Mega Multiplex Movie Day!!!!
The only constant thing in the universe is change, so they say. They’re right. What started out as a highly anticipated double bill at the multiplex became a triple bill.
It was never planned as a three feature day - we’ve never done one of those before, but as I was selecting some suitable tuneage for the hour’s drive to the multiplex, my eyes fell on the "Scream" CDs and an idea took root.
Scream 4 would still be playing. It’s rated 15, Tiffany is now 15 hence - no brainer. Now, the original plan was that Scream 4 could be a backup movie if either of the planned movies didn’t pan out. However, not too many seconds elapsed before I realised that maybe we COULD see all three. A quick chat with Steve & Tiff confirmed that this notion was somewhere close to genius level.
So, an entire DAY at the multiplex it was - and frankly, I couldn’t think of a better way to spend a day off. One of the things that surprised me was how damn quiet CineWorld was. Eerily so. Especially when you consider that it’s right in the middle of two long public holiday weekends. Still, no complaints here.
Cool trailers in front of our opening feature show precisely how cool this summer’s going to be for freaks and geeks like myself. Although I’ve seen the Captain America and Green Lantern trailers several times right here on my computer screen - the big screen gives added gravitas. I’m also impressed with the look of X-Men: First Class, as it’s set in the sixties, when the comic first appeared, the costumes seem very similar to the ones seen in the early issues and Wolverine is nowhere to be seen. (To clarify, it’s not that I dislike Wolverine. I’m actually a fan, but he didn’t appear in the X-Men until the title had been running for several years). Anyhow - on to the movies.
Of all the superhero movies I intend seeing this summer, this is the dark horse, the wild card. This is the one, as I’ve mentioned before, that can go either way. Thor isn’t a character I follow or keep up to date with, and it’s been years since I read any of the comics - with the exception of his appearance in The Ultimates where a lot seems to have been changed.
But, drawing from my early readings of the comics, there were certainly iconic images that I wanted to see - the rainbow bridge to Asgard, his evil brother Loki with a ridiculously long horned helmet and some cool hammer action - to name but a few.
Back in the day, the origin concerned a lame doctor, Don Blake, who finds an old stick which if he strikes the ground with it twice, turns into Mjolnir, the enchanted mallet and turns himself into Thor, the Norse God of Thunder. As his practice is in New York, Dr Blake uses his alter ego to fight crime and super villainy, eventually becoming one of the elite fighting force, The Avengers (Marvel’s superhero team).
His stories are a little more complicated though in that the conceit here isn’t that he’s a civilian who wears a mask and has an arsenal of cool gadgetry like Batman or Iron Man, he taps the stick and he becomes someone else entirely. And that someone else actually is a God, and has his own back story in the mythical land of Asgard, where he has to deal with the demands of the All-Father, Odin and a scheming weasel of a half brother, Loki. - Master of Mischief.
So translating all this into a cohesive movie would be a challenge by any definition. Enter Kenneth Branagh - the guy in my book least likely to be involved in a comic book superhero picture. But given the sweeping Wagnerian dramatics of the concept, I can see the appeal that drew him to the project. And you know what?
He made it work.
Damned if he didn’t assemble the perfect cast and made the whole thing work. Suddenly I can’t think of ANYBODY but Anthony Hopkins as Odin, or Chris Hemsworth as Thor. One thing that bugged me was Thor’s mother. We don’t see much of her but the glimpses we get, I kept thinking I knew her face but just couldn’t place her - turns out it’s Rene Russo (slaps head).
The set-up has certainly changed. Thor lands on Earth, cast out of Asgard to live among us for arrogantly misusing his power on Asgard and launching an ill advised attack on the frost Giants. Landing with a thud in the New Mexico desert, he meets Jane Foster (no longer a nurse, as in the comics) played by Natalie Portman. There’s no striking of a stick or a crippled general practitioner. Thor is...well, Thor.
There are subtle nods to other characters in the Marvel universe, a giant robot is assumed to be one of Tony Stark’s (Iron Man’s civilian identity) , one of SHIELD’s guards prefers to use a bow and arrow and is referred to as "Barton" - clearly this is Clint Barton, Hawkeye - a staple of the Avengers comic for decades. Finally, there’s mention of e-mailing a gamma ray specialist. Who else but Bruce Banner aka the Hulk?
It’s a two tiered story, with half taking place on Asgard, as Loki plots to succeed Odin as the leader of Asgard, while also scheming to eliminate his exiled brother. Thor in the meantime learns humility the hard way down on Earth, as he fights to earn the return of his powers and the ability to wield the mighty hammer, now embedded in a boulder.
I’m trying to keep this as spoiler free as possible, so I guess I’m not able to give away any more plot details. Think of this as a mixture between something like Lord of the Rings and a superhero epic, because it’s the look and feel of those movies that the Asgard sequences evoke. I did actually get to see everything I wanted. The rainbow bridge, Bifrost was amazing and didn’t look at all as stupid as it could. The flying and the hammer action was stunning and I swear Loki’s helmet horns were about four feet high.
The ending was not what I expected, but there IS a post credits sequence (which I missed, sadly but checked online to see what it was all about) Once again, as with all recent Marvel movies, it aids in the set up for the huge Avengers movie due next summer, which will unite Thor with Iron Man, Captain America and The Hulk. (Come on - that’s no way a spoiler, everybody know that.)
One criticism. I saw this in 3D - but the 3D didn’t make an impression on me. Either it was used sparingly, or it’s lost it’s "WOW" factor. Seeing the trailer in 2D in another screening later in the day, I realised that the 3D had actually added nothing. Maybe that bubble has finally burst and the novelty’s over - until the next time.
All in all, I enjoyed this far more than I thought I would, but every bit as much as I hoped I would.
So - a quick walk to the nearby supermarket to pick up some edibles, and back into the comforting, cool darkness we went. Damn, that sun was bright.
Fast Five - or to give it its full title Fast & Furious 5: Rio Heist.
There was never any doubt I’d go and see this the first chance I got. I love these movies. I’ve loved them from the first time I saw the Fast and the Furious. Admittedly, I liked the second and third a little bit less, but from the closing scene of the third, where Vin Diesel cameoed, making his return to the franchise they’ve been great fun. The fourth had some dazzling stunt work, great music, and head spinning editing, leaving Diesel’s "Dominic" at on the verge of being busted out of police custody by the rest of his gang. This is where we kick off.
Plot-wise, it’s another couple of hours of a heist, an exotic location, cars, music, property damage, stunts and general lawlessness. Hey - it’s a Fast & Furious movie, hence you know what you’re getting when you buy the ticket. To expect anything different is as redundant as ordering steak and complaining it’s not cheesecake.
What kicks this movie into high gear (yep, pun intended) is the return of the cast members from previous films to make up a gang that pull a heist on a Rio-based crime lord.You don’t HAVE to have seen the previous movies, but it’s all the more fun if you have, and you can make all the connections.
Another huge selling point is Dwayne Johnson as "Hobbs" the FBI agent sent to track them down and bring the gang to justice once and for all. Hobbs seems to have a fleet of armoured trucks and weaponry. As a family, we like Johnson - have done since his days as "The Rock" in the W.W.E. - where he has recently made his return. The inevitable fight between Johnson and Diesel is one of the high points of the movie, along with the cars and the chases.
Despite its 12A certificate, this is a family film with nothing offensive. Stylised violence and a likeable cast. One thing though - if you’ve followed the franchise this far, sit through the end credits and you’ll see the set up for then next film, as it’s a pretty cool cliff hanger, and confirms some interesting returns.
Then - my kids took me out for a meal and we virtually ate our own combined body weight in fried chicken. We needed something to keep up our stamina as we headed back to the dimness for movie number three,
Scre4m. (no - seriously, no typo, that’s how it appeared on screen)
I love the Scream movies. Unashamedly so. To the extent of still having a Ghostface mask hanging on the wall in my study. I think they’re effortlessly cool, they’re well written and they have some valid points to make about the state of the horror movie industry. I like their comically self aware post modernist takes, I like the characters. Hey, I like Wes Craven’s movies, I think Kevin Williamson is a hell of a screen writer. Not only the Screams, but also Teaching Mrs Tingle, The Faculty and I know What You Did Last Summer. I even liked Cursed - so THERE, I’ve said it.
I was curious to see how Craven and Williamson could pull another rabbit out of the hat, eleven years later and how long I could keep spoiler free.
Also - what would they tackle? In the first, they looked at the absurdity and predictability of slasher movies in general. Those who survived did so by watching movies as the killers were following the slasher etiquette laid down in films like Halloween. In the second, it was all about the sequels and how they need to outdo the original. The third was a statement on how, in the last instalment of a trilogy, all bets are off.
My hat is off to both Craven and Williamson in making Scre4m not only a virtual remake of the first, but, as ever - a self aware remake, with several pertinent statements regarding today’s mass media mania with instant, unearned celebrity AND....remakes.
Throughout the gorefest (which really IS surprisingly graphic for a 15 rating) the characters make several shrewd observations about the current Hollywood trend for remakes, including the endlessly quotable line from Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) "Don’t fuck with the original".
Okay - messages aside, how is it? Basically it’s 2 hours of joy.
All the major surviving characters are back, Joining Sidney ten years later as she’s on a book signing tour which culminated back in Woodsboro, we see Deputy Dewey (David Arquette) is now Sheriff. He is married to Gail Weathers (Courtney Cox) who has given up her career in journalism and is settling down to small town life as a writer but as the Ghostface killings start up again as soon as Sidney hits town - all bets are off and she wants another scoop.
The script playfully sets up just about everybody as potentially the killer, but ultimately the true identity makes perfect sense as does their reasoning, within the framework of the script.
So far, this is the best horror movie I’ve seen this year, and it’s great to see Craven, Williamson and the Scream regulars back at their best, not having missed a beat in the past decade.
And that was it for the day. Roll on the next multiplex trip.
Copyright © 2010 - 2011 Robin Pierce. All Rights reserved.