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Reviews for November 3rd, 2017

Last Flag Flying

Directed by Richard Linklater

      Doc (Steve Carell), Sal (Bryan Cranston), and Mueller (Laurence Fishburne) had served together in the Navy during the Vietnam War. Years later, they reunite to bury the son of Doc who died in the Iraqi war.

      Last Flag Flying suffers from a dull, pedestrian screenplay co-written by Richard Linklater and Darryl Ponicsan, the novelist whose book the film is based on. The premise sounds like it could've been emotionally resonant and provocative, but, unfortunately, it fails to generate any tears or insights for that matter. Very few scenes ring true, and the attempts at comic relief feel clunky and awkward. The film's major flaw, though, is that it doesn't feel like a Richard Linklater film at at all. His past films had organic dialogue grounded in realism. Last Flag Flying, though, lacks that essential quality. Although it's great that Linklater is trying to do something very different from Boyhood, different doesn't always mean better. Perhaps the root cause of that problem comes from the fact that Linkater and Ponicsan didn't change anything from the book except for the war. Linklater's own voice seems to be missing from the film. Even the cinematography isn't exceptional. Too many scenes drag, the ending fails to pack an emotional wallop, and the film overstays its welcome at 2 hours and 5 minutes.

      On a positive note, Steve Carell, Bryan Cranston and, especially, Laurence Fishburne each gives a solid performance that provides much-needed depth of emotion, but that's not nearly enough to compensate for the lackluster, weak screenplay. They're actors who deserve much better material. If only Linklater were to have incorporated more humanism via his iconic true-to-life dialogue, Last Flag Flying would've been a much more powerful, haunting and moving experience instead of a forgettable and mostly lethargic one. There's not nearly enough Truth nor Spectacle to be found here.

Number of times I checked my watch: 4
Released by Amazon Studios.
Opens in select theaters.

Thor: Ragnarok

Directed by Taika Waititi

      Thor (Chris Hemsworth) must save Asgard from his long-lost sister, Hela (Cate Blanchett), the Goddess of Death, who wants to destroy Asgard by using ancient prophecy called Ragnarok. Skurge (Karl Urban) assists her with her malevolent plans. Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson), Korg (Taika Waititi), and the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) team up with him to try to defeat Hela, but not before Thor gets imprisoned on the planet Sakaar lead by Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum) and is forced to fight against the Hulk.

      A large part of what makes Thor: Ragnarok so delightfully engaging is that that it never takes itself too seriously. Everyone onscreen appears to be having a lot of fun in their roles, especially Jeff Goldblum who nails his campy scenes with plenty of panache. Cate Blanchett is also perfectly cast as the villain; it's a guilty pleasure to watch Hela causing mayhem. Korg provides some great comic relief as a golem made out of rocks that occasionally fall off. The set designs, costume designs, and make-up are very stylish and deserve a lot of credit for providing a lot of eye candy.

    &nbs The screenplay by Eric Pearson, Craig Kyle, and Christopher L. Yost brims with witty, tongue-in-cheek humor, and irreverence while avoiding anything that generates pathos.It wouldn't be surprising if some of the film's lines will become quoted in years to come. Fortunately, the plot isn't too complicated or confusing to follow nor does it become profound, but, to be fair, no one watching Thor: Ragnorak expects to be moved or enlightened. Yes, it's very shallow, but it's a lot of shallow fun. Taika Waititi is just the right director who knows how to bring the action and comedy together in an enormously entertaining way.

      Even during the action scenes, Thor Ragnarok maintains its comedic tone. Without all of the comedy, the action scenes would have ended up pedestrian and somewhat exhausting. Laughter is a wonderfully effective tool that the film uses to make you have a great time at the movies, even if you have to check your brain at the door. Its running time of 2 hours and 10 minutes breezes by like 90 minutes. Thor: Ragnorak must be seen on the big screen with a rowdy crowd to be fully enjoyed. Please be sure the stay through the end credits for a mid-credits sequence and a stinger.

Number of times I checked my watch: 1
Released by Walt Disney Pictures.
Opens nationwide.
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