Welcome to The Mundane Adventures of a Fangirl

I consider myself a Fangirl. What does that mean, you ask? A "fanboy" in the most common understanding is a hardcore fan of 'genre' based entertainment in particular. In my case - science-fiction and comic book based movies and television. Because I'm a chick - it's fangirl, not fanboy. There you have it! I am a big movie fan, however, not necessarily a 'film' fan. And now - I have the forum to present my opinions to the public! These will mainly be movie reviews -that will always be my opinion - repeat OPINION. Just what I think, and in no way do I present my opinion as fact. I hope you enjoy and maybe it will help you decide what to see at the movie theater this weekend!

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Movie Review: Justice League (PG13 – 120 minutes)

My preferred version of the Justice League is the 90s animated series. Coming off the spectacular Batman the Animated Series, and the decent Superman animated series, the Justice League combined several heroes together to take on the dangers none of them could face alone. Eventually the show turned into Justice League Unlimited, adding an almost infinite number of heroes. The storylines were interesting, the characters were well developed, and the show did tackle some difficult issues. 

In terms of DC live action movies, Zack Snyder has so far been in charge, resulting in a dark, gloomy, morose version of the characters you thought you knew.  Some liked it, more didn’t, and now – after one Superman movie, one Batman/Superman movie, one Wonder Woman movie, and one horrifically terrible Suicide Squad movie, we are given the Snyder-verse version of Justice League.
The movie opens with an odd choice – which will not be the last one – of Superman (previous to his “death” in BvS) being “interviewed” by what sounds like two preschoolers for their podcast.  He takes a ridiculously long time to answer a couple of questions, and then looks hopefully out to the distance. 

We then pop back to present day, and see that the entire world is mourning the “death” of Superman.  There are black flags with his logo on all the world’s biggest monuments.  This overwhelming sense of sorrow causes three long-hidden ‘Mother Boxes’ to awaken and reactivate – they are basically alien super-computers.  The Mother Boxes awakening lead to the arrival of Steppenwolf, who comes to earth with the goal of gathering the three Mother Boxes, uniting them, and using them to terraform Earth into Apokolips. 

Batman is batmanning in Gotham, using random thieves and punks to elicit enough fear to summon Parademons, which he has started to notice are gathering.  Apparently they feed on fear – and when you explode them, their inside goo leaves a three-box pattern on the wall where they were (what?).  Batman decides it’s time to get some help. 

Meanwhile, Steppenwolf heads to Themyscira, for the Mother Box that the Amazons are hiding.  The Amazons put up an amazing fight, but lose the box.  They then decide to light the ancient warning fire in the Parthenon, so that Wonder Woman will be aware the invasion is underway.  With their timeline moved up – Bruce and Diana agree to talk to the other ‘meta-humans’ on their list (Arthur Curry, Victor Stone, and Barry Allen).  Bruce heads to Iceland to talk with Curry, who is perfectly happy just rescuing local fisherman and drinking a lot.  He’s not interested in helping, and tells Batman such. 

Diana reaches out to Victor Stone, and since he’s recently been turned into a Cyborg by his father’s tampering with the technology of one of the Mother Boxes, he’s hesitant to join up – after all, everyone thinks he’s dead.  He agrees to help Diana electronically, since he can hack anything anywhere. Of course, once Steppenwolf kidnaps his father to find the Mother Box, Victor is in. Bruce is far more successful with Barry Allen, who practically jumps at the chance to join them.
Steppenwolf heads to Atlantis – and in a battle with Mera and the other Atlanteans, he takes the Mother Box from them.  Mera tells Arthur it is his duty to find Steppenwolf to return the box, so he goes, after requesting an armor and weapons upgrade from her.

Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, and Cyborg get information from Commissioner Gordon that Steppenwolf is hiding in the sewers, so they head down there to rescue the kidnapees, and battle him.  Aquaman shows up to help them not drown, and they end up losing Steppenwolf, but saving the Box and the kidnapees.  This leads some of them to reason that they will need Superman to continue this fight, and that they can revive him with the combined action of the Mother Box and the Kryptonian ship that is still on the ground in Metropolis from when Zod crashed there and Jesse Eisenberg used it to create a monster.  They dig up his body, take it into the ship, and float it in the water while Flash electrifies the box.

This leads to a confused Superman bursting out and taking on the team for a few minutes until Batman busts out the ‘big guns’ and brings in Lois. Superman flies her away to Smallville to quietly contemplate things, and decide he’s actually happy to be back, and will help the League.  While all this is happening, Steppenwolf gets the last box, takes it to Russia, and begins combining the three to change earth to Apokolips. The League heads to Russia to face him and prevent his plan.  Afterward (spoiler alert – they win), Steppenwolf gets banished back to whence he came (I imagine Darkseid is displeased), and the heroes set out doing more heroing. Aquaman sets out for Atlantis to face the responsibilities he’s been shirking; Cyborg decides to help his father, Flash gets a job with Central City PD, Wonder Woman steps into the spotlight as a hero, Clark Kent goes back to work, and Bruce and Alfred talk about renovating Wayne Manor with enough room for a group of heroes to meet.

Honestly, it’s better than just about anything else in this universe – except for Wonder Woman – but that’s a really low bar.  Let’s start with the positives:

  • For the first time, the movie is mostly lighter and colorful; not just literally but figuratively as well, there is much more humor in this one. 
  • The action scenes are pretty great, in particular the fight with the Amazons at the beginning, as well as the flashback to the first battle Steppenwolf had here on earth thousands of years ago.  
  • The cast is wonderful, and I really enjoyed all the scenes of them interacting, which creates hope for future movies. 
  • The score is wonderful because some of the traditional themes of the heroes return.  
  • There was one moment I really loved – Bruce tells Alfred he needs Superman because Superman is more human than he is.  This speaks to the core difference between the two (which I’ve always attributed to the love and care of Ma and Pa Kent in most versions – rewatch Smallville to see this done in a beautiful way), that Superman is the light and the hope; whereas Batman is the fear and the darkness. 
  • I also really appreciated that once Superman joins the final fight, he doesn't solve everything on his own, he works together with the rest of the team to win. 

Now, some of the many negatives:

  • Zack Snyder is listed as the director of the movie – but he did have to step out due to the death of his daughter, and Joss Whedon stepped in.  There really could not be two more different directors in tone and style, so the differences in the Snyder portions and the Whedon reshoots are pretty obvious.  In particular because in the reshoots, Superman has a digital upper lip.  If you haven’t heard about this yet – Cavill is working on Mission Impossible 6 for Paramount, and Paramount refused to let him shave the mustache to do Justice League reshoots for Warner Brothers. So they had to digitally remove the mustache – and it looks terrible.  It's the first shot of this movie, and it looks terrible. 
  • Also - the entire world is mourning the loss of Superman, however, with the timelines of the previous two movies with him in it - he seems to only have been supermanning for about a year, maybe less - why would the whole world be mourning him?  Unless I missed some montage of him saving people all over the world in BvS.  
  • Steppenwolf is a weak villain, mainly because he is entirely CGI, and that still causes me to tune out a bit.  I don’t see why he couldn’t have been a dude in a suit.  
  • The plot is a struggle.  The entire process of reviving Superman was total and complete nonsense. If the real Ma Kent was around, she would have known that you just leave him in the sunlight for a while. But here - there is a scene in which they dig up his grave, and then have to dip him in the weird water inside the ship. 
  • Steppenwolf's plan, I get that he needed to bring the Mother Boxes together, but the convoluted way the heroes get around to figuring it out and battling it is just ridiculous.  
  • The fight sequence at the end of the movie is interesting, but it is way too much CGI, and the ‘terraforming’ bits make almost no sense: What are those tendrils? Why is there a bubble? Why, when it stops, are there alien flowers blooming?  
  • I appreciate the shorter run time, but honestly, there were still a few things that could have been cut – we didn’t need nearly as much time with the one Russian family, which I sure was supposed to humanize the peril, but didn’t work.  
  • A minor thing, but everyone played just a bit fast and loose with the secret identities - calling each other by their real names in front of all kinds of bystanders.

  • Ben Affleck plays Bruce Wayne; and either by choice or happenstance, seems far less interested this time around.  Like I said, I really appreciated the moments of him understanding his own inabilities, and that could be an interesting direction going forward.

  • Henry Cavill plays Clark Kent and he is actually better in the second half of this movie than he has been in any other movie – he’s finally getting to the Superman we are all used to, light, bright, a symbol of justice and hope, with far less brooding.

  • Amy Adams plays Lois Lane, and she’s just fine.  I did enjoy that she was the thing that brought Superman back to focus.

  • Gal Gadot plays Diana Prince, and again – she’s wonderful, but has a bit less to do here than in previous movies. I did get a little tired of other members of the team focusing on her looks.  That would be some Synder influence.

  • Ezra Miller plays Barry Allen and he does provide the most humor and lightness in the movie.  The running looked awful, I don’t know if that’s because the TV show does it so much better, or if Miller’s running style is just odd.

  • Jason Momoa plays Arthur Curry, and again – he’s just fine, a little annoying, but I think that plays well to the character. The Aquaman standalone movie is finished and should be out next year some time, and I am looking forward to it.

  • Ray Fisher plays Victor Stone, and had some of the most interesting bits in the movie, terrified of his new powers, and feeling lost and alone.  I look forward to more of him as well.  And yes, he does get to say Booyah, which Cyborg says often in other versions.

  • Jeremy Irons plays Alfred, and while the care and paternal relationship is still there, Irons brings in more of the partnership aspect than some previous Alfreds.  He’s even casually wearing military pants on one sequence.

  • Diane Lane plays MAAARRRTHHHAAAAAA, and really has next to nothing to do in this one. At least she’s not giving even more terrible advice to Clark.
  • Connie Nielsen reprises her role of Queen Hippolyta just enough to battle Steppenwolf and light a fire to warn Diana.
  • J.K. Simmons plays J.Jonah Jameson, I mean Commissioner Gordon, who had a wonderful little scene next to the bat signal to give the heroes some information.

  • Ciaran Hinds plays Steppenwolf, and the voice was wonderful and some of the lines were great.  Still not sure why he couldn’t have been in amazing prosthetics and costuming instead of being entirely CGI. 

  • Amber Heard plays Mera, and will have more to do in the Aquaman movie. Here, she just made a bubble to talk to Arthur, and reminded him that his mother was queen, so maybe he should stop bumming around the ocean and step up.
  • Joe Morton plays Miles Dyson, I mean Silas Stone, and he’s still messing around creating Cyborgs even though he should know better.

  • Billy Crudup plays Henry Allen, who is around long enough to tell Barry not to come see him, and then get really proud of him when he gets a job.

Overall, it is fine – it really is.  It’s not terrible, and it certainly has some entertaining parts.  It’s not fair to compare it to Marvel movies, it really isn’t – but if you asked me the main difference, I would say that this movie lacks heart.  You just don’t care enough about any of the characters to be invested in the story, because it feels like no one behind the scenes cares enough about them either.  It certainly is a step in the right direction, and gave me some hope for their upcoming movies.

5 out of 10.  It’s better, but still not great.  Simultaneously gained and lost points for the post-credits sequence.  That Eisenberg performance was better than the previous movie – but still not Luthor. Also, not sure Deathstroke would be interested in forming a League – or more accurately, a Legion.  I wanted Black Manta and Cheetah to step up behind Eisenberg as he was talking.
Bonus - here's the LAMBcast review of Justice League that I joined to discuss the movie with other LAMB reviewers!   https://www.podomatic.com/podcasts/lambcast/episodes/2017-11-21T23_33_19-08_00

Monday, November 27, 2017

Movie Review: Murder on the Orient Express (PG13 – 114 minutes)

Agatha Christie was a British crime novelist who was born in 1890 and died in 1976. Even if you think you are not familiar with her work – chances are you have heard of or seen at least one adaptation of her materials – possibly on PBS on a Saturday afternoon - especially any of the Miss Marple or Hercule Poirot mysteries.  Once of those is Murder on the Orient Express – a story starring her star detective Hercule Poirot.  It was first published in 1934, and there are currently five versions listed on IMDB.  The original Orient Express train in 1883 ran from Paris to Giurgiu (Romania), and Christie’s story has Poirot solving a murder while on board as the train is stuck in the snow.

In this version, we meet Poirot as he finishes up solving a case in Jerusalem in 1934.  Eager for a vacation and rest in Istanbul – his friend Bouc offers him a room on the Orient Express, as he is the director of the train.   While on the train, Poirot meets several other characters and is offered a job by one of them – Samuel Ratchett, as more or less a bodyguard for him.  Poirot refuses, and during that night, hears strange noises from Ratchett’s compartment, and sees a woman in a red kimono running away.

The next morning, the train is stuck in the snow as the result of an avalanche, and Ratchett is found murdered in his room. Poirot reluctantly takes on the case at the request of Bouc, since no one is going anywhere, and he knows the murderer is still on the train.  He then has to work his way through the odd group of characters to determine what happened.  Poirot learns that Ratchett was actually John Cassetti, a man who had kidnapped and attempted to ransom a child named Daisy Armstrong.  Even after the ransom was paid, Daisy was found murdered, with Cassetti never prosecuted. Poirot continues to uncover evidence and details connecting the various strangers on the train, uncovering a story that causes him to question pieces of his own stark morality.

I am not going to say anything else about the plot, in case – like me – you have not read this story, or seen one of the other several versions of the movie.  There is a bit of a twist in the investigation as Poirot finally discovers the killer.  Because this one is directed by Kenneth Branagh - and he is playing Poirot – Poirot really becomes the center of the story, even more than the murder and the suspects.  This is both good and bad.  On the negative side, it really takes the focus off the various suspects, their stories, and what they had to do with the murder if anything.  Honestly, there are a couple of the characters whose names I did not know until I looked them up on IMDB because they were skimmed over so quickly.  That could be a side-effect of having twelve suspects and less than two hours of movie to develop each of them.  On the positive side, the story then becomes about how Poirot, previously obsessed with balance, and right and wrong, must learn to deal with various shades of gray in morality.   It’s an interesting take, and one I really enjoyed.  Something that helps is Branagh’s collection of actors – several of which have worked with him before.
  • Kenneth Branagh plays Hercule Poirot as obsessive compulsive and a bit burdened by his exceptional detective skills. I have always been a fan, and really enjoyed the shift of this story to center on him – which could be seen as a very egotistical move.  In theory, there will be a sequel – Death on the Nile – with Branagh reprising the role.

  • Johnny Depp plays Samuel Ratchett, a creep from the word go. He’s slimy, he’s sketchy, and he’s really paranoid, but as it turns out – correctly paranoid – because someone is really out to get him.

  • Penelope Cruz plays Pilar Estravados, a name changed from the original story Swedish character to a Spanish character. She is a missionary, and seems innocent, until Poirot notices the boxing scars on her knuckles.

  • Willem Dafoe plays Gerhard Hardman, a German scientist seems innocent, until Poirot learns that he is not actually a german scientist, but an undercover American detective.

  • Judi Dench plays Princess Dragomiroff, an old rich lady who seems innocent until Poirot uncovers some of her family connections.

  • Olivia Colman plays Hildegarde Schmidt, the assistant/handmaiden to the Princess who seems innocent, until Poirot starts talking with her in German, which her boss cannot understand.
  • Josh Gad plays Hector MacQueen, a lawyer working for Ratchett who seems innocent until Poirot uncovers some interesting information about his father.

  • Derek Jacobi plays Edward Henry Masterman, a butler working for Ratchett who seems innocent until Poirot learns that he really doesn’t care for his employer.

  • Leslie Odom Jr. plays Dr. Arbuthnot, a doctor who seems innocent until Poirot learns he was a sniper in the military.

  • Michelle Pfeiffer plays Caroline Hubbard, what I would call a prowling cougar on the train, who seems innocent until Poirot starts digging into her story of someone breaking into her room.

  • Daisy Ridley plays Mary Debenham, a governess who seems innocent until Poirot realizes something she said about raising children was repeated by someone else.

  • Lucy Boynton plays Countess Helena Andrenyi, and Sergei Polunin as Count Rudolph Andrenyi.  I’m sure both of them seem innocent too – but I’ll be honest with you – I forgot they were on the train, as they stay in their compartment and really don’t interact with anyone else until the plot demands it – which is almost never.

  • Manuel Garcia-Rulfo plays Biniamino Marquez, who I believe was a car salesman who seemed innocent until Poirot learns just how much he was making selling cars?  Maybe?  Not going to lie, he’s another one who gets almost no development.

  • Tom Bateman plays Bouc, and of all the people, he seems the least innocent and is certainly someone I suspected.  Because he’s Poirot’s friend, he gets a pass, I guess. 

  • Marwan Kenzari plays Pierre Michel, a conductor on the train who seems innocent and confused most of the time.

Overall, I really enjoyed the movie.  It looked beautiful, especially the details on the train, the lushness of the compartments and the luxury for the time of high-class train travel.  The characters were very interesting, and I did want more development on them, until I realized that they really were not the focus.  Poirot is the focus.  I really hope that Branagh does get to make Death on the Nile, because that should be more of a case, and less a Poirot character study.

7 out of 10 – Lost some points for that mustache – I know it’s key to the character, but it was almost distracting.  On the other hand, gained points for the mustache, and the sleep-protector that it gets.

Bonus – Cast interviews:

Friday, November 17, 2017

Movie Review: Bad Moms Christmas (R – 104 minutes)

The first Bad Moms caught me by surprise, and ended up being one of my favorite comedies of the year.  It told the story of three over-worked and under-appreciated moms who decide to be ‘bad moms’ (they were still pretty good) in order to regain some of their sanity.  It was made for very little and ended up a big hit, so inevitably, we get a sequel.  This time, the moms are retaking Christmas in order to truly enjoy the season.

Amy, now in a serious relationship with Jessie, has decided that this year, it would be nice to have a slow-paced laid-back Christmas.  Her parents, Ruth and Hank, suddenly come by and her mother immediately starts telling Amy what she is doing wrong – and that because it’s the first Christmas her children will have without their father – everything needs to be perfect.  Ruth sets about scheduling parties and decorating without really clearing any of it with Amy.

Meanwhile, Kiki’s mother Sandy, who has been a little (a lot) clingy since her father passed years ago, also decides to come early for Christmas with her daughter.  She proceeds to be completely unaware of any boundaries and gets way too close to Kiki as she tries to guide her family through the holidays.  Carla is busy being Carla – still the wild one – when her even wilder mother, Isis, comes into town for the holidays.  Well, actually to borrow money, but it happens to be around the holidays. 
Amy, Kiki, and Carla commiserate with each other while trying to deal with the varying levels of crazy that each of their mothers bring to the table.  Hijinks ensue.  Really, that’s about it, there’s not too much of a plot, just a series of crazy circumstances that lead to funny situations, which is really all you want from a movie like this.

This one is written and directed by Jon Lucas and Scott Moore, who also did the first Bad Moms.  It’s funny, not as funny as the original, but still pretty funny.  As with the first movie, the best part of this movie is the bond of friendship between the three leads.  It just makes me want to watch outtakes of the three of them together.   Some of the jokes here are a little tired, and some of the situations go a little too far past funny, but adding in three fantastic actresses as the mothers of the moms is a great addition, and they are wonderfully funny.

  • Mila Kunis returns as Amy still stressed, but managing everything just a little bit better.  Kunis is really good in this role as a mom who just wants to enjoy the holidays with her kids and boyfriend when ambushed by her horrible mother.

  • Kristen Bell returns as Kiki, and is just as high strung here as she was in the first movie, except that her husband seems to really be a better partner now.  She tries to set up some boundaries with her mother, which doesn’t go well.

  • Kathryn Hahn returns as Carla and while she stole the first movie, she steals some of this movie but isn’t quite as outrageous. 

  • Christine Baranski joins as Ruth, Amy’s mother, and she is just horrible.  Nothing Amy does is good enough, and Ruth spends every moment belittling her.  I know it was playing for comedy, but some parts felt like they were going too far, and her redemption almost felt like it came out of nowhere.

  • Susan Sarandon joins as Isis, Carla’s mom, and if Carla was out of control, Isis is completely ridiculous.  Her redemption comes after meeting the other mothers, and realizing she has some work to do.

  • Cheryl Hines joins as Sandy, and is way too involved in her daughter’s life, but manages to hover just over the line between funny and sad.

  • Jay Hernandez returns as Jessie, and he’s really just there to be the ‘good’ guy, which is fine, because he does that very well.  The running gag of Ruth not remembering she had met him was pretty funny.

  • Justin Hartley joins as Ty Swindel, a firefighter/stripper who is in town for a ‘sexy santa’ competition and wanders into Carla’s spa to get waxed.  Sparks between them result in some hilarity and some cringing.  I will tell you that he cannot dance, but he’s game to try.

  • Peter Gallagher joins as Hank – Amy’s father - and honestly, he stole most of the scenes he was in for me. He’s the calm centering force behind Ruth’s crazy, and helps Amy understand why her mother is so cruel – but again, that felt a little like it came out of nowhere.

  • Wanda Sykes has a brief cameo as Dr. Karl, attempting to help Kiki and Sandy figure out what is wrong in their relationship.

The movie is certainly funny, and I definitely enjoyed it.  I absolutely wanted outtakes over the end credits, but instead there was a cast dance sequence that was entertaining, but not as good as outtakes would have been!  For sure it is not nearly as funny as the first – and because the first came out of nowhere, expectations for this one were higher.  It’s just fine for a holiday early morning weekend showing.  Yes, they absolutely set up another sequel – this time of the three older mothers hitting Las Vegas, and I would definitely watch that!
7 out of 10 – gained points for the Kenny G cameo.
Cast Fun: 

Monday, November 13, 2017

Movie Review: Thor Ragnarok (PG13 – 130 Minutes)

Since Thor’s first appearance in Marvel comics in 1962, he’s been a larger-than-life over-the-top character who closely resembles his Norse mythology counterpart.  In his previous two solo outings, Thor in 2011 and Thor Dark World in 2013, an attempt had been made to make Thor more relatable by locating his adventures here on earth.  In this third solo outing, director Taika Waititi embraces the otherworldliness of Thor and allows him to go almost entirely cosmic. 

This movie opens with a bit of an explanation as to where Thor has been during the events of Captain America Civil War.  After the Avengers defeated Ultron, he went scouring the galaxy for the Infinity Stones, finding none.  He ends up captured by Surtur, a large, firey, demon-type guy.  After learning that Surtur can only die after merging his crown with the Eternal Flame on Asgard, and then destroying Asgard, Thor removes the crown and heads back to Asgard – to find Loki in charge, masquerading as Odin, and doing an absolutely terrible job of ruling.  Heimdall is in hiding, the nine realms are in chaos, and Loki is mostly uninterested in helping. Thor takes Loki to earth, where Loki left Odin and are assisted by Doctor Strange in locating Odin. 

Odin is basically Yoda-in-Jedi here, on his way out, and says some cryptic things about his first born daughter Hela (who he has never mentioned to Thor or Loki before) and that she wants to destroy Asgard, and only Odin’s life has been keeping her at bay. Having said this, he promptly dies and Hela promptly shows up – instantly proving how much of a threat she is by destroying Mjolnir and knocking both Loki and Thor out of the rainbow bridge as they were transporting back to Asgard.  She wipes out the Warriors Three, employs Skurge, and sets out reclaiming her birthright.
Meanwhile – Thor gets spit out onto Sakar, captured by Scrapper 142 (who he eventually learns is one of the famed Asgardian Valkyries who were defeated by Hela many years ago) and meets the Grandmaster.  The Grandmaster swiftly enters Thor into his Contest of Champions to fight his champion – who turns out to be the Hulk, much to Thor’s delight.  Discovering Loki is also on Sakar – Thor sets out to gather some allies to return to Asgard and battle Hela.

Kevin Feige and Marvel have once again continued to make all the right decisions by hiring director Taika Waititi for this movie. Waititi is a New Zealand actor, writer, and director who excels at oddball comedy and this movie absolutely shines under his guidance.  Thor previously has been a ‘fish out of water’, which did allow for some humorous moments, but this movie fully embraces the potential lunacy of the character and is more of an action comedy than action movie.  Waititi allowed for a lot of improvisation, something that really pays off with a cast that has been working together for a long time, allowing the scenes to feel natural and fun. Yes, there are stakes, and yes, the story has a fairly serious end, but I feel that the balance between that and the comedy is beautifully held throughout.  The cast truly shines here in what is easily one of the best of the MCU movies.

  • Chris Hemsworth really seems to enjoy this outing as Thor.  He had previously been getting a bit bored with Thor’s ego and attitude, and here, has a blast revamping the character almost completely as he struggles through the galaxy to save his people.

  • Tom Hiddleston once again proves that Loki is sexy even if Hiddleston is not.  He and Hemsworth are at their best in improvised scenes together. Loki is never predictable, except by Thor, and proves to be both incredibly annoying and helpful when it aligns with his own desires.

  • Idris Elba returns as Heimdall and has traded in his giant helmet for a large wig.  Either way, he’s easily the most serious character in the movie as he attempts to move refugees around Asgard.

  • Anthony Hopkins has a brief appearance as Odin, as he shows up to say he’s about to die. He also got to have a blast as the Loki-version of Odin that is simply reclining on a couch watching a play and eating grapes.  That play was amazing – not just for the cameos, but for how incredibly hilarious it was.
  • Cate Blanchett plays Hela, a character who helped Odin capture the nine realms – but when she got greedy and wanted to keep going, he simply banished her to an unknown location where apparently she’s just been waiting and getting angrier until she could get out.  Blanchett also seems to be having a blast as she vamps through the movie, acting superior to everyone she encounters.

  • Karl Urban plays Skurge, a character I was used to seeing follow around the Echantress as her Executioner on the animated Avengers series.  Here, he’s been hired to replace Heimdall, and accidentally ends up working for Hela as she demolishes Asgard.

  • Jeff Goldblum plays The Grandmaster, and yes – everything you’ve heard is accurate – he’s just about the best thing in this movie.  And no – he’s not really acting, just plays Jeff Goldblum on another planet. He’s hilarious, and endlessly watchable.  Also – he seems to completely ignore punctuation.

  • Tessa Thompson was the biggest surprise in the movie for me. I had liked her well enough in Dear White People and Creed, but was completely blown away by her performance here. She is badass and angry – and at first has no interest in facing Hela again, but eventually realizes she needs to return to Asgard.

  • Mark Ruffalo plays Bruce Banner and the performance capture for the Hulk, who has been in control for two years while fighting on Sakar.  The Hulk has finally found a place where he is accepted and loved, and is not ready to relinquish control back to Banner, no matter how much Thor needs Banner.

  • Benedict Cumberbatch plays Doctor Strange in a short scene in the beginning of the movie, and honestly, he’s exceptional here – even more so than in his own movie.  This Doctor Strange is one that has settled into his new role and powers and is perfectly comfortable bamf-ing around his Sanctum looking for things to assist Thor.

  • Taika Waititi also plays Korg – one of the best characters in the movie. He’s another gladiator that Thor meets once he lands on Sakar, a hulking rock creature with a charming voice and personality. He’s hilarious and definitely a highlight – he and his friend Mick.

  • Rachel House, who has been in Waititi’s other movies, plays Topaz, who I would describe as Grandmaster’s henchwoman, assistant, device holder, and occasional realism check.

  • Clancy Brown plays Surtur who I really loved.  He seems just exhausted by everything in the beginning and very clearly states the purpose to his existence, unable to die until he destroys Asgard – which proves to be useful.

  • Ray Stevenson, Zach Levi, and Tadanobu Asano return as the Warriors Three, and Hela swiftly eliminates all three of them. This is a shame, because I really enjoyed all of them in previous movies – but I suppose it also establishes that Hela is very powerful.  Lady Sif is not around, mainly because Jaimie Alexander is shooting Blidspot, but also because she has a mission elsewhere.  This is good news, because it means she will be able to come back at some point.

Overall, the look of the movie is amazing – yes, you should see it in 3D.  The colors and scenery are more in line with Guardians of the Galaxy than some of the earthbound MCU movies, which makes sense. The score is a mix of 80s-style synth pop, with the addition of Immigrant Song by Led Zepplin because of its Norse references.  The action and fight sequences are fantastic, and the comedy is really and truly hilarious.  There are times that I missed the next line because I was still giggling at the previous one.  Definitely see it, it’s wonderful and yes – leads into the Infinity War Avengers movie which will be out next year sometime.  Now, just hang on until Black Panther comes out in February.

9 out of 10 – near flawless.  Gained points for Waititi providing a much needed lightening to Thor.

Bonus – Here's the LAMBcast review that I joined to discuss Ragnarok with other LAMB reviewers!   https://www.podomatic.com/podcasts/lambcast/episodes/2017-11-07T15_31_31-08_00

Double Bonus - James Corden attempting to launch 4D showings.