HEAVEN ON EARTH FOR ME IS anyplace that sells soft-serve, custard ice cream. There is such a feeling of comfort and joy that comes over me when eating the stuff. So, I decided recently to treat myself and go to a shop that sells it. After the choosing and paying for my chocolate ice cream, I sat down at one of the tables in the place. A family of four walked in and they each grabbed a cup to fill up with their choice of ice cream. This shop is set up where the customer fills the container with product and gets charged for it by the weight. Next to the cash registers was a long counter that was covered with containers filled with different toppings for one’s ice cream. I watched as the two children with their full containers ran up to this counter to pick their toppings. Unbelievably, my first thought was why were not the parents supervising them on the toppings; but they eventually came over to pay for their containers, while watching their kids go from one end to the other putting topping after topping on their ice cream. I counted nine toppings; yes, I said nine toppings! You could see part of them on top above the edge of their containers. How did the parents allow so much stuff added to the ice cream, and I wondered how much each of their children’s containers would cost? Also, could they even taste each item when there were so many different ones piled together? I HAVE NEVER SHIED AWAY FROM combined multiple tastes, like chocolate cake with chocolate chips and chocolate ice cream. Or I can do hot fudge, nuts, and sprinkles on top of my ice cream. However, I cannot exceed more tastes into one thing. An example would be that dessert bar that people usually call seven-layer bars or conglomerates. They are not bad, and I have certainly eaten my share of them; however, they are not my favorite. I would be perfectly content with a chocolate chip cookie. When there are too many items pushed together, I never feel I am getting the full taste of each item. It is funny, I am the same way with my meals. I like my salad before the meal and everything on my plate should be separated so they are not mixing. Chicken in one spot, asparagus in another and potatoes by themselves. Of course, Chinese entrees or several Mexican dishes are fine because they are supposed to be put together. The reason I am telling you this is because you will understand better why I was having a challenging time watching this action, adventure fantasy. SEEING A MULTI-TENTACLE CREATURE DESTROYING property was not the biggest shock for Doctor Strange, played by Benedict Cumberbatch (The Power of the Dog, The Electrical Life of Louis Wan); it was seeing a young girl in the middle of the chaos, who he had seen in his dreams. With Elizabeth Olsen (Wind River, In Secret) as Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch, Chiwetel Ejiofer (Locked Down, The Old Guard) as Baron Mordo, Benedict Wong (The Martian, Annihilation) as Wong and Rachel McAdams (Game Night, Spotlight) as Dr. Christine Palmer; this new installment of the film franchise had a darker side to it than the average Marvel Studios’ film. Benedict’s acting, which was superior, was equally matched and more so by Elizabeth Olsen and that is what kept me grounded to this picture. The abundance of special effects was so over the top for me; that I felt the CGI department let loose with everything they could think of because of being cooped up due to COVID the past couple of years. It was too much for me and I had to pay close attention to the different universes and storylines that were being thrust upon the screen. It was the thoughtful, emotional scenes that got me through the monotony of so many action, fantasy scenes. Though I will say the special effects were amazing; I love Doctor Strange’s cloak. How I like my toppings on ice cream is how I wish this sequel had been written, more backstory and less frenetic action scenes. There were two extra scenes: one in the middle and the other at the end of the credits.
IF I ONLY KNEW BACK THEN what I know now, I could have avoided so many troubling things. Oscar Wilde had a famous quote, “With age comes wisdom, but sometimes age comes alone.” This is so true. I am reminded of a friend who would repeat the same pattern when it came to the men she dated. Each relationship ended the same way with the man breaking it off and her heart getting broken. Whatever my 2 cents of advice is worth, she never allowed her relationships to develop; she went from having a few initial dates to acting like they were in a full-blown relationship, as if they were a long time couple. It was odd and uncomfortable to see her place herself repeatedly in these situations; yet, she would do the same thing over and over with each person she started dating. Of course, it is easier for me to give advice to other people than it is for me to take my own advice. I was in several relationships that, I see now, were not healthy. If I had my current level of confidence and knowledge back then, I could have saved myself a whole lot of pain. Yet, I always want to believe we gain something from each person we encounter. I DO NOT KNOW IF I am wiser, but I certainly am aware how differently I react to certain situations these days. In the past, my younger self would always view any type of criticism as a threat, where I would immediately go on the attack. Most of my verbal confrontations with individuals was me yelling “You” statements at them. These are sentences that start with the word “You” followed by a descriptive adjective or action, like “You never said” or “You didn’t care.” My older self can see the difference between saying “you never said” and “I did not hear you” or “You didn’t care” and “I felt you were not interested.” It changes the whole flavor of the situation when one starts out saying I instead of You. When I look back at my younger years, I can honestly say I have few regrets. However, what I can tell you is my life would have been less stressful if my younger self had my current self-awareness. From time to time in fact, I will recall an experience from my past and replay it in my mind to see how things could have been different, if I acted more like my adult self. For me doing this is more of a mental exercise; for the main character in this dramatic, action science fiction film his past was more physical. REACHING A POINT IN HIS LIFE where he could finally retire; elite assassin Henry Brogan, played by Will Smith (Aladdin, Suicide Squad), did not understand why he suddenly became the target of an assassin who was able to anticipate his every move. With Mary Elizabeth Winstead (10 Cloverfield Lane, Scott Pilgrim vs the World) as Danny Zakarweski, Clive Owen (Closer, Inside Man) as Clay Verris, Benedict Wong (The Martian, Doctor Strange) as Baron and Douglas Hodge (Red Sparrow, The Report) as Jack Willis; I was anticipating this film to be an exciting and visual piece of work because of the director, Ang Lee (Life of Pi, Brokeback Mountain). Visually there was a lot to look at; however, the action went to fast for me. I found Will was doing the same type of acting he has done before; so, I was not connecting at all with his character. The real shame here was the script; it was not only generic but gave the viewers clues to what was going to happen further in the story. Overall, there was nothing exciting or fresh about this picture. I hate to say it, but I believe this movie is an example of Oscar Wilde’s quote.
1 ¾ stars
IT WAS RATHER COMICAL AS my friend was the intermediary between me and her friend. I was talking to my friend on her cell phone while her friend was on my friend’s landline. The two of them had each just seen the same movie and had different reactions to it. With phones in hand my friend called me up and peppered me with questions and comments. I actually found it an interesting experience because I was seeing the movie again thru someone else’s eyes. Some of the questions made me rethink my interpretation of the story as I tried to piece together the scenes that originally led the three of us to different conclusions. The process was a positive one; I felt it expanded my mind to accept more possibilities for what was the meaning behind the story. We all stayed on our phones for approximately 20 minutes, going back and forth with our ideas and thoughts about the film. By the time we said our goodbyes none of us had changed our opinions; we in fact agreed that each of our points were valid. It would have been nice if we could have asked the writers what they were trying to achieve. AS YOU MAY HAVE NOTICED I enjoy seeing a movie that makes me think. However the bottom line for me is that I am at least being entertained; this is how my star rating system is set up. The story doesn’t have to always make sense nor do the production values have to be a work of art; all I care about is wanting the movie to take me away. I have walked out of some films where I had to mull over what I had just seen on screen. Why did the character do this particular thing or why did the writer add this plot twist can linger with me for some time. If I can reach a conclusion that appeases me then the picture was a total success; but if I walk out of the theater confused and still lost in the story, then as time goes on the lower my enjoyment level drops. You must agree it doesn’t feel good to have sat through a movie for a couple of hours and not feel some sense of satisfaction afterwards. Well I have to tell you I still do not know what I saw in this dramatic fantasy adventure. BIOLOGIST LENA, PLAYED BY Natalie Portman (Jackie, Black Swan), agrees to be part of a team to investigate an unexplained phenomenon in hopes of explaining what happened to her husband. With Jennifer Jason Leigh (The Hateful Eight, LBJ) as Dr. Ventress, Gina Rodriguez (Deepwater Horizon, Jane the Virgin-TV) as Anya Thorensen, Oscar Issac (Star Wars franchise, The Promise) as Kane and Benedict Wong (The Martian, Doctor Strange) as Lomax; this film played out more like a mystery to me. I will say I was intrigued with it as the story kept my interest for the most part. The acting was excellent and I thought the production values were excellent. The visuals both in their unusualness and simplicity were a good counterpoint to the puzzling story. One of the issues I had with this picture was the characters; they were pretty much stereotypical and I did not see much depth to them. By the end of the movie I was confused to the point where I felt I witnessed something extraordinary, but I just could not explain what I had seen. My guess is there will be a lot of discussions in store for those who go see this film.
2 ½ stars