‘X-Men: Days of Future Past’ Review

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Dir: Bryan Singer

Cast: Hugh Jackman, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Nicholas Hoult, Ellen Page, Shawn Ashmore, Peter Dinklage, Halle Berry, Omar Sy, Josh Helman, Daniel Cudmore, Bingbing Fan, Adan Canto, Booboo Stewart, Evan Peters, Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart

Synopsis: The X-Men send Wolverine to the past in a desperate effort to change history and prevent an event that results in doom for both humans and mutants.

 

 

*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*

*Reviewer Note #2: Stay for the end credits.*

 

 

Loosely adapted from the classic Chris Claremont comic storyline of the same name, X-Men: Days of Future Past puts together the big screen’s original X-Men (Wolverine, Professor X, Storm, Kitty Pryde, Iceman, Colossus, and one-time enemy Magneto) and their latest members (Bishop, Warpath, Sunspot, and Blink) living in a dystopian future where mutant-hunting Sentinels have practically exterminated mutants, imprisoned the surviving ones in concentration camps with the humans who helped them. The only way for the X-Men to survive is to send one of their own back in time in order to stop the assassination that paved the way for the mutant holocaust.

 

One of the biggest differences from the comic (don’t worry, I won’t be comparing the comic to the movie during the whole review) the comics had the older Kitty (Page) transfer her consciousness into her younger self in order to warn their past-selves. In the film, the initial argument is that only Professor X (Stewart) is a strong enough telepath to do the job, but since he can’t physically handle such a long trip back the mission falls to Wolverine (Jackman). Waking up in his younger body in 1973, Logan seeks out the younger Xavier (McAvoy) who has become a shambling version of the man we met in X-Men: First Class.

 

Charles has spent the time in-between First Class and Days of Future Past moping around his mansion brooding about what he’s lost. The only one who’s still with him is Hank aka Beast (Hoult), who has made a serum to not only control is “animal form” but also for Xavier’s paralysis. The big side effect of the drug is that it has affected Charles’ psychic powers. But Charles doesn’t seem to care as he no longer wants to hear all the voices and suffering and who has lost hope since losing his Mystique (Lawrence) to Magneto (Fassbender).

 

Although she still playing a supporting character in the great ensemble, Mystique plays a major key to changing the future as she’s out to assassinate Sentinels creator Dr. Bolivar Trask (Dinklage). In order to help them track down Mystique, Logan, Xavier, and Hank will need help from Magneto, who is imprisoned at the bottom of the Pentagon. They then recruit young speedster Peter Maximoff (Peters), aka Quicksilver. From there it becomes a race against time to stop Mystique, restore young Xavier’s hope, and prevent the X-Men of the future from being wiped out.

 

This is a plot heavy sci-fi/time travel film with lots of moving parts, so we should give credit to both director Bryan Singer and screenwriter Simon Kinberg that they balance all those elements with relatively little confusion. There are some clunky moments, but overall Days of Future Past does a great job in keeping the storytelling concise and clear.

 

Days of Future Past gives each of its core crew of characters something important to do. It’s pretty clever how the story manages to make the movie’s biggest stars – particularly Lawrence integral to the plot. Xavier’s arc from self-pity to the hopeful leader embodied by Patrick Stewart is moving and one of the strongest aspects of the movie. As for young Magneto, despite agreeing to help find Raven/Mystique, he still remains firm in his beliefs even if that means turning against Xavier and Mystique.

 

Days of Future Past can be amusing and funny at times, but the movie has an overall feel of grim. You can feel it more with the future setting, as all of them are hiding and during the standoffs with the Sentinels, the filmmakers did not hold back any punches. But going back to the humor, I was somewhat surprised how much of it there was. There are also some nice callbacks to the other X-Men films (and even the comics) that will make fans happy.

 

The movie’s biggest surprise is the character that’s been the greatest object of scorn online: Quicksilver. Quicksilver does not have a ton of screen-time but he’s Pentagon prison break sequence is a highlight of the movie. I do not know if it’s a scene stealer – although some people are saying it is – but this is another example of not judging a character by his publicity shots.

 

I already hinted at it earlier in the review, but the cast is great. James McAvoy’s Charles Xavier is more at the forefront this time around and has a great arc that McAvoy handles so well. Jackman does his usual best as Logan aka Wolverine. Nicholas Hoult has less to do than he did in First Class. Lawrence, who has become a major star since the first movie turns into a badass but is also conflicted once she finds out she’s the key to the future. Fassbender was one of the best things about First Class, so it kind of sucks that he doesn’t have a ton to do this time around. Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart of course bring their A-game and it’s nice to see them together again as the characters.

 

The other mutants like Sunspot (Canto), Warpath (Booboo Stewart), and Blink (Fan) have some cool moments teaming up with Bobby/Iceman (Ashmore) and Storm (Berry). Fan favorite Bishop (Sy) is nice to see on the big screen finally but some will feel like he was underused. One underused and slightly disappointing characters is Bolivar Trask played by the awesome Peter Dinklage. This is not a knock on Dinklage who plays Trask well but the character as a villain is not compelling enough.

 

The film’s action sequences are well-done and engaging, from its opening scene of the future X-Men fighting the Sentinels to the Paris standoff through to the climactic battle in Washington D.C. Even the Pentagon prison break sequence, which nicely balances humor, visual effects, character, and tension.

 

All in all, X-Men: Days of Future Past is funny, grim, bleak and filled with great action and some strong performances. For fans of the series and comic, you will appreciate the fact that Bryan Singer and Simon Kinberg attempt such a beloved and complex story.

 

 

X-Men: Days of Future Past

5 out of 5

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‘Godzilla’ Review

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Dir: Gareth Edwards

Cast: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Ken Watanabe, Elizabeth Olsen, Bryan Cranston, Sally Hawkins, David Stratharin and Juliette Binoche

Synopsis: The world’s most famous monster is pitted against malevolent creatures who, bolstered by humanity’s scientific arrogance, threaten our very existence

 

*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

The King of the Monsters is back! This time taking on a more gritty and realistic approach to the big monster. Of course the Godzilla monster has a huge fan base, and well deserved, but he hasn’t really had a well deserved outing in a long time. But it hasn’t really been directors, writers or producers fault all the time. Godzilla is a pretty difficult character to nail. He’s been a hero and a villain.  He’s been a loaded symbol and an just something to take a massive amount of space. Finally, he’s a cultural icon and a punchline. But, director Gareth Edwards (Monsters) has created almost a labor of love that attempts to draw from the monster’s rich history to appeal to fans, but alienate people who are not familiar with the history and only know the name. It’s a rather ambitious and daring thing to do but Edwards somehow manages to pull it off.

 

The movie starts off in the Philippines in 1999. Scientists Dr. Ichiro Serizawa (Watanabe) and Vivienne Graham (Hawkins) go to a collapsed mine and discover a cavern that houses not only a ribcage, but also two mysterious spores, as they call them.  But they soon realize that something has crawled out and has made its way to the sea. We then go to Tokyo, where a seismic event causes the collapse of a power plant, and engineer Joe Brody (Cranston) loses his wife Sandra (Binoche) in the tragedy (NOT A SPOILER since it’s in trailers).

 

Fifteen years later, their son Ford (Taylor-Johnson) is working in EOD (Explosive Ordinance Disposal) in the navy, but is forced to travel to Japan and bail his estranged father out of prison.  Joe has been trying to figure out why the plant collapsed, and believes the answers are in Japan’s quarantine zone.  Ford reluctantly follows his father into the restricted area only to discover that his father’s crazy theories might not be so crazy after all.
I know one of the many things people are mad about this iteration of Godzilla is the fact that we don’t get enough Godzilla screen time. Instead the movie focus on the other monsters called “MUTOs” (Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organism). But I have to give credit to Edwards for his patience on revealing the big man himself. We get teases of Godzilla throughout the movie, first by seeing the spikes on his back in the beginning sequence of the movie. But after that, we get mostly see the destruction that he leaves behind with a tease of a tail or foot.

 

However, it’s not just the Godzilla monster, the whole movie is a slow burner. The structure and pacing is quite similar to the 1954 original. I think some people won’t appreciate the pacing because modern audiences what rapid pace storytelling. But, it is the pace that makes the final act mean a hell of a lot more and a spectacle to see. Moreover, it is that pace that makes the reveal of Godzilla just the more awesome. Once we get the full reveal with the roar, it is terrifying and an amazing sight to see.

 

But, as fun as it is to see Godzilla and the MUTOs smashing and destroying things as they fight to the death, it shouldn’t be what carries to the story despite how people feel about that. One of the things that every critic blasts in big monster movies nowadays is the human story. Now I’ll admit I liked seeing Godzilla go toe-to-toe against the MUTOs but we need to know what the people in the middle of these two behemoths are thinking and going through.

 

As mentioned before, the story mostly follows Ford as he becomes tangled with stopping the MUTOs and Godzilla with the military. Throughout all that, he also tries to get back to his wife Elle (Olsen) and his young son Sam (Carson Bolde). On the other side we have the government lead by Admiral Stenz (Strathairn) with the help of the scientists played by Ken Watanabe and Sally Hawkins. Wantabe’s Dr. Serizawa (the same name as the scientist is the original) is fascinated by the monsters, even seeing Godzilla as monster that is simply keeping the balance of nature. His sentiments fall on deaf ears as the government only sees the monsters as a threat and try to the keep the people that, unfortunately, are standing in the middle. Also, just a bonus, Wantabe does have the best line in the movie.

 

But possibly the strongest arc of the human story, is at the beginning with Cranston’s Joe Brody and wife Sandra, played by Juliette Binoche. It’s a bit rare to get such a strong and emotional beginning in these kinds of movies, but Cranston and Binoche performances make that beginning gut-wrenching even for a Godzilla movie. Cranston, to probably no surprise, gives the best performance as a man who has lost everything he cares about and just wants answers.

 

Aaron Taylor-Johnson’s hero character is not obviously going to eclipse Godzilla but he does a descent job of playing the human hero. Although as a man who is forced into the situation, I did hope that he would have been a little more to his character. Elizabeth Olsen, who is impressively talented, has very little to do in this.

 

But let us not forget the big man. Godzilla is truly a force of nature. His presence is felt every time he’s on screen and you can clearly see why everyone is in shock and awe. He’s also gone through so many different looks that seeing this version of him, it feels right. People have been complaining that his Godzilla is a bit “fat” which seems almost stupid to say considering he’s a force of nature. But his “fatness” doesn’t factor into his movements or even his attacks against the MUTOs. Briefly, the MUTOs have an interesting design themselves and play mostly the villains of the piece.

 

The movie does take itself seriously but there are welcomed amounts of humor that honestly surprised me. Not to the point where it takes away from the seriousness but moments that really fit into the story and feeling. But the other thing that movie does, that I’ve briefly touched on, is the movie pays a tremendous amount of the respect to the rich history of Godzilla. A Godzilla fan will catch most of the homage’s and references the movie makes. But, unlike most remakes, the movie makes the history an actual part of the overall story.
 

All in all, Godzilla shows that with the right approach The King of the Monsters can be the great monster that he once was and that we remember to be. The movie is a slow burner but once the action picks up you won’t be able to look away, especially when Godzilla shows up. The movie will divide fans but I hope that people will appreciate how much respect the filmmakers have put into this version of Godzilla.

 

 

Godzilla

5 out of 5

‘Neighbors’ Review

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Dir: Nicholas Stoller

Cast: Seth Rogen, Rose Byrne, Zac Efron, Dave Franco, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Jerrod Carmichael, Ike Barinholtz, and Lisa Kudrow

Synopsis: A couple with a newborn baby face unexpected difficulties after they are forced to live next to a fraternity house

 

 

*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

 

Even though Neighbors is filled with some great jokes, the movie is about growing up without losing your identity.  Here, the movie does try to find the balance between the responsibilities of an adult without losing our young, joyful selves. Luckily, the movie manages to find the humor in this struggle.
Rogen plays Mac Radner, who lives in suburbia with his wife Kelly (Bryne) and new-born baby.  They’re good parents who love their baby, but they miss the days where they could party all night.  When the Delta Psi fraternity moves in next door, the couple is torn.  They don’t want to be the grouchy old people, but they also don’t want to be up all night.  Mac and Kelly go over to make a peace offering with the frat’s President, Teddy (Efron), and at first things seem like they’ll be okay.  They party with them and even looks like they are going to become friends. But, when the partying becomes too much to handle, Mac and Kelly try to get the frat kicked out, which results in an escalating prank war.
It’s was fun to watch Mac and Kelly playing the crotchety neighbors without ever coming off that way.  Instead, their actions make them feel, sort of, younger.  To their credit, they try to take responsible actions like calling the police and meeting with the dean of the school (Lisa Kudrow), but neither one helps.  This forces Mac and Kelly to get creative in how they’re going to get rid of Delta Psi. Even better, Mac and Kelly are not a bickering couple trying to find a way to reignite the spark in their marriage. The beginning of the movie should paint that picture pretty well. They just don’t want to become “those people” who would take the joy out of youth.

 

Rogen and Bryne are perfect at balancing between responsible parents and aging partiers.  The two have wonderful chemistry, and for Rogen, it’s almost strange to see him playing a “real” parent rather than the unprepared one.  His youthful spirit is still in play, and is why the character works.  As for Bryne, she stays on the same level as Rogen and maybe even excels. She has her own moments that shine and might be a highlight for some viewers.

 

On the other side you have the frat.  Rather than making them out to be monsters or juveniles, they’re just college kids. Even though the frat may be partying all night and making life miserable for a young family, they’re not the “villains.”  They’re oddly sympathetic as they depend on their brotherhood, especially Teddy and his vice president, Pete (Franco).

 

Efron, who some probably still see as the guy who did the High School Musical movies and some romantic movie, delivers a pretty solid performance. It’s not just that Efron has decent comic timing; there’s also a sympathetic side to Teddy that’s essential.  If he’s just the good-looking, clever, smarmy frat-boy, then we lose interest in half the movie, well at least I would.  Neither side is “mean” even though they’re effectively trying to ruin the other’s life. As the movie progress, and near the end, you do feel for the guy.
Other standouts include Dave Franco’s Pete, who takes an interesting stance toward his sorority brothers, more partially Teddy. It’s one that, I honestly did not see coming but it was a nice and it’s refreshing to see it done in the movie. However, Franco does share his comedic moments. Chritopher Mintz-Plasse and Jerrod Carmichael also bring some laughs as frat-boys, while new comer Craig Roberts shines as a pledge who is simply referred to as Ass-Juice (that should tell you everything).

 

Director Nicholas Stoller, who has worked under Judd Apatow, realizes that more laughs don’t necessarily mean a better movie.  He’s found the in-between for raunchy humor (and I do mean raunchy) that runs through the movie but is streamlined in a way that leads the comedy and the relationships to be more effective.

 

All in all, Neighbors has a lot of laughs, some better than others, but also has a real message behind the movie which is something you probably wouldn’t suspect. Is it for everyone? Probably not, but you’ll have a good time with it.

 

 

Neighbors

4 out of 5

‘The Amazing Spider-Man 2’ Review

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Dir: Marc Webb

Cast: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Jamie Foxx, Dane DeHaan, Colm Feore, Sally Field, Felicity Jones, Paul Giamatti and Chris Cooper

Synopsis: Peter Parker runs the gauntlet as the mysterious company Oscorp sends up a slew of supervillains against him, impacting on his life.

 

 

*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review. Although one plot point from the first film (the fate of a character) will be mentioned at the beginning.*

 

*Reviewer Note #2: There is no end credits scene. However, there is a mid-credits scene that has nothing to do with The Amazing Spider-Man 2. The scene is a short and fast-forwarded scene from X-Men: Days of Future Past. And no, there is no plan to put Spider-Man and the X-Men together. The scene is a deal between Sony and Fox.

 

This is because the director Marc Webb has a contract with Fox to make another film for them after the first Amazing Spider-Man movie, but instead of doing so, he signed to do TASM2. This was allowed by Fox, IF Sony would agree to promote their next X-Men movie, for free. So there you go.*

 

 

Marc Webb’s rebooted Spider-Man was a mixed bag. There was a lot to like – Garfield’s take on Spider-Man, for one – but also plenty of things that were unsure and to be skeptical about. The sequel will likely make people feel the same way. There’s great action and performances, but there’s also an obvious feeling to expand the Spider-Man universe that derails the film at points.

 

The movie starts off in an interesting way. It shows us the accident that befalls on Peter’s parents, with Campbell Scott’s Richard Parker being the focal point. It also shows us how far Oscorp will go to keep their secrets as well. Fast forward and we see Peter (Garfield) still haunted by the death of Gwen’s father and the promise he failed to keep (to protect his daughter by leaving her alone). In some ways he’s moved on, graduating high school, enjoying his relationship with Gwen (Stone) and embracing the role of being New York’s protector.

 

There’s a lot going on in Amazing Spider-Man 2, and sadly it doesn’t always come together. There are four arcs going on and all of them come and go which make the movie feel unorganized. There is Peter and Gwen’s strained relationship, Peter still trying to figure our the secret behind his parents leaving him and dying, Harry Osborn (DeHaan) coming back to see his dying father (Chris Cooper), finding out a family secret and restarting his friendship with Peter, who haven’t seen each other since they were kids. Finally, Max Dillon becoming Electro and wanting all the power in New York.

 

Like, I said, a lot going on. But even with a running time of 142 minutes it’s strange that some small stuff –that is mention– is left our. Peter might be in college even though we never see him in class. He’s starting to submit pictures to the Daily Bugle, but he never steps through the doors of that publication. There are even mentions of Jameson. It might be nit-picky but it is one of the problems of the movie. I know they are setting up for future sequels and spin-offs, but it would have been nice to see just little bits of this. Also, something I won’t spoil but there is a moment near the end that is utterly jarring that I can’t even imagine why they made that decision.

 

Webb has no problem tapping into the superhero’s humor and warmth.  But, when you strip away all of the problems, you have the Spider-Man we want to see.  He’s the people’s hero, and he relishes being the good guy.  Spider-Man is incredibly funny, although sometimes the reliance on humor has weird and maybe bad timing. One of them is his banter with Aleksei Sytsevich (Giamatti) rather than just stopping him he play around with him. But this is at least forgivable because the scene is kind of funny and there is some sense of excitement to the scene.
 

Speaking of Giamatti, his Aleskei character is a bit too hammy for the movie. His Russian mobster character isn’t really nothing more than a glorified cameo and leaves little to be desired, which is a same since Giamatti is such a great actor.

 

The film’s main villain is Max Dillon (Foxx) who later becomes Electro. Max is a lonely, nerdy and completely unappreciated Oscorp engineer who wants to be noticed. He then becomes a Spidey fanatic after being rescued by him early in the movie. The movie does try to make feel sympathy for Max, and a part of us does. However, his arc isn’t that interesting either. Foxx’ performance is a bit to cheesy, even for the movie. And I know some people are comparing him to Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Mr. Freeze in Batman & Robin. I think that’s a bit much but I guess I can’t blame people for thinking that.

 

Although the promotional materials have shown Electro to be the main villain, he’s never established as that. His motivations seem sound at first. He wants to be noticed and when idol Spider-Man comes in to save the day, he feels betrayed. Although his fight with Spider-Man in Time Square (I’ll get to that in a bit) is a great action sequence that’s as far as the character will go. Later on he just becomes Harry’s lackey. Also, adding to the cheesiness of the character, during the Times Square scene, dubstep plays and at first it sounds like it’s voices in his head but you find out it’s a song, which would have been better if they went with the voices.

 

DeHaan is creepy yet appealing as Harry Osborn. The friendship between Peter and Harry feels pushed but when the two are together they do feel like old friends. The arc with Harry is interesting and different from Raimi version but I don’t see why they didn’t decide to just make Harry the villain. DeHaan’s scene with Chris Cooper who plays Norman is eerie, emotional and cold and it’s a shame that they didn’t share more scenes together. Harry’s Green Goblin – which they never call him, in case you’re wondering – is (again) different from Raimi’s and it will most likely divide the fans. I didn’t mind this version but it did feel a bit rushed, and knowing that Sony is trying to expand the universe, including the Sinister Six spinoff, it does kind of die down the excitement of seeing him.

 

Leads Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone continue to be the highlight of the rebooted universe. Their chemistry is fantastic and probably the saving grace for the movie that is already crowded. If people weren’t convinced that Garfield is a good Peter Parker/Spider-Man they hopefully will with this outing. Stone does have more to do this time around and even gets in on some of the action which is nice to see.

 

As for the action, the standout sequence does have to be Times Square scene. Despite the Electro dustep soundtrack, it showcases Spider-Man’s set of powers and his spider-sense, which I don’t recall being in the first movie. The final fight is okay, it does show Electro’s powers but it comes a little too late in the movie to care.

 

All in all, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is a bit too crowded for its own good. Garfield and Stone are the best things about the movie, which is weird thing to say considering we are watching a Spider-Man movie. The movie is horrible and thankfully it doesn’t feel like another Spider-Man 3. But it is kind of a let down considering that all the movie is a set up for future movies.

 

 

The Amazing Spider-Man 2

3.5 out of 5