Gregory Goodman

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X-men: First Class Review


Extraordinary
Matthew Vaughn kicks some life back into the X-men franchise with this superbly written, directed and acted adventure. In addition to restoring a sense of subtext to the premise (missing since X2), the film is a thrilling, intelligent blockbuster.

It's 1962, and Charles Xavier (McAvoy) is recruited by US Agent MacTaggart (Byrne) to explore how the CIA can benefit from mutant humans. The telepathic Charles grew up with shapeshifting Raven (Lawrence), and they start assembling a team. A key partner is metal-manipulator Erik Lehnsherr (Fassbender), who's set on revenge against energy-absorbing Shaw (Bacon), who killed his mother in a Nazi war camp and has powers of his own. And now Shaw has his own mutant team (Jones, Flemyng and Gonzalez) and is sparking a nuclear war between the USA and the USSR.

Continue reading: X-men: First Class Review

Gulliver's Travels Review


Weak
Jonathan Swift's 1726 novel is given the Jack Black treatment in this lively, colourful romp, which isn't nearly as funny as it thinks it is. But the childish rudeness will keep children giggling.

Lemuel Gulliver (Black) works in the mailroom at a New York newspaper, where he torments a young colleague (Miller) and pines after the travel editor (Peet).

After convincing her to let him write a story on the Bermuda Triangle, he's shipwrecked in Lilliput, an island populated by people who are 6 inches tall.

Continue reading: Gulliver's Travels Review

Stop-Loss Review


OK
Any suspicions that Kimberly Peirce was a one-note art house auteur (her first and only feature was 1999's Boys Don't Cry) will be immediately assuaged by the full-throttle war-film assuredness of the opening sequences of her Iraq war film Stop-Loss. Shot in part like the homemade videos that modern American soldiers often make of their own experiences (filmed on the battlefield and then edited, usually with pop music soundtracks, on their personal computers), it establishes with smash-bang audacity and authenticity the camaraderie and of an infantry squad serving in Tikrit near the end of their rotation. The combat witnessed is typically brutal, up-close, and all-inclusive (military and civilian) in terms of casualties. Without having to put much of anything into words, Peirce has put her fresh-faced young cast (Ryan Phillippe, Channing Tatum, Joseph Gordon-Levitt) through a meat-grinder of an ordeal that makes it perfectly clear that once these guys are back stateside, patriotic or not, they're done.

Like In the Valley of Elah -- which this film occasionally seems like an MTV/Varsity Blues pop variation of -- most of Stop-Loss is set back in the States. The war is seen mostly in flickers and video-montages, the kind that keep a man up at night. In one particularly grueling scene set at a military hospital, a hideously scarred soldier missing two limbs confides that at night his ward sounds like a horror movie, with all the nightmares and screaming. Also like Elah, Peirce's script (co-written with Mark Richard) is steeped in oorah military brio and discipline, where there is little questioning of war itself. Stop-Loss is, however, a message movie, and no matter how artfully Peirce directs her cast and tries to avoid any sense of political polemic, there's just no avoiding that message, a fact that nearly scuppers the whole film.

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Aeon Flux Review


OK
Music video director Anton Corbijn's video clip for industrial dance band Front 242's "Headhunter" featured a topless woman in a surreal black outfit holding a giant egg and wandering around a desolate industrial park. It's a music video that is absurdly artificial and at the same time engagingly artful.

Aeon Flux, Girlfight director Karyn Kusama's second film, is like a 95-minute remake of that video. It's visually sumptuous for no other reason than to indulge arty gluttons. And that's fine by me. I dig it, arty glutton that I am. Based on the animated short films of Peter Chung, the movie succeeds in translating Chung's fluid and sparse design. While it would be impossible to have an actress bend and slide like the heroine in the original MTV animated series, Charlize Theron is suitably acrobatic and looks great in spandex and black leather. The costumes are futuristic and the landscapes, mostly CGI, are eerily organic takes on mid-century design.

Continue reading: Aeon Flux Review

Aeon Flux Review


OK
Music video director Anton Corbijn's video clip for industrial dance band Front 242's "Headhunter" featured a topless woman in a surreal black outfit holding a giant egg and wandering around a desolate industrial park. It's a music video that is absurdly artificial and at the same time engagingly artful.

Aeon Flux, Girlfight director Karyn Kusama's second film, is like a 95-minute remake of that video. It's visually sumptuous for no other reason than to indulge arty gluttons. And that's fine by me. I dig it, arty glutton that I am. Based on the animated short films of Peter Chung, the movie succeeds in translating Chung's fluid and sparse design. While it would be impossible to have an actress bend and slide like the heroine in the original MTV animated series, Charlize Theron is suitably acrobatic and looks great in spandex and black leather. The costumes are futuristic and the landscapes, mostly CGI, are eerily organic takes on mid-century design.

Continue reading: Aeon Flux Review

Gregory Goodman

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