Doctor Strange

Posted on November 3, 2016 at 5:42 pm

Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for sci-fi violence and action throughout, and an intense crash sequence
Profanity: Some strong language
Alcohol/ Drugs: None
Violence/ Scariness: Prolonged fantasy/superhero peril and violence, serious car accident, characters injured and killed, some disturbing images
Diversity Issues: Diverse characters (Asian male character in the comics portrayed by a white actress)
Date Released to Theaters: November 4, 2016

Doctor_Strange_posterIf they ever give a Best Supporting Prop Oscar, it should go to Doctor Strange’s Cape of Levitation, the most endearing magical implement/sidekick since Sorceror Mickey’s brooms in “Fantasia.” And if they ever give out a Best Superhero Movie Producer and Sustainer of the MCU, the lifetime achievement version should go to Kevin Feige, who has once again figured out just the right balance between consistency and distinctiveness, between action and wit, and, perhaps the most difficult hurdle, between magic and superpowers. “Doctor Strange” has a superb cast, a witty script, and some knockout special effects.

Doctor (not Dr.) Strange is a brilliant neurosurgeon. He is also arrogant and obsessed with work with a biting, acerbic wit. If this sounds a bit Tony Stark-ish, you’re on the right track.

He is severely injured in a car accident.  (Distracted driving, kids, wait to send that text or review that CAT scan image until you have safely parked the car.)  His hands are shattered, with nerve damage and tremors, which will end his career as a surgeon.  The man who prided himself on being able to diagnose and cure the most hopeless cases cannot find a way to heal himself.

And then the man of rationality and science, with nothing more to lose, has to try something new. He hears of a man who found a miraculous cure in Nepal, so, despite his skepticism about “alternative” medicine, he goes there only to find that what is involved is an entirely “alternative” way of thinking about the world, the universe, and, perhaps most difficult, himself.

His sensei is known as The Ancient One (the white female Tilda Swinton as a character portrayed as an Asian male in the comics), an ageless and endlessly wise and powerful teacher who shows Strange that the reality he believes he understands and can control is one of many.  The Avengers protect the material world from threats, but The Ancient One and her accolytes protect us from magical threats. Is it indelicate to point out that the most severe threats are all coming from former students, a la Darth Vader and Kylo Ren, and Professor X’s former students, so maybe the best course is for The Ancient One to shut down the school entirely?  And follow her own advice that if you silence your ego your power will rise?

Oh, who cares. This is when we start to get the very cool special effects, with “Inception”-style planes folding over each other and M.C. Escher-style chases.  And you gotta love a neuro-surgeon turned wizard who throws down references to Bob Seger and Beyoncé and, in the big, big moment, finds a solution that is as clever as it is magical.

NOTE: Stay through the credits for TWO extra scenes, one at the very end.

Parents should know that this film includes intense fantasy and superhero action, peril, and violence, car accident, disturbing and graphic images, characters injured and killed, and brief strong language.

Family discussion: Why does Strange insist on being called “Doctor?” Why does The Ancient One first turn him down?

If you like this, try: the Steve Ditko-era comics, “Inception,” Cumberbatch’s “Sherlock” series, and the “Avengers” films

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Happy 2016! Here’s What’s Coming to Theaters This Year

Posted on January 1, 2016 at 8:00 am

Happy new year! Here’s some of what we’re looking forward to seeing in theaters in 2016. As usual, we have sequels, remakes, superheroes, movies based on best-selling books, and movies based on real-life stories. And, as usual, what I look forward to most is knowing that a year from today I will be a fan of movies and performers and writers and directors I do not yet know anything about. Can’t wait to meet them. (All release dates subject to change)


Norm of the North (looks kind of like “Happy Feet” crossed with “Madagascar?”)


Hail Caesar! (The Coen brothers take on the golden age of Hollywood)

Zoolander 2 (Blue Steel! This time with Benedict Cumberbatch!)

Race (the story of Olympic champion and American hero Jesse Owens)


Knight of Cups (from Terrence Malick, so it will be beautiful and opaque)

Me Before You (based on the best-seller about a young woman who is hired to help a wealthy young man who is paralyzed following an accident)

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot (Tina Fey and Margot Robbie star in this fact-based story of a war correspondent)

Zootopia (animated comedy about a city of animals)

Batman vs. Superman (Clash of the DC titans)

My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 (even Greekier and weddingier!)


Keeping Up with the Joneses (Jon Hamm, Isla Fisher, and Zach Galifianakis star in a comedy about suburbanites who suspect their neighbor might be a spy)

The Boss (Melissa McCarthy is a bad boss gone rogue)

Barbershop: The Next Cut (Ice Cube and the gang are back for more haircuts, trash talk, and potential apple juice theft)

Everybody Wants Some (“Boyhood” director Richard Linklater follows up his classic “Dazed and Confused” with some some dazed and confused 80’s jams — in both senses of the word)

The Jungle Book (live-action re-telling of the Rudyard Kipling classic story of a boy raised by animals)

Keanu (Key and Peele play “blerds” (“black nerds” who must save a kitten, with Method Man, Nia Long, and Will Forte)

Mother’s Day (from the same folks who brought you all-star dramedies about New Year’s Day and Valentine’s Day)

Nine Lives (Kevin Spacey and Jennifer Garner star in a story about a man who is trapped in the body of the family’s cat)

Same Kind of Different as Me (Greg Kinnear, Renee Zellwegger, and Djimon Honsou star in this real-life story based on the best-seller about a homeless man and an art dealer who become friends)


Captain America: Civil War (Cap is back. So is the Winter Soldier.)

Going in Style (remake of the comedy heist film about an over-the-hill mob, starring Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, and Christopher LLoyd — and Ann-Margret)

The Free State of Jones (Matthew McConaughey and Gugu Mbatha-Raw star in this fact-based story of a farmer married to a former slave who rebelled against the Confederacy during the Civil War)

Money Monster (Jodie Foster directs George Clooney and Julia Roberts in the story of a television investing guru held hostage on the air)

Snowden (Oliver Stone directs Joseph Gordon-Levitt in the story of the notorious former NSA contractor seen by some as a traitor and some as a heroic whistleblower)

The Angry Birds Movie (ever wonder how the birds got so angry?)

X-Men: Apocalypse (more mutants!)


Now You See Me 2 (that rich guy is not happy about the magicians stealing his money)

Finding Dory (Nemo and Marlin must take another journey)


The BFG (Roald Dahl’s classic story stars Mark Rylance from “Bridge of Spies”)

The Secret Life of Pets (what do they do all day when we’re at work?)

Ghostbusters (Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, and Kate McKinnon probably get slimed)

Lala Land (Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone in a musical from “Whiplash” writer/director Damien Chazelle)


Ben-Hur (Jack Huston and Rodrigo Santoro star in this remake of the Charlton Heston classic)

Kubo and the Two Strings (the latest from LAIKA)


The Magnificent Seven (remake of the classic western with Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, and Matt Bomer)

Masterminds (Zach Galifianakis and Kristen Wiig star in this fact-based story of some very dumb criminals)


The Girl on the Train (Rebecca Ferguson and Emily Blunt star in this mystery based on the best-selling book)


Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (JK Rowling’s new story stars Eddie Redmayne and takes place in New York)

Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch stars as the DC sorcerer)


Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (Tim Burton directs this fantasy based on the series by Ransom Riggs)

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