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MOVIES: What Have You Seen Today? (2017)


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#361 Professor Pi

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Posted 17 December 2016 - 03:44 PM

ROGUE ONE -- A Star Wars Story

 

Now that's how one does a prequel!  I re-watched Episodes II and III beforehand, and it really aided in my enjoyment.  Rogue One bridges the two trilogies quite nicely (no spoilers but there's a prequel cameo.)  It also explains the reasons for the weaknesses in the Death Star designs.  This did a better job of showing Vader as a bad ass more than any other Star Wars movie.  And while I wasn't expecting this to be better than the original trilogy, I have to say it has the best ending of any Star Wars movie ever.  The audience I saw it with cheered, cried, and dropped jaws in awe during the final 15 minutes, then applauded when the credits hit.

 

It's more original than The Force Awakens, but maybe not as enjoyable.  This standalone may not feel or sound as much a Star Wars movie as others, but it definitely looks like a Star Wars environment.  But it's determined to be more like a WWII movie than a Star Wars one, highlighting the sacrifices characters make not just with their lives, but with their choices and actions.  The droid gives the movie its humor and steals most of the scenes he's in.  Diego Luna is a bit dry, but Felicity Jones takes you with her once she makes her choice to act against the Empire.  And the Empire has never been quite as evil as now as we see it ravish its planets and terrorize its citizens.  Director Krennic may not be the biggest villain in the empire, but he's ruthless nonetheless, and his ultimate fate is ironically fitting.  The film is not quite as dark as the last 40 minutes of Revenge of the Sith, but it resonates more deeply.

 

I thinks it's safe to say Disney is now 2 for 2 in carrying on the saga, though that may have more to do with Executive Producer Kathleen Kennedy than anybody else.  The cast is diverse, the dialogue is good, the acting solid, and the visual effects are spectacular.  Michael Giachino did a solid job with the music, especially since he was only given a month to score the film after Alexander Desplat backed out at the last minute.  After this, I'm ready to see what they do with young Han Solo.



#362 Matt_13

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Posted 17 December 2016 - 09:27 PM

Rogue One

Worth the price of admission for the last 40 minutes alone.

#363 thecasinoroyale

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Posted 18 December 2016 - 04:23 PM

'Rogue One: A Star Wars Story' (2016)

‘Rogue One’ is a testing film for both casual and hardcore fans of the series (safe to say if you’ve not seen any of the current seven saga films, you’ll be in the dark!). Not testing to comprehend the story, or the characters, or the action or make sense of it all, no. Testing because it urges you from the off to let go of John Williams. Let go of lightsabers. Let go of those familiar names you’ve followed for nearly 40 years. Let go of the rigid formula and embrace a new one.

It’s difficult to do, I admit. It was hard for a while to not expect an opening crawl or the Star Wars theme, or even memorable musical motifs. Strange new planets, new vehicles, new characters, new motives. It’s the biggest risk Disney and LucasFilm could have made, but when the dust settles and the credits roll, you know it’s paid off dividends and you’ll want to go right back and experience it again.

Director Gareth Edwards is clearly a man brought up on the galaxy created by George Lucas back in 1977. It shows with the amount of heart here – it’s the perfect bridge between ‘Revenge Of The Sith’ and ‘A New Hope’, films made 28 years apart but with the former set 20 years before the latter. The mix of old and new is crucial here for Edwards; maintain what we know and expect from both sides of the trilogies but give us something new to invest in. There is humour. There is heart. There is life, and there is death. This is a war film. This is a Star Wars film if ever there was one that doesn’t follow the complacent check-list of what fans may now expect.

Our leads aren’t huge international stars – something first time Star Wars actors usually aren’t. Hamill and Ford. Christensen and McGregor. Ridley and Boyega. Now we have Felicity Jones and Diego Luna amongst others who all give us new sides to the heroes we’ve come to expect. No dashing Jedi or camp droids here; we see real, war-weary spies and pilots and fighters who at times blur the line between necessary good and bad in order to get the job done.

The cast put their all into the roles, and granted they have a huge task to not only convince us as actors themselves but also to help invest in their characters in such a short space of time for just over 2hrs. For me, they do. All have their moment to shine, all form a rag-tag band of real rebels and they all are talented actors – stands out for were Donnie Yen as blind warrior Chirrut Îmwe who has such a fun and impressive role, and also Felicity Jones who is the strongest female lead we’ve had in a galaxy far, far away. They all go on such a journey and they are great company on it.

With stellar support from the excellent Ben Mendelsohn as our villain, the ever dependable Mads Mikkelsen and good old Forest Whitaker who all really bring depth to their roles, this is a wonderfully diverse and well-rounded cast who certainly evolve during their film. It’s also refreshing to have an Imperial villain in Mendelsohn who doesn’t always need screen time to know his menace and threat – he fronts the Empire as a villain themselves; not just as a single character. It’s something missed from the recent films of a few good guys against a few bad guys. The Rebellion really feels like the massing army we’d expect and the Empire is a sprawling war-machine. These are the good and bad guys, not just our leads.

We have fantastic visuals in the form of new planets like the barren desert world of Jedha, the rainy canyons of Eadu and tropical beaches of Scarif, with a few familiar ones also popping up. The pacing is perfect also, because Edwards knows he needs to ease us into this “new world” gently but as a quick enough pace to keep the thrills and plot moving. From a steady start, to an exciting middle to a mind-blowing and perfectly executed finale, we don’t get much chance to look for flaws or question new ideas because it’s BAM BAM BAM. No flab on this film. Michael Giacchino does the near impossible task of providing a new score instead of John Williams, and sadly Williams is missed here at times, but Gacchino has more than enough beautiful strings, tense brass and exciting percussion to do a really good job. It is a well written and well thoughtout film that makes many plot points in 'A New Hope' make so much more sense.

Familiar faces will appear and make you smile out of nowhere. You’ll tease yourself thinking if certain people or places will appear being so close to the classic trilogy timeline, but Edwards doesn’t pander to you – if it makes sense, it’ll be there, if not then it won’t pop up just for a dumb in-joke. This is the same galaxy that we are used to, so nothing appears that shouldn’t. When it happens, I guarantee you won't be able to wipe that grin from your face.

You’ll need to watch this at least twice, because the first time you’ll probably expect an awful lot more of the standard Star Wars stuff, but you won’t get it. But that’s not a bad thing! It shows the cinematic Star Wars universe is so diverse and rich in content that we don’t need to always feature a space station being blown up or lightsaber duels – we have so many more characters out there who give us something we’ve only dreamt about seeing on screen.

Dogfights across blue skies with a war-zone on the beaches below is something ripped from the computer games we’ve played over the years. These new heroes and villains leap from the pages of books we’ve read set outside the canon. ‘Rogue One’ puts the WARS back in Star Wars in the bravest and most faithful way possible that delivers thrills, emotion, tension, excitement and some gorgeous moments you never saw coming.

For me this eclipses the prequels and 'The Force Awakens' and sits up there with 'A New Hope' and 'The Empire Strikes Back'.

Leave the Skywalkers and your Solos at home. Buckle up and enjoy this well produced, well-acted and visually breath-taking adventure that proves once more there is so much more to Star Wars than what we have come to know. It’s a film we all deserve and should be grateful for.

#364 Professor Pi

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Posted 18 December 2016 - 05:51 PM

Nice review, tcr.  I wasn't sure you liked it until your third paragraph though.  You elaborated on some points I glossed over, but agree with you 100%.



#365 DaveBond21

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Posted 19 December 2016 - 04:03 AM

Love Actually (2003), always watch it at Christmas

 

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#366 Blofeld's Cat

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Posted 19 December 2016 - 06:17 AM

Love Actually (2003), always watch it at Christmas

 

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You're such a softy, Dave.  :wub:

 

Me, Die Hard is my most favourite Christmas movie.  :P



#367 PrinceKamalKhan

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Posted 26 December 2016 - 06:26 AM

It's A Wonderful Life. It's the first time I've watched it in color.



#368 sharpshooter

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Posted 27 December 2016 - 02:37 AM

Batman Returns. A wonderful movie, especially during Christmas.

#369 Dustin

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Posted 27 December 2016 - 08:44 AM

Indeed, I used to prefer this over Burton's first.

#370 Professor Pi

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Posted 28 December 2016 - 06:03 PM

Passengers (2016)

 

A movie nowhere near as interesting as its teaser trailer, Passengers can't decide what sci-fi movie it wants to be.  The ads suggest Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence wake up 90 years early from space hibernation suggesting a conspiratorial plot, but within ten minutes you realize that's not the plot.  And then it changes every 20 minutes after that.  First, it's The Martian, with Pratt growing a beard and trying to fix a problem in isolation.  But rather than a meditation on isolation and existentialism, it then changes gears but can't decide if it wants to be a commentary on the future corporatism of space travel (Aliens, etc.), a social commentary on class structure (Titanic, the ship being a cruise ship through space after all), Event Horizon (Lawrence Fishburne shows up), all on the set of The Fifth Element, complete with bartender.  Indeed, when the the dire consequences become imminently clear, one of their first priorities is to fix the malfunctioning bartender (uh, meteor shield should be first, then have a drink!) 

 

While the script is bad, the visuals are spectacular.  The vast expanse of space is exquisitely cold and beautiful.  Pratt and Lawrence have good chemistry, but his character is a bit darker than he's able to pull off.  Lawrence on the other hand could act the hell out of a phone book.  She's always worth the price of admission, and to my mind the best actress since Meryl Streep.  Somewhere along the way, I recognized the music, and sure enough, the film composer turned out to be Thomas Newman.  But the film drags so much in its first half, I couldn't wait for it to be over so we could move on to a repeat viewing of Rogue One.

 

The film almost raised a question it then dodged to answer:  If you have all the necessities and creature comforts in life--food, drink entertainment, exercise and even a bit of work--but no one around to share it, is life worth living alone?  Its one other failure is it was so obvious how it should have ended--what is the purpose of colonizing planets after all?--but it even dodged that denouement.



#371 SecretAgentFan

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Posted 04 January 2017 - 11:33 AM

CELL

 

Stephen King adaptations always face the problem that they have to leave out too much of what a King book makes great: characterizations.  Of course, there are fantastic adaptations who managed to fit a sprawling King narrative into the shorter movie form: Cronenberg´s THE DEAD ZONE, for instance.  But since most King works are too long for a two hour movie it seems that TV is a better fit, as the limited series adaptation of 11.22.63 proved.  King´s short stories, however, work pretty well on film since they offer great premises that can be either followed or fleshed out in two hours.

 

CELL, the novel, has a straight forward narrative like one of his short stories and therefore actually lends itself to a movie form better than other King novels, and since director Tod Williams, John Cusack and Samuel L. Jackson were involved with this film it seemed that this movie would get the chance to be a welcome genre entry.  Instead, the film was greeted with almost universal scorn and ridicule.

 

I, however, found it very well made and a pretty good King adaptation.  The actors deliver, the cinematography is good, and the story is developed with reverence to the novel and yet manages to offer a variation on it, especially the ending.  I love it when film adaptations do not attempt to follow every sentence of a book but find their own way to tell that story.  When I want just the book I read the book, when I watch a film I want something that can stand on its own feet.

 

Considering the already not much liked-ending of King´s novel (I actually loved its open question) the film goes anouther route that is very interesting to me as well, but since it again asks a question modern audiences seem to have rejected that as well.  

 

Also, when reading the reviews for CELL it seems to me that the mob mentality of the internet was in full force again: people joined immediately to bash this film, repeating certain criticisms that, at least to me, don´t apply at all.

 

The main criticism: the "cell people" behave ridiculously and are not scary.  Really?  King´s story is a take on the zombie genre, and it introduces a swarm element to it, making them act in unison, controlled by one sender.  What´s funny about that?  It actually is a great analogy for herd behaviour and media consumption in our age.  And these "cell people" are just as dangerous as any modern zombie, so why is that not scary anymore?  I never read such complaints about "The Walking Dead" or the "25 days/months later"-films.

 

Also, some reviewers actually stated that they don´t understand the main character´s goal: he wants to find his son.  Um, that´s not relatable?  A father wishing to find out whether his son is still alive?

 

Sure, CELL is not perfect.  You notice that the budget is low, some special effects shots could have been improved, some scenes even feel shorter than they should have been, and rumours hint at a troubled post production process in the editing room which left the film truncated.  And yet, the film moves very well and ends on a, for me, emotionally devestating note that fits perfectly in the genre.

 

One can argue that we have seen too many zombie films and that CELL repeats sequences of pursuit that were already done to death.  I can´t argue with that.  But the whole film works and is put together with a very good directorial eye, so it is definitely not the desaster that so many critics conjured up.  And why is director Tod Williams, strangely reduced to being a journeyman hack because he did the first (well received) "Paranormal Activity"-sequel, when he actually did the spectacular John Irving adaptation "A door in the floor" as well?



#372 DaveBond21

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Posted 17 January 2017 - 05:30 AM

Bridget Jones' Baby (2016)

 

Typical romcom. Not as good as the previous two, but still worth watching with friends or a significant other.

 

It has a few laugh-out-loud moments (one line at a Christening party, and a hilarious incident with a woman in labour being pulled through a revolving door) and also has a hilarious final shot.

 

___________________________________________________________________________________________________________



#373 SecretAgentFan

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Posted 17 January 2017 - 12:07 PM

SUICIDE SQUAD

 

Oh, boy...

 

Joyless, soulless, numbing mediocrity.  Directed withour visual flair.  Dialogue is straight-to-video quality. The only mildly interesting element is Margot Robbie, but - to be truthful - even her schtick becomes tired during this overlong film.

 

I absolutely do not get why some critics called this better than BATMAN V SUPERMAN.  That film had a real story to tell, and Zack Snyder knows how to make a film visually exciting.

 

I also don´t understand why some critics claimed that this film was having fun with the conventions of the genre.  It´s a tired rehash of the genre, and the bad guys who go on a mission are even loaded with being, deep down, mostly tortured souls. And Will Smith, totally miscast, naturally has the "my little daughter needs me"-motivation.

 

As for Jared Leto as the Joker... what a giant letdown.  And I´m not talking about the character only having kind of a cameo in this film.  After Jack Nicholson and Heath Ledger this new Joker should have offered at least a performance and look that was on that level or slightly below.  But Leto misses the mark by miles.  His look and voice and demeanour is what a bad amateur would pull for a costume party in your dorm.  Nothing surprising and nothing that makes this rebooted character interesting.

 

The fact that this movie made so much money is a bad sign for the taste of mass audiences.



#374 Dustin

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Posted 17 January 2017 - 06:16 PM

ASSASSINATION (2015, South Korea, directed by Choi Dong-hoon)


This is a rather sprawling affair of a film, a thriller-espionage story straddling over 38 years, two generations and multiple genres from war adventure to tragedy to martial arts and buddy-shoot-em-up, all with the backdrop of the Nipponese occupation of Korea.

Storywise it's way overlong and introduces at least three times as many characters as you would expect from a war 'adventure' concerning a relatively straight assassination attempt after the Heydrich pattern. But then it's not just that assassination, it's also the story of a double agent who kicks off the action and orders his own team to get killed. And then it's the story of a professional hitman falling in love with his target. And then it's the story of twin sisters growing up apart and meeting over the barrel of a rifle. And then it's the story of a daughter killing her monstrous father. And then it's the story of a collaborator getting his reward finally.

In short, it's vast and complex and a critic claimed it could perhaps best be followed by taking notes.

But...

It's in fact quite captivating, there is never a dull moment, there is tons of suspense and intrigue even in the long stretches without shootouts. I tend to lose interest after a given amount of violence is thrown at me for no good reason. But here, in spite of plenty of action, the whole brew still tastes fresh and interesting.

Production values. No, here it must read PRODUCTION VALUES. This film, on a budget of $ 16 million looks easily ten times as expensive - and this with a historical setting that needs tons of costumes, props, cars andandand from the relevant period. And the cars do some considerable stunt driving and the outdoor scenes are often set in whole city blocks that I doubt do still exist in this form in real life.

And yet ASSASSINATION presents us Shanghai and Seoul complete with traffic, streetcars, vendors and literally a million little details that make you swallow the illusion hook, line and sinker. Huge sets are shown and used to the full. This is what you might want a period Bond film to look like. The detail is such that you hardly find the breath to pause and question any one element (although there seems to be a curious abundance of German handguns present half a globe away from any German soldier who might have brought them; and once there was an odd bottle of Walker's Black Label that looked also a bit out of place in 1933 in the Korean hinterlands).

Critics claimed some of the occupation backstory is only used inadequately. But how could that have been used adequately in such a film? I for one was nonetheless quite moved by the characters and their fate, although fewer roles with some more depth would no doubt have given the film a different quality.

However, definitely one of the better films from 2015 and for me beating many bigger productions.

#375 SecretAgentFan

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Posted 22 January 2017 - 09:58 AM

LA LA LAND

 

Simply one of the most charming, touching, well-made films I´ve ever seen.  A total delight and for me the best film of the year.



#376 DaveBond21

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Posted 24 January 2017 - 06:47 AM

50 Shades of Grey (2015)

 

It was OK.



#377 The Dove

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Posted 31 January 2017 - 06:15 PM

Hidden Figures

 

Saw it last Wednesday and absolutely loved it! :) As a sort of a manned-space flight history buff, I was totally unfamiliar of the contributions of Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughn and Mary Jackson and just how they played a huge role in the success of John Glenn's orbital space flight in 1962 and of future space missions. This film definitely gets my vote for Best Picture! Go and see it if you haven't yet.



#378 Tarl_Cabot

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Posted 10 February 2017 - 06:42 PM

John Wick Chapter two. Excellent sequel to surprise hit of 2014. director Chad Stahelski needs to be hired for the next Bond. He has the action and the style/atmosphere chops to make a great Bond movie and revive the franchise (yet again). John Wick has taken over Jason Bourne as the American action franchise to care about...Anyway, the action was brutal and relentless. The look of the film was magnificent. The director is set to do a Highlander reboot and I wish to god he was sitting in an office with Barbara Broccolli today.



#379 Professor Pi

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Posted 02 March 2017 - 06:40 PM

The Wolverine (2013)

 

If EON never adapts Ian Fleming's You Only Live Twice novel, this chapter of the X-Men/Wolverine franchise can serve as a faithful retelling of its story.  Both are set in Japan, climax in a towering castle in the mountainside, and open with the protagonist depressed and without purpose after the devastating loss of his soulmate in the  preceding story installments of their lives.  Indeed, director James Mangold seems to be paying homage to James bond in a few select scenes--from DAF's "I didn't know there was a pool down there" to the villain's demise at the hands of the heroine recalling the climactic scene of Thunderball.

 

But another theme that runs through the film is an embrace of nature over the industrial made.  It is Master Yashida's obsession with Wolverine's Adamantium that drives him to pursue eternal life with the Silver Samurai suit.  The climax seemingly drains all the Adamantium from Logan's body (a continuity confusingly contradicted in the next X-Men film, Days of Future Past,) not to mention the financial resources of his family corporation.  This desire divides the Yashida family into three factions--that of the son Shengen and soon-to-be son-in-law Noburo (see aforementioned pool scene!), his daughter's childhood friend and family protector Harada and his ninja army, and Mariko, granddaughter to Yahida, and her adopted sister/bodyguard Yukio.  Yukio makes a great side kick for Wolverine.  The ending is open to interpretation, but it's not hard to imagine Mariko in the same role as Kissy Suzuki at the end of You Only Live Twice, pregnant with the hero's child.  But The Wolverine leaves that open to question.

 

While there is not a Garden of Death from the novel, Yashida's corporate castle in the climax is the symbol of one man staving off death at the expense of another's invitation to it.  The metaphor is still present.  The cinematography is gorgeous, the setting of Nagasaki symbolizing rebirth from death.  It is the character arc of Wolverine as he finds his purpose while helping Mariko and her family claim her rightful familial destiny.



#380 SecretAgentFan

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Posted 03 March 2017 - 06:24 AM

Interesting reading of that film, Professor.  Kudos!

 

Personally, I always though that THE WOLVERINE is shamelessly underrated.  Especially the extended cut.  Maybe it will be rediscovered, now that LOGAN is such a wild success.



#381 Dustin

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Posted 03 March 2017 - 06:30 AM

Haven't seen it up to now, maybe I'm going to change that.

#382 Professor Pi

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Posted 03 March 2017 - 05:14 PM

LOGAN (2017)

 

Please let James Mangold direct a fifth and final Daniel Craig James Bond movie!

 

As other reviews suggest, Logan is not a super hero or comic book movie.  A more appropriate characterization would be faithful adaptation of a graphic novel.  Graphic, it is indeed, in every sense of the word as much as a big budget ($97M) film can be.  It is visceral, reflective, dark yet realistic, but not without hope.  It is set 12 years from now, in roughly the same time frame as Bladerunner and Terminator, and is no less dark despite most of its scenes taking place during the day.  And that's what makes its dystopian future all the more chilling, exposed in broad sunlight peeling away layers like the burning skin off an albino.

 

Logan works and feels like a standalone picture, its tone far from its franchise brethren.  If one sees it without any other X-Men/Wolverine viewing, it plays like a futuristic Unforgiven, with men (not just Wolverine) coming to terms with regret and violence of their pasts.  And yet there are ties, both intentional and accidental, to the earlier films.  The samurai sword given to Logan in The Wolverine can be glimpsed, and a character from X-Men: Apocalypse makes a strong supportive role appearance.  These aren't easter eggs but rather context for the characters' arcs.  The title character comes face to face with a darker version of his fate, but also is offered redemption in offering a younger version of himself hope for the future, despite Logan's hard earned cynicism.

 

What makes this film so powerful is the realism of its future.  With driverless tractor trailers, casino hotels in Oklahoma, cars of the future yet mobile phones of the present, and cold corporate pursuit manifesting itself in genetic engineering on a societal scale through commercial consumerism, what makes the film's future setting so chilling is its believable inevitability.  An X-Men movie would set this up as a time travel plot to undo this future.  Yet Logan accepts it.  Gone are the CGI of thousands of innocents and city carnage, and replaced with heat filled deserts of a Western road trip movie.  It has light moments recalling Midnight Run but also horrifying ones right out of Kalifornia.  Indeed, one scene set at night feels like a horror film and makes the viewers feel shock at the murders of innocent people at the hands of a monster, whom we are initially made to recognize as a character we know.  But it is the character we know who illustrates that it doesn't really matter if the victims are innocent or guilty.  Killing is hard to live with, essentially a branding, and with its meta references (an actual X-Men comic appears in many scenes), two meanings of the term are manifest.  Whether or not justified, intentional or accidental, murderous or in self-defense, the act weighs heavily on the conscience, surviving either alcohol abuse or prescription pills meant to extinguish those memories.  That's what separates and defines the good from the evil in this film, both on character and corporate levels, regret defining the soul versus soulless.

 

The acting is phenomenal, Jackson and Stewart sharing a chemistry earned over 17 years with the bitter banter and love of a married couple that knows each other all too well.  Also making an impressive debut is Dafne Keen, and I shall not offer any spoilers, but she holds her own along with these seasoned award winning actors.  This is a gritty exploration of characters coming to terms with the fear of becoming the bad they fight if you live long enough.  It holds up what should be, but contrasts that with the alternate reality that shouldn't be, yet is what it is in today's world.

 

On a lighter note, the bonus scene is at the beginning, not post end credits.  It is simultaneously hilarious and oh so wrong, and is perfectly in reverse symmetry from the post credits scene of X-Men Origins: Wolverine, a movie I had rewatched just before in my run up to Logan.  Watching the two Wolverine movies before Logan aids in the appreciation, but not seeing them won't detract from it either.



#383 Professor Pi

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Posted 06 March 2017 - 05:11 PM

X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST/APOCALYPSE & ORIGINS: WOLVERINE

 

Days of Future Past is meant to reboot/retcon the X-Men franchise after the debacle that was XIII-The Last Stand and disappointing Origins.  Reuniting both casts of the franchise, it is also meant to provide an added boost to the younger prequel cast and succeeds rather well.  With Jennifer Lawrence now in the role of Mystique, the story wisely makes use of her acting talents as her character is shifted toward becoming a heroine rather than the villain of Rebecca Romijn's casting.  While the comic features Kitty Pryde who goes back in time, the movie wisely changes this to Wolverine, and it makes perfect sense.  Which other mutant can withstand the toll that would take on the brain but one whose mutation is healing?  Hugh Jackman really excels in his role here, bringing an emotional depth to his portrayal which the character had buried in earlier films.  His rebirth in The Wolverine is now complete.  As always, the Charles/Erik dynamic is key in how the story twists and unfolds.  While the climax is satisfying (what fitting punishment for the Washiington Redskins not changing their name than having its stadium ripped from its foundations--yet another way the X-Men defends the disenfranchised!), the best scene perhaps of any superhero movie is Quicksilver's "Time in a Bottle" sequence.  With solid special effects, a tremendous ensemble cast, the best soundtrack score since First Class, Brian Singer's return to the franchise demonstrates how to make an X-Men movie.

 

Then for its sequel, Apocalypse, he shows us how not to make one--the way every other superhero movie is made.  Like Singer's Superman Returns, this third installment of the 'prequel' trilogy is derivative of nearly every other superhero movie.  It's not bad--still way better than anything in the DCEU--but it offers nothiing really new either.  An 'alien' type villain, wanton destruction of a city without any audience investment in its citizens, and confusing or mundane character motivations.  Quicksilver does an encore of his best scene from Days of Future Past, ironically wearing a Rush "Moving Pictures" T-shirt. :D With Oscar Isaac buried under prosthetics and makeup, his talents as the villain are wasted.  Michael Fassbender gets to shine in his scenes as Magneto tries to live a normal life, but the payoff in the finale for that is somewhat squandered.  The film doesn't make good use of its 80s setting either, after the previous two installments felt indeed like the 60s and 70s.  After the successful retconning of Days of Future Past, for some reason Apocalypse returns Wolverine back to the Weapon X program without any explanation.  Did Stryker capture him again?  Did he re-volunteer for the program?  Did the time ripple return to its original course as Hank explained in the previous film?  Did the writers need him to have Adamantium again for the plot device in Logan?  The contradictions in X-Men continuity makes Craig era Bond continuity breezy in comparison.  It's not that Apocalypse is bad, it's just not great.  As its own characters say in a meta-comment about another filmic trilogy, "the third one is always the worst."

 

Not true.  X-Men Origins: Wolverine, the first in the spinoff trilogy, is worst of the trilogy now concluded by Logan.  It too was retconned out of existence by DOFP along with XIII, which is the worst X-Men movie.  Actually, I'm gonna throw some praise Origins' way.  The opening montage of Logan and his brother as soldiers throughout the world's wars is a fantastic start.  The motivations of Stryker and how he tricks Logan into volunteering for the Weapon X program hold up well.  Liev Schreiber does a great turn as his 'bad guy' brother/Sabretooth (which they don't make explicit.)  Logan's escape from Alkali is good, albeit very different from how and when it unfolds in Apocalypse.  But the special effects are weak, and its handling of introducing two major mutants--Wade Wilson and Remy LeBeau--are botched.  Both will get their own movie franchises as Deadpool and the soon to be filmed Gambit.  But it is still entertaining, action-packed, and Hugh Jackman gives a solid performance.  Though its events may no longer be in the timeline canon, Logan himself still carries his angst and existential experiences with him throughout the franchise.  X-Men Origins: Wolverine is not as bad as people remember.  Still, the Wolverine 'trilogy' is more like three standalone spinoffs as their events are more interlinked to the other X-Men movies than to each other.

 

Rewatching most of the franchise films and trying to make sense of their timeline has led me to suggest watching them in this order (and as double features):

First Class / Origins: Wolverine / X-Men / X2-United / XIII-The Last Stand / The Wolverine / Days of Future Past / Apocalypse / Deadpool / Logan

 

P.S.  I hope to follow with reviews of First Class and the first X-Men trilogy.



#384 DaveBond21

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Posted 10 March 2017 - 05:12 AM

Reef (2010)

 

Low budget but well made Australian thriller. Obviously inspired by Jaws, but somehow the film-makers keep the audience on edge, with interesting twists and turns. Filmed mostly at the water surface and it makes the movie quite effective in making you really feel for the characters and their situation.

 

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#385 SecretAgentFan

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Posted 10 March 2017 - 01:50 PM

JASON BOURNE

 

Surprisingly well made sequel which held my interest until the ending.  The confrontation in the hotel suite was enough for me.  The car chase through Las Vegas and the hand-to-hand-combat was so over the top that it blew everything that felt believable right out the window.  And the coda was not needed either, IMO, since there was an interesting dea built up throughout the film that was nixed in that coda - and again it showed Bourne as so hyperclever and able that it borders on impossible.

 

In any event, a superflous sequel - telling us nothing really new, yet, especially Tommy Lee Jones´ pitch-perfect restrained performance and some tense confrontations render this film entertaining enough.

 

One more nitpick: Bourne´s character has become an indestructible Terminator - but without the ability for humour.  If they produce another movie out of this they should definitely look at the main character and make him interesting again.  Like... human.

 

 

 

TRAIN TO BUSAN

 

Usually, I am not fond of zombie films.  Gore and splatter disgust me.  But this film is, thankfully, taking the idea of a train making its way through a country plagued by a zombie-like-epidemic and turning it in a truly captivating thriller-drama because it highlights the human dimension of the survivors.  With a wonderful moral compass the film fleshes out (sorry for that pun) every character, even the antagonist and tells a poignant and relevant story about how we deal with a crisis, how we become either egotists or consider that our behaviour decides the social fabric of our life.  The ending with the little girl is one of the most heartbreaking scenes in contemporary cinema.

 

A perfect film. 



#386 Professor Pi

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Posted 10 March 2017 - 04:30 PM

X-Men:  First Class (2011)

 

It is amazing how much this reboot of the X-Men franchise plays like a James Bond movie.  After opening with the same scene that the original X-Men did and further exploring the formative experiences of the young Erik Lensheer on his dark path, the next hour is straight out of a Connery 007 movie from the 60s.  I first had this thought while Erik tracks down Nazis in Argentina via illegal Nazi gold bars, that scene reminding me of the Fleming short story "Octopussy."  Of course, the men future Magneto meets are handed a more direct consequence than the honorable option Bond affords Major Dexter Smythe.  The scene beforehand in the bank has nods to Goldfinger as well.

 

The next hour of the film unfolds as one James Bond scene after another, and not just because it is set one year before the debut of Doctor No:  Fassbender swimming toward the villain's yacht in a night-time underwater scene (Thunderball) and said yacht shedding its shell (this time as a submarine), him arriving on board to kill bad guys (Licence to Kill), a rogue Russian general escalating nuclear stakes (Octopussy), a submarine breaking ice in the arctic (A View to a Kill), caging femme fatale Emma Frost to bedposts (again, Thunderball), and Sebastian Shaw's submarine sporting the same luxurious interior design Alex Trevelyan had on his train in GoldenEye.  Indeed, the film's plot is similar to many of SPECTRE's as the third party behind the scenes stoking the U.S. and U.S.S.R. into war (FRWL, YOLT.)  The parallels don't end with the set pieces either:  Charles Xavier serving as an M-type father figure to Erik, Hank/Beast as Q with his lab of gadgets, and Xavier's school serving as an M.I.6 training compound.  The female love interest, Moira Taggart, is a C.I.A. agent capable of thinking on her own feet and unlocking the villain's plot (sound familiar?)  The female lead is Jennifer Lawrence's Raven/Mystique, pre-Hunger Games fame, and this film seems content to feature her legs in short skirts more than her acting abilities (of which I have no complaints either way!)  The film climaxes with a retelling/conspiracy theory of how the Cuban Missile crisis unfolds with the X-Men key to avoiding WWIII.  The ending also completes Erik Lensheer's arc into becoming Magneto (and indeed, much of this script came from an aborted X-Men Origins: Magneto draft,) as he takes on the philosophical mantle of Shaw and becomes the very thing he fought after exacting his revenge.  James Bond becoming the dark angel indeed.  The end titles even seem to call back to Doctor No with the use of circles and colors.

 

X-Men stories are always about more than just their movies' plots.  Released in 2011 but set in 1961, First Class both echoes and foretells the usual themes of speaking up for the disenfranchised, the powerful's responsibility to protect the powerless.  But this film also hints at a class structure inequality--Professor X's John Lockean view of the world blossoming from his rather privileged upbringing in a wealthy mansion versus Magneto's Thomas Hobbessian outlook resulting from a persecuted and presumably impoverished childhood (his family possibly lacking the financial resources to escape the Nazis and his own imprisonment at the hands of the villainous Shaw.)  There are also hints of the surveillance state as Xavier identifies mutants' whereabouts via Cerebro, leading to a fitting cameo of Wolverine giving them a three word sendoff (his chronological debut notably containing an F-bomb, many of which would be found in Jackman's final appearance in Logan.)  Shaw's plot to eradicate humankind in favor of a new race (Moonraker, Spy Who Love Me anyone?) is unwittingly laying foundations for a diametric symmetry to the fate of mutant kind in Logan's backstory.

 

Maybe not as successful as the first two X-Men films, or as critically worthy as the last two Wolverine spinoffs, First Class is nonetheless an excellent introduction to watching the X-Men franchise and a worthy prequel that course corrected a franchise then teetering on imploding, yet now poised to overtake the MCU in terms of critical praise as well as financial success.  EON, take note.



#387 Dustin

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Posted 15 March 2017 - 03:09 PM

Mod note: edited the topic title. I wanted to do this for some time but kept forgetting about it. Now the deed is done...



#388 SecretAgentFan

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Posted 15 March 2017 - 04:21 PM

Oh, yes - thank you!  Totally forgot this.






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