Thor lightens up; Wonderstruck offers a time-spanning fantasy; Una is timely about sex abuse
Many new films this week, several of them very good but also one that’ll be on my worst of the year list.
And a few other events to consider. Both the Jewish and the Asian film festivals are on now. You can see what they have to offer at VJFF.ORG and VAFF.ORG.
Also notice 7 p.m. Sunday at the VanCity Theatre. They’ll be showing Shadow World a scathing documentary about the world arms trade. It played at the film festival last year and I recommended it highly. This screening is special because Andrew Feinstein, who wrote the book the film is based on, will be there to talk about it.
He’s also giving two lectures while he’s in town. Both are free. Saturday evening at UBC (the Vancouver Institute Lecture Series) and Tuesday evening at the Vogue Theatre (The Peter Wall Lecture Series, visit pwias.ubc.ca, for tickets).
Meanwhile, these are the new films now playing:
Thor Ragnarok: 3 ½ stars
The Killing of a Sacred Deer: 4
Una: 3 ½
A Bad Moms Christmas: 2
THOR: RAGNAROK: Marvel has put the fun back into comic book movies. Iron man, Guardians of the Galaxy and now the toughest one: Thor. The god of thunder was serious and humorless in his two solo movies. Now he’s having a great time kidding himself, and the genre too, with goofy humor and several oddball characters. There’s even a meta sequence in which he and a previous movie are parodied in a stage play. The merriment is quite infectious and makes up for the elements that never change in these films: the plotline that always culminates in an epic battle, the special effects that look as they always do and the 3-D that makes everything look darker than it should.
Credit the director, Taika Waititi from New Zealand, for this new comic sensibility. We’ve seen it in his previous films, notably the vampire comedy What We Do in the Shadows. He’s got his lead actor, Chris Hemsworth (from Australia) joined right into the same spirit, relaxed and funny in an absurd story. Thor’s dad Odin, played by Anthony Hopkins, is in a seniors’ care home. His brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) is in charge at Asgard and a sister we haven’t known about before shows up eager to destroy the place, a calamity known as ragnarok in Norse mythology.
Hela is played by Cate Blanchett, with intense posturing but no humor. We get that from Jeff Goldblum as the chatty leader of a wasteland planet, Waititi himself, voicing a would-be revolutionary and Mark Ruffalo, verbally sparring with Thor when he’s not The Hulk. As the Hulk he has to fight him in a gladiator spectacle. Later they work together in the inevitable climactic battle. Fans will love it but anybody could. It’s already a big hit overseas where it opened last week and has already earned more than $100 million. (Dunbar, 5th Avenue, Scotiabank, Marine Gateway and many suburban theatres) 3 ½ out of 5
WONDERSTRUCK: It’s been called innocuous but that’s only because it’s a gentle film that plays nice. Actually it has a lot going on in what is basically a fantasy. Two 12-year-olds living 50 years apart are shown in parallel stories that eventually converge in New York City. In 1977, Ben from Minnesota, played by Oakes Fegley, has lost his mother, is made deaf by a freak accident and sets out to find the father he never knew. All he’s got is a receipt from a bookstore. In 1927, Rose of Hoboken, New Jersey, also deaf (too coincidental, I’d say) is played by Millicent Simmonds, who really is deaf. She’s a big fan of a silent movie star (Julianne Moore) and sets out to find her at a theatre she’s to appear at.
The film cuts back and forth between their two stories. Rose’s is in crisp black and white and silent, emulating the movies of the time and featuring some wonderful simulated scenes from one called Daughter of the Storm. Ben’s story is in bright color in a more edgy New York. His wallet is almost stolen; the bookstore he wants is gone and a boy he meets lets him hide in the museum of natural history. We get deeply involved in the two quests, wanting to see how these lives could possibly connect. They do eventually, logically and easily, but with a few steps unaccounted for. The source is a young adult novel by Brian Selznick who also wrote the screenplay. The director is Todd Haynes, whose last movie was the lesbian drama, Carol. In Wonderstruck he’s also dealing with friendship and finding how you fit in but from a kid level and with an almost magical ambience. (International Village) 3 out of 5
THE KILLING OF A SACRED DEER: There’s no deer in the film but there is Colin Farrell as a heart surgeon who, possibly because he had a couple of drinks, lost a patient and now has to deal with the man’s son. Teenager Martin insinuates himself into his family, shows up at his work, tries to set him up with his mother, takes his daughter motorcycle riding and eventually makes an outrageous demand for reparations. Sacrifice one of yours, son, daughter or wife (Nicole Kidman) or they’ll all get sick and die.