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The Boys (2019– )
In a world where superheroes have become a corrupt capitalist corporate entity...
26 July 2019
Very interesting and dare I say frighteningly realistic take on the superhero genre, combining it with everything that has corrupted the modern real world - out of control capitalism, corporations and money controlling politics and basically everything, and the across-the-board corruption of moral values that ensues. Now that might sound gruelling but the show mostly keeps a pretty light tone of black comedy satire while it makes its pointed social critiques.

I don't love the Hughie character or performance but Karl Urban is an absolute riot in every scene he's in and the rest of the cast is pretty good. Visually and in terms of score it's not quite on par with the best things out there but definitely above average, and there's a wit and creativity to the writing that you'd expect from a show created by Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen. I just hope they keep their eyes on the road this time, given their last show Preacher (also based on an insane comics) took a serious dive after its fantastic first season when it seemed like they got distracted with other projects. Would be a shame if the same thing happened to The Boys given the level of promise.
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This is what it looks like when you let Refn make 10 episodes of TV
14 June 2019
One beautiful shot after the other, atmosphere-building silences, sparse dialogue, echoing analog synth drones. If you've seen any of Refn's last 3 films (Drive, Only God Forgives, Neon Demon) then you know the score and you should probably know what to expect coming into this so-called series, which really is much more of a 13-hour movie/bad acid trip.

Except with so much time for Refn to do as he pleases we end up with much more atmosphere-building silent moments, and somehow the dialogue is even sparser - Miles Teller basically plays a corrupt cop version of Ryan Gosling's Driver minus the toothpick. The end result comes across like a non-supernatural, neon-colours David Lynch piece with a mesmerizing score by Cliff Martinez at his best. This alone makes it worth watching - it's like being in an art gallery, watching one beautiful moving painting after another as brilliant, haunting music fades in and out. Is there much underneath this shimmering, beautiful surface? Debatable. Does it matter? Only if you like your TV and movies old school style, with a well-conceived plot and characters you can empathise with.
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I love Terry Gilliam but unfortunately there is a lot wrong with this film
5 November 2018
Warning: Spoilers
This guy has made 3 of my favourite films ever in 12 Monkeys, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and Brazil, as well as a host of other great films such as Fisher King, Baron Munchausen and the Monty Python stuff, so needless to say I'm a massive fan. Unfortunately that means I came to this movie with high expectations. A lot of the typical Gilliam traits are here, but unlike many of his older films the cinematography and production values are pretty mediocre, the pacing is off, scenes seem to over extend and the shifts between reality and imagination seem, well, cheap, as were the rather inappropriate jumps in location between green hills and desert.

What bothered me most of all though was the language inauthenticity - Jonathan Pryce in particular was a really bad casting choice to play a Spaniard, he clearly could barely speak Spanish if at all, and couldn't even pull off a decent Spanish accent when speaking English. Why not cast a Spaniard, or a Latin American who can do a passable Spanish accent? He's the most prominent but not the only such example in the film, and scenes between native Spaniards speaking in English to each other also made little sense.

There were of course positives, as in every Terry Gilliam movie - visually the movie gets much better once they get to the final act in an old castle setting, and some of the casting choices (e.g. Driver, Skarsgard and Ribeiro) were good. And the same old Gilliamish odes to imagination, innocence and the belief than anything is possible (even when it isn't) never truly get old. But due to the aforementioned issues the emotional impact just wasn't as strong as it could and should have been.
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Maniac (2018)
Might be the best show of 2018, Fukunaga strikes again.
21 September 2018
This show succeeds in everything FX's Legion tried but hasn't quite managed to pull off, diving into mental illness and investigating what the mind looks like when it's not working well, and what it means for a mind to function well in the first place. Emma Stone and Jonah Hill are both stellar in the lead roles, but it's Cary Fukunaga's mesmerising direction of all 10 episodes that lifts this show into masterpiece territory. Every frame and shot is meticulously crafted and visually stunning, and both these and Fukunaga's superb use of Dan Romer's quirky score help create the disorienting and nervous but still somehow light-hearted atmosphere that draws you so deeply into this strange, retrofuturistic world(s) and the wonderful minds of the characters who inhabit it.
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Started off well but then way too many plot holes
3 September 2018
Warning: Spoilers
Started off well, I enjoyed the two-sided, multilingual storytelling even if the Arab characters were a bit one dimensional and the flashbacks somewhat cheesy. However from about the midpoint onwards things slowly stopped making sense. Particularly bad was the storyline with the wife, who by that point the terrorist knew was fleeing and that the Americans were looking specifically for her, and yet he only sends one guy after her (who somehow survives a targeted drone strike with only some facial scars) and doesn't take any precautions until the last second when he very conveniently finds out she's been taken by the US army.

Also the ebola hostages thing was ridiculous and so predictable from the moment he gave them the vitamins, and the CIA already knew about it when they found the hostages, how the hell did they not immediately suspect it?

Finally there was this completely useless C-plot with the drone operator, which came to nothing? And Ryan's girlfriend being clumsily squeezed into the plot twice, in completely different roles. That was just silly.
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A return to form for Craig Ferguson
21 November 2017
If you know him you probably know him as one of the greatest and most hilarious late night hosts of all time. After a couple of stints hosting a few silly shows like Join or Die and Celebrity Name Game - which were somehow both pointless while also not giving him the platform to be his usual most hysterical self - Craig is finally back to doing something worthwhile.

Mind you, don't expect anything nearly as funny here as any of his Late Night antics, but this is also definitely not a silly show either. Rather, it's a beautifully shot and edited, light-hearted but also intelligent exploration of some very interesting and timely issues with people who are experts on these issues, like can ageing be stopped any time soon; how to spot and define psychopaths (hint: there's one occupying a pretty prominent position at the moment); and when we might have to leave this planet. So this gives a chance for Craig's lesser-known intellectual, sensitive self to shine, and it doesn't hurt that his wife is presenting it alongside him in what I believe is her first appearance on camera. Of course she's not quite as funny or charismatic as he is, but it does give us an occasional glimpse of what it's like to share a life with a somewhat (adorably) insane person.
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Cable Girls (2017– )
Not bad, but Spain can do much better
29 April 2017
I think it's fair to say Spain's cinema has been fairly consistently in the top four globally in terms of quality alongside the US, UK and France. It's pretty clear that the Spaniards have a wealth of filmmaking talent both behind and in front of the camera, and a propensity to come up with interesting stories, as well as interesting ways to tell them. So I was pretty excited for the first Spanish Netflix original series - are we finally going to get a high-quality sustained insight into Spanish culture? Could it be to TV what Almodovar or Amenabar are to film?

Sadly not in this case. Not that Las Chicas del Cable is a bad series by any measure. There are some good actors here, and *some* good writing, particularly where it explores feminist themes (a Spanish specialty) and female oppression and emancipation in the early 20th century; it's also well-shot, and the period set and costume design are commendable. Unfortunately the show suffers from being dialogue-obsessed, and leaves very little room and time for creating the atmosphere it and its story deserve. Instead it jumps from one fast-paced conversation to the next, through cheesy over-dramatic flashbacks and back to the present, rushing through a rather thick plot while doing little to make us care about its characters, most of which end up falling into fairly standard archetypes (the femme fatale, the nerdy country girl, the emancipated career woman, the chauvinistic executive and so on).

It's not hard to watch by any means, for the most parts it's even somewhat fun, but at no point do you feel you're watching a 'work of art' with any real depth or unique identity. Which is a shame because I'm sure that's what Netflix aspire to, and there's no shortage of talent in Spain that could deliver that. Hopefully they get another chance to try, as it's about time we start getting quality TV from as many countries as we get quality cinema, not just the US and UK.
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Logan (2017)
Finally a decent comics book movie!
8 March 2017
While not quite as incredible as it was hyped up to be (seriously, people in some corners were raving about it as if it's as good as The Dark Knight) it's definitely a *good* movie and these days, that's a big accomplishment. Since Nolan we haven't seen a single film based on comic books that could really be said to have any sort of serious substance and/or artistic endeavor and actually was well executed (amazingly, some TV shows like Preacher, Jessica Jones and recently Legion have gotten closer to that). Rather they've been almost entirely conforming to formulaic block-buster 'rules', which essentially stipulate you are to have X amount of battle scenes, Y special effects and CGI, Z amount of space dedicated to establishing a franchise, a PG rating, and maybe 5% room for originality if you really feel adventurous.

Logan is a breath of fresh air in that, even though there are still a fair amount of gratuitous fight scenes and visual effects, it still for the most part actually seems like a real, non-franchise movie that tries to be something unique and build characters and relationships and a visual identity and emotional depth. Is it great? Not quite, but given how movies get made these days and the financial risks involved for studios and their intellectual property, we have to applaud them even being brave enough to take such a big step in the right direction. James Mangold did a very solid (if not overly ambitious) job helming this movie and giving it a unique character, and hopefully this will mark the point at which major studios realized they may have even more success if they hand these franchises over to even more serious visionary directors and let them do their thing.
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Super stylish espionage/con man thriller
4 March 2017
Not sure why this film hasn't gotten much attention so far, it's extremely well made with a super interesting (true) story and good acting. Never aiming to go too deep on the emotional side, it's just a very good narrative told in a sleek, stylish and exciting way with some stunning European location shots and the odd sprinkle of some good, dry Spanish wit. Eduard Fernandez in particular gives a great understated performance as the lead, and the instrumental surf-rock score adds a very unique stylistic touch.

All in all a very pleasant watch and would even make a great entry point into Spanish cinema for those less keen on heavy dramas or art films.
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3% (2016– )
The longer it went on the more ridiculous it became
27 February 2017
It started reasonably well, the set design, cinematography and whole look of the show was fairly original. It had an interesting concept, and just being the first Brazilian TV show I've had the privilege of encountering made it interesting. It also came highly recommended from two people, one that I know and trust and the other being Sam Esmail who created and writes and directs Mr. Robot, and inexplicably had it in his top 10 TV shows of 2016.

So I carried on watching, even when the plot started coming apart around episode 3 or 4. And I carried on even as the long close-up shots of the actors over-acting became more frequent and agonizing. And I carried on when the deus ex machina started to reign supreme in the script, and by the end of it I honestly thought I was watching some low-budget B-movie, the behavior of the characters and how plot points got resolved made no sense and just seemed completely forced.

It probably deserves a 4 out of 10 but I gave it an extra couple of points as I really want to encourage people making original and ambitious TV shows like that outside of the US and UK, especially in Latin America. But they can and should be better than this one.
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Sneaky Pete (2015–2019)
Breaking good
15 January 2017
Somehow in the end Sneaky Pete achieves pretty much everything it says on the box, and everything it hints at in the pilot. It's a con movie, and a brilliant one at that, while being a dysfunctional family drama at the same time, and also being brilliant at that. It's simply an extremely well written and acted show that somehow manages to spin about five B-plots, three C-plots and a main arc into a riveting story that never seems forced one bit, and always feels as if the writers let the characters be true to themselves rather than deus-ex-machina them into a better story. And yet the story is pretty much perfect in the end.

It also manages to take itself lightly almost the whole time and rarely going into cliché even though it gets into some dark situations, and doesn't make a joke out of those situations. Giovanni Ribisi especially impresses in the title role, essentially a bad guy looking to "break good" (shout out to Brian Cranston/Walter White who produced it and also steals all his scenes as the big villain), but the cast is superb pretty much across the board. The only thing I was missing to make it a true masterpiece was some pizazz in the directing department as it's mostly unspectacular visually, but that's a small price to pay when you get the writing and performance departments so right.
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Berlin Station (2016–2019)
A realistic slow-burn of international power games which took its time but really came through in the end
30 December 2016
I was doubtful at first, it seemed like a B-level series with B-level actors, a B-level concept on a WTF-level channel. The first couple of episodes did little to change my mind either, Berlin was just as weirdly misrepresented as in Homeland (seriously guys, Potsdamer Platz might be a nice shooting location but it's not where you'd hold confidential meetings or drop-offs). Moreover, many of the characters seemed to conform to silly stereotypes for the sake of giving the show a bit more of a flashy Hollywood feel at the expense of authenticity, with seemingly very obvious good guys and bad guys, the devious mole and the self-serving back-stabbing vice chief, and so on.

Well it certainly took its time, but as the show kept spinning its complex plot like an intricate spider's web its depth (along with that of its characters) was very slowly revealed, until towards the end I found myself really starting to sympathize with almost all of the main players -- none of whom ended up being as one-dimensional or gimmicky as they seemed at first. Even more impressive was that the complicated and multi-layered plot, with so many characters and B-plots and C-plots, really seemed to coalesce in the end into one meaningful story without any major loose ends or plot holes, every character's actions seeming completely in line with their personalities and motives. And suddenly it seemed more and authentic than both the shamelessly ridiculous Hollywood-style espionage thrillers like Bond and MI (of course) but also the opposite-end 'ultra-realistic' style of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and other John Le Carre adaptations, where the lack of human emotion can often give the movie a surreal edge.

Could it have had a tad more energy at times? Sure. A slightly better cast? Less broadly generic direction and score? You bet. Did it upset me when the Mossad agents sounded every bit as German as the BfV agents? Yes, it did. I would've really liked to see a more brilliantly executed version of this show, but very few shows are perfect and this one still proved pretty rich and enjoyable even with its slight imperfections.
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Light, funny, strange, beautiful and utterly original
30 October 2016
I guess I should start with what I don't like about this show - the dialogue is somewhat unnatural. There's no umming or erring at all, conversations are as rapid and resolute as in an American crime procedural, which is slightly weird most of the time but especially disturbing when coming from actors who aren't speaking in their first language, who happen to make up the vast majority of actors on this show.

That's it as far as flaws though, and I won't even deduct any points for this one flaw because there's a positive aspect to it, to the point that I can't even be 100% sure it wasn't intended - it adds to the feeling of surrealism that permeates every scene in this unique and wonderful creation. And when I say wonderful I mean it literally - this show is full of wonders at every corner. It keeps you constantly surprised, on edge, unsure of what on earth could possibly come next. The plot, the writing, the cinematography, the acting, the music, oh the music! The choice of music, the placement of it. Every single one of these things is done with so much balls, finesse and confidence and to the highest degree of quality. And most importantly it's a fuckload of fun, never for a second taking itself seriously, the aforementioned surrealism constantly popping up where you least expect it. It's as much a colourful satire of TV shows, film and life itself as it is one of the Church.

It's really rather hard to believe that Sky and HBO financed this gigantic odd piece of brilliantly experimental filmmaking. I'd never quite accepted what a few critics have begun to say recently, but with this show I think the penny's finally dropped for me on the notion that TV and streaming services are taking over the mantle of art in filmmaking. Which is really fortunate, since true artists like Sorrentino are finding it harder and harder these days to get movies made, and not only are many of them being given big budgets and free reign these days on TV (see also: Mr. Robot, The Knick) but this medium lets them tell much longer stories, and without being afraid that the audience will fall asleep or run off to the toilet with their bladders bursting. Praise our most holy father.
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Goliath (2016– )
One of the best dramas I've seen this year
15 October 2016
Binged-watched this one in 3 days and it was an absolute pleasure. It's not that the story itself is so thrillingly addictive, but mainly that almost all of the main characters are so fascinating, well crafted and brilliantly performed that you just keep wanting to go back and discover more about them. All of them deeply flawed, and yet vividly human and (for the most part) to at least some extent likable. Furthermore, the sheer amount of fully fleshed out, round and interesting characters that the show manages to create and build in just one 8-episode season is seriously impressive - there must be around 10 main supporting characters and by the end none of them feel under- served.

It helps of course that the cast is one of the most talented and charismatic ones put together for any show this year, with special mentions going to Thornton, Maria Bello and Nina Arianda, though literally everyone (down to even minor characters like the judge) is at the very least very good, if not excellent. It also helps that the show is masterfully written and beautifully shot, has a very strong visual identity and takes great advantage of LA as its location, particularly with the driving scenes and time- lapse shots.

Don't be fooled by people calling it a legal drama, it might have a lot of lawyers and a few courtroom scenes but the way it's shot and paced, the amount of detective work involved, the score and the atmosphere the show maintains make it feel much more like classy film noir than any legal drama I've ever watched.
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Halt and Catch Fire (2014–2017)
Would you want to be friends with anyone on this show?
18 September 2016
Bosworth aside, this is a show about a mostly really annoying bunch of people. It's well shot and directed, occasionally very well, and for the most part well acted (Lee Pace you are as handsome as you are a walking cliché and a caricature of Don Draper) but sadly, apart from the parts that actually somewhat deal with tech, entrepreneurship and the history of computing, it's pretty badly written.

I gave it a "chance", that chance being two whole seasons. I really wanted to quit half way through the first but TV reviewer Andy Greenwald, whose opinion I hold in very high value, kept going on about how the second season is so much better. Well having just finished it, this is one of the few occasions where I disagree with him, and strongly - the second season is even worse than the first. And what's even worse is that I've been with these characters for two whole seasons and I don't care even the slightest bit about any of them. They're all capricious, dishonest and mostly (apart from Donna to some extent) extremely egocentric. None of them ever seem to do anything good for anyone else, or be nice, or have any fun since somewhere back at the beginning of season one, instead they just lie to and hide stuff from each other and then constantly get surprised when it blows up in their face. I spent every episode wanting to slap each of them in the face half a dozen times. Thank god for Bosworth! He doesn't appear nearly enough, but when he does he's the only thing on screen I don't wish I could impale with a voodoo pin.

Again this is nothing against any of the actors (again apart from Lee Pace, it's definitely against him). They're all (Lee Pace aside) doing fine jobs with what they're been given, but unfortunately for them what they're given is mostly soap opera-level silliness with a bit of insightful tech talk to fill in the gaps. Which is a shame, because this could've been a really fascinating show about the history of digital technology and how it shaped our world, and instead that's a side-note in a story about a bunch of unlikable people constantly annoying each other, themselves and everyone else.
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Worth seeing if only for the incredible score and visual extravaganza
24 August 2016
There have been others here who have done great full reviews of the film so I'll avoid that and just try to add my own two cents.

This certainly isn't Refn's best film (for me that honour still belongs to Drive) nor his second or third best. It seems like with this one he fell in love with himself, and with his persona as a director, a bit too much and started overemphasising the audiovisual aspect at the expense of story, emotional depth and character development. As good a job as some of the actors did, I simply didn't feel anything for any of the characters, not even the poor naive boyfriend, and didn't at all care what happened to them.

That said the audiovisual aspect is phenomenal, even more awe-inspiring than any of Refn's other works, and it's worth seeing this film just for that. Cliff Hernandez's score particularly is just another level of analogue synthesiser heaven and by far his best work to date. It gives the film almost every bit of emotional depth it has and lifts it from an "interesting but ultimately superficial" to "exceptional and utterly unique" piece of work -- and this from someone who still bears begrudges Refn for dismissing the Johnny Jewel soundtrack for Drive in favour of Hernandez.

In summary, go see it and enjoy it for what it has to offer, even if it's noticeably flawed in other ways.
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Triple 9 (2016)
Thrilling action and brilliantly shot, I just really wished I could care more about the characters
8 May 2016
This is action done properly, and it's absolutely packed dense with it, the adrenaline level rarely dipping below 100% throughout. And I suppose that's what the producers wanted, because it seems like most of the character development scenes were left on the cutting room floor, which is a real shame because without that it's pretty hard to care about neither cops nor robbers enough to make the stakes high enough and the action as emotionally gripping as it could be.

As it is, despite a pretty fantastic cast (Aaron Paul, Anthony Mackie and Woody Harrelson in particular somehow manage to impress despite being given almost nothing to work with) in what should be an intelligent ensemble action flick in the mold of Heat, Ronin and The Departed - but grittier than any of those three - it becomes at some point pretty hard to feel anxious about anything other than the popcorn you're crushing with such a furious adrenaline rush between you're teeth, and least of all about the fates of these poorly fleshed-out and almost entirely despicable characters.

Which isn't to say that it's not an enjoyable watch - on the contrary. It's actually both a very entertaining and quite well-made movie, as well as being a pretty massive wasted opportunity at the same time. With as little as 20 additional minutes to set up back stories for these people and make them appear somewhat human this could have been one of the best action films of the decade, instead it's one we'll probably forget within a decade.
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The Gunman (2015)
Significantly better than the reviews say
13 March 2016
Pretty hard to fathom why this film got such a bad rap in the media while too many cheesy formulaic crowdpleasers from the Hollywood hit factory get 4 and 5 stars from well reputed outlets. This is a smart, superbly cast and extremely well shot international thriller - the sort that rarely gets made these days - and why such an intelligent production that actually aims to be credible and somewhat educative scores so much lower with critics than the endless parade of Bonds and Furious 7's with their ridiculous jumping cars and chewed up one liners, I have no idea.

For once the story and script are actually believable, a rarity in modern action cinema, and Penn and Bardem give great performances that are perfectly matched by beautiful dynamic cinematography of a fair few exotic locations.

I'm not easy to please with thrillers and action movies but found this one utterly enjoyable.
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The Shannara Chronicles (2016–2017)
They forgot to hire real writers and actors
10 January 2016
Was looking forward to some Game of Thrones-style intelligent fantasy drama, instead got a badly written, badly acted young adult cheese-fest. Almost none of the characters' actions are believable and none of them seem even remotely like real people.

On the plus side, it looks OK visually, though even here some big thumbs down for the direct proportionality between beauty and "goodness" - e.g. demons are the most evil and therefore ugliest, elves are pure good and are all beauty kings and queens. Doesn't exactly send the best message to kids out there who haven't been blessed with model good looks!
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Enjoyable despite the plot holes - the good outweighs the bad
18 June 2011
I generally find it quite hard to enjoy movies that have so many plot holes and inconsistencies, but managed to this time. The great, engaging cast (January Jones aside) and depth of characterisation had much to do with this, as did the flawless editing and cinematography.

It's a shame they didn't spend more time working out details like why Raven seemed to grow up most if not all of her life in England yet has an American accent for some reason (I know the real reason was Jennifer Lawrence being incapable of mastering an English accent, but what about in the movie?), how her brother-sister back story relationship with Xavier is completely inconsistent with anything in previous films/comics, how non-Americans can so easily find themselves working for the US government, and I could go on and on.

None of these issues completely drag the plot down since none of them are completely crucial to it, but you get the feeling that if they had spend a bit more effort addressing these problems this could have been a real masterpiece (well at least as far as big budget epic blockbusters go). Shame!
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Thor (2011)
An insult to Marvel fans, movie goers, and human intelligence in general
28 April 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Honestly, seeing that Branagh directed and J. Michael Straczynski wrote the script is a large part of why I went to see the movie. Plus I'm generally a big fan of Marvel and their movies.

Unfortunately it's one of the dumbest things I've seen in years, and is completely full of moronic clichés and the most superficial faux morals. Please do yourself a favour and spend your money on things that are more deserving of it, especially if you've worked hard to earn it.

Just in case you want to know what you'll be missing ---

* spoiler alert * (though really I'm giving this film a massive compliment by suggesting you could 'spoil' anything in it)

Thor's father takes his hammer away and sends him to earth for punishment. While there Thor literally changes overnight from being an arrogant, rash and violent idiot to a wise, humble and pacifist purveyor of all things noble, and the only possible reason for this that's presented in the movie is that he met Natalie Portman and was then told that his father died while he was gone. Once Thor the god of thunder completes this astonishing and instant transformation and sacrifices his life for others, his hammer flies back to him, revives him and he beats the bad guys with it.

If you really, really love Marvel movies and viking folklore (to the point where you don't mind these things being made a joke out of) and have 2.5 hours in which you'd otherwise be causing harm to humanity or this planet, go see it. Otherwise you might as well spare yourself from this glorious waste of time and brain cells.
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