Movie Review – Doctor Strange

Weird, weird, weird. Yes, in a film pointedly titled Strange, this is very bizarre stuff.

I haven’t seen the character in comic book media, but I imagine it took until our current technology to make all this mental scat look so good, so pretty, on film. Folding cities, broken mirror landscapes, characters running up and down against the laws of physics. This is stuff you’ve seen before, but it’s very cleanly done here. If you’re reminded fondly of The Matrix and Inception (and even Ant-Man’s foray into the quantum realm), then you won’t have trouble understanding the technology/sorcery of this movie.

Impressively, that isn’t the weird stuff.

What IS strange is the story. It is about protecting the psychic world, and that’s heady stuff. I wish it had been clever, though. It is still only about running around and fighting, ultimately…just with magical energy swords. I was hoping there would be a little more about your mind creating your reality, but nope.

So, here we go. Bennedict Cumberbatch channels Harrison Ford in a gruff American accent, weaving his Marvel origin tale from overbearing egoist to psychic world protector. Fine and good. But…why? I had to ask myself, with over two hours of world bending magical displays, why we needed to see this. Why be introduced to yet another Marvel heavyweight, when the MCU is already so cluttered? Why we needed a super strange reality that makes Asgard look tame, just when things are already so complicated, with an overloaded boat of new and old Avengers already on the scene?

In the final moments of the film, in a throwaway line, I got my answer. I’m sure you’ll see it, if you’ve been keeping up with the big Marvel arc. But I guess we can now get on with things.

Was it good? Cumberbatch tried his best to not make this silly, even in an outlandish outfit (I DID like his adorably helpful cape), with crazy-ass lines. The MCU now has actual sorcerers, yeah. Tilda Swinton did her fey thing and carried it off, for the most part. Chiwetel Ejiofor re-did his Operative gig from Serenity, and it was…okay. He’s usually so much better.

Mostly, somehow, it all felt very tired. Another origin story. Another reluctant hero called into service. And some really bizarre fight scenes that would have been thrilling if they didn’t go on, and on, and on….again and again and again. It’s like the movie was in love with its own magical conceit.

The mid-credits scene was very nicely done, quite straightforward and charming, and I wish the rest of the movie had been like that. I’m just tired of big effects and origins and new heroes, and diddling around with backstory. I’ll be old by the time the MCU gets everyone they want on board.

The comic book fans will probably be pleased with how Dr Strange performed. It WAS pretty.

Here’s my advice: you need to see this on the big screen, preferably in 3D, to appreciate the mind bending visual torrent. Don’t see this in a second run theater. If you have a really good television, wait for the DVD. But if you aren’t a huge fan of the MCU, or Beneditch Cumberbatch, you might want to skip this completely. I could tell you the relevance of the entire endeavor in one phrase (except I won’t, because that would be a spoiler).

Grade: C+

About the Peetimes: This movie is full of plot and character development, making it difficult to find decent Peetimes. I recommend the 2nd Peetime, because it’s mostly the beginning of an action scene, so you won’t miss anything important. 

18 Groundhog Day Type Movies – the ultimate list

“There is no way that this winter is ever going to end as long as this groundhog keeps seeing his shadow. I don’t see any other way out. He’s got to be stopped. And I have to stop him.”

Groundhog Day is February 2nd in the US, and it’s a truly bizarre national holiday. The premise: a large rodent might/might not see its shadow, predicting when spring will or won’t come. How does one celebrate this, unless they live in Punxatawny, PA?

Punxatawny relates to the classic Bill Murray vehicle Groundhog Day, wherein his character (named Phil, just like the Groundhog) has to repeat Feb 2nd every day. EVERYDAY, for what might be thousands of years (pay attention to the film and ask yourself how long it would take to master his many skills).

Phil escapes the time loop only when certain conditions are met. We assume this, because it’s never stated why he finally moves on to the next day. However, the repeating day motif is not new to this movie, and in each instance, time repeats indefinitely until the protagonist finds a way out. The movie in question isn’t even the first film or TV show to feature this theme.

That makes it really fun each year. We at RunPee get to pick a rewatch of something with a distinct “Groundhog theme” every year in Feb. There’s an interesting lineage to view.

Let’s take a look at who has used this theme, in order by year: 

  1. Cause and Effect (TV ep, Star Trek, the Next Generation) 1992 — NOTE: Air date before Groundhog Day. Was this the first to do it? Here’s how it starts…right before the teaser ends we get this indelible image: Picard yelling for all hands to abandon the Enterprise. Then it explodes. And keeps on exploding. From there, the mystery never lets up on this superb storytelling.
  2. Groundhog Day — Feature Film — 1993 : When I Iived that year in the UK, this  first-run movie saved my sanity. For real. Long story.
  3. Been There, Done That (TV ep, Xena: Warrior Princess) 1997 : This show could do no wrong in my eyes during it’s 7-year run. It’s only natural that Xena’s version is funnier than EVERYTHING else on this list. Plus, we’ve got Romeo and Juliette being dorks,  a laundry list of reasons why Xena didn’t bite Gabrielle (lol), a name drop of Hercules (and Sinbad), and an adorable cameo by Karl Urban as Cupid. A top ten Xena ep anyone can enjoy.
  4. Run, Lola, Run — Feature Film —  1998
  5. Back and Back and Back to the Future (TV ep, Farscape) 1999: set in the mostly benighted season one of an otherwise stellar Sci-Fi show, Back and Back is notable for Crichton’s trying to change the timeline in small ways (breaking Zhan’s sacred mask on purpose, instead of letting time inevitably play out).
  6. Monday (TV ep, The X-Files) 1999: You don’t think there’s a mystery trope left examined in the X-Files 9 year run? Look again. Notable: a guest actor is at the center of the plot, with Mulder and Scully mostly in reaction mode…and it STILL works. A standout during a mostly experimental season.
  7. Life Serial (TV ep, Buffy the Vampire Slayer) 2001 : In Buffy’s sixth season, “real life” was the scary big bad. Shudders! This episode was a needed dash of fun. The “Trio” are nerdy doofuses with too much power and no real direction. I love everything in this season, and this is a highlight.
  8. Deja vu All Over Again (TV ep, Charmed) 2008
  9. Mystery Spot (TV ep, Supernatural) — 2008
  10.  Source Code –Feature Film– 2011
  11. Edge of Tomorrow <— Our review –Feature Film — (Tom Cruise/Emily Blunt film) 2014 : Exciting, well-acted, and with a gripping jeopardy premise, Cruise and Blunt take what could have been a two-hour slog of repeating action into something believably exciting in a fresh take on an alien takeover plot. Highly Recommended! Every time they ‘”level up” you want to cheer!
  12. Looper — Feature Film — 2012:- In a future where time travel is a thing, not everyone has the best intentions!
  13. Hell is Other People  (The Vampire Diaries) — 2016
  14. Before I Fall — Feature Film — 2017: Another mystery that must be solved before time moves on.
  15. Happy Death Day — Feature Film — 2017: Imagine relieving your death, over and over? Want to try? Neither do we.
  16. Hot Mess Time Machine (TV ep, The Mindy Project) — 2017
  17. Naked — (Netflicks show) — 2017 – YAY! A new one to check out!
  18. Dr. Strange — Feature Film — 2017: I don’t know if this should be included, so I’ll toss it up and let you decide. At the end of the film, Strange wears down his enemy using an infinite time loop of destruction. He could stop it at any point, so it’s not like the other plots. Does this count?

 At RunPee HQ we’ve been steadily collecting movies and TV episodes with Groundhog themes, and make a point to choose at least one each year to rewatch on Groundhog Day. I mean, hey: what else are you going to do to as a family to celebrate how vermin might predict spring?

So, did we miss something? We’re always looking to add new shows to celebrate on this obscure, yet infinitely geeky holiday. I’m sure this fascinating well of plots hasn’t dried out just yet. The recent and finely wrought Edge of Tomorrow indicates there are still ideas to be mined.

10 Ways Ant Man Could Escape the Quantum Realm

“Hey guys! Guys? This isn’t funny anymore!”

Spoilers for Infinity War, and of course Ant Man & the Wasp…don’t bother reading if you haven’t seen those two movies. This will all be gibberish to you anyway if you’re not up to date. Onward…

So, that ending in Ant Man 2. It’s nice that Scott Lang finally has a superhero partner, and an ad-hoc family…but with Hank, Hope, and Janet suddenly Snapped away by Thanos, how’s he going to get out of the Quantum Realm? Is he stuck there now, for decades (or possibly forever), just like Janet Van Dyne before Ant Man 1?

Well…doubtful. That’s not how Marvel works. And there’s probably a darn good reason there was a fluffy Ant Man movie right after the seriously universe-changing and dire events of Infinity War. I assume something about the Quantum Realm (the QR) will be crucial to undoing the victims of the Snapocalypse…or why this superhero again, and why now?

Previously, the first Ant Man movie was a light, comedic pallet-cleanser after the serious events of Captain America: Civil War. This could be the same kind of thing going on…but I tend to doubt it’s just that. Ant Man isn’t that big a crowd draw, not after such momentous and box-office pleasing films of late, like Thor: Ragnarok, Black Panther, and Avengers: Infinity War. In fact, AM&TW is the only late-phase MCU film to earn the kind of paltry box office amounts we’ve seen since the original Phase One movies (check the Wikipedia). Nobody’s been begging for another Ant Man film.

At the time, I was also curious why we had to “start over” with such newer origin properties like Doctor Strange, Spider-Man, and Black Panther, after taking so much time carefully setting up ensemble-cast driven stories in the main story arc. Especially since Spiderman and Black Panther, as part of Civil War, didn’t even need stand-alone films. Post Infinity War, it all makes sense now. And we’re getting yet ANOTHER origin story movie in Captain Marvel, coming out in March of 2019 (with that Infinity War post credits scene, we can even guess why).

It keeps circling back to why Ant Man again, and why now. With half of all life forms now turned to ash, fans have to assume the 4th Avengers film will be about rectifying this catastrophe.

Dr. Strange saw ONE lifetime in over 14 million that led to our heroes winning. If the QR is vitally important, then so is an Ant Man story. We’ve talked about this before on RunPee.com. It’s also quite possible Scott was protected by the QR from the Snap itself. So — moving on — how will Scott get back?

Here are some reasonable ideas: (Note: lacking evidence otherwise, I’m going to assume anyone we haven’t seen dusted is still around.) (Note the Second: I haven’t consulted any of the comic books, so this is all conjecture based on the 20 MCU films.)

1. Luis. He’s in the front of the van housing the Quantum Tunnel. It might be as easy as him flicking a ‘retrieve’ switch. That would set the cliffhanger to a speedy (if not hugely satisfying) solution, so we can get on with the rest of the Avengers 4 and their immense cast.

2. Luis drives the van to someone else who can help. Bill Foster and/or Ghost know exactly what to do with a Quantum Tunnel. (Plus, using them here would justify the somewhat pointless inclusion of them in a movie already over-packed with characters and plot dynamics.)

3. Scott gets himself out. Option One: he did it before on his own. He can futz with his regulator and “quantum-leap” himself back to normal space/time.

4. Scott gets himself out. Option Two: Janet made an obvious point of mentioning Time Vortices in the QR, and told Scott to avoid them. Why mention these for no good reason, so suddenly at the end of the film? Sounds like a major foreshadowing hint. We have no idea what a time vortex can do, but perhaps they act like wormholes to bring Scott back…although, to when and where is uncertain. This could lead to a time-travel element in Avengers 4.

5. Scott gets himself out. Option Three: Janet’s been in his head for a few years now by the current space/time, but by QR standards, she is likely always still there, essentially possessing him. Either she, or her remnant, or just the ‘quantum memory’ will help him find a way out.

6. Dr. Strange did something — yes, he’s ash. But he’s also a master of the mystic arts and previously Wielder of the Time Stone. Since he is essentially disjointed from normal time, he could be/have been/will be/will have been doing something magically to get Scott back. (Someday we’ll work out the right grammar for time  travel paradoxing.) Perhaps the QR even kept Scott safe during the Snap, and that too was part of the plan.

7. See above, but insert Wong. He’s as skilled as Strange, and guarding the NY temple. He could be asked to help, maybe by Luis. I’m placing a lot on Luis here, aren’t I? Or maybe Wong grasps the situation from his own mystical meditations.

8. Cassie might have a role. It’s nearly impossible to avoid spoilers about future films unless you avoid the entire internet, but I’ll be vague: I’ve heard Scott’s little girl won’t always be so little, and might have a more intense role to play. Plus, she’s a determined and smart young person in her own right.

9. Captain Marvel might just take care of this herself, after getting Nick Fury’s page…

10. The Cosmic stuff. There’s a lot of things in space that could send a message to interstellar travelers like the Guardians/Revengers/Ravagers/Giant Dwarves, etc…or to gods like Thor, or strongly powered unaligned aliens we haven’t met yet, or even randoms like The Collector and The Grandmaster. Or the hinted at with “Adam” from the post-credits Sovereign scene in Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2. Or even a semi-conscious pull from the Infinity Stones — say, the Soul Stone — to bring “balance to the Force.” Yes, I’m lumping nearly everything weird in this category.  Call it a ‘catch-all’ option for a wild universe of infinite, interdimensional possibilities.

What theory do you like? Have one of your own?

Read Also: 

The Five Movies You Need to Watch To Understand Infinity War

Every Character Unaccounted For After Infinity War

Every MCU Superhero Category, Ranked

Best to Worst  MCU Movie, Ranked

 

Best of the Marvel Cinematic Universe

Here’s RunPee Jilly’s list of the best-to-worst films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Since so many of these movies are good, and there are so many of them, I’ve chosen to rank the films by “tier”. Top Tier, Middle Tier, and Bottom Tier. (And one that is simply Bad.) I’m not going to stress over exactly which ones are better than the others within the tiers.

Keep in mind this list only goes as far as The Black Panther at this point in time. This is pre-Infinity Wars. Keep mindful also: this is my personal opinion of the best/worst MCU films — I expect everyone will have their own list. Scribble down your top to bottom tiers in the comments below.

Top Tier

These are the BEST MCU offerings, IMO (of course). The most cohesive plots, solid connections to the through-story, best character pieces (whether solo or in ensemble form), prettiest filmation/scenery, and most enjoyable films that hold up to re-watches. Notice that the ensemble pieces largely wound up on top.

  • Avengers: Assemble — (Top notch; Joss Whedon got everything right. Including Shwarma, mmmmm.)
  • Captain America: Civil War — (Basically an Avengers ensemble piece, and perfectly executed. The airport set piece is as good as the hype surrounding it. More like this, please!)
  • Guardians of the Galaxy, Volume 1 — (My personal favorite movie in the entire MCU. And one of my new top five all-time films. I need this movie when I feel down. The humor, characters, music, and general story are everything I look for in a fun, feel-good, groovy film.)
  • Thor 3: Ragnarok — (I have to admit, I didn’t think anything in the MCU would approach the likability factor of GotG 1. Well…this one does. Chris Hemsworth is hysterical, for one thing. And while ostensibly a solo film for Thor, it’s more like an ensemble piece for the spacefaring MCU characters. I expect the Grandmaster’s ship  – nay, now Thor’s ship – is how we scoop up the Guardians in time for Infinity Wars.)
  • Spiderman: Homecoming — (Everything in this movie went right. And the villain, usually the sore spot in the MCU, just rocked it! <—- finally)
  • Black Panther — (Beautiful scenery, good characters, solid storytelling and a compelling connection to the larger universe).
  • Iron Man 1 — (The movie that kickstarted the entire decade’s-worth franchise…and rebooted the bank-ability factor to a personable, funny, and charismatic star that redefined how Superhero films could be writ. Can’t forget this moment: “I am Iron Man.” And the world leaned back in their seats, satisfied.)

Middle Tier

  •  Captain America: The Winter Soldier — (I know. This one is top tier for many. As a spy movie, it’s just not to my taste, and this is MY list.)
  • Guardians of the Galaxy, Volume 2 — (I wanted to place this one in the top tier, but will concede it doesn’t hit all the marks it should have. If the first GotG is perfect, this one does show up and make the effort, in spite of not quite getting somewhere great.)
  • Avengers: Age of Ultron — (Another one just shy of greatness. I wanted to place it top tier, but there are just better ones to choose from.)
  • Ant-Man — (not an ‘epic story’, but fun ‘small tale’ with decent humor and a strong likability factor.)

Bottom Tier

  • Thor 1 — (Not a bad movie; just not awesome. The MCU was still figuring out their formula.)
  • Thor 2: The Dark World — (This one is easily one of the least exciting Marvel films, but on a rewatch it’s better served.)
  • Iron Man 2 — (Dull.)
  • Iron Man 3 — (Dull again, bummer.)
  • Captain America: The First Avenger — (It’s okay. Like Thor, movies with Cap improve as his trilogy progresses.)
  • Dr. Strange — (I wish I could place this one higher. It’s just a bit derivative and…well…strange. Not likable or particularly exciting…but we HAD to have the Gem of Amarra in place for Avengers: Infinity War).

Just Bad

  • The Incredible Hulk — (Edward Norton’s outing is the bottom of the MCU barrel. I can’t even sit through this film in its entirety. I’m ashamed to admit it…but, well, there it is. I love Mark Ruffalo’s Bruce Banner, but anyone else falls flat.)