Doctor Strange (NOW PLAYING)

NOTES: This is a SPOILER-FREE review.  If you go see this film, wait to see the mid credits scene (which I caught), as well as the end credits scene (which I missed). 

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One of the first things I learned re: this film (via social media outlets) was re: the casting controversy of Tilda Swinton, which drew accusations of whitewashing, as the character is portrayed as a Tibetan man in the source material.  Director/writer Scott Derrickson wanted the Ancient One to be an Asian woman, but felt that it would be perceived as exploiting Asian fetish and “a fanboy’s dream girl.”  He decided to cast a non-Asian actor in the role, but to still take the opportunity to cast “an amazing actress in a male role.”  He thus wrote the role of the Ancient One especially for Swinton, feeling that she was the obvious choice for such a mystical and mysterious role. One proposed reason for the change is that a movie featuring a Tibetan character will not be acceptable in China (a very important foreign market). Hmmm… What do YOU think about this?

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I’m very excited about that spiritual dimension. It’s something that’s been a huge part of my life. I meditate a lot, that’s a huge tool in trying to calm myself, get away from the crazy circus of it all, have a focused mind as well as be a kinder, considerate person in the world.  Benedict Cumberbatch

The Batch was the MAIN draw for me (as well as  other non-comic book or regular Marvel fans)!  I was VERY interested when I found out he was cast.  It was cool to see Chiwetel Ejiofor (Mordo), as well as Benjamin Bratt (Jonathan Pangborn) from Law & Order.  Cumberbatch has an American accent for this role (which is quite good); his voice is deeper and his physicality is different (from what we’re used to seeing in previous roles).  He embarked on a strict training regimen by working w/ a personal trainer, drinking protein shakes and eating double his usual amount of calories.  Yes, there is a shirtless scene where we see the result.  On Jimmy Kimmell Live, Cumberbatch exclaimed: “I worked out for seven months!” 

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…the humour comes from the fact Strange thinks he can crack one liners but can’t.  It was meant to be awkward.  The audience I saw it with got that and were laughing away.  -IMDB reviewer

He tries to make a joke that almost intentionally falls flat, and the comedy is in the awkwardness (the non-reaction that he gets from people).  -Charlie, Emergency Awesome

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It has a very psychedelic grounding, and most of the work is about other dimensions. Ben Davis, cinematographer, re: Disney’s Fantasia (1940)- one of the visual influences for this film

In a time when special effects usually cover up for weak screenwriting, I think this is a film where the SFX are another character and actually help tell the story. -IMDB reviewer

Doctor Strange is “a solo origin story” (as Charlie, host of YouTube’s Emergency Awesome channel says in his review.)  I agree w/ him that there is “an underdeveloped villain” (Kaecilius, played by Mads Mikkelson), but “a great set-up.”  If you’re NOT a comic book fan, do go see it anyway, b/c ALL the actor’s performances are great!  Even though Rachel McAdams doesn’t have a BIG role, she does a good job here as Dr. Christine Palmer (who has a complicated relationship w/ Dr. Stephen Strange). As for Asian representation, that comes mainly in the form of British-Chinese actor Benedict Wong (recently seen in The Martian).  He is a librarian/warrior who is NOT amused by Strange’s jokes. 

The Escape Artist (2013) starring David Tennant

NOTES: This is a SPOILER-FREE review.  The original BBC version was shown in three parts (an hour each). The version shown in the US on PBS was edited to two parts (90 minutes each), which is the one I saw.

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You do not know how you will react to the law, until the law happens to YOU.

The premise is VERY interesting, yet as the tale goes on, it becomes less and less believable.  The tension created and acting are the main reasons to check it out.  You will find parallels to Cape Fear.  Game of Thrones fans will be pleased to see Anton Lesser (Maester Qyburn) and Kate Dickie (Lysa Arryn).

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David Tennant (who gets to use his own Scottish accent) is in the lead role of Will Burton, a  successful 38 y.o. barrister (lawyer who can go to trial) and devoted family man (w/ a wife, played by Ashley Jensen, and young son).  Tennant’s face is very expressive, esp. the eyes, and he makes the legal talk sound like second nature.  I esp. liked the interactions w/ the child actor who played his son.  Tennant and Jensen have great chemistry as marrieds, too. 

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Will has been voted as the #1 junior barrister under 40 in London; he is congratulated by clerks and fellow barristers at the (private) firm where he works.  In the #2 position is Maggie Gardner (Sophie Okonedo), a woman who respects Will but has a long-time professional rivalry with him.  Okonedo is an actress that should REALLY be more known; she has the ability to be whip smart, strong, and also vulnerable (like Tennant).  Maggie is a BIT surprised when Will decides to take on the case of suspected murderer, Liam Foyle (Toby Kebbell- most recently in the Ben-Hur reboot).

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We learn that Foyle asked his solicitor to request Will, who has never lost a case. As he tells his son’s class at career day, Will believes that “everyone deserves a defense.” However, the details of this particular killing turn his stomach and keep him up late at night.  Also, Foyle is NOT the most pleasant defendant (Kebbell makes a creepy villain), which may turn off the jury.  Check out Season 1, Episode 3 of Black Mirror (Netflix)to see Kebbell’s acting range.