Smoldering Fire (Thor: Ragnarok review)

I know some people are wondering how much longer the Marvel comic book movie train is going to run, but personally I think they are just starting to get into the great stuff that comic books are made of.

And Thor: Ragnarok proves that point.

Thor: Ragnarok (2017)

Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Cate Blanchett, Idris Elba, Jeff Goldblum, Tessa Thompson, Karl Urban, Mark Ruffalo, Anthony Hopkins, Benedict Cumberbatch
Director: Taika Waititi
released on blu-ray February 20, 2018
********** 10/10

IMDB: 8.0
Rotten Tomatoes: 92%, Audience Score 87%
The Guardian: ****/*****

Taika Waititi, sometimes known as Taika Cohen, is from New Zealand. He is a director, writer, actor and comedian. I first heard about his work with the 2007 gem Eagle VS Shark, but he also directed Boy, What We Do in the Shadows (check out Mike’s Watch Culture video for a great review!), Hunt for the Wilderpeople, and most recently, Thor: Ragnarok.

So he is comfortable making comedies, injecting comedy into things which are typically not comedic, and he has even been nominated for an Academy Award for his directorial debut, Two Cars, One Night.

Waititi makes odd films, and so it should be expected that Thor: Ragnarok would be a bit out there. And boy is that statement true in this case.

Special thanks to IMDB user Blazer346 for the synopsis.

Four years after defeating the Dark Elves and two years after the fight in Sokovia, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) now finds himself trapped on the other side of the universe on the wacky planet of Sakaar. Meanwhile, a new threat rises as the evil Hela (Cate Blanchett), Goddess of Death takes over Asgard and plans to conquer the universe. In order to get home, Thor must compete in a gladiator match against the defending champion of the Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum). Little does Thor know is that the champion is his old friend and fellow Avenger, the Incredible Hulk (Mark Ruffalo). Teaming with Hulk and his deceptive brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston), Thor must return home to Asgard in time to stop Hela and prevent the approaching Ragnarok, the apocalyptic destruction of Asgard.

This is a film which refuses to take itself seriously, no matter what is happening. Oh, Asgard is about to be destroyed by a fire demon whose sole purpose is to obliterate the planet? No problem. Oh, he achieved that result? Let’s move on. The irreverence isn’t actually an issue though, because Waititi recognizes the ludicrous nature of pairing all of these Marvel characters together, and infuses Hemsworth’s Thor with a much needed dose of self-deprecation.

From the outset, it’s tongue-in-cheek, and consequently we are able to accept many of the plot holes, the emphasis on CGI sets, and the odd cast of characters.

Pros: The blue rock monster, scene stealer, Korg (voiced by Waititi) adds another level to the humour, but even Dr. Strange, The Hulk, and Loki get in on the fun. I’ve seen this film three times now, and it’s all still incredibly entertaining. It does the job as an action flick, but shines as a comedy, better then Ant-Man even.

ConsAt the end of the day though, this film is pretty inconsequential to the arc being set up for Avengers: Infinity War. Yes, *spoiler alert* Thor and his Asgardians run into a foreboding ship at the end of the film, which is likely Thanos, there isn’t much emotional weight to the loss of Odin nor to the introduction of Hela, who by all accounts should be badass.

That said, I love the 1980s mix n’ match feel of the flick, and Jeff Goldblum fits in perfectly with the setting of Sakaar. The heart of the film comes in the way these characters intersect with each other in such a weird setting. And while the heavier emotional pieces are set aside for the most part, you can’t help but feel connected when Thor pairs up with Loki for a game of “Get Help.”

Runtime: 2 hours 10 minutes

Points of Interest: .Waititi has admitted that almost 80% of the film was improvised, and even the line “he’s a friend from work” was offered up to Hemsworth from a Make-A-Wish child who visited the set that day and suggested that relationship. Chris Hemsworth’s older brother Luke Hemsworth plays Thor in the play within the film.

It’s a film heavily inspired by 1970s and 1980s science fiction fantasy, which might be another reason I loved it so much. Thor was born out of that time and his adventures have always been super strange. Even better that his connection to Earth this time be established WITH Dr. Strange, whose own comic and film were a nod those eras.

theories Summarized

Hitting the same narrative beats in a superhero movie is a common trope nowadays, and most Marvel flicks are a victim of this way of thinking. But luckily for us, we saw a glimpse of a potential future with Thor: Ragnarok, and I also think with Black Panther. I have this theory that superhero movies have a fair bit more longevity to them, and if Marvel continues to take chances on their directors, as they have with writers over the years, then this might not be the Ragnarok of the MCU.

And to freshen things up, I’ve decided to do a Watch Culture video on another classic superhero story from the 1980s, the much beloved, and reverrd Akira. This is the film that legitimized anime in western culture, and so if you have never seen it, spend a few minutes with me and I’ll explain why it’s awesome.

So please let me know what you thought of my review, like and share the video, and subscribe to the channel if you haven’t already. I anticipate that our content will continue to grow much like the Marvel cinematic universe. A well considered theory on my part.


Ukelele Anthems For Two (Vance Joy, Nation of Two review)

Not every album needs to be a chest bumper or a call to arms. Sometimes it’s nice for music to be nice, and reflective. A thread between two hearts, for starters.


Vance Joy – Nation of Two

released February 23, 2018
******* 7/10

Vance Gabriel Keogh, better known by his stage name, Vance Joy, is an Australian singer and songwriter. He signed a five-album deal with Atlantic records back in 2013, and shortly thereafter, released his instant success, Dream Your Life Away, hopping on the back of The 1989 World Tour that Taylor Swift planned that year. Everyone and their mother knows Riptide at this point, and somehow Joy managed to ride the waves of that album for four years without anyone really noticing. Pun intended.

Lucky for us though, because his sophomore effort, Nation of Two, was worth the wait. It’s not an amazing album, but there’s something to it. Featuring the singles, Lay It on Me, Like Gold, We’re Going Home and more, Joy has managed to do even better the second time around. Garnering fans and swooning hearts all the same.

What I love most about this album, as I’ve said in previous reviews, is that it’s a concept record – Nation of Two tells the story of a couple who’s world is centred around their bedroom, their car, and other memories they share collectively. Even though it’s similar in tone to his debut album, and doesn’t push strongly in one direction or the other, I actually think it makes it a stronger record, and gives this one a pass. Love isn’t always about ups and downs, fights and makeup sex, it’s a consistent feeling of companionship and connection. Flowing from one situation to the next is real life, and this album has it too.

It’s full of romance, rainy day music, good for reflection, and even post-breakup meltdowns or whatever emotive tone you’re feeling. I’m looking at you in particular Alone with Me and I’m With You. So much heat there.

And that’s not to say there isn’t some fun in there. Saturday Sun is a great upbeat track and has good accompaniment with One of These Days showing up later. These are simple love songs, rooted in the tradition of artists like John Mayer, Jack Johnson and Ed Sheeran, and while they aren’t perfect, there is a cohesive quality that works, especially with the theme.

Pros: A solid theme, some great singles that stick to Joy’s strengths, and solid transitions between tracks, help this album feel like a complete story.

Cons: Sometimes the naivety can be a bit much, and this is where Crashing Into You would be considered a weak point. Some of the worst lyrics I’ve heard so far this year.

Runtime: 45 minutes

Points of Interest: Joy has been known to work with multiple writers, and in this case the running theme is evident throughout. The song Little Boy, is a true story about the time Joy fell off his bike as a little boy.

A welcome change from the never-ending mire of romantic crooners singing about falling in love, passionate sex, and breakups, this is an album for the long-time lovers. It’s never particularly cheesy, but it always feels sincere.

theories Summarized

I don’t expect that this will be an album for everyone, and as much as I wish that were the case (because the theme is strong), Vance Joy still has some growing to do as a musician, and so it bleeds together in the end. Give it a listen, be aware of the narrative, and have some forgiveness on hand, and I have a theory that you’ll enjoy yourself.

And if that don’t tickle your fancy, Brendon and I have a rock review from a brilliant Canadian duo known as Death from Above (formerly Death from Above 1979). The Physical World is also their sophomore album, and it kicks up everything fans of the band love. If you haven’t gotten into their sound yet, here is your opportunity to give them a much deserved listen.

Thanks for taking the time to read the review, watch the video review and hopefully you’ve left a comment or two. If you liked what you saw, click on the like button, and even better, subscribe to the channel! Come back tomorrow for a film review about Thor: Ragnarok. There’ll be more theories!


Our Favourite Directors (Cross Talk EP 34)

Chris and I decided long ago that if we were going to do a panel show where we talked about pop culture (focusing primarily on movies) that we would never shy away from a topic, but more importantly, that we wouldn’t be afraid to be vulnerable about our feelings when it came to stuff we cared about on a personal level.

When you admit that you care about a person, an object, a place or whatever, you’re offering up an opportunity to another party to challenge you and to consider your point of view. It can be scary when you find out you are the only individual in a room who identifies with a certain board game which basically has no theme or strategy, or that you really like a pop song which is simplistic (primarily due to the musicians ability) or heck, when you like a movie full of even plot holes that it would pair well with some bologna.

But on the other side of the fence, rests those who are so excited about a fandom that they invest far more energy than the average enthusiast, alienating themselves from the vast majority.

At the end of the day, I’m not sure where most of you dear readers will fall when it comes to Darren Aronofsky and Richard Linklater, but these are two of our favourite directors of all time. I’ll leave it up to you to figure out which of the two of us identifies with which director. But I will say, that no matter what the case, these are creative professionals who are making interesting films.

Challenging films which just might make you think about the world in a new way. And if timotheories is about digital curating at heart, what better way for me to give you some great insights into quality filmmaking, then to give a strong recommendation for a couple of catalogues to peruse through – no harm, no foul, if you end up walking away. But my gut tells me that you’ll come to appreciate their unique visions. And after you watch this episode, you’ll learn why these are our favourite directors.

This is episode thirty four of Cross Talk.

theories Summarized

Were you surprised to learn why we love Aronofsky and Linklater? Do you identify with one director more then the other? And more importantly, have you seen some of their movies, not knowing much about the men behind the camera?

I really hope that you investigate these guys more closely, and that you drew something from their wells of ideas.

That mentioned, creative cuties, you should totally like the video if you enjoyed it, leave a comment if you have some thoughts, and subscribe if you want to see more from us! Your support lets us know what we are doing right.

And yes, I have an album review from Vance Joy on the block for tomorrow, so y’all come back to learn a theory about Nation of Two is lovely.


Never Never Never Surrender (Darkest Hour review)

When your reputation is on the line, what do you do? Stand and fight for what is right, or give into the endless parade of voices telling you that you won’t be successful. Motivational to say the least, essential viewing for our youth.

This, is Darkest Hour.


Darkest Hour (2017)

Cast: Gary Oldman, Lily James, Kristin Scott Thomas, Ben Mendelsohn
Director: Joe Wright
released on blu-ray February 20, 2018
******** 8/10

IMDB: 7.4
Rotten Tomatoes: 86%, Audience Score 83%
The Guardian: ****/*****

Joe Wright is an English film director. Best known for Pride & Prejudice, Atonement, Hanna, Anna Karenina, Pan, and most recently Darkest Hour. As you can see, he generally sticks to British content, which as the old adage says “write what you know.” Fortunately for me, and this review, Darkest Hour is his best rated film to-date, and demonstrably so given that Gary Oldman won the Best Actor Oscar for his performance.

I’ve been known to have a difficult time getting invested into war films, but luckily for us, this is a drama set within war-times. Easily digested and taken with some milk.

Special thanks to IMDB user Nick Riganas for the synopsis.

With Europe on the threshold of World War II as Hitler’s armies rampage across the continent’s once proud nations, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Neville Chamberlain (Ronald Pickup), is forced to resign, appointing Winston Churchill (Gary Oldman) as his replacement. But even in his early days as the country’s leader, Churchill is under pressure to commence peace negotiations with the German dictator or to fight head-on the seemingly invincible Nazi regime, whatever the cost. However difficult and dangerous his decision may be, Winston Churchill has no choice, but to shine in his darkest hour.

I can say with absolute certainty that this film benefits greatly from it’s first act, in which major players are established, and we become invested in the relationship between Clemmie Churchill, deftly played by Kristin Scott Thomas, and Winston. And this is crucial because without his wife humanizing his behaviour, Churchill is hardly a man at all, merely a brute trapping about in “a state of nature.”

It’s a dense story, with lots of oration, conversations behind closed doors, and tense speeches that appeal to our sense of reason. It is well established with Oldman at the helm, but there are definitely moments that I wish could have been cut, to make it feel quite literally set at a brisk pace, rather then eluded to with video and audio editing.

Pros: As I mentioned already Oldman is magnetic, but it’s the dynamic between Thomas and him that really sets the story on fire. And Lily James plays her role perfectly.

ConsDespite all of the stirring speeches, somehow a great political figure has been simplified to the point where you wonder if he’ll pull it all off, making the actor great, but the film a little dull. And Ben Mendelsohn is featured far too little.

The first few weeks of Churchill’s ministry included subterfuge amongst his political peers, navigating the disaster of Dunkirk, and rousing a nation into action. Nothing less then spectacular when you think about it. There is no denying it, Gary Oldman is Churchill personified under that makeup, which is why the film works so well.

Runtime: 2 hours 5 minutes

Points of Interest:  While Winston Churchill did regularly speak with the public on their opinion of the war efforts, there is no official record of him taking a train and quizzing it’s passengers. The entire movie takes place during May 1940, around the time of Operation Dynamo at Dunkirk.

This is a story which has been told and retold a few times over, and yet, somehow it has been made fresh for a new generation, with a distinct perspective from competing entries Their Finest, and Christopher Nolan’s Dunkrik. And it’s more interesting then both of them.

theories Summarized

If you can forgive the film itself of a few flaws, there is a lot to glean from the performances of this stories leads. And yes, I recommend watching it at least once, I myself have seen it twice now, and I can say with confidence that while it may have been Britain’s Darkest Hour, there is a fair amount of light in this story.

And speaking of war, violence and strong character stories. You should definitely check out this Watch Culture video review on 2015’s Sicario. Mike helmed this video on his lonesome, and there are a ton of great anecdotes to pull from his review. So watch it, watch it, watch it, watch it!

I’d love to hear what you think of Mike’s review and of course tell us if you plan on checking out Darkest Hour. I know you’ll get something out of both flicks, but either way… Check it out! And remember… Like! Comment! Subscribe!


Popular Science (MGMT, Little Dark Age review)

We all have a little darkness inside of us, some of us embrace it, some of us run from it, and other find a way to little it simmer just under the surface. Adding some texture to life.


MGMT – Little Dark Age

released February 9, 2018
********* 9/10

MGMT is an American rock duo comprised of Andrew VanWyngarden and Ben Goldwasser. They’ve been playing together since 2002, well before you would’ve expected from a band that hit the big time back in 2007, I remember because it was at the apex of indie electronic music. The singles Kids, Electric Feel, and Time to Pretend were everywhere that year, in movies, on the radio, and at most of the clubs I attended.

Yeah, this was back when I went to clubs, looking for loves.

And TBH, that music perfectly fit with the beautiful nihilism of the day, but I didn’t want to be part of it, so I ignored them, even though Ornacular Spectacular was clearly an amazing album. Then they followed it up with Congratulations in 2010, and it was even more experimental, but I had moved on and wasn’t really into that kind of music anymore. Around the time that the self-titled MGMT landed, the duo weren’t even on my radar, as in, I just discovered that Little Dark Age is their fourth studio album, and not their third one.

And thus, the history lesson concludes, because the boys appear to have some full circle. Older and wiser, fortunately for us, because Little Dark Age is their best album to-date and the sythn-pop was always their strong suit anyway, that and a subtle darkness, which is not unappreciated in the album title.

She Works Out Too Much is a perfect opener, capturing the challenges of dating in a smartphone app era, and later accented by TSLAMP. Then comes the big kahuna, the title track (Little Dark Age) which has been on everyone’s mind since it dropped as a single back in October of 2017. If you listen hard enough, you’ll hear Gary Numan, The Cure, Depeche Mode, The Smiths, and a host of other emo progenitors. Geez, now that I think of it, I can even hear the Police in there – and that’s an incredible thing.

Me and Michael is perfect in it’s subject, a quant song about friendship. That pairs well with Days That Got Away and When You’re Small.

It’s the kind of album that I know will get better with repeated listens, and I can almost guarantee will find a place on my shelf in years to come. Dare I say it, this album might even have me aching for possession of their back catalogue.

And if you’re worried that the album slows down too much as you sink into it, One Thing Left to Try is just as upbeat as the opening songs.

I’m glad that we were able to get back on track with MGMT, and even though their third album should have been the point where they came back stronger and wiser, not every flower blooms at the same time, and we can’t fault a band which debuted on a high note, without understanding the intricacies of their relationship with music and popular culture.

Pros: Obviously the return to pop music is a welcome change. And inserting notes of psychedelic rock into the mix has proven to be a recipe for success.

Cons: I know that Ariel Pink had a hand in When You Die, but I find it difficult to separate his production from MGMT’s natural sound, and all it does is make me want to listen to his music instead.

Runtime: 44 minutes

Points of Interest: The record was conceived partly out of the election of Donald Trump as president of the US, and partly because of a desire to return back to their roots.

I guess all it took was some time for these two college friends to embrace their identity and make music which suits them. I’m personally thankful for the opportunity to revisit their music, and I truly do believe that they’ve matured into their sound finally.

theories Summarized

Do I think that you should give this album a listen? Absolutely. I didn’t really expect to like this record, as I had avoided MGMT for years, but as I sit in my office on a warm March evening, I can see fairly easily how this will become one of my favourite albums this year. Yes, I’m calling it a quarter of the way through.

And speaking of bands that got better with age. Brendon and I wanted to remind you of one of the greatest punk rock albums of the 1990s, The Offsprings SMASH. This is seriously one of my favourite albums ever, and if you’ve never heard it before, you are in for a treat. But if you have listened to it before, and you needed a reminder, give it solid listen, and appreciate their skillful guitar playing, choice lyrics, and exciting melodies.

Thanks for taking the time to read the review, watch the video review and hopefully you’ve left a comment or two. If you liked what you saw, click on the like button, and even better, subscribe to the channel! Come back tomorrow for a film review about Darkest Hour. There’ll be more theories!