Movie Reviews: Doctor Strange, Hacksaw Ridge, Arrival, Sing Street, and The BFG

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I went on vacation last week, so I didn’t have time to write anything about the handful of movies I’ve seen recently, but now I’m back and they’ve piled up to the point where I need to just rush through these reviews, because I’m about to get busy again after this.  So here’s the latest on non-Hogwarts wizards (that’s next week), untold WWII stories, moody alien fiction, Irish teenagers, and a computerized giant with nonproportional ears.

Spoiler alert: They all basically got the same grade from me.  I’m a hack!

 

Doctor STRANGE

Give me an ultra quick, unfair generalization of what this is:  Marvel’s attempt to adapt a black light poster into a movie.

Was is good or bad?  It was a two-hour movie that felt like it was only 90 minutes, so I give it a ton of credit in the entertainment department.  I could watch the crazy visual madness of the action scenes all day.  Cumberbumble did about as good a job as he could do in the role, playing Tony Stark 2.0.  Probably 95% of the characters in this movie are pretty solid, including the sidekick character played by an actor also named Benedict.  Also solid:  the 3D.

Where it lost me was on two things…  1) I think it was definitely fake smart.  I’m not sure everything that happened or the plot points that occurred made total sense?  But they were presented in such a rad way that it was kinda hard to complain too much, and any criticism of that was met with “don’t believe anything you currently know” kind of dialogue.  Maybe I need to watch it again, but a lot of it felt like it was being made up as it went along.  And then 2) was Rachel McAdams’ character the most underwritten female character in the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe?  Or just top 3?  I think there was a point about 80 minutes in when her character literally just disappears from the story and never comes back.

Long story short; it’s certainly entertaining, but definitely far from perfect.  I do wish I could move the foundation of reality with the flick of a wrist so I didn’t have to walk up the stairs in our house to use the bathroom when I’m in the basement.

Potential Presidential-Elect Tweet Review:  “The biggest threat to our inter-dimensional safety is undocumented sorcerers.  When will the dishonest media report the facts!”

Grade:  B

 

hacksaw-ridge

HACKSAW RIDGE

Give me an ultra quick, unfair generalization of what this is:  Mel Gibson’s attempt to redeem himself for a few years of bad headlines.

Was is good or bad?  Again, it’s kind of a mix of good and bad.  The story that leads up to the WWII scenes are just about as Oscar baity as they can get; complete with alcoholic fathers, forced romance, and hacky speeches given in a courtroom.  It also forces a strong religious hand in its message, which shouldn’t really come as a surprise, considering it’s Mel Gibson directing.  A funny note on that; the first trailer didn’t even say his name, they just said “from the director of Braveheart“.  Is Mel Gibson’s stigma as bad as M. Night Shyamalan’s?  I guess so.

But holy cow!  Those action scenes are nuts!  Now, I’ve never seen The Passion of the Christ, but just basing it on Hacksaw Ridge, Braveheart, and Apocalypto; Mel Gibson is kind of an amazing action director.  Corny dialogue and acting aside, this film is totally worth watching for the crazy WWII battles, which might even rival stuff like Saving Private Ryan in parts.

Potential Presidential-Elect Tweet Review:  “Desmond Doss is an American hero.  Never got captured.  Disagree with his thoughts on 2nd Amendment.  Nobody’s perfect!”

Grade:  B

 

arrival

ARRIVAL

Give me an ultra quick, unfair generalization of what this is:  It’s Independence Day if you take away the lasers and one-note characters and replace them with diplomatic linguistic discussions and atmospheric filmmaking.

Was is good or bad?  It’s definitely good, and it’s definitely smart.  I mean, I was already pretty sold on this Denis Villeneuve guy after Sicario, but he continues to impress me here, too.  This is a genuinely fresh take on an alien “invasion” story, that legitimately challenges the audience’s brain power.  I felt bad for the 10-year-old kid that was at my screening.  There’s no way he knew what was going on, was there?  Anyway, it was really interesting, and the ending provides a genuinely good thought-provoking scenario that I won’t ruin.  And also like Sicario, it has a strong female character in a time when we sure could use one.

Potential Presidential-Elect Tweet Review:  “Aliens land on American soil and refuse to speak English.  Don’t these losers know where they are?”

Grade:  B+

 

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SING STREET

Give me an ultra quick, unfair generalization of what this is:  That Irish guy who directed Once is still doing a good job at making films about musicians.

Was is good or bad?  I’ll be honest, I assumed this would be bad based on the trailer, but I ended up really liking this movie.  See, I thought it was going to be some lame jukebox musical thing, and it ended up not being that at all.  It’s actually a really sweet coming-of-age story about a kid who starts a band just to get the attention of a mysterious girl.  And the music is actually pretty good.  I genuinely felt moved by the kid’s relationship with his brother, which was another surprising thing, considering I didn’t like the brother character very much in the beginning.  I’d totally watch this movie again.

Potential Presidential-Elect Tweet Review:  “Ireland is killing us in musical comedy production!  But not as much as their pathetic wind turbines are killing millions of birds.  Very sad!”

Grade:  B+

 

the-bfg

THE BFG

Give me an ultra quick, unfair generalization of what this is:  Steven Spielberg continuing to show off his late-life mediocrity.

Was is good or bad?  I was very, very impressed with the computer animation of the giants (which is a stark contrast to that other giant movie).  Very lifelike faces and great expression.  So, in terms of pushing that kind of film technology forward, this did pretty good.  Now, the story on the other hand… [nervously winces]  I was definitely bored during a handful of scenes.  I haven’t read Roald Dahl’s book this is based on since I was a kid, but I also have no recollection of it being anywhere near my top five favorite Roald Dahl stories.  It felt rather spread thin.  Plus, I watched it on an airplane, and that didn’t exactly make for a great viewing experience.

It ALSO didn’t help that Spielberg barely makes movies like he used to.  Let me look up the last movie he directed that I genuinely enjoyed…  It was Munich.  And that was 11 years ago.  He was cool before 2005!  I don’t know, I hope he picks something better to work on in the future.  Sadly, he’s just kind of a “another director” at the moment, instead of the “amazing director” he used to be.  I’ll give him credit for a few decently magical moments in The BFG, but I’m not going to cherry pick those and call this a great movie.  IT’S ALRIGHT OR WHATEVER.

Potential Presidential-Elect Tweet Review:  “Loser giant thinks collecting dreams will energize American job market.  Will only make us reliant on British dream collecting & make American dream factories non-competitive.”

Grade:  C+

 

I’ll hopefully be back next week to roast Eddie Redmayne for his dumb Fantastic Beasts haircut.  See ya later!

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