Posts Tagged ‘Tom Hiddleston’

Neon Inspired Family Feud

Thor: Ragnarok

Director: Taika Waititi

Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Tom Hiddleston, Cate Blanchett, Anthony Hopkins, Jeff Goldblum, Idris Elba, Tessa Thompson, Benedict Cumberbatch, Karl Urban, Ray Stevenson, Scarlett Johansson, Luke Hemsworth, Sam Neill, Taika Waititi

New Zealand director Taika Waititi was Oscar nominated back in 2005 for his Live Action Short film Two Cars, One Night.

Marvel Studios recruited him to inject new life into the Thor films and that he certainly does with Thor: Ragnarok, a neon inspired family feud of mythical proportions featuring Thor played again by hunky Australian actor Chris Hemsworth along with his pesky brother Loki played by Tom Hiddleston and new addition to the family Hela played with vampish delight by Oscar winner Cate Blanchett (The Aviator, Blue Jasmine).

Thor returns to Asgard only to discover that Loki has banished Odin, their father to a virtual retirement home. Upon a brief visit, the brothers discover that Odin, wonderfully played with a sombre delight by Oscar winner Anthony Hopkins (The Silence of the Lambs) has got an elder daughter Hela who was banished from Asgard for being the Goddess of Death and wreaking havoc on the nine realms.

Cate Blanchett relishes her role as Hela, the Goddess of Death, inspired by Maleficent and certainly quite intent on destroying her defiant younger brothers.

Thor and Loki land up on a weird dystopian outer planet overseen by the demonic Grand Master, a superbly camp performance by Jeff Goldblum (Jurassic Park, Independence Day), who immediately instructs Thor to fight in a massive arena against a formidable beast: The Hulk. Enter Bruce Banner aka The Hulk, played with bewildering amusement by Mark Ruffalo (The Avengers, Foxcatcher, Spotlight).

Eventually Thor gets Loki, The Hulk and a hard-drinking Valkyrie played by Tessa Thompson last seen in the HBO series Westworld, to return to Asgard to defeat the demonic Hela who is assisted by a reluctant henchman Skurge played by Karl Urban (Dredd, Star Trek and The Loft).

The only criticism is that the middle section of Thor: Ragnarok detracts from the film’s central narrative, which is essentially a legendary family conflict.

Thor: Ragnarok is a fun-filled comic book film which thankfully does not take itself or the characters too seriously and is a clear indication that Marvel films are definitely trying to create memorable characters for the lucrative toy manufacturing market just before Christmas.

As with all the latest Marvel films, franchise opportunities abound. Thor: Ragnarok is light-hearted and hellishly entertaining. Audiences should look out for a great cameo by Benedict Cumberbatch reprising his role as the illusive Doctor Strange.

If audiences enjoyed The Avengers and the first two Thor films, then they will definitely savour Thor: Ragnarok which is comically inspired from another Marvel hit franchise, The Guardians of the Galaxy.

Thor: Ragnarok gets a film rating of 7.5 out of 10.

Where Myths and Science Meet

Kong: Skull Island

Director: Jordan Vogt-Roberts

Cast: Tom Hiddleston, Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, John C. Reilly, John Goodman, John Ortiz, Shea Whigham, Corey Hawkins, Tian Jing, Toby Kebbell, Jason Mitchell, Richard Jenkins, Thomas Mann

The allusions to Apocalypse Now and Joseph Conrad’s novel The Heart of Darkness are rife in newcomer director Jordan Vogt-Roberts action packed seventies set adventure film Kong: Skull Island.

Featuring an international cast including British actor Tom Hiddleston, Oscar winner Brie Larson (Room), John Goodman, Samuel L. Jackson, John C. Reilly and Tian Jing (The Great Wall), Kong: Skull Island wastes no time on characterization or dramatic build up but rushes straight into an adrenaline filled action film set at the end of the Vietnam war in 1973.

With a retro seventies soundtrack to match, Bill Randa played by John Goodman and Houston Brooks played by 24: Legacy’s Corey Hawkins get the go ahead from Senator Willis briefly played by Richard Jenkins (Eat, Pray, Love) to assemble a  military team and journey to a mysterious storm ridden island in the South Pacific on an exploratory mission.

The team consists of soldiers hanging for some more action after the American withdrawal from Vietnam including Preston Packard played by Samuel L. Jackson and Cole played by Shea Whigham (American Hustle) along with anti-war photographer Mason Weaver played by Larson and golden boy James Conrad, played by Hiddleston (Thor: The Dark World).

As they approach Skull Island and drop seismic charges on the lush and malignant landscape, the team soon discover that a massive beast is guarding the island from vicious lizards. That beast is King Kong, that giant gorilla last seen on top of the Empire State building with a blond in his palm. Reference Peter Jackson’s 2005 epic King Kong.

Director Jordan Vogt-Roberts cleverly wastes no time in cutting straight to the action as various teams on the island are separated only to be individually preyed upon by a variety of nefarious creatures including giant spiders. While Packard and his band of mercenary soldiers are keen on annihilating Kong, Mason and James stumble upon Hank Marlow, a crazed but good natured World War II pilot who accidentally landed on Skull Island back in 1944 and never left, even befriending the silent locals who worship Kong as their sole protector.

Marlow is superbly played by character actor John C. Reilly, a role clearly referencing Dennis Hopper’s frenetic photojournalist in Apocalypse Now without the looming intensity of a Mister Kurtz watching over his horrific empire. Reilly brings empathy to the role of Marlow, another clear reference to The Heart of Darkness and advises the more sympathetic team that Kong is not that bad. A fact which is vividly illustrated by Mason Weaver’s wonderful encounter with the gigantic beast.

Brie Larson gives a resilient performance as the only strong female lead in a basically all male film and has the best screen time with Kong, realizing that much like those brave soldiers hunting Kong, they are all as confused about this rapid reversal in the environmental food chain.

Kong: Skull Island is unadulterated adventure, punctuated with cool photographic stills of exotic ethnography to capture a unique and terrifying experience where myth and science meet.

With the help of a groovy seventies soundtrack and a stand out performance by John C. Reilly, Kong Skull Island gets a film rating of 7.5 out of 10. Highly recommended viewing.

 

A Poisonous Universe

Thor: The Dark World

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From Asgaard to Greenwich, Thor and his hammer are back in the Marvel sequel Thor: The Dark World, moving the action from the arid plains of New Mexico to the nine universes along with London and Stonehenge. The immensely successful Thor in 2010 directed by Kenneth Brannagh assembled a fabulously competent cast including Oscar Winners Anthony Hopkins (Silence of the Lambs) as Thor’s father Odin, King of Asgaard and Natalie Portman (Black Swan) as physicist Jane Foster along with Rene Russo as Thor’s mother Frigga and Shakespearian actor Tom Hiddleston as malevolent and destructive brother Loki.

Thor: The Dark World reassembles this cast along with Kat Dennings of Two Broke Girls TV series fame as the sharp talking Darcy Lewis for some comic relief, Stellan Skarsgaard as the mad scientist Erik Selvig seen running naked around Stonehenge and newcomer Christopher Eccleston as Malekith the evil Dark Elf who is bent on destroying all known universes through an ethereal substance known as Aether which has the power to envelope all worlds in eternal darkness constituting a thoroughly poisonous universe.

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Moving the action from sunny New Mexico in Thor to murky and grey England was a smart move for Thor: The Dark World, however this sequel whilst it has stunning visual effects but not quite to the same level as Zach Snyder’s Man of Steel, is certainly entertaining as superhero films go that the rival  Marvel studios are successfully releasing in quick succession after the huge commercial success of The Avengers and Iron Man 3.

Needless to say much of the action of Thor: The Dark World does not take place on earth so the plot is mostly action driven and there is naturally very little new character developments in the various CGI created universes with elegant and glossy Asgaard  taking the centre stage. Chris Hemsworth is naturally good as Thor, a role that will surely become synonymous with his name, but his real acting can be seen in films like Rush. Natalie Portman is fantastic and Anthony Hopkins is going through the character motions. Tom Hiddleston is brilliant as the ambivalently evil Loki set on revenge for his incarceration on Asgaard and look out for rising star Idris Elba as the celestial Asgaard gatekeeper Heimdall.

Basically Thor: The Dark World has stunning visuals, lots of action, a twisted plot without too much characterisation and basically retains its popcorn teenage audience that all the Marvel films are aiming for.

For fans of Thor, this glossy sequel not as tightly directed by Alan Taylor is thin on plot, and will not disappoint fans of the hammer wielding hunk who is part of the Avengers group. Watch out for a brief cameo by Chris Ryan as Captain America. The action is fantastic but not on the level of Pacific Rim or Man of Steel. Also starring Zachary Levi from Chuck fame along with Ray Stevenson and Jaimie Alexander. See Thor: The Dark World in a 3D cinema if possible.

Recapturing the Magic

Midnight in Paris

Owen Wilson has never been a brilliant actor. Mainly a comic actor and often cast in similar roles in a long series of American comedies from You, Me and Dupree to The Wedding Crashers. Under the right direction and script, Wilson is the type of actor that would shine. This is proven in Woody Allen’s simply delightful nostalgic film Midnight in Paris, which won him the 2012 Oscar for best original screenplay.

Wilson, like Jason Biggs and similar actors including Larry David plays a version of Woody Allen, a young idealistic  and neurotic playwright/author who is on holiday in Paris in the 21st century with his fiancée a wealthy American played by the effervescent Rachel McAdams. Wilson plays starry-eyed Gil who wants to recapture the Paris of the twenties, the enchanting city of lights as the epicentre of literary and artistic culture and bohemian ideas as it was decades ago. The Paris of Henry Miller, Pablo Picasso, Ernest Hemingway and Gertrude Stein. The Paris immortalized by F. Scott Fitzgerald in such novels as Tender is the Night.

Partly to avoid his annoying future in-laws, the hapless Gil strolls the streets of the French capital and by some magical twist at the stroke of midnight is transported back to the late 1920’s where his literary figures come to life. With real interaction with the artists and writers of the 1920’s and also of the earlier more elegant Belle Epoque, Gil is inspired to forgo all the promised commercialism of an America career and remain in gorgeous Paris,  a move that so many of his literary heroes did more than 80 years ago.

Midnight in Paris is a homage to Paris as an inspirational city not just for a whole generation of American literary greats, but Spanish artists such as Dali and Picasso but also filmmakers such as Luis Bruneul. Woody Allen deftly integrates a French and American ensemble cast including Oscar winner Marion Cotillard as Picasso’s muse, Adrien Brody as Dali, Allison Pill as Zelda Fitzgerald, Michael Sheen, Kathy Bates as Gertrude Stein and even Carla Bruni.

Moving away from his Manhattan obsessions, Woody Allen is clearly enchanted with such European cities as Paris, Barcelona and London completes his European set of films with Midnight in Paris, an equally brilliant companion to Vicky Christina Barcelona and Matchpoint, with each film not just capturing the essence of these cities but also the ambiance and social characteristics of its famed residents, whilst throwing an American hero or heroine into an essentially foreign continental culture.

 

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