Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness and all the images you see in this review are owned by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Directed by Sam Raimi
Before this latest phase of Marvel movies, you would have sounded like a broken record listing off all the great things about it before giving it an above-average score, but the last few movies have wavered a bit in quality with the only real standout being the latest Spider-Man; the one that leans heavily on nostalgia for movies that weren’t even made by Marvel Studios. Still, even prior to the Post-Endgame MCU there was an easily identifiable formula for these things and even the best of the Marvel movies didn’t deviate much from it; including the first Doctor Strange movie which definitely benefited from its mind-bending vision but still fell into a lot of the same pitfalls of other Marvel films at the time. Now it’s sequel time with a veteran director behind it, so perhaps this will be the one to successfully break the Marvel mold and do something unique with it instead of just another really enjoyable entry in the catalog. Can this bridge the gap between the great simplicity of the pre-Endgame MCU and the more experimental phase it finds itself in now, or will it tear itself apart trying to fix what isn’t broken? Let’s find out!!
Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) may not be the Sorcerer Supreme since taking that five-year vacation, but he’s still hanging out at the Sanctum Sanctorum and just kinda working on himself. You know, get to know the REAL Doctor Strange, especially since his ex-girlfriend Christine (Rachel McAdams) is getting married and so he no longer has someone to pine after. Geez, this is starting to sound a bit sad. Maybe an interdimensional threat that could rip apart the universe would give him a bit of structure and a clearly defined goal to go after! Well as luck would have it, a young woman named America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez) is being pursued by the kind of monsters you’d find in a D&D handbook, and it turns out that she has the unique gift of being able to travel through dimensions. Well… sort of. She can’t exactly activate it at will but it always seems to get her out of trouble at the last second, though her luck seems to be running out as the malevolent force that’s pursuing her seems to be getting very close and she’s even gone to a few different Doctor Strange counterparts in those other universes without much luck in stopping this threat. Now it falls on our Doctor Strange to put an end to this sinister chase and stop them from taking her powers for their own nefarious end. For this task, he enlists the help of the current Sorcerer Supreme, Wong (Benedict Wong), as well as Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) who’s been off on her own since that whole Wanda Vision thing happened. Can Strange uncover the identity of this malevolent force that’s out to hurt America, and will he like the answers that he finds? What does Wanda hope to gain from all this, and will it be enough to make her whole after losing so much? I bet they wish they could escape to a dimension where Everything Everywhere All At Once came out the month after this instead of the month before.
The Shape of Water and all the images you see in this review are owned by Fox Searchlight Pictures
Directed by Guillermo del Toro
Did it REALLY have to take this long for the darn film to show up in a theater remotely close to me!? While EVERY OTHER film critic in the world got to check this out a few weeks ago, I’ve been sitting here on pins and needles; waiting for the studio to begrudgingly bring this film to the wider masses. There have been a few movies that I’ve been looking forward to quite a bit as we were heading into Award Season, and at the top of the list was this freaky looking cross between Beauty and the Beast and The Creature from the Black Lagoon from one of the best genre filmmakers out there. With only slightly waned excitement due to its slow rollout to general audiences, does this manage to live up to the high expectations set up not only by the wonderful looking trailers but by the ceaseless buzz from every other film critic on the planet BESIDES me, or was this a huge misstep that we’re all gonna look back on with less than favorable feelings once the hype has settled down? Let’s find out!!
The movie begins with Eliza Esposito (Sally Hawkins) who’s one of many janitors in a SUPER SECRET SCIENCE FACILITY that’s somewhere in Baltimore which presumably has REALLY specific NDA agreements as the place has been known to house strange and unusual specimens. The latest of said specimens turns out to be some sort of Freaky Fish Guy (Doug Jones) who was captured and dragged out of the Amazon Forest by Colonel Richard Strickland (Michael Shannon). Said Colonel is now head of security in the SUPER SECRET SCIENCE FACILITY, at least until the government can figure out what to do with the Freaky Fish Guy, and both Eliza and her friend Zelda (Octavia Spencer) are stuck cleaning the room that the creature is housed in. Eliza immediately takes a liking to said creature and the two of them begin an unlikely friendship as Eliza’s mastery of American Sign Language (which she learned due to her being mute) as well as her awesome record collection give the two of them a way to communicate and something to bond over. Colonel Strickland on the other hand is less inclined to get friendly with the Freaky Fish Guy, preferring to use a cattle prod to get the creature in line, and eventually is dead set on dissecting it before it gets any funny ideas. Eliza, along with her neighbor Giles (Richard Jenkins) hatch a plan to try and save him as does the mysterious Dr Hoffstetler (Michael Stuhlbarg) who has his own reasons for wanting the creature to be kept alive. Will Elisa be able to protect the Freaky Fish Guy from having his internal organs removed and put into labeled jars? What is Dr Hoffstetler REALLY up to, and how will Colonel Strickland react once he finds out that his own staff is working against him? Seriously, who can look at that Freaky Fish Guy and NOT immediately fall in love with him!?
Miss Sloane and all the images you see in this review are owned by EuropaCorp
Directed by John Madden
If you really take a look at Jessica Chastain’s acting career, it becomes clear that she’s truly one of the most versatile actors working today. Not only has she been in high caliber Oscar fare of multiple genres including The Martian, Zero Dark Thirty, and Tree of Life, but she’s also been fantastic in other places like The Huntsman: Winter’s War, Crimson Peak, and Lawless. Now she’s headlining a political thriller at right about the time that EVERYONE is not in the mood to even be thinking about politics. Well, I guess we can’t blame her or the director for that, and just because the world is going straight to hell doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy movies like this anymore, right? Can this new vehicle for Jessica Chastain turn out to be another high point in her illustrious career, or will her role in that Frozen knockoff with Chris Hemsworth turn out to be her highlight this year? I mean… that WAS a really solid movie that no one but me seems to appreciate, but even so! Let’s find out!!
The movie follows the greatest lobbyist ever, Elizabeth Sloane (Jessica Chastain) who’s faced with a crisis of… conscious maybe? Either conscious or competitive zeal; one of those two. Anyway, the crisis is that the lobbying firm she works for wants her to campaign against a bill that would restrict gun sales to criminals, those on the terror watch list, etc, and her boss (Sam Waterson) is being a REAL overbearing jerk about it. Not one to suffer fools lightly, Miss Sloane packs up her desks, grabs the best millennial interns under her command, and goes to work for Rodolfo Schmidt (Mark Strong) who is heading the Pro-Gun restriction effort. Of course, when you bargain with the devil (or in this case someone know what it takes to win) you get exactly what you pay for and Miss Sloane proves to be INCREDIBLY effective despite how uneasy some of her methods make some of her allies, particularly Esme Manucharian (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) who experiences firsthand just how far Miss Sloane is willing to go to get what she needs. Will the best of the best be able to stand up against the most funded lobby to ever exist? What can all these starry-eyed liberal babies learn by watching Miss Sloane in action? What exactly led her to being like this? Personal tragedy? A drive to succeed? Rich relatives that changed her life for the better?
Arrival and all the images you see in this review are owned by Paramount Pictures
Directed by Denis Villeneuve
Well this is another movie that just kind of snuck up on me. Apparently we’re not supposed to know movies are coming out unless they’re part of a franchise or have talking animals in it. The thing is that had I known about this more than a week before it came out, I probably would have gotten really excited to see it as it’s directed by the same guy who did Sicario which was one of my favorite movies of last year. That, and hard sci-fi is usually an easy sell for me, so maybe it wouldn’t have hurt to throw this trailer in front of that new Independence Day movie or something. Anyway, does this in-depth examination on the problems with communicating not only work as a scientific procedural but as a badass alien flick, or is all the moody imagery and themes about humanity’s inability to effectively talk to one another just a cover for a mediocre slog? Let’s find out!!
The movie begins with a montage as we see Dr. Louise Banks (Amy Adams) give birth to her daughter Hannah and watch her grow up and die due to some sort of illness. After that uplifting introduction, we see Dr. Banks go back to work (presumably some time has passed since the funeral) where she’s a professor of Linguistics at… some college. Unfortunately, it JUST SO HAPPENS that aliens have started landing all over the planet in these giant spaceships that are referred to as Shells, but always looked like black contact lenses to me. Because she’s so good at what she does, Colonel Weber (Forest Whitaker) brings her to one of the landing sites to see if she can help them understand the alien creatures inside. Those two, along with Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner) who is a theoretical physicists need to work together to get these aliens talking or else the world governments, especially a Military leader in China General Shang (Tzi Ma), get too antsy about the shells just hanging around and start firing at them. Can this rag tag group of smart people unlock the secrets inside of these spaceships and prevent humanity from destroying them and possibly themselves in the process? Just what exactly do these aliens want, and why are they just hanging around instead of doing something productive? Seriously, they mastered light speed travel, but they couldn’t figure out a way to communicate with the primitive species BEFORE parking their giant spaceships!?
Doctor Strange and all the images you see in this review are owned by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Directed by Scott Derrickson
So on the one hand, I don’t’ really have any love for Doctor Strange as a character, and I’m still a bit salty that they didn’t cast Hugh Laurie in the role which I have been fan casting since the film first got announced all the way back in what, the beginning of phase two? On the other hand I’ve been a fan of C Robert Cargill as a film critic all the way back in the good ol’ days of Spill, so there is a part of me that wants this to succeed just because I like that ONE GUY. Then again it’s a Marvel movie, so it’s going to succeed anyway. LOOK! It’s complicated, alright!? I don’t put myself is some sort of cryogenic fridge between movies so my “precious objectivity” is working at peak efficiency! Actually, I should probably look into that and see if I can skip most of the next four years… ANYWAY! Does Doctor Strange deliver on all the weird fun that the trailers are promising, or is this another cookie cutter entry in the ever expanding Marvel canon? Let’s find out!!
The movie follows Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) who is a world renounce Neurosurgeon with an ego the size of Hulk’s biceps and ends up smashing the hell out of his car while texting. Fortunately, the only part of his body that was harmed was his hands, but unfortunately he can’t be neurosurgeon if he can’t even pick up a pencil. Now instead of starting a diagnostics department and act super snarky to his subordinates, he instead blows his fortune trying to get his hands fixed to no avail while also pushing away his only real friend Christine (Rachel McAdams) due to his increasingly bitter outlook on life. His last resort is this temple in Kathmandu Nepal which healed someone else with even worse debilitating injuries and finds someone to take pity on him in the form of Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor) who takes him to see THE ANCIENT ONE (Tilda Swinton). She blows the puny human’s mind away with what can only be described as a drug trip, but I think the implication is that she just gave him a small taste of what the universe has to offer, and she begrudgingly takes him on as a disciple despite his arrogance and penchant for being whiney. Of course, there might be ANOTHER reason why she wants at least one more meat shield training at their monastery. You see, the LAST prized pupil of The Ancient One was some jerk named Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen) who’s now trying to do some bad stuff and will probably be coming for her bald ass soon enough, so the more bodies on hand to absorb energy blasts, the better. Will Stephen Strange find what he is looking for in the teachings of the ancient one? What is Kaecilius after and why is he so pissed about everything? Seriously, what the hell were they smoking when they were making this?