At the Movies

Jay Maidment/Walt Disney Studios/Marvel/Associated Press

Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is in his element when engaged in close combat in “Thor: The Dark World.”

New in Theaters

About Time

(Playing at the Gaslight Cinema)

Of all the genres Rachel McAdams would latch on to in her career, no one was probably expecting time travel to be her niche. After her debut in “Mean Girls” (2004) and then hitting stardom with Ryan Gosling in “The Notebook” (2004), most would assume the Canadian actress would stick with romantic comedies. While she did snag supporting roles in static-time films like “Wedding Crashers” (2005) and “The Family Stone” (2005), McAdams co-starred in “The Time Traveler’s Wife” (2009) and “Midnight in Paris” (2011) and just signed up for a futuristic set movie called “Passengers.” All feature some sort of mixture of romance and time-travel, and Richard Curtis’ new film “About Time” is no exception.

On his 21st birthday in Cornwall, England, Tim (Domhnall Gleeson) is told by his father (Bill Nighy) that he and the rest of his male relatives can travel back in time. Bewildered and amazed at his new gift, Tim spends the next decade discovering love with bombshell Charlotte (Margot Robbie) and bookworm Mary (McAdams), landing a job in a law firm and having a neurotic playwright Harry (Tom Hollander) as a roommate.

Lindsay Duncan and Lydia Wilson play Tim’s deadpan mother and eccentric younger sister, Will Merrick and Joshua McGuire are Tim’s best mates, and British cinema vets Richard Griffiths and Richard E. Grant make special appearances. Gleeson, a familiar face as Bill Weasley from the “Harry Potter” movies and Levin in the most recent “Anna Karenina” film adaptation in 2011, is cute and charming enough as the lead and shows he has more up his sleeve than just being the son of Brendon. McAdams is her usual blend of adorable and sassy as the token American love interest that seems to appear in almost all of Curtis’ films. Nighy, as was the case in “Love Actually” (2003), is the film’s wise old man, but is more sardonic than saccharine with his advice. Wilson is a breath of fresh air as the quirky, but bright, sister who doesn’t know how to be grown-up, while Hollander, Merrick and McGuire provide extra comic relief (particularly from Hollander).

“About Time” rings a little similar to Harold Ramis’ “Groundhog Day” from 20 years earlier, as well as his own features “Four Weddings and a Funeral” (1994) and “Love Actually.” There are tons of comical, as well as somber, moments where Tim travels back in time that are entertaining and creative enough to not seem too redundant, but also a thorough, well-thought out story on family and love. Despite a couple of tiny plot holes, the lovable feeling from the film and its characters make it work. As Judd Apatow and Cameron Crowe are to feel-good movies in American cinema, Curtis is to feel-good movies in British cinema. Those who are already fans of Curtis’ previous features or of romance dramedies in general are bound to enjoy this cute flick best. The romantic comedy genre may unfortunately be slowly dying, but Gleeson’s and McAdams’ new unity will do for now. Rated R.

Megan Bianco, Special to the Herald

Thor: The Dark World

(Playing at Durango Stadium 9 in standard format and digital 3-D with surcharge.)

Comic book movies are increasingly, like Sandra Bullock in “Gravity,” lost in space.

Following the summer’s glumly bombastic “Man of Steel,” which added a heavy dose of Krypton politics to Superman’s once pleasantly silly story, comes “Thor: The Dark World,” in which Thor’s Asgard, a celestial home of gods floating somewhere in the universe, is the primary setting. Earth is an afterthought – just one of the “nine realms,” albeit the one with Natalie Portman.

Gone are the earthbound pleasures of a superhero amid us mortals. Such was the joy of the “Spider-Man” movies and the first “Thor,” when Chris Hemsworth’s lofty, hammer-wielding Norse warrior, exiled to Earth, so happily encountered a cup of coffee for the first time.

As Marvel’s latest 3-D behemoth, “Thor: The Dark World” isn’t so much a sequel as the latest plug-and-play into the comic book company’s blockbuster algorithm. It’s a reliably bankable formula of world-saving action sequences, new villain introductions and clever quips from women on the side, (and they, most assuredly, are always off to the side).

The expansive Marvel universe is carefully stitched together across its many properties. “The Dark World” (with director Alan Taylor of “Game of Thrones” taking over for Kenneth Branaugh) follows “The Avengers” in chronology and runs alongside the current, unremarkable ABC series “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”

Each is referred to with something less than, say, the binding connections of Faulkner’s Yoknapatawpha County. Instead we get cloying winks. The great city of New York, for example, is reduced to shorthand for the climactic battle in “The Avengers,” as if we’re still so consumed by that movie. Yes, we’re all very impressed it made so much money.

Thor has spent the last two years restoring order to the nine realms of the cosmos, but just as peace settles, a previously locked-away dark energy called the Aether seeps out. It leaks into Portman’s astrophysicist, Jane Foster, awakening a previously vanquished species of Dark Elves, led by Malekith (Christopher Eccleston). They would like to see the universe returned to complete darkness. Not a day person, this Malekith.

This occurs as the nine realms are lining up in a rare convergence that makes them particularly susceptible to Aether-spread ruin. There’s not a lick of character to Malekith and his motives: He just wants to end all life.

To save Life As We Know It, Thor seeks help from his duplicitous adoptive brother, Loki (Tom Hiddleston), who has been imprisoned for killing thousands of humans at “New York.” Hiddleston’s sneering Loki remains one of the finest Marvel antagonists, and – now with a starring role in three films – the franchise seems to value him (as it should) as much as his more heroic brother.

When “The Dark World” touches down on Earth, away from the “Clash of the Titans”-style realms of gods, it’s considerably better. Along with Portman, returning is the sarcasm sidekick Kat Dennings (as Jane’s intern) and Stellan Skarsgard as discredited scientist Erik Selvig. Chris O’Dowd makes a welcome cameo as a blind date for a very reluctant Jane.

The tone is far more amiable on Earth (London, to be specific, the site of the final showdown) than in Asgard, where Anthony Hopkins, Renee Russo and Idris Elba remain locked in golden-hued majesty. Hemsworth, a seemingly perfectly rendered movie star equipped with brawn and baritone, also suffers from the stiffness. He had much more fun in “Rush” earlier this year.

Ardent fans (who should stay through the credits) will likely be satiated by the pleasing enough “Thor: The Dark World.” But perhaps at this point, even diehards may wish for something more from a Marvel equation that often subtracts humanity.

“Thor: The Dark World,” a Walt Disney release, is rated PG-13 for “sequences of intense sci-fi action and violence, and some suggestive content.” Running time: 111 minutes. HH out of four.

JAKE COYLE, AP Film Writer

Still Showing

Animas City Theatre

(128 E. College Drive, 799-2281, www.animascitytheatre.com)

The Summit. In August 2008, 18 mountain climbers reached the top of K2. Two days later, 11 people were dead. While memorials paid tribute to those killed, there were also condemnations about “the why.” Why do these athletes risk everything to reach a place humans are simply not meant to go? With breathtaking cinematography and jaw-dropping re-enactments based on the testimony of those who survived the climb, this film is about the very nature of adventure in the modern world.

Into the Mind. (Tuesday only, ski film.) Sherpas Cinema’s newest feature film blurs the lines between dream state and reality, and immerses you into the mind of a common skier as he attempts to climb and ski the ultimate mountain. Innovative athlete segments are actually a glimpse into his dreamscape, each one harboring messages that help inform our hero’s current, real-life choices. As you experience the majesty of Alaska, Bolivia, the Himalaya and beyond, “Into the Mind” paints a philosophical portrait of human kind. How do we balance risk versus reward? Why are we inspired to rise to the challenges in our lives and what do we learn on this journey to attain them?

Durango Stadium 9

(Next to Durango Mall, 247-9799, www.allentheatresinc.com)

Cutie and Boxer. (Wednesday only.) This New York love story explores the chaotic 40-year marriage of famed boxing painter Ushio Shinohara and his wife, Noriko. Anxious to shed her role as her overbearing husband’s assistant, Noriko finds an identity of her own. Rated R.

Free Birds. In this buddy comedy, two turkeys from opposite sides of the tracks must put aside their differences and team up to travel back in time to change the course of history – and get turkey off the holiday menu for good. Voices include Woody Harrelson, Owen Wilson and Amy Poehler. Rated PG.

Last Vegas. A group of aging pals played by aging actors head to Vegas for a wild weekend. A “Hangover” for the “Matlock” crowd. Rated PG-13.

Ender’s Game. Youngsters play life-and-death games for the amusement of some aliens with the fate of humanity on the line. Rated PG-13.

Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa. Johnny Knoxville dresses as an old man and teams up with a child for this latest creation of the “Jackass” laboratories. Rated R.

Captain Phillips. Tom Hanks stars in the true story about the captain of a freighter hijacked by Somali pirates. Rated PG-13.

Gravity. (In standard format and digital 3-D with surcharge.) George Clooney and Sandra Bullock star as astronauts stranded in space after a devastating accident in orbit. Rated PG-13.

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2. Chester V’s evil machine is still creating animal-food hybrids, much to the chagrin of Flint Lockwood. It’s a sequel – hopefully someone understands what all that means. Rated PG.

Gaslight Cinema

(102 Fifth St. Next to the railroad depot, 247-8133, www.allentheatresinc.com)

Generation Iron. Gives the audience front-row access to the lives of the stars of todays international bodybuilding arena – Phil Heath, Branch Warren, Kai Greene, Dennis Wolf, Victor Martinez, Hidetada Yamagishi as well an ambitions newcomer Ben Pakulski and a European sensation Roelly Winklaar on their journey to the Olympia.

They have been through ups and downs, overcoming the toughest judges in the world as they’ve entered the stages around the world and flexed their muscles for eager fans. To their fans, they are more than superstars – they are Olympian gods. Rated PG-13.

Romeo & Juliet. A faithful, if unimaginative, retelling of the classic tragic love story, set in period. Hard to mess it up, but nothing really new here. Rated PG-13.

Ted Holteen and Associated Press

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