Review of reviews: Film
Directed by Taika Waititi (PG-13)
The God of Thunder goes for laughs.
“Thor is one of the more ridiculous Marvel superheroes, which also makes him one of the best,” said Stephanie Zacharek in Time. The third movie built around Chris Hemsworth’s hammer- wielding hero understands that almost too well. Between the requisite big-action scenes, it invites us to laugh at Thor but tries so hard that it’s “ultimately numbing”—“an instance of fun overkill whose ultimate goal seems to be to put us into a special-effects coma.” Still, of all the Marvel Comics movies, “this one is probably my favorite,” said David Edelstein in NYMag.com. Hemsworth can be truly amusing, and here, whether he’s roaming a junked planet with Loki (Tom Hiddleston), wooing a Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson), or sparring with the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), he’s a strong partner in “some of the most casually funny clowning since the Hope and Crosby road comedies of the 1940s.” A villainess played by Cate Blanchett and a tyrant played by Jeff Goldblum enter the plot, too, said A.A. Dowd in AVClub.com. But at its best, Thor: Ragnarok is “a round-robin buddy comedy,” highlighted by the Thor-Hulk bromance. “Both characters deserved a better movie. Now they have one.”
Thank You for Your Service
Directed by Jason Hall (R)
Combat veterans face new battles at home.
The screenwriter of American Sniper has directed his first film, and it’s “the kind of war movie that Americans, for the most part, do not want to see,” said Rafer Guzman in Newsday. “A quiet, intimate drama,” it’s less concerned with the heroism its protagonists displayed on the battlefield than with how the battlefield affects them longterm. Based on an acclaimed nonfiction book about traumatized Iraq War veterans, Thank You for Your Service proves “more disturbing than you might expect,” said Kenneth Turan in the Los Angeles Times. But “that’s a good thing.” Miles Teller, playing an Army sergeant who’s ready to quit after three tours of duty, delivers “what is likely the best work of his career.” Though the young husband and father initially seems less traumatized by his combat tours than were two comrades, played by Beulah Koale and Joe Cole, “his PTSD becomes vividly clear soon enough.” Director Jason Hall doesn’t pretend there’s an easy cure for any of these vets, said Alan Scherstuhl in The Village Voice. “Instead, his film argues that heroism at home starts with opening up and seeking help.” The story doesn’t lend itself to riveting drama, but “as an example for thousands of struggling American families, it’s a serious breakthrough.”
Directed by Todd Haynes (PG)
Two deaf children connect across generations.
Todd Haynes’ new movie is a lot like a diorama: “exquisitely detailed, assembled with infinite care, but lacking the breath of life,” said Anthony Lane in The New Yorker. Adapted from an illustrated children’s novel by Brian Selznick, it unspools parallel storylines about two deaf 12-year-olds, Ben and Rose, who in different decades run away from home to New York City in search of lost parents. As the two protagonists find their ways to the American Museum of Natural History and begin exploring, the movie becomes “an exercise in braiding.” Along the way, “there’s hardly a moment here that isn’t gorgeously framed,” said Leah Greenblatt in Entertainment Weekly. Rose’s story, set in 1927, is presented as a black-and-white silent movie with a swelling orchestral score, while Ben’s tale, set in 1977, is saturated with the bright colors and funky music of that era. Unfortunately, Wonderstruck ultimately feels “like a lovely, fussy jewel box—a cabinet of curiosities whose jumbled contents remain, in the end, just that.” Still, if you’re 9 or 10, Wonderstruck “may strike you as the best movie ever made,” said Ty Burr in The Boston Globe. Though I’m no kid myself, “I walked out of the movie on a cloud of happiness.”
AP, DreamWorks Pictures, courtesy of Amazon Studios ■