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

Follow the Movie Man @MovieManJackson

Advertisements

Star Trek Beyond: Movie Man Jackson

stbstub

Everything becomes old at some point. Even space. It has been about three years into a five-year exploration trek for Captain James T. Kirk (Chris Pine) and his crew on the USS Enterprise. To be honest, Kirk doesn’t know if captaincy is right for him anymore, and he starts to think about what else may be out there beyond the vast reaches of space. Spock (Zachary Quinto) is in the same mindset as well, as his efforts may be needed back on his home world.

But in the present, their full attention is needed as the Enterprise is bombarded and ransacked by the villainous Krall (Idris Elba) and his “swarm,” looking for a piece of technology that is vital for his ultimate mission. The destruction caused by the swarm has left the crew stranded and separated from each other on an unknown planet, with no working communication. Escape from this planet appears impossible, but there’s always hope in the impossible.

krall

50 years is a long time for anything to be around and and active, be it a man, woman, automobile, whatever. In 2016, Star Trek Beyond arrives to punctuate the 50th anniversary of Gene Rodenberry’s original series. Kind of a big deal? Absolutely. Adding to the pressure is the simple fact that the blockbuster season of 2016 has been terribly lean on action thrills since Captain America: Civil War hit cinemas two and a half months ago, or technically, before summer truly began. May have come a little late, but Star Trek Beyond honors what came before it, while bringing the big budget summer fun.

With an obligation to direct another popular space opera franchise, J.J. Abrams couldn’t make the return to the captain’s seat (more of a co-pilot as a producer). This time, that honor falls to Justin Lin, Fast & Furious franchise savior. After seeing what he did with the latter half of the Fast franchise, there was never any doubt in my eyes as to whether his skills could translate to a different universe. Do scenes get a little cut-happy sometimes? Sure, but at least there’s not as much lens flare, right? His destruction scenes are every bit what Independence Day: Resurgence by all accounts should have been and then some, with awesome cinematography and the sounds of Michael Giacchino accompanying them. Rest assured, this isn’t Dom Torreto and Brian O’Conner in space; this is very much Star Trek.

 enterprise

And not just Star Trek—revisiting cool but well-worn species, foes, and locales—but Star Trek—introducing new species, foes, and locales. Video gamers may notice some similarities to Mass Effect 2 in a few places (the bee swarm looks a lot like the Collectors), and the object in question that pushes the adequate plot is more or less an MacGuffin, but still, kudos goes to Lin and writers Simon Pegg and Doug Jung for including a few touching callbacks to the original series but also choosing to go forth into new terrain. Specifically, the two new characters are welcome additions.

Idris Elba is unrecognizable, but even under a bevvy of makeup and costume, he’s got presence. He carries a level of menace that hasn’t been seen in the new reboots by any previous baddies. While he isn’t as mysterious or developed as, say John Harrison, was, he does have a thread that gives him some depth in the final act. The real star of the feature, though, is undoubtedly Jaylah, played by Sofia Boutella. She’s unique visually and can hold her own with intellect or in battle. The thing is, there is much to be uncovered into her backstory. But this is a great introduction, and let’s hope that future installments continue with more Boutella in this role.

As for the returning cast, there’s not much more to be said for them except for that they are strong in their roles. Better yet, none look to be tired with what they are doing. Some, like Saldana’s Uhura and Cho’s Sulu are pushed to the backburner this time, but others like Pegg’s Scotty, Urban’s Bones, and the late Yelchin’s Chekov have many pivotal scenes and more importance to the plot than before. Pine and Quinto are still the stars, but Beyond truly feels like an ensemble effort this go-around, and that isn’t a bad thing.

jaylah

Star Trek Beyond was not sabotaged by its first trailer, or by its latest director. With three quality films into the reboot, yours truly is very excited and even eager to see where the next journey takes Captain Kirk and company.

B+

Photo credits go to comingsoon.net, uproxx.com, and moviepilot.com.

Follow the Movie Man @MovieManJackson

Star Trek Into Darkness: Movie Man Jackson

intodarknessposter

To get to the dawn of the day, one has to make it through the darkness of the night. On an exploratory mission to preserve new life undetected, Captain James T. Kirk (Chris Pine) of the U.S.S Enterprise violates the undetected part to save a friend. For his actions, he is stripped of the ship and his status as captain.

But, he’s brought back to power when a mysterious threat declares war on StarFleet by wiping out many of its senior officers in one fell swoop. It’s up to Kirk, Spock (Zachary Quinto), Uhura (Zoe Saldana), and the rest of the crew to find the threat, hiding in dangerous deep Klingon space, and eliminate it.

benedict

Like most sequels, Star Trek Into Darkness works with a bigger budget than before. Unlike many sequels, Star Trek Into Darkness actually holds the line more or less, when compared to its predecessor. Better than the first? Debatable, but the fact that it is a legitimate question to ask means Into Darkness is pretty darn entertaining.

JJ Abrams returns to the directorial seat of the Enterprise to direct the adventure of Kirk, Spock, Bones, and crew again. He sure likes lens flares maybe a tad too much but this is Star Trek and one expects things to carry some light and look bright. Isn’t that big of an issue in the opinion of yours truly. Action-wise, there are a few really good scenes, more than the first film for sure, but aside from the climatic set piece which is awesome, the extra 35 million in budget doesn’t completely improve upon the action from the initial Star Trek reboot.

HH

For diehard Trekkie fans, Into Darkness is probably looked at as Abrams and his team of writers in Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman, and Damon Lindelof peeing and desecrating on everything sacred that Star Trek possesses. Its story apparently takes some sizable inspiration from The Wrath of Khan and other old episodes/seasons, but adding little twists and additions. For casual fans such as myself whose first real exposure to Star Trek was 2009, I could never get all of the Easter eggs or changes, and as such, the story is simple yet satisfying, not disrespectful to what came before it. While it would have been interesting to see this movie explore some deeper themes like the old Star Treks were famous for doing, this 21st century reboot seems focused on being light, which is fine.

However, the 21st century reboot has been focused on character just as much, if not more than, action, and relies on the cast to deliver those character moments. Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto reprise there roles and further the challenging yet unbreakable bond that defines Captain Kirk and Spock. Honestly, the best moments of Into Darkness are between the two leads rationalizing what friendship means to each of them, and it sounds corny, but is executed wonderfully. A returning Zoe Saldana steps back into the Uhura role, with this time given more to work with. Karl Urban, John Cho, Anton Yelchin (R.I.P) do well in supporting roles adding humor at times, and Bruce Greenwood is a steady hand that adds emotion.

Newcomers to the cast include Alice Eve, Peter Weller, and Benedict Cumberbatch. Eve is the only person who feels out of place in the film, sort of bland in her performance and existing to only serve as eye candy in what is now the infamous lingerie scene that serves no purpose. Weller, while having a very minimal role in terms of screen time, is very pivotal, and there is something cool about seeing the Robocop star as a part of the cast in one of the biggest media franchises there is. Lastly, Cumberbatch’s character is a great mystery. He’s a presence, both emotionally, physically, and audibly.

spockuhura

Make it so. Star Trek Into Darkness makes the JJ Abrams directed reboots 2 for 2. Diehards will be be none too pleased, but everyone else? Resistance to enjoying STID is futile.

B+

Photo credits go to dvdizzy.com, ew.com, and Collider.com.

Follow the Movie Man @MovieManJackson

Star Trek (2009): Movie Man Jackson

startrek

The future begins in the remnants of the past. In space, a Romulan, Nero (Eric Bana) is seeking vengeance across the galaxy. His home world has been destroyed seemingly by the Federation, an organization that seeks to keep the peace between worlds.

Nero is from the future, which obviously complicates matters in ways no one is sure of. Receiving a distress signal from the Vulcan planet, the Federation deploys the USS Enterprise to investigate. On the ship, James Kirk (Chris Pine) and Spock (Zachary Quinto) find difficulty in working together due to their conflicting personalities and worldviews. But, the two must come to respect each other in order to save lives.

 nero

Franchises like Star Wars and Star Trek don’t just have casual fans, they have diehards of worldwide fans who know every detail and minutiae of franchise lore. Diehards who don’t take kindly to even the slightest bit of change or a reimaging. You can’t please everyone, and the 2009 reboot of Star Trek might not cater itself to the hardcore Trekkie. But, it does pay respect to the iterations before it, while being highly accessible and most importantly, fun.

The director in the captain’s seat of the USS Enterprise is JJ Abrams, who earned his stripes writing and directing the beloved Lost and Fringe TV shows, and blockbusters Mission Impossible III and Cloverfield. Star Trek, like most reboots, is an origins story, and really, it is an origins story of two characters: Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock. JJ Abrams does a ton right in his version, but one of the strongest aspects of his storytelling in this movie is that nothing feels wasted, or elongated for no particular reason. While juggling two stories in about 20 minutes, Abrams tells the audience exactly who these two iconic characters are, and why the audience should care about them.

One could argue, though, that some aspects of the story are a wee bit fuzzy, or a little underdeveloped. Time travel, for whatever reason, always seems to give yours truly a tough time to wrap his head around. The villain Nero is as generic as they come. And Trekkies may not like the lack of meaty themes, something that the original series often included. Even the effective humor could be much for some (this is a very light movie). But, origin stories need not to be complex, just entertaining.

 snowmonster

Additionally, Abrams uses his CGI to stage pretty special action sequences, one in particular being a space jump followed by hand-to-hand and ending with a space free-fall that is one of the best blockbuster action sequences of the last 10 years. It’s not just the action, though, its the fully realized environment of space, but also, the fully realized interior of the Enterprise. The ship is a marvel to look at, feels “alive,” and, even if just aesthetically, as important to Star Trek as its characters.

Even with all of the previously mentioned good things, the reintroduction to Starfleet wouldn’t be as well-received if the casting wasn’t up to snuff. Not considering the foil, I do not believe there is a weak link in the crew. Karl Urban is consistently entertaining playing Bones, Zoe Saldana a presence as one of the only females Uhura, John Cho showing he can do more besides being Harold as Sulu, Anton Yelchin being memorable as Chekov, and Simon Pegg as funny as ever portraying Scotty.

But of course, the lynchpins are Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto as Kirk and Spock, respectively. Pine put himself on the map playing the captain, showing off his character’s brashness yet steeliness in the face of peril. It’s a really fun role to watch, even if it can be a little too amped up once or twice. It is made better by Quinto’s precise performance. The two play off of each other well, and are both likable in their own ways, and seeing both characters coming full circle and accepting one another is a feel-good moment.

kirkspock

Abrams’ initial foray into the Star Trek pays tribute to what came before it, but not to the point where it is too foreign to the uninitiated. All aboard the Enterprise, because this Star Trek prospers in more ways than one.

A-

Photo credits go to startrek.com, movieposter.com, http://www.ex-astris-scientia.org, and hautemacabre.com

Follow the Movie Man @MovieManJackson

The Loft: Movie Man Jackson

theloftstub

“The people you love, they are the only people that can hurt you.”

When guys want some solace and away time from their spouses and loved ones, they sometimes go to the golf course. Sometimes they go to a man cave. If they are really well off, they go to a posh upscale loft. Five insanely successful friends Vincent (Karl Urban), Chris (James Marsden), Luke (Wentworth Miller), Marty (Eric Stonestreet), and Philip (Matthias Schoenaerts) share what is essentially an underground bunker (except it’s above sea level) in The Loft. Here, any getaways, fantasies, and infidelities are not just possible, they are encouraged.

All that is needed are keys, and only the five friends have possession of them. The loft is a welcome addition to their lives until one day a woman turns up dead in the secluded space. The questions and tensions begin to come to the forefront. The police cannot get involved, because everything will be lost if so. Who is the woman? Who let her in, or how did she get in? The only fact? With just five keys in existence, someone—maybe everyone—in the group is withholding information.

suicide

The Loft, to yours truly, is like an amalgamation of Wild Things with a hefty dash of the classic board game Clue. As of this writing, it currently sits at 0% on the ever-popular Rotten Tomatoes. Is it that horrid? Not to myself at least, but this is hardly an great entry into the thriller genre, either. Much worse can be found in the genre though.

Crazy enough, this movie is actually a remake of a 2008 movie known simply as Loft. Okay, that may not be crazy, but what sort of is happens to be that the exact same director is attached to both. Erik Van Looy does make a competent looking remake with a sort of glossy, metallic, and artificial feel, which does align with the tone of the movie. Still, nothing here overtly stands out as eye-popping.

With the premise of The Loft—jilted lovers, infidelity, and the high life—it isn’t hard to imagine an alternate universe where the story is carried out with a film noir approach. In this present universe however, the movie is carried out through a mix of flashbacks and returns to the present day. Though this may sound disjointed, it is actually fairly cohesive and does give some needed back-story. With that said, it does get repetitive, even comical to a point because they all happen in similar fashion. All of the flashbacks are initialized by some guy talking and then the camera focusing on him in close-up before jumping into it, or the camera closes in on one of the characters “attached” to the impending flashback while another guy talks for a few seconds before it.

grilling

For about a half, maybe two thirds, the film possesses solid pacing, a desire to see the mystery solved, and a nice steady reveal of its hand. But eventually, everything that can be thrown at the wall is done so in rapid succession. And “everything” just means an euphemism for twists. The twists are a mixed bag; none are WHOA that was good! but they are accepted, while others, the “grander” ones if you will, fail substantially for two reasons:

1. There are a tad too many of them, to the point that it may have been better to be more conventional.

2. There is little to no care as to what happens to these characters after the twists, whether big twists or small ones.

Two is the main reason why the twists carry little impact. No one here is written strongly enough to get invested in their well-being. All are spoiled douchebags and/or even monsters who care for little else than themselves and their pleasure. It isn’t a huge issue early on, but as the movie continues and the events begin to paint characters as fully bad or slightly-bad people, it is difficult to feel anything for them.

shock

With that known, the actors who comprise the five buds generally perform at a respectable level, some stronger than others. Karl Urban is a favorite of yours truly, and the man needs more work. He is good here as the cool, composed, and arrogant de facto leader. It isn’t a particularly deep character (no one is here), but his role in particular is fun to watch. James Marsden is James Marsden, fine but sort of wooden here and there, and Matthias Schoenaerts, who appeared in the original, is one note because his role calls for it.

The real surprises/oddities are Wentworth Miller and Eric Stonestreet. Miller may not be terrible but the facial expressions and delivery of spoken word are a bit suspect, and Stonestreet, known for playing a gay man on Modern Family, is far from it here as an over-the-top male chauvinist. But again, no one here is written with a lot of depth, and that includes the females. They are either uptight black/brunette-haired spouses, or blonde sexpots.

Nothing about The Loft inspires a must-watch now in theaters, or a rewatch.  But it is a halfway decent, somewhat entertaining whodunit. Lofty expectations need not apply here.

Grade: C

Photo credits go to blogs.indiewire.com, brickunderground.com, and galleryhip.com

Follow the Movie Man @MovieManJackson