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X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)
Messy but still enjoyable
I really love the first two movies. I really do. They were made during a different climate. Audiences are very used to comic book films now and their grandiosity but back then the first two films were very much contained. Therefore they had more subtlety and sophistication.
They were also directed by Bryan Singer, the genius behind one of the coolest films I've ever seen (KEYZER SOZE!) and it makes you wonder: where the hell was he in the last four films?!
And you an definitely see that he is now cleaning up the last four turds that were dropped on the franchise he built. Yes I even include First Class which basically butchered any discernible continuity and messed up all character arcs.
And the film messily incorporates all the elements of the preceding four and on top of that has to incorporate fan service, build the plot around CGI heavy set pieces and a gratuitous ass shot of Hugh Jackman's bare ass (shudder). Throughout the film I've had more questions than answers. The plot is all over the place that some characters are rendered useless, especially our favourite Wolverine, since he time travels to when he had bone claws.
However when you get past all that and go straight to the Singer elements that's when you appreciate it. The acting is still really good and the imagery and themes capture the pathos of the comics really well. Also the opening credits just like the first two with the DNA helix roller coaster, just awesome to see that again.
I can honestly say that this film series has seriously jumped the shark. But as a film with the basic metrics of acting, production value and emotion it is still very good. However for the love of god just give the rights of X-Men to Marvel studios, the same goes for Spider-Man.
Eahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhr! (Supposed to be the Godzilla roar)
This was one film I really wanted to see this year thanks to be shrouded in such secrecy. It could really enhance the film experience or ruin it. In a way, while I still enjoyed this film, it did kind of both.
I will try not to spoil this film but what the trailers hinted at is that this movie takes place in a world where monsters exist. And given that zombies have taken over pop culture, Pacific Rim really needs some backup.
The plot basically starts out with Heisenberg trying to figure out the truth behind an incident which he witnessed and that leads to the revelation that monsters exist. However Malcolm's dad isn't the central protagonist of this film, he actually gets cut short of screen time. Thats what happens when you get the 'and' label in the opening credits. However the amount of screen time he had, it was either go hard or go home, and he put his Breaking Bad chops into play.
Actually the central protagonist is Kick Ass, and really? He's too damn young or at least too young looking to play a high ranking military guy and family man. Just because he's married to a lady twice his age doesn't mean he can play mature roles. And he's basically has a Brad Pitt World War Z story arc, trying to reconnect with his wife, a good looking Olsen sister I didn't know exist. There is Saito, who plays the scientist researching the monsters and has some pretty questionable philosophical views. And there are way too man expendable characters.
I've been talking about the actors too much and that's because the movie focuses on the humans. Which is good story telling because it's easier to be invested in the story, just like the Walking Dead. But let's be honest, aren't we here to see monsters scrap? Well we kind of do but there's way too much buildup. Whenever we do see monsters finally come on screen the first couple of times it immediately cuts to the aftermath. You get serious blue balls. Eventually it does pay off, not the way you hope but it has some insanely cool moments.
The imagery of this film, wow. Remember that 1998 Roland Emmerich film? Yea that's a Disney film, with all the markings of a pre-9/11 light hearted romp. This film has such beautiful but shockingly dark and brooding imagery. When the carnage and destruction takes place, it's a little disturbing but jaw dropping at the same time. It basically recaptures the sense of atmosphere by the original 1954 Ishiro Honda picture.
This movie also has a not-so-subtle anti-nuclear power and weapons theme. Come on, Hollywood why do you keep demonizing something that you clearly don't fully understand? Nuclear energy is clean and renewable, and if disposed of properly the waste decays in time without doing much harm. And nuclear weapons while scary, will always be used as deterrents and not as actual weapons.
In the end this film is a very solid effort. You will find yourself, like me, nitpicking the crap out of it, but still enjoying it. It is not disappointing at all like the 1998 movie and it manages to capture its tone really well.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014)
It's the Amazing Hipster Spider-Man
I'm sorry, I really want to love this film and in general the film series but for the most part I was mildly thrilled. I still have a soft spot for Raimi's film's even though I know Garfield and Stone are way better to watch than Maguire and....ugggggh...Kirsten Dunst and the 3rd film was awful.
However I will give credit to where credit is due, this film does do some stuff better. Like they show the Rhino, pre-armour, as this crazy Russian gangster. The swinging and action sequences look cool as hell. Spider-Man makes his wise cracks, which were rarely in the Raimi films. Also Peter Parker takes the initiative and researches ways to defeat his foe. And Spidey's got the original costume.
Yes I said foe, singular. The plot is too dense for it's own good and it ends up devoting screen time to the wrong things. The villains are one of them. It eventually ends up being that Electro is the main villain, and man is his story arc weak and silly to begin with. Seriously, who keeps a vat of electric eels lying around, and conveniently place them under a live wire and- OK calm down. And they call Raimi's films silly.
There are way too many plot threads, and some really didn't require a resolution. Especially that thing with Peter's dad. Any idiot from a mile away could've easily figured out that his dad was fleeing because this company wanted to misuse his inventions and blah blah blah screen time wasted.
Another thing that wastes screen time is the on again off again relationship between Peter and Gwen. Sure the two actors have chemistry but this stuff relative to the plot was tooth rotting. And also it really pushes the hipster aesthetic on you. And for those who've read the comics, you can tell that this movie has way less than subtle foreshadowing.
And this is where my argument, on why the previous decade's Spidey films (at least the first two) are actually better, comes full circle. The Raimi film's have more of a timeless quality to them. They have that post 9/11 vibe and the stories flow really well albeit being very simple. When I watch the Amazing Spidey films, I can easily tell how dated they are. From the bad haircuts and clothes to the dubstep-ish music. Thank you director of 500 days of summer.
In the end this movie is enjoyable. I can nitpick it to death but we all know Marvel needs to consolidate all their characters, now.
Captain America and SHIELD is a more apt title
Well for starters as a Marvel fan I was pretty happy. And as a Canadian watching a film about a walking American flag, I enjoyed it. 'MURICA! Any ways I usually give films a 10 star rating as long I don't get wholly taken out of the film and for the most part this film managed to keep me invested.
I do like the fact that it is very tonally different from the other Marvel films we've seen so far. This is very much a spy thriller film with comic book stylization peppered in. It has a very engaging plot with a very cool twist in the middle which I won't spoil.
The plot involves Cap now working for SHIELD, doing missions, 70 years after being in suspended animation. He no A major story arc in the comics is how Rogers is trying to adjust to modern society. While the film does touch on this, it gets sacrificed for screen time and it looks as if Cap is more or less content. Something I do like is how, this once unrelatable superhero from the 40s who did nothing else but punch Axis agents in the jaw, is now the voice of reason against blind patriotism, over surveillance, the climate of fear and the drone culture.
The titular character, the Winter Soldier, is in all of his bad ass glory. While he doesn't get a poor send off like Bobba Fett or Darth Maul or get reduced to a punch line like (shudder) the Mandarin, he still kinda gets pushed aside for the larger plot elements. I do like the fact that they totally stuck to the comic book design of this character although the Soviet Star on his metal arm only confused me with his allegiance. You will see why.
The other characters were just awesome. Robert Redford doing his spy movie thing, Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow is hot as always although these films really like scratching at her back story but never provide. Anthony Mackie's character as the Falcon I thought was a cool addition and not too contrived seeing that Black superheroes are generally lacking.
The more technical stuff I enjoyed was actually the downplaying of CGI, the action set pieces and the fight choreography. I will have to say Marvel, they're on the up and up again after Iron Man 3.
White House Down (2013)
Um Yea.... This is totally Die Hard
Look, I personally found this film enjoyable despite knowing the director has this weird fetish of destroying American landmarks. Hey, at least he found a way to make it a plot point. As with any Emmerich film I watch it for the effects but sadly you don't get to see a wide variety since the film is geographically limited in plot, but they're still visually awesome.
As with any Emmerich film, the characterization is pretty much non- existent. Although I will say Channing Tatum and Jamie Foxx have chemistry. It did take me a while to buy Jamie Foxx as the President because of his comedic and musical background and its not his thing playing an articulated soft spoken guy. But then Jamie Foxx spoke in Russian and I was sold. Channing Tatum on the other hand, he seems to be having fun. The dude's now an action star why wouldn't he? The rest of the cast was good enough, Maggie Gyllenhal, James Woods, the guy from Zero Dark Thirty. Oh but I actually got really excited when I saw Lance Reddick, that's right Cedric Daniels from The Wire. That dude really nails chain of command parts.
OK, so the similarities to Die Hard here we go. The most blatant one is the fact the posters show Channing Tatum with a gun in a wife beater. He has a family member taken hostage (and the media reveals to the terrorists who she is, seriously why are they stupid in these films?). He kills one of the baddie's best friends. There's a computer nerd who steals something for the baddies while all the explosions are happening. And get this, classical music plays while hes doing the computer stuff. The terrorists motives are not what they seem. And in the climax, there are helicopters, and a roof showdown where even Channing Tatum is mistaken for a terrorist.
This movie is not at all original (although I do remember a particular moment where the wife of one of the terrorists actually condones his actions, pretty funny), but its great escapism.
Man of Steel (2013)
You'll believe that a Superman film can be satisfactorily done
Right now you need to ignore most critics if you're a fanboy. This isn't the Dark Knight by any stretch of the imagination but it still is a pretty cool adaptation of a huge cultural icon. Since it's explosion from the beginning of the millennium, superhero films are being taken more seriously and are even becoming more plot driven. Now unlike Batman, it's quite difficult to get a proper story for Superman due to him being what fans call "over-powered", so it's hard to present a challenge. Superman's more of an image of the perfect being rather than a character for good storytelling.
However this film actually managed to get a plot going, and just like all the recent superhero films it even ties the story arcs of the hero and the villain. That is why the film actually spends a good amount of its beginning in Krypton. And this has to be the coolest depiction of Krypton yet, as it actually looks like something out of the Lucas pages.
Because it spent some time on Krypton, when baby Kal-El lands on Earth, it immediately cuts to him as an adult. It presents him discovering his powers and coming to terms with his origins in the form of flashbacks. This causes some pacing issues though and you sort of get lost in some scenes. And all of a sudden he comes out as Superman with no big reveal like the 1978 film.
He isn't shown flying around Metropolis saving cats from trees, stopping bank robberies and just flat out messing with Darwinism. And this is what I actually enjoyed. It's a very different take on Superman, he isn't the boy scout Christopher Reeve portrayed, he is this flawed individual who has to step up when Earth faces a Kryptonian invasion. And Henry Cavill was a really good choice to portray this version of Superman, his undersized height notwithstanding.
Yes time to get to the actors. Amy Adams as Lois Lane, not the best choice because Lois is supposed to be feisty and Adams doesn't give that kind of vibe. But her Lois was still well portrayed and thank god she's not an idiot. She actually figures out Superman's identity and you should've picked that up in some of the featurettes. Michael Shannon as Zod, while to me he was still the best choice to play him, it wasn't necessarily a part exclusive to him. Russel Crowe was good as Jor-El. Kevin Costner and Diane Lane were good as the protective Kents, and it was nice to see Costner again. Fishburne was good as Perry White. And Faora, wow, she sort of stole the show when it came to the bad guys. Every line she delivered oozed sensuality. So the cast was solid.
While the film had some Nolan influences you could still tell Snyder was in full creative control. However because of Snyder's penchant for the visual the throw-down scenes between Kal-El and Zod got a little excessive almost delving into Michael Bay territory.
While the actual tone of the movie wasn't actually emotional, like it was presented in the first 3 trailers, and instead more of a sci-fi action flick, my majority feelings were positive. I enjoyed the hell out of this and it easily washed away the bad taste Iron Man 3 left. It was really awesome to see a very headstrong Superman that actually threw punches and was not a complete dork. This is the proper launching pad for sequels and possibly now DC's movies can compete with Marvel. Justice League movie anyone?
Furious 6 (2013)
Watch it with half the brain you used to watch Fast Five with
Oh wow, this is what you call jumping the shark. It all started in 2001 with a low budget film about the street racing subculture. Now its become an action film franchise with over the top machismo. Each film progressively chipped away more logic and physics.
Now I actually liked Fast Five because it actually had a believable premise given the context. Yes it was cheesy and over testosteroned but it actually had a well paced plot. However the cast has ballooned to a very large size, this film's become very unfocused. So much so that every character is now laughably one dimensional. There are numerous contrived plot points and no character ever questions anything. The Rock's character is after a bad guy but since the bad guy uses cars, oh, I need Vin Diesel AND HIS TEAM for this. And yeah, everyone is willing no question.
I thought that Fast Five actually concluded the characters story arcs but they wanted to due a fan service by resurrecting Michelle Rodriguez. And it was done in the most contrived fashion as possible by giving her amnesia.
The film did have some pretty good set pieces but sadly you saw all these action sequences in the trailer. And thats because the film slows down in the second act and it tries to liven up by even putting in a street race in the middle of a surprisingly empty London. And that's weird seeing how each film's plot revolves around how many car stunts they can put in.
And the action scenes really make the vault drag in Fast Five physically plausible. There is so much flying around and defying gravity, I'll bet you'll see less in the upcoming Superman film. And the physics of this film is so inconsistent. In the tank scene we see the villain engage in casual murder by pancaking all the cars in a highway yet it seems to have trouble crushing Tyrese's car. Also the plane scene in the climax; that must be the longest runway in the world.
I can see why Justin Lin took this franchise to that many films, because the initial ones weren't that profitable. However at over 2 hours long, you start wondering how you could take any of the cheesy dialogue that fills this film seriously.
Oh well, its pure popcorn pleasure. It knows what it does, even though you'll be palming your forehead at many instances.
Star Trek Into Darkness (2013)
I would be lying if I told you I wasn't impressed
J.J. Abrams to me has now become sort of interchangeable with Joss Whedon. Both filmmakers made good television shows, wrote mediocre scripts in the 90s and now directed really good films which are immersed in fan fiction.
Now I am a Star Wars fan, so I never really was into Rodenberry's... stuff. So yeah I prefer light sabers over phasers. I know bits and pieces but not anything like the Klingon language.
I do know that the even numbered films are way better than their odd numbered counterparts and this still makes the case. The first film was OK, but it was mostly set up and the villain was a generic Romulan.
Here the villain was, and lets be honest here they weren't fooling anyone, is Khan played by elongated faced British man. A white Khan, but nonetheless Khan. However its a more densely layered story, so there is another villain played by RoboCop who wants to start a war with the Klingons. And Iron Man 3 should take notes. What they did with the two villains was brilliant, with Khan initially forming a loose alliance with Kirk and then ascending as the main bad ass. So instead of lame cop outs, you have one take out the other and go hard.
And I was completely blown away by Spock. In the third act, he actually showed emotion! And he was able to match himself mentally and physically against Khan, and I would be lying if I said that I didn't get overjoyed when he used his Vulcan death grip. But sadly he wasn't able to pull off that classic line by Shatner: "KHAAAAAAN!".
Now this film had some things that weren't necessary. The prologue sequence didn't really drive the plot, it was meant for purely for some establishment of characters. The conclusion was also very abrupt. There was constant use of pans, Dutch angles and lens flares. And that gratuitous scene of the blonde chick in her lingerie, really? Are you that desperate to get prepubescent teens? That still is very well compensated by a really well paced film and a very great plot in which only a percent of the elements are contrived for fan pleasing. It's now guaranteed that Abrams will make an awesome Star Wars installment.
Iron Man Three (2013)
I am never watching another Iron Man film ever again
OK severe spoiler warning impending. There will and there are a lot of fanboys who are incredibly outraged myself included.
First of all as a film it was genuinely decent. It was the only Iron Man film with an actual driven plot which is loosely based on the Exremis graphic novel, unlike the completely filler 2nd film. In fact its the plot that made me stay in the theatre, which in itself is complex enough for a 2 hour long film. Basically Tony is dealing with post traumatic stress and insomnia after the events of the Avengers. So with that he becomes a workaholic making his suits with more artificial intelligence. And he has to deal with the threat of the Mandarin, a terrorist who has become a threat to the Americans.
Now I was fine with not making him Chinese or East Asian. I was fine with him not coming face to face with Tony Stark liked he did in the comics. I was even fine with not making his rings magical even though we're in a post Avengers universe. Here was this bin Laden like figure who was incredibly menacing but ....
HERES THE SPOILER
He was not real. Nope. He was an actor hired by Aldrich Killian as a ruse, to put a face to the villainy. Except it used one of Marvel's most iconic characters. Never mind that Killian was breathing fire or Iron Man wasn't actually in person when he saved the passengers of Air Force One, this is what really got me heated.
And its not even in the same vein as Batman Begins where it turned out that there's a real Ra's al-Ghul. You do have Killian saying 'You wanted the Mandarin, I am the Mandarin!" while he's spewing fire and sporting dragon tattoos, but well.... no. Killian being the Mandarin is analogous to your parents being Santa Claus, yes he did do those villainous things but he is not the Fu Manchu sporting long coat wearing arch-nemesis of Iron Man who's been in the mythology for almost half a century.
I understand that filmmakers are entitled to some artistic liberties but to take it to the point to negate the existence a character thats was ranked among IGN's top 50 comic book villains, what was the point of all that buildup? In the first film his presence was really hammered in with the Ten Rings and all the Genghis Khan talk. I do know that the portrayal of the Mandarin has varied from a bad ass to a complete buffoon (lets not forget Modok) but... that is the same for any comic book villain including the Joker (*cough* Ceasar Romero *cough*).
I honestly wanted to walk out of the theatre after that big twist but I felt like this film still deserved my full viewership (and I didn't want to waste $11) as it still was a good film let alone. If you are not a die hard fan of the source material, you would really enjoy it.
Like Cracked.com said, comic book films are now in decline. I still look forward to Man of Steel because it genuinely looks like it's a good movie actually improving on the source material.
Silver Linings Playbook (2012)
Fly, Eagles Fly!
I am a Philadelphia Eagles fan. One of the few in Canada, because most NFL fans here are Patriots, Bills and Packers fans. Why am I talking about the Eagles? Well they are actually a large plot point of the film. I'll get to that in a bit.
Bradley Cooper plays Pat Solitano, a man discharged from a mental institution as he is diagnosed with bipolar disorder. He is trying to patch things up with his family and his wife while focusing his aggression into something constructive. Cooper was excellent for the part and I think it has something to do with this film being centred in his hometown. When I think of Philadelphia, two actors come to mind: Will Smith and him. Too bad he didn't do the accent, would've loved the have heard 'dat Philly tawk yah mean?'. And he can dance, that's nice. I heard Mark Wahlberg was in talks for this role... yeah... dodged a bullet there.
Jennifer Lawrence plays Tiffany, a fellow nutcase who helps Pat find focus by involving him in her dance project. She was very good in her performance. It just keeps bugging me that she's my age. She is already and accomplished actress while I still have no clue whether or not to apply for grad school. Damn.
Robert De Niro, I love seeing him back. He plays Pat's dad, a very superstitious Eagles fan. See. He also bets on Eagles and Phillies games. This role is slightly different but still De Niro. Since he is from New York it was nice seeing him as a South Philly dad.
And it was great seeing Chris Tucker again especially in such a downplayed role. As a comedian I never thought he was funny, he was always just shrieking in his whiny register, here I actually liked him. And also the Indian guy who plays Pat's therapist, man the onslaught of Indian actors in American films continues.
I guess I liked this film a lot because it was directed by the director of Three Kings, which is actually one of my favourite films. Also this film wasn't over-dramatic it had the right balance of emotions.
Going back to the Eagles. I could tell from the beginning line that this film took place in 2008 because they were referencing DeSean Jackson dropping the ball at the 1 yard line. That was a surprisingly good season, since they went to the NFC title game for the 5th time but they lost. I hate Larry Fitzgerald for that. Because of this film I really miss Donovan McNabb as quarterback and Andy Reid. Hopefully Michael Vick and Jason Peters can recover and give us the ring we badly deserve.
Finally in all the bits involving the Birds, why couldn't they get Merrill Reese to do some voice overs?