Following are Susan Granger's reviews of the latest movies in area theaters:
"THOR: THE DARK WORLD"
After a prologue that recalls the ancient battles between the heroic Asgardians and an evil race known as the Dark Elves, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is reluctantly preparing to succeed his impatient father, Odin (Anthony Hopkins), on the throne of Asgard.
But then, after Thor's two-year absence from Earth, his heartbroken girlfriend, feisty astrophysicist Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), stumbles upon a vortex that marks the boundary between Realms and she becomes infected by the Aether (a.k.a., a gaseous cosmic substance of infinite destruction), making her the target of the Dark Elves' ruler, megalomaniacal Melekith (Christopher Eccleston). Since detonating the Aether during the Convergence (a.k.a., an astronomical alignment) could plunge Earth and the additional eight Realms into primordial darkness, Thor's coronation must be postponed.
Inspired by Norse mythology and a story by Don Payne and Robert Rodat, it's scripted by Christopher Yost, Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, and aptly helmed by TV director Alan Taylor ("Game of Thrones," "Rome," "The Sopranos"). This sequel is darker yet obviously derivative, borrowing from "Star Wars" prequels, "TRON," "Prometheus" and "Man of Steel." Production designer Charles Woods and visual effects supervisor Jake Morrison's most impressive sequences include shape-shifting, the assault on Odin's palace, a striking mass funeral and the climactic battle in London.
After racing cars in "Rush," Australia's hunky Hemsworth swaggers confidently in the hammer-wielding thunder god's cape and armor, but Portman's talents seem wasted as his romantic interest.
In support, Kat Dennings supplies comic relief as Jane's spunky, sarcastic colleague Darcy and Stellan Skarsgard as naked Dr. Erik Selvig, along with Tom Hiddleston as Thor's sneering, trickster brother Loki, Rene Russo as Odin's Queen Frigga and Idris Elba as Asgard's ever-vigilant Heimdall. Marvel's Stan Lee does a cameo, as does another costumed crusader.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "Thor: The Dark World" is a stolidly amusing superhero 7, a visual effects showcase. Be sure to stay for two mid-credits/post-credits teasers, heralding 2014's "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" and "Guardians of the Galaxy" and 2015's "The Avengers: Age of Ultron."
After "Love Actually," "Notting Hill" and "Four Weddings and a Funeral," Richard Curtis creates an inventive, feel-good fantasy fable about life, love and living every day as if it were your first -- or last.
The dramedy commences when his loving father (Bill Nighy) tells Tim Lake (Dornhall Gleason) on his 21st birthday that he can time travel backwards within his own lifetime; it's an extraordinary gift bestowed on the men in his family.
At first, Tim doesn't believe him, but when he realizes he can redo that New Year's Eve kiss -- making it far better the second time -- and re-meet Mary (Rachel McAdams), the woman he adores (making sure she doesn't fall in love with anyone else), this genetic legacy enhances his life tremendously, allowing him to revisit and repair regrettable experiences.
British writer/director Curtis excels at charming, witty romantic comedy, so when Tim is courting Mary, daffy, self-deprecating delight reigns, particularly at their rain-soaked wedding. But when Curtis shifts the narrative's focus to helping Tim's reckless kid sister Kat (Lydia Wilson) and Tim's coming to terms with his father's terminal illness, the twisty time-travel concept falters. Fortunately, Curtis doesn't delve too deeply into quantum physics, using the sci-fi device only when it suits the meandering, philosophical plot.
But gawky, ginger-haired Gleason (Bill Weasley in the final two "Harry Potter" movies) has little of the breezy, bumbling charm that propelled Hugh Grant's characterizations in earlier Curtis movies; he's "too tall, too thin, too orange." On the other hand, having honed this affable, bystander character before in "The Time Traveler's Wife," McAdams is adorable and Nighy exudes idiosyncratic, naturalistic charisma as the subtly endearing bookworm who adores table tennis. Plus, there are memorable moments from Lindsay Duncan as Tim's stalwart mom, Richard Cordery as befuddled Uncle Desmond and Tom Hollander as an acerbic playwright/friend. And the Cornwall countryside is authentic and exquisite.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "About Time" is a shamelessly sentimental 7. It will tickle your funny bone and tug at your heart.
"JACKASS PRESENTS BAD GRANDPA"
In this outrageous comedy, actor/comedian Johnny Knoxville hams it up, buried under layers of latex as Irvin Zisman, the proverbial dirty old man. Originally introduced during the final season of MTV's "Jackass," crotchety 86-year-old Irving now has a full-fledged family, including a crack-addicted daughter (Georgina Kates), who is headed for prison, leaving Grandpa to deliver his cherubic, 8-year-old grandson Billy (Jackson Nicholl) from Nebraska to the boy's derelict father (Greg Harris) in North Carolina. After UPS refuses to oblige, their cross-country road trip commences.
Using the improvisational "Borat"/"Bruno" faux-documentary style of Sacha Baron Cohen, self-absorbed, foul-mouthed, totally irresponsible Irving pulls hidden-camera pranks that wreak havoc on unsuspecting real people's lives. Like having unwitting furniture movers help him load the swaddled corpse of his late wife Ellie into the trunk of his decrepit Lincoln.
That's only the beginning. Lecherous Irving goes into a strip club only to discover that the clientele are black women and the performers are hunky men. Undeterred, he doffs his pants and gyrates so enthusiastically that his pendulous, prosthetic scrotum falls out of his underwear.
The difference between Cohen's formula and the creators of the "Jackass" movies is that -- while Cohen goes for biting satire -- Johnny Knoxville, Spike Jonze and Jeff Tremaine incorporate genuine, geriatric sweetness as they follow a raunchy, superficially scripted story line that includes a visit to a bingo parlor, puking, Irving's penis caught in a vending machine and even an obnoxious, sexually charged "Little Miss Sunshine"-inspired child beauty-pageant performance in which deadpan Billy performs in drag to Warrant's "Cherry Pie" as another contestant makes Miley Cyrus' tongue-twisting and twerking look mild.
If you're convulsed with laughter at explosive diarrhea, chortle whenever someone farts and/or have relished the lewdness of previous "Jackass" movies, get in line at the box office. Otherwise, wait for the DVD.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "Jackass Presents Bad Grandpa" is a gleeful, gross-out 4. Outtake revelations during the end credits show why unwitting bystanders didn't immediately call "911" to report child neglect/abuse.