Tuesday, May 27, 2014

X-Men: Days of Future Past

Movie Name: X-Men: Days of Future Past
Year of Release: 2014
Director: Bryan Singer
Stars: Hugh Jackman, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Halle Berry, Elle Page, Nicholas Hoult, Peter Dinklage, Shawn Ashmore, Josh Helman, Daniel Cudmore, Evan Peters, Michael Lerner, Famke Janssen, James Marsden, Morgan Lily
Genre: Action, Sci-Fi, Adventure
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 7

The "X-Men" saga is back, this time back under the reigns of the director who originally brought it to life, and who has effectively directed the best film of the series thus far, "X-Men 2". The film is a sequel to the Matthew Vaughn directed "X-Men: First Class", but merges the cast and crew from the original trilogy with their younger counterparts. The film introduces us to the mutant team in the future, a bleak time where super powered gigantic robots, known as the Sentinels have managed to kill most of the mutant population and part of the human population as well. The last remaining mutants, have devised a plan, where they send one of them back in time, in order to successfully alter the course of history, specifically Mystique's decision to kill the creator/inventor of the Sentinel program, scientist Bolivar Trask. Wolverine is sent back to the 70s, and his task lies in getting Professor Xavier and Magneto working in tandem, and avoid all their demise.
"X-Men: Days of Future Past" is by far one of the best adaptations of the legendary comic book team to screen. Following the mediocre "X-Men: The Last Stand", and both "Wolverine" standalone films, this film successfully manages to bring a fresh life to a series that was becoming bogged in mediocrity and poorly written story lines. Bryan Singer successfully bridges the intertwined stories, with both teams and players - there's a level of comfort and fluidness in the storytelling that is both refreshing and very entertaining. The film hops around the globe, and the story focuses on the team per se, and on different key characters, as opposed to the character Wolverine being the sole focus. The actors are uniformly good, in particular the trio of James McAvoy, Jennifer Lawrence and Michael Fassbender. The sophistication of the special effects is impressive, as is the cinematography from Newton Thomas Sigel. The film does falter in certain aspects of the future storyline, where some characters are barely there and a poor choice of production design, but the overall endeavor, is highly entertaining and rewarding. Worth watching!

Sunday, May 18, 2014


Movie Name: Godzilla
Year of Release: 2014
Director: Gareth Edwards
Stars: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Ken Watanabe, Elizabeth Olsen, Juliette Binoche, Bryan Cranston, Sally Hawkins, David Strathairn, Richard T. Jones, Victor Rasuk, Carson Bolde, CJ Adams
Genre: Action, Sci-Fi, Adventure
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 5

The new Hollywood version of Godzilla, follows the previous big blockbuster incarnation directed by Rolland Emmerich, which premiered in 1998. The new "Godzilla" is directed by Gareth Edwards, who gained prominence with his debut feature "Monsters", a low budget film that premiered in 2010. "Godzilla" focuses on the story of Ford Brody, a young lieutenant, who has lost his mother at a young age due to radiation contamination. His father has removed himself from his life and has obsessively followed a conspiracy theory where he claims something has occurred in that area that has created that energy outburst. As Ford is summoned to help his father, all hell breaks loose, as huge monsters/parasites who feed on nuclear energy make their appearance, wreaking destruction in their path. On the trail of these monsters are the military and the legendary Godzilla. Ford has to try to get to his young wife and son and guarantee their safety.
Gareth Edwards smartly creates a film that allows the characters to be introduced before showcasing the creatures that wreak havoc throughout the cities. Sadly though, most of the characters are tired cliches, and though the sophistication of the special effects is truly engaging, on the human side, things are quite bare in terms of character development. Aaron Taylor Johnson's portrayal of Ford is wooden and stiff, whereas the talented Elizabeth Olsen, has little to do, as do most of the supporting actors, who only get to play one sided characters throughout most of the film (Ken Watanabe's worried scientist, David Strathairn's strong willed military individual). Highlights go to Seamus McGarvey's cinematography and Alexandre Desplat's beautiful score. The film succeeds in the larger destruction set pieces, and the engaging situations that it generates, however by the time the film ends, it's a quickly forgotten affair.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Under the Skin

Movie Name: Under the Skin
Year of Release: 2014
Director: Jonathan Glazer
Stars: Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy McWilliams, Lynsey Taylor Mackay, Dougie McConnell, Kevin McAlinden, Andrew Gorman
Genre: Drama, Sci-Fi, Thriller
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 8

Acclaimed commercials director Jonathan Glazer is back, 10 years after the release of his previous feature, the underrated "Birth". "Under the Skin" is another particular view into the sci-fi genre, as has become prevailing in this director's previous features - a distinct and unique view into genres which have their own established languages, which Glazer then proceeds to expand.
The film follows a beautiful young woman, named Laura, who while driving around Scotland, seduces different men to come back to her house for what they assume is a sexual encounter. Unbeknown to them however, Laura is an alien, and the house is in fact this vessel where bodies are stored and examined. Upon connecting with a disfigured man, Laura catches a glimpse of the meaning of humanity, and wanders off trying to understand that new light in her existence.
"Under the Skin" is definitely a film that defies convention. Jonathan Glazer builds a narrative where the visual language is stunning, but also abstract enough to render the viewer's interpretation as wide as possible. The film benefits from a fantastic central performance from Scarlett Johansson - between her blank canvas stare, and her "awakening", the character morphs in front of the audience, giving her a dimension and ultimately flushing the sense of humanity that the director wants to explore. The film also benefits from the shooting locations, which are desolate and remote, invoking a sense of isolation, no matter where the character finds herself. This is truly a director's vision, one where the visual language is simply phenomenal and unique, and where the narrative slowly expands to showcase the theme at it's core. A great film, worth watching!

Thursday, May 8, 2014

The Amazing Spider Man 2

Movie Name: The Amazing Spider Man 2
Year of Release: 2014
Director: Marc Webb
Stars: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Jamie Foxx, Dane DeHaan, Colm Feore, Felicity Jones, Paul Giamatti, Sally Field, Embeth Davidtz, Campbell Scott, Marton Csokas, Louis Cancelmi
Genre: Action, Adventure
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 3

Following the successful (and mediocre) "The Amazing Spider Man", Marc Webb returns with a sequel that continues to track the adventures of the well known comic book character.
The film introduces us to Peter Parker, who has settled into his life and alter ego as the crime fighter Spider Man. Peter's relationship with Gwen also continues, even with a bit of friction, due to the death of Gwen's father (and Peter's promise to him). Spider-Man is faced with antagonism coming from two distinct villains, namely Electro, a man who is made of electricity, and The Green Goblin, in actuality a childhood friend of Peter's who in attempt to cure a fatal ailment, uses an untested serum that transforms him into a deranged menace.
Marc Webb's "The Amazing Spider Man 2" is a deeply flawed film, one that suffers from a screenplay that is cliched in every possible way, where characters motivations are close to non-existent, and where the action and visual effects are overblown and hyperbolic. What Sam Raimi managed to do in "Spider Man 2", with a balance of action and character dynamics, is somewhat forgotten in this ill advised sequel - both antagonists have little, if any, motivation to become deranged villains. Their characters are paper thin, something that even good actors such as Jamie Foxx and Dane DeHaan, can't overcome. The structure and pacing of the film are equally unbalanced - by the time the epilogue and final action sequences come along, the narrative simply feels incoherent and rushed. The best thing about the film is the relationship established between Peter and Gwen - there's a level of complicity between them which feels authentic and heartfelt. The actors have little to work with - even the reliable Sally Field feels lost and trapped in a thankless role. A sadly missed opportunity.