Movie Review: “X-Men: Days of Future Past”

Starring
Hugh Jackman, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Nicholas Hoult, Peter Dinklage
Director
Bryan Singer

Just when it seemed like Fox was engineering a smart reboot of its X-Men franchise with “First Class,” the series’ original director, Bryan Singer, has returned to combine the old with the new in “X-Men: Days of Future Past.” That’s not exactly bad news for fans who appreciate the lengths that Singer has gone to in an attempt to fix the continuity issues within the X-movies, but by doing so, he’s tethered the prequels to the earlier films in a way that ensures they’ll never be able to exist on their own. And considering the potential of where the franchise was headed prior to this “sidequel,” it’s a little disappointing to see Singer turn his back on that initial vision. Granted, there’s still quite a bit to like about “Days of Future Past,” but it feels more like a step backward than the creative leap forward that Matthew Vaughn’s prequel pointed towards.

In the near future, mutants are being hunted down by advanced versions of Sentinel robots that can instantly adapt to any situation, making them impossible to defeat. With only a handful of X-Men remaining, Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page) uses her powers to send Logan’s (Hugh Jackman) consciousness back in time to his younger body circa 1973 in order to reunite Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and Magneto (Michael Fassbender) for a single purpose: stopping Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) from murdering the creator of the Sentinel program, Dr. Boliver Trask (Peter Dinklage), in the hope that it will alter the course of history. Meanwhile, the X-Men from the future must hold off an impending Sentinel attack to provide Logan enough time to complete his mission, although that’s much easier said than done.

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Movie Review: “Trance”

Starring
James McAvoy, Rosario Dawson, Vincent Cassel, Danny Sapani
Director
Danny Boyle

Danny Boyle is one of the few directors working today whose projects are almost always met with fervent excitement, and that’s certainly the case with “Trance.” Though moviegoers were forced to wait a few years for Boyle’s much-anticipated follow-up to “127 Hours” – due to other engagements on stage (the National Theatre production of “Frankenstein”) and for his country (the London 2012 Olympics opening ceremony) – the delay seemed well worth it following the news that he would be reteaming with frequent collaborator John Hodge (“Shallow Grave,” “Trainspotting”). In retrospect, my expectations were probably set a little too high, because although “Trance” is an entertaining psychological thriller, it doesn’t quite live up to Boyle’s more recent, award-winning work.

The film’s whiz-bang opening sets the stage when art auctioneer Simon (James McAvoy) teams up with a group of criminals to steal Francisco Goya’s 1798 masterpiece “Witches in the Air” during an auction in progress. Everything is going according to plan when Simon suffers a blow to the head during the heist, only to awaken with no memory of where he hid the painting. When more conventional methods (i.e. torture) prove ineffective, the gang’s leader Franck (Vincent Cassel) hires hypnotherapist Elizabeth Lamb (Rosario Dawson) to dig deep into Simon’s psyche and help jog his memory. But as Simon starts to piece together his broken subconscious, he becomes increasingly suspicious of Franck and Elizabeth’s ulterior motives, reconfirming why he chose to stash the painting in the first place.

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Movie Review: “Welcome to the Punch”

Starring
James McAvoy, Mark Strong, David Morrissey, Peter Mullan, Andrea Riseborough, Daniel Mays
Director
Eran Creevy

The British film industry is overflowing with a wealth of talent, which is what makes its poor output of quality movies so maddening. While there’s never been a short supply of stuffy period dramas and gritty gangster flicks, very few other genres have managed to find much success overseas. Evan Creevy’s sophomore effort, “Welcome to the Punch,” attempts to bridge that gap by delivering a Hollywood-style crime thriller on an indie budget, but although he’s landed an impressive cast of A-list British talent, it’s mostly squandered on a bland and overly predictable script. “Welcome to the Punch” displays a lot more potential than the recently released “The Sweeney,” but it still falls short due a lack of suspense and personality.

Ambitious young detective Max Lewinsky (James McAvoy) is hot on the trail of master thief Jacob Sternwood (Mark Strong), but after tracking him down to the scene of his latest heist in progress, Sternwood manages to escape and Max gets a bullet in the kneecap for his troubles. Three years later, Jacob is still coping with the events of that night (the scar and accompanying knee pain a constant reminder of his failure), but when Sternwood’s son is fatally wounded during a gun deal gone wrong, Sternwood emerges from his Icelandic hideaway to smoke out the men responsible. Convinced that Sternwood’s vendetta will lead him back to London, Max is given another chance to capture the elusive criminal, only to uncover a deeper conspiracy within his own police department connecting the two crimes.

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