Worthy sequel: Hugh Jackman and Michael Fassbender star in X-Men: Days of Future Past. *MCT photo
Worthy sequel: Hugh Jackman and Michael Fassbender star in X-Men: Days of Future Past. *MCT photo

Liberty Theatre

X-Men: Days of Future Past

****

Stars: Patrick Stewart, Michael Fassbender, Hugh Jackman.

Director: Bryan Singer

Rated: PG-13

Showing: Fri-Sat 2:30pm, 6pm, 9:30pm; Sun 2:30pm, 6pm; Mon 7pm; Tues-Thurs 2:30pm, 6pm, 9:30pm.

Runtime: 131 minutes

Action, adventure, fantasy.

There are many superhuman feats on display in the latest installment in the X-Men saga, Days of Future Past.

Time travel. Saving the world from big, angry robots. A beautifully restored 1973 Buick Riviera.

But the nod for the most stunning accomplishment goes to director Bryan Singer and writer Simon Kinberg for taking what could have been a formulaic superhero sequel and giving it humour and life — while remaining true to the original X-Men message of the outcasts finding strength in their differences.

The plot mechanics grow increasingly creaky in the latter half, as the special effects grow bigger, but there’s still enough residual energy to keep it from lapsing into being, say, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, perhaps the most reviled of all the recent Marvel Comics related films.

This X-Men instalment begins in an alternative near-future where humanity — mutants and regular Joes alike — has been pushed to extinction by the rise of superbots originally designed by mad scientist Dr. Trask (Peter Dinklage) to wipe out the mutants.

But Professor X (Patrick Stewart) and Magneto (Ian McKellen) have a plan.

Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page) is a mutant whose special power is the ability to send people back in time. Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) is selected to travel to the early ‘70s, when Dr. Trask was first peddling his ideas before a skeptical Congress and the mutants were disorganized and unknown to the general population. His mission is to stop the robots, called sentinels, from being created in the first place — and change the future. No biggie, right?

The time-travel scenario proves to be a clever way for Singer to meld the two X-Men universes — the veterans introduced in X-Men in 2000 and their younger selves first seen in X-Men: First Class in 2011 — into one coherent world.

As the film moves to its conclusion, there’s predictably less fun and more effects. But, even here, the acting abilities of McAvoy, Fassbender, Stewart and McKellen can make even the most cliche comic-book dialogue pulse with importance. In fact, McAvoy and Fassbender work off each other especially well.

And, if nothing else, there’s always that Buick Riviera. 

Neptune Theatre

The Amazing Spiderman 2 in 3D

***

Stars: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Jamie Foxx

Director: Marc Webb

Rated: PG-13

Showing: Fri-Sat 7:30pm; Sun 5:30pm; Mon closed; Tues-Thurs 7pm.

Runtime: 142 minutes

Action, adventure,
fantasy.

Amazing 2 is a violent film, with blood and death in between the digitally-animated brawls. Human bodies are tortured and broken, and there’s not always a web slinger there to stop that flipping police car, that hurtling bus, that Russian psychopath or that jet that’s about to crash.

Things tend to drag as director Marc Webb has problems with focus, keeping the many story threads straight with  continuity (watch Gwen Stacy’s outfits). 

Many otherwise faceless extras pop off the screen as if he’s about to give their nameless characters the same significance as Stan Lee himself — who always has cameos in these Marvels.

But Andrew Garfield finds his voice as the main character, making his second try at Peter Parker, a caffeinated wise-cracker, enjoying his notoriety, talking to himself just like the guy in the comic book. He’s funny.

Jamie Foxx is an ignored, humiliated electrical engineer who has an accident involving electric eels and power lines. 

That transforms him from a Spiderman fanboy into a glowing blue guy in a hoodie. In the ethos of this movie, Peter / Spidey reasons with the tormented villains, trying to connect with the doomed rich kid (Osborn) or this “nobody” engineer.

And while Garfield and Stone have a nice sass to their scenes, Webb can do nothing to give this relationship the longing and heat of the Kirsten Dunst / Tobey Maguire moments from the earlier films. 

So while this “Spider-Man” is, if anything, more competent than the first film, it’s still not one that demands that you stick around after the credits. There’s nothing there. 

Speciality Theatre

Godzilla

****

Stars: Aaron Taylor Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen, Bryan Cranston.

Director: Gareth Edwards.

Rated: PG-13

Showing: Fri-Sat 2:30pm, 6:15pm, 9pm; Sun 2pm, 4:45pm, 7:45pm; Mon 2pm, 4:45pm, 7:45pm; Tues-Thurs 2:30pm, 6:15pm, 9pm.

Runtime: 123 minutes

Action/adventure/scifi.

I came to the new Godzilla with monster-sized expectations, enhanced by cherished childhood memories of stunt men in dinosaur suits stomping Tokyo and a lifelong love of the fantastic fire-breathing nuclear dragon that, after 60 years, remains Japan’s most famous movie export.

The two pre-release trailers for director Gareth Edwards’ new $160 million Godzilla reboot stoked anticipation. Brilliantly edited, with glimpses of the monster kept to a minimum, the trailers conjured a sense of awe and dread, and promised to restore the fearsomeness and majesty of a monster conceived as the embodiment of Atomic Age wrath and introduced only nine years after the 1945 devastation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

It is in this context of hope — always a danger for a movie fan, more so a movie critic — that I report that the new Godzilla is a goodzilla, not a greatzilla.

Blended

**

Stars: Adam Sandler, Drew Barrymore, Wendi McLendon-Covey

Director: Frank Coraci.

Rated: PG-13

Showing: Fri-Sat 2:15pm, 6pm, 9:15pm; Sun 2:15pm, 5pm, 7:30pm; Mon 2:15pm, 5pm, 7:30 pm; Tues-Thurs 2:15pm, 6pm, 9:15 pm.

Runtime: 117 minutes

Comedy.

If you can get through the first 20 minutes of Blended — a nonstop regurgitation of old jokes, annoying characters and unfunny ideas — don’t relax. It gets worse.

The new Adam Sandler / Drew Barrymore comedy (their word, not mine) looks at what happens when two single parents end up on the same vacation through an absurd and contrived plot line. They decided to stay together in the same room (don’t ask) so they can enjoy the trip to Africa.

It’s at that point where the movie should have been called Deported so we could send these two unlikable people — and their equally unlikable offsprings — home. Instead, director Frank Coraci keeps trying to milk something funny out of the painfully trite script by Ivan Menchell and Clare Sera.

There are the movie’s big storylines:

Will the couple find true love? If you don’t think they will get together in the end, then you have never seen a Sandler movie.

Will the young girl (Bella Thorne) who everyone believes is a boy finally turn into a beautiful swan? First, the running joke never works and second, the transformation of boyish girl into beauty has been around since caveman drawings. 

The film might not have been such a disappointment if Sandler and Barrymore hadn’t had so much chemistry in 50 First Dates and The Wedding Singer. None of the connections they made in those films are present here. They just muddle through the film, pausing long enough to let Sandler improvise a few jokeless lines. 

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