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.


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!


Passion Project (The Florida Project review)

Not everyone gets a fairytale, but if you will it you can absolutely have a happy ending. And this movie will have you pondering those ideas over and over again.


The Florida Project (2017)

Cast: Brooklynn Prince, Bria Vinaite, Willem Dafoe
Director: Sean Baker
released on blu-ray February 20, 2018
********* 9/10

IMDB: 7.7
Rotten Tomatoes: 96%, Audience Score 79%
The Guardian: *****/*****

Sean Baker makes movies about topics that he wants to see on the screen. Movies about the lives of illegal immigrants with gambling debts, street hustlers, intergenerational friendships, and trans sex workers. People who are very real, but who have less then glamorous stories to tell.

An American director, cinematographer, producer, writer and editor, Baker’s best known for making independent films about the aforementioned subjects. Notably Starlet, the iPhone filmed Tangerine, and most recently The Florida Project. Fun fact, supporting actor Willem Dafoe has been nominated for an Academy Award in his portrayal of Bobby Hicks. But what’s it about?

Special thanks to IMDB user Huggo for the synopsis.

Halley (Bria Vinaite) lives with her six year old daughter Moonee (Brooklynn Prince) in a budget motel along one of the commercial strips catering to the Walt Disney World tourist clientele outside Orlando, Florida. Halley, who survives largely on welfare, has little respect for people, especially those who cross her, it an attitude that she has passed down to Moonee, who curses and gives the finger like her mother. Although the motel’s policy is not to allow long term rentals, Bobby (Willem Dafoe), the motel manager, has made arrangements for people like Halley to live there while not undermining the policy as he realizes that many such tenants have no place to go otherwise. Halley, Moonee and Moonee’s friends, who live in the motel or others like it along the strip and who she often drags into her disruptive pranks, are often the bane of Bobby’s existence, but while dealing with whatever problem arises, Bobby has a soft spot especially for the children and thus, by association, their parents, as he knows that Moonee and others like her are just children acting like a children under whatever guidance they have, Moonee who has less guidance than most. Although there are some lines which he will not tolerate to be crossed, Bobby lets most of the disruptive things that they do go, largely as long as it does not affect the bread and butter of the motel, namely the tourist trade. The summer in this collective is presented, when Moonee and her friends, such as Scooty, are out of school and are left largely to their own devices while self-absorbed Halley does whatever she wants, often just staying in the room watching TV. Halley is supposed to look after Scooty, the son of Halley’s friend Ashley, they who live in the unit immediately underneath Halley and Moonee’s, while Ashley is at work at a local diner. In turn, Ashley pilfers cooked meals from the diner to feed Halley, Moonee and Scooty. Over the course of the summer, Halley systematically begins to alienate one by one the people who are her unofficial support by responding with that disrespect to anything she feels is against her. As such, Halley begins to take more and more extreme measures to maintain the life she leads with Moonee.

I think the director himself said it best when he described the experience he wanted to create in making this film. So many people are concerned with seeing a story in three parts. Setup, confrontation, and resolution. But this is story about summer vacation. It so happens that the summer vacation is set in ghetto motel right beside Disney World, but it is a summer vacation nonetheless. Not everyone has two parents, a house, and food on the table.

And while the subject alone should be enough to hold your interest, what makes it even better is the sheer weight Baker holds up by documenting, studying and paying attention to the details of these peoples lives. Halley is on a road to ruin, and Moonee is likely headed in the same direction, but just right now, for this moment, we get to see her and her friends having fun in the environment they live in.

Pros: There is so much to reflect upon in the way that the movie opens, over a simple act of rebellion, later ending on the same sour notes. There is no bowtie with which we can neatly resolve this story, but where a movie like The Place Beyond The Pines relies heavily on obvious drama to drive home the point of the family ties that bind, The Florida Project is that much wiser in it’s presentation.

ConsIt’s difficult to believe that Halley is so devoid of feeling that she is incapable of wrestling with personal demons. In an era of social media darlings, Bria Vinaite has quite literally been shopped from Instagram.

I know in my hearts of hearts why Willem Dafoe was given a best supporting actor nod, but I can’t help but be enamoured with the characterizations between newcomers Bria Vinaite and her would-be daughter Brooklynn Prince. Perhaps it’s the raw nature of their performances, and perhaps it’s that it reminds me a lot of my favourite director Richard Linklater (and how I wish he had made this movie instead of Last Flag Flying), but either way The Florida Project has captured a moment in time, and quietly asked us to observe the forgotten poor outside a magic kingdom.

Runtime: 1 hour 51 minutes

Points of Interest: The Florida Project was an early production pet name for Disney World. The motels filmed are true-to-life locations and many of the people seen during the film were actual residents and staff of the buildings. The final scene was shot on an iPhone as Disney World has strict rules about filming without park consent.

I can’t help but vote for a film shot by a guerilla director, and one which sheds light on a group of people often ignored by the greater population. While they live in great poverty, the joy they find in life is encouraging.

theories Summarized

I think I may have found a new hot director to watch, keep your guard up Linklater, the new kid on the block just might supplant you sooner or later. And I’m not sure if it’s obvious you should watch this movie yet, but please do yourself a favour and check it out.

And if you want to see another timotheories cast member who’s super excited to share a film review, just take a look-see at one Chris Murphy. He has a solid Watch Culture video review on Patty Jenkin’s Wonder Woman, which I can almost assure you will convince even the most stubborn to give it a shot.

What do you think though? Is The Florida Project worthwhile? Did we miss the mark on our Wonder Woman review? Hopefully you have good things to say, but either way… Check it out! And remember… Like! Comment! Subscribe!


You Learn From Your Brothers (Last Flag Flying review)

I think you can learn a lot about an institution from how it’s offspring take off into the world and live their adult lives. This week’s movie review addresses that idea with warmth, drama and humour.

And just like real life, is simultaneously messed and unresolved.


Last Flag Flying (2017)

Cast: Steve Carell, Bryan Cranston, Laurence Fishburne
Director: Richard Linklater
released on blu-ray January 30, 2018
******* 7/10

IMDB: 6.9
Rotten Tomatoes: 75%, Audience Score 70%
The Guardian: ***/*****

Richard Stuart Linklater is my all-time favourite director. And he’s been my favourite ever since I first watched Waking Life back in 2003 (even though the movie released in 2001). I was barely an adult then, so you might have to cut me some slack on the the time it took me to discover him. Point of fact, Chris and I will be sharing a Cross Talk in coming weeks about our favourite directors, so rather then dig into why I think he’s so amazing as I normally preface these posts, I’ll just share a couple of quick anecdotes now. I’ve reviewed two of Richard Linklater’s films before – Boyhood and Everybody Wants Some. And I recorded that upcoming Cross Talk episode before I watched this movie.

I’ve included the distributors synopsis below and modified it slightly to provide some context…

Thirty years after serving together in the Vietnam War, Larry “Doc” Shepherd (Steve Carell), Sal Nealon (Bryan Cranston) and the Rev. Richard Mueller (Laurence Fishburne) reunite for a different type of mission: to bury Doc’s son, a young Marine killed in Iraq. Forgoing burial at Arlington National Cemetery, Doc and his old buddies take the casket on a bittersweet trip up the coast to New Hampshire. Along the way, the three men find themselves reminiscing and coming to terms with the shared memories of a war that continues to shape their lives.

Naturalism is one of the major tools in Linklaters belt. He always manages to bring out the best and brightest of mundane aspects of life. Probably my favourite scene from the whole movie is the experience Carell’s character Doc has upon seeing his dead son when he demands that the military personal open the casket up for him. The camera pans out perfectly and we experience the secondhand emotion a third party would have normally by watching the very real and vulnerable grief someone extremely close to the recently deceased emote. I also enjoyed the interactions between Bryan Cranston’s Sal and the Colonel, that desire to challenge authority is common in many of Linklater’s characters.

And finally, the character of Doc appears very grounded in reality, though we never see him fully open up about his feelings, it is obvious how much he struggles with this unexpected turn of events.

Where the movie becomes a problem for me is in the interactions between the three main characters. They have spent a lot of time apart, and by circumstance are suddenly thrown back into each others lives, but it’s difficult to see why they ever got along or supported each other in the first place. This might be a failing on my part in not fully absorbing the awkward tension these men generate attempting to relate to each other after so much time apart. But I hope with subsequent viewings I can get to the bottom of the tone being explored here.

Pros: Linklater always manages to tell a real story, and stir up a ton of emotions running the gamet of the topic at hand. Never fully committing to one viewpoint or arc, he leaves the viewer with the choice to take something from the film or leave it. It’s difficult to swallow during a film about politics, death, and war.

ConsThat said, It does feel kind of superficial at times, and you don’t really believe the relationships these guys had could endure enough to take the road trip. Yes, they are professional actors, and they are all talented enough to sell their individual roles, but somehow it just doesn’t work thematically at all times.

Linklater has proven he can make any kind of movie, but all the elements of the film manage to conflict in such a negative way, it’s tough to accept this as film with his typical calibre of intent. It never feels especially revelatory, only sad and shallow.

And to sound even more contradictory, while I actually think the themes of patriotism, military service, and political ideologies are dealt with in a mature way, I wish at least one of the protagonists had chosen a side and let the film respond to it.

Runtime: 2 hours 5 minutes

Points of Interest: The film is supposed to be a spiritual sequel to The Last Detail. Laurence Fishburne was Richard Linklater’s only choice for the character of Mueller. Principal photography took only 32 days to complete.

The concept is strong, and I can see what Linklater would have been drawn to it in the first place, but in the end it’s not strong enough in each of it’s parts to overcome the challenges presented and commit to a real anti-war message, instead choosing comedy and drama outbursts to convey the consequences.

theories Summarized

Taken together, each of the three protagonists add their own layer to this film about enduring after war-times. Brotherhood is strong, and I am reminded of the film The Deer Hunter, if only because the challenges of psychology, disruption, and resolution echo throughout both films consistently. Showcasing how two or three men raised in the same household (so to speak) could take different paths. It’s a profound statement to make, and as I mentioned earlier, a lesser director would have definitely missed all of the subtleties and disparate viewpoints within the issue. But ultimately, Last Flag Flying falls short for me, and is only a good film, not a great one. And that’s my theory.

That said, I have a really solid Watch Culture video that directly addresses the effects of war on the soul, and it serves as an excellent metaphor for impotence and decay. Surprise, surprise, a comic book movie was able to get an R rating and tell an engaging story. Can’t you tell how excited Mike and Chris are to discuss Logan? I can!

Logan will likely make you cry, but in a good way. And better still, it resolves so many threads of The Wolverine, while paying tribute to Hugh Jackman’s tenure. Check it out! And remember… Like! Comment! Subscribe!