Friday, 20 May 2016

X-Men: Apocalypse

With the emergence of the world's first mutant, Apocalypse, the X-Men must unite to defeat his extinction level plan.

X-Men: Apocalypse is the latest entry in one of the more reliable comic-book franchise around. Director Bryan Singer pioneered the contemporary wave of superhero movies with 2000s X-Men and made a welcome return to the series just two years ago with the time-jumping Days of Future Past. Once again, directed by Bryan Singer, the franchise's trusted leader, Apocalypse, doesn't lack ambitions. It comfortably feels like the biggest X-Men movie yet. It comes to no surprise as he already made three amazing X-Men movies. 

Still, I didn't really expected so many negative reviews for that film. I loved Days of Future Past and as many great movies it has some flaws and problems. In my opinion this film could appeared quite risky on paper, and somehow ambitious. But it displays some unexpected moments and comedy; such as "At least we all agree, the third one is always the worst", concludes Jean Grey, leaving the multiplex after seeing Return of the Jedi - referring by the way to Brett Ratner The Last Stand. Plus, despite a handful of references to President Reagan and the Cold War, Apocalypse clear off 80s politics and instead leans on familiar pop culture references. 

It helps that First Class was so well cast, with McAvoy, Fassbender and Lawrence slipping back into their roles with ease, bringing gravitas and backstories. Though the new class is also extremely appealing. Once again the line up isn't short on talent or charisma and the addition of series newcomers only support the ensemble appeal. Various characters are introduced more in depth such as Cyclope or Scott Summers. The relationship between Charles Xavier and Magneto is what I believe the most important and interesting plot device of the entire saga. In fact, they seem bond to each other and their chemistry is as always brilliant. There are also personal and very human elements of the story involving characters like Jean Grey or Professor X and the inner demons of his brains which ads more depth. 

Though, Turner's Grey often comes across as unpleasant rather than insecure. While Jennifer Lawrence makes Mystique more grim than ever. She's just a Katniss with superpowers, which is a shame because the movie could have used a little less inspirational speech making. Meanwhile, Evan Peters as Quicksilver is PERFECT. I didn't think they could top his sequence in Days of Future Past but they did. So enjoy it! 

Oscar Isaac is a fantastic actor, and has recently been proving himself one of the most versatile actors of his generation. I love him, even more now, after The Force Awakens. His character is very menacing and works well, except for the first twenty minutes and his introduction because I couldn't really pin point what was his aim, what he was going for, why he actually needs the Four Horsemen is never particularly clear. His motivations are not very clear either. 

The first half hour is slow and I can understand that some people just check out when a movie doesn't get your attention from the first scene. But here, it tries to set up too many characters at once. Plus, there's so many things going on that it becomes a bit exhausting at times, and anyone lacking a half-decent grasp at the mythology so far should probably get bored. It doesn't exactly welcome newcomers. While series' fan will no doubt have many bones to pick with the choices made here. Indeed, several scene structures nod back to Director Bryan Singer's first X-Men. Apocalypse is one of the rare film that gets better and better, scene after scene; more investing. I got more and more involved in the story as the film played on. Each scene was a corner stone for the next one to get even better. 

The opening sequence, set in 3600 BCE in the Nile Valley, looks like nothing so much as unused footage from the recent Exodus: Gods and Kings. It represents certainly a high level of Hollywood craftsmanship from imposing production design in sequences set across multiple continents to costumes designers. It might be the most action-heavy finale of any X-Men film I can think of right now. It could lost focus on the story but it works. Despite the undeniable presence of a huge amount of action Apocalypse is decidedly a case of more is less, especially when compared with the surprising action and interesting personal interactions in others big Marvel franchises. The film makes a point of recalling the Holocaust once too many, that shows particularly bad taste; counterbalanced by one blowminding scene involving Magneto in a forest. 

Overall, trust me, wait and be patient with this film.

Sunday, 15 May 2016

Café Society

Set in the 1930s, a young Bronx native moves to Hollywood where he falls in love with the secretary of his powerful uncle, an agent to the stars. after returning to New York he is swept up in the vibrant world of high society nightclub life. 

Café Society opened this year Cannes Film Festival and is the latest film directed by Woody Allen. It's a story that mixes various parts of the Allen back catalogue to varying degrees of success. A film that wants more than anything to entertain. In many ways Café Society could be said to restate almost all of the key ideas and themes of Woody Allen's films in one way or another: life, chance, fate, love and guilt. 

It also comes from the movie providing the performances. Jesse Eisenberg is so seamlessly cast as the prototypical Allen protagonist that when the film shift from Allen's voice over to Bobby speaking it feels continuous. Bobby's broken heart has caused him to undergo a Bogartian growing up: from a gauche boy to a mature disillusioned man, trapped in the wrong marriage. Moreover, Kristen Stewart sad eyes, throaty delivery and slightly heartbreaking aura make her almost interesting, ad an easy chemistry between her and her third-time co-star Jesse Eisenberg and he fits perfectly into his role while she simply overflows the screen. 

But if Café Society is Allen quoting Allen, sometimes literally, at least he's quoting his better bits. Surprise comes from the movie providing the honeyed cinematography by V. Storaro which uses silhouette, graphic compositions and glowing close ups in an often genuinely breathtaking manner. "Life is comedy, but it's one written by a sadistic comedy writer" says Bobby. The comedy writer Allen on display here is more wistful and nostalgic for the very concept of unfulfilled true love, for the heyday of the Hollywood star system, for a New-York of gangsters and back alley craps game and stolen kisses at dawn in Central Park. And all of that nostalgia is okay. Because we were getting pretty nostalgic for the good odd days of warm, witty, fond and funny Woody Allen too. 

Make no mistake Café Society is still late-period Allen. Men are described in terms of their characters and complications, while women are still described in terms of their beauty and their effect on said men. When Blake Lively's character motherhood becomes the butt of an exchange between two men, about how women who become mothers devote way too much time to their children (and ultimately not enough to their husband); it's a sour note that reminds us that Bad Allen is always there, underneath. 

Overall, this film is Woody Allen's most charming film since Midnight in Paris and maybe most beautiful to look at, maybe ever. It's a little pretty little reminder of what once was.

Sunday, 8 May 2016

Eddie the Eagle

The story of Eddie Edwards, the notoriously tenacious British underdog ski jumper who charmed the world at the 1988 Winter Olympics.

Dexter Fletcher's semi-biopic drama-comedy is likely to be the most purely uplifting film of the year. It deals with a guy doing Olympic Ski jumping, they even mention the bobsled team, referencing to Cool Runnings was a pretty fun easter egg. This film is a formulate movie about the human spirit, it's not about whether you win or loose it's about how hard you try. 

Hugh Jackman's easy charm and Christopher Walken's cameo bring a dash of Hollywood glamour. However, while Jackman's mentor is played by Christopher Walken, he doesn't quite blend with the rest of the movie as you half expect Will Ferrell to pop up in the middle of things. And yet it works, partially because any deviation from the norm is a better alternative. In fact, director Dexter Fletcher pushes the comedy to the limit. 

This film is undeniably corny, but also very sincere and tear-inducing, that ultimately it doesn't matter. As the music is swelling and everyone is cheering, I can't believe it but I think there's something in my eye. I was ready to lift Eddie up on my shoulders and parade him through the streets myself. There's a reason why mainstream filmmakers stick to the formula: it works. 

Overall, Dexter Fletcher's biopic of Eddie "The Eagle" Edwards is a by-the-book sports epic.