REVIEW: ‘Thor: Ragnarok’ is a wild, fun and unique ride

Spoilers Ahead….

The god of thunder is back for his third solo run and better than ever before. “Thor: Ragnarok” achieves what the most recent solo films haven’t, managing to be both fun and action packed while being wholly focused on the individuals name that’s in the title.

Thor films have often been my personal favorite for the simple fact that they’re set apart and there’s little chance of me having to see Tony Stark or any other random Avenger for no reason. I just get to enjoy a godly adventure where Thor actually gets to develop as an individual throughout the films. And while there were a couple other’s in this one that was still absolutely the case this time around (though I could have done without the Strange cameo).

With the apocalypse looming Thor sets out to save his people and Chris Hemsworth gets to embrace this character for what will likely be the last time in his own film. Hemsworth is funny, a thing more people need to realize, and while previous movies have only somewhat capitalized on that fact director Taika Waititi ran with it brilliantly. The humor, not just from Hemsworth, isn’t constant but it’s there and it’s always funny.

One of the funniest parts being the sibling banter that’s always been delightful between Thor and Loki. Tom Hiddleston has been playing the conniving Loki for a while now and this film did something unexpected: it let his character grow. Whereas the last film duped growth, this one actually showed him being more than just a trickster; it let him be the man that Thor believes him to be.

The women of this film however are the ones that truly steal every scene. Cate Blanchett is devilishly divine as Hela, not only looking like a conqueror but sounding and carrying herself like a true evil threat. Tessa Thompson is fantastic as Valkyrie, she’s fun, she’s badass and she manages to outshine every man in this film with ease simply through the way she commands the screen.

Waititi directed this movie in inventive ways that made it stand out from the other Marvel films in tone. He used the fact that these characters are in other realms with fantastical things to his advantage, giving the film a slightly wild look that visually appealed. Waititi also managed to be a scene stealer playing the delightful revolutionary Korg.

Other bits you have to love: seeing the warriors three even if they all die immediately, Idris Elba being the ultimate kind badass Heimdall who frankly should be ruling the Asgardians, Anthony Hopkins final bow as Odin, Jeff Goldblum being just delightfully Goldblum and the surprisingly well done use of Hulk/Bruce Banner.

Overall Thor movies just keep getting better. Some people will probably hate this one, they’ll say it’s too funny or the use of music should be kept to “Guardians of the Galaxy” films but that’s what makes the one so great. Every Thor film feels like a unique experience and this one might be the most unique film in Marvel’s entire universe.

I look forward to seeing Thor, now all ultra-powered to the point that he’s rendered all the other Avengers practically useless and one eyed, again. It’s a shame this is likely the last Hemsworth led Thor film but if it is the last they truly went out of the highest of high notes.

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REVIEW: ‘Baby Driver’ mixes music, heists and unique humor seamlessly

Director and writer Edgar Wright knows how to make a damn good movie, it’s a fact that’s been cemented over the years in his numerous cult classics, but “Baby Driver” takes the director to whole new level of brilliance.

From start to finish “Baby Driver” holds your attention and keeps your body humming. Take Wright’s ability to write perfect dry humor, wildly choreographed car chases (as well as possibly the best damn foot chase ever seen in a movie), a stellar cast and music being used in a way it never really is and you have a film that’ll easily be one of the best of the year.

Ansel Elgort plays Baby as caring, innocent and calm to an impressive degree. He doesn’t say all that much in the long run, but you feel like you know everything about him by the end and a lot of it comes from the small interactions he has with strangers and the kindness he radiates. There’s also the wonderfully tender relationship he has with his foster father as well as his new love Debora.

Eiza Gonzalez and Jon Hamm are delightfully deceptive as the wildly in love and incredibly dangerous married couple Buddy and Darling. Jamie Foxx is well crazy as he’s aptly named Bats. Jon Bernthal makes an all too short appearance and leaves his mark even though he’s not seen again.

And then there’s Doc the seemingly dastardly, yet also unexpectedly kind leader of the pack played perfectly by Kevin Spacey. Aside from playing him evil with a soft spot for Baby, he also delivers some of the best comedic lines of the film in a delightful deadpan (especially his final moment where he references Monsters Inc.).

Its pop culture references and witty dialogue are such a part of what Wright does so well and the cast manages to pull it off seamlessly.

Then there’s the music. After coming out of “Baby Driver” it’s very likely you’ll find yourself wondering if movies have been using music wrong up until now. Every song is perfectly chosen and you can’t believe no one has ever used these particular songs in this particular context before. And then there’s the simple way the music flows with the action. At the open of the film you find the words from the song following Baby around on street signs and graffiti; then it’s in sync with every turn of the wheel, every shot from a gun. Music isn’t just in this movie it’s a character of its own. The attention to detail is astounding and the work that the team behind this film put into it is so impressive.

The film has an aesthetic and style all its own. It’s classic, timeless and yet modern. It shows very Americana esque, showing Atlanta in a way that’s not shown often enough because too many people think of the “The Walking Dead” when they think of the Georgia city. It’s a heist movie, but it’s also a car chase film; and yet it also manages to be a love story.

“Baby Driver” is absolutely unique.

REVIEW: ‘Wonder Woman’ lives up to and exceeds the hype

“Wonder Woman” is not only the superhero movie the world needs, but also the superhero movie DC has needed for years.

DC’s recent films have expanded their universe, which is great, but the films have been either disappointing, crowded or a combination of both. “Wonder Woman” is the complete opposite of all of those things.

Gal Gadot shines in her leading role as Diana Prince aka Wonder Woman.  Gadot manages to bring a life to Diana that her male DC predecessors have failed to accomplish with their characters. Gadot’s Diana is strong, hopeful and personable in a way that lights up the screen.  Also let’s give thanks that they allowed Gadot to use her real accent and gave all the ladies of Themiscyra accents to match. Diana Prince is the strong, brilliant woman that has deserved a shining big screen light for years because of Gadot’s performance.

DC’s genius decision to nab the last of the Chris’ before Marvel could really paid off. Chris Pine makes Steve Trevor the man you want him to be, ignorant enough for the time but also endlessly supportive of Diana. Pine makes you believe in him and his cause.

The plot perfectly combines Diana’s Greek Mythological background with a mix of her canon comic origin stories. The story is gripping in its fantasy, but also in its reality with a striking and unique score behind it.

The story also manages, like so many things do intentionally or not, to be incredibly timely. A powerful woman leading a change and a charge for a fight she believes in. It’s a bold and timely statement about fighting for your home, yourself and your people whether those around you are in your corner or not. It’s also important with its social commentary specifically with its secondary characters, unlike so many films “Wonder Woman” manages to actually remember that not everyone was white in the past. The character Sami particularly stands out in a moment when he tells Diana that he never wanted to be a soldier, but because of the color of his skin it’s the only job he could get.

And all of these things don’t come together as beautifully as they do without director Patty Jenkins. Jenkins lens into the male dominated world Diana is walking into is incredibly well done. The fight scenes are enthralling and manage to be shot both realistically and fantastically with the Amazonian powers in play. Having a woman behind the camera for this female driven film was the best possible decision. he was no gamble (@ Hollywood Reporter, she directed an OSCAR WINNING FILM).

Overall “Wonder Woman” is the best solo superhero film to reach the big screen to date.

REVIEW: ‘Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2’ gets to the heart of what it means to be a family

When the first “Guardians of the Galaxy” film came out my knowledge of the team was essentially at zero. I went in thinking it would be ridiculous to see a talking raccoon and tree fight across the galaxy; I came out crying over the friendship between and loving that talking raccoon and tree.

The first film quickly became a favorite of mine and remains so to this day, the same can definitely be said for the second installment.

Much like the first “Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2” has a lot of humor , but this time around director/writer James Gunn managed to find a perfect balance between the humor and a more serious plot as well. The beauty of the “Guardians” franchise is that unlike most of the other Marvel properties they can remain separate, aka there’s not unnecessary cameos and Tony Stark can’t come in and take over 80% of the film. “Guardians” at its heart is about the core group of characters they have, core characters that all received a bit more depth this time around in a surprisingly poignant commentary on what it means to be a family. The laughs were there, because what family doesn’t make jokes and insult each other, but so were the moments of honesty between the characters. Blood doesn’t make a family and this second volume was all about this family admitting and realizing that.

Baby Groot and Rocket naturally steal the show, just as they did the first time around. Vin Diesel and Bradley Cooper may only provide voice talents, but their presence is felt and the emotion they bring to these two characters and the dynamic they have really steal your heart. Mantis was a welcome addition to the team, providing a just as literal friend for Drax; Sean Gunn’s Kraglin was also a welcome addition in his more featured role this time around; Elizabeth Debicki was eerily calm but likely to be a more looming presence in the third installment and Kurt Russel was perfectly Kurt Russel.

But while all the actors really brought it all to the table the absolutely unexpected star of the film was Michael Rooker. Yondu was seemingly just a villain in the first film, but this time around they shaped him into something more, showed a side of him that was softer, more emotional and more damaged. Rooker was incredible in all of his scenes; his dynamic with Christ Pratt’s Peter Quill was so well done highlighting the father/son relationship they have as well as his unexpected dynamic with Rocket and Groot.

No spoilers on the end of the film but let’s just say I’ve now cried openly during both “Guardians of the Galaxy” films and I’m hoping they’ll go for the trifecta and get me again in the third one.

Overall “Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2” is just what you’d expect with the humor and the excellent soundtrack, but also just what you aren’t expecting with a deeper more emotional storyline. Also be sure to stay all the way to the end of the credits there are five, that’s right FIVE, after credit scenes you won’t want to miss.

“Rogue One” review: the darker side of the galaxy

*SPOILERS AHEAD*

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“The Force Awakens” welcomed in a new era of great “Star Wars” films and “Rogue One” has easily continued that trend.

But what makes it great isn’t that it’s just like an old “Star Wars” movie, it’s different, darker. “Rogue One” is the darker, grittier look at the rebellion that fans of the franchise have been wanting for years. While you can still sense that franchise feel with the lighter moments and style you also get the sense of fear and urgency that the rebellion was facing before Luke came into the fold.

Bringing you back to the old world of “Wars” of course is Darth Vader’s appearance. Vader is finally the terrifying badass you always wanted to see Vader be. He’s not just Vader choking his idiotic generals in this one; no he’s committing some very heinous acts.

The score carried you through into that familiar “Star Wars” world as well.

The darker feel of the film also benefits from some darker characters, not all the heroes are perfect, but that’s what makes them real. It’s a sad realization at the end of the film we won’t see these amazing characters again. For me Rhiz Ahmed’s Bodhi Rook especially stood out. Now I’ll admit I’ve been on an Ahmed kick since watching him own it in “The Night Of,” but his defector pilot character was incredible.

Arguably the most important thing about this film however isn’t what it means to “Star Wars” fans, but what it means to anyone watching. “Rogue One” is the most diverse film in the franchise easily, and possibly one of the most diverse blockbusters I’ve ever seen in my life.

A lot of parents might not want to take their kids to this one because of its darker tone and the fact that there’s a lot of death, but if you explain it all to your kid or just know they can handle it; let them watch it. Representation matters and this film represents in ways that this franchise never has. For the first time in “Star Wars” there are only people of different races (and a lead female (not the first time for that, but still)), leading the side of the heroes.

Overall, “Rogue One” is an honest show of the rebellion, a great film for the franchise (possibly my personal favorite), and just a fantastic sci-fi film.

REVIEW: ‘Suicide Squad’ deserves far more credit than critics are giving it

After a series of horrendous reviews it was safe to assume that going into “Suicide Squad” with high expectations might not be a good idea. However be prepared to be pleasantly surprised, the critics were by and large wrong.

“Suicide Squad” isn’t perfect, but rarely are any comic book movies. The first act is a little all over the place establishing each character individually, though some backstory for Slipknot would have been nice that way it wouldn’t have been so obvious he was going to be the designated dead body. If the critics were right about anything it was the main villain, Enchantress, fell a little flat.

But where Enchantress lacked the actual squad picked up the slack. Will Smith played Deadshot so convincingly it’d be nice to see him get his own solo film one day. One of the biggest highlights of the film was the unexpected friendship that developed quickly between him and Harley Quinn. Harley and Joker were entertaining enough, though no matter what any actor does in the future no one will ever quite live up to the Joker legacy that Heath Ledger left behind.

Boomerang provides a light comedic relief, Killer Croc brings surprising personality and Diablo steals the show at many points with his heartbreaking backstory. Katana could have been used more considering how interesting of a character she is, but what bits she did have were fantastic.

The biggest highlight of the cast however has to be Viola Davis as Amanda Waller. Davis manages to encapsulate the cold-hearted badassery of who Waller is. You do not feel for her in any way, whereas you find yourself feeling for the actual members of the squad, which is exactly how it should be with such a cold character.

“Suicide Squad” may have been massacred by the critics but for comic book fans, and lovers of action films it’s a pretty good movie with an absolutely brilliant soundtrack. DC has the chance to do some incredible work in its near future with individual films if they don’t pull a Marvel and feel the need to overcrowd every film with a hundred different cameos. So here’s hoping the do that with “Wonder Woman” next year, but for now enjoy “Suicide Squad” for what it is, a fun, dark comic book film any fan can enjoy.

REVIEW: ‘Star Trek: Beyond’ is more than just a great ‘Star Trek’ movie

From the second you walk into to “Star Trek: Beyond” there are high expectations simply from knowing that the cast put their hearts into making this film for Leonard Nimoy. Those expectations are met and even surpassed.

From the opening act it feels like not only a “Star Trek” movie but just a great sci-fi movie. Every small salute to the original series, the ripped shirt joke being a personal favorite, and to the other “Star Trek” series’ is welcomed and the gentle kind of homage that the previous film never quite grasped.

“Beyond” does what “Into Darkness,” the second film in the new installments, failed to do. The second film was meant to be a tribute to what’s widely regarded is the best piece of “Star Trek” but ended up being a rough cut remake, this film was the exact opposite of that. Not only for its subtle tributes, most notably the lovely tribute to Nimoy, but for the fact that it was an original piece of pure “Trek.”

The villain was new, different and well played by the immensely talented Idris Elba. But the best part is that the villain isn’t just original and great, he’s not the focus of the film. The focus lies equally on the seven original crew members, which is exactly where the focus should be.

From the small but important glimpses into the personal lives of the main seven (i.e. Starfleet’s Most Beautiful Gay Son™  Hikaru Sulu and his adorable little family), to the fantastic moments where all seven of the crew come up with the big plans together this movie is entirely about the heart of the Enterprise. It’s about the diverse group of unlikely friends who work together, not just Kirk always saving the damn day, to protect their people.

Another thing that’s great about the focus on the main seven is the points where the group is broken apart into different pairs. New character Jaylah was fantastic and her interactions with Scotty were a delight to watch. Kirk and Chekov’s teamwork was unexpectedly great and since this is sadly the last time we’ll see Anton Yelchin onscreen as Chekov it was lovely to see him get to be so involved in this film. Uhura and Sulu’s ‘we’re not just gonna sit here and wait to be saved’ attitude was incredible. And most notably there was the focus on the most underrated bromance in the world of “Star Trek,” McCoy and Spock, whose constant banter and disgruntled behavior towards one another is actually just the way they show respect and friendship.

“Beyond” is easily the best film of the new era of “Star Trek,” Justin Lin’s directing was action packed, yet subtly human to show the depth of the characters. And if this film is anything to go by maybe Simon Pegg and Doug Jung should have been writing these movies all along.