X-Men: Days of Future Past Review

            It is hard to believe, but the Age of the Superhero Film began almost 14 years ago with X-Men.  Sure, the previous decades saw Batman and Supermanfilms, but X-Men began an era where superhero films were ubiquitous.  Through six films the X-Men film series has often labored to stay alive both in the minds of critics and audiences.  It began with two good (if a bit forgotten) films followed by a rough series of years (except for the rare diamond in the rough such as in X-Men: First Class).  So while there wasn’t much hoopla over the release of the seventh film in the series, X-Men: Days of Future Past, in comparison to a similar superhero event film such as The Avengers, it was still nice to see the film series that kicked off this Age of the Superhero get its Avengers moment.  Unfortunately, the nostalgia factor isn’t enough to erase the sins of the past in X-Men: Days of Future Past.  Days of Future Past has some great set pieces and a game cast but they are not enough to save the film from an inability to fit in logically with the rest of the series.

            X-Men: Days of Future Past takes place in a future where mutants have almost been completely wiped out by the Sentinels.  Professor Xavier (Patrick Stewart) and Magneto (Ian McKellen) plot to send Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) back into the future to stop a young Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) from assassinating Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklahe), which is the event that sets the Sentinel Program in motion.  The film is directed by Bryan Singer and is written by Simon Kinberg, Jane Goldman and Matthew Vaughn.

             It was nice to see Bryan Singer back behind the helm of an X-Men film again as he just feels so at home in the role.  His style that made the first two X-Men films is in spades here as if he never truly left.  Unfortunately, the story and scripting is not nearly as good as the directing.  With such a complex storyline, just one small mistake could bring this entire film down.  It is sad to say it but there are clearly numerous instances where studio notes (or some sort of decision that was made purely to make it more marketable to audiences) were instituted into the film.  Jennifer Lawrence’s Mystique oddly has a massive role that doesn’t fit in with what that character had done previously in the films.  Action set pieces are put in places where a small amount of explaining of how certain characters got to certain places would have sufficed better. 

            The end product is a movie that may look good but is often infuriating.  Fortunately, the film does quite a great job at putting this series back on track for future installments.  The series is certainly at a better place creatively than where it was when Days of Future Past began, and the film once again proves that Michael Fassbender and Jennifer Lawrence will be worthy successors for the roles of Magneto and Mystique respectively.


Godzilla Review

           When you really think about it, it’s quite surprising that Godzilla is one of the longest lasting franchises in cinematic history.  The franchise started off with a bang with Gojira but it has never achieved the same height again with silly storylines, terrible American edits and an American remake that has one of the worst reputations a film could possibly have.  Yet Godzilla has returned once again to the big screen with the latest American adaptation.  Godzilla is a great example of the Godzilla franchise as a whole including what has always made it so great while also including some of the things that have hindered many of the franchise’s films.

            Godzilla follows Ford Brody (Aaron Tyler Johnson) as he travels to Japan to meet his father (Bryan Cranston), who believes that the cause of a disastrous nuclear meltdown is being covered up.  When Ford’s father turns out to be right, a race against time begins as Ford tries to meet up with his family back in San Francisco before destruction can beat him there first.  The film is directed by Gareth Edwards (who directed the solid indy Monsters) and is written by Max Borenstein and David Callaham (The Expendables).

            When talking about how good this film is it is hard not to separate the film into three sections.  The first thirty or so minutes is a fantastic conspiracy thriller that’s led by a fantastic performance from Bryan Cranston.  While it’s considerably much smaller in scale than the other sections of the film, Edwards still finds room for the grandiose and ends this section of the film with a killer set piece. 

            Unfortunately, the middle section of the film isn’t as successful.  I can see what Edwards and (especially) Borenstein and Callaham were trying to get away with here as the obnoxious amount of dialogue within this section feels campy in a way that it seems like its giving homage to Godzilla films of old.  However, all of it doesn’t do much service to the film, and while there is some great action sequences in this section (including two involving trains) the momentum coming out of these scenes are quickly wasted with more unnecessary exposition.

            Luckily, Edwards and company are able to put it all together for the final act, which really goes to show how great of a job Edwards does with directing action.  Edwards shows so much restraint throughout this film and that really works wonders in this section as Godzilla ends up being one of the best monsters put onscreen (with help from some incredible visual effects work and motion capture work from Andy Serkis).

            Ultimately, Godzilla is a flawed film.  Despite that it is a lot of fun in a way that a Godzilla film has never been for as long of a stretch as this one is.


Neighbors Review

           This is the End was one of the best films of last year.  The way it combined laugh-out-loud comedy with actual themes made Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen’s film quite memorable.  Even if their follow-up to This is the Endonly featured them in a producing role instead of directing and writing (although Seth Rogen is in the leading role), Neighbors was going to be a must see.  Luckily, what made This is the End so great can still be found in spades in Neighbors. 

            Neighbors follows Mac (Seth Rogen) and Kelly (Rose Byrne) as they try to adjust to adult life with their newborn baby.  Getting in their way, though, is the fraternity moving in next door.  When the couple tries to play it cool with their new neighbors they accidentally start a war with the frat’s leader, Teddy (Zac Efron).  The film is directed by Nicholas Stroller (from the Muppet film series re-launch and the Aldous Snow series) and is written by Andrew J. Cohen and Brendan O’Brien.

            To be honest the comedy in this film is only above average.  There are some great gags (including a Batman impersonation fight-off and an epic dance-off that doesn’t quite go to plan) but there’s nothing that’s quite memorable.  What really makes this film work so well are two things that we don’t see regularly in films of any genre let alone comedy.  The first is the sincere dissection of what it means to be an adult in today’s world.  There’s a lot of discussion about adulthood without ever hitting you over the head with it and it gives a lot of great material to Zac Efron and Dave Franco (whose clashing relationship really allows for this discussion to flow through the film).

            The second is that this is a film that actually has a female character treated as an equal and Rose Byrne takes full advantage of that with what might be the performance of this still young year.  Seth Rogen’s Mac might be the main character but Rose Byrne’s Kelly has almost as much screentime as the writing for the character and Byrne’s performance makes it known that Kelly deserves to have all of the fun that Mac does.  Byrne is able to take full advantage of her sexiness while still delivering the funniest performance (she may not invoke the biggest laughs but she is the most consistent performer in that regard) in the film.

            With a strong cast and an interesting exploration of adulthood Neighbors finds a way to rise above your average comedy film.


The Amazing Spider-Man 2 Review

            In an age where every film studio is trying to milk its superhero properties to the last drop, Sony might be the worst offender with its Spider-Man franchise.  Original entries in Sony’s set of Spider-Man films proved to be successful (Spider-Man broke box office records and remains one of the best superhero films while Spider-Man 2was a fantastic action film), but as soon as Sam Raimi left, Sony decided to reboot the entire series altogether.  Ever since then it has seemed as if Sony has been trying to figure out what is the best way to make the most money off of this thing.  While The Amazing Spider-Man was mostly able to survive the effects of this, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 isn’t so lucky.  The Amazing Spider-Man 2 has some intriguing components (such as Andrew Garfield’s fantastic performance and an eagerness to develop characters properly in some cases) but they are all gone to waste thanks to a terrible script that clearly has way too many studio notes within it.

            The Amazing Spider-Man 2 picks up with Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) trying to find a way to keep his promise to George Stacy (Denis Leary) to stay away from his daughter, Gwen (Emma Stone), despite his feelings for her.  More problems find a way into his life when an old friend with a fatal disease becomes desperate (Dane DeHaan) and a lonely man who just wants his turn in the spotlight gets caught up in a lab accident (Jamie Foxx).  Marc Webb returns as director while Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci, Jeff Pinkner and James Vanderbilt wrote the script.

            Marc Webb is clearly a great director of young romance as can be seen in his directorial debut, (500) Days of Summer, and the first The Amazing Spider-Man film.  That continues here, as the progression of Peter and Gwen’s romance remains the lone highlight of the film.  The twists and turns of this storyline are truly like any other superhero film we’ve seen yet and it provides Andrew Garfield with enough material and range (it’s amazing how natural Garfield makes it look to transform from comedy to moments of extreme sadness within this film) to truly standout as a performance to remember.

            Everything else goes terribly wrong.  If you ever try to think about the plot it makes no sense.  Like most blockbusters you have to leave your brain at the door, but the film also wants you to think about the plot with all of the hints at where the future of the franchise is going to go.  This just doesn’t work.  Additionally, the two main villains (Paul Giamatti shows up for a fun cameo as Rhino) might be two of the worst villains in comic book film history.  Jamie Foxx is embarrassingly bad as Electro.  He’s very reminiscent of Arnold Schwarzenegger as Mr. Freeze except in a film that actually takes itself seriously making it all the worse.  Meanwhile, Dane DeHaan struggles (which is a case with most of the roles he is somehow given) to give any depth to a character that desperately needs it now that he appears to have a major role in the future of the franchise.  Sure, a lot of that has to do with the script, but he fumbles any chance at striking up chemistry with Garfield and looks lost in both the cold and calculated behavior of Harry and the over-the-top behavior of the Green Goblin.

            The Amazing Spider-Man 2 would easily be a contender for the worst superhero film of all-time if it wasn’t for a truly memorable performance from Andrew Garfield as the web-slinging vigilante.


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