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X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)
This deftly scripted and unusually affecting film is truly memorable.
X-Men: Days Of Future Past marks the end of an era. The cast that people got used to over the last 15 years makes its final appearance. It's a bit sad to see actors like Patrick Stewart (Professor X) and Ian McKellen (Magneto) go because they were so charismatic in their roles. In this film too they show their excellent acting abilities. It's actually nice to see familiar faces return. Halle Berry (Storm), Shawn Ashmore (Iceman) and Daniel Cudmore (Colossus) took part in the action, while others returned to nicely conclude everything at the end. Days Of Future Past is a sequel to both The Last Stand (2006) and First Class (2011). The satisfying ending isn't the only thing that director Bryan Singer was thorough with. This sequel has been called the best X-Men film yet by some reviewers. My opinion is that First Class is the best X-Men film so far, but Days Of Future Past is just about as good. But let's not forget about X2 (2003), which is another worthy contender for the best X-Men film. I'm not someone who likes the X-Men films much. I think that none of them have been perfect so far. They all have something that prevents them from being great films or some of the best superhero films. They're first and foremost blockbusters that are meant to entertain. Some scenes in Days Of Future Past can be seen again and again, especially the spectacular opening sequence that introduces a nightmarish new threat. In terms of action Singer is at the top of his game here. The tone is softened after the incredibly grim introduction. Some may think this wise, but once Wolverine is in the past the film loses momentum, introduces characters that aren't very interesting, humor that isn't very funny, action that isn't very exciting, and details that aren't very clever. Some people may think that Magneto's connection to the JFK assassination was clever but, in my opinion, it was handled poorly by Singer and screenwriter Simon Kinberg. The film slows down noticeably in the middle. This minor problem is what prevents me from giving Days Of Future Past a very good rating. What happens at the end though is just as interesting and entertaining as what happens at the beginning. The action is terrific and John Ottman's good score is used to great effect. Days Of Future Past is a long film, with 131 minutes of running time. Still, considering its epic time-traveling story and its many characters I can say that Singer and Kinberg succeeded in making the film satisfying. Much of the cast can be applauded for their efforts. Stewart and McKellen, as I mentioned before, are excellent as usual in their roles. Hugh Jackman is as reliable as always as Wolverine. Many people forget that Jackman is a good actor. He proved it in films like The Fountain (2006) and Prisoners (2013) and even in schlock like Kate & Leopold (2001) and Van Helsing (2004). Jennifer Lawrence, playing Mystique, is fine in her role but nothing special in my opinion. When she's covered with blue paint she's not as menacing or as sexy as Rebecca Romijn was in the role. Michael Fassbender and James McAvoy get to impress only at the end of the film. Before that there's really nothing to write about concerning their acting. They're clearly not as charismatic as they were in First Class. In fact, McAvoy simply annoyed me while he was doing his depressed Charles Xavier bit. His acting, thankfully, improved when Xavier tried to convince Mystique to abandon the course that she was on. The only other thing that I have to add about Days Of Future Past is that it doesn't contain as much establishment propaganda as First Class. In First Class it was just obvious. "Mutant and proud" was clearly a metaphor for "gay and proud." In case you didn't know, I'll mention that for the Anglo-American establishment pro-gay propaganda is very important. It's one of their tactics to reduce human population on the planet because they think that there's way too many people now. So being fine with homosexuality and not having children is what the ruling class wants for the lower classes. Globalization is another thing that's very important for the establishment. The story takes place in different countries and there's also an international cast involved. In Days Of Future Past, the Russians and the Chinese are mentioned as enemies that are more dangerous than the mutants. This also fits into the establishment line. Russia and China are the main enemies for the ruling class of Britain and the USA. North Korea gets most of the hate these days, but China and especially Russia aren't far behind. Other than what I've mentioned there's really nothing to complain about. The visual effects, especially the Sentinels, are mostly impressive and so are the designs. Days Of Future Past suffers because of the plethora of characters. Not all of the key players are given satisfying story arcs, but I still recommend this epic yet entertaining film.
A superior sequel that, at the very least, stands shoulder-to-shoulder with its whizbang predecessor.
The Winter Soldier is another solid entry in Phase Two of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It's just as good and, in my opinion, even better than The First Avenger (2011). It's become the norm now that Marvel Studios films are some of the most anticipated blockbusters of the year. All of them have been good. Some people who've seen the film in the theaters have said that The Winter Soldier is the best of the bunch. I think that The Avengers (2012) remains the best Marvel film so far, though The Winter Soldier comes close. One often remembers the exciting action scenes when praising this film. There's a number of action scenes, and all of them are quite memorable. The neat thing about them is that they're as realistic as possible. In my view the film is simply a technological thriller that's meant to be both modern and realistic. Directors Anthony Russo and Joe Russo gave this sequel a hi-tech sheen that's different from the steampunk visual approach of Joe Johnston for The First Avenger. The realism is largely due to Captain America himself and his comic book stories. He doesn't possess spectacular powers like the other avengers, so screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely constructed a plot that rotates around politics and characters. Scarlett Johansson's Black Widow has her biggest role yet in this film and so does Samuel L. Jackson's Nick Fury. Actually, the entire film is about S.H.I.E.L.D. and what happens to it. Chris Evans' Steve Rogers plays an important part in what's going on, but it's still only a part. When it comes to Rogers it's mostly the continuation of his adjustment to the modern world. This, however, isn't really interesting because there's not much to it. It is the focus of the film's humor however. Unlike Iron Man 3 (2013) and Thor: The Dark World (2013), The Winter Soldier contains little comedy. It suffers as a result because the political intrigue is, for the most part, not that interesting (at least for me) for a summer blockbuster. Still, thanks to Robert Redford playing the part of Alexander Pierce, this is made bearable. Rogers goes through a believable struggle in the course of the film, and Evans manages to appear vulnerable despite Rogers' strength and skills. The introductions of Sebastian Stan as Winter Soldier and Anthony Mackie as Falcon are exciting bits that reinforce the film's themes of trust and friendship. Guardians Of The Galaxy (2014) and Avengers: Age Of Ultron (2015) will follow The Winter Soldier, yet it already feels like plenty has happened in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This film is a fairly impressive feat. I can argue that the action and the characterization can be improved, but it's still a smart balance of story and action. Like the big majority of blockbusters of recent years it follows the movie formula of Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991). I also noticed parts of it that are influenced by Come And See (1985), which is one of my favorite films. The Winter Soldier already earned a lot of money at the box office. I'd recommend it but you've probably already seen it.
Noah is director Darren Aronofsky's best film to date.
If you go to see Noah don't expect just another old-fashioned Bible epic from Hollywood. The film's director is Darren Aronofsky, and this should tell you right away that Noah is complex, emotional and visually stunning. You can expect plenty of impressive visual effects, but this isn't what the film is about. It's first and foremost a character driven spectacle about Noah, his family, and people in general. Aronofsky got everything he could from the Bible story to philosophize about human nature. In addition, he expanded the story by including subplots that only improve the experience. Russell Crowe, playing Noah, leads the film admirably. Here he provides some of his best work. Noah changes in the course of the film. Crowe brings Noah to life by making him a character one can relate to. He ranges from compassionate to terrifying. Jennifer Connelly plays Noah's wife Naameh, and she gets to demonstrate how good of an actress she is. Aronofsky is known for getting good performances from actors. This skill is clearly on display in Noah. Connelly delivers the film's most impassioned, powerful speeches. Douglas Booth, Emma Watson, Logan Lerman and Leo McHugh Carroll play Noah's children. Their performances are good all around. It's Lerman though, playing Ham, who has to handle much of the drama. He provides Ham with some genuine torment and, surprisingly, makes Ham into a likable character despite his actions. Yet another famous name in the cast is Anthony Hopkins, who plays Noah's ancient, wise grandfather Methuselah. Aronofsky and cinematographer Matthew Libatique give the film an otherworldly atmosphere. The Earth before the flood seems like an inhospitable alien world. Clint Mansell's music score for Noah is exceptional. It consists mostly of dreamy, elegiac, atmospheric pieces but when the action kicks in it becomes intense and brooding. What the viewer can expect from Noah is an absorbing and thought-provoking blockbuster. It may be based on a Bible story but Aronosfky delves into other themes, most notably environmentalism. I don't support environmentalism because of its elitist origins. Noah, however, is such a good film that I can easily overlook that. I definitely recommend it.
The Monuments Men (2014)
A war movie with an ensemble cast that suffers from poor pacing, direction and characterization.
From CFR member George Clooney comes the cartoonish The Monuments Men, a blatant piece of Anglo-American propaganda. It's a good thing that I got to see this film for free. Director Clooney and screenwriter Grant Heslov took a real World War II story and turned it into an average film with few redeeming factors. There are abundant war movie clichés and propaganda clichés here, like the American obsession with the value of every soldier's life, the constant mention of Jews and what they allegedly went through, and stereotypical portrayals of protagonists and antagonists alike. The film may be based on a true story but it's been changed so much that it has almost nothing in common with that story. Even the names of the main characters have been changed. Some of Hollywood's biggest names participated in the film but they're mostly just playing themselves. George Clooney, for example, isn't really playing George L. Stout. He's playing George Clooney. The propaganda is constant, so you're always reminded that all Americans and their British buddies are freedom-lovers. The filmmakers also wanted to squeeze in as much comedy as possible. The American characters come off as a group of bunglers who tell jokes every chance they get. The German characters too are played for laughs as often as possible, and there's hardly any menace to them. Strangely, the only characters that are portrayed with any seriousness are the Russians, and these allies of the Americans are the only ones who seem menacing here. My question is why were the Russians even included in this film? Was it just so they could see that flag left behind by the "freedom-loving" Americans? Talk about strange. The only information the film offers about the Russians is that 20 million Russians were killed during the war. Yes, but it would have been more worthwhile to mention that the Germans looted or destroyed plenty of Russian art too. For example, the historic city of St. Petersburg was heavily bombed by the Germans. Most palaces, houses and monuments weren't left standing there. So a lot of what can be seen in the city now was rebuilt after the war. It's obvious that The Monuments Men was made for propaganda purposes. It was a rushed job too. The filmmakers didn't take the story seriously. Therefore, the film is a big failure. The performances by the ensemble cast are muted. John Goodman, playing Walker Hancock, and Bill Murray, playing Robert K. Posey, are the ones who suffer most in this respect. They could have been replaced by unknown actors and it wouldn't have made a difference. The only part of the story that seems developed is the relationship between James Rorimer (Matt Damon) and Rose Valland (Cate Blanchett). Everything else seems half-baked, especially the humorous conflict between Posey and Lincoln Kirstein (Bob Balaban). There were times when Clooney demonstrated that he can be a very good director. However, The Monuments Men is flawed both as a history lesson and as a men-on-a-mission movie. I don't recommend it.
The filmmakers claim that the film is based on the book The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves And The Greatest Treasure Hunt In History by Robert M. Edsel. That may be true, but I think that they got the idea for making it from a Voice Of Russia interview. Check the link below.
Alex Jones is a British agent
Alex Jones is an agent of British intelligence whose mission is to create his own monopoly in the 9/11 truth movement and wreck it from the inside. He's discrediting calls for independence with his manipulations and obnoxious behavior. Sending in deceiving and ranting characters is one of the most common ploys by the British propaganda machine. He's misleading his listeners and filling their heads with deceptions and half-truths. He's leading them into the wilderness where they act like useless conspiracy theorists instead of doing anything against the British and the financiers. He's closely linked to the British and he surrounds himself with anti-American characters. He's opposing progress and anyone who stands up for the American state. He's fooling millions of people while the financiers and the City of London are wrecking the American economy and the American state. He's ranting against a "New World Order" while in practice fully supporting the plans of the London-based oligarchy. And he farts on air.
Franklin D. Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy were killed by British special-forces. The CIA is a branch of British intelligence. Allen Dulles worked with the British for decades. After World War II the British captured key positions in the United States and launched an information war to continue dominating the world.
Ender's Game (2013)
A good attempt to adapt a complicated science fiction novel that features thrilling action and impressive visuals.
I noticed a trend in Hollywood recently. More science fiction films are being released. That's a very good thing because people like science fiction and a representation of a progressive future. In the future of Ender's Game Andrew Wiggin (Asa Butterfield) trains to win the next great war between the human race and an alien species called the Formics. Wiggin is a brilliant misfit with the right balance of killer instincts and compassion. Butterfield delivers a good performance but, most importantly, makes his character sympathetic. His performance gives the film some much needed soul. He had also done admirable work when he played Hugo Cabret in Hugo (2011). Hailee Steinfeld, playing Petra Arkanian, is another standout in the cast. Her scenes with Butterfield in Battle School are exciting. The simulated war games in an impressive zero-gravity training room could have dragged, but director Gavin Hood managed to make these scenes some of the most entertaining in the film. Hood should also be commended for making an efficient film from a weak screenplay. The film isn't really inspired but with a $110 million budget and a good cast it works surprisingly well. The generally excellent special effects create a visually interesting future world both in space and on Earth. Wiggin's scenes with his sister Valentine (Abigail Breslin) are handled well too. It's in the performances of the adult actors where the screenplay clearly shows its weakness. Viola Davis, playing Gwen Anderson, has little to do except look worried while Wiggin deals with one challenge after another. Harrison Ford, playing Hyrum Graff, brings his usual authority to his role but awkwardly alternates between caring and uncaring. Still, the film wins in terms of adapting the very complicated novel by Orson Scott Card. It doesn't have the same emotional impact as the novel though. Ender's Game isn't only for a young audience because it doesn't whitewash politics and war. Adults will enjoy this futuristic action film too. I recommend it.
Stuck in Love (2012)
A pleasant romantic-drama with sympathetic characters.
Stuck In Love is a satisfying first film by director Josh Boone but it's not an original one. The plot is rather predictable but the film is certainly well-cast. Greg Kinnear managed to provide a good performance as the famous novelist Bill Borgens. He doesn't have his life together at the beginning of the film but, gradually, he becomes a likable character. His scenes with his family and Tricia (Kristen Bell) are funny and heart-warming. The other two standouts in the cast are Lily Collins as Samantha and Logan Lerman as Lou. Collins was excellent as Snow White in Mirror Mirror (2012). Her portrayal of Snow White's sweetness seemed natural. Interestingly, Collins often seems nice and polite in real life too. In Stuck In Love she plays a completely different character but does it well also. Her hard, protective demeanor was again natural. We find out more about her in the course of the film. She changes and becomes a likable character as well. Thankfully Boone put some effort into capturing Collins' good looks on film. Lerman is excellent at playing Samantha's kind classmate who wants to be with her. Rusty, played by Nat Wolff, is a less interesting character however. Rusty's lack of will makes him sappy and boring. Wolff's approach to his performance doesn't help the proceedings. But there are no bad performances, and Jennifer Connelly and Liana Liberato fit the roles too. With Stuck In Love it's clear that Boone is good at characterization and casting. His screenplay for the film isn't entirely convincing though. Still, it's an enjoyable romantic-drama. I recommend it.
The Lone Ranger (2013)
Though formulaic The Lone Ranger is still a thrilling Western.
After the Pirates Of The Caribbean film series director Gore Verbinski and producer Jerry Bruckheimer decided to bring a different genre movie to the big screen. The Lone Ranger is a big budget action-packed Western with a cast of talented actors, including a number of Brits. Johnny Depp's Tonto is another original comedic creation by the actor. Depp is often funny in the role and Tonto is easily the most memorable character in the film. Armie Hammer plays Tonto's partner John Reid, a masked vigilante who seeks the perpetrators responsible for his brother's death. Hammer is fine in the role but I found his interpretation to be somewhat stiff. It's not entirely his fault because the screenplay by Justin Haythe, Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio is clearly weak sometimes. This hurts the film too because it takes a long time to reveal the back story of the characters. William Fichtner, playing the ruthless and cannibalistic outlaw Butch Cavendish, is excellent as one of the villains in the film. Tom Wilkinson as Latham Cole and Ruth Wilson as Rebecca Reid also deliver good performances. Hans Zimmer composed a memorable score. I like Zimmer's atmospheric, eerie score for The Dark Knight Rises (2012) very much. He composed a rousing score for Man Of Steel (2013), and he again aids The Lone Ranger with a set of music themes that may compel some viewers to get the soundtrack. In the action department Verbinski delivers a number of enjoyable, cartoonish action sequences. They're lengthy but they're something that viewers have never seen before. I found The Lone Ranger to be an entertaining blockbuster. One can say that it lacks originality, that it's ponderously plotted, and that it's made according to the Pirates Of The Caribbean formula. Still, there are enjoyable bits throughout the film. More time should have been spent on developing the characters though. Like John Carter (2012) before it The Lone Ranger is another Walt Disney Studios release that underperformed at the box office. This may be because it's a high-concept Western or because, as Armie Hammer said, many critics unjustly bashed it. The film earned $239 million on a budget of $225 million. In the end, however, The Lone Ranger is an adventure comedy that's well worth seeing. I recommend it.
Beautiful Creatures (2013)
A film that's better suited for intelligent viewers. It's a charming romantic fantasy with an esteemed supporting cast.
As far as romantic fantasies go Beautiful Creatures is very good. It's better than any of the Twilight films. There's some quality film-making here so even if you dislike the Twilight franchise you might still like Beautiful Creatures. Sure, it's passionate and sappy but there's a terrific supporting cast, including Jeremy Irons, Viola Davis, Emmy Rossum and Emma Thompson. Irons is especially memorable as Macon Ravenwood, a mysterious Southern gentleman who's also obsessed with Google. The teenager with the supernatural powers is, for a change, a girl by the name of Lena Duchannes (Alice Englert). She has to decide her own fate instead of one being handed to her. The romance between Lena and Ethan Lawson Wate (Alden Ehrenreich) is handled well and they don't fall in love in an instant. Director Richard LaGravenese adapted the film from the young adult novel by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl. The result is an intelligent, funny and dramatic motion picture with several good underlying messages. And let's not forget about the cinematography by Philippe Rousse, who does a good job capturing the scenery of a Southern town. Unfortunately, the film's box office returns didn't exceed the budget, which means that there may not be a sequel. It's really too bad because, unlike Twilight, this deserves to be a franchise.
A fantastic return to Middle-earth.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is a fine return to form for director Peter Jackson. Guillermo del Toro, who's one of the writers for the film, was initially supposed to direct but he left the project in May of 2010. If this first film in the new fantasy trilogy is a sign of what's to come I certainly look forward to seeing The Desolation Of Smaug and There And Back Again. As Gandalf the Grey says at the beginning of the film this is an adventure. Ian McKellen is just as good as ever in his role as the wizard. Maybe he's even better than before since I found his character more likable. While watching the film I didn't at all doubt that he is Gandalf. Martin Freeman is excellent as well in the role of Bilbo Baggins. He does well with his character's insecurity and the humor, which comes often in the course of the film. At first Bilbo is clearly reluctant to get involved in the adventure but after everything that happens he manages to prove his importance to the company. The company of dwarfs is well realized, just like everything else. Richard Armitage expresses authority as Thorin Oakenshield. Every dwarf has a distinct look and personality. The special effects are impressive too. The Lord Of The Rings trilogy has special effects that look good even now but in The Hobbit it's clear from the beginning that CGI improved in ten years. The look of every creature is impressive and even terrifying. This is especially noticeable with Gollum (Andy Serkis), who now looks completely realistic. Some people questioned Jackson's decision to make a trilogy out of one book, expressing that there's not enough material for this. It's not really a problem however. In Jackson's hands the film doesn't lose steam until the very end and the grandeur is still there, made clear from the very begging when Bilbo describes Thror's rule of the Lonely Mountain. The running time is 169 minutes but it seems much shorter because there isn't really a dull moment. Like I mentioned before the acting is impressive. Of note is Sylvester McCoy's appearance as Radagast the Brown. The Hobbit doesn't have the sense of drama of The Lord Of The Rings trilogy yet it's a perfect prequel. I recommend it.