Archive for the ‘Bryan Singer’ Category

Pyramids of Destruction

X-Men: Apocalypse

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Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Fassbender, James McAvoy, Rose Byrne, Oscar Isaac, Nicholas Hoult, Sophie Turner, Tye Sheridan, Olivia Munn, Josh Helman, Ben Hardy, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Lucas Till, Evan Peters

Director Bryan Singer’s latest film forms the conclusion of a prequel trilogy. X-Men Apocalypse is a pastiche of 80’s paranoia even though the main villain Apocalypse originates from Ancient Egypt and is set upon decimating the world of man and mutants circa 1983, having risen out of a gold pyramid in modern day Egypt and decides annihilation is in order.

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Reassembling much of the cast of X-Men: First Class, X-Men Apocalypse stars Jennifer Lawrence (The Hunger Games Trilogy) as Raven/Mystique, James McAvoy (Victor Frankenstein) as Charles Xavier, Michael Fassbender (Macbeth) as Magneto, Nicholas Hoult as Hank McCoy/Beast and Game of Thrones star Sophie Turner as a young Jean Grey and Rose Byrne returns as Moira Mactaggert who first confronts the devastating power of Apocalypse in Cairo and alerts Charles Xavier and his band of mutants to the imminent danger.

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Despite some of the mutants not wanting to be drawn into another conflict, they soon all bandy together when they realize how dangerous Apocalypse is, in his unrelenting quest to destroy human civilization circa 1983 and along with that eighties world, the parallel community of the mutants.

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X-Men: Apocalypse is more mutants versus a more formidable mutant, than man vs mutant, although like always Magneto has several changes of conscience especially after seeing his young wife and daughter accidentally killed in a Polish forest. Soon Erik Lehnsherr aka Magneto unleashes all his anger and becomes the perfect ally for Apocalypse’s annihilating antics.

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Much of the action alternates between America, Poland and Egypt and whilst X-Men: Apocalypse does not have that some groovy retro feel as the seventies set X-Men: First Class, there are some distinct 1980’s signifiers including a collage of Reagan material, nuclear armament as well as stock images pointing to the last decade of the cold war, where mistrust defined global politics.

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Bryan Singer knows how to direct such a large ensemble cast even though audiences at times might get a sense of Mutant overload, but then again this is X-Men: Apocalypse and the more superhumans the better. X-Men: Apocalypse is definitely a case of the Unusual Suspects.

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Clearly the cast of this film had great fun making it and the visual effects are truly inspiring especially the Egyptian sequence when the Mutants take on Apocalypse with his band of malevolent mutants including Psylocke played by Olivia Munn and birdman Angel played by Ben Hardy.

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Audiences should also watch out for Tye Sheridan as a young Cyclops and Kodi Smit-McPhee as the turquoise teleporter Nightcrawler, who Mystique discovers in a cage fight in East Berlin.

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X-Men: Apocalypse is recommended viewing for those that enjoyed X-Men: First Class and X-Men: Days of Future Past, all three films now make up the prequel trilogy. Marvel is certainly milking a lucrative franchise for all its worth and audiences are lapping up the ever expanding mutant universe.

 

Mutant Time Travel Fantasy

X-Men: Days of Future Past

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Director: Bryan Singer

Cast: Hugh Jackman, Jennifer Lawrence, Ian McKellan, Patrick Stewart, Halle Berry, Michael Fassbender, James McAvoy, Nicholas Hoult, Anna Paquin, Ellen Page, Shawn Ashmore, Peter Dinklage, Famke Janssen, James Marsden, Karine Vanasse, Evan Peters, Josh Helman

Which director could resist bringing such a fabulous a-list cast together in one film?

Naturally the original X-Men director Bryan Singer who takes this huge cinematic opportunity to reboot the X-Men franchise and include the original cast members in a mutant time travel fantasy which sees Wolverine, Storm, Raven and Magneto and Professor Xavier battling literally against time in a war to save the mutants from utter destruction at the hands of evil humans, represented by none other than Dr Bolivar Trask, wonderfully played by Peter Dinklage, whose star is clearly rising after the phenomenal success of the allegorical revenge fantasy series Game of Thrones.

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Set between 1973 and presumably the present day of 2013, so a forty year time span, the original X-Men including Magneto and Professor Xavier played by Ian McKellan and Patrick Stewart send Wolverine aka Logan back forty years to confront a younger version of themselves and change a pivotal moment in history, the capture of the uniquely chameleon Raven played by Oscar winner Jennifer Lawrence from being captured by the duplicitious Trask. Wolverine with all the braun and charm of the original series gamely played by Hugh Jackman confronts a younger Xavier (a wonderful turn by James McAvoy) and convinces him to set Magneto free from a metal less prison in the heart of the Pentagon in Washington D. C.

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In a spell bounding special effects sequence, Xavier, Beast and Wolverine with the able assistance of Quiksilver played with charm by Evan Peters free the unpredictable Erik Lehnsherr aka Magneto and together they go in search of Raven/Mystique as she infiltrates a Vietnamese peace signing ceremony in Paris in 1973 in a bid to assassinate the formidable weapons specialist Dr Bolivar Trask who is hellbent on obliterating all mutants with new Transformeresque type machines known as the Sentinels.

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The rest of the action packed hugely spectacular X-Men Days of Future Past is a time travel mutant orgy in the same vein as Marvel’s film The Avengers was with a bunch of superheroes coming together to battle the evil Loki. The cast is just as spectacular and director Singer gives as much screen time as possible to the prolific actors as well as to the lesser cast members but its his lingering cinematic gaze on the gorgeous male cast including Nicholas Hoult (A Single Man) as Beast, Michael Fassbender (Shame) as Erik, James McAvoy (Atonement) as a younger Xavier that gives this superhero mutant fantasy a distinctly homoerotic quality seldom seen in other superhero films.

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By their nature superheroes are slightly narcissistic (look at Man of Steel, Batman, Iron Man) but especially so in X-Men Days of Future Past. The female superheroes in this film pale in comparison to their attention grabbing male counterparts with director Singer even giving Wolverine a nude scene as he wakes up in a New York apartment overlooking Time Square in the swinging seventies.

Ultimately, X-Men Days of Future Past is a Hollywood vehicle to reboot the old X-Men franchise and breath fresh life into the cast of the younger selves seen in X-Men: First Class. The film is wonderfully retro in parts and adds to the glamour of recreating the 1970’s on screen with Fassbender and McAvoy looking particularly fetching as the younger Magneto and Xavier. Gone are all the dark overtones of the earlier X-Men films and in this invigorated version, all the mutants look glossy, stylized and supremely accessible. This is a Hollywood blockbuster not just for its multitude of stars but also for the riveting special effects, never mind the convoluted narrative. A must see film for all fans of the X-Men movies and those that follow such commercial gloss with vigour.

 

 

Slaying Giants

Jack the Giant Slayer

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Fantasy tales make a fabulous bedtime story. That quiet half an hour when a parent reads to their anxious child the bedtime story involving a beautiful princess, some fairies and the occasional Giant is hugely significant in the passing down of a culture’s myths and legends. A recent Hollywood trend starting with the visually arresting Snow White and the Huntsman has seen many fairytales and fantasy films like Oz the Great and Powerful being re-imagined. The tale of Jack and the Bean stalk is vividly recreated by X-Men director Bryan Singer in the Feudal Fantasy Jack the Giant Slayer, featuring Nicholas Hoult (A Single Man) as the hapless commoner Jack who goes to town to sell his stallion and soon receives some magical beans in payment for the horse from a shady monk.

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Whilst the exchange occurs Jack meets the gorgeous Princess Isabelle played by Eleanor Tomlinson who is eager to escape the confines of her father’s kingdom. At King Brahmwell’s insistence Isabelle is destined to marry the scheming Roderick played with evil panache by Stanley Tucci (The Devil Wears Prada) and assisted by his sidekick Wicke played by Trainspotting star Ewen Bremner. The Kingdom’s protector  brave Elmont played by Ewan McGregor (The Impossible, Moulin Rouge) has a task on his hand trying to keep track of the illusive princess.

One stormy night upon her escape she comes across Jack in his humble abode and unbeknownst to them one of his magical beans has gotten wet and soon a gigantic beanstalk grows taking the princess up into the heavens and soon to become the mercy of a band of giants which inhabits the heavens and are merciless and forever hungry. Soon the adventure of Jack the Giant Slayer begins as Jack, Elmost and a band of the King’s men climb the treacherous bean stalk in a quest to save the proverbial princess. Bryan Singer brings all the visual dexterity that made the original X-Men trilogy and Valkyrie so dazzling to this cinematic recreation of Jack and the Beanstalk and firmly entrenches Jack the Giant Slayer in the long forgotten realm of British feudal patriarchal society whereby monarchy was supreme and power and royal continuity was enforced through myth and legend. Especially when the Kingdom of Cloisters is being threatened by a band of evil man-eating Giants.

“Be Quiet, I am talking to Giants”

Stanley Tucci is wonderful as slimy Roderick, the facilitator of evil and Giant dealer with his best line being “Be Quiet, I am talking to Giants”. Ewan McGregor is a great supporting actor to the little known Nicholas Hoult as the hero Jack who not only has to slay Giants but also prove his worth to the vain King Brahmwell in order to marry his illusive daughter, the ever resourceful princess. All narrative is tied up in fairytales of some sort and this plot is no different and while the script could have been expanded, Jack the Giant Slayer relies heavily on action and visual effects, which are spellbinding to say the least especially the final medieval battle between knights and Giants at the Cloisters Castle.

Like all battles fought, and all legends lived, many are entwined into narrative and myth to make a wonderful bedtime stories that can be passed down the generations, making it just as valuable as the gorgeous crown jewels which survive in the Tower of London. Jack the Giant Slayer, though thin on character development, relies heavily on the fabulous narrative of a simple farmer Jack slaying Giants to gain the hand of the princess and not much characterization is needed when such dazzling special effects are used to recreate another cinematic fairy tale. Recommended  for definitive and entertaining family viewing!

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