Thursday, May 22, 2014

"X-Men: Days of Future Past" (2014)

Starring Hugh Jackman, James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender
Written by Simon Kinberg
Directed by Bryan Singer
Rated PG-13 - Language, sci-fi violence and peril
Running Time: 131 Minutes

In a dark future, mutants and humans have been hunted nearly to extinction by robots known as Sentinels. Nearly indestructible, with the ability to absorb and adapt the powers of any mutant, they have spread across the globe exterminating not only the mutant race, but any human that might one day give birth to a mutant or whose lineage may eventually lead to one.

A surviving band of mutants led by Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) and Erik "Magneto" Lehnsherr (Ian McKellen) escape to the mountains of China to hide. They discover that one of their own, Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page) has the ability to send the consciousness of another mutant several days into the past, alerting themselves to threats in the future. But Xavier has a new, bolder plan - to send someone much farther back, decades even, to avert this disastrous timeline and save humanity. It all started, he says, when Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) murdered Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage), creator of the Sentinels.

Pryde warns that a trip that far back would wreak havoc on any mind, so the only mutant capable of recovering from it steps up to the plate: Logan, the Wolverine (Hugh Jackman).

Arriving in 1973, just before a peace summit in France that is to end America's involvement in the Vietnam war, Logan tracks down the young Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and finds him a broken man. After the war in Vietnam took most of his students and even some of his teachers, Charles closed his school and retreated into self-pity, with only Hank McCoy (Nicholas Hoult) to watch over him. Hank has nearly perfected his mutant gene suppression serum, allowing Charles to walk again but robbing him of his fantastic mental abilities.

Once Logan has recruited Charles and Hank, there's one more piece to the puzzle before he can complete his mission: He needs the young Magneto (Michael Fassbender) to help him and Charles convince Mystique to avert her plan to kill Trask. But that will prove harder than anyone anticipates: After all these years, Charles and Erik have the same goals but two drastically different philosophies on how to achieve them.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

"Godzilla" (2014)

Starring Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Ken Watanabe and Elizabeth Olsen
Written by Max Borenstein
Directed by Gareth Edwards
Rated PG-13 - Frightening imagery, violence, peril, language
Running Time: 123 Minutes

In 1999, a mysterious discovery is made in a mine in the Phillippines. Dr. Ishiro Serizawa (Ken Watanabe) investigates and discovers a massive fossil underground, but also makes another startling discovery: a large spore of some unknown creature, fully intact. But a second spore seems recently hatched, and the larva has disappeared.

Fifteen years later, Ford Brody (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) heads to Japan after learning that his crackpot father Joe (Bryan Cranston) has been arrested trespassing in a nuclear quarantine zone. Joe is convinced that the government is covering something up inside the zone, and claims the proof is inside their old home there.

He manages to convince Ford to help him get into the quarantine zone to find the data he needs, but the two are arrested and brought to the remains of the plant where they're made aware of the truth: The larva that Serizawa was searching for fed on the radiation from the reactor, causing the meltdown. It cocooned itself, feeding on the radioactive remnants, and has been growing ever since.

Now it's hatched, causing death and devastation wherever it goes. But it's not the only problem: The military has been tracking the reappearance of another monster, one called Godzilla. The military wants to kill it, but Serizawa isn't sure they can -- or if they should. He wonders, is Godzilla here to destroy us, or to save us?

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

"Godzilla Raids Again" (1955)

Starring Hiroshi Koizumi, Setsuko Wakayama and Minoru Chiaki
Written by Shigeaka Hidaka and Takeo Murata
Directed by Motoyoshi Oda
Not Rated - Violence, peril
Running Time: 82 Minutes

Note: This is a review of the US version of the film, which features a number of differences from the original Japanese version, detailed here

 Two pilots, Tsukioka (Hiroshi Koizumi) and Kobayashi (Minoru Chiaki) are forced to make an emergency landing on a mysterious island near Osaka, Japan, after Kobayashi's plane suffers a malfunction. While resting themselves on the beach, they are witness to an incredible sight: a fight between two gigantic monsters.

The two pilots make their way back to civilization and tell the tale, and once again, Japan is gripped with fear over the kaiju menace. An archaeologist, Dr. Yamane (Takashi Shimura), explains that millions of years ago, fire creatures roamed the earth. They were of the Anguiris family, and now slumber only to be awoken by radioactive fallout.

Soon enough, though the government prepares as best it can, the creature they're calling "Gigantis" makes its way ashore in Osaka and proceeds to wreck up the place. Now Tsukioka and Kobayashi join a fleet of fighter pilots to concoct a desperate plan to destroy Gigantis and save Japan once more.

Monday, May 5, 2014

"Young Justice" - Season One (2010)

Starring Nolan North, Jesse McCartney and Khary Payton
Created by Brandon Vietti and Greg Weisman
Based on the DC Comics characters

Teenage sidekicks Dick 'Robin' Grayson (Jesse McCartney), Wally 'Kid Flash' West (Jason Spisak), Kaldur-ahm 'Aqualad' (Khary Payton), and Roy 'Speedy' Harper (Crispin Freeman) think they're the next generation of the Justice League. But on the big day when they're supposed to be inducted, the adult heroes of the League tell them to wait in the lobby. Furious, Speedy strikes out on his own, determined to become a hero in his own right, out from under the shadow of Green Arrow/Ollie Queen (Alan Tudyk).

When they hear of a fire at a scientific facility called Cadmus, Robin, Kid Flash and Aqualad decide to investigate, against the orders of Batman (Bruce Greenwood). Discovering a massive underground facility full of strange creatures, they dig deeper and discover something called "Project Kr" - a clone of Superman (Nolan North). After liberating 'Superboy' from Cadmus and freeing the other genetic slaves there, the young heroes are rewarded by the Justice League as Batman orders the formation of a new team to be sent on clandestine recon missions for the older heroes.

They're joined at Mount Justice by M'gann M'orzz 'Miss Martian' (Danica McKellar), supposedly the niece of Martian Manhunter (Kevin Michael Richardson), and Artemis Crock (Stephanie Lemelin), supposedly the niece of Green Arrow. Supervised by the android hero Red Tornado (Jeff Bennett), sent on missions by Batman, the team must first overcome their own inability to work together before they can mature into the heroes their mentors hope they'll one day become.

To do that, they have to trust each other. But how can they trust each other when there might be a mole on the team?

Saturday, May 3, 2014

"The Amazing Spider-Man 2" (2014)

Starring Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone and Dane DeHaan
Written by Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci and Jeff Pinkner
Directed by Marc Webb
Rated PG-13 - Language, violence, peril
Running Time: 142 Minutes

Things are going pretty well for the amazing Spider-Man, superheroic alter ego of high school nerd Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield). Though there's a good amount of debate, New Yorkers seem to like having him around. He gets to fight crime, have a blast swinging about the city, and go home to his cool girlfriend, Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone). But something nags at him: the promise he made to Gwen's late father that he stay away from her, for fear that his adventures as Spider-Man would put Gwen in harm's way.

After too many months of this putting strain on their relationship, Gwen finally dumps Peter just after the two graduate high school. Around the same time, Spidey saves a hapless electrical engineer named Max Dillon (Jamie Foxx) who becomes obsessed with Spider-Man, even thinking that the two are friends. Dillon works at Oscorp, and one night while attempting to fix an electrical problem in one of the facility's genetics labs, he falls into a vat full of genetically engineered eels. When he emerges, he discovers that he, too, has fantastic powers - the ability to absorb and control electricity.

Meanwhile, Peter's old friend Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan), son of billionaire and founder of Oscorp Norman Osborn (Chris Cooper), returns to the city after years at boarding school. The two old friends reconnect, and Harry makes a strange request of Peter: it seems whatever ailment killed his father is genetic, and Harry believes that Spider-Man's blood may hold the cure. But Peter fears what his genetically-altered blood might do to his friend, so he refuses.

Harry grows more and more desperate in his search for a cure, willing to make dangerous alliances that could spell doom for Spider-Man and the city of New York.

Friday, May 2, 2014

"Godzilla" (1954)

Starring Akira Takarada, Momoko Kochi and Akihito Hirata
Written by Ishiro Honda and Takeo Murata
Directed by Ishiro Honda
Running Time: 96 Minutes

Off the coast of Japan, fishing boats begin to go missing. Survivors are soon found - wounded, delirious, telling stories of a gigantic monster that attacked them. The fishing community of Odo Island is hit by what is first assumed to be a typhoon - but the survivors describe a massive creature stomping their homes.

The country's eminent scientist, Dr. Yamane (Takashi Shimura) heads an expedition back to Odo Island and makes startling discoveries: Gigantic footprints that are radioactive, and a living specimen of a trilobite, which should have gone extinct millions of years ago. As Yamane and his daughter Emiko (Momoko Kochi), along with her lover, a salvage ship captain named Ogata (Akira Takarada) investigate, Godzilla appears once more.

Soon enough, Japan is gripped by fear. What is this creature? Where did it come from? Most importantly: How can it be stopped? The answer may lie in the research of Emiko's fiance, Dr. Serizawa (Akihiko Hirata)... who doesn't yet know that Emiko is really in love with Ogata.