X-Men: Days Of Future Past
20th Century Fox
Rated PG-13 for nudity, profanity, suggestive material and intense violence
Wolverine Travels Back In Time In Latest For The Sake Of The Future
X-Men: Days Of Future Past represents the seventh episode in the storied mutant series, and is the third directed by Bryan Singer who also helmed X-Men 1 and 2. This installment is loosely based on the 1981 Marvel Comics (issues #141-142) of the same name, a convoluted tale in which one of the superheroes is sent back in time to prevent an impending disaster threatening the present.
The story unfolds in a dystopian future where we find a race of robots called Sentinels slaying mutants and subjugating humanity. X-Men founder/leader/brain of the operation Dr. Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) summons his surviving protégés to a meeting in a monastery inChinato hatch a plan to preserve the planet.
With the help of “phasing” Shadowcat’s (Ellen Page) quantum tunneling ability, Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) slips through a portal to a parallel universe in 1973. His mission there is to stop fellow mutant Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) from murdering Trask (Peter Dinklage), the diabolical genius who invented the Sentinels.
Why would you want a vanquished villain to be reincarnated? Don’t ask. After all, that’s one of the easier leaps of faith this flick’s farfetched plot expects you to make. If you need a plausible plot, then you might be too close-minded for this imaginative sci-fi.
Try on for size the novel notion that President Kennedy was killed “because he was one of us.” OK, let’s see, so JFK was assassinated for being a mutant? Why not? Just a couple of years ago we learned from another movie that Abraham Lincoln was a vampire slayer. Revisionist history? Or little known fact? You be the judge. What’s next, Dwight Eisenhower as an alien?
But I digress. Fortunately, X-Men 7 audience members will be very richly rewarded for taking flights of fancy, provided they succeed in suspending their disbelief. Don’t try to make sense, for instance, about how you go back in time, reverse a long-deceased person’s demise, and not simultaneously unravel myriad aspects of reality which have already subsequently transpired.
Instead, simply sit back and enjoy a sophisticated period piece unfolding against a nostalgic backdrop littered with staples of the ’70s ranging from lava lamps to waterbeds. This adventure even brings out of mothballs a number of favorite characters we haven’t seen in a while, such as Storm (Halle Berry), Rogue (Anna Paquin), Cyclops (James Marsden), Iceman (Shawn Ashmore) and Colossus (Daniel Cudmore).
Don’t forget to sit through all of the credits for a decent-length teaser about X-Men 8: Apocalypse, coming to theaters in May of 2016. X-Men, a fabled franchise that like a fine wine, just keeps improving with age.
Excellent (4 stars)
In English, French and Vietnamese with subtitles
Running time: 131 minutes
A Million Ways To Die In The West
Rated R for violence, drug use, crude humor, graphic sexuality, ethnic slurs and pervasive profanity
MacFarlane Spoofs Westerns In Relentlessly Crude, Mean-Spirited Comedy
It seems like Seth MacFarlane must have been inspired by Blazing Saddles (1974) to make a more outrageous spoof of the Western genre. For instance, where the Mel Brooks classic featured cowboys farting after eating beans around a campfire, this time, ingesting the legume leads to cowboy hats filled with diarrhea. He even pays homage to Blazing Saddles with the help of Jamie Foxx in a cameo, though you have to sit through all the closing credits to hear him utter a famous line from the film.
MacFarlane wrote, directed and stars in A Million Ways To Die In The West, though he’s often dwarfed by the talented actors he surrounded himself with. The cast includes Oscar winners Foxx (for Ray) and Charlize Theron (for Monster), and nominee Liam Neeson (for Schindler’s List), along with Amanda Seyfried, Neil Patrick Harris, Sarah Silverman, Giovanni Ribisi, Bill Maher, Christopher Lloyd, Gilbert Gottfried, Ewan McGregor and Ryan Reynolds.
The movie merely has the semblance of a storyline, since that is ostensibly of far less import than the punch lines peppering the production. In that regard, the picture resembles Family Guy, MacFarlane’s animated TV sitcom which eschews depth in favor of a string of raunchy one-liners and mean-spirited sight gags.
His diehard fans will undoubtedly be ready for that politically-incorrect brand of humor. However, uninitiated audience members are apt to be as offended by the use of the slur “yellow” (to mean cowardly) in reference to Asians as they are shocked by the sight of carnival patrons taking shots at black figurines rotating around a “Runaway Slave” arcade game.
Then there’s the matter of crude sexuality and gratuitous nudity. Ever think you’d see Liam Neeson lying naked with a daisy stuck in his anal cleft? How about a fountain of urine being created by a circle of peeing sheep, penises prominently unsheathed? Neither did I.
As for the rudimentary plot, the tale unfolds in Arizona in 1882 in a desert town whose main street is dotted with such stereotypical storefronts as the saloon, jail, livery, hotel and whorehouse. At the point of departure, we find nerdy Albert (MacFarlane) being dumped by girlfriend Louise (Seyfried) in favor of Foy (Harris), a sniveling lout with a Snidely Whiplash mustache.
The jilted shepherd cries on the shoulder of a mysterious newcomer (Theron) to the frontier only to learn that she’s married to Clinch Leatherwood (Neeson), a jealous outlaw with a reputation which precedes him. The tension mounts when already smitten Albert is challenged to a duel and must summon up some courage if he’s to ride off into the sunset victoriously with the girl.
Will he rise to the occasion? I doubt the pat resolution matters as much to creator MacFarlane as incessantly appealing to the lowest common denominator.
The Old West re-imagined as fodder for the coarsest of gross-out fare!
Fair (1 star)
In English and Apache with subtitles
Running time: 116 minutes
OPENING THIS WEEK
For movies opening June 6, 2014
Edge Of Tomorrow (PG-13 for profanity, intense violence and brief sensuality) Infinite loop sci-fi starring Tom Cruise as the recently deceased soldier called upon to travel back in time repeatedly to defend the planet against a bloodthirsty race of aliens bent on world domination. With Emily Blunt, Bill Paxton and Brendan Gleeson.
The Fault In Our Stars (PG-13 for sexuality, brief profanity and mature themes) Screen adaptation of John Green’s number one best-seller about the bittersweet romance which blossoms between a terminally ill teenager (Shailene Woodley) and a patient in remission (Ansel Elgort) she meets at a cancer support group. With Willem Dafoe, Laura Dern, Nat Wolff and Mike Birbiglia.
2 Autumns, 3 Winters (Unrated) Romantic dramedy about a 33-year-old bachelor (Vincent Macaigne) who divides his time between wooing a cynical woman (Maud Wyler) he meets while jogging in the park and caring for his BFF (Bastion Bouillon) after a stroke. With Thomas Blanchard, Audrey Bastien and Pauline Etienne. (In French with subtitles)
Borgman (Unrated) Jan Bijvoet stars in the title role of this psychological thriller as a hobo who destabilizes the upper-class family that befriends him. Support cast includes Hadewych Minis, Jeroen Perceval and Alex van Warmerdam. (In English and Dutch with subtitles)
Burning Blue (R for profanity, sexuality and graphic nudity) Out of the closet drama about a couple of Navy pilots (Trent Ford and Morgan Spector) whose lives and careers are turned upside down when their forbidden love affair becomes public knowledge. Featuring Rob Mays, William Lee Scott and Tammy Blanchard.
Citizen Koch (Unrated) The Koch brothers are the focus of this eye-opening expose illustrating the expanding influence of rich individuals on American elections in the wake of the Supreme Court decision in Citizens United liberalizing the amount of money corporations can contribute to political campaigns.
The Moment (Unrated) Psychological thriller about a photographer (Jennifer Jason Leigh) in a tumultuous affair who lands in a mental hospital following the mysterious disappearance of her troubled boyfriend (Martin Henderson) only to be befriended there by a fellow patient who bears an uncanny resemblance to her missing beau. With Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Alia Shawkat and Meatloaf.
Obvious Child (R for profanity and sensuality) Romantic comedy, set in Brooklyn, about an aspiring comedienne (Jenny Slate) who’s left reeling by being fired, dumped and knocked up until she meets a perfect gentleman (Jake Lacy) on what promises to be either her best or worst Valentine’s Day ever. With Gaby Hoffmann, Richard Kind, Polly Draper and Cindy Cheung.
Ping Pong Summer (Unrated) Coming-of-age comedy, set in 1985, revolving around a 13-year-old kid (Marcello Conte) who becomes obsessed with hip-hop and table tennis during a vacation spent with his family in Ocean City, Maryland. Co-starring Susan Sarandon, Amy Sedaris andJudah Friedlander.
The Sacrament (R for profanity, violence, disturbing images and brief drug use) Macabre horror flick about a fashion photographer (Kentucker Audley) whose search for his missing sister (Amy Seimetz) leads to a supposedly utopian commune with a charismatic guru (Gene Jones). Featuring Joe Swanberg, Kate Lyn Sheil, AJ Bowen and Derek Roberts.
Supermensch (R for nudity, profanity, sexual references and drug use) Mike Myers makes his directorial debut with this reverential documentary highlighting the career of Shep Gordon, the legendary super agent-turned-Buddhist who managed the careers of such music icons as Pink Floyd, Luther Vandross, Alice Cooper and Teddy Pendergrass.
Trust Me (R for profanity)Hollywood satire chronicling the cutthroat competition between two agents (Clark Gregg and Sam Rockwell) to sign a budding young starlet (Saxon Sharbino). With Felicity Huffman, Allison Janney, William H. Macy, Niecy Nash, Amanda Peet and Molly Shannon.