Friday, May 23, 2014

X-Men: Days of Future Past: Come For The Fassbender. Stay For The Show.

For as much as I lament the fact that Hollywood is mass producing superhero films as quickly as they can write them, I really should just accept the fact that they're here to stay.  After each one I always tell myself, "okay, that wasn't as bad as I thought it was going to be, but I'm really just tired of them.  I think I'll skip the next one."  Then, like a sad Alzheimer's patient, I find myself in the same theater watching the same superhero movies with different heroes again saying the same thing over.  It's like Groundhog's Day, except they won't stop making them if I start becoming a good person.  And... AND... if they finally decide they are done with the movies, someone else will go "fuck you and your tired ideas.  I'll just reboot the shit out of it.  Suck it Tobey Maguire."  Because let's face it; there's still a shit ton of superhero movies in the works right now.  All of them culminating in the Justice League or the Avengers or Gleep Glorp and the Floopdy Doos.  This is the genius of it all.  You make seven solo movies for one collective movie.  Then, you can make sequels to the solo movies that lead up to a sequel of the collective movie.  Then, you can make part threes and spin offs and circle jerks and all the like!  They're a never ending road of superhero medusas!

Was X-Men: Days of Future Past a noble and valiant effort in the X-Men series?  Yes.  Was it better than your average, mindless summer popcorn flick?  Absolutely.  Was it loaded with talented people who are the only thing keeping the franchise alive?  Definitely.  Was it a little audacious that they insinuated that JFK was a mutant?  Probably.  The biggest problem with superhero movies is they know what not to do.  They know why no one wants to see another Hulk movie.  They know why X-Men: First Class belongs in the same toilet.  These writers and filmmakers are starting to get it: ground the magic in reality.  If somehow we can make these films as realistic as possible, get some top-notch actors that will persuade people to come even if they aren't fans of the comics, and really refine the CGI from the previous films and improve on it... people will come.  That's what sucks!  If all of these movies were Green Lantern status, the superhero genre would be dead.  But no, we have to get amazing actors and great writers and respected directors to come and show us how good a superhero movie can be.  I mean, come on, Michael Fassbender and Jennifer Lawrence are Academy Award nominated people!  What are they doing in X-Men???

Kicking ass is the answer.  Yes, this movie was very good.  I'm just very tired of superhero movies.  I'm tired of the unoriginality of Hollywood.  I'm tired of seeing the words "BASED ON" in the credits of every movie I see now.  As a budding screenwriter this does not bode well for me.  I'm just tired of them.  And when I see them, I somehow think this will be the one.  The one that keeps me away for good.  And just like the one before it, it somehow gets better.  This time around we begin with our old X-Men buddies in the actual future.  Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), Professor X (Patrick Stewart), Magneto (Ian McKellan), Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page), and Storm (Halle Berry) live in a desolate future where giant sentinels track and kill any mutants they find alive, and there aren't much left.  The Earth is a doomed place that will find itself extinct very shortly if something isn't done.  The solution: send Wolverine back to the 70s to stop the event that led to this outcome.  To do it, he's going to need the help of younger Charles Xavier (James MacAvoy), younger Magneto (Michael Fassbender), Beast (Nicholas Hoult), and Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence).  Together, they need to take down the man who began the sentinel program, Dr. Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage).  Yeah, it's kinda weird that the bad guy is a midget... but that was actually something I thought was pretty genius.  He's trying to extinguish all mutant life on earth, yet dwarfism itself is actually a genetic mutation.  This is never brought up in the film, which serves only to make the film a little bit smarter. (Damn it.)

Anyhoo, problems ensue, lines get crossed, attitudes need adjusting and shit goes cray.  What can I say?  It's an X-Men film.  And save for that garbage heap of a third movie and all the Wolverine spin-offs, there's really nothing that terrible about an X-Men movie.  Even these sequels/prequels to the original three have been solid.  It's hard to pinpoint exactly what it is that makes these movies special.  It's probably the fact that they find ways to stay fresh in a rotting superhero world.  They're able to bend superhero convention, even when you know exactly how the entire story is going to turn out.  I don't want to say there's a "twist" at the end, but whatever it was I called it from a mile away.  However, that didn't take away from the movie.  By this point, we know the structure of a superhero movie.  But, with the talent behind this film, it doesn't matter that it plays out exactly as you know it is going to.  It's like reading a book and watching it in your mind.  Then, the excitement of seeing it adapted to the big screen.  It's fun to see what elements you imagined are the same on screen.

What keeps X-Men fun is undoubtedly it's writing and, moreso it's cast.  It takes itself seriously, but doesn't shy away from humor and wit.  The actors are invested in their roles, yet appear to be having a blast.  It's serious, yet fun.  It's action-packed, yet reserved.  It's what good superhero movies should be.  If you're not going to go super Dark Knight on us, at least let us have a good time while we're watching.  And it does.  For the first time in awhile, while leaving a superhero movie I was thinking about it afterward and wanted to watch it again.  And don't worry comic book nerds, there's still plenty for you to conspire about afterwards.  There's even a post-credits scene that's going to get a bunch of virgins collectively theorizing about all over reddit while simultaneously watching porn on vine.

X-Men: Days of Future Past essentially erases all the damage caused by the third film and shows us that there's at least a few people hired to make superhero movies who know what they're doing.  I enjoyed it, but I really am sick and tired of these movies.  I beg of you... bring back the original film.  People want to see them.  Until then, if we're stuck with it, at least let them be the caliber that this film was.


Tuesday, May 20, 2014


It happens every summer.  I get excited about a few big-budget mindless movies and one of them always turns out to be a dud.  But, I was reeeeallllyyyy excited for Godzilla.  The cast is stellar and there's no way it could be as bad as the 1998 flop that was more of a giant lizard than a Godzilla anyway.  Bryan Cranston alone sold me on the film.  I'll pretty much see anything with him in it until the end of time, now.  However, it's Godzilla, man!  It's always self-aware and a hell of a good time.  Right?

So, it's difficult to entirely explain why I wasn't a fan of Godzilla because most of my concerns with the film encompass spoilers along with the explanations, so I will make sure this is spoiler free.  I'm not even going to bother you with an plot synopsis because going into it blindly is either going to give full chubs to die-hard Godzilla fans... or partially confuse those who aren't privy to the predecessor's mythology.  I'll give you this-- I've seen maybe two full Godzilla movies in my life that don't star Matthew Broderick.  Maybe.  I know I've seen bits and pieces of the original and I've seen the one with Mothra... but that's about it.  So, I'm not entirely aware of all that goes along with a successful Godzilla movie.  It's like any other film series (Freddy, Jason, Michael Myers, James Bond), there's a ton of them out there, but you know which ones are the good ones and which ones got lazy and didn't follow the structure.  But, from my understanding, there's two types of Godzilla movies in existence: there's the destructive Godzilla that man has to fight due to the destructive nature of the beast; and there's the hero Godzilla who fights other giant monsters and is, more or less, a foe to the humans.  This film would deal with the latter.

What makes a monster movie, not just a Godzilla movie, so great is that it has to be self-aware, and it has to be fun.  One of the best monster movies, Tremors, is so successful in what it sets out to accomplish because it has a great cast, great characters, it instill fear that juxtaposes with the humor, and there's plenty of conflict, chaos, blood and guts.  That's what makes a great monster movie.  This Godzilla lacked a lot of what makes a great monster movie.  First, there were no characters that you even remotely sympathize with. (Well, there's one, but that character isn't around long.)  And yes, I understand that when you're watching a Godzilla film, character should be the last thing on your mind.  Okay, fair.  But, if they've made the decision to film the movie, essentially from the perspective of the humans below, give me someone to like.  Or someone that serves even a little purpose to the contribution of the film.  No?  Okay, moving on.

I guess, if you're not going to give me a character, at least let me watch the monster destroy the piss out of cities and oceans and everything.  Bring the monster into the picture in towering glory and expose ever crevice of it's being so that I can cheer along with it as it mauls down everything in its path.  Unfortunately, the film fails to do this as well.  For a movie called Godzilla, there wasn't much Godzilla to be seen.  In fact, we get a couple of glimpses after the first hour, but it's not until the last twenty minutes of the movie, do we ever actually get to see Gojira in action.  Why hide the monster?? Especially when you know that's all the audience wants to see.  I understand that they were going for a 70s Spielberg-Jaws type of feel to the movie, where little by little they expose the beast until the end when we finally get to see it in all its glory.  Unfortunately, Jaws wasn't an already established character in cinema and giving previews of the beast made the film that much more terrifying.  I guarantee you they couldn't get away with that in any sequels or potential reboots.  Jaws also had great characters and character development ripe with set ups and payoffs.  Godzilla missed the mark badly on that.

Lastly, Godzilla takes itself way too seriously.  No one so much as cracks a smile throughout the film.  It's humorless and not in a good way.  There's not that character that brings a little levity to the seriousness.  We're immersed in trauma and pain and never given a second to breathe.  With a little better character depth and writing this could've easily been solved, but without it, the film is tiring to watch.  Now, I will say that it wasn't an entire failure.  The first half hour is solid.  It's shrouded in mystery and conspiracy and you'll find yourself also trying to figure out just what the hell is going on.  Then, once everything "falls into place", nothing ever really settles down again and we're left with action, plot contrivances, and massive destruction.  Then, there's also when Godzilla is finally given free reign to kick serious ass.  This is the most fun of the movie.  Watching the beast do... exactly what he's supposed to do... is worth it alone.  With the theme of "man vs. nature, nature wins every time", the film is successful.  And the CGI is pretty top notch.  But, when I started thinking about how much I wasn't enjoying the film, while in the middle of the film that I was so excited to see that I went to the midnight viewing of... something was seriously wrong.


Thursday, May 15, 2014

Neighbors: How Long Will Dick Jokes Stay Funny?

A summer isn't complete without some sort of frat-pack film starring one of the Apatow crew.  And what's great is that they still produce funny films, which allows us, the viewers, to be excited about seeing them.  The quality of the films, however, are starting to diminish little by little as the years go on.  If the Apatow crew doesn't catch up with what's funny now, they may end up infected with Sandleritis... a disease that doesn't allow comedy from the early 90s to adapt to a 2014 viewership. 

Okay, comparing a Seth Rogen movie to an Adam Sandler movie... that's pretty low.  I'm just saying this could be a worst-case-scenario type situation.  This year's entry is Neighbors, a film about a newly married couple (Rogen and Rose Byrne) who have just had a new baby are adjusting to life in the suburbs.  They're on the brink of realizing they're too old to go partying, and now, with a new baby, life has finally settled in for them.  Cue the Sigmas who move in next door and turn the house into a frat house.  The frat president and vice president (Zac Effron and Dave Franco respectively) immediately decide that their conniving neighbors, who call the cops on their parties need to go.  The parents, who can't sleep due to the excessive partying, decide their dickhead neighbors need to go.  So, the two houses wage war on each other trying to destroy each other both physically and mentally, each succeeding and failing in their own ways.  Hilarity, mayhem, and a plethora of dick jokes ensue.

Going into the film I was a little worried about Zac Effron.  This is his rebellious film in order to break himself out of the Disney curse and establish himself as a comedic actor.  And he succeeds. He's great in the film.  He actually gets a heavy dosage of the laughs that flow throughout the film.  Rose Byrne kills it too.  Who knew a strange looking Brit like her could keep her own in a Seth Rogen film?  Her and Rogen actually have quite the chemistry.  And, Dave Franco has actually just graduated to the most-watchable Franco now.  He's the normal kid, with perfect comedic timing that we all want back from James.  Until then, it's little brother's time to shine.

It's a fun little film, but it's starting to feel more like "high-concept" comedy than "Apatow" comedy.  What set Apatow comedies apart from the rest was that it could be raunchy and crude, but it would contain a gallon of heart, as well as remain topical to the times.  Now, while it's still rather topical, and there is the minute glimpse of heart... it's mostly dick jokes.  And while dick jokes have a time and a place... an overabundance kills the joke. So, if this was Rogen's last film he wanted to throw all the dick jokes he could into it because he's sworn off dick jokes altogether... then, damn it if there wasn't wall-to-wall dick jokes to tickle your funny bone.  But, if this is just another film in the long line of Seth dick joke Rogen's filmography, it's going to get old fast.


Captain America: The Winter Soldier: Probably The Last Superhero Movie I'll Enjoy For A Long Time

Can I take a brief minute here to explain why I am sick and tired of the superhero gimmick/popularity/fad that has pervaded America for the last decade?  They're boring!  They're the same recycled story over and over and over again.  How many X-Men movies can we have with the same problems occurring and everyone living and dying and coming back and getting older and getting younger and blah blah blah.  How are we going to reboot Spider-Man not THREE YEARS after the final installment?!  How many times is Superman not going to die from Kryptonite???  The only comic book/superhero films worth watching right now are the Dark Knight trilogy and that's only because Christopher Nolan decided that people needed something new!  Can we break down why all these movies suck?
Superman: He's colorful, he's family oriented, his villains suck, and he only has one weakness.  Just one.  Otherwise he has no fear.  So, when anything goes on down here on Earth, we know NOTHING is going to harm the poor bastard.  Then, when Kryptonite becomes an issue, it DOESN'T KILL HIM.  It just inconveniences him for a bit before he's back to normal.  Is it like feeding chocolate to a dog?  A lot of chocolate over a long period of time will eventually kill them...?
Hulk: He's a nerdy doctor guy who becomes a huge, poorly animated green rage monster without the capacity for coherent thought-- sometimes-- who mashes things with his fists.  Coooooollllll.  No way that big budget smashing and explosions and family-friendly pretty colors would ever get in the way of these films.
Thor: Snooze.  He's a mythical God who fights other mythical creatures and his brother sometimes runs amok causing shit for people of Earth, but doesn't really cause any real damage and since he's a God, he's not really going to die or get hurt in any way, so............ yawnnnnn.
Spider-man: These movies are lame because no one has the balls to make them great.  The reason we need a superhero is to thwart super villains.  The villains in the Spider-man movies are a bunch of pussies!  Nobody kills anyone!  I think the Green Goblin kills like ten army generals in the first movie... then nothing.  I think Doc Ock kills like one person.  Sandman and whoever the hell Topher Grace was never killed anyone.  Nobody dies!  Nothing happens!  If there's no threat of death or evil why do we watch?? 

That's why Christopher Nolan's Batman movies were fantastic.  They were all grounded in reality, as if these psychotics came out in today's time causing havoc.  He uses practical means of heroism in his version of Batman and they feel more like true crime/Scorsese films than Superhero films.  And you know why?  Because his villains are outstanding.  No one gave a shit about Christian Bale as Batman.  You watch because Heath Ledger was the perfect Joker... a psycho who kills a TON OF PEOPLE and actually poses a true threat to Gotham unlike Sandman who turns into, what can essentially be considered wind and knocks out a few windows casing homeowners some insurance stress.  Bane blows up a stadium killing an entire football team (minus Hines Ward, a'course).  Nolan doesn't rely on an excess of bad CGI to back up his movies, he uses character and the art of writing a good script to make a good movie. 

This is also why I thought Iron Man 3 was so great albeit underrated.  We've seen Iron Man do the same thing countless times... we know his powers... we know his struggles... we know it.  He's done.  So, what else do we do?  How about changing what could've been a big budget explosive mess into a private investigation in a low-key town and a curmudgeonly older dude learns life lessons from a relationship he establishes with a kid.  Also, how about taking the "supervillain" trope and turning it on its axis and showing us an original side we haven't seen before.  If you're going to keep mass producing these films, then give us something new!

Now, in regards to Captain America: The Winter Soldier, they ALMOST succeeded in showing us something fresh.  I'd have to say that Captain America is probably the hardest superhero to do a film about in today's era considering he's one of the dumbest ideas that originated from straight American propaganda.  So, you make the Captain aware, you almost meta the films and give it an original twist to today's era, try your hardest to eliminate the stuuuuuupid suit and you may have a step in the right direction. 

This film ALMOST felt like a Christopher Nolan superhero film.  The villains were actually smart and tough and killed innocent people.  There was a definite threat.  The action scenes were done with very, very limited CGI and it felt like a crime/action film rather than a superhero flick.  This was much appreciated.  However, after two-thirds of a really interesting movie... it falls back to superhero tropes of giant machines targeting the city and tons of CGI destruction and action.  It's tiring.  It's fun to watch buildings get destroyed and huge ships crashing and exploding into the ocean... for awhile.  But, it's exhausting.  I just want to watch a good film that doesn't have to rely on this type of Michael Bay-esque action. 

Everyone plays their parts geniusly and I have now been fully convinced that Chris Evans is worth it as an actor.  Robert Redford kills it as always and Anthony Mackie will be huge, just you see.  It was a well-acted and almost entirely well-written superhero film that succumbs to the old ways of-- if you don't know how to end it-- just blow shit up mentality that I really hope we can escape from in the next decade.