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.

Our Vampires, Our Selves

ONLY-LOVERS-LEFT-ALIVEVampires are windows to our souls. The fascination with the creatures of the night has always been ingrained in human history and psychology. The stories started with our lack of medical knowledge and what happens to our bodies after we die. Many a poor body was mutilated for fears that they were actually vampires. But as medical knowledge prevailed, we stopped putting stakes in hearts or bricks in mouth to keep the body from rising. Instead, they became an existential study of our selves. Human are drawn to these supernatural tales as a way to come to grips with their own mortality. We have romanticized them right into pop culture.

Jim Jarmusch’s Only Lover Left Alive is a perfect example of using the supernatural to reflect the fears of the natural. The story follows Adam (Tom Hiddleston) and Eve (Tilda Swinton), a husband and wife who truly love each other after centuries together. Eve returns home to despondent and suicidal Adam. He is tired of the world and how the humans treat it. His life is only made more complicated when Eve’s “sister” visits them.

The movie is beautiful allegory for drugs and rock and roll. These vampires are almost hippy like with their vintage music and soul charging highs. A search for the purest source is like that of a true drug aficionado—not just some crack whore. It’s the typical drug story just trapped with vampire edges and dark humor. Chaos and death reign in this world even though Eve and Adam only want to spend their time enjoying the world and each other. But like all drug tales, the source dries up and Adam must come face to face with an inevitable death.

The casting is superb. Hiddleston is so much more than the impish Loki of the Marvel universe. H nails the suicidal rocker on the head giving more depth to a character that could be one sided. His chemistry with Swinton is tight, and Swinton herself is, as always, superb. Mia Wasikowska plays the younger and fickle sister infusing chaos perfectly into the couple’s tiny world. And  Anton Yelchin evokes his best Matthew Gray Gubler as Adam’s minion who is a needed source of comic relief.only-lovers-left-alive-jim-jarmusch-05

The only issue with the movie is that Jarmusch wears his symbolism on his sleeve. He forces the use of spinning imagery upon the viewer wasting an endless amount of time with either dancers or spinning records. These sequencing using music are used to drive the story, but it really just slows it down. By the time you get to the end of the movie and a music sequence that was vital to the story, the viewer has lost interest and ready to move on.

Despite of these, Only Lovers Left Alive is a captivating and complex tale mirrors our human emotions in the faces of vampires. If they can find both self-love and romantic love why can’t we? But at what prices do we pay for our lives when we are just seeking out our next high?

By the Book: We Need to Talk About Kevin

A comparison between book and film. Contains spoilers

The Lynne Ramsay film adaptation of Lionel Shriver’s marvelous novel We Need to Talk About Kevin is flat and emotionless. The film looses all emotional impact in both the plot and removes the twist that makes the novel’s ending have such an impact.

Both the novel and the film center on Eva’s relationship with her son Kevin. Eva struggles with feelings of apathy towards her own flesh and blood. But when Kevin causes a school massacre, it seems that Eva may reason to feel apathetic towards her son.

The book is written in first person letters from Eva to her husband. These letters describe her current life after Kevin’s attack and well as reminiscing on her past with her child. Eva seriously considers her choices as a mother. She was stricken with apathy towards this child, and the book explores two opposing ideas: did her apathy cause Kevin’s issues or did an inherent badness in Kevin cause her apathy. You struggle along with Eva to understand her thoughts and feelings as well as those of Kevin.

The film captures none this emotion. Eva’s letter are excluded entirely, and the events are filmed with a huge slant. You get the sense from the beginning that something isn’t right about Kevin and that just magnifies as the story goes along. The characters are flat: Tilda Swanson’s Eva is affectless and dispassionate; John C. Reilly’s father is so one sided, he doesn’t even consider the mother sides; and Ezra Miller’s Kevin is devious from the beginning. The only depth any character shows is when Kevin is sick and plays the mama’s boy.

The film is not very well delineated. Memories and present are mashed together with no discernable plan. Why are we going back to the past? When did this event happen? In fact, if I hadn’t read the book, I would not have been able to follow what was happening. The movie saves the actual atrocity that Kevin did until the end. Because of this, the shocking psychological twist of the book is destroyed because it comes on the heels of Kevin’s school attack. Plus, by not including any narration of Eva’s letters to her husband, a lot of the emotional impact from the twist is lost including the fact that the husband’s present situation is even a twist.

The film rips apart a thought provoking emotional journey through motherhood and anti-social personality disorder. The film is one dimensional and discombobulated. Skip the film and go directly to Shriver’s source material.