Category Archives: Reviews

Mars Attacks! A 60 Second Review of Life (2017)

“I know it’s not scientific, but I feel pure f**king hatred for that thing.”

From Daniel Espinosa, the director that brought us the underwhelming Safe House (five years ago!), comes Life: a horror, thriller, almost non-fiction-science-fiction movie that really nails its tone, despite dipping into the trope bag a bit too often. It’s clearly Espinosa’s best work so far (Swedish aside), but is it enough to put bums on seats at the cinema?

What I liked…

This is without doubt one of the most suspenseful, thrilling sci-fi films I have seen in years. It really helps to have great actors, but credit must be given to the way the film drags you through breathlessly leaving you little time to think, let alone compare its premise to Alien.

The casting is easily one of the highlights. A delightful blend of Reynold’s quipping, Hiroyuki Sanada frowning and Ariyon Bakare just acting the shit out of every scene. It is hard to know who the main character was and who would snuff it next. I quite liked that, especially as this also harked back to Ridley’s Scott’s classic.

Although the story doesn’t reach far beyond its premise, this kept the film contained and claustrophobic. Like an Outer Limits episode with good actors, the world below is kept at arm’s length, which makes the twists and turns that do happen that much more impactful. You won’t see everything coming either, you’re lying if you do.

Visually stunning. All the space shots look great, the alien looked good considering its digital basis and the sound design is not overbearing when it could have been. I am not alone in being reminded of Alien, which I think is a compliment considering how many movies have tried to replicate its visceral suspense and failed.

What I disliked…

Much of the criticism aimed at Life is that it heavily relies on tropes. This of course can annoy some people more than others, with doubters calling it a ‘clone’, and fans suggesting ‘homage’ is a more suitable word. Me, I would rather the film was good than original. If it’s both, even better. But considering it plays with the idea of what we might discover literally in the next couple of years, it is worth slapping on to a recognisable set-up that at least gets the blood pumping.

There are a few lines lines of unnecessary dialogue that would have been better served as silence. In typical  b-movie fashion, it would rather not lose the audience than assume its intelligence, which is a shame because it dumbs down the film at some crucial moments.

Some repetitive storytelling, one or two plot holes and a rather strange mix of character motivations.

Shapstik Verdict: There is a genuine edge of your seat feel about this film and there were a few squeaky bums in the cinema. Yes, it copies direct formulas, but then so did Pacific Rim, and that was awesome. I don’t think you need to deliver anything new to create the experience of being thrilled. Some films simply stick with you after leaving the theatre, this one did with me. It’s both familiar yet unpredictable and imperfect yet likeable. 7/10

Return of the hack? A 60 second review of Split (2017)

“The broken are the more evolved.”

Oh my god is he back? Are we returning to the same M Night that shook the film world with his creepy film style, chilling tone, gripping storytelling and clever use of colour palettes? Has he got over his vanity projects and is now concentrating on telling a compelling story? Or is this another The Village or The Happening?

One thing is for sure, some will say yes, it is another overrated film by the biggest hack of the 21st century. But it seems most are saying not so and that The Visit indicated a restrained, steadier version of the director that first attracted so many fans and inspired many film makers.

Personally? I think he is most definitely back.

What I liked…

James McAvoy is superb as Kevin, or Dennis, or Hedwig, or whichever one of his personalities takes “the light”. M Night’s trademark of leaving the camera focused on the listener, instead of the speaker, works really well and showcases McAvoy’s talents.

Sticking with casting, Anya Taylor-Joy is very convincing as Casey Cooke, one of the young girls kidnapped by McAvoy. I liked her in The Witch in 2016 and her story is an integral part of the movie by the end and she looks at ease in front of the camera. To paraphrase Palpatine: We’ll watch her career with great interest.

It is not just M Night’s directing skills that are back on par here, it is also the storytelling. He leaves enough unsaid and by the end has developed some intriguing characters. Not least of McAvoy’s broken mind.

The ending. Some people will undoubtedly throw their toys out the pram on this one, but on reflection it has made me love the movie even more and makes me want to go back and watch it again soon. This is a spoiler free-review of course but if you are a fan of M Night’s earlier work then I suggest you book your tickets and then bury your head in the sand for the next few days.

What I disliked…

There are elements of this film that take some brave writing and a determination to create the character necessary for the film. If this is focused on, some scenes can seem an unnecessary inclusion. But I do feel that M Night has developed this film over considerable time and deliberately completed the full character spectrum for his antagonist. But then he didn’t intend The Happening to end up a cult comedy and look how that worked out.

In typical post-Signs M Night fashion, there is a somewhat gimmicky and slightly arrogant tone to some of the film making. But I think it is also one of those M Night movies that can be either lauded or criticised, purely depending on your perspective. His incessant use of certain colours at first appears unnecessary, but for me felt more synergistic by the end.

He himself stars in one scene. Not Lady in the Water level of vanity, but you would think he would have side-stepped the appearance just to avoid the criticism.

Shapstik Verdict: There are not many film makers that have had their career trajectory analysed as much as  M. Night Shyamalan. If not only because of the uniqueness, freshness and stand out talent that he brought into cinema when he first arrived. Split feels much more carefully created than some of his clumsier efforts, more well designed and well acted. Is it as good as his early work? Maybe not. But it has definitely rekindled this film fan’s love for the man. 7/10

 

A daring debut? A 60 second review of The Witch (2016)

“Did ye make some unholy bond with that goat?”

Finally got around to seeing this much lauded horror from debut director Roger Eggers. Winner at the Sundance Festival may not have the ring it used to, but to win this on your first try takes a certain skill in storytelling and directing. Not only has The Witch turned more than a few heads in Eggers’ direction, it has also offered the film industry a new angle on one of horror’s forgotten sub-genres.

What I liked…

No jump scares, no gore for gore’s sake, no gratuitous nudity. Instead we are treated to slow-building tension that builds itself around a well written and acted family. Led by Ineson, they have been nurtured by the sort of religious mania that would be made fun of now. Yet in The Witch, it feels chillingly realistic to the point where you aren’t sure where the family’s delusions end and their justified paranoia begins. You feel their confusion, their belief and eventually their fear.

The isolation that the family are subjected to continues to build through excellent lighting and patient camerawork. Slow burning campfire stories are hard to come by these days, especially done so well. Good horror won’t come to us anymore through mainstream cinema, which makes it all the more rewarding when you discover a great film like The Witch.

The fact it’s about witches. With vampires, werewolves and zombies all more than having their time in the sun, or out of it, it is so refreshing to have a film that explores the infamy surrounding witchcraft. Perhaps it is the history of witches and their links to real events that makes them a more sensitive topic outside of the 90s parodies and comedies we are used to. Are they supernatural or are they real? Are they labels given to women possessing foresight or display talents not yet understood during archaic times? Either way The Witch attempts to put its own stamp on a relatively untouched folklore origin and genre, with jarring results.

Every character has their role, even ones you don’t expect. The last act takes careful viewing and by then you are so invested in the characters that you can’t help but be taken aback when things play out in the end. The idea of sacrificing a family member for the sake of the rest of them is unthinkable today, but in this New England folktale things can never be taken for granted…

What I disliked…

It is an indie flick, which makes it no surprise that the film is very contained. This might not be to everyone’s taste, but but it is so satisfying to see films free of the hot breath of a fussy studio breathing down its neck. It is simple in its premise, yet able to tell more about the past, the supernatural and our own nature than some films fail to do in an entire trilogy.

Some people will feel quite removed from the archaic language that Eggers is determined to use to ensure the authenticity. Although strange at first, it is surprising how quickly you get used to all the “thees” and “thuses”.

As an ambiguous thriller with a twist, it might have a slightly shorter shelf life than some other horrors. But then Sixth Sense had that problem, but that hasn’t stopped it being hailed as arguably M Night’s best work. Plus I can’t imagine not needing to watch this again just to get a better grasp of what the hell they are saying.

Shapstik Verdict: A daring debut from young director Robert Eggers. I was talking about this for ages after the credits rolled and I don’t think I will be the only one. What you think you know, or where you think you are, shifts continuously throughout the film until you ultimately realise what has happened, but by then it’s too late. The Witch gets under your skin in a way that takes a real understanding on the genre and suggests big things for Egggers. 8/10

A Cold War? A 60 Second Review of Warcraft: The Beginning (2016)

“I’ve led thousands of warriors into battle, but I fear being a father.”

I’m one of the many reviewers to admit that I have not put a single digital foot into the world of Warcraft. Not that this should excuse the film if it washes over the heads of the uninitiated such as I, considering the amazing job Lord of the Rings did at immersing every viewer into the world of Middle Earth.

The plot seems to be that Orcs are from a world that is dying from an evil magic called ‘The Fel’, so an evil guy brings all the tribes of their world together to create ‘The Horde’. He then convinces them to invade the human world Azeroth, to make it their home. How? By building a portal of course. Believe me, this is just the basic premise, and it gets way too confusing way too quickly.

What I liked…

Tries to be funny, and at times almost is. It admirably  seeks the natural wit and humour of Marvel and the useful mid-battle levity of Lord of the Rings. But unfortunately it doesn’t have the cast and the direction necessary to pull it off, despite some early moments that lifted the corner of my mouth.

I liked Ben Foster as the hammy magician Medivh. He seems to be the only one willing to time his lines correctly, albeit his character is as paper thin as the others. Gul’dan was pretty evil as well, although CGI has to be close to perfection to deliver a true likeness in an Apes world.

Action scenes actually were not that bad. When it becomes the usual CGI mess in the bigger battles later on I did lose interest, but those early struggles had me at least looking up from my iPad a bit more.

What I disliked…

Seems to be a certain lack of focus that unhooks the viewer from the characters. This happens quite literally during battles, where I am sure the blue screen gave the director the idea that he no longer had to pay attention to what was going on in the background.

The sentimental character creation didn’t work for me. Although having an Orc that cared about family and proper ethics made a “we have a common enemy” situation that was necessary to mix the plot, it went way too far in places and ended up boring the viewer for the most part.

Whole movie quickly becomes a bit incoherent, mixed up and full of poor CGI. Although the screen writers have a lot to answer for by making it unbalanced and unfocused, I am really disappointed in Duncan Jones here. From a director that brought us the brilliant Source Code and Moon, you would expect better things. But he is still relatively new to the scene so maybe it’s a misstep only.

Shapstik Verdict: It would be very easy to insult the film and call it a childish version of other, better fantasy films. So I will. It is ridden with tired dialogue, poorly put together and lacks any tension due to bad pacing and over editing. That being said, I have seen worse films this year and there was more than one occasion when I was entertained. It has all the ingredients of a decent film, but fails where it matters the most. 4/10

Rebel without a Cause? A 60 Second Review of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016)

“The power that we are dealing with here is immeasurable.”

Here we go again people, it’s Star Wars time! The second film under Disney sees Godzilla’s Gareth Edwards take the helm as he tells the story of capturing the Death Star plans. I guess it’s one of the stories we wanted to hear… maybe? But really, who cares as long as Disney continue to hire the right directors, writers and actors that love the franchise and want to deliver their best for the fans.

I was among those that assumed the new film might have a slightly different tone from the saga films. Not least because of Edwards’ style, but more in an effort to place it slightly aside from the main story. I wasn’t wrong, but at the same time there is plenty of humour, adventure and universe-building taking place in Rogue One to ensure you get your fill of Star Wars pie. But is it any good?

What I liked…

Edwards handles the action like a boss. The CGI is fantastic and the set pieces are mindbogglingly good. He is clearly making the most of his mammoth $200m budget and adds a real deeper layer to realising the Star Wars universe. The ships sound, look and feel real, and in a cinematic universe forced to re-embrace practical effects, they often are. As a fan of EU novels, this felt like a really good one brought to life, filling in gaps in knowledge and fleshing out new vehicles and weapons.

It’s Surprisingly funny. K-2SO steals the show as the new droid in town, striking a balance between 3PO’s single mindedness and R2’s resourcefulness, whilst adding certain idiosyncrasies that make his comic delivery work a treat. Some of the attempts at levity don’t always land on both feet, but in a war-torn, moody film, it comes as a welcome relief.

The thing I liked the most about this film is its willingness to get its hands dirty when it mattered. This is a civil war and you can’t help but feel the desperate hope that many of the characters cling onto to give their cause purpose. This is taken perhaps slightly too far in places I will admit, but things feel real, dirty and dangerous in worlds under occupation. If you’re a fan of Nazi metaphors for the Empire then some of this will be right up your alley.

Darth Vader is in it for a bit, which is cool. It kind of works as well.

What I disliked…

Some strange decisions were clearly made in the final edits of this film. I understand that there were several re-shoots, which leaves the film slightly underdeveloped in places. Two of the main quotes “I rebel” and “what will you do if they find you?” I don’t think are even in the movie, which shows how many decisions were made post-filming.

Whether you agree with characters having a CGI makeover instead of being recast or not, they have way too much screen time to make it not distracting. Although the performances were good, the characters we are introduced to are really underwhelming. The Force Awakens had such strong characters and Abrams extracted such emotive performances from his actors that it makes Rogue One feel like nothing more than a great looking, enjoyable, but ultimately lacking action film. It’s sort of like the difference between Jurassic Park and Jurassic World.

First act in particular was a bit bumpy and slow. Really could have done with a stronger opening scene that threw the viewer down the Star Wars rabbit hole, leaving you breathless and hoping for more. Instead, we are introduced early on to some characters we know nothing about, delivering plot exposition and little more.

There is this weirdly pointless scene with a tentacle monster. It was like Rogue One was trying to have its own Rathtar.

Shapstik Verdict: Although Rogue One gives us some of the most visually stunning, funny and exciting action in any Star Wars film, I couldn’t help but feel slightly underwhelmed. This isn’t because I am a massive Star Wars fan because I felt the same way about Godzilla. This is more about a lack of characters, urgency and a distinct drop in the visceral, smooth storytelling that Force Awakens delivered. Don’t get me wrong, there are some amazing scenes here and I was grinning like a Cheshire cat when an AT-ST stomped its way around the corner to blast some rebel scum. I’ll be watching this again and again and will be queuing up to buy it on Blu-ray. But then I did the same with Attack of the Clones, and that’s a pile of Bantha Fodder. 7/10

Living Doll? A 60 second review of The Boy (2016)

“Be good to him and he will be good to you.”

I know what you’re thinking: not another scary-doll-horror movie. But things are not always what they seem in The Boy, and you might find your expectations make the eventual twists somewhat surprising. This might stop the movie from being completely unwatchable, but it is still far off the pace in what is currently a good time for horror.

From director William Brent Bell, comes the story of Greta, played by The Walking Dead’s Lauren Cohen, a young american woman who is invited to nanny Brahms, the child of two very creepy villagers in a remote part of the English countryside. The catch is, the child turns out to be a lifeless doll, or so it seems. Even though this would make most people twirl their finger around their ear and jump back across the pond, Greta apparently needs the money, so she takes the job and the movie rolls on…

What I liked…

There is something mysterious about the movie, especially in the first hour, that kept me interested. It is no doubt one of Director William Brent Bell’s better films, and Lauren Cohen holds her own in a mostly one-sided conversation with a doll. This is despite some really awkward dialogue and even more awkward flirting with Malcolm, the local gardener.

Where the film eventually ends up. What you expect to happen doesn’t always play out, and the film uses dream sequences to distract you from the reality of the situation, to deliver a hell of a twist.  I won’t give anything away, but I recommend seeing the film through to the end even if you are struggling past the hour mark.

What I disliked…

The characters are clumsily drawn out and their backstories often become a pointless distraction from an essentially decent idea for a movie. The stereotyped hick ex-boyfriend, the backward talking old couple playing the pronoun game with the uninitiated. It’s all rather predictable.

Full of jump scares, whose tired overuse never fails to clench the jaws of horror critics. It isn’t that they don’t really work, it’s just that they serve no purpose other than putting the button on a scene to make paranoid directors feel better.

The tepid camerawork fails to drive up the tension when it matters and Bell doesn’t seem wiling to let the horror do the talking for the characters. There are so many similar angles found in the scenes with the doll the viewer becomes quickly desensitised to the mystery involved.

Shapstik Verdict

No doubt a poor film with some rather slow paced and predictable scenes, cartoonish acting and poor character development. Despite that though, it has enough going on that makes it worth watching through till the end. There is also a certain duality to The Boy which will either infuriate or satisfy. Either way, it is still a missed opportunity in a movie that had the potential to become a horror-doll classic under the guide of better writers and directors. 4/10

A Caged Animal? A 60 second review of USS Indianapolis: Men of Courage (2016)

“Truman has chosen you and your crew to lead a highly classified mission.”

Remember Quint’s speech in Jaws about the American ship carrying the Hiroshima bomb that got hit, sank and stranded all the soldiers in open water to be attacked by sharks? Well this is that movie, and many people will be glad to hear it’s the enigmatic Nicholas Cage taking charge of the ill-fated USS Indianapolis.

Unfortunately this isn’t the balls-to-the-walls Cage we love from Face Off and Wickerman. Instead, this is the stoic Cage that struggles to carry a drama by himself, let alone one that hinges on paying fitting tribute the lives of so many men. But it isn’t just Cage’s fault this film is bad.

What I liked…

The story is a good one at its core, true stories often are. The paramount secrecy of the mission leading to an insufficient rescue response is a fascinating one, reflecting the need to put certain risks aside for the greater goal of ending the war.

Quite good lighting and some of the set designs are decent. There was something authentically “wartime” about some of it, albeit all a little “bright” at some points when it simply did not suit the situation.

The last act detailing America’s response to the event is an interesting tale all on its own. But you will be bored by that point.

What I disliked…

Effects are woefully bad. The underwater shots of torpedoes and sharks look so terrible. Unfortunately this completely ruins the film at key moments of action and suspense, which are really rare.

From Titanic to Deepwater Horizon, many movies have proven that just because you already know what’s coming doesn’t mean it can’t blow your mind when it happens. But in Men of Courage the director Van Peebles handles the explosion and sinking of the ship in such a lazy and amateurish way that it completely collapses the viewing experience.

The awful love triangle that the writer obviously felt was necessary came off like an even worse version of Pearl Harbour, if that’s possible. You don’t care about the characters in any way. So much so that when they are crying in each other’s arms it is unbearably hard to watch.

This may sound slightly sadistic, but I would have liked to feel the soldiers’ suffering some more. It just felt devoid of emotions despite the incessant wailing from Sizemore clinging on to what is left of his leg like a child with a blanket. I wanted to care, I really did, I just didn’t. Cage was pretty bad in this as well, really struggling.

Shapstik Verdict

It tries to be a war, romance and thriller movie all at once and succeeds at none of them. Director Mario Van Peebles has a lot to answer for here. I actually watched Quint’s speech from Jaws just after seeing the film, and it told a gripping, emotional and dramatic account of events, without the camera even leaving his face. This could have been a great movie in the right hands, which makes it even harder to bear.  It has one or two watchable moments. But even if you love Nicholas Cage and have a fetish for sharks, don’t watch this movie. 2/10

Lacking Willpower? A 60 second review of Independence Day: Resurgence (2016)

“They like to get the landmarks.”

I heard this was bad but…wow. Independence Day: Resurgence is truly an assault on not just our senses, but on the wonderful memories we hold over the first film and its brilliant blend of cheese and suspense. I don’t think Will Smith’s presence would have come close to saving this movie, but his absence seems to be sorely felt among the original’s fandom.

Set 20 years after the events of the first film, the human race has rallied together and, using a mix of leftover alien technology as well as our own, have created a world that reaches out and explores, as well as keeps one beady eye on the sky for any future invasions.

It seems the alien attack of 1996 has left us even more paranoid than usual, and only with the help of new faces and old (some of which have aged better than others), can we defend ourselves again from what is pretty much the same plot as the first film.

What I liked…

Always good to see Jeff Goldblum, although he is no doubt heavily phoning it in here. Liam Hemsworth also looks like he is enjoying himself. Brent Spiner is entertaining, but he has the unfortunate task of acting in some of the most atrociously-written scenes in the movie. The moment he wakes from a coma is the moment the film moved from poor to laughable for me.

The effects are good, no doubt. But considering the film has had twenty years to get this right, it’s still far off the mark and lacks any imagery that stays with you like the first film.

(Struggling here) There’s a giant ball-alien-thing that is quite interesting to look at.  Until it becomes another plot device that amounts to nothing.

What I disliked…

This might sound a bit of a “filmy” reason to hate on Independence Day: Resurgence, but I found the editing so overly aggressive and rushed. I could count the number of shots that last more than five seconds on one hand, it just kept chopping the film to pieces giving me no time to breathe. It would be OK if it was all needed, but I can think of a number of characters, let alone the scenes they were in, that could be completely removed and discarded (I’m looking at you, busload of children doing nothing whatsoever).

Pandering to Chinese audiences. This happened on several occasions, including product placement, mandarin lessons and a scene where a giant ship comes over Hong Kong and its own gravity, due to its size, tears up the streets and buildings. This “own gravity” thing was actually a good idea but the writers decided not to continue it throughout the rest of the movie and seconds later we see plenty of instances where nothing surrounding the ship is affected by its so called “gravity”. This is just one example of the film’s relentless inconsistency.

The movie is so overloaded with pointless dialogue among obsolete characters that it is a wonder that they didn’t put the brakes on this train before it became the proverbial wreck that it is. With so many characters the film quickly becomes a conveyor belt of spoken and visual plot exposition. Some of the cast, Will Smith’s “son” for one, deliver their lines with such a lack of direction it moves into the realm of “straight-to-video”.

They messed up Bill Pullman’s “speech”, if you consider that there even was one. Everything you loved about the first film is taken away and bastardised. In its place we are given a host of tired sci-fi cliches, repetitive tropes and pathetic attempts to recapture the magic of ID1. The cloak in Dr Strange has more personality than the entirety of this film, no exaggeration.

Shapstik Verdict

I have only touched on what is wrong with Resurgence. Its writing, editing, acting and direction are nothing short of appalling. In fact, I’m not quite sure how they managed to mess this up with such totality. Sometimes a movie can be saved despite its flaws, with a sense of fun, or at least with some good performances from a stalwart actor or two. But Resurgence is so bland and flat that it dulls your senses so you can’t even manage to laugh at its disgracefulness. You might find someone that will defend its visual accomplishments, but even the most rose-tinted of glasses has not stopped people universally disliking this film. I am starting to feel sorry for those that defended Suicide Squad, at least that had Will Smith. 2/10

Language Lessons? A 60 second review of Arrival (2016)

“Now that’s a proper introduction.”

Arrival is about as far removed from a cheesy sci-fi blockbuster as you can get. So if you watch the film expecting to be bowled over by action and lasers, I guarantee you will feel more than a little let down. That being said, if you go in with the most open mind possible, it will be filled with some of the most profound science-fiction writing and jaw-dropping visuals ever put to screen. There’s a reason it’s still holding strong well above 90% on Rotten Toms.

From the director that brought us Prisoners and Sicario, two of my favourite films in the last few years, Arrival is an alien invasion film that is less about defending our planet, and more about questioning how we would communicate with another species, if at all. Linguistics and physics both have a part to play as we battle our inherent divisiveness and unravel why the aliens are here, and more importantly, what exactly they want from us.

Not to give anything away, but Arrival also plays with our assumed concepts of cause and effect, as well as how our memories dictate our actions. Confused? Me too. I guess we are just going to have to science the shit out of this one…

What I liked…

The term “visionary director” gets bandied about way too often in the film community, but in Villeneuve’s case it feels more apt than usual. Although an extremely character-driven movie, there are some broader shots that leaves your jaw on the floor. This is especially the case when you first see the ship hovering above the ground, as the surrounding atmosphere and moisture gets pulled over the rolling hills, creating one of the most stunning science fiction shots I have ever seen. I can’t get enough of this guy.

The film completely hinges on Amy Adams playing Dr Louise Banks and she doesn’t disappoint. With the uncanny knack of being able to display multiple emotions at once, her story is the canvas on which Vilenueve paints the film, as she shows her vulnerability as well as her strength, reflecting on some level our own species. As with Prisoners, the characters in his films always seem so, well, human. This is key to the film’s success.

The reason I love science-fiction above all other genres is that on occasion, it tackles concepts that reach beyond our own planet and broaden our horizons. The almost mystical detachment written over the face of Dr Banks as she interacts with the aliens, reflects our own step back as viewers and critics alike attempt to get their head around exactly what Arrival is. I love ideas, even if I don’t understand them, and Arrival is full of narrative twists and turns that keep you thinking throughout.

What I disliked…

There are some slightly pointless characters, like Jeremy Reiner’s, but they do all help to build the character of Dr Banks, on which the film pivots.

Forest Whitaker is a legend, but his accent slips more than once in this movie.

The film is slow, but it really has little choice when you consider the linguistic and temporal barriers it attempts to break down for us.

It isn’t as engaging and as well paced as his other films, which some extra editing may have helped. That being said, there are some shots which I wouldn’t want to lose even a millisecond on.

Shapstik Verdict

The film goes beyond the merely cerebral and steps into a realm of galactic linguistics that will leave some, myself included, feeling a little drained and slightly jarred. But questioning not just our place in the universe, but our understanding of it, is a rare jewel in science-fiction and one that I think is worth treasuring, especially when the writers and directors are able to translate such an earth-shaking idea onto film so well. Add to that incredible cinematography, great performances and a courageous narrative, you have a film that will no doubt demand not just a rewatch, but a rethink as well. 8/10

Slightly Stranger Things? A 60 second review of Dr Strange (2016)

“Forget everything that you think you know.”

After gems like Guardians, Ant Man and Deadpool, we really shouldn’t be that surprised when Marvel Studios nail a new character on their first try. Dr Strange is no exception, although there is something extra special at work here that raises it above other mediocre entries. Dare I say it, perhaps even rivalling Winter Soldier and the original Iron Man? Maybe not…

What I liked…

Visually stunning. Likening it to Inception is only highlighting how rarely playing with physics works well, which is testament to the film’s breath-taking sequences. The backdrops and set design reminded me more of Crouching Tiger than Winter Soldier. The light design and use of CGI is some of the best put to film.

The writing is the biggest win for me. The way every line of dialogue and every moment of action has a purpose drives the film forward. The amount of character development they manage to create in just one movie makes Tony Stark look like a one-trip pony. It has the wit of an Iron Man movie, but with the necessary philosophy that makes turning a stubborn academic in to a master of the arts believable.

Cumerbatch is perfect for the role. A great balance of arrogance, charm and intellect that makes the character so engrossing for the viewer. His background as a studious doctor is ideal for the transition to magic.

Casting and acting are superb. Tilda Swinton was really good, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Benedict Wong were a great supporting duo. Everyone is funny, sometimes too much perhaps, but the way Cumberbatch plays off of the stoic faces of Ejiofor, Swinton and Wong works really well.

What I disliked…

Have we partly been down this road before? Yes. Is it a reason to dislike the film? Probably not. Is it a valid criticism? Hmm, maybe. But when you consider how inundated we are with comic book movies, it is no surprise that some of the tropes are becoming recognisable.

Derrikson doesn’t handle the hand to hand combat scenes as well as the Russo bros. As pretty as it looks, some of the fight scenes lack the visceral quality that we have come to adore about the ol’ Cap movies.

Seems “strange” that our protagonist adamantly denies the existence of any magical elements in the world, despite the fact its set after the Avengers, with Thor, Vision, Scarlet Witch and Co regularly tearing shit up with their powers. Maybe I missed something that explained otherwise, but it feels like the good doctor would at least reference the existence of “enhanced persons”. Wong does, and the doc hardly responds.

Another lame selection of Marvel villains? I would say so. Kaecilius didn’t really develop too much as a character, and the main bad guy was very recognisable as well from previous interpretations (Green Lantern anyone?).  Perhaps more back story to the central turncoat would have made more of Mikkelsen’s talents and fleshed out a more Loki-esque antagonist to get our teeth into. Instead we are treated to a bit of a purple-eyed plot device.

Shapstik Verdict: Probably regret not seeing this in 3D at the cinema as I can only imagine how amazing some of those city-bending scenes would be. But it still shines as one of the most original and entertaining Marvel films to date. Its visuals will no doubt steal the show for many, but for me, credit goes to both Cumberbatch and the writers on this one. 7/10