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You can now watch ‘Thor: Ragnarok’ at home. Here are our 5 favorite moments.

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From left, Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) and Loki (Tom Hiddleston) star in “Thor: Ragnarok.” (Marvel Studios)

Note: If you still haven’t seen the Thor/Hulk team-up that is “Thor: Ragnarok,” be warned: Spoilers are below.

The third time proved to be the charm for Marvel Studios’ Thor franchise. Not only is “Thor: Ragnarok” the best Thor movie by a long shot, but it also serves as Marvel Studios’ funniest offering in a slate of movies that now stands at 18 films. “Ragnarok” also provides a new team-up formula (successfully inserting the Incredible Hulk into the film) that could serve as a template for future Marvel Studios films.

“Thor: Ragnarok” is available Tuesday to bring home on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray and DVD (it has been available for digital download since Feb. 20). This is the second Marvel Studios film to get the 4K treatment for a home release; “Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol 2″ was the first. Whether Marvel Studios will release every Marvel Cinematic Universe film in Ultra HD remains to be seen, but it looks like from now on, 4K will be an option. This bodes well for high-definition junkies who will be eager to take home box office record-breaker “Black Panther[1]” and April’s highly anticipated “Avengers: Infinity War.”

There’s a good chance that “Thor: Ragnarok” will be the last solo[3] “Thor” film. Chris Hemsworth has at least two more appearances as the God of Thunder in the next two “Avengers” movies, but is otherwise contractually done[4] and could be hanging up his cape for good and making room for the next generation of Marvel Studios heroes. His performance as Thor — heroic and surprisingly hilarious, at times — has been one of the most spot-on performances in the MCU, right up there with Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man and Chris Evans’s Captain America.

Here are Comic Riffs’ five favorite moments from “Thor: Ragnarok.”

1. Mjolnir’s last stand

Thor has to say goodbye to many things beloved to him in “Ragnarok”: an eye in battle, his father Odin (Anthony Hopkins) and his blonde locks of hair (cut by Stan Lee in one of his funnier cameos). But perhaps nothing was more emotional than the severed connection between Odinson and his mystical hammer Mjolnir. Mighty Mjolnir is crushed to cosmic rubble in the hands of Thor’s newly revealed older sister Hela (Cate Blanchett). The destruction of the trusty tool happens early in the film, but not before Mjolnir is given one last blaze of glory in the fiery realm of the gigantic demon Surtur. We’re treated to images of Thor handling his hammer just like he does in the comics, spinning Mjolnir so fast he forms a shield against fire, and striking down dragons and demons alike.

Hela (Cate Blanchett) gets a grip on Mjolnir, just before destroying it with her bare hands. (Marvel Studios)

2. Jack Kirby’s undeniable influence

The late Jack “The King” Kirby’s artistic influence is all over “Thor: Ragnarok,” especially once the film arrives on the planet Sakaar. Bright colors and strong lines pop out as a tribute to the man who helped give birth to the Marvel comic-book universe with his pencils. But it’s in the scene where we see the Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum) preparing to watch his “champion” (the Hulk) take on Thor in battle that the setting truly looks like a Kirby comic book panel come to life. The tribute is strong — from the walls to the people — and beyond deserving for someone who drew Thor as well as anyone ever has.

The Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum) and Loki (Tom Hiddleston) prepare to watch the Hulk and Thor come to blows. (Marvel Studios)

3. Talking Hulk

Talking Hulk is humorous and a brilliant move by Marvel Studios, and a way to add something new to the character that hadn’t been heard as much in previous Hulk films and “Avengers” appearances. Sure he’s said “Hulk smash!” and called Loki a “puny god” after tossing him around like a toy, but complete sentences? That was new. It added another comedic aspect to “Ragnarok”: There’s only one guy who can call Thor “baby arms,” and that’s the Incredible Hulk.

This third Thor movie plays off the very first seed planted in the Hulk/Thor cinematic rivalry, a rift that goes back to their comic book days. “Ragnarok” takes the geektastic moment of the first Thor vs. Hulk bout in “Avengers,” when they had a fistfight, and gives it a few more rounds in this installment as both refuse to admit that the other just might be stronger — this time in front of a crowd — highlighting one of the most fun comic-book movie brawls ever.

When they’re not beating each other up, Thor and Hulk try to talk it out — with Hulk doing a lot of the talking. (Marvel Studios)

4. Doctor Strange

A movie that has Thor, Loki, the Hulk, a new villain (Hela) and a fresh adversary (Valkyrie) probably didn’t need an appearance by Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), but “Ragnarok” makes it work, and humorously, in a short amount of time. The Sorcerer Supreme, used as a magic gateway to hiding Odin, makes quick work of Loki (who takes offense given he’s somewhat of a sorcerer himself) and engages in a conversation with Thor that involves many a mystically produced frosty beverage after Thor makes it clear he’s not a tea guy. This scene contains perhaps the film’s biggest LOL moment when Doctor Strange informs Thor he couldn’t have told Thor that his father Odin was exiled in Norway because Thor doesn’t have a phone. Thor quips back that Doctor Strange could have sent an “electronic letter.” “It’s called an email,” Thor says. But when Doctor Strange asks Thor if he has a computer, Thor says, “No, what for?”

The appearance of Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch)  in “Thor: Ragnarok” is as surprising as it is funny. (Marvel Studios)

5. Valkyrie’s debut

Despite being the love interest in the first two “Thor” movies, the absence of Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) is barely noticed (and briefly mentioned) because of the overpowering performance of Tessa Thompson as Valkyrie. Despite being a newcomer to this franchise, Valkyrie makes her presence known and holds her own as the Hulk’s new best friend, an Asgardian rival to Thor (with slight romantic sparks that aren’t really delved into) and strength as powerful as both Avengers. From her heavily armed debut on Sakaar to a redemptive battle against Hela on Asgard, here’s hoping there’s just as much Valkyrie as there is Thor when we see her again in “Avengers: Infinity War.”

Tessa Thompson stars as Valkyrie in “Thor: Ragnarok.” (Marvel Studios)

Read more:

Superhero movies are shifting to ultra high definition. Will audiences tell the difference?[6]

You can now watch ‘Wonder Woman’ at home. Here’s a look back at its top 5 moments.[7]

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Houston Recalls Legacy of George Bush, Its Lone Star Yankee and Senior Booster

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HOUSTON — Inside the airport that bears his name, George Herbert Walker Bush looks, at a distance, as if he’s wearing a cape.

An 8-foot-tall bronze statue at the Houston airport shows Mr. Bush, who , Barbara Bush[4], who died in April at the age of 92. After Mr. Bush’s death on Friday, Houston lost its two most famous residents in the span of seven months.

“George H.W. Bush served with valor and integrity as the 41st president of the United States,” Houston’s mayor, Sylvester Turner, said in a statement. “But to Houstonians he was one of our most esteemed and relatable neighbors. He and his wife, Barbara Bush, were our sports teams’ biggest fans, and boosters for everything Houston.”

This was the man whose most memorable quote in years had to do with men’s hosiery. In 2012, as his fondness for wearing bright eye-catching socks was going strong, he explained that he simply “likes a good sock.” At his wife’s funeral at St. Martin’s Episcopal Church in Houston, Mr. Bush wore a pair of socks with a colorful stack-of-books design, a tribute to Mrs. Bush’s advocacy work for family literacy.

In Houston and its surrounding suburbs, Mr. Bush had not only an airport in his name but a park, a high school and a few more life-size statues. Above Buffalo Bayou, a bronze statue of Mr. Bush looks out into the distance with his hand in his pocket, gazing at, of all things, James A. Baker III, the former secretary of state and Mr. Bush’s tennis partner at the Houston Country Club. The statues of the two close friends face each other in the downtown park, separated by about 100 yards, in Houston’s oddest and longest-running staring contest.

“All I can do now,” Mr. Bush told The New York Times in 2011 about the statue, “is hope that the pigeons will be kind and gentle.”

Charles C. Foster, a Houston immigration lawyer and a longtime friend of the Bush family, came up with the idea for the George H.W. Bush Monument, which was unveiled in 2004. Mr. Foster recalled the day he sat in Mr. Bush’s office at 10000 Memorial Drive and asked for his blessing for the project.

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Mr. Bush in 1970, when he was a congressman.CreditAssociated Press

“He looked at me and he sort of looked up at the ceiling,” Mr. Foster said. “He pointed to the ceiling and said, ‘Shouldn’t you wait until I’m up there?’ And then he said, pointing downward, ‘Or perhaps down there?’”

In 1990, Mr. Bush helped turn the eyes of the world to Houston.

As president, he brought thousands of reporters and foreign dignitaries to Houston that summer for the Economic Summit of Industrialized Nations, an annual gathering of the world’s economic powers. The summits had been held in a number of global cities — London, Tokyo, Paris, Venice — and Mr. Bush made the case that his adopted hometown belonged among such world-class company.

Houston was scrappier back then. The city was rebounding from an oil bust in the 1980s that crippled the economy, and it tried hard to present its best, and cleanest, face to the cameras and the visitors, picking up millions of pounds of trash, repaving roads and enlisting the aid of 12,000 volunteers.

“That was huge for Houston,” Mr. Foster said of the 1990 summit. “When the president had a chance, he could have picked some mountain retreat. But he picked his hometown. He was well aware of the chip on our shoulders that we didn’t feel like Houston got the recognition that it should.”

Now, with 2.3 million residents (compared with 1.6 million in 1990), Houston is the fourth-largest city in America, known as much for its diversity as its energy-capital status. George Bush High School, part of the Fort Bend school district, is 43 percent Hispanic, 38 percent black, 12 percent Asian and 4 percent white. More than 90 languages and dialects are spoken in the district.

Early Saturday morning in the upscale Tanglewood area, Houstonians paused at the gates at South Post Oak Lane and North West Oak Drive — the entrance to the gated community where Mr. Bush lived. Someone draped an American flag in the center of the gates, decorated for the holidays with Christmas wreaths.

Shirley Matthews, 66, a lifelong Houstonian who lives nearby, walked up and took a picture of the memorial for her mother. “He was just a good person,” she said. “He wasn’t perfect. But it’s family, and we love each other.”

References

  1. ^ died at his home here on Friday (www.nytimes.com)
  2. ^ Read the obituary of George H.W. Bush. (www.nytimes.com)
  3. ^ the funeral for his wife (www.nytimes.com)
  4. ^ Barbara Bush (www.nytimes.com)

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A Close Race, a Mysterious Ballot and Control of Alaska’s House at Stake

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With a crucial legislative seat in Alaska teetering toward a tie earlier this month, lawmakers in Juneau braced for the possibility of a coin toss deciding control of the state’s House of Representatives. Then a mysterious extra ballot emerged that threw the process into further disarray.

Amid several counts, the latest coming on Friday afternoon, a single ballot drew scrutiny across the state.

The state’s review board certified the race, between Kathryn Dodge, a Democrat, and Bart LeBon, a Republican, as a tie earlier this week, with exactly 2,661 votes going to each candidate. The extra ballot, for Ms. Dodge, could have settled the race for the Fairbanks-area district seat.

Later on Friday, the mystery appeared to have been solved — but the standoff over who won the election continued.

Samantha Miller, a spokeswoman for the state elections office, said that workers at Fairbanks’s No. 6 precinct told officials that a woman had come into the polling place to request a special needs ballot on behalf of her husband, who was outside in a vehicle.

The woman came back into the precinct. Her husband had made a mistake, she told the precinct worker, and needed a new ballot. She left behind the one he had already marked, thus making it a spoiled ballot.

The precinct chair told the worker who took the spoiled ballot to put it into a secrecy sleeve, “and that they would deal with it later in the day,” Ms. Miller said.

But instead, the spoiled ballot was put into a compartment with other questioned ballots.

Typically, Ms. Miller said, spoiled ballots are destroyed once they are accounted for. So, because the mystery ballot was found to be spoiled, it will not be counted, she said.

Still, that left the question of what happens if the recount that began on Friday afternoon ends in a tie — again.

Ms. Miller said that both candidates had five days to file a legal challenge to the results. And if the court decided the recount went as it should have, and the race was still a tie?

The prevailing candidate would be determined “by lot,” Ms. Miller said. “It could be a coin toss or some other way of deciding, as long as it’s random.”

It would not be the first time an Alaska race was determined by coin toss.

In 2006, State Representative Bryce Edgmon[1], a Democrat from Dillingham, beat the incumbent, Carl Moses. Mr. Moses’s name was drawn, so he got to make the call: Heads.

The state’s elections director at the time flipped an Alaska Mint medallion — the side with a walrus being heads and the side with the state seal being tails. It landed state seal side up.

Ms. Miller would not speculate about when the recount would be complete, but said both candidates were present, along with observers and officials.

Mr. LeBon did not respond to requests for comment on Friday.

Sara Harriger, a spokeswoman for Ms. Dodge, said in a statement that during Friday’s recount, one additional vote was found for Ms. Dodge and a challenged ballot was allowed for her opponent, Mr. LeBon, which meant that the tally stood at 2,662 apiece. Still tied.

Ms. Dodge said in a statement that she believed every legally cast ballot should be counted. “I just want everyone watching this process to take away a sense of confidence in our democratic system and a commitment to cast their votes in future races,” she said, “and knowing that their votes will matter.”

Ms. Dodge had said earlier on Friday that legal action “unfortunately” seemed probable.

“It’s certainly not what any of us expect when we set out to campaign, to find ourselves in a squeaker of this nature,” she said. “I hope we don’t have a coin toss. I don’t know quite what to say, but it doesn’t feel like it’s an appropriate way to settle an election.”

In Alaska, the repercussions of this race will be felt into the next legislative session, though party control of the House in Juneau will be far from clear-cut.

Political coalitions in Juneau do not always come down to party-line votes like in other state houses. Even if Ms. Dodge wins the race, Democrats would still not have an outright majority, and so members of the House will still be tasked with negotiating a coalition majority.

References

  1. ^ Bryce Edgmon (akleg.gov)

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3 Killed After Pickup Truck Fleeing Border Patrol Hits Tire Spikes and Crashes

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Three people in a packed pickup truck were killed on Thursday afternoon after the driver ran over tire spikes and crashed on a Southern California highway while trying to flee Border Patrol officers, the authorities said.

The officers turned on their vehicle’s emergency lights and began chasing the pickup truck on Interstate 8, near Boulevard, Calif., at around 4:20 p.m., according to the United States Customs and Border Protection. The authorities said they believed that the pickup truck had been illegally driven over the southern border and had crashed through an “iron bar vehicle barrier.” They said they identified it by matching a piece that was missing from the truck to one agents had spotted on the ground near the border, though they did not elaborate.

The pickup truck reached speeds of over 100 miles per hour, weaving between cars and bypassing others on the side of the highway, before it drove over spikes that the Border Patrol had placed on the road, the California Highway Patrol said. About a mile later, the truck spun out of control and flipped over, ejecting the nine people who were riding in the truck’s bed, the authorities said.

A woman inside the truck, who was not wearing a seatbelt, was killed, as were two people riding in the bed, the police said. Seven people who had “multiple serious injuries” were taken to the hospital, a spokesman for Customs and Border Protection said.

The driver, a United States citizen whose name was not released, was the only person wearing a seatbelt, the agency said. The California Highway Patrol took the man into custody, but it was not clear whether he had been charged. The identities of the passengers in the truck have not been released either.

“The investigation into the smuggling incident is ongoing,” the spokesman said in an email, “and the Border Patrol is fully cooperating with the CHP in their investigation of the collision.”

About an hour after the crash, the Border Patrol stopped another vehicle that officers believed had crossed over the border with the pickup truck, the agency said. The driver of that car was also arrested.

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