Feb 022013

X-Men: First Class posterAfter the quite disappointing Wolverine my hopes for First Class, a prequel to the original trilogy were rather tempered.

I turned out to be wrong, First Class turned out to be a good movie on its own and a return to the form in the franchise.

First Class is indeed a prequel – it is set in 1962, and it cover the inception of the superhero team known as X-Men.

Despite the era this is not a Mad Men / X-Men- mashup. Casual sex and smoking are not part of the plot.

And neither does the film have that much to do with the comic book origins of the group. This is a stealthy reboot, as most viewers (including me) had no real idea how the team got started.

But despite the rewritten plot strands, there’s plenty that’s familiar and expected: Magneto cannot be a good guy, Xavier needs to end up in a wheelchair and the seeds of distrust between mutants and humans need to be sowed.

First Class accomplishes those tasks, and plenty more. This is far more than Marvel history by the numbers.

A lot of the weight is borne by the leads in the cast, and both James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender execute themselves well. But the cast is much larger – and a lot of characters barely have a blip on screen. One of those blips is the one of the greatest cameos ever – a totally unexpected visit by a short-tempered canadian mutant.

But it’s not perfect, far from it. The family relationship between Xavier and Mystique doesn’t work at all, and while Kevin Bacon puts on a nice display of villainship as Sebastian Shaw the character feels like a spare Bond supervillain.

But it’s a huge improvement over Wolverine’s solo movie, nonetheless.

Jan 292013

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal SkullThe more I think about the fourth Indiana Jones film, the more convinced I am that I originally rated it far too high, and that the movie would have been better left unmade.

Even though it retains a lot of old magic and injects new elements into the saga, there’s so many things wrong with the film, that it clearly is a severe lapse in Spielberg’s judgment to let this through.

The worst offense is ridiculous jungle chase towards the end of the film. And whoever OK’d it clearly has so significant issues with old Tarzan movies that he should have been recused from the creative team.

Jan 272013

Before Midnight preview posterI seem to have completely missed the announcement of Before Midnight, the unexpected third volume of Richard Linklater’s continuing storyline.

Liked the two first installments a lot. And having been a Linklater-fanboy ever since Dazed & Confused, this film just zoomed into the top of my “most wanted in 2013″.

Jan 212013

Pink Panther posterThis week’s Movie Monday challenges us to nominate the worst of the bad remakes.

My nomination is Shawn Levy’s atrocious Pink Panther from 2006 that lost to the Blake Edwards original on pretty much every feasible scale. Its sequel is even worse, but I do not considered it a remake.

While Steve Martin is not completely terrible as Clouseau 2.0, Kevin Kline’s take on inspector Dreyfus is just a pale imitation of Herbert Lom’s original. Martin’s take on Clouseau is a lot meaner than Sellers’ – while the detective from sixties was a bumbling and slow-witted policeman with very limited skills, the new one is a vain idiot with no redeeming features whatsoever.

The age of Blake Edwards’ movie is most visible in its pacing – it’s at times slow and meandering, whereas this baby ticks along with ADHD speed. Here the jokes vary wildly in quality, but very few of them cross the threshold of laughter.

Movie Monday #76: Better left un-re-made.

Jan 202013

Trollhunter posterWhile I haven’t seen many movies since Elmo was born, the interval since the previous movie review is ridiculous.

So, let’s continue and hope for a tighter pacing in the future.

Like the preceding movie review, this is also of a norwegian film.

Though apart from a word in its title Trollhunter is quite far removed from Headhunters.

It’s yet another found footage film, firmly in the genre revived by Blair Witch Project a decade ago.

Though the movie is best seen without any knowledge of it, its name pretty much gives away the big plot device. Fortunately there’s significantly more to the script than just a reveal – there’s a real story that ties into the protagonists’ discovery of the hidden creatures.

The film is on the dour side, the story is definitely not played for laughs, and an undertone of a poorly hidden menace definitely colours the plot. But it’s not all serious either – there are a couple of great in-jokes (like the goat on the bridge) and the characters behave more or less rationally in the face of unknown and fear. In comparison to Rare Exports this is an adult film, not an elaborately jokey tale of heroics.

While the budget is nowhere near the biggest found footage films (like Cloverfield), the visuals are great. The trolls vary in shape, behaviour and especially size and are very impressively realized.

Heavily recommended – and I’ll certainly try to keep an eye out on whatever this crew tries next.

Jan 192013

This week’s Movie Monday is a tough challenge: “have you ever been attracted to an actor or a movie character of the inappropriate sex”.

Can’t say that I have.

Either I’m so deep in the closet that I need a transcontinental expedition to find my way out, or I just don’t swing that way.

Based on the 40+ years worth of evidence, my bet is on the latter option.

Movie Monday #75: Baby, it’s you.

Jan 192013

Big Fish posterI’m not much for deriving power from specific movies, but there are a couple that clearly resonate with me.

One of them is Tim Burton’s Big Fish. The intertwining impossible stories, a complicated state of family affairs and a surrealistic tumble through the vast hidden America just hit all the necessary spots for me.

Burton’s fantasy-machine and film-making in general at their very best.

Movie Monday #74: My personal power movie.

Jan 182013

Iron Man 3 posterBack in 2005, I really liked Shane Black’s debut movie: Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang.

And now, only eight years later, someone has let him behind the camera again.

Fortunately he’s brought along Robert Downey Jr., whose splendid acting in the film was one of the definite highlights.

The film is one of the ever-continuing and expanding Marvel universe: Iron Man 3.

I haven’t seen any Marvel movies since the original Iron Man, so the premiere of this (probably May in Finland) is a good incentive to pick up the original sextet. Yes, I haven’t yet seen Avengers. Which, to a card-carrying Whedon fanboy is a grave omission indeed.

Jan 022013

Linda Hamilton in TerminatorBack in the late eighties when I first saw the original Terminator, I was just blown away.

James Cameron put up a visual and storytelling masterpiece, and Linda Hamilton’s growth as the heroine was awesome, too.

So, while the likes of Lisbeth Salander and Ellen Ripley indeed are magnificent characters on the big screen, the first Terminator film damaged me permanently.

She survived a terrible hairdo and an attack by Skynet’s right fist. Too bad the series took such a nosedive after the sequel.

Movie Monday #70: Get away from her you bitch.

Jan 012013

For the team I pick the Avengers. After all, Samuel L. Jackson spent years collecting the team in the prequels before Joss Whedon let the whole gang loose.

And considering that this is just phase one, I expect to see Nick Fury in many more stingers before the crew is complete. I was, indeed, kind of miffed that he didn’t appear at the end of Hobbit to offer Bilbo a spot in the Marvel team.

Movie Monday #68: The team.

Jan 012013

Han SoloGary Stu, a wish-fulfillment character for males (following up on Mary Sue a while back).

There’s a couple of good contenders: Ferris Bueller, most characters played by Jackie Chan, Westley from Princess Bride… But no-one comes close to Han Solo in coolness, scope of achievement and just being gray on the traditionally quite white-black scale of characters.

Movie Monday #66: Gary Stu.