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Movies Review

Movie Review – Ghostbusters (2016)

I’m happy to report that I have seen the new Ghostbusters movie and did not, in fact, experience the death of my childhood.  We all enjoyed it quite a bit.  Sure, there’s a few bits that don’t land but that’s true of the original Ghostbusters if you can manage to view it without the rose-tinted glasses of nostalgia.

The story focuses mostly on Melissa McCarthy’s Dr. Abby Yates and Kristen Wiig’s Dr. Erin Gilbert, who used to work together and wrote a book on the paranormal.  Gilbert distanced herself from it, while Yates continues to research ghosts.  They come back together when Yates puts the book up on Amazon, threatening her tenure at Columbia.  Of course, they DO end up both finding a ghost and losing their jobs which leads to the creation of the Ghostbusters.

Abby’s new partner, Dr. Jillian Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon), comes along with her as the engineer who builds the ghostbusting equipment, and Leslie Jones’s Patty Tolan joins up after she encounters a ghost in the subway, bringing her knowledge of New York City (and her uncle’s hearse) to the team.  Chris Hemsworth rounds out the main cast as Kevin, the extremely dim-witted but hunky secretary.  I thought all the leads were great, especially Kate McKinnon as you no doubt have heard by now.  Holtzmann is wonderfully weird, and my daughters both loved Abby.  I even saw my son, who was totally “Why did they remake it with GIRLS?” before smiling and laughing at multiple points.

The original Ghostbusters cast (those still with us, RIP Harold Ramis) all had fun cameos, especially Bill Murray as a James Randi-esque paranormal debunker. There’s a bit of off-color humor, though not nearly as much as the original, about on par with Guardians of the Galaxy.  There’s a lot of fun to be had here, so if you haven’t seen it yet, it’s worth a trip to check it out.

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Movies Review

Movie Review – Thor: The Dark World

The first Thor movie (am I the only one who feels like THOR should be all-caps?  or maybe in that ‘Asgardian’ font they use in the comics?) was a solid effort despite some cornball moments.  The real star turn from that was for Tom Hiddleston’s Loki however, and the fact he got to villain it up in The Avengers shows that.  So yeah, this was always destined to be a Thor/Loki team up.  What’s surprising is how well both characters come out in the end.

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Loki, you magnificent bastard.

What always causes problems for potential Thor movies is the plot – being the most cosmic and mystical of any current MCU property, it’s not hard to see why.  In this, a power called the Aether is released inadvertantly by Jane Foster, in her efforts to find a way reach Thor.  Oops.  Lucky for her, Thor and the Asgardians have reforged the Bifrost and he can take Jane to be looked at by their healers.  Odin is having NONE OF THIS as Thor should be with Sif, man.  Sif herself is certainly on board with this, though it never develops into a real love triangle – Thor is all about Jane.  Frigga (Rene Russo gets to do stuff this time!) is more open to Jane.  The awakening of the Aether also brings the villain of the movie out of a sort of suspended animation – Malekith the Accursed.  In a flashback we are shown just HOW VILLAINOUS he is when he lets the majority of his people, the Dark Elves, get slaughtered by Asgard when the Aether is kept from him.  Christopher Eccleston does it well enough, but it has to suck to be second fiddle to the Thor and Loki show.  By the way, I want to single out Idris Elba’s Heimdall as well.  He’s by far the coolest looking character, and like Frigga, has more to do.

Like the first Thor movie, there’s some genuinely funny moments, some solid father/son, mother/son angst, good battles, and the twist and the end…well, if I say more, it’ll be spoiled, and you will NOT want that.  Better than the first, and really, stay through the credits.  You should know that by now, right?  I got a real kick out of this, and you will too.

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Featured Review

More on Thor: Come ON, Roger

Roger Ebert is one of the few critics I play attention to.  I don’t always agree with him, but he thinks really hard on even the silliest movie he has the misfortune to see.  That is, most of the time.  He didn’t review Thor officially, but mentioned in his ‘Journal’ today.  I can understand him not being familiar with the source material – neither am I, really, as I never read Thor’s standalone books – and it’s really not necessary for this movie.  Most of what you need to know is laid out for you, and if you don’t get that the ‘Barton’ dude carrying a bow is a reference to Hawkeye, so be it.  You’ll figure it out later.  But check this:

In the arena of movies about comic book superheroes, it is a desolate vastation. Nothing exciting happens, little of interest is said, and the special effects evoke not a place or a time but simply…special effects.

A ‘desolate vastation’??  I might save that for Elektra but Thor wasn’t a bad movie.

Thor to begin with is not an interesting character. The gods of Greek, Roman and Norse mythology share the same problem, which is that what you see is what you get.

This I agree with, but I thought there was enough interest with the byplay between Thor and Odin, and Thor and Loki.  Different strokes.

The land (sphere? state of mind? heaven?) known as Asgard is described in Norse mythology as being near Troy, or perhaps in Asia Minor.

Uh, in the MOVIE, it was explained pretty clearly ‘where’ Asgard is and how it connects to the other realms.  Roger also missed both the scientific description of the Bifrost and Thor’s own description of it, as that confused him too.

Later there’s a meteoric event in which Thor’s hammer hurtles to earth and becomes embedded so firmly that it can’t be pulled lose by a pickup truck or even the federal government.

Again, there’s source material that could help with this, but I thought it was made pretty clear that only someone WORTHY of wielding Mjolnir could lift it.  “Whoever wields this hammer, if he be worthy, shall possess the power of Thor.”  You hear that, you see everyone NOT lifting the hammer, you get it, right?

Thor luckily speaks English and Jane and her friends take him to the local diner, where he eats lots of Pop Tarts and, when he finishes his coffee, smashes the empty cup to the ground. “We don’t do that,” Jane explains as if to a child, and advises him to simply order another cup, after which he apparently absorbs human behavior and the movie drops the Taming of the Thor angle.

Yes, he speaks English.  As a god-like alien whose people have traveled to 9 different planets over thousands of years, he might’ve learned it.  If you’re wondering how he eats and breathes…

The three scientists are thin soup. Jane flirts demurely with Thor, Darcy stands next to her and does nothing very important, and Dr. Sevig regards them gravely and looms slightly above a low-angle camera while looking on with wise concern

This I agree with, but I think both of the ladies are pretty cute, and Dr. Selvig does his job okay.  Always seems out of breath, though, he should see a doctor.

Superhero movies live and die on the quality of their villains. “Thor” has a shabby crew. The Frost Giants spend most of their time being frosty in their subzero sphere of Jotunheim and occasionally freezing their enemies.

Admittedly, the Frost Giants didn’t impress me, not seeming ‘giant’ enough.

Thor’s brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) is dark-haired, skinny, shifty-eyed and sadly lacking in charisma.

The Trickster god, he does a solid job of manipulating everyone, but he’s not a match in a direct fight, so he doesn’t.

These villains lack adequate interest to supply a climactic battle, so the plot provides a Metal Giant, sends him to the New Mexico town, and has him blast fiery rays that blow up gas stations real good but always miss his targets. He is apparently stopped by a sword through his spine, but why does he need a spine since when his mask lifts we can see his head is an empty cavern?

The Destroyer is stabbed by a spear, and doesn’t get killed by it.  Just wrong.  Look, there’s more here that doesn’t make sense but I guess I expect more from Roger Ebert.  I don’t expect you to read years of back issue comics to understand a comic book movie, but that’s not required here.  Just watch the movie.  It’s not the best comic book movie, but it IS a good one.

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Featured Review

Movie Review – Thor

I went and saw Thor at the IMAX 3D last night, solid, enjoyable movie.  I was never a fanboy of the Thor comic, mostly only reading it when it came in the big bulk packs that I bought, but I’m glad I went to see this movie.  This is normally where I’d explain who Thor is and give the basic rundown on how he came to be, but I will link the Marvel wiki instead.  I liked the way they are trying to integrate the more fantastical heroes of Marvel with the more real-to-life  ones.  I’ll never understand the power balance between the groups, but then again, the comic writers themselves have that problem too.

Chris Hemsworth has bulked up seriously and definitely looks the part of a god.  The fighting style used for Thor fits as well, big, brutal strikes.  The power of Mjolnir seems well represented, summoning lightning, smashing giants and causing mayhem.  Loki (played by Tom Hiddleston) is a decent villain, it’s a not easy to have a baddie that ‘fights’ mostly with words, manipulation and illusions but that is why the biggest fights are against Frost Giants and the Destroyer.

Natalie Portman ably plays Jane Foster, Thor’s earthly love interest who is researching (unbeknownst to her) the end point of the bifrost, the rainbow bridge that connects the various realms together.  She’s a bit of a maverick, and has a tendency to hit Thor with her van.

There’s a good bit of humor (as there should be for a comic book movie in my opinion), though a few of the jokes fall flat.  There are plenty of in-references if you are a comic fan, though I had to look some of them up, having little experience with the more fantastical books in the Marvel lineup.

If you are a comic book fan, see it.  If you are a Branagh fan, see it if only to contrast it to all the Shakespeare-related movies he’s put out.  It’s just a good movie, with a set-up after the credits for the forthcoming Captain America movie that had my more Thor knowledgeable friends buzzing.