The MCU has become such a well-oiled machine that it can appear to forget to just have fun every once in a while. Between Ms. Marvel and now Thor: Love and Thunder, the fun that has been missing has returned just in time to save a franchise that was looking like it was on the verge of becoming monotonous with an entry filled with 80s Guns an’ Roses hits and 80s fantasy vibes along with the long-awaited return of Natalie Portman as Jane Foster, a call that would’ve sounded crazy five years ago after Portman lethargically read her lines in The Dark World. Waititi continues to be king and has flipped one of the worst MCU franchises into arguably the strongest with his last two efforts. Love and Thunder may feel inconsequential in the grand scope of the MCU, but it’s another step in a journey that feels far from over for both of our Thors.
The cold open of Love and Thunder begins with Christian Bale’s Gorr the God Butcher and his backstory. It’s a bit of a rocky start, to be honest. The film starts so abruptly with shots of the desert that I thought it was a logo for a production company in the same way Peter Griffin did in that one Family Guy bit. But when Gorr’s daughter dies in his arms and he, the disciple of a god, is scoffed at, he steals the magical sword. Gorr would proceed to slay every god in his path, hence the nickname.
Meanwhile, the “Asguardians of the Galaxy” are embarking on “classic Thor adventures,” which consist of Thor (Chris Hemsworth) serving the “in case of emergency break glass” role as he twiddles his thumbs until someone tells him that they can’t win the war without him. Once someone does that, Thor will jump in to save the day, using Stormbreaker as a witch’s broom of sorts — just in time for the Hocus Pocus 2 announcement — and handily win the war; even if that comes at the price of destroying a planet’s landmark or two.
But temper those expectations. Love and Thunder is anything but a full blown “Asguardians of the Galaxy” film (as fun as it would be). Thor and the Guardians go their separate ways but not before they exchange some of the funniest banter in the film. And I know this is the result of Pratt’s quotes, but Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) talking about gods in the film is unintentionally funny.
On earth, Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) learns she has stage four cancer. After some convincing from a returning Darcy Lewis (Kat Dennings) — which was met with (somewhat surprising) audible applause at the screening — Jane makes her way to New Asgard and becomes Mighty Thor. How exactly? Jane’s explanation in the film is something to the effect of, “I tried science, so I thought I’d try Asguardian magic.” Don’t hold me to that being 100% accurate, but it got the gist of it and it was a poor attempt at explaining the crux of a movie with a throwaway line of exposition.
I’m a big Natalie Portman fan because my father worked with her years ago, but bias aside, it was great to see her back as Jane Foster and get to wield Mjolnir. Let’s be clear, it’s not like she magically has Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke-level chemistry with Hemsworth, but it’s night and day juxtaposed to their attempts at creating sparks with the flint from Survivor in Thor and The Dark World and doesn’t feature Portman visibly going through the motions. It’s also nice that Jane doesn’t lose the dorky scientist vibes as Mighty Thor and the character isn’t a complete overhaul as Thor was in Ragnarok (though it was much needed in his case).
It’s also clear that Waititi either a.) didn’t like the “Fat Thor” arc or b.) didn’t want to deal with the backlash because Love and Thunder immediately backpedal on this while Thor does some bicycle pedaling to lose the beer belly. It’s unlikely that the way that this film handles it will cause any stir, but it was funny to see that Disney does indeed listen to some qualms with their films as they instantaneously have Thor looking more like himself from the very start.
Waititi has been one of the few filmmakers in the MCU to make their presence felt within their projects. Now, it’s fair to say that Love and Thunder follows a pretty standard MCU formula and structure, but from the music choices to the color palette (I don’t mean just the cool black and white sequences in the Shadow Realm), the film has a vibrancy that makes it pop. And yes, some of the CGI is as poor as it looks in the trailer, but it’s not as noticeable as the third act of Black Widow and can also be chalked up to the fact that the MCU churns out more projects than it can handle at times.
Thor has had the benefit of four solo films and was a part of the Avegers team to boost his number of appreances and to get fans on his side. Even still, it didn’t feel like it was until Ragnarok that fans — including myself — came around to him. It wasn’t Hemsworth’s fault; he was just given uninspired scripts and was written into a corner. But it’s just nice to see Thor’s appearance slightly change over the course of these films. Not just because it creates some cool new toys, but it makes it feel like we’ve grown with the character. He has also been through a lot over the last few films he’s been in, and his character has carried more emotional weight since Ragnarok despite also becoming a more comedic character in that time period. The romance between Thor and Jane that dragged down the first two installments in this franchise is suddenly stronger because there’s more on the line. Wielding Mjolnir comes at a price, and Thor’s expression of this makes for some good stuff. Hemsworth continues to bring it, and Thor being a god bodes well for my hopes (along with many other MCU fans) of him sticking around for the long haul.
I remember tweets complaining about the runtime of Multiverse of Madness. That film, along with Love and Thunder, both fall around the two-hour mark. I think people forget that Iron Man was the same length as Multiverse of Madness and The First Avenger was two minutes shorter. Not every comic book film needs an Endgame-sized runtime, and Love and Thunder proves that. Though perhaps the film could have found a nice middle ground with another 10-15 minutes.
While the brisk pacing of Love and Thunder can be appreciated, the first hour feels like they are playing catch-up between juggling the introduction of Gorr, checking in on Thor and the Guardians, and reintroducing Jane Foster to the fold while also showing glimpses of New Asgard. A lot happens, but it’s almost too clunky in the beginning before the film suddenly kicks into an Elvis-like gear the second the gang has their interaction with Zeus (Russell Crowe). Ultimately, it’s nice to get in and out of the film, but it does come at the expense of certain plot points being fully explored. We never see Jane’s transformation, there’s not a whole lot of Asgard, and Gorr is underutilized. At least I wasn’t bored during Love and Thunder; something that cannot be said about other recent MCU projects.
As just indicated, Gorr is a fantastic villain mostly due to Bale’s performance. Bale is likely incapable of giving a bad performance, but he’s underused. Bale is like a sirloin steak in the film; delicious, but smaller than other steaks. Why would you want a sirloin when you can have a juicy strip steak or a ribeye? And while it’s understandable to not want to overexpose the character and let him keep a level of mystique, it’s also very seldom that an MCU villain has actually been truly eerie and it’s just a shame that the film cuts away from him so much in a franchise that’ll commit screentime to the likes of dull villains like the Red Skull and whenever the villains from Black Widow and Eternals were (Kit Harrington?).
You may be asking yourself why I haven’t even mentioned supporting characters like Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) and Korg (Taika Waititi). After all, those two played a big role in why Ragnarok was so good. That’s because Love and Thunder really belongs to Thor, Mighty Thor, and Gorr. Sure, it’s cool seeing Valkyrie as the king of New Asgard, now sporting t-shirts and sending invoices when not in battle, and Korg continues to be the most consistently funny person in the franchise (maybe Waititi is withholding his best lines for the role he voices). As you can hear in the trailers, Korg serves as the storyteller to the young Asguardians and most of his jokes will at least make you chuckle. One of the notable new characters is Russell Crowe as Zeus. God (and Waititi) only know what the future holds for this character — the post-credits scene gives some indication — but this version of the Olympian God we all read in countless books growing up about was a miss. It’s clear that the MCU was going for a comedic version of the character, but the live-action adaptation of The Lightning Thief had a better version of the character.
Love and Thunder is the perfect summer blockbuster and has everything you want: A good Jane Foster return, big action, and a love triangle between Thor, Mjolnir, and Stormbreaker. It’s the comfort food that the MCU needs between all of the new characters and stories it’s trying to introduce to set its future up. If you would’ve said that Thor would get the most standalone movies in his franchise in 2013, no one would have believed you. Now, it seems as though the franchise still has plenty of mileage mostly due to Waititi and what he did to rejuvenate this franchise. Plus, we have a new and mighty Thor to look forward to seeing more of. I know Portman is a busy and uber-talented actress who shines in the smaller films as much as she does the big films (watch Annihilation), hence why they likely ended the film the way that they did, I want to see more of her; she’s more than worthy.
Disney will release Thor: Love and Thunder will be released on July 8.
Chloe Domont’s ‘Fair Play’ Is A Spellbinding Debut That Challenges Gender Dynamics
Chloe Domont’s debut film, Fair Play, opens with a captivating scene that foreshadows the thrilling and thought-provoking journey ahead. A deeply in love couple, caught up in the excitement of a wedding, find themselves in a bathroom, passionately kissing. As their intimacy escalates, there is a surprising twist—blood stains their clothes. They share a giggle amidst the exhilaration, and their eyes land on a ring on the floor. With blood on their hands and a murder yet to be revealed, they go down on their knees once more, this time for a proposal. The scene sets the stage for a story that combines elements of romance, finance, and psychological intrigue.
Domont skillfully ventures beyond the trappings of a typical workplace affair and delves into the dark world of financial thrillers through a mesmerizing psychological puzzle. By taking a subtle narrative twist, she explores the fragility of gender dynamics. In a perfect love story, had Luke been promoted, everything would have been idyllic. However, Emily’s success and her private chamber disrupt their relationship, unveiling its underlying fractures. Overwhelmed with guilt, Emily immediately apologizes to Luke for achieving professional success. This familiar dynamic unfolds, highlighting society’s conditioning of women to downplay their achievements.
Unlike traditional didactic tales, Fair Play abstains from presenting a clear moral center. Luke is not portrayed as a monster. Initially, he expresses pride in Emily’s success. However, something within him snaps as he faces the corrosive atmosphere of men assuming that Emily slept her way to the top. Emily, too, is drawn into the boys’ locker room conversations, refusing to concede her hard-earned accomplishments.
With astute storytelling and a refusal to pause for respite, Domont takes Fair Play on an unexpected trajectory. The film’s pacing mirrors the emotional claustrophobia of a chamber drama, intensifying the toxic power dynamics that shift nauseatingly fast. The narrative highlights how even well-intentioned condescension can overshadow narratives of men advocating for their female partners. It underscores the reality that equality in love, within heteronormative relationships, relies on unequal gender politics.
Cinematographer Menno Mans contributes to the film’s tension through tight close-up shots of the characters. This visual approach accelerates the emotional intensity woven into their relationship. The exceptional performances of the film’s two lead actors further complicate a linear reading of the story, lending an additional layer of ambivalence. The bathroom scene at the beginning recurs in a darker context near the film’s climax, showcasing the dramatic shift in the actors’ body language. Dynevor expertly weaponizes the fragility of her frame, while Ehrenreich masterfully adapts to his character’s evolving mentality. The film progressively transforms Luke from a genuinely loving and lucky man into a familiar representation of a man that resonates with the experiences of many women.
The return of blood on the floor symbolizes an undisclosed satisfaction, leaving the audience captivated by the film’s powerful exploration of gender dynamics and the human psyche.
To be honest, FAIR PLAY is not what I expected and I enjoyed it very much. A captivating thriller that explores how power, gender roles, and workplace relationships interact.
Gen V Season 1 is Bloody and Disgusting, Yet Utterly Compelling
Ever since The Boys premiered on Prime Video in 2019, it has consistently dropped jaws and blown people’s minds with its weirdly whacky, bloody and horny storytelling about corrupt superheroes. Hollywood had never seen anything quite like this. It is developed by Eric Kripke and creative forces such as Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg were also involved. Three incredible seasons have made it into one of the biggest shows right now. It was no surprise that Prime Video would expand such a beloved universe and greenlight a spinoff series titled Gen V which is finally coming to Prime Video.
Gen V is focused around teen supes studying at Godolkin University, who strive to make their careers in crime fighting and potentially join the seven one day. This 8-episode series is set after the events of The Boys Season 3. This series is developed by Eric Kripke, Craig Rosenberg, and Evan Goldberg. It stars Jaz Sinclair, Chance Perdomo, Maddie Phillips, Lizzie Broadway, and Patrick Schwarzenegger among others.
If anyone was worried that this series would not be as wild and horny as The Boys just because it is set around teens, let me put those worries to bed because this series stays true to every aspect of its predecessor and maintains the unfiltered storytelling throughout. The tone is as outlandish as always and keeps up all the horniness in the characters, including the obsession with penises. It is very much a hard R-rated show, so it might be safe to think about who you recommend it to.
The performances here are excellent, by everyone. Jaz Sinclair who plays Marie Moreau, and Chance Perdomo who plays Andre Anderson are particularly great. They have an emotional vulnerability that makes them totally convincing and makes the viewer sympathize with them. Shelley Conn is mysterious and shrewd as Dean Shetty. Maddie Phillips and Lizzie Broadway are good too. But there isn’t a powerhouse performance such as Antony Starr as Homelander.
The story still revolves around supes, though this time a younger generation of them, and the overall world-building of this franchise but it is surprisingly deeper and more mature than most would expect. At its core, there is a meaningful coming-of-age story about dealing with loss, power and the pressure of high expectations. Every character has interesting arcs and the character development is very smooth. The writers also managed to juggle so many subplots at the same time and managed to keep most of them intriguing. The pacing is also very consistent and rarely slows down.
Several people just find The Boys too disgusting and can’t stand the extreme and explicit nature of the narrative. Gen V also runs on a very similar track in terms of storytelling. So those who did not enjoy The Boys, will most probably not enjoy the new spin-off either. But this show will definitely delight the die-hard fans of this iconic franchise. Gen V does take a lot of shortcuts in its narrative and I wish they let the relationships between characters marinate for a little while longer. The plot may also seem overstuffed at times and there is arguably a lack of action so far.
Gen V embraces the outrageousness of The Boys while delivering an engaging coming-of-age story and manages to stand out on its own. It is as bloody, horny, crudely funny and dramatic as you would expect. The series finds new energy and carries the legacy of its predecessor. The first six episodes are thoroughly engaging and get you invested in the characters and their motivations. Expect to have a blast and see a lot of cameos.
Episodes Viewed – 6 out of 8.
Gen V episodes 1-3 will stream on Prime on September 29 with the finale on November 3.
The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar Is Wes Anderson’s Delightful Take On Roald Dahl’s Sweet Story
Roald Dahl and Wes Anderson have both left an indelible mark on the hearts and minds of generations. Dahl’s timeless stories have enchanted readers for decades, while Anderson’s groundbreaking films have pushed the boundaries of cinematic storytelling. Their unique talents and shared appreciation for the power of literature have now converged in Anderson’s latest masterpiece, the modern short film adaptation of Dahl’s The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar.
Anderson, known for his extraordinary attention to detail and distinctive visual style, brings Dahl’s adult-friendly tale to life in a truly captivating way. With a star-studded cast that includes Ralph Fiennes, Benedict Cumberbatch, Dev Patel, and Ben Kingsley, the film stays true to the author’s original text, with the actors delivering their lines directly from the page. This dedication to the literary essence of the story sets the stage for Anderson’s exceptional storytelling.
Following his previous successful adaptation of Dahl’s work with the Oscar-nominated The Fantastic Mr. Fox, Anderson is poised to once again captivate audiences with The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar. In a mere 37 minutes, this short film manages to deliver a delightful and heartwarming experience that can beat any full-length feature film. The commitment and power of the A-list cast shine throughout, ensuring a resounding success on multiple levels.
From the very beginning, Fiennes embodies Dahl himself, narrating the tale as he seamlessly transitions between the comfort of his home and the picturesque outdoors. By applying freeze-frame techniques and cleverly staged tableaus, Fiennes and his fellow actors walk through different sets that are magically transformed by on-screen “stagehands” right before our eyes. This dynamic interplay between reality and cunningness is a testament to Anderson’s growing fascination with the theatrical aspects of filmmaking.
The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar not only captures the imaginative essence found in Dahl’s works but also showcases the filmmaker’s mastery of visual storytelling. Each scene is meticulously crafted, with Anderson’s staging drawing heavily on theatrical influences. Costume changes happen seamlessly on camera, resulting in Ben Kingsley’s Khan humorously questioning the whereabouts of his mustache. Furthermore, practical effects, including a delightful box trick, add to the mesmerizing experience of witnessing the film’s creation unfold before our eyes.
Anderson’s choice to create a short film rather than a feature-length production proves to be a stroke of genius. The pacing remains consistently engaging, ensuring that viewers remain captivated from start to finish. The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar is a visual feast, an entertaining experience, and, above all, a whole lot of fun.
When it comes to acting, it’s so hard to pick a standout because whenever an actor comes on the screen, he or she gives a performance that stays with you. Benedict Cumberbatch is magnetic in his portrayal of Henry Sugar and mesmerises you with a performance that shows his acting prowess. Ben Kingsley shows us why he is one of the greatest actors of all time. His monologues are truly special. Meanwhile, Dev Patel and Richard Ayoade are the magical new entrants in Anderson’s world of magical stories. Both of them are brilliant in their respective roles.
On the other hand, Ralph Fiennes showcases his versatility by embodying Roald Dahl in the most fantastic way possible.
Roald Dahl’s rich storytelling finds new life through Wes Anderson’s innovative cinematic techniques. Their creative collaboration results in a short film that is visually pleasing, emotionally compelling, and brimming with the charm and magic that have made both artists legends in their respective fields. The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar is not to be missed, as it brings together the best of Dahl and Anderson, leaving audiences enraptured by its undeniable allure. Experience this enchanting journey, and let yourself be swept away by the power of imagination.
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