Monday, May 26, 2014




★★★★ out of ★★★★★
The first fully-realized X-Men movie that finally takes its cues from the successful Marvel Studios AVENGERS franchise and successfully adapts a clas...sic storyline from the comics. Surprisingly smart and deftly shifts in tone and pacing between the decades. Best of all, director Bryan Singer did something that the directing of Amazing Spider-Man 2 should take a cue from -- he lets the character moments breathe and allows the actors to do their thing. When you surround the story with actors of the caliber miraculously assembled for this film, you better damn well let them act.

The heart of the film is the younger version of Xavier, who has lost his sense of purpose at that point in his life. Most interesting of all was the emphasis on Mystique/Raven who becomes the singular most important mutant on Earth and whose actions lead to the dystopian deadly future (10 years from now) the X-Men are trying to prevent from coming into being by sending Wolverine's mind back in time to his younger body.

Much has been made about the "reset switch" ending, but even without spoilering the details on that, I have to admit that I am completely okay with it. I have always enjoyed the X-Men films but they have suffered from a lack of cohesion and long-term vision. The benefit this film has is that now Marvel Studios has demonstrated that you can approach these super-hero franchise films with an eye towards building a larger universe and with longterm planning. It does not completely remove the other films from continuity for without them occurring, then the events that happened to rewrite history would never have happened. So, they are important pieces of a future that will never happen now (or will be different).

FIRST CLASS plus this film set up a future successful franchise with a closer adherence to the spirit of the comics themselves and I am glad to see it. This was a movie that was a hell of a lot better than it had any right to be.


★★★★ out of ★★★★★
A chilling Argentinian film (with subtitles) about the infamous psychopathic Nazi "Angel of Death" Josef Mengele after he escaped to Argentina after World War 2. The story itself is fictional but it is wrapped up in actual history, specifically about a female Nazi hunter working for the Mossad who tracked Mengele down to Argentina around 1960 and was found dead after Mengele escaped capture.

The film is about a young family who open up a lodging home in the mountains so that the artisan father can focus on his baby doll design work. Their oldest daughter is a teenager who has a genetic disorder preventing her from progressing into puberty at a normal pace. A mysterious, but charming, German Doctor comes to stay at their lodge and becomes interested in her and her family. As he over-involves himself in their lives he becomes somewhat obsessed while crafting a co-dependency between all of them.

What makes this film so chilling is the charismatically charming performance of Àlex Brendemühl as Mengele. He captures the mind of a true psychopath replete with the magnetism and cold, but not dangerous demeanor. When things fall apart and his self-control begins to slip so we catch glimpses of the evil in him it is both fascinating and repulsive. We hate ourselves for liking him and getting drawn into his web.

An excellent film that just flows smoothly like a well-written novel.


★ out of ★★★★★
There is nothing redeeming in this film. It only earns 1 star because there are a couple of laugh-out-loud slapstick moments. The movie assumes that every person on the planet is just a huge pile of excrement with no value, no morals, and no character.

The two worst parents on the planet suffer the indignity of having the worst fraternity on the planet move next door. What follows is just a series of patently unfunny bullshit in which I wanted to call CPS on them after the third or fourth time that their baby was simply left at home alone in her crib all night.


★★★1/2 out of ★★★★★
Fascinating vampire movie by director Jim Jarmusch and starring Tom Hiddleston, Tilda Swinton, and John Hurt. Really, that pedigree is enough to justify going to see this one.

It's slow-moving and eccentric. It felt less like a vampire movie and more like one of those odd little short stories you get in the occasional vampire anthology book. It really is not about vampires but is using vampires as a plot device to comment on the human condition. It's no mistake that Hiddleston's character is holed up a decaying brick home in the abandoned urban Detroit area. The modern decay is reflective of his own spiritual decay.

The movie is not "beautiful", but there is dark beauty in it. It is mostly absurdly funny in the blackest of black comedic ways. I enjoyed the love between Adam (Hiddleston) and Eve (Swinton) and it was interesting to see how they were stronger together than apart.

This film is not going to set the world on fire, but it is definitely worth your investment of time if you get a chance.


★★★★★ out of ★★★★★
One of the best films of the year. It's a gut-wrenching film set during the Civil War with a young black boy who is used by a white Bounty Hunter gang to retrieve escaped slaves and bring them back for a fee.

He gets sent, with his unscrupulous uncle, to retrieve a freed slave for a huge retrieval fee but over the course of long trek back they bond together and the boy is put in an excruciatingly difficult position.

The directing and the acting in this movie are fantastic and emotionally real. It is painful to watch at times but only because you, as the viewer, are so caught up in the boy Will (Ashton Sanders) and his youthful guilt and shame. He is being forced to grow up faster than his heart and mind can keep up.

Highly recommended.


★★★★ out of ★★★★★
Very simply the best documentary about the launch of the Large Hadron Collider you'll probably ever see.

For a science nerd like me, I couldn't really ask for more. The film follows the lengthy years-long process of getting the Collider built, and the key scientists involved in it. Before long, and through some quite clever opportunities for explanations to us lay-people, we find ourselves emotionally caught up in the moment when they finally discovered the almost mythical Higgs boson (or God Particle).

If you just said to yourself "What's the Higgs boson?" then I suggest you should be required to watch this movie. You can thank me later.


★ out of ★★★★★
One of the worst films I've seen this year. It makes the fatal flaw of being relentlessly boring and just plain stupid.

This emotionally overwrought sci-fi flick just makes poor story choices after poor story choices after poor story choices in an attempt to engage us in its cautionary tale of the Singularity -- when artificial intelligence surpasses human intelligence. In this case, it starts with the death of a visionary scientist played by Johnny Depp whose brain patterns were captured and incorporated into a computer program.

As he evolves, all manner of stupid stuff happens. The movie also stars Paul Bettany, Amy Adams, and Morgan Freeman but they're all wasted on a ridiculous script saying obscenely stupid dialogue. Really, don't waste your time on this one unless you need something to help you battle insomnia.


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