Summer 2014 Movie Reviews: Silver screen standouts
The summer movie season continues with the King of Monsters making his return to the big screen. “Godzilla” is a new take on the classic character that pays homage to his silver screen origins from Japan. The film begins in the Philippines in 1999 where seismic activity causes the destruction of a nuclear plant and supervisor Joe Brody (Bryan Cranston) loses his wife to the tragedy. In present day, Brody is not convinced that it was an earthquake that caused the destruction and gets arrested while trespassing on the site of the plant. He discovers a monster known as a MUTO, Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organism, which can fly and has been accidentally unleashed upon the world. In order to destroy this monster they need Godzilla’s help.
Ford (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) attempts to help with the rescue effort, by trying to get back home to San Francisco and reunite with his wife Elle (Elizabeth Olsen). In the midst of all this chaos, the final showdown between Godzilla and Muto begins. While one character was not in the film for very long and another character had a deer-in-the-headlights look on his face for most of it, the visuals are incredible. This film delivered on a number of levels and the big reveal with Godzilla was timed really well.
I was never a fan of Aaron Taylor-Johnson, but after seeing this film, it seems he does have some dramatic acting chops. The fight scenes with Godzilla and his immortal roar are worth it alone. Hopefully in the upcoming sequel, we see more Godzilla and more fight scenes. This is certainly one of my favorite films of the summer.
I give “Godzilla” eight out of 10.
“X-Men: Days of Future Past”
In the last few years, FOX’s X-Men franchise has had its ups and downs. From spin-offs, new directors and continuity errors, it has not worked out for the better. But in 2011, the franchise was reinvigorated with the prequel “X-Men: First Class” that introduced us to new mutants, as well as the history of Charles Xavier and Magneto. For the first time ever, FOX decided to bring together the cast of “First Class” and the original “X-Men” trilogy. That brings us to “X-Men: Days of Future Past.” Set in the year 2023, mutants are on the edge of extinction. Robotic policemen known as Sentinels are targeting mutants and the humans that help them.
A small team of X-men led by Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) and Magneto (Ian McKellen) decide the only way to end this genocide is to go back in time and stop the war from happening. Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) is sent back to 1973 to help younger versions of Xavier (James McAvoy) and Magneto (Michael Fassbender) work together to prevent the coming tragedy by stopping Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) from killing the creator of the Sentinels, Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage). With the biggest cast ever assembled for a comic-book movie, along with the return of Bryan Singer, the original director of the first two films, the expectations for this film could not be any higher. As someone who has been a fan since the mid 90’s, I am proud to say that “X-Men: Days of Future Past” is by far the best X-Men movie yet. From the acting, to the story, to the action, this film delivered on all fronts. Everyone in the cast brought their A-game and then some. This is what I call a masterpiece. The introduction of new mutants like Blink, Sunspot, and Bishop were great. The action sequences were fast-paced and emotionally gripping. There were still a few unanswered questions toward the end of the movie, but overall, this is one my favorite films of the year.
I give “X-Men: Days of Future Past” nine out of 10.
Classic fairytales getting live-action movie treatments has not always worked out. “Sleeping Beauty” is about Princess Aurora being awakened by true love’s first kiss and Maleficent is on a quest to destroy any chance of happiness she may have. But, according to this origin story, that’s not the whole truth. “Maleficent” takes us back to a time where humans and the Moors, creatures of all shapes and sizes, lived in peace. Maleficent (Angelina Jolie) has a chance encounter with Stefan (Sharlto Copley) when they were young and became friends. She believes they are destined to be together, until a shocking betrayal fills her with hate and anger.
She decides to put a curse on Stefan’s daughter, Aurora (Elle Fanning), that on her 16th birthday, she will prick her finger on the spindle of a spinning wheel and fall into a deep sleep, until true love’s first kiss awakens her. Jolie does a great job playing the titular character and the visuals are great as well.
However, the script and overall execution of the film could have been better. Some supporting characters become very dull early on, and the rest of the supporting cast is one-dimensional and wooden. I can see why Disney went this route, and why it got a PG rating. Yet, it could have benefited from a darker story and different rating. I give “Maleficent” five out of 10.