Sunday, May 25, 2014

X-Men: Days of Future Past [A Fat Jesus Movie Review]

X-Men: Days of Future Past is one of those Marvel superhero films you can boast about loving, because it truly is good. You can make cases for movies like ThorCaptain America: The First Avenger or even Iron Man 3 being in the group but I beg to differ. I'd rather put this movie in the group of my personal favorites form Marvel over the years. This list includes X2, Spider-Man 2, Iron ManX-Men: First Class and even The Avengers. There's a plethora of things that can go wrong when you're mixing casts from different movies in a given franchise, not to mention this is a movie about time travel. Luckily for all of us, the source material was great, the screenplay worked to a tee and they brought back a veteran director of the series to add that extra little oomph to set it apart from the rest of the superhero movies flooding the market.

X-Men: Days of Future Past follows the story of the X-Men in the distant future. Bolivar Trask's (Peter Dinklage) is assassinated in the 1970s, but his creations, The Sentinels, have taken over a now dystopian earth. Once designed to only eliminate mutants, they grew to a point where they took out anyone standing with mutants as well, sending them all into hiding. A select group of mutants are still surviving, who with the powers of Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page), are able to evade The Sentinels. The group meets up with another group on the run, which consists of Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart), Magneto (Ian McKellen), Storm (Halle Berry) and Wolverine (Hugh Jackman). They devise a plan to stop the world from ever getting to this point of devastation. Using Kitty Pryde's powers they send Wolverine back in time to stop the assassination of Trask. With the help of young Xavier (James McAvoy), Magneto (Michael Fassbender), Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence), Quicksilver (Evan Peters) and Beast (Nicholas Hoult), Wolverine embarks on last chance, cross era adventure, to save their kind and the world as we know it.

There's a ton of things that can go wrong with a movie involving time travel or anything of the sort in movies, see Looper. This film manages to keep everything fairly straightforward and neat. There are couple of wonky spots, midway through, that you can certainly argue towards being bad. But other than that, they handled to time travel part of this film well. The writing is also good in the character department and really felt like they focused on the heroes (and villains) of  X-Men: First Class, of which we've seen less of, than the people from the first trilogy or even Wolverine. They developed Xavier, Magneto and Mystique even further, while giving us some more of Beast and even introducing Quicksilver. They also did great with the melding of the two sets of characters shown, if they both were on-screen. Like Xavier and Magneto for instance. You see both ends of  the spectrum for each. Seasoned and older, on-screen along with young and less experienced. It's cool to see both characters above, at such different places in time, working towards a what they think is best to change the world and it all plays out so well. The source material is hailed as great, but you have to give major props to the writers who did such a good job adapting it all to a movie screen. This leads me to the story itself which was really cool. Compared to the rest of the series this ranks up there as probably the best overall story told in a setting. With X2 and even The Wolverine to an extent, having good stories. The actors fit characters so well and really embody them at this point in the series. The overall story is set up quickly, giving more time for everything to unfold. There's shock, tension, emotion and humor all paced at the right time, making it all work. Stuff wasn't just through in to be in there or get a cheap reaction.

Speaking of the characters throughout that whole paragraph, the actors that played them did a really great job. I'm still blown away by how well James McAvoy plays Xavier, while Michael Fassbender is such a perfect fit for Magneto. Jennifer Lawrence was better as Mystique this time around, cause she was just kind there in the first film. Evan Peters as young Quicksilver was a great mix of charisma and comedic timing. The CGI scene he got was utterly brilliant to me too and probably one of my favorite parts of the film. The rest of the original trilogy cast was pretty fine as well. Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen stepped back into their roles as Xavier and Magneto well. The bit of on-screen time Ellen Page had was fun. With Hugh Jackman's part in the movie being major, but not major at the same time. He was fine and got the story going, but once McAvoy, Fassbender, Dinklage and Lawrence took over, it was theirs to handle. Dinklage also added a sort of acting presence as well. As one of the bad guys he did well, probably one of the best acted characters, but I never thought that he was the true bad guy kinda thing. The CGI was also done pretty well in this, especially compared to The Amazing Spider-Man 2. The biggest scene I noticed full of CGI was the scene involving Quicksilver and that scene was awesome to me. The rest of the film was done well and you can tell they didn't want to jam this film full of CGI, so when they had to use it, they made it look good. Felt very much like the CGI was used with the original trilogy members parts and they kept it more "real" for the newer ones from First Class. The action and set pieces were fun as well and I've really never had a problem with the action in a given X-Men film. Big props to Bryan Singer in part to this, as he brought a charm that the first two films had to one this late in the franchise. I really hope they bring him back for X-Men: Apocalypse. The music was pretty good throughout, the run time, of just over two hours, never felt long and scenes never felt draggy either. I love that in a film.

X-Men: Days of Future Past was a blast to say the least. It's one of those movies that just clicked on all cylinders for me. Not to mention the way it altered, or saved if you will, the franchise as a whole. The story, the acting, the action, the humor, the characters, the visuals, just everything worked so well. I loved seeing both McAvoy and Stewart on screen a Xavier, as well as Fassbender and McKellen as Magneto. The rest of the cast did well and Hugh Jackman is still a good anchor as Wolverine at this point in the series. I'm highly excited for X-Men: Apocalypse and this is now the second time in the past few years a main X-Men movie has knocked it out of the park.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 [A Fat Jesus Movie Review]

Wow, it's been awhile since I've done this, I hope I still remember what I'm doing. I figured I'd start with a superhero film and what could almost be considered the least looked forward to hero flick of the year. The Amazing Spider-Man is a movie that I liked. I realize it has flaws, what superhero film doesn't, but it didn't keep it from being a solid start to the reboot of a franchise a lot of us watched growing up. Well, at least I did. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 mostly brings back the same cast from the first movie and from the trailers I expected a CGI crap-shoot. That Sony had just thrown together a sequel to further a movie deal to the most anticipated part of the series rumored to happen. While it's crammed with CGI, some forced humor and it kinda felt long, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 isn't all that bad.

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 follows the story of Peter Parker/Spider-Man (Andrew Garfield) as he grows to be the heroic vigilante New York City is divided over. To open the film we are shown Richard and Mary Parker as they are on a plane, after the events of the first film, where they are shown leaving Peter with his Aunt and Uncle. An assassin attempts to take out the plane and eventually succeeds, killing all aboard. Fast forward to present day as Spider-Man is chasing down a group of Russian thugs, led by Aleksei Sytsevich/Rhino (Paul Giamatti) who have stolen a truckload of plutonium from Oscorp. Peter is ignoring his high-school graduation as he tries to stop the thieves. During the chase he saves a man by the name of Max Dillion (Jamie Foxx), an employee of Oscop. By saving his life, Max becomes enamored with Spider-Man and begins to idolize him. Later on in the chase, Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) calls Peter and tells him to get to the graduation asap, causing him to turn it on and end the chase. Alekisei swears he will get the spider and Peter makes it to graduation on time. Peter then sees George Stacy (Dennis Leary) and remembered the promise he made him in the first film. Feeling guilt ridden, Peter and Gwen break up and he begins to solely focus being Spider-Man. While all this is going on, Harry Osborne (Dane DeHann) is called to his father's bedside. Norman (Chris Cooper) tells him, that the disease he's dying from is hereditary and tells him he's wasted so much potential. That night, at Oscorp, Max is forced to work late on his birthday to repair some things. As he is finishing up, he gets electrocuted and falls into a tank of genetically modified eels, effectively turning him into Electro. Peter must repair a strained relationship and rekindle an old friendship, all while protecting NYC from a new crop of baddies that only want to bring havoc and destruction.

This film suffers from the things most superhero films suffer from, taking a star-studded cast and them actually translating the the story to screen effortlessly. Andrew Garfield is totally fine as Spider-Man/Peter Parker and actually is one of the better points of the film, but it just felt like everyone else seemed off. Emma Stone as Gwen was fine, but I became bored with her pithy one-liners in almost all the scenes she was in. I kinda mentioned this about Kat Dennings in my Thor 2 review. You don't just throw in bad comedy cause you have a comedic lead, it just doesn't work sometimes. On the other side of the acting spectrum, from the trailers and previews I thought I was gonna hate Dane DeHamm and Jamie Foxx, as Electro and Harry Osborne respectively. I thought they did an okay job. To watch Foxx transform from mild-mannered and walked over Max into the super-villain Elcectro was fun. The relationship between the returned Harry and Peter throughout was a okay as well. I'd never seen Dane DeHamm before this, but at the very least, as Harry Osborne, he carried himself well. Neither blew me away, but they were far better than I thought they'd be going into this.The the veterans were good support. Sally Field is still good as Aunt May. Chris Cooper is always nice to see and Norman's character fits his acting style well. While Dennis Leary provides a Dennis Leary presence, despite his very limited screen-time. My other grips are what I actually mentioned before. Like the first film, I felt like this was too long and dragged in a lot of places. The overuse of CGI wasn't as bad as I thought it'd be. It just keeps reaffirming that superhero movies are gonna overdo it on CGI for almost no reason. Also the humor, while good in some spots, Spider-Man joking with baddies and even Max idolizing Spider-Man, is atrocious in other spots when they force feed them a corny one-liner. Everything I just talked about all just felt, well, only okay.

Never fear though, there was actually a lot I liked about the film. Despite said overuse of the CGI, in some spots it was actually pretty cool and looked good. The opening scene with Spidey swinging around NYC was fun and the scenes involving Electro and his electricity are pretty solid too. Foxx's CGI as Electro was still a little wonky, but that's hardly the worst the CGI looked in this film. The action was also fun, the finale fight was great and I've always loved Spider-Man's mannerisms and fighting style. Going hand in hand with the CGI, the overall look of the film was good as well. I love cinematography and the sweeping shots of NYC at various points of the day, throughout the film, looked pretty good. I actually enjoyed the story as well. Sure at parts it was written kinda bad, but the overall feel, character dialogue, character/story development and even the ending was done well. You watch as these guys, grow and transform in the film, both towards good, towards evil or even just understanding themselves better. I like that kinda stuff in a genre not known from giving much character development at all. You could also call it a tale of two halves, cause the second half of the film really does make up for the first. They could've done way worse with a bridging sequel leading to the third installment in a trilogy, so props to the writing team for not just phoning it in. Marc Webb did fine directing it, just like with the first one, just stop using those stupid camera tilted angles. I hate those so much. The music was alright as well. Hanz Zimmer has done good work for big movies and this film is no different. Without making everything too over dramatic, or something of the sort, the music flows with the movie well. Keeping the comic characters close to what I remember them from the comics is always a plus as well. This film really had a "I'm reading a comic book they put on a screen." I loved that.

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is a film that furthers the first film in the series but didn't really improve on anything from the first. Everything got bigger, it never really got better, but luckily it didn't get worse either. The acting was mostly fine, the story was good and for the most part it looked and sounded good throughout. The drawbacks are certainly its length, the over abundance of CGI and the other side of "the acting was mostly fine." This was a fun watch. The action was cool, the humor, when it was good, is solid and it's everything you could want in a super-hero film. I'm highly looking forward to see if they can end this trilogy well with the Sinister Six stuff, always loved that baddie group growing up.