Thor: Ragnarok (2017) Review

***SPOILER-FREE REVIEW (as far as I’m aware!!)***

Thor: Ragnarok (2017)

Directed by Taika Waititi

Based on Thor by Stan Lee, Larry Lieber & Jack Kirby

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

Music by Mark Mothersbaugh

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
Imprisoned, the mighty Thor finds himself in a lethal gladiatorial contest against the Hulk, his former ally. Thor must fight for survival and race against time to prevent the all-powerful Hela from destroying his home and the Asgardian civilization.

My Opinion:

As I always say when I start these superhero movie reviews, I’m getting very superheroed-out. However, I do have fun with the Marvel ones even though I wouldn’t call myself a massive fan. But then the Guardians Of The Galaxy films came along and it turns out that the “funny superhero movie” thing is MUCH more my type of thing! I love GOTG. And as for the Avengers, Thor is probably my favorite character because, um. I dunno? I’m trying to think of something mature to say… Okay, I like Thor the most because Chris Hemsworth is visually appealing. Okay?!

Of the standalone movies, the first Iron Man may be my favorite and I think the first Thor film is quite weak. But then I liked Thor: The Dark World a hell of a lot more than the first film and, with the Avengers films, we were able to see Thor develop much more of a personality. The “Thor with a sense of humor” thing that started to appear really worked for the character and I’m very happy that they’ve finally gone fully in that direction with this film. I’m surprised it’s getting such good reviews overall, though, as I can’t see “funny Thor” working for everyone? I hated Batman V Superman with a passion (yeah, I know that’s DC) and that whole “dark, brooding, depressing” superhero bullshit annoys me. But some people love that. Those who love dark & brooding are unlikely to love this new version of Thor. I personally love this new version of Thor (and all versions of Thor, including shirtless Thor) but my only negative comment is that this film does feel out of place in amongst all the other Marvel Avengers movies. It doesn’t really “fit”. I don’t know how some fans will feel about that.

I lied: I have one more negative comment so I’ll get that out of the way now. The story in this movie isn’t anything special. It’s your typical Marvel plot. But I honestly never give much of a shit about any of the Marvel plots as they all seem the same to me anyway & I see these all as “popcorn” movies that I don’t want to have to think about. I don’t mean to sound dismissive of these films as I know they have so many fans – I just see them in a different sort of way than a full-on fanboy or fangirl would see them. I don’t think I can say that this movie really added anything important to the overall Avengers stories. It was just a lot of fun to watch, which is the main thing that a superhero movie should be (in my opinion).


Here are the positives: there are loads of genuinely funny moments, Thor and Hulk are hilarious together, and I thought all the new characters were very good (especially Tessa Thompson’s super cool Valkyrie & Cate Blanchett’s super evil Hela). Oh, and Jeff Goldblum, of course. I didn’t realize he had such a big following! People seem to love him & he’s very funny in this. I also really liked Karl Urban (Oh yeah – I like Dredd a lot & that’s dark & depressing! Hmm) and I liked seeing Idris Elba get to do more than I can remember him getting to do in the other Thor films (I could do with re-watching them but doubt I’ll ever bother). And I think everyone knows that director Taika Waititi plays a character named Korg. He’s pretty damn hilarious and was clearly a favorite with the audience in my cinema. Oh, and it was one of those weird times when some people in my cinema clapped & cheered at the end of the movie. I always find that strange (it’s not a play!) but it gives you an idea of how some feel about Thor: Ragnarok – I saw a lot of people who clearly had a great time watching this.

I liked this movie a lot but, for some reason I can’t put my finger on, I didn’t love it. It seems like all the elements are there for me to love it. I think Taika Waititi is very funny, I far prefer fun & lighthearted superhero movies like this, and I loooooove Chris Hemsworth. The new characters are great, I laughed quite a bit, and even though I haven’t listened to Led Zeppelin in years after having a big phase of worshipping them in my teens I never stopped loving Immigrant Song (because it kicks ass) and its use, though predictable, is perfect for this movie. So why don’t I love this movie? I disagree with the hubby quite a bit on movies these days but I have to agree with him saying that this movie feels a bit “throwaway”. It’s fun but, years from now, it may not stand up as well when compared to some of the strongest Marvel films.

Also, I’ll remain spoiler-free but just a warning if you bring kids under 12: this movie is more violent than some and there’s one particular moment that was quite horrifying. My daughter turned to me with a look of horror on her face but I don’t think I was much comfort since I had a similar look of horror. 😉 But you know kids: they bounce back quick. About 15 minutes later she whispered “I love this movie!” while I still had yet to fully recover. The moment is listed in the parents’ guide at IMDb if you really need to know beforehand but it’s a major spoiler. Also, this movie is a lower rating in the UK but is a PG-13 in America. Damn. As we got it here first, I had no warning beforehand so be careful if taking sensitive kids to this. Knowing America, though, it probably only got the higher rating there for some “dirty talk” that will go over kids’ heads anyway. 

My Rating: 7.5/10

Is there a scene after the credits? Duh. Of course. One partway through and one at the very end. Worth staying for if you like to get the full experience.

Stan Lee Cameo: I feel like I should start rating these… I loved this one. Another fun cameo and he was the perfect person for this part. 🙂

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Magic (1978) Blind Spot Review

Welcome to Creepy Dolls Week! Let’s look at Magic’s impressive set of names: Richard Attenborough, William Goldman, Anthony Hopkins, Ann-Margret, Burgess Meredith… Wow! This is why I added Magic to my Blind Spot list. Was it as good as the talent involved would suggest?

Magic (1978)

Directed by Richard Attenborough

Based on Magic by William Goldman

Starring: Anthony Hopkins, Ann-Margret, Burgess Meredith, Ed Lauter, David Ogden Stiers

Music by Jerry Goldsmith

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
A ventriloquist is at the mercy of his vicious dummy while he tries to renew a romance with his high school sweetheart.

My Opinion:

Here’s a quick list of links to my 2016 Blind Spot Reviews so far, including where I’d rank Magic:

9. Phenomena – 7/10
8. An Education – 7/10
7. Magic – 7/10
6. Summer Wars – 7/10
5. True Romance – 7/10
4. THX 1138 – 7.5/10
3. Play Misty For Me – 7.5/10
2. Battle Royale – 8/10
1. Natural Born Killers – 8/10

Of all the impressive names attached to this film, it was actually William Goldman’s that convinced me I should put this movie on my Blind Spot list & finally get around to watching it. Written by the same guy who wrote The Princess Bride, one of the best movies in the history of history??? Oh hell yeah – I had to see this. Plus I admit I have a strange fascination with/fear of ventriloquist’s dummies and this film’s cover has a suitaby creepy one (named “Fats” in the movie). Look at that face! What an evil looking bastard. Can you imagine that thing sitting in your home? Staring at you? Watching you dress? Hogging the remote control? Leaving the toilet seat up? Well, Ann-Margret seemed to find it charming…

Anthony Hopkins is great in this & it’s easy to see why he’s become such a highly respected actor. This is the type of role that can go seriously wrong if not played right but he does the “vulnerable, possibly insane, slowly becoming unhinged” thing perfectly. Then we have the brilliant Burgess Meredith as Hopkins’ high-powered agent who is trying to get a TV show deal for Hopkins & Fats. Aww. I love Burgess Meredith! I’ve had a soft spot for him ever since his various roles in my absolute favorite TV show growing up, the original The Twilight Zone (he just wanted to be left alone to READ!). I suppose I should get around to watching those Rocky films someday, huh? Anyway, he was a delight in Magic & probably my favorite thing about it. He looked weird with a partially shaved head, though.

Speaking of The Twilight Zone, I suppose I have to admit that Magic’s story doesn’t feel totally original as it was done before in things such as, yes, The Twilight Zone as well as in the not-as-well-known-as-it-should-be British horror anthology Dead Of Night. However, this story is often repeated because it’s a damn good one & Goldman has created very strong characters in order to pull it off. I’ll always happily watch the various ways of going about telling this same “crazy ventriloquist OR crazy dummy?” story.

Unfortunately, while I adore movies from the Seventies, this one hasn’t aged quite as well as some. The strong characters stop when we get to the one female in this film: Ann-Margret. She played the role fine but her character is flaky & far too forgiving. But I suppose that’s kind of the point of her character as she’s married to a possessive man, meaning that when she has an affair with Hopkins & he starts displaying bizarre behavior she just puts up with it as it’s the sort of behavior she’s come to expect. It was a different time, though, and I can’t say this hurt the film too much overall. But I couldn’t help but think that I’d kick that crazy dude & his ugly dummy the hell out of my house! No, wait – I wouldn’t let them in in the first place. You are NOT coming into my house with that dummy. I don’t care if we were friends in high school! And don’t send me any social media friend requests, either. Weirdo.

Magic is a good film. It won’t become an all-time favorite of mine but I’m glad I finally watched it. The story is well told with strong characters but I have a feeling it maybe worked slightly better in the book? Has anyone here read it? However, the acting really makes this film far better than it would’ve been had less talented people been involved. I do recommend Magic if it appeals to you in any way as I think it would be worth your time, especially if you’re a fan of Hopkins & appreciate good performances.

My Rating: 7/10

This song is in no way, shape or form related to this film. It’s just now stuck in my head. And I like it. 😉

Audrey Rose (1977) & A Good Marriage (2014) Movie Reviews

I appear to have watched one too many horror films in the past year so I’m doing a special 2 for 1 deal for my dear readers. Today only! Get it while supplies last! I figured I’d put these two together as I don’t have a whole lot to say about either. I don’t mean that in a bad way – I really liked them both but, well, sometimes there’s just not a lot to say. This is why I’m not a writer… 😉 Let’s have two quickies, shall we?

Audrey Rose (1977)

Directed by Robert Wise

Based on Audrey Rose by Frank De Felitta

Starring: Marsha Mason, Anthony Hopkins, John Beck, Susan Swift

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
A stranger attempts to convince a happily married couple that their daughter is actually his daughter reincarnated.

My Opinion:

This is the kind of supernatural story that’s right up my alley PLUS it’s set in one of my two absolute favorite decades (the groovy Seventies, when everyone looked like an ugly porn star) so I jumped at the chance to finally see this when it popped up on Netflix a while back. I love the pulp novel feel to the film’s story and I found out after watching it that it is indeed adapted from a book (with a great pulpy cover, which appears to have been partially used on that cool orange poster up above).

I find reincarnation a fascinating topic & thought this film had a pretty strong story. I’d probably enjoy the book (has anyone here read it?). The movie is helped by some very good performances, especially from Marsha Mason as the young girl’s mother & Anthony Hopkins as the heartbroken stranger who is convinced that Mason’s daughter is the reincarnation of his own daughter, who died in a car crash at the same time this girl was born. Hopkins was very convincing as a man, understandably, slightly crazed with grief while the girl’s parents were very believable as a loving, close-knit family who would do everything possible to protect their daughter.

Unfortunately, and I feel super bad saying this, the girl (Susan Swift) is the film’s weakest link. Which isn’t good as she’s the character who links everyone together… I can handle this as I grew up on 70s & 80s movies but younger people who watch these older films nowadays have to remind themselves that the quality of acting from children wasn’t in the same league back then. It still almost freaks me out how amazing Jacob Tremblay was in Room! Or Sennia Nanua in The Girl With All The Gifts (a fantastic “zombie film with a brain” that I highly recommend, by the way). “Bad” child acting was common in older movies, though, and I don’t think it’s the fault of the kids – I think maybe they just didn’t know how to direct them back then. But other than the girl’s distracting acting… Ha! That could be a song. Like Conjunction Junction! What’s your function? Distracting Acting! What are you, um, lacking? That doesn’t quite rhyme. What rhymes with acting?? I’m off topic! Now back to your regularly scheduled review:

I think Audrey Rose is a decent psychological thriller (despite distracting acting!) that’s been forgotten about as it’s definitely not at the same level as others from the same decade such as The Exorcist, Don’t Look Now, The Omen, etc. With so many greats being released at the time, it’s easy to see why this gets overlooked. Audrey Rose is more psychological than a full-on “horror” like those, though, and I’d compare it more to something like The Changeling (1980), which had a similar feel. I really did enjoy it and want to give it a higher rating but I have to admit it’s not perfect & I was sadly disappointed with the ending. It’s worth your time if you’re a fan of this decade & genre, though. I’m happy that I finally saw it.

My Rating: 6/10


“Distracting Acting! It’s DETRACTING!” *sing it!*

A Good Marriage (2014)

Directed by Peter Askin

Based on A Good Marriage in the short story collection Full Dark, No Stars by Stephen King

Starring: Joan Allen, Anthony LaPaglia, Kristen Connolly, Stephen Lang

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
After 25 years of a good marriage, what will Darcy do once she discovers her husband’s sinister secret?

My Opinion:

I’m a huge Stephen King fan. I’ve read almost every single one of his books (other than The Dark Tower series & Carrie for some strange reason – I love that movie). I think his short stories are just as fantastic & I recently reviewed one collection, The Bazaar Of Bad Dreams, in great detail HERE. That took me ages! And two people read that post. Thanks, you two! 😉 Anyway, you would think it would occur to me that I’d read the short story this film was based on but, nope, I totally didn’t remember reading it. Then, as I watched, I was like “Why does this seem familiar?”. What an idiot. I worry about my memory lately. I think it’s partly why I keep this blog going! Someday I’ll look back at that Bazaar Of Bad Dreams post to refresh my memory on what I read.

A Good Marriage is from King’s Full Dark, No Stars collection & it’s odd I didn’t really remember it as it’s a good, basic story of discovering that the person you married isn’t who you thought they were. This is one of those very “straightforward” King stories. I don’t want to give too much away but this isn’t in any way weird or supernatural, which may be why I didn’t remember it as I usually love his weirdest stuff the most.

Joan Allen gives a great performance as the wife who must decide what to do when she finds out the truth about her husband (Anthony LaPaglia, who perfectly plays a creepy horndog). Allen is the true star of this film and helps elevate it from something that otherwise had the potential to feel like a made-for-TV Lifetime movie. I’ve always thought she deserves more recognition than she seems to get. I also found her quite attractive in this… She has that “sexy older lady” vibe. She plays this character well, going from vulnerable & insecure to a woman determined to take charge of the situation in which she finds herself. And… I like the ending! I’m so rarely satisfied with the conclusions to films of this nature that I feel the need to point it out when I do like an ending. So, once again, good job on writing an enjoyable story Mr. King! Sorry I didn’t remember it. I think it’s just because I’m getting old. Old but with a sexy vibe, hopefully!

My Rating: 6/10

Okay, this is totally stuck in my head now…

**Starting Sunday, join me for Creepy Dolls Week! I’ll be reviewing some “creepy doll” movies, including a Blind Spot review for yet another Anthony Hopkins film released a year after Audrey Rose… 🙂

The Elephant Man (1980) IMDB Top 250 Guest Review

Today’s IMDB Top 250 Guest Review comes from Tom of Digital Shortbread. Thanks for the review, Tom! 🙂 Now let’s see what he has to say about The Elephant Man, IMDB rank 138 out of 250… (it was 116 when I started this project – it makes me mad when worthy films move down the list to make way for inferior films like Interstellar!)

There are still some movies up for grabs if anyone wants to do a guest IMDB Top 250 review. You can find the list of remaining films HERE. See the full list & links to all the reviews that have already been done HERE. Also, if you’d like to add a link to your IMDB review(s) on your own blogs, feel free to use any of the logos I’ve used at the top of any of these guest reviews.

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IMDb Top 250 movie challenge: The Elephant Man (1980)

So there was this movie I needed to watch for this IMDb Top 250 movie challenge thing I was participating in. I’m using the past tense because this was something I had committed to about . . . a year and a half ago at this point. (Is that about right Mutey? Year and a half? or has it been longer?) The movie was David Lynch’s The Elephant Man and I finally managed to calm my ADHD down enough to where I could actually watch it. However, as I was cueing it up to watch my mind started being a bit of an ass, provoking me and stuff, telling me to flip to a different On-Demand channel, something that was playing a more recent movie.

“No!” I yelled back at it, out loud. Seated on a couch in the middle of a very quiet living room. All I had done over the last several months was learn to procrastinate better. Err, sorry, excuse me — blog about other movies that to me at the time seemed more urgent.* Finally I realized I could always procrastinate — yes, that ‘extremely-nonsensical-combination-of-letters-that-if-repeated-enough-over-a-short-span-of-time-makes-even-less-sense-but-somehow-if-you-only-say-it-once-you-know-exactly-what-it’s-referring-to’ word — later on anyway. I had to hit the play button now.

I was transported back to the late 1800s, and Victorian England, where traveling circuses were still all the rage and attracted (semi-) massive crowds. I think it’s only fair to assume those who did not turn out for these shows had some kind of moral compass that wasn’t shattered into shitty little useless bits. After a brief but trippy dream-like sequence, Lynch pans in on a striking man (Anthony Hopkins) moving through the crowds, trying to access a particular exhibit known only as ‘The Elephant Man.’ However a shift in the public perception of what these most bizarre and unholy of events actually represented — not curiosity, but cruelness — led to more than a few of the more obscure and unattractive exhibits being closed down by authorities. ‘The Elephant Man’ was one such exhibit.

Cut to a dank and depressingly dark alleyway somewhere in the London area, where once again Hopkins’ Dr. Frederick Treves is trying to get a glimpse of this elephant-like man. To do so, he must uncomfortably agree to some terms (mostly monetary . . . natch) set by the manager, a horrible man named Bytes (Freddie Jones). When he’s finally granted access Treves is so moved by what he sees that he asks if he may ‘study him’ back at the London Hospital, where Treves is a renowned practitioner of medicine. Or whatever fancy way 19th Century English people referred to medical-y people.

As Lynch’s often powerfully emotive work seeks to explore the relationship Dr. Treves formed with his patient, Joseph Merrick (a breathtakingly good John Hurt), during the time he stayed in this hospital, the narrative gets cozy in this facility, spending much of the remaining time concerned with the passage of time and how it can quite literally heal wounds. Unfortunately, the London Hospital had been deemed a facility fit only for those who could be cured of their ailment(s). Go figure, Victorian England. As if Joseph needed the added pressure of becoming an inconvenience to the bureaucracy. (Random bit of trivia: Joseph’s so commonly mistakenly referred to as John that he is actually ‘John’ in the movie as well, so for the purposes of this review I’ll stick with his movie name from here on out.)

The fabric of this narrative is weaved from a tough, humanistic cloth. The Elephant Man is an absorbing study of one of the most fundamental aspects of existence, the need and desire to fit in and belong to something. For the heavily disfigured John, it’s heartbreakingly sufficient for him to have his presence actually acknowledged by at least one person. Perhaps this explains why he opens up at all to the doctor who found him in the streets and why he said precious little to his circus manager/owner. John sees Dr. Treves as a paternal figure of sorts. At the very least, a reincarnation of his mother, of whom he carries around a picture in his pocket. Since early childhood, around the age of 10 when she passed away, John was always curious to know if she, too, would have rejected him like his father and his new wife had . . . or would she have accepted him for what and who he was?

The Elephant Man is powered by two tremendous performances from Hurt and Hopkins, the former being one of the strongest in all of cinematic history. (Certainly in my history of watching movies, which is like, so totally not a history at all . . . . . ) I feel pretty comfortable making that claim even when factoring in make-up effects that were ahead of their time, effects so convincing they inspired the Academy to introduce an award category the following year specifically for Make-Up Artistry.** Hurt, behind a mask that graphically depicts the brutality of random chance (a.k.a. the nature of genetics), is mesmerick (see what I did there? I spelled that word as if it were his last name as part of the . . . okay, yeah this is pointless information). But for cereals, you cannot turn away from this performance, not for a second. The man is utterly transfixing throughout, in ways that ingeniously distract from the grotesque physical appearance. Physically embodying the character was one step, but giving the man personality . . . that’s another challenge entirely. And yet, it doesn’t seem to be a problem for Hurt. He’s stoic yet nevertheless heartbroken by his past; grateful for Treves’ kindness yet still aware that not everyone can be like him. There’s an aura surrounding John that is wholly indebted to Hurt’s interpretation.

Obviously Hopkins is no slouch either. A complicated individual, Treves is first at odds with the hospital and its ‘curable patients’ policy. Over the months and years of John remaining under his care Treves makes more enemies than just Bytes, who reemerges infrequently throughout, eager to reclaim his prized possession any day. John’s life in the London Hospital begins in isolation, but as the doc makes leaps and bounds in progress with the patient, and the tenuous bond of trust they establish eventuates in John’s transfer to a more social area of the hospital, Treves must face up to the ethical consequences of using John as a pseudo-medical experiment. Hopkins is immensely likable as Dr. Treves, yet he’s perfectly imperfect. He doesn’t immediately question his approach with John, like how one of the first things he did with him was show him off to an auditorium packed with, yes, other medical-y people and laying claim to how this would be his most interesting patient yet. Instead, that question comes much later, after circumstances have changed dramatically. Yet, if we’re meant to feel ambivalent towards Treves, Hopkins does a damn fine job of convincing us of his better qualities.

This is of course not easy material to get through. If you have the patience to sit through some many trying scenes (I’m talking the kind that make you angry), then the upshot will be powerful, a potent reminder that people have an immense capacity for kindness in spite of all that has been shown here. Yet the treacherous scenes that come before are often punishment on the conscience; their bluntness at times visceral and greatly upsetting. Some parts are sickening, while others can be downright unwatchable. How can ignorance beget such monstrous behavior? The kind of freakishness that occurs naturally only in tents that capitalize on monsters. Lynch crafts a beautiful symmetry between John’s unfortunate looks and society’s collective hideousness.

The Elephant Man has been described as one of Lynch’s most accessible films. Structurally speaking it’s as straightforward as a . . . I don’t know, something that’s straightforward — a ruler, perhaps? No, a documentary. As straightforward as a documentary. I hesitate to make that comparison because it makes the film sound uninspired and possibly even lazy. Given the way The Elephant Man flows from one stage of life to the next, ducking and diving in and out of the various rooms that constituted John’s life the film does take on some of the evaluative properties of an in-depth documentary. Lynch didn’t have to concoct a timeline-distorting, reality-bending head trip to leave an impression here. He just needed to let the subject matter speak for itself.

*  just FYI Mutey, films like Mortdecai, The D-Train, A Million Ways to Die in the West, and what was your favorite film ever? oh yeah — Interstellar 😉 were reviewed before this was watched. Lol?

** slight correction: the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences created the new category for the following year’s ceremony, but only after they were pressured publicly to do so. When The Elephant Man failed to garner attention for its make-up effects, it was petitioned to have an honorary award bestowed upon it, even though the AMPAS refused. An American Werewolf in London was the first film that won the prize in the following year

THANK YOU to Mutey for your PATIENCE and your PERSEVERANCE and your HOSPITALITATITY for letting me post this review on your site, and so late! 🙂 The Elephant Man is incredible stuff, I recommend anyone who has not seen it give a look-see sometime. 

The Silence Of The Lambs (1991) IMDB Top 250 Guest Review

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Today’s IMDB Top 250 Guest Review comes from Niall of Raging Fluff. He also reviewed North By Northwest HERE and Gladiator HERE. Thanks so much for the reviews, Niall! 🙂 Now let’s see what he has to say about The Silence Of The Lambs, IMDB rank 24 out of 250…

There are still some movies up for grabs if anyone wants to do a guest IMDB Top 250 review. You can find the list of remaining films HERE. See the full list & links to all the reviews that have already been done HERE.

Also, if you’d like to add a link to your IMDB Review(s) on your own blogs, feel free to use any of the logos I’ve used at the top of any of these guest reviews. I know I’ve made a few that are specific to the movie being reviewed. I’ll also do an IMDB update post soon & will post some more logos.

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Silence of the Lambs (1991)

Summary: In order to catch a serial killer, ambitious FBI-Trainee Clarice Starling enlists the help of another sociopath, Hannibal Lecter, who only helps her in exchange for revealing personal information about her childhood.

Directed by Jonathan Demme. Screenplay by Ted Tally. Based upon the novel by Thomas Harris.

Starring Jodie Foster, Anthony Hopkins, Scott Glenn, Ted Levine, Anthony Heald.

***SPOILERS THAT WILL HAVE THE LAMBS SCREAMING***

Oscar trivia buffs know that only three movies have won The Big Five: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Screenplay. The three films are It Happened One Night, One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest and Silence of the Lambs. It’s easy to see why the first two swept the Academy in their respective years. The Gable-Colbert comedy represents the very best of 1930s sophisticated – and risque – romantic comedy; it is sexy (legend has it that sales of men’s undershirts plummeted when Gable strode around bare-chested); and it has a madcap heiress at a time when films about the rich were a Hollywood staple (you don’t see many madcap heiresses these days). The Milos Forman film about inmates of an asylum bucking against the system and falling foul of authoritarian Nurse Ratched caught the pessimistic mood of the 1970s; it’s as much about Vietnam and violence in the ghetto as it is about mental illness (perhaps even more so).

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At first glance it’s less clear why Silence of the Lambs did so well. Firstly, the film was released in March, and conventional wisdom has it that only films released in the brief run-up to Christmas get Oscar’s attention. Secondly, its director had a small and devoted following but was hardly a mainstream name, and he made offbeat, quirky comedies (Married to the Mob, Something Wild ), not suspense thrillers. Thirdly, while Jodie Foster was a hot property after her Oscar-winning turn in The Accused, her co-star was essentially an unknown to most mainstream audiences. If Anthony Hopkins was recognised at all, it was probably as that guy from The Elephant Man (not the one under all the makeup, the other one). In fact, as is widely known, Hopkins was nobody`s first choice for the part. A lot of others turned it down first, including Gene Hackman, and I think that Hackman would have done a good job. I don’t know how it ended up on Hopkins’ desk; Hollywood had not been that good to the Welshman – he was stuck in garbage like Hollywood Wives, and he had a reputation as a difficult actor (perhaps deservedly so: for many years he was an angry boozer). Fourthly, the Thomas Harris novel had been a bestseller: would the film be faithful to the book? Finally, its subject was really quite gruesome, and the marketing people must have scratched their heads trying to figure out how to sell it. A man who kills and skins women? Another who eats his victims? And the cannibal and the FBI chick have a weird kinda-sorta romantic connection? Ew!

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As we all know, of course, they needn’t have worried. The film was a huge success and made the 50-plus Hopkins a character-star. I think he’s splendid in the part, but I’ve never understood why he wasn’t up for Best Supporting Actor, considering how little time he spends on screen (less than twenty minutes out of a two-hour movie). As for Foster, well, the cinema hadn’t had a truly strong female protagonist in a while, and it hasn’t had many since. Her performance is note-perfect; there isn’t a false moment in it. There’s a marvellous moment at the beginning when she steps into a lift and is surrounded by men: she’s tiny and she looks to be years younger than her classmates – how on earth can this little girl hope to catch a psychotic criminal?

The film also started a regrettable trend in Hollywood for serial killers (a trend that has produced very few truly decent films) and a much over-used trope: the genius bad guy. Even more regrettably, Thomas Harris and Hollywood didn’t know to leave well enough alone. Hannibal Lecter would appear in two further novels (one good, one awful). While the latest incarnation of Lecter on television has garnered all sorts of praise, critics and audiences were less impressed with Ridley Scott’s Hannibal (Foster refused to be part of it) and Hannibal Rising.

And before we move on, let’s not forget the elephant in the room: Brian Cox. The Scottish actor was in fact the first Lecter – in Michael Mann’s very stylish Manhunter (based on the novel Red Dragon). Cox only has a couple of scenes, but he’s terrifying, mostly because he appears to be so ordinary. It’s a far less baroque take on the character than what Hopkins does with it.

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Hopkins’ inspiration for Lecter’s distinctive nasal tone was, of all people, Katherine Hepburn. Everyone remembers Starling’s first encounter with Lecter: after enduring the oily attention of sleazebag Dr. Chilton, she walks down a long, dark stone hallway, a setting that would not look out of place in a gothic horror, the psychotic Miggs hissing obscenities at her … and then we see Lecter, standing perfectly still and bathed in light in the middle of his cell, a strange smile on his face. Then the whole bit about her perfume, his ridicule of her accent and bad shoes, the census taker’s liver, the nice chianti … fffffsssfffssssfffsss

Silence of the Lambs has a very different look and feel to Manhunter. Mann’s palette has bright colours, pastels, sunshine, a lot of white (Cox is in white prison garb in a white cell under harsh flourescent light), and much of it takes place in a slick-looking Miami (Mann created Miami Vice). Demme’s film has a wintry look (bare trees, strewn leaves) and drab and dreary settings (unkempt and kitschy homes in shitty small towns). The cinematographer is Taj Fukimoto. The sombre score is by Howard Shore.

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Considering its subject, the film is rather restrained. The most frightening moment in the movie is when Chilton shows Starling a photo of one of Lecter’s victims, and we don’t get to see it; all we see is the look of horror and revulsion on Foster’s face. Demme makes some very interesting choices where to point his camera, and there are a lot of point-of-view shots, and they can be unsettling. That is deliberate, because at its heart this is a film about coveting: about seeing and wanting what we see, and it’s also about what it feels like to be a young attractive woman who has to suffer men’s eyes roving all over her. Demme would go on to use a similar technique in Philadelphia with less effect.

I think the film does have some missteps, and they’re mostly to do with editing. The suspense of Lecter’s escape is dissipated by the fact that Demme chooses to focus too long on the bloody but still alive figure of “Pembry” lying on the floor. Five seconds into a scene that should be about fear and confusion and cops on the hunt, and the audience has already guessed that it’s Lecter on the floor, which kills the surprise in the ambulance. Similarly, when Starling gets to Jame Gumb’s house, the film uses a cliche cross-cutting device between where she is and where the other agents are (different house, different city).

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I haven’t even talked about Ted Levine as Buffalo Bill. There are two things of note to remember when you watch him in this. One, this is the guy that played the bluff police captain in Monk. Go watch an episode and see if you recognise him. Two, Levine maintains he was better in the audition than he was in the film. Can you imagine how creepy he was in the audition? Considering all the attention the film received, it’s a shame Levine didn’t even get a Best Supporting Actor nod.

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Thor: The Dark World (2013) Review

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Thor: The Dark World (2013)

***SPOILER FREE REVIEW***

Directed by Alan Taylor

Starring:
Chris Hemsworth
Natalie Portman
Tom Hiddleston
Anthony Hopkins
Stellan Skarsgård
Idris Elba
Christopher Eccleston
Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje
Kat Dennings
Ray Stevenson
Zachary Levi
Tadanobu Asano
Jaimie Alexander
Rene Russo

Running time: 112 minutes

Plot Synopsis:
Yada yada Odin. Yada yada Asgard. Yada yada something called Aether. Yada yada Malekith. Yada yada Rene Russo. Yada yada not much Loki. Yada yada Nine Realms. Hubba hubba CHRIS HEMSWORTH!

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My Opinion:

Chris Hemsworth is rather attractive. Like, almost annoyingly attractive. Like, “it should be illegal to be that attractive” attractive. If I was a man, I’d probably want to punch that pretty face. But I’m a girl so I just want to kiss that pretty face. And those eyes! I don’t normally like blue eyes but his are so lovely! You know someone is too attractive when Natalie Portman looks really plain standing next to them. And there’s a shirtless scene close to the start of this movie where they maybe linger a bit too long on the lovely half-naked Thor (which supposedly really annoyed Hemsworth?). I had no problem with this scene….

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Okay okay – That’s not from Thor. I can’t find an image from the shirtless scene but, trust me, I’ll post it when I do. You know I came through for you all in finding his bum scene from the wonderful Rush. 😉

Where was I? Oh yeah – Thor review! I got distracted. Well, it’s like my above plot synopsis. Blah blah weird names I’ll never remember blah blah Natalie Portman blah blah the necessary quick mention of S.H.I.E.L.D. thrown in there blah blah THOR! Okay – I know this all sounds like I didn’t enjoy this but I’m just exhausted and not in the right mood to do some serious review. I really liked The Dark World! I actually preferred it to the first Thor movie and it was, luckily, FAR better than this year’s other superhero films which I found extremely disappointing (Iron Man 3 & especially that OTT Man Of Steel).

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I’ve said it before with other films like this but I better say it again: I know nothing about comic books. I’ve never read any so, when I watch superhero movies, I know pretty much nothing about the characters and the stories. This is nice, though, because I don’t have to worry about all that fanboy (err… fangirl) stuff where they always end up pissed off about something. I can just enjoy the movie. Or not enjoy the movie. When Man Of Steel came out, I did a list of My Top Ten Superhero Movies HERE. I may have to update the list, actually, as I think Thor: The Dark World may now be at number nine or ten. 🙂

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With the first film… I dunno. I liked it but obviously they had to set up the characters and I really knew nothing about Thor and it all seemed a little weird. But now we know Thor, Loki, and Dr. Erik Selvig a bit better (especially after The Avengers) and it was easier to just sit back & enjoy the film without worrying too much about all the “blah blah Asgard yada yada” stuff. Actually, I liked seeing quite a lot of Asgard this time – I thought that would get boring. It’s lovely – especially that cool bridge thing (Um, the Bifröst? Thank god for Wikipedia!). I do love that funky bridge. And Heimdall is a cool dude.

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Rene Russo was good in this and I especially liked all the bits with her but I can’t say much more without spoilers. I like the Kat Dennings character and the comic relief she provides but that might not be for everyone. Loki is underused in this one which some probably won’t appreciate but I don’t care – it’s all about Thor for me! The bad guys looked kind of cool and I liked their masks – they looked like something out of Doctor Who. And speaking of Doctor Who, I didn’t even know that was Christopher Eccleston until the credits rolled.

20131106-092353 pm.jpgAll in all, I just really enjoyed all the “blah blah Asgard Aether Odin Nine Realms yada yada” stuff this time! Its only flaw (for me) is Natalie Portman. Not that I don’t like her – I do! But I’ve always felt it was an odd role for her and she just doesn’t seem to “fit” plus I feel NO chemistry between her & Thor. But this is really my only complaint – I like everything else about this. Oh, and the “final battle” was much better than in the first film – the end of the first film was a bit weak. To think some of this was filmed not that terribly far away from me in England! Chris Hemsworth was so close to me. So close yet… so far… *sigh*

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Summary:

Thor: The Dark World improves on the original film and I enjoyed it much more this time around now that I know all the characters a bit better. It’s a worthy addition to the superhero universe. I’m now once again looking forward to further superhero films – I’d lost hope after Iron Man 3 & especially Man Of Steel. The Dark World is funny when it needs to be, serious when it needs to be, and action-packed when it needs to be. I liked it a lot!

My Rating: 7/10

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Scene After The Credits? – Of course! It’s a superhero movie! And there’s not only one but TWO. One is halfway through the credits and the other one is at the very end. So stick around and try to hold in your pee.

Reviews Of Movies I’ve Seen In 2013