Showing posts from March, 2017

Snapshots - #42: Thor: Ragnarok, Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool, LBJ

Thor: Ragnarok (2017), (♦♦♦♦½): Thor has saved earth twice by now and has, for the last two years, wandered the universe searching for infinity stones. He hasn't found any. He has, however, become prisoner of an enemy of Asgard, Surtur, who tells Thor that his visions of Asgard engulfed in flames is a premonition of Ragnarok—the destruction of Asgard, which is already in motion. Thor frees himself and arrives at home to find Loki sitting on the throne, passing as Odin, and neglecting his duties to protect the Nine Realms. With Odin's exile, Asgard's enemies have been reassembling, but Odin's death may just free Hela, a goddess against whom neither Thor nor Loki are enough.
It was in Thor: The Dark World where Loki, an antagonist, first threatened to steal the show. He became the villain that Marvel fandom loves to hate. While Loki is at his most charming in this film, the director, with the help of a sparkling screenplay, has very much exploited the great chemistry of t…

A Tale of Love and Darkness (♦♦♦)

Old Amos tells the story of his mother Fania (Natalie Portman), her upbringing in Rovno, Poland, in a well-off family, of the pogroms against the Jewish people that spread all over Europe with the rise of the Nazis which made her leave Rovno towards Jerusalem with her mother and three sisters. Old Amos reminisces about the stories Fania used to concoct for him while still a boy, and finally he wonders if it were the violence of Israel's first years as a nation, poverty, bouts of melancholy, and pain that broke his mother's spirit and drove her to an early end. Natalie Portman directed, wrote the screenplay, and starred as leading lady in this adaptation of Amos Oz' bestselling autobiography A Tale of Love and Darkness. While Portman's performance is good, it is a little too subdued for my taste—certainly not on the same level as in Black Swan and The Other Woman (Love and Other Impossible Pursuits). It suits the story, but I wish she would have explored her role more, o…

Hacksaw Ridge (♦♦♦♦)

Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield), raised as a practicing Seventh Day Adventist, volunteered for WWII with the condition that he was allowed to serve in battle as a medic without carrying a rifle. The Army gave him hell, tried to discharge him on the basis of being mentally unfit, he was even court martialed...In the end, he was allowed to train as a medic and was sent, as a conscientious objector, with his company to the Pacific theater. In May, 1945, at Hacksaw Ridge, Okinawa, his company faced the Japanese and experienced heavy losses. The survivors were forced to retreat. Under the cover of navy bombardment, Doss rescued 75 injured men and lowered them with a rope over the ridge to safety. Few movie directors do epics or war dramas as does Mel Gibson. Even fewer tackle the subject of faith in an affecting manner. Despite his run-ins with the law and his loudly proclaimed antisemitism, he knows how to make movies, and not only that, but grand movies. It was such a pity his talent was wi…

Arrival (♦♦♦♦)

Twelve alien ships, shaped like shells, hover over different random points on Earth. Their apparent means of communication is humming, at least initially. What is their purpose? Do they mean harm, or a benign first contact? As one of the shells arrives in Montana, the U.S. Army under Colonel Weber's (Forest Whitaker) command, cordons off the area to prevent the site from becoming a tourist attraction. Two foremost civilian experts, Dr. Louise Banks (Amy Adams), a linguist, and Dr. Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner), a theoretical physicist, lead the contact teams. Steady but slow progress is made, but when humans misinterpret aliens' "words", some countries shut off the exchange of information, threatening a war among species. Racing against the clock, it is up to Dr. Banks to decipher the aliens' true intentions...But to convey a message that may save us all she will have to risk her life. Arrival is an unconventional movie in several ways; unlike in most science-fictio…

Nocturnal Animals (♦♦♦♦)

Edward Sheffield (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a young romantic, who works at a library and has dreams of becoming a writer. Susan (Amy Adams), heiress of rich Texan parents, is studying in NYC towards her master's in art history. After a brief encounter in the streets of NY, Susan invites him to dinner and sparks fly. A year later, Susan, in conversation with her mother (Laura Linney), announces that she is going to marry Edward. Her mother advises Susan against it on the basis of him having no money, no prospects, and being weak. Time will tell if you really don't have material concerns, she says. Two years after their marriage, Susan resents in Edward his lack of ambition and keeping alive the dream of becoming a writer despite showing no promise as such. She still loves him but has become very unhappy, this coinciding with meeting a "handsome and dashing" young man named Hutton (Armie Hammer). Fast forward nineteen years... Susan and Hutton are beautiful, rich, and still to…

Minds of Winter by Ed O’Loughlin (♦♦♦♦)

In the 1990s, England, a chronometer issued in 1848 by the Greenwich Observatory to the British Royal Navy, and this to a naval officer aboard a renowned Arctic expedition whose members vanished, was found in good condition without traces of ever having been exposed to the extreme forces at work at the top of the world. Did it suggest a sinister conspiracy or even murder?
In modern day Canada’s Northern Territory, a drifter named Nelson is puzzled by the apparent disappearance of his look-alike brother, who was investigating the fate of Polar explorers, the identity of an outlaw, and the role of secret spies, using government archives and local sources. Nelson teams up with Fay, a stranded tourist with burning questions about her late grandfather, to search for clues about his brother’s whereabouts and the subjects of his obsession.
Minds of Winter is an ambitious novel, sweeping in scope, about the golden age of Polar scientific exploration and the motivations behind the men who conque…