Thursday, November 10, 2016

Deadpool's Magical Mystical Movie Review Of Doctor Strange (2016)!!! (Spoiler-Free, Because That's How I Roll)

Holy crap, people!!! How long has it been since Uncle D has sat down with you and told you a story? No, I don't remember when the last Marvel movie came out either. And yeah, I admit I skipped out on reviewing Suicide Squad. I mainly blame Justin though. (That freaking guy. Quitting his last job and getting all dramatic about the "emotional damage" it caused him. Wah wah, Justin! Get another job you damn hippy wannabe! Love you.)

You would think that the Marvel movies would be getting stale by this point. Sales figures have yielded mixed results with that, but overall it's still been PRETTY DAMN GOOD considering this is now the FOURTEENTH effing Marvel movie and Phase III is only just getting its feet wet. (I keep telling that asshole to just JUMP in the pool, so it'll be less cold, but I digress...) These movies are showing no signs of stopping, and somehow, we're still crossing territories we never have (or even thought we would have) before. Honestly, if I told you fifteen years ago that we'd be seeing a movie about the origins of the 'Sorcerer Supreme' someday, would you have believed me? Don't say you would! You're lying! You are the worst liar, I swear.

So what IS Doctor Strange all about? Tough cookie to describe, but I'll munch into this one head first (... *much*). Stephen Strange is a very famous doctor, who performs all kinds of incredible surgeries with his hands that he spends way too much time washing and staring at creepily. One day, he gets into an accident that HE caused, damaging the beautiful miracle surgery hands, and taking away their mint condition status. He looks for options to get his hands (that he can no longer creepily stare at the same way) back to normal, and eventually comes across people on another continent, who he believes can help him heal. Little did he realize what he would really get himself into...

You may have noticed my asshole-ish tone when describing Strange's character. (More asshole-ish than usual, I mean!) Well, there's kind of a reason for that. Are you ready for this bombshell to drop? Here it is... :

Stephen Strange is arguably a bigger asshole than Tony Stark.

... I'll give you all a minute to really process that.

No, I'm serious. This guy is completely egotistical to the point of madness, he's rich as f$%k, he only saves people he considers to be "worthy of his time," has no concern for other's well-being unless it affects his status, has a bad-ass collection of watches and a nice car that I'm admittedly completely jealous of, never accepts responsibility for his actions (even when told he's about to rip the entire time/space continuum apart!), and did I mention the creepy hand-washing thing!? I'm not going to lie to you all. I had a very hard time feeling any shred of sympathy for this guy. I guess you could say this is a reflection of how good an actor that Benedict Cumberbatch truly is? I mean, the guy also played Sherlock, and was a major asshole in that too. Huh...

(Seriously, I love Cumberbatch as an actor, so don't even think about flaming me after this. You know I know who you are...)

The pacing of the movie is a bit uneven, but I think that's one of the things I ended up liking about it the most (outside of the effects of course, which I am SO going to devote an entire paragraph to later!). It's no secret that the Marvel movies have all followed a very strict formula. If you didn't already realize this until now, and I've somehow ruined your entire love of the series, leading you to question what else society's been keeping from you, then I'm sorry, but also glad to hear you're taking your first steps! With that said, I can finally state that some of the strict/boring setup of the previous movies is finally starting to fade a bit. The majority of this movie actually does focus on character development and world building, more than "boom boom, whirly boom boom!" Not to say there isn't a lot of spectacular "whirly boom boom" to go with it, but I think you can see where I'm going with this. Instead of having a fine line between good and evil, we actually see two groups very mixed in thoughts and goals, as well as having their beliefs be constantly questioned. It's a beautiful thing that I'm sure Neil deGrasse Tyson would very much approve of (even though he probably doesn't appreciate the actual science of the movie as much. Ugh, I can feel you judging me from here, Neil. Back off with your actual scientific facts!!! (But seriously, can I call you Neil?) (Wow, I've used a lot of brackets in this paragraph...)).

Are you ready for the effects paragraph? HERE is the effects paragraph!!!... In the next one.

... OMG those effects tho!!! I am usually the first pretentious dick to criticize overuse of CGI in movies, to the point where there's no imagination to the product, but this yielded a much better result and actually gave me some hope for the technology. The parts of it that look cheesy are much fewer and farther between. Everything else is absolutely dreamlike. Buildings opening up and closing/flipping sideways and upside-down like it ain't no thang! Journeys into multiple astral planes and universes. It's just so damn pretty, that you can't NOT talk about it. If this is a sign of future CGI use in movies, I may actually be on board again. (I can also finally stop saying the last Mad Max movie was the only thing to get CGI right, even if for totally different reasons. HOO-HAH!)

This is also a pretty small thing to mention (to the point where Ant-Man would probably notice it first), but this may be the first time I left the theater actually humming and remembering a Marvel movie's soundtrack!!! Seriously, have you EVER done that with a Marvel movie before? Because I sure as hell didn't, and I don't remember anyone else saying they did either, so it must be true!

Is this the greatest Marvel movie ever made? Lol, nope. Not even close. It's one thing to have Strange's character evolve as far as it did, but... He's still an ass. He mainly got where he did from reading and learning (admittedly due to his photographic memory), and not from evolving as a person so much. That's not to say he didn't have ANY evolution whatsoever, but... damn. Wong put it perfectly when he said "... But you've still got much to learn." It's cool that they're obviously building this up so that Strange's character can grow even more, but what are we actually teaching the people who watched this movie in the meantime? Without going into direct spoilers, the "heroes" of the movie only won their fight with the "villains" by tapping into dark arts they were not supposed to, due to the risk of damaging the entire time-space continuum! And this was only considered after a certain someone's master was caught doing the same thing (whether for a just purpose or not). So... do whatever horrible means necessary to win a fight? Is that the message? I got nothing there.

There was also a huge (understandable) controversy over who was chosen to play Strange's teacher in the movie. While I am still kind of surprised over who the movie execs picked as well, I won't pretend that Tilda Swinton did a bad job with the performance either. She kicked a lot of butt in fact! But it's... still weird. I hope I can get some more clarity on that decision at some point. Other actors/actresses felt underused in their roles here; the most obvious being Chiwetel Ejiofor as Karl Mordo. He's really a mix of different comic book personalities into one, but that wasn't the issue here. Hell, I liked the fact that he wasn't just a straight up "muahahahaha evil" guy. But his character didn't get enough time to shine. We still only barely scratched the surface while learning about his motivations. Honestly, if the "villain" didn't go around and kill anyone in this movie, you'd have questioned whether anyone could consider him a villain character at all. I guess I can't hate on this too much, since it obviously leads to awesome winding paragraphs like this, where I let my full inner-nerd out, but I'd have still liked to see a lot more of this. Hopefully, now that the origins are out of the way, we can jump right into things next time!

8 uses of "Dormammu, I've come to bargain!" out of 10

Sorry to get all "movie critic" on yer butts, but I really did have a lot of opinions on this one. That's a good thing though, right? Can I get an actual job doing this yet, so I can STOP shooting things!??? No? Oh, okay... See you next time, true believers!!!

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Book Review: Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency (1987)

I'll begin this review with a confession: As much of a diehard fan as I am of Douglas Adams' 'Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy' series of books, I have never really developed an interest in reading the two Dirk Gently novels until recently. It's strange too, because The Hitchhiker novels were some of my favorite books of all time back when I had first read them (which I would still gladly include in my top 10 now). You would think I'd have been more curious to delve into these at the time! I have another confession to make: What gave me the motivation to finally pick it up, was the information I had heard and seen regarding the new TV series on BBC America (currently airing as I type this). It looked like it could be a lot of fun, and was something I felt immediately curious over. The week before it aired, I ended up finding a paperback copy of the first book at a library sale, and figured I could hardly go wrong for the $.50 it cost me. Imagine my surprise to find out that it has almost nothing in common with BBC's new series (so far)! But that's not the point here, as this blog is about the novel, and not the TV show.

I'm going to try as best I can not to come off as if I'm jumping from place to place during this review, but I have a feeling it will be difficult to do, since the book itself is written in such a style. The first few chapters merely give us information about the setting, with some clues about what we're even supposed to be taking in at this point. Dirk? We don't even hear a mention of his name until the end of chapter 4. Sounds odd, yes? Trust me when I say you don't even know the half of it. We're introduced to multiple characters (such as The Electric Monk, Richard, Gordon, Reg, and others) with seemingly no connection to each other. Cue Dirk (also known as Svlad Cjelli), who comes in to somehow bring it all together and solve a murder. This isn't done by any typical means however, as this is a holistic detective agency, meaning that Dirk believes in the "interconnectedness" of all things in the universe. He simply can't be bothered by trivial matters, such as physical evidence, to solve a case.

It's hard to look back on this book and recall when it all actually started to come together and make even a semblance of sense. Sure, there are plenty of clues that the reader can pick up on and figure out on their own, but there are so many other strange and wacky plot points to throw you off track, it's actually remarkable. Because of this confusing nature, I admit it was a bit difficult to stay interested during the first quarter or so of the book. It reminded me of how confused I was the first time I read Frank Herbert's "Dune," not being able to understand the terminology being thrown at me right in the first chapter.

Like "Dune" however, I am very glad I stuck with this book all the way to the end. When things finally did begin to come together, it was almost impossible to put down. I can attest to this, due to the fact that I stayed up until about 4 AM to read the last quarter of it in one sitting. (Honestly, when your book consists of plot twists involving ghosts, time travel, and the secrets of the very universe itself, who can say no!?)

It's easy to compare Dirk's character to that of Shelock Holmes and The Doctor from Doctor Who, the latter in particular. This isn't a coincidence, as Adams actually came up with this idea for Dirk Gently during his time writing for Doctor Who. If you were to look up the serials "City Of Death" and more importantly, the cancelled "Shada," then you would likely notice multiple similarities (which I will not post here at the risk of spoiling any major plot points in this book). I would argue that Dirk is nuttier than both Sherlock and The Doctor put together, and I do not say that lightly. This is a man that made trips to other continents and added it to a woman's bill, while claiming it was all in the name of finding her lost cat!

What really makes this disjointed novel still work in the end is Douglas Adams' brilliant use of wit and humor. If anyone can pull off something as utterly ridiculous as this story, and still make it feel worth your while, it's Adams. I found myself rethinking old scientific concepts that I had always taken for granted growing up, and caught myself laughing out loud on more than one occasion. It was also a relief to see that none of the chapters or paragraphs in this book were wasted. Everything really WAS connected and it made the remainder of the read far more satisfying. I am also tempted to re-read it now, and to go in with a completely different mindset to the earlier chapters that confused me so much the first time around.

This is far from a perfect book (and I admit, I have a hard time recommending it to everyone, due to the confusing and fragmented nature of the storytelling as a whole), but any fan of Hitchhiker's Guide and the remainder of Adams' work owes it to themselves to give "Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency" a try. Even with the abrupt and arguably anticlimactic ending, I never felt that my time reading this was wasted in any way. If you have never read any of Adams' other work before, I would suggest starting with Hitchhiker's Guide (as so many already have) and going from there if you decide you want more of that same kind of charm. Whether or not the new TV series succeeds, this book is not to be missed.