Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Venerating V for Vendetta on Nov. 5

Vacuous individuals who have yet to check their calenders, today is Nov. 5, Guy Fawkes' Night is upon us. Voila! In view of this most auspicious of nights, this review is on V for Vendetta. I will vauntingly use every word with the letter "V" in my vocabulary, surpassing mere vernacular, in honor of the vehement vigilante from the film. Verily, this intro paragraph is far too verbose because V-words are hard to come by and I already grow vexed from the verbiage. It is vital that I bring this introduction to an end and vivaciously start the review. Let's begin.
For those who don't know, V for Vendetta is based off of a comic of the same name written by comic veteran Alan Moore. The film, in my opinion, does a good job of capturing many of the themes and the overall plot of its source material. There are some differences between the two, but it doesn't take away from the quality of the film. It is an excellent read. Now, on to the movie.
Very quickly the film paints a picture of a not-so-distant future. The European continent was ravaged by a deadly virus, and a fascist group, the Norsefire party, now runs the UK. Under this vainglorious government run by High Chancellor Adam Sutler (John Hurt), the mantra "Strength through Purity, Purity through Faith" is embedded into people's minds; this alleged verity of life all but brainwashes them into rallying under national pride and strict, unrelenting morals. Venal cops, or "Fingermen," patrol the streets and strict curfew laws are in place to protect citizens.
It is in this setting that we meet Evey Hammond (Natalie Portman), a young woman working for the British Broadcasting Corporation Television Network. Evey goes out past curfew on Nov. 4 for a date and is caught by two Fingermen. They threaten Evey with jail time for breaking curfew unless she does sexual favors for them.
Luckily, Evey is saved by a vigilante whose visage is hidden behind a Guy Fawkes mask. The man, a virtuoso in various fighting techniques, dispatches of the Fingermen and saves Evey's life. He then gives a verbose speech I wish I could quote verbatim introducing himself as V (Hugo Weaving). Afterwards just as the clock strikes midnight, V blows up the Old Bailey (on Nov. 5) in one of the greatest fireworks displays in the history of ever, all set to the 1812 Overture.
Bad. Ass.
The Norsefire party tries to use the BTN to cover up the explosion, but V hijacks the signal, taking credit for the explosion and promising to return next  Nov. 5. Police try and fail to catch V, Evey is hurt in the process, and V takes her to his secret hideout to protect her.
Unfortunately for Evey, since V rescued her, the cops now believe she is involved with his acts of vigilantism. V cannot let her leave for both her protection and his. Evey stays with her vigilant hero in his home filled with vintage objeccts now classified as illegal. Meanwhile the vindictive Sutler and his vile men vilify her and V, putting them on wanted lists and telling his Fingermen to find them at any cost.
Evey eventually suffers from Stockholm syndrome and learns more of V's past. She sympathizes with him and joins his cause, helping the masked man with his big project for the coming Nov. 5: blowing up Parliament (just like Guy Fawkes centuries before him). As the movie continues, V begins killing off prominent public figures, continuing to be a vexation to the Norsefire party. V's dark history is slowly revealed in depth and the movie ends on the next year's Nov. 5. I don't want to spoil the ending, but let's just say it ends with a bang.
A big one.
V for Vendetta is not a movie, it is a film. While I may sound pretentious by saying this, it's true. The quality is undeniable. Director James McTeigue and the Wachowski Brothers did a tremendous job (better than they did with the later installments of the Matrix series). It's just beatiful.
The cast is phenomenal, too. Viewers vicariously experience the plot through Portman's Evey, the journey her character goes on is difficult and a prominent part of the overall story. John Hurt's villain, Sutler, is a despicable man-behind-the-curtain so rooted in vice it is impossible not to hate him. And Hugo Weaving is nothing short of fantastic in his vibrant performance as V.
Also, an insane level of detail was put into the film. In every shot the letter "V" is visible somewhere. Whether the neckline of someone's sweater, the shape of a building, two objects in the background, or blatant fireworks in the sky, the letter is EVERYWHERE. Go on, see for yourself.
If you haven't already seen V for Vendetta I highly recommend watching it. I venerate this film as one of the best I've seen. For those of you who have seen it, watch it again ... especially today. In fact, go buy it on Bluray or DVD if you don't already own a copy.
Now that I have reviewed V for Vendetta and have vaunted my vast vocabulary (thesauruses are awesome!), I must bring this verbose blogpost to a close. My mind is void of anymore "V" words and am losing my normal volubility. I wish you all a happy Nov. 5.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Past, Present, and Future Collide in X-Men Trailer

Toward the end of the summer I took a week and reviewed every entry in the X-Men film franchise, ending with a look toward next summer's X-Men: Days of Future Past. After my first review series I was pretty much sick of the mutant movies and wanted nothing to do with them for a good while. That good while ended just a few days ago when the new trailer was released.
The past presented in X-Men: First Class, the present from the original trilogy, and the future alluded to at the end of The Wolverine are brought together in what looks to be the best addition to the franchise to date. While this trailer doesn't make the movie look like the series' savior that has come to fix all of the inconsistencies that riddle the X-Men movies like I hoped for, it still makes me excited for all of the mutant-attacking, government-reacting, wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey action with which this movie will undoubtedly be filled.
Director Bryan Singer is at the helm again and seems to be taking the series in an incredible direction that have fans like myself going crazy with anticipation. Days of Future Past features an all-star cast, bringing back franchise regulars Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, and Sir Ian McKellan, as well as returns from James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, and Katniss Everdeen Jennifer Lawrence. Cast members from the original trilogy will also be brought back to the silver screen including Halle Berry's Storm and Ellen Page's Kitty Pryde. And Game of Thrones' Peter Dinklage plays the villain, Bolivar Trask.
This little guy builds big robots that look like vacuum cleaners.
I am very much looking forward to X-Men: Days of Future Past and am eagerly awaiting May 23 to see it.

The Lego Movie Building Hype

This past summer when I first started this blog, my first review was a look at a teaser trailer for the upcoming The Lego Movie. I said I was excited and the movie looked like it would be fun. Fast-forward to a few days ago when a full-length theatrical trailer was released for the movie. It only confirms my previous hopes and dreams.
                        Everything about this trailer has my inner-Lego-building-child bouncing off the walls and screaming with excitement. First, let's start with the cast.
In my review of the teaser trailer, I mentioned there were some pretty big names tied to this movie. This new trailer does a much better job of showing off their talent. Chris Pratt's voice is perfect for the central character Emmet, who appears to have the same personality as Andy Dwyer, his character from Parks and RecreationMorgan Freeman is always perfect in any role he plays, and Liam Neeson looks to be honestly hilarious as a "good cop/bad cop" mini-fig. And who could forget the smooth deep voice of Will Arnett as Batman? Perfect choices for voice talent. Simply perfect.
Better Batman than George Clooney's any day of the week.
While the casting has me excited, what has me most looking forward to The Lego Movie is the insane level of detail put into it. Everything in this world is made form the tiny bricks: houses, cars, planes, plants, rocks, explosions, EVERYTHING! It's insane. The world built for the movie is beautifully well crafted and puts anything I ever built out of Legos to shame. And I'm okay with that.
Honestly, there isn't anything bad I have to say about this trailer. It looks incredibly fun and I am really looking forward to it. The Lego Movie comes out February 7 and will more than make up for all the times you stepped on a Lego and nearly died.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Ripping The Notebook to Shreds

Nicholas Sparks is a popular romance author among women whose books present wonderful love stories interwoven with great sadness that causes a tremendous amount of crying and usually ends happily ... or so I'm told by the Internet. A lot of people (myself included) believe all of his novels (and their movie adaptations) follow the exact same story. This graphic from Cracked does an excellent job of showing this point (read the entire article here).
See what I mean?
Last weekend I was forced to watch The Notebook by some friends of mine since I had never seen it before and girls are obsessed with it. This was my first time seeing the movie, so I made sure to pay attention as best I could ... and then fell asleep about 20 minutes in.
I woke up and fell asleep sporadically throughout the two hour love story and was intelligent enough to pick up the story (which isn't something to brag about). Out of the kindness of my heart I am warning any readers that there are spoilers ahead, but really this movie has been out for almost a decade, I shouldn't be spoiling anything for anyone who actually cares.
An old man (James Garner) reads a story to an Alzheimer's patient (Gena Rowlands) about Noah (Ryan Gossling) and Allie (Rachel McAdams) in the 1940s. When Noah first sees Allie at a carnival of some kind he immediately asks her out on a date, even though she is currently on a date with another young man. She declines. So, Noah does the most romantic thing he can think of: stalk her the entire night and threaten to kill himself if she doesn't agree.
Not romantic. Creepy.
Allie agrees and the two start dating and become a couple. Noah takes her to an old house (again not romantic, but creepy) and they get to know each other in a Biblical sense. Allie's rich parents find out and don't approve of Noah. Her family moves away so the two can never be together. So, Noah decides to write letters to her everyday for a whole year (that's 365 letters for those of you who can't do math). After a year of not getting any response from her, Noah finally takes a hint and moves on.
Noah gets sent off to war, Allie goes to college, and they both live their own lives. Allie even falls in love with a new man (played by James "Cyclops" Marsden), a rich lawyer who pursues her in a much more normal way than Noah did. He proposes, she says yes, and everyone is happy.
Except Noah, who went to find Allie and saw her eating dinner in a restaurant with her soon to be husband. Noah gets depressed and buys the old house in which he and Allie had sex all those years ago (not romantic, creepy) and decides to fix it up. This transforms him from a whiny kid into a whiny man with a beard.
He kind of looks homeless.
The house goes up for sale and many people offer Noah large sums of money to buy it off him, and every time he turns them down. For some reason someone thought this was significant enough news to write an article about and put it in the local paper. Allie sees the article, faints, and then decides it a good idea to go visit him.
Her visit turns into a rekindling of their relationship from when they were younger. Girls may think this is really cute because they are finally back together. It's not. It's terrible. Noah was dating some random girl at the time and Allie was perfectly happy and engaged.
Allie and Noah get in a huge fight and she leaves. Upon returning to her fiancé she fesses up to cheating on him and apologizes. And he is a nice enough guy to forgive her and tell her how much he loves her. So what does she do? She decides she loves Noah and goes running back to him.
Now that the story of Ryan Gossling and Rachel McAdams is over, it is clear that the Alzheimer's patient is an elderly Allie and the man reading the story is an elderly Noah. He is so completely dedicated to her that he reads her the story of their lives hoping that she remembers. She does remember things and the two die in their sleep together holding hands.
This part is actually sad.
Despite my criticism of the plot and certain characters' motives, The Notebook is a well made movie. The casting is great, all of the actors do an incredible job in their roles. There is kind of a resemblance between Gossling and Garner and McAdams and Rowlands making their roles as the same people just decades apart a little more believable. And from what I have heard it is a decent adaptation of the novel. Plus, it made Nicholas Sparks a lot of money.
Did I like The Notebook? Not really. I felt it dragged on so much longer than it should have and I didn't like Ryan Gossling's character at all. He wasn't romantic, he was creepy. However, I do have a heart and the end with old Noah and old Allie honestly was really saddening. Noah seems to have gotten better at being romantic as he got older. I can see why girls are so obsessed with this movie even though it makes them cry every time they watch it. Old Noah loved old Allie so much that he gave up on pretty much everything else in his life to keep her comfortable and to get her to remember their lives together. It's sweet, touching, and a fine example of how a man should care for his wife.
Ladies, go watch The Notebook if you haven't seen it already. Chances are that you will love it. Guys, don't watch this movie by yourself ... that's weird. It's definitely a movie you should only watch if a girl makes you, but it is okay to enjoy it a little bit.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Ben Affleck is Batman Now

Roughly a month ago it was announced that Zach Snyder would follow up this summer's Superman blockbuster, Man of Steel (a movie I praised), with a buddy-cop superhero sequel starring Supes AND Batman! As a nerd, I was ecstatic at the idea.
While Henry Cavill is returning as the Big Blue Boy Scout once again for the sequel, the big question has been who will play the Caped Crusader. Christian Bale sadly isn't reprising the role from Nolan's trilogy causing many fans to speculate possible actors. No one knew for sure ... until today, that is.
Just a few hours ago, Warner Bros. announced that Ben Affleck would don the cowl in 2015. Yes, Ben Affleck.
"Calm down everybody."
Initially, I thought this announcement was some joke. Affleck? The guy who destroyed the Daredevil movie a decade ago? You want him to play Batman? Is Matt Damon going to be Robin? Who thought this was a good idea? They could've found almost anybody better for the part.
Like Abed.
Then I started mulling it over and it occurred to me that there could be some hope. When Tim Burton was making his first Batman movie back in the late '80's his casting of Michael Keaton as Bruce Wayne was considered equally ridiculous as Affleck's casting is today. And yet, Keaton did a fine job. In fact, he did a far better job in the role than Val Kilmer and George Clooney ever did.
Bat-nipples: the lowest point of the entire Batman franchise.
And it wasn't long ago that everyone flipped shit because Heath Ledger was cast as the Joker in Nolan's The Dark Knight. But what happened? Ledger's performance as the Clown Prince of Crime was so chilling and unique that he got a well deserved posthumous Oscar award and high school goth kids everywhere began to worship the anarchic clown giving Hot Topic stores everywhere a reason to exist again.
Now I'm not saying that Affleck will be the best Batman to ever be Batman. He probably won't outdo Bale. What I am saying is that maybe it won't be so bad. His work as director/actor for last year's Argo was great and earned him an Academy Award for best picture, and it's been a ten years since the cinematic bowel movements that were Daredevil and Gigli. He has gotten better. I believe there is hope. I believe this movie could still be great. And I believe there is a chance that Ben Affleck will surprise us all.
If he doesn't I will cry.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

No Happy Ending for Elysium

 Earlier today, I saw Elysium. And I can honestly say I was disappointed for all 109 minutes of it.
In 2154, Earth isn't doing so well. Disease and pollution have run rampant across the planet, so all of the rich people built a space station, shot it into space, and live there without a care in the world. Also, they have magic Med-Pods that can heal anything. Literally, anything.
Max (Matt Damon) is a former criminal from L.A. who needs to get on Elysium because he recently got radiation poisoning at work and will die in five days. Desperate not to die, Max gets involved in criminal activities again so his friend Spider (Wagner Moura) can get him a ticket up to Elysium. He also gets an exo-suit surgically attached to his body (as pictured in the poster).
While stealing data from a rich CEO on a routine visit to Earth, Max gets tangled up in Delacourt's (Jodie Foster) attempt at a coup up on Elysium so she can be president. So she sends her creepy and un-understandable sleeper agent Kruger (Sharlto Copley) after him.
This guy really needed subtitles.
After fighting, running, explosions, and the kidnapping of his childhood friend and her daughter (who has leukemia), Max surrenders to Kruger and is taken up to Elysium. Everything gets worse up there. Much worse.
Kruger coups the coup-er Delacourt and decides that he should be president of Elysium. Spider shows up on Elysium to save Max. An exo-skeleton powered battle between Max and Kruger takes place where Max wins. Spider uploads the stolen data from Max's head, killing him and instating all of the sick people on Earth as citizens of Elysium. The girl with leukemia is cured and it seems that Spider becomes Elysium's president. Medical assistance is sent to Earth and people are healed. The end.
Happy ending, right?
Thank you, Mr. Spacey.
Back up a little. Spider, a criminal, is now the president of Elysium? And all of the sick people on Earth are now citizens of Elysium? This is not a happy ending (plus, Matt Damon died ... how is that happy?)!
The ending actually makes everything worse. Elysium's government would fall apart so quickly with Spider in charge that the space station would probably fall out of orbit. The man has no experience whatsoever and definitely doesn't seem like the kind of guy to hand over that much power to someone who knows what they're doing. Also, all of the sick people on Earth are now citizens on Elysium ... there were a lot of sick people. The whole reason Elysium was built was because the planet was overpopulated, polluted, and sick. Now, all of these former sick people can live on Elysium. That gorgeous space station is going to very quickly get over-populated and potentially polluted from so many people. I give it just a few decades before Elysium's "one-percent-ers" decide to build another space station for them to live on once Elysium goes down the toilet. Plus, all of these people can't get sick now because of the magic Med-Pods. So over-population will happen even more quickly because disease won't be killing anyone off. The movie ends in a seemingly happy way, but just months - heck, just days after the movie is over everything is going to fall to shit.
Unhappy ending aside, the movie just was not good. Damon didn't do a poor job portraying his character, it was just a poor character to begin with. Not once during the movie did I feel connected to Max, I didn't even feel bad when he died at the end. He just wasn't a likeable person. And the same with Jodi Foster's character. While her acting was a little more over-the-top, she was pretty much just a selfish bitch. She wasn't even an interesting villain. And Kruger was just weird. None of the characters stuck out or were special, they were just as boring as the middle chunk of the movie that dragged on forever.
Also, the political undertones were so in your face that they were more like political over-the-top-and-incredibly-blatant-tones. And there was so much unnecessary gore. Too much unnecessary gore. Four people exploded in the movie. FOUR! That is four too many.
I recommend not seeing this movie. It isn't worth sitting through and it's obvious that sci-fi is a genre Matt Damon doesn't do well in.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Looking Toward the Future Past of X-Men Movies

Now that the mutant movie series has successfully recovered from the lack of quality of X-Men: The Last Stand and X-Men Origins: Wolverine, we can all look toward the future of the franchise in a positive way. And directer/producer/franchise runner Bryan Singer has something big for next summer.
Giant mutant killing robot big!
That's right, next summer's X-Men: Days of Future Past, has the sentinels built by Trask Industries as a big part of the storyline. While these sentinels do look like giant friendly anthropomorphic vacuum cleaners, hopefully they'll look more impressive in action next summer.
Sentinel prototype.
The movie is based off the comic of the same name that appeared in the early '80s. Like the source material, the movie will feature the past (from First Class) and an alternate future (probably taking place after The Wolverine) where mutants are considered such a big threat that giant robots were built to kill them and protect Homo sapiens from the supposed Homo superior uprising.
I absolutely cannot wait for this addition to the franchise next summer. And just a few weeks ago, a teaser trailer advertising for Trask Industries was released.

It may just look like any regular commercial for a corporation, but that's what it is supposed to be! This fake ad for the sentinel building corporation is clearly made to make it seem as if this is a real company putting you, the viewer, into the X-Men film franchise. There's now even an official Trask Industries website that (kind of) looks like a real company put it up. It makes the cinematic universe feel real.
But wait, there's more! Tons of pictures have been leaked, as well as some awesome posters. X-Men: Days of Future Past looks to be the biggest movie in the series yet and so far it doesn't look like it'll disappoint.
Prof. X, Magneto, Colossus, and Bishop
Two of the coolest posters I've ever seen.
Hugh Jackman doesn't age.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Logan Goes to Japan and Gets a Haircut

Just a few weeks ago the most recent X-Men movie hit theaters with a title lacking any connection to the rest of its franchise, The Wolverine, with Hugh Jackman returning for the titular role.
This newest addition to the series (directed by James Mangold) is a direct sequel to the original trilogy. Still feeling guilty for killing Jean at the climax of The Last Stand, Logan has returned to the wilderness of Canada and lives off the land only going into town when needed. She still haunts his nightmares.
Also, he looks homeless.
In typical Wolverine fashion, he gets into a bar fight and just before he is about to snikt out his claws, a Japanese girl with a sword shows up. After using her sword to cut up beer bottles and bar stools in a show-offy display, she takes Logan to Japan with her and he gets a haircut.
Short, suave, sophisticated, spiky-ish, and killer sideburns. Good haircut.
Back in World War II, Logan saved a man from the bombing at Nagasaki. This same person, now a successful business man, is the reason why Logan was brought to Japan, he is dying and wants Logan to give him his regenerative healing powers using technology.
Of course, the Canadian mutant declines, the man dies, and Logan goes to his funeral and fights Japanese mobsters on top of a bullet train. Also, his healing powers have mysteriously stopped working.
Logan runs away with the business man's granddaughter to protect her from the mobsters, but totally fails because she gets kidnapped anyway. He then figures out why his regenerative abilities aren't working and performs heart surgery on himself using his bare hands to fix the problem.
Once he can heal again, the Canuck goes to rescue the girl which unsurprisingly is exactly what the bad guys wanted. He fights a giant metal samurai robot (like if Tony Stark had a thing for Japanese stuff), and is saved by the very girl he was trying to save. Isn't that ironic?
While a little slow in the middle, I enjoyed this movie for the most part. It exceeded the quality of the last Wolverine movie and worked pretty well as a sequel to X-Men: The Last Stand and a short scene during the credits brilliantly sets up for next summer's movie (it was my favorite part of the entire movie). This is all surprising since all this week I have credited the better movies of the X-Men franchise to Bryan Singer, yet he was neither director nor producer for this movie. Way to not make a really shitty movie, guys!
I would recommend seeing The Wolverine if you are a fan of the X-Men movies. There are some great action sequences (like the previously mentioned bullet train fight) and it's definitely entertaining. It is a welcome addition to the X-Men movie series in my opinion and is a sign of better things to come for the series.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

5th X-Men Movie is First Class

In the summer of 2011 yet another prequel was added to the X-Men film franchise, X-Men: First Class. With the disappointment of the previous two movies, I had little hope for this one ... that is, until I saw this trailer.

The trailer gave me goosebumps! I was officially on board with this movie, and was rather excited to see it once it came out. And thankfully, it didn't disappoint.
Taking place in 1962, First Class focuses on Prof. Xavier and Magneto before they were enemies. Back when they were just Charles (James McAvoy) and Erik (Michael Fassbender), two buddies who happened to be mutants.
And happened to have a bromance. No homo.
It begins in England, where a young (and non-bald paraplegic) Charles has recently become a professor of genetics. Instead of the wise teacher we know and love, this 24 year-old Charles has an alcoholic beverage in his hand at all times and hits on women talking like Austin Powers with better teeth and no frilly shirts.
Charles is brought to the U.S. to help the CIA, because they believe a communist, Sebastian Shaw (played by Kevin "Hickory Smoked" Bacon), is using mutants to help move along his plans to start World War III with the Russians. It turns out that Erik is also looking for Shaw, a man (called "Schmidt" at the time) working with Nazis who tortured Erik as a boy to force him to use his magnetic powers. So, Erik goes on a worldwide manhunt to find Shaw, killing old Nazis along the way.
When the CIA finally tracks down Shaw and is ready to catch him, Erik shows up and his attempt at revenge fails and he almost dies. Shaw indeed does have other mutants working with him who help him escape in his submarine. So, Charles saves Erik and gets him to help him with the CIA and after using a prototype of Cerebro to find other mutants, the two roam around the country to find more superpowered individuals to help them.
Once they have their team of first X-Men together, the mutant teenagers need to strengthen their powers which is done in one of the best montage sequences I have ever seen in any movie (the link is crappy, sorry). It's probably my favorite part of the entire film.
Towards the end, the newly formed X-Men team goes to stop Shaw from causing nuclear war and end up resolving the Cuban Missle Crisis. Erik decides that humans are worthless and dedicates his powers and goals to the advancement of mutantkind and the extermination of humankind. Charles becomes paralyzed and decides that his role in life is to teach mutants how to control their powers and to develop peaceful relations between muties and us regular folk. Oh, and using teenagers to stop Erik's (now Magento) plans at every possible opportunity.
They still play chess, though.
It brings back memories.
First Class was directed by Matthew Vaughn. It also marked Bryan Singer's return to the franchise, but this time around as a producer. Funny to note that while he was away the two worst movies in the series were made and the result of his return was the best movie. Parallels between America's treatment toward communists in the 1960's and certain characters' reactions toward mutants are clear to see and cannot be accidental. It helps the movie seem more real.
The casting for X-Men: First Class is great. McAvoy and Fassbender are fantastic as Charles and Erik, their chemistry is easily seen throughout the movie. And a pre-Hunger Games Jennifer Lawrence isn't that bad at being the shape-shifting Mystique. Plus, Kevin Bacon plays a Nazi and a communist! It's awesome!
While I absolutely love this movie, I believe it to be the best in the franchise thus far, it has its problems. Mainly, it creates a lot of continuity errors for the X-Men series. Emma Frost (January Jones) is one of the antagonists in the movie, yet she appeared as a teenager in X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Alex Summers, or Havoc, is a teenager in First Class, yet is supposed to be the brother of Scott Summers, or Cyclops, who is about 30 in the year 2000. In the flashback sequence from X-Men: The Last Stand Xavier can walk, yet at the end of this film he becomes paralyzed from the waist down. And the list goes on. I do enjoy this movie despite these inconsistencies, however I do hope that next summer's addition to the franchise fixes these problems.
But more on that later.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

X-Men Origins: Wolverine - The Lowest Point of the Franchise

After the relative success of the X-Men trilogy, the people in charge of the film franchise decided it would be a good idea for the next movies to be prequels. Wolverine and Magento origin movies were in talks and in 2009 X-Men Origins: Wolverine (directed by Gavin Hood) came into theaters. Many fans, like myself, excitedly went to see it and walked out disappointed.
X-Mex Origins: Disappointing
In the movie, Wolverine gets an extensive backstory. We learn his real name is James Howlett, where he grew up, that he has known Sabretooth (now played by Liev Schreiber) for pretty much his whole life, and that he's fought in every major American war from the Civil War to Vietnam (even though he's Canadian, eh) in one of the coolest opening sequences I've seen.
Once the war montage is over and the rest of the movie begins, things quickly go downhill. Wolverine and Sabretooth, whose real name is Victor, are recruited by William Stryker (Danny Huston), yes the same guy from X2, to join his Team X, an elite group of mutant mercenaries. Their teammates include Ryan Reynolds (whose role could've been so much better than it was), Will i Am (why did they think that was a good idea?), and a hobbit who also was in the band Driveshaft.
Wolverine: "Who farted?"
After a mission in Nigeria stealing a bunch of metal (yup, adamantium) where his teammates slaughter every living person not on Team X, James quits because he doesn't want to be a killing machine. So, he goes to Canada and becomes a lumberjack using the name "Logan" (so that's where he got the name!).
Years pass and Team X went their separate ways, but now someone is going around killing all of the members.When Logan finds out its Victor, the two duke it out and Wolverine gets his ass handed to him.
To get revenge, Logan goes to Stryker who offers him a way of becoming stronger. We get to see the incredibly painful process he underwent to have his entire skeleton coated in adamantium and why he picks "Wolverine" as his codename. He survives the procedure (obviously), goes berserk, and runs away like a rabid animal.
Logan lays low and eventually learns that Victor is kidnapping mutants, like a young Cyclops, for Stryker to perform experiments on them. He learns the location of Stryker's facility, and goes to get more revenge.
At the facility, Stryker has been experimenting on Ryan Reynolds, giving him a bunch of mutant powers and sewing his mouth shut, turning him into the mutant killer "Deadpool" (which is THE WORST portrayal of the character.
Left: silent Deadpool Right: never-shuts-the-f*ck-up Deadpool
Logan frees all of the captured mutants, and Deadpool is "activated" to stop him. The two crazy mutants fight atop a nuclear reactor on the island, Victor helps, and Logan defeats Deadpool as they destroy the nuclear reactor.
Stryker shoots Logan in the head at point-blank range and knocks him out. When he wakes up, Logan remembers nothing, the impact of the bullet on his adamantium-coated skull scrambled his brain giving him amnesia. He runs off to Canada until we see him about 20 years later in X-Men. And that's the end of the movie. No happy ending or epilogue, it just ends. There are ending scenes during and after the credits, but they don't wrap things up. If anything, they add more questions.
X-Men Origins: Wolverine is the worst movie of the entire franchise thus far. There are so many things wrong with it, like Sabretooth's character. Sabretooth was already seen in the first X-Men movie. In it, he is a big guy with a lion's mane and is really stupid. In this movie, he is intelligent and has sideburns that take up the majority of his face. Does his IQ just drastically drop in the 20 years between the movies?
Then there is the portrayal of Deadpool, a character who is known for constantly talking and making jokes. He even breaks the fourth wall and knows he is in a comic book. In my opinion, Ryan Reynolds could've done a good job playing that character. Deadpool in the movie has his greatest asset removed: his mouth. And he has like 15 mutant powers surgically implanted in him and has retractable swords in his arms. Who thought that was a good idea?!
It also completely undoes the purpose of X2: X-Men United which was to give the audience a glimpse into Wolverine's past. The glimpse was perfect, the right amount of information was given with the majority still withheld so Logan was still interesting and mysterious. This movie explains every single bit of his life and every little detail. It's all really fun to see, but it takes some of the mystery of the character away.
At this point in the franchise, many inconsistencies begin popping up. Especially once you take the next two movies in consideration. If this movie succeeded at one thing it was making a mess and a mockery of the otherwise not too bad X-Men movie series. It's seriously a disappointment.
Hugh Jackman is still mad about how bad it was.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

X-Men: The Last Stand Caused Series to Fall

The third installment of the X-Men movie franchise, X-Men: The Last Stand, hit theaters in 2006. However, this time around Brett Ratner was at the helm as director since Bryan Singer left to direct Superman Returns.
Where its predecessor, X2: X-Men United, pretty much picked up directly where the first movie left off, the "three-quel" starts things a little differently: with a flashback.
And a ridiculous amount of makeup to make these two look young.
Twenty years in the past, Professor Xavier and Erik Lehnsherr (more commonly known as Magneto) visit a young Jean Grey. The two old friends/future enemies convince Jean to come to Xavier's school where she can develop her psychic powers more, because she has powerful powers. Very powerful powers.
Fast-forward to the present and Scott (Cyclops) is very depressed because Jean is still very dead and Prof. X decides that Storm should lead the X-Men if something were to ever happen to him. Also, Kelsey Grammar shows up as the big blue furball Hank McCoy (known appropriately as "Beast"), the Secretary of Mutant Affairs, bringing with him the news that a mutant cure has been developed and is being mass produced.
This would've made Frasier much more interesting.
Elsewhere, mutants are furious and gather in groups to figure out a way to stop the cure from being sold. Magneto shows up to one such group meeting with his new assistant Pyro and decides that some of the muties there would be perfect for his Brotherhood of Mutants, including a girl whose mutant ability is looking like Prince.
Pictured: "Not-Prince"
Beast flies to Alcatraz Island where the cure is being produced. Here he learns that the source of the mutant cure is actually a young mutant boy whose powers suppress other mutants' abilities.
Meanwhile, Scott drives to Alkali Lake to cry some more and finds that Jean is still very much alive. They kiss and Scott dies. Out of nowhere.
Wolverine and Storm rush to the lake and bring Jean back to the mansion where the professor explains that he psychically locked away some of Jean's abilities when she was young to protect her from her immense power. This bit of her brain developed into a psycho-split personality "Phoenix" that is now in control of Jean's body.
Magneto uses his new friends to track down Mystique, who is being held by the government, and free her. Just before escaping, Mystique is shot with a weaponized version of the cure and becomes a regular Homo sapien. The evil mutant ditches her and picks up two new mutant lackies for his army: Multiple Man and the Juggernaut (Vinnie Jones)
Back in the lower levels of Xavier's mansion, Jean - I mean the Phoenix - wakes up and hits on Logan in a reverse of their first scene together from the first movie. An uncomfortably intense make-out session ensues.
It's awkward to watch.
Wolverine stops the tongue-wrestling and Phoenix-Jean gets angry and leaves, ripping apart the door with her powers. She goes back to her childhood home and the X-Men chase after her. Magneto and his goons are there hoping the now incredibly powerful Jean will join their army. Phoenix-Jean freaks out and uses her psychic abilities to kill the professor. Obviously, she goes with Magneto.
Storm, Wolverine, and the teens mourn Prof. X's death (more than they mourned Cyclops') and Rogue decides she wants to be cured of her powers because her boyfriend has been flirting with the girl who walks through walls (who is now suddenly played by Ellen Page).
The Brotherhood of Mutants plan to attack Alcatraz Island and stop production of the cure all together. Magneto uses his powers to move the entire Golden Gate Bridge to connect to Alcatraz Island so they can use it as a direct route. As the evil mutants advance, the X-Men help the military and defend the island because they're good guys.
A battle rages on for about 30 min of the movie until Phoenix-Jean joins in on the fighting and starts disintegrating everything around her to the point where she can't stop. Logan runs up and stabs her in the stomach with a "snikt" of his claws. She dies, he cries, and everyone but her survives ... again.
It's okay, though. She haunts his nightmares.
This movie isn't necessarily terrible, but it is definitely the worst of the first three films in the franchise. The idea of mutant classes is introduced and then quickly thrown away and never brought up again, leaving people like myself wanting more of an explanation. Political views on mutants and the public's attitudes toward them are further elaborated in the movie, yet are overshadowed by all of the action. Then there is the fact that it drags on for what feels like forever. It's shorter than X-2 yet feels twice as long. Also, the unexpected death of Cyclops was ... well, unexpected. Actor James Marsden actually left with Bryan Singer to be in Superman Returns (as a minor role) and as a result Scott was killed off. And the movie struggles to balance the development of its many featured characters, something that the first two installments succeeded in doing.
X-Men: The Last Stand's story was better than the first film, yet was poorly executed lessening the quality of the movie. However, it isn't completely unenjoyable. The movie is still fun and action-filled with some quality special effects for the time it was released. And I will always remember seeing it in theaters with my dad, a memory that makes this movie a little more special than its predecessors for me.
Unfortunately, the X-Men film franchise takes a turn for the worst after this movie because the producers thought a prequel would be a great place to go from here.
They were wrong.

X2: Wolverine's X-istential Crisis

In 2003 the next movie in the X-Men film franchise hit theaters harder than its predecessor. X2: X-Men United surpassed the first movie in story quality, character development, amount of mutants, and length (clocking in at just over two hours). It was (and still is) just a better movie.
Also in amount of blue-skinned mutants.
While X-Men focused mainly on Rogue, the sequel is all about everybody's favorite metallic-clawed Canadian, Wolverine. Maybe that's why it's better than the first film. But this time around Logan isn't entirely the tough-skinned bad ass from before. Now, he wants to know about his past.
The story picks up right where the previous movie left off. Wolverine has headed up north to try to remember what made him the clawed, metal-skeleton-ed, cigar smoking Canuck he is. He gets to Alkali Lake, a location the professor found in his mind, and finds nothing.
When Logan returns home, Prof. Xavier puts him in charge of the mansion while the other adults go off on separate missions: Storm and Jean Grey to find a mutant who attacked the president, and the professor and Cyclops (James Marsden) to visit Magneto.
Unfortunately, the mansion is attacked by colonel William Stryker (Brian Cox) and his men while Logan is in charge. Stryker has long been fighting the "mutant problem" and just recently got permission from the government to attack the Xavier School because it houses mutants. After getting the mutant teens out of danger, Logan exchanges words with Stryker, who seems to know about his forgotten past before escaping with the teens. During this time, Stryker had kidnapped Prof. X and Cyclops during their visit to Magneto.
The colonel heads to the dam at Alkali Lake (his base) and re-introduces the professor to his son, one of Xavier's former students and a telepath of immense strength. The colonel has hooked his son up to a series of machines in order to create a serum that gives Stryker control of other mutants (which is how he was getting information from Magneto).
At this point, Mystique (Rebecca Romijn), the blue shape-shifting mutant, uses her abilities to break Magneto out of his plastic prison. Meanwhile, Logan, Rouge, Iceman (Rogue's boyfriend), and Pyro) are picked up by Storm and Jean in the X-Jet (which is not shaped like an "X").
The X-Men fly to Alkali Lake in order to save Prof. X and Cyclops, on the way they meet up with Magneto and his blue-skinned lady friend. Enemies become temporary comrades as Magneto explains Stryker's plan: using a replica of Xavier's supercomputer, Cerebro (which amplifies Xavier's telepathic abilities), and his son's mind control powers to force Prof. X to kill every mutant.
Logan and co. break into the dam to stop Stryker. Wolverine learns that the colonel actually had a hand coated his skeleton in adamantium as a way of making Logan a better killing machine and then fights and beats the crap out of a creepy Asian female version of himself, Lady Deathstrike (Kelly Hu) who acts as Stryker's assistant.

Looks like somebody needs to clip their fingernails.
Jean finds Cyclops, who is unfortunately under Stryker's control and uses her telekinetic powers to prevent him from killing her. She sends one of his eye beams back at him, which then hits the dam wall causing water to rush in.
Magneto slips into the crappily built Cerebro and changes things up. Now, Xavier will kill all of the humans.
The magnetic mutant and Mystique escape and take Pyro along with them, convincing him that being evil is more fun.
Storm frees Prof. Xavier before he can actually kill anyone. The X-Men escape the dam and board on the X-Jet, but the dam has broke and a massive amount of water rushes toward them. Jean uses her powers to hold the water back and sacrifices herself to save everyone else.
"I'm sorry I caused the flood in the first place, you guys."
Professor Xavier and the group head back to the mansion to mourn the loss of Jean and continue on with life as normal. Or as normally as you can when you have crazy superpowers and most of the human race wants you dead. Also, this vague and barely visible phoenix shape in the water means Jean didn't die.
You can just barely see the foreshadowing.
While X2: X-Men United runs a little longer than the first movie, causing it to be a little slow in the middle, it is a better movie. It has an easier time juggling the development of so many characters, has a much more compelling story, and is just all around more entertaining than X-Men.
It was 100% a step in the right direction for the X-Men film franchise. Director Bryan Singer had a clear idea of where he was going to take this series in future installments. Unfortunately, Singer left the series in 2006 to direct a different superhero movie without telling anyone else his plans. The resulting attempt at a "three-quel" caused the X-Men movie series to begin falling apart and become the mess it is today (a mess that will be cleaned up next summer).
Was it worth it, Bryan? Was it?

Monday, August 5, 2013

X-Men: Starting the Film Franchise On the Right Foot

Superhero movies are incredibly popular, and incredibly common because of their popularity. These days, it's almost impossible for a summer blockbuster season to go by without there being a movie about super-powered individuals fighting for justice; this summer there were three. This wasn't always the case, however.
Turn the clock backwards 13 years to the start of the new millennium (gosh, that makes me feel old). The only big superhero movie successes were the Superman series from the late '70s and '80s and the Batman series from the late '80s and '90s (and we all know how that one turned out), both of which from DC Comics. Marvel Comics had very little presence on the big screen at this point in time (other than Blade).
Also known as the bio-pic Wesley Snipes: Vampire Slayer.
This all changed when 20th Century Fox got the go ahead to make an X-Men movie in 2000 with director Bryan Singer leading the way.
The movie starts out with a girl named Marie who upon kissing a boy for the first time discovers she has mutant abilities that suck the life and energy out of anyone she touches. She practically kills the guy. Terrified of touching anyone ever again, she runs away from home heading north and eventually finds herself in Canada where she runs into another mutant: everyone's favorite Canuck, Logan (aka Wolverine). The two go driving and get ambushed by a mutant who work for the evil Magneto. Another two mutants show up and beat up the bad mutant using laser eye beams and weather power. These two save Marie, now calling herself "Rogue," and Logan, and take them to Westchester, New York.
Rogue and Wolverine are introduced to Prof. Xavier, a kind old man in a wheelchair who teaches and protects teenage mutants at his institute for gifted youngsters. The Prof. believes that Magneto wants to capture Logan, because his skeleton is coated in a strong metal, adamantium.
As the story unfolds it becomes clear that Magneto actually wants Rogue so he can transfer his powers to her and force her to use a machine to evolve all of mankind (well, all of New York really), changing all of us knuckle dragging Homo sapiens into highly advanced Homo superiors (or mutants) in the process.
Kind of like this ... but not really.
Of course, Wolverine and the X-Men (Cyclops, Storm, Jean Grey, etc.) stop Magneto from fulfilling his plans. After a fight on top of the Statue of Liberty the heroic mutants save Rogue, lock the magnetic mutant up in a plastic prison, and return to Prof. Xavier's mansion to live happily ever after.
Or at least until the sequel three years later.
Right away the movie does a good job of something that is difficult to do: introducing all of the characters. There are a lot of them. A lot. Prof. Xavier (Patrick Stewart), Magneto (Sir Ian McKellen), Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), and Rogue (Anna Paquin) are just the most important characters. And that's not even mentioning the handful of other important mutants in the film.
And the casting is really well done. Stewart and McKellen make fantastic rivals as Xavier and Magneto (respectively). While the two aren't showcased much in this first film of the franchise, their roles become much more influential as the series progresses providing ample time to show off their acting chops. And 13 years later, Jackman is still playing the role of the man who is the best there is at what he does (Wolverine for those of you non-comic book fans out there).
X-Men isn't a bad movie, but it isn't a fantastic movie. It was, however, a start in the right direction for the mutant movie franchise, leading the way for two sequels, two prequels, a third sequel (The Wolverine), and an upcoming fourth sequel scheduled for next summer.
The movie also helped launch superhero movies into the mainstream because after its success Marvel made deals with 20th Century Fox to make Daredevil, and Fantastic Four movies, and with Sony Pictures to make Spider-man movies. While these movies ultimately weren't good (except for Spider-man and Spider-man 2), their failures and mistakes resulted in Marvel Comics buying their own production studio, Marvel Studios, which brought us the incredibly successful Marvel cinematic universe. None of this would've been possible without Bryan Singer's X-Men.