Loki: the Dork World
I once again must apologize for not getting this written up sooner. I have been dealing with a technical issue all week having to do with a company with two o’s and two g’s in their name (you know, the German company known as Gurslictenoogle) that has kept me out reviewing for quite a while. I feel bad not getting these out in a timely manner, but since this gig doesn’t actually pay me not that bad.
The Loki image, by the way, is from our Comic Book T Shirt collection.
I have also been hesitant to write this as I am not sure how I really feel about it. Was it entertaining? Yes. Were there fun moments? Yes. Was it good in the way a well developed, well rounded film should be? No.
I think this is another case of writing failure. One of the two screenwriters, Christopher Markus, is what I consider an accomplished writer of sorts. He did write Pain and Gain and the first Captain America movies, both of which I feel were very decent. However, most of his filmography seems to revolve around the Chronicles of Narnia, the film equivalent of nacho flavored Styrofoam packing peanuts. His co-writer is Christopher Yost, who literally has only written superhero TV cartoons. There are six more writers credited, and the whole thing seems to be suffering from death by committee. The script staggers back and forth like a car accident victim with a rear view mirror embedded in his cranium. Sometimes it is a dopey, storyless action movie, sometimes there is an attempt at character development, sometimes there is a romance, and sometimes there is a revenge/brotherhood plot.
I’m not saying it’s terrible. If a strong tone and coherent, holeless plot are secondary concerns I am sure you will enjoy the hell out of it. It’s just not as good as the first Thor. I did that which I hate doing the most, research, and found out that none of the writers on the first Thor were involved in this one. I’m not sure if I understand the logic in that. You would imagine that a sequel to a successful movie would want to keep the same tone and flavor, but I guess if it ain’t broke fix it.
Where this film falls apart the most for me is the characters. In the first movie Thor was a spoiled princeling who needed to learn humility and deal with his lack of powers after being cast down to Earth by his equally interesting father Odin, while his scheming brother sought his fathers throne. In this film Thor is a boring, flawless good guy, Odin is pretty much a non-entity, and only Loki has anything that resembles depth or interest. The fish out of water stuff that Thor dealt with in the first film was a great framework for the chemistry between him and Jane Foster. In this film without that basis he and Jane have all the chemistry of mixing all your Easter Egg dyes together to get a muddy brown color and she ends up being the extraneous third nipple of the film (by that I mean completely unnecessary).
This film also falls into the scope trap that sucks in so many mediocre writers. The first film was about Thor, his brother, their fathers love, and the struggle for identity and personal angst. Sure, there was the whole Frost Giant thing but that was more to give the film context for the story to develop. You identified with the characters and felt their pain and hardship. In this one the villains plan is to DESTROY THE UNIVERSE! OMG! I LIVE IN THE UNIVERSE! I MUST AUTOMATICALLY GIVE A CRAP! You see, when the villains plan is to hurt or destroy a character we identify with that is engaging. As soon as the villains plan is to destroy the world, or blow up a city, or do something to everything in creation all tension is drained from the story. Everyone knows that no film is going to really end with the universe being destroyed, but there is just the off chance that the film could end with the tragic and noble death of Thor. After all, Rocky lost his fight and Spock died at the end of TWOK. If a wave of artistic integrity were to sweep over the writers and directors they could just have the evil plan be for the Frost Giants to get revenge on Thor by killing Jane and have her die in his arms at the end. That would be really cool. However, the odds are more likely of me finding love than that ever happening. Of course, since each film has to have a bigger, more bad ass plot than the last one how do you go bigger than the destruction of the universe? The complete annihilation of all causality? Oh, wait. The Infinity Gauntlet. Duh.
The story starts off with Thor (Chris Hemsworth-Pacific Rim, Snow White and the Huntsman, Cabin in the Woods) running around beating down all the oppressed people who rose up against Asgard when the Bifrost Bridge was destroyed at the end of the last film. Of course since all the bad guys look like post apocalyptic mutant Botox accidents and the good guys look like muscular Abercrombe & Fitch models I guess it fair to assume that seeking freedom from the iron heel of Odin is a bad thing. Meanwhile Jane (Natalie Portman-Black Swan, the Professional, V for Vendetta, some horrible sci fi films that shall go unmentioned as they make me sad) has been languishing back on Earth for two years pining for the guy she met and knew for like twelve hours in the last film with no more contact of any kind. She is doing some kind of weird science thing (if anyone can tell me exactly what kind of science she and her crew do I would appreciate it). She is aided by her bitchy sidekick Darcy (Kat Dennings-2 Broke Girls, the 40 Year Old Virgin, Day One) and Eric Selvig (Stellan Skarsgård-Avengers, the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Good Will Hunting), who after being the Marvel whipping boy for like six films is now Birdman of Alcatraz crazy.
Meanwhile Loki (Tom Hiddleston-War Horse, Thor, Avengers) is rotting in the Asgard dungeon with a bunch of the dudes Thor just beat on. He is visited by his mother Frigga (Rene Russo-Outbreak, Ransom, the Thomas Crown Affair (note-she is naked in like 80% of that film if you are interested)) who is the only reason he hasn’t done the hemp fandango (life note-if you are the female relative or significant other of an action guy in a movie or video game but don’t actually kick ass yourself there is about a 70% chance you will die in order to give the protagonist motivation. Be warned).
Tales are told of the defeat of the Dark Elves (by the way, if you happen to play Warhammer you will be shocked at how either this film ripped off Games Workshop or Games Workshop ripped off Marvel. My money would be on Games Workshop doing the ripping off. You can’t tell me Tyranids are not HR Giger Aliens) and how they all died, but apparently a bunch of them hid in hibernation for millenia until their magic zero gravity red Silly Putty was rediscovered or all the realms align or something (details are suspiciously vague. A lot of this script felt very half assed). Super scientist Jane uses her PKE to find a location where the walls between worlds are thin and after seeing the Laws of Thermodynamics sexually molested again falls into another realm. The red Silly Putty (the name in the movie is the Aether, I think) is in a crack between a floating menhir and a big plinth (yes, I know. Google it you lazy bastards). Being the super scientist that she is she figures the best way to investigate would be to stick a finger in and the Aether enters her body (her scientist sense must have told her it wasn’t radioactive or anything).
She ends up back on Earth in time for Thor to arrive and discover she has the red scabies. He ports her back to Asgard where she is treated like a short bus child (I guess she kind of is to them). Meanwhile one of the prisoners in the dungeon with Loki turns out to be a Dark Elf (I can’t type that term without wanting to talk about the new Army Book that just came out. Warlocks are way overpowered IMO) who is one of the Kursed, a suicide super soldier of sorts. He breaks out and frees all the other prisoners except for Loki and tears ass through Asgard. Meanwhile more Dark Elves (why did they move RBTs from Rare to Special? It just means more uniformity of army builds IMO) arrive. They are attacking to capture Jane and extract the red menace from her and put it into a super weapon to destroy the universe. Frigga gets killed.
At that point Loki joins up to get revenge for the death of his mother. Thor has to go against Odin (Anthony Hopkins-the Silence of the Lambs, Red Dragon, the Elephant Man) and needs Loki to sneak out of Asgard. About 30 small stories that could have developed into something are planted and then left to rot (like Sif secretly loving Thor, or some look at the motivation behind the Dark Elves (now Dark Steeds have the Fast Cav rule? That is pretty awesome)). Stuff gets blown up, and crazy man Eric Selvig invents metal tiki torches that teleport Dark Elves (he must be using Lore of Shadow) around because of science(???).
I don’t want to spoil the plot twist but I will say it was at the same time painfully obvious and drawn from the deepest recesses of the writers deepest ass. A plot twist is one thing, but having some random bulls&*% happen at the end is just dumb. It’s like if at the end of Saving Private Ryan the bridge was saved by an army of ninja clown paratroopers dropping in.
Loki was pretty awesome, and every scene with him actually had nuance and character. I’d be willing to bet one writer with talent was working on him exclusively. Two stars. There were some good humor moments. One star. Action was good, and Thor’s hammer Mjölnir was even cooler than it was in the last movie. One star. CGI was as always flawless, and the 3D managed to add to the film rather than detract from it. One star. I really like that the filmmakers didn’t just roll with the idea that everyone in the Universe speaks American English and actually had the Dark Elves (at least they lost the reverse ward save) speaking a different language with subtitles. Movies that assume I know how to read please me. One star. The Dark Elves themselves (access to all the lores adds a lot of flexibility, but the vast majority of them are going to just go Mindrazor FTW) were pretty cool. One star. Pacing and editing was nearly perfect. One star. Overall I enjoyed myself. Two stars. Total: ten stars.
The black holes.
Just not terribly well written. Plot holes and little to no attempt to explain anything. I’m not looking for a thesis paper here but if you are going to teleport bad guys all over the place at least make up a fake scientific reason why that is happening or how it was developed. One black hole. There was nothing of the character development that went so well in the last one. One black hole. I really wanted to know more about the Dark Elves (why oh why do they now also have ASF?), Jane’s research, Odin, Thor, Frigga, Sif, or any number of other cool sub plots that were tossed out with the bathwater. If you hadn’t seen the first movie this film would have felt really inadequate. One black hole. There was no actual chemistry between Jane and Thor, and honestly the film might have been better without her. One black hole. If you have high tech anti aircraft guns why do you go after guys on the ground with swords? The fight against the Dark Elves (at least they are still Toughness 3) might have gone a lot better if the Asgard forces had walked in with SPAS 12 gauges. Pick one or the other. One black hole. The plot twist just spontaneously manifesting itself as if by the will of God. One black hole. Total: six black holes.
A grand total of four stars. Not horrible, but not what I want from a Marvel comic book movie. Kind of meh. The action is good, and Loki is fun. If that is enough for you go see it on a big screen in 3D. If you want more than maybe wait for NetFlix. Just not great. I feel no need to ever see it again. Date movie? Meh. At least Chris Hemsworth keeps his shirt on, so you will only have to deal with his long hair, rugged good looks, and sexy accent when being compared to by your date. Bathroom break? Any of the “romance” scenes between Thor and Jane are 100% disposable. Go nuts.
Thanks for reading. I will have something up tomorrow I promise. Follow me on Twitter @NerdKungFu. If you have a comment on this film or my review post it here, and if you have an off topic question or suggestion email me at email@example.com. Talk to you soon.
Wedding Crashers hits Google.
The weirdest thing about this movie is I didn’t hate it. I have heard nothing but how awful it is from a bunch of other reviewers and I went in with my bile gun loaded for bear, but by the end of it I found myself kind of having fun watching it. It was like going in for a horrible root canal only to find the dentist is extremely generous with the anaesthesia and is a super hot, well endowed brunette who likes to lean in close while working, if you know what I mean.
That’s not to say this film is necessarily good. It’s derivative of other films in the same way saying a photocopy is derivative of the original document. Anyone remember the movies Meatballs, Revenge of the Nerds, Big, Sleeper, and Old School? Vince Vaughn sure does, and “borrowed” heavily from all of them while writing this film with Jared Stern. The formulaic and predictable story caged in Vince and Owen Wilson’s comedic ability, and for the most part the film was chained down with too many straight men (or women). Having the middle aged main guys surrounded by 20 year olds and yet are still the wild ones was more than a little disconnected, and there was an underlying message about how hard it is for current college graduates to find work that was kind of a bummer.
Yet all that aside I found myself laughing a lot. Of course I had a lot of personal connections to the film that most of you would probably be missing. First of all I live in the Bay Area and have any number of friends who work at Google, so the environment they portrayed made a lot of sense. Whenever they showed a scene in San Francisco or Palo Alto I could thing “Hey, I had a friend who puked on that corner”, which always improves a personal connection. Also the job that the main characters were doing at the beginning of the film (manufacturers rep) I have done myself for most of my life and I have worked for agencies exactly like the one they showed, so I could see a lot of humor that others might not.
This film also serves as some kind of Google marketing ploy, but what message it is supposed to impart I don’t know. On the one hand they seem to be showing Google as the coolest, most fun place to work in the world and all the employees are infused with “Googliness” (a term that comes up more times than it should in this film. More times=more than zero IMO) and a desire to make the world a better place with answers to questions like “do midgets have night vision?”. On the other hand the film seems dedicated to showing Google employees as the biggest dorks in the history of dorkdom (this is coming from as big a dork as you will ever meet in your lifetime) and the whole company as so bogged down with nerd culture and hippy dippy bull that you wonder how they can successfully turn on the light switch without falling down and breaking something. Kind of a mixed message. By the way, based on how much I pay every month for Google AdWords, I can tell you they are not not interested in making money.
The film starts off with Billy (Vince Vaughn-Wedding Crashers, Dodgeball, Mr. and Mrs. Smith) and Nick (Owen Wilson-Zoolander, Midnight in Paris, Drillbit Taylor) working as sales reps when they find out their boss (John Goodman-Argo, Monsters Inc, the Big Lebowski) just closed down the company. They are desperate for work (at one point Nick takes a job with his brother-in-law, played hilariously by the great Will Ferrell). While looking for work Billy managed to sign them up for an internship with Google. They are accepted for the thinnest of reasons and relocate to California.
Once there they are literally the odd men out. They are insulted by their intern nemesis Graham (Max Minghella-the Ides of March, Art School Confidential, the Social Network) and are teamed up with the rest of the cliche rejects; an over achieving Asian guy (Tobit Raphael-no other credits), a wannabe geek slut (Tiya Sircar-Friends with Benefits, Hotel for Dogs, 17 Again), a depressive hipster anti-socialite (Dylan O’Brian-The High Road, Teen Wolf, the First Time), and the nerd team leader Lyle (Josh Brener-Big Bang Theory, the Condom Killer, Glory Days). Nick also meets his super hot but over worked love interest Dana (Rose Byrne-Get Him to the Greek, 28 Weeks Later, X-Men First Class).
They are then injected into an Apprentice style competition with the other teams and thanks to Billy and Nick start loosing pretty badly. Billy managed to get the team to bond during a game of Quidditch (no joke. By the way, I don’t care how geeky you are no one on this planet would ever choose to be Hufflepuff). At that point if you have ever seen Meetballs you can pretty much predict where this movie is going, only with less sex, camping, and actual physical activity. Billy and Nick take the team to a PG strip club. They meet a guy who looks a lot like Professor X.
The stars. Funny moments, and if you are looking for a lesson in the value of teamwork and fair play look no further. One star. I’m not a huge Owen Wilson fan, but I like Vince Vaughn and his chemistry with Owen is a winning combination (actually I liked Owen a lot in Zoolander). One star. I would risk serious bodily harm and/or death to have dinner with Rose Byrne, and Tiya Sircar is pretty easy on the eyes. One star. The team, while all plucked from the Tree of Cliches, were all different, decently written, and managed to contribute to the film. One star. I like the guy in charge of the interns (Aasif Mandvi-the Last Airbender, Spiderman 2, Dictator) a lot. In fact all the supporting actors were pretty good. One star. The cameo by Will Ferrell was pretty good. One star. Overall entertaining. One star. Total: seven stars.
The black hole. Not particularly original. One black hole. The whole film was pretty clearly either bankrolled by Google or the writers have a secret love obsession with it. They couldn’t have painted Google to be cooler or neater if they wrote in a device that turned raw sewage from the Google campus into life giving ambrosia. One black hole. The movie felt long and stretched. It could have lost about 20 of the 119 minutes without losing much. One black hole. Total: three black holes.
So four stars. Not awesome, but I don’t feel like I wasted my time. You might not get so much out of it if you are not really familiar with Google and/or being a sales rep, but overall you will probably enjoy it. There is nothing here requiring a big screen so feel free to NetFlix it. Date movie? Sure, why not. It’s cute, feels good, and not a lot of serious competition in the hot man department unless your date has a thing for blond guys with broken noses. Bathroom break? There is a scene towards the last 1/3rd where the team is trying to sell Google advertizing to a pizza restaurant and failing that doesn’t add a lot to the story. Go then.
Thanks for reading. I’m seeing Man of Steel in about 40 minutes so look for that review tomorrow (Man of Steel image courtesy of the Superman T Shirt category). Follow me on Twitter @Nerdkungfu. If you have comments on this film or review feel free to post them here. If you have off topic questions, suggestions, or are Rose Byrne looking for a dinner date (I can promise you won’t be bored, Rose) email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks and have a great day.
Good and scary, but I think a couple great opportunities were missed.
Before I get into this film, let me say that if you saw Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark you can probably drive right past this one. It’s extremely similar in that it’s about supernatural creatures wanting to take away little girls and do something horrible to them. And like Don’t Be Afraid I liked this film and was really engaged, but once again feel the need to beat my fists against the Hollywood wall of unoriginality. However, I do appreciate this story in that it helps illustrate a point I made in my list of the worst Star Trek episodes of all time: while talking about And the Children Shall Lead I said any time a group of children survive in a situation where all the adults died and you are at a loss to explain how, maybe you should keep an eye on them just in case they were aided by an evil supernatural force (or are just evil themselves).
By the way, can someone tell me when Jessica Chastain became the Hollywood “it” girl? She is in freaking everything. On the one hand I am glad for her, as I think she is a talented actor and very easy on the eyes. I especially liked her in Lawless (topless) and Zero Dark Thirty (just darned cool). However, I still harbor some ill will towards her for her part in creating psuedo-artsy crime-against-entertainment film Tree of Life. Some mistakes you pay for forever.
Like I said when I reviewed Don’t Be Afraid of the two types or horror films (terrifying, psychological or supernatural stories verses slasher) I prefer the movies that don’t rely on body count to impress the audience. When 10-15 college students end up on the wrong side of a chainsaw you just never have a chance to connect with any of them. Even the protagonist gets lost in the shuffle. When a story is wrapped around a couple of characters who have an ongoing series of bad things happen you truly identify with them and feel a true empathy. You care and hope all goes well for them. It just makes a horror movie more engaging and less comedic.
This film definitely fits into the good camp and I absolutely connected with the main characters. Overall I enjoyed it. Why, then, do I think there was something that could have been done better here? SPOILER ALERT-skip ahead a few paragraphs if you want to see this film and will lose something by having me run my mouth. You see, Mama is the ghost of a crazy woman who adopts the two girls after their father kills his wife and attempts to kill the girls. We are more or less shown her and what she is in the first five minutes. Later the psychologist thinks that Mama is a manifestation of the older girl’s psyche she has developed a motherly alter ego. What would have been really cool, IMO, is if instead of showing us Mama right away they had played this as a psychological drama where bad things keep happening and everyone keeps blaming the girls until the ghost manifests itself in all her horrible glory. It’s OK to at least try to surprise the audience. This film carries itself on the horror aspect but could have been a great story as well (kind of like the Shining). As it was there weren’t a lot of surprises in this movie.
I had some fun with this movie by mentally playing with the perspective a bit. Like I did when I saw Playing for Keep once I had used my big brain to figure out pretty much how the story was going to end (by about the first 45 minutes) I decided to pretend that instead of seeing a story about the vicious ghost of a crazy woman who murdered her own baby while killing herself and wanting to keep these two girls in seclusion while killing anyone who got between them I was seeing the story of a friendly ghost (Casper image courtesy of the Comic Book T-Shirt category) who tragically lost both her life and the life of her child while trying to escape from a mental institution who rescues two little girls from the murderous rampage of their mental father (who had just earlier killed his estranged wife) and wanted to protect them from their marginally employed uncle (brother of the father. He obviously wanted to inject them into the same dysfunctional family upbringing that created his brother), his punk rock musician girlfriend who had no interest in being a mother and was ill prepared to do anything motherly, and the self serving psychologist who wanted to treat them as a lab experiment for a book he was writing. It’s honestly the truth, depending on which side of the room you are sitting on.
Anyway, the story. Dad goes nuts and kills his ex wife and some other people at work. He takes his super cute girls on a drive into the woods. He finds an abandoned cabin where he plans to murder/suicide the whole lot. Instead he is stopped by Mama. Skip ahead five years and two white trash woodsman his brother Lucas (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau-Nightwatch, Blackhawk Down, Headhunters. Note-in an apparent attempt to keep the cast budget down he also plays his twin brother) hired managed to find the cabin where the girls now live literally like animals. Mama doesn’t seem to stop them from taking the girls to a hospital, where they come into the care of Dr. Dreyfuss (Daniel Kash-Aliens, the Tuxede, Lucky Number Seven), a psychologist. Lucas wants to adopt them with his girlfriend Annabel (Jessica Chastain, looking really hot as a short haired tattooed brunette) in spite of the fact that his former sister-in-law (Jane Moffat-the Recruit, Driven, Moon Point) wants them and actually has a job and a house. Dreyfuss recommends them with the understanding that they stay in the area so he can continue to observe.
Honestly, at that point the story progresses in a very predicable manner. Mama shows up and over time the entire cast becomes aware of her. Dreyfuss has his own agenda with the girls. There is a lot of history on the ghost pulled up. Lucas ends up in the hospital, leaving the girls with Annabel for a while. The ending wasn’t quite what I expected (kudos to the writers) but also wasn’t mindblowingly amazing.
The stars. Very creepy and atmospheric. Two stars. All the characters were engaging, and the actors did a good job overall. One star. The two little girl actors (Isabelle Nelisse and Megan Charpentier) were shockingly good, not to mention cute as a button. One star. The lighting, camera, and CGI (Mama was super creepy) all worked well to put you in the film and scare the heck out of you. One star. Overall very entertaining. One star. A non-typical ending. One star. Total: seven stars.
The black holes. Derivative, and once you got past the creepy jump out at you stuff not really surprising. One black hole. My sympathy and connection with Annabel (really the main character, as Lucas spent a lot of time in the hospital) dropped significantly every time she did something I thought was stupid (i.e. just not bug the hell out once it became painfully obvious something was really wrong). I don’t connect well with characters I think of as dumb. One black hole. The motivation for Lucas and Annabel to make any of the life choices they did in this film were considerably less than clear. One black hole. The punk rocker sub plot added nothing and was actually kind of distracting. One black hole. Total: four black holes.
A grand total of three stars. Good movie IMO. It’s not a slasher or Saw clone. It won’t rock your preconceptions of what cinema is all about, but it will kill a couple hours. Worth seeing in a theater, as the oppressive lighting might lose a lot on a TV. On the other hand, watching a film about a ghost doing horrible things in a nice modern home might hit you a little harder if you happen to actually be in a nice modern home. Depends on what you are looking for, I guess. Date movie? Yes. Scary enough to have her in your lap but not slasher or horrible enough to make her not want to touch another human being for a couple weeks. Bathroom break? I didn’t black hole the movie for this but it does drag a little. There’s a long scene where Annabel is reading the notes of Dr. Dreyfuss and watching hypnotic interviews he conducted with the girls that doesn’t add anything at all. Most of what is revealed you should have figured out already.
Thanks for reading. More coming out this weekend, so hopefully I will find the time. Follow me on Twitter @Nerdkungfu. Comments about this movie or my review can be made down at the bottom of this article (if you don’t see the comment section click here). Off topic questions or suggestions can be emailed to me at email@example.com. Talk to you soon.
So here is a question I always had from watching the Watchmen. If you read the comic you know that Ozymandias summoned a giant dead Cthulu-esque monster to take the blame for the destruction of New York City. However, I guess in the interest of making things easier for all the dumb consumers out there in the movie the made it so a bomb went off with Ozymandias simulating Dr. Manhattan’s power in each of the capital cities, causing Russia and America to band together against him.
The question I have is Dr. Manhattan has been working for America for decades and actually used his power to wreck the North Vietnamese. How is it the Russians didn’t even question the whole deal, or ask for some kind of accountability regarding Manhattan? Sorry, but from an actual nation building point of view dead alien Cthulu makes a lot more sense.
Still a great movie. This Dr. Manhattan image I found in Dave’s comic book movie collection. He only has a few from the Watchmen.
I say go for it. Like Dave said in his blistering review, Ryan Reynolds was the weakest part of the entire film. He just doesn’t come across as anything other than a sleazy good looking guy who’s only interest really is in hooking up with every chick on the planet. Honestly, that doesn’t really say Hal Jordan.
Actually, now that GL is out of the closet, that might make Reynolds an even worst cast, if that were possible. I’m not saying you have to cast a gay actor, but Reynolds seems to have a certain straight typecast going on.
Something else mentioned in the article I read is about Warner wanting to work with creative talent that “gets” the character. I couldn’t be more pleased to hear that. I honestly think this movie really missed the mark, and based on how poorly it did worldwide I’m not the only one. They need to stop hiring guys who know how to write movies for the general population and hire guys who know how to write comic book movies.
Anyway, I’m sure Ryan Reynolds will do fine in his next movie. Maybe Van Wilder II, since that is pretty much the only movie he seems capable of doing.
This image comes from Dave’s comic book t-shirt collection. For some reason he has like 1,000 GL shirts.