X-Men: Days of Future Past Is Amazing

X-Men Days of the Future Past

A bunch of us who are playing this Marvel themed online game were super excited for a get together event to watch X-Men Days of Future Past. Some of us have not met each other before the show. But one passion binds us together – Marvel. So we met up. All of us were kind of surprised at how we look like in real life. For example, one best known as Iron-Man is actually pretty hilarious in person. And Dr. Strange is a lot taller than I thought. They in turn were marveled at my ‘multi-tone’ hair highlight and that I am much – shall I say – matured looking than who they think I am. What they don’t know is that my hair was having this special effect even during my younger years. It is just a matter of days of my present past. What do they think of Rocket Raccoon a.k.a. my wife? Err. OK. Next.

I did not like the previous X-Men movie back in 2011. But you know me. Short term memory. And I am always excited by what is to come. The story is set in the future, when the war between the mutants (and the humans that side with them) and the sentinels is almost over. Mutants are facing extinction. The future is bleak. What an incredible fight for survival these mutants have put up against the formidable foes. The amount of teamwork is amazing. Blink (Fan Bingbing) opens up portals at strategic places, Colossus goes in for the punch. Iceman and Sunspot tackle the enemies with ice and fire. Storm powers Bishop’s weapon and Bishop goes in for the kill at range. Even with such teamwork the mutants are not able to take down the sentinels. Because the sentinels manage to absorb and adapt to the mutants’ power. It is always Shadowcat (Ellen Page) sending Bishop back in time to warn the mutants so as to avert the attack (now, I had no idea that Kitty Pryde has this sort of power!). That breathtaking last moment between victory and total annihilation.

But the mutants are tired of running. Professor X and Magneto have decided to send Wolverine back into the past and prevent that one single event that led to where they are in the future – the capture of Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence). Eventually her DNA was being studied and used to enhance the sentinels as the ultimate mutant killing machines.

The story is intriguing. Although it may not be considered as a true Marvel story – since it is common to have alternative realities when it comes to Marvel characters -I found the plot of Days of Future Past acceptable. It has also undone some of the unpopular movie endings in the past through time travel. So I am cool with it and am looking forward to more X-Men movies.

The casting is fantastic. Hugh Jackman is so perfect for the role as Wolverine. Both the younger versions of Professor X and Magneto have done well too. Key to the story is Mystique. I was unsure how our Hunger Game heroine Jennifer Lawrence would perform as a blue mutant. She has handled the multidimensional character well. Being someone strong but yet emotionally fragile, threading a thin line that separates the good and the evil. She has a decision to make. Can she change the future? This movie got me hooked from beginning to end.

X-Men: First Class – Not My Cup Of Tea

I have a few issues with the installment of this new trilogy.  Considering the fact that “First Class” is a prequel, I am unable to reconcile how, say, McAvoy and Fassbender’s characters are going to grow up and become Professor X and Magneto that we are familiar with on a big screen.  I took a look at McAvoy and compared him with Patrick Stewart.  Nah.  I took another look at Fassbender and thought about Ian McKellen.  No way.  Is it important that the casting should somewhat reconcile with our mental expectation?  I would think so.  Star Trek has done a pretty good job in choosing their casting when the prequel was made.  McAvoy and Fassbender are good actors.  But the disconnection with the existing X-Men films is a bit too much for me to take.

From the story point of view, after the climatic ending of “X-Men: The Last Stand”, I doubt a prequel could top that.  And it does not.  The ideas of mutants against the humans, teaching the mutants to control their power and one super mutant wanting to take over the world – these ideas begin to sound old to me.  Who cares about the ability of creating whirlwinds when we have already seen what Storm can do?  Who cares about a stripper with wings of a housefly when we have seen a human boy with angelic wings?  Havok shoots beams from his chest but hey, we have already seen how Cyclops shoots beams from his eyes.  A boy who screams that enables him to glide in mid air with artificial wings?  Maybe the movie is not doing the comic books justice.  Or maybe it is what it is.

If I am to look at “First Class” as a standalone movie and to remove most of the mutants who are unimportant to the story, the film does offer more background on the friendship between Professor X and Magneto and who they are.  The linguistic ability of Magneto (or rather Fassbender) is charming.  Seeing a younger version of Professor X flirting and chatting up with girls is unexpected, but refreshing.  Hence, it is the drama bit that I enjoy watching.  What is disappointingly missing – besides more depth in Professor X’s romance would be nice – is the transformation of Magneto: the transformation from a mission of personal vendetta to a mission of one mutant (and his recruits) against the world and the disintegration of a friendship.  In one scene, a man was down on the beach.  Magneto could have had him teleported out for medical care.  Why the hurry to disappear from the screen?  That emotional part of a human, or rather a mutant, is missing.  And I am left with an empty feeling wondering if I still want to see more.

The good news is, “Second Class” and “Third Class” – if at all the rest of the installments are so called – are likely going to beat “First Class”.  It is likely that I will get to continue watching this trilogy, because Cynthia is a X-Men fan.

Wanted – OMG, It’s Angelina Jolie (with a Gun)!

Though I must say, the focal point is at James McAvoy instead.  But still, I simply love Angelina Jolie with guns (think “Lara Croft” and “Mr. & Mrs. Smith”) and I love her attitude too.  One of a kind, truly.

You’ve got to have quite a strong stomach to take in those over the top intensive scenes that have the pace and the music to match.  My recently self-diagnosed sensitive stomach did give me some warning signals on and off throughout the show.  I guess that is a good indicator on how intense “Wanted” is.

Yet another comic book adaptation and it is created by the Scottish graphic novelist Mark Millar.  Something different from the typical American comic book style I suppose.  A kind of strange storyline that involves a thousand years old organization called The Fraternity and these assassins – who have some sort of superhuman abilities I suppose – take in order from a textile loom coded with the target’s names under the microscope.  What a strange concept, to kill as dedicated by destiny to keep the Universe in balance. 

There is nothing much to say on the acting or character development of “Wanted”.  Is it entertaining?  Yes.  How so?  There are enough surprises within the plot to keep the film moving.  Some of the computer generated images and sequences are just jaw dropping.  Time slows down, at times reverses, to depict some physically impossible moments.  Some scenes are just comical.  Lots of blood for sure.  But if you have got the stomach and in for some fast pace intensified entertainment, why not?

I won’t even mention about Angelina Jolie’s sexy back from shoulder to … oh well, I missed it while reading the subtitles.

Kidding!  Ha ha ha!

Atonement – A Sad Story Beautifully Filmed

atonement.jpg

You, must have thought that I am kidding right? Writing a movie review while holidaying in Hong Kong? Cynthia and I just cannot resist not watching a film for a week. On top of that, it is a film with Keira Knightley, a film nominated for the Golden Globe Awards, and a film perhaps yet to be shown in Singapore (or is it over already?).

Where did I watch “Atonement”? None other than the most prestigious IFC mall that is right next to, I believe, the tallest building in Hong Kong – International Finance Centre (IFC). Prestige comes with a whopping price tag of S$15 per seat. Not just any seat, but a full leather seat. I was mildly disappointed with the screen though. It doesn’t seem like a wide-screen format to me. I tried to book online and that was another disappointment. They only accept local credit cards for a transaction lower than HKD 200. D’uh!

“Atonement” is anything but disappointment. It prompts me to think which one is more important: the reality or the story being immortalized by ink and paper. If you do watch “Atonement”, pay attention to the composition of each scene. The scenes are so perfectly composed that it is hard not to look at the film from the artistic angle. There is one particular scene at the beach with soldiers waiting to return home that is not to be missed. It is one long shot (quite possibly a continuous shot but we all know what computers can do these days) with subjects of focus changing swiftly from one to another.  Also, the way that some of the scenes appear ahead of time is, I think, a clever trick that doesn’t seem to get old even when it is done a couple of times throughout the movie.

I have yet to watch “Pride & Prejudice” by Keira Knightley and the same director Joe Wright but I would say “Atonement” is perhaps Keira Knightley’s best performance to date. The original score is innovative by mixing different sounds, such as the typewriter, into the background music (you will see the significance of the typewriter later). In short, if you enjoy watching drama, albeit a sad one, you may like this one.

The Last King Of Scotland – Gruesomely Charming

We practice democracy within our Movie Review Squad. I personally would have given this movie a pass not because it is not a good show but my preference is in the vague order of originality, witty scripts, beautiful scenery/people … and a bit of tastefully done sex scenes won’t harm.

I can’t help but to compare “The Last King Of Scotland” with “Blood Diamond”. Both movies have plots originated from Africa; both are equally intense and gruesome; and both leading actors are nominated for this coming Oscar. Forest Whitaker who acted as the brutal Ugandan dictator Idi Amin has already earned him a Golden Globe Award. I still hope that Leonardo DiCaprio will win the Oscar this year but knowing the strong correlation between Golden Globe and Oscar (so I am told) … we shall see.

“The Last King Of Scotland” is based on Giles Foden’s award-winning debut novel of the same name as inspired by real people and real events. A story spins off from a Scottish doctor, Nicholas Garrigan (James McAvoy), who found himself becoming the physician and advisor of Idi Amin. Idi Amin is real while the character Garrigan is fictitious (loosely inspired by Amin’s English-born associate Bob Astles). Unlike “Blood Diamond” that is constantly gruesomely intense (or intensely gruesome?) throughout the show, the first half of “The Last King Of Scotland” is actually quite enjoyable to watch. The acting is great and I especially like McAvoy’s carefree character Garrigan. The transformation slowly took place when the charming Amin turned into a brutal monster. Towards the end, it was just blood and gore. I heard a lot of gasping from the audience behind me.

A movie with lots of quality acting, at times humorous scripts, and a slowly build-up of intensity. “Blood Diamond” has a lot of outdoor shots so I got to enjoy the culture side of Africa. Majority of “The Last King Of Scotland” was shot indoor or at some locations that did not seem to be uniquely African. If I have to choose one to watch, “Blood Diamond” no doubt. Having said that, “The Last King Of Scotland” is a show worth watching … for the acting I would say.

Related Blog and Link: Blood Diamond – Intensity With Great Performance (my blog), Official Site for “Last King Of Scotland”.