Sunday, July 13, 2014

What I Watched in June

As was true of X-MEN: FIRST CLASS two years ago, the new X-Men film is the best of the summer season - so far. X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST had a lot to live up to as it was attempting to adapt one of the greatest storylines of the best creative run the characters have ever had. The filmmakers set themselves up with several problems by not really being able to tell the tale as originally written, but they cleverly found ways to make one of the best superhero movies of recent memory without crapping on the comic book source.

This is one of the most satisfying comic book movies of the past ten years and even manages the trick of fixing the problems left over from the miserable, muddled last half of X-MEN: THE LAST STAND from several years ago. Of course, the usual things one looks for in one of these action adventure tales is here and done brilliantly- the adrenaline pumped battles; the amazing special effects; the big villainous plots; the dangerous characters and the great eye candy of all kinds. But the best thing this film has going for it (other than a great time travel idea) is that nearly all of the characters are allowed time to shine. These X-Men films have always been well cast and this one is no exception with great turns from a dozen actors who have to carefully balance their personas against a huge story. I loved this movie and its the first of the these superhero films to make me cry in the theater - and I cried tears of both sadness and joy which is even more impressive.

I have to admit that Tom Cruise has been on a roll for the last few years. JACK REACHER, OBLIVION and now this Summer's EDGE OF TOMORROW have been excellent entertainments that I know I will return to again in the near future. EOT (which could have used a better title) is a smart, exciting science fiction variation on GROUNDHOG DAY that is unrelenting in its desire to put Mr. Cruise through dozens of hellish situations. I knew the film had a good chance of being worth seeing when I learned Doug (THE BOURNE IDENTITY) Liman was behind the camera and he didn't let me down. This is a very good Summer movie and has the added benefit of being more clever than it has to be to make the story work. It's not as interesting as OBLIVION but it is pretty close and that is very cool.

I got the rare chance to see a small release film last month and I was pleased to catch the Australian made THE ROVER. The film is set in a post apocalyptic world just ten years after a never detailed disaster and stars the always excellent Guy Pearce as a very tightlipped man attempting to catch up with the trio of men who stole his car. If this sounds like a version of THE ROAD WARRIOR you would be far off the mark. This film goes out of its way to paint Pearce's character in harsh shades of gray as he uses anything and anyone he can find to help him get what he wants. He is never presented in a flattering light and even when he is dishing out violence it is hard to get behind his actions because the violence is so rough and almost random. This is an impressive movie and I liked it very much but I will have to be careful when I recommend it - not everyone will enjoy this bleak tale. 

MARY, MARY, BLOODY MARY (1975)- 6 (not bad thriller)
DR. JEKYLL AND THE WOLFMAN (1972) - 8 (rewatch)
THE PEOPLE WHO OWN THE DARK (1976)- 8 (rewatch)
PACIFIC RIM (2013)- 9 (rewatch)
THE 3 WORLDS OF GULLIVER (1960)- 6 (Harreyhausen effects add spice)
I, FRANKENSTEIN (2014)- 2 (CGI mess of poor....everything)
SPIES (1928)- 8 (Fritz Lang thriller)
JOHNNY HANDSOME (1989)- 7 (rewatch)
AVENGERS CONFIDENTIAL: Black Widow-Punisher (2014)- 7 (well done animated addition to the Marvel world)
KILMA, QUEEN OF THE JUNGLE (1975)- 6 (rewatch)
THE BATWOMAN (1968)- 4 (Mexican wrestling silliness- fun but often slow)
THE ROVER (2014)- 8 (Australian post-apocalyptic tale- downbeat to say the least)
YOU'RE NEXT (2011)- 8 (excellent variation on the slasher film)
THE LAST EXORCISM PART 2 (2013)- 5 (mediocre follow up)
INSIDE OUT (1975)- 6 (caper tale about a hunt for Nazi gold- good cast)
FACE OF FIRE (1959)- 7 (interesting period drama) 

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