Sunday, June 8, 2014

'Edge of Tommorrow' REVIEW

Tom Cruise plays an advertising executive who was supposed to film an attack for the Army.  It's the future and humans are fighting these weird, tentacled aliens called Mimics.  The General orders him to fight with the team.  He makes it clear that he doesn't do that.  He has never been a soldier.  He tries to escape obeying this order and is knocked out by the General's men.  He wakes up on an Army base where he is forced to fight,  He is strapped to a mechanized battle suit and put on a plane.  He dies over and over again, always waking up for the next "try" on a pile of duffel bags, where the soldiers left him the first time.

You've probably seen the trailers and know that Tom Cruise keeps dying and re-living the same day over and over again (ala Groundhog Day).  I must say that one of things that I liked about this movie is that the trailers spoiled very little and some of the more interesting things were still in tact.  I don't even want to tell you why Tom Cruise is the one who can re-live the same day over and over again, but it is explained and there is a science fiction explanation for it, unlike Groundhog Day where Bill Murray had to re-live the day until Andie MacDowell slept with him...or whatever...and no one explained why he had to do this. Remember those scenes where Bill Murray kept trying to kill himself over and over (my personal favorite being when he put the toaster in the bathtub)?  Well, there is some humor like that where Emily Blunt, who knows about Tom Cruise's time warp ability (for a reason that I won't spoil) realizes that they failed at their mission and need to try again, so she shoots Tom Cruise in the head.  ( gore)  Tom Cruise makes alot of weird faces in the movie like he always does when he acts, so it's okay to laugh at him dying over and over again.

Good plot.  They explore the idea of reliving the same day over and over again very well until the end where they have to focus on killing the main alien so the war and movie will be over.  Kind of like "In Time" where they explore the idea of time being currency until it turned into a heist movie.  Sort of like that, but still well-done.  The chemistry between Cruise and Blunt is very good, so you will care about them during the action scenes.  Way better than 'Oblivion', but it won't make you forget 'Minority Report'.

3.5 Risky Businesses out of 5.

Yes, 'Edge of Tommorrow' was the theme song for 'Saved by the Bell: The College Years', so don't bother pointing that out.

'X-Men: Days of Future Past' REVIEW

In 2000, the first 'X-Men' movie was directed by a guy known for award-winning dramas (Bryan Singer).  Mind you, this was three years after 1997's 'Batman and Robin', arguably the worst mainstream superhero movie ever made (Steel, Supergirl, Catwoman and Elektra were all spin-offs) and so the superhero movie genre needed a boost.  Today, superhero movies are such a "thing" that a few bad ones can come out and people still realize that the next one might be cool.  But back then, the Batman franchise was dead.  No one had made a Superman movie in years and Marvel wasn't doing what they are today (through any studio or their own), so the first 'X-Men', with good actors, where the science fiction elements were taken seriously, was quite a breakthrough 14 years ago.

Of course, Bryan Singer directed the first X-Men and the brilliant sequel X2 before killing two franchises by directing 'Superman Returns' and letting Brett "Rush Hour" Ratner direct the 3rd X-Men, killing off a number of main characters, thinking it was going to be the last one and "curing" others of their powers.  Yes, "death" in a sci-fi movie is reversible through cloning or time travel (as this movie proves) or transferring your consciousness into your twin brothers' body, but the thing that fans hated the most about the third one is the way the Phoenix storyline was handled.  Instead of being an entity from space like in the comics, the Phoenix was a part of Jean's brain that Professor X tried to steal off and it got mad.  Personally, I liked the "cure for mutation" storyline from X3, but they made the Phoenix lame.

So, now, the original director, the one that should have directed X3, is back.  We have most of the original X-Men back in their roles and their younger versions from 'X-Men: First Class' in a time travelling X-Men story, one of the most acclaimed from the comic books 'Days of Future Past'.  Since it's been a few years since X3, the actors look a little older, so seeing them in a futuristic landscape where everything has been wiped out by mutant-hunting Sentinel robots makes sense.  Think the future flashbacks from 'Terminator' with cooler robots.  The X-Men, including a few new characters you might remember from the comics or 1990's cartoon (Bishop has a small, but cool role) are at war with the Sentinels.  Kitty Pryde has figured out a way to send people's consciousness back in time to their younger body, but she can only send people back a few days or a week at a time.  She has been doing this to warn the X-Men's past selves about the Sentinels whenever they do attack.  The Sentinels kill a bunch of X-Men, she sends someone back a few days and they can move somewhere else.  Wash.  Rinse.  Repeat.  (Iceman has a pretty cool "death" that is erased by time travel.)

Thing is, sending someone's mind back through time takes a toll on the body, which is why Kitty only does it a week at a time.  Buuut, what if someone's body could heal super fast?  Enter everyone's favorite X-Men, whether you think it's stupid that he's always the star when it's supposed to be a team effort or not, Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) is the one who can go back in time to the one event that started this dark future.  50 years in the past.  1973.  Futire Professor X (Patrick Stewart) and future Magneto (Ian McKellen) are friends in the future and they tell Wolverine that he must get them to unite in a time where they couldn't have been further apart.  This includes convincing a drugged-out 1970's Professor X that he is from the future, freeing Magneto from a prison many feet under the Pentagon (without Charles' powers, because he's taken a drug that allows him to walk again, but removes his mind powers) AND...stopping young Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) from killing the man who built the Sentinels in the first place.  Not only does seeing a mutant kill a public figure make normal people hate mutants even more (making the President employ the Sentinels), but when Mystique is captured, her shape-shifting DNA is used on future upgrades, making the Sentinels deadlier in the future.  All the actors are great in their roles.  And personally, I felt that the one thing that X3 did right was humanizing Charles Xavier by giving him an "edge", instead of him "just" being the wise mentor.  This movie certainly does that with the young version (James McAvoy) by showing him at a low point in his life.

Ever since it was announced that Bryan Singer would be directing 'Days of Future Past', there was alot of fan talk online about whether he would acknowledge X3, which he did not direct, nor did fans like.  Well, while this movie can be enjoyed by someone who has never seen an X-Men film before, but who enjoys dark sci-fi, it is also kind of like that speech in the 2009 Star Trek reboot on the bridge of the Enterprise where they talk about an alternate reality.  Basically, the director's way of explaining why he changed a bunch of stuff.  Well, without spoiling too much, this movie is like that.  A combination of Bryan Singer trying to fix the effects of X3...or maybe just his own feelings about starting over and doing better.  Either way, I would just watch this movie as a stand alone film and not try to tie in in to lore too much, but it does reboot somewhat.

Much has been made too about how Professor X being alive after being killed in X3 isn't really explained.  I assume that those reviews did not watch the after-credits scene from X3, which plays off an earlier scene and in which Professor X has transferred his consciousness into another body with his powers.  Comic book fans know that the other guy was his twin brother, so, yeah...Patrick Stewart is in this movie and he's great as always even though he got vaporized by lame Phoenix n X3.  And ignore those goofy pictures of Quicksilver that you saw in EW magazine.  His character and his small role is awesome, he helps to free Magneto from prison, steals the scenes he is in and yes, they do acknowledge (but do not elaborate on) "where he comes from".  Oh, and we see him hugging his little sister at the end, so, um, yeah Scarlet Witch is in this movie too, but not really.  (More on her when Avengers 2 comes out)  Anyway, lots of nods to previous versions of the X-Men for longtime fans.

Bottom line, 'X-Men: Days of Future Past' is a great time travel movie with alot of great twists and turns along the way.  I love the way they tied everything in to real history the way "First Class" talked about the Cuban Missile crisis and JFK.  In this movie, we see mutants fighting in Vietnam, Richard Nixon is a character and we learn which ex-President (X-President) was really a mutant.  All in all, a great movie with an after-credits scene that you will have to explain to non-comic book fans, but that makes you psyched for the (Bryan Singer's) next X-Men film.  4.5 Sentinels out of 5.

PARENTS GUIDE: Professor X repeats the line that Wolverine said to him during his cameo in 'X-Men: First Class'.  So, yeah, one F-bomb that this movie could have done without.  Just sayin'.

'Godzilla' (2014) REVIEW

In 1954, the original Godzila movie was about the bad effects of radiation.  Made 9 years after the atomic bomb hit Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of WWII, it had a very serious tone.  Future follow-ups would be campy and less serious, featuring WWE-style grudge matches between Godzilla and another monster (Mothra, Rodan, Mechagodzilla etc.).  They had camp value, but few (if any) of the sequels captured the serious tone of the original.

The new Godzilla successfully combines the serious tone of the original with the 'wow' factor of having Godzilla fight another monster.  In some of the Japanese Godzilla movies, Godzilla would destroy Tokyo and in others, another monster would destroy Tokyo and Godzilla would save it.  This is one of the latter, where Godzilla is the hero.  Unlike the 1998 Matthew Broderick American reboot, which I call 'Ferris Bueler vs. Godzilla', the human characters are interesting, so that the story can build up to when Godzilla or the other monster makes his entrance.  And a great entrance the King of Monsters makes.

Bryan Cranston plays a scientist who loses his wife during an accident in a nuclear power plant that they both worked at.  Grief-stricken, years later, he is obsessively looking into the events of that day, particularly an EMP-like energy that was detected that fateful day that he could not pinpoint what it was.  His obsessive behavior worries his soldier son (Aaron-Taylor Johnson).  When Dr. Widower (not his real name) detects it again, he discovers, not Godzilla, but a grasshopper-like monster called MUTO.  His name, an acronym for Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organism, is a touch of the fun science-y stuff that made the best old-school Godzilla movies great, but it's not as ridiculous as the explanations in some of the campier films, which, to be fair, were translated from Japanese.  And we have an Asian scientist, played by the fake R'as Al Ghul from Batman Begins (Ken Watanabe) who pronounces Godzilla the right way.  "Gojira!"

But the soldier son is the main (human) character.  He is involved with finding out what is happening and stopping part of the larger threat.  We see his relationship with his wife (not his sister, that's a movie for next year) played by Michelle Tanner's real-life sister Elizabeth Olsen and long for soldier boy to survive so that they can be together again.  ('Avengers' fans will get the sister joke.)  I disagree with reviews that said that the human characters were boring, but I agree with those same people that the fights between Godzilla and MUTO shouldhave been longer.  It might have been a budget thing, but the monster vs. monster battles provide the epic scale and just the right touch of humor.  The awesome entrance that G-zilla makes (and one other moment) caused the theatre audience that I was sitting with to applaud.  I don't applaud at movies, but it was quite moving.

So, a story that was interesting enough to build up to when you actually see the monsters.  Great fight sequences that don't quite hit you in the face the way 'Pacific Rim' did.  And a nice touch of elements that made the old Godzilla movies great, including a scene where the soldier and Godzilla give each other knowing glances and sort of "bond" after they save each others lives.  Again, not as corny as him winking at Japanese children, but moving and fun nonetheless.

I give this movie 4 roars out of 5.