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52. Thor: Ragnarok – This Just In (#179)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney, This Just In is a subset of The 250 podcast, looking at notable new arrivals on the list of the 250 best movies of all-time, as voted for by Internet Movie Database Users.

This time, Taiki Waititi’s Thor: Ragnarok.

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Non-Review Review: The Heart of the Sea

The Heart of the Sea is well-made, and full of all manner of interesting dynamics and clever set-ups. Pitting man against nature is always a sure recipe for drama, and stranding a bunch of people in the middle of the ocean adds all sorts of unique tensions. Survival drama is powerful, resonating with key themes about man’s endurance and limitations. Putting a bunch of talented actors in boat together under the eye of a talented director will get you half-way to a good film.

The problem with The Heart of the Sea is that it lacks focus. It is a film that is never entire sure what it is about, or how it wants to be about it. Is it an environmentalist fable about mankind’s hubris and arrogance? Is it the tale of the lengths to which a man will do to survive? Is it a tale of two competing egos and the live entrusted to their care? Is it a secret history of Moby Dick, the great American novel? The answer is that The Heart of the Sea tries to be all of these things, but never quite consistently and never entirely thoroughly.

Good Whale Hunting. (Courtesy of Niall Murphy.)

Good Whale Hunting.
(Courtesy of Niall Murphy.)

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Stan Lee & Jack Kirby’s Thor – The Might Thor Omnibus, Vol. 1 (Review/Retrospective)

To celebrate the release of Thor: The Dark World towards the end of next month, we’ll be looking at some Thor and Avenger-related comics throughout September. Check back weekly for the latest reviews and retrospectives.

I am a massive fan of The Mighty Thor. There’s just something so clever and playful about the idea of a classic Norse deity reimagined as a Marvel superhero, a self-aware take on the whole “modern myth” approach to American comic book storytelling that it’s hard not to love. Indeed, I would rank portions of Lee and Kirby’s work on Thor among the best of their output from the Silver Age, a truly epic large-scale epic fantasy narrative that isn’t anchored or tethered to any limitations beyond the imaginations of those working on it.

While The Fantastic Four is a lot more consistent and a lot more important in the grand scheme of comic book history, Thor is a bit rockier. It took Lee and Kirby a considerable amount of time to find their creative voice on Thor – a difficulty compounded by the fact that heavy work loads on other Marvel often forced the duo to delegate the early issues of the book to other writers and artists. As a result, this mammoth tome of Thor serves more as a learning curve, building towards a point where the duo will have figured out quite how to tell compelling and exciting stories featuring the God of Thunders.

Taking the hammer for a spin...

Taking the hammer for a spin…

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Non-Review Review: Rush

In many ways, Rush quite resembles the last collaboration between director Ron Howard and writer Peter Morgan. Both are built around contests between two larger-than-life personalities. One is old-fashioned and conservative, averse to risk and obsessed with victory; the other is young and impetuous, arrogant and self-assured without the experience to back that up. However, while Rush lacks the screen presence of performers Michael Sheen and Frank Langella, it benefits greatly from the fact that it refuses to choose a side.

As much as Frost/Nixon might have offered a slightly more sympathetic-than-usual Nixon, it was clear that the audience was intended to root against the corrupt former president, and champion the ascension of young up-and-comer David Frost. Rush manages a more delicate balance, firmly refusing to favour one protagonist over the other. Both the reckless young go-getter and the safety-conscious number-cruncher are portrayed as sympathetic and well-developed characters.

This makes Rush that rarest of sports movies: the one where the audience is rooting for both contenders.

Not quite to Formula...

Not quite to Formula…

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Watch! New Thor: The Dark World Trailer!

I’m looking forward to Thor: The Dark World, if only because (somewhat controversially) I think that Kenneth Branagh’s Thor is the best of Marvel Studios’ films to date. Branagh isn’t back directing, but I’m always a sucker for high-concept fantasy and a wonderful cast. From the looks of it, Thor: The Dark World is really cashing in on this year’s hip new cinematic trend: destroying London. It joins Red 2, The Fast and the Furious 6, Star Trek: Into Darkness, among others, in laying waste to the capital.

The Dark World features returning performers Tom Hiddleston, Idris Elba and Anthony Hopkins, which is reason enough to watch. Add in Christopher Eccleston and I’m intrigued.

Anyway, the traielr is below. Check it out.

Watch! Thor: The Dark World Trailer!

Look! It’s Great Britain! Isn’t that so fantastical and surreal, arguably as strange as any of the nine worlds?

The first teaser for Thor: The Dark World has arrived. I’d be lying if I wasn’t a little disappointed. I’ve made no secret that I think that Branagh’s Thor is the best of the films Marvel has produced, and I’m wary of trying to use some television directors to offer a large-scale fantasy. Still, while the trailer seems a bit jumpy and jumbled, there are some nice things. I like that Asgard seems to be getting its design tips from S.H.I.E.L.D. and that they seem to have taken some trouble to ensure Loki will feel right at home in a whited-out holding cell. And Anthony Hopkins’ narration is as wonderful as ever.

Anyway, check out the trailer and let me know what you think.

Non-Review Review: Snow White and the Huntsman

Snow White and the Huntsman can’t help but feel like it misses the mark. Its intentions are clear, its objectives very firmly set. It’s an attempt to “reclaim” the age old fairytale for a more modern audience, to revisit all the tropes and the plot devices from the story we all know and rework them so that they speak to today. The result is a massive misfire, as the attempt to craft a feminist fable from the story of Snow White makes the same fatal misstep as Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland: just because you put a sword in the hand of your leading female, and just because she wears a suit of armour, does not immediately reinvent her as a feminist icon.

Not quite queen of our hearts…

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