Review: ‘Land of Bad,’ starring Liam Hemsworth, Russell Crowe, Luke Hemsworth, Ricky Whittle and Milo Ventimiglia

February 21, 2024

by Carla Hay

Liam Hemsworth and Luke Hemsworth in “Land of Bad” (Photo courtesy of The Avenue)

“Land of Bad”

Directed by William Eubank

Culture Representation: Taking place in Southern Asia, the action film “Land of Bad” features a predominantly white and Asian cast of characters (with a few African Americans and Latinos) portraying U.S. military people and Asian terrorists.

Culture Clash: A four-man Delta Force team (a special unit of the U.S. Army) gets attacked by terrorists in a South Asian jungle, and a drone pilot in a far-away control room must guide them out of their predicament.

Culture Audience: “Land of Bad” will appeal primarily to fans of the movie’s headliners and mindless military films.

Russell Crowe in “Land of Bad” (Photo courtesy of The Avenue)

“Land of Bad” should’ve been titled “Land of Bad Filmmaking.” This woefully inept military action flick wants viewers to believe that remote voices from a portable device cannot be drowned out by massive explosions. Russell Crowe’s career has also devolved into doing awkward comedy in terrible non-comedy movies. Much of the movie’s ludicrous action relies entirely on showing people running for their lives in a jungle with bombs or guns going off around them while still being able to chat on walkie-talkie audio levels with someone who can see everything on a drone video monitor in a far-away control room.

Directed by William Eubank, “Land of of Bad” was co-written by Eubank and David Frigerio. The movie is just one fake-looking scene after another, with juvenile dialogue that is just plain embarrassing if it’s supposed to represent the U.S. military. There are shallow video games that are better than this “Land of Bad” dreck.

“Land of Bad” has this captioned statement in the introduction: “Currently, the Sulu Sea is home to some of the most violent extremist groups in Southern Asia. Intelligence agencies from around the world work together in a global struggle where men and women put their lives on the line every day. We are in a war … we just don’t know it.”

First of all, there are no “intelligence agencies from around the world” working together in this movie. The only “heroes” and “rescuers” are from the U.S. military. It’s an example of shoddy screenwriting that this introductory statement doesn’t match what’s actually in the film.

Second, the movie has a running “joke” that most of the U.S. military people who are supposed to look out for the “people who put their lives on the line” in this story would rather watch a basketball game on TV and ignore potential emergency phone calls in their control center instead of doing their jobs. It’s pathetic.

“Land of Bad” begins by showing the four-man Delta Force squad that is being sent to an unnamed jungle area in Southern Asia, where they are on a vague mission to capture terrorists. (“Land of Bad” was actually filmed in Queensland, Australia.) And by the way, as the squad leader mentions in an offhand manner, a Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) asset has been captured in this jungle, so if they have time, they might as well find him too. Too bad the filmmakers of “Land of Bad” didn’t take the time to make a good movie.

The four men in the squad are:

  • JJ Kinney (played by Liam Hemsworth), a 27-year-old former U.S. Air Force sergeant, who is new to the U.S. Army because he left the Air Force due to “stomach problems,” he tells the other guys. Don’t expect further details.
  • John “Sugar” Sweet (played by Milo Ventimiglia), a master staff sergeant, who is the no-nonsense squad leader.
  • Sergeant Abell (played by Luke Hemsworth, an older brother of Liam Hemsworth in real life), a wisecracking jokester who doesn’t have a first name in the movie.
  • Sergeant Bishop (played by Ricky Whittle), who is stern and judgmental and doesn’t have a first name in the movie.

Monitoring this operation in a control room on a military base is a cynical grouch named Eddie Grimm, nicknamed Reaper (played by Crowe)—as in, “grim reaper” (wink wink, nudge nudge)—a captain who is a drone operator watching their every move on video screens. If the squad finds the terrorist hideout that the U.S. military is looking for, there is a plan to launch a missile bomb at this hideout. At one point in the movie, Reaper mentions that he could’ve been a fighter pilot in the U.S. Air Force, but he mouthed off too much to his commanding officers, so his military career stalled.

Reaper still mouths off a lot, which is supposed to be the movie’s “comic relief,” but his jokes fall flatter than a military buzzcut. Here’s an example of one of the so-called jokes: Reaper complains to JJ that Reaper’s wife is a strict vegan. Reaper says to JJ, “How do you know someone is vegan?” JJ replies, “I don’t know.” Reaper says, “They will tell you.”

During the course of this ludicrous movie, because of all the self-absorbed yakking that Reaper does, viewers will hear more than they need to know about Reaper’s personal life and almost nothing about the squad members whose lives are in danger. Reaper has been married and divorced three times and is married to his fourth wife Lucy, who is pregnant and due to give birth at any moment. (Lucy is never seen in the movie.) The baby will be his ninth child. His eight other children are from his previous marriages.

Reaper has a loyal military sidekick named Nia Branson (played by Chika Ikogwe), a staff sergeant who is the only military woman in this movie. Nia has invited Reaper to her upcoming wedding. Later, when the mission becomes a life-and-death situation for the squad, Nia is by Reaper’s side in helping with drone video monitor duties.

This is JJ’s first Tier One (highly secretive) mission. Abell is friendly and welcoming to JJ. By contrast, Bishop gives JJ a hard time over JJ’s lack of experience in this type of work and is openly skeptical that JJ has what it takes to successfully complete the mission. And as soon as Bishop shows that he underestimates JJ, you just know who’s going to be the main “hero” of the story.

Bishop snarls at JJ: “Do me favor: Keep up. And don’t fuck up. The last thing we need in this ops is to save your ass.” For reasons that are never explained or shown, JJ has been given the nickname Playboy. However, in the beginning of the mission, JJ gets worried because he can’t find his mini-box of Fruit Loops cereal, so Bishop somewhat taunts JJ by calling him Fruit Loop instead of Playboy.

The four men parachute into the jungle. It isn’t long before they get in a shootout with terrorists who have beheaded some people. It’s enough to say that the squad members get separated, and not everyone in the squad makes it out alive. At least one of the squad members gets captured, and it’s up to the “hero” squad member to come to the rescue. This person manages to escape explosions and shootouts with hardly any wounds for most of the movie.

Meanwhile, back in the military base control room, most of the people on duty are watching a basketball game on a TV in the break room. The people who are watching the game include Colonel Duz Packett (played by Daniel MacPherson), who is hardly seen doing any real work. Reaper clashes with Duz (who is Reaper’s commanding officer) because Duz thinks Reaper is being too uptight for yelling at the guys in the room because they turned down the volume on the landline phone in the room. Duz says they need to be able to hear the phone in case his wife Lucy calls when she goes into labor. Later, there’s another big reason why the phone needs to be heard when someone calls.

“Land of Bad” has a very generic terrorist as the main villain. His name is Saeed Hashimi (played by Robert Rabiah), and he doesn’t have most of his scenes until the last third of the movie. That’s because “Land of Bad” spends a mind-numbing amount of time showing JJ by himself in the jungle. Reaper bonds with JJ over their remote chats when Reaper finds out that they’re both from cities that are only a few miles apart in Ohio. (Reaper is from Brook Park. JJ is from Middleburg Heights.) The only other tidbit of personal information that is revealed about JJ is that his father recently died.

When JJ is not dodging bullets and bombs, he’s hiding out in the jungle with potential captors nearby. Even when JJ is supposed to be hiding in silence, Reaper keeps yapping away on the remote communications device that JJ has. Somehow, Reaper’s voice can be heard by JJ during the loud explosions and gunshots (even though JJ is not wearing hearing devices), but then when Reaper talks during moments where JJ has to be quiet because enemies are close enough to find him, somehow these enemies can’t hear these voice sounds coming from JJ’s communications device. That tells you all you need to know about how stupid “Land of Bad” is and how stupid the movie expects viewers to be when watching this junk.

The Avenue released “Land of Bad” in U.S. cinemas on February 16, 2024.

Review: ‘Bad Hombres’ (2024), starring Diego Tinoco, Hemky Madera, Thomas Jane, Luke Hemsworth and Tyrese Gibson

February 17, 2024

by Carla Hay

Hemky Madera and Diego Tinoco in “Bad Hombres” (Photo courtesy of Screen Media)

“Bad Hombres” (2024)

Directed by John Stalberg Jr.

Some language in Spanish with subtitles

Culture Representation: Taking place in New Mexico, the action film “Bad Hombres” features Latino and white characters (with a few African Americans) representing the working-class and middle-class.

Culture Clash: An undocumented immigrant and a ranch worker go on the run from a ruthless criminal and his nephew, who have committed murder. 

Culture Audience: “Bad Hombres” will appeal primarily to people who are interested in action films that are nothing but mindless “shoot ’em up” flicks.

Paul Johansson in “Bad Hombres” (Photo courtesy of Screen Media)

“Bad Hombres” is a soulless and violent 21st century Western that is just a bunch of terribly staged chase scenes, obnoxious characters and cliché-filled shootouts. It’s time-wasting junk that has nothing interesting to show or tell. There’s not much that is worth remembering because the movie doesn’t have much of a story.

Directed by John Stalberg Jr. and written by Rex New and Nick Turner, “Bad Hombres” was filmed on location in New Mexico. It’s where an undocumented Ecuadoran immigrant named Felix (played by Diego Tinoco) has illegally crossed over the border into the United States, because he’s searching for work and a better life. In the beginning of the movie, Felix is in a group of other adult migrants who are waiting in a parking lot and hoping to be chosen for a roofing job. Felix is with a friend named Oscar (played by Steve Louis Vellegas), who is among those who are selected.

Felix is not chosen for the job. He’s dejected by not completely discouraged. Felix goes into a nearby True Value hardware store to fill up a bottle with water at a public drinking fountain. A store employee (played by Kevin Moccia) yells at Felix, “You can’t solicit in here!,’ even though Felix isn’t selling anything and is minding his own business. There are racial undertones to this employee’s hostile reaction because the employee is white, and Felix is Hispanic.

A customer nearby notices that Felix is being harassed, so the customer shames the employee to stop harassing Felix. The employee then backs off and leaves Felix alone. This seemingly helpful customer is a native of Australia. His name is Donnie (played by Luke Hemsworth), and he strikes up a conversation with Felix. From this conversation, Donnie finds out that this is Felix’s first day in the United States.

Donnie (who is talkative to the point of being very irritating) correctly assumes that Felix is an undocumented immigrant when it becomes obvious that Felix is looking for a job that can pay in cash. Donnie says that he has an uncle who’s a ranch owner looking to hire someone to do some work at the ranch. Donnie says that his uncle is a “conspiracy nut” but is mostly harmless.

Felix eagerly takes this job offer without getting many details of what type of job he will be doing, except knowing that it will involve manual labor. The person who gives Felix a ride to the ranch is another ranch employee named Alfonso (played by Hemky Madera), who happens to be waiting in the parking lot of True Value. Alfonso is standoffish when Felix tries to start a conversation with him. Of course, Felix finds out too late that this job offer is too good to be true.

At the ranch, which is in a desert area, Donnie’s uncle Steve Hoskins (played by Paul Johansson) bizarrely sits in a car parked outside and watches as Donnie, Alfonso and Felix talk nearby. Felix is told that the job he has to do will be digging large holes in the hard ground. A little later, Donnie shows he’s actually a racist when he says to Felix in a taunting voice about how to pronounce Latinx: “Hey, Felix. I forgot to ask you: Is it ‘Latin-ex’ or ‘Latin-inks’?”

An unnamed rancher (played by Kevin Carrigan) rides up on a horse and demands to know what these four men are doing there, because he says that all four of them are trespassing on his private property. Donnie says that they are there to bury four bodies, which will now be five bodies. Steve then shoots and kills the unnamed rancher. And that’s when all hell breaks loose.

Alfonso overtakes Steve and kicks him so hard that he passes out. Alfonso then stabs Donnie in the head with a pick axe. Donnie shoots at Alfonso and Felix, as Alfonso and Felix drive away in Steve’s car. Felix has been shot in his right leg. Despite the serious injuries sustained by Steve and Donnie, you just know it’s not going to be the last you’ll see of these two villains. The rest of the movie is essentially about Steve and Donnie trying to find and kill Alfonso and Felix.

Some of the people who get caught up in this mayhem are Alfonso’s friend Rob Carlton (played by Thomas Jane); Rob’s friend Dr. Dean “Growler” Graulich (played by Nick Cassavetes); and a killer listed in the end credits as The Man With No Name (played by Tyrese Gibson). That’s really all there is to this simple-minded story, where all the characters are two-dimensional and utterly tedious, with stale or non-existent personalities. “Bad Hombres” is a film lacking in originality or the ability to make viewers really care about any of the characters. In the end, it’s a movie that is as empty as an unloaded gun.

Screen Media released “Bad Hombres” in select U.S. cinemas, digital and VOD on January 26, 2024. The movie will be released on DVD on March 12, 2024.

Review: ‘Thor: Love and Thunder,’ starring Chris Hemsworth, Christian Bale, Tessa Thompson, Taika Waititi, Russell Crowe and Natalie Portman

July 5, 2022

by Carla Hay

Natalie Portman and Chris Hemsworth in “Thor: Love and Thunder” (Photo by Jasin Boland/Marvel Studios)

“Thor: Love and Thunder”

Directed by Taika Waititi

Culture Representation: Taking place on Earth and other parts of the universe (including the fictional location of New Asgard), the superhero action film “Thor: Love and Thunder” features a predominantly white cast of characters (with some African Americans, Latinos and Asians) representing the working-class, middle-class and wealthy.

Culture Clash: Nordic superhero Thor Odinson, also known as the God of Thunder, teams up with allies in a battle against the revengeful villain Gorr the God Butcher, while Thor’s ex-girlfriend Jane Porter has her own personal battle with Stage 4 cancer. 

Culture Audience: Besides appealing to the obvious target audience of comic book movie fans, “Thor: Love and Thunder” will appeal primarily to people who are fans of the movie’s headliners and action movies that skillfully blend drama and comedy.

Christian Bale in “Thor: Love and Thunder” (Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios)

“Thor: Love and Thunder” could also be called “Thor: Grief and Comedy,” because how of this superhero movie sequel balances these two themes with some results that are better than others. The movie goes big on showing bittersweet romance and the power of true friendships. Some of the movie’s subplots clutter up the movie, and any sense of terrifying danger is constantly undercut by all the wisecracking, but “Thor: Love and Thunder” gleefully leans into the idea that a superhero leader can be a formidable warrior, as well as a big goofball and a sentimental romantic.

Directed by Taika Waititi, “Thor: Love and Thunder” is also a commercial showcase for Guns N’Roses music. It’s the first Marvel Studios movie to blatantly shill for a rock band to the point where not only are four of the band’s hits prominently used in major scenes in the movie, but there’s also a character in the movie who wants to change his first name to be the same as the first name of the band’s lead singer. The music is well-placed, in terms of conveying the intended emotions, but viewers’ reactions to this movie’s fan worship of Guns N’Roses will vary, depending on how people feel about the band and its music. The Guns N’Roses songs “Welcome the Jungle,” “Paradise City,” “Sweet Child O’ Mine” and “November Rain” are all in pivotal scenes in “Thor: Love and Thunder.”

“Thor: Love and Thunder” picks up where 2019’s blockbuster “Avengers: Endgame” concluded. What’s great about “Thor: Love and Thunder” (which Waititi co-wrote with Jennifer Kaytin Robinson) is that the filmmakers didn’t assume that everyone watching the movie is an aficionado of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), nor did they assume that everyone watching “Thor: Love and Thunder” will know a lot about the Nordic superhero Thor Odinson (played by Chris Hemsworth) before seeing the movie. Near the beginning of the movie, there’s a montage summary (narrated cheerfully by Waititi’s Korg character, a rock-like humanoid who is one of Thor’s loyal allies) that shows the entire MCU history of Thor up until what’s about to happen in “Thor: Love and Thunder.”

The movie’s opening scene isn’t quite so upbeat, because it gets right into showing that grief will be one of the film’s biggest themes. In a very barren desert, a man and his daughter (who’s about 8 or 9 years old, played by India Rose Hemsworth) are deyhdrated, starving, and close to dying. The girl doesn’t survive, and the man is shown grieving at the place where he has buried her. Viewers soon find out that this man is Gorr the God Butcher (played by Christian Bale), who is the story’s chief villain. But he didn’t start out as a villain.

After the death of his daughter, a ravenously hungry Gorr ends up a tropical-looking, plant-filled area, where he devours some fruit. Suddenly, a male god appears before Gorr, who is pious and grateful for being in this god’s presence. Gorr tells the god: “I am Gorr, the last of your disciples. We never lost our faith in you.”

The god scoffs at Gorr’s devotion and says, “There’s no eternal reward for you. There’ll be more followers to replace you.” Feeling betrayed, Gorr replies, “You are no god! I renounce you!” The god points to a slain warrior on the ground and tells Gorr that the warrior was killed for the Necrosword, a magical sword that can kill gods and celestials. The Necrosword levitates off of the ground and gravitates toward Gorr.

The god tells Gorr: “The sword chose you. You are now cursed.” Gorr replies, “It doesn’t feel like a curse. It feels like a promise. So this is my vow: All gods will die!” And you know what that means: Gorr kills the god in front of him, and Thor will be one of Gorr’s targets.

Meanwhile, Thor is seen coming to the rescue of the Guardians of the Galaxy, who need his help in battling some villains on a generic-looking planet in outer space. All of the Guardians are there (except for Gamora, who died at the end of “Avengers: Endgame”), and they see Thor as a powerful ally. However, the Guardians are worried that Thor has lost a lot of his emotional vitality. Thor (who hails from Asgar) is grieving over the loss his entire family to death and destruction.

Thor is also still heartbroken over the end of his romantic relationship with brilliant astrophysicist Jane Foster (played by Natalie Portman), who was in 2011’s “Thor” and 2013’s “Thor: The Dark World.” Viewers will find out in a “Thor: Love and Thunder” flashback montage what really happened that caused the end of this relationship. Jane and Thor are considered soul mates, but their devotion to their respective work resulted in Thor and Jane drifting apart.

Guardians of the Galaxy leader Peter Quill, also known as Star-Lord (played by Chris Pratt), tries to give Thor a pep talk, because Star-Lord can relate to losing the love of his life (Gamora, played by Zoe Saldana), but the main difference is that Thor has a chance to see Jane again because she’s still alive. As shown in the trailer for “Thor: Love and Thunder,” Jane will soon come back into Thor’s life in an unexpected way, when she gains possession of Thor’s magical hammer, Mjolnir, and she reinvents herself as the Mighty Thor. As an example of some of the movie’s offbeat comedy, Korg keeps getting Jane Foster’s name wrong, by sometimes calling her Jane Fonda or Jodie Foster.

The Guardians of the Galaxy section of “Thor: Love and Thunder” almost feels like a completely separate short film that was dropped into the movie. After an intriguing opening scene with Gorr, viewers are left wondering when Gorr is going to show up again. Instead, there’s a fairly long stretch of the movie with Thor and the Guardians of the Galaxy

After spending a lot of meditative time lounging around in a robe, Thor literally throws off the robe for the battle scene with Thor and the Guardians of the Galaxy, as the Guns N’Roses song “Welcome to the Jungle” blares on the soundtrack. After the battle is over (it’s easy to predict who the victors are), Thor’s confident ego seems to have come roaring back. He exclaims with a huge grin: “What a classic Thor adventure! Hurrah!”

As a gift for this victory, Thor gets two superpowered goats, which have the strength to pull space vessels and whose goat screaming becomes a running gag in the movie. The visual effects in “Thor: Love and Thunder” get the job done well enough for a superhero movie. But are these visual effects groundbreaking or outstanding? No.

The Guardians’ personalities are all the same: Star-Lord is still cocky on the outside but deeply insecure on the inside. Drax (played by Dave Bautista) is still simple-minded. Rocket (voice by Bradley Cooper) is still sarcastic. Mantis (played by Pom Klementieff) is still sweetly earnest. Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel) still only has three words in his vocabulary: “I am Groot.”

Nebula (voiced by Karen Gillan), who is Garmora’s hot-tempered adopted sister and a longtime Guardians frenemy, is now an ally of the Guardians. Guardians associate Kraglin Obfonteri (played by Sean Gunn) makes a brief appearance to announce that he’s gotten married to an Indigarrian woman named Glenda (played by Brenda Satchwell), who is one of his growing number of his wives. It’s mentioned in a joking manner that Kraglin has a tendency to marry someone at every planet he visits.

With his confidence renewed as the God of Thunder, Thor decides he’s ready to end his “retirement” and go back into being a superhero. He says goodbye to the Guardians, who fly off in their spaceship and wish him well. Little does Thor know what he’s going to see someone from his past (Jane), whom he hasn’t seen in a long time.

Sif (played by Jaimie Alexander), an Asgardian warrior who was in the first “Thor” movie and in “Thor: The Dark World,” re-appears in “Thor: Love and Thunder,” but she now has a missing left arm and has to learn to re-adjust her fighting skills. Sif’s presence in this movie isn’t entirely unexpected. It’s a welcome return, but some viewers might think that Sif doesn’t get enough screen time.

Meanwhile, as shown in “Avengers: Endgame,” Thor gave up his King of New Asgard title to his longtime associate Valkyrie (played by Tessa Thompson), who’s finding out that being the leader of New Asgard isn’t quite as enjoyable as she thought it would be. She’d rather do battle alongside her buddy Thor instead of having to do things like attend dull council meetings or cut ribbons at opening ceremonies. New Asgard is a fishing village that has become a tourist destination that plays up its connection to Thor and his history.

The stage play recreation of Thor’s story was used as a comedic gag in 2017’s “Thor: Ragnarok” (also directed and written by Waititi), and that gag is used again in “Thor: Love and Thunder,” as this play is staged in New Asgard, but with an update to include what happened in “Thor: Ragnarok.” Making uncredited cameos as these stage play actors in “Thor: Love and Thunder” are Matt Damon as stage play Loki (Thor’s mischievous adopted brother), Luke Hemsworth as stage play Thor, Melissa McCarthy as stage play Hela (Thor’s villainous older sister) and Sam Neill as stage play Odin (Thor’s father). This comedic bit about a “Thor” stage play isn’t as fresh as it was in “Thor: Ragnarok,” but it’s still amusing.

One of the New Asgard citizens is a lively child of about 13 or 14 years old. His name is Astrid, and he announces that he wants to change his first name to Axl, in tribute to Axl Rose, the lead singer of Guns N’Roses. Axl (played by Kieron L. Dyer) is the son of Heimdall (played by Idris Elba), the Asgardian gatekeeper who was killed by supervillain Thanos in 2018’s “Avengers: Infinity War.” As fans of superhero movies know, just because a character is killed on screen doesn’t mean that that character will never be seen again. And let’s just say that “Thor: Love and Thunder” makes it clear that people have not seen the last of Heimdall.

Jane has a poignant storyline because she has Stage 4 cancer, which is something that she’s in deep denial about since she wants to act as if she still has the same physical strength as she did before her cancer reached this stage. Jane’s concerned and loyal assistant Darcy Lewis (played by Kat Dennings) makes a brief appearance to essentially advise Jane to slow down Jane’s workload. Jane refuses to take this advice.

The way that Jane gets Thor’s hammer isn’t very innovative, but she finds out that the hammer gives her godlike strength and makes her look healthy. It’s no wonder she wants to explore life as the Mighty Thor. (Her transformation also includes going from being a brunette as Jane to being a blonde as the Mighty Thor.)

And where exactly is Gorr? He now looks like a powder-white Nosferatu-like villain, as he ends up wreaking havoc by going on a killing spree of the universe’s gods. And it’s only a matter of time before Gorr reaches New Asgard. With the help of shadow monsters, Gorr ends up kidnapping the children of New Asgard (including Axl) and imprisoning them in an underground area. Guess who’s teaming up to come to the rescue?

After the mass kidnapping happens, there’s a comedic segment where Thor ends up in the kingdom of Greek god Zeus (played by Russell Crowe), a toga-wearing hedonist who says things like, “Where are we going to have this year’s orgy?” Zeus is Thor’s idol, but Thor gets a rude awakening about Zeus. Thor experiences some humiliation that involves Thor getting completely naked in Zeus’ public court. Crowe’s questionable Greek accent (which often sounds more Italian than Greek) is part of his deliberately campy performance as Zeus.

“Thor: Love and Thunder” packs in a lot of issues and switches tones so many times, it might be a turnoff to some viewers who just want to see a straightforward, uncomplicated and conventional superhero story. However, people who saw and enjoyed “Thor: Ragnarok” will be better-prepared for his mashup of styles that Waititi continues in “Thor: Love and Thunder,” which has that same spirit. “Thor: Love and Thunder” tackles much heavier issues though, such as terminal illness and crushing heartbreak.

The movie’s cancer storyline with Jane could have been mishandled, but it’s written in a way that has an emotional authenticity among the fantastical superhero shenanigans. “Thor: Love and Thunder” also goes does fairly deep in exposing the toll that superhero duties can take on these superheroes’ love lives. Thor and Jane have to come to terms with certain decisions they made that affected their relationship.

The movie also provides a glimpse into the personal lives of supporting characters Korg and Valkyrie. In a memorable scene, Valkyrie and Korg are alone together in an area of Thor’s Viking ship, and they have a heart-to-heart talk about not finding their true loves yet. They are lovelorn cynics but still show some glimmers of optimism that maybe they will be lucky in love. It’s in this scene where Korg mentions that he was raised by two fathers, and Valkyrie briefly mentions having an ex-girlfriend. A scene later in the movie shows that Korg is open having a same-sex romance.

All of the cast members do well in their roles, but Hemsworth and Portman have the performances and storyline that people will be talking about the most for “Thor: Love and Thunder.” The ups and downs of Thor and Jane’s on-again/off-again romance are not only about what true love can mean in this relationship but also touch on issues of power, control, trust and gender dynamics. It’s a movie that acknowledges that two people might be right for each other, but the timing also has to be right for the relationship to thrive.

Bale does a very solid job as Gorr, but some viewers might be disappointed that Gorr isn’t in the movie as much as expected. That’s because the first third of “Thor: Love and Thunder” is taken up by a lot of Guardians of the Galaxy interactions with Thor. In other words, Gorr’s villain presence in “Thor: Love and Thunder” is not particularly encompassing, as Hela’s villain presence was in “Thor: Ragnarok.”

The movie’s final battle scene might also be somewhat divisive with viewers because one member of Thor’s team is not part of this battle, due to this character being injured in a previous fight and being stuck at a hospital. Fans of this character will no doubt feel a huge letdown that this character is sidelined in a crucial final battle. Leaving this character out of this battle is one of the flaws of “Thor: Love and Thunder.”

The mid-credits scene and end-credits scene in Thor: Love and Thunder” show characters who are supposed to be dead. The mid-credits scene also introduces the family member of one of the movie’s characters, while the end-credits scene teases the return of other characters who exist in another realm. Neither of these scenes is mind-blowing. However, they’re worth watching for MCU completists and anyone who likes watching all of a movie’s credits at the end.

What “Thor: Love and Thunder” gets right is that it shows more concern than many other MCU movies about how insecurities and isolation outside the glory of superhero battles can have a profound effect on these heroes. Saving the universe can come at a heavy emotional price, especially when loved ones die. Whether the love is for family members, romantic partners or friends, “Thor: Love and Thunder” acknowledges that love can result in grief that isn’t easy to overcome, but the healing process is helped with loyal support and some welcome laughter.

Disney’s Marvel Studios will release “Thor: Love and Thunder” in U.S. cinemas on July 8, 2022.

Review: ‘The Very Excellent Mr. Dundee,’ starring Paul Hogan

March 6, 2021

by Carla Hay

Paul Hogan (center) in “The Very Excellent Mr. Dundee” (Photo courtesy of Lionsgate)

“The Very Excellent Mr. Dundee”

Directed by Dean Murphy 

Culture Representation: Taking place in Los Angeles, Melbourne and London, the comedic film “The Very Excellent Mr. Dundee” features a predominantly white cast (with a few African Americans and Latinos) portraying people who are connected in some way to Australian actor Paul Hogan, who’s best known for his “Crocodile Dundee” movies.

Culture Clash: The movie is supposed to be a tongue-in-cheek satire of all the things that go wrong when Hogan tries to make a comeback.

Culture Audience: “The Very Excellent Mr. Dundee” will appeal primarily to people who are fans of Hogan, but everything about this movie is a colossal mistake.

Paul Hogan and John Cleese in “The Very Excellent Mr. Dundee” (Photo courtesy of Lionsgate)

“The Very Excellent Mr. Dundee” is a very meta and misguided sequel in the “Crocodile Dundee” comedy franchise, made famous by star Paul Hogan, beginning with the 1986 blockbuster “Crocodile Dundee,” the first movie in the series. That movie was followed by 1988’s “Crocodile Dundee II” and 2001’s “Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles,” with each sequel worse than its predecessor. Unfortunately, the “Crocodile Dundee” movie series is like a good meal that went rotten years ago, then retrieved from the trash, and then served up to people who never asked for this stinking mess in the first place.

In the other “Crocodile Dundee” movies, Hogan played the title character as a crocodile hunter from Outback Australia who finds himself out of his comfort zone in urban environments. In “The Very Excellent Mr. Dundee” (directed by Dean Murphy, who co-wrote the movie’s embarrassing screenplay with Robert Mond), Hogan ditches the Crocodile Dundee persona and portrays himself as a has-been actor who hasn’t been able to surpass his “Crocodile Dundee” success with anything else, and he’s persuaded to make a comeback.

You just know it’s going to be a dumb movie when Hogan’s Paul character is supposed to be getting knighted by the Queen of England. That’s something that would not happen to Hogan in real life. But it’s used as a silly plot device in the “race against time” aspect that comes toward the end of the film, which takes place mostly in Los Angeles, but also partially in Melbourne and in London.

It’s repeated throughout “The Very Excellent Mr. Dundee” that the first “Crocodile Dundee” movie was the highest-grossing independent film at that time. It’s mentioned so many times that it’s irritating, as if the filmmakers want to desperately remind viewers why Hogan was a big movie star back in the 1980s. In the movie though, Paul has a not-very-convincing “aw, shucks” humble attitude about his fame. His character claims that he’s been trying to retire for the past 20 years. Not really, because the real Paul Hogan did this very corny mess of a film as a possible comeback vehicle.

In “The Very Excellent Mr. Dundee,” Paul is a bachelor who lives in Los Angeles with his Golden Retriever dog Paddy as his only companion. The movie didn’t get too meta, because there’s no mention of the real-life Hogan’s messy divorces, including one from his former “Crocodile Dundee” co-star Linda Kozlowski. In “The Very Excellent Mr. Dundee,” Paul’s manager/agent is Angie Douglas (played by Rachael Carpani), whose late father used to be Paul’s manager and was the founder of the Douglas Management Team.

Angie is very excited to tell Paul that in six weeks, he will be knighted by the Queen of England. In the lead-up to this big event. Angie thinks it would be a good idea for Paul to get as much publicity and job opportunities as possible. This comeback attempt results in Paul making a series of disastrous public appearances that are supposed to be funny for this movie but the comedy is just dull and poorly executed.

Paul has a son his early 20s called Chase (played by Jacob Elordi), whose vaguely written and brief role in the movie just seems to be about displaying his toned physique, since Chase is shown leading a workout class in Paul’s backyard. Paul and Chase do not have a convincing father/son bond in the film, even though they’re supposed to have a good relationship with each other. Therefore, it seems that Elordi was just put in the film so the movie could attract viewers who know him for “The Kissing Booth” movies.

Paul also has a 9-year-old granddaughter named Lucy (played by Charlotte Stent), who lives in Australia. (Lucy’s parents are not seen, heard or mentioned in the film.) In one scene in the movie, Paul does a video chat with Lucy, who is rehearsing for her school play. Lucy and Paul adore each other, but she’s a little sad that he won’t be able to see her in her play because it’s on the same day of his knighthood ceremony in London.

Several real-life celebrities portray themselves in this movie. Some have supporting roles, while others have quick cameos. Olivia Newton-John has a supporting role as a friend of Paul’s. She invites Paul and Angie to a “Grease” charity event that she’s hosting with John Travolta. The real Travolta was smart enough to stay away from this movie, so don’t expect any surprise cameos from him. A fictional nun named Sister Mary Murphy (played by Dorothy Adams) runs the charity that’s supposed to benefit from the “Grease” event.

John Cleese does a parody of himself, as a washed-up comedian who’s become a rideshare driver to pay his bills. Guess who ends up being Paul’s driver in this movie? Cleese’s immense talent is squandered in this very tacky role that makes him look like a fool. Chevy Chase portrays himself in scenes where he meets up with Paul in restaurants, offers advice, and gets more praise and attention than Paul does. All of these scenes are uninteresting and often awkward.

“The Very Excellent Mr. Dundee” pokes fun at Hogan’s “has-been status” in a scene where he’s visiting a movie studio lot while a group of tourists are nearby on a guided tour. The tour guide points out Hogan to the tourists, but they don’t care. This happens a few more times in other places, but this stale and unimaginative joke wasn’t even that funny the first time it was in the movie.

Another running gag in the movie that falls flat is that a group of fast-talking producers keep approaching Paul in various places to persuade him to do another “Crocodile Dundee” movie. One of these producers suggests that Will Smith could play Paul’s son in this proposed movie. Paul says no for a reason that’s obvious, but no one but Paul says it out loud in these meetings: Will Smith is black. When Paul says it, the producers act horrified and tell Paul that he comes across as racist.

Paul being misunderstood as “racist” is used in another badly written scene, where John drives Paul to the “Grease” charity event, but John accidentally drops Paul off at the fictional Black Talent Awards, which is supposed to be like the BET Awards. In a live TV interview on the red carpet, Paul says to the reporter: “I’m here to help the little people. I’m here to help those less fortunate than I am.”

Naturally, Paul’s condescending remarks come across as racist. And since he said these comments live on TV, he gets immediate backlash on social media and on the red carpet. Before things get more hostile for Paul at this award show, John sheepishly goes up to Paul and tells him that the “Grease” charity event is actually at another building nearby. The movie makes Paul look so clueless that he didn’t notice all the Black Talent Awards logos when he arrived on the red carpet.

More mishaps occur that make Paul look like he’s rude to unsuspecting people, but they’re really just “accidents.” There’s an incident where he’s accused of being cruel to tourist children. And then at the “Grease” charity event, Paul ends up on stage, and there’s a disruption involving a flying object that hits Sister Mary, and he gets blamed for it. All of these gags are so dumb, contrived and the epitome of horrendous slapstick.

“The Very Excellent Mr. Dundee” also introduces a very annoying and unnecessary character named Luke Clutterbuck (played by Nate Torrence), a self-described “mama’s boy” who’s originally from Indiana. Luke was a wedding photographer in Indiana, until he decided to move to Los Angeles to become part of the paparazzi. Paul first meets Luke when Luke falls out of a tree in Paul’s backyard, in Luke’s desperate attempt to get paparazzi photos. Luke gets more and more insufferable as the story goes on.

Wayne Knight portrays a version of himself, as a theater actor who asks Paul for a temporary place to stay because Wayne’s wife Carol (played by Julia Morris) has kicked Wayne out of their house. Wayne is rehearsing for an upcoming musical, so there are some excruciating scenes of Paul being interrupted or frustrated by Wayne loudly singing or doing other musical-related things in the house at inconvenient moments. It’s the type of comedy that most sitcoms would reject.

Australian actors Luke Hemsworth, Costas Mandylor and Luke Bracey all have cameos as themselves doing red-carpet interviews. Australian comedian Jim Jeffries also portrays himself in a quick appearance. They either praise or give mild insults about Paul. Nothing is funny in these bits.

And it should come as no surprise that bachelor Paul gets a potential love interest. Olivia sets him up on a blind date with someone she knows named Ella (played by Kerry Armstrong). Paul quips, “I haven’t been on a date since a man walked on the moon.” That’s news to Hogan’s real-life ex-wives.

“The Very Excellent Mr. Dundee” is so badly made that it seems like many of the celebrities in the movie might have committed to it without seeing the script first and/or did the movie as a big favor to Hogan. No one should tell Hogan when he should retire. But “The Very Excellent Mr. Dundee” is such an atrocious dud, it’s all the proof anyone needs that the “Crocodile Dundee” movie series needs to be retired once and for all.

Lionsgate released “The Very Excellent Mr. Dundee” in select U.S. cinemas and on digital and VOD on December 11, 2020. The movie was released on Blu-ray and DVD on February 12, 2021.

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