Anthony Hopkins

The White Bus

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1967

Woodfall Film Productions

Directed by Lindsey Anderson

Produced by Oscar Lewenstein

Screenplay by Lindsay Anderson and Shelagh Delany

Based on a story by Shelagh Delaney

If you asked me to explain why I decided out of the clear blue to record THE WHITE BUS and watch it, I couldn’t tell you why. I’d never heard of this movie before and it has no names I recognize as far as the actors or director goes. Anthony Hopkins does have an extremely small role in this movie but I didn’t know he was in it until I read his name in the end credits. I was just scrolling through the guide looking for something to watch and the description of this movie sounded interesting so I set the DVR to record it later on. In fact, I forgot I had recorded the movie and didn’t get around to watching it until two weeks later.

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I watched it once. Got to the end, went to get myself something to eat and then sat down to watch it again. Three days later I watched it for a third time. That’s not as much of a chore as you would think since it’s a short film that’s only 46 minutes long. The reason why I watched it those three times is because the more I watched it the more it reminded me of the films of David Lynch and of “Carnival of Souls” directed by Herk Harvey. Not that it’s a horror film. But there’s a bizarre otherworldly feel to the film. It’s dreamlike and downright surrealistic at times. Strange events take place that are never explained and strange behavior that the characters in the movie just seem to accept calmly as if this kind of oddness happens every day. And in the universe of THE WHITE BUS maybe it does.

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The Girl (Patricia Healy) works in a dull office in a dull office building typing dull reports. It’s so dull she fantasizes about hanging herself right at her desk. Leaving work one day, she hops on a train that takes her to another city. She spends some time wandering around the city and seeing such things as a kidnapping that takes place in broad daylight and a man in an iron lung being transported by an entourage of priests and nuns. The Girl boards a white double decker tour bus. The tour group on the bus is a diverse one. Made up of retirees and foreign tourists. The bus makes stops at a steel mill, a science museum, an art gallery and a school. During the tour The Girl barely speaks a word and simply reacts and listens to her companions on this tour such as The Mayor (Arthur Lowe) who seems to be competing with the official tour guide.  Upon visiting a martial arts school to watch a Kendo match, one middle aged gentleman simply joins in the match, using his cane as a Kendo sword. And the final fate of the tour group and The Girl made me think of Herk Harvey and in fact, THE WHITE BUS would make a nice companion piece to “Carnival of Souls” as I saw certain similarities.

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THE WHITE BUS isn’t a movie that I suggest you put on your Must See list. But if you happen to run across it, by all means check it out. I think you’ll find it highly intriguing and visually interesting if nothing else.

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46 minutes

Thor: The Dark World

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2013

Marvel Studios/Walt Disney Studios

Directed by Alan Taylor

Produced by Kevin Feige

Screenplay by Christopher Yost, Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely

Story by Don Payne and Robert Rodat

Based on “Thor” created by Stan Lee, Larry Lieber and Jack Kirby

“Malekith” and “Algrim/Kurse” created by Walt Simonson

Out of all the Marvel superheroes who have starred in movies I think it’s safe to say that Thor (Chris Hemsworth) has the largest and most diverse supporting cast. On Asgard there’s his father, Odin (Anthony Hopkins) his mother Frigga (Rene Russo) The Warriors Three: Voluminous Volstagg (Ray Stevenson) Fandral The Dashing (Zachary Levi) and Hogun The Grim (Tadanobu Asano) the warrior maid Sif (Jaimie Alexander) The all-seeing guardian of The Bifrost and The Rainbow Bridge, Heimdall (Idris Elba) and Thor’s adoptive brother, the ever scheming, always manipulative trickster Loki (Tom Hiddleston)

Then on Earth we’ve got the love of Thor’s life and brilliant astrophysicist Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) her mentor Dr. Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgard) and her intern Darcy Lewis (Kat Dennings) who in this adventure has an intern of her own, Ian (Jonathan Howard)

That’s a lot of characters for one movie and we haven’t even gotten to the bad guys yet: Malekith, king of The Dark Elves of Svartalfheim (Christopher Eccleston) and his right hand elf Algrim (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) who is transformed into Kurse, a terrifying creature of immense power capable of going toe-to-toe with Thor. But you know what? The screenplay is very well put together so that each and every one of these characters has something to do and each has their own part to advance the story. Even when a character is off screen for an extended period of time, there’s a logical explanation for where they are and what they’re doing and why we’re not seeing them. Each and every one of them also gets their own scene where they get a chance to shine. It’s a credit to the skill and generosity of the director, Alan Taylor that he manages that with slowing down the plot or making THOR: THE DARK WORLD feel cramped with unnecessary scenes.

After the events of “The Avengers” Thor, The Warriors Three and Sif have been busy restoring peace and order to The Nine Realms. Loki is being held in the dungeons below Odin’s throne room. Odin is well pleased that his once arrogant and knuckle-headed son has grown up and is seriously contemplating turning over the throne of Asgard to him.

Meanwhile, back on Earth, Jane Foster is in London pissed off because Thor hasn’t come back to Earth for her as he said he would. She’s been neglecting her research but Darcy Lewis pulls her back in by taking Jane to an abandoned warehouse where objects are appearing and disappearing into invisible pocket wormholes. Jane finds out where these objects go and that leads her to being infected by The Aether, a weapon of hideous power capable of destroying the universe. Malekith, his lieutenant Algrim and his army of Dark Elves are awakened by The Aether’s release and go in search of it, the intention being to…well, destroy the universe, what else?

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But by now, Heimdall has alerted Thor that there’s something wrong with Jane and so Thor brings her to Asgard to try and remove The Aether from her and that brings Malekith and his Dark Elves to attack Asgard itself and from then on its hammer time.

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For those of you who complained that there wasn’t enough of Asgard in “Thor” this movie is for you. Most of the action takes place there with occasional side trips to Earth to check up on how the mortals are doing as they gradually come to realize that the Nine Realms are aligning themselves in a rare Convergence that will link the realms. Keep your eyes on Kat Dennings during the Earth scenes as she provides most of the humor and does it with flair and a wicked delivery that strikes exactly the right tone for the situation her character is in.

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Chris Hemsworth gives us a Thor in this one who has learned how to care for others and put their needs ahead of his own and so he’s a much more heroic character here than he was in the first movie. Anthony Hopkins is his usual magnificent self as All-Father Odin while Rene Russo has a kickass fight scene that makes me wish Mrs. Odin had way more screen time.

But it’s Tom Hiddleston who walks off with the acting honors in this one, of course. The relationship between Odin, Thor and Loki is a complicated one and the three actors get the most mileage out of it, giving it a near Shakespearean level of emotion. Hiddleston and Hemsworth especially shine during their scenes together when Thor and Loki have to team up to take on Malekith and they not only make quite the formidable team in battle but they honestly confront their feelings about each other and their relationship to their father.

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THOR: THE DARK WORLD is visually quite magnificent and if you know your Kirby and your Simonson you’ll be able to see their influences on Asgardian architecture, clothing, armor and weaponry. I liked the story a lot as it expanded and enriched Thor’s universe and as I said earlier, didn’t leave any of these characters out of the adventure. Even Mjolnir gets a nice bit of characterization as we see just how seriously the enchanted hammer takes its command that it must always return to Thor’s hand. There’s a lot of really great fight scenes and some tragedy that is truly gut wrenching but there’s also just enough humor so that we know to take it all seriously but not too serious that we can’t relax and have fun. I’d love to sit down Zack Snyder and his “Man of Steel” screenwriters to watch THOR: THE DARK WORLD because this is the way to make a superhero movie. Stop reading this review and go see THOR: THE DARK WORLD right now.

PG-13

112 minutes

The World’s Fastest Indian

2005
Magnolia Pictures
Directed, Written & Produced by Roger Donaldson
Based on the documentary: “Offerings To The God of Speed”

Sir Anthony Hopkins has been around for so long that I think it’s easy to forget just how really good he is as an actor. Most people only became Anthony Hopkins fans when they saw his mesmerizing, frightening performance as Hannibal Lector in “Silence of the Lambs” back in 1991. But I enjoyed his performances and acting style in earlier movies such as “The Elephant Man” “The Bounty””Magic” and what I think is the most quotable movie of all time: “The Lion In Winter” He has a real gift for disappearing into his characters and a great example of this gift is the biopic THE WORLD’S FASTEST INDIAN.

It’s 1967 and Burt Munro (Anthony Hopkins) is something of the local eccentric in the New Zealand town of Invercargill. He’s in his late 60’s, lives in a workshop and is oblivious to the fact that his grass is almost up to his knees despite pleading from his neighbor to do something about it. He’s more interested in working on his 1920 Indian Scout motorcycle which he’s spent the better part of twenty-five years modifying. Burt may be eccentric but he’s also a minor national hero because of his motorcycle racing. He’s enough of a hero that the town gets together and throws him a fundraising party to send Burt to America. It’s always been a dream of Burt to run his beloved Indian during Speed Week at The Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah. And so he just goes ahead and heads off halfway around the world, despite his bad heart for which he takes nitroglycerine pills. He leaves his workshop/home in the care of his good friend 10 year old Tom (Aaron Murphy) and works as a cook on a tramp steamer for passage for him and his motorcycle to America. Once there he meets up with various characters that help him achieve his goal as he makes his way from California to Utah.

You may have noticed that I’ve been extremely lean in describing the plot of THE WORLD’S FASTEST INDIAN and that’s because there really isn’t a whole lot of plot and not even a whole lot of suspense. Burt Munro was a real guy and he did run his motorcycle at Bonneville in 1967 and returned there several more times after that, setting speed records that still stand today. THE WORLD’S FASTEST INDIAN isn’t the kind of movie you watch to figure out the intricacies of the plot and story. Instead you sit back and allow yourself to watch the adventures of this slightly daffy old coot that despite his age is still a speed freak. Burt is only interested in one thing: seeing how fast his beloved Indian will go and then tinkering with it to make it go even faster. I liked the early scenes set in Invercargill where it’s amusing to see that even though Burt exasperates and aggravates the hell out of his friends and neighbors they genuinely like him and care about him. Even the neighborhood motorcycle gang chips in and gives Burt ‘beer money’ while providing him with an honor escort to the dock.

Once in America the movie becomes a road picture with Burt meeting a variety of colorful characters, all who are charmed and intrigued by the old eccentric with the odd accent and his somewhat unusual goal. There’s the used car salesman (Paul Rodriguez) who sells him a car dirt cheap and lets him use the car lot workshop to build a trailer to transport his motorcycle. There’s the cross dressing night clerk (Chris Williams) of a hot sheet hotel who is utterly smitten with Burt. Ada (Diane Ladd) gives Burt a hand repairing his trailer when it throws a wheel and ends up giving him a whole lot more if you know what I mean nudge nudge wink wink. And once Burt finally gets to Bonneville he’s befriended by Jim Enz (Christopher Lawford) when it turns out that Burt never bothered to register his motorcycle. He figured he could just show up at Bonneville and run his bike. His bike is also far from meeting the safety codes and the officials think Burt is going to kill himself riding that thing. Jim Enz, along with several others (William Lucking, Walter Goggins) succeeds in changing the minds of the officials and they allow Burt to run his beloved Indian.

By now you should have tumbled that this isn’t a high-octane action movie. So if you demand explosions, gunfights, kung fu battles and car chases in your movies then this one you should steer clear of. This just isn’t that kind of movie. I think it really sets the tone of the entire movie in the early scenes when it’s shown that even though Tom’s parents think that Burt is a real pain in the ass as a neighbor they allow their son to hang out with the old guy and befriend him. Burt just has that effect on everybody he meets and by the end of the movie he had that same effect on me. Anthony Hopkins is just wonderful as Burt Munro. You may start out trying to find bits and pieces of other characters Hopkins has played here but you simply can’t. Burt Munro is a unique character indeed and I’m glad I got to spend time with him.

So should you see THE WORLD’S FASTEST INDIAN? Sure. If you’re an Anthony Hopkins fan you’ll definitely want to check this one out. And if you’re in the mood for something that’s truly uplifting without being syrupy sweet or sappy then this fits the bill as well. It’s warm; it’s funny and delightful from start to finish. Highly recommended.

127 minutes
Rated PG-13

Thor

2012

Marvel Studios/Paramount Pictures

Directed by Kenneth Branagh

Produced by Kevin Feige

Screenplay by Ashley Edward Miller, Zack Stentz and Don Payne

Based on a story by J. Michael Straczynski and Mark Protsevich

Based on The Marvel comic book THOR created by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and Larry Lieber

I like a lot of superheroes and love a whole bunch of others.  But ask me who my absolute favorite superhero is and without a doubt I’ll tell you its Thor.  I own a sizeable number of the issues written by Stan Lee and drawn by Jack Kirby and all of the Walt Simonson issues and they’re among my most prized possessions when it comes to my comic book collection.

Why is Thor my favorite?  Where do I begin?  I love his grandeur, his majesty, his neo-Shakespearean way of speaking.  The fact that he’s not just a superhero: he’s The God of Thunder, wielding the enchanted war hammer Mjolnir.  He doesn’t just fight mortal supervillains such as The Absorbing Man and The Wrecker.  He also battles home grown immortal foes such as Frost Giants and Trolls.  His daddy is Odin, Monarch of Asgard who is so powerful that the gods of other pantheons speak softly around him.  Thor just doesn’t go on missions…he goes on quests to save the entire universe.  I can go on and on for days but you get the idea.  The comic book itself was a good mix of epic fantasy set in Asgard or other mythical realms and straight up superhero action when Thor would visit Earth to hang out with his mortal buddies in The Avengers or assume the humble human form of Dr. Donald Blake, greatest of healers.

I never dreamed that one day a THOR movie would be made but thanks to the quantum leap in movie making and technology, movies that once were considered unfilmable are now being made on a regular basis.  And I couldn’t be happier.  I’ve lived long enough to see a “Speed Racer” movie that blew my mind to splinters and now THOR.  If somebody gets around to making “Doom Patrol” and “Challengers of The Unknown” movies as good as those two I can die a happy man.

Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is the greatest warrior in Asgard, home to a race of humanoids whose technology has given them abilities akin to that of gods.  In fact, they actually were worshiped as gods on Earth ages ago but after a war with The Frost Giants of Jotunheim, The Asgardians withdrew from Earth.  Thor himself is about to ascend the throne and take the place of All Father Odin (Anthony Hopkins) as King of Asgard.  But that’s before Frost Giants invade, seeking to reclaim their greatest weapon, The Casket of Ancient Winters.

Defying Odin’s command, Thor invades Jotunheim along with his brother, The God of Mischief, Loki (Tom Hiddleston) childhood crush and warrior maid Sif (Jaimie Alexander) and The Warriors Three: Volstagg The Voluminous (Ray Stevenson) Fandral The Dashing (Joshua Dallas) and Hogun The Grim (Tadanobu Asano).  After the furious battle that takes place, war between The Frost Giants and The Asgardians is renewed, breaking the long peace Odin worked so hard for.  Enraged, Odin casts Thor out of Asgard, stripping him of his god-like powers and sending him to Earth.  Odin also throws Mjolnir to Earth where it lands in the New Mexico desert with this enchantment: “Whosoever holds this hammer, if he be worthy, will possess the power of Thor”

The hammer attracts the attention of the locals, who try to lift it up in a redneck version of the drawing of Excalibur to no avail.  The hammer simply cannot be lifted.  It also attracts the attention of S.H.I.E.L.D. who erects a compound around the hammer.  Also interested in the hammer is astrophysicist Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) her assistant Darcy (Kat Dennings) and her mentor Dr. Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgard)  Jane accidentally hits Thor with her truck but that’s okay as he apparently has the answers she needs about her current research which involves wormholes.  In a really nice scene, Thor explains in an off-handed manner that his people know all about wormholes and how to use them to travel between The Nine Realms.  They don’t call their own personal wormhole a wormhole, though.  They call it Bifrost, The Rainbow Bridge and it’s the means by which The Asgardians travel though The Nine Realms.  Thor strikes a bargain with Jane: if she’ll help him get back Mjolnir, he’ll tell her what she needs to know to complete her research.  However, there are complications in this bargain.  Otherwise we wouldn’t have a movie.

THOR bounces back and forth between the doings on Earth with Thor and his new found mortal allies and the intrigue on Asgard.  Odin has fallen into the sacred Odin Sleep to renew his power and that gives Loki the opportunity to step in and take control of Asgard.  The Warriors Three, along with Sif journey to Earth to help restore Thor to his rightful power and in the background, The Frost Giants plot with a secret traitor to destroy Asgard once and for all…

Let me say right up front that you’re not going to get a bad word about THOR outta me.  I absolutely loved this movie from start to finish and there ain’t a lot of movies these days I can say that about.  I loved Chris Hemsworth’s portrayal of Thor.  Sure, he’s an arrogant ass but he’s a likeable arrogant ass.  And he’s smart enough to realize during his time on Earth that he doesn’t have all the answers.  He’s teachable.  And that makes all the difference in his relationship to every other character in the movie.  I even liked Natalie Portman who looks much more at home with the SFX in this movie than she did in the “Star Wars” movies.  Maybe it’s because in Kenneth Branagh she had a director who actually likes working with his actors.  Anthony Hopkins is properly majestic and awe inspiring as Odin.  Hell, even Rene Russo gets her moment to shine in her small role as Frigga, wife of Odin.  The SFX are simply staggering and I loved how The Rainbow Bridge looks as if it’s got arcane, ancient circuitry within its structure.

The movie could have ended after the battle with The Frost Giants and I’d have been satisfied because to me that captured the totality of the Lee/Kirby Thor.  And I can’t let this review end with once again giving a standing ovation to the performance of Clark Gregg as S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Phil Coulson. Coulson has proven to be one of the major linchpins holding the Cinematic Marvel Universe together and with good reason. Thanks to the wonderful on-point performance of Clark Gregg, Coulson demonstrates a quiet authority and calm demeanor even while dealing with Asgardian gods and super-science from beyond the stars.

And Idris Elba as Heimdall is absolutely Epic.  ‘Nuff Said.

If you haven’t seen it yet, do so.  THOR is my favorite Marvel superhero movie. And probably always will be.

114 minutes

PG-13

And as an added bonus because I couldn’t help thinking of this while the movie was playing: