Archive for the ‘Sam Raimi’ Category

Dream Walking and Witchcraft

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness

Director: Sam Raimi

Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Elizabeth Olsen, Rachel McAdams, Chiwetel Ejifor, Benedict Wong, Xochitel Gomez, Michael Stuhlbarg, John Krasinki, Patrick Stewart, Hayley Atwell, Lashana Lynch, Anson Mount

Running Time: 2 hours and 6 minutes

Film Rating: 6 out of 10

Six years after the first Doctor Strange film was made in 2016, Oscar nominee Benedict Cumberbatch (The Imitation Game, The Power of the Dog) reprises his role as the neurosurgeon turned warlock Doctor Steven Strange in director Sam Raimi’s utterly bizarre sequel Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness starring a new batch of stars while only Rachel McAdams, Benedict Wong and Chiwetel Ejifor reprise their roles from the first film.

Director Sam Raimi best known for doing the original Spiderman trilogy with Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst but the director is far better known for helming some classic horror flicks including Drag Me to Hell in 2009 and The Evil Dead in 1981, takes this Doctor Strange sequel and turns the superhero genre on its head and transforms it into a ghoulish mixture of the bizarre with an extremely heavy dash of CGI thrown in. The storyline is incoherent and utterly weird.

This time Doctor Strange has to save a multiverse superhero called America Chavez played by Xochitel Gomez from the clutches of the Scarlett Witch also known as Wanda Maximoff wonderfully played with a demonic edge by Elizabeth Olsen (Avengers: Infinity War, Wind River) as she seeks to use America’s superpowers to open the elusive book of Ashanti. Elizabeth Olsen is by far the best actress in this film as she gives the Scarlett Witch a degree of emotional depth and conflicting maternal instinct, making her character a far more unlikely villain.

Plenty of witchcraft and dream walking abound through a multitude of crazy universes including a particularly bizarre scene whereby Doctor Strange faces the Illuminati made up of Baron Mondo played by Chiwetel Ejifor (12 Years a Slave, Dirty Pretty Things, Kinky Boots), Captain Carter played by Hayley Atwell and wait for it…. an X-Men Professor and one of the characters of The Fantastic Four. Clearly this is not the multiverse of reality one expects.

Here the film completely loses the plot and director Sam Raimi goes for an utter freak show of scary scenes involving ghosts and demons instead of rounding off the narrative in a tightly controlled script.

After watching Benedict Cumberbatch deliver such a brilliant performance in The Power of the Dog, he looked continually anguished throughout this film at having to do a Doctor Strange sequel and not even a good one at that.

Essentially, my question is that if Marvel is so desperate to control the cinematic universe why did they get a horror director to take charge of what is meant to be a superhero film?

After watching the success of Spiderman: No Way Home and the excellent origin film The Batman, I was quite disappointed with the visual mess that is Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness even despite some lavish special effects.

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness gets a film rating of 6 out of 10 and audiences should expect a superhero film which is way more scary than expected.

This Ain’t Kansas Anymore…

Oz, the Great and Powerful

oz_the_great_and_powerful_ver9

Sam Raimi, the director of the original Spiderman trilogy, has reinvented the great tale of the 1939 Judy Garland classic The Wizard of OZ in his unique, but tepid version in Oz, the Great and Powerful starring James Franco (Milk, 127 Hours) as the self-infatuated and egotistical conman wizard Oz. The film’s opening sequence is truly hilarious, shot in black and white and set in a mid-Western state fair in Kansas in 1905, where Oz, also known as Oscar Diggs poses as a Wizard and puts on a less than illustrious show to try and dazzle the conservative rural community of this Mid-Western American state. Assisted with a comic glee by Frank played by the underutilized Zach Braff, Oz is soon wooing audiences into all sorts of illusions and magic tricks, some of which fall short of magnificence.

However in an attempt to escape the county fair strongman, Oz gets caught up on a balloon in a tornado as one does in Kansas and soon finds himself transported to the radiant and colourful land of Oz where he meets the bewitching Theodora, underplayed by the smouldering Mila Kunis (Black Swan) who soon takes Oz on the yellow brick road to meet her supposedly evil sister Evanora, played with malicious panache by Oscar Winner Rachel Weisz (The Fountain, The Constant Gardiner).

Theodora

Theodora

Evanora upon showing Oz the mountains of gold stored in the Emerald city soon cons him into tracking down the Wicked Witch in a bid to steal her magic wand. Oz journeys to the dark forest along with a china girl and a pet flying monkey and tracks down the supposed evil witch who turns out to be Glinda the Good, beautifully played by Michelle Williams (My Week with Marilyn, Blue Valentine), who obviously took the role so that her daughter Mathilda could see one of her movies. The rest of Oz, the Great and Powerful is light, candied entertainment with the occasional witty line, but really lacking in the true imaginative retelling found in Tim Burton’s brilliant Alice in Wonderland or in the dark magic realism of Guillermo del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth.

Glinda complete with shiny heels and a wand!

Glinda complete with shiny heels and a wand!

Even the flying baboons are not that scary. Raimi who is renowned for making brilliant horror films (Drag Me to Hell and The Evil Dead), find himself caught up in the world of Oz without the necessary desire to make the fantasy vaguely fascinatingly edgy, but rather predictable and very tame. The best lines in the film are taken by Williams and Weisz who know how to play sassy witches, trying to compete for the attentions of the goofy Wizard, slightly overplayed by Franco.

Oz the Great and Powerful will definitely appeal to younger viewers and lacks some of the edginess seen in some of the more recent revisionist fairytale cinematic offerings. My only thought throughout this version was where the heck was Dorothy? She was stuck in celluloid legacy as Judy Garland in the MGM original.

Dorothy had a new meaning after this film!

Dorothy had a new meaning after this film!

The only one with sparkling shoes was Glinda the Good, which audiences briefly caught a glimpse in the last few scenes of the film. Fascinating and fabulous as it is, like the Oz’s final projected appearance in the Emerald City, much of the film is filled with hot air, but is nevertheless entertaining in parts.

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