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‘Thor: Love and Thunder’ Needs More of Russell Crowe’s Zany Zeus

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‘Thor: Love and Thunder’ Needs More of Russell Crowe’s Zany Zeus

The latest movie from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Thor: Love and Thunder, has now been unleashed on the world where it is most certainly going to make a boatload of cash. However, putting the inevitable financial returns aside, the film itself is a deeply flawed experience whose attempts at humor don’t always land. That is, except for one side character who steals the show in the most glorious fashion possible. While it is centered on the continued adventures of Chris Hemsworth as the Norse god Thor, there is a different deity that captures our attention who seems to have drunkenly wandered in from a different, far better film. Yes, I am talking about the all-too-brief appearance of Russell Crowe’s Zeus.

Making use of odd inflection and delivery that appears to be the veteran actor’s best attempt at a Greek accent, though it’s truly anyone’s guess, it is the type of performance that sticks out in the best way possible. He first appears when Thor and the gang must travel to the famed Omnipotence City, a floating celestial fortress from the comics where they run into a whole host of gods. However, they have no time to waste with all these lesser gods as they are looking to go talk to the big man in charge: Zeus himself. They are hoping to get his support as Christian Bale’s menacing and underutilized Gorr the God Butcher is staying true to his name by butchering gods. Unfortunately, they soon discover help is nowhere to be found.

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RELATED: ‘Thor: Love and Thunder’ Cast and Character Guide: Check Out Who’s Who in the Marvel Superhero Epic

This is because Crowe plays Zeus as a shallow showman, strutting around with a smarmy yet sinister sense of how to use spectacle to command an audience. He is goofy and gregarious, more focused on an upcoming orgy than anything else. He looks the part as well, flaunting his flowing locks and scraggly beard while wearing a gaudy golden breastplate etched with symbols. He is a being not constrained by subtlety, something Crowe embraces with an energetic disposition that is fitting and fearsome for a god with such power. His weapon of choice, of course, is a lightning bolt that Thor will later set his sights on when he realizes its owner is not actually going to help him. All of these details help breathe life into the character, though it is Crowe’s chaotic performance that really makes it such a great one. Whereas many of the other characters feel like they’re sleepwalking through the fraught film, he blows the doors off of the role and bellows his way through each boisterous scene with ease.


While many of the jokes throughout the film are often based upon characters riffing on the same premise over and over, Crowe seems to know more of the proper tone to strike. He carries himself with a haughty, yet hilarious, self-importance, his arrogance emerging through every single aspect of his performance. He doesn’t do so in a way that is winking at the audience or relying upon self-referential humor as much of the film does. Instead, he is just purely comical in how he embodies the obliviousness that comes with being worshiped while doing nothing to earn it. It is silly, though not superficially so. Sure, when he accidentally blows off all of Thor’s clothes for a gag, his surprise is perfectly attuned to the moment. Most importantly, it shows he doesn’t even know his strengths or have complete control of his own power because he has never needed to. There is no need to restrain yourself when you’re a god, leading to situations that are funny, though they betray something far more frightening.

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While it is not entirely excavated in the film, the central theme it is grasping at is that the gods are not to be trusted and don’t actually care about anyone other than themselves. This is the realization that drives Gorr to revenge as he has witnessed firsthand how their callous cruelty can devastate the lives of those desperately seeking their help that will never come. Zeus is this given shape and form once more, though this time it is our heroes who see it for themselves. He becomes a precise portrait of pretentiousness that encapsulates the uncaring nature of the gods. While Crowe is undeniably absurd when we are first introduced to him, he shifts into being more frightening at a moment’s notice. When he approaches a chained Thor to whisper in his ear, the facade he puts on for the crowd drops, and we see the true monster he is under it all emerge. Crowe, for all the bizarre details he brought to his character, brings the necessary amount of gravitas to make it work. The juxtaposition between the persona he played up for the crowd to then this more quiet and unsettling one cuts deep. The way he performs on stage versus who he is when the masks slip ever so slightly speaks volumes.


It is therefore a shame that, much like with Bale, we don’t see more of Crowe getting to let loose. In the film, he is one of the few that really finds a groove in his humor and runs with it in interesting new directions. Going into the film, it was unclear how much of a part he would actually get and there was some trepidation about how it would fit into the film. Not only does he fit in perfectly, but he is one of the highlights of what can be an uneven experience. It is not every day you can see a character go from doing a quick turn with a heaping of sass to then being far more psychologically unhinged, though Crowe provides that in spades. For that brief period, in the middle of Thor: Love and Thunder, he commanded the screen with such verve and vigor that one could almost forget the belabored journey it took to get there as well as what follows. What is interesting is that, without giving anything away about where this all ends up going, the king of gods and men may continue to have a substantial impact on future stories. If this means that Crowe can once again grace our screens with his enigmatic and eccentric portrayal, then he absolutely should. The gods would demand nothing less.


Thor: Love and Thunder is now in theaters!

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Review: SAMARITAN, A Sly Stallone Superhero Stumble

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Review: SAMARITAN, A Sly Stallone Superhero Stumble

Hitting the three-quarter-century mark usually means a retirement home, a nursing facility, or if you’re lucky to be blessed with relatively good health and savings to match, living in a gated community in Arizona or Florida.

For Sylvester Stallone, however, it means something else entirely: starring in the first superhero-centered film of his decades-long career in the much-delayed Samaritan. Unfortunately for Stallone and the audience on the other side of the screen, the derivative, turgid, forgettable results won’t get mentioned in a career retrospective, let alone among the ever-expanding list of must-see entries in a genre already well past its peak.

For Stallone, however, it’s better late than never when it involves the superhero genre. Maybe in getting a taste of the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) with his walk-on role in the Guardians of the Galaxy sequel several years ago, Stallone thought anything Marvel can do, I can do even better (or just as good in the nebulous definition of the word).

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The property Stallone and his team found for him, Samaritan, a little-known graphic novel released by a small, almost negligible, publisher, certainly takes advantage of Stallone’s brute-force physicality and his often underrated talent for near-monosyllabic brooding (e.g., the Rambo series), but too often gives him to little do or say as the lone super-powered survivor, the so-called “Samaritan” of the title, of a lifelong rivalry with his brother, “Nemesis.” Two brothers entered a fire-ravaged building and while both were presumed dead, one brother did survive (Stallone’s Joe Smith, a garbageman by day, an appliance repairman by night).

In the Granite City of screenwriter Bragi F. Schut (Escape Room, Season of the Witch), the United States, and presumably the rest of the world, teeters on economic and political collapse, with a recession spiraling into a depression, steady gigs difficult, if not impossible, to obtain, and the city’s neighborhoods rocked by crime and violence. No one’s safe, not even 13-year-old Sam (Javon Walker), Joe’s neighbor.

When he’s not dodging bullies connected to a gang, he’s falling under the undue influence of Cyrus (Pilou Asbæk), a low-rent gang leader with an outsized ego and the conviction that he and only he can take on Nemesis’s mantle and along with that mantle, a hammer “forged in hate,” to orchestrate a Bane-like plan to plunge the city into chaos and become a wealthy power-broker in the process.

Schut’s woefully underwritten script takes a clumsy, haphazard approach to world-building, relying on a two-minute animated sequence to open Samaritan while a naive, worshipful Sam narrates Samaritan and Nemesis’s supposedly tragic, Cain and Abel-inspired backstory. Schut and director Julius Avery (Overlord) clumsily attempt to contrast Sam’s childish belief in messiah-like, superheroic saviors stepping in to save humanity from itself and its own worst excesses, but following that path leads to authoritarianism and fascism (ideas better, more thoroughly explored in Watchmen and The Boys).

While Sam continues to think otherwise, Stallone’s superhero, 25 years past his last, fatal encounter with his presumably deceased brother, obviously believes superheroes are the problem and not the solution (a somewhat reasonable position), but as Samaritan tracks Joe and Sam’s friendship, Sam giving Joe the son he never had, Joe giving Sam the father he lost to street violence well before the film’s opening scene, it gets closer and closer to embracing, if not outright endorsing Sam’s power fantasies, right through a literally and figuratively explosive ending. Might, as always, wins regardless of how righteous or justified the underlying action.

It’s what superhero audiences want, apparently, and what Samaritan uncritically delivers via a woefully under-rendered finale involving not just unconvincing CGI fire effects, but a videogame cut-scene quality Stallone in a late-film flashback sequence that’s meant to be subversively revelatory, but will instead lead to unintentional laughter for anyone who’s managed to sit the entirety of Samaritan’s one-hour and 40-minute running time.

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Samaritan is now streaming worldwide on Prime Video.

Samaritan

Cast
  • Sylvester Stallone
  • Javon ‘Wanna’ Walton
  • Pilou Asbæk

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Matt Shakman Is In Talks To Direct ‘Fantastic Four’

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According to a new report, Wandavision’s Matt Shakman is in talks to direct the upcoming MCU project, Fantastic Four. Marvel Studios has been very hush-hush regarding Fantastic Four to the point where no official announcements have been made other than the film’s release date. No casting news or literally anything other than rumors has been released regarding the project. We know that Fantastic Four is slated for release on November 8th, 2024, and will be a part of Marvel’s Phase 6. There are also rumors that the cast of the new Fantastic Four will be announced at the D23 Expo on September 9th.

Fantastic Four is still over two years from release, and we assume we will hear more news about the project in the coming months. However, the idea of the Fantastic Four has already been introduced into the MCU. John Krasinski played Reed Richards aka Mr. Fantastic in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. The cameo was a huge deal for fans who have been waiting a long time for the Fantastic Four to enter the MCU. When Disney acquired Twenty Century Fox in 2019 we assumed that the Fox Marvel characters would eventually make their way into the MCU. It’s been 3 years and we already have had an X-Men and Fantastic Four cameo – even if they were from another universe.

Deadline is reporting that Wandavision’s Matt Shakman is in talks to direct Fantastic Four. Shakman served as the director for Wandavision and has had an extensive career. He directed two episodes of Game of Thrones and an episode of The Boys, and he had a long stint on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. There is nothing official yet, but Deadline’s sources say that Shakman is currently in talks for the job and things are headed in the right direction.

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To be honest, I was a bit more excited when Jon Watts was set to direct. I’m sure Shakman is a good director, but Watts proved he could handle a tentpole superhero film with Spider-Man: Homecoming. Wandavision was good, but Watts’ style would have been perfect for Fantastic Four. The film is probably one of the most anticipated films in Marvel’s upcoming slate films and they need to find the best person they can to direct. Is that Matt Shakman? It could be, but whoever takes the job must realize that Marvel has a lot riding on this movie. The other Fantastic Four films were awful and fans deserve better. Hopefully, Marvel knocks it out of the park as they usually do. You can see for yourself when Fantastic Four hits theaters on November 8th, 2024.

Film Synopsis: One of Marvel’s most iconic families makes it to the big screen: the Fantastic Four.

Source: Deadline

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Dan Aykroyd, Chevy Chase Star in ‘Zombie Town’ Mystery Teen Romancer (Exclusive)

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Dan Aykroyd and Chevy Chase have entered Zombie Town, a mystery teen romancer based on author R.L. Stine’s book of the same name.

The indie, now shooting in Ontario, also stars Henry Czerny and co-teen leads Marlon Kazadi and Madi Monroe. The ensemble cast includes Scott Thompson and Bruce McCulloch of the Canadian comedy show Kids in the Hall.

Canadian animator Peter Lepeniotis will direct Zombie Town. Stine’s kid’s book sees a quiet town upended when 12-year-old Mike and his friend, Karen, see a horror movie called Zombie Town and unexpectedly see the title characters leap off the screen and chase them through the theater.

Zombie Town will premiere in U.S. theaters before streaming on Hulu and then ABC Australia in 2023.

“We are delighted to bring the pages of R.L. Stine’s Zombie Town to the screen and equally thrilled to be working with such an exceptional cast and crew on this production. A three-time Nickelodeon Kids Choice Award winner with book sales of over $500 million, R.L. Stine has a phenomenal track record of crafting stories that engage and entertain audiences,” John Gillespie, Trimuse Entertainment founder and executive producer, said in a statement.

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Executive producers are Trimuse Entertainment, Toonz Media Group, Lookout Entertainment, Viva Pictures and Sons of Anarchy actor Kim Coates.  

Paco Alvarez and Mark Holdom of Trimuse negotiated the deal to acquire the rights to Stine’s Zombie Town book.

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