Thunderous laughter – Thor: Ragnarok (2017), dir: Taika Waititi

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This was such a blast! Laughing out loud throughout and being impressed by the charisma in the air. And… let’s all admit that the film’s poster could not have been any cooler!

Vivid colours, excellent visual effects, classic but effective storyline drawing the battle between good and evil, right and wrong, bravery and cowardice, the old and the new, etc. And all these given under the 70’s rock and electro musical influence that enriches the action scenes with a particular kick-ass dimension. The film’s tone although inspired by almost four decades ago is refreshing and beguiling. The action is tightly connected with transitory scenes that are purposeful in that one can even detect a laconic intention in directing from Waititi.

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There were moments when I felt that Ragnarok is all a comic-book film should be, a feel-good picture that leaves no opportunity for laughter unexploited but importantly so by not crossing the limits to ridicule. Of course, there are also films like Logan that again seem to be the pride and joy of the genre but found on the other side of the emotional scale of course.

There were a few amazing scenes, like the Valkyrie’s memory which is a slow motion, visual effect masterpiece. Valkyries and Hela seem as if they’ve jumped out a painting in an Arts Museum. The opening dialogue between Thor and the Fire Demon Surtur. Anthony Hopkins’ Asgard scene, where he imitates Loki’s lightness of speech and elegance of movement. Scenes shared between Thor and Loki are effortlessly funny and moving thanks to Hemsworth’s and Hiddleston’s chemistry. Thor’s attempts to take Hulk under his influence project childness and playfulness that keeps you interested. Banner’s first scenes after putting Hulk to sleep are pure enjoyment.

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Thor: Ragnarok is one of the funniest comic-book adaptation films, perhaps the second most self-mocking movie of the genre after Deadpool. Breaking the third wall is not necessary here however, with Thor being more than well-known amongst this audience who have countless references to rely on for ample laughter and excitement as it is.

Hemsworth proves himself as a gifted lead man with a surprising flair for comedy that does justice to the brilliantly entertaining dialogues. There’s also a sweetness in the character, his goofiness and comical predisposition are marked by a timid modesty, predominantly seen in the classic Hollywood leads of the likes of Rock Hudson, James Stewart and Cary Grant. The physicality of the part is again, a wonderful achievement: an integral part of how realistic the “strongest of the Avengers” should look like and of course, a great pleasure for us to behold (!)

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Tom Hiddleston puts a great deal of emotional charge in his performance; he plays along with the ridicule and parody of the damaged, competitive and mistrustful relationship of the brothers but at the same time he seems to have decided to delve deep into Loki’s psyche and deliver an exquisitely complex villain (considering the limitations of the nature of the project of course…).

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Cate Blanchett on the other hand, focuses more on Hela’s body language and delivery of lines to establish a powerful and distinct presence in the film. Blanchett’s Hela walks decisively and beautifully, swinging her body softly from side to side like a proud, seductive deer. Make-up and costume contribute massively to her transformation to a slim, elegant, deadly demon with shiny horns and piercing eyes. I caught myself looking forward to seeing her on screen; there was nothing of older roles of hers in Hela, it felt such an original approach.

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And what about Jeff Goldblum? How did he invent a Grandmaster so absurd and at the same time unpretentiously hilarious?! If you ask me, his scenes were amongst the funniest of the entire film; the intonation he delivered his lines with show a precious instinct for comedy while maintaining a certain naturalness. The way he fixes his jacket, the playfulness of his speech and other details composing this persona made me adore his presence on screen and left me wanting more. Incredible he was!

Mark Ruffalo was also a pleasure to watch both as Hulk and Banner; playing two parts with entirely different requirements each, the former being demanding on physicality and the latter accentuating fear and vulnerability.

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After the film you might attempt to imitate Hemsworth’s accent because we all know… Australians are simply the coolest, be tempted to do the “get help” trick with a friend at some point just for fun, stick the phrase “cause that’s what heroes do” after practically everything, you might ponder about what god/goddess you’d be of, would you be a peaceful or a wroth one, what signature costume you’d wear, powers etc., and finally, you might think about Banner’s situation for a second, how it resonates with most of us to some extent and also, trace the triggers that brings out the Hulk in you.

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Tunes, feelings and colours; Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2 (2017), dir: James Gunn

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One thing’s for sure; James Gunn knows how to capture our fantasy and engage us with laughs and effortless cuteness right from the opening credits. Baby Groot’s dance number is performed in a CGI celebration of colour, humour and music, and sets you in the right mood for the adventure you’re about to witness.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2 is great fun thanks to the striking visuals, the chemistry among  the  cast and  also, because the action plays on character development by taking advantage of everyone and splitting screen time almost equally. And so the diverse gang that protects the Galaxy returned with Vol.2 to bring a spectacle of robust CGI scenes, a breadth of feelings and clever, well-written dialogues that respect the characters evolution. Needless to say I loved the film because in its plot’s simplicity and predictability, it’s a fun ride to yet another strange and fun Marvel Universe.

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Michael Rooker delivers a memorable performance as the blue-skinned buccaneer Yondu. He is a man of multiple layers and that makes him incredibly relatable and likeable. Yondu’s biggest mistake was to betray the trust of his fellow Ravagers which leaves him exiled by their community and utterly hurt, regretful and tormented. Nothing compares to the effect on the audience when a crude and shielded character unveils his emotions and unspoken truths, by revealing where his heart truly lies and by seeking redemption by all costs.

Mantis (Pom Klementieff), the empathic sole companion/habitat of Ego is fresh, funny, sweat and surprisingly strong. Her flourishing friendship with Drax is heart-warming and amusing. Bradley Cooper does once more great voice work with Rocket, the piece-of-work modified raccoon whose wild nature and bad temper tries the patience of his friends. The scene where Yondu confronts his trouble-making nature and pushes him to admit his vulnerabilities is impactful and memorable.

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The film has weaknesses like any other; every time Chris Pratt, the Star-Lord himself delivers a line on a dramatic tone, I find it funny, I can almost see him smile while yelling at his Ego-maniac father, or blaming Gamora for not being a supportive friend, or freaking out over Rocket’s theft… I simply can’t take him seriously. Although, I understand the rationale behind casting him as Peter Quill, I believe he is a comedy actor who fails drama, as it was recently proved in Passengers (2016). In addition, Guardians Vol.2 doesn’t achieve the laughs of its predecessor, with sarcastic hints and jokes that are dragged for too long and were not that funny to begin with, e.g. the Taserface teasing that had the whole crew bursting in tears of laughter (?), Drax’s share of funny comments (nope…), etc.

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Speaking of striking scenes, I believe the film gives one of the most colourful and heart-breaking funerals in cinema. Baby Groot’s torture and subsequent mission serves laughter upon tears, Yondu’s revenge is diabolically satisfying, Nebula (Karen Gillan) sharing her plans with Kraglin (Sean Gunn) is oddly devastating and funny and finally, Yondu’s ascend to space with Peter in his arms draw the simplicity of love and silence. Also, Groot (Vin Diesel) is the most adorable, one-sentence speaking, constantly teary-eyed wooden baby ever created and I feel constantly manipulated by how this little cute twig makes me feel…

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Guardian’s USP consists of the stunning spectacle of colourful visuals along with incredible 70’s mixed tapes that mark the action and inner dialogues. The film also emphasises the absolute need for respect to diversity and explores the concept of family, by placing friends as surrogates in the absence or incompetence demonstrated by blood-relations.

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After the film you might listen to Fleetwood Mac’s anthology, put on your most colourful outfits, think how cool it would be to be blue, green or purple (or any other skin tone of crazy colours and shapes you can imagine), try to imitate the way Mantis and Yondu talk and finally, think of the “crazy shit” you would built if you were a half-Celestial.