20th Century Fox
Perhaps hoping to compete with the steller Captain America: the Winter Soldier trailer this week, Sony's X-Men: Days of Future Past just released its first teaser... on Instagram Video. Yep, it's seven action-packed seconds from director Bryan Singer, back for DOFP from the original two movies. It might not look like much, but take a second glance and you'll realize there's a lot of information condensed into this quick video.
Now, let's deconstrct it shot-by-shot. It won't take long, (there's only fifteen shots) and you'll be surprised how much you learn.
1. Closeup on a blue/green eye: Starting with an easy one. Looks like someone's going to get one hell of a nightmarish vision from Cerebro.
2. A motorcade drives by a crowd waving yellow/red flags reminiscent of China/Russia: The comic version of Days of Future Past takes place in 1980. (The future aspect takes place in 2013.) In that past, some sort of schism must take place to derail the timeline and activate the hatred of mutants that puts the characters in danger. Perhaps Singer is going with an alternate Ccold War wherein another powerful Communist nation emerges. It could even be America, taken over by extreme anti-Fascists like Magneto.
3. Wolverine gets blue light shot into his temples: While in the comics, the catalyst of the time travel is Kitty Pryde's power, and Ellen Page is in this film, some of the clues revealed online suggest that Wolverine will be traveling with her, going to the past to warn the younger X-Men of the cataclysmic future. Here we see, it could be a painful process if even the invulnerable Logan is affected.
4. Hatch opening in the Oval Office: Again, we see the emblem of this new nation everywhere, as a pair of neatly dressed guards open up a secret passage or compartment. There is some sort of government or authority our characters will be either facing or working with.
5. Silly jumpsuits: It's understandable why the primary colored costumes from the comics aren't used, but somehow the all-black bodysuits look even worse this time around. Another thing to notice is that Professor X and Magneto are together and don't seem to be fighting. The anti-mutant crusade (or... something) is serious enough for these two to work together.
6. Storm storming: Storm's stormy powers were never used for much more than set dressing in the other films, so here's the chance for that to either change, or, most likely, stay exactly the same.
7. Young Magneto takes the wide armed stance that usually means he's calling forth his powers. The building behind him could maybe be the White House from earlier? Or a part of the mutant academy? Either way, Magneto is in full righetous evil mode. Check out that Fassbender focus.
8. Mystique crying: So they got Jennifer Lawrence to come back after she won her Oscar and put her in hours upon hours of sequin application. This is doing little to make up for the corniness of the other costumes and makeup so far.
9. Young Professor X using Cerebro: There's a groovy, goofy long hair thing happening that you'd think a powerful telepath would realize makes him look ridiculous.
10. Ice Man icing: Great, Singer gets to write more Ice Man/Rogue/Shadowcat fanfiction.
11. Wolverine punching with no shirt on at some guys with guns/'70s outfits: Okay, so no wonky ages for Wolverine. We're getting the same old Hugh Jackman, with the muscles and the shirtlessness and the jeans and the unrealistic leaping.
12. Beast screaming: showing off the combination of practical effects and CGI that made him look absolutely nothing like actor Nicolas Hoult. And another strike for the cartoony facial hair and clothes. Where does one find a XXXXXL leather blazer?
13. Someone drowning. This shot implies that someone drowns, or comes close to drowning.
14. Mystique being pulled towards Magneto: Presumably this is some use of his power, but the real story is that Mystique and Magneto are on the outs in this past, maybe still recovering from Magneto accidentally (and outside of comic canon) paralyzing Professor X.
15. Professor X ducks away from a bright light: Seriously, I never knew how bad Xavier's fashion sense was. What is up with those buckles on the front of his suit? Calling it up front: this movie's wardrobe department gets an F.
Imagine how much we'll learn when they release a full trailer.
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.
A decade-long gap between sequels could leave a franchise stale but in the case of Men in Black 3 it's the launch pad for an unexpectedly great blockbuster. The kooky antics of Agent J (Will Smith) and Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) don't stray far from their 1997 and 2002 adventures but without a bombardment of follow-ups to keep the series in mind the wonderfully weird sensibilities of Men in Black feel fresh Smith's natural charisma once again on full display. Barry Sonnenfeld returns for the threequel another space alien romp with a time travel twist — which turns out to be Pandora's Box for the director's deranged imagination.
As time passed in the real world so did it for the timeline in the world of Men in Black. Picking up ten years after MIB 2 J and K are continuing to protect the Earth from alien threats and enforce the law on those who live incognito. While dealing with their own personal issues — K is at his all-time crabbiest for seemingly no reason — the suited duo encounter an old enemy Boris the Animal (Jemaine Clement) a prickly assassin seeking revenge on K who blew his arm off back in the '60s. Their street fight is more of a warning; Boris' real plan is to head back in time to save his arm and kill off K. He's successful prompting J to take his own leap through the time-space continuum — and team up with a younger K (Josh Brolin) to put an end to Boris plans for world domination.
Men in Black 3 is the Will Smith show. Splitting his time between the brick personalities of Jones and Brolin's K Smith struts his stuff with all the fast-talking comedic style that made him a star in yesteryears. In present day he's still the laid back normal guy in a world of oddities — J raises an eyebrow as new head honcho O (Emma Thompson) delivers a eulogy in a screeching alien tongue but coming up with real world explanations for flying saucer crashes comes a little easier. But back in 1969 he's an even bigger fish out water. Surprisingly director Barry Sonnenfeld and writer Etan Cohen dabble in the inherent issues that would spring up if a black gentlemen decked out in a slick suit paraded around New York in the late '60s. A star of Smith's caliber may stray away from that type of racy humor but the hook of Men in Black 3 is the actor's readiness for anything. He turns J's jokey anachronisms into genuine laughs and doesn't mind letting the special effect artists stretch him into an unrecognizable Twizzler for the movie's epic time jump sequence.
Unlike other summer blockbusters Men in Black 3 is light on the action Sonnenfeld utilizing his effects budget and dazzling creature work (by the legendary Rick Baker) to push the comedy forward. J's fight with an oversized extraterrestrial fish won't keep you on the edge of your seat but his slapstick escape and the marine animal's eventual demise are genuinely amusing. Sonnenfeld carries over the twisted sensibilities he displayed in small screen work like Pushing Daisies favoring bizarre banter and elaborating on the kookiness of the alien underworld than battle scenes. MIB3's chase scene is passable but the movie in its prime when Smith is sparring with Brolin and newcomer Michael Stuhlbarg who steals the show as a being capable of seeing the future. His twitchy character keeps Smith and the audience on their toes.
Men in Black 3 digs up nostalgia I wasn't aware I had. Smith's the golden boy of summer and even with modern ingenuity keeping it fresh — Sonnenfeld uses the mandatory 3D to full and fun effect — there's an element to the film that feels plucked from another era. The movie is economical and slight with plenty of lapses in logic that will provoke head scratching on the walk out of the theater but it's also perfectly executed. After ten years of cinematic neutralizing the folks behind Men in Black haven't forgotten what made the first movie work so well. After al these years Smith continues to make the goofy plot wild spectacle and crazed alien antics look good.