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Movies Review

Movie Review – Doctor Strange

I saw the Scott Derrickson-directed Doctor Strange over the weekend, and enjoyed it a lot.  It’s not going to unseat any of my favorite MCU movies (currently Iron Man, Winter Soldier, Guardians and Civil War) but it was a fun if familiar tale.  I’ll get all the non-spoiler notes out of the way first:  the effects are as amazing as advertised, and I can’t wait to go back and see it in 3D.  The cast (for all the difficulties with casting a movie from a source so steeped in racial stereotypes) are great as a Marvel movie’s cast usually is, with Benedict Cumberbatch filling Strange’s robes admirably as the arrogant surgeon/distracted driving consequences example.  I really liked Chiwetel Ejiofor as Mordo, he’s got such a great delivery of his lines.  It’s no surprise why he got to say most of the artifact names.

The visuals are simply jaw-dropping.  For those who scoffed at the early clips and trailers that mostly showed the city bending as “psh, Inception” that barely scratches the surface.  Basically take the visuals of the Quantum Realm in Ant-Man, add a bunch of psychedelic color, and jam the accelerator to the floor.  So cool.

<spoilers from here on out>

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Movies Review

Movie Review – The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

Many people were nervous when Peter Jackson wanted to make two movies out of The Hobbit, and it only deepened when three were discussed.  The first movie was pretty divisive – Tolkien purists disliked the changes, and the added parts with the council and the Necromancer bothered some folks.  Others felt that if they got the ‘Riddles in the Dark’ part right, much could be forgiven.  Well, there’s plenty more for the purists to grind their teeth over, but in the end, The Desolation of Smaug has a lot going for it.

Things that work for me:

  • The elves.  Tauriel is gorgeous and tough.  The surprising flirtation (no spoilers) actually works.  As for Legolas, maybe it’s different makeup, or Orlando Bloom being that much older, but he seems a bit tougher himself.  And Lee Pace as Thranduil has me dying to see him as Ronan the Accuser.  Just great.
  • Smaug.  His look is definitely based on some of the illustrations out there, and the Cumberbatch voice works as you’d expect.
  • Bilbo.  As usual, Martin Freeman’s mannerisms are perfect, though he’s still a bit too good with Sting and fighting in general.  (Annalee Newitz has an interesting take on that at io9)  And yes, you do see how the weapon gets named.
  • Bard.  Despite the changes to him as far as his role in Laketown, I think Luke Evans makes an excellent Bard, who will be able to play off well against Thorin and Thranduil in the future.

Things that bothered me:

  • Thorin.  He’s a bit too friendly.  I realize there may be a marketing reason to make him more likable, but it’s going to make the third movie turns for the character harder to swallow.
  • The Necromancer.  Look, I love Gandalf to pieces, and I liked Sylvester McCoy’s Radagast, but every time the movie cuts away to this plot, it feels like a delay.  We’re here for Bilbo, right?  It’s in the title.
  • The Action.  While some of the fights had some interesting shots or ‘ooooooh’ moments, they all overstayed their welcome.  I’m still scratching my head at the final set piece.

Did I enjoy The Desolation of Smaug?  Yep.  It’s a shade better than the first one, but still has the same problems to varying degrees.  Your ability to look past those problems for an enjoyable time should be the decider on whether or not you check this out.  It was worth it to see for me.  I really like Martin Freeman, and I’m curious to see how they handle the Battle of the Five Armies in the next movie.

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Movies Review

Movie Review – Star Trek Into Darkness

There will be spoilers.  You are warned.

If there’s anything I know from reading reactions to Star Trek Into Darkness, it’s that it is very polarizing.  You are going to love it or hate it.  The middle ground ‘it was decent’ option is pretty darn uncommon.

To best prepare you for discussing STID, I’m going to give you some key phrases you’ll hear in the arguments about the movie.

  1. Plot Holes – They are Jupiter-sized and multiple.  There’s a lot that happens where the filmmakers pretty much just hope you won’t be thinking about it hard (or at all).  Why do they need ‘Harrison’ alive if there are 72 other supermen in tubes they can get blood from?  Are they like Marvel’s mutants, where they have different superpowers?  Why thaw out a 20th century guy to make weapons?  I could see studying them, maybe recreating the Eugenics tech that created them – might’ve made an even better movie.
  2. Bad Science – Cold fusion doesn’t do what you think.  The ability to transwarp transport stuff could solve a lot of your problems, and create a bunch of really terrible ones.  “Hey, I can transport myself to the Klingon homeworld from here in the Federation!  Wait…on second thought, I’ll just beam a bomb into that Starfleet briefing and take a nap.”  Magic blood that heals…I assume no one gets sick or dies again now ever, right?  Look, I know that the previous Trek stuff is full of pseudoscience, but there was consistency to it – things you can do, things you can’t.  When you are willing to hand-wave everything away with a cheap fix that doesn’t fit the universe that’s been 40 years in the making, you just lost ALL your tension.  They defeat DEATH, what threat will they face on their five year mission greater than that?
  3. Fan-service – Tribbles!  Harry Mudd!  Carol Marcus!  Section 31!  Prime Directive!  I can confirm that JJ/Orci/Kurtzman definitely read Memory Alpha at some point.  And while I can appreciate the reversal in the ending, but the only reason Spock should scream like that is when he’s mind-melding with a Horta.  Lame.  And at least Spock stayed dead through the rest of ST II.
  4. Women in Trek – Read Felicia Day’s thoughts on this.  She’s got the serious concerns down.  You know what’s bothering me?  Sticking with the 60’s aesthetic with the uniforms for the female characters.  The Original Series didn’t know any better, but yeah, we don’t require women to wear ridiculous uniforms in the military NOW, why would they in 2-300 years?  Even Troi got to wear pants eventually.  I know that there’s only one traditionally female lead in Uhura, but why can’t she save the day at least once?  She should’ve successfully talked the Klingons out of killing them.  Stunning Khan had worked before, did it not in the endgame just because a girl was holding the phaser?
  5. Khan is…white? – When Young Spock called Old Spock about Khan, I kept waiting for Young Spock to show him a picture of the current Khan…and Old Spock to tell him, no, you must have the wrong guy.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed seeing the movie quite a bit.  Seeing being the operative word…the visuals were amazing.  In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me one bit if the filmmakers had come up with some really awesome scenes they wanted to film/create and all of the plot inconsistencies came about when they shoe-horned them in.  That’s how you end up with a ship rising out of the ocean to fly over a volcano.  It’s actually a fitting metaphor for the movie – a visually stunning sequence that everyone in the audience figures out a better way to solve within minutes.