Lina Lamont

"What do you think I am, dumb or something?"

Archive for the tag “Chris Hemsworth”

Avengers: Age of Ultron

This review first appeared in the Sunday Star-Times, 26th April 2015

When the Avengers last assembled in 2012, we were treated to one of those terrific “getting the gang together” tales that saw Iron Man, Thor, Captain America and the Hulk all in one room and exchanging quips throughout their ongoing fight against evil.

As is Hollywood’s wont, in between these ensemble pieces the studios continue to bring out sequels to the individual superhero stories – and so Thor went to a Dark World, Captain America fought the Winter Soldier, and Iron Man, er, 3-ed. If you can keep up with everyone’s travails (or remember the comics you read as a youth) then you’re presumably still excited to experience each big screen adaptation.  Otherwise, you can just turn up for nearly two and a half hours of traditional fight scenes punctuated by unfollowable exposition and some touching domestic moments, and let is all wash over you.

The problem with Age of Ultron is there are simply too many superheroes spoiling the broth. Instead of marvelling (pun intended) at the dry wit and flashy gadgets of Robert Downey Jr or the extraordinarily beguiling deep voice of Chris Hemsworth (who wins the charisma-off here, no question), the film is a barrage of videogame action, equitably shared out amongst the core cast so everyone gets their screen allowance (all the big namers are present and accounted for, along with a couple of newbies and a lovely cameo from Andy Serkis).

Highlights include the surprising introduction of one hero’s family priorities, a burgeoning love affair, and the auspices of a really fun party at Tony Stark’s place. Visually, our heroes’ ominous hallucinations, designed to unsettle and derail their powers, are certainly impressive. But even a round-the-world jaunt to South Africa, Korea and “Sokovia” can’t render the Avengers’ quest truly exciting or interesting. Next time, just send Thor back to Asgard and I’ll go watch him there.

Advertisements

Rush

This review first appeared in the Sunday Star-Times, 15th September 2013

“The name’s Hunt – James Hunt” declares a British-accented Chris Hemsworth, in this latest role which should provide him with an excellent James Bond audition tape in years to come. Sparkly blue eyes and louche blonde hair, he bounces from girl to girl like an over-energetic Tigger. A slug of champers, a toke on a joint, and he’s ready to race.

Formula One aficionados may remember Hunt as half of one of the sport’s great rivalries of the 1970s, as he fought off competition from Team Ferrari’s top driver, the Austrian Niki Lauda (played with aplomb by the hopefully no longer underrated German actor, Daniel Bruhl. You may not remember him from such films as Goodbye Lenin! and Inglourious Basterds, but you will after this).

Like chalk and cheese – Hunt is the charismatic, risk-taking womaniser, Lauda the blunt-talking strategist – these two characters share the voiceover and screen-time in a fascinating pseudo-biopic that focuses on the most dramatic moments in their careers behind the wheel.

While fleshing out the lead personalities in lively performances which show the two young actors at the top of their game, the film also delivers thrills and spills through expertly-rendered footage of races and crashes. (To this end, the less history you know, the more heart-in-mouth your experience will be.) The supporting cast of wives and girlfriends (notably Tron Legacy’s Olivia Wilde as real-life starlet Suzy Miller, and the wonderful Alexandra Maria Lara), team mates and F1 bosses are just as credible and engaging. Even the production design is top-notch, with hairstyles and costuming that are as faithful as Hunt is not.

Little wonder that the film seems effortless in its creation – veteran director Ron Howard has assembled his own team of hotshots to bring life to a screenplay by Peter Morgan, the award-winning writer who consistently accounts for some of the best cinematic tales (The Queen, Frost/Nixon, The Last King of Scotland all shone thanks to him). Hans Zimmer provides an appropriately exciting score, and the photography is superb. The multi-lingual script lends an air of arthouse to the whole affair.

In the spirit of the superb documentary Senna, Rush manages to be as much a character-driven story as a story about driving. With energy and enough dramatic tension to keep you enthralled, it’s one hell of a ride.

NZFF – Cabin in the Woods

Joss Whedon fans, rejoice.  Bradley Whitford fans, rejoice!  In fact,  rejoice anyone with an interest in innovative, intelligent, outside-the-jack-in-a-box filmmaking!!  Cabin in the Woods is what Snakes on a Plane failed to be: a genre movie with an intentionally generic title that actually achieves something whip-smart as well as entertaining.

One admission: I’m not all about the Joss.  Buffy, Firefly, and finally direction of a decent feature film in The Avengers (sorry Serenity fans, I can’t join you there) – this pedigree is not what brought me to the cinema.  But knowing the man is considered something of a visionary, the hype around Cabin makes it a must-see for anyone who sits through endless genre movies and yearns for something novel.  And novel, this certainly is.

Like Kevin Williamson’s early intentions with the Scream franchise, Cabin is fully self-aware in its constitution: a group of five college students head off for a weekend in someone’s cousin’s eponymous holiday house, driving their motor home off into the wilds where cellphones and internet cannot reach them.  They meet a creepy guy en route whose workshop looks like the props table for a slasher movie.  There are allusions to sexual activity between the hot girl (Kiwi Anna Hutchison, doing a sterling accent) and the buff guy (Chris Hemsworth from Thor).   Onward they all head through the woods, until they meet their final destination.

But let’s take it back to the beginning.  Before we meet our band of cliches, two very fine actors of film and TV are walking through a nondescript office environment, white shirt sleeves rolled, talking about “work”.  Bradley Whitford runs his character just like Josh Lyman from The West Wing, which is hugely thrilling if you watch the rest of the film as if it’s the president’s chief of staff who’s running the show.  Next to him Oscar nominee Richard Jenkins gives considerable clout to the type of picture that would normally be peppered with no-name, no-talent, C-grade actors just starting out.  Kudos to Whedon not only for coaxing them on board, but throwing the audience this delightful curve ball.

The less said about the story, the better.  After all, it’s a horror, right? you probably get the crux of it.  But in fact Whedon’s take on tradition rapidly turns into something entirely clever, exciting, frightening and hilarious, where the audience laughs at genuinely well-written jokes rather than its own exclamations of fear.

With creativity like this, the mind boggles at how Whedon might approach his next movie – Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing

Snow White and the Huntsman

This review first appeared in the Sunday Star Times, 24th June 2012

Following the recent “comedy” adaptation of this famous fairy tale, which had a flamboyant Julia Roberts pouting and prancing with alacrity, the “darker” Snow White makes its brooding entrance. Viewers who had already nailed their colours to the Kristen Stewart-helmed adaptation will be pleased to know it’s a grim old affair, from the moment a perpetually sour Charlize Theron uses her beauty as a Trojan horse, ascends the throne and starts wailing her desire for immortality. Although the evil queen is so miserable, quite why she wants to live forever is anyone’s guess. But on with the story.

The good thing about retelling a well-worn fable is the opportunity to mess about with its finer details. Thus, once Snow has escaped into the torturous, hallucinogenic woods, she soon teams up with the huntsman sent to catch her (Chris Hemsworth, complete with Thor haircut dyed dowdy and the twinkle in his eye banished for this role), after which so much time is spent on the Queen’s angsty ageing and am-dram shouting, for a while it looks like this story may dispense with the seven dwarves altogether. But wait – given time, several famous faces (though not bodies) make their appearance, though none is given the screen time or dialogue his stardom (Bob Hoskins, Toby Jones, Ray Winstone) deserves.

With a sinister, supernatural element to the tale, the production is like a cross between Lord of the Rings and a 1998 Madonna video, beautiful in its use of light, colour and photography – even in the narrative lulls, there are some gorgeous moments. However, while the bits that work deliver a lush and captivating film, innovations like the fairy landscape and fantasy animals, though beautifully rendered, seem out of place and simply add minutes to a story that could have done with judicious editing.

It’s Stewart who saves the day – as a heroine who looks stunning in every shot, you can understand why Theron would want rid of her. Hemsworth does a good job in his one emotive scene, but the rest of the characters are too bland to care about. Director Rupert Sanders appears not to have made anything before, so it’s either beginner’s luck or a terrific assistant director that has delivered a half decent movie audiences may consider worthy of its hype.

Thor

This review first appeared in the Sunday Star Times, 1 May 2011

There are only two things you need to know about Thor.  First, be warned that the film starts off a bit weak: there are shades of Star Wars meets LOTR meets Twister, and the palpable CGI robs the opening battles of any real emotional punch.  But second, as soon as Norse god Thor Odinson is banished from his father’s kingdom and dumped unceremoniously on earth to be scooped up by Natalie Portman’s weak-kneed scientist, Thor rapidly ascends to become of the superior super-hero movies of recent years.

Shakespearean demigod Kenneth Branagh is back, here directing a multinational cast whose round vowels and strong enunciation lend genuine gravitas to an otherwise pretty traditional quest story.  Thor (Australian Chris Hemsworth) sports a physique that rivals Schwarzenegger, and his charm and wit provide the biggest laughs – with touches of Crocodile Dundee as he brings his archaic behaviour to a diner in the desert of New Mexico.

Film geeks will be thrilled by (too brief) cameos from hardman Jeremy Renner, and the even harder Idris Elba (Stringer Bell from TV’s The Wire).  Miraculously, the intermingling of Nordic sci-fi with human sci-reality works well, thanks to Portman and Hemsworth’s chemistry, and while a Thor 2 may be a bridge too far, this prototype is an enjoyable ride.

Post Navigation