BARE BONES: KINGSMAN: THE SECRET SERVICE, ALIEN OUTPOST and INFINI

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KINGSMAN: THE SECRET SERVICE (2014)

Mildly amusing spy spoof is based on a comic book by Mark Millar and directed by Matthew Vaughn, as was the cult favorite Kick-Ass. The film follows a group of British Secret Service operatives known as the Kingman and one agent, Galahad’s (Colin Firth) efforts to thwart the evil plot of megalomaniac villain Richmond Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson), with the help of new recruit, Eggsy (Taron Egerton). There are some fun over-the-top action sequences and playful nods and jabs at spy films and Britain’s most famous agent in particular, but the film never really takes off as a comedy and never really grabs with it’s hyper violent, CGI enhanced action scenes. Sometimes the film just doesn’t seem to know what it wants to be…spoof, or actual spy film. The graphic violence also clashes with it’s more playful tone, giving the film a schizophrenic quality. The cast are charming enough, though Jackson’s Valentine does get annoying after a while, as played as an overzealous man-child. The FX are top notch and the plot would fit any of the lower tier Bond films. It’s just that the humor isn’t quite funny enough, in paying homage it doesn’t give us anything new and, overall, it winds up being exactly the type of mid-level spy movie it’s supposed to be playfully poking fun at. A harmless enough watch, but almost as forgettable as some of the lesser efforts it spoofs…save a certain show-stopping church set action sequence played-out to “Freebird”. Also stars Mark Strong and Michael Caine.

2 and 1-2 star rating

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ALIEN OUTPOST (2014)

Faux documentary from Jabbar Raisani is never for one moment successful at feeling like anything, but a staged, scripted film. The story takes place in the near future where an alien invasion of Earth has been repelled and now outposts have been set up around the world to clean up the left behind alien soldiers, known as “Heavies”. The film focuses…through the eyes of two cameramen…on the troops in one of the last outposts on the Pakistan/Afganistan border, who are under fire by aliens and locals alike. The flick grows tiresome quickly, as it is filled with and overplays every war movie cliché it can muster. The characters are all blandly acted stereotypes, who give the same gung-ho speeches and mournful soliliquies we have heard in every war movie since the 40s. Adding aliens to the mix adds nothing new. There are also numerous and huge plot holes such as, if the alien’s have mind-control abilities, why didn’t they use them in the initial conflict and why would the world’s governments make such a half-assed effort to clean out the remaining aliens, who are clearly still a threat…other than to add drama to this movie. There are some nice FX and the aliens are portrayed effectively, but aliens aside, this is nothing we haven’t seen before and much better.

2 star rating

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INFINI (2015)

Australian Sci-Fi thriller may have some very familiar elements, but is an entertaining enough flick. Story has an incident occurring on a far-off mining colony and a search and rescue group going there to collect a sole survivor (Daniel MacPherson) and stop the plant from further processing. What they find is an alien life form capable of taking over other lifeforms in order to evolve…and with gruesome and violent results. Sure Shane Abbess’ chiller plays a lot like a combination of both John Carpenter’s The Thing and Ghosts Of Mars but, it’s fairly entertaining despite the similarities and does take it’s familiar story in an interesting direction by the time the credits roll. The film is rather moderately paced and has a few tedious spots, but the FX are top notch and the acting is pretty good for this type of flick. Avoids some of the cliché and does give us something to think about once it concludes. Also stars Luke Hemsworth and Grace Huang.

3 star rating

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 -MonsterZero NJ
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REVIEW: X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST (2014)

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X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST (2014)

I really liked X-Men: First Class, it was a great way to reboot a series that had stumbled a bit and put together a really solid cast in both familiar and new roles. I was actually a little disappointed when I heard Matthew Vaughn had passed on the next installment, but remained hopeful upon hearing original franchise director Bryan Singer would return to the director’s chair. But sadly all the fun and energy that Vaughn gave his retro entry and even the spark and intensity Singer gave his first two films is, for the most part, lacking in this overlong and somewhat tedious entry that takes until it’s final act to really get going and by then it’s too little too late.

The complicated Terminator-ish story takes place in a bleak and war-torn future where mutants and any human who may have the potential to give birth to a mutation, have been hunted down and almost completely destroyed by the ruling power and their army of robot Sentinels which detect the mutant gene and eliminate those with it. But there is a slight hope. Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) and Magneto (Ian McKellan) have devised a plan to used Kitty Pryde’s (Ellen Page) power to send Logan’s (Hugh Jackman) consciousness back to his pre-adamantium body in 1973 to contact their younger selves (James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender) and try to get them to work together and stop Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) from murdering the Sentinel’s inventor Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage) and setting in motion events that will lead to the war that has ravaged the Earth and caused so many deaths. But at this point in history Xavier and Magneto are not allies and Mystique has gone rogue and Logan may only have hours to change the course of time before their time in the future is up… did you get all that?

Obviously, the film has a very complicated story that involves time travel which, always sets up it own set of difficulties, but considering that the film avoids being a mess, is more of a plus. The problem here is not the story details or the logistics of time travel and changing the course of history, but the deadpan tone with which the usually competent Singer directs this affair. Gone is the energy and fun of the first two X-Men films he directed and instead is a very by-the-numbers presentation of what should have been a fun and suspenseful tale. There are a few entertaining bits like Quicksilver’s (Evan Peters) speedy and clever way of getting our heroes out of a jam, but the film really has no spark until it reaches it’s climactic act and then we get a bit more of the movie we wanted to see, but it takes over 90 minutes of mostly ho-hum sequences to get there…sequences that should have been very tense and exciting but aren’t. The pace is also slow for a superhero film even one with a plot of such dire importance as this. And maybe that’s it. Singer just seems to take this story just a little too seriously and we rarely get those little witty character moments that made the previous film’s so fun. The camaraderie between the characters just isn’t there. Maybe it’s Simon Kinberg’s script based on a story by Kinberg, Jane Goldman and Matthew Vaughn that simply was too bleak and left out a lot of the fun. Either way X-Men:DOFP just really lacks something till the final scenes and, to be honest, wasn’t very involving till then. I was never bored, but was never fully drawn in. For the most part I was along for the ride, but never really interested in where it was going… and I should have been.

Again Singer works with a very large and familiar cast, but unlike his previous X-Men adventures, the cast here seem to be going through the motions from Stewart to Lawrence to Jackman to McKellen and most of his principles. There is no real passion or energy in their performances despite having all played their roles before save Dinklage. They all seem like they are just performing by the numbers with the only person really giving his role some pop is the young Peters with his smart aleck Quicksilver and sadly his screen-time is limited. Even the usually excellent Fassbender seems like he’d rather be somewhere else. There are plentiful mutant cameos, some familiar and some new, but few of them really resonate other then the amusement of seeing that familiar face or someone intriguing and new. And the new characters, aside from Quicksilver, are really given very little attention, certainly not enough to endear to us to them. Is it possible that these actors have tired of their roles?

It’s not all bad. It is tedious though I never actually got to the point of being bored. The film really did pick up in the last half hour for a pretty decent finale in Washington D.C. that interweaves with the battle raging in the future, though it certainly can’t hold a candle to the Washington D.C. set finale of the Captain America sequel The Winter Soldier and could have had a little more suspense and intensity. The FX are top notch and the scale of the film seems fairly large especially when the action finally starts. Newton Thomas Sigel is back doing the cinematography though, since the film is set in the 70s, I did miss the retro look of John Mathieson’s cinematography on First Class. And maybe that is what one of the problems is, that the film is set in the 70s, but never really felt like it… like, say American Hustle did. John Ottman returns to score from X2 and also did the film editing…busy man…and his score is adequate but a bit uninspired.

So, overall, X-Men: Days Of Future Past may not be an outright disappointment, but it is a letdown and certainly could have been much livelier considering the importance of what was transpiring. Maybe the whole back in time to fix the future thing has run it’s course, or maybe Singer’s time away from Xavier and company has dulled his passion for the material…or maybe it’s still too familiar to elicit a stronger passion. Either way, it’s not the worst X-Men movie, but far from the best. Also stars Nicholas Hoult as Beast/Hank McCoy.

2 and 1/2 X-Men.

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