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Doctor Strange: Marvel's Most Daring Film Yet
Alternate dimensions and mystical spiritualism make up most of the narrative of Doctor Strange; the fourteenth - and what proves to be the most experimental - addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe since Ant-Man and Guardians of the Galaxy. Directed by Scott Derrickson - see Sinister – there's a lot to love about Marvel latest production, which offers just enough magic and psychedelic charm to make it a little different to the studio's well-established house style.
Meet Stephen Strange (Cumberbatch not missing a beat); a high flying neurosurgeon who enjoys performing miracles on hopeless cases no one wants. However, his motivation to help is not as selfless as one might think as there is nothing more that the super doctor loves more than the fame and fortune that comes along with the job.
Unfortunately, his ego is soon silenced when Stephen's car is swerved off of the road late one night, damaging his hands in the process. After a series of surgeries, Stephen still finds himself impaired with severe nerve damage. Desperate to find a solution, Stephen travels to Nepal to seek help from the Ancient One (the marvellous Tilda Swinton); a spiritual mentor who helps her students by teaching them the way of Mystic Arts, something that naturally, Stephen initially refuses to accept. However, things soon change when Stephen finds a way to tap into his own hidden powers which are soon put to the test when Kaecilius (Mikkelsen) arrives to the scene.
The imaginative world-building of Doctor Strange is packed with colour and complexity which, unlike the straightforwardness of the studio's other superhero tales, is a unique feat for the production and the viewers alike. Delivered through trippy and mind-altering visuals, Doctor Strange is definitely one of the studio's most daring pictures, offering plenty of exciting and physics-bending action sequences that puts Christopher Nolan's Inception to shame.
Going from an arrogant doctor who saw the world through his own limited and highly egotistical viewpoint to a magical wizard who can bend time, Benedict Cumberbatch is a fantstic choice for the role. His cocky yet charming attitude is a perfect fit, despite the British actor struggling somewhat to sustain an American accent. Another great performance comes from the Tilda Swinton who, away from the white-washing controversy, brings a great deal of gravitas to her role. As for the rest of the cast, McAdams is pleasing enough, but just like Mikkelsen's Kaecilius, who plays Ancient One's former student, is not fully fleshed out.
All in all, it's a refreshingly weird and a fun addition to the MCU which although definitely on the strange side, doesn't stray too much from the superhero formula. Exciting, mind-bending and full of little twists, it will be most interesting to see where Doctor Strange is taken to next and how he will fit into the big picture of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
What can you say about the seemingly unstoppable force that is Nicolas Cage that hasn’t been said before? A magnet for the most troubled, muddled and just generally exasperating films to hit cinemas in the last five years, his latest work in USS Indianapolis: Men of Courage does nothing to change his fortunes.
Despite being based on one a true story that has all the makings of a war epic, the Mario Van Peebles-directed USS Indianapolis bleeds all and any gravitas and emotion out of its incredibly dramatic source material.
The story goes as thus: the eponymous US Navy cruiser delivered the first parts of the atomic bomb that would go on to devastate Hiroshima, before being torpedoed by the Japanese navy, leaving some 300 of the 1000-plus crewmen dead and the rest stranded in shark-infested waters. Said sharks, along with dehydration and salt water poisoning, leave just over 300 survivors to be rescued.
At the centre of the ensuing hubbub is Cage’s Captain McVay, who many, very unreasonably, blame for the death of the 700 or so victims – so you see, it’s a very complex story, but one that very quickly descend into and exercise on how not to make a war film.
The occasional laughable CGI aside, Cage is oddly sedate, bordering on placid, in his role – yes, the central character is possibly the flattest element of the film, while seasoned actors, Tom Sizemore and Thomas Jane, are given little to chew on in their respective roles.
While starting exactly as one would expect a war film to, the wreckage part of the film turns into cheap disaster movie, before turning into a courtroom drama in the final act. It’s a muddle of a film that fails to really drum to the beat of McVay’s potentially brilliant arc as a firm commander that eventually buckles under the unjust pressure he receives back at home.
Bad CGI, a mammoth two hour-plus running time and Nic Cage can be forgiven, but what’s at the heart of this film’s mess is the script. Jumping from event to event, plotline to plotline, at a whim, with Cage’s soft murmured speech used to pave over the transitions, USS Indianapolis’s pacing is that of a film hurrying to stuff as many ideas and threads as possible – expect that’s not the case. Van Peebles tries so hard to build the layers of an epic, when, actually, all he needed to do was tell this simple but stirring story as it is.
Marking the fifth instalment in the Underworld franchise, Blood Wars rests in the hands of a first-time feature director, Anna Foerster who, although managing to create a few notable moments of action, fails to bring any ingenuity or freshness to its now exhausted vampires-versus-werewolves narrative.
The story begins with a brief recap of events from the last four films where we learn that everyone’s favourite vampire death dealer, Selena (once again fully embraced by the leather-clad, forever sulking Kate Beckinsale) has been betrayed and banished by her kind.
Still trying to cope with the pain of having given up her vampire-werewolf hybrid daughter Eve for everyone’s safety, Selena is surprised to be summoned back into the vampire community - now led by the scheming Semira (Pulver) - who wish to make use of her skills in order to train the new generation of fighters, while still escaping her own chasers and searching for her daughter.
Taking quite a bit of time to get going, Blood Wars – written by Cory Goodman – is filled with lots of politics and nonsensical dialogue between characters who seemingly have a hard time in conveying any emotion, thus, making it all that difficult for the viewer to get invested in what they have to say. Drenched in a seemingly cold, metallic-blue tint, Blood Wars – although certainly not heavy on the action front – does manage to offer a couple relatively exciting action set-pieces. However, considering that this is a vampires-verses-werewolves kind of a movie, there just isn’t enough of that that specific mythology to set it apart from any other action movies – no wooden stakes or silver bullets to see here folks, just plenty of swirling swords and guns that can’t hurt anyone.
Another problem here is that the mythology behind the franchise in general – something the keeps spinning around aimlessly with no real focus or ending in sight – is a little hard to take seriously.
All of the characters, including the PVC-wearing Kate Beckinsale, who thinks that scowling her way through the scenes will get her anywhere, are all without an ounce of charm or personality – which sadly, brings us to a conclusion that there is no fun to be had in this rather forgettable cinematic offering and generic continuation of a franchise which, perhaps, might be ready now to close its doors and call it a day.