‘The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving’ and he did a good job too. It’s a fun film, the dialogue is tight and everything plot point is tied up either in an emotional or humourous way.

Joining Paul Rudd and Craig Roberts in the film is Selena Gomez, Jennifer Ehle and Megan Ferguson. All of these actors do a decent job. Megan Feguson plays a slightly weird pregnant woman who has some funny lines but it’s Rudd and Roberts that breath the most life in to the film.

This film isn’t anything amazing but it short sweet and enjoyable. Its something you can chill out and watch on Netflix when ever, but it is worth a watch.

The Fundamentals of Caring: Average

Phil Lord and Chris Miller fired from Han Solo anthology film

I didn’t write about this when the announcement was made because there wasn’t all that much information. Now we have a report from Variety that sheds more light on the situation.

Yesterday, Lucasfilm announced that 21 Jump Street and The LEGO Movie directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller had exited the untitled Han Solo production citing creative differences. Lord and Miller had also released a very co-operative statement. The film has been in principle photography since January this year.

Variety talked to an unknown source with knowledge of the production who said that the chemistry between the directors and Lucasfilm boss, Kathleen Kennedy was never right. The source went on to say that Lord and Miller also clashed with co-writer Lawrence Kasdan who has been heavily involved in Star Wars since Empire Strikes Back.

“Kathy, her team and Larry Kasdan have been doing it their way for a very long time. They know how the cheese is made and that’s how they want it made,” said the source. “It became a very polarising set.”

Kathleen Kennedy in her announcement stated that a new director will be announced shortly. There have been reports from Variety again and Deadline saying the Ron Howard may be the front running candidate for that new director spot.

Ron Howard would no doubt work well with Kennedy, Kasdan and Lucasfilm, he would tow the line and work well with the studio. However, Lord and Miller were hired for their comedic chops and it’d be interesting to see how what they have filmed will blend in with Howard’s product. Let’s also point out that Gareth Edwards suffered similar clashes with Kennedy during production of Rogue One – A Star Wars Story. Tony Gilroy was brought in to direct some of the re-shoots for that film.

I’m not concerned (yet) about these recent developments because of the issues that went down with Rogue One, and the film still ended up being an enjoyable Star Wars movie. I’ll be watching the developments of this production very closely.

The still untitled young Han Solo film is still slated for a May 25, 2018, release date. We will most likely see or hear updates from the upcoming D23 convention and/or Comic Con.

Cinema Forecast: June 22nd, 2017

Transformers: The Last Knight

In the absence of Optimus Prime, a war has commenced between the human race and the Transformers. To save their world, Cade Yeager forms an alliance with Bumblebee, an English lord, and an Oxford professor to learn the secrets of why the Transformers keep coming back to Earth.

Director: Michael Bay
Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Stanley Tucci, Isabela Moner, Josh Duhamel, Tyrese Gibson

You can read my review here.

Cars 3

Lightning McQueen sets out to prove to a new generation of racers that he’s still the best race car in the world.

Director: Brian Fee
Cast: Owen Wilson, Armie Hammer, Bonnie Hunt

Una

Una follows a young woman’s journey to reclaim her past. Fifteen years
earlier, Una ran away with an older man, Ray, a crime for which he was
arrested and imprisoned. When she comes across a photo of him in a trade magazine, Una tracks him down and turns up at his workplace. Her abrupt arrival threatens to destroy Ray’s new life and derail her stability. Unspoken secrets and buried memories surface as Una and Ray sift through the wreckage of the past. Their confrontation raises unanswered questions and unresolved longings. It will shake them both to the core. Una gazes into the heart of a devastating form of love and asks if redemption is possible.

Based on Scottish playwright David Harrower’s much celebrated, Olivier
Award-winning play Blackbird, Benedict Andrews’ UNA stars Academy
Award-nominated Rooney Mara (Carol, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo) and Emmy-nominated Ben Mendelsohn (television’s Bloodline, Animal Kingdom, Starred Up, Star Wars: Rogue One) as protagonists Una and Ray.

Director: Benedict Andrews
Cast: Rooney Mara, Ben Mendelsohn

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul

Greg convinces his family to take a road trip to attend his great grandmother’s 90th birthday as a cover for what he really wants: to attend a nearby gamer convention. Unsurprisingly, things do not go according to plan and Heffley family antics ensue.

Director: David Bowers
Cast: Alicia Silverstone, Tom Everett Scott, Alexa Blair Robertson

Transformers: The Last Knight – Review

I saw this film last night and since then I’ve been trying to work out what to say about it. I’ve been searching for some remote ounce of quality, some substance, something I liked about it, there isn’t anything. This movie is a terrible mess.

Transformers: The Last Knight picks up after 2014’s Transformers: Age of Extinction, Optimus Prime has left Earth to look for Cybertron and the Humans have decided to hunt down and kill or imprison all of the Transformers. Mark Wahlberg’s character, Cade Yeager lives with the remaining Autobots in a Junkyard. Organisations and individuals on Earth via satellites or just gut instinct know that the end of the world is coming.

From other films, we know that Transformers have been here since no doubt the beginning of time. This story primarily revolves around an ancient staff that was given to Merlin in the middle ages. This staff can destroy Earth and in turn, rebuild Cybertron. That’s the basis of the film and almost everything else that litters this two-and-a-half hour film is unnecessary.

I don’t know where to begin with this to be honest. The script should have been shredded as soon as it was printed. The dialogue is very bad, the Transformers constantly bicker with each other about senseless garbage, the humans are so often yelling at each other, again, about nothing. When the film quietens down, it’s either blatant exposition or garbage. At one point Cade (Mark Whalberg), tunes out some of Anthony Hopkins’ character’s dialogue. Almost every line delivered felt like the actors were reading directly off a script, with no emotion or emotion. Regardless of all this nothingness, the characters keep talking.

There are many story beats and elements in the film that did not need to be there. Let’s begin with Optimus Prime, you’ve probably seen the trailers and know that Optimus Prime has been brainwashed and goes bad – a main feature of the trailer. This was almost completely unnecessary to the film. Optimus Prime, despite being on every poster and featuring in every trailer, isn’t in the film much at all. More elements that were completely irrelevant to the plot include;

  • The young girl, Izabella (played by Isabela Moner, original character name – right?).
  • Almost all of the Autobots (that’s right, this Transformers movie is not about Transformers).
  • A weird flashback to WWII that lasts for all of maybe 2 minutes.
  • A Suicide Squad-esque scene where a few Decepticons are introduced with freeze-frames and title cards as Megatron lists his team.
  • Callbacks to previous Transformers films, a space ship on the Moon, the giant hole in one of the Pyramids of Giza and an awful way to bring Sam Witwicky and the Witwicky (previously known as Witwiccan) family going all the way back to Merlin (Get it? Wizard – Wiccan?).
  • Every ham-fisted attempt at comedy, sex jokes that fall flat, the annoyingly chatty little transformers that interject with a pointless quip and the amount the Transformers are needlessly crass or profane – as if the only thing the writers know about kids is that they find a robot saying ‘shit’ a lot funny.
  • and so many more…

The visual effects were good and pretty standard for a Transformers film. The only issue that the effects suffer is during fight scenes it can sometimes be difficult to determine which Transformer is fighting. But good visual effects can not save a movie with literally nothing else going for it. There was one thing that stuck out to me more than anything (though it did help distract me some times from what ever trash was going on), the aspect ratio. This movie was filmed in about three different aspect ratios, and these different aspect ratios change not between scenes, but between shots. The change in aspect ratios will change the amount of picture you see and the size of the letter-boxing or the black lines you see at the top and the bottom. One person will be filmed talking in IMAX and the reverse shot will be in standard ratio… and this happens in every scene – action scenes, dialogue scenes – EVERY SCENE. I don’t know how some film professional, weather they’re a producer or editor or something and think, “maybe they wont notice”.

Usually I cover other things in reviews like acting and direction or sound but there is everything in those areas are average and are very common to Transformers films. There’s standard Michael Bay direction, some military shots that weren’t too bad, but that’s what Bay does somewhat well and just like the visual effects, does not save this film. The sound brings the usual warp-y, chks and wubs you come to expect and a wide range of garbled ‘dialogue’ (which I would prefer to call noise) from the Transformers. The acting is forgettable and not worth talking about.

We will no doubt see more of these pieces of absolute garbage as there is a standalone Bumblebee movie coming out next year and an as yet untitled ‘Transformers 6’ in 2019. They shoe-horned in extra Bumblebee and a painfully blatant scene setting up the villain for the sixth film, so yeah they’re serious. Adding to the fact, this film will make a lot of money, all Transformers movies make crazy amounts at the Box Office because people everywhere go see it. I can’t even switch off in a movie like this, like I can with some others.

I very much want to give this a ‘ugh’ out of 5. There was nothing that could get this movie out of the dumpster it found itself in. From the first stupid line delivered by a drunken Merlin (yes, there is so much I haven’t mentioned) to the set ups for the next few films in the main story line to the shifting of the aspect ratios, this film was a sporadic mess.

Transformers: The Last Knight: Below Well Below Average