Thursday, June 5, 2014

Hey! I Saw Some More Movies - Neighbors, Godzilla, X-Men: Days of Future Past

Ugh... I've been under the weather, so these reviews are a lot later than I would have liked.

Neighbors was a pretty funny movie. It started kind of slow but once it found it's groove, it was pretty hilarious. Interestingly, though Neighbors is another in a long line of raunchy comedies, unlike most it has heart. There are real themes about what it means to grow up both from the perspective of the fun-loving college kid and the young parent that still wants to be cool.

So Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne are parents to a baby girl and stuck in that phase I like to call "baby jail" where-in the parents are seemingly imprisoned by having to take constant care of their child. New neighbors move in next door in the form of a fraternity led by Zac Efron and Dave Franco. Rogen and Byrne decide to introduce themselves to the college kids in the hopes that they can curb any rowdiness and loud music that might disturb their baby. They end up hitting it off with the fraternity. But their relationship goes sour when, unable to reach Efron's character to ask the music to be turned down, they call the police. The situation devolves from there into a prank war.

One problem that Neighbors runs into is the same problem that any college comedy encounters... living in the shadow of Animal House. It's not anybody's fault, but regardless of how good the movie is, be it Van Wilder, PCU or Old School, it more than likely pales in comparison to the John Landis classic. Beyond that, I'm sure one can nitpick a lot about Neighbors, but in a raunchy comedy, I try not to expect too much. As far as I'm concerned, if a comedy can consistently make me laugh, as Neighbors did, then mission accomplished.

I want to point out something that helps set this movie apart from many other raunchy comedies. With the help of Seth Rogen's real life spouse Lauren Miller, the part that Rose Byrne would eventually was changed. Originally the part had Rogen's on-screen wife be the stereotypical nagging wife. But after some revisions, Byrne's character seemed more equal to Rogen. She wanted to have fun just like him and as a result, their relation reflected the mutual respect and adoration they had for one another. It was actually really refreshing and I give major props to those involved for making those changes.

Neighbors has a real heart behind it's raunchiness, though. You have this interesting dichotomy where Rogen and Byrne try to keep their youth alive by sharing the antics and fun lifestyle that the frat boys have, but inevitably have to come to terms with their adult lives as parents. On the flip-side, Efron has spent most of his time at college having fun and not focusing on his grades. Now that he is staring down the barrel of graduation and the knowledge that afterward his amazing life and status within the fraternity will cease, he clings to Rogen's character as an example of how even grown ups can still be cool. When Rogen calls the cops Efron both feels betrayed and disillusioned, and takes out his fears and frustrations on the couple next door. That's pretty deep for a movie with penis jokes.

Overall, I liked Neighbors. I didn't like it as much as some of the other Goldberg/Rogen films like Superbad, Pineapple Express and This is the End, but it was pretty funny and worth the matinee ticket I paid to see it.


I don't have much to say about this new Godzilla flick. The lizard was fat... it didn't seem as bad on the screen, but the various toys representing this new Godzilla make him look like he ate Rodan.  The movie was enjoyable, far from perfect, but a hell of a lot better than that Roland Emmerich crap from 1998. Although, I did like the Taco Bell tie-in commercials:

(apparently someone spliced new footage to make an update of that first ad)


Most of the criticism I have heard of the Gareth Edwards Godzilla movie concerns the human characters. I will admit their plot was kind of weak, feeling more like observers in Cloverfield trying to survive than active participants in the plot. But I need to point out that the human subplots in any Godzilla movie are crap! Nobody has ever sat through a Kaiju movie for the humans, it's always about the monsters! Seriously, as a kid I would basically sit through 80 minutes of boring human subplots to get to the 10 minutes of people in rubber monster suits fighting and smashing models. Honestly, I thought the human subplots involving Bryan Cranston, Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Elizabeth Olson (or as I like to refer to her as... "The Talented Olson") were better than the others I have seen. (If only Raymond Burr was still alive). But to read some reviews that talk about how much more interesting Matthew Broderick's character was in that terrible 1998 movie, that's just insulting. Everyone sucked in that movie except Jean Reno, because regardless of how bad a movie he is in, Reno gets a pass for Leon the Professional. (Granted, if he were to star in White Chicks 2, I would be forced to revoke that pass.)

My biggest complaints concern how little we saw of Godzilla until the very end (although the end was awesome). We have a slow build to him, with short glimpses here and there, which would have been more rewarding if everyone sitting in the audience had no idea who Godzilla was and what he was capable of. I did like that there were two other monsters for Godzilla to fight, which was admittedly more fulfilling than having the King of the Monsters fight humans with futile weapons. But it was so frustrating that everytime Godzilla started to fight one, we would cut to something else human related. That was my biggest complaint.

However, I paid to see monsters fight and in the end, that's what I saw. Toward the climax, we got to see Godzilla go balls to the wall fighting both the other monsters at once and leveling much of San Francisco in the process. During that fight, the movie achieved the one thing I had demanded of it, or else it would not have been a Godzilla movie. In 1998's Godzilla, the monster DIDN'T BREATHE FIRE! The trailer tricked us into thinking it did with the breath from it's roar kicking up a burning helicopter, but that was a lie. The Godzilla I knew would light up it's spiky fins and breathe blue atomic fire at it's enemies... and by damned that's just what we got in this Gareth Edwards movie! In the end, I was pleased enough with what we got, which was finally the Hollywood version of Godzilla that was faithful to the Toho films I grew up watching!

X-Men: Days of Future Past

Okay, so in lieu of a regular review for the newest X-Men movie, I am doing a list of ten things I liked and 10 things I didn't like (or were kind of weird).

10 Things I Liked About X-Men: Days of Future Past

1. I am happy X-Men: Days of Future Past wasn't the train wreck it could have been. I said the same thing about First Class and like with that movie, I was more than pleasantly surprised with the new one. For a movie concerning time travel, the plot mostly made sense.

2. I give mad props to Bryan Singer and the casting department for having Peter Dinklage play the part of Bolivar Trask, not because Trask was supposed to be a little person (the Marvel Database says he is supposed to be 5' 10") but because Dinklage is a great actor. It's extremely rare for a little person to get a role for any reason other than the character needing to be small, so this is a pretty amazing thing. Hell, there wasn't even a mention of Trask being small in the film, he was just treated as the character. That, and he had an incredible moustache. The 70's really were a great time to have a moustache.

3. The dystopian future scenes were used really well. I thought it would have been a five minute scene at the beginning of the movie and it was done, but no... it was a recurring segment that helped create tension throughout the film (and especially toward the climax). Also, it made pretty good use of the characters. We didn't learn about the newcomers to the franchise (Bishop, Sunspot, Blink and Warpath) but we saw their powers in action.

4. The Nimrod Sentinels were awesome. They were like creepy futuristic evolving Destroyers... you know, like that thing from the first Thor movie?

5. Blink. Yeah, I know I already mentioned her, but she was cool in the movie and she's one of my favorite Marvel characters. They did a great job showing her teleportation powers.

6. It was great to see the old X-men again. Beyond Xavier and Magneto, we get to see Storm, Shadowcat, Iceman, Cyclops, Jean Grey, Beast and Rogue... for a second, but Rogue nonetheless. I will also compliment Kelsey Grammer for sitting in makeup for what must have been hours just to appear on screen for literally 3 seconds!

7. Quicksilver was great. They clearly amped up his speed to Flash levels, but his character was perfect. That one segment set to Jim Croce's "Time in a Bottle" was one of the best of the entire film.

8. It was nice to see them actually use Ellen Page. It seemed like she was barely in The Last Stand. Later on, Jonny Prophet and I were watching the disturbing movie Hard Candy, and marveled at her performance (made all the more impactful that only she and Patrick Wilson were the on screen characters for about 95% of the movie). We both surmised that Ellen Page was tragically underutilized in X-Men 3. Thankfully in Days of Future Past she got a pretty important role.

9. Days of Future Past pretty much ret-conned The Last Stand from continuity! No more vaporized Xavier! No more Morlocks with wrong powers like Psylocke. No writing out Cyclops! No having Angel in the cast for no reason at all! No Dark Phoenix being a dumb psychic split personality! It makes me so happy! (I wonder if it also fixes the crap from X-Men Origins: Wolverine? Deadpool deserved better, dammit!)

10. Michael Fassbender.

10 Things I Disliked About X-Men: Days of Future Past (or were just weird)

1. So we learn that Bolivar Trask captured and killed several of the characters introduced in First Class in order to perfect his Sentinels. These characters are Azazel (okay, red Nightcrawler isn't a big loss), Riptide (aka the Hellfire Club guy nobody can remember the name of), Angel Salvatore (I liked Zoe Kravitz's character and was hoping that the X-men would have to face her since she went bad, but I guess it's not a huge deal since they're already doing that with Mystique), Banshee (WHAT?) and White Queen (THE FUCK?!?) Part of me can let Banshee go. His character is long dead in the comics and the actor who played him wasn't even Irish (one of my complaints of First Class), but Emma Frost is dead? She is actually a huge part of the X-men-verse and the Marvel Universe! Beyond her involvement in the Hellfire Club, she led her own young mutant team called The Hellions, co-led another in Generation X (with Banshee no less), became the Head-Mistress of the Xavier School, was a member of the Dark Illuminati and has been a major player in the Marvel Now (post Avengers vs X-Men) mutant books. But no, I guess the films have no use for this interesting fan favorite character. If things didn't work out with January Jones, fine, but you can recast! Frickin' stupid!

2. How the hell did Charles Xavier get his body back? Up until the end, everything that led to the dystopian future followed the movie path, meaning Xavier's body was still vaporized by "Phoenix" Jean Grey. Yet in the future, he's all Patrick Stewart. What the fuck, movie? Yes, I have heard the theory of Xavier having a perpetually comatose twin, but that's just about the most convenient bullshit I have ever heard.

3. Wait, so John F. Kennedy was a mutant? What was his power? Sexual Persuasion? Wait a minute... what if during his famous speech in Germany, he revealed himself as a mutant by declaring he could become "a jelly donut" at will!

4. You know, there's a missed opportunity here. What if instead of the Angel Salvatore character in First Class, they had used Warren Worthington III as Angel? Now let's say he reprised his role in Days of Future Past, but was seemingly killed at some point? The next movie is Apocalypse... wouldn't it have been bad ass to have Archangel debut as the Horseman of Death? (Of course, since the Zoe Kravitz's Angel is dead, what if she were resurrected by Apocalypse with metal wings as a female Archangel? That would actually be awesome!)

5. Since when does Kitty Pride (Shadowcat) have the power to send a human consciousness back in time? That could actually be explained with the "secondary mutation" thing. The same way Emma Frost could turn to diamonds, some mutants gained another power... for some reason. Kitty Pride could actually be given that power in the comics, thus rendering this whole argument moot. However, that would just be silly.

6. I am a little sad that Days of Future Past moved the franchise back toward Bryan Singer's X-Universe. It makes me wonder what might have been if First Class had stayed course. You had a team of X-Men having to cope with loss and betrayal after the Cuban showdown. You had Magneto (for the first time on film actually looking like classic Magneto) with his Brotherhood of Mutants running amok. You had a whole new world of mutants both good and bad to explore in the awesome setting of the mid to late 1960's. I mean, I would have loved to have seen the influence of the "Summer of Love" and hippies on the exploits of the X-men. First Class had such a unique feel unlike any of the other X-men films and while Days of Future Past tried to bring about the 70's in the same way, it wasn't quite the same.

7. I didn't really get why so many students and teachers of the Xavier Institute were drafted into the Vietnam War. The draft wasn't that all encompassing. It wasn't like World War II where there were so few working age men left that women had to run the factories. It wasn't like the American Civil War where all able-bodied men would be drafted from a town. Draft ages are typically 18-25, so why were the teachers drafted? Also, I thought there were exemptions for students (I could be wrong about that). Also, seeing Havok there made me wonder why America wouldn't have done better? Screw Agent Orange and napalm, that guy can clear a jungle with one energy blast! Granted, the movie made it seem that Havok and his fellow mutants kept their powers on the down-low for fear of bad government stuff happening to them. That just seems weird though. The US government knows they have mutants living among the humans, you'd think they want them to fight for America with their gifts! Come to think of it, the X-men started as a government funded operation in First Class. You'd think the US Military would love to get their hands on mutants to be their new weapons.

8. Okay, so now we've had the 3rd actor to play Colonel William Stryker? I get not using Brain Cox, he looks too old. Why not use Danny Huston again? I doubt he's doing much. Plus, his appearances in X-Men Origins Wolverine started right around the time of DOFP and into the 80's. Maybe he just aged really badly.

9. In speaking of aging badly, what the hell happens to James McAvoy in between DOFP and the 1981 flashback of Xavier and Magneto visiting a young Jean Grey? The dude lost all his hair and aged considerably! He looks like a completely different guy! (See what I did there? Yeah.)

10. So Hank McCoy created an anti X-gene serum that in addition to temporarily deactivating the X-gene, had the strange side effect of curing spinal injuries? That's just weird, but I thought it even weirder at the end when McCoy took several syringes worth of the serum to temporarily 'deactivate' his X-gene to avoid being targeted by a sentinel. I don't see that working so quickly and effectively. It's not like a switch in your brain, DNA runs through every cell of the body. Think about how long it takes for aspirin to take effect, you think an increased number of shots of the serum will speed things up?

In the end, I did enjoy X-Men: Days of Future Past. My expectations were low, but I was pleasantly surprised and despite my complaints, the negatives didn't outweigh the positives for me.

So will Channing Tatum have to grow out his hair to play Gambit or will he wear a wig? 

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