Movie Review – Doctor Strange

Doctor Strange

Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Rachel McAdams, Tilda Swinton, Mads Mikkelsen, Benedict Wong, Michael Stuhlbarg, Benjamin Bratt, and more.

Directed by: Scott Derrickson Written by: Jon Spaihts, Scott Derrickson, and C. Robert Cargill Based on the Comics by: Steve Ditko Cinematography by: Ben Davis Music by: Michael Giacchino

Premise: A world famous surgeon loses the use of his hands after a terrible car accident. Determined to find a cure, he eventually ends up in Kathmandu, Nepal where he meets the Ancient One. Driven to succeed so he can go back to his old life, Strange finds himself embroiled in a conflict that could well decide the fate of the planet. (Rated PG-13)

Review:

1) Acting – Total Thumbs Up: Benedict Cumberbatch did a great job as Doctor Stephen Strange. Cumberbatch took the character and made it his own. Though he’s played many roles with ego filled men with hearts they deny, he still found a way to make Strange unique from all his other performances. Kudos! Tilda Swinton  was quite convincing as a female version of the Ancient One. Mads Mikkelsen was wonderful as Kaecilius. His conversation with Strange in the NY Sanctum was wicked and fabulous on so many levels. Not to be outdone, Chiwetel Ejiofor holds his own as Mordo. (For those who know the comic series, they do push him in the right direction by the end, so go with it.) Benedict Wong (I swear they made an in-joke of the fact they had two Benedicts) was a perfect and fun foil for Strange. Rachel McAdams was fun as Christine Palmer. Her reactions at a couple of places were priceless! 🙂

2) Special Effects – Total Thumbs Up: If you can possibly see this film in IMAX 3D I would urge you to do so! I get motion sickness easily, but didn’t have trouble with the film, so I think it should be safe for most people. All the warping of reality looked spectacular!

The special effects team also handled a silent actor who just about stole the show – the Cloak of Levitation. Totally unexpected handling of the ancient artifact and it worked so well! Loved what they did with it!

The mirror universe, Dormamu’s universe, and all the weird manipulations of reality were fantastic. Dormamu himself, which you get a hint of during Stephen’s first introduction to the unknown, looked fabulous! Wish we’d gotten a look at the Mindless ones, but I’m sure they’re saving those for later. 😛

The spells themselves were super cool. The physicality added to them made them seem more real, which added more to the film than just straight visual effects would have. Awesome choice.

The Eye of Agamotto doesn’t much resemble the iconic image used in the comics, but was still very cool. And wait untill you see the astral fight through the hospital! Fab!

And wait till you see what they do with the apple. Fantastic! And the backwards while still going forward combat was sublime!

3) Plot/Story – Total Thumbs Up: This is an intro story and most of the important facts fit with the stated mythology from the comics. Doctor Strange is hubby’s favorite all time comic book hero so he’s been slobbering to see it. 😛 And he was quite happy with the treatment.

Three major changes from the comics  were in the film. The Ancient One is now female – though it was pulled off quite nicely. The second was the introduction of Kaecilius as Stephen’s first nemesis. But that’s only so they could build up what they’ll be doing with Mordo later. Bwahahahaha! (Ahem…) The third was the addition of Christine Palmer into the origin story. But she made for a nice counterpoint with Strange. In essence, all the best parts of what make up Doctor Strange were definitely there.

The film had a lot of interspersed humor. It was quite a surprise, but it added a nice layer of fun to the film.

4) Stunts – Total Thumbs Up: Between the training, the fighting and the effect of magic on others – the stunt team was kept very busy. Fights weren’t on just the usual planes of existence anymore. This made for some challenging hand to hand combat! Even escaping was a major stunt trial. lol.

5) Locations/Cinematography – Total Thumbs Up: Both the real and the imagined locations were great! They had great flavor. They even used a couple of places where you saw one thing, but heard another, throwing the whole into a new context. What fun! Filming occurred in the real Kathmandu, Nepal. Also in Hong Kong, London, New York, Los Angeles and more. The addition of the Avenger’s tower outside of Stephen’s view was a nice touch.

And wait till you see the New York Sanctum. Sweet!

6) Costuming/Makeup – Total Thumbs Up: Major kudos to the makeup department, Benedict Cumberbatch, and the special effects group with respect to Stephen’s messed up hands. There was no doubt in anyone’s mind that they weren’t the same as they’d been when he wakes up in the hospital after the accident. And later you can see the scars from the repairs and additional surgeries he had performed in an attempt to get them fixed. A constant reminder of his loss.

The group also did a fabulous job recreating Strange’s unique look from the white in his hair to the blue gi like uniform. Great attention to detail!

Conclusion: Doctor Strange is an awesome rendition of the famous comic series. Fans will be please with how technology has finally caught up enough to bring this fabulous character to the world in the right way. There are two (yes two!) extra scenes during the credits. So stay all the way to the end! Stan Lee also has a cameo! (I know – like DUH!) 😛

Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars (Hubby’s Rating: Worth Full Price to See Again!)

 

Movie Review – Captain America: Civil War

Captain America: Civil War

Starring: Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, Don Cheadle, Jeremy Renner, Chadwick Boseman, Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Rudd, Emily VanCamp, Tom Holland, Daniel Brühl, Frank Grillo, William Hurt, Martin Freeman, and more.

Directed by: Anthony Russo and Joe Russo Screenplay by: Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely Comic Book by: Mark Millar Based on Characters Created by: Joe Simon and Jack Kirby Cinematography by: Trent Opaloch Music by: Henry Jackman


Premise: The United Nations has introduced a measure to make the Avengers missions fall under an oversight committee. Split on whether this would be a good thing or not, the team suffers a further rift when a bomb explodes during the UN meeting to ratify the measure and a grainy picture of someone resembling Bucky is caught on camera. The UN puts out a find and kill order, but Cap wants to try to bring him in alive. But there’s more going on than any of them realize. (Rated PG-13)

Review:

1) Acting – Total Thumbs Up: Lots of our favorite people are back and we meet some new ones as well. Chris Evans and Robert Downey Jr. are great together as their characters’ strong wills clash even as they desperately try to cling to their friendship. Scarlett Johansson can speak volumes with a raised eyebrow! Chadwick Boseman as T’Challa was a great choice. And loved to see Martin Freeman thrown into the mix as well. (Especially since his partner Sherlock will be the next Dr. Strange!)

2) Special Effects – Total Thumbs Up: Lots to love from the special effects department! The sequence with Tony Stark as an eighteen year old looked just like him! Amazing work.

All the mix of tech and super powers in mass battle looked awesome. Especially with Antman’s couple of surprises at the airport. Talk about a battle! Ant-man playing inside Tony’s armor? Priceless.

The russian lab and the underwater supermax prison were very cool. Both look super tough. And all of Falcon’s awesome toys – I want them! Drool.

3) Plot/Story – Thumbs Up: I’d worried a bit about the plot from what I’d seen in the previews. But overall it wasn’t as bad as I’d feared it might be and they did have several surprises. As usual, though, the devil is in the details – and the details tend to be the first thing ignored when it gets in the way of causing trouble. One grainy photo and no one bothers to do actual research and police work? Please. Later it happens, but not where it should have. Most won’t notice the oversight as the non-stop action goes at super speed.

Another minor issue is lack of communication – even amongst willful guys. It was yet another convenient item left out until too late – no one even tried saying Bucky didn’t do it even after he told Cap as much. They were busy, but not that busy. And no one even tried to prove it one way or the other.

A lot of the driving force on the plot is the first initial rift with regards to the UN and the perceived lack of caring by the Avengers. While all these items kept getting brought up about how people were killed and things were destroyed, not once did anyone even try to point out how many more would have died had Wanda done nothing, or how many thousands would have been hurt or killed if they’d let the bad guys run off with the infectious disease they stole. Ultron or the aliens – hundreds of thousands to millions of dead if gone unchecked. While I grieve, and so do the heroes, for the deaths of the innocents, how many more would there have been if the Avengers did nothing? Reality bites, but the facts should not be ignored either.

Aside from that, the driving emotions and personalities seemed pretty spot on. Though the fact they wait to the very end for someone to finally mention Bucky is a VICTIM was yet another omission for convenience. So while I understood Tony’s rage, I couldn’t quite see that he’d go as far as he did because he knew about Bucky’s brainwashing. But for whatever reason friends against friends seem to be the thing in all the plots lately.

Ton of fun moments! Ton of awesome one liners! Great introduction for the Black Panther! Lots of fun interaction between the characters. And I loved Cap’s note to Tony at the end and Tony’s indirect, yet totally meaningful response.

Oh, and Spidey’s suggestion from that “old movie” and them doing it? Awesome!

4) Stunts – Total Thumbs Up: Between the hand-to-hand combat, car chases, stairwell chases, air chases, and more – there is a ton to love from the stunt department. Real and imagined. 🙂

5) Cinematography – Total Thumbs Up: Lovely job on the cinematography. Cool angles and some lovely sweeping scenes so we could enjoy the action from any number of vantage points. Nice!

Conclusion: “Captain America: Civil War” is filled with awesome CGI work and magnificent battles and chases. A few bits were a little contrived, but they were in the minority and there were definitely unexpected surprises. This was a fun ride! (Two extra scenes so stay all the way through the credits!)

Rating: 4 out of 5 (Hubby’s Rating: Worth Paying Full Price to See Again!)

Movie Review – Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice
Starring: Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Jesse Eisenberg, Diane Lane, Laurence Fishburne, Jeremy Irons, Holly Hunter, Gal Gadot, Callan Mulvey, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Michael Shannon, and more.

Directed by: Zack Snyder Written by: Chris Terrio and David S. Goyer Based on characters created by: Bob Kane, Bill Finger, Jerry Siegel, Joe Shuster, and William Moulton Marston Cinematography by: Larry Fong Music by: Junkie XL and Hans Zummer

Premise: A year and a half after the events revealing Superman to the world, there are those still trying to decide what threat this all powerful alien is to Earth. As an incident in the Arab nations suddenly brings a dark cloud over Superman’s reputation, Bruce Wayne starts to believe it might be time to do something about him sooner rather than later. (Rated PG-13)

Review:
1) Acting – Total Thumbs Up: Ben Affleck does a great job as an older, less trusting Batman. Henry Cavill reprises his role as the man of steel, making it look easy. Jeremy Irons brought some lovely acerbic spice to the role of Alfred. Gal Gadot was fun as Diana Prince, letting out a little of her inner Selina Kyle (Catwoman). 😛 Jesse Eisenberg was interesting as Lex, though the character was written a little bit too manic and psycho, giving him shades of the Joker.  Amy Adams did more lovely work as Lois Lane – showing what makes her such a great reporter and friend. Holly Hunter was a hoot as Senator Finch. And though uncredited, it was lovely to see Papa Winchester (Jeffrey Dean morgan) as Thomas Wayne.

2) Special Effects – Total Thumbs Up: Tons of special effects fill the film. (I know – DUH!) 😛  We get cool lab tech, new Batman toys, and destruction galore.

The recreation of Superman’s battle with Zod but done from the perspective of a frantic Bruce Wayne on the ground was some lovely work.

The battle clash between Batman and Supes was very well done and gratifying. (Even though I did want to smack them both in the back of the head.) 😛

The short video clip files for the origin of Cyborg (as they move the movie franchise towards the Justice League) are totally awesome!

3) Plot/Story – Thumbs Up: Before the film started, they showed a short video where the filmmakers ask the audience to please not spoil it for anyone else by revealing secrets, plot twists, etc. Not sure what they were thinking would be all that surprising to give away (I had a good idea where all this was going and why just from the previews!), but I will attempt to not do any spoilers.

Anyone who’s ever read Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns miniseries will know where a lot of the material is coming from or have seen it explored before to some extent elsewhere. (Frank Miller was given credit for contributing in the film’s credits – yay!) All people and beings can feel helpless, regardless of how much money or power they hold – something both DC Comic lines have played with for years. Interestingly, they included several offshoots from other miniseries/standalone graphic novels with regards to alternate timelines/realities for Batman and Superman. That was rather fun – but also a little confusing.

One thing I must point out though – Batman does NOT kill. While they did a decent job working up why he’d change his usual MO to get rid of Superman, they did nothing to show why he’s suddenly killing human criminals. Guess you can’t have big explosions to light up the screen without killing, so killing happened. Boo!

I found it odd too how they imbued Diana Prince/Wonder Woman and Lex Luthor with traits from Catwoman and Joker. These two characters are plenty fascinating on their own without needing to be tweaked. And Lex might be insane, but he’s more sociopathic than psycho. And making something without a way to control it? Lex? Doubtful! (We also get a complete Batman origin replay, but nothing for Supes, which seemed odd?)

The only true flaw I found, however, was in one of the most important driving pieces of the plot itself – the altercation in the desert! People there died from bullets, so how the heck does that translate into Superman killing people? If the mercenaries had come back later and altered the scene, it would have been nice for the congressional hearings to have mentioned what was found to make it look like Superman committed unnecessary slaughter – otherwise, it makes no sense at all!

But, if you ignore that, the rest works for the most part. Those who know the comics and characters well, I doubt will be that surprised by the progression of events.

4) Stunts – Total Thumbs Up: A ton of stunts fill the film from one end to the other. CGI was thrown into the mix as well but is very well integrated with the real sets and fights. You’ll grunt and hurt for them. 😛

The hand-to-hand fight in the warehouse was awesome! (Even though Bats does not do guns, ya’ll! (Still looked awesome though.))

5) Cinematography – Total Thumbs Up: Lovely cinematography work by Larry Fong. Seeing Wayne manor in ruins was creepy. Tons of overhead shots or panned back shots to really bring home the scope of the battles. And nice closeups in the middle of the chaos too.

Conclusion: Batman v Superman (Shouldn’t that be vs. ? Guy in the pre-film thing said ‘v’ instead of ‘versus’ too – what was up with that?) is a fun ride full of things to think about as well as tons of action. Pay close attention to the closing scene! No extra bits during or after the credits.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 (Hubby’s Rating: Worth Full Price to See Again)