[REVIEW] ‘Thor: Love and Thunder’ or An Uneven MCU Storm

One thing I’ve noticed in the last few years is a lot of the biggest complaints I hear about the Marvel Cinematic Universe are actually the aspects I like best. For example, a lot of people seem to hate the quippy banter and I enjoy the lighter tone especially in a world where comic book movies often take themselves way too seriously. I also really enjoy the puzzle building aspect of the MCU. I like putting the pieces together from all the different movies and making it all work together. I like that a weaker film can be strengthened by a character returning in another entry or a story-thread that doesn’t come together in one film can be fleshed out in a new series or movie. I say all this merely to point out my opinion on Thor: Love and Thunder may be different than a lot of people (I don’t know) probably because my opinion on the entire MCU seems to be different.

Before talking about Thor: Love and Thunder I should say I really enjoyed the last entry Thor Ragnarok and found it to be one of the most joyous and energetic entries in the MCU. I love director Taika Waititi’s style of storytelling, and Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston are the epitome of charisma as Thor and Loki. I know some people think the humor was too much in Ragnarok and to them I have to say “to each their own.” I really enjoyed it.

Now we have a new entry (the first 4th film for a character in the MCU) and it’s less successful than Ragnarok, but in the end the good outweighs the bad. I still love Hemsworth as Thor, and in this film he is recovering from his depression in Avengers: Endgame by spending some time with the Guardians of the Galaxy (not much so don’t have your hopes up there). Eventually he gets called to help the citizens of New Asgard when their children are abducted by a vengeance seeking villain: Gorr the God Butcher played by Christian Bale.

Thor: Love and Thunder: 11 Easter Eggs & Details You Might've Missed In New Trailer

Bale is excellent here as a wounded man who once had great faith in the Gods and then they let him down in a very personal and upsetting way. Some are saying he isn’t in the movie enough. I don’t agree because the scenes he’s in are powerful enough that we wouldn’t want to overdo it and lose their dramatic umph. I suspect spiritual people will enjoy his journey the most as he grapples with themes of faith, and what do we do when we feel God isn’t listening, or that He did listen and has seemingly abandoned us.

Thor: Love and Thunder” New Footage Unveiled - Sada El balad

We also have Natalie Portman back as Jane Foster except this time she is Mighty Thor and has the guns to prove it! This definitely the best she’s been in an MCU movie and her and Hemsworth finally have some chemistry, which was lacking in the previous films.

I don’t want to give anything away but Thor: Love and Thunder works best in its start and ending. I really liked everything involving the children and the way things wrap up with Gorr is genuinely moving. However, the middle is where the movie loses me. Everything involving Russell Crowe’s Zeus majorly dragged, and I found myself getting sleepy. He has a weird accent, costume and the dialogue was not engaging. I couldn’t wait for them to get out of there and back to the story with Jane, Gorr, and the kids.

The tone can be inconsistent at times and that is a fault in Taika’s writing, but I’d rather have that than other superhero movies that hit the same dark and brooding note over and over again. I’m sure it helps I’m already invested in Thor’s journey so they don’t have to do the character work other new films have to do but again that’s the benefit of the MCU.

Thor: Love and Thunder runtime just got revealed, and it's fantastic news | Tom's Guide

At the very least fans of the MCU should be pleased, and those constantly complaining about the color grading in these movies should be happy with the bright, bold color palate and a wonderful scene in a black and white world. It’s definitely one of the most visually impressive films in the MCU and my recommendation is to see it on IMAX if at all possible.

Naturally Thor: Love and Thunder will be compared to the recent Dr Strange and the Multiverse of Madness and while MOM is messier there was never a part where I was bored like I was with the Zeuss section in Thor 4. Nevertheless, I enjoyed both of them despite their flaws, but your mileage may vary.

6 out of 10

Smile Worthy

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Blind Spot 76: ‘LOGAN’

Those who are familiar with my reviews know I’m not a fan of garish violence. It can be used well but it’s usually not something I am drawn to or love. This is part of the reason I never saw the 2017 film Logan. At the time of its release I also wasn’t a full time critic so I didn’t see films that didn’t appeal to me. This is why Logan made for a good blind spot pick and one I can finally check off my watch list!

Logan tells the story of Wolverine (or Logan) played by Hugh Jackman. The year is 2029 and mutants have mostly been eliminated and Logan’s powers of self-healing are dwindling. One day he is responsible for taking a girl Laura to Canada who has special powers. He and Professor X  (Patrick Stewart) take the journey and have all kinds of problems along the way.

My initial impressions of Logan as being an incredibly violent film are accurate. It’s one of the most violent films I’ve ever seen. However, I do think the violence is needed for the plot and it captures the spirit of a western well. The west was a brutal place and so is 2029 in this film.

I liked the bond between Logan and Laura especially as she became more animated throughout the film. Their fights with her talking in Spanish are really funny and the chemistry between the 2 works.

I also really enjoyed Richard E Grant as the villainous Dr Rice. Patrick Stewart is wonderful as Professor X as he always is but this time he is desperate and not the confident character we know and love.

All the production values are excellent in Logan and like I said it feels like a modern-day western, which is refreshing and original. The acting from Hugh Jackman is also the best we’ve ever seen from him portraying the character. It’s raw and intense and he does a wonderful job.

I still don’t think I’d ever watch Logan again because the violence is too much for my taste. However, I can see why it is considered a classic and why comic book  movie fans love it so much.

7 out of 10

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[REVIEW] ‘Spider-Man: No Way Home’ or No Spoilers=Short Review

It’s no big secret I was not a fan of the last Spider-Man movie in the MCU, Spider-Man: Far From Home. I didn’t like the set up with Tony giving Peter, a teenager, a weapon. I didn’t like the villain motivation being another grudge against Tony Stark and I really didn’t like the attempts at humor like Peter getting caught getting undressed by a woman and then using the weapon to almost kill a schoolmate he thought might expose him. Also the illusions made no sense practically when you think about it. It was bad. Very bad.

So my expectations were not high for the sequel No Way Home. Now I have seen the film and it is a definite improvement from the last film. However,all the ways I liked it better would be considered spoilers. All the things I didn’t like would also be considered spoilers. This makes this review difficult to write. I seriously can’t think of a movie harder to talk about without spoilers than this film.

What I will say is that at its core Spider-Man: No Way Home is a movie about friendship. It’s about schoolmate friendships, mentor/mentee friendships, friends you have nothing in common with, friends who are very similar, and friends that are your parental figures/family. Some friends you chose and some are chosen for you but that all has value.

The biggest downside to the film is a problem I’ve had with Disney for a long time. They are presenting a perfect world where nobody is evil or bad and everyone can be redeemed or ”cured” of their sociopathic or evil tendencies. That’s just not reality. I know it’s a superhero movie but one of the best things about superhero movies and comics is their ability to teach children the difference between good and evil, right and wrong. Now everything is either doom and gloom over at DC or no villains exist at Disney. I don’t love that. It is supposed to make everything more nuanced but it instead makes everything bland and devoid of personality.

There also is a lot of time in this movie with people in rooms talking. Sometimes that works, other times it feels over-rehearsed and careful when it is supposed to be natural and conversational. It does also lean on nostalgia a bit but I enjoyed that aspect.

It will be interesting to see what people think of Spider-man: No Way Home. It’s an unusual entry in the MCU but going in with low expectations I enjoyed it and appreciated Peter Parker and all his friends.

7 out of 10

Smile Worthy

There is a mid-credits and post-credit scene so stick around!

[REVIEW] ‘Eternals’ or The Script is Not a Marvel

Back in 2019 I attended the D23 Expo and one of the most exciting announcements was Marvel’s upcoming film Eternals. How cool to see Angelina Jolie, Richard Madden, Salma Hayek and more coming out on stage to be in a Marvel movie with a female director! This was going to be awesome!

Unfortunately I must admit to being completely underwhelmed and even frustrated by Eternals. It has some positive aspects of course but its main downfall is a confusing script with inconsistently written characters stuck in a timeline that makes it impossible to build momentum or tell a story that makes sense.  We don’t even have the ties to the MCU to help guide the new characters into the world (Wong for instance in Shang-Chi filled this role).

Other people seem to have enjoyed it more than me. I don’t know what to to tell you but most of the film I had no idea what was happening. There’s lots of exposition explaining the rules of the emergence and celestials, for example, but when these events are happening the conversation explaining said event had been so long ago I had forgotten what it meant and was left wondering what was happening and why our characters were behaving in this way.

It might help to watch this movie on Disney Plus when it is available and have a pen and paper to keep track of all the rules and what happens in each time period and how that matters. But should that be required of every movie? My friend seemed to keep track of details better than I did but my brain (I have some dyslexia and am more of a linear learner) struggles when plots are fragmented like they are in Eternals. It’s especially frustrating when they could have easily made different choices that would have made sense in the theater on the first watch.

Another problem I had was with the characters. Because the timeline flips around over centuries we see characters at weak and high points but since this is out of order it’s confusing and makes it hard to invest in the characters. One character is a hero in a timeline, in another he or she betrays and even kills our heroes, and then he or she’s back to being a good hero and then final redemption. I love the Marvel heroes but these will have to be explained better in other movies because I did not get to know them hardly at all. Also their powers seemed completely random and some hardly useful for defending the world against deviants.

All the actors in Eternals give good performances. The cinematography and visual effects are impressive. There are also grown-up moments that some may enjoy (Marvel’s first sex scene since Iron Man). I also appreciated the diversity and inclusivity but unfortunately it all sinks under the weight of a poorly written script and makes for a frustrating watch.

If you like Eternals I am happy for you. Indeed, I am jealous because I wanted to have that experience. Please keep comments civil. Anything threatening or unkind will be deleted.

3.5 out of 10

Frown Worthy

[REVIEW] ‘Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings’ or That’s How You Tell an Origin Story!

After the successful conclusion of the Marvel Infinity Saga a lot of skeptics wondered if the best days of the MCU were behind the studio. Indeed with the weak entry of Spider-man: Far From Home it was easy to start asking those questions. Fortunately Marvel has not only produced some incredible television with Wandavision and Loki in 2021 but their latest origin story movie Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is one of their best yet!

Shang-Chi stars Simu Liu of Kim’s Convenience fame (a show I adored) as a young man who has a secret identity as a martial arts fighter having been trained by his father from an early age. As the movie starts he is working as a parking attendant with his best friend Katy (Awkwafina) when he gets a message from his father and goes to warn his sister (Meng’er Zhang) of impending peril.

There are a number of reasons this movie works so well but the biggest is its focus on a family and their complicated relationships with each other. Tony Leung is absolutely fantastic as Wenwu, Shang-Chi’s father and leader of the Ten Rings clan. He is handsome and charismatic, not to mention great with the action scenes (of course).

I also loved the dynamic between Shang-Chi and his sister Xialing. It’s a relationship with some pain as all the relationships are in this movie. Awkwafina is fantastic as Katy and her and Shang-Chi have one of the sweetest, most understated relationships in the MCU. The villain is also one of the best in the series.

As expected, the action throughout the film is outstanding. Marvel hired Andy Cheng, the fight choreographer behind many Jackie Chan films like Shanghai Noon and Rush Hour and it shows! It’s a cliche to say but it really is a pulse-pounding great time at the movies. Not only is it exciting action but it is shot with a flair that allows you to appreciate what is happening to the characters.

Simu Liu is charming as Shang-Chi and the whole cast has great chemistry together. The script reminded me of a cross between an Iron Man and Thor film. There is fantasy and mythical lore that you’d see in Thor and the cheeky, likable performance we see in Iron Man. It’s the kind of movie I walk away thinking ‘who won’t have fun at that movie?’. Of course some will but the vast majority will have a great time.

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings has it all. It’s got great characters with meaningful relationships. It has a cracking script loaded with witty banter, well-choreographed action and a cast with wonderful charisma and personality. It’s one of the best origin stories in the MCU in many years and I look forward to seeing the characters in future entries.

I even liked the winks at Iron Man 3, which is an MCU film I don’t care for.. It also has a terrific mid-credits scene so make sure to stay around.

8.5 out of 10

Smile worthy

[REVIEW] ‘Black Widow’ or Nice to See Natasha Kick-Butt Again

There are many factors which go into making the Marvel Cinematic Universe as successful as it is. The detailed planning, consistent execution and overall inspiring experiences make for films that even at their worst are competent blockbusters people enjoy. However, the most important key to their success is their remarkable knack for casting and ability to build affection for their characters. We are forgiving of the flaws of a film because we love the characters and are attached to their stories within the MCU.

Such is the case with Natasha Romanoff or Black Widow. We are attached to her character and Scarlett Johansson in the role that even in an imperfect film we are happy to be spending time with our old friend. This is especially true in this case because of losing her in Avengers: Endgame so sadly.

It is also our affection for Black Widow that made us all want her to have her own movie much sooner. While comforting to see her again on the screen, it can’t help but feel like a missed opportunity that she couldn’t have been a more celebrated part of the Infinity War narrative and not just a supporting player. In some ways the new Black Widow movie feels a little like an apology for all the fans who wish Marvel had the guts to release a Black Widow film way back in phase 1 as opposed to now in phase 4. Also the fact that both female superhero films in the MCU have been prequels feels more than a little safe and strange. Be braver Marvel!!

That said, what did I think of the film we got? Overall I enjoyed it. I certainly thought it was much better than I expected it to be and I had a good time with it.

If you recall in Avengers Age of Ultron we get a little peak into Natasha’s past with the ‘Red Room’ where she was trained to be the super spy we all know her to be. This new movie, Black Widow, elaborates on that vision and takes us back to the time between Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War.

Natasha is on the run and trying to find out more information about the organization behind the ‘Red Room’ that is trying to stop her from being an avenger. This includes reconnecting with her ‘family’ played by Rachel Weisz, David Harbour and Florence Pugh.

The best part about Black Widow is the interactions between the family and particularly the dynamic between Natasha and Pugh’s Yelena. They have great chemistry and feel like actual sisters. Weisz is underused as Melina but Harbour is also charming as Alexei or Red Guardian.

Because we like all of these characters it’s fun to see them fighting off bad guys while exchanging witty banter. That dynamic is what makes the MCU terrific. The action was also all enjoyable without being too memorable. It did the job. The villains are serviceable for this story even if I will not remember them by the time the next Marvel movie comes along. The MCU isn’t about villains. It’s about heroes, and I like these heroes.

I do think Black Widow pushes its luck at 134 minutes and there are times it drags. The action isn’t memorable enough to sustain the runtime and because we know what happens with Natasha the stakes are never very present.

Recently on twitter I said

What I mean by that is Wonder Woman 84 (which I gave a marginal recommendation) was narratively messy but it really tried hard to talk about big themes and take its characters on a big story. Black Widow doesn’t do any of that. It is way cleaner and succeeds in making a fun, competent action movie. Like I said, it’s a better movie than Wonder Woman 84 but it doesn’t try as hard either. So it comes down to what you want out of a film. Do you want a satisfying but perhaps forgettable blockbuster or do you want something that swings and a lot of the times misses? I can see arguments for both.

I went to see Black Widow with my niece and we had a great time together. It earns its PG-13 rating but if you do take your teens and pre-teens they will have a great time. It will be interesting to see how they use Yelena in the future (stay for post-credit scene). I look forward to seeing more of Pugh.

While not perfect and a bit too late, Black Widow combines kick-butt action with the best family in the MCU to make for a fun ride!

7 out of 10

Smile Worthy

‘Spider-Man: Far From Home’ (Guest Review)

Hello Rachel! Yes, it is I, Patrick Beatty Reviews! Taking over your site to talk about Spider-Man: Far From Home (btw, thank you so much for having me on!). Directed by Jon Watts, who helmed the previous Spider-Man Homecoming, this sequel takes place sometime after Avengers: Endgame (so make sure you’ve seen it first. But who hasn’t at this point?). Peter Parker is going on a summer study abroad trip around Europe and is needing some serious R&R, and maybe a shot at romance with M.J. (played by Zendaya). But the work for an Avenger doesn’t end, as his vacation is cut short by Nick Fury, along with a new character Mysterio (played by Jake Gyllenhaal) who need Spider-Mans help in fighting a slew of new villains called ‘The Elementals’. That is ALL I can say when it comes to this movie’s plot, but what I can say is it’s the most fun and exciting live-action Spider-Man film to date!

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First, let’s get the obvious out of the way. Tom Holland is a PERFECT Peter Parker. His acting and physical performance as Spider-Man is perfect, and he truly embodies the character we know and love from the comic books. This is Tom Hollands 5th performance as Spider-Man, and you can see that he is in his element as the character. Holland has terrific chemistry with his friend Ned (who gets a great side story) but also with Jake Gyllenhaal and Samuel L. Jackson (Nick Fury). Holland again proves he is up there with the greats with how well he is able to interact with these two acting giants.

far from home

The side characters in the film are also very funny, with great additions, which I can’t spoil but really bring in the humor for this film. Jon Favreau (Happy Hogan) for the scenes he is in absolutely nails his part, and I liked his back and forth chemistry with Holland. Where I may get some flack is I didn’t love the chemistry between M.J. and Peter Parker. I honestly think of the “Spider-Men” and their significant others, the Holland/Zendaya pairing falls the flattest. I had a tough time understanding why they liked each other, but perhaps if they had more scenes together to flesh out the “whys” of their relationship I might buy into it more. Don’t get me wrong, I love both their characters, but I don’t see the sparks just yet.

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Far From Home feels like when a tv show goes on “Vacation”: where you are getting a completely new and fun experience than you’ve felt when the show sticks within its main location. I loved the road trip feel and it’s a fun break from the somewhat serious tone Marvel had with ‘Infinity War’ and ‘Endgame’. The special effects are also amazing, particularly in the 3rd act. A lot of 3rd act superhero films only result in punching and fighting. Far From Home, in contrast, they utilize Spider-Man and his villain in a perfect way, and really energized the entire ending.

So did Spider-Man break new ground in the Spider-Man film-verse? I would say for die-hard fans who have wanted the ‘full Spider-Man experience then yes. This is an exciting, fast-paced adventure, showcasing the best parts of Spider-Man. There are some twists that some may not be expecting, and honestly, I could see people going either way on liking them or not but I had a great time with Spider-Man: Far From Home. I’d love to know what you all thought of it once you see it! Thank you again Rachel for having me!

I’m giving Spider-Man: Far From Home an 8/10

‘Avengers: Endgame’ Review

While I have not loved every entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (see my Guardians of the Galaxy vol 2 review), I have loved the franchise as a cinematic endeavor and when others have grown weary of it I have been one of its biggest champions. I unabashedly love the tone of the universe and its emphasis on heroes who fight for all that is good and right in the world.

I also know that endings matter and a rotten ending to a 22 movie arc would be a serious bummer. This knowledge and my less than pumped response to Infinity War had me full of nerves going into the epic final chapter of the Avengers saga that is Avengers: Endgame. Could they pull it off? Could they end this mammoth undertaking of 22 movies in a satisfactorily way?

Well, I’m delighted to tell you that they did end it well. In fact, it may be my favorite MCU film to date! I LOVED Avengers: Endgame!

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There are two aspects that make Avengers: Endgame so strong. First and most importantly, the story takes care of our characters. I felt satisfied in every arc. Unlike say The Last Jedi or How I Met Your Mother where I felt great disappointment at the treatment of our characters, Marvel gave them arcs that felt earned and treated them with respect. There were things I was sure would annoy me after the carnage of Infinity War but it worked. In particular our original six of Iron Man, Captain America, Black Widow, Hawkeye, Hulk and Thor were given stories that felt authentic for the characters and gave the closure I needed.

I don’t think it is over-stating to say there is time travel element to the story. This allowed viewers to remember the fun we’ve had along the way but also gave the characters moments of retrospection on how far they had come and the choices they’ve made. Plus, it’s just fun. Time travel stories are a blast! I know some call this fan service but with each reveal my grin got bigger and wider. It was fantastic!

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Another strength of Avengers: Endgame is the pacing. I know that might sound nuts in a 3 hour movie but I found the film clipped right along. Infinity War dragged in its repetitive action where this was constantly changing who we are following and what type of situation they are facing. I was a little nervous going into the film that Captain Marvel would be over-used but she’s not. All the side characters are given their moments and then we move back to focusing on our main 5, which was brilliant.

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I am sure some people will talk about plotholes but so is the nature of time travel stories. I kind of treat this like watching Doctor Who. Sure the Doctor messes with the space time continuum in each episode but for the most part we let this go in the favor of who he saves and what the overall narrative needs to be. It will be fun to pick apart the many little moments of the film but the story won’t be any less effective by any imperfections I might uncover.

Those looking for big spectacle entertainment may find the first hour of Avengers: Endgame to be a little lacking, but I loved it! If you are one of those people, wait until the third act when the film delivers big time on spectacle! There were moments I had my mouth completely agape and a theater full of critics couldn’t help but cheer! It was infectious to see the ultimate heroes defeating the tar out of the villain Thanos!

In the end, Avengers: Endgame had it all. It was funny, moving, epic and everything else you could want. It is big spectacle entertainment topping off a cinematic achievement that many have attempted to mimic and failed. What the MCU has done is phenomenal, and I’m so happy they ended it well.

It is the perfect ending to our story.

Go see it! It’s great!

9.5/10

smile worthy

Thor Ragnarok Review

Today I got to see the latest Marvel film, Thor Ragnarok. This year Marvel has been a bit of a mixed bag for me. I was pretty disappointed in Guardians of the Galaxy vol 2 and how it broke up the family/team dynamic of the original film. I liked Spider-man Homecoming for its teen vibe and good script, but I don’t know that I LOVED it as much as others. And so now we get to Thor Ragnarok and fortunately it was great! I’d say it is the best MCU film since Civil War.

The main asset to Thor Ragnarok is the witty script and incredibly likable actors. I LOVE Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston as Thor and Loki respectively. I could watch them riff against each other all day. (Plus they are both so gorgeous I could really watch them all day! I even dug Thor and his short hair. LOL). Every scene with the two of them I couldn’t get enough of. I have liked both of the Thor movies more than most and my favorite part has always been Thor and Loki and that is continued here. They are funny and feel like real rivals. Anyone who has had a sibling rivalry will get a kick out of them.

And then the rest of the characters are great. I LOVED Tessa Thompson’s Valkyrie. She was a tough girl that was a little boozy, and they only flirted with romance between her and Thor. There was no damsel in distress here!

Idris Elba is good as Heimdall. Cate Blanchett is a lot of fun as Hela, the God of Death (I don’t mind big bad old-school villains TBH).

Hulk was pretty amazing. We got a lot of time with the Hulk being Hulk and not Bruce Banner. Typically we have only seen Hulk come out before a battle in the MCU so to see him lounging about in hot tubs and the like was new and refreshing (and hilarious).

In the end, this movie will come down to if you think it is funny and I did. I laughed throughout from Taika Waititi’s great script and the comic timing of the actors. It worked for me. The MCU references were minimal and mostly at the start. The pacing works. I was never bored and unlike Guardians vol 2 I never grew irritated with the characters.

My only criticisms of the Thor Ragnarok is the CGI looked pretty bad throughout. There was particularly a giant wolf that reminded me of Twilight, which is not a good thing. It looked awful. Even with all their flaws, the Thor movies have always looked amazing.

Other than that, I was thoroughly entertained throughout. Marvel certainly knows how to make movies that make me smile!