Tag Archive: X-Men: Days of Future Past


This year’s already seen the release of three major superhero films and it’s hard not to get burnt out on their familiar tricks. But the release of the year’s fourth big budget superhero movie – X-Men: Apocalypse – proves that the genre still has some life in it. The X-Men franchise has always been a step above most other comic book franchises and that’s mostly because of their choice in cast and directors. This may not be the best film in the franchise (that title still belongs to 2014’s excellent X-Men: Days of Future Past) but this is still a great film filled with awesome visuals, great characters and memorable action. It’s easily the year’s best blockbuster so far and the best superhero movie to come along since its predecessor.

Thousands of years ago, Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac) rose to power as the world’s first mutant. He had the ability to transfer into different bodies whenever he wanted and this allowed him to absorb numerous powers from other mutants. But he was eventually buried at the base of a great pyramid and he stayed that way until 1983. When he once again awakens, he sets out to purge the world of any non-mutants by recruiting four followers that he imbues with great power: Storm (Alexandra Shipp), Angel (Ben Hardy), Psylocke (Olivia Munn) and Magneto (Michael Fassbender). As Apocalypse begins to cause mayhem and destruction around the world, it’s going to take Professor X (James McAvoy), Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence), Beast (Nicholas Hoult) and a bunch of younger heroes to stop him.

It’s a fairly simple story of good versus evil and a nice change of pace from the complex themes of other entries in the franchise. A lot of the film relies on the portrayal of the villain and Apocalypse is one of the most memorable supervillains to come along in quite some time. Although he may be unrecognizable in the role, Isaac’s performance is perfectly menacing and powerful, while the design of the character is memorable and kind of frightening. The fact that they achieved this look through makeup and avoided using CGI or motion capture adds such a deal of weight to the character. He really feels like a legitimate part of the X-Men world and this focus on practical effects is what makes Apocalypse so much more intimidating than other powerful supervillains that are created using digital effects (Marvel’s Thanos comes to mind). Although his character and motivations are somewhat underdeveloped, he’s still a villain that commands the screen.

Praise then must go to director Bryan Singer, who continues to prove that his entries are easily the best in this franchise. It’s actually pretty crazy that he’s able to balance so many different characters, all of whom are given their moments to shine. The story and structure is admittedly a little all over the place, but it never feels confusing or bloated, even with a nearly two and a half hour runtime. The X-Men films simply feel more grand and cinematic than the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the majority of this is in the hands of the director. It also doesn’t hurt things that Apocalypse is a really dark film, more so than most people would be expecting. Children are killed, men get their heads lopped off by Apocalypse and, in one stunning sequence, Magneto even tears apart Auschwitz in a fit of rage. It’s safe to say that you may want to think twice before bringing your kids to this one.

Another reason why this movie might not interest children is its general lack of action. Some fanboys might be disappointed by this, but I found the focus on characters and story, rather than action and explosions, to be refreshing. But the action that is here is still very well done and much more memorable than in any other superhero film so far this year. The final extended action sequence is commendable in how all of the characters are able to work together and really feel like a team. Singer’s able to make the action easy to follow and the final thirty minutes of this film are much better than the airport fight scene in Captain America: Civil War that everyone seemed to be raving about. But the best action in the movie once again comes from Quicksilver (Evan Peters), who uses his speed to rescue an entire school from an explosion. Set to the tune of “Sweet Dream” by Eurythmics, it’s funny, visually interesting and a heck of a lot of fun. The scene may be a retread of his standout sequence in Days of Future Past, but it’s a retread that I had a blast with.

This franchise has always featured a great cast and Apocalypse is no exception. McAvoy continues to grow into the role of Professor X, delivering a performance that fits right alongside Patrick Stewart’s, while never feeling like a simple impression. Fassbender’s Magneto is put through the emotional ringer in this thing and he delivers what might be his best performance in the trilogy as a result. Lawrence once again does a fine job with the role of Mystique, but her portrayal is nowhere near as good as Rebecca Romijn’s in the original trilogy. Newcomers to the team include Sophie Turner as Jean Grey, Tye Sheridan as Cyclops and Kodi Smit-McPhee as Nightcrawler. Out of the newcomers, Smit-McPhee is probably the best, although there’s something to be said about Turner’s ability to portray such a complex character.

Whereas the Marvel Cinematic Universe makes superhero movies, the X-Men franchise features films that just happen to be about superheroes. They’re superior in almost every way including visuals, story, score, performances and direction. Singer has great control over the material and his direction is so strong that it will make you wish he could direct every superhero film from now into the foreseeable future. As a fan of superheroes, these last couple years had me losing faith that this genre could wow me again. But, luckily, X-Men: Apocalypse is the superhero movie we’ve been waiting for.

X-Men: Apocalypse receives 3.5/4

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We all love superheroes, but sometimes less is more. After having been treated to some excellent superhero team-up films like The Avengers and X-Men: Days of Future Past, it’s become clear that simply throwing a bunch of different heroes into a single movie isn’t enough to impress anymore. It no longer feels like an event to have Iron Man fighting alongside Captain America and therein lies the problem with Captain America: Civil War. It’s a film that throws together more superheroes than we’ve ever seen together on the big screen, but it lacks an interesting story or memorable action to make anything standout. If this film had come out at the beginning of the recent superhero craze it probably would have felt incredible, but it’s hard not to watch this and feel numb to its effects.

In reality, this feels like two separate films that are mushed together and the two different storylines don’t always complement each other particularly well. The first major thread involves a disagreement that brews between Captain America (Chris Evans) and Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.). When a group of the Avengers accidentally end up killing several civilians in Lagos, the Secretary of State (William Hurt) proposes that all of the superheroes sign an accord that would prevent them from acting on their own free will. If they agree to sign this document, they would be under the control of the United Nations, who would give the Avengers orders when they see fit. Stark is in favor of signing this document, while Captain America strongly opposes it.

The other major focus of the movie involves Captain America trying to help his friend Bucky (Sebastian Stan), who has been reprogrammed by Hydra into the Winter Soldier. When the headquarters of the United Nations in Vienna is bombed, Bucky is the prime suspect, although Captain America is still determined to prove his innocence. Stark sees this attack as even more reason for the heroes to sign the accord, but he’s unable to convince Captain America. This leads to a standoff, with half of the Avengers siding with Stark and the other half siding with Captain America. It may not be an easy choice, but everybody is going to have to choose a side and stick to it.

While Civil War is being marketed as The Avengers 2.5, the focus of the film is still mostly on Captain America and Tony Stark. And you have to give Marvel credit for effectively working so many different characters into a single story, without it ever feeling like an overload. Admittedly, certain characters probably aren’t given the attention they deserve and a reveal involving Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) would have been so much more satisfying in his own movie, but things definitely could have been much worse. But even if the screenplay from Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely is able to juggle so many different heroes, it’s all wasted on mediocre direction and a lack of vision from Anthony and Joe Russo.

The Russo Brothers have proven that they know how to film a big budget picture, but their inability to direct compelling action has become more apparent with each Marvel film they make. Their action sequences are too frantically edited, cutting way too often and refusing to let a scene breathe. In a sequence where Bucky grabs a motorcycle and hops onto it in one quick motion, the Russo Brothers cut together at least three different shots in less than a second and completely distract from what should have been a cool action moment. It’s this over-editing that creates a lack of coherence in most of these big action scenes; it’s often difficult to tell what is going on and what everybody is immediately doing.

But it’s clear that the majority of the Russo Brothers’ attention was on the big 17-minute airport fight between the two groups of heroes. And you would think that this would be the moment that dazzles the audience, making grown men feel like children again. Sadly, this isn’t the case and the extended fight sequence is blandly directed, weakly choreographed and generally uninteresting. This is an action set piece that hardly feels like an action set piece. If it wasn’t for the fan-favorite heroes at the center of this fight, hardly a single moment would feel memorable and nothing about it feels extraordinary. The Russo Brothers are certainly no Joss Whedon and the dullness of this big sequence has me worried about their involvement in the next Avengers sequel.

While the direction of this big sequence feels completely mediocre, there is one element that at least makes it somewhat fun to watch: Spider-Man. Tom Holland is a joy to watch as Spider-Man, perfectly capturing the sarcastic quips and fun nature of the web-slinging hero. It feels like casting a younger version of Spider-Man was a smart move and I can’t wait to see Holland further flesh out his character. It’s a testament to Holland’s performance that I’m much more excited for the upcoming Spider-Man: Homecoming than The Avengers: Infinity War. The other new addition to the cast is Chadwick Boseman as Black Panther. While he isn’t quite the scene-stealer that Spider-Man is, Black Panther is a welcome addition to the Avengers team. His unique costume and interesting background make him far more interesting than most of the other secondary heroes in the film.

The prospect of Iron Man and Captain America fighting was sure to excite Marvel fans, but the finished product is a disappointment that brings hardly anything new or interesting to the table. Remember that feeling of joy you experienced while watching The Avengers fight together for the first time? Well Captain America: Civil War has twice as many heroes doing battle with each other and it’s unable to generate even a fraction of that wonder or excitement. If all you’re looking to do is turn your brain off and stare at the screen while a dozen superheroes fight each other for a few minutes, this movie will scratch your itch. Beyond that, it’s sure to be forgotten by most when the summer movie season concludes.

Captain America: Civil War receives 2/4

My Top Ten Films of 2014

Best of 2014

Honorable Mentions (In Alphabetical Order): 22 Jump Street, Calvary, Edge of Tomorrow, Godzilla, Guardians of the Galaxy, Inherent Vice, Interstellar, John Wick, The Lego Movie, The One I Love, The Raid 2, Under the Skin, X-Men Days of Future Past

  1. The Guest – Any of my honorable mentions could have made their way into my number 10 slot, but I ended up choosing Adam Wingard’s hugely satisfying thriller, The Guest. It’s a story about a naïve family who open up their home to a total stranger, only to discover that this man is not as innocent as he seems. Like Wingard’s past efforts, it’s nothing more than a genre exercise, but it’s one that feels uniquely fresh and entertaining. With great performances, slick action and an awesome soundtrack, The Guest feels like a throwback to some of the more ridiculous action films of the 80s, while also managing to mix in its own modern sensibilities.
  1. LockeLocke is 85 minutes of Tom Hardy driving a car and talking on a phone. That’s it. Writer/director Steven Knight has somehow taken a gimmicky premise and used it to provide a wholly realized portrait of man who is simply trying to make the right decisions in his life. The character of Locke is forced to deal with the complications of a concrete pour, while also recovering from the confession of his infidelity to his wife. Attempting to supervise a concrete pour over the phone may not sound exciting and when the movie first begins, it isn’t. But as we begin to learn more about who Locke is and why he’s choosing to make these decisions, every aspect of his life becomes more and more fascinating. This is really a film that gets better and better as the film progresses and it’s all because of the slow development of Locke’s character and Tom Hardy’s incredible performance. Locke is a simple story, told in a unique and daring fashion.
  1. Fury – A profile of five men operating a tank in the European Theater of WWII, Fury is thoroughly gripping from start to finish. The action sequences are intense, well-directed and manage to separate themselves from the pack of other WWII movies with their focus on tank warfare. The film is bloody, brutal and none of the characters ever feel safe from the onslaught of enemy fire. A sequence that pits four American tanks against a superior German tank is shocking and exciting, as is the climactic standoff where our squad must battle an entire battalion of SS Nazi soldiers. But the action is worthless if you don’t care about the characters, so director David Ayer makes sure that each tank member has a distinctive personality. A highlight of the film is an extended sequence where Brad Pitt and Logan Lerman’s characters play house with two young German women. It’s a break in the action, but it goes to show how desperate these men are to receive some semblance of normalcy within the consistent chaos that they’re exposed to day after day. By making the war seem legitimately scary, Fury earns its place alongside all the great WWII movies.
  1. The Grand Budapest Hotel – Love him or hate him, it’s impossible to deny that Wes Anderson has developed a style that’s uniquely his own. With The Grand Budapest Hotel, he’s crafted his most beautiful looking film. Thanks to incredible set direction and production design, practically every frame of the film is a visual wonder. You could watch it with the sound off and still be entertained, but then you would be missing out on the engaging story and sharp dialogue that add another layer of beauty to the film. Aided by a great cast, Anderson has crafted a hugely entertaining tale that works as a remembrance for passed down stories and an affinity for days gone by. Viewers willing to check into this film are sure to enjoy their stay.
  1. Enemy – A surreal and provocative mindbender that’s as frightening as any horror film released this year, Enemy is an intricately plotted thriller that demands multiple viewings. From the opening shot to the final frame, it’s a film that will hold its viewers in a near constant state of suspense. Director Denis Villeneuve’s follow-up to last year’s Prisoners proves that he’s a master at holding viewers on the edge. Jake Gyllenhaal delivers a great two-sided performance and the grim cinematography from Nicolas Bolduc effectively provides the feeling that something just isn’t quite right in this world. Speaking of things not being quite right, the ending is a real shocker that ranks up there with the best of this year. Viewers accustomed to having every plot detail spoon fed to them should look elsewhere; this is a film that will lead to questions, interpretations and conversations. Sometimes, that’s the best kind of cinema.
  1. Boyhood – Shot intermittently from May 2002 to October 2013, Boyhood chronicles the life of a young boy named Mason from ages 6 to 18. It’s an incredible production story, but the film transcends this potential gimmick with fully realized characters, heartfelt moments and interesting themes that most coming of age films don’t even attempt to tackle. Never before has a film so expertly captured what it’s like to live in the 21st century. Everything from the clothes, to the hairstyles, to the vernacular feels authentic with the time period because each scene was filmed in its respective year. Decades from now, people will look back on this film as an authentic snapshot of life in the early 21st century. The amount of things that could have gone wrong with director Richard Linklater’s ambitious project are endless, but somehow everything came together to create a true piece of art that is as beautiful and moving as any motion picture can be. Linklater’s naturalistic direction keeps things poetically simple and eleven years of footage leads to an ending that is breathtaking in how it says so much by saying so little. This is surely one of the most realistic films ever made, but it’s also one of the most magical. I’ve never seen anything quite like Boyhood.
  1. Gone Girl – Adapated from Gillian Flynn’s entertaining page-turner of the same name, Gone Girl is a harrowing mystery that’s engrossing from start to finish. Fans of the source material will be pleased at the faithfulness of this adaptation, while new viewers will be absolutely floored by some of the twists and turns that this movie takes. Not only is it a great thriller, but it’s also a great satire of modern relationships and marriages. The extreme, heightened scenario that these characters are placed in may be rare, but the actions that they take while in this strange scenario are simply exaggerations of what many people do while in a marriage. Couples lie to each other, pretend to be someone else and struggle for power. These characters are written as hyperbolic exaggerations for a reason. Director David Fincher once again proves that he’s a master behind the camera, crafting a film that never lets up throughout its extended runtime. Not only does it rank right up there with his best work, but it’s also one of the most wholly satisfying thrillers to come out in years.
  1. Nightcrawler – A brilliant satire of modern news and the cutthroat business world, Nightcrawler is a startlingly accomplished directorial debut from Dan Gilroy. Jake Gyllenhaal delivers the best performance of 2013 and crafts a totally unique and interesting character in the process. Gyllenhaal’s Louis Bloom is a total sociopath, willing to put anybody into danger as long as it will get him further ahead. He wants to achieve success and he absolutely does not care how he gets there. Gyllenhaal reportedly lost 20 pounds for the role and Bloom’s gaunt physique and long hair only add to his uncomfortable persona. The script by Gilroy also offers plenty of dark humor that may catch some viewers off guard. Gyllenhaal’s character is so loathsome that you almost have to laugh at all of the horrible acts he’s willing to commit. All of these acts culminate in a fantastically directed final action sequence, one that continues to shock even after you think it could go no further. It’s a film that’s full of surprises and feels like a breath of fresh air in the occasionally mundane cinematic landscape.
  1. Foxcatcher – If you’re looking for a feel-good film to boost your spirits and morale, then I must warn you to stay far, far away from Foxcatcher. Here is a sports film with all of the happiness sucked out of it, which is then replaced by an ever mounting sense of dread and scenarios so disturbing that they’re borderline horror movie territory. But what makes this film scarier than most is that it’s completely true. In his best film to date, director Bennett Miller has crafted a true-life tale that’s as haunting as a quiet nightmare. Miller is aided by a fascinating script and three transformative performances from Channing Tatum, Steve Carell and Mark Ruffalo. Aided by some extensive makeup work, Carell’s performance as the wealthy John du Pont is a true standout and the character that he embodies lingers long after the film has ended. It’s a thematically rich film about tragedy, loneliness, the obsession to achieve greatness, and the idea that the wealthiest people in America can use their money to buy whatever kind of life they desire. In just his fourth feature film, Bennett Miller has created a true work of art that is nothing short of astounding.
  1. Whiplash – Sometimes the best thing about movies is their ability to surprise you. Before I saw Whiplash, I would have never imagined that it would end up being my favorite film of 2014. Now, over two months since I originally saw it, my love for the film has only continued to grow. This tale of a maniacal jazz conductor and the young student that he chooses to inflict his wrath upon is intense and undeniably powerful. This isn’t a heartfelt story of a teacher encouraging a student to do his best; it’s a story of a harmful relationship between an abuser and an abusee. Director Damien Chazelle’s directing is tight and spot-on, while his script smartly explores the idea of wanting to achieve something regardless of the cost. Miles Teller delivers an extremely physical performance as we watch him bang on the drum set until his hands are bloody, while J.K. Simmons creates one of the most vicious, ruthless, disturbing and downright evil characters to appear in a movie in quite some time. All of this builds to a final sequence that is equal parts shocking and exhilarating. Just as the film appears to veer towards a fairly obvious ending, the rug is pulled out from underneath us with a truly surprising reveal. Chazelle manages to find an ending that is neither completely uplifting nor completely upsetting and entirely avoids the schmaltz that is typically associated with similar films. It’s more frightening that any horror film I’ve seen in years and one of the most uncomfortable viewing experiences that I’ve ever had. With taut direction, amazing performances and an infectiously toe-tapping jazz soundtrack, this is sure to blow away your expectations, just like it did mine. Whiplash is, without a doubt, the best film of the year.

ImageIn less than 15 years, the X-Men franchise has produced a grand total of seven films, which is nothing short of an impressive feat. These films have ranged from quite good (X-Men: First Class) to downright awful (X-Men: The Last Stand), but the franchise failed to have a truly great entry until now. X-Men: Days of Future Past takes the long running superhero franchise to new heights with a dark storyline, fantastic action, plenty of emotion and strong performances from a cast that we have grown to love. This is the X-Men movie that we’ve been waiting for.

Beginning in the future, sometime after the events of X-Men: The Last Stand, mutants are being wiped out by an army of robots known as The Sentinels. Not only are these Sentinels targeting mutants, but they are also targeting humans who have helped mutants or may give birth to mutants in the future. Because of their ability to adapt to changing conditions, these enemies are far too powerful for mutants to defeat. In order to prevent this future from ever happening Professor Xavier (Patrick Stewart) and Magneto (Ian McKellen) send Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) back in time to 1973. They tell Wolverine to find their younger selves (James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender) and prevent Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) from murdering the creator of the Sentinels, Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage), an event that ultimately triggers the dystopian future that they currently inhabit.

Most time travel movies are bound to have plot holes and continuity errors when you really stop to think about the plot. Don’t dwell on this aspect too much; it’s inevitable. The story by Simon Kinberg, Matthew Vaughn and Jane Goldman may be complicated, but screenwriter Kinberg pieces it together with minimal fallout. The opening fifteen minutes rely heavily on exposition to set up the plot, but this is mostly forgivable because time travel can be a pain to wrap one’s mind around. Once everything is set up and Wolverine travels back to the past, confusion is practically non-existent and only a few distracting time travel questions arise throughout the course of the film.

Returning to direct his first X-Men film since 2003’s X2, Bryan Singer successfully blends both the cast from the original series with the cast from X-Men: First Class, without the film feeling convoluted. The film could have easily felt like it was trying to throw in too many characters, but Singer negates this problem by spending ample time exploring each character and their current state before moving onto the action. Several mutants who were featured prominently in First Class are notably absent here and while their exclusion was almost certainly done to prevent the film from feeling overloaded, their absence is felt and the quick explanation as to why they are gone feels disappointing.

This isn’t a film of nonstop action, but a film of characters and story. The action sequences never feel forced, feeling instead like a natural continuation of the story, making them all the more satisfying. Singer knows that the most important aspect of action sequences is to fill them with characters that we care about, which makes them all the more engaging. Due to their impressive size and strength, every scene involving the Sentinels is extremely intense and the visual effects that make them come to life are quite convincing. A prison break sequence is one of the film’s highlights, effectively mixing action and humor into a very enjoyable scene. Finally, the film’s climactic moments are a sight to behold, mixing together multiple threats, characters and timelines into a battle that has to be seen to be believed.

Returning for a seventh time as Wolverine, Hugh Jackman continues to be great in the role. Wolverine’s sense of humor is always intact and a late scene showcases Wolverine at his most emotional and Jackman genuinely pulls it off. James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender continue to excel as the young Professor Xavier and Magneto. The two of them have great chemistry together, making every scene of theirs fascinating. Having much more to do this time around than in First Class, Jennifer Lawrence successfully turns Mystique into the sexy warrior that she was in the original trilogy. Because he is a man who threatens with words and ideas, Peter Dinklage steals practically every scene that he is in as Bolivar Trask. The returning cast from the original trilogy all do a fine job in their future scenes, although several new characters who are introduced in the future timeline aren’t given any development beyond their unique abilities.

With an incredibly emotional third act that showcases an enthralling and touching score by John Ottman, X-Men: Days of Future Past could serve as a fitting finale to the long running franchise. While this isn’t the case (X-Men: Apocalypse is already scheduled for a 2016 release date), it speaks to the effectiveness of this film. Days of Future Past has the characters, action, humor and sense of fun that combine to create one of the best superhero films in years.

X-Men: Days of Future Past receives 3.5/4