Blind Spot 40: ‘Scott Pilgrim vs the World’

It seemed appropriate during the month of an epic comicbook movie release I should finally watch one of the most popular entries from the genre I have yet to have seen for my blind spot series: Edgar Wright’s Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.

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Released in 2010, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is based on a graphic novel called Scott Pilgrim by Bryan Lee O’Malley. It tells the story of a dopey 22 year old kid named Scott (Michael Cera) who enters a video game world when he plays with his band the Sex Bob-Omb. He goes through many women, but he in particular loves a multi-haired girl named Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). In order to be with her he must defeat Ramona’s 7 evil exes in the video game using music and sometimes a little action.

For the most part I enjoyed watching this film. It is very well cast with a crop of young talent that would go places including Chris Evans, Anna Kendrick, Brandon Routh and Jason Schwartzman. The visual effects and style of the film is unique and continually surprised me. It both feels like you are inside a video game and a comicbook at the same time. scott pilgrim5I also thought Scott Pilgrim vs the World was pretty funny. The big set up jokes like Brandon Routh having super vegan powers really paid off and made me laugh. I also really liked Kieran Culkin as Scott’s gay roommate. He was very funny.

What I didn’t like as much is Scott is kind of the worst. He’s selfish, inconsiderate and doesn’t respect women. He goes through them like candy and yet they all seem more than willing to put up with such nonsense. The main excuse the movie seemed to give is he is lovable and nerdy but that’s not a very good excuse. I got the feeling we were supposed to judge Ramona for having so many ex-boyfriends when we saw Scott go through multiple girlfriends in just a few days!

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All that said, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is a pretty fun movie. The soundtrack is great and it has a ton of fresh energy to it. If you are tired of the same old story it’s definitely worth a try. I think I prefer it to the other Edgar Wright film I’ve seen Baby Driver.

6.5 out of 10

Smile Worthy

(This is my 40th Blind Spot pick! What a fun series it has proven to be!)

smile worthy

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‘Avengers: Endgame’ Review

While I have not loved every entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (see my Guardians of the Galaxy vol 2 review), I have loved the franchise as a cinematic endeavor and when others have grown weary of it I have been one of its biggest champions. I unabashedly love the tone of the universe and its emphasis on heroes who fight for all that is good and right in the world.

I also know that endings matter and a rotten ending to a 22 movie arc would be a serious bummer. This knowledge and my less than pumped response to Infinity War had me full of nerves going into the epic final chapter of the Avengers saga that is Avengers: Endgame. Could they pull it off? Could they end this mammoth undertaking of 22 movies in a satisfactorily way?

Well, I’m delighted to tell you that they did end it well. In fact, it may be my favorite MCU film to date! I LOVED Avengers: Endgame!

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There are two aspects that make Avengers: Endgame so strong. First and most importantly, the story takes care of our characters. I felt satisfied in every arc. Unlike say The Last Jedi or How I Met Your Mother where I felt great disappointment at the treatment of our characters, Marvel gave them arcs that felt earned and treated them with respect. There were things I was sure would annoy me after the carnage of Infinity War but it worked. In particular our original six of Iron Man, Captain America, Black Widow, Hawkeye, Hulk and Thor were given stories that felt authentic for the characters and gave the closure I needed.

I don’t think it is over-stating to say there is time travel element to the story. This allowed viewers to remember the fun we’ve had along the way but also gave the characters moments of retrospection on how far they had come and the choices they’ve made. Plus, it’s just fun. Time travel stories are a blast! I know some call this fan service but with each reveal my grin got bigger and wider. It was fantastic!

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Another strength of Avengers: Endgame is the pacing. I know that might sound nuts in a 3 hour movie but I found the film clipped right along. Infinity War dragged in its repetitive action where this was constantly changing who we are following and what type of situation they are facing. I was a little nervous going into the film that Captain Marvel would be over-used but she’s not. All the side characters are given their moments and then we move back to focusing on our main 5, which was brilliant.

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I am sure some people will talk about plotholes but so is the nature of time travel stories. I kind of treat this like watching Doctor Who. Sure the Doctor messes with the space time continuum in each episode but for the most part we let this go in the favor of who he saves and what the overall narrative needs to be. It will be fun to pick apart the many little moments of the film but the story won’t be any less effective by any imperfections I might uncover.

Those looking for big spectacle entertainment may find the first hour of Avengers: Endgame to be a little lacking, but I loved it! If you are one of those people, wait until the third act when the film delivers big time on spectacle! There were moments I had my mouth completely agape and a theater full of critics couldn’t help but cheer! It was infectious to see the ultimate heroes defeating the tar out of the villain Thanos!

In the end, Avengers: Endgame had it all. It was funny, moving, epic and everything else you could want. It is big spectacle entertainment topping off a cinematic achievement that many have attempted to mimic and failed. What the MCU has done is phenomenal, and I’m so happy they ended it well.

It is the perfect ending to our story.

Go see it! It’s great!

9.5/10

smile worthy

Captain Marvel Review

Let me start off this review by mentioning a personal accomplishment that came along with seeing the film. Captain Marvel, the latest film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, is the first time I was able to see a Disney film as a member of the press. This has long been a dream of mine as Disney does not offer early screening opportunities for their films like the other studios do (I used to have to enter a lottery and then wait 2-4 hours before the said film to hopefully be admitted). When I got added to rottentomatoes it gave me the clout to apply and be accepted as a full member of press and that meant I could go to the Disney early screenings! Yay! It’s a dream come true!

Does that mean I give this movie a pass? Nope. If anything I was very conscientious of not doing so and may have been more critical than if I was just watching an every day movie.

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All that out of the way, what did I think about Captain Marvel? As an origin story for a superhero movie I quite enjoyed it. It’s not without flaws but overall I had a good time and it did a particularly good job pumping me up for Avengers: Endgame coming up next, which is part of its job.

Captain Marvel starts off with her being trained as part of the Kree people who’s mission is to fight and defeat the Skrulls (they kind of reminded me of klingons in Star Trek). As she trains with Jude Law’s Yon-Rogg, we see flashes into her past: a past that includes a life on earth as air force pilot Carol Danvers. Eventually she ends up back on earth and most of the movie is a mystery as she figures out who she is and what she is fighting for. Along the way we get to meet new characters like her best friend Maria (Lashana Lynch) and have fun with old favorites like Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg) and of course Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson). The de-aging cgi has gotten really good with some of these characters!

A mixture of old and new characters works to Captain Marvel‘s benefit because the plot can get a little muddled with too much exposition particularly in the 2nd act. I started to get worried the movie was going to become a slog but it manages to pull everything together for a rousing final act (and a particularly great mid and post-credit sequence). However, there are definitely sections where it gets lost in too much plot and not enough fun.

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I’m not sure how most will take them, but I really enjoyed all the 90s references. In particular, the use of music cues was very well done. Some may find them too on the nose but it worked for me. There is also some dialogue that was very cheesy, but I like a little cheese in my comic book movies, so I enjoyed it. It reminded me of a cross between the first Guardians of the Galaxy and a phase 1 MCU movie like Thor. Unfortunately, Captain Marvel does not have near the gravitas or moral weight of Wonder Woman (I never cried even once), but I don’t think it needed too. We will get all of that in spades in Endgame.

The job of Captain Marvel is to introduce us to the character, provide some laughs/action and get us pumped for Avengers: End Game. In my opinion, it totally accomplished this task and was a good time at the movies.

As far as family audiences, there is some action obviously and a few mild profanities but this should be a good film for all ages with nothing upsetting like in Wonder Woman. I wish it was 15 minutes shorter but at least it isn’t close to 2.5 hours like Aquaman. Kids should really enjoy it, so I recommend going as a family.  Also for the record, Alita: Battle Angel is a lot of fun as well, so go see both. This only benefits because I’m so invested in this universe and had a great time seeing characters like Nick Fury and Agent Coulson again (also George is the best!)

8.5 out of 10

smile worthy

Bumblebee and Aquaman Thoughts

I recently had the chance to see 2 big blockbuster films that are trying to boost failing franchises: Bumblebee and Aquaman. One I liked. One I did not like. As opposed to doing separate reviews I thought it would be fun to compare the two and explain why one worked and one didn’t.

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The Transformers series has always been discouraging because the lore and characters has so much potential for an engaging blockbuster. Unfortunately the franchise was saddled with Michael Bay for five movies and the only thing he could produce is exhausting films that tried to be funny and exciting in the most cringe-worthy ways.

Finally Paramount has come to their senses and replaced Michael Bay with Laika’s Travis Knight to create a Bumblebee spinoff film. In what feels like a reboot Knight takes the character of Bumblebee and crafts an immensely satisfying, heartfelt film that the entire family will enjoy.

You could make the case that Bumblebee is derivative of films like E.T. and The Iron Giant and you would be correct; however, I have no problem with films that pull from earlier projects, even heavily so, if it is done well and this is. It’s a simple story of Hailee Steinfeld’s Charlie, a lonely teenager missing her father, who finds an old VW bug who it turns out just happens to be Bumblebee!

The decepticons are looking for Bumblebee and they trick the government into believing he is the enemy not them. Then Charlie must find a way to save Bumblebee from the government and all the while feel love again from their new friendship.

It’s very simple but completely charming. I loved all the interactions between Charlie and Bumblebee and was rooting for them during the entire film. The decepticons, Shatter and Dropkick can be a little annoying but compared to the Bay films they are a joy to behold!

Bumblebee represents the best kind of blockbuster film. It has fun action, sweet moments, beautiful special effects and characters I care about. Go see it!

Smile Worthy

aquaman

Now let’s talk about Aquaman. In many ways Aquaman is a frustrating film because it has so many positive elements. I feel like it should work much more than it does. Like Knight, director James Wan, clearly put his all into creating a beautiful and epic film. Unfortunately where Bumblebee told a simple and sweet story, Aquaman’s script is plodding and lacking the emotional weight or character development it needs to draw the viewer in.

The strengths of Aquaman is the casting of the leads. Jason Mamoa is a serviceable actor that definitely looks the part of the hunky rebel from the sea. He has nice chemistry with Amber Heard’s Mera and together they were able to elevate some very clunky scenes. I liked the witty banter between them and in particular when they are searching for a magic trident in the desert it was engaging.

I also liked Nicole Kidman as Aquaman’s mother Atlanna. Her story had heart and it worked as a comic book fairytale. In fact I wish the movie had just been about her life and relationship with the lighthouse keeper.

Where Aquaman loses me is the endless exposition. The script is loaded with scenes of various Atlantean leaders talking about the government and who is going to rule. Didn’t James Wan learn anything from The Phantom Menace? These types of discussions are not interesting. I really don’t care if Patrick Wilson’s Orm or Dolph Lundgren’s Nereus rules the underwater world. The base question of which brother, Orm or Aquaman, should rule could have been interesting but we need some kind of human connection: Some idea of the cost the people, or the rulers will face if they chose different rulers and I did not get that at all here. Instead it was seemingly unending dialogue about Atlantean policies, customs and lore. What a snooze.

If you want to see a good example of this type of conflict done well watch this year’s Black Panther. In that film, we see the backstory of Kilmonger and we understand what he wants for Wakanda in comparison with what T’Challa wants. The stakes are clear. The political discourse is concise and the emotional pull behind the different choices draws you in. The only part of Black Panther where I was bored was when T’Challa is off screen and that’s because the screenplay does such a good job with his character motivations.

In contrast, the screenplay in Aquaman does everything it can to bore the viewer. Even the action is repetitive and dull. It’s just fight, crash into a building and then repeat. At least Black Panther had some variety to the type of fighting and the fighters involved to keep it interesting.

As for Aquaman other people may enjoy the fantasy world building and the charismatic lead performances enough to get them through the exposition but that wasn’t enough to carry me through Phantom Menace and it’s not enough here either. But if you want a 143 minute trip into Atlantean politics with bland action it is the movie for you…

Frown Worthy

So there you have it. Go see Bumblebee. It’s the by far superior action blockbuster out this weekend.

Avengers: Infinity War Review

So Avengers: Infinity War has come and gone and I am left with mixed to positive feelings. I gave my review on my youtube channel last night and I would love if you guys would watch and give the video a thumbs up if you have a chance. But let’s talk about Infinity War:

Most of Infinity War is pretty awesome. I have a great affection for Marvel and have enjoyed almost all of their movies. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 is really the only one that left me deflated. The original Avengers is still one of my favorite superhero movies of all time because of the way it blends the great characters with snappy dialogue and energetic action. Having Loki as your villain also never hurts! That film was the culmination of 5 films with their heroes into one epic team-up film.

Now with Infinity War Joe and Anthony Russo have the mammoth task of culminating 18 previous films into 2 epic films. One of my big worries going into it is if all of the many characters would be able to shine (how could they?). Naturally the directors have to pick and chose characters to focus on, but I felt like almost everyone got a good line or moment to shine. The dialogue was snappy and funny like I have come to expect with Marvel films. I also thought the action was uniformly entertaining and enjoyable.

They were very smart with how they teamed characters up. I loved seeing Starlord and Thor take jabs at each other. Doctor Strange and Iron Man were great together. There’s an awesome scene where Black Widow, Scarlett Witch and Okoye fight a female henchman of Thanos I loved. All the team-ups worked and didn’t make me annoyed at the characters like I was with Guardians of the Galaxy vol 2 although Drax is still kind of irritating if you ask me.

Thanos played by Josh Brolin is a good villain although I certainly don’t think he is better than Loki. Many villains have wanted to purge the earth and start anew. Most recently we had this same motivation in Apocalypse in X-Men Apocalypse but this is handled about a billion times better. At least he has some motivation rather than being a evil man in a suit like many Marvel movies. I also liked that all of Thanos’ henchman were really strong and not just mindless drones.

So over all, this is a fun film. It has witty banter and great action with people that I really like. My only real problem was the ending. I hate movies where I feel like the creators think I am stupid. I remember feeling this way at the ending of Batman v Superman. We all knew Superman was coming back for Justice League so when they try to play off that he is dead it is hollow and manipulative rather than moving.

Something happens at the end of Infinity War that you would have to be a moron to believe is actually going to stick. So this left me frustrated rather than moved, which I think the filmmakers wanted to me feel. How do I cry when I know it isn’t real? It’s not going to last? When Steve Trevor dies in Wonder Woman it felt real so it was tragic and I cried. What happens here is not real and it made what is going to happen in part 4 incredibly predictable and obvious. Also it kind of gives them a massive out for the stakes we were promised which is a problem.

Without giving away spoilers it’s hard to go into details but under no planet is what happens at the end of this film going to stick. Also, it was executed in a way that was really confusing. I wasn’t sure until I got home what had actually happened. It was weird.

It’s frustrating for me because I feel they were so close to having something great but then they didn’t stick the landing. Granted this isn’t the real landing as the final movie is the true ending but still I think they wanted me to feel devastated and I didn’t because I know it isn’t real.

Oh well. It’s still mostly a good movie. (But I prefer Black Panther tbh)

Justice League Review

This weekend our latest superhero movie, Justice League, came out, and I’ve been hesitant to post a blog review. I did a video review right after I saw it, which I would love for you to check out.

Basically I have really mixed feelings about Justice League, which makes it a hard film to write a coherent review about. Let me just give you a few thoughts:

First of all, I have not enjoyed Man of Steel, Batman v Superman or Suicide Squad. I loved Wonder Woman but that had the benefit of director Patty Jenkins over the more problematic Zack Snyder. So needless to say I went into Justice League with pretty low expectations, which always makes me a little more forgiving of its many flaws.

The positives to Justice League is I enjoyed the heroes and I’m a hero girl when it comes to comic book movies. The Flash was fun. Wonder Woman was of course great. Batman was fine and Aquaman was better than you’d expect. I am also so happy to be able to say they finally got Superman right! This is a Superman who is joyous and positive not mopey and ashamed of who he is. This is a Superman that fights for truth, justice and the American way!!! I have been waiting for that ever since Man of Steel made me depressed for days. I had a huge smile on my face for particularly the last 30 minutes of the movie, which gave Superman the time to shine I’ve been hoping for.

I also thought the Joss Whedon influenced dialogue was fun and I laughed a fair amount. One scene in particular between Wonder Woman and Aquaman was especially funny. The Flash had a lot of funny lines and the entire team had a nice chemistry together.

Unfortunately that’s where my praise has to end. A lot of Justice League is a hot mess. The plot is tough to defend with a villain that is poorly developed and  a structure that is incoherent and sloppy at best. It wasn’t as badly put together as Suicide Squad but it was close.

Also the action was an orange and gray mess. It looked like a video game especially any fighting with the villain. If you like Zack Snyder’s aesthetic than you will enjoy it but I’ve never been a fan and this was really rough to look at. A lot of people complained about the action at the end of Wonder Woman. This is much uglier than that but throughout the movie. The only movie I can think of that looked worse this year as far as action was King Arthur: Legend of the Sword. The CGI was also poorly executed and once again looked like a cheap video game. It was also a bummer to see his leering camera over Wonder Woman and the skimpy outfits the girls wore in Themiscyra.

Much was made about Danny Elfman using the original Superman and Batman scores for Justice League but nothing really stood out to me music-wise.

But all this aside I can’t deny that when I saw Superman fighting for truth and justice it made me really happy. I’m just so torn on this one.

I guess since it did make me smile I will give it a smile worthy but just barely.

Guardians of the Galaxy vol 2 Review (Spoiler Free)

Before diving into my review of Guardians of the Galaxy vol 2 let me give you some context into my feelings on the first film. I LOVED it! For me it was a new Star Wars film before we got Star Wars back. It wasn’t a typical Marvel movie but it was a space opera and I loved seeing our team of misfits form and search for their orb/infinity stone. I loved the humor, action, charismatic actors and bright color palate. Just a great movie. 9/10 or A grade from me.

So let’s talk about this sequel. Naturally loving the first film I was very excited for the follow up but I still tried to enjoy it as its own film and not compare it too much. In the end, I feel Guardians of the Galaxy vol 2 is at best a mixed bag. It’s not awful but I had major problems with it.

At the outset of the movie  our team is commissioned by a leader Ayesha to guard a series of batteries. This leads to a great opening that heavily features the world’s favorite adorable creation- Baby Groot! Of course, we have seen Baby Groot all over the marketing for the movie and he did not disappoint. Soooo adorable!

This scene also features everything you like about the first film. It has witty banter from the entire team, fun action as they fight a monster and a catchy song. I thought ‘Oh boy! This is going to be awesome!”

Unfortunately just a few scenes later they make a massive mistake that had a large impact on my enjoyment of the film: They divide up the team!!! Peter meets his father and half the crew go with him while half stay behind and end up with Yondu and his crew.

This was such a terrible choice for a number of reasons:

  1. Hurts the humor- When you have a large group of characters the humor can be a mixture of all their types of comedy. So you will get one Groot joke mixed in with Drax, Peter, Rocket etc. When you have just Rocket and Groot then their type of jokes become repetitive and tired very quickly.
  2. Hurts the emotion- It’s the same with emotion. We are with a character and they have an emotional moment. Then they leave that character for a long stretch hurting their story and emotional arc.
  3. Hurts the team- Characters aren’t able to feed off each other and create that winning chemistry I loved so much in the first film. Sometime this can help you get to know characters better like in Star Trek Beyond but that was not the case here.
  4. Hurts the action- Because they are all split up the action is pretty sparse. For instance, Drax is sitting talking almost the entire movie. He’s Drax the Destroyer for goodness sake, and he doesn’t destroy anything.

I guess all of this would be fine if the story was compelling but it is not. They try to set up several different family dynamics. There is Peter and his father, Peter and Gamora, Gamora and Nebula, Groot and Rocket and Yandu and Peter. While I appreciated the message of family, the film became too cluttered with relationships that they weren’t as developed as they could have been.

The villain is another surprise villain. About the 10,000th one I’ve seen in recent years and I’m tired of it. It was so obvious and the plan for world domination makes no sense unless he or she wants to be completely alone in the whole galaxy. Even if he or she did, it still strains credulity to believe this insane plan (and the way it is explained is hard to follow or feel invested in).

I was also disappointed in the Nebula/Gamora storyline. I liked Nebula in the first film when most people didn’t. I thought she had a wounded quality to her that I wish had been more developed. Well, unfortunately she is seen more here but Karen Gillan overcooks it in the villainy department. Also she flips around from good girl to bad in ways that didn’t work for me or feel authentic.

So, from all that it seems like I had a miserable experience at this movie. No. I didn’t but I’d be lying if I didn’t share those major problems I had. However, there are some things I liked.

First, like I said, I liked Baby Groot and a lot of the comedy did work. It would have worked better if they hadn’t divided the group but a lot still made me laugh. Drax gets some funny lines with a new girl named Mantis. Rocket has a lot of humor including a hilarious sequence with Baby Groot getting him things for a jailbreak.

Second, Michael Rooker is great as Yondu. I didn’t think Yondu would be the most fleshed out and interesting character in the film but he was. We learn about his association with a band of ruffians called The Ravagers. He has upset them and we get to find out why through the course of the movie. We also learn about why he took Peter and his connection to Peter’s father. Yondu also has the best action scene in the movie with an arrow thing he uses to take out a fleet of men (Sorry I don’t know what the arrow thing is called).

Third, even if it could have been more focused, I still loved the overall message about family. I think Vin Diesel might have carried this over from the Fast and the Furious movies because they are all about family. I particularly appreciated the focus on alternative families- that families are not always about blood but so much more.

Fourth, it is a beautiful looking movie. James Gunn has done it again with amazing cinematography and special effects. The planet Peter’s father lives on was beautiful and lush. I loved all the bright colors and dazzling world building. The special effects on Rocket and Baby Groot are flawless. You forget they aren’t actual talking raccoons and walking baby trees.

There also is a joyous feeling to the picture which makes it pleasing to watch. While some of the jokes grow tired it never made me angry or annoyed like other fantasy films.  I mostly wasn’t bored although there were a few moments that dragged.

The soundtrack was a bit of a mixed bag. There are some great songs but a few of them felt very on-the-nose Also, I didn’t like that characters mentioned the songs so much. In the original they are this awesome background gift to enjoy (aside from Peter listening to them they don’t work into the story and he doesn’t repeat lyrics or talk about the individual songs). Here there is even one song where the lyrics are repeated verbatim and the life experience fits perfectly into the situation at hand. It makes the song choice feel uncreative and obvious when they were so great in the original. Still, there are some good songs. Cat Stevens and Electric Light Orchestra are used particularly well.

In the end, Guardians of the Galaxy vol 2 is a mixed bag leaning towards the negative. I have really struggled with what grade to give it and whether to make it smile or frown worthy. Other films I have given smiles to like Ghost in the Shell feel less worthy than this film but this is way more of a disappointment and downgrade from the original film. It’s really tough…

I’m torn but I think my disappointment is going to rule the day:

Overall Grade- C (It is without a doubt in my bottom 5 Marvel movies. No question)

Also  this is pretty raunchy for a Marvel movie. It definitely earns its PG-13.

You can all hate me now…

Check out my podcast with my friend Trevor from How to Love Comics where we break it all down

 

Doctor Strange Review

doctor-strange4In some ways the latest Marvel movie, Doctor Strange, has been quite revelatory for me. You see, over on my youtube channel I had a special podcast with a comics expert friend of mine named Trevor at HowtoLoveComics.com. 

This forced me to dive into the comic books of Doctor Strange before seeing the film, something I have never done with a comic book movie. I was impressed with how understanding the lore and comics helped add to the moviegoing experience. It’s something I hope to continue to do for future films.

I don’t think  reading the comic books make you excuse flaws in the movie but it helps you understand the characters on a bit of a deeper level than may be explored in one particular movie.

Anyway, it was an interesting experience that I would recommend to all of you.

As far as the movie, Doctor Strange, I enjoyed it very much. There are 2 reasons to enjoy Doctor Strange:

doctor-strange9First, Benedict Cumberbatch as Doctor Stephen Strange. I am a huge Benedict Cumberbatch fan and feel this is the best use we have seen for him in the movies yet. He manages to capture the brilliance of Doctor Strange while also getting a desperate humble side of him. I’ve heard many people compare his character to Tony Stark in Iron Man but I think he spends more of this movie humbled and weak than we get from Tony for many movies. He’s also much more awkward than Tony ever is.

Iron Man also has more substantial supporting characters than Doctor Strange gets. Pepper is a more active character in the first Iron Man than Rachel McAdam’s Christine and Rhodey is certainly more important to Tony than Wong is to Doctor Strange.

So, it is up to Benedict Cumberbatch and his character to carry the movie, and I think he does so very well. He’s charismatic and likable despite being arrogant and over-confident at times.

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The second standout is the amazing visuals. I saw this film on IMAX 3D and it was pretty awe inspiring. Doctor Strange learns from the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton) that there are multiple dimensions. The mystical realms are accessed when we learn to manipulate and control these dimensions.

The movie does a great job showing these dimensions and not explaining them to us or the magic that goes along with them. We see it and that’s good enough without understanding the background or mechanics.

A lot of people have compared the visuals to Inception and I can see their point. However, I think they are more dreamlike than Inception. There is something a bit more grounded in Inception’s graphics and something more ephemeral about them here in my opinion.

The one caution I will give about the graphics is as spectacular as they are, they did make me a little motion sick. Some of the sequences towards the end I feel went on a little bit too long, and I started to feel a little nauseated. I have a very sensitive stomach when it comes to such things, so it is probably just me. You will have to make your own determination. That was just my experience.

doctor-strange11A lot of people have complained about the casting of Tilda Swinton as the Ancient One. It is a tricky thing because casting an Asian man like in the comic book could come across as reinforcing stereotypes, so which is the greater sin? Regardless, I think Tilda Swinton does a great job in the role as there is something other-worldly about her. Also her character has a bit more of an arc than I was expecting or was in the comic books I read.

All the rest of the performances are good but they are pretty brief. This is Doctor Strange’s movie and it is his origin story. Some will roll their eyes at another origin story but I didn’t mind it. The movie is well paced, clipping along quite nicely and the tone is carefully controlled. I enjoyed the more thoughtful moments along with the humor.

I don’t know if I liked Doctor Strange as much as Captain America: Civil War, but it is a very enjoyable origin story. I liked the character of Doctor Strange, and I liked the world we were given. That’s about all I needed to be happy. The story was good enough to engage me

I look forward to seeing how Doctor Strange works within the MCU going forward and how the new dimensions of mystical magic help add a new layer to the storytelling at Marvel.

Overall Grade- A-

Here is my youtube review

Suicide Squad Review

suicide squad cerealI’ve never been the biggest superhero movie person, but over the years movies like The Avengers and X-Men Days of Future Past have won me over. These movies have clever stories, great scripts and charismatic performances by Oscar level talent. 2014 was a particularly memorable year with only 2 bad superhero movies and 4 outstanding films- Guardians of the Galaxy, Captain America: Winter Soldier, Big Hero 6 and X-Men Days of Future Past. These movies had everything I could want in a superhero movie.

WE WERE SPOILED!!!

Aside from Captain America: Civil War the superhero movies of 2016 have been kind of sucky and unfortunately the latest entry, Suicide Squad does not change that trajectory. Suicide Squad is the latest offering from DC Comics and Warner Brothers and despite promising trailers it fails to deliver on its potential.

After Batman v Superman frustrated many moviegoers in March, Warner Brothers clearly took all the wrong lessons out of the feedback. ‘Make the movies more fun’ is what they heard. So, they rushed David Ayer to write Suicide Squad in 6 weeks and then hacked it to pieces creating a mess of a movie.

suicide squad2That’s not to say there aren’t any redeeming values to Suicide Squad. There are mainly with the casting. All the roles, with 2 exceptions, are well cast. The problem is the script doesn’t give them time to grow as characters or to gel as a unit. Will Smith and Margot Robbie are the standouts as Deadshot and Harley Quinn and I’m curious to see more of them in future films. Viola Davis is also great as Amanda Waller who is an agent forming the Suicide Squad. She is ruthless and you kind of see why she would be interested in super villains.

The story of Suicide Squad is you have this group of villains that are called upon to fight evil metahumans. This is all supposed to be after the events of Batman v Superman but there is never any talk of using the good metahumans like Flash and Wonder Woman (despite briefly seeing Flash in a cameo). And the fact that only 2 of the Suicide Squad are actually metahumans which makes you scratch your head?

The first act of the film starts out clunky with Davis sitting at a table looking through a binder of each of the squad members.  Then we see flashback introductions to the characters. It’s kind of like the gossip montages in Ant-Man but repeated over and over again.

But even with that certain characters aren’t introduced at all like Katana. She just walks onto a helicopter and they say ‘oh look it’s Katana. She’s a crazy ninja” (I’m paraphrasing but you get the drift).

Suicide-Squad-Enchantress-OriginSo what are they called upon to do? Well, they are supposed to stop an evil being named Enchantress who kind of needs to be worse than the squad in order for the story to work but she’s just not. I normally don’t care about lame villains but she did nothing for me and I felt the special effects were very poor. She creates this ‘brother’ that looked right out of Gods of Egypt. Again, I wouldn’t have cared about a bad villain if I had cared about the rest of the film.

SUICIDE SQUADFor a movie like this to work it relies on the charisma of the stars and a witty script (this is not a gritty crime drama like The Dark Knight). And the problem with Suicide Squad is the editing is so poorly done that just when characters are starting to interact it cuts away to something that doesn’t matter.

You are supposed to believe that the characters are becoming a family but I didn’t buy it for a second. There’s a moment where Deadshot has to decide whether to hurt Harley Quinn and their relationship wasn’t near built up enough for me to buy his decision. They had one very brief conversation and they are supposed to be big baddies. It didn’t work.

There’s another scene where they are fighting these glob creatures of Enchantress and the creatures stop coming for some reason and they stop fighting evil and have a drink. If the movie had effectively established them as not caring about the mission or stopping the badder guy than I could have bought it but the way it sits it feels random and jarring.

suicide-squad1The other confusing part about the movie is why have Enchantress when you have DC’s greatest villain in the film for like 6 minutes? You could have made the Joker the villain and instead you have a lame villain. That would be like Marvel having Loki as a villain for a 5 minute cameo. It makes no sense.

But speaking of the Joker…Jared Leto goes for it as this new take on the character and I personally was not a fan. The Joker is an agent of chaos. He thrives on creating disorder. He is the last person in the world that would want to be an organized crime boss like in this movie. It felt too outright bad-guy where the Joker is supposed to be a believer in the philosophy of chaos. He should be more complex than having damaged tattooed on your forehead!

suicide squad3All that said, if you can go into Suicide Squad and ignore the script and just enjoy the charismatic performances and the fun soundtrack I think you may have an enjoyable time. It’s a lot like Batman Forever. There’s some engaging performances in Batman Forever, some decent music and production design but the story and script are terrible. So if you can enjoy Batman Forever than you will enjoy Suicide Squad.

At the very least I didn’t feel as manipulated as Batman v Superman and it isn’t as gloomy (although the forced fun added by the studio is so obvious). To me the two movies are about equal in quality but it is a case of picking your poison and what types of problems bother you more than others.

It’s probably very generous but I did like it better than X-Men Apocalypse which underserved all of the characters I love and became destruction porn. I gave X-Men Apocalypse a D+.

So for Suicide Squad Overall Grade- C- for Will Smith and Margot Robbie but I’d say it’s a definite skip.

ps. Those people who started the rotten tomatoes takedown petition are morons.