What If: Doctor Strange Lost His Heart Instead Of His Hands

4/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

Stephen Strange, voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch, goes on a hunt for answers after the death of his love Christina Palmer, voiced by Rachel McAdams, and what starts out with good intentions quickly morphs into something perverse.

I think this was a very high calibre episode, certainly up there with the murder mystery one and Captain Carter; maybe better. What I think this episode does so well is that it tells a very personal story but incorporates a lot of big themes and concepts into it, so as we focus our attention souly on the life and loves of Stephen Strange the MCU is also expanding all around us.

Another thing I enjoyed about this episode was that it finally gave Jeffery Wright’s Uatu something to do. I understand he is a Watcher and is forbidden to get involved with the events he sees, but they could at least give him something. Other than the narration each episode and maybe a shot of him watching he is basically absent from the show. This is rectified here as Uatu shows up during the events of the episode and talks to Strange as the episode ends, it finally gives him an active role.

Moreover, I also enjoyed the further exploration of the magical side of the MCU, and I thought the conjuring/consumption scenes during the episode were intriguing, especially as it pertains to the supernatural within the MCU, maybe Mephisto can appear yet.

My one complaint of the episode would be that it ends on rather a down note and that it leaves you feeling depressed, but I suppose that was the point.

Overall, a deeply personal look into the mystical side of the MCU

Pros.

Expanding the mystical side of the MCU

Making Doctor Strange feel more human

The emotion

Finally giving Uatu something to do

Cons.

The ending is depressing

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Shang Chi And The Legend Of The Ten Rings: Now We Have Dragons In The MCU

4/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

Shang Chi, Simu Liu, must confront his past and his family in order to save the planet. A world of martial arts, dragons and family drama is explored.

Sadly Fin Fang Foom is not in this movie, I even waited till the very end to see if we were going to get a tease, we don’t. However, that is not to say their aren’t any dragons in this film we get two: The Great Protector and The One Who Dwells In Darkness, or something like that. Can I just pause for a moment and say how cool it is that the Marvel Cinematic Universe now has dragons in it. I very much enjoyed seeing this new magical world being explored and opened up, I can’t wait to explore it more in a sequel.

In terms of acting I think Simu Liu makes for a very capable leading man being both funny and charming throughout. Ben Kingsley returns to reprise his role of Trevor Slattery from the third Iron Man film and easily makes up for the sins of that film and lands some of the best jokes in the entire MCU. Continuing on that note this is easily one of the funniest films in the MCU and the comedy really enhances the film and adds a lot to it.

My one complaint of the film would be that the fight scenes aren’t very impressive. Watched in a vacuum without other films, without all the hype, someone might think these fight scenes were cool and impressive. However, in context of the genre, or at least the genre they are trying to emulate they are about five years out of date. Whilst the fight scenes are more intense and better structured than most in the MCU, when compared to something like the IP Man films, The Raid or even John Wick they feel like poor copies of other fight scenes done better elsewhere, and that is a big disappointment.

The breakout star of this film is easily Meng’er Zhang, she manages to out-badass Shang Chi himself and the final post credits scene promises something very exciting for the characters future. I personally found myself connecting more with her emotional journey and family baggage than I did with Shang Chi but that is not to say both weren’t well done.

Overall, a good Marvel film but an average martial arts film.

Pros.

The mystical side of the MCU is expanded further

Meng’er Zhang

Simu Liu

The comedy

Cons.

Pacing issues

Average fight scenes    

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Kung Fu Panda 3: Mastering Your Craft

Kung Fu Panda 3 is an animated martial arts film directed by Alessandro Carloni and Jennifer Yuh Nelson. The plot sees ancient bad guy Kai (J.K Simmons), break free of the spirt world and return to the mortal plane hell bent on stealing the chi of every Kung Fu Master thereby destroying his old nemesis Oogway’s (Randall Duk Kim) legacy once and for all. There is only one Panda who can stop him.

I enjoyed this film quite a bit, it might have been my favourite since the first. I enjoyed the intensely personal journey at the heart of the story. Though you have all this end of the world end of kung fu stuff going on all around, the heart of the film is Po (Jack Black), coming to terms with you he is and finding his place in the world.

I think the journey that Po goes on, the inspiration for the series, is masterfully done and is a true achievement for the creatives involved. The progression feels natural and earned, when Po meets his birth dad Li (Bryan Cranston), it feels earned after all the soul searching he did in the second film. Truly his is a masterpiece of storytelling across multiple films and a beacon for how to do sequels.

I also enjoyed that the focus was not souly on Po, yes, he is the main focus, but this film gave those around him the chance to shine as well and shine they do.

Overall, this is the perfect end to the trilogy and feels like a much-deserved end, the character work and development is nothing sort of a master class and Black nails the emotion.

Pros.

The journey

The ending

The emotional heart at the core of the film

Giving the side characters a chance to shine

The voice acting

Cons

The villain is a bit weak, but it is such a minor issue.

4.5/5

Reviewed by Luke

The Raid 2: This Time It’s Personal

The Raid 2 is an Indonesian action martial arts film directed by Gareth Evans. The plot takes place not long after the events of the first film, Rama (Iko Uwais), has to go undercover within the Jakarta underworld to try and protect his family. His brother is also killed at the start of the film, so Rama is on a side mission of vengeance; seeking out evil rising mobster Bejo (Alex Abbad).

The Raid 2 had a hard job to do, it had to live up to the scale and intensity of the first film, while also raising the stakes and taking everything to the next level. I have to say the film does both of those things. It shows us the wider underworld that was only slightly hinted at during the first film and we get to see some interesting new characters and players. Also, the fight scenes are on a whole new level as well, the prison fight sequence is brutal and relentless.

However, while it is doing all of these things it sacrifices the personal threat and tension from the first film. For those of you who haven’t seen it the first Raid film is all set within a tower block and there are a lot of fight sequences that take place within very tight areas, this makes the film feel very claustrophobic which adds to its overall greatness. The second film really leaves this element behind.

This film introduces some new character who I found to be cool. I don’t remember their names, but I refer to them as Baseball guy and Hammer Woman, they were both very gimmicky in their fight style, but I did really like the final showdown between them and Rama at the end, I thought it was on a par with the first film’s fight sequences.

Finally, I loved the ambiguous ending this film has, it ends with Rama stood in front of a wave of Japanese gangster foot soldiers with him saying he is done. Does he die will he survive we don’t know and with no plans to do a third film any time soon we might never know, but it is a neat way to end things.

Overall, a very solid follow up that does a number of impressive things that raise the stakes and surpass the first film. My only issue is that by doing that it loses some of the things that made the first film great. Both are definitely worth checking out.

Pros.

Larger scale.

Rama’s ending.

The new characters.

The fight sequence between Rama and Baseball Guy and Hammer Woman.

Cons.

It loses some of the tense claustrophobia of the first film.

4/5

Reviewed by Luke

The Raid: An Action Movie Masterpiece

‘The Raid’ is an Indonesian Action Film, written edited and directed by Gareth Evans. The plot follows a highly trained group of police officers who try and infiltrate a tower block owned and controlled by a ruthless drug lord. Amongst these officers we have Rama (Iko Uwais), who is our main character, Rama has gone to the tower block to try and convince his brother Andi (Donny Alamsyah), to come home.

‘The Raid’ is a beautiful film for a lot of reasons, but for me the main one would be the fight choreography. The fight choreography on display here is some of the best I have ever seen. The fights look brutal and real, you can feel the pain and exhaustion coursing through the performances. There is a hallway fight sequence that is better than anything I have ever seen before, said sequence sees Rama take on a large group of gangsters and with sheer force of will takes them all out; this isn’t like fake looking action movies like ‘the Transporter’ where the enemies attack one at a time, no here it is much more hardcore and realistic.

It makes sense now after seeing this why the ‘John Wick’ series hired the actors from ‘The Raid’ for the third film in that series, because they are incredibly impressive. The Wick series is the only other current Western action film that I would say is on par with this film in terms of its fight sequences.

The plot of ‘The Raid’ is also wonderfully complex as nothing is how it appears to be. Other than main character Rama, who is our moral compass throughout the film, the other characters flirt between the side of good and the side of bad, giving the film an excellent sense of moral ambiguity. This is shown through Rama’s brother Andi who saves Rama’s life, but decides to stay behind at the end and take over the tower block and be the next gang leader.

Overall, I think this is a must watch for everyone not just die-hard action fans, it is so beautifully done that is marvellous to behold. ‘The Raid’ has become prolific within action cinema and has gone on to influence a lot of films in the genre and I believe for a good reason: this film is fantastic and deserves to be seen!

Pros.

The Acting.

The Fight Choreography.

Maintaining The Balance Between Brutal But Not Overly So.

The Moral Ambiguity.

Making Character You Care About.

Cons.

None

5/5

Reviewed by Luke