Thor: Ragnarok (2017)

Thor Ragnarok

Despite the loss of his hammer (and some hair), Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is still ready for battle.

Marvel is now just one or two movies away from me actually picking up a comic.

The Thor trilogy ends, as the other two trilogies Marvel has provided (Iron Man and Captain America) ended, with a blast. Thor: Ragnarok is not only the best Thor movie, but one of the top four or five best Marvel has ever given us to date.

After the events of Thor: The Dark World (which is shown to us in a play on Asgard) and a battle against evil beings set to Led Zepplin’s “Immigrant Song”, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and his half brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) set out to find their father Odin (Anthony Hopkins), only to discover that he is being pursued by a secret sister of Thor, Hela, the Goddess of Death (Cate Blanchett, who, as of this reading, I have yet to see give a bad performance).

The God of Thunder escapes, only to be marooned on a far away planet run by the Grandmaster (a role that could only be played by Jeff Goldblum). It is here where he reunites with his old “friend from work”, the Incredible Hulk (Mark Ruffalo).

From his first lines, I have finally began to realize how much of a sense of humor Thor has gained since he first hit the big screen back in 2009. This third film delivers some of the best humor any Marvel film has delivered (or any comic book movie, for that matter). I won’t go spoiling anything, except to say I never saw a movie I can remember that had the term “The Devil’s Anus” before. Yeah, you heard me.

Parents, there is one part in the movie that I felt was a little bit on the queasy side. We learn that the Grandmaster’s space ship is used mainly for orgies (“Don’t touch anything,” Thor orders). Yes, it is funny, but a little awkward. Nevertheless, if your kid has seen a marvel movie, they will like this one.

Even with grand special effects and wise cracking dialogue, the most enduring thing about Thor: Ragnarok is the sense of fun. You can tell all the actors (including the very welcoming Tessa Thompson as Valkyrie and director Taika Waititi as the heartfelt Korg) are having a blast. It is no wonder why so many actors in Hollywood are jumping on the Marvel express.

Overall: Four Stars ****

Transformers: The Last Knight (2017)

Transformers The Last Knight

Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg) gets some down time to take a call from his daughter.

There is undoubtably a lot to hate about Transformers: The Last Knight, but perhaps the thing I hated most was that I did not end up hating it as much as I thought I would (or at least as much as I hated Age of Extinction).

There are only two redeeming (if you want to use that word) qualities to this film: the plot is a little easier to follow, and there are not as many Michael Bay-isms in the film. Sure, there is still humor that panders to the 13-year-old boys in the audience (which I did not seem to see any of the night I saw it), a lot of sunsets that are never-ending, and far too much of the US military. Still, I only counted one scene of advertising (Bud Weiser), and (the one I am most thankful for), no female objectification (which I was really afraid would happen when the 14-year-old girl character was introduced).

The last paragraph is really all that is not bad (I just can’t bring myself to say “good”) in the movie (and really may be the longest paragraph of positivity that the film will see). The rest is what you would expect. Optimus Prime is back, but in some bad guy programmed way (I forgot his evil name and am too lazy to look it up). He is returning from Cybertron (his home world), looking for a staff once given to Merlin (Stanley Tucci, who was smart enough to be in the movie for no longer than four minutes) that helped England during the dark ages 1600 years ago (which I did not know was that long ago, but this movie does teach us a lot about history if it were written by a three-year old). Mark Wahlberg is back as Cade Yaeger, the eventer from Age of Extinction (thankfully, his daughter and her boyfriend are not). He is summoned by Sir Edmund Burton (Anthony Hopkins, who I never thought until now could be annoying) to help find the staff along with Vivian Wembley (Laura Haddock). We also, yet again, get Josh Duhamel as William Lennox and (for reasons I can only attribute to the need of a paycheck) John Tuturro as…whatever his character was.

The action sequences are the same as always, offering nothing new to any of us. The humor is flatter than paper (save one minor humorous scene of Bumblebee’s new voice box being Siri). The innuendo between Wahlberg and Haddock is more cringe worthy than anything I have seen in some time. For a glimmer of a moment, I had a feeling the movie would not stretch beyond its welcome. Yeah, it did.

Parents, if your kids have seen the first films, they are fine here. Still, there is nothing wrong with skipping a movie night and staying home to watch Netflix (it has countless options far better).

According to both Michael Bay and Mark Wahlberg, each has said this would be their last Transformers film (though Bay had said that previously). If the title is being prophetic for those two, perhaps it will be the same for the franchise?

(Note: The after credits tease at the coming of the gigantic machine known as Unicron, who was voiced in the 1980s film by film legend Orson Welles just before he died. The only thing that would make me want to see the next film is if Welles is brought back to life to do the voice work. Being that he is dead, and hated the role, I have doubts.)

 

Overall: 1 1/2 Stars

The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

the-silence-of-the-lambs

Very rarely has dialogue been better than that displayed between Hopkins and Foster…

Murray: “Is it true what they’re sayin’, he’s some kinda vampire?

Starling: “They don’t have a name for what he is”.

A quarter of a century since The Silence of the Lambs was first on the big screen, and there really is still no actual name for who many consider the greatest movie villain of all time. True, you could call Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins) a cannibal, but there is far more to him than that. I would argue he may be the smartest (fictional) character in cinema (the only other I would place higher would be HAL 9000.) It is only more spellbinding when you remember he is on-screen for twenty minutes or so.

For those who have not seen the movie, Lecter is not the main character. The main character is Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster). As a trainee in the F.B.I., she is sent by her boss Jack Crawford (Scott Glenn) to talk to Lecter. The goal: see if Lecter can help in the case of Buffalo Bill (Ted Levine), a serial killer currently on the loose. Buffalo Bill is finely played by Levine, but he can’t keep up with Lecter.

The film was one of three films to win the five main Oscars: Best Picture, Director, Lead Actor, Lead Actress, and Screenplay (the others were It Happened One Night from 1934 and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest from 1975).

I offer now how it won each award. The screenplay, written by Ted Tally (based off of the book by Thomas Harris) tells a story that goes far beyond the basic find the bad guy plot thriller. It gets as deep into the psychological field of the mind of a killer as any film. For Director Jonathan Demme, he masterfully balances the time needed we need to see what we need to of Lecter and Starling. It is evident that staying with Starling more than Lecter is actually a better choice than the contrary. As for actor and actress, neither Hopkins or Foster will ever be remembered for anything more than their roles in this film. Foster is one of the best examples of courage in film (you can see her fighting her fear just by looking in her eyes). Hopkins (who said he based his performance off of Katherine Hepburn, Truman Capote, and HAL 9000) could quit acting, and cure cancer, and he would still be remembered more for playing Dr. Hannibal Lecter (just looking at him, you think “Lecter” before “Hopkins”.)

Parents, there is no secret this movie deserves its R rating: High School and above. Obviously, there is a lot of swearing (some F bombs, and the use of the four letter C word that is not crap), dialogue about sexuality (including a disturbing sequence in front of a mirror that almost shows complete male nudity for 5-10 seconds) and a LOT of violence.

Winning the Best Picture Oscar is never easy (there are a lot who did not deserve to win and a lot more that did). To date, The Silence of the Lambs is the only horror flick to win the Academy Award for Best Picture. It also had some good competition as well (I have not yet seen Bugsy or The Prince of Tides, but Beauty and the Beast and JFK are still masterpieces in my book). It is clear that The Silence of the Lambs will live on as long as there are fans of horror films (both good and bad).

Ironically, the lambs will never stop screaming.

 

Overall: Five Stars *****