REPOST: ‘Thor: The Dark World,’ movie review

‘Thor: The Dark World’ is no doubt one of the most talked-about movies these days. In fact, most film critics agree that the sequel to the 2011 Marvel movie is more entertaining than its predecessor, and it’s all thanks to the superpower charm of Tom Hiddleston. Joe Neumaier of New York Daily News writes the following review.

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What weird sorcery is this? “Thor: The Dark World” may not be thunder from the movie gods, but it is — shock! — an entertaining journey into mystery, action and fun.

That wasn’t a preordained outcome. Thor’s 2011 Marvel Comics film adaptation — a crucial set-up for “The Avengers” — was a dull deal, with giant robots attacking empty southwestern towns and a brawny Norse mythology-derived alien superbeing. As directed by Kenneth Branagh, it tried too hard to bridge worlds.

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Not so with the sequel. Director Alan Taylor, a TV vet (“Six Feet Under,” “The Sopranos,” and, most crucially, “Game of Thrones”), has given “The Dark World” both a light touch and a streamlined feel. It cruises where the earlier film lumbered. There’s also a jolt in here of “Lord of the Rings.” It has its faults, but this is solidly in the upper sphere of superhero sequels.

Two years after Thor (Chris Hemsworth) helped the Avengers quash his evil adopted brother Loki’s (Tom Hiddleston) plan to rule Earth, the blond God of Thunder is a good son to Odin (Anthony Hopkins) and misses pretty Earth girl Jane (Natalie Portman).

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But a “dark elf” named Malekith (unrecognizable Christopher Eccleston) is after a funky mist called the Aether. This, we’re told, can be used to return the universe (aka the Nine Realms) to darkness. Jane happens to find the Aether in a chasm on Earth and absorbs it.

To extract it and protect the Nine Realms, Thor brings Jane to his disco-lit world of Asgard. But once Malekith gets the Aether and brings it to his home, Svartalfheim (gesundheit!), Thor’s only hope is to free Loki from his Asgardian prison and set off together on a tenuous partnership to defeat Malekith.

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That’s a lot of gobbledygook, and reads like the fine print on a game of Dungeons & Dragons. Yet “The Dark World“ keeps its feet on the ground. Hemsworth has evolved into the Marvel version of Errol Flynn — he balances swashbuckling with sly humor — and Portman has grown into an appealingly feisty heroine. Her cute, snarky sidekick Darcy (Kat Dennings) is a welcome return, as is Stellan Skarsgard as their now-brain-fried scientist mentor.

As it goes with superhero flicks, the true believers are the ones who’ll groove on it the most. In fact, anyone who considers a giant hammer (called Mjolnir, as if you didn’t know) as cool as a lightsaber or the Batmobile likely has more invested in the story than the average moviegoer.Let’s face it, the real villain here is essentially a gloomy meteorological phenomenon.

The secret weapon is Hiddleston. The best thing the film’s army of five screenwriters did is set the odd couple of Thor and Loki on a sort-of celestial road trip. Loki is puckish, malevolent, peevish, magnetic and, with his Rooney Mara-like pale skin and dark hair, the polar opposite of Hemsworth. Hiddleston’s villainous asides steal the show, and he brightens “The Dark World” when it needs it most.

An avid film fan, Samantha Pouls knows a lot of movies–from blockbusters to indie films–than the average junior high school student. To keep abreast of the latest movies and updates in the film industry, follow this Twitter page.


REPOST: Movie review: ‘Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2’ cooks up crazy fun

Flint and Sam are back and this time, they have foodimals with them. sums up how crazy fun ‘Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2’ is.

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I have no idea what effect foodimals will have on the ecosystem, and I do worry. But the 3-D animated movie mash-up that creates such exotic species as taco-diles, shrim-panzees, banan-ostriches and, my favorite, fla-mangoes makes for some pretty delicious family fun in “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2.”

There are definitely fewer carbs this time around. Whether charges of insensitivity to childhood obesity issues hurled at the first film are the reason, “Cloudy 2” is overwhelmingly fruit- and veggie-centric. And honestly, anyone who can pull off a running joke about leeks that does not make you gag, and is in fact a silly delight, deserves props.

That team involves prolific voice actor Cody Cameron and animator Kris Pearn, plucked from the trenches of “Cloudy” and plopped into co-directors’ chairs for “2” — sharing nicely, I’m sure, since the sequel’s all about getting along. Further extending the weird science first popularized by Judi and Ron Barrett’s children’s book, the screenplay is by Erica Rivinoja, John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein.

When last we left the Atlantic island of Swallow Falls, aspiring inventor Flint Lockwood (Bill Hader) was destroying his greatest achievement, the Diatomic Super Mutating Dynamic Food Replicator, to save the world from a devastating spaghetti and meatball storm.

“Cloudy 2” picks up with the island’s evacuation for cleanup. Its good citizens relocate to the big city of San Franjose — Silicon Valley with a few hills. It’s a place of high-tech glass towers and neutral-toned minimalism controlled by a single conglomerate, Live Corp. The company is in the business of the “betterment of mankind,” so you know right away its eccentric owner, Chester V (Will Forte), is up to no good. Ever by his side is new assistant Barb (Kristen Schaal), an orangutan outfitted with a human brain and fighting for a little r-e-s-p-e-c-t. It’s an issue.

In Flint’s camp, in case you need reminding, is Anna Faris’ TV weathercaster Sam Sparks, still swooning over Flint. Manny’s behind the camera, and Benjamin Bratt‘s behind him. James Caan is Flint’s outdoorsy dad, completely tapped into his sensitive side now and hoping to bond with his boy over manly things. In the long minute or so that separates the two films’ time frame, Andy Samberg‘s Brent has become a mogul; his Chick-N-Sushi joints are a hit. Earl (Terry Crews), Swallow Falls cop, has turned in his badge and turned foodie. And Neil Patrick Harris‘ scamp, Steve the Monkey, is more essential and up to even more mischief.

Though the movie will go into great detail, all you need to know is that Chester V’s designs on world domination involve getting his hands on Flint’s food replicating machine. You didn’t really think it was destroyed, did you?

It hasn’t merely survived, it’s gone mad — churning out mountains, and rivers, and swamps, and jungles, and deserts overrun with 39 different varieties of misbegotten new species.

The animation and 3-D effects of this hybrid world are simply stunning, and a much-needed jolt after San Franjose and Live Corp.’s uniformity. The color is scrumptious and the human characters, with their expressive Pinocchio-esque eyes, are enchanting. But it is the inventive design of the many creatures that feels so fresh. The detail is so rich, and so dense, that you wish some of the frames would freeze so you had more time for savoring.

They are an eclectic bunch of interlopers. But the best — as always — are the more organic mash-ups like those fla-mangoes, where the fruit fits the shape of the bird quite nicely. The completely zany creations, like the cheeseburger bully that scurries around on spider legs made of French fries, are more of a stretch. And that screaming, lettuce-spitting taco-dile is slightly scary.

But even if Flint can find and stop his machine, what is to be done with this bounty of new breeds?

It’s a pickle.

Because like the tribe of briny bruisers that roam the land, foodimals are sweet once you get to know them. Conflict is definitely on the menu as it should be. It’s the sides that drag things down. There are more secondary story lines than marshmallow fellows, who replicate at rabbit speed.

It’s all very murky what might happen if the machine fell into the wrong hands (those would be Chester V’s). More worrisome is the way even bigger questions are completely ignored. Like what happens when food becomes our friend — literally. What do we eat? What do they eat? No clue.

But perhaps the only question that matters is whether parents will care if the plot is undercooked as long as their little munchkins are giggling. I think we can hazard a guess on that one.

Samantha Pouls is a high school junior who lives in Gladwyne, PA. She spends her time indulging her love for films.  See similar articles here