20th Century Fox Film via Everett Collection
While 2002's Spider-Man gets the lion's share of the credit, Bryan Singer's X-Men, released two years earlier, was the film that really revived the comic book film genre after its near-death at the hands of George Clooney and his Bat-nipples. Through the franchise's 14 years of sequels, spin-offs, soft reboots, and now, timeline colliding mashups, loads of mutants have sprung to life on film. And while some have endured through the franchises ups and downs like Hugh Jackman's ever-present Wolverine, others have slipped through the cracks after only appearing in one film. In tribute to our lost mutant brothers, we've decided to comb through the list of our favorite one and done mutants and determine which ones deserve a second chance in the film series.
DeathstrikeReal Name: Yuriko OyamaTeam Affiliation: One of Stryker's henchmanLast Seen: X2: X-Men UnitedBest Moment: Her fight with WolverineShould She Return?: Yes. Her face off with Wolverine during the tail end of X2 was thrilling. Having a dark foil of Wolverine with similar abilities would be grea asset for the series going forward.
JuggernautReal Name: Cain MarkoTeam Affiliation: The Brotherhood of Evil MutantsLast Seen: X-Men: The Last StandBest Moment: "I'm the Juggernaut, b**ch!"Should He Return? Yes. The Juggernaut is a fan-favorite mutant, and the character's inclusion in X-Men 3 was one of that film's few highlights. The character crashing through walls with reckless abandon, and especially his fight with Kitty Pride was a ton of fun.
NightcrawlerReal Name: Kurt WagnerTeam Affiliation: X-MenLast Seen: X2: X-Men UnitedBest Moment: Nightcrawler vs. the White HouseShould He Return?: Hell yes, Nightcrawler's dizzying fight scene at the start of X-2 is still the franchise's best moment, even ten years later. Alan Cumming brought a real, earnest humanity to Kurt Wagner, and it's a pity that the franchise hasn't found room for the mutant in subsequent films. Sure, we got some teleporting action via Azazel in First Class, but that brooding bad guy doesn't have an ounce of the charm as Nightcrawler.
BansheeReal Name: Sean CassidyTeam Affiliation: X-MenLast Seen: X-Men: First Class Best Moment: Banshee taking flight for the first timeShould He Return?: No. Banshee was perfectly likeable in X-Men: First Class, but the series rightfully jettisoned the character since things were getting too crowded on the mutant front, especially with Days of Future Past's multiple timelines.
AngelReal Name: Warren Worthington IIITeam Affiliation: N/ALast Seen: X-Men: The Last StandBest Moment: A young Warren trying to file down his wings as a childShould He Return?: Yes. There's something really majestic about Angel. Sure, a ton of other mutants can fly, but who else does so with giant, feathery wings.
BlobReal Name: Frederick J. DukesTeam Affiliation: Team XLast Seen: X-Men Origins: WolverineBest Moment: His boxing match with WolverineShould He Return?: It's a shame that this blubbery villain's only adventure was in the worst film of the franchise, but there are much cooler mutants that deserve more screen time.
Deadpool/WeaponXIReal Name: Wade WilsonTeam Affiliation: Team XLast Seen: X-Men Origins: WolverineBest Moment: Pre-Weapon XI Wade Wilson cutting down bad guys with swords and verbal jabsShould He Return?: No. Perhaps the biggest sin made by the entire franchise was the handling of Deadpool. It still baffles us how the powers that be at 20th Century Fox thought the best way to handle "the merc with a mouth" was to sew said mouth shut and use him like a cheap, final act pinata for Wolverine and Sabertooth to claw down to size. Fool me once...
Kestrel Real Name: John Wraith Team Affiliation: Team X Last Seen: X-Men Origins: Wolverine Best Moment: Sabertooth grabbing the teleporting mutant's spine was nightmarishly cool. Should He Return?: No. Will.i.am is better off as far away from the X-Men franchise as possible, and if the series were to introduce any teleporting mutant back into the fray, it damn well better be Nightcrawler.
Warner Bros Pictures via Everett Collection
Even without having read Mark Helprin's novel Winter's Tale, I have the unshakable feeling that Akiva Goldsman's film adaptation does not do the story justice. Speckled throughout the moreover colorless movie are hints of an intriguing idea — a fantasy epic about an angel-demon bureaucracy coexisting with the human race throughout the span of 20th century New York City, operating within the parameters of a didactic miracle-granting system — an idea that doesn't come close to its full potential. In 118 minutes, we barely scratch the surface of the world in which an apparently immortal Colin Farrell finds himself. We see him cavort with Russell Crowe, a malicious gang-leader with netherworld origins, seek guidance from a mystical Pegasus, and carry out his destiny as the savior to a mysterious red-haired girl. But we never truly understand why any of this is happening. Not that it gets particularly confusing; on a plot level, it's all quite simple. But that's the problem — it shouldn't be.
The central conceit of the film is that everyone is put on this Earth with a divine "mission" to uphold. Farrell's gives us the narrative of Winter's Tale, introducing the various rules and officers of the supernatural regime along the way. Abandoned as a baby and brought up under the criminal regime of a Manhattanite from Hell (Crowe), Farrell ascends from orphan to petty thief to horse whispering renegade to whimsical lover of a dying Jessica Brown Findlay to ageless messiah... all without much clarity on the nature of the story (or stories) he's occupying, save for two ham-fisted scenes of exposition — one with Graham Greene (not the dead author) and one with Jennifer Connelly, who shows up halfway through the movie for some reason.
Warner Bros Pictures via Everett Collection
The world that Farrell is woven into has so many bright spots: we're on board for miracle quests, a magic-laden New York City, flying horses, and one of the biggest stars in Hollywood giving a cameo as the epitome of evil. Everything we see is fun, but it all flutters away as quickly as it arrives. We don't want quick bites of the way angels and demons do business with one another on the streets of Manhattan, we want the whole meal. A more thorough exploration of Helprin's world wouldn't just be doubly as interesting as the thin alternative we're offered in Goldsman's adaptation, it'd also fill in all the comprehensive gaps in Farrell's emotional throughline
We don't really understand so much of what happens to Farrell. Even when we're offered tangible explanations, we have no reason to understand why the Winter's Tale world works in such a way that Farrell might survive a 300-foot fall, develop amnesia, or sustain youth for a full century. What's more, we don't understand why Farrell's tale as a cog in this mystical machine is any more important than anyone else's. Or, if it's not, and we're simply asked to watch him carry out his quest as a glimpse into the vast, enigmatic system that Winter's Tale is ostensibly founded upon, we ... we don't understand enough of that world itself.
Warner Bros Pictures via Everett Collection
We're never invited close enough to any of the movie's attractive features for them to matter. So even when the movie does offer entertaining bits — in its fantastical elements, its detail of New Yorks old and new, or Farrell's admittedly charming romance with Findlay — we're not engaged enough to really connect with any of them.
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Still, the flying horse is pretty cool.
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When you're in high school it feels like the whole world is against you. In writer/director Stephen Chbosky's high school-set The Perks of Being a Wallflower the whole world may actually be against Charlie (Logan Lerman) whose freshman year of high school should be listed in the dictionary under "Murphy's Law." Plagued by memories of two significant deaths as well as general social anxiety Charlie takes a passive approach to ninth grade. A few days of general bullying later he falls into a friendship with two misfit seniors Patrick (Ezra Miller) and Sam (Emma Watson) who teach him how to live life without fear. Perks starts off with a disadvantage: introverts aren't terribly engaging but Chbosky surrounds Charlie with a vivid cast of characters who help him blossom and inject the coming-of-age tale with a necessary energy.
Set in a timeless version of the '90s Charlie's world is full of handwritten journals mixtapes and a just-tolerable amount of tweed. He writes letters to a nameless recipient as a way of venting a preventative measure to keep the teen from repeating a vague incident that previously left him hospitalized. The drab background of Pittsburgh fits perfectly with Charlie's blank existence. And when he finally comes to life as part of Patrick and Sam's off-beat clique so does the city. Like the archaic vinyl records Sam lusters over (The Smiths of course!) Chbosky visualizes Charlie's journey through the underbelly of suburban Pennsylvania with a raw emotion blooming lights and film grit at every turn. Michael Brook's score and an adeptly curated soundtrack accompanies the episodic affair which centers on Charlie's search for a song he hears during the most important moment of his life.
The charm that keeps The Perks of Being a Wallflower from collapsing under its own super seriousness come from Chbosky's perfectly cast ensemble. Lerman has a thankless job playing Charlie; often constrained to a half-smile and shy shrug Lerman is never allowed to grapple with Charlie's greatest fears and problems until (too) late in the film. Watson nails the spunky object-of-everyone's-affection but she's outshined by Mae Whitman as Mary Elizabeth another rebellious friend in the pack who takes a liking to Charlie. The real star turn is Miller riding high from We Need to Talk About Kevin and taking a complete 180 with Patrick a rambunctious wiseass who struggles to have an openly gay relationship with the football captain but covers his pain with humor. A scene of confrontation — at where else the cafeteria — is one of the best scenes of the year.
Chbosky adapted Perks of Being a Wallflower from his own book and the movie feels stifled by a looming structure. But it nails the emotional beats — there is no obvious path to surviving high school. It's messy shocking and occasionally beautiful. That about sums up Perks.
The world of 30 Rock is an unquestionably weird one (last night's episode featured a couch mascot in a threesome) but it's one that's always been acutely aware of its weirdness. In fact, the brilliant, off-kilter series has always worn its freak flag with pride (how else would you explain Prince Gerhardt?) but in its current disjointed sixth season, it looks as though the show might be starting to wave the white flag, both on and off-screen.
Aside from Alec Baldwin making his most recent threat to leave NBC and Tina Fey all but sealing the cult favorite's fate when she told the ladies of The View that "The end of the show is on the horizon," the show's writers may have not-so-subtly addressed the show's downward slope. In the opening scene of last night's episode "Meet the Woggles!" Liz complains that her sweatshirt is touting the wrong TGS catch phrase for its sixth season. The slogan for said sixth season? "Yuck!" And – you guessed it – 30 Rock in the midst of its sixth season. Coincidence? Twist!
Still, this is not to imply that the smart, funny, and talented cast and crew behind 30 Rock has surrendered. Even in the most mediocre of episodes, which "Meet the Woggles!" arguably was, they can still turn out some of the most quality comedy on television. Plus, you can't really ever go wrong with having Elaine Stritch return to play Jack's delightfully terrible mother, daughter of Unclaimed Irish Stowaway, Colleen Donaghy.
Jack and Colleen went toe-to-toe again as its discovered that the world's best worst mother has been in New York City to have heart surgery. Rather than tell Jack she's in town and ill (the hospital alerts him of her whereabouts after they found his name "on a list of disappointments she keeps folded up in her shoe") Colleen does what she does best: Repress. Well, repress and make some wildly racist and homophobic comments. But Liz, the over sharer extraordinaire that she is, eventually wears them down to get them to have a sweet and sincere talk with one another, a moment she took great pleasure in taking credit for. (Good God Lemon, Stritch deserves another Emmy for her work on this show.)
On the other end of the 30 Rock arena things were relatively status quo. Well, status quo in the sense that Jenna was doing something self-absorbed, this time pulling a Yoko Ono on her sexual walkabout to a White Supremacist Wiggles knock-off band called The Woggles (yes, you read that correctly) and Tracy was behaving as a barely functioning man child by trying to "reverse Urkel" his son George Foreman from attending Stanford. Tracy eventually came to his senses (well, as much as Tracy is capable of that) and Jenna came to terms with the fact that she is still in love with Paul, who she discovered has moved on with a new woman he dresses like and a couch mascot. (Yes, you read that correctly.)
Here are some of the best moments and lines from last night's 30 Rock "Meet the Woggles!":
- "Factories provide three things this country desperately needs: Jobs, pride, and material for Bruce Springsteen songs."- Jack
- "Proud? My son's a nerd!" - Tracy
- "What are you gonna do, put on your galoshes go eat some fruit like a Frenchman?" - Colleen
- "That song, like everything, is about me!" - Jenna
- "There’s no need for us to start jabbering about our feelings and sobbing like Bill Belichick listening to Adele!"- Colleen
- "If you're ordering me an edible arrangement to say thanks, I prefer meat ones!"- Liz
- Liz's pronunciation of "guarantee" is "gar-awn-tee." (I wish I had a cam-ah-rah to capture Colleen's face during this.)
- Liz's make-it-rain dance.
- Liz's "Talk to your mother!" emoticon. (The 8 is the glasses!)
- Paul's last name is L’Astnamé.
- Colleen's usual hospital of choice is Boston Catholic Guilt Hospital.
- Both Dick Cheney and Dean Cain had an equal number of jabs at their expense.
So maybe things aren't so bad as they seem on 30 Rock. There's clearly still some life left in the show and with awesome announcements like this, it's going to be sadder to let go than listening to Mike and Mechanics' "The Living Years." But what did you think of last night's episode? Par for the course with the so-so episodes as of late or redeemed by the incomparable Elaine Stritch? Sound off in the comments section. Last word.
Follow Aly on Twitter @AlySemigran
[Photo credit: NBC]
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The first and most important thing you should know about Paramount Pictures’ Thor is that it’s not a laughably corny comic book adaptation. Though you might find it hokey to hear a bunch of muscled heroes talk like British royalty while walking around the American Southwest in LARP garb director Kenneth Branagh has condensed vast Marvel mythology to make an accessible straightforward fantasy epic. Like most films of its ilk I’ve got some issues with its internal logic aesthetic and dialogue but the flaws didn’t keep me from having fun with this extra dimensional adventure.
Taking notes from fellow Avenger Iron Man the story begins with an enthralling event that takes place in a remote desert but quickly jumps back in time to tell the prologue which introduces the audience to the shining kingdom of Asgard and its various champions. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) son of Odin is heir to the throne but is an arrogant overeager and ill-tempered rogue whose aggressive antics threaten a shaky truce between his people and the frost giants of Jotunheim one of the universe’s many realms. Odin (played with aristocratic boldness by Anthony Hopkins) enraged by his son’s blatant disregard of his orders to forgo an assault on their enemies after they attempt to reclaim a powerful artifact banishes the boy to a life among the mortals of Earth leaving Asgard defenseless against the treachery of Loki his mischievous “other son” who’s always felt inferior to Thor. Powerless and confused the disgraced Prince finds unlikely allies in a trio of scientists (Natalie Portman Stellan Skarsgard and Kat Dennings) who help him reclaim his former glory and defend our world from total destruction.
Individually the make-up visual effects CGI production design and art direction are all wondrous to behold but when fused together to create larger-than-life set pieces and action sequences the collaborative result is often unharmonious. I’m not knocking the 3D presentation; unlike 2010’s genre counterpart Clash of the Titans the filmmakers had plenty of time to perfect the third dimension and there are only a few moments that make the decision to convert look like it was a bad one. It’s the unavoidable overload of visual trickery that’s to blame for the frost giants’ icy weaponized constructs and other hybrids of the production looking noticeably artificial. Though there’s some imagery to nitpick the same can’t be said of Thor’s thunderous sound design which is amped with enough wattage to power The Avengers’ headquarters for a century.
Chock full of nods to the comics the screenplay is both a strength and weakness for the film. The story is well sequenced giving the audience enough time between action scenes to grasp the characters motivations and the plot but there are tangential narrative threads that disrupt the focus of the film. Chief amongst them is the frost giants’ fore mentioned relic which is given lots of attention in the first act but has little effect on the outcome. In addition I felt that S.H.I.E.L.D. was nearly irrelevant this time around; other than introducing Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye the secret security faction just gets in the way of the movie’s momentum.
While most of the comedy crashes and burns there are a few laughs to be found in the film. Most come from star Hemsworth’s charismatic portrayal of the God of Thunder. He plays up the stranger-in-a-strange-land aspect of the story with his cavalier but charming attitude and by breaking all rules of diner etiquette in a particularly funny scene with the scientists whose respective roles as love interest (Portman) friendly father figure (Skarsgaard) and POV character (Dennings) are ripped right out of a screenwriters handbook.
Though he handles the humorous moments without a problem Hemsworth struggles with some of the more dramatic scenes in the movie; the result of over-acting and too much time spent on the Australian soap opera Home and Away. Luckily he’s surrounded by a stellar supporting cast that fills the void. Most impressive is Tom Hiddleston who gives a truly humanistic performance as the jealous Loki. His arc steeped in Shakespearean tragedy (like Thor’s) drums up genuine sympathy that one rarely has for a comic book movie villain.
My grievances with the technical aspects of the production aside Branagh has succeeded in further exploring the Marvel Universe with a film that works both as a standalone superhero flick and as the next chapter in the story of The Avengers. Thor is very much a comic book film and doesn’t hide from the reputation that its predecessors have given the sub-genre or the tropes that define it. Balanced pretty evenly between “serious” and “silly ” its scope is large enough to please fans well versed in the source material but its tone is light enough to make it a mainstream hit.
Two of the most prestigious independent film communities have recently each given their stamp of approval on independent cinema both past and future. Nominees for the 2006 Independent Spirit Awards were announced as was the lineup for the independent feature film and world cinema competitions for next year’s Sundance Film Festival.
Although each organization acknowledge and reward independent filmmaking, the two fetes are quite different. The Spirit Awards are more of a conventional awards show, which will be handed out March 4 in Santa Monica, California [for full coverage on the Spirit Award nominations, click here].
The Sundance Awards are the culmination of the 10-day festival (Jan. 19-29 in Park City, Utah) that showcases the films in contention for awards. Next year’s Sundance Film Festival lineup marks a return of sorts to the fest’s roots, by giving way to more fresh faces. The total number of submissions increased, resulting in a different and exciting format--the expansion of the world competition to include more international films.
Below are the films to be shown in the four competition sections:
American Dramatic Competition A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints (Director, screenwriter: Dito Montiel) Come Early Morning (Director, screenwriter: Joey Lauren Adams) Flannel Pajamas (Director, screenwriter: Jeff Lipsky) Forgiven (Director, screenwriter: Paul Fitzgerald) Half Nelson (Director: Ryan Fleck; screenwriters: Anna Boden, Ryan Fleck) Hawk Is Dying (Director: Julian Goldberger; screenwriters: Harry Crews (novel), Julian Goldberger) In Between Days (Director: So Yong Kim; screenwriters: So Yong Kim, Bradley Rust Gray) Puccini for Beginners (Director, screenwriter: Maria Maggenti) Quinceanera (Director/screenwriters: Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland) Right at Your Door (Director, screenwriter: Chris Gorak) Sherrybaby (Director, screenwriter: Laurie Collyer) Somebodies (Director, screenwriter: Hadjii) Stay (Director, screenwriter: Bob Goldthwait) Steel City (Director, screenwriter: Brian Jun) Stephanie Daley (Director, screenwriter: Hilary Brougher) Wristcutters: A Love Story (Director: Goran Dukic; screenwriters: Goran Dukic, Etgar Kerett)
American Documentary Competition:
A Lion in the House (Directors: Steven Bogner, Julia Reichert) American Blackout (Director: Ian Inaba) An Unreasonable Man (Directors: Henriette Mantel, Stephen Skrovan) Crossing Arizona (Director: Joseph Mathew) God Grew Tired of Us (Director: Christopher Quinn) Ground Truth: After the Killing Ends (Director: Patricia Foulkrod) Iraq in Fragments (Director: James Longley) Small Town Gay Bar (Director: Malcom Ingram) So Much So Fast (Directors: Steven Ascher, Jeanne Jordan) Thin (Director: Lauren Greenfield) 'Tis Autumn: The Search for Jackie Paris (Director: Raymond De Felitta) The Trials of Darryl Hunt (Directors: Ricki Stern, Annie Sundberg) TV Junkie (Director: Michael Cain) Wide Awake (Director: Alan Berliner) Wordplay (Director: Patrick Creadon) The World According to Sesame Street (Directors: Linda Goldstein Knowlton, Linda Hawkins Costigan)
World Cinema Dramatic Competition 13 Tzameti (Director, screenwriter: Gela Babluani), France Allegro (Director: Christoffer Boe; screenwriters: Christoffer Boe, Mikael Wulff), Denmark The Aura (Director, screenwriter: Fabian Bielinsky), Argentina The Blossoming of Maximo Oliveros (Director: Auraeus Solito; screenwriter: Michiko Yamamoto), Philippines Eve & The Fire Horse (Director, screenwriter: Julia Kwan), Canada Grbavica (Director, screenwriter: Jasmila Zbanic), Bosnia-Herzegovina The House of Sand (Director: Andrucha Waddington; screenwriter: Elena Soarez), Brazil Kiss Me Not on the Eyes (Director, screenwriter: Jocelyne Saab), Lebanon Little Red Flowers (Director: Zhang Yuan; Screenwriters: Ning Dai, Zhang Yuan), China Madeinusa (Director, screenwriter: Claudia Llosa), Peru No. 2 (Director, screenwriter: Toa Fraser), New Zealand One Last Dance (Director, screenwriter: Max Makowski), Singapore The Peter Pan Formula (Director, screenwriter: Cho Chan-Ho), South Korea Princesas (Director, screenwriter: Fernando Leon de Aranoa), Spain Solo Dios Sabe (Director: Carlos Bolado; screenwriters: Carlos Bolado, Diane Weipert), Brazil/Mexico Son of Man (Director: Mark Dornford-May; screenwriters: Mark Dornford-May, Andiswa Kedama, Pauline Malefane), South Africa
World Cinema Documentary Competition 5 Days (Director: Yoav Shamir), Israel Angry Monk--Reflections on Tibet (Director: Luc Schaedler), Switzerland Black Gold (Director: Marc Francis, Nick Francis), U.K. By the Ways, a Journey with William Eggleston (Directors: Cedric Laty, Vincent Gerard), France Dear Pyongyang (Director: Yang Yonghi), Japan The Giant Buddhas (Director: Christian Frei), Switzerland Glastonbury (Director: Julien Temple), U.K. I is for India (Director: Sandhya Suri), England/Germany/Italy In the Pit (Director: Juan Carlos Rulfo), Mexico Into Great Silence (Director: Philip Groening), Germany Kz (Director: Rex Bloomstein), U.K. No One (Director: Tin Dirdamal), Mexico The Short Life of Jose Antonio Gutierrez (Director: Heidi Specogna), Germany Songbirds (Director: Brian Hill), U.K. Unfolding Florence: The Many Lives of Florence Broadhurst (Director: Gillian Armstrong), Australia Viva Zapatero (Director: Sabina Guzzanti), Italy