Posts Tagged ‘Patrick Stewart’

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.

The Great Western Claw Slinger

Logan

Director: James Mangold

Cast: Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Dafne Keen, Boyd Holbrook, Stephen Merchant, Richard E. Grant, Eriq La Salle, Elizabeth Rodriguez

Oscar nominee Hugh Jackman (Les Miserables) has become synonymous with the role of the mutant Wolverine since Bryan Singer’s first film The X Men back in 2000. Now seventeen years later, Jackman reprises his role in director James Mangold’s cleverly titled Logan a sort of follow up to The Wolverine back in 2013.

The year is 2029 and there appears to be an absence of mutants on Earth, an arid planet ravaged by decades of global warming. Mangold who directed the tense Western 3:10 to Yuma seamlessly blends frontier mythology into Logan right from the beginning as audiences first see Logan aka The Wolverine in El Paso, Texas as a washed up middle aged Uber limo driver, all hairy and hard to like.

Logan is taking care of a frail and delusional yet still powerful Charles Xavier, a brilliant performance by Patrick Stewart, who has reprised his role in most of the X-Men movies.

Xavier keeps telling Logan that there is still one more powerful mutant out there. In a desperate call for help, Logan gets called to the shady motel room of Mexican immigrant Gabriela played by Orange is the New Black star Elizabeth Rodriguez who pleads with him to take the mysterious young girl Laura wonderfully played with an immense screen intensity by newcomer Dafne Keen to Canada for safety.

Soon X-Men adversary Donald Pierce and his band of nefarious gang members appear intent on hunting and killing Laura. Pierce, played by Boyd Holbrook (Gone Girl, The Skeleton Twins) is actually the henchman of mastermind Dr Rice wonderfully played by Richard E. Grant (Jackie, The Iron Lady) who unbeknownst to anyone has been harvesting mutant children in a dodgy clinic in Mexico City.

As Logan, Laura and Xavier head off across country from El Paso through to Oklahoma City, screenwriters Scott Frank, James Mangold and Michael Green turn Logan into a Neo-Western road film, a more gritty adventure even referencing some classic Western films like director George Stevens 1953 film Shane and unlike the more CGI orientated X-Men films, Logan is more violent, nostalgic and resonates with a more mature audience. That predominately male audience is presumably the same viewers that started following The X-Men films back in 2000.

Jackman is suitably tough, menacing and conflicted as Logan and Dafne Keen who swops between Spanish and English is wonderful as the bratty teenage mutant, but what really gives Logan that gravitas is Patrick Stewart’s superbly dry performance as Xavier, once head of the school for mutants, but now a bitter and twisted old man being hunted by some evil cloners.

Logan is highly enjoyable and delivers on the action front with some stunning and violent action sequences especially in the first half of the film. However, the last quarter of the film could have been edited for dramatic effect despite the surprisingly poignant ending.

Walk the Line director James Mangold’s Logan gets a film rating of 7.5 out of 10. Ultimately, the return of the hairy man aka The Wolverine has past his macho prime, yet his ferocious decline is highly entertaining viewing.

 

Mutant Time Travel Fantasy

X-Men: Days of Future Past

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Director: Bryan Singer

Cast: Hugh Jackman, Jennifer Lawrence, Ian McKellan, Patrick Stewart, Halle Berry, Michael Fassbender, James McAvoy, Nicholas Hoult, Anna Paquin, Ellen Page, Shawn Ashmore, Peter Dinklage, Famke Janssen, James Marsden, Karine Vanasse, Evan Peters, Josh Helman

Which director could resist bringing such a fabulous a-list cast together in one film?

Naturally the original X-Men director Bryan Singer who takes this huge cinematic opportunity to reboot the X-Men franchise and include the original cast members in a mutant time travel fantasy which sees Wolverine, Storm, Raven and Magneto and Professor Xavier battling literally against time in a war to save the mutants from utter destruction at the hands of evil humans, represented by none other than Dr Bolivar Trask, wonderfully played by Peter Dinklage, whose star is clearly rising after the phenomenal success of the allegorical revenge fantasy series Game of Thrones.

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Set between 1973 and presumably the present day of 2013, so a forty year time span, the original X-Men including Magneto and Professor Xavier played by Ian McKellan and Patrick Stewart send Wolverine aka Logan back forty years to confront a younger version of themselves and change a pivotal moment in history, the capture of the uniquely chameleon Raven played by Oscar winner Jennifer Lawrence from being captured by the duplicitious Trask. Wolverine with all the braun and charm of the original series gamely played by Hugh Jackman confronts a younger Xavier (a wonderful turn by James McAvoy) and convinces him to set Magneto free from a metal less prison in the heart of the Pentagon in Washington D. C.

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In a spell bounding special effects sequence, Xavier, Beast and Wolverine with the able assistance of Quiksilver played with charm by Evan Peters free the unpredictable Erik Lehnsherr aka Magneto and together they go in search of Raven/Mystique as she infiltrates a Vietnamese peace signing ceremony in Paris in 1973 in a bid to assassinate the formidable weapons specialist Dr Bolivar Trask who is hellbent on obliterating all mutants with new Transformeresque type machines known as the Sentinels.

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The rest of the action packed hugely spectacular X-Men Days of Future Past is a time travel mutant orgy in the same vein as Marvel’s film The Avengers was with a bunch of superheroes coming together to battle the evil Loki. The cast is just as spectacular and director Singer gives as much screen time as possible to the prolific actors as well as to the lesser cast members but its his lingering cinematic gaze on the gorgeous male cast including Nicholas Hoult (A Single Man) as Beast, Michael Fassbender (Shame) as Erik, James McAvoy (Atonement) as a younger Xavier that gives this superhero mutant fantasy a distinctly homoerotic quality seldom seen in other superhero films.

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By their nature superheroes are slightly narcissistic (look at Man of Steel, Batman, Iron Man) but especially so in X-Men Days of Future Past. The female superheroes in this film pale in comparison to their attention grabbing male counterparts with director Singer even giving Wolverine a nude scene as he wakes up in a New York apartment overlooking Time Square in the swinging seventies.

Ultimately, X-Men Days of Future Past is a Hollywood vehicle to reboot the old X-Men franchise and breath fresh life into the cast of the younger selves seen in X-Men: First Class. The film is wonderfully retro in parts and adds to the glamour of recreating the 1970’s on screen with Fassbender and McAvoy looking particularly fetching as the younger Magneto and Xavier. Gone are all the dark overtones of the earlier X-Men films and in this invigorated version, all the mutants look glossy, stylized and supremely accessible. This is a Hollywood blockbuster not just for its multitude of stars but also for the riveting special effects, never mind the convoluted narrative. A must see film for all fans of the X-Men movies and those that follow such commercial gloss with vigour.

 

 

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