Saturday, 30 April 2011

Film #36 Thor

Back to the movies - and here's the second superhero movie of the year (the first being the disappointing Green Hornet) . Sadly, it's not an improvement - but read on:

This is where, like any house-trained reviewer, I give a bit of a spoiler-free plot rundown - but here's the film's main problem: it's actually quite hard to say what it's about. OK, so in the most basic terms its about the character of Thor and the universe he inhabits but this is all so much exposition. So there's an ancient war with some frost giants and then there's tensions between the headstrong Thor and his scheming brother Loki and daddy Odin, so Thor is banished to Earth along with his mighty hammer, where he runs into Natalie Portman (an astrophysicist - and somewhat artificial love interest - here) and her team, and then there's a bit of an action showndown, but... really the whole film feels like a set-up (and maybe it is - could this really just be an expensive way of establishing the role of Thor in the forthcoming Avengers flick?).

There's a fair bit of fish-out-of-water comedy too, with Thor's hale-fellow-well-met speech patterns (though, happily, everyone in the nine realms seems to speak English) and Viking behaviour clashing somewhat with the tone of sophomoric detatchment that is the common timbre of modern Hollywood superhero films. This doesn't really sit too well with the earnestness that characterises the rest of the film though, and ultimately just serves to underline the disjointed plot.

Plus points: the effects are tremendous. I'm generally not a huge fan of CG (the human eye can always detect that it isn't real) but it is used to spectacular effect in Thor (and here I should confess that I watched this in 2D rather than 3D).Thor's realm of Asgard as realised with great imagination and panache, though the battle sequences, particularly early on, are too jumpily cut to feel genuinely involving.

Performances then? Chris Hemsworth (Thor), while undoubtedly an aryan superhunk, is an actor of limited abilities (practically winking at the camera every time he does something Thor-like and cool) and is shown up by his on-screen brother Tom Hiddlestone. Natalie Portman - who is on a bit of a dreadful run at the moment - adds nothing to an already one-dimensional character (insert 3D gag here). Vets Rene Russo & Stellen Skarsgard text their performances in; Anthony Hopkins manages to add a little gravitas as Odin. Idris Elba is wasted as gatekeeper Heimdall, a long way from Baltimore. We get brief cameos from Jeremy Renner and (post-credits) Samuel L. Jackson, both as future Avengers team members.

In short - great effects, some decent ideas but terribly plotted, uninvolving and dull.


Friday, 29 April 2011

Multiplex Slut - back in the saddle! Plus films #31-35

Well, I'm back from East Africa and it appears that I've received an unlikely and welcome (if short-term) contract extension at my real job! So let's get back down to it. I've missed a fair few films in this month-and-a-bit hiatus - I'll see what I can do re. catching up on DVD, though frankly I hope I'll be forgiven for not seeking out Hop, Beastly or Winnie The Pooh - and I'm also on a mini-break down to London next weekend to complicate things even further. Grrr, real bloody life. Give me the movies any day.

To come this week, I'll be trying to get to Thor, Source Code, Limitless, Insidious, Cedar Rapids, Rio and - how could I not? - Fast & Furious 5. But here's a (very) quick roundup of the few films I did manage to see over the last few weeks.

#31 The Adjustment Bureau & # 32 Unknown - both highly forgettable, pseudo-intellectual thrillers starring good actors treading water. ****4/10 & ****4/10

#33 Submarine - a charming and assured debut from Richard Ayaode, who I have hitherto found rather irritating. Funny and well-acted; knowing, but not too knowing. ********8/10

#34 Fair Game - better than most of the rather shrill reviews suggested. A pretty tight political thriller of the old-school - not in the league of All The Presidents Men or even The Insider but competent and well-crafted all the same. ******6/10

#35 Scream 4 - the significant other, with whom I saw this, loved it, though I wasn't so sure - aren't we post-postmodernism now? Got a fair few screams from the largely teenage audience though, and a few laughs from the non-teens, so not all bad. *****5/10