REVIEW: X-MEN DAYS OF FUTURE PAST (2014)

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Professor X: Logan, I was a very different man. Lead me, guide me, be patient with me.

Logan: Patience isn’t my strong suit.

Plot Synopsis

In a dark and desolate future mutants are hunted and killed by the indestructible robots named The Sentinals. Professor X and the X-Men plan to transport Wolverine back to the 1970s to stop an assassination that could change the future for the better.

 

Review:

The latest X-Men film reunites the original cast from the early 2000 trilogy with the cast of the recent X-Men: First Class (2011). First Class was set in the 60s and returned to the roots of the X-Men mythology where Charles Xavior became a Professor and Eric Lencher became the evil Magneto. First Class was in my opinion the best X-Men film made. Director Matthew Vaughn (Kick-Ass) created a pulpy retro adventure with career making performances from James McAvoy (Atonement), Michael Fassbender (Shame) and Jennifer Lawrence (The Hunger Games). In 2014 these three actors have become A list stars, all nominated for Academy Awards (with Lawrence winning in 2013 for Silver Linings Playbook). I wonder why the producers at Fox thought it was necessary to bring back the original cast of Patrick Stewart (Star Trek), Ian McKellan (The Hobbit), Halle Berry (The Call) and Ellen Page (Juno) who have somewhat fallen off the A list in recent years. If they had done a direct sequel to First Class and included all of the 70s set story found in this film, I believe the film could have been tighter and far more enjoyable with the opportunity to investigate these characters further and explore the wonderful retro setting. This film works best when it’s in the 70s and we follow the young Professor X, Magneto, and Mystique.

The most enjoyable scene takes place in the Pentagon where our heroes attempt to break out Magneto from an underground prison. The introduction of the enjoyable Quicksilver (Evan Peters) allows for some much needed humour and a clever slow motion sequence to follow. Unfortunately Quicksilver disappears without an explanation soon after.

The films tone is episodic and fragmented and is filled with ‘moments’ rather than fluid continuity. The scenes in the future are where the film really lacks. The future scenes are too dark and filled with unknown characters quickly getting killed by the sentinals. The action doesn’t add up to anything entertaining and the characters aren’t evolved enough for us to care. The future sequences aren’t needed and don’t add to the film overall except for give closure to the fans who are still upset about X-Men: The Last Stand (2006) which killed off a lot of the fan favourite lead characters.

My review may sound negative but the scenes in the 70s revolving around Professor X, Magneto, Mystique and Wolverine are the best in the franchise. Hugh Jackman as Wolverine is excellent as usual. His character has become the star of the series appearing in every X-Men film so far with two solely based on his character. He appears very comfortable in his role and has time to have some fun in this film instead of his usual brooding. James McAvoy has also grown comfortable in his role as the young Professor X. His struggle with his new addiction and coping with the loss of his school and students is heartbreaking and makes his redemption all the more satisfying. Michael Fassbender doesn’t have enough screen time as he did in First Class however he still excels as the tormented villain. A persona he has perfected in his previous roles from Shame (2011) and 12 Years a Slave (2013). Jennifer Lawrence was also terrific as Mystique. Lawrence has been getting a lot of critical acclaim over the past few years. I’ve enjoyed the Hunger Games films but I didn’t think she deserved all the attention. However in this film she has brought real emotional depth to the broken character of Mystique. Mystique is still torn between her former mentor Professor X and her new dangerous mentor Magneto. Magneto saw the anger inside of her and knew that she shared his hatred for what the humans had done to their people. He has unleashed her on to the world and now can’t control her as he watches her travel on a path of destruction. Her Mystique is possibly the best character in the film. You can’t keep your eyes off her.

With solid direction from Bryan Singer (returning to the franchise after 2003’s X2) and amazing special effects, X-Men: Days of Future Past succeeds as a solid summer blockbuster however next time just stick with the past.

Rating: 3.5 Stars

Review: Neighbors (2014) (US Title) aka Bad Neighbours (Australian Title)

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Plot Synopsis: Young new parents Mac (Seth Rogen) and Kelly (Rose Byrne) struggle when their new neighbours turn out to be a fraternity crew.

Review:

I am a big Seth Rogen fan. I love most of his raunchy comedies from Knocked Up (2007) and Superbad (2007) to last years This Is The End, his comedies all revolve around young men struggling to become mature adults. His characters tend to hold on to their youth. Enjoying video games and weed instead of working proper jobs and supporting their girlfriends/spouses. Recently Rogen has grown up somewhat as last years meta-comedy This Is The End showed a new side to his persona and with Bad Neighbours we see Rogen finally accepting his role as an adult.

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Rogen plays Mac, the average Rogen character, self-deprechating, shallow, smokes weed, loves television and has a hot girlfriend. His character Mac is recently married to Kelly (Rose Byrne, playing in her native Australian tongue) and has a six month old baby. The opening scene introduces the audience to the films raunchy nature right away as the couple tries to have spontaneous sex only to be interrupted by their baby watching. We can see that the two are still struggling with their new lives as parents and yearn for their years of partying and living carefree. When they decide to go out they take so long preparing the baby for the trip that they get tired and fall asleep. Being a new father myself I can empathise with their predicaments.

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Things turn quickly for the couple as their new neighbours turn out to be Teddy (Zac Efron) and Pete (Dave Franco) two fraternity brothers. They have their fraternity behind them and prepare the house for parties and debauchery. Mac and Kelly worry about the noise they’ll start however don’t want to be the prude neighbours calling the police. What ensues is a game of cat and mouse as Mac and Kelly try and get Teddy and his crew to move out. The ongoing capers that follow are highly enjoyable and anyone who loves Seth Rogen and his previous raunchy comedies won’t be disappointed in what is delivered here.

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Zac Efron  sheds his Disney image by playing the bad boy who is so obsessed with his fraternity and partying that he struggles with deciding on a career path. Dave Franco (James brother) also plays well against Efron and shows his comedy potential after his breakout role in 21 Jump Street (2012). Jerrod Carmichael as Garf provides a great breakout performance and I look forward to seeing him in the future.

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Director Nicholas Stoller (Forgetting Sarah Marshall) provides the film with a heavy party spirit. Providing the frat house party scenes with all the strobe lights and club music to make you feel the frat house nature. Overall the film is a success and can be added to the list of the superior comedies over the last few years.

Rating: 4 Stars

Interpreter’s House 5: Search Engine Comparison

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Using three different search engines, I searched for ‘MIFF 2014’. MIFF 2014 is the Melbourne International Film Festival. I want to learn as much as possible about this years festival and I wish to attend as many screenings as possible.

Instagrok Search:

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Unfortunately Instagrok couldn’t find anything on MIFF 2014. In the search engine comparison, Instagrok fails right away.

Duckduckgo Search

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Duckduckgo appears to search from an international point of view. Related topics that appear include the Mumbai International Film Festival and Malaysian International Furniture Festival. These searches aren’t what I was hoping for and don’t help me. The Melbourne International Film Festival is no where to be seen.

Google search:

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Google is clearly the winner and found the best results regarding MIFF 2014. The first link is the official website for MIFF and holds all the information for this years Melbourne International Film Festival.

Google is my default browser as I use Google Chrome for my web browser. If I used Internet Explorer I would go to Internet Options and select Google as my default browser.

Slough of Despond 5: Creative Commons

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One thing I haven’t thought too much about is copyright issues with regards to my reviews. Anyone out there online can take my work and reproduce it as their own. I know my students constantly do this with wikipedia. However for this task we are to find a Copyright licence which suits our work.

I have found Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International.

Under the following terms:

  • No additional restrictions — You may not apply legal terms or technological measures that legally restrict others from doing anything the license permits.

Review: The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014)

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Doubting castle 4: advanced blogging

In order to write a review for the film The Amazing Spider-Man 2, I got information about the film, behind the scenes information, release dates and trailers via my RSS feed from my account on theoldreader.com

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Review: The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014)

Plot Synopsis: Peter Parker struggles with keeping his promise to the late Police Captain George Stacy to stay away from his daughter, Gwen Stacy, so she can stay out of danger. Peter also deals with the truth behind his parent’s disappearance as a child as well as a new threat in the villains Rhino, Electro and the Green Goblin.

Review:

Reading the plot synopsis above doesn’t quite capture everything going on in the film. I didn’t mention Peter also reunites with his old friend Harry Osborn, who is slowly dying from a mysterious disease and needs Spider-Man’s blood. As well as everything going on in the mysterious corporation Oscorp, and Peter’s Aunt May (Sally Field) and Peter graduating from High School and going to college. As you can see this film is very busy. So much is crammed in that it is hard to grasp everything that is going on. The producers are clearly trying to develop a cinematic universe much like The Avengers which balances sequels and numerous characters with great ease. I find this unfortunately detracts from the film and instead of focusing on a few interesting characters (which this film has many) the film gets lost in its juggling act.

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This is unfortunate because Peter Parker/Spider-Man is such a compelling character. Growing up as a fan of comic books I found the story of Peter Parker balancing his personal life with his superpowers among the best of the genre. In 2002 Sam Raimi directed an excellent adaptation of the comic book which balanced the heart and soul of the characters with the action and spectacle of a blockbuster film franchise. Raimi continued this streak with 2004’s Spider-Man 2 and ultimately failed in 2007 with Spider-Man 3. Unfortunately in Spider-Man 3 even Raimi couldn’t juggle the multitude of characters, back stories and villains and tie them up into an interesting film. Spider-Man 3 was the last film in Raimi’s trilogy. In 2012 Sony and Columbia Pictures decided to reboot the franchise with a new director, actors and crew, titled The Amazing Spider-Man. The film went back to basics with Peter Parker discovering his powers, falling in love with Gwen Stacey and fighting one villain. It was a tightly focused, smaller superhero film which I thought worked because of its simplicity, great actors and a darker more realistic vision from director Marc Webb. However just as Sam Raimi before him, he too must now work out how to balance franchise needs, multiple character arcs, giant action sequences and keep fans eager for a sequel. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 works better than Spider-Man 3 however while balancing it all we lose some of the heart and soul which made the first two films so great.

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On the positive side Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone both excel in their interpretations of Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy. Their chemistry is real and believable. You feel for these characters and are engaged in their every step. They engage us with their romance and break our hearts with their actions. They are truly the films strongest asset. Also Marc Webb creates multiple action set pieces which defy the laws of gravity and show us things we’ve never seen before in a superhero film. The introduction of Spider-Man taking on some thugs in a busy New York City throws us right back into the wonderful world of Spider-Man. The ending (especially in Imax 3D) is also breathtaking in its vision and scope.

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Where the film suffers is in its multiple storylines and characters. Dane DeHann and Jamie Foxx don’t get enough to flesh out their respective villains. Also Paul Giamatti and Sally Field can’t do much with their limited screen time.

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The score from Hans Zimmer and Pharrell Williams is interesting in combining orchestral music with dub-step. It really does work in amping up the action and tension.

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As a popcorn blockbuster the two main leads and great set pieces keep this film working. However the multiple storylines let the film down and it can’t reach the heights of the first two Raimi Spider-Man films.

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Rating: 2 Stars

Cast & Crew

  • Director: Marc Webb
  • Starring: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Jamie Foxx, Dane DeHann, Sally Field, Paul Giamatti
  • Screenplay: Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci and Jeff Pinkner
  • Producer: Avi Arad & Matt Tolmach
  • Music: Hans Zimmer & Pharrell Williams
  • Cinematography: Daniel Mindel
  • Editor: Pietro Scalia & Elliot Graham
  • Studio: Columbia Pictures and Marvel Entertainment

Review: Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

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Slough of Despond 3: Advanced Blogging

In order to write a review for the film Captain America: The Winter Soldier, I got information about the film, behind the scenes information, release dates and trailers via my RSS feed from my account on theoldreader.com

Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

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Plot synopsis: After being frozen for over 50 years, Captain America struggles with his new life in modern day America. While working for the secret agency S.H.I.E.L.D under Nick Fury, his growing concerns of corruption come to a fold when an old threat returns.

Review:

The seventh film from the Marvel Studios is surprisingly one of their best. In 2014 the Marvel brand is as strong as ever. This year we will see four blockbusters based on Marvel properties, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, The Amazing Spiderman 2 and X-Men: Days of Future Past and Guardians of the Galaxy. However only Guardians of the Galaxy and Captain America: The Winter Soldier are produced in the Marvel Studios and follow the timeline of other Marvel Studios properties such as Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Thor and The Avengers. Following these films adds extra weight as we have gotten to know these characters, and minor characters, over seven films now. After playing Captain America for the third time, Chris Evans appears comfortable in the role and takes the character to places he hasn’t been before. Supporting characters such as Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), Bucky Barnes (Sebastion Stan), Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell), and Agent Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders) are fleshed out and given higher stakes to play with. New supporting characters including Sam Wilson aka The Falcon (Anthony Mackie) and Kate/Sharon Carter aka Agent 13 (Emily VanCamp) also bring gravitas to the film. This all adds to the films overall tension and development. The writing also helps these characters shine with their witty banter to each other keeping things light in the right moments.

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The film is different to other superhero properties as it plays with the genre conventions of the paranoid spy thrillers of the 70s, while also staying faithful to the genre conventions of the modern action superhero film. The film is a rush from beginning to end. With breathtaking action sequences including hand-to-hand combat, car chases and city street shoot-outs, every scene keeps you engaged and hungry for more.

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The direction of brothers Anthony and Joe Russo is superb showing an eye for incredible action set pieces as well as tender moments between characters coming to terms with the films twists and turns. The score by Henry Jackman also helps to amplify the tension, especially in the action set piece on the city street where we are introduced to the winter soldier, a high frequency pitch is played which jars the audience and gives the soldier an extra edge. Cinematography from Trent Opaloch is also top notch. This film is an excellent addition to the Marvel franchise and superhero films in general.

This is the 2014 action film to beat, with three more Marvel films on the way this will be hard to top.

Rating: 4 Stars

Cast & Crew

  • Director: Anthony & Joe Russo
  • Starring: Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Samuel L. Jackson
  • Screenplay: Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely
  • Producer: Kevin Feige
  • Music: Henry Jackman
  • Cinematography: Trent Opaloch
  • Editor: Jeffrey Ford
  • Studio: Marvel Studios