Thursday, 28 April 2011

Thor

2011, 12, Directed by Kenneth Branagh
Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Natalie Portman, Anthony Hopkins


If there’s one filmic concoction you never expected to see, it’s pretty certain that Thor as seen by Kenneth Branagh was up there. You won’t be surprised to know that the resident Shakespearean thesp wasn’t Marvel’s first choice for the gig (Matthew Vaughn currently too busy with X Men: First Class), but an odd decision that makes for curious viewing. One of many ongoing vehicles for next year’s massive mash-up The Avengers, Thor was always going to be the toughest hero to handle: he is, after all, the Norse God of thunder. But handle it Branagh does… and with panache too. Opening with Thor’s entrance to Earth witnessed by astrophysicist Natalie Portman and her team (Stellan SkarsgĂ„rd and something of a show stealer, Kat Dennings), we are then shown an extended pre-cursor to events on Asgard in which the gap is filled – and for a classic comic character, there is a long gap. Asgard itself puts the Marvel into marvellous; to describe it here would not do the landscape justice, but the scope of it is something else. Branagh succeeds in completely immersing you into what unfolds onscreen, so much that when the film flits back to Earth, Thor feels like a completely different film altogether.

Chris Hemsworth (notable for a cameo in 2009s Star Trek) plays the cape-wearing hammer-thrower deprived of his powers very well indeed. Spitting lines that bear serious meaning on his own turf but provide heavy laughs on Earth is an impressive feat emphasised by the support around him. However, the ‘stranger from a strange land’ gimmicks which involve the mighty one marching into a pet store to request a horse do wear thin. Which is where Thor is let down: through the hammering across of moments that work best. Granted, the story is lifted from a comic book, but this fails to prevent the plot twist of the jealous brother hungry for power (an unfortunately weighed down Tom Hiddleston) causing the eye to roll every so often. The key was not to take itself too seriously creating something of a double-edged sword (or hammer) for Branagh to attempt to dodge tonally. There is fun to be had though: the action is surprisingly not clunky, with the dialogue being just that – somehow adding to proceedings.  Similarly, everything manages to be tied up in a neat manner with the hero thankfully not outstaying his welcome; just as well seeing as we’ll be paying ole’ Thor a visit, albeit with company, next summer.

3/5




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Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Scream 4

2011, 15, Directed by Wes Craven
Starring: Neve Campbell, David Arquette, Courtney Cox, Emma Roberts


1996 saw Wes Craven mould his love of the slasher movie into an all-knowing modern classic that followed the text book but still provided shocks. Its sequel followed a year later packing enough jumps and standout set-pieces to be a worthy adversary to the original. The completion of the trilogy in 2000 may have sapped in originality, but managed to achieve something rarely seen: a truly enjoyable horror trilogy. Ending it there seemed to be the right move, all things considered: Scream 1 and 2 scriptwriter Kevin Williamson had quit whilst ahead, not content with just forming a retread of previous successes. Flashforward 11 years later and let me introduce to you Scream 4, the completely unnecessary but hugely watchable franchise-entry; its Ghostface for the YouTube generation. Campbell, Arquette and Cox all return to Woodsboro for the release of Sidney’s book based on her (scarily regular) dice with death, only to find yet another masked murderer targeting the highschool friends of her niece, Jill Roberts (played by Emma Roberts AKA Julia's niece).

In typical Scream fashion, the opening scene embeds in the memory, this time around focusing on establishing Screa4m as zanily tongue-in-cheek; something not to be taken seriously, but not to underestimate either. Seeing Sidney, Dewey and Gale back on the big screen is an oddly pleasant feeling and – although irrationality overrules – you root for them, no matter what. Supporting characters help things move along nicely too, namely Hayden Panettiere’s feisty Kirby. Not only is the gore-factor upped (note the 15 certificate), but the comedic one too. Arguably the funniest entry thus far, Scre4m also boasts the most leftfield shocking climax too. What makes the film feel whole though is how the continuity from the original trilogy extends the authenticity of the universe (the film club at Woodsboro hold an annual Stab-a-thon), as well as our universe (when told she is going to be watching Saw IV, a female character tells her friend she cannot stand torture porn – she may as well be Craven in a wig). It is very easy to dismiss Scre4m as just another flimsy sequel, but this is anything but; the world may not have been screaming out for another, but with any luck, you will be after viewing this.

3.5/5


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Scream 3

2000, 18, Directed by Wes Craven
Starring: Neve Campbell, David Arquette, Courtney Cox Arquette, Patrick Dempsey

More of the same in this third outing which sees Campbell, Arquette and Cox back to nettle yet another incarnation of the iconic Ghostface killer, who this time around sets his sights on the cast of Stab 3, forcing Sidney from isolation. As far as Part 3’s go, this is a damn good attempt, staying in tune with the original and its sequel whilst adding its own fresh layer to the fore. The scare factor is noticeably reduces, but the aptly named Ehren Kruger’s script – whilst not as tongue-sharp as previous writer Kevin Williamson’s – manages to be smart enough for its own good at the best of times; additionally, Craven deftly and skilfully shoots inspired set-pieces (Sidney being hunted within the Hollywood set of her own home from the original Scream). What is lacking however are the number of engaging characters previously killed off (one of who returns in a nice touch), but the returning cast are always a welcome presence. It is usually rare for a horror franchise to still shock third time around, but that Scream 3 does after putting everyone possible into the spotlight for killer. The Scream films extend themselves from the horror and the spoofing of its own conventions to become avariation of the classic ‘whodunit’ plot. Talk of this film completing the trilogy within the film does cause an eye roll knowing that Craven’s Scream 4 – released a whole 11 years later – hit cinemas a few weeks back. However, a poignant, yet unnerving ending may leave you screaming for more.

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