For a review of “Thor: Ragnarok,”
None of us doubted that Cate Blanchett would make a kickass comic- book- movie villain, did we? There she is, in Taika Waititi’s goofily entertaining “Thor: Ragnarok,” as Hela, Goddess of Death, styled like a malevolent combination of Catwoman and Cher. ( Her outfit nods to the current bare shoulder fashion trend; apparently goddesses also read Vogue.)
She’s been locked away for an eternity, we learn, so she’s understandably cranky — smoothing back her hair in a threatening manner ( you quickly learn to flinch when she does this), hissing her lines in a refrigerated deadpan. Now freed, her silky evilness knows no bounds. Does Thor ( Chris Hemsworth) and his hammer possibly have a chance against such a foe?
The happiest surprise of this third “Thor” installment isn’t that Blanchett is such a kick — come on, you knew she would be — but that the rest of themovie is, too.
Waititi, the New Zealander whose credits include the irresistible vampire mockumentary “What We Do in the Shadows” ( if you haven’t seen it already, have I got a Halloween- week movie pick for you) gives the familiar superhero formula a cheeky nudge.
The plot’s the usual saving-the- world stuff — in this case, the world is Thor’s homeland Asgard— and the special effects and battle scenes are zippy but familiar. ( Disclaimer: At the screening I attended, the sound cut out in the last minute or so of the film, so I suppose it’s possible that Thor and the gang closed things out by reciting T. S. Eliot or speaking Klingon or singing a song from “Les Mis.” But I’ve been assured that they didn’t. Somebody please tell me if they did.)
No, the fun here is in the little moments the actors find, and in the way that Waititi, within the massive machine that is a studio superhero movie, brings out a looseness and playfulness in the performances. Tom Hiddleston’s Loki remains an irresistible bad boy, slyly smiling to himself as he remembers a misdeed; Tessa Thompson, as the harddrinking warrior Valkyrie, gets a hilarious entrance to the franchise as she expertly falls off a ramp; Jeff Goldblum, sporting blue eyeliner and a campy emcee- of- a- realityshow vibe, languidly saunters off with all of his scenes.
Hemsworth’s Thor, that most lunkishly likable of superheroes, carries this franchise as lightly as he tosses that hammer. He’s even got a perfect little romcom moment, when he tries to appear suavely casual but doesn’t knowwhat to do with his hands. ( Even Norse gods, it seems, have moments they’d like to do over.) And Waititi himself supplies the movie’s offbeat heart as Korg, a creature made of rocks who lumbers through the action with a resigned, New Zealand- accented cheerfulness. “I tried to start a revolution,” he offers, “but I didn’t print enough pamphlets.” Good fun, all of it.
“Thor: Ragnarok,” a Marvel Studios release, is rated PG- 13 for intense sequences of sci- fi violence and action, and brief suggestive material. Running time: 130 minutes. ★★★
“Bad Moms Christmas”
In “A Bad Moms Christmas,” it’s double the moms, double the bad.
Last time around, a year and change ago, the “Bad Moms” were just a trio of Wine Moms — Amy ( Mila Kunis), Kiki ( Kristen Bell) and Carla ( Kathryn Hahn) — letting loose with some shots while letting go of perfectionism.
Now their moms — Ruth ( Christine Baranski), Sandy ( Cheryl Hines) and Isis ( Susan Sarandon) — are in town for the holidays, and we’ve got a veritable cornucopia of naughty mommies.
“Bad Moms”: now with more emotional manipulation.
The existential plight of the Wine Mom— who seeks relief from the crushing weight of heteronormative capitalist patriarchy at the bottom of a chardonnay bottle— is a real cultural crisis. Someone should shine a light on this, but co- writers and codirectors Jon Lucas and Scott Moore are not those storytellers.
Mostly because one has to wonder if Lucas and Moore have ever even met human women. These characters are cartoonish campy drag personae of women, categorized by their attributes, like Santa’s reindeer or the Smurfs: Stressy, Crazy, Slutty, Critical, Clingy and Drifter.
Kunis stars as Amy, always harried, always “busy.” She’s divorced with a couple of kids ( Oona Laurence and Emjay Anthony), whom she warily apprises, as if she’s not quite sure who they are or why they’re in her house. She shares the same chemistry with Baranski and Peter Gallagher, who play her parents, treating them like a couple of wayward strangers.
With her gal pals, it’s all forced fun, loud laughing, cheers- ing and declarations of “let’s take back Christmas!”
“Bad Moms” seemed to spring froma single inspirational scene, with the rest of the movie written around it ( moms going crazy at a house party), and “A Bad Moms Christmas” takes the same approach. So when the “twerking on Santa” sequence is over within the first 10 minutes, the film is adrift, filled with so much tedious male stripper filler material. It’s the “Bad Moms” Meet “Magic Mike” Holiday Extravaganza, only with truly ghastly dancing.
“A Bad Moms Christmas” is a poorly gift- wrapped Pinterest fail of a movie. The Scotch tape in the equation, bravely straining to hold things together, are the emphatic line deliveries, made to trick us into thinking lines that are not jokes are, actually, jokes. The bows and trim, attempting to distract from obvious seams, are the endless slow- motion montages of mayhem set to pop tunes.
Baranski is wonderfully sharp as the monstrous Type A 1 percenter Ruth, and she does get a few amazing lines (“those ornaments are from the Titanic! That ice is from the moon! Moon ice!” she shrieks, as she and her daughter symbolically tussle over a Christmas tree). Hines is also delightfully surreal as the overprotective Sandy. Hahn is always the best around, but you can’t help but internally scream “this is beneath you!” almost every moment she’s on screen.
What’s offensive about “A Bad Moms Christmas” ( and “Bad Moms”) is just how shoddily made it is. Female audiences deserve better movies than this. Furthermore, it positions the enemies of moms as other moms— not the rigidly gendered social structures and expectations that demand women do the majority of the domestic and emotional labor. Rather than men or money being the enemy, it’s other women, and that’s not fair. Here’s to hoping for “A Bad Moms Revolution” as the final installment.
“Bad Moms Christmas,” a STX Entertainment release, is rated R for crude sexual content and language throughout, and some drug use. Running time: 104 minutes. ★ ½
“A Bad Moms Christmas” stars, from left, Kristen Bell, Mila Kunis and Kathryn Hahn.