Monthly Archives: May 2014

X-Men: Days of Future Past

Yes, finally, despite the drama and scandal, Bryan Singer, the director of the only two good X-Men films has returned! Finally, thanks to the power of time paradoxes, we can quite literally forget all about The Last Stand. Though, unfortunately, it is cannon as far as some things are concerned – but we’ll get to that later.

This time the team is in the year 2023, where mutants are hunted down and forced into internment camps, as are the humans who aid them. Now it is up to the remaining X-Men to travel back in time to prevent these atrocities from ever happening, that is, if their future selves can survive in the meantime. Disclaimer: I have never read the comics pertaining to any of these film – just a head’s up.

 

...I'll be in my bunk.

…I’ll be in my bunk.

Considering how this franchise has been going, it’s definitely safe to say that Days of Future Past is a step in the right direction (following First Class, of course). Future Past is chocked full of characters and well-paced action sequences that we’ve all come to know and love, as well social commentary on injustice and equality.

And as always, there are a few new cast-members to join the crew – my vote goes towards Peter Maximoff aka Quicksilver (Evan Peters). Despite the cheesy commercials, I think Quicksilver’s scenes are probably the coolest sequences of this film – definitely close to being on par with Nightcrawler’s X2 opener.

Also Storm had literally two minutes of screen-time and she gets the worst wig ever.

Also Storm had literally two minutes of screen-time – why did they have to put that thing on her head?

 

My main issue with this film is the villain, Boliver Trask (hooray Peter Dinklage!). I understand that anti-mutant politicians/corporations are not that unusual as far as villains go, but usually there’s some sort of deeper motive behind our villains. For instance, take William Stryker of X2: he had a personal vendetta against mutants after his mutant son caused his mother to end her life. Trask is just an arrogant asshole. I get that he’s concerned about the extinction of the human race, but I felt that his obsession came out of nowhere.

Speaking of “out of nowhere,” how did Charles survive after his obliteration in The Last Stand? He was just some sort of channeled consciousness in the stinger at the end, and then fully materialized in the stinger after The Wolverine – how does that work? It’s not like he returned to his body because if memory serves, it was dissipated. I think I’d rather see the movie where Charles’ consciousness enters a comatose patient and then his physical appearance changes over time. Or surgery. Something. Anything. I guess it really doesn’t matter now, does it?

Days of Future Past is a solid action film. Amidst the booms and pows come times of existential quandary and reflection. The bit between the two Charles’ is probably one of the best pep talks I’ve seen in a while. Now, if we could only flesh out the baddies a bit more, we might have had another X2 on our hands. Oh well, there’s still Apocalypse to look forward to.

Final Grade: B+

 

 

 

Netfix: Mud

I’ll come out and say it: I dig the McConaissance. Coined by the New Yorker through Dallas Buyers hype, it was believed that Magic Mike was the film to kick off this star’s return. Personally, I think it started before that, with smaller titles such as Bernie and Killer Joe. Soon after came a little gem now available on Netflix, Mud.

"I dare you to touch the butt."

“That’s a pretty big butt.”

Mud is a charming little coming-of-age drama about a pair of friends in De Witt, Arkansas, Ellis (Tye Sheridan) and Neckbone (Jacob Lofland). These boys spend their days riding around the Arkansas River, selling fish and talking about boobies. One day Neckbone discovers a mystical boat stuck in a tree. The boys decide to claim the boat to themselves, until they find it’s already home to a mysterious drifter called Mud (McConaughey).

Mud tells the boys that he’s returned to De Witt to find his lost love, asking them for food in exchange for the boat. The boys oblige, only to find that the law also has it out for their new friend. Meanwhile, Ellis has entered a delicate phase, leaving him to question his moral standing on love and good and evil.

L-I-V-I-N

L-I-V-I-N

Mud adheres to the charm and sensibility of Stand By Me, met with the mild burn of Southern Comfort. It’s really quite mushy if you think about it – Ellis is witnessing each stage of love lost, whether it’s his parents’, Mud and Juniper (Reese Witherspoon), or his soul-crushing encounter with his first lady-friend. Of course, childhood love stories are boring without a little gunfire.

The Good
As wonderfully shot as it is acted, Mud is an incredibly enjoyable film wrought with originality.

Pure evil.

Pure evil.

The Bad
I hate the play this card, but all of the women are the cause of all the pain and misery to be had. The only saving grace is when Ellis’ father tells him, “Women are tough. They’ll set you up for things.” We then proceed to witness a more dynamic shift in the mother’s portrayal in order to make her more empathetic.

Granted, Ellis spends the most time with his father and they’re going through a separation, so obviously Senior’s view is going to be skewed. Then again, both Ellis’ girlfriend and Juniper do some mean, nasty things – poor Ellis can’t seem to catch a break.

The Alright, Alright, Alright
Despite my beef about the ladies, Mud is a great watch. Even through the grit and heartbreak, the end of Mud’s story is nothing short of satisfying.

Enemy

As much as I love this poster...

As much as I love this poster…

It’s difficult for me to come up with a decent synopsis for Enemy that hasn’t been over-used. Basically Adam (Jake Gyllenhaal) discovers he’s got himself a doppelgänger, Anthony (also Jake Gyllenhaal). And then things get weird, like unnecessarily try-hard weird.

Okay, I’ll back up. There are some great aspects to this film, such as the thematic quality and the tonality. In fact, I cannot wait to see what else director Denis Villeneuve will have up his sleeve in the future, especially taking the only other film of his I saw, Prisoners, into consideration. This guy is fantastic with suspense. My key problem however, is that I’m not sure why the environment in Enemy is so tense to begin with.

The whole scheme is built on this yellow instagram filter and a droning score, and Adam seems unusually nervous. Then again, we don’t really much of his personality to begin with, other than he seems like a disinterested history professor who keeps pissing off his girlfriend (Mélanie Laurent) for one reason or another. Additionally, there’s a ton of tension with very little payoff – it’s kind of laughable, really.

...this one actually makes more sense.

…this one actually makes more sense.

Then when he meets the promiscuous Anthony, Adam gets even more anxious, but why? Honestly none of these characters seem like real people. There’s no explicit communication between these characters, so really everything’s up to implication.

An example would be when Anthony’s wife (Sarah Gadon) is upset after meeting Adam, and proceeds to respond to Anthony’s questions with “I think you know” – the hell does that even mean? If it seems like I’m being super vague, I apologize – but I’m pretty much giving you all the objective stuff we get to know here.

Also much like Prisoners, Enemy is speckled with themes, namely duality, identity (which ironically these characters have very little of, leading me to not really care who is who), dissatisfaction, and control. Oh, and there’s a heavy spider motif – I’ll get back to that. Of course, these themes are far from subtle, observe –

That's how professors write, right?

Because that’s how professors write, right?

If anything, it can be argued that the film has far more to do with awareness than any of these things, but seems to throw the audience off with all of this other stuff in the meantime. Which brings me to the spider thing. Upon first viewing, I’ll admit I had no idea what to make of all that, especially the ending, which is a shame because I’m pretty keen about picking up on this sort of stuff. I was compelled to do some googling, and found this incredibly useful article, which is wracked with spoilers. I applaud this man’s theory on the symbolism here, and if his theory is correct, then Enemy could very easily be one of the better sci-fi thrillers I’ve seen in a while – that is, if it wasn’t for the overwhelming buildup, poor character quality, and overdone nature of everything else.

Enemy is a definite try-hard enigma that simply oozes “WHAT DOES IT MEAN” out of every scene and conversation. The trouble is, it didn’t have to be that way.

Final Grade: C+