Review: X-Men: Days of Future Past

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Director: Bryan Singer (Valkyrie, Superman Returns, X-Men, X-Men 2: X-Men United)
Screenplay: Simon Kinberg
Producers: Simon Kinberg, Hutch Parker, Lauren Shuler Donner, Bryan Singer
Starring: Hugh Jackman, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Ellen Page, Nicholas Hoult, Peter Dinklage, Ian McKellen, Patrick Stewart, Halle Berry, Anna Paquin
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Running time: 131 min.


One would think that after successfully re-launching the X-Men with a new A-list cast a couple of years ago, the studio would stick to that cast but as is common with comic books, it seems that creators are always jumping around timelines, characters and stories, it’s only appropriate that a sequel that brings director Bryan Singer back into the fold would not only involve time travel but also include nearly every member, past and present, of the X-Men movie franchise. Looking on the surface, you’d think this is the movie to end the entire franchise rather than a next step.

X-Men: Days of Future Past opens somewhere in the 2020’s in a future that is dark, ugly, foreboding and just generally unpleasant. Kitty Pryde and her team of mutants are fighting apparently unstoppable robots who are able to adapt to the mutants they are fighting. Most of the mutants die. Except they don’t because jump forward a while and Pryde is now meeting up with Professor X, Magneto, Wolverine and Storm to explain her time-travel tactic. Everyone on screen seems to follow the explanation (though I still don’t really get it) and a plan is hatched to send Wolverine back to the 70s to change the past which will also change the future – they hope – for the better.

Would you like to know more…?

Trailer: X-Men Days of Future Past

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Fan service, or does the X-Men crossover pic actually have something actually to say? Who knows, but the trailer company they hired to cut this should be fired for slapping two of the most over-used trailer background music (from the Sunshine soundtrack and The Thin Red Line soundtrack). Both pieces have been used in far better trailers (The Adjustment Bureau uses the former and both Pearl Harbor and 12 Years A Slave, use the latter).

As for X-Men: Days of Future Past, the cast he is positively loaded with talent, but the issue was always too many cast members, now they have practically doubled things by moving across time lines. Judging from what we are teased with here, the whole thing is consistent with the X-Men franchise (now back to its original director, Bryan Singer) but offers little to get excited from beyond the excessive fanboy factor (and timeline continuity splitting was also recently done with the Star Trek reboot). Time will certainly tell as they cut better trailers for this property.

From Wikipedia (on the comic-book source material which is impossible to tell if they radically rewrote the film or not, so take with a grain of salt):

The storyline alternates between present day of 1980, in which the X-Men fight Mystique’s Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, and a future timeline, taking place in 2013, is caused by the X-Men’s failure to prevent the Brotherhood from assassinating Senator Robert Kelly. In this future universe, Sentinels rule the United States, and mutants live in internment camps. The present-day X-Men are forewarned of the possible future by a future version of their teammate Kitty Pryde, whose mind traveled back in time and possessed her younger self to warn the X-Men. She succeeds in her mission and returns to the future, but despite her success, the future timeline still exists as an alternative timeline rather than as the actual future.

Transmediation: From Batman to Scott Pilgrim (A Video Essay)

Remediation

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An academic but thoroughly enjoyable trip through the obvious with PhD Drew Morton and critic Matthew Zoller Seitz on how one medium can infect or be transposed into another, and the near-infinite hall of mirrors that Scott Pilgrim is for doing what it did. Well worth a look.

These are slippery subjects to analyze, but Morton never loses his grip here, and the final section—a detailed analysis of the style of Wright’s film—is dazzling. He talks about how Wright folds representations of comics, videogames and music into a movie based on a comic book that was itself strongly inspired by videogames, and in so doing, creates a “re-remediation.” If you tried to represent that on a page, it might look like a bunch of parentheses inside one big parenthetical, or maybe a line drawing of a Russian nesting doll, animated, with each layer’s shell cracking to reveal the layer beneath, each pop commemorated by a point value materializing in space and hanging there. Fifty points! A hundred! Next level!

Question of the Day: Are we at Peak Comic Book (Superhero) Movie?

Much like the Peak Oil analogy, the concept where all the easy oil-wells (cue The Beverly Hillbillies theme, or wailing Middle Eastern aria) have been tapped and exploited and now we either have to drill way off into the ocean, or remove copious amounts of sulphur to get good, usable hydrocarbons or by brute processing force, extract it from the sticky tar sands. Thus several treatments of Superman, Batman, Spiderman, and the popular mutants of the X-Men have yielded their massive cash bounties, nowhere more greater than the summer of 2012 where The Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises reaping box-office windfall (albeit at very high production and marketing costs).

The origin story has been done to death (albeit, The Amazing Spiderman trotted it out once again.) And with it (hopefully) passing, it invites more complex things like the tableaux of societal anxiety in the Nolan Batmans, flirtations with classical tragedy in Ang Lee’s Hulk, period-pieces like Fist Class and Captain America, the universe-slash-continuity building with Marvel Studios across many different characters or even the risky The Last Temptation Christ experiment in Superman Returns.

My question to you is this, with smaller comic book properties such as Ant Man in production, but really, just a slew of sequels and spin offs (Ironman, Thor, Wolverine, Robin) or team ups (Avengers 2, Justice League, Guardians Of The Galaxy) or the eventual reboot of Batman, do you think we’ve hit the peak of Box-Office, at this point, and that the slide (slow or fast) down the curve (with ever increasing budgets to make these things) will convince the major Hollywood Studios to start looking for another trend to get on board with for their big summer tentpoles? Or do you think that things are here to stay, and a more experimental, extracting black gold from the tar sands approach will yield the continuation of a golden age of Comic Book Superhero Films?

A primer of both the optimistic and not so optimistic views from last year, The Great Comic Book Movie Debate:

Man of Steel [Trailer]

Well, it’s still a year from now and Batman is in full tilt mode right at the moment; but no time like right now to look ahead to next summer’s giant super hero blockbuster and see what Zack Snyder has in store for us with his take on Superman: Man of Steel.

This trailer doesn’t give us much but we do at least get a glimpse of Kal-El in flight. But mostly it’s a tonal introduction to the movie. Sort of a small town, Americana feel to the whole thing. A blue-collar working man version of Clark Kent and his travels.

Written by David S. Goyer (Dark Knight Trilogy, Jumper, Blade trilogy), produced by Christopher Nolan and starring MICHAEL “I kick ass in everything” SHANNON AS GENERAL ZOD, we give you… Superman 6:

Rounding out the cast are:
Henry Cavill … Clark Kent / Superman
Amy Adams … Lois Lane
Russell Crowe … Jor-El
Kevin Costner … Jonathan Kent
Diane Lane … Martha Kent
Michael Shannon … General Zod
Christopher Meloni … Colonel Hardy
Laurence Fishburne … Perry White

Gamble’s Quick Thoughts: Chronicle

 

[This is an ongoing series where Cinecast regular and antagonist (He is our “Q”) Matt Gamble offers an immediate reaction to new movies coming to a theatre near you; they are cross-posted from his corner of the internet, Where The Long Tail Ends]  

I’m sure you’re quite aware of my fondness for comic books. I’ve been reading them, fairly faithfully, since the early 80′s and I don’t plan on stopping anytime soon. That being said, as I’ve aged I’ve drifted further and further from reading mainstream titles from Marvel and DC. Nothing against them, I’m a pretty die-hard fan of Vertigo, but I just don’t have much interest in most superhero titles these days, and Marvel and DC’s primary publications focus almost entirely on superheroes.

Nothing against superhero comics, I’m just a bit worn out after almost 30 years of reading them. They are still great when done well, but I simply don’t have the free time to wade through mediocrity, and unfortunately, in recent years too often mainstream superhero comics have been more concerned with just getting by then trying anything different or interesting.

Oddly enough, certain cinephiles are undergoing similar reservations when it comes to superhero movies. Sure they are one of the most popular sub-genres in recent memory, but man if critics don’t seem eager to crow about their downfall. Populism doesn’t pay the bills when you are a movie critic. Well, unless you are Peter Travers. That shill will rave about anything put in front of him.

Would you like to know more…?

Cinecast Episode 218 – Coked Out with a Shitty Comb Over

 
 
Matt Gamble returns to give us a breakdown on the newest D.C. property, Green Lantern. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves just yet. It being the halfway point of the year, we all take a at the state of the first 6 months and proffer up a top 5 films of 2011… so far. There is plenty of agreement and disagreement to be passed round the table, particularly on a certain ‘Killer Tire’ movie. After that it is a cornucopia of the latest theatrical screenings (Hammer Horror, quirky gay-father dramedy, and Supervisericide) before digging into Indiana Jones’ goofiest adventure, mid-1990s era action films (that as it turns out is not so nostalgic) and another movie that shall go unnamed (literally.) Oh yeah, and Cher. All of the usual DVD and Netflix stuff rounds out the show along with prognostication of Pixar’s next film being released this coming weekend: Cars 2. Sit back and enjoy this bed time story of sorts, with Andrew, Kurt, Matt and Sam.

As always, please join the conversation by leaving your own thoughts in the comment section below and again, thanks for listening!


 
 

 

To download the show directly, paste the following URL into your favorite downloader:
http://rowthree.com/audio/cinecast_11/episode_218.mp3

 
 
Full show notes are under the seats…
Would you like to know more…?

“Take Out” director Sean Baker on board for Will Eisner graphic novel adaptation

A Contract With God Book CoverAt the 22nd annual Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards which took place last week in San Diego, it was announced that the Eisner estate would be producing an adaptation of Eisner’s ground breaking graphic novel “A Contract With God.” A classic of the genre, “A Contract With God” has been referred to as the first graphic novel and features four related stories focusing on the immigrant struggle as Eisner experienced it as a child.

What’s particularly interesting about the announcement isn’t the fact that another comic is being adapted, especially one of this importance, but rather the talent that has been gathered to adapt the film, which will feature all four short stories, each with a different director. On board for the production are Sleep Dealer’s Alex Rivera, Children of Invention’s Tze Chun, Medicine for Melancholy’s Barry Jenkins and Take Out (review) co-director Sean Baker. It’s like a who’s who of indie up-and-comers all of whom have their very distinctive approach to storytelling.

It’ll be interesting to see what the finished package looks like, and whether it will appeal to the well versed comic book fan. I’m particularly curious to see what a film of this stature and potential wide spread appeal will mean for the directors involved and what sort of doors it may open up in the future.

It’s early days yet but I expect we’ll be seeing cast announcements in the coming months. Stay tuned to this space for updates.

Review: TECHNOTISE – EDIT & I

There is a moment at about the halfway point in manga inspired Serbian animated film Technotise: Edit & I where the lead character has intense consensual sex with her own central nervous system. The moment is a transcendent one both on a visual level but also in looking how identity can be divorced from the flesh but still used for physical gratification. Think of the Merovingian computer program giving another digital construct an orgasm in Matrix: Reloaded, yet have this one take place more in the real world from a machine merging into the body of its protagonist. I wish there were more moments like this in Technotise which often confines itself to a more straightforward chase and action extravaganza with only a scant cerebral morsels hidden along the way. Based on Aleksa Gajić’s comic book, Edit & I, it is a solid but not perfect first feature from animation house Black White ‘N’ Green. Nevertheless, it puts contemporary Serbia on the map as a place to watch not just in gory-graphic political films, but also digital pop entertainment.

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Cinecast Episode 171 – Spiffed Up Stuffy Stuff

 
Waxing (on, and off) nostagic this week with glossy summer product. Two remakes from the heady cheese days of the 1980s dominated the multiplex last weekend: Will Smith Jr. in The Karate Kid and flying tanks in The A-Team. Contrary to what we say in the show it does not get very “spoilerific” at all; if you are over 30, these two films are more or less beyond that (your mileage may vary). Gamble has a quick take on the upcoming weekends behemoth Toy Story 3, from the perspective of someone (perhaps the only one) who didn’t like Toy Story 2. Kurt talks at length on The Duplass’ brother’s Cyrus which also opens this weekend in a few cities. Furthermore, in an ongoing behind-the-curve look at pop-cultural phenomenon LOST, Kurt continues to moan about the bad drama and stalling nature of the narrative, but does praise the heck out of the Season 2 closer and the Season 3 opener (there are *spoilers* ahoy in that conversation, be warned). Rounding out the show are DVD picks, a few other tangents – anyone up for Chinese cultural imperialism, or Communism vs. Fascism in 80s trash? How to parse TV awards shows? Ron Mann’s choice of having comic book authors read lengthy portions of their books on screen? Fashion Fan Boys? Oh, and another round of the piracy, file sharing, copyright debate ensues.

As always, please join the conversation by leaving your own thoughts in the comment section below and again, thanks for listening!


To download the show directly, paste the following URL into your favorite downloader:
http://rowthree.com/audio/cinecast_10/episode_171.mp3

ALTERNATIVE (no music track):
http://rowthree.com/audio/cinecast_10/episode_171-alt.mp3

 
 
 
Full show notes are under the seats…
Would you like to know more…?

Bookmarks for April 16-20th

  • Dennis Cozzalio on the Memorable Lee Van Cleef
    “And because of the angularly unique sculpting of his features— an arrow-shaped head complemented by hawk-like nose, a smile that could seem warm and sinister almost simultaneously, and yes, those eyes—Van Cleef seemed destined, from the beginning of his movie career—a small part in Fred Zinnemann’s High Noon– to be typecast, albeit memorably, as a bad guy.”
  • Ray Harryhausen and the State of the Animation
    Horatia Harrod meets Ray Harryhausen at his London home and finds the post-war animation legend none too pleased with the state of modern film-making.
  • Actor Idris Elba, Generating His Own Buzz
    ““In this day and age, actors can’t afford to be pompous,” the 37-year-old Mr. Elba said, discussing a career that first caught fire with “The Wire” and peaked with last year’s popular but critically reviled potboiler “Obsessed.” “You can’t afford to turn your nose up at things. Audiences want to see you a bit more dynamic. We know you can act, Daniel Day-Lewis. That’s fantastic. Show us a bit more. We want to be entertained.””
  • “Video games can never be art” – Roger Ebert
    “…nevertheless, I remain convinced that in principle, video games cannot be art. Perhaps it is foolish of me to say “never,” because never, as Rick Wakeman informs us, is a long, long time. Let me just say that no video gamer now living will survive long enough to experience the medium as an art form.”
  • Better-Late-Than-Never: Another analysis of Starship Troopers
    “The business of satire is a risky one. When the concept is applied in literature, theatre, film or any other medium there is always a risk that it will be misunderstood. Satire is an ironic and sometimes sarcastic means of making an indirect social or political point, often leaving the author open to attack from those who were simply unable to distinguish their tone. Occasionally the reader/viewer will miss the point entirely or they’ll be convinced that the author believes in what they are satirising. Paul Verhoeven’s 1997 film Starship Troopers was not immune from the dangers of the audience misreading the films satirical content.”
  • Matt Brown on Kick-Ass
    “This is also why Kick-Ass is properly fantasy, and damned successful fantasy at that: because in the end of it all, Dave designs, and realizes, a complete revolution of the self. It’s a revolution which could never occur in the real world in the death-and-spraypaint comic book terms expressed here, but it’s a revolution which needs to happen for kids in the real world in some terms expressable somewhere. And baby, revolution’s afoot.”

 

You can now take a look at RowThree’s bookmarks at any time of your choosing simply by clicking the “delicious” button in the upper right of the page. It looks remarkably similar to this: