Thor: Ragnarok-Movie Man Jackson

Ah-ah, ah! After the events of Sokovia, The God of Thunder, Thor (Chris Hemsworth), has been busy scouring the Earth for Infinity Stones. He’s been hell-bent on prepping his city of Asgard from a destruction known as Ragnarok, a feeling he possesses as a result of his reoccurring visions of this event. Believing that he has prevented Ragnarok from happening after defeating Surtur the fire demon, the hero returns home in good spirits.

But, those do not last long, as the defeating of Surtur wasn’t the catalyst to stopping Ragnarok. In truth, Ragnarok has already begun, and the Goddess of Death, Hela (Cate Blanchett), announces it with an impact arrival, obliterating Thor’s legendary hammer and banishing him, along with brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) to a foreign planet called Sakarr. Led by The Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum), it’s a place where fatal battles are fought for entertainment, and Thor is forced to enter and fight an old friend in The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo). To get back home and save his home, Thor must fight, and somehow get the help of Banner, Loki, and even a mysterious nomad by the name of Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) to drive out Hela.

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. But if it’s fraying, re-coat it. Terrible similes aside, the two Thor movies showcasing the God of Thunder weren’t exactly broken, but the fact is, they are two of the more forgotten or rather, nondescript movies of the Marvel Cinematic Universe to fans, especially The Dark World (truthfully, yours truly is rather fond of 2011’s Thor). So with Thor: Ragnarok, director Taika Waititi (What We Do in the Shadows, Hunt for the Wilderpeople) has certainly left behind a movie that won’t be considered “nondescript.” Has he left a movie behind that many are calling one of Marvel’s best? That’s up for debate.

The direction is certainly worth taking note of and remembering. The style the trailers promised is front and center throughout. Asgard has never looked better, but it’s the world of Sakarr—a trippy, futuristic hue of neon colors and post-apocalyptic feel—that stands out the most. It makes the somewhat bumpy first 20 or so minutes worth sticking around for. Waititi’s action, visual flair, and predominately 80’s inspired score/soundtrack coalesce to create something so unlike what has been seen in the MCU up to this point. Even the movies that Ragnarok will be most compared with in Guardians of the Galaxy volumes 1 and 2, the third chapter of Thor is substantially different than those.

One main thing Ragnarok shares with those movies is an appetite for humor. It wouldn’t be out of line to consider Thor: Ragnarok comedy first, action/adventure second. And for the most part, the comedy hits more than it misses. Seriously, there are some very funny jokes and awesome delivery found in all characters. But honestly, it can get to be a bit much. The story, while functional, kind of seems to be written around the jokes (apparently 80% of the film is improvised). Absolutely nothing is wrong with a lighter superhero film, though going so light while still trying to generate emotion can undermine some of the more dramatic moments of the production. In a few “big” moments, Ragnarok seems to struggle with this, wanting to immediately cut to the next visual gag or joke from something with a serious or vice versa.

With that said, one does have to commend those in charge who say they’d like to flip the script and actually achieve in doing it. Thor: Ragnarok isn’t a Jason Bourne, a franchise in which director and lead actor said they’d never do another unless they could do something else—only to proceed with doing the same thing they had done three movies prior. The changes in Ragnarok seem to revitalize the main holdovers from the prior installments in Hemsworth and Hiddleston. Both seem to really be having fun like never before, and the machinations of the story allow them to take advantage of their natural chemistry. Those who wanted more Hulk get their wish granted; the not-so-jolly green giant has a load of screentime and Ruffalo handles the two parts of the beast and Banner like only he can.

Newbie to the MCU Tessa Thompson brings a great new character into the fold as Valkyrie, the foundation and backstory being laid for her own potential standalone journey. As for other newbies, their characters don’t amount to much in the grand scheme of things, but in the ride that is Thor: Ragnarok, they fit right in. Anytime a wide-eyed Jeff Goldblum is cast (save for Independence Day: Resurgence), it can only amp the fun factor up. There are some disappointments, but not due to performance. The villainous Hela is introduced wonderfully and played up wonderfully by Cate Blanchett, only to be forgotten in long stretches of the movie. Karl Urban, always a joy to watch, is a little underutilized as a basic henchman. Taika Waititi probably possesses the biggest laughs lending his voice to Korg, a rock-based gladiator-turned-gatekeeper of the battle arena.

 

Thor: Ragnarok is a sugar rush in the most positive and negative of ways. But Marvel does deserve some praise for wanting to tweak its formula and try a few new things with one of its less beloved lead Avengers. No matter what…Marvel, uh, finds a way.

C+

Photo credits go to collider.com, polygon.com, and comicbook.com.

For additional detailed thoughts on films both small and large, games, and the key moments that comprise each, check out ThatMomentIn.com

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Carol: Movie Man Jackson

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Sparks always fly at the toy store. Therese Belivet (Rooney Mara) is a young department store clerk, working in 1950’s Manhattan, New York. She has a steady boyfriend, Richard (Jake Lacy), who so desperately wants to vacation out to Europe and make Therese his wife. While flattered, Therese desires more and isn’t ready to commit to Rich yet, and still harbors dreams of being a photographer.

One day at the store, she meets Carol Aird (Cate Blanchett), a well-off and elegant woman who has an aura about her that is impossible to resist. Immediately, a connection is born, and the two become inseparable. Complicating matters are Carol’s husband and reluctant divorcee Harge (Kyle Chandler), and their battle over custody of their child. But, love finds a way, right?

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As Keith over at Keith & the Movies opined, from the get-go, Carol is a movie that simply looks polished and primed for awards time. Obviously, this piece is coming days after Carol was shut out of the Golden Globes, but five nominations, even without one win, still means that Carol did its job. Did it do its job in making yours truly care about it? I wish I could say yes.

At the very least, Carol comes outfitted with great and workmanlike acting from the two co-leads, which is to be expected with Rooney Mara and Cate Blanchett. The two play well off of each other, feel believable as character polar opposites, and are extremely brave and fully committed to their roles. It’s hard to find anything to have real gripes with, and if either receive Oscar noms (Editor’s note: Both have), they would be earned.

If one looked to be a stronger lock than the other for their nominated category, I’d say Blanchett has the stronger case. Her character is not only the obvious title of the movie, but she does bring a mysterious magnetism to her that makes Mara dull by comparison. But I suppose that is the point, though I believe Cate would be harder to replace in her role than Rooney. Sarah Paulson also does well, and though Kyle Chandler is awfully one-note, he does the best he can with what is given. The only weak link happens to be Jake Lacy. For some reason, it is hard for me not to see him still as Plop from season nine of The Office.

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Carol does have good, but unmemorable directorial style. Directed by Todd Haynes (I’m Not There), it certainly resembles the early 50’s, from dress to the way subjects look in lighting, as the movie has got that 50’s light jazz club fuzzy haze throughout. Sadly, what it doesn’t have is a story that yours truly ever really cared about.

About 20 minutes in, I couldn’t stop thinking about Brooklyn when watching Carol. Both rely on simplicity and elegance, but only the former also achieves with actual story drama and tension, to go with characters who are written well. As well as Mara and Blanchett are, there’s little desire to see where their connection goes, or even if it will remain. Their stakes never feel that high, and something tangible never truly felt like it was on the line. The B (not so much side) stories with the custody, aunt, etc., unfortunately did little to capture the attention, or round out the leading ladies.

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I really did want to like Carol, and there are pieces of it that absolutely work, namely, the performances. But, as runtime wore on, it became a exercise in viewing nothingness, one that I struggle to find the words for and care less about doing so.

Grade: C-

Photo credits go to hypable.com, fashiongonerogue.com, and elle.com.

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