Thor

Just the one film and an early weekend one at that. It’s been previewing since Monday and we opted for the cornea-friendly 2D version of…

Thor

“Did it work?”

See it if you like: superhero films with more pathos and romance than humour and action. Think Hulk rather than Iron Man.

Plot-in-a-nutshell: Origin story of a Norse god who becomes a mortal on earth in the modern day, and set-up for a team-up movie due next year.

I’ll generally go to see any superhero film that comes out and the majority these days seem to come from Marvel Comics. DC seem to have stuck with churning out more Batman ones, and failing to release new Superman episodes. Marvel, on the other hand, seems content to churn out as many films as it can based on every major character it holds, regardless of quality. Sometimes hit, sometimes miss.

Thor, for me, fell into the latter category. Despite a reasonable cast, it just seemed like a big, gaudy mess. Chris Hemsworth is excellent in the role of Thor himself (but since when did he have a beard? The guy from the comics I remember was clean-shaven) and Anthony Hopkins is fine as Odin. Brian Blessed was apparently considered and I’m glad they didn’t go with him otherwise the whole thing would have looked even more like Flash Gordon.

Natalie Portman seems to be popping up in a lot recently and performs passably as some scientist whose name I can’t be bothered to look up who goes all doey-eyed at Mr Muscles.

The biggest surprise was seeing Shakespearian legend Kenneth Branagh attached as director. Given the kind of story the films tells, it’s perhaps not a bad choice. It is operatic and dramatic, so it does suit him. However, I just found the whole thing completely overblown in its use of effects.

The halls of Asgard look like an overgrown church organ and the Rainbow Bridge seems to have been made by gluing together several million “Ziggy” handsets from early episodes of Quantum Leap.

If there’s a highlight it’s the Destroyer – a genuinely scary and fearsome-looking opponent with a rather spine-chilling sound every time it’s about to shoot fire. Having said that, the battle sequence it features in is just kind of “OK”. Having said that, its appearance on earth leads to possibly the best line in the film.

In response to the quote heading this review, uttered by the wonderful Stan Lee in his expected cameo, I have to say “Sorry, fella. No. It didn’t.”

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The Boat That Rocked

I saw this one on the Etihad flight from Abu Dhabi to Heathrow and it deserves a review all of its own. The Boat That Rocked is a typical UK ensemble comedy with a great cast. A couple of free white wines may have helped, but I was snorting away and laughing out loud at some points; almost in tears at others.

What makes this such a good film – aside from the wealth of acting talent – is the fact that the central plot revolves around something I care about. Freedom of choice, a fight against censorship and the underdog having a good go at an overbearing authority. It’s also got a superb soundtrack, several plot threads and some great segments in the end credits.

Plot in a nutshell: It’s 1966 and rock’n’roll is booming. Except in the UK where the only radio – BBC – plays about 40 minutes per week of popular music. Feeding off the demand, pirate radio stations start up and are an instant hit with the masses… and reviled by the authorities who do all they can to shut them down. The film follows the adventures of the staff on one ship over the course of a year or so until the final closedown of pirate radio by the British government.

Bill Nighy plays Bill Nighy (as he always does) with aplomb, running the ship and the station. Philip Seymor Hoffman is The Count, the headlining American DJ. Nick Frost is the disgusting Dave, Rhys Darby the Kiwi Angus, Rhys Ifans the self-proclaimed king of the airwaves Gavin… and so on. Not a bad actor amongst them. Despite the large number of main parts, nobody gets lost and each character has their own personality.

On the other side of the fence, Kenneth Branagh is nicely slimy minister Dormandy with assistant Twatt (Jack Davenport) toadying to him.

As well as the Good Morning, Vietnam-esque DJ segments and good guy v bad guy plot, there is a lot of romance and bawdy sex (nothing too offensive, though not 100% family friendly by any shot). Nighy’s character has a godson who ends up on the ship after being thrown out of school. He’s our entry into the world of Radio Rock and introduction to the aforementioned characters and lifestyle.

The following two hours are a wonderful mix of highs and lows. Characters don’t always get on – who would living in such cramped quarters? – creating some great conflicts which go right over the top at times.

Of course, the soundtrack is superb being based on the music of the late 60s. The closing montage mentions that “rock and roll had a pretty good 40-or-so-years” flashing up more and more recent album sleeves. However, who on earth decided to include Take That And Party as on a par with the likes of BloodSugarSexMagic and Rattle & Hum needs shot.

Definitely catch this one.

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