CGB Review of Doctor Strange

As the election results have shown us, life can be stranger than fiction.

This is my review of Doctor Strange!

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Doctor Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) is a successful but arrogant surgeon whose career ends after a terrible car accident practically destroys his hands.  After speaking with a formerly-paralyzed man who has since been completely healed, Doctor Strange journeys to Kathmandu, Nepal, where he meets the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton) and finds himself getting swooped in to a mystical battle with dark forces led by the sinister Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen).

The Hits
Holy cow, the visuals are INCREDIBLE!  The battle sequences are truly a sight to behold.  I love the idea that these mystic warriors actually bend time and physical space in order to do battle.  The reality-bending is just so COOL!  I like how it’s not all shaky-cam and impossible to see what’s going on.  The spells cast are bright and colorful, the fight choreography is smooth and well-paced, and the battles themselves are brimming with imagination.  This is one of the rare films where the 3D enhances the experience and isn’t just a nauseating gimmick.  You’ll still enjoy it in 2D, but if you are thinking of seeing it in 3D, then DO IT!  Of course, if you are concerned about cyber sickness, then here’s my review of The Walk, where I offer tips and tricks on how to prevent cyber sickness:  https://catholicgirlbloggin.net/2015/10/11/cgb-review-of-the-walk-2015/
Benedict Cumberbatch has yet to disappoint me.  I think it’s been established that you could cast this guy as a lampshade and he would still give a great performance.  While the role of Stephen Strange himself is not entirely compelling, Cumberbatch has the time of his life with this character.  He makes Stephen Strange arrogant but likable; his sense of self-importance doesn’t harm anyone, it only makes it satisfying when the movie allows him to get his humbling comeuppance.  The movie has an awesome moral about humbling yourself for something greater, which is Christianity in a nutshell.
Tilda Swinton is another actor who can do no wrong (in movies, I mean).  She brings a complexity to her character The Ancient One.  Yeah, she’s basically a tall, female Yoda, but Swinton gives a grounded performance that enables her to make the role her own.
I’m sorry, I just can’t get over how much I LOVE the mythology of this world!  There’s a line where one character says (I’m going to paraphrase here), “The Avengers protect the physical world, while we fight off more mystical dangers.”  It made me think of the battles that take place in the spiritual realm where angels and saints fight for us against sinister forces.  In our secular world, it’s refreshing to see any big budget film embrace the idea that there is an invisible reality within our physical world where two opposing forces do battle for our souls.   Also I appreciate how Kaecilius is basically a discount Lucifer (a powerful being who becomes drunk with pride, wants more power and causes division in his wake); yeah, the similarities are there.
I don’t want to go into spoilers, but I’ll just say that how Doctor Strange defeats the main antagonist is quite clever and fun to watch.

The Misses
The relationship between Doctor Strange and his (ex-girlfriend-ish?) Christine Palmer is underdeveloped.  I’m glad that it’s a mostly platonic relationship, but they don’t have enough scenes together where we get to care for them as a couple.
Okay, so the Ancient One runs this whole mystic, inter-dimensional operation with Mordo, Wong and…a handful of other people?  Yeah, even though we do see other sorcerers training, when the actual fighting starts, we only see Ancient One, Mordo and maybe two other unnamed characters doing battle.  I kind of wish both the Ancient One’s group and Kaecilius’ gang had more members.

Overall, I really love Doctor Strange!  Benedict Cumberbatch alone makes it a must-see, but the creative and energetic battle sequences and the clever use of 3D makes even more worthwhile.  Like Kubo and the Two Strings, the story and the visuals enable Doctor Strange to stand tall and proud in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Saint Timothy, pray for us.

CGB Review of Zoolander 2 (2016)

I feel like I lost a few IQ points.  I kind of need those to review movies.

This is my review of Zoolander 2!

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Two days after the events of the first Zoolander, the Derek Zoolander Center for Kids Who Can’t Read Good And Want To Learn To Do Other Things Good (try saying that ten times fast) collapsed and killed Derek’s wife Matilda Jeffries-Zoolander, as well as disfigured Hansel’s face.  In addition, a damning video of Zoolander being unable to feed his son has resulted in the child being removed from his custody.  Ten years after all of those events, there have been a slew of celebrities being murdered with the only clue being Zoolander’s “blue steel” look.  Zoolander comes out of hiding, reunites with Hansel, and ends up on an adventure to solve the celebrity murders and get his son back.

Did that feel like a ton of exposition to you?  Yeah, imagine being hit with all this information in the first five minutes of the film.
Anyway, I happened to enjoy the first Zoolander movie quite a bit.  It’s not great like Star Wars, but as an absurdist comedy, it holds up pretty well.
An hour before I left with my family to see Zoolander 2, the great Kelsey Hazzard from Secular Pro-Life posted this: “Sad to say Zoolander 2 was awful. Should not have been made. Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s cameo made it bearable.”
I braced myself for a painful viewing experience.
By the way, be sure to check out my friends over at Secular Pro-Life (here’s their website  http://www.secularprolife.org/).  They have great articles and have teamed up with other nontraditional pro-life groups (Pro-Life Pagans, Pro-Life Alliance of Gays and Lesbians, Democrats for Life of America, etc.,) to support to cause of defending the sanctity of life from conception to natural death.
Okay, on with the review!

The Hits
In keeping with the outlandish spirit of the original Zoolander, this sequel did not disappoint.  The superficiality and randomness got many laughs from me.
The young man who plays Derek Jr. is actually pretty good.  He carried the role surprisingly well as the straight man to his father’s idiocy.  The actor’s name is Cyrus Arnold and I do hope he gets more work in the future.
Benedict Cumberbatch’s cameo is amazing!  Then again, Benedict Cumberbatch is just spectacular in whatever he does, even if it is a ten minute cameo.  You could cast him as the mailman and he would still steal the show!
I will give the movie this: While it may be random, it was never boring.  Zoolander 2 has not a dull moment.  The plot flows well and even the filler has a purpose.
I like how Derek Zoolander has matured somewhat while still maintaining his naiveté.  He has a better grasp on what is happening around him, but hasn’t strayed too far from his lovable moron persona.  Out of all the characters, he is the only protagonist who has developed since the first flick.

The Misses
In television, there’s a trope called Flanderization.  I think I may have talked about it before.  Now where did I put that?  (Looks through archives) Ah, here it is!
Flanderization is defined by the TV Tropes website as “The act of taking a single (often minor) action or trait of a character within a work and exaggerating it more and more over time until it completely consumes the character. Most always, the trait/action becomes completely outlandish and it becomes their defining characteristic” (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/Flanderization).
What’s my point?  There is a lot of flanderization going on.  In the first film, Hansel’s appreciation for–how do I put this delicately?–orgies was a single gag that lasted for one scene.  Here, it’s part of his story arch.  By the third time we saw members of his orgy, those characters had overstayed their welcome.  However, the biggest victim of flanderization is Mugatu.  In my review of the original Zoolander, I said that I wished we saw more of Mugatu.  Well, this movie delivered all right…and I immediately regret that wish.  Mugatu is not only more annoying, but has upped his stupidity to where he becomes insufferable very quickly.  His voice is downright grating in the film’s climax.
Where the premise of the original was pretty straightforward, this sequel is way overcomplicated.  There are too many lame twists and loose ends are either lazily explained away or just dropped.  I think I may have said, “Wait, what’s this movie about again?” at least twice.

To be clear, I didn’t hate Zoolander 2.  If I had to choose between watching Zoolander 2 or Aloha (twitches), I’d pick Zoolander 2 in a heartbeat.  That being said, if I had seen Zoolander 2 by myself, I probably would’ve walked down the hall and snuck into a screening of Deadpool or Star Wars instead.  I don’t regret watching Zoolander 2, but I certainly won’t be seeing it again any time soon.

Saint Genevieve, pray for us.

CGB Top Ten Most Anticipated Movies of 2016

Welcome to a new review year here at CGB!  These are the movies that I am looking forward to this year!

10. Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice
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I have friends who are super excited about this flick, and I also have friends who are really not looking forward to this one.
I am willing to give this one a shot.  If it’s great, I will be ready to defend it.  If it’s horrible, then I will say so.

9. The Jungle Book
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The live-action versions of Maleficent and Cinderella have made me excited for this one.  The cast is great, the effects look stunning and I already love the little boy playing Mowgli.
Also Scarlett Johansson’s monologue in the trailer is read so brilliantly and is quite terrifying.

8. Finding Dory
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I LOVE Finding Nemo!  It’s a classic in my family and I can’t wait for this sequel.
Yes, I will review Finding Nemo before seeing this one.

7. The Huntsman: Winter’s War
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I didn’t particularly care for Snow White and the Huntsman, but I really like the cast assembled.  Charlize Theron will definitely be lively, Emily Blunt is always great to watch, and the handsome Chris Hemsworth will be, well, HANDSOME!

6. Alice Through the Looking Glass
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I have a confession to make: I hate Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland from 2010.  I will review it here on CGB at some point and explain why.  However, the trailer got me hook, line and sinker.  Tim Burton’s not directing this one, the visuals are gorgeous and the main villain’s monologue is an example of some darn good writing.  I also love the concept of time being a literal enemy (Sacha Baron Cohen plays the main villain named Time).

5. 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi
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If it weren’t for American Sniper, I probably wouldn’t have put this on the list.  It was American Sniper that made me more open to war movies and I really hope that 13 Hours is as engaging and powerful as American Sniper was.

4. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
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If you haven’t seen the announcement teaser trailer, do so RIGHT NOW!  It shows so little, yet it will leave you wanting more.  Also Eddie Redmayne is in it and given that he was extraordinary in Theory of Everything, I eagerly await another great performance from him.
Finally, if you’re a fan of Pan’s Labyrinth, you may notice that Katherine Waterson’s character looks like Ofelia all grown up.  🙂

3. Doctor Strange
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Benedict Cumberbatch is one of those guys who you could cast as a pizza delivery man and he would still deliver a fantastic performance.   He alone is the reason why I want to see this movie.

2. Star Wars: Rogue One
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My CGB Star-Wars-A-Thon made me fall in love with all things Star Wars, so I’m dying to see this movie.  Also Felicity Jones from Theory of Everything is in it!   🙂

1. Suicide Squad
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I know this is an odd choice, but the Comic-Con trailer intrigued me.  Once I read what Suicide Squad is about, I was sold.  The idea of villains being brought together for a greater good is awesome.  I’ve never been a fan of Harley Quinn, but after seeing Margot Robbie’s elusive performance in the trailer, I now see why the character has such a strong fanbase.
I do hope that Jared Leto brings some variety to his Joker.  Given that Heath Ledger’s Joker set the bar so high for future incarnations of the character, Jared Leto has big shoes to fill.  Nevertheless, I eagerly anticipate Suicide Squad.

Happy 2016 movie year commence and may the reviews be ever in your favor.

CGB Review of The Imitation Game

Within minutes after I pressed play on the DVD menu, the film opens with an assertive narration from Alan Turing:
“Are you paying attention?  Good.  If you are not listening carefully, you will miss things. Important things.  I will not pause, I will not repeat myself, and you will not interrupt me.  You think that because you’re sitting where you are, and I am sitting where I am, that you are in control of what is about to happen.  You’re mistaken.  I am in control, because I know things that you do not know.”
Mr. Turing, I’m all ears.

This is my review of The Imitation Game!

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The Imitation Game is the true story of Alan Turing, a mathematician, cryptanalyst and eventual war hero who broke the unbreakable war codes of Nazi Germany’s Enigma machine.
So this was the highest grossing independent film of 2014 and frankly, all of that money is well deserved because this is an excellent film.  I have nothing bad to say about this movie, so here is everything right with the Imitation Game!

I want that soundtrack!  The musical score is haunting and hypnotic.  Heck, I can still hear it in my head hours after the credits roll.  In fact, I’m listening to it on YouTube as I write out this review (it’s playing on my tablet).  It’s the kind of music that I would want to listen to while walking at the park or jogging around my neighborhood.
Like Bradley Cooper in American Sniper, Benedict Cumberbatch is mesmerizing as Alan Turing.  This is a man who is lost in his own head, expressing himself through codes and calculations.  An antisocial and off-putting man who is never intentionally hurtful, machines and mathematics are his true love, making more sense to him than the emotional responses of others.  His ideas are so complex that not even people who are as smart as him have any clue as to what he’s talking about.  This prevents the clichéd “he’s a misunderstood dreamer and everyone else is a jerk who doesn’t get him” trope.  Benedict Cumberbatch’s thoughtful performance portrays Alan Turing as someone I would want as a teacher or a mentor.
Keira Knightly is wonderful as Joan Clarke, who shares a chaste, emotional connection with him.   Alan and Joan never touch in a sexual way, yet their souls speak to each other through their intellect.  Their last scene together is heartbreaking as we see these two bright people allow themselves to be vulnerable and emotionally-naked with each other.
Ever since I reviewed Right to Believe, I always pay close attention to the portrayal of a homosexual character; is it sensationalized or handled with tact and grace?  Does it define the character or is it only an aspect of a three-dimensional protagonist?  Is the LGBT character written as a human being or an agenda pawn?  By this litmus test, the Imitation Game passes the class with flying colors.  His homosexuality is a subplot and never consumes the story.  In fact, for a while, I thought Alan Turing was asexual (someone who does not experience sexual attraction; different from celibacy.  http://www.asexuality.org/home/?q=overview.html )  I like how the subject of homosexual men marrying women is treated as the complex matter that it is; neither Alan nor his fiancée Joan is vilified.  He deeply cares for her, but feels conflicted; she genuinely loves him as her closest friend, but societal norms mandate her to be married.
Overall the film gives us a sense of what it’s like to be Alan Turing; the script is so intimate with the main character that it’s like the director and/or screenwriter personally knew Turing.  Like Amelie and American Sniper, the Imitation Game knows its protagonist and wants you to know him, as well.  This is a humanistic film that tells the story of a brilliant man who was forced to hide his sexuality from the very world he was trying to save.

SPOILER CORNER!!!!  IF YOU HAVE NOT SEEN THE IMITATION GAME YET, SKIP THIS SEGMENT!!!
The ending got to me.  I was disgusted at the way the British government treated him after he was arrested for gross indecency, for just being a homosexual.  He was given two options: Two years in prison or chemical castration.  He chose castration so that he could continue working.
I mentioned Alan and Joan’s last scene together, which comes at the end before the text comes on-screen revealing Alan’s suicide.  I bring it up because this is the scene that moved me the most.  Alan tells Joan that he continues the government’s hormonal treatment so that he can keep Christopher, the machine that broke Nazi Germany’s Enigma.  “If I don’t continue, they’ll take Christopher away from me and I’ll be alone,” he bursts into tears, “…and I don’t want to be alone.”  Joan comforts him and suggests he do a crossword puzzle, his favorite hobby.  When he struggles to lift the pencil and says, “I’ll do it later,” that’s when I knew it was over for him.
Once the end text reveals that he killed himself at the age of 41, I started crying.  To be driven to such despair is always a tragedy, but to do the courageous act of defeating Nazi Germany’s war machine and then be repaid with cruelty is equally tragic.

Saint Edith Stein/Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, pray for us.