Thor: Ragnarok

November 9, 2017 by  
Filed under Movies

Ragnarok is basically the Norse mythology version of the Apocalypse. I won’t get into the whole thing, because it can get pretty complicated, but it basically serves as the ultimate plot device of “Thor: Ragnarok”.

Kind of.

This is a Marvel film, and as we’ve come to know, these movies aren’t to be taken too seriously. They are cinematic comic books. Colorful, humorous, and full of action. All three have been strengths in the “Thor” series; and here, thanks to director Taiki Waititi (“What We Do in the Shadows”), it has been perfected.

“Ragnarok” begins with Thor (Chris Hemsworth) trying to thwart the impending prophecy by shutting down a demon named Surtur (looking like something out of “Lord of the Rings”). He thinks he’s stopped Ragnarok; but it’s only just begun. That’s thanks to the death of his father, Odin (Anthony Hopkins), which allows the re-emergence of Thor’s sister, and Odin’s first born, Hela (Cate Blanchett, looking amazing). Hela had been imprisoned, for her powers were getting out of control. But when Odin died, she was freed, and she can pretty much do whatever she wants–which is, of course, to control the world. Or destroy it. She is known as the Goddess of Death, so you can guess which choice she’d prefer.

Thor discovers that his adopted brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) is actually not dead, and is still up to his impish, deceptive ways. However, Thor realizes he can use this to his benefit to thwart his enemies, which besides Hela also includes a being known as the Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum, in an hilarious return to form). He rules a planet that Thor is cast away on, having lost his hammer thanks to a fight with Hela, and is pitted against the Hulk (eventually played by Mark Ruffalo) in a Roman-esque gladiator battle. Grandmaster oversees a junk planet, and scavengers like 142 (Tessa Thompson) can get money for catching beings to use as gladiators against Hulk, who is the Grand Champion.

Meanwhile, on Asgard, Hela has enlists a right-hand man, Skurge (Karl Urban, always looking unrecognizable), to be her Executioner, to any Asgardian who rebukes her. There is a rebellion happening, led by Heimdall (Idris Elba–when is not a badass?), who also has the protective Sword of Asgard.

Thankfully, they left out the ongoing subplot of Jane this time, because there is so much going on in this film, cramming that ill-fated love story back into the narrative would’ve been a big mistake. The writers would rather write funny battle scenes and dialog, and that’s just fine with me. There is also enough tension between 142 (who also turns out to be a former Valkyrie of Asgard) and Thor to make a working “relationship” arc. They do, however, have a nice cameo by another potential Avenger. It leads to the funniest line (unintentionally) by Loki: “I’ve been falling for 30 minutes!”

Thor has a lot to do in this film, and has a few quirky friends to help him, such as Korg and Miek, fellow gladiators; and the quirky villain Grandmaster adds to the already comic angle the film boasts throughout. It works well because you can tell how much fun the actors are all having. It plays it straight enough to know it’s not just a total clowning, but it certainly makes it entertaining.

Hela, who is played the hell out of by Blanchett, is as stock as you can get with villains, though. The one weakpoint of Marvel films, for the most part, is that they all follow the same stock plot and resolution. Here, though, they cram enough fun stuff in there that you can’t help but just smile throughout. This is a popcorn movie after all, and it does deliver. If you’re cynical enough to be tired of it, you probably want to step away from Marvel films from now on.

If you want to stick with them, though, just sit back and enjoy the ride. And…in this case, the soundtrack too!

Ah-ah, ah!

Ah-ah, ah!

My rating: :-)

Creed

December 1, 2015 by  
Filed under Movies

“Creed” is technically the seventh “Rocky” film, and it’s probably the best since the original “Rocky” in 1976. While “Rocky Balboa” was a great apology for “Rocky V”, “Creed” is a fresh start that begins a new legacy and starts to say good-bye to an old one.

The film opens up with Creed as a young boy, known as Adonis “Donnie” Johnson, who seems to be a magnet for fighting at the juvenile correctional facility he lives in. He’s taken in by the wife of Apollo Creed, who died in the mid-80’s and is not the mother of Donnie, as he was conceived by a woman Apollo was seeing on the side. Donnie (played by Michael B. Jordan as an adult) lives a decent life, and has a decent job, which he leaves as the boxing world beckons him, as his father’s shadow also haunts him.

Donnie doesn’t go by his last name Creed, he wants to establish himself as his own fighter and have his own name. He enlists Rocky Balboa (in a truly Oscar worthy performance by Stallone), who reluctantly agrees to train him, because he was such good friends with Donnie’s father. Donnie has to establish himself first, and has his first real professional fight which he wins. His real last name, however, is leaked, and Donnie is requested to fight a guy on his way out but still has something to prove. Ricky “Pretty” Conlan, a English fighter out of Liverpool (played by real life boxer Tony Bellew), is the one defending his title. Adonis must agree to change his last name to “Creed” in order to put himself on the ticket.

Of course, he accepts and of course there’s a big fight at the end. In the middle, we have a wonderful character study of Donnie maturing, but also finding himself close to Rocky and the friendship between the two is where the real strength of this film is. All of the training montages (because every “Rocky” movie must have one) are great, including my favorite that involves a group of rowdy bikers, and of course we are rooting heavily for Donnie to win his fight against Conlan. But he’s not the only one fighting something. Rocky is diagnosed with an early stage of cancer, and knowing what his deceased wife Adrian went through and lost her battle, he isn’t sure he wants to put the gloves on for that. Donnie makes him realize, however, there’s something to live for.

The other nice relationship is with Donnie’s neighbor, Bianca (well played by Tessa Thompson). She’s an up and coming musician (the music sounds much like trip hop, and reminded me of Massive Attack), and she seems to shut out most people, but she is interested in Donnie. The two of them have some sweet scenes together, and we very much feel like we’re seeing Rock and Adrian again–but these two do not go an ice rink and no turkeys are hurled into the snow.

The film is strong because writer/director Ryan Coogler wanted to make a “Rocky” picture personal to him, and he succeeds. The performance by Michael B. Jordan is also strong, and he makes an appealing character much like Stallone did with Rocky for all those years. We might yet see a new series of “Creed” pictures. I think the formula can sustain itself if the story and characters can continue to grow. It’s always a pleasure to see Stallone play a good role, and Rocky has always been my favorite.

There are nice homages to the series, including a brief cameo by Cuff and Link; and Donnie receives a pair of trunks in the style of his dad as a gift from an important person in his life that also wants him to have his own legacy. This film achieves what Donnie did, in doing just that.

My rating::-)