Review

Doctor Strange (2016)

Doctor Strange

Doctor Strange (2016)

Director:

Scott Derrickson

Starring:

Benedict Cumberbatch

Chiwetel Ejiofor

Rachel McAdams

Benedict Wong

Mads Mikkelsen

Tilda Swinton

Plot:

While on a journey of physical and spiritual healing, a brilliant neurosurgeon is drawn into the world of the mystic arts.

Review:

Doctor Strange, Benedict Cumberbatch, is a world renowned neurosurgeon. He is the best at what he does, he makes a ton of money, and has a massive ego to go with it. One night, on his way to a benefit, he’s driving his expensive car at unsafe speeds on windy wet roads and takes his eyes off the road. For possibly the first time in the man’s life, the worst case scenario happens to him and he’s not able to fix it. He careens off the side of the mountain and his hands are damaged beyond full repair. His entire life is now over.

Dr. Christine Palmer, Rachel McAdams, is a good doctor in her own right, and considers herself his friend, and tries to help him. He lashes out at her, after months of her helping, and he says some truly heinous things. She walks away and then he’s free to wallow in his miserableness. Except, he does continue to try and find a way to fix his hands. Using his last dime he travels to Nepal and searches for the Ancient One.

Doctor Strange continues the white male egomaniac tropes with the superheroes, but unlike Tony Strange actually grows by the end of the movie. We don’t know yet if that growth will stay or if he’ll backslide into thinking he’s the most amazing thing ever created, but I have high hopes. He actually gives Dr. Palmer a legitimate and good apology.

Dr. Palmer is one of only two women with significant speaking parts in the movie, that I remember. She at one point dated Strange, but apart from trying to help him get better and being a doctor is given no kind of backstory.

The other woman in the movie is The Ancient One, Tilda Swinton, she is ancient and powerful, and steals her long life from the dark one, Dormammu. She trains Strange and puts him in his place in several instances, which is very fun to watch. She pushes him. She recognizes that there is more than just a light and dark side, which ultimately is what creates what I guess will be the next Strange villain, Mordo, Chiwetel Ejiofor.

I liked Doctor Strange more than I remember, but clearly there are some troubling issues with it, though, that probably has a lot to do with the source material too. My hope is that there will be more female characters in the next one, because at this point it’s a glaringly obvious problem with the franchise.

Original Review

4/5

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Captain America: Civil War (2016)

Captain American Civil War

Oh they fuckin

Captain America: Civil War (2016)

Director:

Anthony Russo

Joe Russo

Starring:

Chris Evans

Sebastian Stan

Robert Downy Jr.

Scarlett Johansson

Anthony Mackie

Don Cheadle

Jeremy Renner

Chadwick Boseman

Paul Bettany

Elizabeth Olsen

Paul Rudd

Tom Holland

Emily VanCamp

Plot:

Political involvement in the Avengers’ affairs causes a rift between Captain America and Iron Man.

Review:

S.H.I.E.L.D. is no more, technically, but that doesn’t stop the Avengers from fighting crime. Captain America, Chris Evans, has a team together and they’re trying to stop a biological weapon from being stolen. They’re in the middle of a bustling city and the bad guys don’t care about collateral damage, the Avengers aren’t as good on that front as they should be either, one thing leads to another and the side of building is destroyed. In the end the Avengers stopped the biological weapon from being stolen, but civilians died, namely Wakandan citizens died.

Cue General Ross, William Hurt, who has managed to fail upward and become the Secretary of State. He convinces a struggling Tony, Robert Downey Jr., that the best form of oversight for the Avengers is the United Nations. Tony is desperate for someone to take away the responsibility so he jumps right on it. Cap, on the other hand, is used to this side of war and has seen enough of the world’s government to know he doesn’t want to dance to their tune.

Thus the Avengers Civil War is born.

The team is fairly evenly split. War Machine, Don Cheadle, and Vision, Paul Bettany, side with Tony. While Falcon, Anthony Mackie, and Scarlett Witch, Elizabeth Olsen, are with Cap. Though Scarlett Witch had some doubts and was ultimately swayed because Tony basically put her under house arrest.

On top of all of this a new bad guy is in town and he’s decided to destroy the Avengers. He knows the great lengths that Cap will go to save Bucky, Sebastian Stan, and uses that knowledge. He plays the Avengers like a fiddle and it’s truly remarkable what he’s able to accomplish. He rips them apart and even though he’s caught in the end the damage is done.

Cap and Bucky are able to escape, but the others that chose his side are all put in the Raft, a floating prison. Tony knows that’s where they are, he goes and visits them and Hawkeye, Jeremy Renner, calls him out, but Tony just leaves them. Cap is the one that breaks them out. Tony has come backs for everything everyone says to him, but they’re so weak. He knows it, but he never acknowledges it. He knows that Bucky wasn’t in control when he killed Tony’s parents, but he loses control and doesn’t care.

This movie birthed my absolute hatred of Iron Man. I had almost forgotten exactly why I hated him, but I was very clearly reminded. I felt like the movie did a poor job backing why Cap was clearly in the right. They didn’t want Iron Man to become a bad guy so they went too weak.

The fight scenes weren’t as poorly shot as Winter Soldier, so that was nice. They’re still not good, but they weren’t nearly as bad.

There were a couple big reveals in this movie, two of them being the amazing introductions to Spider-Man, Tom Holland, and Black Panther, Chadwick Boseman. Even though this was the first introduction to these characters in the middle of an ensemble movie, they didn’t get lost. They got just enough exposure leaving you wanting more, which is exactly what they needed.

It was also revealed that Sharon, Emily VanCamp, is Peggy Carter’s niece. I hated that reveal. I was never a fan of her, but she was sort of just there so it didn’t really matter, but making her related to Peggy felt cheap. It’s like she’s a conciliation prize for Cap and I hate that. It takes an already weak character and weakens her, in my opinion. They don’t bother giving her, her own backstory, they just tac her on to someone else. Frustrating.

Captain America: Civil War is a poor title for a great movie, maybe Captain America vs. Iron Man: Poor Bucky.

4.5/5

Ant-Man (2015)

Ant-Man.jpg

Ant-Man (2015)

Director:

Peyton Reed

Starring:

Paul Rudd

Michael Douglas

Evangeline Lily

Corey Stoll

Michael Peña

Plot:

Armed with a super-suit with the astonishing ability to shrink in scale but increase in strength, cat burglar Scott Lang must embrace his inner hero and help his mentor, Dr. Hank Pym, plan and pull off a heist that will save the world.

Review:

Scott Lang, Paul Rudd, is a real life Robin Hood. He stole from a rich ISP and gave the money back to the consumers. He is the hero we deserve. Sadly, much like the real world, he was put in jail and is only now getting out. Optimistic that he’ll be able to find a new job fast, he’s shocked to learn that even as a really smart white man being an ex-convict closes a lot of doors, especially the Baskin Robins door. Broke and desperate to see his daughter he returns to a life of crime.

In perhaps one of the most realistic parts of the Marvel Cinematic Universe Dr. Hank Pym, Michael Douglas, is yet another white man with a galactic size ego. He picks Scott out to carry on the mantel of Ant-Man, though, conveniently leaves out the damage the suit has done to him that makes it so he’s unable to continue using it. He also is adamant that the Avengers not be contacted even though the world is in danger.

Alright, we’re like eleven movies into this re-watch and it’s clearly starting to get to me. I love the movies, I really do, but watching them back to back like this is really, really, highlighting their flaws. Namely, the fact that almost everyone is a freaking white man; they’ve got their little things that make them different from each other, but still… Also, most of the female characters are bad asses with a large portion of them having a tragic past.

Wasp, badass with a tragic past, mother died and her father was a dick.

Black Widow, badass with a tragic past, raised to be an assassin from a very young age.

Scarlett Witch, badass with a tragic past, though, personally badass is kind of a stretch her powers are impressive.

Maria Hill, badass.

Peggy Carter, resourceful, intelligent, badass.

Pepper Potts, rich secretary who is briefly a badass, past unknown.

Betty Ross, scientist, not a badass, father’s a dick, only in the universe one movie before never really brought up again.

Jane Foster, science badass, but mainly science. Backstory unknown and disappears after two movies.

Lady Sif, badass, past unknown, disappears after two movies is in a couple episodes of SHIELD.

Gamora, badass with a tragic backstory.

Nebula, badass with a tragic backstory.

Valkyrie, badass with a tragic backstory.

It’s not until we get to Black Panther that we get a character that’s a bit more with Shuri and she’s been in two movies so far, so hopefully she’s not disappeared. Also, I could be forgetting someone and I didn’t include Captain Marvel because she’s got her own movie, and I don’t consider her backstory tragic, it’s a pretty normal backstory for a woman of her age.

It’s just…it’s really obvious and it really shows how much the series has changed, but I hope it continues to grow. I want more. They’re superhero movies so every main character or supporting character is going to be some level of badass, for the most part, but I want some diversity in their backgrounds. I’d like them to not just be forgotten or never mentioned again. I love the universe, I hope it continues to do better, and be like the heroes they’re telling stories about.

Here is my original review of Ant-Man, after further consideration I think I’ll actually bump it up rating wise. Ant-Man is a good character, but the movie is fun because of Michael Peña.

3.75/5

Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

Guardians of the Galaxy

Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

Director:

James Gunn

Starring:

Chris Pratt

Vin Diesel

Bradley Cooper

Zoe Saldana

Dave Bautista

Lee Pace

Karen Gillan

Plot:

A group of intergalactic criminals must pull together to stop a fanatical warrior with plans to purge the universe.

Review:

Peter Quill aka Star Lord, Chris Pratt, has a mother that loves him and apparently inspires a lot of love in those around her. When she dies, leaving behind a young, scared boy, he runs out of the hospital and is promptly abducted by aliens. Twenty years pass and we find Peter dancing and singing with a Sony Walkman that has somehow survived two decades while scavenging for a orb to sell.

Meanwhile, Gamora, Zoe Saldana, finally sees a chance to escape from the man that killed her parents and raised her to be a deadly assassin. The two meet while also running into bounty hunters Rocket, Bradley Cooper, and Groot, Vin Diesel. A somewhat unlikely crew is formed and further cemented when they are joined by Drax the Destroyer.

The group wind up learning exactly where their line is. They’re thieves, killers, not exactly the best of the universe, but even they won’t stand by and let someone destroy a planet.

Marvel movies have always had a shade of humor in them, but Guardians of the Galaxy adds more than usual. There are quips and one liners as well as gags and it makes what could easily be a dark movie significantly lighter. Which, again, is common with Marvel movies, but they take it a step further without taking away from the seriousness of the story.

The music in Marvel movies is mostly forgettable, in my opinion. You’ve got what Tony decides to blare, but the background music, besides the theme, is generally unobtrusive and forgettable. It sets the tone well, so does it’s job, but that’s about it. With Guardians of the Galaxy music played a much bigger role. Peter’s mixtape is filled with classic hits and is basically another character. This sets the stage for how music is used in the following movies, especially Guardians of the Galaxy 2, but also Captain Marvel.

Gamora and Nebula, Karen Gillan, were some of the most interesting characters of the movie, though, they contributed very little to the comedy side of things. Both were abducted and raised my Thanos so they have not had the best life experiences. Like Thor and Loki, though, they’ve reacted in different ways. Nebula seems to blame Gamora for the fact that her father prefers her. Gamora just wants to be free.

Drax with his inability to understand sarcasm and metaphor is freaking hilarious and a character you don’t see often. Rocket and Groot are wonderful together and alone and easily two of my favorite Marvel characters.

If I had to live anywhere in the Marvel universe I’d pick Xandar, though, I think Thanos ends up destroying it, so…bummer.

Guardians of the Galaxy is a nice change of pace from the mainline Marvel movies. It is still connected, but it’s so different that it shakes things up nicely and provides a needed break from the usual superhero movies.

4/5

Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

Captain America Winter Soldier

Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

Director:

Anthony Russo

Joe Russo

Starring:

Chris Evans

Scarlett Johansson

Samuel L. Jackson

Cobie Smulders

Robert Redford

Anthony Mackie

Sebastian Stan

Plot:

As Steve Rogers struggles to embrace his role in the modern world, he teams up with a fellow Avenger and S.H.I.E.L.D agent, Black Widow, to battle a new threat from history: an assassin known as the Winter Soldier.

Review:

Steve Rogers aka Captain America, Chris Evans, is no longer fighting aliens bent on taking over the world, so now he is a man out of time trying to figure out his place in the world. He buries himself in work and ignores Black Widow’s, Scarlett Johansson, attempts to set him up on a date.

When Nick Fury, Samuel L. Jackson, shares with him the next phase for S.H.I.E.L.D. he feels even more lost because it goes against everything he believes in. Cap is doubting himself, wondering if he’ll ever fit in, when things return to something he’s much more familiar with. Poorly shot action scenes, Hydra, and intrigue.

Winter Soldier marks the point in the MCU when I realized I was never going to get well shot action scenes. I’m a bit bitter about that considering I feel like the amount of work the actors put in and the skill of the stunt people involved means their work should be clearly showcased. Instead, we get shaky cam, quick cuts, and extreme close-ups. According to the Wikipedia for this movie”

“In contrast to the quick editing and moving cameras of modern action films, The Winter Soldier aimed to feature longer action scenes that felt more visceral and dangerous.”

I did not get those feelings from these scenes. Time and time again we’d be put in a situation where Cap was about to kick ass, he had great quips, and then boom, you couldn’t see shit. It was beyond frustrating.

Anyway…We got to see more of Cobie Smulders in this movie, which had me excited. She once again is ridiculously capable and acts as Fury’s right hand needing almost no communication from him to know exactly what to do. She takes care of business coolly and calmly and she was barely in the movie.

This might have my favorite Black Widow scenes. She is actually, sort of, human here, though, I have a hard time trusting it and wondered throughout if she was just giving Cap what he wanted to see. She had to come to terms with the fact that Fury doesn’t or didn’t full trust her, and that actually seemed to hit her hard.

Bucky, Sebastian Stan, and Cap’s scenes were easily the best. The flash back to before the super soldier program was emotionally impactful even with the bad scrawny Steve CG. So much emotion between the two and for the first time since he came back Steve seemed to realize he wasn’t alone.

Poor Falcon, Anthony Mackie, didn’t get to beat his bad guy in the end and had to watch his new best friend chase after another. At least he got to fly like a bird till his wings were destroyed.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier didn’t really set up much for future movies. It brought up a lot of history for Cap and did bring us Bucky, and eventually Scarlett Witch, but Hydra doesn’t play a huge role in future movies. You’ve got the little bit in Avengers: Age of Ultron at the beginning but the dismantling of Hydra is mostly handled by Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Ultron could have used someone else to do what he did. Cap did seem to get a purpose at the end of the movie, but it’s another short term one, find and help Bucky. Clearly, it’s not one of my favorites, but I know I’m in the minority with that opinion.

Original Review

3/5