Saturday, May 24, 2014

X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014) - Recap and Review

Michael Fassbender as Magneto Erik Lehnsherr in X Men Days of Future Past

This post discusses the movie in detail. Readers who wish to avoid plot spoilers are recommended to skip the rest of the post.

The movie opens in a futuristic world, where mutants and the humans who support them are systemically eliminated by mutant hunting robots called Sentinels. Most of the mutants have been captured/killed.

We get a measure of the Sentinel's effectiveness when they attack a bunch of mutants. Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page), Blink (Bingbing Fan), Colossus (Daniel Cudmore), Sunspot (Adan Canto), Warpath (Booboo Stewart), Iceman (Shawn Ashmore) and Bishop (Omar Sy) are no match for their nemeses. The sentinels adapt quickly to their opponent's powers and easily subdue them.

As Kitty explains to Professor X (Patrick Stewart), Magneto (Ian McKellen), Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) and Storm (Halle Berry), her ability to transport a fellow mutant's consciousness back in time helps avoid these attacks.

Click on the link below to buy your copy:

Professor Xavier decides that the only way to prevent this grim future is to stop Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) from assassinating Dr Boliver Trask (Peter Dinklage), the scientist who developed Sentinels. This 1973 incident sparked the outrage against mutants. Mystique is captured shortly thereafter and her unique shapeshifting abilities are used to make the Sentinels a highly adaptable and undefeatable mutant killers.

Wolverine volunteers to be the time traveler due to his healing abilities. Wolverine enlists the help of the younger versions of Professor Charles Xavier and Erik Lehnsherr, played by James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender respectively.

James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender as Professor Charles Xavier and Magneto play Chess in X Men Days of Future Past

The younger Charles has since lost his way after the incidents in X-Men: First Class. Hank McAvoy/Beast (Nicholas Hoult) has devised a solution that helps Charles walk, but in return suppresses his mutant powers.

Magneto is being held in a prison stronghold under the Pentagon, after being implicated in JFK's assassination. Quicksilver/Pietro Maximoff (Evan Peters) helps release Magneto in a dazzling rescue mission.

The rest of the movie deals with the group's attempts to stop Mystique from her single-minded mission to kill Trask. The climax alternates between the aforementioned event in 1973 and the future, where the Sentinels have tracked down the mutants.

X Men Days of Future Past director Bryan Singer with Patrick Stewart as Professor Charles Xavier

Bryan Singer returns to the comic book franchise, he started way back in 2000. He has always focussed on the analogy between X-Men and the persecuted sections of human society. This time, he also highlights the fact that we are what we make of ourselves. Our lives are dictated by the choices we make.

As finely executed the action scenes are and the humor is enjoyable, this crucial message is the best aspect of X-Men: Days of Future Past.

Another enjoyable aspect is the number of nods to the previous movies (X-Men, X2: X-Men United, X-Men: The Last Stand and X-Men: First Class). It is quite understandable that X-Men Origins: Wolverine was completely ignored.

Sentinels are the mutant hunting robots designed and developed by Boliver Trask Industries in X Men Days of Future Past

The movie has a large ensemble cast (even by the usual Bryan Singer's X-Men movie standards).

To Singer's credit, he does an excellent job. Each character and actor gets their fair share of the limelight. Obviously, not all of them get the same amount of screentime. Ian McKellen, Halle Berry, Anna Paquin, Shawn Ashmore as well as the newly introduced set of mutants are more like extended cameos.

I liked the teamwork between Storm and Ian McKellen's Magneto in the climax. It was a rare collaboration and an epic one at that.

Hugh Jackman as Wolverine Logan in X Men Days of Future Past

Hugh Jackman, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender and Jennifer Lawrence get a lion's share of the screen time. Hugh Jackman provides most of the humor through his one-liners. His work as Logan in this movie is a return to form, as seen in the first two X-Men movies (also directed by Singer, no coincidence I am sure).

Jennifer Lawrence as Mystique Raven Darkholme in X Men Days of Future Past

Jennifer Lawrence is adequate as Mystique. I personally prefer the Rebecca Romijn version. Rebecca made Mystique the classic femme fatale and a genuine menace. Jennifer does not have the same impact in her performance.

James McAvoy gives a poignant turn as the mentally tortured Charles Xavier. Like the previous movie, he has the more underplayed role (compared to Fassbender's Magneto) and he continues to make a great Prof X.

Equally good but criminally underused is Evan Peters as Quicksilver. As noted in other reviews, his rescue of Magneto is quite possibly the best scene in the movie - superbly conceptualized and executed. Evan's performance is amusing and hilarious. It is a shame that he is written off so quickly. Hope we will see more of him in the upcoming sequel: X-Men: Apocalypse.

Michael Fassbender as Magneto Erik Lehnsherr in X Men Days of Future Past

All said and done, the movie belongs to Michael Fassbender (at least in my humble opinion). He is magnificent as Magneto and takes the movie to a whole different class (no pun intended) by his sheer presence.

Fassbender's Magneto goes berserk in the climax and this will be a feast for any fan of the Master of Magnetism.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of Peter Dinklage's portrayal of the movie's main antagonist, Dr. Boliver Trask. The movie does not present a clear explanation for Trask's drive to develop the Sentinels to get rid of mutants.

Peter Dinklage and Josh Helman as Dr Boliver Trask and William Stryker in X Men Days of Future Past

In X2: X-Men United, William Stryker had similar ambitions, but at least Brian Cox managed to leave an impression in the role. Interestingly, a younger version of William Stryker is played by Josh Helman in this movie. He is kind of a right hand man to Dinklage's Trask and is equally lifeless in the role, just maintaining a smug/angry expression throughout.

There are also cameos by James Marsden (Cyclops), Famke Janssen (Jean Grey), Kelsey Grammer (Beast) and Anna Paquin (Rogue) in the closing scene, as Wolverine wakes up in the X-Mansion.

The latest X-Men movie shares its name with the 1981 storyline, written by Chris Claremont and John Bryne. There are significant differences between the two. In the original story, Kitty Pryde travels back in time to stop the assassination of Senator Robert Kelly (played by Bruce Davison in the 2000 movie X-Men) by Mystique and her Brotherhood of Mutants. In the movie, Wolverine is sent back by Kitty to stop Mystique from killing Dr Boliver Trask.

Michael Fassbender and Ian McKellen as younger and older Magneto Erik Lehnsherr in X Men Days of Future Past

Though the movie gets chatty and slows down considerably at some points, the climax and Fassbender's performance make up for these lapses.

Highly recommended for fans of Michael Fassbender/Magneto.

PS: Do not miss the post credits teaser for the sequel: X-Men: Apocalypse. The scene shows a group of people chanting “En Sabah Nur” and worshipping a hooded figure as he assembles a huge pyramid using the powers of telekinesis. The mysterious figure is revealed to be a grey skinned young man. Also seen in the background are the four Horsemen of Apocalypse.

Click here to read all my posts related to Marvel Comics.

If you enjoyed this post, please subscribe to this blog by clicking here.

Image Sources: Bad Hat Harry Productions, Marvel Entertainment, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, Dune Entertainment

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Fargo Season 1 Episode # 5 "The Six Ungraspables" - Recap and Review

Martin Freeman, Adam Goldberg and Russell Harvard as Lester Nygaard, Mr Numbers and Mr Wrench in FX Fargo Season 1 Episode 5 The Six Ungraspables

Lester Nygaard (Martin Freeman) is forced to reveal the name of Lorne Malvo to his cellmates Mr.Numbers (Adam Goldberg) and Mr.Wrench (Russell Harvard). He further reveals that Lorne took his car to Duluth.

Deputy Molly Solverson (Allison Tolman) is still on Lester's heels. She has obtained his phone records on the night, his wife and the ex police chief were killed.

A call had been placed to the motel where Lorne was staying. This piece of information finally convinces Chief Bill Oswalt (Bob Odenkirk) that something is amiss.

Colin Hanks as Deputy Gus Grimly in Fargo Season 1 Episode 5 The Six Ungraspables

Deputy Gus Grimly (Colin Hanks) has his daughter Greta (Joey King) look up Pastor Peterson from Baudette.

Lorne is back to Calamity Joe (Roger LeBlanc) to get a police scanner. He visits Don Chumph (Glenn Howerton) and prepares to extort the ransom money from Stavros Milos (Oliver Platt).

Click on the link below to buy your copy:

A guilt ridden Gus shares his anguish with his neighbor, who advises him that only a fool tries to solve all the world's problems.

Stavros's son, Dmitri (Gordon S. Miller) does some investigation of his own and discovers that the troubles plaguing his father are very much man-made. However Stavros is too much into his religious beliefs and refuses to heed Dmitri's advice.

Allison Tolman as Deputy Molly Solverson in FX Fargo Season 1 Episode 5 The Six Ungraspables

Molly revisits Lester's house for clues. Lester is taken to the hospital, where Molly learns that the pregnant Ida Thurman (Julie Ann Emery) has just given birth.

Molly checks in on Lester in his hospital room. Lester pretends to be asleep and Molly leaves the room.

This was a good episode. The writing is sharp and witty. The casting continues to be solid with a couple of new additions and there is not a single weak link in the chain.

Billy Bob Thornton as Lorne Malvo in FX Fargo Season 1 Episode 5 The Six Ungraspables

The show is at its best whenever Billy Bob Thornton is onscreen. His conversations with Calamity Joe and especially with Stavros during the ride is hilarious and amusing. Equally good is his discussion about house safety precautions. The concerned neighbor calls him Se'irim”, the term for demon in the Hebrew Bible.

The shooting scene at Lester's place was beautifully shot. The attention to details and the graphical rendering was superb. Kudos to the technical crew.

The hapless Lester undergoes considerable torture and Martin does a great job with his American accent and acting.

Molly's Yeah in the hospital reminded me of Frances McDormand's character from the 1996 original.

Recommended to fans of thrillers/dramas/Coen Brothers.

Click here to read all my posts related to Fargo.

If you enjoyed this post, please subscribe to this blog by clicking here.

Image Sources: FX Productions, MGM Television, FX Network

You might also like:

Fargo - Morton's Fork
Fargo - A Muddy Road

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Fargo Season 1 Episode # 4 "Eating the Blame" - Recap and Review

Glenn Howerton as Don Chumph in Fargo Season 1 Episode 4 Eating the Blame

As the episode opens in 1987, a much younger Stavros Milos is traveling with his wife and son in his car. He is down and out on his luck and is seeking new fortunes. He soon discovers a briefcase full of cash.

Cut to the present. Stavros (Oliver Platt) hires Don Chumph (Glenn Howerton) to get his pipes repaired, after he had a literal bloodbath in his shower. The plumber quotes Bible and angers Stavros. While leaving the house, he notices a man watching the house.

Deputy Gus Grimly (Colin Hanks) runs into Lorne Malvos (Billy Bob Thornton), who is spying on the Stavros house. Gus arrests Lorne, who continues to threaten his captor during the ride to the police station.

Back in Bemidji, Deputy Molly Solverson (Allison Tolman) is still focussed on Lester Nygaard (Martin Freeman). She is informed by Gus about his arrest of Lorne.

Her efforts to visit Duluth gets stymied by her still incredulous boss, Chief Bill Oswalt (Bob Odenkirk). Bill drives down to Duluth Police Department to take a look at the suspect. Lorne is let go, much to Gus' dismay and puzzlement.

Adam Goldberg as Mr Numbers in Fargo Season 1 Episode 4 Eating the Blame

Lester gets abducted by Mr. Numbers (Adam Goldberg) and Mr. Wrench (Russell Harvard) and is thrown into the car. Lester calls his brother Chaz Nygaard (Joshua Close) for help and then pretends to be playing a practical joke.

Lester makes his escape and notices Deputy Knudsen (Gary Valentine) standing nearby. Lester punches the police officer in order to get arrested.

Stavros is getting increasingly restless and paranoid. His supermarket store, Phoenix Farms is soon under attack by swarms of crickets. He receives a ransom demand of one million US dollars.

Click on the link below to buy your copy:

Gus meets up with Molly and poses her the same question, he himself was asked by Lorne: “Do you know the human eye can see more shades of green than any other color?” (Gus gets a chance to get even with Lorne in the season finale Morton's Fork”).

Molly answers the aforementioned Lorne's riddle as saying that humans needed to be alert and observant to detect the presence of predators amidst all the greenery present in the forest.

Mr Numbers and Mr Wrench get into a fight in a bar and end up sharing the jail cell with Lester.

This was another strong episode. The humor is dark and hits the funny bone.

Billy Bob Thornton as Lorne Malvo in Fargo Season 1 Episode 4 Eating the Blame

Billy Bob Thornton gives another captivating performance. His impersonation of Frank Peterson, the minister from Baudette during the interrogation scene was spot on and amusing. Billy is quite a revelation in his role.

The acting is solid from the rest of the cast. I have enjoyed Gary Valentine's performance in The King of Queens and it was a pleasant surprise to see him turn up here. 

The scene with Mr Numbers and Mr Wrench in Lou Solverson's restaurant was hilarious.

A highly recommended watch for fans of the Coen Brothers/Fargo/Thrillers.

Click here to read all my posts related to Fargo.

If you enjoyed this post, please subscribe to this blog by clicking here.

Image Sources: FX Productions, MGM Television, FX Network

You might also like:

Fargo - Morton's Fork
Fargo - A Muddy Road