Let’s get something out of the way right up from. Yours truly didn’t “hate” X-Men: Days of Future Past. Not by a long shot. Do I have problems with it? Absolutely. Do I think it stands as one of the best installments in Marvel’s movie mutant mythos? Sure. Is it the number one film in the franchise? No. That title goes to its predecessor, First Class. Why? Well, I liked Matthew Vaughan’s approach more than Bryan Singer’s (still unsure of why this hit or miss filmmaker gets so much fanboy love), I’ve grown tired of the overuse of some characters, and am not sure what I was supposed to get out of the experience except it being a set-up for yet another in a long line of “planned” trilogies. Still, I was entertained, intrigued, and in the end, capable of recommending it to any who still reads film reviews as a reference guide. So, you may be asking, why the caveat? If you liked it, what’s the problem?
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Sometimes, my fellow film critics infuriate me. One of the most highly anticipated movies of 2014 has to be Gareth Edwards reboot of the beloved giant lizard Godzilla. Back in 1998, Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin, hot off their success with Independence Day, were hired by Tri-Star Pictures to fulfill their rights agreement with Japanese producer Toho Studios for a trilogy of American Godzilla movies with the only prerequisite being they stay “true” to the original films and warn against nuclear proliferation and runaway technology. Naturally, the duo ignore most of said prerequisites. While there was promise in their approach, the final result was a ridiculous combination of showboating set-pieces and lax character development. Audiences agreed.
Over the weekend of 4 April, HBO premiered last Summer’s divisive DC tentpole Man of Steel. For those unfamiliar with the property, this was Warner Bros. attempt, with help of Dark Knight maestro Christopher Nolan (in a producer’s role) of bringing Superman back to the big screen. After 2006’s equally contentious take by Bryan Singer, Superman Returns, many saw limited possibilities for harnessing Krypton’s last hope into a Marvel like movie dynasty. Indeed, while that comic label became a billion dollar multinational conglomerate, director Zack Snyder was still trying to map out a strategy that would make our greatest American hero “super” again. Some say he succeeded. Others had serious reservations. Overall, the film was a big enough hit that Warners ordered a sequel and that’s when the shitstorm happened.
In his continuing effort to be a relevant post-political career movie star again, Arnold Schwarzenegger has tried almost anything. He added his name to the aging action icon franchise The Expendables, then set out on his own for the High Noon-lite of The Last Stand and the lax buddy prison effort (with Sly Stallone) Escape Plan. This week he will be amping up his game, taking on the latest from Training Day‘s David Ayers and Swordfish‘s Skip Woods. Entitled Sabotage, it’s being sold as a quasi-realist DEA vs. drug cartels standoff. Lots of gun raised raids for Arnie and his co-stars Sam Worthington, Terrence Howard, Joe Manganiello, Josh Holloway, Max Martin, and Mireille Enos, among others. The trailer tells us the plots revolves around a group of high intensity Feds who run afoul of a cartel, putting Schwarzenegger’s family in jeopardy…
There was a time, not so long ago, when they were all we had. Film fans waited an entire year just to see their favorites line up for the annual red carpet ritual, the end result being a decorative gold statue (or disappointment) and a slap on the back from their own insular club (or not). The previous 12 months held a wealth of possibilities, and it all boiled down to a four hour excuse for grandstanding and kowtowing, legends being built while some movie myths were dismantled. It was our chance to see those famous faces with their guard down, wins eliciting cheers (or jeers) with losses and snubs providing a similar level of consideration/controversy. Back before the Internet, back before the social media tweeted the trivial and the travesty of every cinematic step, the Oscars mattered. Like prize fighting, horse racing, and professional chess playing, The Academy Awards used to be a national obsession. Now, they’re just a nuisance.