'Thor: Ragnarok' returns as favorite superhero


By Shirrel Rhoades
At the Movies

Saturday, November 4, 2017

 Back when I was publisher of Marvel Comics, the ongoing argument between fanboys hanging out at comic book shops was “Could Thor beat up Superman?”

The answer often took lines of loyalty, Marvel Zombies versus DC aficionados.

But the best reasoning (I always thought) was: “Of course, Thor could win the battle -- because he was a god!”

Although my ol’ pal Stan Lee is credited with creating the comic book character (along with help from his brother Larry Lieber and legendary artist Jack Kirby), the truth is he stole him from Norse mythology.

Thor Odinson has been a cornerstone of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. “Thor: Ragnarok” is Marvel Studios third superhero blockbuster based on The Mighty Thor.

In “Thor: Ragnarok” we find Thor held captive on the planet Sakaar without his hammer, forced to do battle with his old friend The Hulk.

Now that provides a new debate for comic book fanboys who haven’t seen the movie yet: “Could Thor beat up The Hulk?”

Chris Hemsworth returns in the role of Thor … minus his golden locks. And Mark Ruffalo does a guest turn as The Hulk.

Tom Hiddleston is back as Thor’s adoptive brother Loki, his constant nemesis. Idris Elba returns as the all-seeing, all-hearing Asgardian sentry of the Bifröst Bridge. Jeff Goldblum is here as one of the Elders of the Universe. And Cate Blanchett is cast as Thor’s sister Helga, the goddess of death (loosely based on the Norse deity Hel).

An interesting pairing, Idris Elba and Tom Hiddleston in the same movie again. They have both been talked up as possible candidates to play James Bond when Daniel Craig steps down from the 007 role.

Now that’s something new for fanboys to debate: “Could Idris Elba beat up Tom Hiddleston?”

Harrelson’s “LBJ”

has contradictions

Lyndon Baines Johnson was an interesting contradiction: The 34th President of the United States was a bigoted roughshod Texan who built The Great Society and enacted historic civil rights legislation.

The new movie “LBJ” from director Rob Reiner has its own contradictions: Clunky dialogue versus Reiner’s skillful telling of the story.

Woody Harrelson stars as President Lyndon B. Johnson. A far cry from his days as the doofus bartender of TV’s “Cheers.” But he shows his acting chops, pulling off the impersonation with his real-life Texas twang. His physicality is a tad distracting, despite the heavy use of prosthetics, for he doesn’t have the LBJ look that, say, Randy Quaid brought to the role in the 1987 TV movie, “LBJ: The Early Years.”

This new film focuses on Johnson’s rivalry with John F Kennedy. The storyline follows LBJ being thrust into the Oval Office as the result of President Kennedy’s assassination. And, of course, it covers the historic passing of the Civil Rights Act -- one of Johnson’s greatest accomplishments.

However, another interesting contradiction stems from the movie’s premiere coming just a week or so after the government’s release of the JFK assassination files. There are many conspiracy theorists (like Roger Stone) who believe LBJ was behind the death of John F. Kennedy. And also there are those conspiracy theorists who believe Woody Harrelson’s father (a convicted murderer) was one of Kennedy’s assassins.

No, history is never simple.

Top 10 picks for

Autumn movies

As autumn leaves appear in northern climes, resplendent in their reds and yellows and golds, we begin to think about our favorite autumn movies.

Here are ten films with backdrops that reflect fall colors, sweater-weather, and frosty breaths.

10. Indian Summer” (1993) -- Seven friends reunite for a week at a summer camp that’s being closed down. The movie was filmed on-location at Ontario’s Camp Tamakwa in the fall. Favorite quote: “Why’d you come up?” “Because I wanted to be sad. Now I’m sad.”

9. “Sleepy Hollow” (1999) -- A fantasy horror adventure film directed by Tim Burton, it’s loosely inspired by the 1820 short story “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” by Washington Irving. Favorite quote: “Villainy wears many masks, none so dangerous as the mask of virtue.”

8. “You’ve Got Mail” (1998) -- The third coupling of stars Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan, the movie starts off with fall and all the changing leaves. Favorite quote: “Don’t you love New York in the fall? It makes me wanna buy school supplies. I would send you a bouquet of newly sharpened pencils if I knew your name and address.”

7. “Dead Poets Society” (1989) -- Set at aristocratic Welton Academy, we discover the story of an English teacher (Robin Williams) who inspires his students through his teaching of poetry. Favorite quote: “Carpe Diem!”

6. “Stepmom” (1998) -- A comedy-drama directed by Chris Columbus and starring Julia Roberts and Susan Sarandon, we meet a divorcee and her ex-hubby’s girlfriend. Favorite quote: “ Hey, good morning, New York. Scott Zoe here at 102.7, WNEW-FM, where rock lives. Beautiful autumn day in the city, and a great record coming your way, too.” “Ben? Ben? Ben. Get up, get up, get up. Late, late, late. Ben? Come on, honey. Get up. We're seriously late.”

5. “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban” (2003) -- Back to school time for boy wizard Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliff). But convicted murderer Sirius Black has escaped the Wizards' Prison and is coming after Harry. Favorite quote: “Welcome, welcome to another year at Hogwarts!”

4. “The Trouble With Harry” (1955) -- A colorful black comedy directed by Alfred Hitchcock, a New England village does know what to do with a dead body. The screenplay by John Michael Hayes was based on the 1950 novel by Jack Trevor. Favorite quote: “He looked exactly the same when he was alive, only vertical.”

3. “Hocus Pocus” (1993) -- Starring Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimy as a trio of witches, this cult classic captures that Halloween “feel.” Favorite quote: “Oh look, another glorious morning. Makes me sick!”

2. “Autumn in New York” (2000) -- Richard Gere and Winona Ryder find romance amid the fall foliage in Central Park. “If you wanted to seduce me you could have just asked.”

1. “When Harry Met Sally” (1989) -- Written by Nora Ephron and directed by Rob Reiner, this favorite rom-com stars Billy Crystal as Harry and Meg Ryan as Sally. The film raises the question “Can men and women ever just be friends?” Favorite quote: “I’ll have what she’s having.”

What have we learned about autumn movies? That they need a Harry and/or a Meg Ryan.