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 Ghostbusters (2016)

Who you gonna call?!
Well, personally, I’d call an exorcist, but you can go ahead and call the Ghostbusters.

This is my review of Ghostbusters!

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Some years back, Dr. Erin Gilbert (Kristen Wiig) and her friend Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy) wrote a book about the paranormal.  When the book ended up becoming unpopular, Erin buried herself in her work at Columbia University and essentially abandoned Abby.  However, when ghost sightings become more and more commonplace, Erin and Abby are thrown back into the world of paranormal activity and bring an engineer named Jillian Holtzmann and a train station worker named Patty along for the ride.

Before I say anything else, I’m going to get this out of the way: You’re not a sexist if you don’t like this movie and you’re not a disgrace to the original Ghostbusters film if you do enjoy this flick.
With that out of the way, onward with the review!

The Hits
Kristen Wiig and Melissa McCarthy do play off of each other very well.  In all fairness, I did chuckle a few times throughout because there were some good jokes and sight-gags.  Leslie Jones was surprisingly grounded and relatable to where I kind of wish she was the main POV character instead of Kristen Wiig.
[KIND OF A SPOILER] I did appreciate that Kristen Wiig’s character gets an interesting backstory of being visited by a ghost as a child.  I was hoping that this aspect of her character would come into play somehow, like have her get a flashback of it while she is fighting a ghost and then use the flashback to motivate her to persevere in courage instead of remaining a doormat.  Sadly, this doesn’t happen, but I will give credit for attempting a character arch.

The Misses
This movie has many structural issues.  Sequences happen without any build-up or significance.  For instance, one scene shows the women struggling to work their proton containment laser, but then just two scenes later, they’re using those guns with next to no issues.  Another example: When we are first introduced to Dr. Erin Gilbert, she is seeing preparing for her class when she is confronted by a reader of the book she and Abby wrote.  She keeps telling the gentleman, “I have a class in a few minutes” only to immediately go to her office and then head straight for Abby Yates’ workplace.  The funny thing is this could’ve been easily fixed had she been approached by the reader while in the middle of teaching, but nope.  We just never see her teach.
Apparently character archetypes that are normally fairly simple to write are a challenge for this movie…
Exhibit A: Kate McKinnon–what the heck were you doing?  Who was Jillian Holtzmann (McKinnon’s character) supposed to be?   If you’ve ever wondered how NOT to write a quirky character, just endure Jillian Holtzmann’s forced weirdness.  It really isn’t that hard to create an offbeat character; you just have to focus on what makes them a person who happens to be quirky, not a person overtaken entirely by quirks.
Exhibit B: Chris Hemsworth, you are a stunningly handsome man, but no one is that stupid.  I’m talking about his character, the inept secretary Kevin.  Had his character been a teenage boy, his dimwitted nature would’ve been understandable, but as it stands, he is way too old to be this incompetent.   Again, dense characters are relatively easy to develop: Just have them do dumb things out of sincere goodness, i.e. make them childlike, not childish.
The villain–oh, what’s his name–Rowan?–is probably the most half-baked, underwhelming villain since the dark elf antagonist from Thor: The Dark World.  He just shows up because–potatoes–and wants to destroy the world because the script demands it.  Even Darren Cross from Ant Man had more development than this guy!  Honestly, I’m running out of things to say about what’s-his-name.

(Hears noise downstairs) Hello?  (No answer) Huh, well what could that be?  (Looks at review) My final thoughts can wait.  (Goes downstairs) (Sees a ghost in the kitchen)
ME: What the hey?
GHOST: I am the ghost of kitchen’s past!
ME: You mean, you’re the ghost of what this kitchen used to look like before we remodeled?
GHOST: (Looks confused) Yeah, sure.  Anyway, where is your proton pack now, mere mortal?
ME: I don’t know about proton packs, but I have this.  (Pulls holy water out of the cupboard and flings it at the ghost) In the Name of Jesus, leave my kitchen, jerkface!
GHOST: You fiend!
ME: Give your dark master my regards.  Oh, and LEAVE!  (throws more holy water furiously)
GHOST: AAAAAAAHHHHHHHH, I’M MELTING!!!!  (Writhes in agony and dissolves into a puddle of ooze)
ME: (puts holy water back in cupboard) I don’t think they sell special ghost-ooze mops at Walmart.  Oh, well, I’ll clean this up later, but first, time to finish the review.

(Returns to bedroom) And now, my closing thoughts:
Where Batman v. Superman had me looking up at the ceiling and asking God to strike me with lighting so I wouldn’t have to watch anymore (a request that He denied, as you can tell), Ghostbusters didn’t add or subtract from my will to live.  At the same time, it sure isn’t worth the full price of admission, either.  The characters are grossly underwritten, the plot loses all sensibility as it goes on and its only connection to the original Ghostbusters is via half-hearted cameos and shoehorned references.  If you really want to spend time at the movies, just go see Finding Dory again or even The Shallows.  As for this, Ghostbusters (2016) is a rental, not a must-see.

Saint Teresa of Avila, pray for us.

CGB Review of X-Men Apocalypse (2016)

So the next time you take a trip to Cairo (I’m sure you’re planning on it), be sure not to resurrect any all-powerful mutants.  If you’ve seen the movie already, you’ll know what I’m talking about.

This is my review of X-Men Apocalypse!

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Apocalypse is known as the first mutant to ever come into existence.  In addition, he is also all-powerful and able to transfer his consciousness into another person’s body so that he can continue to live on.  Yikes!  As you can imagine, when Apocalypse resurrects and begins gathering followers (including the disheveled Eric/Magneto) to do his bidding, Professor Charles Xavier, Mystique and their allies must bring Magneto back to the Light and put an end to Apocalypse’s plan for world destruction.

The Hits
Oscar Isaac is excellent as Apocalypse.  While he’s not as terrifying as, say, Captain Vidal (Pan’s Labyrinth) or Jimmy “Whitey” Bulger (Black Mass), there is an unsettling chill to his character.  Also, I did think it was interesting how his “transferring-his-consciousness-to-another-person” thing resembles demonic possession; not so much in the prologue, but in the third act when [SPOILER ALERT] he tries to transfer his soul into Charles Xavier’s body and Charles is valiantly resisting becoming possessed by the malevolent foe.
There are a lot of good scenes that work well on their own and the engaging action is well-choreographed.   The action is filmed in a way where you can actually see what’s happening between the characters who are in combat.
Nightcrawler is like Finn from Force Awakens: Absolutely lovable!  There’s an innocence and innate goodness to him that makes him endearing.  It is a little cliché that he’s being presented as a “demonlike creature whose actually a good guy while his angel counterpart is one of the bad guys” thing, but that overdone irony is not emphasized very much.  I was actually relieved when Apocalypse turns Angel’s wings silver because Angel’s previously white wings looked uncomfortably similar to Archangel Michael’s wings.  Oh, and did I mention that Nightcrawler is Catholic?  Yep, he be a Catholic mutant!  🙂
Quicksilver is also an awesome character!  He’s basically a less crude Wade Wilson/Deadpool; witty, cool and confident.  Luckily while he has some similarities to Deadpool, he’s not a blatant carbon copy of the character.
While I, as a Jennifer Lawrence fan, am getting a bit tired of J-Law always playing the “strong woman who is strong because she has to be” archetype (don’t believe me?  Watch Winter’s Bone and The Hunger Games series; don’t even bother with watching Joy), I did like her arch as Raven/Mystique; the reluctant role model who is looked up to after standing up to Magneto in X-Men: First Class, but who personally looks upon that episode in her life as a tragedy.  Also, I just gotta say it: Her hair in this movie was rockin’!  I guess I just really like the “structurally-messy” look.  🙂

The Misses
It seems as though there was supposed to be a “Mystique redeems Magneto” subplot somewhere in the script because Mystique keeps acting as if she is responsible for bringing Magneto back to the side of good and truth.  If this is the case, then it wasn’t well-conveyed.
So I saw this movie with a friend of mine who has seen it twice already.  Even though we both enjoyed the film, we both have one issue with the script: Pacing and story structure.
Yes, the pacing in this movie could have been better.  While individual scenes are intriguing by themselves, the movie itself never completely comes together as a cohesive narrative.  Some scenes feel separate from each other and even unnecessary at times.  To be fair, the story comes together in the third act, but 50% of this movie could have used some polishing.

X-Men Apocalypse is an intriguing mess.  The overall story is scattered, but the good performances, suave villain and sequences within the narrative kept my attention all the way through.

Since this is the third Superhero movie review where I’ve name-dropped Saint Michael (see my reviews for Winter Soldier and Batman v. Superman), I’m gonna end this review with Saint Isaac Jogues because why not?
So Saint Isaac Jogues, pray for us.