Thor: The Dark World (2013)

thor2_1Starring Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston, Anthony Hopkins, Christopher Eccleston, Jaimie Alexander, Zachary Levi, Ray Stevenson, Tadanobu Asano, Idris Elba, Rene Russo, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Kat Dennings, Stellan Skarsgård

Directed by Alan Taylor

Expectations: Moderate, but these Marvel movies are pure fun for me.

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Well, they’ve done it again. These Marvel movies continue to impress, and while Thor: The Dark World is definitely not a great film, it’s a rip-roaring good fantasy film filled to the brim with excitement, thrills and all kinds of cosmic shit. I’m surprised how hard they went into the fantasy realm for this film; the intro felt like a sort of sci-fi influenced version of the Lord of the Rings films. Consequently, Thor: The Dark World is chock full of stuff to excite every nerd in the audience. That’s probably what surprises me the most about these Marvel films. They’re relentlessly nerdy, yet they are also some of the most popular mainstream movies of the last few years. The nerd paradigm is truly upon us; the weak have inherited the Earth!

Thor: The Dark World centers around the Convergence, a celestial event that only happens every few thousand years. It aligns the Nine Realms, and makes the borders between these realms thin, allowing people to pass through them. The last time this happened the Dark Elves tried to plunge the Nine Realms into a neverending darkness but Odin’s father Bor was able to defeat them. The elves’ ultimate weapon was the Aethor, a powerful, shape-changing fluid, but instead of destroying it, Isildur Bor decides to lock it away in some dark recess of the Nine Realms. See… Thor: The Dark World is in full-on nerd mode.

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War Horse (2011)

war-horse-posterStarring Jeremy Irvine, Peter Mullan, Emily Watson, Niels Arestrup, David Thewlis, Tom Hiddleston, Benedict Cumberbatch, Celine Buckens, Toby Kebbell, Patrick Kennedy, Leonard Carow, David Kross

Directed by Steven Spielberg

Expectations: Low.

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In 2011, Spielberg made two films which came out within a few days of each other. I chose to see the 3D animated one in the theaters, a genre I have little love for, so that should tell you my level of interest in War Horse. While I’d like to tell you that it won me over with its syrupy charms and its overbearing sentimentality, if I did it would be a lie. War Horse is not a bad film per se, but it’s one that just doesn’t resonate with me at all.

War Horse is something of a horse biopic, as Joey the horse is our main character. We open on his birth, and the first hour or so details his upbringing under the care of a teenager named Albert. They overcome adversity together as Albert coaxes Joey into plowing the field in front of the watchful eyes of the entire village. Did I miss something, or was watching a kid plow a field an early 1900s pastime in England? So strange, but in this movie it is the norm, as nearly every scene in the film is designed specifically to inspire and tug those aching heartstrings. Ugh.

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The Avengers (2012)

Starring Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Tom Hiddleston, Clark Gregg, Cobie Smulders, Stellan Skarsgård, Samuel L. Jackson, Gwyneth Paltrow, Paul Bettany, Alexis Denisof

Directed by Joss Whedon

Expectations: High. All of my childhood superhero fantasies are riding on this film.


As I noted above, I had huge expectations for The Avengers. Not because of a trailer; I didn’t watch any of them. Not because of the director, Joss Whedon; I’ve never seen a single thing he’s worked on. No, it’s all based on childhood comic reading, the combined strengths of the preceding films (even if some of them were less than stellar), and good ole gut instinct. The crazy amount of good buzz led me to believe that I wouldn’t be let down, but I’ve been burned so many times by buying into popular opinions and hype that I did my best to wall myself off from these types of influences. I know I’m late to the party with this review, but if you care about comic books in film then you simply must get out and see this sumbitch. Through the entire film I felt like a kid unleashed in a comic book store with a hundred-dollar bill; this was literally everything I could have ever wanted in an Avengers movie. The Avengers is the superhero film turned to eleven and freed of the cursed “origin story” shackles, and so for fans, this is exactly what you’re looking for.

The Avengers has a story, but it’s nothing more than a simple framework to allow the heroes to come together and kick ass. Because this is essentially the sixth film in a long-running series, the characters are all set up and ready to go; we only need to know the simple whys and hows of their current situations. I feel sorry for anyone that didn’t watch the previous films or read any Marvel comics in their youth, because The Avengers just drops you in mid-story and hopes you’re up to speed. This “assemble the team” section goes on a bit too long, but it perfectly sets up the characters as they will relate to one another in this film, as well as setting the stage for the action to come. But realistically, the story is just this: Loki has stolen the Cosmic Cube (here called the Tesseract, but I refuse to call it that!) and seeks to open a portal with it to unleash his space army. There’s not much else in the way of plot, besides the action and some good, if obvious, character development.

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Thor (2011)

Starring Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston, Anthony Hopkins, Stellan Skarsgård, Kat Dennings, Idris Elba, Colm Feore, Ray Stevenson, Tadanobu Asano, Joshua Dallas, Jaimie Alexander, Rene Russo, Clark Gregg

Directed by Kenneth Branagh

Expectations: Moderate.


Growing up, I was a hardcore Marvel fan. DC could rot in hell for all I cared, except Batman of course; even a naive, reactionary kid had to give DC Batman. For all my Marvel love though, I was never much of a Thor fan. I enjoyed the Norse mythology and his kick-ass hammer that flew back to him when he threw it, but it was always a book that I read out of circumstance instead of desire. This led me to sit this one out in the theater, but after viewing Thor, I’m sad that I missed it on the big screen. Thor is everything you would want out of a Thor movie, delivering the Asgardian goods in spades.

Thor has so much working against its success, but the filmmakers managed to sidestep every stumbling block and bring the fantastic world of Asgard and Earth together in a believable way. Well, movie believable, but it’s still impressive regardless. Director Kenneth Branagh and the writers achieve this feat by having a short present day scene that leads directly into a nearly half-hour flashback detailing how we got to that initial scene. It may seem like an odd way to go about things, but it really serves the story and the character of Thor in the best way possible.

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Midnight in Paris (2011)

Midnight in Paris (2011)

Starring Owen Wilson, Rachel McAdams, Kurt Fuller, Mimi Kennedy, Michael Sheen, Nina Arianda, Carla Bruni, Yves Heck, Alison Pill, Corey Stoll, Tom Hiddleston, Sonia Rolland, Daniel Lundh, Kathy Bates, Marion Cotillard, Adrien Brody

Directed by Woody Allen

Expectations: Woody Allen films are always fun for me, even the bad ones, so I expect to enjoy this.


(If you’re really anticipating this film, come back after watching because I’m about to spoil it all as I seek to analyze.)

Woody Allen is one of the last classic directors still pumping out films like clockwork. While his output of the last fifteen years has had its ups and downs, he never lost that Allen feeling and voice. Not many filmmakers can say that about themselves. So when a new Woody Allen film drops, I always approach with a distinct love and appreciation of his work, but not a lot of high expectations. I seem to enjoy his recent films a lot more than the average Allen fan, but I still approach with trepidation. Leave it to me to moderately enjoy the newest in the string of “Allen’s best film in decades!” Sure, it’s a solid film, but at the end of the day, it isn’t much more than amusing. It’s one of those Allen films I enjoy with a small smile on my face throughout the film, as it’s not laugh-out-loud funny but it is quite charming.

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