Dawn of the Planet of the Apes: Fantastic and Better Than the First!

Posted in 8, Action, New Releases, Ratings, Reviews, Sci Fi/ Fantasy with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 13, 2014 by mducoing

DawnDirector Matt Reeves (Cloverfield, Let Me In) has firmly built on the success of its predecessor Rise of the Planet of the Apes and taken it to unexpected heights. A deeper, more nuanced, and far more exciting version of the epic series, Dawn is one of the best films of 2014 thus far.

Premise: Caesar now leads a growing population of enhanced apes but are threatened by a band of human survivors. Their fragile peace is short-lived, as both sides are brought to the brink of a war. Result: A brilliant and thoroughly satisfying sequel.

Dawn begins with exhilarating opening credits that depict the human apocalypse at the hands of the “Simian flu”. In the chaos of an inescapable disease, humans essentially destroy one another and the aftermath leaves few, if any still alive.

But Dawn is not about humans, as much as it is about the new “rising” alpha species, Apes, led now in San Francisco by our familiar protagonist, Caesar (Andy Serkis). Ten years after the first film and after the plague which wrestled world dominance from the hands of sinister humans, Caesar – with the help of his fellow apes – have built a primitive society based on peace and the hunter-gatherer method.

Other familiar faces surface like his #2 Koba (Toby Kebbell), Rocket (Terry Notary), and the ever adorable orangutan Maurice (Karin Konoval) all with prominent roles in this new society; they are now mixed with new faces, their spouses and children, like wife Cornelia (Judy Greer), son Blue Eyes (Nick Thurston) and Rocket’s son Ash (Larramie Doc Shaw). To them, peace and progress are essential themes, and their struggle is against nature deep in the Marin County forests, believing humans to have become extinct.

But one day, a sudden encounter with Carver (Kirk Acevedo) and several other humans Malcolm (Jason Clarke), Ellie (Keri Russell), and Alexander (Kodi Smit-McPhee) creates new urgency, as humans are still very much a presence, and supposedly as dangerous as ever. Their run-in reveals a large camp of humans still in San Francisco led by Dreyfus (Gary Oldman) and in need of a power source that is squarely within the Ape territory.

Handsome devil

Handsome devil

The rest of the film is as much an emotional/psychological struggle as it is a physical one. Caesar remembers humans for both the good and the evil that they were capable of, and senses that Malcolm is reminiscent of the good he recalls. But Koba, Rocket and even the wise Maurice (as most Maurices are), are mistrustful of humans, having been born in their shadow and cruelty.

This internal battle is further exacerbated by a very real desperation on behalf of the humans and rage on behalf of several apes, led by Koba. Their emotions are raw, justified and set our two worlds on a terrifying collision course.

What ensues is a brilliant display of writing and direction, painting a very real portrait of complex, deep emotions that will resonate with audiences while juxtaposing this with some serious, mesmerizing action. There are some absolutely spectacular battle sequences that heighten tension that has already been established by the expertly established interpersonal drama, rather than serving in place of it. It is impossible not to care about all the characters in this film and simultaneously loathe certain aspects of them.

Ultimately, the central theme of this film is Caesar’s realization: it is not the nature of Humanity that makes it capable of Evil, it is the fact that it has been given Consciousness, to Reason, to rationalize and ultimately to turn against better nature and their own kind. And worse, that as this gift is transferred to Apes in this new age, that they too must struggle with Good and Evil.

The performances in this film are all quite strong, filled with nuance at every step: Clarke, Russell and Oldman exhibit this perfectly. And the performers that portray the apes, such as Serkis, Kebbell and Konoval, all nail their roles with unbelievable efficacy. When they are on screen, it is impossible to look away.

Ultimately, Dawn is far better than expected, despite already high expectations. It is deep and intriguing conceptually while also having superior but not superfluous action to keep up the pace. Definitely a must watch.

Rating: 8 – An expensive red wine and juicy steak

22 Jump Street: Hilariously Self-Aware!

Posted in 8, Comedy, New Releases, Ratings, Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on July 10, 2014 by mducoing

22 Jump StreetDirectors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (21 Jump Street, The Lego Movie) have done it again. Somehow, they have managed to not only create a sequel to 21 Jump Street -a film that against all odds was actually very funny and engaging- but have done so in an equally hilarious and unique manner. Filled with tons of shout-outs to its own supposed shortcomings, 22 Jump Street is an unexpected pleasure.

Premise: The hapless duo Schmidt and Jenko now go deep undercover at a local college. Result: Very funny and refreshing.

Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Jenko (Channing Tatum) are back. And their bizarre incompetence is still along for the ride, settling overtly into an opening sequence that has them hilariously bungle a trafficking ring bust with the notorious Ghost (Peter Stormare) at its center. However, Schmidt’s imitation of an East LA Vato is possibly one of the more painfully hilarious moments in recent memory.

Nevertheless their ineptitude is costly, sending them right back into the arms of beloved Captain Dickson (Ice Cube), who has now moved operations across the street to 22 Jump Street, with bigger, badder, almost Bond-like accommodations. It appears their missteps have been met with good fortune: they are put on the exact same case as in the first film, only now in college. All along, of course, the film is making ridiculous comments about how absurd and formulaic it is to try to do the exact same thing again; all the while, being somehow unique and intriguing.

The caper again pits them against social mores with which they are completely incompatible; but empowered by stereotypes and absurd cultural referents, these two navigate communal showers, dorm rooms, frat parties and insane professors (a Patton Oswalt diatribe is a must see!).

They encounter athletes such as Zook (Wyatt Russell) and Rooster (Jimmy Tatro), homoerotic undertones, dorm-room romps and “girls who are friends” like Maya (Amber Stevens) and awful roommates like Mercedes (Jillian Bell). The film is often hilarious and upbeat, and manages to surprise audiences by dangling cliché in front of them, only to transform these into unique, refreshing, powerfully humorous moments.

However, while audiences will be continually surprised by many of the jokes and events, there is still a deep interest in the characters and their relationships. Schmidt and Jenko continuing to go through friendship pains and observers will be intrigued by the ups and downs. And the rest of the cast effectively intertwines with this buddy-struggle and heightens the tension and the laughs.

lol

lol

Overall, the cast delivers some wonderfully memorable performances. Hill commands the screen and likely delivers another fantastic comedic performance. Tatum also builds on his success in the first film and manages to keep the momentum going.

Ice Cube is his typical self but there are a few essential scenes in the middle of this film that are simply hilarious and unexpected. Russell completely rises to the occasion as the one-dimensional but somehow hysterical jock.

Bell for her part is stunningly perfect in her delivery – she is deliciously terrible in all the right ways. Stevens, on the other end of the spectrum is both sweet and deep, harkening back to her great moments on Greek, far too long ago. Stormare is back to his typical, strong, creep self while Tatro manages to take a bit role and keep it enjoyable despite some limited screen-time.

In the end, 22 Jump Street is a must see, hilarious and energizing film. It manages to be original while still being a sequel, a stunning feat. And the closing montage is an ABSOLUTE must see, firmly and pointedly rounding out the theme of the film.

Rating: 8 – An expensive red wine and juicy steak

Maleficent: A Few Odd Choices But Overall Lots of Fun!

Posted in 7, Children, Comedy, Drama, New Releases, Ratings, Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , on July 6, 2014 by mducoing

MaleficentThere are some stories we know well; there are others we only think we know. Director Robert Stromberg doubles down on this distinction with the reimagining of Sleeping Beauty in his recent film, Maleficent. The film completely reinvents the familiar story, delivering some familiar elements while still providing a very different, perhaps better story.

Premise: A fairy is driven to curse an infant princess, only to discover how wrong she may have been. Result: A fun, often beautiful tale on both the visual and emotional fronts that does justice to the original interpretation.

Maleficent (Angelina Jolie) was not always evil.   A beautiful young fairy once befriended a young commoner named Stefan as he entered a forbidden realm outside the reach of humans. She was kind to him and they became friends; she trusted him.

But Stefan grew to be an opportunistic man (Sharlto Copley), and one realized his big break; as the king lay dying, he promised his throne and daughter to the man who could destroy Maleficent, the one creature that could stop human dominion over the forbidden realm.

And so, Stefan betrays her trust and steals her wings, a horrifying encounter, where her screams of pain, terror and sorrow will exact a toll not only on fleeing Stefan, but on audiences alike.

That is the beginning that we did not know, an essential but of information to color what we thought we did know. It is not long after that that Princess Aurora (Elle Fanning) is born and the famous curse with it. The King sends the baby away to live with three magical, hapless creatures – Flittle (Lesley Manville), Knotgrass (Imelda Staunton), Thistletwit (Juno Temple) – who make Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dumb look like astrophysicists, and all supposedly will be right with the world. But we know better.

The rest of the film is a worthy mixture of humor, fantasy, beauty and emotion. Along with her feisty Raven/Man Diaval (Sam Riley), Maleficent observes the child grow and a far more complex storyline emerges.

Stromberg does a wonderful job of complicating our story and deepening these beloved characters. Maleficent is deeply interesting as are those strange creatures and characters around her. Along with some fun reinventions involving a gallant but imprudent Prince Phillip (Brenton Thwaites), there is certainly much to enjoy.

But there are risks to reinvention. There are also many odd occurrences that force hard questions: why is there a graveyard of broken spinning wheels anywhere? Why did the King love his daughter so much he chose to send her away and never see her?

Worse, in an effort to deepen the role of Maleficent, Stromberg inadvertently makes everyone else a straw man, a shell of a character with simple emotions, absurd actions, and ultimately boring. Further, much of the resolution of the film is strange and so divergent from our original thinking that it is almost jarring.

Nevertheless, the film does a great job of keeping smiles on faces even amidst some of the drawbacks. The performances are typically quite strong. Jolie is perfect as Maleficent, embodying her well-chronicled rage and dark beauty as well as her kindness and humor.

Her spats with Riley, here spirited side-kick (for all intents and purposes), are hilarious and memorable. Fanning is also quite strong, as a gentle yet commanding young force worthy of the battles fought for her.

Copley has already proven himself as a successful brooder, mad-man and force of anxious cruelty. A bit more nuance in this role with some more logical motivations may have made the performance stand out; as it stands, it is too easily overlooked.

Thwaites is fun in his small role while the trio of twits in Manville, Stanton, and Temple feel completely misused and serve as little more than filler and distraction.

In the end, the film is a good time. The reimagining of Maleficent is enjoyable and a great lesson for all children and adults alike, that some stories have happier endings, even when the ending is completely different than what we first believed. As far the sappy love conquers all, well, there is some uniqueness to that aspect of the tale as well.

Rating: 7- A refreshing Champagne that a cute bartender comp’d you!

Remember this one?

Edge of Tomorrow: Way More Fun Than Expected!

Posted in 8, Action, Comedy, New Releases, Ratings, Reviews, Sci Fi/ Fantasy, Thriller with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 5, 2014 by mducoing

Edge of TomorrowDirector Doug Liman (Jumper, Mr. & Mrs. Smith) collaborates with writers Christopher McQuarrie , Jez Butterworth , and John-Henry Butterworth to adapt theHiroshi Sakurazaka novel All You Need Is Kill to deliver one of the more fun films of the year.

Premise: A cowardly officer gets caught in a time loop while at war with an alien race. Using his new ability and a special relationship with a modern day Joan of Arc, he gets closer and closer to defeating the enemy. Result: Exhilarating from moment one with a palpable energy and humor that must be experienced!

The film begins with the slick, sleazy and cowardly Major Cage (Tom Cruise) as he receives some less than expected orders from General Brigham (Brendan Gleeson), the leader of a global alliance against a horrific, alien threat. Cage is to continue as the face of the effort and land with a camera crew on the front lines of the next offensive. He ungraciously declines.

The result is his inevitable destruction at the hands of Master Sergeant Farell (Bill Paxton), who views him as a deserter that is to be thrown in with a motley crew of soldiers like Skinner (Jonas Armstrong), Kimmel (Tony Way), Griff (Kick Gurry), Ford (Franz Drameh), Kuntz (Dragomir Mrsic), and Nance (Charlotte Riley) despite his lack of training and absolute cowardice. The result is almost comical, if it were not also so terrifying.

There is an unexpected result, however: as Cage dies on these shores in what can only be described as chaotic catastrophe, he brings down a rare type of monstrous alien creature – quite by accident- that inadvertently grants him the ability to control time and relive the same day over and over, while still retaining the knowledge of previous encounters. It is in these future lives that he meets the only two others that believe him, Rita (Emily Blunt) and Dr. Carter (Noah Taylor), who help him realize his power and importance.

The film has been called an action Groundhog Day with all the badass elements of The Terminator. On both levels, this is stunningly correct. Unlike other time travel/ time behind/ time-something-or-other films that remain staunchly stoic and melancholy, there is a central humor to Cage’s transformation, his hilarious stumbles,  and his relationship with Rita, Carter and his crew. There is also, obviously, his personal evolution, as he becomes invested not only in his mission but in those same people around him, that will feel both familiar and satisfying.

so badass!!

so badass!!

On the action end, the film is extremely exciting and has all the non-stop action you could want, while still not being excessive. The creatures are terrifying and their offensive so overwhelming as to evoke a sense of powerlessness and hopelessness that seeps into viewer’s imagination. However, there is also the extremely effective use of Rita’s character as a badass version of Sarah Connor that elevates the film to new heights.

It is rare to see a star of Cruise’s level being comfortable sharing the screen with another character that so firmly takes hold. But the two are a clearly defined unit in Edge and the sum of their collective performances is far more than the two roles judged separately. The two have fantastic chemistry on screen and both deliver on all cylinders, ripe with humor and confidence that helms a very complex ship.

Add to this the fantastic, nuanced performances of Gleeson and Taylor, along with some wonderful supporting moments from Paxton and the rest of the crew, and there is a well-rounded cast that could not have been better in this setting.

In the end, Edge of Tomorrow, despite an awfully dull title, is anything but. Exciting, extremely funny, terrifying and ultimately far more than satisfying, this movie is an absolute must watch.

Rating: 8 – An expensive red wine and juicy steak

Date Movie Guide, 2014 (Part 2)

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 4, 2014 by notlaz

Laz’s View

groinApparently you people like seeing me angry and/or emasculated, because Part 1 received several literary awards including a Nobel prize, a Pulitzer, and the Hans Christian Andersen Award for transgendered children’s literature. So for part 2 we’re going to examine the trailers for movies cleverly marketed as “movies with heart that guys can also enjoy” that are really just crappy date movies in disguise.

They’re getting better at it too! Sometimes you can’t even tell you’ve been suckered into a chick flick until your testicles are firmly locked in the purse beside you. I got through about 20 minutes of The Heat before I threw a beer bottle at my friend Lee’s TV and yelled at his wife Sarah for trying to trick us.

“But it’s funny!” she protested.

No, oh no, no, no… NO! Don’t misinterpret me; I’m not saying that women can’t be funny. In fact there was one genuinely funny scene in that movie where they interrogated Kaitlin Olson, who is one of the funniest people on the planet, male or female. Sadly Kaitlin is not the focus of the movie, but the poor man’s gender-bended version of Chris Farley and David Spade played by Melissa McCarthy and Sandra Bullock.

But enough foreplay; let’s get to it.

Think Like a Man Too

What’s it about? From the director of the embarrassingly bad (even by comic book movie standards) Fantastic Four movies, comes a generic, wacky Vegas romp that you’ve seen a million times before, but with the added gimmick of a battle of the sexes. Kevin Hart continues in the footsteps of popular comedians before him like Chris Rock, Robin Williams and Russell Brand, who decided to make the transition into terrible movies. The trailer tricks you into thinking “look at those hot babes and Vegas shenanigans; this is a movie that both men and women can enjoy!” Well welcome to Suckersville, population: you. This has chick flick written all over its sticky DNA.

What type of woman should I take to this? My first thought was to say “black chicks, duh” but my editor and most of our readers are American, and apparently even mentioning race makes your buttholes clench… So I’m going to say “women who don’t appreciate The Boondocks for their brilliant social commentary”.

Or women attracted to shirtless midgets like Kevin Hart. Or both.

I’m married and the wife wants to see it: Could be worse. While 90% of this movie is going to be clichéd, retread and groan worthy, she does put up with your dumb, fat ass crushing her dreams and siphoning her youth. So you probably owe her at least a few shitty rom-coms.

What do I need to do to get through it? It’s a Vegas movie about drunken shenanigans, so it’s pretty much a given that it will be more enjoyable while drunk. Wine and dine her like the classy gentleman you are. Then when this movie interrupts the evening like a bad fart, she’ll have the fond memory that at least you tried your best. That alone should get your salad tossed, if not a full Cleveland steamer. But I’m a romantic at heart.

Tammy

What’s it about? Melissa McCarthy takes a huge step outside of her usual typecast rolls and plays a fat dummy who yells a lot. Are you laughing yet? Are you? Are you laughing at all the jokes you’ve definitely seen a million times already in other movies, but this time done by women? If I didn’t value things like a regular sex life, maintaining a functional alcohol dependency, and not getting fired from my real job, I could probably cut together this entire trailer with identical scenes from other movies. Though, I did enjoy watching Melissa McCarthy dance in the parking lot with a bag on her head. Film her doing that with a GoPro for 20 minutes, throw it on YouTube and call it a day, Hollywood.

What type of woman should I take to this? Fat chicks, duh… People keep telling me that they need love too. Nah, in reality you could probably take most women to this movie, because they all seem to love these gender-twisting takes on traditional male comedies. Have you ever met any woman who didn’t sploosh over Bridesmaids? They eat this crap up like a brain damaged man-child at the latest Transformers mcsplosion fest.

I’m married and the wife wants to see it: Makes sense. I dunno, offer to watch the kids while she goes to see it with that bitch Linda.

Example: “Oh I should give Linda a break, huh? I’m not the one who told her to get knocked up in the Dominican and wait until the second trimester to get a Winnebagoabortion from that sketchy veterinarian who lost his license and now deals coke. She’s 32, how does she not understand the pull-out method? Fine, I’m sorry! How about you two have a girl’s night out and go see Tammy together? I’ll stay home and watch the kids. Wuuuv youuu!”

You’re welcome.

lindaWhat do I need to do to get through it? Viagra. This movie will murder your sex drive, but make your date feel really, really attractive in comparison. They somehow managed to take a former sex icon like Susan Sarandon (who gave everyone erections in a movie about a 13 year old Brooke Shields being statutory raped and impregnated), and make her look on par with professional boner-killers like Melissa McCarthy, Katy Bates and Allison Janney. Yes, they’re all great actresses and blah, blah, blah, but political correctness alone won’t get you ladies wet for Zach Galifianakis or Steve Buscemi, so dismount your high horse and quit pretending you’re not just as shallow as we are, Linda!

 

The Fault in Our Stars

What’s it about? It’s Juno with Cancer instead of babies. Quirky teen hipster dipshits fall in love with dialogue more pretentious than that Cormac McCarthy movie where Cameron Diaz humped a car. In the same way that Sex And The City is “chick porn” for single moms in their 30’s, this is the teenage Twilight fan-girl equivalent. Granted this isn’t so much branded as “a movie men can enjoy too”, but to trick teenage boys into choosing this as the venue for their first awkward handjob.

What type of woman should I take to this? Teenage girls dying of cancer, duh… No, if she’s the type of gal who listens to exclusively indie music, wears ironic t-shirts and doesn’t vomit after kissing a guy with a moustache, this movie was tailor-made to her specific lack of sensibilities. Be sure to check her ID first, as no grown woman without serious mental issues wants to see a tween romance movie.

twilight091123_560I’m married and the wife wants to see it: Oh God, really? Do you have a teenage daughter you can pawn this off on? No? Well I hate to say it but take her to see it, then immediately go buy a gym membership afterward. Why? Because she wants that twinky, One Direction-looking dreamboat playing the quirky, bland, love interest to tell her how young her soul is while he’s inside of her.

What do I need to do to get through it? The dialogue in the trailer was so pretentious I had to choke a barista to death with his organic-free-trade-hemp-scarf just to calm the nausea I was feeling. So you’ll need something to suppress your gag reflex and prevent you from yelling “bullshit” at the screen every 2 minutes. When club kids take ecstasy they are somehow able to enjoy horrible EDM music and blow strangers in portable toilets, so I suggest you give that a shot.

Gun-to-my-head decision: The Fault in Our Stars is an immediate hells-no because I’m on my period and don’t want to get too emotional. After that, it’s a choice between terrible recycled black people jokes, and terrible recycled white people jokes. So I’m going to suggest that if you’re white, see Think Like a Man Too, and if you’re black, see Tammy. You’re not likely to enjoy yourself at either, but at least the terrible jokes won’t seem as familiar. And if you’re not white or black, remember that Hollywood doesn’t care that you exist, so take her to see X-Men: Days of Future Past instead. That movie was amaze-balls!

 

There you have it. I just saved your sanity/money for another quarter. You can thank me by commenting or liking or clicking, or whatever the hell those buttons below do to generate views for the site.

 

Jersey Boys: Go See It Live Instead

Posted in 6, Drama, Musical, New Releases, Ratings, Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , on July 3, 2014 by mducoing

Jersey BoysDirector Clint Eastwood (Million Dollar Baby) has cut-and-pasted the acclaimed Broadway show into a feature film. While the story and songs are still enjoyable, it pales in comparison to the live show and ultimately falls flatter than this story deserves.

Premise: The story of Valli, DeVito, Massi and Gaudio’s rise from the wrong side of the tracks in New Jersey to the iconic 1960s rock group The Four Seasons. Result: A lazy carbon copy of the stage production that is fair but not nearly as good as the show.

Jersey Boys follows the lives of Tommy DeVito (Vincent Piazza), Frankie Valli (John Lloyd Young), Nick Massi (Michael Lomenda), and Bob Gaudio (Erich Bergen) as they struggle to leave the “neighborhood” behind and form the musical sensation The Four Seasons, one of only a handful of groups to top the charts in the U.S. during the Beatle’s era.

The story and the songs are great; it is what helped make the Broadway show a sensation. But either out of indolence or bad judgment, Eastwood simply takes the musical and e-creates it, virtually line-by-line on screen. For most of the film, this is OK, since the show actually was quite well done.

However, it leaves the film open to many drawbacks: first, several jokes in the script were timed for live Broadway – while this may not seem problematic, live performance requires a completely different comedic timing in most cases. This is PAINFULLY true in this film, where several jokes that killed on stage fell off a cliff in the film. Audiences are left staring at the screen, wondering why anyone would do that to them.

Next, the film fails to play on its greatest strength: it is not limited to a stage. Background, scenes, locations in the film are virtually lifted from the stage here and no further depth is added to any scene visually.

Further, unlike other Stage-to-Film adaptations, like Rent where the film built new scenes and stories and even some new songs to flesh out the stage production, there is hardly any of that here. While there are a few additional (and good!) moments surrounding the Francine (Freya Tingley) storyline, Valli’s battles with his wife Mary (Renée Marino), his band and fri-enemy producer Bob Crewe (Mike Doyle) are virtual carbon copies.

YAY!

YAY!

There is one notable exception to the dull, pointless on-screen production: the casting of Christopher Walken as mobster Gyp DeCarlo. While the scenes themselves are still fairly boring and lacking the energy of the stage, Walken is mesmerizing and hilarious. “Where’s the Gyp DeCarlo spin-off?” Audiences will wonder aloud. While his portrayal may be a bit lighter than a mobster should probably be, it is truly one of the only things great about this film.

Notably, though, the cast is very good despite the script and stage to film translation issues. Piazza and Young are both fantastic in their respective parts as rivals Tommy and Frankie, with Piazzi somehow managing to be as charismatic on screen as the character is on stage. Lomena and Bergen are also both quite good, as are Marino and Doyle, rounding a set of performances that kept the film afloat.

In the end, the film just isn’t that great. See the show if possible, it is worth it. But if you must, see the film and just focus on the songs, some good performances and, of course, Walken.

Rating: 6 – A mediocre Prosecco that a cute bartender served you

X-Men – Days of Future Past: Back to the Bang We Expect!

Posted in 8, Action, Drama, New Releases, Ratings, Reviews, Sci Fi/ Fantasy with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 3, 2014 by mducoing

X-MenDirector Bryan Singer (X-Men, X-Men 2) has returned to his beloved X-Men franchise and brought it back from the brink. One of the best multi-character X-Men films in recent memory, Days of Future Past quite literally has more than enough character to go around.

Premise: The X-Men send Wolverine to the past in a last-ditch effort to change the past and prevent the rise of the Sentinels, which marks the end for both humans and mutants. Result: Exhilarating, interesting and entertaining are just a few words to describe this return to X-Men cinematic glory.

The latest installment of X-Men is likely the best full cast version in some time (2013’s The Wolverine may be the best solo vehicle) connecting an uncertain, devastating future with a sad, certain past. The film begins with several key members of the faltering X-Men – Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page), Iceman (Shawn Ashmore), Bishop (Omar Sy), Colossus (Daniel Cudmore), and Blink (Bingbing Fan), among others – attempting, in vain, to fend off the unstoppable Sentinels, the creation of the monstrous Dr. Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage), as they destroy everything in their path.

Their only saving grace is Pryde’s power, the ability to send another mutant back in time to shape the future. It is this ability that piques the interest of the X-Men leaders Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart ), Storm (Halle Berry), and Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), who along with former foe Erik Lensherr (Ian McKellen) find the small cadre tucked away in a far off monastery in the mountains. But despite its remote locale, it is only a matter of time before they are discovered.

And so, the central tension in the film, literally a race against time that pits these formidable mutants against an unbeatable foe. Their only hope is Wolverine, sent back by Pryde to a time just before the Sentinels, a time before a terrible crime could be committed that would shape their future for the worst: the young Raven, out on her own as Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) is bent on murdering Trask, a move that would accelerate the Sentinel program.

And so, Logan aka Wolverine must travel back in time to stop her, to change the shape of the future, to join the young Xavier (James McAvoy) and collaborate with old and new friends such as Hank aka Beast (Nicholas Hoult) or Peter aka Quicksilver (Evan Peters) as well as sworn enemies like Magneto (Michael Fassbender).

Ultimately, the film is interesting, humorous, exciting, and quite entertaining. While questions will loom in viewers minds about some aspects of continuity across time (the Mystique and Magneto storylines are confusing on the overall timeline of the other films), these are minor pitfalls than serious issues with the film’s presentation. Of course, they should be considered when evaluating the film, but more of these issues will be raised after the fact rather than during the film.

Instead, the threats feel quite real, the tension mounts brilliantly and the characters realize much of their “bad-ass” potential and their complexity continues to shine scene after scene. And even new characters, introduced ever briefly, are done so with aplomb. Trask is used sparingly, but his insidious character seeps through quite effectively; Quicksilver manages to pull off his preposterous costume and stand out among a cast of truly talented actors as one of the most fun segments in the film (and thus one of the most memorable.)

The performances are to be expected. This is a comic book film of course but there is still a strong delivery from our veteran cast ranging from the brilliant Stewart and McKellen to modern day great Fassbender and also very goods McAvoy, Lawrence, Jackman, Hoult, and Page. Along with the ever-scene stealing Dinklage, the cast keeps this film firmly forward-motion.

All-in-all, therefore, X-Men fans should loe this film and novices will be much entertained. It is fun and exhilarating and worth watching a few times, just to keep fresh.

Rating: 8 – An expensive red wine and juicy steak

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