Friday, November 18, 2016

Doctor Strange - Review

Devastated by the inability to properly use his hands after a gruesome car accident, headstrong neurosurgeon Steven Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) finds a possible solution in Nepal, where a order of monks are tapping into mystical powers and preparing for a ruinous strike from a roguish former student. DOCTOR STRANGE should be celebrated as one of the more original visions of super heroics on film if not for the straight up fact that it follows the standard, now tiresome Marvel movie formula. Yet another origin story with an arrogantly smart and sarcastic white male who has a major setback, slowly become nicer and more powerful with outside guidance, has a flirty relationship with a white female in a throwaway subplot, and saves the world from a villain destined to die. It even offers up a scene where Strange mocks and compares a stoic guy's one word name to famous pop culture artists like Beyonce, thus leading to an obvious gag later on where the mocked one is merrily listening to a pop song amid ancient decorum. Though Marvel fatigue is sitting in my heart and I was further dismayed by the poor handling of hand-to-hand magic battles, the film is still an entertaining ride with a plethora of audacious flourishes not seen in the average blockbuster. The special effects are mindbogglingly fantastic, from the surreal mind trips to the dimensional rejiggering of gravity and mass to the finale where the importance of time is graphically fought over. I also heavily applauded the deviations director Scott Derrickson and his co-writers brought to the story, such as the creation of a mirror world in order to have big mystic exchanges without harming real people and buildings, the romantic angle not leading to a happy ending, and especially how the flexible maneuvers and hypocritical nature of the film's top heroes brings about harsh ramifications. The film ultimately tides you over thanks to its magical theatrics and the breadcrumbs of future films but it will forever remain as just another serviceably good entry in the pantheon of Marvel movies.


Sunday, November 6, 2016

Miss Hokusai - Review

O-ei Katsushika has to contend with the various misadventures she and her father, the legendary artist Hokusai, get into in order to make commissions and find some semblance of joy and inspiration amid the hubbub of 1800's Edo. MISS HOKUSAI is a breezy anime film that actively wants you to kick off your shoes and take in the carefree demeanor and camaraderie of ancient artists. It is told through a series of vignettes, constantly fading in and out from each one, which makes the sheer fact that this was adapted from a manga even more obvious. All of the short stories are well supervised by Keiichi Hara, whose extensive background as an anime television director is a double-edged sword to the film, and colorfully put together by anime powerhouse Production I.G, who gets to have a couple of moments to show off such as an impressively fluid tracking shot and a few surreal sequences done in different animated styles. The movie also clearly wants to shed some light on O-ei, showing her emotionally difficult relationship with her father, both in a personal and professional sense, while also bringing to light the unique artistry she herself envisioned and put to paper. The unconventional narrative structure and lack of urgency may be a bit odd to handle but there are some unfortunate creative choices that really hurt the picture. Several pieces of the musical score are supplied with electric guitars, which just doesn't work at all in the context of this period dramedy. More egregiously, however, is the ending, as it feels like it comes out of nowhere with no proper build, only to then have O-ei come back out and verbally explain what happened in her latter life, only to then give some historic insight through some ending credits, and then finally concluding with a harsh cut to modern times. To make matters worse, the current theatrical release was given a bad translation by a British company, as the English subtitles are riddled with typos, poor sentences, "u"s in words that don't have them, and substituting "sensei" with "maestro". Best to see it once it comes to video as by then you'll have a fine foreign film with better subtitling and proper time to chill out.