Greetings from the other side of the weekend. Let us gather again to get through this thing called life…I mean, cinema…let’s get started.
Every couple of years or so, Marvel comic series X-Men reels its head, and following 2014’s Days of Future Past comes this week’s newest entry: X-Men: Apocalypse. Unfortunately, the franchise has lost its original structure of current events mixed with a fantasy tinge of spirituality and social awareness, and so Bryan Singer’s latest directorial venture falls flat on its face for the first time in over a decade-and-a-half. By now, 16 years since the first X-Men film, we get it…it is NOT easy being a mutant! Life is hard, Jennifer…life is hard. Speaking of Jennifer, we get the usual suspects from previous instalments. Jennifer Lawrence is back as Mystique and her ex-beau Nicholas Hoult plays The Beast, though he’s now also a teacher at the school, Michael Fassbender again as Magneto, Rose Byrne, Hugh Jackman, you get the picture…a lot of celebs. Now, as someone who is not a fan of comics but has enjoyed this series since his uni days, there is an undeniable truth in knowing that the saga could go on, but if this is their idea for the franchise, may they please think again. All of the special effects and rip-offs disguised as odes to other action films and sagas from before cannot make up for the intricacies of a well-conceived plot and story. The minute we the viewer see our journey jumping around the world (often literally), the first instinct is to feel like we’re on another quasi-political world adventure, but no such luck this time. While the acting stays on point for what it is, this time (except perhaps for one poignant death) you do not really feel as emotionally-charged for the characters as in past movies, and that’s a shame. Part of any connection, whether in life or in cinema, is feeling an emotional connection to those around us. This new X-Men, that doesn’t seem to gel well, gives us a film rating of ###.
Last week, the latest Helen Mirren vehicle came to Spanish screens and it is quite true that Gavin Hood’s latest thriller Eye In The Sky is a lesson in planned warfare attack, but also another peek into the rich ability of lead Mirren’s acting skills. There are moments in the film where the wordy tactics and war jargon are overbearing, but that’s what happens when the film revolves around officers planning an air strike against a a group of Kenyan terrorists. The irony of this is that military process of authorising a tactical strike is as tedious and laborious as any bureaucratic dealings…only here we’re in a darkened room staring at a screen. Helen Mirren appropriately stars as long-serving UK Colonel Katherine Powell, whose ongoing pursuit of a radicalised British citizen has led her, along with the drone-mounted American missile war room she mandates, to a hidden base in Nairobi. When video footage surfaces showing her main suspect suiting up for a supposed suicide mission later that day, Powell decides that the best option is to blow up the safe house. Her lead sniper is Breaking Bad’s Aaron Paul, whose performance is tense if formulaic in a Homeland sort-of-way, but the taut scenes do their job to keep you interested, while locals carry on oblivious to the threat hanging over their heads. The film premiered last fall at the Toronto Film Festival and people apparently made comparisons to Dr. Strangelove (1964), but I don’t see that so much, as it is certainly not a cheeky, oft-comedic wink at Western military policies. Rather, we have a film that can’t be easily defined. Being ambiguous might annoy or scare some people, but it sure is fun to watch Mirren do her thing, even if the director is not quite there yet as a thrilling satirist. ###-1/2
And then there’s the latest Christian film to get a European-wide release. From Heaven is Real (2014) to Risen (2016) to Mary (2005), Full of Grace (2015) to the new A Long Way Home, the upsurge in releasing inspirational family films with a decidedly Christian message has been a tad odd to watch. Where did they all come from? I recall the first ‘major’ Christian movie released to a large audience via the celluloid route called China Cry in 1990. Detailing the true struggle story of Chinese pastor/minister Nora Lam, I remember being the good, little Judeo-Christian eleven-year-old watching this…this…oh my G-d, so boring film and forcing myself to stay awake. Alas, over 25 years later, I’m sitting there watching this new interpretation of the prodigal son tale on the big screen with a passage from the Book of Luke to start the thing with a bang, thinking ‘please make it stop!’ It likely goes without saying that the story revolves around a dad whose youngest son eschews himself from the family business, cashes in on his inheritance and ventures to the city in search of riotous living. In the film, there is actually a scene where a radio talk show host says that some women will purposefully seduce men to take advantage of them and their money…and that’s exactly what happens. The way that women are used in this film as Eves, Jezebels and Virgin Marys is so clichéd, that I’m appalled Spanish and European distributors would even buy into this syrupy drivel. And then, it all makes sense…Europe’s recent turn to conservatism (religious or not) gives credence to these films being released and finding an audience. This time around, I am saying ‘Heavens, NO!’ #
Wishing you all a great week and see you very soon!