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3 1/2 Stars

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (2022)

Like many a millennial, I grew associating filmmaker Sam Raimi with the Tobey Maguire Spider-Man Trilogy. While known to be a potent force in the arena of cinematic horror, I sadly have only seen one Sam Raimi horror film as of this writing, The Evil Dead (although one could make the argument Spider-Man 3 was actually a horror in other ways).

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"Top Tens", and others Movies

The Top 20 of 2021

From The Little Things to The Tragedy of Macbeth (Denzel bookends), I rounded out my amount of movies seen at seventy.

Even with that amount of movies, there was a fair amount of films I did not get to in time (especially, sadly, Foreign Language films). These include The Last Duel, The Green Knight, The Card Counter, Drive my Car, The Worst Person in the World, Stillwater, and The Tender Bar.

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4 Stars

Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021)

Part of me wants to go the coward’s way, and not even review Spider-Man: No Way Home.

Easily the most anticipated movie since Avengers: Endgame, I will do all I can to be sure not to spoil anything for anyone, provided they have at least seen the two trailers for the film (and while this may be too little too late, stay away from the movies IMDB page).

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4 Stars Movies

1917 (2019)

Maybe it is just me, but I feel that if you were to ask someone on the street what they know about World War one, they would not have much to say. It seems like World War Two has nearly made the first World War seem dim by comparison (the death toll of the second World War is more than nearly all other wars combined). Perhaps that is why when we think of war films, we tend to think more toward the second one (Vietnam is in there as well).

In short, I had very little knowledge of the history going into director Sam Mendes’ 1917, which the director has dedicated to his World War one veteran grandfather, except for one of my personal favorite patriotic songs, “Over There”, was written during the war.

The story is simple: two young soldiers (Dean-Charles Chapman and George Mckay) are commissioned by General Erinmore (Colin Firth) to deliver a message. The message is to go deep behind enemy lines and call off a raid of 1,600 fellow troops from walking into a trap set up by the Germans, before all of them (including a brother of one of the soldiers) are massacred.

The film does not rely on star power (though we do get appearances from Sherlock alumni Andrew Scott and Benedict Cumberbatch), but that does not at all mean the actors are not effective in their roles. What stands out in the film is that it is edited to look as though the whole film is shot in one take. There were only three or so times I could count where I thought I saw the editing take place (one for sure toward the middle of the film), but it seemed so convincing I was gobsmacked. It truly is an ambitious endeavor that Mendes (who may best me known for helming Skyfall, arguably one of the top three or four best 007 flicks) chose to pursue. It is proof that the film ends (in a sense) where it began.

Everything in the film seems authentic: the search for food, the small talk on the road, the enclosed spaces, and the rats. Seriously, the first half or so of this film has so many rats I feel I should warn you in case you are afraid of them. There is also a true feeling of brotherhood between the two soldiers. I was reminded a lot of that great song “He ain’t heavy, he’s by brother” from 1969 made famous by The Hollies.

What had me somewhat hesitant of the film was whether it would have been as effective had Mendes not gone for the “one shot” method of film making. Had he not, it may not have been as memorable (the same could be said of the Best Picture winner of 2014, Birdman, which also took this approach). Sure, the film would have still looked great (it is shot by the unflappable Roger Deakins, after all), but the affect of the gritty, almost surrealistic feeling of war, would be lacking.

Parents, the movie is unsurprisingly rated R, mainly due to war violence and swearing. There is no sexual content (save for one comment about masturbation between the two soldiers), but nothing else. I think back to when I was eleven or so, and my dad wanted me to see Saving Private Ryan, but he wisely waited for me to be ready for it (I saw it not long after it was released on VHS).

From what I could find, the last known veteran of World War one to die was Florence Green in 2012, just days before she would have reached the ripe age of 111. That generation of heroes are no longer with us in person, but their service and heroism will echo throughout the rest of time. Regardless of the time or situation, war is truly hell for anyone involved, and 1917 displays all this and more as it pays tribute to heroes who need more recognition these days.

As in all the great war films, 1917 hides it’s ideas of warfare in plain sight. Soldiers knowing to follow orders regardless of what the orders are (“If you love me, keep my commands” – John 14:15). Random attacks of outside elements that cause mass confusion. Acting on instinct. Making mistakes both minor and major. Persevering. Protecting one’s brother(s). Being on guard for potential attacks by the enemy (think of how the devil is like “a roaring lion” as described in 1 Peter 5:8, and “roaming the earth” as described in Job 1:6).

Correct me if I am wrong, but does that not also sound like spiritual warfare as well?

Overall:

Rating: 4 out of 5.
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5 Stars Movies

Avengers: Infinity War (2018)

For the past ten years, Marvel has made (for the most part) solid entertaining movies. Few movies have been any kind of a threat of dethroning Marvel’s work (Iron Man, The Avengers, Guardians of the Galaxy, Captain America: Civil War, Black Panther). Now comes the cream of the crop, Avengers: Infinity War.

If you have seen any of the Marvel films (I know you have), you know there have been six infinity stones in the universe. They are being hunted by Thanos (Josh Brolin), in his quest to bring balance to the cosmos. This is done with the infinity gauntlet, which he can use to wipe out half of all living things, with a snap of his fingers. Standing in his way are Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Dr. Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), Captain America (Chris Evans), … ok, basically everyone in every Marvel movie except for Ant-Man and Hawkeye.

Remember Spider-Man 3, when there were too many characters and story lines? Well, Infinity War has only one real story line and one villain. Nevertheless, all the star players are not only here, but needed. After all, that is how hard it is to defeat a guy like Thanos. The first ten minutes alone prove my point because “We have a hulk” isn’t good enough for the Asgardians.

Credit also must be given to directors Anthony and Joe Russo (Captain America: The Winter Soldier). Each character is given not only the same amount of screen time, but the right amount of it. Kudos to the actors for remembering the old rule: no small parts, only small actors.

Speaking of which, there is even a role for Peter Dinklage. I mean that transition not as a put down joke, but from the heart. There is no doubting the man’s talent.

Perhaps the greatest difference between the films of the MCU and the (now defunct) DCU is that the former has far more layered characters. After spending a decade with most of them, we have seen a character arc in nearly every one of them, and have seen there ups and downs, fears and beliefs, strengths and weaknesses. How applicable are the words from Proverbs 18:24; “One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” The heroes are not blood related (Thor and Loki are brothers, but not by blood, as is the case for Gamora and Nebula), but have gone thru so much they may as well be. How can that not be relatable?

John 15:13 tells us a deep, moral truth: “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.Avengers: Infinity War recognizes this truth time and time again. One critical point in the plot is the discussion over whether to kill Vision preemptively to stop Thanos from getting the Mind stone. Vision was willing to die (and did!) for his friends.

Parents, Infinity War is darker than most other Marvel movies, but still an acceptable film for Middle Schoolers and above.

That is all I will say, because this is not a movie to read about. It is one to experience. And what an experience.

Overall:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

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4 Stars

Thor: Ragnarok (2017)

Marvel is now just one or two movies away from me actually picking up a comic.

The Thor trilogy ends, as the other two trilogies Marvel has provided (Iron Man and Captain America) ended, with a blast. Thor: Ragnarok is not only the best Thor movie, but one of the top four or five best Marvel has ever given us to date.

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4 Stars

Doctor Strange (2016)

Once again, Marvel gives us a solid, all around fun origin flick with their newest Superhero to hit the big screen, Dr. Strange (though obviously not to be confused with the 1964 masterpiece Dr. Strangelove: Or How I learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb).