X-Men: The Last Stand (2006)

X-Men Last StandReleased: May 26, 2006. Directed by: Brett Ratner. Starring: Hugh Jackman, Famke Janssen, Halle Berry. Runtime: 104 min. 

I guess all mutants getting along was nice when it lasted. This time Charles Xavier’s (Patrick Stewart) X-Men face off against Magneto’s (Ian McKellen) Brotherhood. Stewart’s limited screen time helps prove that a presence will still be felt throughout the flick. In this film, a cure is introduced for mutants everywhere. Is mutation something that really needs to be cured? Do mutants really need to conform to what everyone else looks like? Is it cowardice if they choose to take the cure? This time, it touches on the idea that some mutants might benefit from the cure. This is basically in Rogue, who might benefit from it because if she holds onto someone too long, she could kill them. I learn that she is contributes a lot more in the comic books, when she’s felt sidelined to me in the films – at least in terms of battle. I think that’s awesomely touched on more intelligently with Mystique’s characterization in 2011’s X-Men: First Class.

This film just doesn’t feel as smart as the first two films. Heck, it’s still fun – but there are a lot of frustrating occurrences, mainly because some are so unnecessary. Something this film is missing is Bryan Singer’s direction. He just brought such an intelligent style to it, and it just feels like it’s lacking. This time Brett Ratner directs the film, and it’s a bit of an odd choice. Prior to this he directed the Rush Hour franchise and the Hannibal Lecter flick Red Dragon. It was a cool attempt, but it’s only successful to some avail. The fighting for freedom just feels a bit too clichèd this time around under Ratner’s eye. 

Like the Rush Hour flicks show, his style of direction just feels a bit familiar, and not quite a memorable style you could recognize a single director for. Though, he does direct a phenomenal prison escape sequence and kudos to the cinematography department during it. The actors bring humour to the film, per usual, it just isn’t as strong because the story gets dark at times. The film handles heartbreaking aspects of characterization well to some degree, just not perfectly like the last two films. It does handle being a blockbuster pretty well, though, because this is all really fun. 

It’s cool how Jean is a new sort-of character this time around, found in her alter-ego Phoenix, who is much more aggressive and angry than the regular Jean. Professor X wants to contain it in a series of psychological barriers, while Magneto wants to let her out of her cage. What happens with that is an intense sequence. Janssen gives her most interesting performance of the franchise thus far. In Wolverine and her relationship, Hugh Jackman brings some power to his performance. 

There are some good other mutants. It seems that the Beast, a political representative for mutants, is replacing the blue good guy (Nightcrawler in the last film) this time around. I love Ben Foster as the Angel, even though I would have loved to see more from the character. Callisto (Dania Ramirez) on the villains side is a really cool villain, because she’s like a walking, talking Cerebro. She can sense when mutants are near, and also know their power level. There’s a sort-of porcupine blowfish villain named Kid Omega who’s kind-of fun. He’s portrayed by Ken Leung, and I think I subconsciously assumed he was a villain when I saw him on TV’s Lost because I recognized him from this villainous role. As a villain, Pyro (Aaron Stanford) is a bit of a bland idiot. I thought he was a lot more fun as an antagonizing hero. 

I think the title indicates that there might be a few losses from all ends. I think there’s a minor problem when the opening simulation fighting sequence is the same amount of fun as the finale, but that might be because it’s lacking a few fun characters who would be helpful. The finale should just stand out in memory more, as far as I’m concerned. Don’t get me wrong, I like the finale and I like the film, but it’s just disappointingly not as character-driven as the previous two films.

Score: 65/100

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Premium Rush (2012)

Premium RushPremium Rush

Release Date: August 24, 2012

Director: David Koepp

Stars: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Dania Ramirez, Michael Shannon

Runtime: 91 min

Tagline: Ride Like Hell

Premium Rush is filled with fun one-liners, reckless characters and a fast-paced story; all the characteristics of a fine action flick. That’s just what this is: a fine action movie that passes the time. It’s fun entertainment following Wilee (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) run away from a rogue cop (Michael Shannon) trying to steal a package Wilee is carrying. That’s really just the plot (In Manhattan, a bike messenger picks up an envelope that attracts the interest of a dirty cop, who pursues the cyclist throughout the city), but there are smaller sub-plots throughout. Another cop is chasing him, as Wilee pulls some quick ones on him time and time again. That sub-plot is sometimes funny but it gets tedious; as does an extremely competitive fellow bike messenger, Manny (Wolé Parks). The relationship between he and Wilee, however, allows some fun bike races. This is a movie that shows us that bike racing movies can be nearly as exciting as car racing flicks. Emphasis on the nearly. I guess four wheels are better than two. The movie sometimes feels like it doesn’t do enough with its cool premise, and the sort-of twist with the package reveal is rather bland and one of the movie’s more forgettable moments. Dania Ramirez and Jamie Chung offer good supporting roles. Levitt is solid (even this is his weakest performance and movie of 2012, but his other two films were the great The Dark Knight Rises and Looper) as an extremely reckless character who refuses to use his brakes, but Michael Shannon is the most memorable part of the movie. One of his scenes near the end of the movie is high-larious in a strange way. The only fairly groundbreaking material it offers is some fascinating cinematography, where Wilee imagines different biking routes in New York traffic; where some routes lead to death, and others lead to safety. This is a taut, fast-paced action flick that offers some good late summer entertainment.

73/100