New Releases for the Week of January 7, 2022


THE 355

(Universal) Jessica Chastain, Penelope Cruz, Diane Kruger, Lupita Nyong’o, Bingbing Fan, Edgar Ramirez, Sebastian Stan. Directed by Simon Kinberg

A quartet of multinational agents, represented the CIA, MI-6, and the secret services of Germany and Colombia must unite to prevent a band of mercenaries from deploying a doomsday weapon, all the while shadowed by a mysterious Chinese woman. Global suspense along the lines of James Bond and Jason Bourne, with a feminine twist.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website

Genre: Spy Action
Now Playing: Wide
Rating: R (for sequences of strong violence, brief strong language, and suggestive material)

France

(Kino-Lorber) Léa Seydoux, Blanche Gardin, Benjamin Biolay, Emanuele Arioli. A superstar TV journalist in Paris watches her personal life turn chaotic after colliding with a pedestrian in her car. This causes her to take stock of her personal choices, turn away from fame (more difficult than it sounds) and embark on an unexpected romance.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website

Genre: Dramedy
Now Playing: Cinematique Daytona
Rating: NR

The Legend of La Llorona

(Saban) Autumn Reeser, Antonio Cupo, Zamia Fandiño, Danny Trejo. A young family vacationing in Mexico is stalked by a malevolent spirit who succeeds in snatching their only child and imprisoning him in a netherworld. Aided by a resourceful taxi driver, the couple must avoid a cartel-dominated landscape and marshall all their courage to defeat the seemingly invincible entity.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website

Genre: Horror
Now Playing: Studio Movie Grille Sunset Walk
Rating: R (for some violence and language)

Poupelle of Chimney Town

(Eleven Arts) Starring the voices of Tony Hale, Stephen Root, Misty Lee, Hasan Minhaj. In a factory town shrouded by the smoke of chimneys, a young boy yearns to see the stars. One Halloween night he meets a man made of garbage and together, their quest to look to the sky begins.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website

Genre: Anime
Now Playing: AMC Altamonte Mall, AMC Avenue 16 Melbourne, AMC Disney Springs, Cinemark Orlando, CMX Merritt Square, Regal Pointe Orlando, Regal The Loop, Regal Waterford Lakes, Regal Winter Park Village
Rating: PG (for violence, some action and thematic elements)

The Power of the Dog

(Netflix) Benedict Cumberbatch, Kirsten Dunst, Jesse Plemmons, Kodi Smit-McPhee. A wealthy rancher marries the widowed proprietress of a diner, much to the disgust of his brother who carries out an insidious campaign to belittle and torment her and her son. This is the first new feature film from acclaimed director Jane Campion in 12 years (she did write the Top of the Lake series in the time).

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website

Genre: Western
Now Playing: Cinematique Daytona
(also on Netflix)
Rating: R (for brief sexual content/full nudity)

Sparks – The Ken Sparks Story

(Double J) Ken Sparks, Chad Sparks, Jeff Joslin, Tony Dungy. Coach Ken Sparks of Carson-Newman University is the fifth all-time winningest coach in college football history. He always coached in such a way to inspire his players to follow a life of faith at odds with the violence of the game.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website

Genre: Faith Documentary
Now Playing: Regal Pointe Orlando
Rating: NR

The Tragedy of Macbeth

(A24/Amazon) Denzel Washington, Frances McDormand, Bertie Carvel, Alex Hassell. An ambitious Scottish lord sets his sights on the throne after receiving a prophecy from three mysterious witches. A new interpretation of the iconic Shakespearean play by Joel Coen of the Coen Brothers.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website

Genre: Drama
Now Playing: AMC Disney Springs, Enzian
Rating: R (for violence)

COMING TO VIRTUAL CINEMA/VOD:

Algren (Tuesday)
American Siege
The Commando
How I Fell in Love with a Gangster
(Wednesday)
Meddling
(Thursday)
See For Me

SCHEDULED FOR REVIEW:

The 355
The Power of the Dog
The Tragedy of Macbeth

X-Men: Days of Future Past


Smile and the world smiles with you.

Smile and the world smiles with you.

(2014) Superhero (20th Century Fox) Hugh Jackman, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Jennifer Lawrence, Peter Dinklage, Halle Berry, Omar Sy, Nicholas Hoult, Shawn Ashmore, Ellen Page, Evan Peters, Josh Helman, Daniel Cudmore, Bingbing Fan, Adan Canto, Booboo Stewart, Lucas Till, Evan Jonigkeit, Mark Camacho, Zabryna Guevara. Directed by Bryan Singer

In the modern era of Superhero films, each franchise faces a particular problem – each succeeding entry in the franchise needs to be bigger and better, the stakes higher in order for the audience to continue to flock to the multiplex to see them. That is why, in my opinion, studios choose to go the reboot route rather than continue on with existing casts.

Bryan Singer may not necessarily subscribe to that theorem. He took the cast members of the X-Men: First Class reboot of the popular mutant superhero series and blended it with the original X-Men cast of his era and created a time-travel epic that carries the torch for both series’ nicely.

In a dystopian future, mutants have been all but eradicated as well as a good chunk of the human race. The Sentinels, giant robots with organic elements and an artificial intelligence that allows them to adapt to the various powers of the different heroes they fight, have become so powerful that not even the X-Men of the future can best them. The only humans left are those who agree with the agenda that mutants must be wiped off the face of the planet, using those who remain as slave labor.

Making a last stand in a Chinese temple are the remaining X-Men: Professor X (Stewart), Magneto (McKellen), Storm (Berry), Wolverine (Jackman), Bishop (Sy), Colossus (Cudmore), Shadowcat a.k.a. Kitty Pryde (Page), Blink (Fan), Sunspot (Canto) and Warpath (Stewart). They know that it is inevitable that the battle will be lost. They have only survived because Pryde has developed a plan in which she sends one of their members consciousness back a day to warn the rest that an attack is imminent so they can be elsewhere when the attack comes.

Professor X proposes that they do something similar but long-range. He has pinpointed the problem back to an event in 1973 – one in which weapons scientist Bolivar Trask (Dinklage), an anti-mutant hater of epic proportions, is assassinated by Mystique (Lawrence), the shape-shifting chameleon who was once the close friend of Charles Xavier (McAvoy) and later became the ally of Eric Lensherr (Fassbender) a.k.a. Magneto. She was later captured and her DNA was used to make what was already hard-to-defeat giant robots into nearly unbeatable sentient machines. The assassination also turned public sentiment against the mutants.

Sending someone back forty years is nearly impossible however. Pryde points out that “the human mind can only stretch so far before it breaks.” However Wolverine with his mutant healing power is the only one who can survive the trip. So it is that Mr. Cheroot first and Ask Questions Later is sent back to the Disco age where he will be given the monumental task of convincing the younger Xavier to try and find Mystique and stop her from her appointment with Trask.

Wolverine knows full well that it will take both Xavier and Lensherr to talk the headstrong Mystique who is angry and wounded over the deaths of several friends in Trask’s experiments on living mutants to discover what makes them tick. However, this is no walk in the park assignment. Xavier is bitter and angry over being shot by his old friend. He was paralyzed in the incident but a serum that Hank McCoy a.k.a. Beast (Hoult) developed allows him to walk and numbs the pain but also blocks out his powers. Xavier is just fine with that and really doesn’t give much of a flying you-know-what for the future but at last his conscience kicks in and he agrees to help Wolverine.

Getting Lensherr aboard is slightly more difficult. He is being kept in a metal-less prison hundreds of feet below the Pentagon – apparently he’s been blamed for the magic bullet that killed JFK – but Wolverine knows a guy. That guy is Peter Maximoff a.k.a. Quicksilver (Peters) who has superspeed and the attitude to match.

Of course, once they free Magneto he turns out to have an agenda all his own and now the clock is literally ticking – in the future, the Sentinels are approaching the temple where the remaining X-Men are holed up and Wolverine’s consciousness hangs in the balance.

This all sounds very convoluted and it is. I have deliberately left the individual powers of most of the different X-Men unexplained – it would just take too long. The issue I have with movies like this is that we get literally a dozen or more different characters most of whom are given short shrift or split screen time with a younger/older counterpart. When you have a cast that’s chock full of actors who’ve received Oscar consideration (there are eight of them), something’s got to give. Poor Halle Berry (who won Oscar gold) has almost no dialogue and only a couple of minutes of screen time although to be fair, Berry’s pregnancy prevented her from taking part in the movie as much as the producers would have liked. Anna Paquin (who also won an Oscar) gets no dialogue and less screen time than it takes to read this sentence and yet she gets star billing. Ah, the magic of Hollywood credits.

Despite this, the movie flows surprisingly well and those actors who do get more than a few moments of screen time make the most of it. McAvoy in particular does well with his self-medicating and self-loathing Professor a far cry from the suave and confident Professor X of his counterpart Patrick Stewart. We see the road that Xavier is taking towards the compassion and wisdom his character becomes known for and it’s rather fascinating. Jackman as well continues to make Wolverine his own and while it’s hard to make something new out of a character he’s played seven times, Jackman manages to accomplish that.

The supporting cast is pretty stellar and Dinklage is a superb villain. His Bolivar Trask doesn’t see himself as a villain but rather the facilitator who unites mankind against a common enemy. His enmity against the mutants is somewhat surprising considering that as a small person, Trask is himself an outsider within society. It’s a multi-layered role and a villain worthy of a broad canvas such as this.

As you’d expect the battle sequences are plentiful and well-done. The Sentinels are fearsome creatures that have expressionless faces that are all the more terrifying for their mechanical blankness. Lots of things get blown up real good, and there are plenty of fists, fur and energy beams flying through the ether, not to mention flames, ice and the occasional claw.

A warning to those unfamiliar with the X-Men comics; there is a lot that goes unstated in the film that may not make sense. For example, the Wolverine in the ’70s has bone claws and in the future, claws of metal. That’s because the metal infusion that changes the nature of his weapon doesn’t take place until later on in time. In fact, the man responsible, Stryker (Helman) makes an appearance as an ambitious Trask operative here – he’d be played by Brian Cox in X2.

What really saves this movie is the plot which is complex and intelligent. Some often snipe at comic books and the movies that are based on them for being dumb and loud, but this is certainly not the former (and only occasionally the latter). Some thought was given to the mechanics and ramifications of time travel. The movie also made a good effort in re-creating the time period. Just as First Class was something of a superhero Bond movie, this is a lot like a superhero conspiracy movie, complete with Tricky Dick, the military-industrial complex and lava lamps.

This is the kind of entertainment that is synonymous with summer and a perfect fit for a year which has been thus far an improvement over last summer. The X-Men have always been some of the most interesting of comic books with some of the most compelling themes in the art form. The apocalyptic vision of the future here however is nothing compared to what is to come in the next installment of the series which is teased in an extra scene following the credits.

REASONS TO GO: Some sensational action scenes. Riveting storyline.

REASONS TO STAY: Too many characters; may be hard for non-fans to keep up with all of them. May not make sense to those unfamiliar with the comic.

FAMILY VALUES: Lots of comic book action and violence, some suggestive material, brief nudity and a few bad words here and there.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: In the comic storyline the movie is based on, it is Kitty Pryde who travels back in time, not Wolverine. The change was made for continuity reasons – in the 1970s Pryde wouldn’t have been born yet, whereas Logan is ageless and would appear exactly the same in both future and past.

CRITICAL MASS: As of 6/1/14: Rotten Tomatoes: 92% positive reviews. Metacritic: 74/100.

COMPARISON SHOPPING: Terminator 2: Judgment Day

FINAL RATING: 7.5/10

NEXT: A Million Ways to Die in the West