NEW THIS WEEK
When a car accident appears to have ended his career as a surgeon, Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) makes a mystical discovery in his search for a cure. As he discovers his new abilities, dark forces rise to challenge Strange and the world around him in Marvel’s newest film.
We Said: “For all of the reality-bending wonder that is seen in Doctor Strange, Marvel's mystical hero would seem like an odd fit for the Marvel Cinematic Universe proper where so much has become homogenized and predictable. And to be fair, it does eventually fall into line like a good little magic soldier. But for a psychedelic, crazy fun chunk of it Doctor Strange is the freshest Marvel movie since Guardians of the Galaxy. It mashes up the metaphysical elements of Inception and The Matrix with a bit of superhero hocus-pocus. […] Doctor Strange feels for a time like it's walking a different path from the other movies. That path does eventually wind its way back to someplace familiar, setting up sequels and crossovers aplenty, but getting there is a head trip worth taking.” Rating: 3.5 out of 5
The Good: Doctor Strange is visually the best movie of the year. It is an absolutely stunning thing to watch, full of mind-bending imagery and surrealist sequences. Marvel has never attempted anything this audacious and it pays off like crazy. The performances are all very strong, with some great characters developed and well played humor dropped throughout. Fans of of the Marvel Universe will not be disappointed.
The Bad: While the visuals are ground-breaking and unlike anything Marvel has attempted before, the plot line of the film is nearly identical to most of the other Avengers movies they’ve made so far. There is very little in the film that separates Cumberbatch’s Strange from Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark. It’s a terribly familiar, paint-by-numbers origin story, which at this point is rather disappointing.
Overall: Although it is a fairly standard superhero movie, Doctor Strange manages to provide enough unique visuals and fun performances to make it a welcomed addition to The Avengers cannon.
The newly crowned Best Picture Moonlight follows Chiron, a young man coming of age in a rough Miami neighborhood. Told in three separate acts (with three actors playing Chiron at different ages) Moonlight brings a fresh perspective as it explores the issues of race and masculinity.
We Said: “Barry Jenkins' stunning sophomore film, Moonlight, might be the most important movie you see this year. It may also be one of the best, a nice change of pace from message movies that forget to be entertaining. […] At every turn Moonlight defies our expectations; it can be tender at the same time as tough, and says the most often at the quietest moments. From the poignant dialogue to the breath-taking cinematography, Jenkins crafts cinematic poetry that will echo through to his next movie and beyond.” Rating: 4 out of 5
The Good: This surprise Best Picture winner manages to tell a simple coming-of-age story in a manner that makes it stand out from the typical awards season problem dramas we see each year. This is a beautifully told film, with incredible performances (Oscar Winner Mahershala Ali, for example, is stunning as a hardened drug dealer with a heart of gold), and gorgeous art-house visuals throughout. Moonlight dramatizes an under represented perspective in a way that is neither emotionally exploitative nor inaccessible to an audience outside of the world the film is set in.
The Bad: It does manage to rise above the standard Oscar drama tropes, but is still nonetheless a heavy story-of-a-troubled-life film, which personally, I’m rather tired of. The visual style is mostly beautiful, but occasionally distracting, as does its rigid three act structure.
Overall: Obviously, at this point it is an understatement to say Moonlight is one of the best films of the year. It’s a simple and important story that needed to be told, shot and edited with a unique and mostly effective stylization.
Set in North Africa in the midst of World War II, Allied tells the story of a Canadian Intelligence officer (Brad Pitt). When he’s assigned a partner from France (Marion Cotillard), their risky missions together lead to romance and threats of betrayal.
We Said: “The plotting is kind of a mess, and it's easy to get lost in why exactly [Bradd Pitt’s character] Max is doing what he's doing at any given point. It seems designed by screenwriter Steven Knight with an eye less towards narrative coherence and more towards providing one scene after another for Pitt and Cotillard to chew. This is a movie about people with Feelings, and feeling them very strongly and loudly indeed. But for a spy movie it's curiously absent a sense of tension outside a handful of scenes.” Rating: 2 out of 5