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Days of Future Awesome

Category : Reviews · No Comments · by May 23rd, 2014

x-men-days-of-future-past-posterA film review of X-Men: Days of Future Past by Alexander Morales

Right out of the gate, it is imperative that, if you are a super hero fan and you are not yet sick of the unrelenting onslaught of hero-themed films filling our eyeballs these days, stop reading and go see this movie. For real. I’ll wait.

Back now?

Great. Let’s begin.

While many seemed to enjoy X-Men: First Class (2011), I on the other hand was extremely disappointed. I loved the premise, most of the cast and small portions of the film, but in the end, I felt like it was an unbalanced attempt to re-spark a film franchise that miserably failed its fans with X-Men: The Last Stand. Just my opinion. However, holy crap snacks! X-Men: Days of Future Past is light-years superior to both those films and is a high-contender for one of the best films this summer.

Directed by Bryan Singer (as you may remember, the director of X-Men and X-Men 2) and loosely based on a 1981 two-issue storyline (issues 141-142) in the pages of the Uncanny X-Men, Days of Future Past is a highly-engaging, high-concept summer flick that should satisfy hardcore and mainstream audiences alike. With a returning cast which includes Hugh Jackman, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Halle Berry, Ellen Page, Patrick Stewart and many more, this film has raised the bar in terms of balancing a large cast while telling a interesting story.

To be honest, I am shocked at how good it is.

The film in a nutshell:
The future is bad. Real bad. Mechanized, mutant hunting peacekeepers called Sentinels have evolved and nearly wiped out both mutant and human populations. It seems in our government’s attempt to control fear, that fear became realized and backfired. Now, only humans with no trace of a mutant strain are allowed to exist. The last of the X-Men are trying to survive and, in a last ditch effort to save the future, Wolverine must go to the past, bring friends, now enemies back together and stop an event that triggered the domino effect of hate. Effin’ Groovy!

The Good:
First and foremost, the best part of this film is how the mutant powers are showcased. Leaked onto the Web near a month ago, audiences were allowed to watch an opening sequence where six X-Men try to hold off a Sentinel attack. I wish I never saw that. Seeing it on the big screen is fantastic and I spoiled it for myself. Fluid and seamless, the X-Men each showcase their skills as a team in a gorgeous way that had never been shown in this franchise. A huge standout is Bingbing Fan’s Blink and how the director and writers choose to show how she uses her abilities for herself and her team.

Speaking of powers – Quicksilver is flippin’ wonderful! While his costume in the released promotional photos looks ridiculous and sad, Evan Peters’ portrayal is both fun and another shining moment for the film. Not even close to the arrogant, snobby, aristocratic Quicksilver I grew up with in the comics, this different take on a young mutant is a ton of fun. I really enjoyed how he was used and, in comparison to First Class, why he as a character was relevant to the overall story – a problem I have with most of mutants showcased in that 2011 film.

And that’s just stuff that happens in the first half of the film. I haven’t even gotten to how well Hugh Jackman carries this film or how, in comparison to X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009) and The Wolverine (2013) the character of Wolverine is able to be highlighted and well represented. Nor have I even mentioned how the rest of this all-star cast, regardless of the amount of screen time, add to an excellent movie-going experience.

Yet, even with all of that, the best thing about this film is the story. An issue that has plagued this genre of films for a long, long time. Our summers have been sunburned too many times by effects-driven movies with too little substance. From any of the three already released Transformers films to the last three Spider-Man films to the Man of Steel, an inconsistent representation of super films have been allowed to be released and, in my opinion, damage the importance of comic book lore to our popular culture. Turning Days of Future Past into a film was already a difficult feat, but delivering such an outcome this solid is amazing and should prove high box office results that will last throughout this season. The idea of mutants is already a stretch for some audiences to get behind, but time-traveling consciousness with ripple effects to a time stream makes it that much harder, and while other franchises like Doctor Who and Terminator have proven success, they have also failed at times (mostly Terminator). The writing team behind Days of Future Past should be commended for being able to take a core story, breaking it down into understandable chunks and then piecing it back together in a way that never talks down to the audience and remains entertaining throughout the entire film. Well done.

The Not So Good:
While not perfect, there are a few things in the film that, in my opinion, could have been represented just a little differently. Mainly in regards to the the Sentinels. There are two versions shown in the film. Why they are different is a story point so I won’t get into that, however, in the 1970s the design of the Sentinels just bugs me a little. I wish they looked a little more clunky and bulky like they did in the comic books. On screen, they have a very sleek, high-design that seems more technologically advanced for that time period. The look of them seemed out of place in my opinion.

Along with that, while I am fan of Peter Dinklage and I think his portrayal of Dr. Bolivar Trask (the developer of the Sentinel program) is well done, his motivation as a character seemed forced. In the original Days of Future Past story, the core character was a Senator whose platform against mutants was born from a hate and negativity for their differences. Clearly a metaphor for race relations in the late seventies and early eighties. Here however, it seems he is driven more by a fear/need for peace that while, in the wake of the Vietnam War is relevant to that moment of our history, seems more a statement based on our current events. The theme of hatred and bigotry against mutants has always been the backbone for why the X-Men are necessary and I wish in this film that theme was more in the foreground – like it was in X-Men (2000). As a character in this film, I never really dislike Trask like I did (and still do) Senator Kelly and so, for me, that was slightly lacking.

But honestly, that’s it.

A fun, smart super hero film that uses every ounce of its talent, X-Men: Days of Future Past is the film to see this summer. In the wake of an average (yet disappointing) Amazing Spider-Man 2 and a super-sized Godzilla, this is the kind of epic, big-budget summer film every one should see. Quality from start to finish, Days of Future Past is well worth the cost of admission and is a huge push in the right direction for more mutant films. Like I said, I was shocked at how much I enjoyed this film and that is coming from a highly opinionated X-Men snob who only has liked X2 thus far in the film franchise.

Go see this film!

4.5 out 5 Plastic Bullets
(As reviewed for KC Studio Magazine – www.kcstudio.org

Amazingly Average Adversaries

Category : Reviews · No Comments · by May 2nd, 2014

the_amazing_spider_man_2_movie_poster

A Film review of “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” by Alexander Morales

Back in 2012, audiences were sort of thrilled to receive the newest incarnation of our favorite neighborhood arachnid onto the big screen with Marc Webb’s “The Amazing Spider-Man.” Critics were a little rough on the film overall, while, for the most part, audiences seemed to enjoy the newest incarnation. However, two things were very clear. First … nearly everyone, in a moment of Zen-like spiritual awakening and connectivity across the world asked “Why do we need another remake only 10 years after Sam Raimi’s adequate attempt?” and, after viewing the film, “Wow, this Andrew Garfield kid is flipping wonderful as Spider-man!”

Well friends, gladly I can say that yes indeed he is still wonderful. Amazing in fact. Perfect casting to play Peter Parker, the traumatized young man trying to balance a normal existence of school work and family while spending his evenings risking life and limb, fighting crime throughout the city of New York. Honestly, I cannot say enough about him. Garfield is Spider-Man. The heroic character I grew up reading about every month in the pages of “The Amazing Spider-man,” “Spider-Man,” “The Spectacular Spider-Man” and so on – yeah, he’s that guy. The wise-cracking, conflicted, confused hero trying to live up to his Uncle Ben’s mantra of “with great power comes great responsibility.” 100 percent yes.

Now … take that enthusiasm, that positivity for Garfield and mix it with Emma Stone’s Gwen Stacy and you get some of the sweetest, most genuine, believable and electric chemistry two young performers have had on film in quite a long time. To be honest, I wasn’t a big fan of the relationship side bar from the first film. Teen angst just isn’t my cup of tea. But here … Here we get two people, two lovers who seemingly seriously care for one another with drama, that while rooted in comic book ridiculousness seems real. Seems important. Seems like something I could relate to. Other superhero films take note – this is how you do relationship building. This is how you get some pulpy, emotional responses from your two lead characters. This is how you raise the bar.

And then, then you throw in Sally Field’s Aunt May. Yes please! Peter and Gwen, May and Peter. Yes, yes and more yes. Excellent.

Yet, and sadly, they were not the only part of this film that we have to consider. Unfortunately, nearly every part of the rest of the film never matches their greatness and thus, what could have been the epic hero adventure/human interest combo, falls to average because of two very strong, very important, near fatal flaws – the villains and the story.

Let’s continue with more of the good though:
I’ve already gone a little in depth about Garfield and Stone, as well as a little about Field, however, this film would not be a superhero film without action and boy does this film rev it up. One of my main criticisms from the first “Amazing” film, this movie does an excellent job showcasing Spider-man’s abilities, intelligence and overall badassedness (if that is even a word.) “The Amazing Spider-man 2,” in my opinion, is the best representation of Spider-man we have every received on film. This is true for both masked and unmasked. While the special effects do at times get a little muddy, overall the fight scenes are handled extremely well with big choreographed effects that keep you engrossed and wanting more.

At the same time, while I think the character overall was mishandled, Electro’s effects are perfect, big-budget, summer movie eye candy. Honestly, I was skeptical when I saw early make-up photos releases on fan sites. However, I think that, as a character with these powers, he is wonderful to look at and the fight scenes between he and Spidey are a ton of fun.

Now … let’s talk about the bad:
The villains. Horrible. Laughably represented poorly throughout most of the film with little or no motivation, the villains are nothing more than retreads of other bad villains. Sadly, the relationship between Dane DeHaan’s Harry Osbourne and Jaime Foxx’s Electro is the exact same as Topher Grace’s Venom and Thomas Haden Church’s Sandman from the excruciatingly disappointing “Spider-Man 3” with the action culminating nearly beat for beat in the exact same way as that film did. Ridiculous. There are nine writing credits on this film. Nine. Nine people allowed director Marc Webb to remake the third act of “Spider-Man 3” and all of them are still getting a paycheck. Again I say ridiculous.

But let’s back up. Fox’s character, Max Dillon, is nothing more than a combination of Halle Berry’s Patience Phillips from “Catwoman” and Jim Carrey’s Dr. Edward Nygma from “Batman Forever.” Two films not remembered for their extraordinary character development. Dillon’s character score and home even resemble the Riddler’s from “Batman Forever.” Stereotypical and left to just be a sidebar, if allowed, Fox could have been awesome. When his powers fully come into play, Fox delivers his lines with confidence and menace that is fantastic to watch – however, with poor dialogue and no motivation, I found myself asking, “what, why?” Yes he’s obsessed, and yes he is conflicted with social issues, but that does not equal “kill everyone” crazy. As a character, he is treated like nothing more than Frankenstein’s monster and thus never given the proper time to develop or be as good as he could have been.

Along with that, Harry Osbourne. Nothing more than a spoiled brat with a medical condition. There are glimpses of good character development, but in the end, just like his relationship with Electro, it seems his character traits were lifted straight from Tobey Maguire’s emo Peter from “Spider-Man 3.” Couple that with his “transformation” into the Green Goblin and you just shake your head and ask “why?”

I won’t even get into the silliness that was Paul Giamatti’s Aleksei Sytsevich … a.k.a. the Rhino.

Of course, everything is based on the story, and centrally, you have this extremely heart-warming relationship between Peter and Gwen, but all of that is diverted, several times throughout this film (and the last) to focus on this stupid conspiracy that involves Peter’s dead parents and Oscorp. Nobody cares. It sidetracks all the good stuff in the film so much that it completely negates one of the finest scenes in the film that involves Peter, Aunt May and a ton of emotion. Is this a super hero film? Yes it is. Should there be some ridiculousness? Possibly, but when you compare the excellent work that three cast members are putting in as well as the larger than life action that the special effects team is developing, we have to be allowed to expect more from the stories that are being told. For me, this film’s overall story arc feels forced and recycled from past, unsuccessful films.

Overall:
With everything I’ve stated, this film is still entertaining. I don’t think it’s fair to compare this movie and “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” since, while they are both superhero stories, they are very different takes on film genres – I will say that “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” is far better than it’s predecessor “The Amazing Spider-Man.” Held firmly together by it’s two leads, I was 100 percent engrossed by their relationship. At the same time, the action and special effects kept me engaged and will keep audiences shoving delicious, buttery popped balls of corn into their mouths all summer long. However, all of that goodness is unbalanced with silly villain characterization and an inadequate story arc that never allows other characters to truly develop or be as good as they could be.

This film will make a lot of money this summer season. That much is clear. It is a perfect distraction for adults and kids (of a certain age) to enjoy, however, like other less than average recent releases like “Divergent,” it is clear that audiences need more from their heroes and while Spider-Man can always draw a crowd, if he has nothing to say or do, the crowd will quickly move on … which at the end of this month includes a team of mutant super heroes and a giant lizard from the East.

3 out of 5 Outdated Computer Equipment That is Still Able to Connect to the Internet at Super Fast Speeds

KC Studio Magazine – www.kcstudio.org