‘Thor’ Hammers You to a Headache; ‘Sunlight Jr.’ Offers a Glimmer of Hope

thor

MOVIE REVIEW – ‘THOR: THE DARK WORLD’

Movie Info

Marvel’s “Thor: The Dark World” continues the big-screen adventures of Thor, the Mighty Avenger, as he battles to save Earth and all the Nine Realms from a shadowy enemy that predates the universe itself. In the aftermath of Marvel’s “Thor” and “Marvel’s The Avengers,” Thor fights to restore order across the cosmos…but an ancient race led by the vengeful Malekith returns to plunge the universe back into darkness. Faced with an enemy that even Odin and Asgard cannot withstand, Thor must embark on his most perilous and personal journey yet, one that will reunite him with Jane Foster and force him to sacrifice everything to save us all. (c) Disney

PG-13, 1 hr. 52 min.

Action & Adventure, Science Fiction & Fantasy

Review: With ‘Dark World,’ ‘Thor’ remains the dullest of Marvel superheroes

Tom Long
www.detroitnews.com
“Thor: The Dark World” certainly hammers away at you.
Unfortunately, all that hammering can either become headache-inducing or just plain numbing. Battle scene after battle scene, myth upon myth, with just enough technical mumbo jumbo tossed in to make sure nothing makes any sense — that’s the essential game plan.

The biggest problem here is the same one that dragged down the original “Thor”: too much time spent in the other-dimensional-or-whatever-it-is world of Asgard (and various other places) and not enough time spent on Earth.

On Earth, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is marvelously, almost ludicrously incongruous and there are plenty of opportunities for humor and even humanity. On Asgard, he’s something of a stiff, self-righteous bore.

Other Marvel movies thrive on sassiness and sexiness, but “Dark World” only has one chaste kiss between its leads, an underused Kat Dennings piping in here and there and Tom Hiddleston’s Loki offering up some sly villainy once again. There are more wisecracks in 10 minutes of any “Iron Man” movie than in all of “Dark World,” as well as more real angst.

The story? Well, here’s an attempt: Thousands of years back, Thor’s ancestors did battle with a race of evil elves — yes, that’s right, evil elves — who wanted to turn all existence evil with the aid of some floating red ether stuff.

Of course, Thor’s side won the war but the evilest of elves escaped. For no good reason aside from providing a plot for this movie, Thor’s relatives decided not to destroy the red stuff but just hide it away somewhere.

Now the evil elves have risen and Thor finds Asgard under attack. Meanwhile down on Earth, scientist Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), who hasn’t seen Thor in two years, is still working with her mouthy assistant Darcy (Dennings), who is apparently serving the longest unpaid internship in history.

They’re in Britain, as is head scientist Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgård), who’s running around naked at Stonehenge. Why? Because — ha-ha — he’s naked.

Somehow Jane stumbles on the evil red stuff and it dives down her throat. So now the evil elves want Jane and her insides. Thor to the rescue.

The whole mess stumbles toward one of those big punch-out endings where Thor pounds it out forever with the now-super evil elf. There’s a nice twist to the punch-out scene, but its still just an overlong punch-out scene.

Veteran TV director Alan Taylor wisely keeps the film comparatively short (112 minutes) for a Marvel epic, but can we please cease and desist with movies where not just the fate of a person, or a family, or a city, or even a world but where THE FATE OF ALL EXISTENCE is at stake? Wouldn’t it be nice to see a superhero simply rescue a puppy sometime?

But, no, that wouldn’t be loud enough, it wouldn’t sport near enough dumb violence, it wouldn’t lend itself to washed-out 3-D to boost ticket prices, the plot wouldn’t contain so many ridiculous turns and there’s no way the puppy would be as hot as Natalie Portman.

Thus “Thor: The Dark World” is what Hollywood is offering. Dark world indeed.

‘Thor: The Dark World’GRADE: D+

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sunlight jr

MOVIE REVIEW – ‘SUNLIGHT JR.’

SUNLIGHT JR. spotlights hard-working convenience store clerk Melissa (Naomi Watts) and her disabled boyfriend, Richie (Matt Dillon), who are trapped in a generational cycle of poverty. Their luck may be changing when they learn that Melissa has become pregnant. But as soon as she loses her job and they get evicted from the motel they live in, their joy vanishes. Through this adversity, the couple realizes that they can never lose everything as long as they have each other.

Unrated, 1 hr. 35 min.

Drama
by Frank Scheck
WWW.HOLLYWOODREPORTER.COM

This sensitively observed humanistic drama features deeply moving performances by Naomi Watts and Matt Dillon.

Naomi Watts and Matt Dillon respectively portray a convenience store clerk and paraplegic who struggle under harsh financial circumstances in seedy Florida.

Naomi Watts and Matt Dillon bring impressive emotional and physical heat to Sunlight Jr., director/screenwriter Laurie Collyer’s beautifully observed character study of an unmarried couple living on the economic margins. Featuring the same humanistic qualities as the filmmaker’s last effort, Sherrybaby, this low-key gem being featured at the Tribeca Film Festival shines a sympathetic light on an ever-growing underclass that too rarely receives cinematic exposure.

Very much in love, convenience store clerk Melissa (Watts) and her paraplegic boyfriend Richie (Dillon) are barely making ends meet on his monthly disability checks and her low wages. Their harsh circumstances are immediately signaled in the opening scene, when they run out of gas on the way to bringing her to work.

Facing eviction from the run-down motel in which they live, they find their lives further complicated by Melissa’s abusive boss and her frequent run-ins with Justin (Norman Reedus, of The Walking Dead), the ex-boyfriend who keeps sniffing around now that a restraining order has been lifted.

Collyer’s minimalist screenplay revolves such less-than-earthshaking plot elements as Melissa being consigned to the graveyard shift and the news of an unplanned pregnancy. But it beautifully conveys the intense bond between the two principal characters, their love undimmed by their poverty.

Dillon, an actor who’s played more than his share of heavies, brings a tender sweetness to his portrayal of the wheelchair-bound, hard-drinking Richie, who’s not afraid to get in a physical dust-up with the muscular Justin despite his handicap. And Watts brings a sexy intensity to her turn as the beleaguered Melissa, whose hopes of getting into a college scholarship program are consistently thwarted.

Set in a seedy underbelly of southern Florida dominated by strip malls and swap meets, the film conveys its lower-class milieu with a bracing authenticity. The lowered expectations are vividly illustrated by Melissa’s mother (an excellent Tess Harper), who runs a makeshift childcare center in her home, telling her “Richie never hit you…so you did good there.”

The film also includes–in a rarity for today’s prudish cinema–a torrid sex scene between Watts and Dillon that inevitably recalls the groundbreaking one featuring Jane Fonda and Jon Voight in Coming Home 35 years ago.

Sunlight Jr. is unblinking in its bleak depiction of its main characters’ plight. But its positive portrayal of two mature people who truly respect and care for each other provides uplifting glimmers of hope.

 

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