Saturday, November 19, 2016

Rapid Reviews: Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk and Doctor Strange

A lot can change in the matter of a few months. Prior to its October premiere at the New York Film Festival, many penciled-in Ang Lee's new adapted feature, Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk, as a viable Best Picture candidate. Lee's well-documented success with the Academy, mixed together with a war-time drama, the film checked-off all the necessary boxes. Yet, now, having watched Billy Lynn for myself, Lee's latest work is far from the Oscar-player we all expected and, sadly, it's one of the year's most disappointing entries.

This non-chronological adaption follows its title character (Joe Alwyn) and the other members of his Bravo squad who are home from Iraq on a victory tour. And as Billy prepares to be honored during the halftime show of an NFL football game for one of the worst days of his life. he recalls the harrowing events of the battle and contemplates his future as a soldier altogether.

Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk stands as a rare fatally flawed endeavor from Ang Lee. Boasting a muddled screenplay, subpar performances and questionable direction, something of which I was utterly shocked to witness, it's difficult to pinpoint a single redeeming quality from the film. portrayal of Lynn's squad is over-exaggerated beyond belief. Having known many soldiers who experienced the horrors of the Iraq war, most had a smooth re-integration back into everyday life. In addition to under-developed and cartoon-ish characters, the entire ensemble contributes to insufficient dramatics. Billy Lynn falls terribly short of the powerful and moving story Ang Lee intended to tell. With a long list of intriguing options arriving in theaters every week, Billy Lynn is a film you should simply avoid.

Stars: 1 and a half stars out of 4

Grade: C-

With Phase Three of Marvel's expansive universe in full motion, Scott Derrickson's Doctor Strange marks a pivotal moment within the series. Incorporating a whole new element that spans beyond the dimensions of the normal Marvel universe, there was a lot resting on this new release. And after hearing rave reviews about the film, I was eager to experience this ambitious superhero tale for myself.

Skilled neurosurgeon Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) sets the bar for his field of medicine. Yet, after a tragic accident leaves him desperate to discover the secrets of regaining full health in his limbs, Stephen learns of a mystical realm accessible through the unique powers of the human mind. This newfound ability pits him in a battle against evildoers set on changing life as we know it.

It's impossible to deny many of the clever ideas floating all throughout the fabric of Doctor Strange. However, a mind-numbing overdose of CGI used to support multiple dimensions becomes a tired routine that inhibits the film's creativity rather than letting it blossom. Benedict Cumberbatch gives an adequate lead performance in a Tony Stark-like role, but the films's recurring attempts at humor fail to land as easily as they once did. Underwhelming jokes and another forgettable villain couple together to reaffirm Doctor Strange's status as a middling rehashing of the prototypical Marvel formula. This added element to the Marvel universe proves unnecessary and leaves plenty to be desired.

Stars: 2 stars out of 4

Grade: C+

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