Thor: Ragnarok (2017)

Director: Taika Waititi

Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Cate Blanchett, Idris Elba, Jeff Goldblum, Tessa Thompson, Karl Urban, Mark Ruffalo, Anthony Hopkins

Screenplay: Eric Pearson, Craig Kyle, Christopher Yost

130 mins. Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and brief suggestive material.

IMDb Top 250: #207 (as of 12/22/2017)

 

I think I was one of the few people in the world who wasn’t worried a bit about Thor: Ragnarok. I just had a good feeling about the whole production, and considering that the original Thor is my favorite MCU film to date, I overall didn’t worry in the slightest. So I guess it comes down to it. Was I right not to worry?

Things haven’t been going well for Thor (Chris Hemsworth, Snow White and the Huntsman, Star Trek) lately. His brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston, Kong: Skull Island, TV’s The Night Manager) is believed dead. His father Odin (Anthony Hopkins, The Silence of the Lambs, Transformers: The Last Knight) has seemingly gone off the deep end. But when Thor discovers that he has a sister, Hela (Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine, How to Train Your Dragon 2), who has broken free of her captivity, he finds himself zipped across the galaxy to a strange planet where he must fight for his life against intergalactic gladiators to appease the Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum, The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Lost World: Jurassic Park). Thor must band together with a ragtag group of friends and old foes to get back to Asgard and prevent Hela from unleashing Ragnarok, the Norse Armageddon.

I wanted to try and avoid some spoilers with Thor: Ragnarok, but they are inherently in the film’s plot. That being said, Ragnarok is by far the most unique MCU film to date and most definitely the best one of 2017. Bringing on Director Taika Waititi (What We Do in the Shadows, Hunt for the Wilderpeople) was an absolutely inspired choice, one that set up this installment for success from the very beginning. It is the kind of space film that deserves the term “rollicking.”

As always, Hemsworth and Hiddleston have excellent chemistry, but it is the addition of all the new characters like Goldblum’s Grandmaster, Tessa Thompson (Creed, Dear White People) as the Valkyrie, Karl Urban (The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, Pete’s Dragon) as Skurge, Hela’s commander, and Waititi himself as the alien Korg that make the experience as tremendous as it is.

Thinking about faults in the film, I didn’t feel an overwhelming sense of concern about Ragnarok at all through the film. Sure, it’s the Flash Gordon of the MCU but I wasn’t really concerned for any of the players. Also, classic characters like the Warriors Three are tossed aside and mishandled. As for Lady Sif, she is nowhere to be found, and I think the film suffers by not addressing it.

Treating Thor: Ragnarok as a space road trip movie and teaming up Thor with the Incredible Hulk (Mark Ruffalo, Spotlight, Now You See Me 2) is the crowning achievement of the film, and being the third in a tremendous group of 2017 MCU films only steepens excitement for where this franchise is going as a whole. Ragnarok falters a bit when addressing the overall momentum of the franchise but it stands by itself as a singularly enjoyable experience that rivals that of the first Thor film for entirely different reasons. It’s my favorite superhero film of the year.

 

4.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Jon Favreau’s Iron Man, click here.

For my review of Louis Leterrier’s The Incredible Hulk, click here.

For my review of Jon Favreau’s Iron Man 2, click here.

For my review of Anthony & Joe Russo’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier, click here.

For my review of James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy, click here.

For my review of Joss Whedon’s Avengers: Age of Ultron, click here.

For my review of Anthony & Joe Russo’s Captain America: Civil War, click here.

For my review of James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2, click here.

For my review of Jon Watts’ Spider-Man: Homecoming, click here.

For my review of Taika Waititi’s What We Do in the Shadows, click here.

 

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[Early Review] All the Money in the World (2017)

Director: Ridley Scott

Cast: Michelle Williams, Christopher Plummer, Mark Wahlberg, Romain Duris

Screenplay: David Scarpa

132 mins. Rated R for language, some violence, disturbing images and brief drug content.

 

I remember seeing the first trailer for All the Money in the World. It was laid out to surprise audiences with the shocking reveal that, under all the makeup, Kevin Spacey was poised for a tremendous turn as the deeply-flawed billionaire J. Paul Getty. I could already see the cogs turning in an attempt to snag a Best Supporting Actor trophy at the Academy Awards. Now, just a few short months later, the irony is not lost on me. But is the recast of Christopher Plummer (Beginners, Howard Lovecraft and the Frozen Kingdom) worth it? And secondly, were the re-shoots seamless enough?

All the Money in the World sees John Paul Getty III kidnapped in Italy. His mother, Gail (Michelle Williams, Blue Valentine, The Greatest Showman), doesn’t have the ransom to free him. Her ex-husband’s father, J. Paul Getty, however, has more money than anyone ever has. Sadly, his greed keeps him from allowing any of it to be wasted in retrieving his kidnapped grandson. Instead, he asks Fletcher Chase (Mark Wahlberg, The Departed, Daddy’s Home 2) to assist in saving the young man from his captors.

So by now we all know the story of the actor swap in All the Money in the World. This writer doesn’t have enough to go on with the Spacey performance, but what I can say is that Christopher Plummer is electric onscreen. Every scene with him oozes his greedy and selfish persona. The moments he shares with Williams are the best in the film. Unfortunately, those moments are few and far between.

The rest of the film feels like something that’s been done before. Something that was better before. I anticipated story beats long before they happened, and I didn’t even know much about this true life tale before seeing the film. Director Ridley Scott (The Martian, Alien: Covenant) creates a lovely aesthetic for the film, but overall there is just no tension until near the very end.

All the Money in the World isn’t a bad film, and I agree that in order for the film to be successful, the re-shoots were both necessary and ended up being the best parts of the film. Michelle Williams and Christopher Plummer are at the top of their game here. They alone are worth the price of admission, but sadly the rest of the film fails to match them, and it becomes all the more forgettable in the process.

 

3/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

Have you seen All the Money in the World? What did you think? Was the recast the right choice? Let me know/Drop a comment below!

 

For my review of Ridley Scott’s The Martian, click here.

 

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The Shape of Water (2017)

Director: Guillermo del Toro

Cast: Sally Hawkins, Octavia Spencer, Michael Shannon, Richard Jenkins, Doug Jones, Michael Stuhlbarg

Screenplay: Guillermo del Toro, Vanessa Taylor

123 mins. Rated R for sexual content, graphic nudity, violence and language.

 

Guillermo del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth, Crimson Peak) is a director known for his visual flair and attention to detail, but he has yet to cross the barrier into household name. His newest film, The Shape of Water, is his most deeply personal and intimate. The film is garnering some critical and festival praise right now, but is that warranted? This writer has been excited for the film since early this year, and I was overjoyed to catch a screening of it earlier this week.

The film stars Sally Hawkins (Happy-Go-Lucky, Godzilla) as Elisa Esposito, a mute woman who works overnights as a janitor for the Occam Aerospace Research Center. She is perhaps too curious to discover that a strange new asset has been delivered to the facility one night, a dangerous new creature discovered in South America. As the creature is unable to communicate with sound, he quickly takes to Elisa’s use of sign language as well as the gifts of boiled eggs she brings him. When Elisa learns what the creature’s handler, Strickland (Michael Shannon, Nocturnal Animals, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice), plans to do with him, she hatches a plan to save the amphibious being and, along the way, discovers that her affection for the creature has grown exponentially.

I’m going to say it right now: The Shape of Water is like nothing I’ve ever seen before. The plot is familiar enough in its simplest terms, but del Toro proves yet again that isn’t the story you tell but rather how you tell it that makes a masterpiece, and this one might be the director’s best work to date. The story he tells is one of love, attraction, repression, and loneliness using the central relationship between Elisa and the amphibious creature, played brilliantly by del Toro favorite Doug Jones (Hellboy II: The Golden Army, TV’s Star Trek: Discovery).

While Elisa and the Creature are the central relationship of the film, the secondary relationships give a nice contrast, showing Elisa’s friendship with chatty co-worker Zelda (Octavia Spencer, Hidden Figures, The Divergent Series: Allegiant) and the tenderness of her friendship with neighbor Giles (Richard Jenkins, The Visitor, LBJ). The web is stretched further to show the way that Zelda behaves toward her husband and also how Giles, a closeted homosexual, pursues an attraction in an era where repression has made him self-conscious and very lonely. Then, there’s the polarized opposition of Strickland’s family dynamic and the way he treats his colleagues, specifically Dr. Hoffstetler (Michael Stuhlbarg, A Serious Man, Arrival). The film’s near-constant unraveling of every relationship is fascinating and introspective in all the right ways.

The Shape of Water might be the best film I’ve seen this year. There’s a lot to unpack, and it feels like I need to see it again to fully connect to it, but the film, while a bit lengthy in its second act, is an exemplary look at love and attraction presented in its most unique fashion. This movie will challenge audiences and I hope you leave with as many questions as I did. That is, after all, the beauty in it.

 

4.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

Have you seen The Shape of Water? What did you think? What’s your favorite relationship in the film? Let me know/drop a comment below!

 

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Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017)

Director: Martin McDonagh

Cast: Frances McDormand, Woody Harrelson, Sam Rockwell, Abbie Cornish, John Hawkes, Peter Dinklage

Screenplay: Martin McDonagh

115 mins. Rated R for violence, language throughout, and some sexual references.

 

Writer/Director Martin McDonagh (In Bruges, Seven Psychopaths) definitely has a flavor to his work. His is a violent, darkly comedic world, one this writer wouldn’t want to live in. But I’ll definitely watch others live in it.

McDonagh’s newest film, Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri, introduces us to Mildred (Frances McDormand, Fargo, Hail, Caesar!), a grieving mother who decides to question local law enforcement’s handling of her daughter’s murder case when she rents and erects three billboards in a quiet part of town, asking if the cops have done enough in their search for the killer. This brings her to a head with Sheriff Willoughby (Woody Harrelson, Lost in London, TV’s True Detective) and hotheaded officer Dixon (Sam Rockwell, Moon, Poltergeist). As the public takes sides in the matter, arguments and violence ramp up and Mildred and Dixon are forced to confront their anger and their past in order to move forward.

Martin McDonagh is a very accomplished character storyteller. His characters live by the principle that a character doesn’t have to be likable as long as she is interesting. Mildred isn’t very likable. Willoughby isn’t very likable. Dixon definitely isn’t likable. Dammit, though, they are interesting, as are the supporting players, particularly Peter Dinklage (Rememory, TV’s Game of Thrones) as a man who takes a liking to Mildred but can’t quite match her level of motivation.

McDonagh uses his characters and his hyper-violence to tell a deeply personal story, more so than either of his previous features. Mildred has deep personal pain and her motives are admirable, There’s a lot that makes sense in the confines of the story, with the exception of one thing.

If there is an issue with the film, it’s the ending. McDonagh chooses an ambiguous ending to his story, one that leaves character plot threads unresolved. In some cases, this can work, but after spending two hours with these people, the question he is asking is a no-brainer. The film ends with two possible paths, but one path would completely betray the character arc, so it doesn’t make sense to leave it open.

Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri is another fascinating character piece from writer/director Martin MacDonagh. This film should be praised for its performances, particularly McDormand and Rockwell, but it is the brilliantly written screenplay that gives them so much to work with. This is a story for anyone who has ever done something crazy out of grief, and its deeply moving and yet somehow completely unhinged, and I highly recommend it.

 

4.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

Have you seen Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri? What did you think? What’s your favorite performance from Frances McDormand? Let me know/drop a comment below!

 

 

For my review of Martin McDonagh’s In Bruges, click here.

 

 

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[Box Office Report] Coco Wins Third Weekend!

Box Office Mojo is reporting that Coco, the newest Disney/Pixar animated film, has just taken the top spot at the box office for the third weekend in a row. Not much has changed this past weekend with the notable exception of the James Franco-directed The Disaster Artist entering the fray.

Coco brought in roughly $18.6 million as it continues its reign at the box office for the final weekend before bowing to Star Wars: The Last Jedi next weekend. Coco has had a lot of steam for a film that this writer felt was not given a large marketing push. The film proves that Disney and Pixar have the clout to carry a film just fine and it doesn’t hurt to have the stellar reviews that it has had.

The fifth film in the DCEU, Justice League, again took the #2 spot with $9.5 million. Justice League continues to drop and perform poorly after a very rocky production and mixed reviews for almost every DCEU film with the exception of this year’s Wonder Woman. WB seems to be very bad when it comes to publicity for its superhero universe, and some possible revelations from the higher offices have not helped.

Third place belongs to Wonder, the well-received release from Lionsgate starring Jacob Tremblay, Julia Roberts and Owen Wilson. The film currently sits at 85% on Rotten Tomatoes with Tremblay’s performance being a notable win. It took in $8.45 million.

In its first weekend of wide release, A24’s The Disaster Artist, chronicling the film-making journey behind the cinematic trash-heap The Room, took fourth place with $6.4 million. This is coming off the heels of director/star James Franco getting praise from the Gotham Awards.

Rounding out #5 is Thor: Ragnarok, the third film in the Thor trilogy, with $6.29 million. The MCU shows no signs of stopping as the very well-received Ragnarok continues to hold strong at the box office despite having been out for over a month.

There you have it. The top five of the domestic box office are:

  1. Coco ($18.6 million)
  2. Justice League ($9.5 million)
  3. Wonder ($8.45 million)
  4. The Disaster Artist ($6.4 million)
  5. Thor: Ragnarok ($6.29 million)

Have you seen any of these films? What did you think? Any surprises in this week’s box office report? Let me know/drop a comment below!

 

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

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Official US Trailer for A Wrinkle in Time is Big!

So I read A Wrinkle in Time as a child. I don’t recall reading the sequel, but I remember fondly the wild and trippy original book from Madeleine L’Engle. I remember watching the truly disappointing television adaptation that Disney released years ago. Lastly, I remember the feeling of excitement I felt when Ava DuVernay was announced as the director of the big-screen attempt due out in 2018. Now, we have the Official US Trailer for A Wrinkle in Time. It’s a doozy.

The trailer showcases the film’s plot nicely without really delving into a lot of character backstory. The mythology of this series is thick and dense and the trailer does a fine enough job breaking down the beats.

The film is a story of a young girl, Meg, who goes out in search of her missing scientist father, played by Chris Pine. She does so with the aid of three supreme and powerful beings.

I’m happy the film didn’t give too much away. The mystery and wonder of the film should be left to the viewing experience, and it definitely excited me more to see the actual film, especially with a director like Ava DuVernay at the helm. DuVernay gave us the tremendously engaging and thoughtful films Selma and 13th, so a Disney fantasy film seems like a very interesting next step for her.

What worries me, though, is the vibes I got for the film after watching the trailer. Not a “Bad Film” vibe, but the trailer’s visual landscape and tone reminded me of John Carter, Tomorrowland, and The BFG, all films that were live-action fantasies from Disney, and all three were tankers at the box office. I would like to see franchise potential from A Wrinkle in Time, but its marketing is going to have to hit homers all the way to release day in order to do that.

So what do you think? Are you excited for A Wrinkle in Time? Did you read the original source material and did you enjoy it? Let me know/Drop a comment below!

 

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

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