• "Humility is the solid foundation of all virtues."
    - Confucius

    The Marvel cinematic universe has grown considerably since “Iron Man”. What began with standard superhero fare, has matured into a complex and fascinating cinematic universe. Not afraid to shy away from a standard formula, Marvel studios began to tell stories within different genres. Now, the MCU is dipping their toes into the supernatural with Doctor Strange. Can they successfully continue this storytelling trend? Is Doctor Strange Marvel's first failure or not? Let's take a look.

    Dr. Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) is a “Rock star” neurosurgeon. The only thing bigger than his brilliance is his ego. A car accident puts a stop to his career, and he travels the globe for a way to heal his crippled hands. After conventional surgery fails him, he desperately seeks an alternative method. With the help of a mysterious woman called “The ancient one” (Tilda Swinton) he finds answers. As he learns of the mystic arts, he unwittingly is pulled into an ancient battle against an evil entity. Strange, must choose to use his powers that can restore him to his former glory or use his powers to protect the earth.

    Every time I think I've seen it all, along comes a director that ups the bar. The visual effects of Doctor Strange are on a different level. Director, Scott Derrickson and ILM, make Steve Ditko's, psychedelic artwork come to life. The action and fight scenes are beautifully choreographed and lean toward the incredible action of Hong Kong Cinema. Both the effects and action set pieces are fast, furious and is absolutely gorgeous. 

    While the script may be a bit thin it is definitely one of the better superhero origin stories. Not to say that “Doctor Strange” is without depth. It definitely has some deeper moments and a poignant message about humility. This however would not hit home without the masterful performances of this cast. Benedict Cumberbatch as Stephen Strange is a revelation. Cumberbatch loses himself completely in the role and humanizes him. His arc from arrogant to unlikely hero is handled expertly. Unfortunately, just like other marvel villains of the MCU, Mads Mikkelsen's, Kaecilius is the weak link. Mikkelsen's performance is excellent but his character is just underdeveloped and lacks screen time.

    Despite the casting controversy, the big surprise and the heart of the movie is Tilda Swinton as the Ancient one. She exudes a certain tenderness, wit and strength. She does a lot with her eyes and facial expressions. By giving less she achieves maximum results. Michael Giacchino's music is brilliant. It supports and enriches the images on screen. With a strong and a recognizable main theme this is quite possibly Marvel's best music score to date.
    ...Or Hero?

    Not afraid to take chances, Marvel has another winner on their hands. With remarkable visual effects, performances and important story themes, this film definitely belongs up there with Iron man and Captain America: Winter Soldier. Even if you do not like 3D, it is advised to see this on the biggest screen possible in 3D. You will sell yourself short if you do not. Do stay during and after the end credits. A game changer, beautiful and innovative. Go see it!

  • I love Star Trek. It's always been in my life one way or another. Unfortunately like anything in life you phase out of certain books, movies or music. In my case I lost touch with Star Trek. Then in 2009, J.J. Abrams' big screen reboot of Star Trek rekindled my interest for the franchise. I started to go back to the original movies featuring Kirk, Spock, Bones and the rest of the beloved crew. Once I went back to the original series, I absolutely fell in love again with theses characters. The writing holds up, the themes were and in some cases still are poignant and despite its limited budget and clunky sets, it had its heart in the right place.
    You never forget your first love...

    Having finished the third season of the original series, I felt a bit lost. I wanted more adventures of this crew. Then it was as if the Talosians themselves had captured me and given me the illusion of what I wanted. While looking up for anything TOS related on YouTube, I stumbled upon this fan created series called Star Trek Continues. As its title suggests it is indeed a continuation of the original series. An unofficial season 4 if you will. Helmed by Vic Mignogna, he and his crew successfully ran a crowdfund campaign for their first episode. So far they produced 7 episodes. It looks like Star Trek, sounds like Star Trek but does it have the heart? Let's ahead one-quarter impuls power and take a look at the third episode, “Fairest of them all”.
    Better than the Kelvin-verse?

    This third episode is a direct sequel to “Mirror, mirror” and takes place entirely in this parallel universe where The Federation is now the Terran Empire. It leans more towards fascism and the subjugation of other worlds instead of missions of peaceful exploration and aid. After Kirk (Vic Mignogna) destroys the Halkan council and its planet, Spock (Tod Haberkorn) now realizes that the fall of the Empire is an inevitability. The fact that the Andorians started to openly rebel against the Terran empire strengthens Spock's sentiments for change and peace. Together with Lt. Moreau (Asia De Marcos) and a small group of insurgents Spock must overthrow the murderous and psychotic Kirk and take control of the I.S.S. Enterprise. A deadly cat and mouse game ensues and Spock must be that one man with vision in the revolution to come.
    Considering revolution

    I've been very impressed with the writing of this show. In some of the other episodes they actually show the repercussions of what happened in the previous seasons. The losses and many extreme experiences Kirk and crew had mean something now. There is no reset button anymore. They masterfully continued the story that started with “Mirror, mirror”. You see the doubt in Spock as Kirk becomes more erratic and psychotic. They also show you that the “evil” counterparts aren't as villainous as you may think. They are very much victims of their circumstances and most of them begin to reject the ways of the Terran Empire. Only the ones set in their old ways are doomed to go down with this fascistic system. It's not done in an overtly blunt way but the message hits home through excellent acting and dialogue. The point this episode tries to make is simple, poignant but timeless. “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
    Now actually starting revolution!

    Star Trek continues does a tremendous job at capturing the feel and look of the original series. At times it can be a little too slavish to the somewhat clunky visual effects of the sixties. This however is just a very minor gripe. The performances are top notch. Mignogna channels just enough Shatner without it turning into parody. Haberkorn's Spock is excellent. He exudes a calm and cool without losing that same twinkle in the eye and charm that Leonard Nimoy had. 
    She's still a looker after all these years

    The rest of the cast is excellent as well. It features some well known actors like Erin Gray and also sees some Star Trek alumni like Michael Forest return. The son of James Doohan, Chris Doohan steps into the role of Mr. Scott and does a wonderful job. Also, Grant Imahara of Mythbusters takes on the role of Mr. Sulu and does a remarkable job. The writing of this show is its biggest strength. Like the original series, Star Trek Continues takes a look at real world issues as well. It tackles everything from child abuse, sexual assault, women's rights, slavery, loss and grief to the price of freedom and links it to where we are as a society today.
    Sulu's about to have a bad day...

    So, Yes, it looks like Star Trek and it sounds like Star Trek and it definitely has its heart in the right place. It pays homage to that wondrous show of the 60's but brings that same charm and wonder into the 21st century without tongue in cheek or parody. This is a labor of love and I felt every minute of it. Go watch the show now and you will too.

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