Directed by the mad french maestro that is Michel Gondry (Eternal Sunshine, The Science of Sleep) Moon Indigo is already being touted as being the director’s masterpiece, marrying his usual magical home-made style with an affecting classic love story. Also it’s got Amelie’s Audrey Tatou onboard for the surreal ride so were definetely buying a ticket.
In an attempt to showcase some of the 2014’s forthoming attractions that are worth getting excited about I’d like to draw your attention to this moody powerful teaser trailer for Foxcatcher. This crtically accliamed film has already won its director Ben Miller the Best Director award at the Cannes Film Festival and with serious roles for both Channing Tatum and an almost unrecognisable Steve Carrell it may be time to get those Oscar predictions ready.
With the passing of Eli Wallach at 98 years old comes the opportunity for us all to remember one of the great actor’s stand out performances and one of the most memorable moments in film history. A scene that serves as a masterclass in how to perfectly synchronise visuals and sound, with Morricone’s score building to a clattering climax and Wallach’s brilliant villain Tuco greedily trawling the graveyard for buried treasure. Its so good, I might just have to watch it again. Thanks Eli!
The future, it is a dark desolate place, a dystopian nightmare where the world is ruled by soulless robots, a land where if you’re different you’re rounded up and dealt with, no it’s not a UKIP party political broadcast it’s the intro to the new X-Men movie. This one, Days of Future Past, is about number 75 in the series and is adapted from one of the better known classic X-Men stories (probably due to the fondly remembered animated series of the 90’s). Throwing us in at the deep end, we find the last surviving X-Men teleporting across the globe dressed like they’re in an 80’s rock video, as they attempt to shake the unstoppable right wing robo-cocks (or Sentinels) programmed to wipe out the remaining mutants, all against the backdrop of cool futuristic purple neon lighting. It’s a predicament that leaves our heroes with only one choice, to use time travel to put right what once went wrong and leap back to the 70’s before the leather clad cast can begin a chorus of Don’t Stop Believin!
After some complicated timey-whimey paradox-shamadox gubbins Wolverine wakes up in the 1970’s, back in his younger body, accompanied with his original bone claws and enough plot holes to fill the Albert Hall. As both timelines (future and 70’s) progress and the tension ratchets up we’re introduced to characters both old and new in versions both young and old. Nicholas Hoult is back as Beast, with a more prominent role than X-Men: First Class, looking a bit better in his prosthetics and less like a homeless member of the Blue Man Group.
Tyrion Lannister from Game of Thrones (Peter Dinklage) turns up as the movies great porno-moustached baddy and Storm and Rogue appear briefly but for such short amounts of screen time that they could easily be classified as extras. Out of the new recruits the main stand out is the super-fast Quicksilver, a character whose inclusion sparked fear in the cholesterol-filled hearts of sweaty fan boys across the internet due to the fact that Aaron Taylor Johnson will also play an incarnation of the character in the next Avengers movie and because the first images of the Quicksilver outfit looked fairly cheesy. But as the X-Men of the future (AKA Duran Duran in the Wild Boys video) have proven, the outfits aren’t everything and Quicksilver turns out to be one the freshest and funniest new characters to join the franchise. A precocious self-centred teenager (aren’t they all) with added super speed which means he’s constantly impatient with the world not being able to keep up with him, oh and all the other mutants hate him which adds an amusing dynamic to the group.
With so many timelines and so many new characters it’s a miracle that any of the film makes sense at all, so it’s Magneto helmets off to script writer Simon Kinberg who makes it all clear (yet complex) enough for new audiences (and old comic book fans like me) to enjoy. Even when it does get confusing (as time travel movies always do) or there are big gaping plot holes to dodge it’s all fun enough and the characters likeable enough that you’ll decide to stick with it.
The main focus (as with most of the X-Men movies) is with the ongoing bromance between Magneto and Professor X, in the 1970’s played by Michael Fassbender and James McAvoy and in the future by Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart. Both sets of characters exude wonderful chemistry together on screen which I feel echoes their true friendships as actors off camera, making them really feel like old friends reunited. The film is in essence a continuation of their origin story which started in X-Men: First Class, as we follow the two characters and the decisions they make which will lead to Professor X becoming a leader and Magneto becoming a villain. The catalyst for all this is Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) who is expected to commit the assassination that will result in the aforementioned dark dystopian future, and so the battle for Mystique’s soul begins, meaning Jennifer Lawrence is given a crucial role in the film (perhaps due to Jennifer Lawrence’s enduring appeal with audiences) and isn’t just bouncing along in her blue birthday suit (as, literally, a bit of blue for the dads) but is actually the key to the World’s future.
The 1970’s: A History Lesson
In case you didn’t know much of the political and social landscape of life in the 70’s, Days of Future Past handily offers us some subtle story signposts to help. Including:
– A dodgy Richard Nixon look-alike doing his outstretched ‘I’m not a crook’ gesture.
– A fight scene that’s set in Vietnam towards the end of the war.
– References to JFK’s assassination (apparently it was a conspiracy and JFK was in fact a mutant)
-Professor Xavier looking like a washed up Jim Morrison, hiding away in his mansion hooked on mutant super skag. (Actually this whole list sounds like some sort of drugged up wet dream from the mind of Oliver Stone)
There are other 70’s filmic styles evident in the action too, there’s a great heist scene featuring Quicksilver breaking into the Pentagon, some suspenseful paranoia scenes at Trask Industries and a number of twists on classic ideas (a shoot out where the bullets chase after their victim) all well paced and exciting action sequences which make the first half of the film fly by. The second half however begins to settle down slightly as we get into the more melodramatic and emotional scenes representing Mystique’s moral battle, a section which to be honest could have done with another action sequence to keep the momentum up. The melodrama however is accompanied at all times by a real sense of threat, these characters are literally fighting for their future, it’s a threat that makes this X-Men film feel bigger, more expansive and more important than ever before. As the tension builds to a nail biting climax it becomes clear that director Bryan Singer is cleverly using time travel to reboot his own franchise (having directed the first two X-Men movies), in a similar way to how JJ Abrams did with the reinvention of the Star Trek franchise. The end result feels almost like Singer sticking the middle finger up at Brett Ratner’s awful X-Men: The Last Stand which not only killed off main characters but also nearly the franchise.
Using time travel to link up both threads of the franchise is a brilliant move and the skill in juggling so many characters, arcs and timelines is as mind boggling as the time travel concept itself, but in the end it all just comes down to being a great excuse for you to see all your favourate mutants (and some new ones) team up, in one place, giving us the audience, the best of both worlds. I for one left the cinema with a satisfied feeling and a smile on my face. As a committed comic book geek I was especially happy to see this great story line done properly, full of inventive ideas and a good sense of humour (one particular gag which comes to mind is Wolverine going through a metal detector without the reaction you’d expect).
X-men: Days of Future Past is a great summer blockbuster with a bit of brains and some hefty acting (and 70’s mutton) chops. In relation to the other 75 X-Men movies it’s a bit better than First Class, way better than The Last Stand and nearly as good as X2 (which is the best of the X-movies in my opinion) meaning it honourably teleports up the podium to pick up the franchise’s (Quick)silver medal.
Rating: Best blockbuster of the summer (so far!).
5 bone claws out of 6
Question: Is time travel this years vampires/zombies/erupting volcano/apocalyptic asteroid/film theme that’s coincidentally released at a similar time? What with X-Men being followed by Edge of Tomorrow and the forthcoming Welcome To Yesterday its hard to know if you’re coming or going, or going and coming!
Oh yeah and altogether now…….. WILD BOYS!
The animated series:
CONTAINS SPOILERS, LIES AND BROKEN DREAMS…..
Odeon Employee: That’ll be £13.80 please.
Me: Haha, £13.80, you’re kidding right?
Odeon Employee: Oh and an extra £1.50 for 3D glasses.
Me: But… but its 2:15pm… on a weekday… and I didn’t even want to see it in 3D, but you’re not showing it in 2D!
Odeon Employee: I know, but we are in London.
Me: Its not like were at an Imax in Leicester fucking Square, so do I get to watch it in my own private bungalow, or in a hot tub receiving a Swedish massage or is this just for standard seating?
Odeon Employee: Yes they’re standard seats, but I can upgrade you to premiere?
Me: No, I’d have to take out a pay day loan, remortgage the house and sell the family silver for that. So I’ll just get the standard…for £13.80!!!
Odeon Scum: Plus the 3D glasses.
Hate-filled cinema goer: (through gritted teeth) Yesss!
Sarcastic cine-staff: Any food or drink?
Psychotic film fan: AAAAAAHHHH!
This is how the conversation at the Odeon Camden might have gone if I hadn’t been quite so excited to see the new Godzilla movie, if I hadn’t just eagerly handed over my money with a big stupid grin on my face and skipped my way to the standard seat, I’m British and therefore allergic to complaining in person (I have to dwell on it, think it over a thousand times and then I’ll only put it in writing).
Anyway my anticipation for the reboot of this giant lizard franchise was at an all time high, I’d been sucked in by its brilliant marketing campaign, which teased sumptuous shots mixed with lots of people turning round looking at something big…Whenever I see screen shots like the one above I always like to imagine that their looking at something else, like this…
I was also excited because the studios had cleverly chosen a proper director who’d already made a properly good indie monster movie (the originally titled Monsters) it even had Walter White in it from Breaking Bad and of course there was a big fuck off dinosaur thing smashing shit up. What could go wrong? Well after I’d sold all my personal possessions for a ticket I sat down to find out, I hoped it would be a reinvention of a franchise that had been defeated more times than it had succeeded. I wanted it to crush my memories of the forgettable 90’s version (starring Matthew Broderick with its weird beast that eerily resembled Jimmy Hill/Bruce Forsyth/another big chinned celebrity) that it would smash those memories into the ground under its titanic toes only to be reborn as a powerful nuclear monster for the Fukushima era.
We begin the story with Walter White already in Japan, I assume he’s there to expand his drug empire, he’s definitely undercover cos he’s wearing a dodgy wig on his head (see rug above) his new sidekick is a hot-headed lizard who spends his time mashed on nuclear energy staggering around the city screaming ‘Yeah I’m destroying buildings….biiiitch!’ We’re briefly introduced to Walter’s wife, Juliet Binoche, who before you can say ‘What was she in again?’ ends up Three Colours Dead, then not long after that our Heisenberg hero also bites the radioactive dust (which we should have known was coming from the ‘…and Bryan Cranston’ credit) leaving us abandoned and directionless in the hands of dull as dishwater Aaron Taylor Johnson as Cranston’s son. A character we’re supposed to connect with simply because he loves his family (that’s what you’re meant to do, Hollywood!) so having killed off all the interesting characters we’re left to follow the pretty boy with the big eyes, who also happens to be a bomb defuser in the army, joining him as he tracks the monsters, follows army orders, does what he’s told, and is generally boring throughout.
There are some good ideas in the movie’s set up, such as the idea to bring the threat of the monsters over from Japan to the US leaving a trail of devastation in their wake like some sort of crazy monster themed pub crawl, but like a pub crawl the film goes on that little bit too long, ‘til you feel a bit like you should have gone home a while ago, stifling yawns and feeling a bit queasy (probably because of those shots of 3D you did earlier).
Godzilla feels like a film that’s already been cut down substantially from a longer running time (which begs the question why did they leave us with the yawny bits) cuts which actually make the plot seem more incomprehensible than it should be (so where are they now? Why are they doing that?? There are three monsters???). It has a great supporting cast of actors like Ken Wantanabe and Sally Hawkins but it’s depressing to see them given such underwritten roles, spending most of their time shouting ‘Oh my god!’ ‘It’s impossible’ staring at screens and spouting soporific scientific sentences until you want to switch off. It seems strange that after showing such skill in slowly drawing out character development in Monsters that Edwards seems to be such a slave to the script here, maybe the big budget has overwhelmed the project and diminished the reason why he was a good choice for the film in the first place.
In Monsters, the director proved he was a master of holding back (ooh get in line girls!) only showing us the creatures in full towards the end, a tactic he employs again here, but seems to have backfired as it’s resulted in many critics complaining that they want more Godzilla in their Godzilla movie. Which is fair enough, considering it’s not really a big surprise when he does turn up, he’s in the title after all and we know what he basically looks like, a hungover hedgehog. In fact I found myself getting quite bored waiting around for the big reveal, as the whole film geared up for the final act for a big smashy smashy showdown between Godzilla and the other monsters, I found myself unable to care anymore, somehow they’d done the impossible – they’d made a movie about giant lizards smashing shit up, that was boring.
Of course some of the cinematography that accompanies it all is stunning, the SFX (which is Gareth Edward’s strong point) are superb, especially in the fight scenes and the amazing skydiving scene but it’s all the stuff we’ve already seen in the trailer and I want my £13.80’s worth (plus 3D glasses). Most of the issues with the film really come down to the script, with its boring characters, self-explanatory dialogue, scientific mumbo jumbo and set pieces with no real sense of threat. So if anyone’s to blame it looks like angry fingers should be wagged at writers Dave Callaham (whose previous credits include Doom and The Expendables) and Max Borenstein (with this his first feature credit) who have created a plot which really isn’t a huge departure from the much maligned 90’s version. One thing is for sure they spent more time designing the monster than on the characters or the plot. In its most ridiculous moments there’s even a scene that reveals a monster’s balls, no not the film Monster’s Ball with Halle Berry, an actual monster’s scrote bag.
I left the cinema feeling a bit cold (not because I was naked and penniless) filled with a sense of disappointment, I’d expected more nuance, more character, more subtlety, just more. But it was about as subtle as a lizards ball sack, gone were the indie touches I expected and instead it was replaced with a full on CG Hollywood blockbuster that reminded me of Jurassic Park (at its best) and Congo (at its worst). Compared to other recent monster movies it’s much less fun than say Pacific Rim, and therefore I’d advise you to just throw it in a specific bin! Labelled: Nuclear Waste!
Verdict: A load of balls…..
6 dangling monster sacks out of 25