X-Men: Days of Future Past

Well paint me blue and call me Mystique.

You know what I like? I like Hugh Jackman, Michael Fassbender and Patrick Stewart. Put them all together in a mind-bogglingly confusing wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey storyline, and you have a rip-roaring movie which cannily re-sets the X-Men universe for any number of future X-Men excursions.

Although not quite as tip-top has I’d been led to believe, my attention was held throughout (it would need to be, with all the time-shifting shenanigans). Things that are great fun are an incredible scene featuring Quicksilver (aka guy who moves really fast), Fassbender moving huge chunks of metal around with just a wave of his hand,  and the many incarnations of Jennifer Lawrence.

Downside though, with the exception of J-Law, female characters are few, which is a major disappointment. Surely more could have been done there, as Halle Berry chucked out only a few bolts of lightning, and Ellen Page spent two hours holding Wolverine’s head. In fact, the ‘future’ characters were royally underused.

And hasn’t that kid from ‘About A Boy’ grown up nicely?

OK, I’m off to watch City of the Edge of Forever

Frank

Even though Michael Fassbender spends most of this film with his own head stuck in a polystyrene one, this is a remarkable performance. He doesn’t need to describe his hidden facial expressions for us to know what’s going on, the physicality of his performance is more than enough.

There are some fun parts to this film, mostly as a result of the naivety of the Jon character, through whose eyes the story is told.  But actually, it’s populated with some very mixed-up people who have real problems and struggles, and are dealing with them the only way they can. So it turns out to be a quite touching portrayal of mental illness, with a heartbreaking final scene which proves just how good Fassbender is.

 

Q&A with Hossein Amini and Viggo Mortensen

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It’s nice to get to see a preview screening of a film, and even better if someone connected with the film is present and willing to talk about it afterwards.

This was the case for The Two Faces of January recently, following which writer/director Hossein Amini and actor Viggo Mortensen took to the stage to engage with the audience on what they had just seen.

Fortunately for everyone concerned, the film was well received – I would be interested to witness a Q&A where this was not the case, but so far my limited experiences of these events have all been positive.

Whilst the obvious topics came up – adapting Patricia Highsmith’s novel, casting, costumes etc – I was most intrigued by the passing references to filming on location in Turkey and Greece at the beginnings of civil unrest in response to the economic situations in both countries.

The film is set mostly in Greece and with some scenes in Istanbul, but apparently filming in Croatia and passing it off as Greece does offer financial incentives – which the director passed over to have the authentic locations described in the novel.

Trying to film among the tourists at Knossos looked like it would be tricky, but on the day, a general strike in Greece closed all such sites and monuments to the public, leaving cast and crew a clear run for their shooting that day.

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Hoping for the opportunity to attend more events like this!

The Two Faces of January

I was fortunate enough to see this film at a preview screening, followed by Q&A with director Hossein Amini and actor Viggo Mortensen.

From an original novel by Patricia Highsmith, it is inevitably reminiscent of The Talented Mr Ripley in its ‘1960s wealthy Americans in the Mediterranean’ setting, and it looks beautiful, both in location and particularly the costumes.

The wavering relationship of dependency between the two male characters is the main theme of the film, with Kirsten Dunst doing her glamourous best in a role which borders on one-dimensional. But as writer/director Amini pointed out, Highsmith was interested in the complexity of the male relationships, and so the wife character was not particularly strongly drawn in the novel.

It’s difficult to say much about the film without giving away too much of the plot, as the intrigue is what drives it forward. I will say it definitely held my attention until the end, and that redemption is eventually high on the list of priorities.

And there is one thing I am grateful to this film for, and that is for showing me a different side to Oscar Isaac. After Inside Llewyn Davis, I just wanted to slap his face every time I saw him, as I associated him so closely with that really irksome and whingey character. But now at least I have seen something different.

Blue Ruin

A gripping American indie revenge film with a very subdued feeling.

The first 15 minutes are fascinating, in that there is hardly any dialogue, and we are presented with just enough visual information to begin working out who this character may be – and yet we still have a lot to learn.

The main character is not your usual killer-type, and as a result, the suspense in parts is almost unbearable as we find our protagonist in a range of unbearably tense situations as he sets out to right a wrong in the only way he feels is just.

Some beautiful scenery in which horrific events take place.

Pompeii

So there’s a volcano, and some gladiators, and a woman who’s too thin really to be properly beautiful, and a young man who’s quite handsome and can ride horses well.  And there’s Kiefer Sutherland with a very strange mid-Atlantic accent. Not quite sure what he was aiming for there.

It’s not actually about the volcano, it’s really a love story between the two young people, and what’s good about the film is, with a few lava explosions and a bit of fighting thrown in for the boys, it actually remembers that is what it is. What I mean is, at one point I was concentrating on how the storyline was playing out and had forgotten that the volcano hadn’t erupted yet – the film is called Pompeii, not Vesuvius for a reason.

It’s not overly long, either, which made it a very suitable, park your brain at the door mid-week treat.

Ilo Ilo

Singapore, as the Asian economy begins to struggle, and a Filipino woman leaves her own country and family to work as a maid.

She finds herself servant to a downtrodden father, a demanding, heavily pregnant mother and a very unpleasant 10 year old boy, whose attention-seeking behaviour makes his relationships with all the adults very challenging.

But as Teresa settles in, relationships shift as everyone has to adjust to changing circumstances, much like Singapore in its flailing economy.

Reaching the end of the film, I actually want to know how they all fare in the next phase of their lives, which shows how much I became attached to these people, and that the characters are not mere stereotypes or tropes.

The domestic, family-based storyline brings to mind Japanese director Hirokazu Koreeda‘s most recent films, and if first-time director Anthony Chen’s future films match this standard, then there is a lot to look forward to.

An intriguing study of family dynamics, class and migration.

Grzeli Nateli Dgeebi – In Bloom

Two teenage girls find themselves growing up before their time in the civil-war affected Georgia of the 1990s.

As they both search for their place in this new society, so the country struggles to establish itself after its break from Russia, and it can be an unpleasant and dangerous place.

A mesmerising solo dance is an outstanding pivotal scene as it becomes obvious which way the girls’ lives are heading, and the film as a whole presented a language and culture which I had not encountered before.

An absorbing watch.