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MV5BMjMyNDkzMzI1OF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwODcxODg5MjI@._V1_UX182_CR0,0,182,268_AL_Or, Thor: Ragnarok.

So. The Thor movies might be my favorite, as an oeuvre, because the Iron Man movies start out over-written and the Captain America movies become tedious. The Thor movies are just kind of joyously bad.

Except this one, which is joyously rather good.

Odin (Anthony Hopkins) dies, which depresses his sons and releases his daughter, Hela (Cate Blanchett), from imprisonment. She is the goddess of death, and she wants to take over Asgard. She manages to banish both Loki (Tom Hiddleston) and Thor (Chris Hemsworth) to a garbage planet on which Thor becomes an enslaved gladiator and Loki becomes a member of the local dirtbag elite, because of course. This planet is managed by Jeff Goldblum (Jeff Goldblum), who runs the fights and has a hilarious and bloodthirsty assistant, Topaz (Rachel House). Also there is Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), an angry drunk lady (Tessa Thompson), and a sentient walking rock called Korg, who is voiced by Taika Waititi and exists solely for comic relief. He is terrific.

Naturally much of the film is the attempt to get back to Asgard and deal with Hela, but, unlike other Marvel movies which would take the “dead dad” and “goddess of death” and “fraternal friction” tropes and go to a miserable place of tiresome angst, Ragnarok keeps it light. That is not to say that this film does not take things seriously–it does, but with Waititi’s deft touch it does not get bogged down in the gravity. The movie is a little too long, but the pacing is sufficiently frenetic that this rarely grates.

And the soundtrack is great. It’s not trying too hard to motivate a specific kind of nostalgia (Guardians of the Galaxy, I’m looking at you), but is instead humorously on-the-nose: Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song” for Thor’s theme or “Pure Imagination” from Willy Wonka during what seems like an acid trip.

Stray observations:

  • “I’m not a witch.” “Then why are you dressed like one?”
  • Is Loki ever going to get a real person haircut? Also: this was a return to the original Thor‘s endless string of squirrelly Loki faces and I am at home for that.
  • I’m glad that Idris Elba isn’t too proud to continue being in these movies. A soupçon of Heimdall is very welcome.

Director: Taika Waititi
Rating: PG-13
Length: 130 minutes
Score: 4/5

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From the people who brought you the incomparable Once comes…a very similar and much worse movie. Except this time the personal drama is more convoluted, more irritating, less plausible, and has 100% more Adam Levine, which may not be your thing. It’s not mine.

The story is almost irrelevant, because it’s banal. Record exec has alcohol problem, fall from grace, bad relationship with daughter, meets amazing songwriter who’s about to give up. She, in turn, has been ditched by her rock star boyfriend (but solves the bad daughter relationship problem quick smart!). Fortunately, her friend from back home is inexplicably busking and has an immense amount of recording equipment. So they record an album outside! Epiphanies everywhere! And then Keira Knightley is too authentic to kow-tow to the record people, because what kind of lunatic would ever want to make money out of his talent or passion. It’s almost embarrassing to watch in its pathetic, earnest, pig-headed self-righteousness.

Not one of the actors ever actually inhabits his or her character even a little bit. I learned almost none of their names–it’s just Adam Levine and Keira Knightley and Mark Ruffalo saying slightly mannered, vacuous pap. Against a backdrop of pretentious acoustic pop songs that are totally indistinguishable from one to the next. These people are cripplingly self-obsessed, and they just spew this self-obsession through the medium of whiny driveling music, in the name of…I’m not sure what.

Stray observations:

  • Adam Levine grows a terrible beard and they make merciless fun of him about it. This might be the best part of the movie, perhaps because James Corden is doing a lot of the talking.
  • All I want is to stop watching movies about man-children. Is this too much to ask?
  • Keira Knightley sings better than you expect, but it’s not great.

Director: John Carney
Rating: R
Length: 104 minutes
Score: 2/5

Heap big sigh.

Though I appreciate watching Cap chop wood in some 501s, I think I’m over comic book movies. Or perhaps: precisely because I appreciate watching Cap chop wood in some 501s, I’m definitely over Avengers movies. I can only deal with so many insane global threats thwarted by a rag-tag, internally-divided, ceaselessly-quipping band of misfits. I prefer the limited scope of the single-hero movies. Partly because they can engage in character development beyond thirty seconds of troubling and clumsy exposition. Even at nearly two and a half hours, this was rushed and did not engage my emotions at all. More is not always better.

Stray notes:

  • This is the second movie in which I’ve seen Aaron Taylor-Johnson, but the first was Anna Karenina, so I think this was a lot more jarring for me than for everyone else.
  • I want Hayley Atwell’s dress and hair.
  • Still just want Cobie Smulders to go away.

Director: Joss Whedon
Rating: PG-13
Length: 141 min.
Score: 2/5.