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“Thor”
a review by Darby O’Gill

When Gods become superheroes… or something like that. Thor is the latest odyssey in the Marvel Studios journey towards the all-star extravaganza that will be The Avengers. To be honest, I’m not much of a Marvel Comics fan, or a Thor fan for that matter. I’m more of a DC Comics man myself, but that’s not to say I can’t enjoy a good Marvel movie. Sadly, Thor is not one of them. It’s not a horrible movie, I mean it’s no Jonah Hex, which by the way was last year’s Death Coach winner, which should dispel any thoughts of publisher loyalty that you might find in this review. But, Thor does have its fair share of problems, as well as nice moments, however few.

In Thor, King Odin (Anthony Hopkins) of Asgard tries to prepare his two sons for the challenges they may face one day as future kings. His eldest, the Mighty Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is cocky and arrogant, and only wishes to show off his superior strength and fearlessness at any chance he can get. Loki (Tom Hiddleston) on the other hand, likes to use his head, and manipulate situations and others to help mold events to his liking. They don’t call him the God of Mischief for nothing. The ying to Asgard’s yang is Jotunheim and its people the Frost Giants. When a small group of Frost Giants breach the palace’s security, Thor wishes to go to Jotunheim and strike fear into the heart of its people to never try such a thing again. Odin strongly forbids it, but Thor and his men, consisting of the Warriors Three (Ray Stevenson, Tadanobu Asano, & Josh Dallas) and Sif (Jamie Alexander), along with his brother Loki, sneak-off to Jotunheim and unwittingly start a war. Yeah, I don’t get that either! What did they think would happen? Anyway, Odin strips Thor of his powers and banishes him from Asgard. He is cast to Earth as a mortal man, but his Mjolnir (Thor’s Hammer) is also sent to Earth as a “Sword in the Stone” to restore Thor’s powers once he’s learned his lesson. While on Earth he meets astrophysicist Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), and S.H.I.E.L.D., and bla babla babla. You get it right?!

Okay, so let’s just say Thor didn’t make me a fan of Thor. It’s too bad too! I was really hoping having director Kenneth Branagh behind the wheel of this one would have done for Thor, what Jon Favreau did for Iron Man. That’s not to say Branagh didn’t do a good job! If it wasn’t for him, we could have easily been looking at next year’s Death Coach Award winner here. The problem isn’t so much the directing, as it is the writing. The script isn’t horrible, but it does feel like it’s just jumping from plot point to plot point to keep the story moving, and it never lets you really care about the characters, or even the story for that matter. The storyline in Asgard is much more defined than that of the story on Earth, but that comes as of no surprise with Branagh’s Shakespearean background. Chris Hemsworth is perfectly cast as Thor! He did an incredible job of bringing the mighty comic book God to life. We also get to see Thor and his powers unleashed pretty early in the film when he battles the Frost Giants on Jotunhein, and I’ve got to say some of the hammer tricks were pretty bad-ass! It’s just too bad I didn’t get to have that feeling again by the end of the movie. I would have really liked a second helping of that fight scene later on in the film. I can’t for the life of me figure out why Thor’s best fight scene would be at the beginning of the movie, and not at the end? I also don’t know if it was just me, or the once again pointless 3D conversion, but the CGI at times seemed to be a little too CGIy. The other realms looked fantastic, and had a grand sense of space to them, but I felt like I was watching a video game at times, and actually had to remind myself I was watching a movie! I know that this is Kenneth Branagh’s first real CGI venture, and with that in mind it’s really not that bad. But next time, less is more. I’m starting to feel like I’m being unfair. They say that this is the first official movie of the summer season, but I’m going to give that title to Fast Five! Also, that way my summer can start on a high note, and not this middle of the road shit! Thor does its job of introducing the movie going public to the Mighty Thor, but ultimately it’s just not worth it.

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“Iron Man 2”
a review by Darby O’Gill

A lot of things can go wrong, and often do, when making a comic book movie sequel. But gladly none of those things seem to be happening in Iron Man 2. Most comic book movies, namely the 1990’s Batman sequels, tend to find themselves spreading their stories ridiculously thin when adding way too many new characters to a storyline, but director Jon Favreau somehow manages to avoid this pitfall. Not only does Iron Man 2 work, but it also manages to do so while maintaining it’s fast pace, and it’s very well executed sense of storyline. Even with a handful of new characters being introduced, at no point does the audience, or the storyline for that matter, feel bogged-down by a bunch of origin story telling. I think Iron Man 2 should be the text book example of how to tell complex storylines to an audience without spoon feeding them at the same time.

In Iron Man 2, Tony Stark, played by Robert Downey Jr., not only finds himself dealing with the U.S. Government wanting the ownership of the Iron Man weapon, but also the fact that the very thing saving his life, could very well be killing him at the same time. If that weren’t enough, the Avenger Initiative has also started to lose their faith in him as a proper hero, and begin to question his future role in the Initiative. Topping it all off, Stark finds himself paying for the sins of his father, and dealing with a new enemy known as Whiplash, masterfully played by Mickey Rourke.

Now I figured with the addition of so many new characters, characters we’ve already met like Pepper Potts, played by Gwyneth Paltrow, would become secondary characters; making way for the new ones. But, I’m glad to say this wasn’t the case. Pepper’s character plays just as big of a role, if not bigger, in this film as she did in the first film. Also Don Cheadle’s replacement of Terrence Howard as Lt. Col. James Rhodes was seamless. I really liked Cheadle’s choice to play Rhodey the exact same way that Howard did. It really made the role more about the character, and less about the actor playing the character, which is not something all actors would choose to do. Scarlett Johansson is well under played as the Black Widow, but in a good way. The movie doesn’t rely on her as new eye candy, but rather uses her as needed for the story, which is a refreshing change of pace for movies like this. Which brings us the show stealing performance of Sam Rockwell; I don’t know what else to say other than… Wow! He really does bring his ‘A’ game to his performance as Stark Industries’ rival competitor, Justin Hammer. You’ll see what I mean when you see it. That guy needs to work more! Last but not least, Robert Downey Jr. continues to effortlessly capture the essence of Tony Stark, a role he was clearly born to play.

Is Iron Man 2 better than Iron Man? It’s hard to say. They’re two completely different movies. In the first Iron Man, there is this nice slow story pace that helps to ground the movie, but in Iron Man 2 you hit the ground running and it just feels right. With most sequels it’s easy to say which one is better, but with this one it’s truly is a continuation of the original movie, and feels like they are one and the same. Yes, I do realize that I just contradicted myself by saying they’re completely different and yet the same movie, but it’s true. I really hope all the other franchises out there are paying attention, because this is how it’s done. I think it’s safe to say that the 2010 season of summer movies is officially upon us, and the bar has been set very high thanks to Iron Man 2.

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