The key ingredient that made 2017’s Thor: Ragnarok one of the MCU’s most entertaining entries was it’s director Taika Waititi. The first two Thor films (mainly the second one) should almost be embarrassed when compared to the third, because the character was given a big injection of the unique semi-quirky humor that Waititi is known for.
Five years (and one Infinity War) later, the director has returned with Thor: Love and Thunder. It has the director’s touch, but it is lacking some of his magic.
Growing up, I had a slight impression that film comedies
that were called “satirical” were always a little “smarter” than other
comedies, not to mention sometimes riskier.
When Charlie Chaplin made The Great Dictator in 1940 (one year before the US entered the war), he was finally playing off the premise of how Adolf Hitler (who, it is said copied his mustache off of Chaplin) looked just like him. During the 1960s, Stanley Kubrick decided to make a satire off of nuclear war, and in the process, his Dr. Strangelove: Or, How I learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964) became one of the best of the genre (“You can’t fight in here: This is the war room!”)
All that said, it is not hard to see how some will be disturbed (to say the least) about the newest film by Director/Writer Taika Waititi (who made 2017’s Thor: Ragnarok, as well as played the film’s sidekick Korg), JoJo Rabbit, which has been billed as an anti-hate satire. Set in the last year or so of the war, the film centers on its protagonist Jojo (Roman Griffin Davis, who gives quite a film debut) as a somewhat precocious ten year old. Having lost his older sister years ago and having his father fighting in the war, he is left basically alone with his loving mother Rosie (Scarlett Johansson).
As is the case with every 10 year old boy (and I would assume girls as well), he needs someone to look up to. Due to the time period and the fact that he lives in Germany, there is really no one else he could idolize other than Hitler, who shows up as his imaginary friend (played by Waititi). He goes to help at the local Nazi center which is run by Captain Klenzendorf (Oscar winner Sam Rockwell) and his assistant Fraulein Rahm (Rebel Wilson). Even in this setting, Jojo is somewhat of an outcast desperately trying to fit in, with the exception of his friend Yorkie (played by a scene stealing Archie Yates). Jojo’s life is thrown a curveball when he realizes that his mother has been hiding a young Jewish girl named Elsa (Thomasin McKenzie, who starred in 2018’s criminally under seen great film Leave No Trace).
Most of the film is indeed shown through young Jojo’s eyes,
with the exception of a few scenes. The most affecting ones are those with him
and Elsa (who I was friends with Jojo’s sister years before). There is some
funny imagery of their first encounter, where McKenzie is showing movements
like she was almost out of a horror film (she does this on purpose). The rest I
won’t spoil for you, except to say that it is proof that these are two young
talents worthy of future attention.
The character arc of Jojo is well executed (no small thanks to the young Davis). His mother is out during the day, so most of what he experiences and learns from Elsa (as well as from the Nazi center) is authentic and direct. There also were not as many scenes as I was anticipating with Waititi’s Hitler (though they are rather amusing). By the end of the film, it has indeed died down on the comedy, as the whole situation of the war is finally revealed to the titular character. Moral relativism does not abide in this film: there is a true understanding of what happened and why it was bad. Moral implications also arise, given the nature of hiding a Jewish person from the authorities.
Parents, the film is PG-13 mainly due to swearing (one F
bomb) and some violence. Mainly, the content and premise is what to watch out
for if anyone sees this movie without knowing it is a comedy.
As an aside, I feel I should point out that I am more than aware of the atrocities that the real Hitler executed during his time of rule. Millions of lives were lost, and the affects are still felt to this day. How there are people who actually believe the Holocaust did not happen is something I will never know, nor want to. Sometimes humor is a way that people deal with evil and suffering, so having a comedy set in Nazi Germany is one of the ways we can emotionally deal with the atrocities that occurred.
The issue I had with the film was how, at times, it seemed
to have difficulty finding its tone . The movie really only started working for
me once Elsa was introduced. Still, credit should be given to the cast and crew
for attempting something not only risky, but original.
It isn’t every day you see Hitler jumping out the window.
Ladies and gents, this is the moment you’ve waited for.
I went back and forth as to whether make the traditional top ten, or go with twenty. I decided on the latter for a few reasons. First, in a great year for movies, there were too many to ignore (and even at twenty, films such as Wonder Woman, Detroit, Mudbound, and Darkest Hour did not make it). Second, so what if I added more than ten? If you really want see just the top ten, here is a trick: skip down to number ten, and go from there (though you will be missing a lot of great films along the way).
A passion project for director/actor James Franco, The Disaster Artist tells the tale of another passion project (and cult favorite), The Room. Franco is so wonderful in the role of the aloof Tommy Wiseau that it goes beyond comedy and becomes very human. It truly tears you apart!
Renowned screenwriter Aaron Sorkin’s directorial debut, Molly’s Game, is full of electricity. As always, his dialogue snaps like fire crackers, no doubt due to the wonderful casting of greats such as Jessica Chastain and Idris Elba.
The most recent film I have seen as of this writing, Faces Places is the unique documentary about legendary french film maker Agnes Varda and her friend JR (whose eyes she has never seen). They go around meeting people as they post big pictures of their subjects on vast walls. As in all great films, it goes far beyond that. It reminded me a lot about Errol Morris’s masterpiece, Gates of Heaven.
Even with an all-star cast including Channing Tatum, Adam Driver, Hillary Swank, Seth Macfarlane, and (especially) Daniel Craig, a film like Logan Lucky could have gone wrong on so many levels. Thankfully, the script is so tight that every moment is real, authentic, and down right ludicrously hilarious.
A prime example of a movie you either love or hate, I am on the former when it comes to Star Wars: The Last Jedi. No, we did not get any “answers” to questions we may have had, but so what? It was a Star Wars film that gave us new twists and turns we had not seen before, plus was much better than the overrated Rogue One.
From one sci-fi sequel to another, Blade Runner 2049 is full of a lot of questions that are also unanswered. What no one will question is the gorgeous scope of the film, thanks in part to cinematographer Roger Deakins (who may finally get his Oscar now).
In one of the best years for superhero films, my pick still goes to Logan. A swan song of epic proportions, Hugh Jackman truly goes out swinging. Or clawing.
Even if the film was rushed, Steven Spielberg’s The Post has a fire burning in the soul, which shows in the cast led by Hollywood giants Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks. It is a movie that, had it not been made, I would not be reminded of the right I have to be typing these words in the first place.
How wickedly devilish is the film I, Tonya! So fun, and self-aware of itself, it gives a stellar Margot Robbie performance, and heaven knows how wonderful Allison Janney is as one of the worst mom’s in recent cinema history.
As Miguel tugs at the guitar strings, so does Coco tug at our heart-strings. Which, by now, is totally the standard Disney/Pixar films have set for all animated films (and others in general).
One of the most original scripts in recent memory, Greta Gerwig’s Lady Bird is full of outstanding wit and charm. It is also more proof why Saoirse Ronan is truly one of the best actors of her generation.
Of all the movies I saw this year, I fought the hardest (okay, fought myself) for Wonder to be in the top ten. Based of the book of the same name (which I highly recommend), this wonderful fable of why it is important to #choosekind is something I cannot imagine parents not taking their kids to.
Very few, if any, director has a current positive track record than Christopher Nolan, and Dunkirk is no exception. Packed with more than enough tension and grit, it is as fitting a war film as they come.
At only around an hour and a half, few films of this (or any) year have given me more questions than that of A Ghost Story. Like a pool, you soak in it, look at the reflection, and see all the questions you want answered. Multiple viewings are needed, and are something I plan to do in the time I have left on earth.
Another one of the most original scripts in years, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is a tough sit through at many times. Yet it has so much dark peppered humor and spot on performances (mainly McDormand, Woody Harrelson, and especially Sam Rockwell) it is hard to turn away.
The true story of how one man met his wife, The Big Sick is still the best rom com I have seen in nearly a decade. All the actors are hilarious and convincing, and the writing is top-notch. I still can’t get over that 9/11 joke.
I had never thought of what could be outside the walls of Disney World before I saw The Florida Project. I doubt I am alone. With some of the best acting from children you will see, and a sublime Willem Dafoe, the movie takes us to a place that has been under the shadows of Disney for far too long.
Like most, I had to wait nearly a month before I could see Phantom Thread, but it was far worth the wait. Daniel Day-Lewis gives (no surprise) a perfectly majestic performance as a dress-maker in 1950s London, whose new muse (Vicky Krieps) must put up with him. Director Paul Thomas Anderson treats the film as gentle as the fabric that Woodcock works with in his shop.
Of all the love stories of this year, my favorite still goes to that of a mute help worker and a sea creature in The Shape of Water. Guillermo Del Toro gives us a world of endless possibilities, filled with memorable characters (don’t get me started on how much we love to hate Michael Shannon here), astounding visuals, and a love that is not easy to forget.
I can imagine a lot of people being surprised at my number one pick, but after more than one viewing, I just could not deny IT. Undoubtably one of the top four or five adaptations of Stephen King, the film is far more than a horror masterpiece. It is also about coming of age (I have yet to meet anyone who though negatively of the kid performances, all of whom are perfect in their roles), young love, bullying, and, of course, clowns.
Floating has never been so terrifying. Or enjoyable.
Marvel is now just one or two movies away from me actually picking up a comic.
The Thor trilogy ends, as the other two trilogies Marvel has provided (Iron Man and Captain America) ended, with a blast. Thor: Ragnarok is not only the best Thor movie, but one of the top four or five best Marvel has ever given us to date.