Playing with Time

Doctor Strange

Marvel continues to add characters to its ever growing character pool. But Doctor Strange reaches past space, and reality and pulls in something spiritual.

Stephen Strange is annoying jerk who is a genius with medical injuries. When his arrogance break his body he must find a way to return to level of perfection he once was. He travels vast distances thinking he will be magically healed but he learns from The Ancient One about how to manipulate space and reality. Strange starts to see that is an integral part into the survival of humanity especially when a former students steals spells about affecting time, the only taboo to these people have. Along with the few survivors of his dojo, he must save the world from being absorbed into a dark dimensions.tilda-swinton-benedict-cumberbatch

Doctor Strange is a lot like Deadpool in the fact that it is highly overrated by critics. It has a decent story but it fails to really delve into any true motivations and character development. While Benedict Cumberbatch plays a great intellectual, he is no action hero. The movie works because The Ancient One, played marvelously by Tilda Swinton kicks, major ass and is truly the action star of the film. Mads Mikkelsen works well with the action but he can’t keep his accent straight. I’m not sure why they didn’t just let him speak in his normal voice.

Doctor Strange is up in your face about changing time and realities. Critics love these overly CGI sequences saying it’s visually beautiful. But halfway into the movie, it spends more time trying to dazzle us with CGI instead of the story. It starts to do what I had feared Inception would do by letting special effects over take the story. The good news is that by the end, sequences start to find a good balance between spectral and meaning. Strange ends strong after a sagging middle.

Strange adds a metaphysical layer to the Marvel universe but it needs tweaking to truly break unto the cerebral.

 

 

 

 Arrival

 Arrival is cerebral and doesn’t depend on the typical alien bang, bang shot ’em up to carry the story. It’s the actual idea of using an alien language to communicate with the aliens that propels the story

Louise Banks (Amy Adams) lives alone with wine and memories but when an alien spacecraft lands, she is asked to help unravel the mystery of their language. With the help of a team of scientist including Ian Donnely (Jeremy Renner), she must decode the alien’s purpose for coming to Earth. Their language is not like the human language at all so the team must not only translate the language they must learn the vocabulary all while world military leaders breathe down their neck.

arrival-mit-jeremy-renner-und-amy-adamsArrival is more subtle with its time manipulation than Doctor Strange. Louise is lost in her own personal time loop and each memory she recalls has direct connection with something said or done in the present. By the end of the movie, each scene makes sense and is it tied (almost) neatly with a bow. Plus the conclusion packs an emotional wallop.

Arrival also acts as a modern day fable about global community. The movie looks at the violence and fear that breaks out when countries start keeping scientific knowledge from each other. The answer lies in working together to solve, not just the mystery of the aliens, but also the issue that plaque humanity.

Arrival is well written, well directed and well acted. It’s a quality movie film that makes you think and gets your emotions flowing.

Con Vs. Con

‘Tis the season for con-man movies. David O. Russell shows down with Martin Scorsese as their two newest movies share a similar story though with different results. Russell presents us with American Hustle, a look at a ‘70s con artist couple and a crazy FBI agent. The movie is glitz and glamour but boring as toast. Scorsese goes less period piece and more extravagant with debauchery in the Wolf of Wall Street.

american-hustleAmerican Hustle has promise but fails to deliver.   The movie begins stating the fact that some of these events actually happened. Irving and Sydney are a sociopathic couple coning people to get rich quick. When they are made by the FBI, they are force to work with the Bureau to bring down corrupt politicians. But when the Mob crosses their path they are in over their heads.

The movie lingers too long and that’s after half of it is narrated by the three main cast members.  As for the humor, the best bits are in the trailer spoiling any fun when the scenes arrive in the movie. Instead it a laborious affair that doesn’t show case the best characters For once Christian Bale is too over tide top, or it could just be his character. Whichever the case, it was hard to feel sorry for him or even believe Irving as a character. And if I wanted to watch Bradley Cooper lose his mind, I would re-watch the Silver Linings Playbook. The best performances come from Jennifer Lawrence and Jeremy Renner. .Lawrence is amazing and any scene Rosalyn is funny and entertaining. Renner gives an earnest portrayal of a politician trying to his best for his town and gets talked into something he wasn’t prepared for. It is him that you feel the most sorry for in this movie. Not the two cons.

The movie does, from the first moments the producing studios logo appears, envelopes itself in the ‘70s. The decor, the clothing, the hair, the music: it is all spot on. In fact, the time period almost becomes another character as the film progresses because it truly does change what people do and how they do it. But this isn’t enough to keep it entertaining.

The Wolf of Wall Street is based on the memoir of slime ball Jordan Belfort. He makes a name for himself unloadingThe-Wolf-of-Wall-Street-1 penny stocks and then eventually breaks into Wall Street introducing Steve Madden to the stock world. But his investor never sees their money as Jordan gets it all and blows it on a wide variety of out here activities.

This movie works because Jordan knows he’s a slime bag and doesn’t pretend to be something else. Hustle’s protagonist whines about being victims or circumstance though they enter their conning willingly and do quite well. Jordan, on the other hand, wants money and power and will never have enough. You hate him and he knows it; Leonardo DiCaprio plays off that well. The movie is basically him selling you his life. While you may not want to buy it, it’s quite amazing to watch.

The movie only suffers when Jordan gives speeches to his stock teams. His grandstanding is boring as you want to see what the heck the man will do next on cocaine. We don’t want to see the “work” side of the story. We want to see the extravagance and Jon Bernthal with his shirt off.

While neither movie’s character some to real justice, it is more acceptable in Jordan’s case. You watch the decline of his family and personal life. He loses so much even though he will buy someone or something to replace it. That the saddest thing; he doesn’t make a real human connection ever, and that is somewhat of revenge.

American Hustle has polish with very little substance while The Wolf of Wallstreet has no polish but it a lot of fun and a very wild ride. Hit Wallstreet before you go back to the ‘70s.

The Heartthrob Oscars Snubs

The Academy Awards is a political vehicle that believes that attractiveness does not equal good acting-if you’re a man. Time and time again heart throbs have been nominated but never earned the golden statue. Here’s a look at the biggest and most recent Heart Throb Snubs.

Bradley Cooper

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I have loved Cooper since Kitchen Confidential. I saw a lot more than a hot guy. He has charms and had lots of acting potential. When Limitless came out I was so excited; his own starring role. Entertainment Weekly was surprised he could pull it off; but I wasn’t. I knew he could handle comedy with perfect timing but give depth and emotion to serious scenes. In Silver Lining Playbook he managed to incorporate the two. The humor did not take away from the drama, and Cooper nailed the manic life of someone with bi-polar disorder. This was such a frank and earnest portrayal, he deserved the award. Though Jennifer Lawrence was good, she had nothing on Cooper who totally transforms himself in this role. This was a once in a lifetime role and should have been rewarded.

Jeremy Renner

arts-locker-584-summitentThe Hurt Locker took Best Picture, Director, and Screenplay (among others) and Renner was nominated for Best Actor. The Academy went with the older, we’ll respected actor instead of the soon to be heartthrob. He lost out to Jeff Bridges in Crazy Heart. Renner was relatively unknown before The Hurt Locker and gave such a powerful performance that he gained the Academy’s attention. For a week, Renner trained at Fort Irwin to play Sergeant First Class William James.  To go from nobody to somebody overnight? Now that’s a feat!

Johnny Depp

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Possibly one of the most snubbed actors in Oscar history. He was nominated three times and did not win a once. In 2003, he was nominated for his portrayal of Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean Curse of the Black Pearl. Depp became the character and made you love a scoundrel you could have hatred. The next year he was nominated for Finding Neverland, both a biopic and a sure win. But lightening seems to strike twice, and Depp was forever ignored. In 2007, he was nominated for musical performance in Sweeny Todd. He sadly lost that one as well. But this rip off was nothing compared to the earlier snub for Pirates. Depp seems not to mind but I do.

Heath Ledger

heath_ledgerSince his American debut in 10 Things I Hate About You, Ledger has been making women swoon over his Australian accent and long locks. Ledger, not wanting to be stuck in teen pop, branched out doing a variety of projects. Ledger adapted well into dramas and complex characters. It was his turn as a homosexual cowboy in Brokeback Mountain that garnered him critical and academy acclaim. He was nominated for Best Actor in a very fierce year; three of the candidates had been in biopics, Academy Gold. He, in fact, lost to Philip Seymour Hoffman’s amazing portrayal of Capote. But in a twist of fate, Ledger won Best Supporting Actor in 2009 beating out Hoffman. If not for his tragic death, I doubt he would have won. This almost makes up for the Best Actor snub-almost.

Witch Hunters Strike Back

Fairy tales were designed to be gruesome and to scare children into not doing something. Disney came along and turned them into romance and happiness. While this is a fun outlet, I am rather found of movies that get back to the dirt of the legends. Hansel & Gretel Witch Hunter was a rockling ride of gritty fun that takes the Disney out of the fairy tale.
Hansel-And-Gretel-Witch-Hunters-Jeremy-RennerIn this version of the Grimm tale, Hansel and Gretel are left out in the woods for their own protection. But being curious children they come across a house made of candy. The two learn that the best way to end a witch is to set her on fire and the two orphans become infamous for their witch slaying. The two are brought to a small town by a mayor who is desperate to keep children from disappearing. But the intractable sheriff wants to burn the first woman he thinks is a witch. It is up to the siblings to free her of guilt and find the culprit.
It seems the siblings are up against a gran witch that can take human form (played creepily by Famke Janssen). The witch has a plan to make herself and her cohorts invincible. To stop her, Hansel and Gretel must go up against a troll, make friends with a good witch, and find their roots by revisiting their childhood home.
Jeremy Renner is fabulous as Hansel. He shows swagger and emotion evenly and has a talent for dry wit. He plays beautifully off of Gemma Arterton who gives Gretel power as well as beauty. The two together make a power house team sending the witches back to the dust.
The overall tone of the movie is fun. While serious and downright grim instances occur, the movie never forgets that it is entertainment. Viewers forgive the few plot holes and suspend disbelief because the overall experience is so enjoyable. The writing is taunt with the siblings being blessed with brawn, beauty, and quick wit.HANSEL-AND-GRETEL-WITCH-HUNTERS-Image-10
The movie easily combines modern elements to a period piece. In the same way A Knights Tale seamlessly integrated ‘70s music into jousting, the film easily integrates a state of the art weapons into witch hunting. Automatic weapons and taser are just a few that give the orphans an extra kick against the witches. This in itself is fun because I have watched plenty of witch movies where I wondered what would happen if I took an automatic to them.
Hansel and Gretel Witch Hunters is a fun romp in a fantasy world made for adults. It’s about time; we deserve some fun fantasy too.