Tag Archives: tilda swinton

‘Doctor Strange’ a worthy addition to MCU

Another origin story. Another weak villain. Another redemptive hero. Another shallow love interest. Another Stan Lee cameo. Another post-credits scene. More CGI action. In spite of the continuing weaknesses of the Marvel Cinematic Universe films, “Doctor Strange” still manages to be a fun and enjoyable ride.

Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) is a cocky surgeon who crashes his car and irreparably damages bones in his hands. Searching for the ability to cure his ailment, he travels to a remote village across the world and meets the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton), who teaches him about the mystic arts and prepares him for a confrontation with a fallen student, Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen), who seeks to bring an evil demon to Earth.

Cumberbatch is strong as Doctor Strange, blending a good mix of pompousness with vulnerability. Tilda Swinton is also a very good Ancient One. Rachel McAdams has a needless role as a trophy girlfriend for the doctor, but she isn’t as grating as Natalie Portman or Gwenyth Paltrow in similar roles. And Mads Mikkelsen is pretty pedestrian as another bad guy who wants to destroy the world, blah blah blah.

The true star of the film are its special effects, with its bending buildings and parallel dimensions and magic and demons. It makes the film a visual feast and helps smooth over the fact that the story itself is pretty bland.

But at least the environment is different. The MCU now has wizards and magic and some pretty crazy science behind its latest hero. While Captain America’s films are espionage dramas and “Iron Man” is modern action and “Guardians” is 1980s sci-fi, “Doctor Strange” is psychadelic new age fantasy. So while its story is familiar, at least Marvel puts that story into different genres.

‘Hail, Caesar’ an unconventional love letter to the movies

The Coen brothers tell good stories. Whether it be “No Country for Old Men”, “Fargo”, “Burn After Reading”, “True Grit” or any of their other works, it doesn’t pound you over the head with themes or dumbs down its plot to accommodate the audience: they simply tell good stories in their own way.

In their latest feature, “Hail, Caesar”, Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin) is a Hollywood fixer dealing with conflicting emotions about leaving Hollywood. During a production shoot of the biblical epic “Hail, Caesar”, his star, Baird Whitlock (George Clooney), is kidnapped by a mysterious organization that calls itself “the future.” Over the next 24 hours, he tries to get Whitlock back, deal with a never-ending parade of issues, and resolve his qualms about decency in his life.

The cast is a long list of Hollywood stars in and of itself, including Frances McDormand, Ralph Fiennes, Scarlett Johansson, Tilda Swinton, Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill. The fact that real-life Hollywood stars are caricaturing their counterparts of the 1950s adds to the flavor of the film. Each character is lost in some form or another, all trying to find their way; through religion, communism, love, politics, smoking. What unites them is theirĀ  idealistic vision of cinema, the promise of happy endings and creating movie magic.

There are so many characters and so much going on that sometimes it is hard to keep focus on what is happening, but the Coens have always been able to utilize the idiosyncrasies in their characters to make sure that even with limited screentime, they are still memorable and relatable. If the movie were a little bit longer and some of the characters were able to be fleshed out just a little bit more, it would really aid the pacing and emotional impact.

Though decidedly one of their “lesser” works because of its rambliness and overstuffed plot, “Hail, Caesar” is still a blast, a lesser work from the Coens equal to superior work from most other filmmakers.