THOR-> The Dark World (2013)

There is something metaphysical about quantum theory, Schrödinger's cat, space time continuums, crashing through dimensions and all of that jiving around. And that is what saves Thor: The Dark World from sinking into a morass of workman-like special effects.

Based on Marvel Comics’ Thor by Stan Lee, Larry Lieber and Jack Kirby, Thor: The Dark World tells of Thor, the crown prince, who returns to Asgard after two years of fighting to finally bring about peace in the nine realms. Odin, Thor’s father and king, sentences Loki, Thor’s adoptive brother to prison for his war crimes on earth. In a prologue we are told of Malekith, the ruler of the Dark Elves who was defeated by Odin’s father Bor. A rare celestial occurrence when the nine realms align known as the convergence is about to take place and Malekith wants to use the colliding worlds to harness a weapon of mass destruction known as Aether. 

While all this is going on, Jane Foster, Thor’s earthling physicist girlfriend, is infected with Aether and it is a race against time to get Aether out of her and away from Malekith.

The exposition and the wall-to-wall action was just that wee bit boring only lighting up when Loki (Tom Hiddleston) is on screen. Actually there is no shortage of star power from the hunky Chris Hemsworth as Thor to the lovely Natalie Portman as Jane. Anthony Hopkins as the venerable Odin, Stellan Skarsgård as the ultimate eccentric professor and Rene Russo as ma to the warring brothers Frigga complete with a strange hairstyle (looks like a distant cousin of Princess Leia’s donut braids) are all very watchable.

However it is only when those colliding worlds kick in that the movie becomes magical. There is super tight control on detailing and editing as objects and action dance along space and time crashing through worlds tearing holes in the warp and weft of different dimensions. Then the movie shifts gear from standard issue superhero to becoming the ultimate trip upon a magic swirling ship. Yay! And wait for the end credits for a happy surprise.
Genre: Action
Director: Alan Taylor
Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston, Anthony Hopkins, Stellan Skarsgård, Idris Elba, Christopher Eccleston, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Kat Dennings, Ray Stevenson, Zachary Levi, Tadanobu Asano, Jaimie Alexander, Rene Russo
Storyline: The dark lord wishes to send all the nine realms into darkness and it is left to Thor to save the day
Bottomline: Never has quantum physics been so thrilling


Pacific Rim - 2013

The Mexican cinéaste Guillermo del Toro is a brilliant writer, producer and director of horror, fantasy and supernatural movies, one of the most gifted to have emerged in these fields since Tod Browning and James Whale in the 1920s and 30s. His finest films to date have been made in Spain, most notably two subtle gothic fables set during the civil war and its aftermath, The Devil's Backbone and Pan's Labyrinth. But he's also made the highly popular American horror flicks Hellboy and Hellboy II aimed at a younger audience and both starring Ron Perlman as the eponymous comic-book superhero, and his new picture, Pacific Rim, which he co-scripted with Travis Beacham, belongs to this category.

Pacific Rim is a holiday blockbuster, a $180m bag of popcorn as unpretentious as it is expensive, designed, del Toro says, for family outings, his own included. Exactly the same honest claim was made by Richard Burton when explaining, if explanation was needed, why he was making Where Eagles Dare back in the 1960s. He said it was far too long since he'd made a picture that his own children could (or might want to) see. Indeed if you look at the 15 pictures he'd made after Cleopatra (rereleased this week to mark its 50th anniversary), you can see his point. I remember my own children, then aged 10, eight and six lapping up Where Eagles Dare back in 1969, the same year they also loved The Valley of Gwangi, the British monster movie by the great special effects maestro Ray Harryhausen, the co-dedicatee of Pacific Rim along with Ishiro Honda, who made the series of Japanese monster flicks that began in the 1950s with Godzilla and Rodan.

Pacific Rim is a war movie set in a near future that resembles in its combination of high technology with cultural and social dilapidation the grim worlds to come in Alien and Blade Runner. The opening narration tells us that for too long we've been looking to the heavens in awed anticipation of visitors or invaders from above when in fact we should have been keeping an eye on gateways to hell that admit unwanted strangers from below. Some seven years earlier creatures known as Kaiju, the size of tower blocks and far less friendly than King Kong, slipped out of Pacific troughs due to shifting tectonic plates and began setting about states bordering the ocean. Nothing new about this of course. The human response, however, was new. Giant robots known as Jaegers were created, each the size of the Statue of Liberty. They're manned by pairs of operators who need to build a neural bridge between their minds so they can work together in a way that the machine can mimic and replicate in battles against the Kaiju.

After a spectacular fight in which large boats are flung around like corvettes in the Lilliputian navy, the Kaiju appear to be winning, and some years later the Earth is moving to the desperate Plan B, which means investing everything in a giant containing wall around the Pacific rim. We also learn, for those who like moral explanations, that these monsters thrive in our polluted atmosphere, and that they're controlled, as they have been for millennia, by malevolent colonial powers. Then comes that familiar apocalyptic moment when a great leader, a former four-star general, is given "one last chance". Called Stacker Pentecost, his very name is resonant enough to make you shake even without the formidable presence behind it of Idris Elba, shortly to play Nelson Mandela in The Long Walk to Freedom. He's allowed to form a final Jaeger team based in Hong Kong to confront the ever bolder, more ferocious enemy in an ultimate showdown.

He recruits an international team of ace pilots from each edge of the rim, to be led on this do-or-die mission by a Chinese woman, two Australians and an American who's lost his brother in action and has the equally resonant name of Raleigh Becket. All have their own demons to contend with and they're united (and divided) as fathers, sons and daughters. To provide a sort of comic relief there is a pair of dotty scientists on hand (one of them with a gammy leg and called Gottlieb, in honour of Kubrick's Dr Strangelove). Also present is a maverick entrepreneur called Hannibal Chau (played by del Toro regular Ron Perlman), a not unfamiliar science-fiction character who wears gold-plated shoes and collects remnants of the monsters for sale to dubious international clients.
In addition to Blade Runner and Alien, the movie touches several other bases, among them Christopher Nolan's Inception as well as RoboCop, Iron Man and Independence Day. It imitates the last named right down to Stacker Pentecost gathering his band of brothers around him to deliver an uplifting prose version of King Harry's eve of Agincourt speech, which, as a result of Laurence Olivier's Henry V, is forever associated with D-day in 1944 by my now dwindling generation.

Del Toro generally manages to keep triumphalism at bay, avoids solemnity, gives each nation a fair share of the limelight and cheerfully embraces the mock seriousness that such films insist on. He also plants a little joke halfway through the final credits both to reward the few people who haven't removed their 3D glasses and left the cinema, and to let them know that a sequel is a strong possibility. He has been greatly helped in the project by his regular cinematographer Guillermo Navarro and the excellent production designer Andrew Neskoromny, both of them highly experienced in this genre.

  • Production year: 2013
  • Country: USA
  • Cert (UK): 12A
  • Runtime: 131 mins
  • Directors: Guillermo del Toro

  • Cast: Burn Gorman, Charlie Day, Charlie Hunnam, Idris Elba, Rinko Kikuchi, Ron Perlman.
  • Details: 2013, USA, Cert 12A, 131 mins, Sci-fi, Dir: Guillermo del Toro
  • With: Burn Gorman, Charlie Day, Charlie Hunnam, Idris Elba, Rinko Kikuchi, Ron Perlman
  • Summary: Giant human-piloted robots battle enormous lizard-like aliens who emerge from a parallel dimension.
  • 2/15/13


    Steven Spielberg has made more obviously entertaining and more emotionally seductive movies than Lincoln, but this is for him the most brave and, for the audience, most demanding picture in the 40 years since his emergence as a major director. It's a film about statesmanship, politics, the creation of the world's greatest democracy, and it's concerned with what we can learn from the study and contemplation of history. Spielberg and his eloquent screenwriter, the playwright Tony Kushner, handle these themes with flair, imagination and vitality, andDaniel Day-Lewis embodies them with an indelible intelligence as the 16th president of the United States

    Lincoln begins a year before the end of the civil war with the movie's only battle scene. It's a minute of the bloody, hand-to-hand combat at Jenkins' Ferry, Arkansas, that by a brilliant piece of editing legerdemain is transformed into two black soldiers recalling the battle while talking to Lincoln about the future of the Union. The scene establishes the rock-like physical presence of the war-weary president, his warmth, modesty and humanity. The picture concludes a year later with a non-triumphalist coda that follows five days after Confederate general Robert E Lee's surrender.

    With immense adroitness Spielberg avoids the high drama of the actual assassination at Ford's theatre on 14 April 1865, showing us the news being broken to Lincoln's young son, Tad, at another theatre and then bringing us to Lincoln's deathbed where secretary of war Edwin Stanton pronounces the celebrated epitaph: "Now he belongs to the ages" (though he might actually have said "to the angels"). This is followed by a brief concluding flashback to Lincoln's second inaugural address a month earlier, with its cautious message of hope and realism.
    The heart of the film is a few weeks in January 1865 in an overcast wintry Washington between Lincoln's second election and his inauguration. In this brief moment of opportunity he's faced with a crucial decision. Should he end this bloody war, one of the most costly, bitter and divisive in modern history, by a compromising peace with the Confederate enemy? Or should he make a final attempt to persuade the House of Representatives to reverse an earlier decision and enact the 13th Amendment to the constitution? This would declare that "neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction".

    This incendiary issue – involving the abolition of slavery and all this might entail for equality in all its forms – is at the centre of this drama. Lincoln must handle it on a variety of fronts: the military, the electorate, a Congress divided on this issue, and his own family. As Doris Kearns Goodwin shows in her book Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, the key source of the film's screenplay, he had astutely brought together gifted people who'd been his opponents in order both to wage war and to advance his social, moral and political policies. And the film is about the way this principled statesman and wily politician was ready to bend rules, reinterpret the law and manipulate people, but always with the object of serving democracy and securing America's moral leadership on the world stage.
    Lincoln is playing a deadly game, juggling a variety of balls. Simultaneously he must hold his cabinet together with the particular help of his closest, most honest confidant, secretary of state Seward (David Strathairn), to gather the votes necessary to secure the vote he needs in Congress and keep secret the presence of a top peace-seeking delegation from the south. Beyond this he must reassure his generals that the war will be prosecuted with full intensity, and he must deal with his family. His eldest son Robert wants to leave university and serve in the army, while his wife, the troubled and devoted Mary (Sally Field), cannot bear to lose another son after the death of her beloved William, who died three years earlier.
    There is, too, another strand, almost a film in itself and a source of both fun and realism, in the presence of three political fixers, Washington lobbyists before the term was coined. Colourfully played by James Spader, John Hawkes and Tim Blake Nelson, they're cynical idealists, getting people to change their minds by bribery, blackmail and coercion. They're part of a gallery of more than 100 speaking roles, all significant in their way, and they impose themselves on us in a brisk, lucid story that's superbly edited, designed and photographed. John Williams's score, however, is somewhat overemphatic.

    At the centre of this bustling social panorama is Lincoln: explaining himself through endless anecdotes and folksy memories; quoting Shakespeare, the Bible and Euclid to make his ideas persuasive; exploiting his simple eloquence to get people to do what's right; knowing just when and where to press his advantage. He grows old before our eyes and we believe it when Grant tells him that he's aged a decade over the past year.
    In a towering performance, Day-Lewis encompasses the great statesman who shaped history, the intimate man of the people and the mysterious, charismatic figure who so fascinated Picasso that he collected thousands of pictures of him and once held up a photograph of Lincoln, proclaiming: "There is the real American elegance!"
    1. Lincoln
    2. Production year: 2012

    3. Countries: India, Rest 
    4. of the world, USA

    5. Cert (UK): 12A

    6. Runtime: 150 mins
    7. Directors: Steven Spielberg

    8. Cast: Daniel Day-Lewis, David Strathairn, Hal Holbrook, James Spader, John Hawkes, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Lee Pace, Sally Field, Tommy Lee Jones
    Dont miss it viewers!!!!...