Tag Archives: Tom Hiddleston

Kong: Skull Island – A Movie Review


Related Content from And There Came A Day



Kong-Skull-Island-poster-fullIs Kong: Skull Island a work of high art, deserving of award nominations and lavish praise? No. It is a hell of a fun movie that is more thoughtful than one might be expecting? Yes. Definitely.

This movie is a companion to the 2014 Godzilla directed by Gareth Edwards (ever heard of him? He directed a little thing called Rogue One). There are giant monsters which originate from Skull Island. Humanity would be well served to leave the place alone.

Of course, we will not do that.

Smartly, the movie opens with an exciting action scene that introduces the audience to Kong right away. Hiding the big gorilla from the audience is not the point. Wowing the audience with stunning visuals is. The movie’s prologue does just that: it wows us. The prologue will play into the overall plot of the film later on, so pay attention.

Pay attention, too, to the opening credits. This is a terrific sequence and sets up this alternate world in which monsters walk. Eagle-eyed audience members will pick up a thing or two about the upcoming movie if the watch closely enough.

John Goodman and Samuel L. Jackson are introduced as Bill Randa and General Preston Packard respectively. Both actors are at the top of their games here and both know that that game is: play the type, sell the monkey. Randa is a conspiracy theorist (with a hidden agenda) looking to prove the existence of the creature. Packard is a dedicated military man in search of one last mission to validate his service to the country. Yeah, the do not get along but, man, are they fun to watch.

John C. Reilly is in great John C. Reilly fashion as Marlow, a man who has been marooned on Skull Island for a long, long time. He interjects just the right amount of comic relief when comic relief is needed.

Along from the ride is the excellent Brie Larson as Mason Weaver, a Life Magazine photographer. She is an antiwar protester, an accomplished journalist and key to what happens when monkey meets humanity. Have you seen a King Kong movie? Then you likely know what is coming.

Also joining the fun (I think that is the fifth time I have used that word in this review) is the always enjoyable Tom Hiddleston. Hiddleston plays an ex-British Intelligence officer named James Conrad who is something of a solider for hire and expert tracker. Oh, and he gets one absolutely bonkers, over-the-top action sequence.

In fact, the proceedings are entirely bonkers. There are some jaw-dropping effects and some pretty grisly deaths. There is a very nice plot twist in terms of the Kong character and the creature itself is utterly believable. He is actually pretty incredible. There is even an after credits sequence, so stay in your seats until the end.

What is surprising about Kong: Skull Island is that there is a little thematic depth. There are some themes – light themes, to be sure, but themes nonetheless – that play out through the movie. Also worth noting is the film’s treatment of women. They are treated very well here.

Additionally, the movie fashions itself as something of an homage to The Heart of Darkness and Apocalypse Now and damn if it doesn’t kind of work. Note the “Marlow” and “James Conrad” names we have here.

Kong: Skull Island is an enjoyable romp. It actually has some points to make and it has a lot of fun making them.

KONG: SKULL ISLAND receives FOUR SKULL CRAWLERS out of a possible FIVE.

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And There Came Loki Celebrity Impressions

Tom Hiddleston, the actor behind Marvel Studios’ best villain Loki, is a man of many talents. He made a name for himself in the Marvel films.He’ll be seen as Hank Williams in a biopic next year where he’ll showcase his singing talents. And, in a recent interview on the Graham Norton Show, he unveiled another talent: celebrity impressions.

He’s really, really good and hits the high notes of Al Pacino and Christopher Walken. Oh, and he does Robert DeNiro, too, with Robert DeNiro on stage watching. It’s good stuff.

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Thor – A Movie Review

image from IMDB.com.

image from IMDB.com.

Though I am writing this review in 2015, less than two weeks prior to the release of Avengers: Age of Ultron, I am attempting to place myself back in the mindset of 2010 when Thor was released, when Marvel Films was not cranking out hit-after-hit, and Chris Hemsworth’s biggest role to date had been Captain Kirk’s father in 2009’s Star Trek.

I have ever found Thor the least marvelous of his Marvel comrades. As a young comic book reader, I didn’t connect with the character at all and much preferred any other Avenger (well, maybe not D-Man) to the God of Thunder. As the Marvel Films machine ramped up to this movie, I was not particularly enthused.

But Kenneth Branagh directs it. That’s not an insignificant thing. Branagh is a tremendous director and, in Thor, he shows why that’s true. Balancing three distinct settings – Thor’s home world of Asgard, a sleepy New Mexico town where the title character gets hit by a car twice! and has other adventures, and a S.H.I.E.L.D. base created to study Thor’s hammer which has fallen to earth. It’s a lot to handle, but Branagh’s surety of purpose in doing so reminded me of another superhero film that had a similar three-location/three-act structure: Superman: The Movie, but I won’t go down that road here. Branagh makes Thor look amazing, his choices are inventive. There are really exciting camera pans and tilts all through the movie as though Branagh – a lifelong comic book fan – is trying to take his audience inside the covers. I might have liked him to essay Odin as well as direct because I love his acting so much, but the work behind the camera made up for missing him in front of it. Branagh should have the lions share of the credit for the success of Thor. It may well have been a mess in lesser hands.

What Branagh also does is assemble a charismatic cast. There is not a poor actor among the leads and Chris Hemsworth (a fun revelation in the title role) and Tom Hiddleston (incredibly magnetic as Thor’s brother Loki) display terrific chemistry. Frankly, Hemsworth has the more boring role. Thor is a bit of a buffoon, but that’s part of the point of the story. This crown prince, much like a Shakespeare creation (paging Mr. Branagh), has to be taken down a peg. The fish-out-of-water story that results from his fall to Earth is quite enjoyable and Hemsworth plays it well. His challenge is to surprise. Because he’s the hero, the audience knows where the story is going before it unfolds. That’s not the actor’s fault and he does much with what he’s given. He made me like Thor, and that’s saying something.

It’s Hiddleston, though, who helps the movie rise above its format. The audience never really knows what his Loki might do or say. He’s more than a match for Thor so much so that when a character says of Thor “I’m starting to root for this guy” I found myself thinking that about Loki. He’s the best villain of these Marvel movies by far and the fact that he’s front-and-center in Avengers is a testament to Hiddleston’s performance. He’s so fun to watch, I am rooting for the Loki solo project.

The cast is rounded out by great actors: Natalie Portman, Stellan Skaarsgard, Idris Elba and Anthony Hopkins. That’s a lot of firepower and Branagh puts it to good use, giving all of the actors their chance to shine. Populating the cast of this Shakespeare-like epic with such tremendous talent paid off. It’s hard to imagine how he got these people for the movie but, when Kenneth Branagh comes calling, I suspect most actors open the door.

The movie, which is a set up for Avengers in a very big way, does feel a bit unfocused at times. There is much to accomplish, telling Thor’s origin story along with furthering the “world” created by Marvel Films. Branagh manages to make the S.H.I.E.L.D. stuff play well, though, in actuality, nothing really happens in the S.H.I.E.L.D. base at all. Clark Gregg has a fine turn as fan favorite Agent Coulson (who Thor will come to call “Son of Coul”) and another Avenger is slyly introduced (but note who this character doesn’t share a frame of film with anyone) but the scenes shot here are fluff. The movie didn’t really need them.

In the end, Thor is a good way to spend two hours and I certainly am thrilled by the manner in which the Marvel Cinematic Universe is coming together. As Thor is one of the Avengers’ “Big Three,” it’s a good thing that this movie works as well as it does.

THOR receives FOUR BROKEN COFFEE CUPS out of a possible FIVE.

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The Avengers Sing Christmas Carols!

This one sings… er… speaks for itself.

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Thor: The Dark World – A Movie Review

At this point, I think, we know what we’re going to get in a Marvel Films movie. Though some of the movies Marvel is churning out (to great effect and to great enjoyment) break the mold – notably Iron Man 3 – the pattern is, at this point, well established: hero + a fairly limited love story +a scant back-story + impossibly high stakes + fighting = billions of dollars.

thor the dark world poster

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thor: The Dark World does little to stray from this equation. That’s not necessarily a bad thing and, in The Dark World, the most outlandish of all the Marvel Films, the pattern is quite welcome. The Dark World is something of a direct sequel to Avengers and, as such, it is incumbent upon the movie to up the ante. In Avengers, the fate of the entire world was in the offing. In The Dark World, the fate of the universe itself (nine universes and one more that was extant before the universe existed, actually) hangs in the balance. Frankly, I got lost in the details, but the details seemed very, very important to the characters and knowing them any better would not have, I don’t think, made me enjoy the proceedings any less or more.

And I did enjoy them. Immensely.

The stakes had to be quite high in order to engage The Dark World’s not-so-secret weapon: Tom Hiddleston’s Loki. Remember, in Avengers, it was Loki who brought destruction to earth, in Thor, it was Loki who attempted to usurp his father’s throne. He’s a bad dude. He’s locked away. Why would Thor let him out? Why would Thor trust him? Why would Thor do anything but kill him?

Because Hiddleston’s Loki is, far-and-away, the best thing in The Dark World.

This is not to say that Chris Hemsworth’s Thor isn’t appealing. He is. Hemsworth makes a wonderful Thor. He’s heroic and brave, funny and unabashed. He makes the character his entirely his own, so much so that it is hard to look at a representation of Thor in the comics without thinking of Hemsworth. He is most at ease – and most appealing – in two specific scenarios: when he is a fish-out-of-water in Midgard (Earth) and when he is crossing swords (sometimes literally) with Loki.

Notice I don’t mention that he is at his best with Natalie Portman’s Jane Foster, ostensibly his love interest. Portman is very good and she is far more central to the plot this time around, but she and Hemsworth just don’t click. Their romance is hard to believe it’s drawn in such broad strokes.

No, it’s really Loki around whom the movie centers. He’s Iago to Hemsworth’s Othello and we all know that Iago is the far more intriguing character. So it goes with Hiddleston. Would The Dark World work without him? Possibly. Is it a must see with him? Absolutely.

The supporting performers are in good form: Anthony Hopkins, Rene Russo, Stellan Skarssgard, Idris Elba and Kat Dennings are all on hand to make the most of limited moments. They lend their talents to ground the movie in some kind of reality – a kind of reality that this sort of movie needs.

There is little of The Dark World that takes place on Earth, and that’s too bad. Hemsworth’s Thor is special there. On Asgard, in the other realms, he’s one of many. One Earth, he’s one of a kind. The movie gets a bit lost in its own special effects – which are impressive – and universe building – which is equally breath-taking and periodically forgets to tell a story. This is especially true in the first third of the movie.

I have a feeling that these pacing issues are a result of trying to shoe-horn Loki into the movie earlier than the script originally planned. I know that there were additional scenes of Loki added post-production, and I think these early shots are the ones. Don’t get me wrong: more Loki is a good thing. It’s simply that the pacing is bumpy early.

Once The Dark World gets its legs under it, it runs. Quickly. It’s a fun ride, beautiful and snappy, shining almost as bright as Hemsworth’s smile.

The Dark World is well worth your time. Hiddleston’s performance alone is required viewing for anyone who likes to see an actor at the top of his game completely inhabiting a role. It’s fun. It’s suspenseful. It has appropriate twists and turns. It is the next chapter in the Marvel universe.

And it has a stinger scene. Two of them, actually. I won’t comment more on these, but I will tell you to wait through the entire credit sequence.

Thor: The Dark World receives four hammer tosses out of a possible five.

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And There Came A Sequel – Thor: The Dark World

To prepare for today’s release of Thor: The Dark World, I present a minute-by-minute blog I composed a few years back when watching Thor in preparation for the release of The Avengers. Reading it while you watch Thor is kind of like playing Pink Floyd while watching The Wizard of Oz, but not nearly as cool.

Enjoy if you’re so inclined!

thorTHOR minute-by-minute

1:00 Natalie Portman appears as Jane Foster.

In the comics, Jane Foster was a nurse who worked with Doctor Donald Blake which was Thor’s secret identity. Here, she is an astrophysicist. Portman agreed to be in the movie because she found the idea of Kenneth Branagh directing a superhero movie “weird.”

2:56 Thor appears… and… ouch!

3:21 “Where did he come from?” Asgard, of course via the Rainbow Bridge.

3:50 Anthony Hopkins narrates a quick history of the Norse gods as imagined by Marvel Comics

5:20 Hopkins, as Odin, battles the Frost Giants and loses his eye!

In the comics, Odin willingly gave up his eye for greater wisdom. Very odd.

6:36 Baby Thor!

6:49 Baby Loki!

7:24 Thor’s Hammer!

7:47 Adult Thor!

8:41 The Warriors Three

10:03 All of the items in the Vault of Asgard are from Marvel Comics and of immense power!

11:27 Thor so close to being king! Damn those Frost Giants!

13:18 Lady Sif enters with the Warriors Three

Fandral based on Errol Flynn!

14:30 Volstagg is played by Ray Stevenson who played the Punisher in Punisher:War Zone, another Marvel movie!

15:30 Idris Elba as Heimdall (Elba was in The Office among other things). Elba said the contact lenses and helmet made it all but impossible for him to see or hear on set.

As Heimdall extends the bridge, we should not that the Asgardians practice magic and science as one.

22:11 Thor’s Hammer returns to him when thrown just like in the comics

23:00 Loki realizes for the first time that he is not like other Asgardians

29:42 Odin speaks the oath of Thor into the hammer.

31:34 There’s the hammer! Nice throw, Odin!

32:58 The driver of the red truck who tries to pull the hammer from the ground is Michael J. Strazynscki who is a comic writer, who revived Thor, created the TV show Babylon 5 and wrote Clint Eastwood’s movie The Changeling

35:40 Excalibur overtones, anyone?

36:12 It’s Stan Lee! Again!

36:30 Agent Coulson appears… right out of the credit sequence from Iron Man II

37:10 The Donald Blake nametag is a nod to Thor’s comic identity – Don Blake, who was actually lame with a bad leg, would slam his cane on the ground and turn into Thor!

My lovely wife was a little too impressed by Chris Hemworth’s physique… the film makers were, too in that Hemsworth put on too much muscle for the costume and had to be asked to STOP WORKING OUT during the filming – true story!

The name of this New Mexico town is “Lost Bridge” by-the-way… as in lost Rainbow Bridge, perhaps?

Thor’s Hammer is called Mjolnir and the film makers have fun with Darcy’s mispronunciations throughout the movie.

47:22 “I knew this scientist… a pioneer in gamma radiation” and SHIELD took him away… the scientist is Bruce Banner… The Incredible Hulk! Eric Selvig knows Bruce Banner. Love the shared universe!

48:20 Loki on the throne! That’s a heck of a helmet!

56:14 The agent could have taken a gun but he takes a purple bow… interesting!

56:52 Coulson speaks to “Barton” meaning Clint Barton, AKA Hawkeye!

Jeremy Renner, who plays Hawkeye here, was cast after Thor was completed… his scenes were cut into the film later.

We’ll see more, a lot more, of Renner in Avengers!

1:05:25 Another Dr. Donald Blake in-joke!

The last time I saw Stellan Skarsgarrd in a room like that, he was trying to kill Daniel Craig in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo!

1:09:25 Loki was a bad guy before he knew he was a Frost Giant!

1:14:20 Thor’s illustration in Jane’s journal looks a lot like the World’s Tree we last saw in Captain America when the Red Skull was recovering the Cosmic Cube – the Tesseract

Midgard = Earth

1:21:30 “Is that one of Stark’s?” A reference to Tony Stark!

The Destroyer is Big Time!

1:30:10 “Know this, Son of Coul” Thor pledges himself to Coulson… I wonder if that will play in to why Thor will fight alongside the Avengers?

We know that Loki is the villain as well… seems Thor is pretty key to the Avengers movie!

1:33:03 Rene Russo, 1970s super model, defends her husband!

1:33:56 Loki still making schemes…

1:38:40 Only Thor can lift Thor’s Hammer!

Though, in the comics, Captain America wielded it once or twice…

Only the most worthy can lift the Hammer. Steve Rogers must be pretty worthy!

1:40:50 We know Loki is not gone for good… we’ll see him in two weeks.

CLOSING CREDITS – Stick around!

Patrick Doyle composed the score for Thor. He is Branagh’s John Williams and received an Academy Award nomination for his work on Henry V.

POST CREDIT SEQUENCE “THOR WILL RETURN IN AVENGERS”

And… here’s Doctor Selvig and Nick Fury!

Joss Whedon, director of Avengers, directed this sequence.

It is clearly an Avengers Prelude.

The Cosmic Cube!

Loki has made it to earth… and he’s controlling Selvig!

 

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Thor: The Dark World or Loki’s World – Watch Loki Argue with Children

Marvel knows that Tom Hiddleston’s Loki is a break-out character. They’ve know this since the first Thor movie. They even went back (true story) to add MORE Loki to today’s Thor: The Dark World.

Good move.

Take a look at this hilarious video of Loki and children discussing superheroes. It’s too cute to miss! You can see it HERE.

Loki -- Screengrab from exclusive EW.com clip.

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