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Thursday, August 7, 2014

8/7/2014- I am Groot? (Summer Movie Roundup)

Well, there’s no need for bloated, portentous introductions here, is there? These are my thoughts, on each of the movies I was able to see over the summer. I’ll try to keep this brief, as I have 999: 9 Hours, 9 Persons, 9 Doors to get back to as soon as I’m done posting this. ;-)

X-men: Days of Future Past
The X-men movies have never exactly been great, and some of them have been downright awful, but the consistently good casting (mostly) seems to have kept the series afloat. That being said, Days of Future Past is one of the better ones. Of course, Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine is prominently featured, and Days of Future Past also brings back Sirs Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellon as the elderly Charles Xavier and Magneto. Being a time-travel story, Xavier and Magneto’s younger selves also get much more significant screentime, and James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender reprise their roles from First Class as a result. The actual plot, centered on preventing a mad scientist played by Peter Dinklage from getting his hands on Mystique’s (Jennifer Lawrence) DNA to construct his army of mutant killing Sentinels is a little flimsy, but it must be said that the Sentinels themselves look BADASS (their future incarnations, that is. The prototypes we see at the end of the film are adorably retro). Superhero movies have gotten much better since the days of the original X-men, but Days of Future Past is still a decent action film with some great actors. 

Now this is the one we were all worried about. After Pacific Rim brought a full-scale Kaiju epic to the big screen, my hopes were rather high for the Gareth Edwards-directed Godzilla film. The stink of the 1999 reboot film still lingers over the concept of an American Godzilla adaptation, but fortunately the new Godzilla is much more faithful an incarnation of the classic franchise than we could have hoped for. Two major problems keep Godzilla from true greatness, however. Like with Pacific Rim, the human element of the story is the worst aspect of the film, yet gets a bizarre amount of focus. Brian Cranston and Ken Watanabe do a decent job with what little the script gives them to do, but the other human characters are terribly bland. Second, the amount of Godzilla fake-outs in the movie gets a little absurd. It isn’t until the end that we finally get to see the monster-on-monster action, and it is excellent, but less so in the wake of all the times we thought we were going to see Godzilla duke it out only to have the camera cut away to Bland Human Protagonist 1234567. Still, if nothing else, it’s worth seeing for the climactic battle between Godzilla and the Muto.   

Million Dollar Arm
Here’s my completely objective analysis of Million Dollar Arm.
It is a movie, featuring actors, that was recorded with a camera. It contains baseball.
You have probably seen this movie before, and it was probably more interesting there.

Iron Man cast reunion, sponsored by Twitter.
Moving on.

Edge of Tomorrow
Have you ever been surprised to find out that a movie was good? I was all set to hate Edge of Tomorrow, based on a Japanese novel called All You Need Is Kill, simply because I was expecting another Tom Cruise ego trip. Instead, it ended up being a surprisingly smart sci-fi action film that effectively used its central gimmick- that Tom Cruise is stuck in a Groundhog Day-esque loop where he restarts the day after dying, which he uses to aid the war effort against an invading alien force. It’s a lot of fun and highly recommended.

Transformers: Age of Extinction
It shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that Age of Extinction is a bad film, but what’s especially curious is that it both falls into the same pitfalls that the pervious Bayformers did, as well as making strides to avoid them. There’s no Shia, the robots have been redesigned to make them slightly more distinctive, Linkin Park has been swapped out for Imagine Dragons (which, actually, isn’t an improvement at all), and the hyped-up Dinobots are admittedly a lot of fun… but you have to slog through two hours of the same painfully boring, awkward human character subplots before anything even remotely exciting actually happens, and by then it’s hard to muster up much enthusiasm.

Another movie that caught me completely off guard, Snowpiercer is actually a Korean film. There was quite a bit of executive drama surrounding this film, so it only got a limited release, and I feel fortunate that I got a chance to see it because it’s one of the best films of the year. Snowpiercer stars Captain America himself, Chris Evans, as a reluctant revolutionary leader in a post-apocalyptic world where the world has frozen over and the surviving humans are confined to a high-speed train that never ceases moving. So, Hunger Games meets Polar Express? I can dig it.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Rise of the Planet of the Apes turned out to be a lot better than it had any right to be as far as reboots go, and Dawn is a significantly improved follow-up. Everything that the first film did well is done better here. The apes are effectively characterized, allowing the audience to sympathize with both sides of the inevitable conflict. Motion capture legend Andy Serkis once again plays the role of Caesar, now the leader of an ape colony who would, given the choice, avoid war with the humans, but… well, we all know how well that turns out. At least we got an excellent movie out of the deal, right?

Guardians of the Galaxy
I’m just going to say it. Guardians of the Galaxy is the best Marvel movie.
Or, at the very least, I would place it up there with the original Avengers in terms of quality, which is not praise I give lightly. Guardians had the potential to be a disaster- it marks the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s first attempt to expand its boundaries beyond the well-trod ground of the earlier Marvel Films. The result is a sprawling epic that is just as dramatic and humorous, if not more so, than any of the MCU’s prior efforts. It delivers a Star Wars-esque space opera that functions as a stand-alone movie, but also provides interesting tidbits of exposition and clarification for those of us who have been keeping up with Marvel Studio’s prior efforts.

And J.J. Abrams, I hope you were taking notes during this movie.

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