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SPOILER ALERT

HAMMERING IT HOME?
The first Thor film in 2011 was a very enjoyable superhero film. Capturing the spirit of Lee and Kirby on the screen with a very likeable cast and script, it is now two years later and we have Thor The Dark World. Director Kenneth Branagh has gone to be replaced by TV veteran Alan Taylor (The Sopranos, Mad Men) but most of the cast have remained the same except for Fandral who is now played by Zachari (Chuck) Levi. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) remains on Asgard, separated from his love Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) but he is forced to return to Earth when Malekith (CGI Christopher Eccleston), lord of the Dark Elves, attempts to find the dangerous power source the Ether. If his quest is successful, it could cause the end of existence as we know it. For thousands of years, it has been safely secreted in an industrial estate in England but when Jane Foster comes into contact with it, Thor is forced to betray Asgard to keep her and the mortal world safe. Tom Hiddleston steals the scenes he’s in as Loki but Hemsworth continues to be a very personable presence on screen while Portman doesn’t do much except look pretty. Eccleston is a decent enough villain but he doesn’t have a great deal to do since Malekith is mostly a digital creation anyway. Visually, Taylor has made a decent fist of things, using Greenwich as the setting for the apocalyptic climax and Asgard looks suitably unearthly. Yes it is silly and reminiscent of Doctor Who at times but it is a thoroughly enjoyable experience with some nice interplay between Loki and Thor and most importantly, at under two hours, it doesn’t outstay its welcome. We are left with a conclusion that sets up a second sequel quite neatly. There are two credit zingers, the first is a nod to the forthcoming Guardians of The Galaxy while the second is merely a throwaway postscript to the film. Thor The Dark World is a worthy successor to Thor and I would be happy to see a Thor 3 in the future…

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SHIP SHAPE?
Tom Hanks is an actor with some weight and when he chooses the correct role, he can impress on screen. Captain Phillips is a film about the captain of a Maersk ship who was kidnapped by Somali pirates back in 2009. This is the first collaboration between Hanks, who plays Phillips, and director Paul (The Bourne Supremacy, United 93) and Hanks impresses from the start. Greengrass has gone for a very straightforward directing style here, almost giving it the feel of a documentary. Captain Phillips is basically a two hander, with the viewer witnessing the evolving relationship between Phillips and Muse, the chief Somali pirate played by Barkhad Abdi. Abdi is excellent and he acquits himself very well, considering that this is his first feature. The audience does empathise with Phillips almost from the start but Greengrass with screenwriter Billy Ray does put us in the position of the Somalis, eliciting a little sympathy for their situation. There are a few hung ho moments especially the scenes with the Navy SEALS towards the end but Greengrass manages to make them seem low-key and measured on screen. In the hands of a lesser director, this would have been Under Siege 3 but it is to his credit that Greengrass manages to create a human story complete with drama, emotion and depth. Hanks is excellent and surely he’ll be getting another nod from the academy next year. Captain Phillips is a film with more complexity than you’d expect, superbly directed by Greengrass with a bold performance from Hanks and a sympathetic turn from Abdi…