Saturday, April 23, 2011

Thor [2011]

Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Anthony Hopkins, Natalie Portman

Directed by: Kenneth Branagh


The powerful but arrogant warrior Thor is cast out of the fantastic ream of Asgard and sent to live amongst humans on Earth, where he soon becomes one of their finest defenders.

I knew very little about Thor going into this. I was aware of the character of course [being a comic reader myself], but i've never read anything from the Thor comic series. Similar to Hulk and Iron Man, Thor has never been something that looked all that interesting to me.

After seeing the movie though, i'm surprised to say that the origins of the character are actually very original and creative. Thor could have turned out to be a huge fucking mess if it wasn't done right. While watching it, i couldn't help but be reminded by bad 80's "fantasy/real world" cross over movies like He-Man and Beastmaster. Mixing such vastly different styles of worlds without being hokey or cheesy is a tricky thing, but they really pulled it off in this.

The world Thor comes from, Asgard, is beautifully created on screen. The mix of magic and technology that is littered throughout the architecture in Asgard would have been a designers wet dream. It can be a bit jarring when you first visit Asgard, simply because it's such an odd mixture of styles and colours, but overtime, you get used to it much more. There are other realms to be explored in their Universe [9 to be exact], but the only other none Earth one we see in this movie is an icy barren planet [can't remember the name], inhabited by giant blue skinned and red eyed creatures, that are the villains of the story. Their world was even more exciting to see, with it's eerie deserted, crumbling mountains and massive rampaging monsters. The villains in the story were very cool.

Casting wise, everyone did a great job. Chris Hemsworth completely embodied Thor, not only physically [drools], but he was also very charismatic and like able when he spoke, especially in the later parts of the film where his character loses the arrogance and becomes a true hero. Natalie Portman [who i love] looked like she may have ended up with a really boring part in this, but her character was surprisingly like able, funny, and complimented Thor nicely once the romance aspect of the story kicked in. She looked beautiful too.

Thor's brother, Loki, was played well by Tom Hiddleston. Even though he ends up being one of the "bad guys" of the story, there was till a sympathetic side to him that made his plight somewhat understandable, even if what he was doing was wrong. Anthony Hopkins was, well......Anthony Hopkins, strong presence, elegant, and believably loving between both of his sons.

The movie does feel like it could have been a little meatier. By that i mean, i wanted to see more of the worlds that we saw in the story. It all felt a bit too short [even though it wasn't running time wise]. I wanted more backstory about Asgard, about the icy race of giants that they waged war with, more of Thor and Jane's romance, ect. I just feel like it could have pushed itself a tiny bit further to be even more larger scale than it already was, more fleshed out. Mexico was the perfect setting for Earth once Thor arrives on our planet, but it was also the most boring of the 3 realms we see. More of the unique and interesting locations they visit would have made my personal experience with the movie a little more fun.

There was also an unanswered question about Loki which i would have liked to see explained. I can't get into that without spoiling a big secret though.

Overall, Thor was an entertaining origins story that feels like it needs to open up even more with a few more sequels. There was a lot of light humor in the script which worked really well against the more dramatic parts of the story, and the entire cast bounced off each other nicely.

It's certainly one of the more interesting super hero movies to be coming out this year, i look forward to seeing more of it down the line.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Scream 4 [2011]
Starring Neve Campbell, Courtney Cox, David Arquette

Directed by: Wes Craven


Sidney Prescott, now the author of a self help book, returns home to Woodsboro on the last stop of her book tour. Unfortunately, her home town appearance brings about the return of Ghostface, which puts her and the entire town in danger.

A Scream movie in 2011 has a lot working against it. The last time this franchise wrapped up, we were left with a slightly underwhelming finale, Scream 3. It wasn't a bad film, and it certainly tied up the series into a comfortable trilogy, but compared to the first 2 Scream films, it all felt a bit tired and messy. A new Scream also has a whole new generation of young horror fans to adapt to. The writers won't be able to play on the films of the 80's and 90's anymore because horror has changed a lot over the last decade, so adapting to a new audience while still remaining true to the old fans is important.

Luckily, Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson managed to pull their ideas together well enough to make a decent 4th entry in the series.

Imagine Scream 3 with all it's problems ironed out. That's exactly what Scream 4 is. Firstly, Scream 4 takes viewers BACK to Woodsboro, where the original murders took place. Scream 3 always felt a bit disconnected to me because it didn't take place around the same locations the first 2 films were set in. It was set in Hollywood, and although the setting made sense within the context of the story, it still felt a bit too far from where i liked seeing my characters. I appreciated the creators trying to keep it fresh by giving us something new, but Scream 4 really needed to bring things back to the beginning, and thankfully it does. Middle class suburbia is where things fit best for this series, and seeing Woodsboro again gave me happy fan butterflies in my stomach.

Character development was also a must in Scream 4. In Scream 3, Sidney was written well, but the rest of the cast had little else to do, and most of the side characters that were killed off were very boring. In Scream 4, i wasn't exactly jumping for joy with the new teenage cast, but i didn't enjoy seeing the characters i liked die either. Plus, bringing back the old cast was always going to win me over even if the newer characters failed. Luckily though, all the characters were well placed within the story.

It's always heartwarming seeing Sidney again. A lot of us grew up with her story, so seeing her all these years later much older [she has wrinkles!], was fun to watch. I also liked how much stronger she has developed as a person since Scream 3. She finally seems at ease with her life at the beginning of 4, which makes the return of Ghostface that much more uncomfortable to watch. She seems forever unable to escape her past, and at one point in the film, i thought maybe she should just finally die to bring peace to her and everyone else around her. Sidney doesn't represent death though, she represents survival, as fucked up as her life has been, she's managed to fight her way through it all and still remain standing. After all these years, even if you know her death would mean the end of all the bloodshed, you still hope she will come out alive.

Another great thing about Sidney in 4 is that she's developed a similar relationship with Ghostface that Jamie Lee Curtis's character developed with Michael Myers in Halloween. We've watched Sidney and Ghostface fight against each other for so long, that there's an odd familiarity in Sidney's eye when she faces against him now. She runs for her life, but she also seems almost comfortable with having him around. It's almost like she isn't exactly running for her life anymore, but running because she knows what to do next.

Gale Weathers had the second most interesting storyline in the movie. Washed up and bored with her life, it was hilarious seeing her try and find something to do when the murders start happening. I only wish she was around more in the second half of the film.

The rest of the cast did well, Emma Roberts and Hayden Panettiere were good, even though Hayden had really ugly and distracting hair. Anna Paquin and Kristen Bell also have a great cameo in the beginning of the film. David Arquette was typical Dewey, though i'd say this was Dewey at his most boring, and Adam Brody seemed completely pointless. Maybe he took the role because he was a fan and was desperate for a cameo? who knows, but it was useless.

The kills this time around have also been improved on. Deaths seem to have lost their more old skool drawn out style, and things happen a lot quicker, with focus on tension rather than cheap jump scares. Everything also seems at it's most bloodiest, there was a decent amount of gore [guts on the bed!].

Screams opening death scenes have become a trademark for the series, and although the opening does put a clever spin on things in the way that it's presented to the audience, the actual scene death scene itself is fairly standard.

Cultural references in Scream 4 are thrown in by the bucket load, with swipes at horror remakes and new survival rules being used all the time. The younger characters in this story are even more self aware than the teens from the last series were. The killer reveal at the end of the movie also gets a chance to make a nice social commentary on today's media obsessed youth culture and how fucked up we all are. Like the old films though, it never feels forced, in fact all of it rings very true and is relevant to the times.

Is Scream 4 as good as part 1 and 2???, it's not, but it IS a worthy inclusion in the franchise, and a MAJOR step up from Scream 3. You need to look at 4 from a certain perspective, this is the 4th film in a slasher franchise, the fact that it turned out as good as it did, is in itself a major achievement. They clearly tried to create something decent with Scream 4, and even though it's not as fresh or brilliant as it was back in the day, it does resurrect an old story successfully while trying to put an entertaining spin on what is common in horror movies today.

I see little room for growth from this point forward though. I really cant see how much further they could take some of these characters in a 5th chapter. I did have my doubts about 4 turning out as good as it did though, so maybe Wes and Kevin will surprise me again and pull off another trilogy over the next decade. I guess time will tell. Until then though, this was a lot of fun.