Tag Archives: X-Men

Deadpool (2016)

Deadpool-Poster-Dec1st

My first 2016 film at the cinema was also one of my most anticipated of the year.

The hype surrounding Deadpool has been astronomic thanks to rave reviews from early screenings and a wicked marketing campaign that has been described as the best of all-time. It is thus hard to keep expectations down under such circumstances, but I’m glad to say Deadool lived up to what I had hoped for — for the most part.  It’s clever, witty, funny, satirical, referential, parodic, irreverent, action-packed, and above all, incredibly entertaining. In many ways, it’s the perfect popcorn movie for adults looking for a fun night out.

The story is conventional — a mercenary named Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds) makes a drastic decision to save his life but the consequence is that he becomes horrifically scarred with superpowers. He then proceeds to exact revenge against those who have wronged him in a tight red suit. At the heart of the film is actually a love story, which acts as the main source of character development and delivering emotional impact, but also makes things much more complicated for our protagonist. It’s an origins story we’ve seen before.

However, writers Rhett Reese Paul Wernick ensure that the plot is the only thing about Deadpool that’s conventional. The super duo — who are now no doubt in hot demand — infuse the narrative with loads of wild ideas, starting with repeated breaks of the fourth wall and a non-linear structure that utilises flashbacks to keep the momentum rolling. Like it did for Ant-Man, the simplicity works in Deadpool‘s favour. It’s not a story about the end of the world and the stakes are relatively small, but the effect of this is that the story feels more personal and appropriate for an origins movie. There’s no excess of characters either: just the hero, the love interest, two X-Men, two villains and two comic relief sidekicks.

The action, perhaps the most underrated part of the movie, is innovative, brutal and features copious amounts of blood. Considering the minuscule budget of US$58 million, the action sequences are as thrilling and exciting as anything I’ve seen in the big-budget Marvel blockbusters. The special effects and stunts are close to seamless (I watched it on an IMAX screen), and I was impressed by the variety of the violence — guns, sword fights, fist fights, car chases, superhero powers, you name it — most of which was done without the laziness of rapid cuts.

Still, the biggest draw of Deadpool is of course the comedy. The gags come fast and furious, and absolutely nothing is off limits. The actors (even those not in the movie), the director, other superheroes, other films, even the film’s low budget, are all targets for jokes. The majority of the humour comes from one-liners and wisecracks as opposed to set-pieces, so you’ll find yourself giggling all throughout the movie. Contrary to some reviews, however, the movie is not always in a joking mood — there are darker moments and “character development” scenes, mostly in the film’s middle section. But I recognise that this part of the film is necessary to make us care, and director Tim Miller does a great job in his feature debut in moving from one tone to another without making it feel jarring.

Unfortunately, as funny as I found the film to be, I didn’t laugh out loud as often as I thought I would (ie, all throughout), and this is because I had seen a lot of the jokes in the trailers. That’s partly my fault for watching all the trailers, and partly the fault of the marketing team for putting them in there to sell the movie. That said, thanks to the R-rating, there were still enough jokes I hadn’t seen to help me easily cruise past the six-laugh test for a good comedy. In fact, the jokes in Deadpool are so relentless at times that you may miss some because you’re still recovering from the previous gag. On the whole, there may have been a few too many masturbation jokes for my liking, but the hit rate of the jokes is already much, much higher than most other crude comedies.

Ryan Reynolds deserves all the credit in the world for being the driving force behind the film, which reportedly spent more than a decade in developmental hell. He is not only perfect as the titular character, he is also a fantastic comedian who apparently ad-libbed many of the classic one-liners. Plus he is ripped!

Homeland’s Morena Baccarin plays Vanessa, the other half of the love story. When I first heard she was the love interest I thought it was a bit of a strange choice, but now it makes complete sense after having watched the film. They needed someone as damaged as Wade but also someone with enough strength and sassiness to be more than just a damsel in distress. Baccarin fits the bill perfectly.

I enjoyed the X-Men characters not just because of their powers but because their banter with Deadpool works so well. I guess I’ll just leave it at that so as to not reveal too much.

As for the villains, I thought Ed Skrein (who was in that horrible Transporter reboot last year) could have been a little more formidable as Ajax, but his performance was generally pretty good. It’s unfortunate he kept reminding me of a buffer Nicholas Hoult. On the other hand, Gina Carano as Angel Dust was fantastic, largely because she rarely needed to change expressions.

Leslie Uggums is hilarious as a blind old lady with the acid tongue and heart of gold, though I was a little disappointed with TJ Miller’s role in the film, not because he wasn’t any good, but because he’s one of the best things about it and I wish he could have gotten more screen time. I loved his chemistry with Ryan Reynolds and thought he might get to do a little more since he delivered all my favourite lines. I’m looking forward to the DVD extras and hope he can feature more prominently in the sequel, which has to be a certainty after the film smashed the R-rated opening weekend record in the US with a haul of US$135 million (the previous record was US$91.7 million held by The Matrix Reloaded) and a worldwide box office of around US$300 million.

We’ve had R-rated (under the US classification system) superhero/comic book films before — Watchmen, Blade, V for Vendetta, Sin City, just to name a few — but never one that deliberately pushes the limits as far as Deadpool does with its gruesome violence, machine-gun-rapid profanity and crude, snarky humour. Kick-Ass is the nearest comparison but it’s not a close contest. As with all films that receive a lot of buzz before its release, Deadpool could not help but be overhyped, though despite this, the movie still turned out to be one of the most fun and funny cinematic experiences I’ve had in years.

4.25 stars out of 5!

X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)

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X-Men: Days of Future Past, my second-most anticipated film of 2014, has done the impossible by living up to the loftiest of expectations.

I was sceptical at first when I heard that they were making this film, an ambitious attempt to combine the old X-Men franchise (X-Men, X2 and The Last Stand) with the new, younger reboot of X-Men: First Class, while also not forgetting about the two spin-off Wolverine films. It was potentially more difficult than The Avengers, as it not only features characters across different sub-franchises but also adds the wrinkle of time travel to the mix.

But I had forgotten one thing about this seventh X-Men film: Bryan Singer, the director of the original X-Men and X2, was back at the helm, and anyone who could managed to handle multi-layered complexity of The Usual Suspects should not be underestimated. And sure enough, Singer delivers, giving us arguably the best one yet.

What makes Days of Future Past so fantastic is what made it seem appealing on paper — bringing together all our favourite characters, past and present. There’s the old and young Professor X (Patrick Stewart and James McAvoy), the old and young Magneto (Ian McKellen and Michael Fassbender), a young Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence), and a young Beast (Nicholas Hoult), together with the familiar faces of Storm (Halle Berry), Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page), Iceman Shawn Ashmore) and Colossus (Daniel Cudmore). The only guy who didn’t have to worry about all the ageing was of course the ageless Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), who once again takes centre stage as the face of the franchise.

The genius of the film is making all of these bits and pieces fit together, given it is virtually impossible to give everyone sufficient screen time and worthy stuff to do. The solution turned out to be quite simple, with the story writers (Simon Kinberg, Matthew Vaughn and Jane Goldman, with Kinberg penning the screenplay) going for what made the most sense. That is, tailor the story to focus on a handful of the franchise’s most popular characters and Hollywood’s hottest actors of the moment, and allow them to drive the time travel narrative. At the same time, the lesser characters are not forgotten either, though they are limited to key supporting roles and timely cameos. A bit of fresh blood is also injected with the introduction of a few new characters, most notably Chinese superstar Fan Bingbing as portal opening mutant Blink, to liven things up and appeal to the international market.

The result is a fairly straightforward and surprisingly unconvoluted storyline about a dystopian future ruled by unstoppable mutant-killing robots called Sentinels, who have just about wiped out all of humanity. To save the world, Professor X and Magneto come together in China and get Kitty Pryde to use her powers to send the consciousness of Wolverine — the only one whose body and mind can withstand the rigours of distant time travel — back into the body of his younger self to change the course of history. This task involves convincing mortal enemies, the young Professor X — who has become a shell of his former self and is being looked after by a young Beast — and the young Magneto — who is in a high security cell after assassinating a historical figure — to work together and stop the young shapeshifter Mystique from killing Boliva Trask (Peter Dinklage from Game of Thrones), and thereby setting off the Sentinel program.

So in one fell swoop the plot manages to combine the thespians playing the old and young Professor X and Magneto (Stewart, McAvoy, McKellen and Fassbender); make Wolverine (Jackman), the face of the X-Men and its most beloved mutant, the film’s central character; substantially elevate the status and screen time of Hollywood’s “it” girl, Lawrence, as well her rising star beau in real life, Hoult; and introduce a new human character in the shape of the award-winning and super-duper awesome Dinklage. Instead of overwhelming audiences by splitting time and subplots between a whole bunch of characters, the story is driven by these eight brilliant core actors (and six characters) — and it’s all by design.

One supporting character who nearly stole the show for me was Quicksilver (Evan Peters, seen recently in American Horror Story), the lightning speed teenage mutant whom the X-Men seek to help them bust Magneto out of prison. He’s a fabulous character, both in terms of his abilities and his demeanour, and owns the most impressive set-piece sequence in the entire film when we see what the world feels like for him when he moves at top speed. It’s great to know he’ll be back in the 2016 sequel, X-Men: Apocalypse (and make sure you stay for the post-credits scene right at the end for a sneak preview!).

So Days of Future Past is a lot of fun, even though it appears to take itself quite seriously (albeit with the occasional joke or one-liner). It’s a really clever film, not just for the way it brings the characters together through the time travel concept, but also in the way it redefines history through mutant interference, from the Cuban Missile Crisis and the JFK assassination to the Vietnam War. The action sequences and are also executed well, allowing each of the mutants to show off their powers in eye-popping fashion, but without feeling we’re just watching a bunch of special effects. It’s amazing what good actors and adept choreography can do.

The final product is an intelligent, satisfying, well-acted and thoroughly entertaining X-Men flick that is epic in scope but stays under control by limiting the focus to the franchise’s most marketable stars and characters. There are plenty of nods and winks to the earlier entries in the series and the cameos will make loyal fans very happy, but even if you are a first-timer to the franchise the plot is unconfusing enough to be easily followed. The 132-minute running time is only a tad long, and there are perhaps one or two brief lulls along the way, but on the whole there isn’t much to complain about Days of Future Past. 

4.25 stars out of 5!

PS: Interestingly, the character of Quicksilver (a different version of him) will also appear in the next Avengers movie, but he will be played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson of Kick-Ass and Godzilla fame.

My 15 Most Anticipated Movies of 2014!

While I am still a fair distance from completing my “worst of” and “best of” lists for 2013, I am already getting very very excited about the movies that are going to hit our screens in 2014. This year promises to be an epic one in terms of big screen blockbusters, much-anticipated sequels and remakes, high-profile projects of top directors and some intriguing fresh stuff. I’m excited.

Without further ado, these are my 15 most anticipated movies of 2014, ranked in descending order. Stick around after the list for an even longer list of movies that missed the cut (that I really want to and will probably see anyway) and more!

15. Jupiter Ascending

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The Wachowskis (The MatrixCloud Atlas) always tackle big, ambitious projects, which is why I am really looking forward to their next one, Jupiter Ascending, about a universe where humans are at the bottom of the evolutionary ladder. It stars Mila Kunis, Channing Tatum and Sean Bean, who will almost certainly die in it.

14. The Amazing Spider-Man 2

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The second installment in the Spiderman reboot should be better than the first, which I felt was a little too similar to the Sam Raimi/Tobey Maguire one from just a few years ago. I do like Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone as the leads more, and this time the villains are played by favourites Jamie Foxx (Electro) and Paul Giamattie (The Rhino). Also good to see the kid from Chronicle (Dane Dehaan) score the Harry Osborne role. The trailer looks awesome too.

13.Captain America: The Winter Soldier

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Even though I had anticipated it to be lame, I ended up really enjoyed the first Captain America, and I think the sequel, set after the events in The Avengers, has the potential to be even better with an old buddy coming back as the enemy and the addition of screen legend Robert Redford. I think it will dovetail nicely into The Avengers sequel and provide more grit and emotional impact than its predecessor. Despite all of this, I wouldn’t have put it in my top 15 had I had seen the trailer, which blew me away.

12. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1

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No trailer out yet but if the first two films in The Hunger Games trilogy are anything to go by, then the first half of the finale, Mockingjay, promises to be one heck of an ending. I must admit, this was close to missing the list because I had already read the book and I’m still peeved that it has it been split into two parts for greedy reasons. And the second reason makes me concerned that there could be a lot of fillers and not a lot of action. Still, I am really looking forward to it. Besides, anything with Jennifer Lawrence in it makes this list.

11. The Hobbit: There and Back Again

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After about 100 hours of on-screen drama and action, Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit will finally conclude, and I don’t doubt that it will be awesome. Admittedly, some people have been disappointed with the first two installments, but I remain highly intrigued as to how Jackson will continue to expand the LOTR universe and bestow upon us the final chapter, which is where all the action is — at least in the book — anyway.

10. Edge of Tomorrow

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Tom Cruise may be certifiably insane, but he still knows how to pick good roles in blockbuster movies. Edge of Tomorrow is pretty much Independence Day meets Groundhog Day/Source Code — a soldier fighting against aliens is caught in a time loop of his last day. It could be bad, but it could also be spectacular, and my guess is leaning to the latter. Check out the trailer and try to tune out the annoying music.

9. Godzilla

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I know, I know, Godzilla has been done a gazillion times and the last time Hollywood gave it a go in 1998 it was widely panned. But there is cause for optimism this time because it is directed by Gareth Edwards, maker of the critically acclaimed Monsters from 2010, and stars Kick-Ass himself, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, as well as Heisenberg, Bryan Cranston. And after a slew of successful monster movies in recent years such as Cloverfield and Pacific Rim, it may be that Hollywood has finally figured out how to tackle the iconic beast.

8. Transcendence

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The premise is a bit iffy — a terminally ill scientist downloads his body into a computer — but because it stars Johnny Depp, Rebecca Hall, Kata Mara, Morgan Freeman, Cillian Murphy and Paul Bettany I’m very interested in seeing how Transcendence pans out. At the very least it should be a visually stunning film as it is directed by Wally Pfister, cinematographer of Inception and The Dark Knight. If they approach it intelligently it has the potential to be this year’s Inception or a stylish cult classic.

7. Non-Stop

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It’s no secret that I think Taken is one of the best action flicks of all time, which is why I am sooooo looking forward to Non-Stop, which may have a lame title but reunites Liam Neeson and director Jaume Collet-Serra. In short, this is shaping up to be Taken on a plane (and all the passengers are Maggie Grace), and while I doubt it can re-capture the magic of Taken it should still be a white-knuckle adrenaline ride that promises to feature a lot of serious ass-kicking.

6. Robocop

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I’ve been hearing about the Robocop remake forever, and this year it’s finally hitting our screens. The original is a classic and one of the films I loved as a kid, and reports claim that this will be a clever reboot that is fresh while paying homage to its predecessor at the same time. And of course it will have spectacular special effects and tremendous action sequences. The trailer definitely raises the expectations.

5. Exodus

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Director Ridley Scott, Christian Bale, Breaking Bad’s Aaron Paul, Sigourney Weaver and Joel Edgerton. There’s no trailer yet and not a lot of information about it, but Exodus is gearing up to be one epic “interpretation” of the exodus of jews from Egypt as led by Moses. Batman, by the way, is Moses! I’m not exactly sure what to expect from this but I am definitely intrigued because the names attached to the film indicate that it should be totally excellent.

4. Interstellar

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Anything Christopher Nolan makes, I watch. And how’s this for a synopsis: “A group of explorers make use of a newly discovered wormhole to surpass the limitations on human space travel and conquer the vast distances involved in an interstellar voyage.” Oh, and the film stars Anne Hathaway, Matthew McConaughey, Jessica Chastain and Michael Caine. ‘Nuff said. Could be the movie of the year.

3. Gone Girl

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One of the best books I read last year was Gillian Flynn’s psychological thriller Gone Girl, which promptly made me go out and read her other two books, Dark Places and Sharp Objects. I was interested when I heard about a film adaptation and exploded with excitement when I heard David Fincher was directing it. Rosamund Pike and Ben Affleck, believe it or not, seem like excellent casting choices too. Done right, this story about a housewife who disappears and leaves her husband as the prime suspect could leave my jaw on the floor just like the book did.

2. X-Men: Days of Future Past

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I’ve been a fan of all the X-Men movies and thought the “young version” with Michael Fassbender and James McAvoy (X-Men: First Class) was the best one yet. This one promises to blow all of them away. It’s an extremely difficult and ambitious project to include pretty much all the characters from the old and new franchises — yes, that includes Ian McKellen, Patrick Stewart, Hugh Jackman, Jennifer Lawrence, Halle Berry, Ellen Page and everyone else — but if director Bryan Singer can pull off the time travel concept it has the potential to be the best superhero movie EVER.

1. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

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Of all the films coming out this year, there is one I want to see more than any other — and it’s not even close! After the mindblowing awesomeness of Rise of the Planet of the Apes — which was surprisingly my favourite film of 2011 — can you blame me? There’s no James Franco this time but Andy Serkis’s Caesar still is, and he’s joined by the likes of Gary Oldman, Kerry Russell, Kodi Smit-McPhee and Jason Clarke. With improving special effects, the apes are looking better than ever, and the action appears ready to take off from the get-go. I can’t wait!

Read on to see the 21 movies that missed the cut.

Continue reading My 15 Most Anticipated Movies of 2014!

Movie Review: The Wolverine (2013) (2D)

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Oh cinema, how I have missed thou!

Feels good to be back at the movies after a lengthy hiatus of three weeks. For my triumphant return, I chose The Wolverine, the highly anticipated “sequel” to 2009’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine but chronologically speaking it’s the film that comes immediately after 2006’s X-Men: The Last Stand (the third film in the original trilogy).

The Wolverine received a lot of hype in Australia because a significant portion of the film was shot there, including at Sydney Olympic Park, Darling Harbour, Parramatta and Cockle Bay. And of course, Hugh Jackman had hyped it up more by admitting disappointment with X-Men Origins: Wolverine but boasting that The Wolverine had gotten it right as the type of Wolverine film he had wanted to make all along.

To be honest, I thought X-Men Origins: Wolverine was not as bad as it was made out to be — flawed but perfectly adequate. On the other hand, while The Wolverine is definitely a better film, I’m not sure it quite succeeded in living up to Jackman’s promise. It’s a more personal Wolverine film with more pain, emotions and depth, and the action is more varied and exciting — but at the same time it didn’t captivate me like the best X-Men films (such as 2011’s X-Men: First Class — review here) and was dragged down by a sluggish middle act.

The story for this film was apparently provided by one of the most popular arcs from the Wolverine comics. Our hero is battling demons from his relationship with his one true love, Jean Grey (a role reprised by Famke Janssen), and is living a meaningless existence until he runs into Yukio (Rila Fukushima), a mysterious Japanese sword-wielder who is on a mission to bring him to Japan to meet a dying man from his past. The dying dude happens to be a head of one of the largest companies in the world, and the Wolverine becomes caught up in the complex Japanese world of family politics, ninjas and yakuza henchmen (naturally, there are some obvious Japanese cliches littered throughout the film, but I don’t think any of them come across as culturally offensive). Oh, and of course a few mutants here and there.

There are some spectacular action sequences in this film thanks to the unique Japanese setting. One of my favourites takes place on a speeding Shinkansen (bullet train), and another involves the Wolverine taking on a whole clan of ninja assassins. There are a couple of others I can’t mention because of spoilers.

The film is driven by the performance of Hugh Jackman, who proves for the sixth time that he was born for the role. It’s not just the muscular, veiny appearance — you can actually sense the passion he has poured into the character in every movement on the screen. In the realm of movie superheroes, Jackman will rank right up there with Christopher Reeve and Robert Downey Jr as actors who fit their “costumes” better than anyone else.

The supporting cast is also surprisingly good. Apart from the aforementioned Rila Fukushima, there is newcomer Tao Okamoto (a svelte Japanese model), The Last Samurai actor Hiroyuki Sanada, Will Yun Lee (yeah Sleeping Dogs!) and Russian actress Svetlana Khodchenkova. None are exactly household names but there are no weak links as all hold their own in key roles.

On the whole, I enjoyed The Wolverine but was a little disappointed it wasn’t the superhero masterpiece I had hoped for. It’s a film I think hardcore Wolverine and comic fans will love for the attention to detail and truthfulness to the source material, but casual fans might struggle to remember or understand the convoluted backstory and appreciate the ties to rest of the X-Men universe.

3.5 stars out of 5

PS: Remember to stick around for a mid-credits scene that gives us a sneak peek into the next instalment of the X-Men franchise, next year’s X-Men: Days of Future Past, which is already shaping up to be one of the most epic superhero movies ever by combining all prequels and sequels and everything in between from the X-Men universe.

PPS: The film was directed by James Mangold (Walk the Line, 3:10 to Yuma). He does a decent job, but I wonder how the film might have turned out had it not been turned down by Guillermo del Toro and Darren Aronofsky.