Who dares go against the almighty Thor? None. The only other wide movie release of the week opened two days ahead of Marvel’s latest.
Disney/Marvel’s money tree once again gives fruit with ‘Thor: Ragnarok‘, the third installment to the Norse god’s standalone series. Knowing that the screenplay was absolute shite, beloved indie director Taika Waitiki (‘What We Do in the Shadows’, ‘The Hunt for the Wilderpeople’) was placed at the helm and given free rein to make the movie his way. (Perhaps the Disney/Lucasfilm folks should offer such creative freedom to their ‘Star Wars’ directors.) The result turns what should be be another bland Marvel adventure into a hilarious and entertaining buddy movie.
The too-serious Thor-verse characters of old have been replaced with bizzaro versions that are much more delightful to watch. As Asgard is overtaken by the Goddess of Death (Cate Blanchett), male bimbo Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and his mischievous brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) have to partner up to defeat her. Along the way, they just so happen to get derailed across the universe by a chance encounter with the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), who has been missing since ‘Avengers: Age of Ultron‘. (If I had to star in that turd, I’d want to go AWOL too.) Wackiness ensues, giving ‘Ragnarok’ a unique personality of its own and arguably the biggest yet lead-in to the impending showdown with Thanos, which will happen in ‘Avengers: Infinity War’ next summer.
Knowing that it wouldn’t stand a chance against ‘Thor’, STX released its new picture on Wednesday. Following the unexpected box office success of last year’s irreverent crude comedy ‘Bad Moms‘, the dinky studio fast-tracked a holiday-themed sequel. Principal photography began in early May and, six months later, we now have ‘A Bad Moms Christmas‘. If you thought to yourself, “I didn’t know they could make a movie that fast,” know that it’s possible – but it’s not possible to make a good movie that fast.
The bad moms (Mila Kunis, Kristen Bell and Kathryn Hahn) may be back, but none of the humor is. As if making the moms bad came as an afterthought, while they may drink and swear their way through the sequel, they’re not really bad this go around. Their actions are justified by a trio of new characters that STX is obviously hoping to spin off into a series of its own. When their mothers (Christine Baranski, Cheryl Hines and Susan Sarandon) starting ruining the holiday season, the previously bad moms vow to take Christmas back from the bad grandmas. With no heart, no laughs and no redeeming qualities, I recommend avoiding this mess, even if you like the original.
Playing on four screens is the new Richard Linklater film ‘Last Flag Flying‘. The drama stars Steve Carell, Bryan Cranston and Laurence Fishburne as three Vietnam vets who reunite for the funeral of one of their sons, a fallen soldier in the Iraq war. The awards buzz surrounding ‘Last Flag Flying’ is huge. Everyone I know who has already seen it is praising it. Lionsgate is expected to expand the release in the coming weeks.
Also playing on four screens is ‘Lady Bird‘, the sophomore directorial feature from indie darling Greta Gerwig. Saoirse Ronan stars in the mother/daughter coming-of-age comedy about a college-bound teen who rebels against anything and everything because she believes that she has the potential to be and become anything. Since its festival debut, ‘Lady Bird’ has earned flocks of positive reviews. Here’s hoping that A24 releases it wide soon.