10 Oscar Takeaways

Well, it was an interesting Oscars to say the least. And while most people will be talking about the mix-up with the Best Picture award and the endless jabs at the Trump administration there were actually some pretty intriguing takeaway from the 89th Academy Awards. So here are 10 takeaways that we have learned from this year’s Oscars.

  • Moonlight Deserves the Respect It Got – Yes the mix-up drove social media crazy. Did they do it on purpose? How does a mistake like that happen? How upset must the “La La Land” people be? But at the end of the day, the best movie from last year was rightly recognized in “Moonlight,” which just so happens to be the first film with an all African American cast to win Best Picture. It’s a landmark piece of cinema in many ways, and by winning this award the gates are open for a new wave of cinema to alter the landscape of movies moving forward.
  • Viola Davis is the Queen – When she didn’t win an Oscar for her work in “The Help” it was heartbreaking to say the least. Her and Octavia Spencer shined next to each other in that film, and while Meryl Streep was immaculate in “The Iron Lady” part of me always wanted Viola to win. This time around she finally got her golden statue, gave an amazing speech, and is on her way to being cemented as not only the greatest African American actress ever, but one of the best actresses that Hollywood has ever seen. She is a blessing to us all.
  • Best Foreign Language Film Was a Political Choice – While “The Salesman” is a very good movie, and Iran has been creating many great films recently, “Toni Erdmann” was my favorite nominated film. But once “The Salesman” director announced he would not be attending the Oscars due to the travel ban from Trump’s administration, the race was all but ended because how could the Academy pass up the opportunity for that acceptance speech to be delivered with such a political backdrop. The Oscars love a good political statement with their voting.
  • …But Sometimes They Are Able To Avoid Politics – When the award for Best Actor was given to Casey Affleck, a part of me was surprised. He was easily the best acting performance last year, but after recent allegations of sexual assault from years ago resurfaced during the awards circuit, I thought his chances would have gone down the drain with the Oscars not wanting to support someone with that case hanging over his head. Plus they had a very viable back up in Denzel Washington that would help erase their “Oscar’s So White” label. Instead they chose to ignore all the noise and actually picked the actor that did the best job. They still have the potential to surprise us when we think we know exactly what they’re going to do.
  • They Should Have Used All 10 Spots for Best Picture – The Academy can nominate up to 10 films for Best Picture, but since changing to this format, they never have. For what reason? If you can nominate 10, and you have 10 good enough films like you did this year, they why don’t they just do it. It seems like the logical thing to do.
  • Hacksaw Ridge Was Over Awarded – “La La Land” only walked away with 6 Oscars for their 14 nominations, which will surely leave many fans of the film upset. Some awards that people thought the film was a guarantee in, like sound mixing and film editing, went to “Hacksaw Ridge”. I was surprised to see “Hacksaw Ridge” receive so many nominations, and the fact that it was able to steal two Oscars from “La La Land” was lunacy to me. It was a decent film that deserved to be in conversations, sure, but it had no business winning. If you want to be mad “La La Land” fans, be mad at “Hacksaw Ridge” not “Moonlight.” t, it was still in serious discussion for screenplay nsidered for nominations or be a true favorite for awards. ll get critical
  • There Were Still Best Picture Nomination Snubs – “Lion,” “Hidden Figures” and “Hacksaw Ridge” were all lucky to be nominated for Best Picture. Films like “Eye in the Sky,” “American Honey,” and “Silence” were all better options for the Best Picture shortlist, but just weren’t as popular with audiences. The Academy still has an issue with favoritism to box office success films that also get critical acclaim, even when those films pale in comparison to other possible entries.
  • You Can Be Released In The Spring and Still Be Nominated – With “Boyhood,” “Mad Max,” and “Hell or High Water” all being nominated in subsequent years, the Academy are slowly erasing the stereotype that you need to be released during “Oscar Season” (anytime from end of September to December) to be considered for nominations or be a true favorite for awards. “Boyhood” and “Mad Max” both took home awards, and while “Hell or High Water” didn’t, it was still in serious discussion for screenplay and acting awards. Hopefully this will allow more movies to be shown throughout the entire year so we don’t have a four-month dry spell each summer season.
  • Best Actress Category Is On The Rise – This year was one of the best years we’ve ever had for the Best Actress category because an argument could be made for each nominee, whereas in other years, there’s a struggle to even find five nominees. Hopefully this positive trend continues for year’s to come.
  • You Don’t Need Be Good To Win An Oscar – There was a time last night when “Suicide Squad” (yes, Suicide Squad) had more Oscars than “La La Land.” Granted that quickly changed, but the fact that an atrocity that is “Suicide Squad” gets to prance around and say they won as Oscar pains me to my core. It was by far the worst movie of last year; it may have been one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen in my entire life. I’ve never been so angry with myself than when I was wasting my life away watching a movie that could have been scripted by a five-year-old with some colored pencils. Who knows, maybe that’s what actually happened. So all of you people who want to win an Oscar but don’t have any talent at producing a quality piece of cinema, there’s still hope yet! And this new Transformers film will probably receive some special effects nomination come next year. Oh, happy day…

So there you have it. Another year of cinema in the books and now we can begin looking forward to a summer of unrelenting blockbuster trash in the coming months. Congratulations to all the nominees and winners, especially “Moonlight.” It turns out that 2016 wasn’t the worst year of movies we’ve had, so let’s hope that 2017 can continue to improve with even more great works.

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Moonlight Review

A few days ago I did an official review for “La La Land” since it’s the favorite to win the Oscar for Best Picture, along with a plethora of other awards, today. I think there are many positives to say about “La La Land,” but it won’t go down as one of my all time favorites from last year. I understand why it is getting the Oscar attention, but I think there were a handful of other better films this past year. Most namely, the Barry Jenkins emotional drama “Moonlight.”

If “Moonlight” slipped under your radar last year then shame on you because it is by far the best film that was released in 2016. It revolves around the life of a young African-American man in Miami growing up surrounded by poverty, violence, and drug addiction.   Add on top that he has to deal with being homosexual in this environment and you have a truly gripping character-study drama about a topic that hasn’t been addressed in detail before. Over the course of three decades, and three different actors, we see Chiron (or “Little”/“Black” as he is referred to throughout the film) deal with drug addition, the destruction of his family, and coming to terms with his sexuality.

This film resonates on an emotional level that “La La Land” could never achieve, or any other film this year quite frankly except for maybe “Manchester by the Sea.” Unlike “La La Land,” “Moonlight” is subtle, slow moving, and meticulous in all the right ways. The attention to detail in this film shouldn’t go unappreciated. It’s this attention to detail and care with crafting Chiron as a character that allows the emotional resonance last weeks after seeing the movie.

“Moonliight” isn’t emotionally impactful in the way that “Room” was last year. “Room” was immediate in it’s emotional power as you felt it while watching the events unfold. “Moonlight” on the other hand, continues to grow and grow with you after the movie has finished, which is a much harder task to accomplish.

The film is beautifully shot, with wonderful storytelling and some fantastic actors across the board. Mahershala Ali should win an Oscar for his supporting role and Naomi Harris did a painfully good job at portraying Chiron’s drug addicted mother. Sadly, there’s no way she can compete with Viola Davis in “Fences.”

In my article about “La La Land” I talked about how it did a good job of restoring the old magic of Hollywood to modern cinema, but “Moonlight” creates a new sense of magic. The magic that, not dissimilar from “Fruitvale Station,” creates a world unknown to most audiences and carefully crafts characters that audiences can’t help but care for. Even after Chiron becomes a drug dealer, you still want the best for him and have an unconditional desire for him to find true happiness within himself, which is more than we can say for our own self-valuations sometimes.

“Moonlight” isn’t preachy, it isn’t overly self-confident, and it isn’t focused on being showy (all pitfalls that “La La Land” succumbs to in one way or another) yet still manages to be a near masterpiece. I will adore this film for years to come and even though it probably won’t win “Best Picture,” it is undoubtedly the best film from last year.

Moonlight (2016): 4/4 stars

La La Land Review

La La Land Review

“La La Land” is the movie that Damien Chazelle has wanted to make for a while. Unfortunately, you can’t be a new director in Hollywood and get given loads of money to make an extravagant musical without proving yourself. His solution? Make one of the best films of 2014 in “Whiplash,” a film that would go on to win awards at the Sundance Film Festival and receive a plethora of Oscar nominations.

With such high praise underneath his belt, he was given free-lance to go big and strive high with “La La Land.” And he did just that. “La La Land” pays homage to the magical Hollywood musicals of years gone by, but with more style and an increased sense of extravagant atmosphere.   The production design is beautiful and well crafted with the assured directorial hand of Chazelle.

While I had some premonitions about Emma Stone being cast as one of the main roles, she continues to build on the talent she displayed in “Birdman” and gives a very strong performance filled with diverse subtle emotions. And her singing voice is better than what I expected. While I don’t agree that she was the best female acting performance of the year, she will probably will the Oscar and I won’t have a lot of issues with it.

I’m not normally a big fan of musicals, but when I initially saw this film, I rather enjoyed it and thought it was a well-made film even if it wasn’t my favorite from that year. After seeing it a second and third time, though, I’ve developed more issues with the film.

Firstly, I think Ryan Gosling was the completely wrong actor to cast in this role. I have nothing against Gosling as an actor and enjoy his performances in films like “Drive,” “Blue Valentine” and “The Place Beyond the Pines.” While he isn’t appalling in this film, he does nothing to help the movie and there are a plethora of other actors that would have given better performances. I think it’s laughable that he was nominated for Best Actor at the Oscars this year.

The second major problem I have with the movie is the script. The screenplay really isn’t anything special and some of the dialogue is obnoxious at times. Also the story doesn’t have a direction or sense of purpose until the final twenty minutes of the film, but that is too late for a feature length film to have a sense of significant purpose. It seems that they focused too much on the production than the actual writing, which is the opposite of how Chazelle was in “Whiplash.”

All in all I think “La La Land” is a beautiful film to look at and is really well directed. It does a good job of respecting the musicals of the last century and will appease musical fans everywhere. It manages to bring back a sense of magic that is lost in modern Hollywood films and I will always respect that. It will win many Oscars because it is Hollywood’s love child and the Academy will try their best to give it as many awards as possible.

But I personally don’t love the film. I think it’s good but I won’t rave about it and think “Arrival,” “Hell or High Water,” “Manchester by the Sea,” and most importantly, “Moonlight” are much better films. Definitely worth the watch if you are a film fan or like musicals, but I will be disappointed when it inevitably wins the Oscar for Best Picture this year.
La La Land (2016): 3/4 stars

2017 Oscar Predictions

The Oscars are this upcoming Sunday, and some of the categories will be closely contested while some are apparent landslides.  How many will awards will “La La Land” win and will “Moonlight” get any serious recognition? For this article, I go through some of the major categories and make predictions for who will win and who should win in.  I’ve given explanation for the big five categories, but just gave simple predictions for the lesser categories that the casual audience may not pay as much attention to.

Best Picture:

Nominations: Arrival; Fences; Hacksaw Ridge; Hell or High Water; Hidden Figures; La La Land; Lion; Manchester by the Sea; Moonlight

Who Will Win: La La Land

Who Should Win: Moonlight

For the most part, I agree with the nominations for this category. I think “Hidden Figures” and “Lion” were lucky to sneak in here ahead of films such as “Loving” and “American Honey” and “I, Daniel Blake.” At this point, I would be very surprised if the Academy gave the award to a film that wasn’t “La La Land” or “Moonlight,” with “La La Land” being the favorite because it’s the type of film that the Oscars love to award. It pays homage to great musicals of past and is wonderfully directed, but it’s not a better film than “Moonlight” so I think there’s still a chance that “Moonlight” might rightfully snatch the win.

Best Director:

Nominations: Arrival; Hacksaw Ridge; La La Land; Manchester by the Sea; Moonlight

Who Will Win: La La Land

Who Should Win: La La Land

While I think “Moonlight” is a superior film to “La La Land,” it is impossible to deny the great job that Damien Chazelle did with “La La Land” and he should be rightfully recognized for his great direction. Again, there is a slight chance that Barry Jenkins of “Moonlight” might slip in with the win but I don’t foresee that happening. I don’t understand Mel Gibson being nominated here for “Hacksaw Ridge.” It’s a good movie but Denzel Washington would have been a better nomination for his work with directing “Fences.”

Best Actor:

Nominations: Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea; Andrew Garfield, Hacksaw Ridge; Ryan Gosling, La La Land; Viggo Mortensen, Captain Fantastic; Denzel Washington, Fences

Who Will Win: Denzel Washington, Fences

Who Should Win: Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea

It’s a complete joke that Ryan Gosling is in this list of nominees quite frankly. His performance was the most significant fault in “La La Land” and almost ruined the movie for me. I will be beyond angry if he somehow wins. But this is actually an interesting race. Casey Affleck is the clear winner to me, but Washington picked up the SAG award and 18 of the last 22 SAG winners have gone on to win the Oscar.

Best Actress:

Nominations: Isabelle Huppert, Elle; Ruth Negga, Loving; Natalie Portman, Jackie; Emma Stone, La La Land; Meryl Streep, Florence Foster Jenkins

Who Will Win: Emma Stone, La La Land

Who Should Win: Natalie Portman, Jackie

I would like to preface this by saying this is one of the best collections of actresses we’ve had in this category for some time so I would like to commend everyone on this list. The academy is going to give as much as they can to “La La Land” this year and I won’t be entirely disappointed if Emma Stone wins. I think she did a much better job than I anticipated of her and think she is a deserving winner. But Natalie Portman should be the winning her second Oscar this year for her amazing work in “Jackie.” The movie would have been very lackluster without her, similar to Meryl Streep in “The Iron Lady” and I would love to see her pick up her second Oscar win after winning for “Black Swan” in 2010.

Best Supporting Actor:

Nominations: Mahershala Ali, Moonlight; Jeff Bridges, Hell or High Water; Lucas Hedges, Manchester by the Sea; Dev Patel, Lion; Michael Shannon, Nocturnal Animals

Who Will Win: Mahershala Ali, Moonlight

Who Should Win: Mahershala Ali, Moonlight

Ali was amazing in “Moonlight” and had un-matched charisma on screen that helped get the movie flowing in the opening third. While I loved Jeff Bridges’s character in “Hell or High Water” I don’t foresee him winning. The only role that could challenge Ali would be Dev Patel from “Lion,” but I think that the Academy will want to make up for snubbing “Moonlight” of Best Picture by giving Ali a golden statue.

Best Supporting Actress:

Nominations: Viola Davis, Fences; Naomie Harris, Moonlight; Nicole Kidman, Lion; Octavia Spencer, Hidden Figures; Michelle Williams, Manchester by the Sea

Who Will Win: Viola Davis, Fences

Who Should Win: Viola Davis, Fences

Viola Davis is an acting tour de force and will win this category with ease. She remains one of my favorite actresses in Hollywood right now and she rightfully deserves to win this category by a landslide.

Best Cinematography:

Nominations: Arrival, La La Land, Lion, Moonlight, Silence

Who Will Win: La La Land

Who Should Win: Arrival

Best Animated Feature:

Nominatons: Kubo and the Two Strings, Moana, My Life as a Zucchini, The Red Turtle, Zootopia

Who Will Win: Zootopia

Who Should Win: Kubo and the Two Strings

Best Costume Design:

Nominations: Allied, Fantastic Beats and Where to Find Them, Florence Foster Jenkins, Jackie, La La Land

Who Will Win: La La Land

Who Should Win: La La Land

Best Documentary (Feature):

Nominations: Fire at Sea; I Am Not Your Negro; Life, Animated; O.J.: Made in America; 13th

Who Will Win: O.J.: Made in America

Who Should Win: 13th

Achievement in Visual Effects:

Nominations: Deepwater Horizon, Doctor Strange, The Jungle Book, Kubo and the Two Strings, Rogue One

Who Will Win: The Jungle Book

Who Should Win: The Jungle Book

Best Writing (Adapted Screenplay)

Nominations: Arrival; Fences; Hidden Figures; Lion; Moonlight

Who Will Win: Fences

Who Should Win: Moonlight

Best Writing (Original Screenplay)

Nominations: Hell or High Water; La La Land; The Lobster; Manchester by the Sea; 20th Century Women

Who Will Win: La La Land

Who Should Win: La La Land

“Don’t Breathe” Review

There’s been a resurgence of quality horror/thriller films in recent years, despite the general quality of the film industry appearing to fade. Films like “The Witch,” “It Follows,” “A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night” and “The Babadook” have all taken tradition horror themes and adapted with innovative storytelling, subsequently creating an atmosphere of modern horror that we haven’t seen much before.

Now that’s not to say that there aren’t still bad horror films out there, because there are many rotten eggs still floating around. The recent film “Rings” was so underwhelming I don’t even want to write a review for it (consider this my warning to stay away from it). I don’t normally love horror films as a whole, but even I have to admit there has been some quality products in the past couple years that I recommend every give a chance. But the one area we haven’t really gotten a chance to explore in a while is the home invasion film.

Growing up the first real thriller film I watched was Shia LaBeouf’s “Disturbia,” a film about a young man on home arrest who thinks his neighbor is a murderer and breaks into his home to find out. It wasn’t the most amazing cinema of all time, but it was definitely above average and will always hold a special place in my heart, as I’m sure it does for other viewers around my age. But since then, the only major home invasion films we’ve had are “The Strangers” (which was average) and “You’re Next” (which was decent but had it’s faults).

With “Don’t Breath,” though, we finally get a home invasion film that stands up the quality of other recent American horror/thrillers. “Don’t Breathe” focuses around a group of three friends who decide to rob a man who lives on a quiet street, and go in with confidence based on the knowledge that the owner of the house is blind and aging.

After assuming they had used gas to make the unnamed “Blind Man” unconscious, the three aren’t as concerned with being quiet, but carelessly wake the Blind Man up. After tragic events occur, we realize just how dangerous and crazy this Blind Man is, and the hunt begins.

This film adds interesting elements to the home invasion genre with its heightened sense of suspense. Having a character that can hear you but cannot see you adds drawn out suspense to shots you wouldn’t be able to have under certain circumstances. In other home invasion films, the main character spends their time hiding, but in this film, the characters often share the same room as the Blind Man and the question of whether or not they will be noticed is dragged out in heart-pulsing fashion.

At the core it’s a very innovative storyline, but I was concerned that it would develop into a repetitive routine of try to escape, get found, tension, survive (or not), repeat but this film’s story has a surprisingly level of depth. Twists you don’t expect and added complications give this film a far more satisfying story arc that easily holds the audience engaged for entire run time. Plus there’s actually some life written in these characters as well, which is more than can be said for many horror films.

It’s creative, engaging, and shot with the perfect amount of lingering shots to build up tension without making the movie feel as if it’s moving too slowly. Your heart is pumping the entire time and the story knows not to overstay it’s welcome. “Don’t Breathe” is a modern American horror classic and is able to compete with “It Follows,” “The Witch,” and “The Babadook” for the title of best horror film in recent years.

Don’t Breathe (2016): 3.5/4 stars

Hidden Meaning of Inception’s Ending

*Spoiler’s ahead*

Inception was one of the most popular films to come from 2010, which makes sense given the overwhelmingly popular cast of Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ellen Paige, Tom Hardy and director Christopher Nolan fresh off his Batman trilogy success. The film’s fame is also helped with the unique and infamously complicated plotline involving entering the dreams of those they wish to steal from. Throw in the fact that Leo’s character, Dom, is banned from the United States because of a framed murder and you have a storyline that resonates with a variety of audiences.

But despite all these fame-inducing components, one of the standout moments from the film is the ambiguous film ending thrown in unexpectedly by Nolan. Throughout the film, characters use “totems” or various items that help them identify when they’re in a dream or not. Dom’s totem is a spinning top that never falls whenever he is a dream state. At the end of the film, the last shot lingers on the spinning top and as it seemingly begins to falter, the screen cuts to black and we never get to see whether or not it actually falls. This obviously drove audiences mad as they began to debate whether or not Dom was actually able to return to his children in the end of the film or if it was all actually a dream.

I was recently in a film class where we discussed this film as a whole, and the conversation naturally gravitated to this particular moment due to it’s controversial nature. The classroom was split with each person giving out his or her own opinions on if it was a dream at the end or not.

But for me, whether or not Dom is in a dream state at the end isn’t the point of the spinning top as the final shot. Nolan definitely wanted to put this ending in because he thought that it would cause controversy, something that he loves to include in his films over his career. But enticing this argument is not the primary job of this shot.

Throughout the film, Dom is plagued with the inability to realize when he is in a dream and when he is in the real world since he has been in so many different dream states and broken some unspoken rules about creation in dreams. There are scenes when he is drenched in cold sweats desperately reaching for his totem to remind himself of where he actually is. This paranoia haunts his character for the entirety of the film.

This last shot of the totem spinning is intended to display Dom’s closure within himself rather than let the audience know if what is happening is real. Immediately after spinning the top, he walks away from it and doesn’t bother to make sure it falls before moving on to see his children. This disregard for the outcome of the totem shows that Dom doesn’t care whether or not he is in a dream at that given time. All he cares about is that he is finally happy and at peace with himself and his life, whether it be in a dream or in reality. The paranoia that tormented him throughout the film has been dispelled and he can finally get along with his life and start to defy the demons of his past.

I don’t doubt that Nolan intended to create controversy, but this ensuing discussion amongst audience members only distracts from the real meaning by the ending of film. While it appears to have surface-level ambiguity, it actually delves much deeper than that.

Find Dory Review

For over two centuries now, Pixar Animation Studios has been the leading force in creative animated filmmaking by churning a multitude of captivating storylines and uniquely engaging characters. One of the best films to have come out of this production studio is undoubtedly “Finding Nemo,” a film that rose to critical and commercial acclaim due to its colorful animation and the diverse group of characters and clever puns that have become expected of Pixar over the years.

In the early 2010s though, after the release of “Toy Story 3,” it seemed that Pixar was starting to run out of ideas with the releases of more somewhat unwarranted sequels (Cars 2), prequels (Monster’s University) and less powerful film entries (Brave). In 2015 Pixar made a bounce back with their release of the masterpiece “Inside Out,” which is easily one of their best entries of all time, rivaling the likes of “Toy Story,” “Wall-e,” and “Up.” In 2016, they attempted to continue that form and build on the success of “Finding Nemo” with their latest release: “Finding Dory.”

“Finding Dory” was unfairly brought into the cinematic world at a time when it was set up for disappointment. Not only did it have to contend with being the sequel to “Finding Nemo” but it also had to follow “Inside Out,” so the expectations were higher than for your average Pixar release. I was nervous going into this film because of these high expectations and wasn’t sure how Pixar would handle them. Thankfully, they came through with another solid film.

I am a firm believer that it is nearly impossible to create a sequel that will surpass the original, so sequels need to be taken with that in mind (the only better sequels that initially come to mind are “Aliens,” “Terminator 2,” and “The Dark Knight”). This rule is important to acknowledge when watching this film because it definitely falls short of the bar set by its predecessor, but that shouldn’t take away from the overall quality of this wonderful adventure.

The characters aren’t quite as well written, the adventure isn’t as vast, and the dialogue could be improved in comparison to the original, but it still does better than most animated films in these departments. The story relies more on themes of self-belief, family inclusion, and the importance of home being with those who you love. These themes ring true in the first film, but are on display in a much more obvious and well-constructed manner in this sequel.

The plotline is still strong and engaging, invoking a similar level of emotional resonance as most Pixar films do, and the characters are still funny and unique in their own ways. Also, as always, the animation quality is top notch. Any person who is a fan of Pixar films won’t be disappointed by this entry into their ever-growing list of animated gems.

Is it as good as “Finding Nemo”? No. Is it still a good film worth seeing? Of course. It’s a quaint, pleasant film that’s great for passing the time and will still warm the hearts of many audiences.

Finding Dory (2016): 3/4 stars

“Doctor Strange” Review

We’re at a point in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, where most of the characters have been established and the production company of Marvel Studios is now in cruise control with tossing out new movies every summer while working on finding the best way to combine their seemingly infinite amount of characters into a variety of films in order to raise more ticket stubs. And props to Marvel because they are by far the best at getting people to show up again and again to see their movies because, for the most, they do a decent job of making superhero films.

Of all the superhero films I’ve seen (excluding “The Dark Knight”), I have liked Marvel films the most. The first “Iron Man” film engrossed me when it came out and I fell in love with Tony Stark as a sort of anti-hero that progressed into a semi-anti-hero by the end of the film. I enjoyed the visual wonder of Thor and think that the second Captain America film is one of few sequels that actually manages to surpass the original. But over the years, I’ve grown tired of superhero films.

Many superhero films follow the same exact plotlines, have similar stories, and lack a sort of originality to them that would you find in most other genres of cinema (most being the key word; I’m looking at you horror films). After the release of the first Avenger’s film, I haven’t enjoyed a Marvel film besides “Captain America: Civil War.” The other films I find to be mundane repeats of the same exact thing over and over again and lacking in any new sense of excitement, which is why I was very excited to check out this new Doctor Strange film.

Doctor Strange had a lot of potential to be different for me. Instead of being some person who was born with superpowers or lived in a different realm, he was a regular person who had his life turned upside by a car accident and was forced on this path of self-exploration to give meaning to his life (kind of sounds like Batman doesn’t it?).   While most of the Marvel films deal with the physical world, “Doctor Strange” prides itself on dealing with the unseen world to most humans, working in separate dimensions and involving people casting spells and whatnot. While it may sound kind of silly, I’m not against it because at least it’s something different.

And working with these differing dimensions and laws of physics leads way to some of the most wonderful visuals I’ve seen on a modern film. It takes notes from Inception in the way that it bends buildings as if in a dream like state, with characters adapting to changes in gravity faster than the eye can follow. There’s a multitude of beautiful colors and images that are glorious to look at and make the movie worth seeing all on its own. I can’t give the visuals enough praise.

Sadly though, that’s about where my praises for this film stop. While I love the idea of an anti-hero and think that the arrogant Dr. Strange does have that potential to him, he consistently felt like a poor man’s Tony Stark with his exotic house and fancy playboy lifestyle. Tony Stark is a far superior version of Stephen Strange.

Secondly, despite the film being innovative and mainly working in different dimensions, the film follows the same painfully dull and generic path that every recent Marvel film follows and that makes the film quite boring in places. You know exactly what will happen before it happens and that ruins all of the fun. Also it falls in the typical Marvel pitfall of wanting to be too preachy, specifically about the whole “the world doesn’t revolve around you and saving lives is important” theme. It’s hammered into the audience’s mind again and again by various characters to the point where I want to smash my head against a wall in a similarly repetitive fashion.

Finally, given all the potential for really cool fight scenes that are exemplified through the main arc of the film, the finale is supremely underwhelming. The villain is too one-dimensional of a character for us to have any interest in; we legitimately know nothing about him. Maybe if they had bothered to spend more money on a better screenwriter and less on the visuals we might have had a halfway decent villain and the film would have been more interesting as a result. The run time doesn’t reach over two hours, so there’s more than enough room to add extra dialogue or backstory for characters without risking the film being too long.

Now granted, I will give Marvel credit for also giving us good background knowledge about their main characters and developing evolutionary based arcs for their journeys, which is the primary fault of every DC film since the turn of the century that hasn’t been directed by Christopher Nolan. They do make origin stories at least somewhat interesting, but they are a slave to the box office and their own precious formula, which has become overworked and mundane by this point. While the visuals are masterful to say the least, the story proves to be just too boring at this point in time and Marvel needs to learn to break the rules and be more adventurous if they want to stay relevant in years to come.

Doctor Strange (2016): 2/4 stars