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X-Men: Days of Future Past

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****½

My Mom knew a man who could bend metal.

Evan Peters as Quicksilver, moving at speeds too quick to be seen by those poor guards. © Fox 2014, X-Men: Days of Future Past.

Evan Peters as Quicksilver, moving at speeds too quick to be seen by those poor guards. © Fox 2014, X-Men: Days of Future Past.

The story “Days of Future Past” comes from Uncanny X-Men 141 & 142. I knew that off the top of my head, although I could not find my trade paperback copy of those issues. When I bought that, during the second half of the 90’s, I could not have afforded classics like those. They would have been about 15 years old as these books were published in 1981. I bring up the year of publication because this is a time travel movie that combines two casts. The first cast comes from X-Men, and since it has been 14 years since that film, its Professor Charles Xavier, Magneto,Wolverine, Storm and Iceman—Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellan, Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry, Shawn Ashmore. But they are not the only X-Men who make it to this terrible future. From X2 Colossus—Daniel Cudmore—makes it. Kitty Pryde, aka Shadowcat—Ellen Page—makes it and plays an important role and she first appeared in X-Men: The Last Stand. She is the one who can help Wolverine project his consciousness back in time. Time travel may not be possible, but going back to your previous self with knowledge of the future can help you avoid it. With only a handful of X-Men alive (besides those 5, there is also Warpath, Bishop*, Blink**, and Sunspot) there is no overcoming the Sentinels with such a paltry force.

No that's not the Human Torch, that's Sunspot! He is trying to melt a Sentinel that can turn itself to ice or diamond quicker than Sunspot can burn through it. Adan Canto as Sunspot in X-Men Days of Future Past, © Fox 2014.

No that’s not the Human Torch, that’s Sunspot! He is trying to melt a Sentinel that can turn itself to ice or diamond quicker than Sunspot can burn through it. Adan Canto as Sunspot in X-Men Days of Future Past, © Fox 2014.

What are Sentinels? Oh, just giant mutant hunting robots engineered to defend the human race. Robots who, at least in this world, are created by Bolivar Trask—Peter Dinklage, whose attaché is none other than William Stryker—played by Josh Helman, this time. It turns out that Mystique has taken it upon herself to assassinate Trask, but that this leads to her capture and her DNA fueling the Sentinel program in a way that leads to adaptability that makes Sentinels almost impossible to kill. That cannot happen. It must not happen. So Professor X, Magneto, Wolverine and Beast must team up to stop/save her. Except for the wonderful Hugh Jackman, these four younger versions are once again portrayed by their X-Men: First Class actors—Jennifer Lawrence, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender and Nicholas Hoult.

Wolverine, Beast and Magneto in a Paris hotel—Jackman, Hoult, Fassbender. © Fox & Marvel.

Wolverine, Beast and Magneto in a Paris hotel—Jackman, Hoult, Fassbender. © Fox & Marvel.

The highlights include, once again, any time that Magneto & Professor X talk to each other—for both sets of actors; Wolverine’s dry humor; Mystique choosing her own path despite the powerful personalities of Magneto and Professor X; Quicksilver—Evan Peters—breaking Magneto out of jail; and the question, can Wolverine be killed? Below is the Day’s of Future Past answer to that query.

Click the link below to see what happens next. Art by  John Byrne. © Marvel 1981.

Click the link below to see what happens next. Art by John Byrne. © Marvel 1981.

In addition to my review, here is a nice synopsis with a few pictures. And do not believe anyone who tells you that this movie is too complicated. I have only seen all six prior movies and read a couple hundred X-Books and I found it to be very straightforward.

*At first I felt it was wrong for Bishop, a character who first appeared almost 12 years later to exist in this movie, but when he does appear he tells the X-Men that he is from the same future as the Days of Future Past. So that makes sense.

** Blink, on the other hand, first appears in the Age of Apocalypse, so her appearance herein is less appropriate. Seeing at the next movie will be X-Men: Apocalypse, we might get to see her again.

Accuracy in…Captain America: The Winter Soldier

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Let’s take a look at the characters from Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

Captain America is Steve Rogers and I think someone calls him a capsicle in this. He also shows some of the Civil War spirit in not wanting to just follow orders.

Black Widow is Natasha Romanoff and she gets to show off some of her little tools, but still lacks any powers. She is probably the best secret agent in the world—although secret must have gone out the window with THE AVENGERS. But who trained her? In the movie she says she worked for the KGB…which is fine, except that her character was born in 1984 and the KGB ended in 1991. So she should know that she worked for the FSB once she was 7. In the comics her training started very young and one of her finest tutors was The Winter Soldier.

Sam Wilson, The Falcon, and some kind of bird, looks like a hawk of some sort...

Sam Wilson, The Falcon, and some kind of bird, looks like a hawk of some sort…

Before we get to Spoiler central and the Winter Soldier, let’s move on to Falcon who is Sam Wilson. The movie’s version of him comes from the Ultimate universe. The major difference is that in the movie Wilson does not work for Nick Fury, but instead agrees to help out Captain America. While I doubt there is a plan for this in place, Falcon agrees to join the Avengers (briefly). He also lacks his non-Ultimate universe comic book ability to talk to birds! He is the Aquaman/Namor of the air, except that there is no air kingdom nor air-people.

Promo for Cap 2 featuring Falcon (Anthony Mackie), © Marvel 2014.

Promo for Cap 2 featuring Falcon (Anthony Mackie), © Marvel 2014.

The Winter Soldier is a character created by Ed Brubaker. Winter Soldier is a thawable assassin with almost no memory and a metallic arm. Who he was in 1944 is a different story. Not everyone from the first movie truly died. He is in fact one of the longest dead characters—58 years! That is longer than Wolverine has been a character! And in some ways if anyone would replace Steve Rogers as Captain America, the Winter Soldier might have what it takes, even without the serum. One key difference, as mentioned above, is that Winter Soldier was a KGB assassin, not a Hydra one.

Speaking of Hydra, Arnim Zola was Hydra’s finest mind in World War II. In the comics he never goes to work for Uncle Sam (?) and has his head/consciousness uploaded into a robot, not into a computer.

Yeah...Cap 1, Cap 2, comics...

Yeah…Cap 1, Cap 2, comics…

Sgt. Peggy Carter is actually played by the same woman who portrayed her in Cap: The First Avenger, Hayley Atwell. Which is amazing because she looks like she is in her 80s now. She was also the original Agent 13 and a member of the French Resistance in WWII. Having her team back up with Cap made more sense in the 1960’s than it does now, because she would only have been in her late 40’s by then.

 

Flight, or how I stopped worrying and learned to love 12 Step Programs

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**½

The FAA and the NTSB took 10 pilots, placed them in simulators, recreated the events that led to this plane falling out of the sky. Do you know how many of them were able to safely land the planes? Not one. Every pilot crashed the aircraft, killed everybody on board. You were the only one who could do it!

Denzel Washington is Whip Whitaker in FLIGHT,  from Paramount Pictures, © 2012

Denzel Washington is Whip Whitaker in FLIGHT, from Paramount Pictures, © 2012

That sounds like something from an amazingly exciting movie. Unfortunately this has an amazing scene, with twists and turns and is full of excitement, but this is not an exciting movie. Robert Zemeckis—Forest Gump—got great performances from everyone on that plane. Denzel Washington’s drunken, coke-fueled pilot Whip Whitaker steals the show as he turns the plane upside down to halt its free fall before crash landing it in a field, saving almost the entire flight of people. Whether or not Whip should be held accountable is a great question. Fact 1. Whip was drunk. Fact 2. Whip was high on coke. Fact 3. Mechanical failure caused the crash. Fact 4. Whip, using his amazing set of skills, saved most of the people on the flight. Fact 5. Six people died. Fact 6. Whip has an extremely high tolerance for alcohol and cocaine. Should Whip’s amazing deed make up for the violation, both moral and legal, of flying planes while under the influence of drugs. In fact, the way the movie presents him, his high functioning seems to make his alcoholism seem not so bad.

For that synopsis, you are welcome. Now you, review reader, need not see this bloated, star-filled infomercial for Alcoholics Anonymous. Zemeckis’ movie would have been panned by Mel Gibson haters and adored by Christians had Mr. Anti-Semitism made this. In Flight enablers are everywhere, but fortunately a beautifully trashy Kelly Reilly—Mrs Henderson Presentsshows up to Mary her Magdalene for Whip. In the beginning we see her story, even as the plane flies upside down over head. This evoked a potential Crash or Babel crisscross of stories and themes. Fortunately Zemeckis, and cheese screenwriter John Gatins—Real Steel, Coach Carter, did not go in that direction, since the message would have probably gotten even more heavy handed and deprived me of the pleasure of watching Denzel Washington bring Whip to life.

Returning to the glorification of AA, it appears throughout media and those who go to the meetings are held up as noble. Seeking to better yourself and to get rid of your addictions is a positive thing, clearly. However, after someone with a history of overeating gets lap band surgery, no one seeks him out to provide the surgery to others. They go see a damn doctor. Here and Here are the articles that led me to question the effectiveness of AA. I include this in my review because addictions kill people every day and the wrong approaches to treating them lead to fatal relapses, suicides when addicts blame themselves, and crimes to support these addictions. Stop reading if you do not want to know the end of the movie.

So when Whip winds up in prison, speaking at an AA meeting, this is presented as a positive. Going to prison was much better than seeing a psychologist! He talks about how lying before the NTSB got him to his bottom. He mentions how he wrote letters to the families of the six people whom he failed to save with his heroic plane landing, and sought their forgiveness. APOLOGIZED FOR WHAT!? HIS STATE DID NOT CAUSE THE CRASH! He saved 96 lives, including his own, but in this 12 Step context he had to apologize. Even Denzel’s serious, impassioned face cannot disguise how this craps out for the sake of some message that screws up the wonderful premise I described above. If you want to see a good movie about dealing with morally ambiguous choices and trying to become a better person watch Win Win, not this Zemeckis crap.

Amazing Spider-man 2

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****

This is my choice.

 

John Romita, Sr.'s cover to The Amazing Spider-Man 121, © Marvel Comics.

John Romita, Sr.’s cover to The Amazing Spider-Man 121, © Marvel Comics.

I thought that Spider-man 2 was a **** movie, and I thought this was better, but ****¼ is not a real rating. This film lacks the heartstrings pulling/NYC pride building scenes that Spidey 2 and Amazing had. I love scenes like those, but I acknowledge that they are a little bit cheesy pie. The feelings from genuine human relationships helped me really enjoy this movie. Then the on screen chemistry between Peter Parker, aka Spider-man—Andrew Garfield—and Gwen Stacy—Emma Stone—is still the best that I have seen in years, the best since Anna Kendrick and Joseph Gordon-Levitt  in 50/50. Better than Academy Award nominated stabs at relationships like The Wolf of Wall Street or American Hustle. There were great characters throughout the movie, and a many issue story arc full of events. For the above reason, I choose the characters. As a heads up, listing the characters below might spoil things for you.

Spider-man is pulled in many directions by his desires for love, family, the past, duty. He handles things like a hero, but also one with the emotional fortitude of a teenager. The audience mostly sees the world through his eyes, but his tantrums belie his true age. That is an improvement on the Tobey Maguire Spidey and it all started with two factors: web shooters and laughter. From those two points, the Amazing series has captured more of the Spider-man I know.

Rhino: A criminal who just wants to be a criminal. He is named Aleksei Sysevich, or something like Алексй Цысевич, probably. It was odd for Paul Giamatti to take such a small role, which leads me to expect that he will be important in the upcoming films that Sony intends to make. He is Rhino #2 in costume, but the original character, for you Marvel fans.

Lots of computer graphics and a little Paul Giamatti (Sysevich), Amazing Spider-man 2, © 2014 Sony.

Lots of computer graphics and a little Paul Giamatti (Sysevich), Amazing Spider-man 2, © 2014 Sony.

Max Dillon: He was just an Oscorp electrician who liked Spider-man. Chris Nashawatay, of EW, attacked this and the Marvel world’s “foreshadowing,” i.e. Spidey saves him and talks to him. Maybe I am an apologist, but in a comic book that would have been done in a flashback, as part of the character’s backstory, so I understand why in film that this is the convention. Grantland’s Wesley Morris disliked the film but loved Jamie Foxx’s Max Dillon. I found Max’s pre-Electro to be a dithering character who treaded on the line of being a caricature before he won me over.

Aunt May: Sally Field has a few extended scenes in this and she’s as good in this as in the first.

Gwen Stacy: Emma Stone was great in this. And her character is an upgrade on the comic book version since she has more agency and more to offer than she did as a Peter’s high school sweetheart. She has somehow parlayed her internship into a pre-collegiate job at Oscorp and somehow puts up with Peter Parker’s indecisive face. She gets a scholarship offer to Oxford and refuses to let Peter make her decisions for her.

That's not really what it is.

Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) shrunken down and stuck inside a watch! © 2014 Sony, The Amazing Spider-man 2.

Harry Osborn: The role that made James Franco famous has been passed down to the wonderfully flawed Dane DeHaan—Chronicle, whose father was mentioned in Amazing many times, but never seen. In his opening scene, and the only scene for Norman Osborn—Chris Cooper, Conklin in The Bourne Identity—the strained and strange relationship comes across quite clearly. And Harry learns of his lethal condition, the one that left Dr. Curt Connors to test out his lizard serum on himself.

Alistair Smythe, Dr. Ashley Kafka, & Felicia Hardy: BJ Novak—Ryan on “The Office”—as Max’s unscrupulous superior at Oscorp, Marton Csokas—last Treadstone operative in The Bourne Supremacy—had a great accent as the crappy scientist who experiments on Max, Felicity Jones—Like Crazy—has a tiny role that might pay off as much as Novak’s two scenes as Smythe. Two of those are familiar names to Spider-man fans.

It is that familiarity that helps this movie succeed on a level that the prior movies did not. This is impressively emotional for such a fun movie. It had a consistency of tone that many, many movies strive for, but fail to maintain.