Monday, June 30, 2014
Below are images from "THE LIVES OF A BENGAL LANCER", the 1935 adaptation of Francis Yeats-Brown's 1930 autobiography. Directed by Henry Hathaway, the movie starred Gary Cooper, Franchot Tone and Richard Cromwell:
"THE LIVES OF A BENGAL LANCER" (1935) Photo Gallery
Sunday, June 29, 2014
"X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST" (2014) Review
When the news reached many fans that Bryan Singer would be helming the next film, fans rejoiced. As far as they were concerned, the best movies from the franchise had been directed by Singer. And since he had served as one of the producers for 2011's "X-MEN: FIRST CLASS", that particular film is highly regarded by fans as well.
The latest film in question, "X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST" seemed to serve as a sequel to both "FIRST-CLASS" and the 2006 movie, "X-MEN: THE LAST STAND". Adapted from Chris Claremont
John Byrne's 1981 storyline, "Days of Future Past", for comic book, The Uncanny X-Men, Issues #141-142; "DAYS OF FUTURE PAST" starts in the 2020s in which robots known as Sentinels are exterminating mutants, humans who harbor the genes that lead to mutant offspring, and humans who help mutants. A band of mutants led by Charles Xavier "Professor X" and Erik Lehnsherr "Magneto" manage to evade the Sentients and eventually find refuge in China. Realizing that the Sentients will finally catch up with them, Xavier and Magneto, along with fellow mutant Kitty Pryde, come up with a plan to prevent the events that would kick-start the creation of the Sentients.
Using Kitty's ability to project an individual's consciousness through time, they instruct her to do the same to Logan's "Wolverine" consciousness back to late January 1973 (over ten years following the events of "X-MEN: FIRST CLASS" - to prevent Raven Darkhölme "Mystique" from assassinating Bolivar Trask, the creator of the Sentinels. Following the assassination, the U.S. government captured Mystique and allowed Trask's company to use her DNA to create Sentinels that are near-invincible due to their ability to adapt to any mutant power. Xavier and Magneto advise Wolverine to seek out both of their younger selves for aid. When Logan finally arrives in the past, he learns that the younger Xavier has become an embittered man over the premature closing of his school for mutants and addicted to a serum created by Hank McCoy "the Beast" to suppress his mutation. Logan also learns that the younger Magneto has spent over 10 years imprisoned for the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
I might as well lay my cards on the table. I love time travel movies. It is the reason why I am such a big fan of the "BACK TO THE FUTURE" franchise and especially 2012's "MEN IN BLACK 3". The return of Bryan Singer as the director of an X-MEN film was not the reason why I had anticipated this film so much. It was the story's theme of time travel. Only in this case, the movie's time traveler, Logan, does not bodily travel back through time. Instead, his 2020s consciousness is sent back to his 1973 body. I found nothing wrong with that. After all, the 2011 movie, "SOURCE CODE" used a similar method. And the 2000 movie, "FREQUENCY"featured the communication between father and son - across a period of thirty years via a shortwave radio. When I realized what the plot was about, I suspected "X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST" might prove to be the best film in the franchise.
The movie certainly featured a great deal that made it memorable. Unlike "FIRST CLASS", "DAYS OF FUTURE PAST" did an excellent job in re-creating the early 1970s. One has to thank John Myhre's excellent production designs, along with Gordon Sim's set decorations, the special effects team and Newton Thomas Sigel's superb photography. I was especially impressed by Sigel's photography and the special effects in the following scenes:
More importantly, Louise Mingenbach did a much better job in creating costumes that adhere correctly to the movie's setting (especially the early 1970s) than Sammy Sheldon did for the early 1960s costumes for "FIRST CLASS".
"DAYS OF FUTURE PAST" also featured some excellent action sequences that left me feeling slightly dazzled. I especially enjoyed the two battles fought between the mutant and the Sentinels in the movie's first five minutes and its last ten to twenty minutes, Mystique's rescue of her fellow mutants from an Army base in South Vietnam, the rescue of Magneto from a Federal prison and especially Mystique's attempt to assassinate Bolivar Trask at the latter's meeting with North Vietnam generals, following the signing of the Paris Peace Accords.
But action scenes, cinematography and special effects do not alone make a good movie. Thankfully, "DAYS OF FUTURE PAST"featured some excellent dramatic scenes and a decent narrative - with some flaws. I must admit that I was impressed at how screenwriter Simon Kinberg carried over the early Xavier-Magneto relationship from "FIRST CLASS" in two scenes - Xavier greeting the recently imprisoned Magneto with a punch to the face and their embittered quarrel aboard Xavier's private plane, as they fly to Paris. He also did an excellent job in carrying over the same for the two men's relationship with Mystique. The first meeting - actually, I should say Magneto's first meeting with Wolverine proved to be interesting. It did not take long for the animosity between the two to immediately spark. One of the best dramatic sequences proved to be - ironically - in the middle of the film's last action scene that was set on the White House lawn. I am speaking of that moment in which Xavier tried to talk Mystique out of carrying out her plan to assassinate Trask. As for the sequences set in the 2020s, I cannot recall any memorable dramatic moments. But there is one unforgettable scene that linked the two time settings that I will never forget. It featured a conversation between the young and old Xavier, thanks to a psychic link set up by Logan. A great, dramatic and emotional moment.
I read on the Wikipedia site that "X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST" is regarded as the best film in the X-MEN franchise and the best reviewed. I feel that it had the potential to be the best in the franchise, thanks to its time travel theme. But . . . I am afraid it did not achieve that goal. At least for me. What tripped up this movie? Simon Kinberg's screenplay. However, I cannot solely place the blame on him. As one of the producers and the director of the film, I believe Bryan Singer deserves most of the blame.
I read somewhere that Josh Helman had originally been hired to portray a younger version of Juggernaut, who was portrayed by Vinnie Jones in 2006's "X-MEN: THE LAST STAND". But the filmmakers changed their minds, dropped the Juggernaut character from the script and gave Helman the role of a younger William Stryker. And this was the biggest mistake that Singer, his crew and the rest of the producers made. A big mistake. The 2009 film, "X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE" made it clear that Stryker was the leader of a group of mutant mercenaries hired to help him develop his Weapons X project. Stryker was portrayed by the then 46-47 year-old Danny Huston, who portrayed Stryker as someone in his late thirties or early forties. I recall that Stryker had recruited both Logan and his half-brother, Victor Creed "Sabretooth" in Vietnam. Later, Logan had left the group in 1973. But there was no sign of Sabretooth and the other mutants working for Stryker in "DAYS OF FUTURE PAST". And we are also supposed to be believe that a Stryker portrayed by a 26-27 year-old Josh Helman, was the son of a 10 year-old boy. Are they kidding? When I had pointed out this problem on the Internet, I was told that the audience was supposed to dismiss the 2009 movie as part of the franchise. What the hell? Was this really Singer's idea of handling the continuity problem of William Stryker in this movie? If so, this is sloppy film writing at its worse.
The William Stryker character proved to be a problem in other areas of the story. In the movie, he is supposed to be Boliviar Trask's Army liaison. Okay, I can buy that. But would an officer of the U.S. Army stand by silently, while Trask meets with a group of Communist military generals (especially from an army that had just been at war with the United States) in order to sell his Sentinel program? I rather doubt it. Even if Congress was not interested in using Trask's program, I doubt it or Stryker would be so cavalier about Trask selling his program for combatant robots to military armies they would deem enemies of the U.S. The movie also featured a scene with President Richard M. Nixon discussing the chaos and violence caused by Mystique's assassination attempt in Paris with his political and military advisers in the White House's Oval Office. Nixon and his advisers are suddenly surprised by Trask and Stryker's appearance, who were there to push the Sentinel program again. Guess what? I was also surprised. How did Trask and Stryker gain entry into the Oval Office without an appointment or security agents stopping them? How was it even possible?
Since I am on a roll, there are other matters in the script that I find questionable. For example . . . did anyone notice any similarities between the plot for "X-MEN UNITED" and this film? In the 2003 movie, Magneto hijacked William Stryker's plans to use the kidnapped Xavier to kill all mutant in order to use his old friend against non-mutants. And in "DAYS OF FUTURE PAST", Magneto (again) hijacked Trask's Sentient robots that were created to kill mutants in order to bump of President Nixon and his advisers. Hmmmm . . . how unoriginal. And how was Magneto able to reprogram the prototype Sentinel robots in the first place? He had never displayed any technological skill or talent in the past. I read in Wikipedia's recap of the movie's plot that Magneto had intercepted the Sentinels that were in transit by rail and laced their polymer-based frames with steel, allowing him control of them. What the hell? I have never heard of such contrived bullshit in my life. I take that back. I just realized more contrived bullshit in the plot. When did Kitty Pryde acquire the ability to send a person's consciousness back through time? Her ability is to phase through objects like walls, doors, etc. How did she acquire this second ability, when it was non-existent in the comics? According to Bryan Singer, Kitty's phasing ability enables time travel. Hmmm. More bullshit to explain vague and bad writing. And speaking of the future segments, could someone explain what was going on the movie's first action sequence that involved the younger mutants fighting Sentients . . . and nearly being wiped out? And yet, the next thing I know, all of them rendezvous with the older mutants in China - Xavier, Magneto, Ororo Munroe aka Storm, and Logan. So . . . could someone please explain in full detail what the hell was going on?
And could someone please explain why Storm ended up as a background character in this movie? All she did was stand around, while others around her talked . . . until a few minutes before her death. I read that actress Halle Berry was pregnant at the time of the movie's production. All I can say is . . . so what? Rosamund Pike (her co-star from the 2002 Bond movie, "DIE ANOTHER DAY") was pregnant during the production of "JACK REACHER". She was not treated like a background character. And Berry could have been provided with a great deal more dialogue than she was given. There was no need for her to be involved in mainly action sequences. Also, I am at a loss on how Jean Grey and Scott Summers aka Cyclops ended up alive and well in the altered timeline. How? How on earth did their fates have anything to do with Trask's Sentinels? It was Stryker's actions in "X-2: X-MEN UNITED" that eventually led to Jean's "death" in this movie and eventually hers and Scott's actual deaths in "X-MEN: THE LAST STAND". And I do not recall Stryker's Army career being affected by Trask's downfall by the end of this movie. The movie eventually revealed that the younger Magneto had been imprisoned for Kennedy's assassination. As it turned out, Magneto was trying to save Kennedy's life. Why? Because according to Magneto, the 35th President was a mutant. What was the point of this tidbit? To give Kennedy a reason for his . . . uh, liberal politics? Why was that necessary? Speaking of Magneto, I noticed in one scene that was dressed in this manner in order to retrieve his uniform and telepathy-blocking helmet:
Mind you, Michael Fassbender looked good. But honestly . . . why did his character, a forty-something year-old man who was born and raised in Europe, had to channel "Superfly" in order to retrieve is old uniform? I have one last quibble. This movie is supposed to be set around late January to early February, 1973; during the time when the Paris Peace Accords to end the Vietnam War were signed. Could someone explain why the weather conditions - for locations in the State of New York; Paris, France; and Washington D.C. - in the movie made it seem this story was set during the spring or summer? No one wore a heavy coat. Nor did I see signs of snow, blustery weather or trees with dead leaves.
Before one thinks I hate this movie, I do not. I believe "X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST" has a great deal of flaws. But it does have its merits. I have already commented on them, earlier in this review. But I have not touched upon the performances. Personally, I have no complaints about them. Sure, Halle Berry barely had any dialogue. Ian McKellen was slightly more fortunate, which I found surprising. Anna Paquin as Marie aka Rogue, Kelsey Grammer as the older Hank McCoy aka the Beast, Famke Janssen as Jean Grey, and James Marsden as Scott Summers aka Cyclops all made ten (10) seconds or more appearances at the end of the film. What a waste. However, Ellen Page as Kitty Pryde and Shawn Ashmore as Bobby Drake aka Iceman gave solid performances. So did Josh Helman , who made a very effective and scary younger William Stryker. Evan Peters gave a very entertaining and crowd-pleasing performance as supersonic mutant Peter Maximoff aka Quicksilver. I enjoyed Nicholas Hoult's quiet, yet intense performance as the younger Hank McCoy. Hugh Jackman gave his usual intense and deliciously sardonic portrayal of the time traveling Logan aka Wolverine. However . . . I sense that he is getting a bit too old to be portraying a mutant that barely ages. And his physique looked extremely muscular . . . even more so than he did at the age of 31 in 2000's "X-MEN". In fact, his body looked downright unnatural and heavily veined.
However, there were outstanding performances in the movie. Patrick Stewart did an excellent job in conveying the many aspects of the older Xavier's emotional reactions to the war against the Sentients. Also, both he and McKellen continued their first-rate chemistry as the former foes who had renewed their friendship. Both James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender continued their strong screen chemistry as the younger Xavier and Magneto. I was especially impressed by their performances in the scene that featured their quarrel aboard Xavier's private plane. And remember the rapture I had expressed over the scene that featured the two Xaviers? Well, one should thank both Stewart and McAvoy for making it so memorable. Peter Dinklage gave an outstanding performance as the intelligent mastermind behind the Sentient robots, Bolivar Trask. But the best performance, I believe, came from Jennifer Lawrence's portrayal of the younger Mystique, who seemed hellbent upon assassinating the man she perceived as a threat to the mutants' future. She was all over the place . . . and in the right way. I found her performance a lot more impressive than the one she gave in "FIRST CLASS".
Unlike many other fans of the X-MEN movies, I was not particularly impressed by the news that Bryan Singer had returned to direct this latest film for the franchise. I was more impressed by the movie's theme of time travel. "DAYS OF FUTURE" had a lot to offer - colorful visual effects, great dramatic moments, superb action sequences and some excellent performances by the cast. But the inconsistencies that popped up in the movie's plot were too many for me to dismiss. And I believe that in the end, those inconsistencies prevented the movie from achieving its potential to be the best in the X-MEN franchise. Hmmm . . . too bad.
Thursday, June 26, 2014
Below is a list of my top five favorite episodes from Season Two of "LOST" (2004-2010). The series was created by Jeffrey Lieber, J. J. Abrams and Damon Lindelof; and produced by the latter and Carlton Cuse.
TOP FIVE FAVORITE "LOST" SEASON TWO (2005-2006) Episodes
1. (2.07) "The Other 48 Days" - This episode depicted the first 48 days on the island for the Oceanic 815 Tail Section survivors and their travails with the island's inhabitants, the Others.
2. (2.11) "The Hunting Party" - Michael Dawson leaves the Oceanic survivors to search for his kidnapped son, Walt Lloyd. Jack Shephard, John Locke and James "Sawyer" Ford pursue him, in order to prevent him from being taken by the Others. Flashbacks reveal the last days of Jack's marriage.
3. (2.08) "Collision" - The violent circumstances of Fuselage survivor Shannon Rutherford's death leads to a rift between her fellow survivor Sayid Jarrah and Tail Section survivor Ana-Lucia Cortez. Flashbacks reveal the circumstances behind the tragic death of Ana-Lucia's unborn child and her murder of the man who shot him.
4. (2.10) "The 23rd Psalms" - Charlie Pace leads Mr. Eko to the plane that he and Sayid found in Season One . . . and the remains of Mr. Eko's brother. Flashbacks reveal Mr. Eko's past as a warlord and his tragic relationship with his priest brother.
5. (2.22) "Three Minutes" - After killing Ana-Lucia and another Tail Section survivor named Libby, Michael tries to convince Jack, Sawyer, Kate Austen and Hugo "Hurley" Reyes to help him free Walt from the Others. Flashbacks reveal his experiences as a captor of the Others and the deal he made to free Walt.
Monday, June 23, 2014
RATING: R – Violence, sexual situations and character death
SUMMARY: Disaster follows in the wake of the deaths of Cole and Olivia Turner; and Piper and Wyatt Halliwell. Set after "Requiem For Magic".
FEEDBACK: - Be my guest. But please, be kind.
DISCLAIMER: Cole Turner, The Charmed Ones, Leo Wyatt, Chris Halliwell and Darryl Morris belong to Constance Burge, Brad Kern and Spelling Productions. Olivia McNeill Turner, the McNeills, Andre and Cecile Morell, Artemus and Scott Yi are thankfully, my creations.
Source's Realm – Alternate Dimension
Cole Turner aka Belthazor shimmered into the spacious cavern that served as the Source's Throne Room. Many of the Realm's upper-level daemons were there, either chatting amiably with friends or glaring at their enemies as they awaited the arrival of the Source.
"Belthazor?" The familiar voice took Cole by surprise. He whirled around and found himself facing his mother. The auburn-haired daemon regarded her only child with wide blue eyes. "What in Caspiel's name are you doing here? This is supposed to be a meeting for the Source's Council and leaders of the sects. Nimue aka Elizabeth Farrell Turner happened to be one of the sect leaders in the Thorn Brotherhood – one of twelve demonic orders within the Source's Realm.
It occurred to the half-daemon that for the first time in his life, he might be more powerful than his mother. Thanks to Olivia's theft of a more powerful Belthazor's abilities from an alternate universe, he could kill his mother or just about any other magical being. Cole stared at his mother and smiled. She gasped slightly. "Is there something wrong, Mother?" he asked lightly.
Nimue hesitated. "For a moment, you had the oddest expression on your face." She shook her head. "Never mind. What are you doing here?"
"I believe there is to be a meeting of the Source's Council," Cole replied. "Why else would I be here?"
"You're not a Council member," Nimue snapped. "Or a sect leader."
Cole's smile widened. "The day is still young."
"What do you mean by that?" Nimue briefly glanced away and her eyes widened in shock. "What in the bloody hell? Who is she?"
Cole's gaze followed his mother's. He waved at Olivia Mc Neill, his red-haired paramour, who had just entered the chamber. A smile touched her lips as she strode toward mother and son. Cole greeted the warlock with a brief kiss. "Mother, I would like you to meet Olivia McNeill."
The demoness regarded Olivia with wide eyes. "McNeill? One would mistake you for a Morgan. You're almost the spitting of . . . her."
Olivia nodded. "By 'her', I assume that you're referring to Briana Morgan? My illustrious ancestor?"
"Yes, on my mother's side."
Before Nimue could continue, two male daemons appear beside the trio. One of them, a tall fair-haired man with a fleshy countenance, frowned at Cole. "Belthazor! What are you doing here? This is a meeting for Council members and sect leaders." Like Nimue, Vornac happened to be a sect leader within the Thorn Brotherhood. Cole served under his sect.
"I have information for the Source and the Council," Cole smoothly replied.
The second daemon, a dark-haired man named Raynor, glared at Cole through narrow eyes. "Then you should have reported the information to myself . . . or to Vornac. You know the rules, Belthazor." Raynor's gaze caught sight of Olivia. "And that includes inviting warlocks to the Council chambers."
A smirk appeared on Cole's lips. "Considering the origins of our fearless leaders, I did not see how anyone would protest."
"Belthazor!" his mother admonished.
At that moment, a daemon in a black suit, holding a staff, appeared before the gathering. He banged the staff on the ground three times, capturing everyone's attention. "Everyone, please take your positions!'
Raynor detached himself from the others to join the other Council members that formed a half circle around a trio of thrones. Vornac and Nimue, as sect leaders, gathered near Raynor. So did Cole and Olivia.
A burst of flames illuminated the rocky chamber. Three figures materialized in front of the thrones. Three figures that resembled dark-haired human females, dressed in similar black gowns made from silk. Cole inhaled sharply at the sight of the three Halliwell sisters. Formerly known as the Charmed Ones, they now ruled the Source's Realm. The half-daemon's eyes shifted toward the youngest sister, Phoebe. The evil bitch who had made the past year of his miserable by insisting that he become her personal stud.
The demonic adjutant banged his staff again. "Ladies and gentlemen!" he cried. "Presenting Their Majesties . . . the Source!"
Everyone inside the chamber bowed before the three leaders. The Source eased into their thrones. The oldest sister – Prue – regarded the gathering with a regal air. "The meeting of the Source's Council will come to order." She glanced at the adjutant. "What is the first subject on the agenda?"
A minion whispered a few words into the adjutant's ear. The latter cleared his throat in a pompous manner. "The first subject on the agenda involves the Fornost Order's search for the . . ."
Cole decided this would be the right moment to make a move. "Before we continue with this meeting, I have an announcement to make."
Loud gasps filled the chamber. Nimue, Raynor and Vornac regarded the half-daemon with horror. Several other daemons stepped aside, allowing the three leaders a clear view of Cole. Prue's eyes narrowed dangerously. "Exactly who are you?" she demanded.
"Cole?" Phoebe cried out in shock. "What are you doing here?"
Prue shot a glance at her youngest sister. "You know him?"
"He's a half-daemon," Phoebe continued. "From the Thorn Brotherhood. Vornac is his sect leader." Her gaze returned to Cole. "What are you doing here? You're not a Council member or a sect leader. And I haven't summoned you."
A derisive snort escaped from the middle sister's mouth. "You've summoned him before?" Piper's dark eyes regarded Cole salaciously. "I can see why."
"What do you want?" Prue demanded coolly.
Cole paused momentarily. He took a few steps toward the three sisters. "I'm here to challenge you for leadership of the Source's Realm."
More gasps followed. Raynor grabbed at Cole's arm. "Belthazor! What are you . . .?" Cole shook off the other daemon's hand.
"You son-of-a-bitch!" Phoebe growled. "Who do you think . . .?"
"Shut up, Phoebe!" Prue retorted. She stared at Cole with suspicious eyes. "Belthazor obviously thinks he's powerful enough to kill us. And I can only wonder why. Especially since it's three to one."
A smirk curved Cole's lips. "Actually . . . it's three to two." At that moment, Olivia stepped forward to stand beside him.
"Who is she?" Phoebe demanded.
Prue glared at the redhead. "Olivia McNeill! Wha . . . what are you doing here? How?"
"It's a long story, Prue," Olivia coolly replied. "Unfortunately, I'm not in the mood to answer." She turned to Cole. "Let's make this reunion short." He nodded.
As the couple faced the Source, the three sisters attacked with energy balls. Cole and Olivia quickly deflected them back at the Halliwells. The energy balls bounced off the trio. "So much for your power," Piper commented snidely. "I say we kill them slow and . . ."
This time, Cole and Olivia attacked. With waves of their hands, they engulfed the sisters in red-hot flames. Screams of pain filled the chamber, until the Halliwells' bodies combusted into balls of fire. Once the fires died down, all that remained of the former Charmed Ones were piles of ash.
"They're . . ." Raynor began in a shocked voice.
Cole finished, ". . . dead." He took Olivia's hand and faced the gathering inside the chamber. "They're all dead. And now . . . there's a new sheriff in town. Namely me. With the deaths of our old leaders, I now proclaim myself as the Source and within a few days, Olivia McNeill as my queen! Does anyone have a problem with this?"
No one answered. Much to Cole's satisfaction. "Good!" The half-daemon faced the adjutant. "Now, where is the Grimoire?"
End of Prologue
Sunday, June 22, 2014
Below are images from "ANGELS AND INSECTS", the 1995 adaptation of A.S. Byatt's 1992 novella called "Morpho Eugenia". Directed by Philip Haas, the movie starred Mark Rylance, Kristin Scott-Thomas and Patsy Kensit:
"ANGELS AND INSECTS" (1995) Image Gallery