Month: May 2014

X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)

Confusing trailers including Charles Xavier alive and well in the future, and young Charles Xavier walking? Yep. That’s what I took from the Days of Future Past trailers when they first hit our screens. Albeit the whole Professor X (Patrick Stewart) being alive was my own fault as I didn’t see the post-credits sting in X-Men 3. (Could you blame me?) But the whole James McAvoy Xavier walking was confusing to me at first. But it’s cleared up, nothing to worry about, move along.

Okay, what is happening in Days of Future Past, set around 2020 (something like that), Mutants and humans with mutant genes are being targeted by these Sentinels that are completely badass and kill off everyone effectively. An impressive opening featuring new mutants, Warpath, Blink and Bishop. Blink was pretty cool sending Kitty and Bishop through portals and helping Warpath try to dismantle the sentinels. All very impressive, slick movements in a fast-paced action sequence.

Bryan Singer in this latest X-Men film has decided to delve into time-travel and the altering of past and futures. It’s a little hard to comprehend, but I can promise throughout the film it’s relatively simple. Kitty, Bobby, Bishop and the rest of the crew are joined by Professor X, Magneto, Storm and of course Wolverine and formulate the plan to save the mutants in the future. What caused all this sadness and desolation occurred in the 1970s when Raven/Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) killed Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage) which caused the governments to take up Trask’s plan to stop the mutants via his Sentinels plan.

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Wolverine, the only man capable of withstanding the immense pressure this time travel puts on their minds, is sent back to the 70s, via a power Kitty has, to stop Raven from killing Trask. That is the bread and butter of the storyline. I expected when I heard this explained on-screen to be a continuous shift between the past and the future with the future mutants protecting Wolverine and Kitty primarily. This was not the case, of course the film would have to go back into the future and show the mutants fighting off the sentinels attack, but the film primarily takes place in the 70s with the younger, fresher looking mutants.

Bryan Singer initially left the franchise after X2 (which is universally agreed to be excellent, probably the best of the X-Men franchise) however, he was reinserted when he was on producer on the Wolverine origin story and X-Men: First Class, which were decent enough, but was also missing something. He returned for Days of Future Past and it was truly excellent and enjoyable. The casting was on point, which I believe Singer would’ve had a say in for the First Class casting of Fassbender and McAvoy, as Magneto and Charles Xavier respectively. Fassbender, for me, is a particular highlight as he truly embraces the role of Magneto.

Magneto Flying, Looking Majestic Of Course.

Magneto Flying, Looking Majestic Of Course.

In Marvel fashion that is fast becoming a norm now, comedy was included in this film, mainly through Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) of course but also the sequence involving Quicksilver (Evan Peters) disabling the room full of police officers and tasting soup on the way. This was largely enjoyable by everyone if I saw it with, I kind of hoped to see more of Quicksilver than the short screen time he appeared in. Magneto (Again) was oozing awesome when he broke into the pentagon to retrieve his helmet, in a sequence fairly similar to his breakout in X2. (Although his breakout in Days of Future Past was excellent as well, just like X2).

As I mentioned before the story however complex it may sound isn’t that complex and fairly intriguing when the storyline delves into history once again. As it did in First Class, using the Cuban missile crisis as a reference point, the assassination of JFK was Days of Future Past’s reference point. With Richard Nixon acting as president at the time of sentinel’s birth. But also had the Vietnam War including heavily in the storyline.

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If I had to nitpick, I found an annoyance with the introduction of Warpath, Blink and Bishop into the film, but that’s all it felt like. An introduction. Personally, I would’ve liked to have seen more of them, or them in the 70s, something along those lines. And of course, the amount of screen Patrick Stewart and Sir Ian McKellen actually received was upsetting (Although McKellen did do something completely badass in his allocated time) but I understand that it wasn’t entirely crucial for them to be on screen for much longer. And Storm, alas, I felt was just an inclusion again, like Warpath, Blink and Bishop.

Naturally, nothing can be perfect when it comes down to it. But for Bryan Singer to restore the X-Men franchise to it’s former glory days after X-Men 3: The Last Stand was task he took on superbly. The film is thoroughly enjoyable when all is said and done and the story is compelling, as confusing as may sound, it works. Either way, in typical Marvel fashion the post-credits sting (which you wait a lifetime for) is readying us for the next bout with the X-Men, however, confusing for those who don’t read the comics religiously. (I won’t spoil it for you).

(The questions below this aren’t necessarily spoilerific, but be wary cause I may give away some of the plot.)

But also, the questions that have been left unanswered by this film are going to be called into question. Will X-Men: Apocalypse feature Warpath, Blink, Bishop and Trask? Or have they sailed off into nothingness? What happens to Magneto in this now-corrected future? And Raven for that matter? Again, I believe the premise could be initially confusing for the next X-Men film, however, it could go back to the excellent X2 days. Either way, we have to wait til 2016 for it.

4/5

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Godzilla (2014)

Being a proud lover of the Matthew Broderick 1998 Godzilla spectacular, when news broke about the remake of the story, I was needless to say, excited. As more information about the upcoming film was released, the more I became apprehensive as Bryan Cranston, Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen were cast in some kind of leads. Including an unheard (for me at least) of director in Gareth Edwards. Regardless the trailers had the inner child of mine screaming out, ready for a big, spectacular monster movie.

The inner child of mine was pleasantly surprised with what actually happened in the film. I was expecting a similar film to the 1998 version, with a battle between monster and men with an added storyline including the oriental side of Godzilla that I had gathered from the trailers. It was very hit and miss with my original view. In all honesty, I was about 20% correct.

The film opens excellently with ‘archive’ footage that shows Godzilla swimming in the ocean, it’s echoes showing on sonars and tracking it’s movements. Inevitably, bombs are sent to try and kill the monster and that remains unclear whether it worked. (Who are you kidding Gareth? Come on).We then are transported to the Philippines in 1999, where two investigators, Dr. Serizawa (Ken Watanabe) and Vivienne Graham (Sally Hawkins) from Monarch discovers bones in a chasm, with a radioactive pod. Then we meet Bryan Cranston as Joe Brody in Janjira, a Japanese city, in charge of the power station there and after a discovery of regular patterns picked up on the radar, the plant suffers a radioactive leak and subsequently destroyed. This kills his wife, in what is quite a sad scene I must admit.

 

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Fifteen years have passed and the little Ford Brody, whom Joe neglected when growing up (which can be picked up from the later scene with his father), is now in the army and with a family of his own with Elle (Elizabeth Olsen). As Ford tries to get comfortable, he has to go to Japan to release his detained father who has grown crazy trying to figure out what caused Janjira’s destruction. They discover that operations are still happening under Monarch’s supervision and are trying to find out what is inside this pod they discovered at Janjira (Similar to the one in the Philippines). Out comes an robotic looking arachnid with hints of Starship Troopers and flies away after destroying most of the area. Now I was expecting Godzilla. Or at least a baby Godzilla.

Either way, this thing feeds on radioactivity and somehow harnesses it for an EMP like attack rendering electronics useless within a certain radius. In a hunt for a radioactive sources, it finds one in a Russian nuclear submarine, anyway Godzilla comes out the sea and decides to fight this thing Serizawa calls Mutos. Fragrances of iconic images of Godzilla fighting giant moths came to mind. The narrative comes out not all pointless as the Muto calls out for a mate, which turns out to a wingless female that’s 300 feet taller, buried in Nevada. It hatches and destroys Las Vegas on a trip toward it’s mate, as this one cannot fly.

You can see how big the female Muto is, just by it's destruction of Vegas.

You can see how big the female Muto is, just by it’s destruction of Vegas.

The directors initially set out to make the story as a force of a nature represented by Godzilla (of course) and it worked on many levels. The whole issue of trying to fight the Muto’s and their EMP blasts disabling the armies best efforts echoed this. Their only hope turned out to be Godzilla who fought the Muto’s which was surprising considering the trailers made it seem like a similar situation to the 1998 version. Dr. Serizawa mentions that Godzilla serves as a purpose to restore the balance that has been shifted, hence Godzilla’s awakening.

What I did like was the paddle footing around the original story of waking up the beast with the nuclear tests in the pacific oceans. Echoed by Joe’s suggestions that the nuclear bomb ‘tests’ were efforts to try and kill the beast. Whereas the first, original Godzilla has the nuclear tests by the Americans waking up the beast from a long slumber.

The film is a typical monster movie, and there is simply no avoiding that. The big showdown in Chinatown between Godzilla and the Muto’s is as spectacular as we always dreamed it would be, with many buildings being destroyed in the process. (But who cares about that, seriously?) And the acting ability of the cast was apt, although Bryan Cranston’s in his short screen time was probably the better part of the cast.

I realise I garbled on at the start on the plot, but I wouldn’t say the plot is unique, but rather takes some explaining. It’s not as simply as nuclear blasts creating Godzilla, Godzilla goes on a rampage and Godzilla dies (1998) there is more anticipation to the build up of Godzilla, and the fact a Muto is revealed in full before we even catch a full glimpse of Godzilla in all his glory was a great tactic by Gareth Edwards.

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As I said, the narrative was loose, but enjoyable. It carried the story over the sections without the giant battles in Hawaii and San Francisco. With the added spice of family tragedy and lost love trying to reunite.  A grievance of mine was that Elle Brody, I feel sometimes just on screen to heighten the sense of loss and family, when she was trapped in the Subway, but other than her encounter with Ford at the start when they are reunited, there isn’t much screen time to be had with her.

It’s been difficult to write this review without being too spoilerific. So I’ll leave it to your guys imagination. If I had another grievance, and this is a spoiler, but Joe Brody, Bryan Cranston’s character was killed relatively early on, which spurred on Ford’s attempts the kill the arachnid type creature anyway possible. But the film was very, very good. And really enjoyable. I enjoyed the whole Muto’s being left out in the trailers (that I saw anyway) for the added suspense in the film because it worked for me, it kept me intrigued. And with Gareth Edwards using elements of original, Japanese Godzilla movies was really enjoyable, including Godzilla’s fire breathing attack. Even the music had a subtle oriental tinge to it I thought. That could be just me though.

I would definitely recommend it to everyone, and it is spectacular on the big screen. If you loved the 1998 version, its just as good. (maybe not, 1998 did have Matthew Broderick and Jean Reno..)

4/5

Bad Neighbours (2014)

So Bad Neighbours, know as Neighbors in America, was a film I was quite excited for when I first saw the trailer. I’ve always enjoyed Seth Rogen’s work and it turned out to be a regular Seth Rogen comedy in which he battles his Frat House neighbours. Interestingly, it was the same team that made This Is The End, which I thought was excellent and was my favourite comedy of last year.

Bad Neighbours I found, in the United Kingdom at least, was one of the best cases of a film leaving out majority of the clips shown in the trailer, which is good and bad. Although unfortunately for me, I was watching kind of waiting for certain scenes. But good in the sense I saw totally new material.  Regardless, I still enjoyed the film and found the comedy to be surprising in some cases.

I’ve always enjoyed Seth Rogen comedies, especially him and Evan Goldberg’s collaborations. What I was surprised in was the casting of Zac Efron as the secondary lead. However, the cast did include Dave Franco, Christopher Mintz-Plasse and Rose Byrne, which have a repertoire of being cast in comedies, so from the trailers and the casting, it was set to be non-stop comedy film.

As the story goes, a married couple Mac and Kelly Radner (Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne) have just had a child and they are finding it difficult to reconnect in general. Their first scene is them trying to be spontaneous and have sex but can’t as the baby keeps watching. The Delta Psi fraternity move in next door, with their leaders Teddy (Zac Efron) and Pete (Dave Franco) leading the charge of their ‘brothers’. Worried about the noise, the Radner’s tell them to keep it down, in a wonderfully awkward and cringeworthy fashion after having a lengthy discussion about how to go about it.

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Teddy obliges and insists they call them before they call the cops, a party then ensues in which the Radner’s participate. The following night another party ensues (It’s a frat house, what do you expect?) and after Teddy doesn’t answer his phone, they call the cops. This results in rest of the film becoming a battle between the Radner’s and the frat house. The Radner’s trying to use them being college students against them and the frat house trying to drive them insane with the parties and mess that clutters the lawns.

As expected, majority of the comedy does occur in this film post-cop calling scene, with a mixture coming from the slapstick nature and the dialogue-based humour that (I’d say) dominated This Is The End. It’s a wonderful combination and works to great extent and keeps the laughter flowing.

Naturally the story is built purely for the comedy surrounding the film, but personally I found the story to be quite enjoyable, with the two separate lives that the neighbours lead. Teddy, failing at college, wants to become a legend in Delta Psi fraternity and place his name on the board. In which they show the Delta Psi fraternity first drinking beer and creating beer pong, featuring the likes of The Lonely Island and trio from Workaholics. The Radner’s, on the other hand, become increasingly alienated from their friends and are trying to find ways to reconnect, including the questioning of taking the baby to a rave.

“You called the cops. You violated the circle of trust, Focker.”

The casting is excellent as well, I found Efron to be quiet a surprising person cast in this comedy, and his continual battle with Seth Rogen becomes brilliant in the many ways they go about it. Such as the Robert De Niro party that is capitalised by Dave Franco’s Meet the Parents De Niro impersonation (See below). With the supporting roles being prominent in the film is quite crucial as they provide sustenance to the comedy that would wear thin if it would have been a comedy battle between Efron and Rogen for 96 minutes.

Are you talking to me?

Are you talking to me?

With the runtime being an expected just over ninety-odd minutes, the film felt longer. However, it’s not a bad thing, because of the enjoyment factor I received from this film, made me surprised to learn it was only 96 minutes long. I’m wondering whether anyone had the same issue with their viewing?

In all honesty, the was great and very enjoyable to watch. My favourite part surrounding the film probably was the casting, I through they were all excellent in their roles, especially Dave Franco’s role in the film, with the representation of either side of the spectrum with regards to Teddy’s failure at college and Pete’s successfulness at college. However, the battles between the two neighbours provides some excellent laughs and the ridiculous lengths they both go to during them is also viewing pleasure.

If I were to say it was the best comedy I’ve seen for a while, I’d be lying. But it’s a refreshing, easy and fun watch at the cinema, or even at home when it comes out on DVD. I’d recommend. The ending is even nice, but I’ll let you discover that one for yourselves.

4/5.

Star Trek: Into Darkness (2013)

This is strange. I watched this at the cinema and loved it, but never got round to posting a blog on it confessing my somewhat love for the sequel to JJ Abrams newly-imagined Star Trek franchise. I re-watched this on DVD and I must admit, these lovestruck feelings soon disappeared.

So, if you’ve been living under a rock, JJ Abrams rebooted the Star Trek franchises and has made it an action-fest heavy with CGI and etc. The first I liked, it was enjoyable and not being a huge Star Trek fan it was nice to watch a new franchise from a fresh perspective. However, the second one is an even further CGI-infested action thrown together with some of the original Star Trek quotes to what I can only assume is to please the original Star Trek fans.

In all honesty, I understand why the first scene was included, but personally, I probably would’ve preferred seeing the London HQ being blown up in retrospect. It just seemed to me that JJ Abrams loves those shots where the enterprise is rising up from water or the clouds. “Look at my majestic vessel” springs to mind.

Needless scene? Yes or no?

Needless scene? Yes or no?

So, the lowdown on this story is that the Starfleet Headquarters is destroyed on the inside. An ex-starfleet member, John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch) attacks every captain and first officer when they’re meeting, during Starfleet protocol. Admiral Pike (Bruce Greenwood) is killed. Sad sad times. Jim Kirk (Chris Pine) who just lost the command of the Enterprise due to failure in the mission we see Jim on in the first scene, is reinstated and goes and is ordered to pursue and kill John Harrison, who has fleed to a Klingon planet on the edge of Starfleet’s boundaries (dun dun dunnnn). You don’t have to be a genius to figure out that the Klingons are the sworn enemy of Starfleet. Everyone knows that.

There’s a little bit of a twist, but when I say twist, it was a plan that was to start a great war between Starfleet and the Klingons through Jim’s rash decisions. But then there’s just other ‘twist’, but more of an act of vengeance by Khan. I won’t explain, because it’ll ruin the story. It’s strange, but builds it up for areas that are just full of action. The characters are similar, with nothing spectacular in their display, because I feel the main focus of this film is the action-based sequences. However, that being said Uhura (Zoe Saldana) has a stronger role in this, than the first. We do get to a more humanised side of Spock occur with the big thing toward the end of the film, as he his bromance with Captain Kirk strengthens regardless of Spock not feeling logical about it (It makes sense when you watch it, trust me). Not being a fan of the original film or series I’m not sure how much Spock shows his human side if it were. Could someone tell me?

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It’s good, don’t get me wrong. But the sequel upon second watching lacked something I felt in the cinema screening. It might be cinema, with the sequences built and acted out for the cinema surroundings. Given that, the film is enjoyable and doesn’t feel too long with the run time of just over two hours. But the ending was sort of a anti climax of sorts, it was more of a iconic Star Trek ending, but I still felt deflated and disappointed with the ending.

As I mentioned about the whole of the Star Trek franchise being rebooted it’s working, it’s roping in more of an audience, but as for the older Star Trek fans, is there any similarities? I can’t answer this, aside from some of the quotes like the shouting of ‘KHANNNNNN’. Some sections I feel as though there are including to please the original fans, because they felt out of place, different from the rest of the film? That could be just me though?

However, whatever JJ Abrams is doing with this franchise, it’s working to an extent, as there is room for more films down the line with the reimagined cast which although are not outstanding, Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto are playing with good effect. Such as becomes with the big science fiction films, comedy has played a dab hand in some of the films, and Star Trek: Into Darkness does include some elements, primarily from Captain Kirk’s mannerisms and Scotty (Shaun Pegg) confessing madness of situations. One thing I did pick up was Benedict Cumberbatch really enjoyed enunciating his words in this film. It’s worth a watch if you’ve seen the first one, or simply looking for a science fiction film, or simply wanting to get into the Star Trek franchise, realistically though with JJ Abrams, you know what you’re expecting from a film like that. Don’t expect anything too amazing.

3/5