Thor: The Dark World – Film Review

Thor The Dark World

I may or may not have fallen asleep the only time I attempted to watch Marvel’s Thor on DVD but based on my enjoyment of the sequel I will put this down to my own lack of sleep rather than blame the film. I have however seen (Marvel[‘s]) (The) Avengers (Assemble) so wasn’t completely without backstory as I went into Thor: The Dark World this week. What you need to know before the film begins is that Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is from the kingdom of Asgard, has a massive magical hammer, and is in love with an Earth-born scientist called Jane Foster (Natalie Portman in red wellies). Thor’s father is Odin (Anthony Hopkins) king of Asgard and his evil adopted brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) is in prison for doing all manner of naughty things to New York.

In Thor: The Dark World Jane is looking for an AWOL Thor and in doing so comes across some evil magic goo that threatens her life and draws the unwanted attention of dark elf (seriously) Malekith (Christopher Eccleston) who has plans to use the goo to destroy the universe because what else is an evil guy going to do? With his true love’s life under threat Thor takes Jane back to Asgard and is forced to team up with Loki against Odin’s wishes to save absolutely everyone in the Universe. Cue lots of fighting in the fantastical world of Asgard and also on Earth… in Greenwich of all places.

Thor The Dark World - Tom Hiddleston

While the film opens with a slightly exposition-heavy sequence, and takes itself a little too seriously when focussing on just the Asgardians in Asgard, as the plot moves on and we get to see more of Foster’s team and the irrepressible Loki things become much more fun and far less serious. Yes, the core of the film is about a dark elf trying to destroy the universe but the various set pieces and dramatic moments are nicely punctuated with moments of comedy provided by Hiddleston, Kat Dennings, Stellan Skarsgård, and good old Chris O’Dowd. For a film that looks more like a fantasy adventure than a superhero film to have such a great sense of humour is a real relief and had it been a little more poe-faced I doubt it would have been watchable, certainly not enjoyable.

The other pleasant surprise that Thor: The Dark World presents is that none of the film takes place in America. With the Avengers franchise being such an American product it was nice to see a film in the series that alternated between Asgard and London without ever feeling the urge to cross the Atlantic. It is rare to see the climactic scene of a major Hollywood release take place in Greenwich and seeing Thor utilise some of London’s trademarks will provide plenty of amusement (and confuse anyone with a basic knowledge of the London Underground).

As much as Thor: The Dark World want to impress you with its stunning visuals, world-ending plot, and explosive action it takes very seriously the task of entertaining its audience. I am not a diehard fan of Marvel’s output and if we’re honest with each other (and I hope we are) I was dreading the screening a little bit. I need not have feared as the result was a delightfully silly and resolutely epic film that goes to show what a piece of pure entertainment should look like.

Thor: The Dark World is on general release in the UK from 30th October 2013.

The IT Crowd: The Final Episode – TV Review

The_IT_Crowd

Come in close everyone, I have something I need to talk about…. I have seen the final episode of The IT Crowd and I really enjoyed it. The only problem is I have no idea how to review it without either spoiling jokes or sounding like a gushing idiot.

For those of you who are unaware of The IT Crowd then the final episode is not really for you. You need to get yourself the DVDs, sort out your comedy priorities, and stop watching so much Derek. For fans of The IT Crowd all I can say is that you are in safe hands with Graham Linehan. Despite this special being a full hour rather than the usual half the episode doesn’t do anything out of the ordinary; this is not a “very special” episode just a slightly longer episode of the show we know and love.

Sadly the continuing success of both Chris O’Dowd and Richard Ayoade means that they are no longer able to commit to filming a full series but they have come back for this one-off for love rather than money. The show is exactly as you remember it in the best possible way and it is a joy, the sort that makes you giggle uncontrollably, to see the pair team up with Katherine Parkinson one last time for some basement dwelling hijinks.

Provided you haven’t gone and been all illegal you will no doubt be watching Agents of SHIELD on Channel 4 directly before The IT Crowd comes on so just sit back, relax and enjoy one fine hour of comedy. Then be sure to think about all the TV comedy we currently have still on the air and allow yourself a good ten minutes of despair.

The IT Crowd: The Final Episode airs this Friday 27th September at 9pm on Channel 4.

Epic – Film Review

Epic

Amanda Seyfried stars as M.K.; a young girl who has recently lost her mother (in typical children’s film style) and is forced to live with her wacky dad in the countryside. Her dad, played by Jason Sudeikis, believes that a civilisation of tiny people live in the forest by their house and spends his days searching for them. M.K. is naturally sceptical of her dad’s theory but when she chases her dog into the woods and ends up shrunk down and involved in an epic (THAT’S THE NAME OF THE MOVIE!!!) battle to claim power over the forest as she helps the Leafmen fight the rot-spreading Boggans as well as trying to return home and to her normal size.

Phew. Plot synopsised!

Epic 1

We were pleasantly surprised by Epic; it was a sweet and funny tale that didn’t overstay its welcome. The story was simple and didn’t stray too far from the classic animated film formula but was enjoyable nonetheless. The jokes were genuinely funny and stemmed from character rather than pop culture references (hello Shrek!) so the film has lasting appeal; the jokes will still be funny long after Britney Spears* is a distant memory. As we left my co-writer Kat said “that could have been a Pixar” which is high praise indeed, though perhaps not totally accurate. Certainly better than Cars* though…

Where Epic falls down is in its villains. Christoph Waltz lent his sinister tone to the leader of the Boggans and they were threatening enough but I wasn’t completely clear on why they wanted the whole forest to turn to rot. Sure they were evil, but why? Maybe they just got tired of Al Gore* harping on about the environment and decided to kill all the trees so he had nothing left to save.

Epic 2

Epic‘s strengths lie with the good guys. M.K. is a feisty female lead that may even pass the Bechdel test if talking to a queen played by Beyoncé Knowles about a genderless flower pod counts. She has a lighthearted romance with Leafman Nod, as played by Josh Hutcherson, and any time the film threatens to get too serious or more scary than its U certificate allows Aziz Ansari and Chris O’Dowd are on hand as a pair of amusing gastropods. Colin Farrell is also present as an older Leafman but he is taking the backseat in this film and does more disapproving than anything else.

Overall the film is a lot of fun and had us both chuckling away throughout. With half-term holidays coming up next week Epic could serve as a perfect distraction for any tiny people in your life. We would advise people to see it in 2D though, headaches and double vision are abound and the 3D adds to little more than your ticket price.

*Examples of out-dated pop culture references

The Sapphires – LFF Review

It is 1968 in Australia and three Aboriginal sisters who like to sing country songs are turned into a soul group by a drunk bar worker who looks a lot like Chris O’Dowd. After gaining a singing cousin they travel to Vietnam to entertain the troops. Their journey is filled with song, laughter, heartbreak, and a fair share of bullets.

The Sapphires is a warm and wonderful film which presents a familiar story in a unique setting. Not only are the sisters dealing with some old rivalries amongst themselves they are also fighting widespread racism while dealing with travelling through a country at war with a drunk Irishman calling the shots. You can feel a genuine familial bond between the sisters and they are easy to sympathise with thanks to the attitude of white Australians in their town. Despite their numerous hardships the sisters never come across as self-pitying and instead use the oppression as fuel for their fire and desire to become famous singers.

Chris O’Dowd is his usual charming self and helps lighten even the darkest mood with an awkward smile and a well delivered line. O’Dowd also provides one half of the romantic core of the film allowing a more sentimental side to be seen.

Music runs throughout the film and the musical numbers are mostly wonderfully produced with a lot of energy and passion. Occasionally though the film slips into Glee territory as the lip-synching jars slightly and everything is almost too pitch-perfect. When four women are singing in an outhouse it is OK for them to sound like they are singing in an outhouse rather than a recording studio. We could all learn something from Kylie singing live in Holy Motors.

The Sapphires is a joyful watch and though holds no real surprises has enough originality to stray from predictability.

The Sapphires screens tonight at 6.00 pm and October 18th at 6.15 pm and tickets are still on sale for both. The Sapphires is on general release in the UK from 7th November 2012.

Orange Rising Star Award 2012 Nominees

This week the nominees for the 2012 Orange Rising Star Award were announced. With voting handled by the Great British Public, this is the one time we get a say on who wins a proper award. It is our duty as UK citizens and internet based film fans to have that say and vote. Let’s have a completely objective look at the nominees.

Jessica Chastain
Appearing in no less than five films this year, Chastain has burst out of nowhere to become a big upcoming presence in modern cinema. Highlights for me include Take Shelter and Coriolanus.

Eddie Redmayne
With the look of a male Gemma Arterton about him, Redmayne has only one major release this year, and it isn’t out until tomorrow. Still, having the lead role in My Week with Marilyn amongst so many British stalwarts is impressive.

Adam Deacon
A good handful of films out this year and yet the only roles I am likely to have seen Deacon in are the two separate characters he’s played on Casualty. Anuvahood did look amusing though.

Chris Hemsworth
From Home and Away to playing Thor, God of Oversized Hammers, Hemsworth has come a long way in the past four years. FUN FACT: He also did one episode of Neighbours.

Tom Hiddleston
Hiddleston is all over the shop starring in everything from comic book blockbusters to arty family dramas, from Woody Allen to The Deep Blue Sea. His face terrifies me slightly but we shouldn’t hold that against him.

Jennifer Lawrence
Lovely Jennifer Lawrence went on from her Oscar nominated performance to play Anton Yelchin’s love interest twice and to take on the role of a blue X-Person. Soon to be heading up the Next Big Franchise, Lawrence’s star is on the rise.

Felicity Jones
HELLO! No, I must remain impartial. Since getting the nod from us early last year (way before everyone else), Jones has been on a dramatic rise topped by a win at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. Not bad for a Brummie.

Chris O’Dowd
After slogging away on Channel 4 since 2006, O’Dowd has hit the big screen three times in the past two years. It was his appearance in Bridesmaids which everyone actually noticed though, providing a much-needed core to a fun but messy comedy.

There are your eight nominees, who will you vote for? We are remaining totally impartial…

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