Sunday, May 28, 2006

Review: X-Men: The Last Stand


I was as worried about how X-Men: The Last Stand would come out as many others were. After the relatively cerebral action that Bryan Singer had given us in the first two films, we had come to expect and hope for a third film, an end to the trilogy, that would match the first two in depth, substance, and emotional weight. Could Brett Ratner do it? The trailers were amazing eye-candy, but when the names of all the mutants appearing in the film started coming out, and it was announced that it would be the shortest of the three films, the consensus was, "No way." Phoenix and a war with the Brotherhood and a cure? In 1 1/2 hours? It would be a disaster!

There is inarguably much more action and visual effects this time around, and subtlety takes a slight backseat, but the emotional strength is still there, maybe even more so than in the first two films. The death of Professor X, in particular, was intense. It helped that the entire action sequence involving his demise is hands-down the best such sequence in the whole trilogy. I personally do not understand why so many people are complaining about the characterization of the mutants in this film. Granted, not much development was made in some characters, like Colossus and Kitty Pride, but in this film, more than in any other, they were truly X-MEN, with extraordinary powers, and working as a team (something they had not done much of in the first two installments). Storm (finally!), Beast (!), and of course Wolverine kicked ass, there was a Colossus-Wolverine "fastball special," Kitty showed off mastery of her powers, Iceman finally turns into ice, Phoenix is amazingly creepy and destructive with the whole "Dark Willow" vibe (missed the firebird shape, though), and Magneto is, as usual, insanely powerful. It should be every fanboy's dream movie! I guess it's the deaths of so many characters that has them nitpicking. That and the pathetic development of Rogue (such a far cry from how she is in the comics!), which I myself have hated since the first film.

I had to see the film a second time to fully appreciate it, but The Last Stand is definitely my favorite of the three. It's how an X-Men film should be. On with the 4th (they can't fool us, of course there's going to be one)! Grade: B+

And my new FYC, only my second: Famke Janssen for Best Supporting Actress. I'm sure I'm going to see better performances toward the end of the year, but she has to at least be given praise for how well she interpreted the dark, schizoid personality of Phoenix.

Helena Bonham Carter in HP5!

Odd but very welcome news. Helen McCrory has been replaced as Bellatrix Lestrange in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by the actress who should have been given the role in the first place: Helena Bonham Carter. Now I'm even more excited about this film, even though I didn't like the book on which it is based. But we have a full year and a month to wait. Click here for the story.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Review: The Da Vinci Code

I wanted to love The Da Vinci Code, but instead I got a lukewarm feeling all throughout. It was well executed in parts, with very good cinematography, but mostly it plodded along like a heavy, weighted thing that would have benefited from some slimming. And that slimming should have come as Ron Howard taking out unnecessary scenes from the source, rather than giving us what may be the most literal and exact adaptation in recent years. In the hands of a more imaginative, daring director, we probably would have been given a better film. Then again, this made me think that the book probably wasn't meant to be made into a film in the first place. The pace works in the novel, but not in the movie.

Having said all that, thumbs up to Sir Ian McKellen (in fine form, as always), Paul Bettany (chilling), and the serenely beautiful Audrey Tautou. Grade: C+

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Updates to Predictions

Updates have been made to my predictions in some of the technical awards. That includes a predicted nomination (his first, if ever!) for Christopher Doyle for M. Night Shyamalan's Lady in the Water. Sure, he wasn't nominated even for fabulous past work such as in Hero, but this poster (taken from IMDb) has me giddy with excitement over the prospect of how beautiful this film is going to be visually. There's a bigger version here; zoom in and look carefully around Bryce Dallas Howard's [wonderful] visage.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Review: Mission: Impossible III

A tightly tense, exhilarating movie from start to finish, J.J. Abrams's Mission: Impossible III is a finely wrought film that proves that action movies don't have to be stupid and without substance. Granted, the plot of M:I-3 isn't necessarily the smartest you'll be seeing for some time, but the slight lapses in logic are to be forgotten amidst the heart-stopping action (with a particular highlight being the whole Vatican sequence) and intense encounters between Tom Cruise's Ethan Hunt and Philip Seymour Hoffman's Owen Davian, one of the most chilling and deliciously realized villains in recent cinema. Cold does not begin to describe him. The movie could have worked even better with more action from Hunt's IMF groupmates Declan (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) and Zhen (the exotically beautiful Maggie Q), but this is still the first real Mission: Impossible movie in that Hunt's team actually works and matters. And in her short appearance, Keri Russell kicks serious ass. She's never been this beautiful or cool. Neither has this franchise. Grade: B+

Image taken from IMDb