Thor: The Dark World (2013)

Thor 2Released: November 8, 2013. Directed by: Alan Taylor, James Gunn (post-credits scene). Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston. Runtime: 112 min.

When considering the story of “Thor: The Dark World,” it’s much better than 2011’s “Thor.” All I remember from that installment is snippets and sort-of the ending, and I remember it never really being clear who was the villain or not until after about an hour in. Otherwise, it’s forgettable – but Kenneth Branagh did a decent job at introducing the characters. This first sequel is able to get right into the story with a prologue, and there’s a trailer for “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” before the movie starts. (At my theatre, there’s a scene that indicates the movie’s starting – and I thought at first it was the beginning of the movie, but I clued in within a minute… I’m gullible, what can I say?!)

The main villain of the story is Malekith (Christopher Eccleston) who wanted to turn the world dark back in the Dark ages. This sparked a war between the Asgardians and his Kursed dark elves, and the Asgardians won, burying the Aether (the tool that would enable Malekith to make the world dark) where it would be difficult to find. Skip to the present after the events of “The Avengers,” Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is restoring order to the nine realms. He still longs to see Jane Austen (Natalie Portman) once again. Meanwhile, we find Jane back in London, who eventually picks up readings that might be a passageway to Asgard. It’s pretty cool, they find this sort-of vacuum thing in an abandoned building where they throw it down a staircase and comes down from above. The writers have fun with this. Anyway, this all leads to Thor and Jane being reunited, Malekith resurfacing, and Thor setting off on a perilous journey to save the earth.

I think Chris Hemsworth allows Thor to be the most charming Avenger, even if I’m more fond of the sarcastic wit RDJ brings to Iron Man. I like the comic relief in these Marvel blockbuster movies, and Kat Dennings is the main source – and Stellan Skarsgård gets some of the biggest laughs, after being relieved from Loki’s mind manipulations. Speaking of Loki (Tom Hiddleston), his role is a bit more complicated this time around because he is the unpredictable wild card here. He is also the main source of comic relief on Asgard. Natalie Portman is still as beautiful as ever and remains one of my favourite actresses working today – and I love it when she reminds me of that. She embraces the heartbreak of being away from Thor from so long, and also the awkwardness of not being able to tell people. One more comment on the cast: It’s great to see Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (“The Bourne Identity,” “TV’s Lost”) as Malekith’s main henchman, as a tough-as-nails Kursed dark elf.

Some of the wars that happen are a cool change of pace from the first film because more take place in the nine realms rather than on Earth, with the exclusion of the final battle, which is both entertaining and a bit distracting, and you’ll see what I mean when you see it. The distracting part makes it a bit goofier than I might have enjoyed – but it’s still entertaining. I like the Cambridge University setting, because if that was really true damage to the school, I’m sure students will be happy to have a few weeks off from repairs! The other landscapes are really awesome, and there are some really cool weapons used by the Dark Elves I’d like to use. Especially in a video game. Please?

With all the comic relief and simple story, the film has a lighter tone than one’s average comic book adaptation. It still has a good cast and the brotherhood relationship between Thor and Loki is an interesting one because they want to trust each other but they really can’t because Loki is always up to no good, or so it seems. Thor is a noble character who puts the world’s needs, and Jane’s needs before his own. But he doesn’t really have to worry about himself because he has that awesome hammer. This is an entertaining ride, so hop on if it sounds like your type of movie, and if you like humour in your action films. It’s a summer blockbuster treat for the winter months!

Score75/100

Red Dawn (2012)

Red Dawn

Release Date: November 21, 2012

Director: Dan Bradley

Stars: Chris Hemsworth, Josh Hutcherson, Josh Peck

Runtime: 114 min

Tagline: Heroes are made in America

Oh look, Chris Hemsworth is in a second movie this year where he goes to a cabin in the woods.

Jed Eckhart, an experienced soldier on leave, leads a group of teenagers to the forest as a way of escaping the North Korean soldiers that have just attacked their town. Soon enough, they form a terrorist group called the Wolverines, and they plan to take the town back from the North Koreans.

Directed by newcomer to the directing game, Dan Bradley, this is a remake of the 1984 cult classic of the same name (which I haven’t seen). Apparently, the only thing that is really changed is the invaders are North Korean, not the Soviet Union like the original. You may think that sounds like a promising story, but you’d be wrong.

The film opens with some compiled archive footage explaining a situation in North Korea where Kim Jong Il has recently died, and the people are furious for some reason. It just feels disorganized and it was a very dumb history lesson. It sort of sets the tone for the film and adds some context on what’s to come, but it isn’t easy to appreciate.

The plot has a fine pace, but there really isn’t any story at all. It’s just a series of events where The Wolverines attack North Korean forces, steal flat bread, meat and soda from a Subway, and just generally wreak havoc as a way to take back their town. The action comes around a lot, and that’s pretty nice, but that doesn’t leave any time for much character or plot development. The action is just a whole lot of explosions and lots of bullets being shot. For any lover of war violence, they’ll eat it up, but it certainly doesn’t measure up to something like the great action of Saving Private Ryan.

Sometimes my suspension of disbelief is really stretched. At some points, the North Koreans had perfect opportunities to shoot at the so-called Wolverines, but they didn’t take that golden opportunity. Or, they widely missed. Wouldn’t they have had military training? Who’s training them, Forrest Gump? “Just keep staring, and staring, and staring. That’s all I have to say about that.”
The dialogue is very, very poor. One character asks “Legit?” and he doesn’t even bother to say the full word. Another character says, “I’m not giving you dick!” The context, though, is when character asks the person to give him the gun, but he refuses and utters that stupid line. Who wrote this screenplay, a white thirteen year old wannabee gangster?

Red Dawn is filled with A-list and B-list actors who were fairly unknown when it was filmed in 2009. Since then, it has been stuck on the shelf, and it should have stayed that way. The action is non-stop, but that action is sometimes boring. One other poor thing about the film is the characters. They are one-dimensional, and I didn’t particularly care for any of them. Their motivations are to become heroes of the town and avenge the lives of their loved ones, and take their homes back. Some of them are particularly selfish, too. They are not easy to admire or respect, so when any of them gets killed off, the viewer could easily rub it off their shoulders and forget about it. Whenever the film tries to put in any character development, it’s pretty mediocre, and frankly, boring.

The list of Red Dawn‘s redeeming qualities is a very short one. The actors are great, but their source material is bad. There are some good action sequences, and there are some mediocre jokes to be offered (mostly from Jeffrey Dean Morgan and his buddies). That’s about it. The acting is bad and the cinematography is very shaky, and the storyline isn’t a thick one. Red Dawn is a poor action film, and there are much better action films in theatres right now. If you feel you must see it (probably because of Chris Hemsworth, Josh Hutcherson or Josh Peck), and that is something I discourage, go in expecting a generally poor feature with amateurish direction.

40/100

Snow White and the Huntsman (2012)

Snow White and the Huntsman

Release Date: June 1, 2012

Director: Rupert Sanders

Stars: Kristen Stewart, Chris Hemsworth, Charlize Theron

Runtime: 127 min

Snow White, the daughter of the late King, escapes from the clutches of the wicked Queen Ravenna after years of imprisonment. She has just escaped when the Magic Mirror informs Ravenna that Snow is the only one who could defeat her, because of her innocence and purity. If the Queen obtains and eats Snow’s heart, she won’t have to feed on any being’s life source ever again, and she will achieve immortality. The Queen sends a squad of men, led by the Huntsman (Chris Hemsworth), into the dark forest to get her back. When the Huntsman learns he is being played like a fiddle, he turns against the Queen’s men and teams up with Snow in the process. Meanwhile, Snow’s childhood friend, William, learns that she is alive and he sets off on the road to find her and offer some assistance to the situation.

Ah, Snow White and the Huntsmen, you fulfill your purpose, and you do it well. Snow White’s purpose is to offer a nice twist on the classic Brothers Grimm fairy tale, and it does just that. Almost so well, that I forgot what happened in the general source material (but that may because I haven’t seen it for a while), and this became a film of its own. It’s so convincing, that this may as well be the source material itself.

The character of the Huntsman is okay, because one could understand his motivations, but he wasn’t anything special. He was pretty sweet in war, and he’s likeable enough that one would be upset if he died. Hemsworth offers an okay performance at the same time, and says, “Hey! Forget Thor’s hammer, I’m pretty good with an axe, too!”

Ughck, why couldn’t the filmmakers have found a better person to cast as Snow White? Oh yeah, that’s right, Sanders wanted a good candidate to sleep with after the film finished. Seriously, Stewart is such a boring screen presence. As for the looks, she’s pretty fitting as Snow, but as for the acting skills and presence, not so much. What happened to her potential flare in 2002’s Panic Room? She has gotten so boring since that time, and she really should not have had the chance to be in another potential teen franchise. Please, Bella, stop it, and no one believed that phony accent (whatever the Hell it was) for a second. It’s sad that I liked her best when she was sleeping. Two battles were being fought in this one: the obvious one, Ravenna’s forces vs. King Magnus’ forces; but, there was also a not-so-obvious battle between Kristen Stewart and Sam Claflin (William), entitled “Who’s Going to End up Being more Boring?”[.] I think Claflin won, but not by much. That one scene where it was just those two, I almost fell asleep. The real person who truly shines through is the always-fantastic Charlize Theron. She’s just great and sometimes truly eerie as the wicked Queen Ravenna.

Most of the characters are just okay for me, Ravenna is the best. Snow White in the source material is great, but she isn’t as good now, mostly because Stewart is the face of her. The dwarfs were pretty great. There’s a number of known actors as the little people (like Ian McShane, Bob Hoskins, the great comedic presence Nick Frost, and Toby Jones). It was sort of cool how they made them look so small, too. I like the characters of the dwarfs, but I wasn’t a fan of the appearances. I just couldn’t help but pick on their hair. As a kid, their parents must have given each of them a bad haircut. And to add onto that, they went to Kindergarden class and a class bully took safety scissors and thought they were a hairdresser, and he made the hair even worse, and it never grew back. At least, that’s my theory.

Snow knows where it’s going, but at times it feels like it’s a struggle getting there. It does get there, but after some effort. I must add, the finale was great. It’s a little better than that battle scene of Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, but it pales in comparison to any battle scenes of The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

The make-up is great, the finale is great, and the characters were just okay. The action, when it comes, is purely great, and the human Mirror thing was actually very cool. Charlize Theron steals the show, and at times, she’s almost as ugly as she was in 2003’s Monster.

70/100

The Avengers (2012)

The Avengers

Release Date: May 4, 2012

Director: Joss Whedon

Stars: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Chris Evans

Runtime: 143 min

Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), the Incredible Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Captain America (Chris Evans) make The Avengers. This film is pretty sweet.

The Avengers assemble to face off against the god of mischief himself, Loki (portrayed by Tom Hiddleston).

What does The Avengers have? Awesome visual effects; great characters; great direction; not the best plot. I can’t think of any other villains that they could have fought against, well villains of these superheroes. Magneto or a Batman villain could have worked, but of course that goes out of their section of villains. I just wasn’t feeling the alien invasion thing. Though, the action was incredible – and it prevented the viewer from becoming bored. The gags were really funny, Iron Man and the Incredible Hulk added charisma to the film. The film casts a big box office shadow for upcoming super hero films like The Amazing Spider-Man and The Dark Knight Rises, so hopefully those don’t disappoint (I know those have came out, but I wrote this review a while back).

The only flaw of the film for me was the villain of the film, but the ensemble that is the Avengers is really great and the action sequences are really well done.

I really like the ensemble here, I’ve seen a minority of the films that led up to this (I’ve seen Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger, but still have to see Iron Man 2 – I couldn’t get into the first – and The Incredible Hulk).

My expectations were high, from hearing all of the awesome things about it, so I didn’t enjoy it as much as I wanted to.  And I also viewed the film in 2D and not 3D, in which it was made for, so that may have taken away from my enjoyment. Granted, the film is still better than one’s average super hero film and was still really enjoyable and not overly flawed.

90/100

The Cabin in the Woods (2012)

The Cabin in the Woods

Release Date: April 13, 2012

Director: Drew Goddard

Stars: Kristen Connolly, Chris Hemsworth, Anna Hutchison

Runtime: 95 min

Tagline: You think you know the story.

As I’m not very experienced at reviewing films just yet, I thought the best way for not spoiling that much of the film is by keeping it kind of short and sweet.

A group of young adults go for a getaway vacation to a, you guessed it, cabin in the woods; where things start out alright, but they soon turn into a wicked nightmare.

It’s quite admirable that this has some reminiscent themes of two extremely different films: Scream and The Truman Show.

It does have some delightful twists and turns and was a real pleasant and fresh surprise, and is the greatest horror gem of 2012 I’ve seen thus far. It’s one of those films where I walked out of the theatre and wanted to watch it again, and told all of my friends to see it, and searched the DVD release date (which by the way is September 18). If I had to pick a flaw I guess I’d saw the pacing was a bit off. All of the cast fitted their roles perfectly, so the casting director shall get a gold star from me. This film was filmed in 2009 and was put on the shelf because of budgetary issues and the studio wanted to convert it to 3D, but I’m so glad they didn’t do that because I would have hated to see this great horror flick to have potentially bad 3D effects.

The film stars Kristen Connolly, Chris Hemsworth, Anna Hutchison, Fran Kranz, Jesse Williams, Richard Jenkins, Bradley Whitford (that schmuck from Billy Madison) and a sweet cameo from a horror icon (seriously, don’t even do research, you’ll want to be surprised when you watch it).

You don’t want to miss this horror treat from the minds of Drew Goddard (Cloverfield) and Joss Whedon (The Avengers), and is Goddard’s directorial debut. It’s a must-see, has big scares can be really funny at times, and is the most original horror film I have seen since Scream.

90/100