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.

Top 10 Road Trip Films (I Own)

For the next week and a half I will be roaming around the South West of England in a yellow VW Campervan called Barney embarking on A Very English Road Trip. To celebrate I’ve compiled a list of the top ten road trip movies I own on DVD. An odd criteria for a film list but these film lists are superficial at the best of times.

Away We Go
A surprisingly light-hearted film from Sam Mendes as a young couple visit friends and relatives while trying to find the right place to bring up their imminent baby. John Krasinski and Maya Rudolph are a convincing couple and provide the sanity amongst the crazy characters they visit. Maggie Gyllenhaal and Allison Janney are the two main highlights along their journey.

Catfish
The only documentary on this list, Catfish follows the burgeoning online romance between Yaniv Schulman and the sister of a young artist he has been emailing. After some suspicious events Yaniv and his friends travel to the mystery girl’s house and uncover something they had never expected. There is debate about this documentary’s authenticity, either way it makes for a gripping watch.

The Darjeeling Limited
Wes Anderson takes his signature style on the road, or rather on the track, as three brothers travel through India by train, looking for their mother and getting to grips with the loss of their father. Jason Schwartzmann, Adrien Brody and Owen Wilson fit perfectly with Anderson’s tone as the three brothers and their journey is as much emotional as it is physical. Natalie Portman makes a brief, but revealing, appearance in the preceding short film.

The Go-Getter
The most indie film on the list unites Sundance darlings Lou Taylor Pucci, Zooey Deschanel and Jena Malone and brought together for the first time the she and him in She & Him. A young man has a quarter life crisis, steals a car and discovers love, and himself, on the road. A little bit twee to ever be successful, this is worth a watch if you are a fan of the cast, or just enjoy a gentle film about someone abandoning life and hitting the road.

Into the Wild
Speaking of a young man having a quarter life crisis and hitting the road… This time round the traveller is played by Emile Hirsch with a pre-Twilight Kristen Stewart providing the tempting romance he finds along the way. Stewart’s role is quite small though and this is the biggest single-hander of the lot, with Hirsch the only character present throughout. This was Sean Penn’s last work behind the camera and is proof he should do more.

Little Miss Sunshine
An amazing cast go travelling in a yellow VW Campervan (not called Barney) in order to get Abigail Breslin to her beauty pageant. Darkly funny and more than a little moving this road trip ends the way all movies should, with a big dance number. Kevin Bacon would be proud. The film is notable for featuring Steve Carell’s most subdued performance, and for inspiring the colour scheme of this very website.

O Brother, Where Art Thou?
Even the Coen Brothers have made a road trip film, theirs being an adaptation of Homer’s The Odyssey and starring George Clooney, John Turturro and Tim Blake Nelson as three escaped convicts searching for hidden treasure. Encountering all manner of characters and obstacles along the way this is the quintessential road trip film, and the only one to involve the KKK.

Transamerica
Any good road trip forces the film to shift focus from traditional plot or location and instead focus on the characters who are the only constant through the film, and their relationships. Few films utilise this better than Transamerica as Felicity Huffman’s pre-op transsexual meets her son for the first time as she ferries him across country under the guise of being a charity worker.

Wristcutters: A Love Story
While most of these films involve travelling across the United States, Wristcutters moves beyond the world of the living and instead is set in an afterlife reserved for people who commit suicide. Shortly after his death Patrick Fugit hears that his old girlfriend, Leslie Bibb, has also killed herself and so takes his room-mate and tries to find her. Along the way he encounters some charmingly rustic supernatural elements and Tom Waits, who also provides the soundtrack.

Zombieland
While everyone in Wristcutters is dead, most of the people our travellers come across in this film are the undead. Jesse Eisenberg and Woody Harrelson travel through the post-apocalyptic landscape in search of Twinkies and instead find Emma Stone (swoon), Abigail Breslin (road trip queen) and more zombies than you can shake a double barreled shotgun at. One of cinema’s greatest cameos is the icing on this zombie cake.

If there’s anything all these films have in common, it’s that the destination is not the important part, it’s the journey and characters that are key when the film has no other consistent element.

Your Highness – Review

I was hoping that seeing Your Highness would present me with the perfect opportunity to write a really scathing review filled with ranting, exaggeration and maybe a bit of swearing, but I can’t. Your Highness isn’t that bad.

Despite the easy comparison Your Highness isn’t trying to be The Princess Bride, it isn’t even trying to parody classic fantasy quest-based films, all it is trying to do is be a broad comedy set in medieval times with plenty of jokes about sex, drugs and people swearing with bad British accents in the middle of speaking with an old English dialect. In trying to be this very specific type of comedy, Your Highness succeeds.

The film may not have been laugh a minute but it was amusing at times, and Danny McBride was offering up nothing different, for better or worse, to what viewers of Eastbound and Down expect from him week on week. The combined talents of Franco, Deschanel and Portman made the film easily watchable, even when director David Gordon Green wasn’t really trying.

A highlight was Rasmus Hardinker as McBride’s sidekick for offering up silly faces and dry wit in equal measure, and to the set designer who hadn’t been told this was just a comedy and the sets didn’t need to rival (and possible beat) Game of Thrones. It was also nice to see Damian Lewis in a larger role than I had expected.

Your Highness is a lot of fun and as a raunchy comedy works quite well. Not all of the jokes stem from sex or drugs and there is some intelligence if you listen hard enough. The only way the film really lets you down is if you are a fan of David Gordon Green’s early work, the beautiful and painfully indie All the Real Girls seems like the work of a much more mature and talented director.

If Your Highness doesn’t seem like your sort of film then it probably isn’t, but for me it fit right into the category of guilty pleasure and I am rightfully ashamed of that fact.

So… The Oscars Eh?

Early this morning the Oscars happened! Wahey!

We, unfortunately, were fast asleep and then had to rush out into the world early today to sit an exam that you have no interest in. Some would say that this makes us unqualified to comment on the ceremony, but we won’t let that stop us.

Both Natalie Portman and Colin Firth gave charming speeches, each touching and funny enough to make them seem like genuinely nice people. Neither took themselves too seriously, which is always a nice surprise.

While some were expecting it to be The King’s Speech all night it was refreshing to see The Social Network and The Fighter get a look in. Sorkin may come off as a little self-important at times but he did write one hell of a screenplay.

Inception didn’t do too badly in its technical categories, and certainly wormed its way into plenty of Franco’s and Hathaway’s material. The hosts themselves were entertaining, but we could definitely benefit from a comedian hosting next year.

Toy Story 3 was an inevitable winner, but Pixar may have to pass on the crown next year when Rango enters the ring.

As with every year the show was in parts entertaining, and in a bigger way incredibly dull. One thing that really stood out/totally underwhelmed was Banksy’s appearance/absence. At least we can all stop speculating about whether he’d show up or not.

Your Highness – Trailer

When I first watched the trailer for The Highness below I couldn’t decide whether it was amazing or awful. On reflection I am going with amazing.

Watch it below for busty Deschanel, leggy Portman and Franco and McBride being generally filthy. It’s a fantasy comedy, like The Princess Bride but all dirty. I know there’s no way I won’t be watching in April.