In Review!: “Doctor Strange”

Doctor Strange is about the kookiest, gleefully… well, strange film that Marvel has yet delivered to the masses. But while its dizzying visuals and doofy world-making delight in their abandon, its stylistic risks are somewhat dampened by not stepping a single toe outside the Marvel origin formula. Here The Ancient One isn’t just Tilda Swinton’s whitewashed character, it’s also the age-old narrative blueprint.


Yes, Strange is exactly the superhero origin story you have long since tired of being retold. Doctor Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) is an ego-maniacal surgeon whose prowess is defeated by his own hubris and pride. His path to redemption goes builds across an inter-dimensional mystic battle as he gains time-bending and globe-trotting gifts with the help of Swinton and Chiwetel Ejiofor’s sidekick Mordo. Cut and paste a few minor details and you know exactly what this thing is going to throw at you.

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In Review!: “Hail, Caesar!”

Coming like an bourbon-tinged palate cleanser from the Oscar season glut and the Star Wars-led spectacle of the holidays, Hail, Caesar! feels like the true start to the cinematic year after a typically grim January. Playing with old Hollywood tropes and satirizing the former studio system, the film is as much of a delight as it is confounding. What should be tricky for mainstream audiences expecting a star-filled madcap romp to fully embrace will still be met warmly by those ready for something just left of center after the end-of-the-year gloss.


In Caesar!, it feels as if the Coen Brothers are playing with more ambivalence than their famously fatalistic instincts. Things don’t come to a natural conclusion or result from the bad choices of idiots, as the Coens are prone to display, perhaps because there isn’t much happening at all. There isn’t much narrative thrust to make the Coens’ ideas lift off of the ground, even as they’re drawing from their common thematic toolbox of religion, misguided mores, and our impending doom. Luckily, the farce in between is more delicious and uproarious than anything we’ve seen from the duo in ages.

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