Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Thor: The Dark World

  • Released Internationally on 30/10/13
  • Released in Malta by KRS on 30/10/13

Review (29/10/13)

3-word review: London gets hammered.

Possibly better than the first one

I was a bit wary of this sequel. Kenneth Branagh’s Thor was entertaining enough, but it felt a bit heartless, and focused too much on the pomp and circumstance of the world of Asgard (where Thor and his dad, Odin, are from). When the action shifted down to earth for something us viewers could relate to, it was small towns in the middle of nowhere, and hardly scenes befitting a movie of that scale. Thankfully, these flaws have nearly all been addressed this time around.

Not all Dark

The prologue is rather grand, with battle scenes reminiscent of the Lord of the Rings prologue, and although I usually prefer the earthly action to the other-worldly lore in these films, the backstory and mythology don’t outstay their welcome. We’re introduced to a new nemesis - the silent and scary Malekith, portrayed with not many words but a lot of presence by Christopher Eccleston (Elizabeth). The fine details of his history and masterplan are not too important, of course, but the film does require a rather hefty suspension of belief for us to grasp that when instructed to hide a great evil power somewhere in the universe where nobody would find it, someone hid it in an abandoned building in a London industrial zone. But anyway, things move swiftly to the action.

Loki Loki Loki

For all his posturing and unsightly prosthetics, the new bad guy still pales in comparison to the hugely effective Loki (Tom Hiddleston), who post-Avengers gets to walk that delightfully ambiguous line between friend and foe, and who makes very good use of his screen time in this instalment of the Avengers saga. His chemistry, or lack thereof, with his adoptive brother Thor allows for a few well-conceived scenes and a good dose of Asgard family dynamics.

Between two worlds

Thankfully, the Asgard scenes, as well as those in other worlds, are regularly interrupted by down-to-earth action that help keeps the film somewhat grounded and relevant. The focus is mostly on present-day London, with the Shard getting the sort of attention cinema used to give to Big Ben, and the recent ‘walkie talkie’ building also making an appearance. The film’s final confrontation takes place on British soil, and is rather enjoyable if you manage to ignore all the ridiculous scientific explanations that Jane (Natalie Portman) and her team insist on shouting out intermittently.

In the end

Chris Hemsworth (Rush) manages to keep Thor likeable and reliable, despite him not being half as interesting a hero as Iron Man, or even Captain America for that matter. The film slots nicely into the Avengers timeline, and doesn’t take itself too seriously, with even an amusing cameo or two, as expected. Director Alan Taylor has previously done an excellent job directing Sopranos, Mad Men and even Game of Thrones episodes; and here he shows that he can handle an event film like this one. It’s nothing too refined, but at least it’s good fun. And of course, make sure you sit through the end credits.




Monday, October 28, 2013

Captain Phillips

930353 - Captain Phillips

  • Released Internationally on 10/10/13
  • Released in Malta by KRS on 18/10/13
Mini-Review (29/10/13)

3-word review: Hanks excels again.

Some of the best films ever made focus on a single person’s struggle, and Tom Hanks has portrayed that person on numerous occasions. He’s back in top form here, as the true life captain of the first American cargo ship to be captured by Somali pirates back in 2009, before these hijackings became regular news. Director Paul Greengrass (United 93, The Bourne Ultimatum) gives us a simple, no-frills look at the unfolding events, and Hanks perfectly portrays the ordinary man caught up in extraordinary circumstances. His powerful acting starts off subtle and unremarkable but ends in a powerful finale as the hostage situation reaches its conclusion. Credit must also go to the supporting cast, especially his captors – clearly desperate and unprepared, but led by the chillingly calm Muse (impressive first time actor Barkhad Abdi). It’s a moving story of confrontation and survival, and a great piece of cinema.




Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The World’s End

The World's End
  • Released Internationally on 18/07/13
  • Released in Malta by KRS on 23/10/13

Review (08/10/13)
3-word review: Sadly, too silly.
The Cornetto Trilogy
I am a huge fan of the first two instalments of this unofficial trilogy, which features different stories set in different times, but sharing a certain level of craziness and black humour. They're all written and directed by Edgar Wright (who also brought us the wonderful Scott Pilgrim), and they all star the duo Simon Pegg (Star Trek) and Nick Frost (The Boat that Rocked), who have great chemistry on screen. The first, Shaun of the Dead, was a near-perfect humourous take on zombie films; and the second, Hot Fuzz, was a wildly entertaining homage to over-the-top action films from the 80s. This third outing unfortunately falls short of its predecessors, especially in the second half.

The World's Start
Things start of promisingly, with a fast, joyous and entertaining prologue sequence that introduces us to five old friends and the legendary antics they got up to a few decades ago. Their present day incarnations are all rather serious types, except for the loose cannon Gary King (Pegg), who never quite grew up. The one thing he has going for him is his infective enthusiasm, and he manages to convince the old gang to head back to their hometown and try to complete the famous pub crawl that they attempted many moons ago. Apart from Pegg and Frost, the central quintet is rounded off by Martin Freeman (The Hobbit), Paddy Considine (The Bourne Ultimatum) and Eddie Marsan (Happy Go Lucky).

The Nostalgia factor
Of course, as happens with nostalgia, things aren't as amazing as everyone remembered them to be, and the film offers some half-hearted commentary about the unfortunate gentrification of British pubs, and the rose-tinted distortion of childhood memories. It is, however, fun to watch the central five warm to each other as the pints get consumed and the stories start coming out. When the levels of testosterone get too high, Rosamund Pike (Die Another Day) waltzes in to offer a female touch, and she triggers off a whole slew of further memories.

The above lasts all of forty minutes, and is fun to watch, in a warm, non-demanding way. Then, as expected, all hell breaks loose. I was, of course, expecting this, since the film's title is evidently not just the name of the pub crawl's final pub, and in Hot Fuzz, the sudden change in tone of the film half-way through was marvellously executed and great fun. But here, things manage to get too silly. I am fully aware that 'silly' was a core element of the previous two films, but there's a limit. This film crosses that limit, and hands us a second and third act that are too ridiculous to sustain any prolonged interest. It's a pity, because in between all the carnage and nonsense there are a handful of good jokes and potentially touching moments. But it's all drowned in a big, expensive-looking mess.

In the end
The messy ending is made even worse by an epilogue scene that adds nothing and doesn't make much sense, and by the time the end credits rolled I had nearly forgotten the high hopes and warm feelings I felt throughout the first part of the film. Thankfully, the three films in this 'trilogy' are separate entities, so in future years we can still look back at Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz with the respect and affection they deserve, whilst hopefully forgetting about this one.