Tag Archives: chris hemsworth

‘Extraction’ Review

It is always refreshing when a movie is exactly the thing the trailer promises it will be.

“Extraction” is the latest vehicle for Chris Hemsworth to attempt and establish himself outside the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and follows a black ops mercenary who must rescue a drug lord’s kidnapped son from a rival dealer in Bangladesh. Rudhraksh Jaiswal, Pankaj Tripathi, Randeep Hooda, Golshifteh Farahani, Suraj Rikame and David Harbour also star. Career stuntman Sam Hargrave makes his directorial debut, as “Avengers” directors Joe and Anthony Russo produce.

While they long-ago perfected the television binge and seem to have a grasp on Oscar movies, Netflix has been trying to compete in the big-budget blockbuster game for a while now. Their first attempt back in 2017, “Bright” starring Will Smith, was a critical failure but a hit with the views. Other attempts, the overly expensive but solid adult actioneer “Triple Frontier” or the brainless “6 Underground” from Michael Bay, have also failed to make a lasting impression. “Extraction” may not stay on the mind for very long after watching it, but while you’re on the ride it provides several standout action sequences.

I have long been a fan of Chris Hemsworth, and really want him to find his niche outside playing Thor. He seems to be enjoying the character now that it was reinvented by (Oscar winner) Taika Waititi, but I have always thought he was at his best and most-natural as the supporting player in comedies, like the “Vacation” and “Ghostbuster” reboots. He has tried his hand at dramas and lighter action pieces before, but this is the first time I think he was able to really find something that worked for him. His character development is pretty thin, but Hemsworth is able to get one emotional scene in that he does a pretty good job with. But, for the most part, he is running around with a gun, and for the sake of the story he does a convincing job doing that.

Since this follows in the footsteps of “John Wick” and has a stuntman in the director’s chair, the action sequences here are all very well put together. For the most part the camera isn’t too close or shaky, allowing the audience to take in the fights and the actors to actually put on a convincing bout. There is a sequence in the middle of the film that includes several car chases, a shootout and a knife fight, and it is shot and is edited to look like one continuous eight-minute take. The individual moments in the scene are very impressive entertaining, but unlike a “Revenant” or “1917” the spots where they stitch the (at least four) separate shots together are a bit obvious, if not distracting. I love a one-take, but feel it must have some sort of purpose, not just to show off.

The script by Joe Russo is, fine. I don’t think he set out to write the next “Social Network” or anything, just need excuses to get characters from A to B. There are some awkward bits of dialogue (although also a couple entertaining quips), and the ending is, well, something. There is also a lot of violence and a comically high bodycount, and while I’m fine with that since this is, well, an action movie, I know some people have lines even with R-rated films, so just a heads up.

“Extraction” is certainly a take-it-or-leave-it movie, in a “you’re stuck at home right now anyways, so how picky can you really be about the things you watch?” way. The actors all do a solid job, and the gunplay and hand-to-hand combat sequences are well put together. Could it use a little more meat on its bones? Sure. But for being locked in my house and going on nearly two months without movie theaters, “Extraction” was a welcome mindless treat.

Critics Rating: 7/10

‘Vacation’ Is Bumpy but Often Funny Road Trip

Vacation_posterEvery summer there is a comedy that is underappreciated by critics but is actually pretty funny. 2013 had “We’re the Millers,” last year featured “Let’s Be Cops,” and now we have “Vacation.”

“Vacation” is the latest film in the National Lampoon franchise of the same name. The film follows Rusty Griswold (Ed Helms) who takes his family on a cross-country road trip to Walley World, the same theme park that he went to as a child. Christina Applegate plays Helms’ wife, as John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein write and make their directorial debuts.

I am a fan of Francis Daley and Goldstein’s writing. “Horrible Bosses” is one of my favorite comedies of all-time, and “The Incredible Burt Wonderstone” has more than its fair share of laughs. So maybe I’m biased when I say it, but “Vacation” is a very amusing time at the movies, even though it’s not without its share of flaws.

In case people like Adam Sander have forgotten, the first and foremost thing a comedy should do is produce laughs, and “Vacation” does that in large quantities. There is one scene in the film where I was actually rolling in my seat holding back tears I was laughing so hard, and that does not happen with me very often. Many of the jokes in the film are based off of awkward interactions and uncomfortable pauses, and directors Francis Daley and Goldstein do a good job knowing how long to hold the camera on an actor to get the proper reaction shot.

By and far the best part of the film is the younger son, played by Steele Stebbins. He curses, he verbally and physically abuses his older brother and he has wisecracking responses to most anything people say. His character may come off as too mean-spirited for some, but I bought it and thought he made the film.

A scene-stealing performance, however, comes from Charlie Day, who plays a white water rafting instructor. Day infuses some energy into the film just as it was starting to sag, and he produces several hardy laughs.

The film isn’t necessarily *good* like “Trainwreck” or “Spy,” and the plot is pretty thin. You get you standard road trip comedy hijinks, like crazy truck drivers and the car breaking down, so don’t go in expecting the re-invention of the wheel. You know how the film is going to play out, and at some parts that does make some scenes feel like byproducts of the sake of a single joke.

Some characters also are almost unbelievably stupid and naive, and even as someone who is forgiving of many things in dumb comedies, even I sometimes grew annoyed by their ignorance to certain situations.

I can best compare “Vacation” to “We’re the Millers,” in that if you are willing to overlook the implausible and cliché plot and just enjoy the film for being funny, then you’ll have a good time. I personally found the film an amusing way to enjoy two hours of my life, and compared to some of the other “comedies” from this summer like “Entourage” and “Pixels,” this is comic gold.

Critics Rating: 6/10



‘Avengers’ Sequel Delivers in Big Way

Avengers_Age_of_UltronA few weeks ago Hollywood gave us “Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2,” a sequel no one asked for. Now we have “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” a sequel most everyone has been asking for since the moment they walked out of the theater after seeing the first Avengers in 2012.

All your favorite superheroes are back in “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” including Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Captain America (Chris Evans), the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) and many more. This time around, the group must stop an artificial intelligence being known as Ultron (played by James Spader) from destroying mankind. Joss Whedon returns as writer/director.

Being the sequel to a global phenomenon like “The Avengers,” not to mention following arguably three of the better Marvel movies (and the worst in “Thor 2”), “Ultron” had a huge shoes to fill. And for the most part, it follows up its predecessors with great success.

Right off the bat, the best thing about “Avengers: Age of Ultron” is the dialogue, and the interactions it creates for its characters. There is plenty of heart and soul in this sequel, but also honestly, as of May, this is the funniest film of 2015. Utilizing Robert Downey Jr.’s amazing charm and wit, the film gives him and the other Avengers hilarious one-liners and banter, but at the same time never feels like it is sacrificing its dignity for the sake of a joke.

The film is also filled with some of the most fun and ingenious action shots I may have ever seen in. I won’t ruin any of them, but Whedon really played around with moving the camera, and it resulted in some pretty amazing shots. The variety of action scenes vary, and each one brings a different flavor to the film. The opening sequence of “Ultron” is the most fun I’ve had at the movies in a long time.

“Ultron’s” biggest asset may also be its biggest flaw, and that is in the writing. While the dialogue is fantastic, the plot itself is a bit messier. Characters receive life-threatening injuries simply to have the scene abruptly end and they are never heard of again. Did they live? Did they die? Did they find Jimmy Hoffa? Who knows. Ultron also doesn’t seem to know what exactly his master plan is, continuously switching how he wants to achieve his goal. And then there is this “rare chemical” that seems to have a half dozen different uses, depending on what the plot needs from it (come on, “Avengers,” leave that lazy writing for “Thor 2”).

The finale is also a bit overlong, eventually becoming faceless villain henchmen being lined up like cattle for slaughter (same situation as “Iron Man 3” and the first “Avengers,” so if you were fine with it there then this isn’t going to irk you).

There really isn’t too much wrong with “Avengers: Age of Ultron” from a summer blockbuster perspective. It’s a lot of colorful fun, and if that’s all you want, then you’re going to love every minute of it. If you were hoping for a mind-blowing epic that redefined the superhero genre, then it won’t meet those expectations, however it’s entertaining as anything, never feels like its 2+ hour runtime, and you get 11 superheroes for the price of one ticket. How many times can you say that?

Critics Rating: 8/10



‘Thor’ Sequel Forced More Than Fun


            The bar has been set so high for superhero movies that it should come as no surprise that “Thor: The Dark World”, the sequel to 2011’s “Thor” and last year’s “The Avengers”, isn’t quite able to carry the torch of its predecessors. Chris Hemsworth returns as the long haired god with the shiny hammer, Natalie Portman returns as his human love interest, and his mischievous brother Loki is once again brilliantly played by Tom Hiddleston. Together the three must stop an evil ruler from plunging the universe into darkness. Alan Taylor takes over directorial duties from Kenneth Branagh.

This movie has to be compared to the other films in the connected Marvel universe. It may be unfair but that is the way of the world. And “Dark World” is not as good as the other films, and one could argue it is the worst of the series to date. The film isn’t bad, but it really just felt like it was an obligatory move by the studio to (A) get an extra $700 million plus out of audience members and (B) force plot points so we have more anticipation for 2015’s “Avengers” sequel.

The biggest problem with “Dark World” is its plot. It is just so unnecessarily complicated. The story goes that the Dark Elves want an ancient power source in order to coat the universe in eternal darkness and only Thor can stop them. Ok, sure. But why do they want to make the universe dark? What is the power source? Why is the main villain so underwhelming and uninteresting? Well none of these questions are answered in the film, so my rhetorical asking was simply a rouse.

The action in the film, while at times entertaining, is also a bit tiresome. The best way I can explain it is that the movie has the same problems as both “Kick-Ass 2” and “Man of Steel”. As with “Kick-Ass 2”, we have seen this type hammer dueling action before, so it is redundant rather that refreshing, and can get boring quickly.  But unfortunately the “Man of Steel” problem is that in some sequences the action is nonstop and unrelenting, almost to the point of exhaustion. We get it, seeing thunder gods smash aliens is cool and amusing. We also got it when the scene started ten minutes ago.

Now the film is still fun, and much of that praise goes to Tom Hiddleston. His portrayal of Loki is a scene stealer. He is sarcastic, devious and amusing, often all at once, and we hate how much we love him. It is also entertaining watching Thor try and interact with the basic human world, such as having to take a subway or using a coat hook.

“Thor: The Dark World” is fun at times, however most of the film just feels like a forced move to transition Thor into the next Marvel films. There are just too many plot holes and unneeded characters that keep “Dark World” from being a dumb popcorn flick. It just doesn’t meet the expectations that have been set for it by the other Marvel films. They say lightning never strikes the same place twice and that stands true here (ok, so what Thor is the god of thunder, not lightning. The analogy still works).

Critics Rating: 6/10