Tag Archives: Chiwetel Ejiofor

The Doctor Is In

Benedict Cumberbatch makes big-screen magic in ‘Doctor Strange’

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Doctor Strange
Starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Tilda Swinton & Chiwetel Ejiofor
Directed by Scott Derrickson
PG-13

I never really got Doctor Strange. A neurosurgeon who became a sorcerer, he just didn’t capture my youthful imagination—or my comic-book coinage—the way other superheroes did. Spider-Man was a zippy, zappy teenager. Thor was a god. The Silver Surfer was a surfer…and silver!

Doctor Strange was some older, kinda creepy grown-up dude with a moustache, a soul patch and a big red cape, who always looked like he had a swirl of mist coming out of his hands.

Well, after seeing him portrayed on the big screen, I clearly underestimated—or just plain overlooked—the guy. But I’m certainly a believer now.

The newest entry in the long line of Marvel Comics superhero sagas, the new Doctor Strange introduces Oscar-nominated Benedict Cumberbatch as the arrogant, self-centered and wildly successful brain surgeon whose career is shattered—along with his million-dollar hands—when his Lamborghini crashes off a curvy California roadway one rainy night.

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The Ancient One (Tilda Swinton) gives Dr. Steven Strange an astral wallop.

Seeking “alternative healing” when all traditional efforts fail, Strange ends up at Kathmandu and the foothills of the Himalayas, where he meets the supreme sorcerer known as the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton). She shows him how “to reorient the spirit to better heal the body,” among other things—which include indoctrinating him into her secret society of wizard warriors, who’ve learned to harness and master all sorts of powerful secrets about space, time, consciousness, physics and matter.

The sorcerers, Strange also learns, are around to protect the Earth from dark forces of the cosmos who would do it harm—especially one particularly nasty malevolent entity and his zealots who want to conquer the planet.

null“I came here to heal my hands,” protests Strange, “not to fight in some mystical war.” But that’s exactly what happens—this is, after all, a Marvel movie. But it’s a doozy, and director Scott Derrickson—who cut his teeth on horror flicks like Sinister, Deliver Us From Evil and The Exorcism of Emily Rose—delivers a rollicking adventure with crisp wit, strong characters and visually impressive razzle-dazzle. I don’t usually recommend spending any extra dollars to see a movie in 3D or IMAX, but this one was made for both of those formats, and it’s definitely well worth the splurge—especially for a couple of eyeball-popping, jaw-dropping, kaleidoscopic, head-tripping sequences that beg to be seen on the biggest screen possible.

Rachel McAdams is Dr. Christine Palmer, Strange's former surgical colleague—and former lover.

Rachel McAdams is Dr. Christine Palmer, Strange’s former colleague—and former lover.

Cumberbatch, beloved as TV’s Sherlock and lauded for the mojo he’s brought to movies including The Imitation Game, 12 Years a Slave and Star Trek Into Darkness, steps into the role of Strange like he’s been waiting for it all his life. Chiwetel Ejiofor is Mordo, one of the masters in service to the Ancient One; Mads Mikkelson plays the traitorous Kaecilius, whose theft of a sacred text threatens to doom the planet. Rachel McAdams, strong and sassy as Strange’s surgical colleague and former lover Christine Palmer, could have used a few more scenes. But in a movie this packed with things to appreciate, it’s hard to complain—and I get the feeling she’ll have more time to shine later.

And Strange’s Cloak of Levitation is the most badass superhero cape ever. It’s got his back, in more ways than one.

The bonus-scene teaser during the final credits is a nod to the doctor’s appearance in the upcoming Avengers: Infinity War (2018). Clearly, Doctor Strange has taken his place in the Marvel pantheon. Welcome aboard, doc—I’ll definitely see you at our next appointment!

—Neil Pond, Parade Magazine

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Hey, Mr. Spaceman

Super-smart astronaut survival yarn will leave you cheering

The Martian

Starring Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Jeff Daniels and Chiwetel Ejiofor

Directed by Ridley Scott

PG-13

Super-smart, sharp-witted, funny, dramatic and moving, The Martian is a gripping, gorgeous, geeky, high-tech, big-screen adventure-survival yarn that will leave you cheering.

When a brutal, blinding surface dust storm causes a group of scientist-astronauts to abort their Martian expedition after only a few sols (days, or solar cycles), one of them gets left behind, lost and believed to certainly be dead. But after the Ares III blasts off and heads for home and the Red Planet dust clears, botanist Mark Watney (Matt Damon) revives, wounded but very much alive.

NASA and his crewmates have no idea he survived. He has to find some way to let them know, some way to stay alive, and some way to keep his hopes from fading—knowing that it could take years for another mission to mobilize and reach him.

What to do, what to do?

Matt Damon portrays an astronaut who draws upon his ingenuity to subsist on a hostile planet.

Matt Damon portrays an astronaut who draws upon his           ingenuity to subsist on a hostile planet.

“In the face of overwhelming odds, I’m gonna have to science the s— out of this,” Watney says into a camera, in the video log he begins filming as a high-tech diary.

It’s not a spoiler to tell you that Watney “sciences” how to grow his own food, rig up a communication device, make water and generate heat from radioactive material. One of the coolest things about The Martian is the way it makes knowledge hip and cool, how Watney’s process of discovery and learning and figuring things out are integral parts of its plotline.

Kristin Wiig and Chiwetel Ejiofor

Back on Earth, the world becomes transfixed with the man marooned on Mars. NASA officials (Jeff Daniels, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Kristen Wiig, Sean Bean) race to figure out how to reach Watney before he runs out of time and resources. America’s competitors in the space race on the other side of the world, the Chinese, offer their top-secret technology to help. And once Watney’s crew mates (Jessica Chastain, Michael Peña, Kate Mara, Aksel Hennie, Sebastian Stan) find out they’ve accidentally left him behind, they’re willing to spring into action, even if it means staying in space for another year or longer.

Director Ridley Scott is no stranger to space or the future, from Blade Runner and Alien to Prometheus. But there are no bioengineered androids, ancient astro-gods or acid-drooling space creatures anywhere to be found in The Martian—just real people, working together, using their heads, solving problems, focused on one man 50 million miles away and united in a single goal: to “bring him home.”

And despite its big ensemble cast, gorgeous special-effect space shots and marvelous, desolate red-orange Martian landscapes, this is Damon’s show. He is The Martian, and he sells every minute of it in a bravura, mostly solo performance that radiates humanity and humor, and shows the amazing, odds-defying things that science—and brainwork, and dedication and teamwork—can do.

—Neil Pond, Parade Magazine

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Trials & Triumph

Terrific cast, searing true story in Oscar-winning ‘Slave’

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12 Years a Slave

Blu-ray $39.99, DVD $29.98 (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment)

 

With its Oscar for Best Picture capping off a run as one of the most celebrated films of 2013, director Steve McQueen’s epic adaptation of a true American slave’s odyssey is often difficult to watch, but becomes something triumphant to behold. The all-star cast (which includes Michael Fassbender, Brad Pitt, Benedict Cumberbatch, Sarah Paulson, Paul Dano and Paul Giamatti) is anchored by the riveting powerhouse performances of Chiwetel Ejiofor as Solomon Northup, a free black man kidnapped and sold into slavery, and Lupita Nyong’o, who received the Academy Award for Supporting Actress as Patsy, a fellow captive. Extras include several behind-the-scene features, including Ejiofor reading passages from Northup’s autobiography, on which the movie was based.

 

—Neil Pond, American Profile Magazine

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