I get the chance to watch a couple of movies I was looking forward to. The newest Kevin Smith movie, The newest X-Men installment and Lars von Trier's Melancholia.
X-Men: First Class
I have to admit it. I expected this movie to be pretty bad. But the truth is that if you think about it, there shouldn't have been any expectations for this movie to be any good. X-Men: The Last Stand and X-Men Origins: Wolverine went from the ridiculously bad to the incredibly mediocre. They both lacked what this movie had in spades. A great director, fantastic actors with things to prove, and an emphasis on ambiance and character development. Let me also say that Matthew Vaughn still hasn't made a movie I didn't enjoy (Stardust, Layer Cake, Kick-Ass) . The other X-Men movies always felt like a mutant catwalk. The 'let's see how many mutants we can get in the movie' mentality hurt them immensely. Here we have a lot of humans, but we kind of feel like we know them all and begin to care about them (at least the good guys... the bad guys are another story). The story is one that any fan of the X-Men is partially familiar with. Eric Lehnsherr is a young Jewish boy during World War II. He and his parents are taken to a concentration camp where his powers to manipulate magnetic fields are released. There is also a young genius called Charles Xavier. He is a telepath and an expert of various fields of science. These are the main characters and their relationship drives the whole film. James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender are fantastic actors and they really showed them here. Both of them have charismatic personalities but they both are destined to be enemies by the cards that each was dealt by the universe. There is also the really interesting plot point of Mystique and Beast and their relationship. So as not to spoil anything, let me just say that you should watch movies. It's not only a really good superhero movie, but a good movie overall.
8.5 out of 10
I was looking forward to this movie. Superbad and Adventureland director Greg Mottola knows how to make a funny movie. This time he had the help of one of my favorite comedic duos from the other side of the pond. Simon Pegg and Nick Frost are the kings of the buddy movies. They tackled zombies and crazy cultists and now they are on a trip of the UFO sites across the US. Here they meet a bunch of different characters, especially the extraterrestrial Paul voiced by Seth Rogen, who is being followed by "the government". It is a funny tale of friendship and camaraderie. It's nothing out of the ordinary, but I think they did well in the use of the alien. And the voice of Seth Rogen fit him perfectly well.
7.5 out of 10
The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus
Terry Gilliam has always been a wondrously imaginative director. From his hilarious comedies (Monty Python and the Holy Grail) to his darker looks at humans and humanity (Brazil and Tideland), to his more well known films like Twelve Monkeys and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Gilliam always knows how to take something that might be just interesting and turn up to the oomph degree. This movie is a little bit hard to explain, so I'm not going to even try. Let's just say that Doctor Parnassus (played by the always awesome Christopher Plummer) is looking for people to enter his Imaginarium (in a way, it is his own mind). Along with his faithful daughter Valentina (Lily Cole), his "adopted" son Anton (Andrew Garfield), and old friend Percy (Verne Troyer), they discover that Tony (Heath Ledger, Johnny Depp, Jude Law and Colin Farrell) has an ability to attract people to the Imaginarium as well as having a very secret past. Obviously that is only part of this very confusing tale. This movie is most well known as being the last movie Heath Ledger was in before he passed away. His performance wasn't done, so the filmmakers called on three of the top actors to play the same character in different dream sequences. I think they did well with this gimmick and its a good homage to Ledger that the movie was still released while keeping his part in it (which is really good). Besides the amazing imagery and visuals, the acting is what keeps the movie interesting. All the actors do a really good job. I especially enjoyed Tom Waits as Mr. Nick, one of the villains in the film. This movie is not without its flaws, but its interesting enough to keep me watching.
7 out of 10
I take religious extremism very seriously. It is a disgrace that people still murder each other because they think differently about some imaginary being that there is no evidence exists. Either way, this movie was not at all what I expected. Kevin Smith is well known for his hilarious comedies full of memorable characters and fantastic dialogue. This is not like any of his movies so far. It's not a comedy and it's just something I didn't expect at all. A group of teens find this horny older woman that is willing to have sex with them online. Little did they know that she was a member of a cultish church not unlike the Westboro Baptist Church that has been on the news (except for the killing and the guns... yet). What happens after, I'll let you find out. While the cast has some interesting names, especially Academy Award winner Melissa Leo and John Goodman, the shining light of the whole thing is Michael Parks as the head of the church, Abin Cooper. There is a charisma that surrounds him that is easy to see but hard to define. The words that come out of his mouth are vile and hateful, but they all hang on every word and every song and every smile the old man deals them. This guy is freaking scary. I'm not sure I liked the final discussion of the movie between federal agents, and it seemed like an unnecessary way to end the movie. It has a lot of crazy talk, a lot of shooting and it is definitely something new from Kevin Smith. It's always interesting to see filmmakers move out of their comfort zones. That said, this is not a masterpiece or anything like that.
6 out of 10
This is one of the hardest movies to rate that I have seen all year. I was looking forward to this movie and thanks to HDNet Movies, I was able to check it out before it arrived at Netflix. Lars von Trier has always gotten a bad rap for being pretentious for pretentiousness sake and for going so far out of bounds that some people just can't stomach or handle it (see: Antichrist). This movie is pretentious. This is not a movie that everyone will enjoy and truthfully, I didn't enjoy it at times. There is something about it though that deserves to be noticed and watched. Whether the fantastic performances by all the actors involved or the magnificent cinematography coupled with the grand score. While it reminded me a little bit of a movie I hated (The Tree of Life), there is something about this film that drew me in. Kirsten Dunst plays Justine, she just got married with Michael (True Blood's Alexander Skarsgård) and the first part of the movie is their wedding. Michael is happy but Justine seems to be in a downward spiral of depression. You can immediately see that her family is not normal by any means. Her parents, played by John Hurt and Charlotte Rampling show a little bit of the disfunctionality that Justine and her sister Claire probably went through. Claire is played by Charlotte Gainsbourg and once again she shows exactly why she won the Best Actress award in 2009 at Cannes. Claire is married to John (Kiefer Sutherland), and they seem to be a partly happy couple. That is until we get to the second half of the movie that deals mostly with Justine's catatonic state, Claire's utter fear that the planet Melancholia will destroy the Earth and John's obsession with this blue ball in the sky. This is a story of depression and what it can do to the mind of a person. It is also a look into the end of the world through von Trier's eyes. If you get a chance to see it, you should, just because it is an experience unlike most of what's out there. If only just for the performances.
6 out of 10