Woman Around Town’s Editor Charlene Giannetti and writers for the website talk with the women and men making news in New York, Washington, D.C., and other cities around the world. Thanks to Ian Herman for his wonderful piano introduction.

Benedict Cumberbatch

Doctor Strange – Marvel Movies Go Groovy


You think you know how the world works.  You think this material universe is all there is. What if I told you the reality you know is one of many?


Benedict Cumberbatch

The Dr. Strange comics could only have come out in the 60’s. They unabashedly combined New Age style mysticism with Steve Ditko’s psychedelic artwork conveying surrealistic worlds that seemed to come from the mind of Salvador Dali.  Which is why it’s only right and proper that Dr. Strange, directed by Scott Derrickson (Sinister, The Exorcism of Emily Rose) the latest Marvel movie be the trippiest, dippiest, most visually stunning film to date in their lexicon. Much has been made of the way buildings falling into themselves mimics the look of Inception, but we’re also treated to parallel universes whose look and feel is straight out of the old Ditko comics. The effects folks on Doctor Strange should clean up at the Oscars this year, and this is the rare movie that really does justify the cost of seeing it in IMAX 3D.

The plotline itself is a little skimpy with Dr. Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch of Sherlock and The Imitation Game) a brilliant but arrogant neurosurgeon whose hands are ruined in an accident.  After Western medicine fails him, he spends his last penny on a ticket to Nepal to seek a cure at an ancient temple where he becomes an expert in the mystical arts.  A cocky jerk getting taken down a few pegs only to rise to heroism in the third act is a song Marvel’s played for us many times before.


Tilda Swinton and Benedict Cumberbatch

Still even if it’s familiar ground in terms of character arcs, Strange’s training sequence at Kamar-Taj is a lot of fun. While playing an insufferable genius is second nature to Cumberbatch at this point, he shows an unexpected penchant for physical humor especially when he grapples with the cloak of power. Benedict Wong of Prometheus and The Martian is great as Wong the Temple’s stern-faced, badass librarian.  Casting Tilda Swinton, a white woman, as The Ancient One, a character of Asian persuasion in the comics, was controversial, but there’s no doubt she brings a lot of energy and nuance to her scenes. And Rachel McAdams is quite charming and empathetic as Strange’s ex-lover Cristine whom he pushes away. Sadly there isn’t enough of her, just as you wish Mads Mikkleson as the main baddie had more to do than look suitably menacing while delivering speeches. (Though he does in fact look very menacing and his delivery is great.)


Chiwetel Ejiofor

But the real standout of the cast may be Chiwetel Ejiofor (Dirty Pretty Things, 12 Years a Slave) as Mordo a militant fellow sorcerer and pupil to Strange.

Warning!  May contain spoilers from here on out.

Mordo is a man of incredible strength and principle but also deeply rigid. Watching his ideals and beliefs conflict with sometimes morally murky and always messy reality is in some ways the real character arc of the film. One which leaves tantalizing possibilities for the future. Marvel movies may finally get another interesting villain besides Loki. And in fact Dr. Strange may soon be meeting Loki.

Photos courtesy of Marvel/Disney

Five Great College Films


Ah, September, when the weather grows cooler, the leaves start to change, and everyone goes back to school including everyone in higher education.  In honor of this timeless rite of passage consider one of the following films set on campus.

Animal House (1978) No such list would be complete without the immortal classic about a dean’s quest to expel the Delta Tau Chi fraternity from his campus in 1962. With fabulous turns by Kevin Bacon and the late great John Belushi, Animal House is generally considered the definitive frat comedy. Besides being side splittingly hilarious, “Thank you sir may I have another?” it’s also almost scarily on point, as my father (a former fraternity president) and uncle (a former frat rabble rouser) can both attest.

Real Genius (1985)  Mitch Taylor (Gabe Jarrett) is one of the youngest students ever accepted to Pacific Tech university (loosely based on CalTech). He and his science club legend roommate Chris Knight (Val Kilmer) partner up on a laser project together. But when their teacher and mentor steals their laser and plans to put it to use as a weapon, they scheme for payback. One of the great 80’s classics.

Drumline (2002) This musical/drama revolves around a fictional historical black college and university marching band and their plans to compete at the BET Big Southern Classic. Starring young rapper Nick Cannon, Zoe Saldana, at the beginning of her career, and Orlando Jones, it has an over 80 percent fresh rating on the Tomatometer and was nominated for Outstanding Motion Picture by NAACP Image Awards as well as being nominated for three Teen Choice Awards including Best Drama, Best Actor, and Best Breakout Star.

Accepted (2006)  In this surprisingly witty, insightful, and even heart-warming comedy a group of various high school students having all been rejected by the colleges of their choice, create their own fake college. Much to their surprise their fake college soon becomes a magnet for scores of other misfits who’ve also failed to find acceptance elsewhere AND starts to function as an actual educational center.  Starring a young Justin Long and Jonah Hill not to mention Lewis Black at the top of his game.

Starter for 10 (2006) This comedy-drama is adapted from the novel of the same name and set in the 80’s. James MacAvoy is at his most charming here playing Brian Jackson a first year university student who’s lifelong dream is to appear on the televised quiz show University Challenge.  He’s over the moon when he finally makes the team even if the captain Patrick (a hysterically funny turn by Benedict Cumberbatch) is a stuck-up pretentious prig. But complications ensue for Brian in the form of former mate Spencer who feels abandoned (Dominic Cooper) and two very different women aristocratic blond beauty Alice (Alive Eve) and political activist Rebecca (Rebecca Hall).

Photo from Bigstock