“X-Men: Days of Future Past”: Back to the Future

Days of Future Past

Midway through X-Men: Days of Future Past, the seventh in a seemingly inexhaustible series of movies derived from Stan Lee’s X-Men comics, Magneto (Michael Fassbender) and Professor X (James McAvoy) are under threat from a group of men with guns in a high-security prison facility embedded deep below the Pentagon. They’re flanked by Quicksilver (Evan Peters), an upstart blessed with the power of unparalleled expedience. When it becomes clear that Magneto’s metal-bending and Professor X’s mind-melting won’t be enough to stop the suits from gunning them down, Quicksilver rolls up his sleeves and gets to work.

The result is the movie’s most wonderful sequence, a dazzling and witty exploration of a superhero’s power rendered with panache and style by director Bryan Singer. Time slows down so that the only thing moving at normal human speed is Quicksilver, who trots around the room rearranging the floating objects. With a flourish, he positions the bullets away from Magneto and Professor X, balls a man’s outstretched hand into a fist and even takes a moment to taste-test some soup. When Quicksilver is done, the scene snaps like a rubber band back into place, and the action resumes.

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The M&M Report, Episode 28: A Conversation with Susan Wloszczyna

SC M&M Report Susan

Listen to this week’s M&M Report here.

This week on The M&M Report, Devin Mitchell and I were honored and thrilled to speak with RogerEbert.com film critic Susan Wloszczyna. She shared plenty of great stories about interviewing celebrities as wide-ranging as George Clooney, Amy Adams, Peter O’Toole, Mel Brooks and Wes Anderson, among dozens of others. Plus, she offered insights on the business of film criticism and the state of modern movies.

“American Hustle”: The Roaring 70s

American Hustle

Perhaps the biggest pleasure of the enormously pleasurable American Hustle is watching four of the finest living movie stars sink their teeth into meaty roles and have more fun than you’re ever likely to have. Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper, Amy Adams and Jennifer Lawrence make up the movie’s central quartet of lovable conmen and conmen wannabes, each apparently engaging in a contest to see which one can generate the most onscreen sparks. Anchored by this magnificent quartet, director David O. Russell’s follow-up to last year’s Oscar winning romance Silver Linings Playbook is overlong, narratively confounding, tonally precarious and utterly exhilarating.

Though the story is inspired by the FBI’s utterly insane Abscam sting, which claimed four senators and one representative in the late 1970s, an amusing introductory title card makes Russell’s intentions quite clear. “Some of this actually happened,” the card reads, absolving the movie of any pesky adherence to historical fact. The movie revels in this freedom. It’s not a documentary, nor does it pretend to be. Rather, as scripted by Russell and Eric Singer, it’s an exploration of four characters searching for their own identities even as they assume others.

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“The Hunger Games: Catching Fire”: Planting the Seeds of Revolution

Hunger Games

(Note: This review contains spoilers for the first movie but nothing major for the sequel.)

The Hunger Games movies represent a rarity among Hollywood franchises: uncommonly intelligent and socially conscious, littered with terrific performances and supported by unobtrusive special effects. Director Gary Ross’ original is far from perfect, but it provides a compelling introduction to a post-apocalyptic world rife with commentary that rings true in our present moment, and Jennifer Lawrence’s capable lead performance provides an unconventional and appealing lens for exploring media manipulation, reality television constructs, cultures of violence and oppressive powers. Though Ross’ directorial ineptitude skewers the numerous action sequences and the PG-13 rating limits the onscreen bloodshed to the point of desensitization, The Hunger Games asks questions that other blockbusters, especially ones based on popular novels for young people, wouldn’t dare touch.

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