Tag Archives: Thor: Ragnarok

Opinion: Why I value ‘Batman v Superman’ more than a film like ‘Thor: Ragnarok’

*Spoilers for ‘Thor: Ragnarok’ and ‘Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice’*

To be necessarily clear, Thor: Ragnarok is a far better film than Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. There is no debate. But that’s not the question here.

The question is of value — something that’s rather subjective and, thus, changes from person to person. In regard to both of these films, I personally see a difference in what value they add to the superhero genre, and in what value they hold as films in general. There’s no doubting that Thor: Ragnarok has great value if only considering the fact that more people now know who Taika Waititi is. The film is also stunning to look at, a visually beautiful and coherently composed comic book movie — a rarity among the miles of grey muck that have become a staple in the very universe that I’m about to make a case for.

But when thinking about which film I value more, I quite easily gravitate to Batman v Superman. Again, to be clear, it’s not a good film. It’s a perfect example of sloppy storytelling. But I find myself hooked by the story Batman v Superman wants to tell more than the story Thor: Ragnarok does. The third Thor film is rather clean, generally well-executed storytelling — yet I feel so little depth in its ideas. With Batman v Superman, I’ve yet to mine all of the intricacies behind its ugly mask.

Thor: Ragnarok is not without its share of fascinating ideas. Introducing Hela as Thor’s sister and revealing that Odin did not come to Asgard in peace, but rather as a conqueror, present brilliantly complex conflict for both the story and for Thor, our main character. Smashing Thor’s hammer in the first act is a necessary kind of superhero deconstruction, asking who this character is without his most powerful weapon. And using biblical and immigrant imagery, to the tone of Led Zeppelin’s Immigrant Song, sets up the climax to be gripping and emotional.

But Ragnarok gets lost in its second act and fails to execute what it wants to do with its third. The planet of Sakaar has the ingredients to carry the story’s thematic concerns along through the film’s middle — a dictator who subjects his people to Roman-like arena death battles while most live in poverty. It had the chance to be a mirror to Asgard and to help Thor learn what he must to be able to come back and dethrone Hela.

But the film’s greatest asset, its comedy, also washes over this potential. While moments such as Thor and Hulk bantering in Hulk’s room or Korg being the one of the most hilarious characters in the MCU are entertaining, they’re given too much time. The film tips overboard in its improvisation without considering what that might do to the development of the story and to the arc of Thor.

To be brutally honest, I feel as though the second act flatlines in hindsight. It’s fun, but once we get to the third act and realize that Thor has to defend his people, take down Hela and make the choice to leave Asgard behind, we realize that the second act wasn’t enough — not even close to enough. Thor taking on Hela should’ve held so much more weight; this is his sister and, if he can love Loki like a true brother, he should be much more conflicted about Hela. It shouldn’t feel as though we’re watching Thor “beat” her, but more so overcome this part of his family that naturally leans toward ruling rather than leading. Thus, the thematic imagery at the end, of the people of Asgard fleeing across the bridge, doesn’t hit home emotionally.

In essence, I find only so much value in Thor: Ragnarok as a superhero film. It’s hilarious, but even the jokes fall flat once the story does.

While the way in which it tells its story is muddled, on a conceptual level, I see a consistency of interest in what Batman v Superman wants to do throughout its entirety.

The opening does so much work, driving home the character motivation of Bruce Wayne with harrowing, 9/11-esque visuals. It perfectly juxtaposes the two characters and sets up the dynamic between Batman and Superman — a man and a god.

Throughout the film, in every layer, this is what’s at stake. Bruce Wayne fears the power of a god, that, at any moment, this god could wipe out millions of lives. Each moment with Bruce Wayne is gripping as his character traverses an arc of growing anger. On the other hand, Superman grapples with the fact that he’s provoking so much fear. He’s a character who believes in good and is challenged when he sees that his efforts for good don’t inspire more of it in mankind. Some have contended that Zack Snyder’s portrayal of Superman goes against who the character is and, to be fair, I’m not aware of who exactly the character is in the comics. But there’s a logic to the direction of his character in this world that Snyder created.

This tension is extended to Holly Hunter’s Senator Finch and to Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor, as both are concerned with the same thing — Superman’s power — but tackle that concern in different ways. Luthor’s backstory, having a German father who “had to march in a parade and wave flowers at tyrants,” which is heavy with implications, informs this intensely vengeful distaste for a figure with such tyrannical potential. Seeing Luthor force this god to his knees by threatening his humanity — his mother — is the kind of superhero imagery I want; it’s visually brilliant on an aesthetic level, but even more so because of its thematic level.

In regard to Superman’s humanity, Batman v Superman’s climax, the Martha moment, is horrendously executed. It’s terrible, and there’s no defending how it was portrayed. But it’s unfair to write off the concept there as equally terrible because it’s consistent with the story’s development. The only way Bruce can overcome his anger for Superman is to see him as Clark, to see him as a human being. So while the execution is poor, the idea is admirable. And to have man actually best god is even more admirable.

And, once Batman and Superman have reconciled, to then have man and god face the devil — Doomsday, who is created by man — is another sign of thematic consistency, and becomes even more engaging when it’s god who sacrifices himself for a mankind that never truly believed in him.

It may sound like I’m touting Batman v Superman as a brilliant movie, but I’m not. I’m simply admiring the deep fascination and care it has for story and character, regardless of how bad its storytelling is. That’s where the difference is for me. In Thor: Ragnarok, I see adept storytelling, but so much less care for character and story. While its execution is cleaner, it feels more hollow.

In essence, I’m admiring ambition. I value the attempt of Batman v Superman more so than the success of Thor: Ragnarok. I want superhero films that genuinely want to do something great with its characters.

 

Featured image via Warner Bros.

Box Office Report: In only 37 theaters, ‘Lady Bird’ flies into the top 10

While there are nine films that earned more than it, Lady Bird is, undoubtedly, the story of the week. In only 37 theaters — 826 less than any other in the top 10 — writer-director Greta Gerwig’s film, starring Saoirse Ronan, averaged $33,766 for a total of $1.249 million. After a 2017 record per-theater-average the weekend prior, Gerwig’s picture now stands at $1.781 million and will only continue to make money. Audiences know Gerwig from brilliant films such as 20th Century WomenJackieFrances Ha and Mistress America; combine that with wonderful marketing by A24, and it looks like they’ve got the perfect storm. It already has the critical acclaim, still at 100% on RottenTomatoes after 115 reviews, and now the financial success that could push it to not only contend, but possibly win big during the awards season.

In first place, expectedly, was Thor: Ragnarok. Marvel’s third Thor film took home an estimated $56.6 million to put it at $211.5 million domestically and $650 million worldwide — already past Thor and Thor: The Dark World in only its second weekend. The film will take a hit this upcoming weekend with the release of Justice League, but it should easily cross $800 million.

The comedy sequel Daddy’s Home 2 made an estimated $30 million for the second spot. The opening is $8 million less than the original, but still a solid start that should set the film on a path toward profitability. It seems as though Mel Gibson is all but forgiven in Hollywood.

Behind that was Kenneth Branagh’s Murder on the Orient Express with an estimated $28.2 million. The Agatha Christie adaptation was produced for $55 million and, with $57+ million so far overseas for a total of $85.4 million, the film will look to make its money back in due time.

In other limited release news, Oscar contender Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri earned a per-theater-average of $80,000 in four theaters, close to Lady Bird last. As the Oscar players continue to release, we should be seeing similar performances — but next weekend will be dominated by Justice League.

*All weekend numbers are domestic, meaning that they’re from theaters in the US and Canada, and are also estimates, reported by Box Office Mojo, with actuals coming out in the next few days.*

 

Featured image via A24.

Ranking the films of the Marvel Cinematic Universe

The Marvel Cinematic Universe continues to be a phenomenon that can’t quite properly be described — 10s of superheroes and 17 films all wrapped into the same overarching story that will soon culminate with the third and fourth Avengers movies. Film hasn’t seen anything like it.

Such a universe is ripe to produce some of the most purely entertaining and wonderful blockbusters of contemporary cinema. These are heroes that, with the biggest budgets, can be fully realized and, with talented filmmakers, delivered in movies that will stick with us just as many of the best blockbusters of the 70s and 80s did for the generation prior.

But that kind of system also needs careful planning and execution, meaning, unfortunately, that some of its films feel rather by the books and safe.

Truly, the quality of MCU films is a wide spectrum. So, it only seems right to determine how each one compares to the others. Here are our rankings of the MCU films:

17. Thor: The Dark World

Jay Maidment/Marvel/Courtesy

The worst film in the MCU is downright dreary. How dreary? The third act is set in London. Not dreary enough? The word “dark” is in the title, so I guess it must be just like “The Dark Knight,” or something like that. It’s not all bad though. We get introduced to an important Infinity Stone that nobody will remember after the credits roll, multiple characters say the word “Svartalfheim” and we get to dream about what a Patty Jenkins-directed “Thor” movie would’ve been like.

— Harrison Tunggal

16. Iron Man 2

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It’s almost as though the thematic concerns of Iron Man 3 should’ve been the central idea of Tony Stark’s second film, as it’s hard to really find the value of Iron Man 2. Is it meant to reassert that Stark is a rebel and will do what he wants? That’s not worthy of a film. Is it meant to realize the consequences of Iron Man’s existence? It doesn’t pull that off well at all. Is it meant to develop Stark’s character? It doesn’t seem too concerned with genuinely doing that. With all of those uncertainties, and the fact that the action feels like a video game played by an amatuer, Iron Man 2 is a shame. Thankfully, Robert Downey Jr.’s charisma and Black Widow’s introduction are enough to find something to latch onto, but there’s so much that could’ve been done that isn’t. Perhaps, though, the value of Iron Man 2 is that it let those interesting questions be answered by films that could actually do something with them.

— Kyle Kizu

15. The Incredible Hulk

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It’s hard to pull off a Hulk film. We need a character study of Bruce Banner, of the consequences of his alter ego and the effects it has on his psyche and his loved ones, but there’s only so much you can do there and for so long before audiences get agitated because they just want to see Hulk smash. The character’s predicaments are both the fault of the character as well as of how audiences are conditioned in this day and age. With that in mind, The Incredible Hulk deserves credit for what it does do. The film and Edward Norton’s performance do good by and more with the character than most other MCU films, and the fight between the Hulk and Abomination is popcorn entertainment manifested. But the film delves into the excessive, into the over-the-top without being aware of it and never quite finishes the arc that it lays out for Banner. It’s a movie you watch once, but just so you can be in the know for the rest of the MCU.

— Kyle Kizu

14. Avengers: Age of Ultron

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Avengers: Age of Ultron is bloated. It attempts to remain very Joss Whedon-esque, but it also tries to do too much with the thematic aspects of Ultron and Tony, the setup of events down the line and the introduction of too many new heroes. It’s concept and attempt at something singular, at something that continues to expand on this idea of the repercussions of superheroes are undeniably commendable. But the film is poorly paced, almost mischaracterizes and misuses its villain as more of a whiny kid of Tony’s than a true mirror image, problematically handles the character of Black Widow and ends with yet another over-the-top, excessive, incoherent final act. It’s not a bad film, but it is absolutely a glaringly missed opportunity.

— Kyle Kizu

13. Thor

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Thor is a ridiculous character, a literal God full of Shakespearean quips and with rather two-dimensional traits and motivations. His first movie tends to embrace those aspects, finding humor in his fish-out-of-water situation and being nearly self-aware of the camp nature of Thor. Chris Hemsworth is also rather good in the role, and placing the story in a small town is a refreshing starting point that humanizes this massive superhero personality. But that’s reaching for things in a film that is otherwise boring and unengaging, and doesn’t do that much with the character. It’s serviceable, but only just that.

— Kyle Kizu

12. Ant-Man

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It’s hard not think about what Edgar Wright would’ve given us had he remained the director of Ant-Man, which is really a testament to the fact that, no matter how fun and funny the final product is, it feels like it’s missing something. The villain seems like a ripoff of Iron Man’s and the family troubles of Scott Lang are genuinely never gripping or emotional. But, as said before, Ant-Man is some great superhero entertainment, and, sometimes, that’s all that’s needed. Scott Lang’s family may be one-dimensional, but Lang himself is rendered lovable by the perfect casting choice of Paul Rudd. The history of the Ant-Man and of Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) lend a sense of depth that drives this story along, and Evangeline Lilly stands toe-to-toe with Rudd as a kickass supporting character. Thankfully, Ant-Man also takes advantage of the visual possibilities of the superhero. While logically frustrating at points, the many action scenes, epitomized by the final showdown on a toy train set, are hilarious, dynamic and informed. While Wright might have doubled down on sensibilities such as those, the final product is not wholly missing of them and, for that, Ant-Man is more than worth it.

— Kyle Kizu

11. Doctor Strange

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In Doctor Strange, Benedict Cumberbatch is pitch-perfect as the titular Sorcerer Supreme, and director Scott Derrickson really leans into the gonzo, acid-trip visuals of the source material. For once, it’s a film that deserves to be seen in 3-D. As a bonus, Doctor Strange stands out with its truly inventive, time-bending finale, whereas most Marvel films get flack for uninspired third act battles. Still, the film’s origin story is a bland one, taking a page (this literally happens within the first three minutes) from Iron Man.

— Harrison Tunggal

10. Thor: Ragnarok

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Thor: Ragnarok has a lot going for it — some of the best visuals in the MCU, the debut of the franchise’s greatest character (“Hey man, I’m Korg.”) and the Planet Hulk-inspired story that Marvel fans have been waiting for. Still, the film ultimately misses the opportunity to truly humanize Thor, suffering from a script that could have used just one more draft. Nevertheless, the film launched director Taika Waititi and his unique brand of humor into the mainstream, which is more than we could have ever asked for. Werewolves not swearwolves, y’all.

— Harrison Tunggal

9. Captain America: The First Avenger

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Captain America: The First Avenger lacks the thematic complexities that the second and third film have. But does that really matter? This film didn’t have to be complex. Rather, it simply had to nail the character of Steve Rogers and solidify his values, and in that, The First Avengers succeeds in spades. The two Guardians of the Galaxy films take the first two spots, but the first Cap film is right behind them as an MCU film with a whole lot of heart, finding that basis in a moving, heart-filled performance by Chris Evans. Juxtaposed next to Cap, we get one of the better villains in Red Skull, who is as simply evil as Cap is simply good. While, on visual and story levels, the film could’ve been more engaging, it’s a perfectly fine superhero picture, and we’ll take it.

— Kyle Kizu

8. Iron Man 3

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Iron Man 3 gets more flak than it deserves. It may have upended expectations and completely diverted from the comics, but are those really points of genuine criticism of the film itself? The film is not without faults — it’s villain doesn’t hold as much weight as it should, it’s handling of Piper is as questionable as it is commendable and it’s paced strangely. But it’s one of the more fascinating character studies of the MCU, questioning who Tony Stark really is without the suit. We see him dealing with PTSD and a loss of power, which is where a film in the trilogy had to go to make the most out of Tony. On that basis, and considering some of its distinguishable visual flare, Iron Man 3 is a worthy entry.

— Kyle Kizu

7. Marvel’s The Avengers

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It’s hard to deny that The Avengers is just a damn good movie. But the MCU has plenty of them, and Joss Whedon’s first team-up picture doesn’t age as well as one would think. The final battle feels less engaging than it should, Loki isn’t that interesting of a villain here and much of the narrative progression is a bit standard with the stakes between the heroes falling flatter as years pass. But there still remains the pure joy of seeing these characters on screen together for the first time, the unmatched world-building of a forming alliance and system of superheroes, the humanity within each character and the vibrant chemistry between them. It’s host to some of Marvel’s pitfalls, but it’s also representative of the best of Joss Whedon — with little of his worst — making it one of the more entertaining films of the MCU. And really, that’s all an Avengers film needs to be.

— Kyle Kizu

6. Captain America: Civil War

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The third Captain America film continues the brilliant thematic approach that started in the second. Directors Joe and Anthony Russo somehow make a film that is equal parts a story about Captain America, a story about Iron Man, a story about government repercussions to the simple existence of heroes and just one hell of an action flick. Where this film suffers is in the sense of stakes involved — as much of an unbelievably fun sequence the airport fight is, it was never going to end with anything drastic. But it makes up for it with some of the best filmmaking of the whole of the MCU, further solidification of both Captain America and Iron Man as two sides of the heart and soul of the Avengers and a sense of storytelling intelligence that the MCU could use more of.

— Kyle Kizu

5. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

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Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 may not be the best Marvel film, but it is easily the most emotional. As Starlord/Peter Quill meets his father (but not necessarily his daddy), Ego the Living Planet (Kurt Russell), he must come to grips with who he really cares about, and must set aside his own pride in the process. As with the first installment, this film is all about family, but it ratchets up the emotional stakes to heights previously unseen in the MCU. Vol. 2 is an unabashed, two-eye-cry movie, one that requires as much Kleenex as it does popcorn.

— Harrison Tunggal

4. Iron Man

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The film that started it all, Iron Man remains one of the best executed outings of the MCU. Tony Stark is a difficult character to pull off, but Jon Favreau and crew follow an efficient, polished and engaging path to informing the origins of a billionaire dealing with the guilt of his corporate creations. The mirror between Obadiah and Tony is salient, and Robert Downey Jr.’s performance perfectly nails the spirit of the character. But simply seeing Iron Man in action for the first time will forever remain one of the most badass moments in the superhero genre.

— Kyle Kizu

3. Spider-Man: Homecoming

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There hasn’t been a Spider-Man film that’s gotten the character right since 2004’s Spider-Man 2 — that is, until Spider-Man: Homecoming. While Tobey Maguire was great, those films were never convincing as true examinations of a high school Peter Parker (Maguire was nearly 30). But with Tom Holland and a John Hughes-esque approach, Homecoming gives us that examination, and then some. As much as it is a film about Parker truly becoming Spider-Man and accepting superhero responsibilities as it is a film about him dealing with the pains and responsibilities adolescence and leaving youth behind, Marvel’s first solo Spidey film is a gem. Hilarious, sweet and as fun of a ride as any other, Homecoming proves that the webslinger is in good hands.

— Kyle Kizu

2. Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Zade Rosenthal/Marvel/Courtesy

As Marvel developed, they realized that, to get the most out of these films, they ought to make use of sub-genres that fit best with the specific superhero at play. And with Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Marvel takes a page out of the political thriller, resulting in the most dynamic and engaging portrayal of a singular hero since, at the time of release, The Dark Knight. As informed by the character’s origins as it is expanding on those very themes, the second Captain America film asks the kind of questions, not just of Cap, but of the world that’s been created, that superhero films need to start asking to remain genuine — on a very human basis, but also on a post-9/11 level, what are the costs of these systems and is this all worth it? Not just that, but The Winter Soldier is also host to the MCU’s most visceral and exhilarating action sequences. It’s the epitome of blockbuster excellence.

— Kyle Kizu

1. Guardians of the Galaxy

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Marvel’s biggest risk wound up being its most wonderful, brilliant reward. As we approached the film’s release, nearly everyone was harping about how a movie with a talking raccoon, a giant tree, an angry buff dude, a green lady and a typical asshole could work. But, by embracing those very bizarre, weird and lovely personalities not just on an individual level, but in how they would mesh among a family, co-writer/director James Gunn struck gold, offering the most memorable characters in the universe. While its story may fall a bit bland like most of the MCU films, Guardians of the Galaxy proves that character, theme and humor — accompanied by visual flare that accentuates all of that — can do wonders in regard to storytelling, and that heart is, perhaps, the most important aspect of them all.

— Kyle Kizu

 

Featured image via Marvel/Sony.

Box Office Report: ‘Thor: Ragnarok’ hammers home fourth largest debut of 2017

After a few slow weekends, the box office has been reinvigorated by the God of Thunder. The Taika Waititi-directed, Chris Hemsworth-starring Thor: Ragnarok took home an estimated $122.744 million in its opening weekend, which is the 4th largest debut of 2017 and the 7th largest of the MCU. The film has already made over $430 million worldwide, which means, on a budget of $180 million, the film is already and will continue to be a massive financial success. The first two Thor films ended, respectively, at $181 and $206 million domestically — numbers that Ragnarok will far surpass.

In second, and over $100 million less than first place, was A Bad Moms Christmas, with an estimated $17.03 million. The film actually opened on Wednesday, and it’s total since opening is $21.55 million. On a budget of $28 million and riding the success of the first Bad Moms film, this second in the series — strangely released over a month before Christmas — will still likely make its money back despite the rather poor critical standing of 31% on RottenTomatoes.

Spots three through nine remain in the same order as the previous weekend — JigsawBoo 2!GeostormHappy Death DayBlade Runner 2049Thank You for Your Service and Only the Brave.

While most other box office stories don’t say much that already hasn’t been said, Greta Gerwig’s Lady Bird soared onto the scene with a 2017 box office record. While Lady Bird only opened in four theaters across the country, the film made a per-theater-average of $93k, which is 2017’s best, beating The Big Sick‘s 5 theater-$84k PTA. As the film continues to expand — it goes wide over the Thanksgiving holiday — it’s likely that it will find similar financial success as Kumail Nanjiani’s romantic comedy, which could then fuel the momentum behind the film as a serious awards contender.

*All weekend numbers are domestic, meaning that they’re from theaters in the US and Canada, and are also estimates, reported by Box Office Mojo, with actuals coming out in the next few days.*

 

Featured image via Marvel.

‘Thor: Ragnarok’ Review: Hidden behind visual brilliance and irreverent humor, story and character fall flat

Thor: Ragnarok, directed by Taika Waititi (What We Do in the Shadows), attempts to make up for the weaknesses of Thor, an otherwise bland character, by enveloping him in the immense potential of the universe’s magic and humor — or, in truth, by making it similar to Guardians of the Galaxy.

For the first two-thirds of the film, the jokes land, and land hard, pulled off with pitch perfect timing by Waititi, the editing and Chris Hemsworth, in one of his finer performances. In fact, the momentum of the film’s energy, fueled plenty by the comedy, is so vivid and infectious that it’s hard not to get wrapped up in Ragnarok. It’s also quite refreshing to get a superhero film that knows how to shoot action and render visually interesting spectacle. Colors pop brilliantly through production design, CGI and costumes. Dynamic choreography, along with coherent composition, create action scenes that are easy and exciting to engage with.

But it’s hard for the energy and visuals to keep us engaged when the film, all along, has been failing its character and, thus, its story. Toward the end, there comes a moment when Thor is meant to realize something about his family and the Asgardian people, about who he is now that the villain, Hela, has broken his hammer — similar to Iron Man 3’s journey of Tony learning to be a hero without the suit. It’s the close to an arc that would’ve been fascinating for the character — had Thor actually traversed and earned that arc. Throughout the film, there are obstacles placed in front of Thor, but they never create conflict in his character. He’s simply resolute in that he has to save an endangered Asgard from Hela, which is not a journey that holds much depth, since it strangely has no effect on his character. Ironically, at one point, Thor says that Loki hasn’t changed and won’t, when it’s actually Thor who’s not changing one bit in this film.

In fact, the film seems to be strangely aware of its own shortcomings. Bruce Banner/Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) appears, and Banner has some dialogue that addresses how Thor is simply using the Hulk because he’s a good fighter. And he’s right. The film makes no legitimate reason for Hulk to be present in a way that makes sense with his character. It seems like simply a ploy for the sake of spectacle. And Hela is yet another entirely whiffed villain in the MCU. Cate Blanchett is great, but the character is one-dimensional and disappears for much of the second act.

It’s tough to hate Thor: Ragnarok, as the film is beautiful to look at and one of the funnier entries in the MCU. But it’s more difficult to love it, especially because the failures in story and character make the beauty and humor feel empty and tiresome in the final act. It’s not a bad film. It’s just rather frustrating, given its potential.

Grade: C

 

Featured image via Marvel.

Box Office Report: ‘Jigsaw’ saws its way to the top in slow weekend

In an expectedly slow weekend before the release of Thor: RagnarokJigsaw took the top spot at the box office with an estimated $16.25 million. As seen by Happy Death Day in the weeks prior, horror films, especially around Halloween, tend to do well — although Lionsgate likely hoped that for a better result with this being the last weekend of October. Regardless, the film, which sits at $25.75 million worldwide, has already crossed even on a budget of $10 million.

In second place was last weekend’s winner, Tyler Perry’s Boo 2! A Madea Halloween. With an additional $10 million, the 7th Madea film climbed past a domestic total of $35.5 million. International numbers are currently low, but the film should still cross even within the next week.

Geostorm earned an estimated $5.675 million for the third spot, a 58.6% fall from its opening weekend. These numbers are abysmal, and even though the film is over $136 million worldwide, it’s one of the bigger flops of the year considering its $120 million price tag.

Happy Death Day and Blade Runner 2049 also stayed in order, shifting down just one spot to 4th and 5th. The Groundhog Day-esque horror film added over 200 theaters, and made $5.099 million. The sci-fi sequel made only $3.965 million, and left 782 screens. The film will not cross $100 million domestically, and needs a huge run in China — of over $60-$70 million — to cross even, which is doable.

The second new release in the top 10 was Thank You For Your Service, which took home an estimated $3.702 million for 6th place. The film follows soldiers as they return home from war and deal with the effects of PTSD, and is the directorial debut of American Sniper screenwriter Jason Hall. Right now, the film sits at 78% on RottenTomatoes after 72 reviews, and is one of the few favorably received new releases.

The third new release in the top 10 was the Matt Damon starring Suburbicon, which essentially bombed with only $2.8 million. The film has been panned by critics as well as fans, currently standing at 26% on RottenTomatoes and receiving a D- on CinemaScore.

Next weekend should blow up massively with the third Thor film and many critically acclaimed pictures, such as The Killing of a Sacred Deer and Lady Bird, either releasing, releasing limited or expanding.

*All weekend numbers are domestic, meaning that they’re from theaters in the US and Canada, and are also estimates, reported by Box Office Mojo, with actuals coming out in the next few days.*

 

Featured image via Brooke Palmer/Lionsgate.

Benedict Cumberbatch and Michael Shannon do battle in first trailer for ‘The Current War’

Sparks fly in the first trailer for director Alfonso Gómez-Rejón’s The Current War, which stars Benedict Cumberbatch as Thomas Edison and Michael Shannon as George Westinghouse. The trailer promises a battle royale between Edison and Westinghouse, as they compete for dominance in the burgeoning electric power industry. Edison was a proponent for direct current, while Westinghouse pushed for alternating current, and their inevitable clash seems ripe for powerhouse performances from Cumberbatch and Shannon.

Also appearing in the trailer are Tom Holland as Edison’s collaborator Samuel Insull and Katherine Waterston as Marguerite Westinghouse. Additionally, Nicholas Hoult makes an appearance as Nikola Tesla, who was arguably the top mind to emerge from the titular war. Tesla was previously played by the enigmatic David Bowie in Christopher Nolan’s The Prestige. Bowie’s performance was a highlight of that film, so it will be interesting to see Hoult’s take on the scientific genius.

The real star of the trailer though, is definitely Alfonso Gómez-Rejón. The Current War is Gómez-Rejón’s follow up to 2015’s Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, which was a film that demonstrated his keen eye for dynamic visuals. Within a few seconds, the trailer for The Current War promises some stunning cinematography, revealing a shot of Edison standing amid a field of lightbulbs. Later in the trailer, we see a time-lapse scene, an unconventional storytelling choice for a period piece, which feels like a callback to the quirky stop motion interludes in Me and Earl and the Dying Girl.

Benedict Cumberbatch can be be seen later this year in Thor: Ragnarok as Dr. Strange, while Michael Shannon will appear in Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water. The Current War was produced by the Weinstein Company, and the film will premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival. The film’s theatrical release date is set for November 24.

Featured image via the Weinstein Company

25 Most Anticipated Films of Fall/Winter 2017

2017 has proven to be one of the best years for film in recent memory, and the hits are bound to keep coming in the fall and winter. It Comes At Night may have led us down a dark and unsettling path earlier this summer, but we will likely remain wholly unprepared for the brilliant discomfort of Yorgos Lanthimos’ upcoming film, The Killing of a Sacred Deer. (This film has been described as more agonizing than Lanthimos’ previous work, The Lobster, which came this close to showing a man blind himself with a steak knife. Let that sink in.) Regarding films that don’t require an immediate, consolatory hug upon viewing, Baby Driver was a fun joyride — a perfect forbear for the frenetic energy of Kingsman: The Golden Circle. And then there’s a little indie coming in December called Star Wars: The Last Jedi, a family drama about space people who should never have become parents.  

The following list represents the films that make us at MovieMinis spontaneously squee. But since the list only includes 25 films, it doesn’t truly represent the amount of squeeing we do. The cutting room floor is littered with heavy hitters such as Steven Spielberg’s The Post, as well as The Current War, which stars Benedict Cumberbatch as Thomas Edison and Michael Shannon as George Westinghouse. There are also Cannes darlings that didn’t make the cut (but which you should see anyway) such as Michael Haneke’s Happy End and Palme d’Or winner The Square. We feel a great pang of guilt for excluding Justice League (squee!).

Regardless, here are our 25 most hotly anticipated films from the remainder of the year.

25. mother!

Paramount/Courtesy

The illustrated posters of mother! were merely beautiful yet unnerving glimpses into the horror of Darren Aronofsky’s next film. Bring in the trailer and it seems as though the director is returning to the brilliance of the genre that he dabbled in with Black Swan. And if this film really will follow in that one’s footsteps, then audiences should expect committed and haunting performances from Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem, as well as a story with some of the most affecting scares since, well, Black Swan. Let’s just hope it appropriately contextualizes the relationship between a 27 year old and a 48 year old because, if it doesn’t, that might be more frightening.

— Kyle Kizu

24. Thor: Ragnarok

Marvel/Courtesy

Taika Waititi is easily one of the funniest filmmakers working today — just see here and here. His films bring loads of heart and even more laughs, something direly needed for Thor, a franchise whose second entry literally self-proclaims doom and gloom. Throw in Oscar-winner Cate Blanchett, the magic of Jeff Goldblum, a colorful Jack Kirby aesthetic and elements of Planet Hulk, and Thor: Ragnarok could be one of the best MCU entries to date. Oh, and in the last shot of the most recent trailer, Hulk goes toe-to-toe with Surtur the fire demon. In the immortal words of Ricky Baker, “Shit. Just. Got. REAL!”

— Harrison Tunggal

23. Suburbicon

Paramount/Courtesy

Suburbicon pulses with star power. The film is written by the minds of the Coen brothers, George Clooney (doing double duty as director) and his frequent collaborator Grant Heslov. If that isn’t enough, it stars Matt Damon, who invokes his Jason Bourne days by taking a fire iron to some poor thug’s face. The film also includes Julianne Moore (her third film on this list, she’s in Kingsman: The Golden Circle and Wonderstruck) and Oscar Isaac, whose mustache here deserves it’s own billing. Here’s to hoping that said mustache stays intact over the course of this darkly comic crime caper.

— HT

22. It

Warner Bros./Courtesy

Stranger Things, but a million times scarier. If that seems like an oversimplification of the upcoming Stephen King adaptation, it isn’t anything less than the utmost excitement condensed into seven words. Despite an initial rocky start (writer-director Cary Fukunaga left the project in 2015), It appears to deliver well-acted, visually stunning horror fare — such that will strike an existential fear of killer demon clowns into the hearts of a whole new generation.

— HT

21. The Meyerowitz Stories

Netflix/Courtesy

Welcome back, Adam Sandler. No, seriously. After a string of critically lashed Netflix comedies, here comes Noah Baumbach to remind us all, that when Sandler wants to, he can be one of the most emotionally affecting actors on the screen. Throw in Ben Stiller, Dustin Hoffman, Emma Thompson and the full support of Netflix, and The Meyerowitz Stories appears to be the first Netflix Oscar-contender that will gain traction among voters, audiences and critics when it releases in mid-October.

— Levi Hill

20. Coco

Pixar/Courtesy

Coco is a Pixar film. Need we say more? Well, we can. The film follows a young kid who dreams of becoming a musician and, through a spiritual connection with an ancestor, he enters the Land of the Dead. The trailer shows that the film will be a visual wonder, but the subject matter offers a look at Latino culture, one that mainstream cinema largely ignores. And with longtime Pixar veteran Adrian Molina stepping into the director’s chair alongside Pixar legend Lee Unkrich, Coco looks to be informed and genuine in its endeavors as well.

— KK

19. Mute

Netflix/Courtesy

Many may only think of Warcraft when they hear the name Duncan Jones, which is a shame because this is the director behind Moon and Source Code, two phenomenal sci-fi films. With Mute, Jones returns to the universe of Moon, but this time he takes us to the futuristic, seemingly Blade Runner-esque Earth within it. That tiny detail may be the biggest sign that this film could be special. Moon crafted such a thorough sense of society down on Earth, one that Jones has explored for years in planning for Mute, so the storytelling should be refined and invigorated.

— KK

18. Wonderstruck

Amazon/Courtesy

Todd Haynes’ upcoming Wonderstruck is based on the Brian Selznick novel of the same name, and the last time Selznick’s work was adapted for the big screen, the result was the Martin Scorsese stunner Hugo. With Selznick himself penning the screenplay, Wonderstruck seems poised to deliver a timeline-hopping, visual treat that will remind us of that which fills us with childlike wonder — film, museums and, if the trailer is to be believed, cool David Bowie covers.

— HT

17. Battle of the Sexes

Fox Searchlight/Courtesy

Sometimes talent alone can put a film on this list. Recent Academy Award winner Emma Stone, comedic (and now dramatic?) powerhouse Steve Carell, the co-directors of Little Miss Sunshine and the writer of Slumdog Millionaire and 127 Hours will bring us Battle of the Sexes. But that title, and the story behind it, makes this film about more than just talent — or maybe precisely about talent, that which is underserved. The story of tennis star Billie Jean King facing off against Bobby Riggs is an uplifting and landmark tale, with a whole lot of lively fun throughout, that could make for a wonderful and necessary statement in today’s landscape.

— KK

16. The Death of Stalin

IFC Films/Courtesy

Armando Iannucci may be the king of political satire, his time as Veep showrunner offering us some of the most gut-busting commentary on the current state of D.C. Pair him with the juicy material of the Soviet regime in the immediate aftermath of Stalin’s death — utilizing a bluntly British angle (they’re not even attempting Russian accents) — and you’ve got a comedy to die for.

— KK

15. Roman J. Israel, Esq

Columbia Pictures/Courtesy

Nightcrawler is aging like fine wine, with many critics and movie fans looking back at it as not only an absolutely brilliant movie, but also a significant independent film and a vehicle for one of the best performances of the 21st century from Jake Gyllenhaal. So any movie that writer-director Dan Gilroy does next is on a must-see list. Cue Roman J. Israel, Esq, a film where Denzel Washington has an afro and plays a snazzily dressed defense attorney.

— KK

14. Last Flag Flying

Amazon/Courtesy

Honestly, if there is one film on this list that just can’t go wrong (outside of the movies that have already premiered), it is Richard Linklater’s Last Flag Flying. Starring the dream-team worthy trio of Bryan Cranston, Steve Carell and Laurence Fishburne, the film is a years-after sequel to the Oscar-nominated, Jack Nicholson-led and Hal Ashby-directed The Last Detail. With that set-up, Last Flag Flying could potentially end up being the de facto critics favorite with Linklater’s humanist style mixed with the socially angry, if touching tale of three Navy vets coming to terms with the world they live in that Ashby knocked out of the park back in 1973.

— LH

13. Lady Bird

A24/Courtesy

Casual fans of indie cinema know Greta Gerwig as the magnetic star of films like Frances Ha, Mistress America and 20th Century Women, but those of us obsessed with the genre know that it’s behind the camera where she makes even more of an impact. After writing a number of successful indies, Gerwig will make her solo directorial debut this fall with Lady Bird. While not much is known about the plot, the film follows a high school girl (Saoirse Ronan) as she spends a year in Northern California. Joining Ronan is a heavy hitting cast of indie favorites that includes Timothée Chalamet, Laurie Metcalf, Tracy Letts and Lucas Hedges.

— Kate Halliwell

12. Kingsman: The Golden Circle

Fox/Courtesy

Matthew Vaughn established himself as an action director extraordinaire with the first Kingsman — the film’s church scene now infamous as one of the most exhilarating fight sequences in recent memory. With that style, Vaughn’s dry British wit, the brilliant cast and brand new American territory to explore, The Golden Circle is set to be one of the most fun films of the fall — and sometimes, fun is all we need.

— KK

11. Molly’s Game

STX Entertainment/Courtesy

Aaron Sorkin is widely known as one of the great writers — of most mediums — of our time. The fact that Molly’s Game is written by him is enough reason to be excited, but the film is also his directorial debut, which elevates our hype tenfold. Even if the film isn’t good, it will be fascinating to see his visual style directly translated to the big screen. But it seems like there are too many pieces in place for this to be a dud — Jessica Chastain munching on Sorkin’s words is the dream performance we need.

— KK

10. Downsizing

Paramount/Courtesy

When every single one of your films (except your first) received Oscar nominations and endless critical heap, audiences will take notice when your next film comes out. And thus is the case with Alexander Payne, who, to this day, seems incapable of making a bad scene, let alone a bad movie. However, the science-fiction satire Downsizing, starring Matt Damon and Kristen Wiig, promises to be a marked difference from the traditionally very naturalistic stories Payne has told in the past. Yet, that’s what it makes it this writer-director’s most intriguing project yet.

— LH

9. Hostiles

Lorey Sebastian, Le Grisbi Productions/Waypoint Entertainment/Courtesy

Hostiles may not release this year as it currently doesn’t have a distributor, but it’s set to premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival in a bid for an acquisition. Made by Crazy Heart director Scott Cooper, the film stars Christian Bale, Rosamund Pike, Ben Foster and Timothée Chalamet, so it’s got a great chance of being picked up for an end-of-year release. And that team of talent is precisely why this movie is so salivating. Christian Bale is never anything less than entirely transformed, Rosamund Pike needs more roles after her Oscar-nominated, frightening turn in Gone Girl, Ben Foster is one of the most underrated actors working today and Timothée Chalamet is on the verge of breaking out with Call Me by Your Name later this year.

— KK

8. The Shape of Water

Fox Searchlight Pictures/Courtesy

The great Guillermo Del Toro returns to the big screen with The Shape of Water, which stars Sally Hawkins, Octavia Spencer, Michael Shannon and Michael Stuhlbarg. The film’s stellar trailer teased a sweet romance with sci-fi elements, but also raised the possibility that The Shape of Water is a secret Hellboy prequel centering on Abe Sapien. Even though Del Toro has since debunked those rumors, we’re still thrilled to see him combine the things we love about his filmography — fairy tales with a touch of the macabre and of course, amphibian men.

— HT

7. The Disaster Artist

A24/Courtesy

James Franco can never be faulted for producing/starring/writing/directing in a seemingly impossible amount of projects in one year. What he could have been faulted for in the past, though, is that each project he stood behind the camera on felt like an interesting misfire. Not anymore. With stunning, Oscar-potential raves out of SXSW, Franco seems to have found the perfect source material for his stylings: the best worst movie of all-time, Tommy Wiseau’s The Room. With Franco directing and, more excitingly, playing Tommy Wiseau on the set of The Room, The Disaster Artist promises a hilarious, if pointedly tragic real-life story of a failed artist. But really, we can’t wait to hear “YOU ARE TEARING ME APART, LISA!” again.

— LH

6. The Florida Project

A24/Courtesy

Sean Baker turned heads and took home awards with his 2015 film Tangerine, notably shot entirely on iPhones. He returns this year with The Florida Project, which follows a six-year old girl (Brooklynn Prince, this year’s Jacob Tremblay) and her adventures living in a run-down motel near Disney’s Magic Kingdoms. With Willem Dafoe and a host of talented newcomers rounding out the cast, this one is not to be missed.

— KH

5. Blade Runner 2049

Warner Bros./Courtesy

Getting another Denis Villeneuve film immediately after last year’s Arrival is already worth celebrating, but the fact that his upcoming project is a Blade Runner sequel (shot by Roger Deakins, no less) makes the occasion seem like Christmas — of the neon, steampunk, existentialist variety, of course. With Ryan Gosling and Harrison Ford teaming up, the hype couldn’t be bigger for this film, which will hopefully answer the greatest question of our time — what happened to the other 2,047 Blade Runner sequels?

— HT

4. Call Me by Your Name

Sony Pictures Classics/Courtesy

The trailer alone launched one thousand Armie Hammer crushes and caused us all to stop and consider spontaneous trips to Italy; the film itself might cause actual meltdowns (in the best way). Timothée Chalamet and Hammer star in Luca Guadagnino’s book-to-screen adaptation as two bisexual Jewish men who fall in love over the course of a sun-drenched summer. The film has drawn rave reviews from early festival screenings and has film buffs all over the world hungry for its November release. Peaches, anyone?

— KH

3. The Killing of a Sacred Deer

A24/Courtesy

Following the surprise Oscar nomination for the dark (twisted) comedy/science fiction fantasy film The Lobster, Yorgos Lanthimos and Colin Farrell return with an even more twisted, full-on psychological horror film. The early reviews for Sacred Deer, out of the in-competition bow at Cannes, promise that it will blend the calculated coldness of craft found in a Stanley Kubrick movie mixed with the cynical social commentary found in the best genre films. Add in the rising star Barry Keoghan (Dunkirk) as what appears to be the villain (but nothing is that simple in a Lanthimos tale) and the where-is-she-not Nicole Kidman as Farrell’s estranged wife experiencing horrific acts she has no fault in causing, and Sacred Deer promises to be the feel-bad movie of the Fall movie season.

— LH

2. Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Lucasfilm/Courtesy

You don’t hire director Rian Johnson to make a cookie-cutter Star Wars movie. The man behind Looper, Brick and two of Breaking Bad’s most daring episodes seems poised to deliver — dare we say — the best Star Wars entry of all time. Forget getting answers to questions we’ve had since 2015 (Is Rey a Kenobi? Is Snoke actually Sy Snootles? Will Luke get a haircut?). We just want another Rian Johnson movie.

— HT

1. Untitled Paul Thomas Anderson Fashion Film

Jürgen Fauth/Courtesy

Quite simply put, There Will Be Blood is one of the best films of the 21st century and Daniel Day Lewis’ performance in it is one of the best of all time. So, with Paul Thomas Anderson pairing up with DDL yet again for what is, apparently, DDL’s last performance ever, this film — rumored to be titled either Phantom Thread or Woodcock — will be a special one in the history of cinema, even if it’s not as breathtakingly affecting and engaging as TWBB (and, of course, it easily could be). Add in the rumors that the film is Fifty Shades of Grey if directed by Mike Leigh and we are more in than we’ve ever been for anything, honestly.

— KK

Featured image via Warner Bros.

Evangeline Lilly shares first look at suit in ‘Ant-Man and the Wasp’

In anticipation of 2018’s Ant-Man and the Wasp, actress Evangeline Lilly took to Twitter to share a first look at her character, Hope van Dyne/the Wasp. She also used the occasion to celebrate the 100th birthday of the late, great comic book artist, Jack Kirby, who co-created the Wasp with Stan Lee.

“I am honoured to be on set today playing #TheWasp on what would be Jack Kirby’s 100th birthday,” Lilly wrote. Aside from the Wasp, Kirby was the co-creator of several famous Marvel comic book characters like Ant-Man, Captain America, the Fantastic Four, the X-Men and the Hulk.

Hope van Dyne was last seen in the mid-credits scene of 2015’s Ant-Man, when her father, Hank Pym, revealed a brand new Wasp suit to her. That suit was mostly silver, blue and red. It also sported four wings, lacked sleeves and included a helmet similar to Ant-Man’s. The suit seen in Lilly’s tweet is mostly black, lacks wings but includes sleeves. The picture also does not show the Wasp’s helmet.

Ant-Man director Peyton Reed will return to helm Ant-Man and the Wasp, which is the 20th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and the first film to follow the (presumably catastrophic) events of Avengers: Infinity War.

Also returning is Paul Rudd (Scott Lang/Ant-Man), who co-wrote the screenplay. Michael Douglas (Hank Pym), Michael Peña (Luis) and T.I. (Dave) will be back to flesh out the film’s supporting cast.

The film also added Michelle Pfeiffer (Janet van Dyne), Laurence Fishburne (Dr. Bill Foster), Hannah John-Kamen (Ghost) and Randall Park (Jimmy Woo) to its cast.

Ant-Man and the Wasp is slated for a July 6, 2018, release. To tide our excitement for the return of Ant-Man and the Wasp (sleeves and all), we have Thor: Ragnarok arriving in theaters on November 3, 2017.

Image via Marvel Studios.