Monday, 26 May 2014

X-Men: Days of Future Past

X-Men: Days of Future Past
Directed by Bryan Singer

I've always loved the X-Men movies. I didn't get to see any in theaters until X-Men Origins: Wolverine, but they've always been so fun, and some of my favourite "superhero" films. The newest was being heralded as the best since X2, which I found hard to believe (the trailers and time travel concept had me skeptical) but the film completely works and is indeed one of the best X-Men film to be released.

So since you probably already know what this film is about, I'll give you the quickie explanation. It's 2023 and the world is coming to an end. Sentinels (shape-shifter robots) are destroying mutants and hardly anyone (human or mutant) is left). But it turns out Kitty Pryde can send people's consciousnesses back in time and Professor X, Magento, Wolverine and Storm approach the young group of mutants that Kitty is a part of with the idea to send someone back in time to stop the Sentinels and this ending of the world. 1973 Mystique assassinates Boliver Trask (creator of the Sentinels) hoping to stop the program, but the program is pushed forward even further because of Mystique's violence. But they also steal some DNA from her to make the Sentinels the powerful shape-shifters they are. So they decide Wolverine is the only one who can make the extensive trip and is sent to enlist young Charles (who swapped his powers for use of his legs) and Erik (imprisoned in the Pentagon). Basically, stop Mystique.

As confusing as the premise sounds, this film was an incredible amount of fun. Between this film and First Class, I think these have been some of the best "Marvel films" to come out in a while. They walk the line between serious plot and premise and having fun and making jokes perfectly. The humor never seems out of place and seems realistic to the situation. The casting is so great (Fassbender and McAvoy especially!) and just everything is done well (we'll just forget about the continuity issues). As well, this film did their action sequences incredibly well. Action sequences don't generally stand out to me (Whether good or bad), but these ones really did. From Mystique battling out the troops in Vietnam to Quicksilver and his "time in a bottle" scene (which I can't talk about enough!) everything was pitch perfect and done on such a big scale. But never too big. And the music they had to back it up was always perfect and really set the tone.

I'm not really sure what else to say about this film. I find blockbusters extremely hard to review since I'm not going into it with the purpose of reviewing it. I was completely immersed in the film and don't really know what to say. Despite some (a lot) of continuity errors, I feel Bryan Singer was the perfect person to direct this addition. I feel like only he could really get away with everything he did since he was the person to originally set up this series. And Singer really brought his A-game here, bringing everyone together, but also making a completely enthralling new addition to the series. Singer perfectly balances the action and the drama/politics of the film and this is what makes the film so great. The action never takes the center of the film for too long, but the drama of the film never gets too overwhelming before some action swoops in. And I think this is Days of Future Past's strongest points. It walks the line and gets a perfect balance of everything.

McAvoy is an actor I've always felt has been sorely under-appreciated. While Fassbender is a fantastic actor, pretty much everyone knows it and the world cheered when he finally received his first Oscar nomination this past January. However, McAvoy, again, brings great work here, really making us feel so much for Charles, but also we feel a little complicated towards him. He's really a tender-hearted and extremely caring guy, but he tries so hard to conform people to his ways. Even though his ways are right, he doesn't always go about it the best way. He is a man who has lost so much and is trying to find his way back again. McAvoy really makes us feel for Charles and his cause. We both simultaneously sympathize towards him, but are also slightly frustrated when he does things in the wrong way. Fassbender and Lawrence also bring some great work here too, of course. Fassbender was slightly more underused in this film, but his on screen bad-guy presence is something to really be reckoned with. Fassbender was pitch perfect casting and he really does get into the role. Lawrence as well has a much more interesting job this time around and, again, we feel so conflicted about her too. It's great to see Lawrence without the humor, as I feel this is something she is really strong at, when she wants to be.

While there were continuity errors abound, and an essential rewriting of a lot of different things, the film completely worked. While it felt very much like the classic middle movie, second of a trilogy, it did well to stand on it's own extremely well. Enough time had past from the events of First Class, but it's not so far away and out of our minds that it's completely ignored. The film was really great and extremely fun. It's been hurting my head a little ever since viewing on Saturday afternoon, but I got to give the makers credit. They've got me asking a million questions and have got me dying to see the next installment so that questions may be answered. And that was the best thing they could've done for this film.



Gandhi, 1982
Directed by Richard Attenborough
Nominated for 11 Oscars, Won 8
Wins Include: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Writing (Screenplay), Best Cinematography, Best Art-Set Direction, Best Costume Design, Best Film Editing

I don't really need to give much of a summary of this movie. The title sort of explains what the film is going to be about. It's about Gandhi, a man we've all pretty much heard of. However, I must confess, I knew extremely little about Gandhi before watching this film. So maybe I will give a little summary, for those readers who are slightly ignorant of who exactly Gandhi was (like me).

In 1893, a young lawyer named Gandhi is thrown off a train in South Africa for being an Indian, and traveling in first class. Upon further looking into the laws of the country, Gandhi sees how much prejudice is against his people, and starts a completely non-violent protest for the rights of Indians in South Africa. While his first campaign is not completely successful (not many people came out when he was telling people that 1000 people would come). However, word begins to spread via his several arrests and complete peacefulness and non-violence of his many protests, South Africa relents by recognizing Indians in South Africa. Afterward, he returns to India, where he is now considered a national hero. But it seems India is not in peace either. India wants independence from the British Empire, and the Brits are fighting hard to keep India in it's control. Gandhi takes it upon himself to lead another peaceful revolution, one he couldn't imagine the scale that it reaches.

While I don't know much about Gandhi, I could see the way he was very memorialized in this film. Not much was shown of his flaws or really of his personality besides that he was passionate and peaceful. The film never really allows us to get to know Gandhi the person, only Gandhi the figure. Though I must give extensive credit to Ben Kingsley, who played Gandhi to perfection. While the film had a very idealistic approach to who Gandhi was, Kingsley was able to tap into the figure and play him so effortlessly. Kingsley was the absolute perfect casting choice, and I really don't know if they could've got someone better.

However, this seems to be about the only really great thing about the film (though I would credit the costumes, art direction and music to be quite lovely as well). The story was overlong and could've been much more trimmed to be a slightly more compact movie. I'm not asking for an hour and a half film, but trimming it to under 3 hours could've definitely been possible. But most of my problems were with the fact that, as mentioned above, we never really got to know who Gandhi really was inside. We had small glimpses and peeks into how we felt during various seasons, but we were never exposed to his true emotions and feelings towards what was going on around him.

But, nearing the end, the film didn't completely cop out, and showed that, even though Gandhi did eventually accomplish his goal of Independence from the British Empire, it wasn't 100% perfect. Their freedom caused a lot of fighting and violence between the people of India, and saw the country split into other countries, and also saw people of different religions fighting each other. This takes time to overcome, and freedom doesn't come without consequences.

Overall, the film dragged in several places and was informative for sure, but it was far from a perfect movie. Ben Kingsley is the star of the entire production and would not be nearly as good without his fantastic performance.

Acting- 9/10 
Directing- 7/10 
Screenplay- 6.5/10 
Visuals- 8/10 
Music- 8/10 
Emotional Connection- 6/10 
Entertainment- 6/10 
Rewatchability- 5/10 
Overall Enjoyment- 6/10 
Overall Package- 7/10       

Total: 68.5/100

Wednesday, 14 May 2014


Unforgiven, 1992
Directed by Clint Eastwood
Nominated for 9 Oscars, Won 4
Wins Include: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor, Best Film Editing

William Munny used to be the toughest, coldest gunslinger in the west. Famed for his kills, he is now retired, a widow, a father and sober. He's working on a pig farm, and still mourning the death of the wife he loved. When a young man who calls himself the Schofield Kid comes by, he knows who Will is, and hopes to hire him on for a job. A prostitute was cut up by two men, and are let off too easy by the town sherriff. The rest of the prostitutes put a bounty on the two cowboys. And the Schofield Kid hopes to hire Will so they can claim it. Initially turning him down, he changes his mind a few days later. He catches up to the Kid, but also brings along his old partner (who is also now married and retired). However, the job is a little harder than expected.

I must admit, I was very tired while watching this movie. I get up every work day at 5am. This doesn't often affect me on Saturday nights, but I was definitely getting real tired the last half of this movie. In this I admit I didn't quite absorb everything as well as I could have. It's not that the movie was boring or anything, I was just tired at 10pm. That being said, I'll do my best to review this movie.

I admit, I've never really seen a movie with Clint Eastwood in his prime. I'm much more used to seeing him how he is now. So it was a bit interesting to see Clint do something at least a little different from what I'm used to. Granted, he was still a little cranky, but I did get a glimpse of a younger Clint. While I haven't been overly impressed with his more recent performances, and even though this one is still similar (cranky and retired, but having someone young pull him out of it), I was still impressed with what I saw.

The story itself had an extremely promising premise. Whether it completely fulfilled my wishes, I think I can say yes on that. While at times it was a little cheesy (including the Schofield Kid saying he was going to hunt down "some no good cowboys"), it was definitely a solid story to tell, even if we've heard similar before, and is probably not too original for the Western Genre.

As well, Morgan Freeman and Gene Hackman gave some solid performances. Though, I admit, Hackman's role gets more interesting as the film goes on, so I didn't pick up on everything in his performance, but Freeman is always great and he lays down a solid performance, though not extremely awards-worthy or anything.

The cinematography was indeed quite lovely. While the mid West is not somewhere I'd really ever want to live, it is extremely beautiful in films like this, and it was captured extremely well.

While I can't really say too much more than that at this time, I will tell you the film was enjoyable, and I will endeavor to watch this again soon to be able to fully appreciate it.

Acting- 8/10 
Directing- 8/10 
Screenplay- 7.5/10 
Visuals- 8.5/10 
Music- 7.5/10 
Emotional Connection- 7.5/10 
Entertainment- 7.5/10 
Rewatchability- 7/10 
Overall Enjoyment- 7.5/10 
Overall Package- 7/10       

Total: 76/100

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

The Apartment

The Apartment, 1960
Directed by Billy Wilder
Nominated for 10 Oscars, Won 5

The Apartment tells the story of mid-level employee at an insurance company. C.C. Baxter (more often known as Bud), is a hard worker, stays at the office long past his punch-out time, and is quickly ascending the work ladder. But not really for the reasons you first assume. Baxter loans out his apartment to various company executives so they can have somewhere private for their affairs, in exchange for them putting in a good word to their boss, Mr Sheldrake. Baxter has four regular customers for his apartment and when he finally does have a meeting with Mr. Sheldrake for a promotion, he learns that Sheldrake wants in on the deal. Baxter quickly agrees, but doesn't realize that exactly this entails. The girl Baxter has a crush on, the smart and witty elevator girl named Fran, turns out to be Mr Sheldrake's mistress! That is, if Sheldrake can convince her to give him another chance, saying he will divorce his wife. More havoc ensues as Sheldrake and Fran continue to use Baxter's apartment, but after one Christmas Eve disaster, leaving Fran to be taken care of by Baxter, Baxter tries to show Fran that there's more to life than people using you, and that maybe he can be the one she needs. Also, just a warning, that there are spoilers ahead.

While I did roughly know the premise of the story before I watched this, this film was much more explicit than I had expected! No, no, it's not at all explicit now in 2014. No nudity, no swearing, no any kind of "scenes". I more just meant the direct allusions to sex and infidelity. There is no kicking around about why most people want to use Baxter's apartment, and the comments from the neighbours don't leave a ton to the imagination, as far as a 1960's film goes! However, I found this slightly refreshing, that we're vaguely clear about what the apartment is used for. What I also liked about this story, was that it was something not too far a stretch to imagine going on in a large company.

Jack Lemmon gives a great performance as Baxter, and Shirley MacLaine is lovely and witty as Fran. Indeed, these two are by far the stand outs here. Having just come off of the success and brilliance of Some Like it Hot, Billy Wilder wanted to do another film with Jack Lemmon (who also earned an Acting nomination for both films). While they weren't able to do quite the film they wanted because of the Hays Code, the film was still brilliant and hilarious.

While the film is definitely some sort of mash of comedy and drama, the comedy leads the first half of the film, with the irony of Baxter asking Fran out (to a show he received tickets to from Sheldrake, only so that he can use his apartment later), only to have Fran say she's busy meeting someone for dinner, but may be able to come after. Of course, Fran is going to see Sheldrake, and Sheldrake plans to take Fran to Baxter's apartment, all the while the three not really realizing all that happens, especially when Fran then stands Baxter up later in the evening. However, the film gets a lot darker than I expected this to get. While not overly dark, it is a more sobering look at relationships and infidelity, and the price that mistress's pay for being in the situation they're in.

Fran attempts to commit suicide after Sheldrake reveals yet again he won't ask his wife for a divorce, and one of Sheldrake's old mistresses tells her about everyone else he's been with, and all the lines he spewed for them, he's currently spewing for Fran. She lingers at Baxter's apartment after Sheldrake leaves (it's Christmas Eve), and steals too many sleeping pills, and Baxter finds her unconscious and not waking up, on his bed. While the film didn't stay too heavy during this time (there are scenes of Baxter making spaghetti and straining it using a tennis racket, playing gin rummy together, etc), it was a little darker than I had thought it would go. I feel Wilder was able to find a good balance between the heavy and the light and really make it a relatable and accessible story, without becoming too depressing.

Again, the performances were also spot on, with Jack Lemmon doing his awesome thing, being able to balance the comic, goofy sides and really empathizing with Fran and caring for her. As well, I haven't seen much of Shirley MacLaine's work (aside from Terms of Endearment), but she was fantastic as Fran, really giving such a range of emotions, all while keeping it believable.

Overall, I found this film quite enjoyable, especially compared to the last few Best Picture winners I've watched. This movie is definitely a gem and Billy Wilder is a talented guy, having written and directed one other BP Winner, and having won a total of 6 Oscars for his work.

Acting- 8.5/10 
Directing- 8.5/10 
Screenplay- 8.5/10 
Visuals- 7.5/10 
Music- 7/10 
Emotional Connection- 8/10 
Entertainment- 8.5/10 
Rewatchability- 7.5/10 
Overall Enjoyment- 8/10 
Overall Package- 8/10       

Total: 80/100

Monday, 5 May 2014

Mrs Miniver

Mrs Miniver, 1942
Directed by William Wyler
Nominated for 12 Oscars, Won 6
Wins Include: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress (Teresa Wright), Best Writing (Screenplay), Best Cinematography (Black-and-white)

Sorry about the little hiatus there. It's been a bit of a busy few weeks for me, including the fact that my husband and I took a week long trip to Portugal at the end of April. But I'm back now, and I'll be posting a little more frequently from now on as I'm down to less than 15 films left to watch, and I'm hoping to catch a few movies in theatres this summer. But now, moving on to my review

Mrs. Miniver is mother and wife in a middle class family in England. Her oldest son, Vin, is home from university now, and begins to court Carol, Lady Beldon's granddaughter. Though WWII soon enters the picture, making a turn for this middle class family. Vin has enlisted in the air force, and her husband does some boating patrol, and even participates in rescuing British soldiers from Dunkirk. Mrs Miniver fights her own battles as well as she is trying to protect her two younger children, and even gets a scare when she finds an injured German soldier in her backyard, who then holds her at gunpoint for food and a jacket. But she also has been named after a rose, a rose in which is being entered in a flower competition against Lady Beldon's rose.

This movie, I found to be extremely mediocre. The story, for the most part, was very run of the mill WWII story. The most interesting parts of the film were 2 different scenes. The 1st being the German Soldier holding Mrs Miniver at gunpoint for food and a jacket after being discovered in her backyard. This was something that differed from films on this topic from more or less this time period of filmmaking. It was an interesting scene that really showed a lot of character from Mrs Miniver, but was also just something very different to show within a film of this kind. The second scene worth mentioning is one of the worst air raids the Miniver family experiences. They are in their bomb shelter in the backyard, the two youngest children sleeping, while Mr and Mrs Miniver talk, and make a few jokes before the onslaught ensues. The bombs get so close to them that they are rattled around and the children thrown from their beds. Later, we see that the bombs destroyed large portions of their house. This really showed the devestation so many families lived through, and how close they were to being killed. Especially since seconds earlier, Mr Miniver was standing outside the bomb shelter having a smoke.

But besides these few scenes, the movie didn't have too much of a story, and when it did attempt to have one, it became rushed and didn't expand on itself. The acting performances were quite good, seeing as there were 5 nominations, one in each category, and 2 winners. Indeed, the ladies of this film stole the show, which was kind of a nice change up from some of the other WWII films out there.

As well, it's always interesting to have films being made about the current war. This film was released in 1942, only about halfway through the war that is shown and discussed in the film. While I understand making films about current wars, it is interesting that it is also based on a book, and was put into production only a year into the war. The ever changing war makes for an interesting filming process, as you don't want your film to be completely out of date by the time it's released, but, as far as I can tell, the film did a good job of staying in the present, even if some changes had to be made throughout.

The decision to tell the story almost only from Mrs Miniver's point of view seems to make the film a little limiting. Had the film been more focused on Vin and Carol, the young courtship that starts at the beginning of the war and sees them married during it, could've been extremely interesting, especially given how the film ends. But as well, the film also wasn't solely based on Mrs Miniver either, and didn't really show her as a strong woman holding her family together, so I even question the fact of it being called Mrs Miniver. Had the film been spread wider and extended beyond the stories it told, the film could've been much more interesting.

Acting- 8/10 
Directing- 7.5/10 
Screenplay- 6.5/10 
Visuals- 7.5/10 
Music- 7.5/10 
Emotional Connection- 6/10 
Entertainment- 6.5/10 
Rewatchability- 6/10 
Overall Enjoyment- 6.5/10 
Overall Package- 7/10       

Total: 69/100