Thor: Love and Thunder – Review

Rating: 12A
Featuring: Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Christian Bale, Taika Waititi, Tessa Thompson and Russel Crowe
Directed by Taika Waititi
Length: 119mins

Taika Waititi first made a name for himself as a charming, witty and touching director of some of New Zealand’s finest films, both short and feature length. His ability to create familiarity, particularly when exploring childhood, has won over audiences every step of the way, and a career-beginning with just two second hand motors has flourished into one in which the trappings of a major Marvel franchise rests upon his soldiers.

‘Thor: Love and Thunder’ was all set to deliver the same loveable qualities which made Waititi and Marvel’s first collaboration, ‘Thor: Ragnarok’ feel like a fresh bolt of lighting amongst Marvels’ ever-repetitive filmography. The introduction of seasoned professional Christian Bale, as well as the return of equally qualified Natalie Portman promised a new depth to the performances on display. Despite all this, the film sadly feels like a slightly messier, if slightly funnier variation of the same film which Marvel has been repeatedly reproducing for the last decade.

Christian Bale’s introduction as the god-slaying villain ‘Gor’, seems a sizeable enough opposition to Thor’s recently reinstated powers, but serves also as a reminder of how far Marvel’s constant ambition has led, with audiences wondering where they’ll be able to go next in search of a suitable bad guy – perhaps Gaia herself will wage war on the Avengers? Despite Gor’s character arc having a slightly rushed feeling at times, he maintains a status as one of the more vaguely memorable villains within the MCU in recent years, even if it is only the lack of a CGI-disposable army, as well as the film not entirely relying on fisticuffs to reach its resolution. There’s a little more depth to his origin and intentions which, paired with Bale’s performance, draws the viewer in.

Taika Waititi’s signature humour is somewhat visible amongst the studio influence and desire for establishing future projects which Marvel is known for, but often the jokes within this comedy feel completely off-the-cuff and inconsequential, which isn’t unusual for a Marvel film, but appears as a great contrast amongst the rest of the directors films, which so often are able to intertwine humour with a feeling of the narrative driving forward. This isn’t to say the film should be viewed as any detriment to Waititi’s career. Given the opportunity to direct some of the biggest names and hardest-working crews in the industry, as well as recieve a paycheck sizeable enough to fund plenty of smaller, more director-controlled stories, such as Waititi’s upcoming ‘Next Goal Wins’, I imagine we would all jump to the clap of the puppet masters hands for a little while.

As always, Marvel have released another feature which will most likely be thoroughly enjoyed by those who have a vested interest in the company, whilst being considered as one more among many by most other viewers. It has its moments of enjoyability, intrigue and excitement, but does little to rise above anything else we’ve seen from this fantastical universe in recent years.

Minions: The Rise of Gru – Review 

Rating: U Cast: Steve Carell, Pierre Coffin, Alan Arkin, Russell Bran and Julie Andrews. Directed by Kyle Balda, Brad Ableson and Jonathan del Val. Written by Matthew Fogel and Brian Lynch. Length: 87mins.

Minions: The Rise of Gru is the second of the Minions movies (its prequel opening in 2015) and is a spin off series of films from the hit movie trilogy – Despicable Me. It’s not difficult to see why film makers have jumped on this opportunity. When the small yellow minions took a supporting role in the original trilogy their silliness, gobbeldy-goop language and obsession with bananas stole the hearts of many children (and adults) across the world. But how many stories can be told about this group of minions? In this new release, film makers take us back to Gru’s childhood, with a glimpse of how the minions joined Gru and on an adventure to assist Gru to his dream; becoming the world’s greatest super villain. 

The story is relatively simple, no surprises there…Gru wants to join the vicious six (a league of the most evil super villains) when they kick out one of their own. They laugh Gru off for being a child so Gru steals from them and ends up being kidnapped by the wronged villain who is no longer in the ‘gang’ and the minions take it upon themselves to rescue Gru. With the minions splitting up – one on a mission to regain what was stolen and three determined to find and rescue Gru we get to follow our little yellow heroes along their adventure. The plot changes direction a couple of times but lets be honest – audiences aren’t really there for a gripping adventure plot. 

While full of slapstick style gags, the humour is average; unlike the Despicable Me films which didn’t fail to make audiences of all ages laugh. The good news is that Minions: The Rise of Gru is quite a short film and so didn’t feel like too much of a waste of time. It seems to be a film that will pack in audiences purely for it’s previous charm and history – I don’t think anyone really cares about the quality of the content.  

I wouldn’t tell anyone to rush out and see Minions: The Rise of Gru. If it’s raining and you’re looking for a way to waste an hour or two then it’s a perfectly reasonable way to entertain the children, but other than that, you wont miss anything from not watching it. I imagine they’ll make more minion movies but it’s just a money making thing at this point. They know children love minions and will just throw any old storyline together to produce something for them to watch while the dollars flow in through the box office.  

Last Night in Soho – Review

Rating: 15
Featuring: Thomasin McKenzie, Anya Taylor-Joy, Matt Smith, Rita Tushingham and Michael Ajao
Directed by Edgar Wright
Length: 117mins

Over the last twenty-odd years, Edgar Wright has slowly and surely been establishing a clear and exciting style for himself, which makes its mark through impeccable timing, a great attention to detail, and simply a feeling of joy and excitement shining through in his work – showing that directing really is his true calling. At the turn of the millennium, Wrights’ hilarious and fascinating take on the sitcom genre won over a large crowd of British TV viewers. His later ‘Cornetto’ trilogy would have the same effect on the next generation of British moviegoers, and you’d be hard pressed to find any young adult on this island who couldn’t finish the quote, “No luck catching them swans then…” In more recent years, action-packed ‘Baby Driver’ would catch eyes and ears on a more global stage – particularly within Hollywood – through its eclectic soundtrack and constant feeling of rhythm – skills honed by the director since the very start of all of this. As a result you’d expect his latest film, ‘Last Night in Soho’ – a high budget thriller with huge names attached, appearing under the credit of a director who so far doesn’t have seemed to have missed a beat his entire career, to have moviegoers queuing around the block, with rave reviews following soon after. And yet things don’t seem to have quite panned out that way.

For this review, the term ‘latest’ is probably a littler generous. ‘Last Night in Soho’ reached UK cinemas in October of last year, but has more recently been creeping its way into households through its addition to various streaming services. Despite this, as well the previously mentioned number of attributes attached to the film, it seems to have all passed by with very little fanfare. Described frequently as ‘disappointing’, ‘underwhelming’ and at times, strangely rough around the edges compared to Wrights’ previous filmography, and I can’t say I completely disagree.

The film explores the supernatural connection which forms between a young, nostalgic fashion designer named Eloise (Thomasin McKenzie), who’s just beginning her studies at UAL, and similarly aspirational, but seemingly more confident Sandy (Anya Taylor-Joy) – a resident of 1960’s Soho with grand aspirations of becoming a famous performer. However, as Eloise bears witness to the progressively-worsening series of horrors which play out for Sandy all those years ago, her own position in the big city seems to become all the more disturbing.

The two lead performers are, of course, really strong, and make for an interesting driving force within the narrative, as despite their intertwining connection, it’s rare that the two ever communicate. Like a false mirror, Eloise is helpless to only watch Sandy’s heartbreaking story, and Sandy seems to remain almost entirely unaware of the presence of the other.

‘Last Night in Soho’ deals with some deeply traumatic themes, and uses the thriller/horror genre to explore the root of these issues. It’s not an entirely new idea, but one that can work extremely well if executed with a deep consideration and clear perspective for such a story. Films like ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ and ‘Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me’ spring to mind. However, unlike these classic films, Wrights approach with the subject matter of the film feels misguided, and, at times, straight up uncomfortable – a far cry from his reputation as an extremely concise director in terms of his storytelling ability.

The visual style too seems extremely unlike previous works such as ‘Shaun of the Dead’ and ‘Scott Pilgrim’, which really holds back a film which aspires to create tension and thrills, as what is shown, or perhaps not shown, remains a key element to having the audience digging their fingernails into any unfortunate sofa cushion.

Of course, to measure the failure of a filmmaker against their previous successes does, in this case, highlight ‘Last Night in Soho’ as an anomaly within Wright’s body of work. It still has some interesting and exciting moments both visually, and in terms of narrative, and would probably work well as a throwaway evenings’ viewing, but will hopefully be looked back on more as a small blip in the career of an otherwise extremely innovative modern director.