Movies: Hacksaw Ridge and Dr. Strange worth seeing

 

Dr. Strange

The perfect antidote to Tuesday’s election was to rush out on Wednesday and see Dr. Strange – a Superhero movie full of special effects that stretched out over a non-depressing, non-thinking, fast-paced two hours. I knew nothing of Dr. Strange going in other than it stars Benedict Cumberbatch who can pretty much do no wrong in my book. Unfortunately, the show I went to was in 3D which made it a bit trippy but nonetheless, I sat back and was entertained for a couple of hours on a difficult day.

Dr. Strange is an egotistical surgeon who has an accident that renders him unable to operate. He seeks healing help from a guru in Nepal (the Ancient One) played by Tilda Swinton. Through his studies, he gains magical powers and confronts the film’s villain played by Max Mikkelsen with mind boggling fight scenes. Also playing one of Dr. Strange’s new associates is Chiwetel Ejiofor who was great as was Rachel McAdams who played the love interest. I enjoyed all of the actors in this film immensely and thought they did a perfectly fine job in what were generally non-demanding roles.

The special effects were amazing and a bit like “Inception” meets an Escher painting – lots of fun with really beautiful geometric shapes floating through time and space. I was truly entertained from the beginning to the end of the film. This movie does not require any knowledge of the comics but will probably not be that interesting to those who don’t like the better Marvel movies (e.g. Ironman or Avengers) or at least good Sci Fy. For me, it was a perfect way to spend a couple of hours being transported to a different reality.

Hacksaw Ridge

Hacksaw Ridge is a good movie. I haven’t seen may Mel Gibson films but the ones I have seen revel in violence and gore with a strong “good guy v bad guy” theme. Hacksaw Ridge is no exception. The first half of the movie is the story of Desmond Doss, a boy from Lynchburg, VA who grows up with an abusive alcoholic father. When Pearl Harbor is attacked, he and his brother enlist along with all of their friends. Desmond is a 7th Day Adventist and refuses to touch a gun in basic training, which gets him a court martial. His Sargent played by Vince Vaughn (with a strange comedic smirk throughout the film) tries to make his life miserable, as do those in his unit in order to force him to quit. Doss remains in the army through a somewhat suspicious resolution of his case and becomes a hero in the end by rescuing 75 soldiers at the Battle of Hacksaw Ridge on Okinawa becoming only one of three Conscientious Objectors to win the Medal of Honor.

The acting is fine in this film. Andrew Garfield is believable as Doss and does a perfectly decent job as the doe-eyed Desmond. Hugo Weaving as Desmond’s father is really good and the soldiers in Doss’s unit are all well cast with perhaps the exception of Vince Vaughn who I just found sort of strange and not at all the type of Sargent that I would expect in the Army.

If you are looking for subtlety or grey areas in this film, you won’t find them. It’s not Gibson’s style. Also, in Gibson fashion, the movie seems to be unduly violent and gruesome surpassing even Saving Private Ryan in my opinion. There are times when he slows down the motion while building up the music to create an over the top scene. There are also some “bleeding over” of Gibson’s religious beliefs at the end where we see a couple of scenes suggesting a “Baptism” and an ascendency to heaven. With all that being said, we can thank Mr. Gibson for bringing this story to millions of Americans who will now know who Desmond Doss is. It is an important story that is well told by Mr. Gibson.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Movies: Sully and the Dressmaker; one to see and one to skip

 

The Dressmaker

I don’t know how to label this movie, which takes place in a small rural Australian town in the 1950s. It is sort of a comedy/western/mystery while not really working on any of these fronts. The film stars Kate Winslet as a Paris dressmaker, who returns to her hometown for reasons that are never fully explained and finds her mother in a shack that would give any home on “Hoarders” a run for its money. Her cantankerous mother (played brilliantly by Judy Davis) doesn’t even acknowledge that Myrtle (Winslet) is her daughter and the townspeople all despise her for an unknown reason. Welcome Home!

Myrtle cleans up their home and starts designing dresses for some of the locals while attempting to find out if she murdered a young boy in her youth. We also are introduced to some of the locals who mostly are horrific. There are only really two “good” ones. Teddy, played by Liam Hemsworth, becomes Murial’s love interest despite a twenty something age difference and the local law authority played by Hugo Weaving is a loveable crossdresser who covets Myrtle’s creations and generally sticks up for her.

This film sinks into really depressing stuff and the plot goes all over the place as we make our way through an overly long two hours attempting to determine why Myrtle is despised and what happened in her childhood. The scenes are rarely connected and while there are certainly some comedic moments, marital rape isn’t one of them even though it drew some laughs from the audience. Despite the difficulties with the screenplay, the costumes are amazing and the acting by Davies, Winslet and Wearing is excellent. I’d definitely skip this one if it comes to your local Indy theater.

Sully

I finally got around to seeing Sully. After spending years commuting to LaGuardia on the US Air Shuttle, (the same model as was in the film), I certainly recognized all of the location shots which are really well done. Sully is a typical straightforward Clint Eastwood film that delivers on all fronts. We certainly know the outcome and remember Captain “Sully” Sullenberger with affection and admiration. However, Eastwood is able to build drama and suspense around the NTSB investigation of the crash and the PTSD Sully experienced its aftermath to give us a story that we aren’t familiar with.

The first scene in the movie is extraordinary and reminds us just how vulnerable Manhattan is to large aircraft flying around the city. I’m sure it is no coincidence that the film was released around the 15th anniversary of 9/11. In addition to this first scene, there are others that provide some extraordinary cinematography. The acting is also good. Tom Hanks is Tom Hanks and if you like his work you won’t be disappointed in how he portrays Sully. Aaron Eckhart was great as the co-pilot and Laura Linney in a small part did her typical excellent job.

Sully is an emotionally satisfying film that will capture your attention from the first scene until the last. If for some reason you have missed it, go see it. My only recommendation would be not to watch it prior to taking an airline trip – especially one out of LaGuardia.