Sunday, May 28, 2006

X3: The Last Stand

Rating: B

The Mutants are back and they're pissed off in the third and final(?) installment of the successful X-Men trilogy. There are many changes in this movie as compared to the other two, most notable is the lack of character development and the abundance of new blood to keep track of. It was mentioned in X2 that there are many mutants out there in the world, and in X3, we see a whole bunch of them. Joining the regular irregulars of Storm, Professor Xavier, Wolverine, Cyclops, Rogue, Magneto, Mystique, Pyro, and Iceman are Juggernaut (Gone in 60 Seconds' Vinnie Jones), Callisto, who has super speed and can sense mutants, Beast (Kelsey Grammer in all his blue fur glory), Angel (The Punisher's Ben Foster), and Multipleman. Some other mutants who were in the background get a promotion to the forefront are Kitty Pride and Colossus. Confused yet? That's not all. There are others that are mostly names only. One mutant conspiculously absent is Nightcrawler. Maybe there's a quotent of only 2 blue people in each movie. Jean Grey, who was very much dead at the end of X2, returns as the alter-ego personality Phoenix, a mutant of unlimited power as well as limited control over said powers.

The events of X3 happen 3 years after X2. The plot focuses on a drug company that has found a cure for the mutant "X" gene. The conflict starts there with which mutants would want to be cured to be like everyone else, and if the government will make the cure mandatory. Storm protests that mutants, "Are not a disease that can be cured, because nothing is wrong with us". Magneto sees the cure as a threat and declares war on the human race, and hilarity ensues.

The whiz bang special effects are great as expected for a 210 million dollar(!) budget. But the big showdown fights between certain mutants don't last as long as I would have liked. The big end battle is nicely done, but just doesn't have the same feel as the other two movies. Without giving too much away, I'll tell you to be prepared for many casualities on both sides. Magneto seems a lot more meaner this time around. Perhaps his funny looking helmet is on too tight. It supposedly leaves things open for a sequel, but personally, I will need a lot of convincing before I'll get excited about it. There is a Wolverine spinoff in the works, as well as a prequel involving Professor and Magneto as younger, friendlier folks.

Overall, I expected more from this film, but left only a little disappointed. I didn't like the portrayal of Juggernaut, nor did I like the intro of Beast. One more thing, stay for the end of the credits and you'll be rewarded with a short, but poingant scene that leaves more questions. If you're sharp, you'll connect this scene to one earlier in the movie. You really only get glimpes of Phoenix's power until the end battle, but even then, you're left wanting more. This movie just doesn't have the same feel of the other two, perhaps due to a different director. Still, it's worth seeing, it's the first major blockbuster this year (sorry MI:3).

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Mission Impossible III

Rating: B

Tom Cruise takes a break from jumping on couches, muzzling Katie Holmes, and generally being a tabloid writer's dream to take on the bad dudes in the third installment of the popular Mission Impossible series.

This part not only holds it's own, but in ways, it's better than is predecessors. Tom Cruise's Ethan Hunt has retired and married to Michelle Monaghan, a nurse who doesn't know anything about Ethan's agent work. An agent (Kerri Russell) gets captured by a arms dealer (played beautifully by Phillip Seymour Hoofman), so it's back in the field for Ethan to save the day. Fan favorite Ving Rhames is back as Luther Strickwell. Joining the fray this time around are Laurence Fishburne, Billy Crudup, Maggie Q, and one time James Bond frontrunner Jonathan Rhys Meyers.

Action is the name of the game in this one. That is a good thing because there is absolutly no chemistry between Cruise and Monaghan. There is one especially excruciting rooftop scene that will leave you groaning and praying for something, anything, to blow up. None of missions match the first one's CIA scene, (it's even referenced by Rhames) but they are enjoyable and are easy to get lost in. The intensity kicks up a notch when Hoffman is on screen. His portrayal of a menancing arms dealer really cements his place as one of the best actors in our time.

Hopefully the tabloid funk that's on Cruise won't affect this box office too much, because this really isn't a bad movie. It's a great way to start off the summer movie season.

Monday, May 01, 2006

United 93

Rating: B

This is a tough film. There are some that feel that it's too soon for Hollywood to be sticking it's nose into the events of September 11th and just reject this movie and not see it. Others counting myself, are curious of how the folks in Tinsletown handle such a touchy subject. The theater was full, and for the most part, everyone was quiet and expecting the worst.

It sounds funny, but I don't think I feel the was I am supposed to feel after seeing this movie. I wasn't that sad, or hurt, or angry, or pretty much anything. Maybe it was too soon, or perhaps I'm numb to all of it, or maybe the movie just didn't touch me like it should have.

As we all know, United 93 is the one plane on 9/11 that didn't make it to it's target after the passengers rose up and tried to take back the plane causing the terrorists to ditch it into a field in Pennsylvania. The majority of the movie sets up the uprising. Shots of Americans going about thier daily lives is intercut with the final preparations of the Muslim terrorists. Once the events start rolling, you really get a sense of the confusion of that day. Rapid cuts among the different air traffic controllers and the military demonstrate very well just how little of a handle we actually had on the situation. They do use reall footage of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Making money off of real pain and suffering is not my forte, but who didn't enjoy Saving Private Ryan?

Moving to the title flight, the passengers expericence the hijacking, and then they start the process of calling thier families to learn the horrible truth, they aren't coming home. A plan is made, and the attack is on. The movie was based on the last phone calls and the black box of the plane. Some of course is improved, but all is not too bad. The uprising is right near the end and is very brutal.

Overall, it's not a bad movie, just didn't rip my guts out like I expected. This is probably a bad comparison, but I didn't feel the same way about this movie as I did about Star Wars III. Let me explain. In Star Wars, we all know that Anakin is going to be Darth Vader, and yet, when he goes bad, it kicks you in the gut, but you hold out just a little hope that he'll see the light and change his mind. In United 93, I never had that sensation about the passengers that they just might make it to the cockpit and fly home. Maybe it was because it was a real story, not science fiction fantasy, who knows. Perhaps we all need to get into that fantasy when we go to the movies and get lost in another world.