Current Reviews: “Thor: Ragnarok” (2017)

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Thor: Ragnarok is the quintessential Thor film of the Marvel Cinematic Universe subverting the tropes audiences have come to expect with charming humor and brilliant direction from Taika Watiti.

Ragnarok is the third film in the Thor series within the larger MCU that brings back the character after two years of not being on the big screen (with the exception of a cameo in Doctor Strange). Ragnarok finds the titular character as played by Chris Hemsworth traversing the Nine Realms looking for his father Odin. Along with his brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston), the two discover that Ragnarok is coming at the hands of the evil and powerful Hela (Cate Blanchett). While heading towards Asgard, Thor gets lost in the shuffle and ends up on a far-off planet coming across the strong scrapper Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) and the villainous ruler known as The Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum) who throws him into a fight with Hulk (Mark Ruffalo). It’s up to Thor to convince his brother and newfound partners to team up and destroy Hela’s reign of Asgard.

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Where Ragnarok succeeds is in its humor. It realizes it is a ridiculous film based off a comic book and rides with that rhythm for the rest of the film. Hemsworth shows off his funnier side managing to balance being a badass god and a bumbling idiot in the vein of Valhallen on Dexter’s Laboratory. Goldblum as The Grandmaster is delightful by hamming it up in every scene that he is in. The other performances hit their marks as well from the delightful addition of Thompson being a hard ass warrior and the Hulk getting much needed screen time with humanity and resolve.

The humor is not for everybody as it can be hit or miss, but when it hits, it hits hard. It’s physical and abrasive one moment and awkward in the next moment. It helps the film break away from the serious nature of the past two by not acting as if it is grander and more epic than it needs to be. It’s silly and goofball in its appeal, rather than loom in the dark and brooding. It’s not out to be compelling, but out to deliver a good time despite being about the impending apocalypse of Asgard.

What else is amazing is the action. The action throughout is one of the best of the three entries from an engaging opener combining rock n’ roll and Norse kicking amazement to a climax that thrills and excites. The highlight is the much-anticipated fight between Thor and Hulk with a larger-than-life brawl that wastes no time on delivering the goods and stellar callbacks to previous MCU entries that do not feel forced. Watiti handles both realms well in a clever balance that is interesting to watch as a whole that feel much at home with his style seen in his previous ventures (What We Do in the Shadows, Hunt for the Wilderpeople).

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With all the praise, there are certain things to be said about two major aspects of the film, one character-cased and the other a technical one. Cate Blanchett as Hela never felt like a major threat in the film. Blanchett is fine as the melvolent goddess of death being a seductive version of Maleficent from Sleeping Beauty, but that’s it. She acts the hell out of her character, but Hela is not given a great amount of screentime that justifies a threat. In a year of great MCU villains with the likes of (spoiler alert) Ego in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and The Vulture in Spider-Man: Homecoming, Hela is lost in the shuffle as what was expected out of MCU villain prior to the aforementioned entry.

The CGI in this film can be quite distracting at times and not mesh well with the rest of the film. A particular heartfelt scene in a field feels false due to the clear addition of a CGI background that makes the actors feel like walking cardboard cutouts. The Hulk looks remarkable as do a variety of effect shots, except even the Hulk can feel out of place at times. One character in particular named Korg (Watiti himself) is funny and admirable, but easily stands out as not really being there in a number of scenes.

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Thor: Ragnarok lives up to the namesake of the comic company the character is from by being a marvel of a film with a few shortcomings. It elevates a series within a larger universe with a simple balance of action and comedy that never deters from the story. The performances are great all-around, even if some are not given more time as others. The CGI can be dodgy are brilliant at times adding to the fascinating action that is on display.

FINAL VERDICT: 4.5 out of 5

 

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Film A Week Podcast Episode 54: “The Kid” (Criterion of the Month)

Film A Week Podcast gives thanks to host Patrick Raissi all November long by giving him the reigns with Pat Has Never Seen Month. Host Serg Beret picks four films from a list of films Pat has yet to see (two Serg has seen and two he hasn’t seen as well to be fair).

We kick off with our final Criterion of the Month of the year with the master of silent cinema Charlie Chaplin in the classic Tramp silent film The Kid from 1921. Listen as we review our oldest film on the block as well as our first time viewing reactions. We discuss an elaborate on the genuine nature of comedy, the sweetness of life and why The Tramp stood the test of time.

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Audio Edited by Serg Beret

“Film A Week Podcast” is protected by Fair Use as it is a non-profit review show. Any copyrighted material is that of their respective owners and only used as promotion of their work.

Music Credits
“Hustle,” “Theme for Harold ver. 2,” and “The Complex” by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License

Film A Week Podcast Episode 53: The Spooktacular Cinema – “Phantasm”

“You play a good game, boy, but the game is finished. Now you die.”

Hosts Serg Beret and Patrick Raissi end The Spooktacular Cinema series by welcoming our special guest and horror fan Daniel White to the podcast to relive Patrick’s 9 year-old self’s nightmare with 1979’s Phantasm. Listen as they discuss Agnus Scrimm’s menace as the Tall Man, the beauty of 70’s horror and the polarizing twist ending.

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Audio Edited by Serg Beret

“Film A Week Podcast” is protected by Fair Use as it is a non-profit review show. Any copyrighted material is that of their respective owners and only used as promotion of their work.

Music Credits
“Hustle,” “Theme for Harold ver. 2,” and “The Complex” by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License
“Stranger Think” (“Stranger Things” Theme Song Remix) by C418
“Phantasm Theme” by Fred Myrow, Malcolm Seagrave

Film A Week Podcast Episode 52: “Diabolique” (Criterion of the Month)

“There is only one possible end. We are monsters. I don’t like monsters.”

Murder is afoot on the podcast in our Criterion of the Month and the hosts attempt to solve it with the spellbinding French horror-thriller Diabolique aka Les Diaboliques.

Listen as hosts Serg Beret and Patrick Raissi discuss their thoughts on the Henri-Georges Clouzot thriller with the importance of suspense, a complete ass of a headmaster and their theories on who might be haunting our leads. We also recommend you watch the film beforehand as we spoil the whole plot, but it’s not mandatory to enjoy this episode.

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Audio Edited by Serg Beret

“Film A Week Podcast” is protected by Fair Use as it is a non-profit review show. Any copyrighted material is that of their respective owners and only used as promotion of their work.

Music Credits
“Hustle” by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License
“Stranger Think” (“Stranger Things” Theme Song Remix) by C418

Film A Week Podcast Episode 51: The Spooktacular Cinema – “The Thing” (Classics Revisited)

“I dunno what the hell’s in there, but it’s weird and pissed off, whatever it is.”

In this Classics Revisited episode, the hosts decide to take a look back at the 1982 sci-fi horror classic John Carpenter film “The Thing.” Listen as the host discuss the beauty of gore and practical effects, the unfair negative criticism the film received at the time of release, and crack several jokes about everyone’s favorite medical spokesman Wilford Brimley.

Special Thanks to Syntza for amazing “The Thing Remix” at the end of the episode. Check them out and subscribe at: http://www.youtube.com/user/Syntza

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Audio Edited by Serg Beret

“Film A Week Podcast” is protected by Fair Use as it is a non-profit review show. Any copyrighted material is that of their respective owners and only used as promotion of their work.

Music Credits
“Hustle” by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License
“Stranger Think” (“Stranger Things” Theme Song Remix) by C418
“John Carpenter The Thing Remix” by Syntza

Film Review – Blade Runner 2049

Blade Runner 2049 is a rare sequel that expands beyond its predecessor and standalone as a science fiction epic. Denis Villeneuve brings back the alternate future of Ridley Scott’s original film thirty years into the future in a visual marvel of bleakness, hope and noir intrigue.

In this sequel based upon Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick, Officier K (Ryan Gosling) is a Blade Runner hunting and retiring replicants in the grit and grimy world of Los Anageles in 2049. When profound and significant evidence are found during a routine investigation, it leads K into a mystery that involves corporate leader and replicant creator Niander Wallace (Jared Leto), Wallace’s assistant Luv (Sylvia Hoeks) and the infamous Richard Deckard (Harrision Ford). K, like Deckard before him, must undergo a journey of empathy, self-discovery and the err of humanity.

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Visually, the film is a beautiful dark model of where current society may be headed. Though still rooted in the reality created by Scott, Villeneuve, along with famed cinematographer Roger Deakins, let the world breathe once more with overpopulation still a problem, advertisements still loud in their vibrancy and no glimmer of the sunshine present. The world is still dirty, radiated and rundown when outside of Los Angeles in the wasteland of California’s previously popular mainstays. Nearly every shot in this, like the film before it, is masterful in their craft, be it K standing in the pouring rain bloodsoaked or in the Wallace Corporation building with the ever-changing yellow glare booming in the dark backgrounds.

The effects shine through with an impressive artificial intelligence sequence blending both a live-action actor and a computer-generated counterpoint seamlessly, albeit still mindbending in its presentation. The cars in the film are still hand built, as our the sets that make the film a realistic future to the viewer despite defunct brands such as Atari and Pan Am still present. They blend seamlessly into the world and do not feel out of place. The story itself is a classic plot in the vein of other science fiction stories about humanity’s progression such as Westworld and Children of Men. It is fascinating in the different routes it goes in fitting in with the previous installments noir inspiration with red herrings and misdirections.

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Gosling’s performance is similar to his roles in Drive and Only God Forgive as a cold and calculated man, yet hope lies within him. In moments with his love interest Joi (Ana De Armas), he retains the charm he is known for while remaining in his completive self. Ford returning as Deckard falls back into the world without missing a beat as he did with previous return roles in Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and The Force Awakens. Unlike those roles however, he gets to portray a man broken and lost in time, nostalgic for a bygone life he was rich and prevalent in. There is a beautiful sorrow in his performance. Other standouts include Hoeks as Luv going from a simple side character to full potential evil as the film progresses on and Leto as the monologue heavy and foreboding Wallace.

Blade Runner 2049 is one of the many reason why science fiction continues to thrive in the cinema and serves as a lesson in creating a sequel. It entices the viewer’s mind and does not treat them as any lesser than what they are. It provokes thoughts of one’s own struggles with empathy, allows them to gather their own ideas and trust them to know the world given to them. It builds upon what was delivered back in 1982 and builds upon into a world-building experience beyond compare rather than deter and rehash the ideas of the past. It is a film epic that delivers on every level to become a classic of both science fiction and film as a whole.

FINAL VERDICT: 5 out of 5

Film A Week Podcast Episode 50: The Spooktacular Cinema – “Shin Godzilla”

“Man is more frightening than Gojira.”

Welcome to the Spooktacular Cinema as we take on the horror genre of film kicking off with our 50th episode! Godzilla interrupts our celebration with the hosts taking a look at the critically-acclaimed 2016 reboot, “Shin Godzilla.” Listen as hosts Serg Beret and Patrick Raissi gush over reboot their own knowledge on the beloved Toho kaiju, offer their thoughts on why the reboot works and Serg tells a tale of how he spoiled the 1998 remake for an entire line of moviegoers at age six.

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Audio Edited by Serg Beret

“Film A Week Podcast” is protected by Fair Use as it is a non-profit review show. Any copyrighted material is that of their respective owners and only used as promotion of their work.

Music Credits
“Hustle” by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License
“Stranger Think” (“Stranger Things” Theme Song Remix) by C418
“Simon Says” (Insturmental) by Pharohe Monch

Film A Week Podcast Episode 49: “Mean Girls” (Classics Revisited)

“That’s so fetch!”

Fetch is so not happening in our “Classics Revisited” episode devoted to the seminal teen comedy whose quoting limit does not exist with the timeless Mean Girls with special guest Jenni Chante from the “Back to the Drawing Board” podcast. Listen as the hosts have a quote-a-thon, Jenni explains the deep meaning behind the makeup choices in the film, discuss the use of the word “slut” and “bitch,” and talk crap about high school. All this and our reveal of next month’s round of films all focused on the spooky side of cinema.

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Audio Edited by Serg Beret

“Film A Week Podcast” is protected by Fair Use as it is a non-profit review show. Any copyrighted material is that of their respective owners and only used as promotion of their work.

Music Credits
“Hustle” by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License
“Stranger Think” (“Stranger Things” Theme Song Remix) by C418

Film A Week Podcast Episode 48: “Lean On Me”

“Do whatever you have to to transform and transmogrify this school into a special place where the hearts and souls and minds of the young can rise.”

Eastside High School needs some cleaning up and Morgan Freeman is going to make sure it gets done hosts Serg Beret and Patrick Raissi witness the 1989 biopic of “Crazy” Joe Clark, “Lean on Me.” Listen as the hosts discuss the terrific performance of Morgan Freeman, over-exaggeration of real life for the sake of entertainment and the generic nature of the film overall.

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Audio Edited by Serg Beret

“Film A Week Podcast” is protected by Fair Use as it is a non-profit review show. Any copyrighted material is that of their respective owners and only used as promotion of their work.

Music Credits
“Hustle” by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License

Film A Week Podcast Episode 47: “Dazed and Confused” (Criterion of the Month)

“That’s what I love about these high school girls, man. I get older, they stay the same age.”

In our Criterion of the Month, host Serg Beret and Patrick Raissi discuss the Richard Linklater classic coming-of-age stoner tale “Dazed and Confused.” Listen as the two discuss the rise of Matthew McConaughey, the jerkassery of Ben Affleck, the transitions we took in our school days and how it acts in tandem with “American Graffiti.”

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Audio Edited by Serg Beret

“Film A Week Podcast” is protected by Fair Use as it is a non-profit review show. Any copyrighted material is that of their respective owners and only used as promotion of their work.

Music Credits
“Hustle” by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License