Weekend Movies: Granger rates the latest flicks
Following are Susan Granger's review of the latest movies:
Comic book superhero summer begins with one of the lesser-known Marvel characters, surprisingly and cleverly directed by Kenneth Branagh, one of Britain's most distinguished Shakespearean interpreters ("As You Like It," "Love's Labour's Lost").
Following an ancient, epic war, the serene, heavenly Norse homeland Asgard has finally achieved a tentative armistice with the ominous Frost Giants of desolate, frozen Jotunheim. But when that peace is impetuously threatened by Thor (Chris Hemsworth), headstrong heir to the throne of wise, weary Odin (Anthony Hopkins), he is stripped of his mighty hammer Mjolnir and banished to live among humans to learn to harness his anger and develop humility.
In the guise of a bearded stranger, Thor lands (literally) in New Mexico, hitting an SUV belonging to astrophysicist Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), her assistant Darcy Lewis (Kat Dennings) and Jane's mentor, Dr. Erik Sevig (Stellan Skarsgard), who are investigating an inexplicable atmospheric disturbance. Like a fish-out-of-water, it's a shock as brawling Thor realizes his mere mortality. While he's determined to retrieve his hammer and re-claim his throne, the opposition mounts, including Agent Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) from the shadowy government agency S.H.I.E.L.D. and Thor's duplicitous younger half-brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston), who unleashes the fearsome Destroyer.
Screenwriters Ashley Edward Miller, Zack Stentz and Don Payne, working from an origin story by J. Michael Straczynski and Mark Protosevich, along with Branagh and production designer Bo Welch, have created three opulent, dazzling, vastly different FX realms -- Asgard, Midgard (Earth) and Jotunheim -- connected by a dazzling, interdimensional, celestial portal. Cinematographer Haris Zambarloukos uses odd angles to make scenes look like they were ripped from comic books.
And hunky Aussie newcomer Chris Hemsworth seems perfect as the God of Thunder, even if the arc of his journey from arrogant Viking Prince to thoughtful hero is too quickly developed.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "Thor" is a fun, adventurous, engrossing 8.
Paramount Pictures is cultivating fantastical Marvel characters like Iron Man, the Incredible Hulk, Thor and upcoming Captain America to join franchise forces next year as "The Avengers."
What makes a chick flick click? The vulnerable heroine must be someone you can identify with, someone with identifiable character flaws who learns a valuable lesson during her emotional journey. There has to be a hunky hero, plus some loyal female friends and at least one quirky guy, whose dialogue is often loaded with laugh lines. Basically, it's a relationship story -- with a happy ending.
When she turns 30, Rachel (Ginnifer Goodwin), a lawyer at a top Manhattan law firm, is given a surprise party by her lifelong best friend Darcy (Kate Hudson), who's also celebrating her coming wedding to outrageously handsome Dex (Colin Egglesfield, who looks like a young Tom Cruise), whom Rachel has known since law school. After vivacious, life-of-the-party Darcy drinks too much, previously platonic Rachel and Dex wind up in bed. So that's the dilemma: Darcy's best friend and her fiance suddenly discover they're attracted to each other, leaving Rachel torn between her loyalty to Darcy and her long-repressed love for Dex.
Rachel's astute confidante Ethan (John Krasinski) serves as her conscience, particularly when they all take a summer beach house together in Southhampton, along with womanizing Marcus (Steve Howie) and crazy Clare (Ashley Williams). Like "Sex and the City," what's interesting is how the characters emerge, as they vacillate in their willingness to be honest with one another and take chances. Good-hearted yet weak-willed Rachel has always allowed petty, petulant, demanding Darcy to run roughshod over her, while Dex repeatedly demonstrates that he doesn't have much of a backbone.
Based on Emily Griffin's best-selling novel, riffing on the bridal adage -- "Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue" -- this comedic romance is adapted by Jessie Snyder Urman and directed by Luke Greenfield. While the complicated plot is admittedly formulaic, utilizing too many flashbacks, there are some unexpectedly tantalizing twists, including a hilariously harrowing badminton game. And Emily Griffin appears on a bench in Madison Square Park.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "Something Borrowed" is a soul-searching 7 -- this chick flick really clicks.
"HOODWINKED TOO: HOOD VS. EVIL!"
Unless you're truly desperate to park the kids in front of a big screen for 95 minutes of excruciating 3-D espionage, don't bother with this follow-up to 2005's "Hoodwinked" that trumpets the tagline: "Not all fairy tales go by the book."
Returning to "Once-upon-a-time" land, it seems Red Riding Hood (voiced by Hayden Panettiere, since Oscar host Anne Hathaway has gone on to bigger-and-better things) is in training with a mysterious, covert female-warrior group called the Sisters of the Hood when she's unexpectedly summoned by Nicky Flippers (voiced by David Ogden Stiers), who runs the superspy Happily-Ever-After Agency, a.k.a. the HEA. Horrors! The wicked witch Verushka (voiced by Joan Cusack), has abducted two ostensibly innocent children, candy-loving Hansel (voiced by Bill Hader) and his sister Gretel (voiced by Amy Poehler). And HEA has already dispatched Red's Granny (voiced by Glenn Close) and her friends, operatives Big Bad Wolf (voiced by Patrick Warburton) and his squirrelly sidekick Twitchy (voiced by Cory Edwards). But that is just what Verushka wanted. She's loathed Granny for reasons going back to their school days together. Plus, there's the tasty added twist of a Sisters of the Hood secret recipe for a magic truffle falling into the wrong hands, empowering the greedy villains. So it's spunky Red to the rescue! Martin Short replaces Jim Belushi as the voice of the Woodsman, with Cheech Marin and Tommy Chong articulating two of the Three Little Hench Pigs ... plus there's an accident-prone, banjo-playing Billy goat.
Along with allusions to other fractured Grimm fairy tales, the heavy-handed, humorless, yet pun-filled script is crammed with double-meaning references to strictly adult fare like "Goodfellas," "Silence of the Lambs" and TV's "The Sopranos," thanks to screenwriters Cory Edwards, Tony Leech, Todd Edwards and Mike Disa, who also directed. In addition, stale racial and ethnic stereotypes abound in a way that may be offensive to some parents.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "Hoodwinked Too! Hood vs. Evil" is time-wasting 2. It's a lame, absolutely unnecessary sequel.