Sunday, 20 November 2016

The Grand Tour Premiere

The time with Jeremy Clarkson on Top Gear abruptly ended a few years ago, with the host punching one of the producers during a break, audiences around the world were shocked to see their favourite trio getting off the show. Due to the incident, Jeremy Clarkson was fired from BBC, while James May and Richard Hammond left the show soon after, followed by some of the staff (including executive producer Andy Wilman). While I think Jeremy Clarkson should get some sort of punishment following the incident, but the whole situation was poorly handled by the BBC.

Following the fracas, the trio struck a deal to bring their show to Amazon Prime Video, an online streaming platform rivalling Netflix. It has become one of the most anticipated shows in 2016, despite the limited availability of Amazon Prime Video. Amazon was hoping shows like The Grand Tour would bring their brand & services to the limelight. For me, the premiere didn't disappoint, not a bit. It's everything I hope the show would be.

The Grand Tour started off directly off the abrupt ending of Top Gear, with Jeremy Clarkson seemingly left an office building, suggesting the BBC office, then took a flight to California for the new show. Driving to the location with Richard Hammond & James May in modified Ford Mustangs, followed by a horde of modified vehicles driving through the desert, a la Mad Max Fury Road style. That 10 minutes is a showcase of how big the show is going to be and showing that is "Top Gear Unchained". It's really grand.

Episode 1 basically covers what are they going to do in the show, a new track, new car review segment and leaderboard. All of which are pretty much the same from the old Top Gear, just that the format is twisted so they are able to avoid any legal troubles from the BBC. This episode also settled one of their previous argument about which car is better, LaFerrari (Ferrari The Ferrari), McLaren P1 and Porsche 918, "The Holy Trinity". The quality of the cinematography for "The Holy Trinity", BMW M2 review and the intros are all astounding.

However, the key to all of the awesomeness of the show, is all down to the hosts themselves. Did the Top Gear legal issues and past controversies changed them at all. Not at all. What can we learn from all these is that, the hosts make up a lot of the points on whether a show would be good or not. You can put as many expensive cars as possible on the show, but one thing that makes Jeremy, Richard and James good bunch of mates on a TV show is themselves. The show might be scripted, but it's the banters between them that makes the old Top Gear great, and it can't be solved by just putting on several funny and car people on a show.

The Grand Tour premiere is very much a preview of the future of the show, while settling on some of the old gripes. I am pretty sure the show will still undergo some changes throughout the season. However, the first episodes is a very positive start with Jeremy Clarkson, James May and Richard Hammond being themselves again is a joy to watch. The first episodes started off with a big band, with even bigger show still to come. It might be under a different name, but The Grand Tour is basically Top Gear on steroids, and I love it!

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

REVIEW: Doctor Strange

We've reached a point where the film market is full of comic book/superhero movie adaptations. With DC Comics joining the fray this year full on with Batman v. Superman & Suicide Squad to compete with 20th Century Fox & Marvel franchises, not to mention Sony is planning to branch out after the collaboration with Marvel with its Spider-Man franchise, we're definitely will be bombarded by the endless amount of similar movies for the meantime.

There are discussions this year, whether audiences have starting to feel weary with the increasing frequency of comic book adaptations hitting the screen. In some ways, the audiences do feel tired with the comic book adaptations as they have been dominating cinema for a few years now. So, the next few releases has to be really, really good. Enters Doctor Strange, Marvel's latest entry to the MCU.

Before the actual review, let me state something, I am not a super comic book fan, I do read one or two comics but not at the scale of knowing all the characters. Hence, sometimes I don't mind the adaptation stray from the source material as long as the film itself is good.

Doctor Strange is a film that feels very different from other MCU movies before it, yet it feels very similar in terms of executions. The premise of the Doctor Strange is strikingly familiar with the original Iron Man, a cocky genius who is good at his work, ends up in a life threatening situation. The said genius has to learn to be humble and respect his powers. Yet, the setting is vastly different from Marvel's other entries. Heck, the journey of Strange travelling to Kamar-Taj to learn his powers feels like Batman Begins.

In its core, Doctor Strange is a superhero origin story. With Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) learns to be a sorcerer and master the power of mystic arts, under a guidance of The Ancient One (Tilda Swinton) and faces a villain who is a mirror image of him, Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen). Doctor Strange also features a strong female lead who is also his lover (usual Marvel trope), fellow doctor, Dr. Palmer (Rachel McAdams).

What's so well executed about Doctor Strange is that Marvel did not stray much from other existing Marvel's films, yet it feels so different when viewing it in person. The subtle tweaks in terms of setting, theme and message ensures the movie feels different in its own way. If you watch Iron Man and Doctor Strange side by side. The storyline progression is almost identical.

The casts' performances are stellar, with Benedict Cumberbatch excels in his role as the Sorcerer's Supreme, I also like the performances of Benedict Wong, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Tilda Swinton in this movie. However, I am disappointed with Rachel McAdams portrayal of Doctor Palmer, not because she is bad, she just there for the sake of being there. Then, there's the Achilles Heel of Marvel films, the villain.  Kaecilius is just forgettable, just like many Marvel movie villain. With the casting of Mads Mikkelsen, who is so good as a Bond villain and Hannibal Lecter, you'd expect the villain in this film will be so much better, you're wrong.

In all, Doctor Strange is a solid entry to the Marvel's franchise. Although it is basically the same premise, the subtle tweaks and Benedict Cumberbatch's excellent performance have ensured it feels slightly different than the others. However, the visual effects might not hold up years later and the villain is just another forgettable villain in the franchise's stable. Doctor Strange is, surprisingly, my favourite comic book movie adaptation this year.

Score: 4/5