Thor: Ragnarok So Disney and Marvel finally figured out that comic relief was the biggest contribution Thor and the Hulk had made to their cinematic universe thus far. Because Ragnarok, by all reports, plays up the potential for big-time yuks that's inherent when a Norse himbo has to do gladiatorial battle against a grouchy green behemoth who likes to toss him around like a Beanie Baby. (Hey, remember Beanie Babies?)
Appropriately, directorial duties were handed to Taika Waititi, who has cultivated his own cult via the genre-spoofing snark-fest What We Do in the Shadows. His take on Marvel lore is said to be in the vein of tongue-in-cheek actioners like Big Trouble in Little China and the great Midnight Run. ("I know I'm not your thunder god. [pause] "I'm saying IF I WERE your thunder god.")
Other highlights to look forward to include Cate Blanchett as Hela, goddess of death, arriving from the comics with her Jack Kirby-designed spiked headpiece intact. Oh, that CGI – it sure does spare an actor's precious neck. Plus, there's the franchise debut of the intrepid Valkyrie, now no longer a Scandinavian's idea of Becky With the Good Hair but an actual, honest-to-goodness person of color. (If it worked for Heimdall ...) And that's not to mention the returns of nasty Loki, wise Odin and the mysterious Doctor Strange, nor Jeff Goldblum's turn as the cosmic manipulator who pits Thor and the Hulk against each other in the first place. Boy, what a role that would have been for Gordon Solie.
This more-is-more approach seems to be working for Ragnarok, which topped competitors like It and Blade Runner 2049 to be named the most anticipated film of fall in some audience polls. Now all the picture has to do is build on that goodwill for two weeks. Because that's when all of our attention is going to shift to hate-watching Justice League. (PG-13)
Also Playing: Crash Pad The suddenly ubiquitous Domnhall Gleeson plays a soulful sad sack whose one-night-stand with a married woman inspires an unlikely friendship with her pissed-off husband (Thomas Haden Church). Stranger things have happened in this crazy world of ours – hell, stranger things have happened in my own damn house. But I wasn't the film editor on Sideways and About Schmidt like Kevin Tent was, which explains why he got to direct this film and I'm reduced to vaguebooking about my personal problems in a free newsweekly. Make good choices, people. (R)
A Silent Voice An acclaimed manga makes the leap to anime, telling the story of a schoolboy who abuses a hearing-impaired classmate and lives to regret it. This anti-bullying parable was a financial and critical success in its native Japan, but here it's getting a belated, extremely limited release. For God's sake, it's like Melania doesn't even exist or something. (NR)