New from the desk of The Movie Snob.
Thor: Ragnarok (B-). Of the making of comic-book movies, there is no end. But, if you’ve got a couple of hours to kill, you could do worse than seeing the third movie focused on second-tier Marvel hero Thor of Asgard (Chris Hemsworth, Snow White and the Huntsman). The story is the usual fare—a rising supervillain threatens massive destruction unless the heroic guy and his sidekicks can somehow save the day. And the fight scenes, spaceships, and explosions are also the usual dull, video-game-looking affairs.
So what’s to like? In a nutshell, it’s the comedy. I laughed out loud more times during this movie than in any number of straight-up “comedies” I could name. Fanboys may not appreciate the meta-jokes that poke fun at the silliness of the whole enterprise (like an offhanded joke about Loki’s goofy headgear), but I laughed every time. Weaselly Loki (Tom Hiddleston, Kong: Skull Island) is back and always fun to watch. Jeff Goldblum (The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou) is a hoot as the flamboyant impresario of a planet that looks like a giant garbage dump. As the villainous Hela, Cate Blanchett—a two-time Oscar®-winning actress for Blue Jasmine and The Aviator, don’t you know—chews the CGI with a vengeance and sprouts some mighty impressive antlers whenever she gets ready to kill a bunch of people. Plus there are fun cameos to watch for, and some other Avengers put in small or not-so-small appearances. This movie was directed by Taika Waititi, a New Zealander who also directed and starred in the vampire comedy What We Do in the Shadows. This movie was even funnier.
A new review from The Movie Snob.
Atomic Blonde (D). So I was shooting the breeze with a couple of guys at work, and we were talking about movies. Expecting no contradiction, I offered the opinion that Wonder Woman‘s Gal Gadot is probably the most beautiful movie star working today. To my amazement, one of my colleagues demurred. “Have you seen Atomic Blonde?” he asked. Recalling that this was a poorly performing spy movie starring the admittedly gorgeous Charlize Theron (Mad Max: Fury Road), I resolved to check it out.
Theron is gorgeous, but the movie is a mess. During the last few days before the fall of the Berlin Wall, a British super-spy-assassin (Theron) is sent to Berlin to find and recover a list of a bunch of spies from a KGB guy gone rogue. Her connection there, the local British spy chief, is a squirrelly guy played by James McAvoy (Atonement). A cute French spy played by Sophia Boutella (Star Trek Beyond) engages in some inappropriate spygames with Theron. Oh, and the whole thing is told by Theron’s character in flashback, so we’re constantly getting yanked back into a boring room in London where she swaps supposedly hard-boiled dialogue with John Goodman (Kong: Skull Island) and Toby Jones (Morgan). The highlights are the exquisitely choreographed fight scenes, and I must admit they are better filmed and more entertaining than the incomprehensibly cut gibberish you see in most action movies these days. But I had problems even with the fight scenes. I could suspend disbelief long enough to accept that Charlize Theron is such a supernaturally fast and agile fighter that she can defeat thugs two or three times her size simply because they can’t land a punch on her. But I can’t accept that she can actually absorb full-on body-blows from the same thugs and still keep up the fight. She may be a ninja, but come on, a supermodel-skinny woman is not going to get up after some of the punches she takes in this movie, no matter how much of a ninja she is.
New review from The Movie Snob.
War for the Planet of the Apes (B). And so the new Apes trilogy comes to an end. (Spoilers of the first two films follow.)
My favorite was the first one, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, in which we see how a medical experiment gone wrong makes apes superintelligent and kills most of humanity. The middle installment, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, was a solid if grim movie in which the apes and the surviving humans try to co-exist, with middling-at-best results.
The finale turns the grimness up to 11 as a human military band led by the Colonel (Woody Harrelson, The Edge of Seventeen) seems to be intent on wiping out the apes. Ape leader Caesar (Andy Serkis, Inkheart) decides to send most of his “people” on a quest for a safe haven while he and few trusted lieutenants set out to find and distract the Colonel. Along the way they pick up a sweet mute human girl, whom they dub Nova (Amiah Miller, Lights Out), and then another talking ape, a not entirely sane chimpanzee who calls himself “Bad Ape” because that’s what his human captors called him before the plague. As voiced by Steve Zahn (Sunshine Cleaning), Bad Ape provides some much-needed comic relief, because this War is dark dark dark. But it’s well-made, on the whole. (I did roll my eyes a little in the middle part when the Colonel momentarily turns into a James Bond villain and gives Caesar a massive lecture/monologue to explain why he’s doing what he’s doing and what’s going to happen for the rest of the movie.)
From the desk of The Movie Snob.
Dunkirk (B+). Having recently read a newish history of WWII, I definitely wanted to see Christopher Nolan’s movie about the 1940 evacuation of 338,000 Allied troops from the beaches of Dunkirk, France. It’s a pretty effective ground-and-ocean-eye view (except for a few scenes involving a heroic RAF fighter pilot played by Tom Hardy, Mad Max: Fury Road) of those events. Much of the movie follows a nameless British soldier who is desperate to escape back to England and is not entirely scrupulous about how to do it. 860 civilian vessels took part in the evacuation, and so we also get to follow one of them, a smallish boat called Moonstone captained by an older gent named Mr. Dawson (Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies). Things get tense fast when Dawson picks up a lone soldier from a wrecked ship, and the shell-shocked soldier (Cillian Murphy, The Dark Knight) freaks out when he realizes the boat is heading towards Dunkirk instead of England. Kenneth Branagh (My Week with Marilyn) pops up in a few scenes as a high-ranking British guy stuck on the beach with his army. I enjoyed it. For another view, calling it an “astonishing filmmaking achievement and an epic narrative failure,” you can click here.
A new review from The Movie Snob.
Baby Driver (B-). Hm, I didn’t know until just now that this highly rated movie (Metacritic score 86) was directed by the same fellow (Edgar Wright) who directed Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, and The World’s End. It’s a crazy little movie about a getaway driver savant called Baby (Ansel Elgort, The Fault in Our Stars) who works for a criminal mastermind called Doc (Kevin Spacey, L.A. Confidential). There’s a very good and elaborate car chase at the beginning, and the climactic pursuit at the end seems to go on forever, and in between there’s not too much of note. Lily James (Cinderella) plays the sweet li’l waitress who steals Baby’s heart, and Jamie Foxx (Dreamgirls) plays a crazy gangster named Bats. Jon Hamm (TV’s Mad Men) has a lot of screen time as another gangster, but I’m afraid I will always see Don Draper whenever he’s on screen. Eiza González (Jem and the Holograms) makes an impression as a gangster called Darling. On the whole, an okay and disposable summer movie.
The Movie Snob gets to the party late.
Wonder Woman (B). This movie has been riding high at the box office, so everyone who’s going to see it has probably already done so. Anyhoo, I finally got around to seeing it, and I liked it just fine. The plot struck me as kind of wacky–the Greek god of war Ares is supposedly a real being (god?) and he is out there on the loose stoking mankind’s warlike passions. The Amazons are hiding out on some paradisiacal Mediterranean island, but when American WWI pilot Steve Trevor (Chris Pine, Into the Woods) crash lands just off shore and brings tidings of the carnage of total warfare, beautiful Amazon princess Diana (Gal Gadot, Batman v. Superman) decides she must leave the island with him so she can track down and kill Ares. There is some amusing fish-out-of-water stuff as Diana makes her way through old-fashioned WWI-era London. Then there are some mean Germans that Steve and Diana have to confront (at the front) in the final reel. All in all, this is a perfectly competent and enjoyable superhero movie, and it didn’t even feel long at 2 hours and 21 minutes. And I must say that Gal Gadot is, like, supernaturally beautiful in the role of Wonder Woman. I certainly noticed her in her small role in Batman v. Superman, but here she just owns the screen. If I were caught up in her magic lasso, I might even have to say she’s more beautiful than Nicole Kidman.
A new review from The Movie Snob.
Alien: Covenant (C-). Looking back, I see that I liked Prometheus quite bit and had high hopes for the next Alien prequel. Alas, those hopes are far from fulfilled in the latest flick about the almost-indestructible critters with a taste for human flesh. The Covenant is a large spaceship carrying a huge load of people in cryogenic sleep for a 7+ year voyage to a planet they hope will be hospitable enough for them to colonize. An accident damages the ship and leads to the waking of its small human crew. They receive a communications signal that lures them off course to a much closer, and previously unknown, habitable planet. Who could possibly be way out here? The survivors of the Prometheus expedition, perhaps? Once they arrive, it’s only a matter of time (a very short time) before the humans start getting turned into alien chow, and we don’t know or like them enough to really care that much. I was annoyed that some of the biological “facts” I thought we knew about the aliens from the earlier films seem to be disregarded in this one. The humans do all sorts of stupid things to earn their gruesome ends, and despite all the mayhem only one scene struck me as really, memorably horrifying. Billy Crudup (Big Fish) plays the ineffectual captain of the Covenant, but the real stars are Katherine Waterston (Sleeping with Other People) as the Sigourney Weaveresque heroine and Michael Fassbender (12 Years a Slave) playing both android David from Prometheus and android Walter from the Covenant. I’d say this movie is for diehard Alien fans only.
P.S. The movie has lots of ponderous philosophical window-dressing too; for more on that you can read Steven Greydanus’s review here.