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Thor: Love and Thunder Non-Spoiler Review | Portman is Worthy in Mighty MCU Return



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. 

(L-R): Pom Klementieff as Mantis, Chris Pratt as Star-Lord/Peter Quill, and Chris Hemsworth as Thor in Marvel Studios’ THOR: LOVE AND THUNDER. Photo by Jasin Boland. ©Marvel Studios 2022. All Rights Reserved.

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).

(L-R): Tessa Thompson as Valkyrie and Natalie Portman as Mighty Thor in Marvel Studios’ THOR: LOVE AND THUNDER. Photo by Jasin Boland. ©Marvel Studios 2022. All Rights Reserved.

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. 

(L-R): Director Taika Waititi as Korg and Chris Hemsworth as Thor on the set of Marvel Studios’ THOR: LOVE AND THUNDER. Photo by Jasin Boland. ©Marvel Studios 2022. All Rights Reserved.

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.

Christian Bale as Gorr in Marvel Studios’ THOR: LOVE AND THUNDER. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. ©Marvel Studios 2022. All Rights Reserved.

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.

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‘Tell That to the Winter Sea’ Review | A Heartfelt Exploration of Love and Friendship with Outstanding Performances by Greta Bellamacina and Amber Anderson



Tell That to the Winter Sea
Greta Bellamacina and Amber Anderson in a still from 'Tell That to the Winter Sea' (Kaleidoscope)

It takes time to understand that life is all about learning, growing, and changing. It’s about heartbreaks and dealing with them. Every stage brings new challenges and makes you think if you’ll ever reach your desired destination. In Jaclyn Bethany’s reminiscent drama, Tell That to the Winter Sea, this sentiment is distinctly captured through the touching journey of two characters, Jo (Greta Bellamacina) and Scarlet (Amber Anderson), who find themselves grappling with unresolved pasts.

There have been several movies around female friendships or relationships, but only a few have captured their essence, and Tell That to the Winter Sea is among them. The profoundly moving film starts with bride-to-be Jo (Bellamacina) reading a book while waiting for her school-time friend and first love, Scarlet (Anderson), on a girls’ trip to a country manor. Soon, we get to know that this trip is meant to celebrate Jo’s upcoming marriage. However, as soon as they meet, this trip becomes a moving journey of emotional discovery and unresolved feelings. Even with the festive atmosphere created by the rest of the group, Jo and Scarlet can’t help but deal with the lingering feelings from their shared past.

Tell That to the Winter Sea

Greta Bellamacina as Jo in a still from ‘Tell That to the Winter Sea’ (Kaleidoscope)

Directed by Jaclyn Bethany, the movie does a magnificent job of navigating the delicate terrain of past and present emotions through the eyes of its central characters. One of the primary reasons why this movie feels so personal is because of how authentic it looks. In many ways, we have endured heartbreak in love. Sometimes, we move on, but other times, we keep looking for answers by revisiting those moments. In Tell That to the Winter Sea, both central characters try to show that they have moved on, but in reality, it’s just the opposite and Bethany shows that with utter precision. Meanwhile, the script is a delicate blend of heartfelt dialogue and introspective moments. It’s fair to say that the script is the soul of this powerful drama. The writing shines in its ability to convey the unspoken and unresolved feelings between Jo and Scarlet. Their interactions are loaded with a glaring sense of nostalgia and unspoken yearning, capturing the beautiful essence of what it means to reconnect with your first love after years apart.

Another stunning aspect of the movie is its mesmerizing cinematography. The beautiful frames wonderfully complement the emotional landscape of the story, making the viewers feel like they are a part of the characters’ journey.

Acting-wise, both the film’s central characters are extraordinary in their respective roles. Greta Bellamacina as Jo is breathtaking as she brings a deep emotional resonance to her character and magnificently captures the complexities of love, friendship, and personal growth. One of the most striking things about her performance is how she makes viewers feel about her internal conflicts and struggles. It feels so real, raw, and authentic. She is truly one of the finest actors we have in the industry now. Meanwhile, Amber Anderson shows a wide emotional range and effectively portrays the complexities of her character’s feelings and experiences. Her performance feels deeply connected to her character’s past and present, making the audience empathize with her journey. The chemistry between both stars is mesmerizing, making their shared moments both powerful and poignant.

Tell That to the Winter Sea

Amber Anderson as Scarlet in a still from ‘Tell That to the Winter Sea’ (Kaleidoscope)

The supporting cast – Josette Simon, Jessica Plummer, Tamsin Egerton, and Bebe Cave – is equally compelling and adds depth to the story.

Overall, Tell That to the Winter Sea is a beautifully crafted film that offers a heartwarming and introspective look at love, feelings, and friendship. The film explores themes of the passage of time, and the bittersweet nature of moving forward is handled with a sensitive approach. It is a deeply affecting and memorable cinematic experience. For those who appreciate a thoughtful and emotionally resonant film, Tell That To The Winter Sea is an immersive watch.

Tell That to the Winter Sea will be released in UK theatres on May 31.

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X-Men ’97 Review | Nostalgic, Epic & Marvelous!



X-Men '97 (Disney)

Get ready for action-packed adventure, many surprise cameos and a storyline that takes


A band of mutants use their uncanny gifts to protect a world that hates and fears them; they’re challenged like never before, forced to face a dangerous and unexpected new future.

X-Men ’97 (Disney)


X-Men ’97 is a revival of the classic 1990s animated television series. The storyline picks up directly after the events of the original series, maintaining continuity and preserving the beloved elements that made the original a hit show back in the day. Many of the original voice cast members have returned, including Cal Dodd as Wolverine, Lenore Zann as Rogue, George Buza as Beast, Alison Sealy-Smith as Storm and Adrian Hough as Kurt Wagner/Nightcrawler, which adds a layer of originality and contributes to the overall nostalgia of the television show​. Here I’m feeling like a little kid again, watching the show on a Saturday morning. I was 7 years old when it was on television in the early mornings, and it still brings back fond memories.

There were a number of new stars who joined the show such as Ray Chase who replaced Norm Spencer as Cyclops, Jennifer Hale who replaced Catherine Disher as Jean Grey, Holly Chou who replaced Alyson Court as Jubilee, A.J. LoCascio as Gambit, Matthew Waterson as Magneto, J.P. Karliak as Morph, Isaac Robinson-Smith as Bishop, Ross Marquand as Professor Charles Xavier and Gui Agustini as Roberto da Costa/Sunspot.

X-Men ’97 (Disney)

The series starts off in a world where the X-Men grapple with the loss of Professor Charles Xavier. Amidst all the chaos and uncertainty, Magneto rises to the occasion and becomes the new leader of the X-Men. This provides additional drama and the team dynamics is frequently tested with the new leadership. While dealing with the new leadership dynamics the X-Men finds themselves still dealing with people who would stop at nothing to end all mutants. The storyline doesn’t hold back on the action sequences and themes such as grief, loss and acceptance are touched on throughout the series.

The trailer of the show doesn’t spoil anything for the viewer, and I highly encourage you to watch every intro and try to spot any new changes. The show provides many cameos and easter eggs, keeping my hopes alive of a potential crossover.

The story ends with a twist, leaving you hungry for the next season, and as any Marvel movie or television show would have it, a mid-credits scene to whet your appetite for what’s to come. If you are new to X-Men you can still jump in and watch the television series, but I highly recommend watching the original series to get you up to date with most of the lore and history of the X-Men.

X-Men ’97 keeps the legacy of our favorite mutants alive with a well-written story that is filled with emotion, surprises and promises of more adventures.

Thank you Beau DeMayo for an eXcellent story! I rate this show a 5 out of 5!

Will we skip the intro song? No! I don’t think we will. Make sure to catch the show on Disney Plus!
X-Men ’97 Final Trailer (Marvel Entertainment)

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‘The Present’ Review | A Heartfelt Family Adventure with a Magical Twist



The Present
A still from 'The Present' (The Movie Partnership)

In the heartwarming film ‘The Present,’ a young boy stumbles upon a mysterious grandfather clock with the extraordinary ability to transport him through time. Driven by the hope of reuniting his parents, he embarks on a magical journey with his siblings to prevent their family from falling apart. As they face challenges together, they discover the enduring power of love and the true meaning of family.

Over the years, we have seen a lot of time-travel movies, but ‘The Present’ is a bit different from those movies. It’s not about saving the world and defending the universe from aliens. It’s all about keeping a family together and feeling loved again. In Christian Ditter’s cute romantic-comedy film, we see Jen (Isla Fisher) and Eric (Greg Kinnear) having a dinner with their three children: Emma (Shay Rudolph), Max (Mason Shea Joyce), and Taylor (Easton Rocket Sweda). However, things go downhill when the parents announce that they are separating. The next day, an old clock that used to be in Eric’s father’s house arrives at their house and they decide to keep it in their basement. Something is written on the clock, and it reads, “This clock can help you now and then, but only you can change events.” Soon, Taylor finds out that the clock can be used to time travel and alter events. As a result, he stitches a plan, along with his siblings, to bring their parents together.

Shay Rudolph and Easton Rocket Sweda in ‘The Present’ (The Movie Partnership’

The enchanted grandfather clock is a delightful narrative device that immediately draws the audience into a world where the impossible becomes possible. Who wouldn’t want to turn the clock back and alter certain events? The clock, intricately designed and exuding an air of mystical antiquity, serves as both, a literal and metaphorical centerpiece for the story. However, the movie is not just about the clock or what it does, it is about the extreme lengths children can go to restore their family. The themes of love, forgiveness, and the passage of time are woven throughout the film, offering moments of reflection and emotional resonance. The makers have subtly shown how challenging it can be to mend things, emphasizing the importance of understanding and empathy within familial relationships. Certain moments in the film would surely encourage you to let your family know how much they are valued.

Writers have done a great job in stitching a story that’s not complex. Everything that takes place in front of our eyes is neither flashy nor over the top, which makes the movie even more relatable. However, certain elements could have been infused to make the script even better. We could have seen a bit more emotional turmoil between the central pair to have a better idea about their state. On the other hand, the relationship between Jen and the kids should have been explored a little more. Apart from that, there are pacing issues in certain scenes, which could have been mended with tighter editing. Despite these shortcomings, ‘The Present’ is a charming film that offers a warm and engaging experience.

Isla Fisher and Greg Kinnear in ‘The Present’ (The Movie Partnership)

Acting-wise, Isla Fisher and Greg Kinner are splendid in their respective roles. Both actors are fully committed to their roles and don’t miss a beat. Fisher has evolved as an actor and it would be a travesty if we don’t see her healing a big blockbuster soon. The young cast delivers commendable performances, particularly Mason Shea Joyce, whose wide-eyed innocence and determination drive the film forward. Meanwhile, Shay Rudolph is as wonderful as Emma. The chemistry between the siblings feels genuine, their camaraderie reflecting a realistic portrayal of sibling dynamics.

Overall, ‘The Present’ succeeds in delivering a touching, family-friendly adventure. Its enchanting premise, mixed with heartfelt performances, makes it a worthwhile watch, especially for families seeking a film with positive messages.

‘The Present’ hit UK cinemas on May 24.


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