Short Reviews: Thor, X-Men: First Class, Out of Sight

Thor | Kenneth Branagh, 2011

From the moment I saw the first still from Thor, I had an uneasy feeling about it. Anthony Hopkins (who is not the greatest sign of quality these days) had long hair, and an eye patch, wearing something that looked like a cheap Halloween costume. Behind him were Chris Hemsworth as Thor, and Tom Hiddleston as Loki, wearing similarly ugly costumes. Even then, I kept an open mind because you can’t judge a motion picture based on a production still. Then the trailers came out, showcasing the weak visual effects, and Hemsworth hammy performance. Still, I kept an open mind. Then the reviews came in and praised it. I still wasn’t convinced, so I skipped it and waited for the home release. And now I can say that I’m glad I only spent 25 cents on getting it from the library, because my initial feelings toward it were actually true.

Kenneth Branagh is a good director, especially when working on Shakespeare material. But his over-the-top Shakespearean tendencies do not mix at all with the shallow, and, well, shitty script. His affinity for dutch angles, the over-the-top performances he gets from his actors, and the artificial look of Aasgard only heighten the unintentionally hilarious script.

As for the performances, like I said, they are over-the-top, but they could have worked, but they were mostly awful.Chris Hemsworth has the looks of a god, and acts accordingly, but it still felt like he was just a child wearing a Halloween costume. Tom Hiddleston as Locki tries his darnedest, but it goes above than what the character needs. Natalie Portman is reduced to playing the fawning damsel in distress. And well, pretty much everyone is awful. The only actor I liked was Idris Elba, as his interpretation was actually kind of perfect, but he only has like five lines.

Thor was a huge disappointment.

Rating: ★★

X-Men: First Class | Matthew Vaughn, 2011

After hitting bottom with Wolverine, the only way the franchise could have gone was up. They started in the right path by getting Bryan Singer involved, a capable, if bland, director, and then by getting a good cast. In the end, X-Men: First Class ended up being the second-best movie of the franchise, and is a masterpiece when compared to Wolverine. But it still barely manages to be good.

The problem is that the script and the direction don’t quite reach their full potential. The story is interesting, but overall the movie is just exposition with a set piece in the end. And Matthew Vaugh does nothing interesting visually to make the movie rise above the script. He pretty much just pointed and shot the scene. But then again, maybe that’s just what the franchise needed, a basic movie that would please just about everyone.

The one thing that does make the movie worth watching is the cast. Michael Fassbender and James McAvoy (as Magneto and Professor X) have amazing chemistry together and give the movie much needed credibility. The others, like Rose Byrne, Jennifer Lawrence, Kevin Bacon, Nicolas Hoult, etc are also aces. January Jones is shit though.

X-Men: First Class is a nice reboot of sorts, so let’s hope that the follow-ups are better.

Rating: ★★★

 

Out of Sight | Steven Soderbergh, 1998

Steven Soderbergh is someone that I admire mostly because of what he has tried to do with the medium. But as a filmmaker, he’s mostly left me underwhelmed. Of the movies of his that I’ve seen, I’ve only truly liked the Oceans trilogy. Well, that changed after watching his 1998 feature Out of Sight.

I loved this movie because it takes the dated and often ridiculed story line of the criminal trying to get clean by scoring on one last job, and injects it with new life. The script is sharp and filled with witty dialogue and fun characters. The editing makes every scene run smoothly. The cinematography makes just about every frame feel warm and sexy, even the scenes in the snow. And speaking of sexy, George Clooney and Jennifer Lopez (in her best performance), make sparks fly. And there’s also oustanding work from Albert Brooks, Ving Rhames, Steve Zahn, and Don Cheadle.

Out of sight is a fun, sexy, and thrilling movie that I hope to revisit many more times.

Rating: ★★★★

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