Posts Tagged ‘Rachel McAdams’

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.

Mastering your Demons

Doctor Strange

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Director: Scott Derrickson

Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Rachel McAdams, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Tilda Swinton, Benedict Wong, Mads Mikkelsen, Michael Stulbarg, Benjamin Bratt, Scott Adkins, Chris Hemsworth

Marvel is certainly expanding their cinematic universe at a rapid rate. First it was The Avengers and then The Guardians of the Galaxy and now they have turned their attention to the mystical antihero Doctor Strange, transforming the comic book character into a visually dazzling film version by director Scott Derrickson.

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Heavily influenced by Christopher Nolan’s surreal city scape bending visuals in his 2010 blockbuster Inception, Doctor Strange is a spectacular anti-hero film centred on an arrogant neurosurgeon wonderfully played by Oscar nominee Benedict Cumberbatch (The Imitation Game).

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As the film begins, audiences catch a glimpse of Doctor Strange medical expertise as well as his supreme arrogance and wealth. However all that suave egotistical bravado comes crashing down when he plunges his sports car off a cliff outside New York City and soon loses all nerve sensations in his hand.

At first he is naturally devastated and despite being comforted by sometime lover and co-worker Dr Christine Palmer, played by Oscar nominee Rachel McAdams (Spotlight), Doctor Strange sets off for an alternative cure prompted by a meeting with a miracle paraplegic Jonathan Pangborn played by Benjamin Bratt (Love in the Time of Cholera, Traffic).

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Naturally the action shifts to Kathmandu, Nepal, where Doctor Strange is introduced to the mystical arts by the shaven head guru The Ancient One, superbly played by Oscar winner Tilda Swinton (Michael Clayton). The best dialogue in the film are reserved for Cumberbatch and Swinton as The Ancient One strips Doctor Strange of his arrogance and he discovers a mystical world of parallel universes and scriptures written in ancient languages.

Soon Doctor Strange takes a liking to a flying crimson cape and has sideburns to match Frankenstein. With a new mystical persona, Doctor Strange delves into pure fantasy with brilliant mind bending visual effects to match.

The Visual Effects are so inspiring that they should get an Oscar on their own. In this case Doctor Strange has come up trumps with a perfect cast, most of them Oscar nominees and winners and a strong narrative which establishes more films in the Defenders Universe.

As the action shifts to Hong Kong, Doctor Strange with the help of Mordo played by Oscar Nominee Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave) and Wong played by Benedict Wong, this diverse mystical trio must battle the evil and embittered Kaecilius played by Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen (Casino Royale) who is intent on unleashing dark forces on planet earth in a bid to achieve immortality.

Doctor Strange is visually brilliant and superbly acted by the cast, due to some clever casting choices by Marvel Studios. The fact that Tilda Swinton, initially known for her art house films like Sally Potter’s Orlando and Benedict Cumberbatch seen in British period films like Atonement and Creation are both in a Marvel’s Anti-Hero movie is testament to how seriously the film studio takes their brand as they continuously expand all the various superhero franchises and even delve into quirky Sci-Fi.

Audiences must stay seated after the credits as Doctor Strange has an unexpected meeting with Asgard’s protector…

Highly recommended viewing for those that enjoy all of Marvel’s films or would love to visit Comicon.

 

 

Breaking the Cardinal Rule

Spotlight

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Director: Tom McCarthy

Cast: Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, John Slattery, Rachel McAdams, Liev Schreiber, Stanley Tucci, Billy Crudup, Paul Guilfoyle, Jamey Sheridan

Spotlight refers to a team of investigative reporters stationed at the Boston Globe. Just months before 9/11 in mid-2001, The Boston Globe hires a news editor fresh from Miami, Marty Baron played by Liev Schreiber (The Reluctant Fundamentalist) who subsequently instructs the Spotlight team headed up by Robby Robinson played by Michael Keaton (Birdman) to investigate the systematic child abuse which is happening in the Catholic Church specifically in the Archdiocese of Boston, a strongly Irish Catholic community as highlighted by a recent case pending at the criminal court.

Director Tom McCarthy’s film Spotlight is compelling viewing, a riveting tale of tough investigative journalism by a team of men and woman who will stop at nothing to uncover the truth. The Spotlight team also consists of journalists Sacha Pfieffer brilliantly played by Rachel McAdams  (A Most Wanted Man) who pursues testimony from the alleged victims of child abuse and Portuguese descendant Mike Rezendes superbly played by Mark Ruffalo (Foxcatcher) who goes after the legal aspects of the case that lawyer Mitchell Garabedian, played by Stanley Tucci is making against a particular Catholic priest John Geoghan.

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As the investigation continues, the journalists realize that what they are uncovering is a much wider scandal of how the Catholic Church not only knew about errant priests committing sexual abuse preying upon vulnerable minors but also how this powerful institution discreetly got these priests transferred or they were given supposed sick leave to avoid exposure or damage to the Church’s reputation.

As they investigate all the priests in the Boston area, the Spotlight team uncovers a much wider pattern of abuse by several priests. However, before they can publish a damning expose they need to have irrefutable proof that this was occurring.

That proof comes in the form of victim testimonies that Garabedian attached as legal documents in a case that he is building against Geoghan and that the Church tried to cover up these legal documents, thus breaking Cardinal Law.

McAdams and Ruffalo are particularly brilliant in Spotlight as journalists who not only uncover a massive and systemic scandal but are forced to question their own religious and spiritual convictions.

What actor turned director McCarthy avoids doing is standing in judgement of the Catholic Church, but rather focuses on the relentless pursuit of facts and absolute proof that investigative journalism is based upon, both of which need to be authenticated before any expose is subsequently published. With a screenplay by Josh Singer and Tom McCarthy, Spotlight is a superb indictment against one of the most powerful religious institutions in the world but also emphasizes the absolute necessity for responsible and comprehensively researched investigative journalism.

When the Spotlight story eventually does go to print, the expose points to a much wider problem in many archdioceses across America and other parts of the world, something which news editor Marty Baron alludes to in the beginning of the investigation.

The cast of Spotlight are phenomenal and deservedly won a 2016 Screen Actors Guild award for best cast and the intelligently crafted story is essential viewing. Spotlight is highly recommended viewing for those that enjoyed such films as All the Presidents Men and Frost/Nixon.

 

The Art of Surveillance

A Most Wanted Man

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 Director: Anton Corbijn

Cast: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Rachel McAdams, Robin Wright, Willem Dafoe, Daniel Bruhl, Nina Hoss, Grigoriy Dobrygin, Rainer Bock

Dutch director of The American, Anton Corbijn skilfully brings to cinematic life the spymaster John le Carre’s novel A Most Wanted Man set in the German port city of Hamburg, the site in which the 9/11 terror attacks emanated from.

Oscar winner Phillip Seymour Hoffman (Capote) in one of his last onscreen performances before his untimely death in New York in 2014, plays German intelligence officer Gunther, an overweight heavy drinking, chain smoking yet patience man who engineers a web of intrigue and surveillance when a Chechen Muslim illegal immigrant arrives in Hamburg seeking asylum.

The immigrant is half Chechen and half Russian and his true reasons for arriving in Hamburg is to claim access to a private bank account held by his Russian father who stashed funds after several covert and illegal Russian/Chechen wars.

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The most wanted man, Issa is a Muslim convert, played by Russian actor Grigoriy Dobrygin, who seeks shelter with a Turkish mother and son. They in turn seek advice on his precarious existence with a human rights lawyer and refugee sympathizer Annabelle Richter played against type by Rachel McAdams.

Gunther with the help of his surveillance team including Daniel Bruhl (Rush) as Maximilian and German actress Nina Hoss as Irna Frey who manipulate Annabelle into setting up a play to gain the confidence of Issa whose sudden wealth is being held by a suave German banker Tommy Brue played by Willem Dafoe (Nymphomaniac).

The German surveillance team is interested in where the funds might go, namely to a prominent Muslim businessman Abdullah in Hamburg who is funneling cash to jihadist groups in the Middle East through a shipping company based in Cyprus.

A Most Wanted Man’s opening scene focuses on the murky swirling waters of the river Elbe running through the second largest port in Europe after Rotterdam, a fitting motif for the tricky surveillance and bureaucracy involved in the gathering of intelligence on suspected terrorists post 9/11. This is an intricate geopolitical affair, with allegiances and deception as part of the cold business of espionage in the tradition of Zero Dark Thirty and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.

Into the play comes the seemingly sympathetic CIA officer, Martha Sullivan played by Robin Wright, last seen in the excellent series House of Cards. As Gunther increasingly manipulates both Issa and Annabelle to his own advantage without wanting a full scale extradition, the tension and strain becomes almost unbearable.

This is a well plotted gritty thriller without the flashy car chases or violent fight sequences synonymous with The Bourne Trilogy. Director Corbijn opts for a more sedated, yet carefully paced spy narrative, slow moving in parts, rather emphasizing the mental and emotional strain on all those involved especially Gunther, with his unraveling coming to a head at the film’s rather poignant unexpected conclusion.

At just over two hours, A Most Wanted Man could have been edited in parts, but is nevertheless a fascinating study of the excruciating art of surveillance. Recommended for cinema goers who enjoy well-plotted intelligent spy thrillers without the glamour or excitement of a Bond film.

Recapturing the Magic

Midnight in Paris

Owen Wilson has never been a brilliant actor. Mainly a comic actor and often cast in similar roles in a long series of American comedies from You, Me and Dupree to The Wedding Crashers. Under the right direction and script, Wilson is the type of actor that would shine. This is proven in Woody Allen’s simply delightful nostalgic film Midnight in Paris, which won him the 2012 Oscar for best original screenplay.

Wilson, like Jason Biggs and similar actors including Larry David plays a version of Woody Allen, a young idealistic  and neurotic playwright/author who is on holiday in Paris in the 21st century with his fiancée a wealthy American played by the effervescent Rachel McAdams. Wilson plays starry-eyed Gil who wants to recapture the Paris of the twenties, the enchanting city of lights as the epicentre of literary and artistic culture and bohemian ideas as it was decades ago. The Paris of Henry Miller, Pablo Picasso, Ernest Hemingway and Gertrude Stein. The Paris immortalized by F. Scott Fitzgerald in such novels as Tender is the Night.

Partly to avoid his annoying future in-laws, the hapless Gil strolls the streets of the French capital and by some magical twist at the stroke of midnight is transported back to the late 1920’s where his literary figures come to life. With real interaction with the artists and writers of the 1920’s and also of the earlier more elegant Belle Epoque, Gil is inspired to forgo all the promised commercialism of an America career and remain in gorgeous Paris,  a move that so many of his literary heroes did more than 80 years ago.

Midnight in Paris is a homage to Paris as an inspirational city not just for a whole generation of American literary greats, but Spanish artists such as Dali and Picasso but also filmmakers such as Luis Bruneul. Woody Allen deftly integrates a French and American ensemble cast including Oscar winner Marion Cotillard as Picasso’s muse, Adrien Brody as Dali, Allison Pill as Zelda Fitzgerald, Michael Sheen, Kathy Bates as Gertrude Stein and even Carla Bruni.

Moving away from his Manhattan obsessions, Woody Allen is clearly enchanted with such European cities as Paris, Barcelona and London completes his European set of films with Midnight in Paris, an equally brilliant companion to Vicky Christina Barcelona and Matchpoint, with each film not just capturing the essence of these cities but also the ambiance and social characteristics of its famed residents, whilst throwing an American hero or heroine into an essentially foreign continental culture.

 

Quirky Victorian Machismo Reinvented….

SHERLOCK HOLMES

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The Dark and Sexy 1890s….

Picture the Victorian age, and most people imagine a British society  with strict morals and closeted virtues, governed by an immovable Queen, who managed an Empire, whose centre was London and radiated out to the four corners of the globe, from South Africa, to Hong Kong, to New Zealand and Jamaica. But by the 1890s that Victorian society was slowly unravelling by the very constraints that were tying it together. Under that epitome of London fortitude, that epicentre of British colonialism, Oscar Wilde was flouting his homosexuality in the mid 1890s and was soon to be tried for his alleged affair with Lord Alfred Douglas, culminating in one of the most famous trials in British legal history. Jack the Ripper was prowling the East End, slitting the throats of Cockney prostitutes and opium dens were rife in the less savoury parts of the City. Under the veil of conservatism, the late Victorians were a quirky bunch, many sects were popping up exploring the occult and challenging the grip of the Church of England, spiritualism was rife, as was the certainty that Victoria’s steel reign was coming to a rapid and abrupt end. England was emerging from the industrial revolution and slowly entering the edges of the modern era. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, lived at a very interesting junction in history and his most famous literary creation from 1890-1905, Sherlock Holmes was a mixture of bound up fanaticism and heroic individuality, a brilliant mind, a borderline addict and an overwhelming eccentric living in an age well before forensics was perfected…

Ritchie Returned…

No other director but the London born, Guy Ritchie (Rock n Rolla, Snatch, Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels) could have brought a 21st century take on the most filmed literary character, and no better actor than Robert Downey Jnr could have pulled off all the perverse complexities as the Victorian super-sleuth, Sherlock. Downey’s performance was reminiscent of his Oscar nominated role in Richard Attenborough biopic, Chaplin.

Hollywood iconic...

Hollywood iconic…

Jude Law is superbly cast as the unassuming but more stable companion Dr Watson whose repartee with Sherlock is bordering on between British Machismo and pervading homo-eroticism. In this version, Holmes and Watson bicker like an old married couple and Holmes sensing separation anxiety at the thought of Watson leaving London to take his bride to go and live in the country, engages Watson as his ever faithful sidekick to destroy the plans of an occult aristocratic. It’s an enabler-rescuer relationship of note and the male bonding that ensues between them penetrating secret societies and separating the mysticism from the science can be read at deeper levels if a viewer wishes. For besides the central Holmes-Watson relation which is central to the film is a fascinating plot which has the duo pitted against the evil and enigmatic Lord Blackwood, another wonderful role by Mark Strong and his ring of henchmen including a French giant.

A Trio of Triumph….

Sherlock Holmes is at home in the 21st century thanks to the adept eye of Guy Ritchie who steers the plot away from glamorous American commercialism and keeps the film, gritty atmospheric, dark and downright British, even to tea in the afternoon, bulldogs and Big Ben. Judging actors and directors by their personal lives is misleading especially with the private affairs of Ritchie, who was going through a divorce with Madonna, Downey who has had an eventful ride to fame, from the early days of Less than Zero to the brilliant Iron Man and Jude Law himself, whose extra-marital affairs have kept him in the spotlight. This trio of talent is brilliant as a team and Guy Ritchie with the extraordinary power of his leading men, create a muscular, engaging and quirky cinematic Sherlock Holmes for the 21st century, leaving a whole generation to discover the very complex and fascinating era that was Victorianism with a twist.

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