Doctor Strange (2016) Film Review

3/5 stars

Marvel needs no introduction. Pioneering the whole cinematic universe concept they have managed to create one of the most successful franchises of all time. Now Marvel returns with its 14th cinematic outing with Doctor Strange feating Benedict Cumberbatch as the eponymous character. The premise of the film is that Doctor Stephen Strange is a highly talented yet arrogant neurosurgeon who learns the ways of a sorcerer after trying to find healing. Does Doctor Strange live up to the hype? no.

I really wanted to like this film as Marvel has an impressive track record with producing quality blockbusters (with some blemishes). However the film didn’t quite have the emotional punch it needed for the audience to root for Strange and to ultimately care what happens to him over the course of the film. Speaking of Strange we need to talk about Benedict Cumberbatch; overall he played the part well yet there were moments where it didn’t feel authentic and at times felt forced. However by the end of the film he comes into his own and despite some rough patches in the development of his character he emerges the hero Marvel were trying to create.

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Doctor Strange boats an impressive cast: Oscar winner Tilda Swinton (The Ancient One), Oscar nominees Chiwetel Ejiofor and Rachel McAdams as well as Hannibal’s Mads Mikkelsen. There was controversy with the casting of Tilda Swinton with many accusing Marvel of whitewashing the character, whilst this is a problem with Hollywood at the moment I think the decision to make The Ancient One a woman was a great move. It’s refreshing to see a prominent female led character be treated equally alongside the rest of the male cast members (we’re waiting for that Black Widow movie Marvel) and of course Tilda Swinton was incredible.

Speaking of female representation in Marvel films we have to look at Rachel McAdams who was sorely underused in the role of Christine Palmer. Fresh from her Oscar nominated role in Spotlight (2015) and with more of a decade of acting under her belt she was resorted to a forgettable role which could have been played by anyone. It was also frustrating to see her portrayed as quite a weak doctor and being told what to do all the time, Rachel McAdams is capable of so much more which is why it was frustrating to see her in this role.

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The one thing I have to applaud Marvel with is making one of the most “standalone” films in quite a while, rarely relying on numerous mentions of the Avengers to keep audiences interested. Many people complain about origin stories yet I have no issue with them, however Doctor Strange at times felt rushed. We’re first introduced to Strange in the operating theatre and in all honesty he wasn’t as arrogant as other characters tried to highlight, and then in what felt like minutes later he is involved in a fatal car accident changing his destiny forever. It didn’t have the impact it should have had because it just felt like a sequence of events; then after an outburst of not getting his way he logically heads to the mountains in Nepal only to mock the concept of healing and spirit when he arrives. I won’t go on as I don’t want to spoil the film but in short, it felt very underwhelming for what it should have been.

Marvel do have their own “comedic” style which people seem to enjoy yet in this setting it felt out of place. This is a man who has had everything wrenched from him and is at the lowest point in his life so when he arrives Kamar-Taj you’d think he’d be a bit more desperate. At times it felt that the film sacrificed emotional and deep moments in favour of “comedic” efforts, preventing it having that emotional punch. However there is one scene between The Ancient One and Doctor Strange which was my favourite scene later on during the film which showcased what the whole film could have been.

There were some standout moments which were exciting: when Doctor Strange faces off against Kaecilus (Mads Mikkelsen) for the first time and when The Ancient One showed everyone up for example. The action and spectacle was present and great to look at which made the film enjoyable, yet as much as the visual effects were impressive please stop comparing it to Inception (2010) Doctor Strange is no Inception.

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It’s no secret that despite my love for the Marvel Cinematic Universe I have issues with the interweaving nature of it’s story lines and the film’s dependancy on each other. Yet Captain America: Civil War (2016) had impact in character development and narrative, so from that film to Doctor Strange was very much of a let down.

Overall whilst Doctor Strange had some flash and exciting moments with some good performances from its cast members; it didn’t delve deep enough in order for the audience to care for Doctor Strange and it felt very underwhelming in how it used some its characters and where it took the story.

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Top Ten Films (1-5)

This has been me for a while now; sitting down and seriously thinking about which films deserve the top spot on my list. These films that have made an impact on me; whether they have stayed with me for years or they completely blew me away there is a reason why these titles have made my top five. These films have depth and thought provoking themes that really fascinate me and I love how there’s always something new to uncover with each viewing.

I don’t believe it should be hard to have a number one film because for me the criteria for your number one should be the one that comes above all other films; it has to tick all the boxes for yourself and it’s a film that you can’t help but passionately defend.

I’ve given a brief description of why these films have made my list. Feel free to comment on whether you agree with some of my choices or some ones that are missing in your opinion.

5. Brooklyn (2015)

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Beautiful. Emotional. Captivating, Perfect. Some of the words to describe this sincere and deeply moving tale of identity. This is Saoirse Ronan’s film (she was nominated her second Oscar for her performance) and boy does she own it! What I love about this film is that you go on the journey with Eilis (Saoirse Ronan) and feel what she feels and experiences what she experiences; it’s a coming of age story and you see how the experience of Brooklyn changes her and how she is caught in a moment of how to move on without losing a sense of where you come from. I love personal stories with fleshed out leading characters that you feel you can go on a journey with them over the course of the film.

4. The Great Gatsby (2013)

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Baz Lurhamn adds his own unique stamp on a literary classic. On paper a hip-hop infused soundtrack matching a film set in the 1920’s jazz era doesn’t add up yet it somehow works perfectly and adds a sense of relevance to a story set almost 100 years ago. Having read the book I love this interesting adaption as it keeps the themes and emotions of the book intact. Lead by an incredible cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire, Carey Mulligan, Joel Edgerton, Elizabeth Debicki and more breathe life into the characters and help in making The Great Gatsby a blast. Yet what makes it even more powerful is it’s tragic nature that adds an emotional depth to the story. This film has everything and more.

The Great Gatsby was a financial success yet in fact received mixed reviews, so it was comforting to read this article where Fitzgerald’s granddaughter supported the film:

Fitzgerald’s granddaughter, writer and filmmaker Eleanor “Bobbie” Lanahan, loved it, too. The other night, Luhrmann said, it “took my breath away” when this “quite regal” woman “came up to me and she took my hand and said, “I’ve come all the way from Vermont and I wanted to see what you did to my grandfather’s book.” Her review? “I do feel Scott would have been proud,” she said, and later wrote to Luhrmann for clarity’s sake.  “It’s got tragedy and comedy and character.” Furthermore, she said, “The movie took little away from the book, but added to it. For me, it is the first time I truly felt sympathy for Gatsby on film.” But what Luhrmann found most touching was when she said, “I think you proved that first person narrative can, in fact, be translated to film.”1

3. Gone Girl (2014)

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I read the book first and thought: WOW. Then I watched the film and the thought: WOW. What I love about the narrative structure is how you are lead to believe it’s a typical missing person case drama but around halfway through escalates into a crazy ride and it’ll blow your mind. I’ve said too much already, but trust me when I say this film will hook you and keep you watching till the very end and then again, you’ll just sit there in silence going over what you’ve just seen. The hypnotic and haunting music from Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross perfectly accompanies the film creating a sense of mystery and an unsettling nature. Everything from David Fincher’s unique vision to Gillian Flynn’s creation to Rosumand Pike’s Oscar nominated performance is brilliant. A film that requires multiple viewings just to see how amazingly crazy it is.

2. Never Let Me Go (2010)

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This film is perfect. It’s tragically beautiful and carried by the incredible performances of Carey Mulligan, Keira Knightley and Andrew Garfield. Never Let Me Go is a stripped back sci-fi film full to the brim with raw emotion that will captivate you and have you sitting in silence after watching the film questioning everything about life. If it weren’t for Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003) this easily would be my number one film. It’s a film that after I first watched it I loved it and always remembered that haunting feeling it had but it wasn’t until I watched it again soon after it quickly grew into one of my favourites. Everyone needs to watch this film. “What I’m not sure about is if our lives have been so different from the lives of the people we save. We all complete. Maybe none of us really understand what we’ve lived through, or feel we’ve had enough time.” (Kathy played by Carey Mulligan) Wow. Let that sink in.

 
1. Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)

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This film perfectly showcases spectacle whilst at the same time rooting it in emotion and character depth. The whole trilogy is perfect and should be watched in one viewing, however if I were to select my favourite I would select the third film. The Return of the King is the result of everything that has been building up to this moment and that’s where the emotional punch lies. This has been my number one film since I can remember; it blew me away when I was younger and as I’ve grown up I’ve appreciated it a lot more and it still stands as an epic masterpiece. This is fantasy done correctly.

In this 3 hour epic Peter Jackson manages to fit in so much without it ever feeling overbearing; he manages to give each character their own arc without feeling characters are sidelined. I love how as well as Frodo’s own journey we see Aragorn finally accept his fate and Éowyn completely owning it and not giving into fear. I have to justify the multiple endings of this films because for me it’s closure after the colossal events of the trilogy and allows the audience to breathe and truly see the effects of what has gone before.

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King is pure fantasy (one of my favourite genres) allowing the audience to use their imagination and getting lost in the magical world of JRR Tolkein but it also has heart and is rooted in something deeper than just pure spectacle. This has always been my favourite film from as early on as I can remember and I don’t see that changing any time soon.

 

So now you have my full top ten list. There will be films that I absolutely love but sadly didn’t make the list, that doesn’t make me think any less of them however my top ten are all films that were different and refreshing. Please let me know what you think about the films that have made the cut and what your favourite films are as well.

 

  1. http://www.forbes.com/sites/maryclairekendall/2013/05/10/loving-gatsby-all-about-living-fitzgerald/#a470ae23cef3

Top Ten Films (6-10)

Ranking your favourite films may seem like an impossible task. Over recent years my definitive list of my favourite films has evolved into multiple lists of films; you have your favourite animated films, favourite genre films, films to watch when in need of cheering up, films to watch when you’re feeling pensive etc. in short it’s easy to compile many lists when it comes to films and that’s fair enough. So I set the challenge of listing my top ten films of all time.

It’s been a while since I’ve done a singular list of my favourite films and I’ve noticed there is more of a mixture than before and there aren’t as many blockbusters as people might expect and surprisingly no Disney films have made the cut. I noticed that there is only one “classic” film in the mix and I want to assure people I love films from all eras however upon compiling this list they just didn’t make the list. There are films that I love and could re-watch yet they are more personal favourite films that are so good but not “Top 10 List” worthy.

To make things interesting I’ve decided to list my top 10 in two parts: focusing on the lower half of the list first and then revealing the top 5 later on this week in another blog post.

10. Casablanca (1942)

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What’s not to love about this film: Iconic lines (“Here’s to looking at you kid”, “We’ll always have Paris” etc.) Imposing soundtrack led by “As Time Goes By” (which acts as a running motif throughout the film), exotic location, classic movie stars and more. I love how this film takes place mainly in one location (Rick’s Bar) and yet so much is unpacked between the characters. If you need to start watching more classic films then start with Casablanca. 

9. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008)

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I love everything about this film. Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett are mesmerising in their performances as Benjamin and Daisy and the cinematography is beautiful. The incredible thing about this film is how the audience goes on the journey with Benjamin (Brad Pitt) and what an odyssey of life it is. David Fincher manages to allow the audience to feel like you’ve just experienced a lifetime in the space of a few hours by the end of the film. It’s a thought provoking film covering themes such as mortality, identity and making sure we take a hold of life and the experiences it has to offer. It is a lush film and is full of emotion, fleshed out characters and the film really engages the audience.

8. The Artist (2011)

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A story told without any words. It’s a testament to great storytelling that no words are  uttered yet so much was said in the performance of the incredible cast, accompanying music and the interesting look on the rise of “talkies” and the demise of silent films. It’s an ode to the Hollywood of old saying that these types of films are gone but never forgotten. It was such a refreshing film to watch in this day; that’s why it’s on my list because it wasn’t afraid to be different. The Artist was a phenomenal success; making it the first French film to win an Academy Award for Best Picture in 2012 and grossing over $133 million world wide (against a $15 million budget).

7. Like Crazy (2011)

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Raw. Authentic. Natural. Organic. Emotional. Effortless. These are the words in how I would describe Like Crazy. It’s a refreshing watch to see everything stripped back and to see the film just be. Lead by the Oscar nominated Felicity Jones and the late Anton Yelchin, these two have perfect chemistry and carry the film with ease. Something to add to their amazing performances is that most of the film was improvised as they only had a 50 page outline of the film rather than a traditional screenplay; this explains how the film feels so natural in its delivery. It’s beautiful, tragic and honest.

 

6. Inception (2010)

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Christopher Nolan is easily one of my favourite directors and if I could fit all of his films in this list I would; yet I think Inception is his best film and here’s why. Nolan has a slick and sophisticated look to his films and I love how bold and ambitious Inception is; led by a stellar cast and thankfully it treats the audience with respect without having to dumb anything down. Inception also has one of my favourite soundtracks of all time, Hanz Zimmer creates an imposing and extravagant sound to compliment the grand nature of the film whilst being able to tap into the more subtle moments of the film. Extra points for the fact this film is an original story; this is how a blockbuster should be done.

In order to find out which films made it into the top five of my top ten list just wait until my next blog post. Feel free to comment on whether you agree or disagree with my list so far and even try and guess which films will be my top choices.

The Girl on the Train (2016) Film Review

I’m always cautious when reviewing a film adaptation of a book because I understand they are two different platforms to tell a story. You have to understand that some changes are necessary in order to make it work for the film, yet it needs to keep the same spirit as the book and when it strips that away then there is a problem.

I heard about New York bestseller The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins was being adapted into a film and was billed as “the next Gone Girl” (Gone Girl it is not) a while ago yet it was only until recently that I finally read the book. There was a lot of hype surrounding the film and the fact it had done so well would cause you to think that they were actually good….you’d think.

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The Girl on the Train focuses on Rachel Watson (Emily Blunt) who commutes to New York every day and becomes fixated with the “perfect couple”. After the disappearance of Megan Hipwell it makes pointing the finger at Rachel Watson easier since she is an alcoholic who was there on the night Megan went missing and can’t remember what happened.

As mentioned earlier I try not to compare the book and film but it’s hard not to do so when one is a lot better than the other. The book isn’t perfect, yet in comparison it has a great pace to it allowing the tension to organically form and it really engrosses the reader to form their own opinions of the events that are unfolding. It’s in diary format and is from the perspective of its three female characters (with leading character Rachel Watson portrayed on screen by Emily Blunt) and in the book it’s really clever how Paula Hawkins manages to weave all timelines together to form a coherent narrative.

If I had to review it objectively then even in that case it would have felt very underwhelming and very immediate in the events that happen in the film. We’re first introduced to Rachel Watson (Emily Blunt) and then all of a sudden we’re introduced to Megan Hipwell (Haley Bennett) without feeling like Rachel has been properly established and THEN we’re introduced to Anna Watson (Rebecca Ferguson). That fast paced “making sure we got all the information in” approach continues until you get to the ending and feel like “how did we end up here?”. The whole point of a mystery thriller is to actually have mystery and have some thrills in the twists and turns; yet in the film we are literally given all the information straight away and it’s not thrilling at all because the information was delivered in a factual manner.

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One positive from the film is Emily Blunt’s performance; a committed performance of a woman who feels like she has lost everything, mourning the past which has escaped from her and is desperate for any form of connection with anyone. However for the other characters they are completely underdeveloped and thinly written, even in the book they were more fleshed out and even in that case they could have been developed more.

There were elements that felt very basic and brushed aside very quickly that in the book were key elements yet in the film it was stated then moved on very quickly. It’s hard to give a spoiler free review as I could go in depth in giving examples of how the film failed to create any sense of mystery. With that in mind that would be my review of the film: Very immediate in its execution and completely underdeveloped in every sense.

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I can’t help but look at Gone Girl (2014) as a prime example of how to do an adaption correctly; the author (who was also the screenwriter) Gillian Flynn was wise in what to keep in and flesh out and what to cut out to give other elements of the book more time on screen to create suspense. Now don’t worry I won’t compare Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train because the former is a stronger film and book than the latter.

I’m not going to tell you to just read the book and not bother with the film (even though I want to) because if you’re like me you’ll still want to form your own opinion and watch the film to see for yourself. So just be warned that the book delves deeper into what the film failed to do. Ultimately that is the failure of director Tate Taylor (The Help) because the film actually had potential to be a quality mystery thriller.

(Star rating: 2/5 stars)

Collision Film Is Getting A Reboot

Hello everyone! It’s been a while but I’ve decided to reboot my blog and continue on with my musings and ramblings about film. Collision Film is an outlet for me to share my views on various topics regarding film; not just regarding recent or upcoming releases but exploring vast topics one can discuss when talking about films. To restart this blog I wanted to share with you my viewing habits and how I approach watching a film.

Film is a subjective medium. That’s the beauty of it; everyone can watch one film and yet have varied responses. I love how film can create discussions and engage people in conversations. The amazing thing about film is that even within itself there is such variety in genres and stories that are being told (I know it feels like we live in a world of sequels and reboots but look closer and there is diversity if you notice it).

People often ask that given the fact I closely analyse films in my head whether that hinders my experience of enjoying a film. My response would be it’s quite the opposite; it enhances my experience and allows me to really engage with the film. I’m that person at the cinema who will gasp or jump during a tense and exciting scene or that will shout at the screen when I’m frustrated with events unfolding in the film. Equally if it’s a really deep film that requires my full attention I’m very quiet and allow myself to get lost in the moment.

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(Shia LeBeouf is movie watching goals)

Following on from my previous point, each film requires us to wear different “hats”. By that I mean if I’m watching brainless action fun like Transformers (2007) or San Andreas (2015) I don’t sit there with my notepad and analyse the narrative structure; I take off my film critic hat and enjoy the ride. Yet if I’m watching films like Never Let Me Go (2010) or Brooklyn (2015) which explore deep themes of belonging, mortality, identity etc. then I definitely analyse those films in my head because to me they are art. On the other hand even though I have my frustrations with the amount of sequels and reboots of recent times, I still give them the benefit of the doubt and pray it was worth making. I’ve written previously about my love/hate relationship with the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) and even though DC Films haven’t quite matched the success of the MCU I still give them a chance to impress me. So in short I approach each film differently and you have to in order to keep an open mind regarding film.

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(Carey Mulligan in Never Let Me Go – 2010)

Expanding the point raised before about how I often closely analyse films, I need a few moments after I’ve watched the film to digest what I’ve watched and then I can give a basic review. However I need more time to let it sink in and then I can give a fully formed review. If you know me then you’ll know not to ask me as soon as the credits roll if I enjoyed the film or not; my answer will be to let me think about it for a minute. What I find helpful is sitting through most of the credits to just have a moment to think. Sometimes in the moment you can either love it or hate it and then moments later upon reflection reconsider your initial opinion, or you could be undecided and give yourself time to come to a decision of how you enjoyed the film.

One reason I would say my film taste is varied is because I love experiencing different stories and it’s a chance to explore different walks of life. If I only loved one genre then that wouldn’t help me broaden my horizons in my film taste, in order to have an open mind you need to have a vast scope of what you watch. That way you can have multiple discussions because you haven’t restricted yourself to one type of film.

Thank you for listening to me ramble on about how I approach film. By all means read what the critics are saying to get a good sense of how a film is being received, but you’ll only know for yourself if you watch the film and form your own opinion.

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(Singin’ in the Rain – 1952)