AS no DVD preview copies were available, I popped down to London for a press screening of THOR (12: Paramount), the Norse god of thunder’s first feature-film appearance.
The movie was shown at Madame Tussauds in an auditorium which was once occupied by the London Planetarium and is now the home of the Marvel Comics Superheroes 4D attraction.
There was certainly more movement up there on the screen than from the waxworks nearby – if you exclude Anthony Hopkins, whose auto-pilot turn as the hammer-wielding hero’s father could easily have been performed by a dummy with no one in the audience noticing the difference.
When Marvel decided to add Thor to its roster of characters in 1962, it must have inspired a young Kenneth Branagh.
The director was a big fan of the comic book and he has packed the film with nods to the original source material.
The story sees the brash immortal, played by Aussie actor Chris Hemsworth, stripped of his powers and banished to Earth by his all-powerful dad Odin (Hopkins) after a reckless attack on their frost giant enemies.
Thor is befriended by scientist Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) and forced to adapt to his new mortality while his Excalibur-like hammer remains embedded in the New Mexico desert and his crafty brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) takes over the glittering realm of Asgard.
Despite some tedious scene-setting passages in the tale, there are plenty of amusing fish-out-of-water moments as Hemsworth’s swaggering man-mountain is cut down to size.
Although I would have preferred Hopkins in hammy rather than subdued mode, Hiddleston’s Loki is a villain to look out for and the action is suitably earth-shattering.
There was a major signal failure on the Tube and the capital was packed with football fans heading to the England v Wales game at Wembley, but at least the bubbly was flowing before the screening – so it was well worth the effort.
> PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: ON STRANGER TIDES (12: Walt Disney), the franchise’s fourth seafaring adventure, is just about kept afloat by Johnny Depp’s Captain Jack Sparrow.
He’s helped by dropping the dead weight of Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley and letting his wandering eye settle on the womanly shape of Penelope Cruz, cast as the daughter of legendary pirate Blackbeard.
This hardly leads to fireworks in a rickety plot, but there’s a lot of push and pull as she brings him on board to find the Fountain of Youth and save her old man from a prophesied fate.
Ian McShane is a welcome addition as Blackbeard, bringing grizzled charm even while committing acts of great evil, but Geoffrey Rush is underused and reduced to blundering about as rival pirate Barbossa.
As usual, the quest is long-winded and laden with splashy visuals, but thankfully Depp has the ability to rise above the nonsense with his customary sly humour.
> Oh, joy...another Jason Statham movie.
His umpteenth crime thriller of the year, BLITZ (18: Lionsgate), is another violent affair, but at least the action star gives a good account of himself as a no-nonsense cop.
Brant is an unconventional London detective with an anger-management problem who finds himself on the trail of a serial killer targeting the police.
Although Brant is handy with his fists and always ready with a wry one-liner, the unoriginal plot and a general lack of excitement don’t do justice to either him or the top-notch supporting cast.
Paddy Considine, as a gay policeman fighting prejudices, David Morrissey, as a hack journo, and Aidan Gillen ensure that there’s always someone worth watching.
Blitz does offer a fresh vision of London, with its urban underpasses and crumbling 1960s architecture, but everyone involved should have worked harder to make it live up to its franchise potential.
> Explosive gangster flick KILL THE IRISHMAN (18: Anchor Bay) is the true story of Irish-American mobster Danny Greene.
During the summer of 1976, 36 bombs go off in the heart of Cleveland while a turf war rages between Greene (Ray Stevenson) and the Italian mafia.
After turning the tables on loan shark Shondor Birns (Christopher Walken) and allying himself with gangster John Nardi (Vincent D’Onofrio), Greene survives countless assassination attempts and retaliates by killing anyone who goes after him.
Greene’s invincibility and fearlessness led to the collapse of mafia syndicates across the United States. Also in the cast are Paul Sorvino, Val Kilmer and, in case you were wondering whatever happened to him, Vinnie Jones.