Sunday, December 17, 2017

What I Watched in November

I truly never thought that Marvel Studios would produce a funnier film than the first Guardians of the Galaxy (2014). But with Thor: Ragnarok we see that with his completely tilted attack on the material director Taika Waititi has crafted not just one of the best Marvel movies of the past few years, but by far the funniest. What's amazing about the film is not that it has a lot of jokes and laugh-out-loud ideas presented with style and colorful flair. The real joy is the deftness with which the humor is handled. Even though our main character Thor is often the butt of the joke - sometimes goofy, sometimes silly, sometimes just a little clueless - he's still the hero and he is still someone to be admired for his many heroic traits and courageous character. Yeah, he may accidentally hit himself in the head with a ball or lie about beating the Hulk in combat but he is the driving force to do the right thing and save his land and people.

The film wouldn't work as well as it does without the darker elements of the story though. There are real stakes and terrible consequences for a lot of characters in this story. We lose a number of my favorite Asgardians before the tale is over giving a sense of sinister threat that the great Cate Blanchet plays to perfection. Add to that the well handled story-arcs of several characters old and new and you have a smart movie with heart and  warmth even as the violence of the titular event comes to pass. This is an excellent comic book film and one I can't wait to watch again. 

I was a huge fan of both MAN OF STEEL (2013) and the much derided BATMAN V SUPERMAN (2016). I like having a dark tale of superheroes if for no other reason than to provide contrast for the lighter standard of the Marvel films. What I primarily liked so much about those two movies was that they came at these characters from a more mature and grim perspective that allows for a more realistic view of what the reactions might be to a godlike creature intervening in human events. I understand I'm in the minority in my love of this approach as the constant bitching from aggrieved fans will attest. Still, I think these are excellent films with a smart take on these heroes and each time I watch them they feel like a breathe of fresh air.

I know that it was an awful family tragedy that took director Zach Snyder away from finishing JUSTICE LEAGUE and he and his wife have all of my sympathy. And having Joss Wedon step in to do the reshoots and oversee the editing was a smart move as it guaranteed the film would reach completion with some of the original vision intact. But, unfortunately, the newly enforced lighter tone of this film kind of removes a lot of the grit that made me so pleased with the previous films. This isn't a bad film but it certainly feels very neutered. In the first two movies I was deeply effected by the emotional core of the stories. I felt for the characters and was moved repeatedly by the dark deeds, harsh events and eventually uplifted by the heroic actions of the conflicted people caught up in the evil plots of Zod and Luthor. Things felt dangerous; felt as if there was real weight to the decisions being made. Sadly, the softening of JUSTICE LEAGUE means that it had the effect of a mid-range Marvel film instead of the emotionally gripping power of the earlier DC films. I enjoyed this adventure but it seems a little too soft. I know it's a minority opinion (again) but this is the weakest of the three and I hope that one day we might see Snyder's original vision. I hear Darksied was in that movie!


IT (2017) - 8 (rewatch)
THOR: RAGNAROK (2017) - 9 
THE DEVIL'S HONEY (1986) - 5 (Fulci's erotic exercise) 
CROSSFIRE (1947)- 7 (Mitchum and Robert Taylor investigate a murder) 
RAISING CAIN (1992) - 8 (rewatch of theatrical version)
FRANKENSTEIN 2000 (1991) - 3 (terrible effort from Joe D'Amato) 
WEB OF THE SPIDER (1971) - 8 (the full length Italian version) 
SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT PART 2 (1987) - 2 (so bad) 
TERMINAL ISLAND (1973) - 5 (island-as-prison tale) 
STRANGE LOVES OF THE VAMPIRE (1975) - 6 (rewatch) 
ARIZONA COLT RETURNS (1970) - 5 (well directed but mediocre) 
VILLAIN (1971) - 7 (British crime film with Richard Burton and Ian McShane) 
CHAMBER OF HORRORS (1940)- 8 (rewatch on Blu-Ray) 
JUSTICE LEAGUE (2017) - 7 
THE MAYOR OF HELL (1933) - 7 (James Cagney reform school melodrama) 

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