This is the most intense game of “Hollywood Squares” I’ve ever seen.
X-Men: Days Of Future Past
Starring: Hugh Jackman, James McAvoy, M. Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence
Directed by Bryan Singer
2011’s X-Men: First Class is that rarest of things: a prequel that works. Full of snap crackle pop, First Class breathed new life into Marvel’s soggy mutant movie franchise (now fifteen years old) and emboldened 20th Century Fox to put together a sequel wherein an X-Man goes back in time and tries to erase the stuff from the original movies nobody liked. Actually, the heroes in Days Of Future Past seem to want to snuff out the first three X-Men films entirely, and who can blame them? Wouldn’t you rather live peacefully in an upstate New York mansion, teaching little childrens and apple picking in your spare time, instead of living on the run out of some military grade jet while humanity and other evil mutants are constantly nipping at your heels?
The line between good and evil is in truth a tad blurry in Days Of Future Past; yes, Wolverine (Jackman) travels to 1973 to prevent the assassination that kicks off humankind’s war on the mostly benign mutant species, but he also enlists a minor to help him break an incarcerated Magneto (Fassbender) out of his Pentagon jail cell. You see, in the future, Professor X (McAvoy) and Magneto have buried their hatchet, and they convince Wolv that he needs to get them together in ’73 to make sure everything’s on lock. It should come as no surprise that young Magneto, whose personal allegiances similarly blow around like a windsock, decides at a critical juncture to take matters into his own hands, gumming up the entire ballgame.
And then there’s shape-shifter Mystique (Lawrence), the assassinator, convinced she has to kill her target (a gov’t contractor who builds giant mutant-hunting robots) no matter how many people from her past or her future show up. Nobody can convince her this shooting kicks off a major human/mutant conflict. They should have just cracked open a history book for her. Hey dumb dumb, ever hear of Archduke Ferdinand? Pearl Harbor? Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering. Yoda? You know, I won’t fault you for missing that quote, you were busy with infinitely better movies when the Jedi master dropped that one.
Though clumsy in places, Days Of Future Past serves up a pretty fun slip through time and delivers everything you want in an X-Men movie: Wolverine whuppin’ up on dudes, Mystique whuppin’ up on dudes, political intrigue, a few yuks, a take on Richard Nixon that would be at home on “MADtv,” and tender bromance moments between Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen as the aged Xavier and Magneto (respectively). If you don’t like it, don’t worry: at some point Days Of Future Past will be retconned out of existence just like every other comic property, because that’s the way this business works.
FINAL SCORE: Three and a half funky ’70s duds (out of four).
A decade ago I wrote a book about Star Wars fandom. It didn’t get published. Now, a thrilling e-book will recount that non-publishing, with large portions of the original manuscript, plus brand new essays reflecting on where you and I and Chewbacca are in this frightening day and age. If you’ve ever wondered about the mechanics of the literary world and what it feels like when you get trapped in the gears, this is the e-book for you. Also, if you’re super into lightsaber construction and ewok mating rituals and junk like that.
Arriving Hanukkah 2015.
– Judy Greer
– Vincent D’Onofrio
– gonzo dino action
– presence of Chris Pratt will ignite mental “Dadbod” debate
– four movies in and still no dinos in space
– four movies in and still no ghost of Dennis Nedry
VERDICT: I’ll probably see this movie. Can’t pass up gonzo dino action.
The Empire Strikes Back was released thirty-five years ago today. Our planet seems unanimous in the belief that Empire is the best of the Star Wars films, which of course it is. Dramatic and dream-like yet so human and accessible. Breaks off a lot of the clunk from the first film, avoids the retreads of the third. And those tauntauns sure are some wacky snow-stompin’ bipeds.
Nutty two-legged space camels. Crying out with their distinctive sad gurgle. Filled with weird blue macaroni guts. Namaste, tauntauns.
Please celebrate The Empire Strikes Back’s birthday responsibly, by which I mean do not turn your customized Boba Fett helmet into a gravity bong.
I saw Fury Road, and it’s just as great as everyone says. The action is hard without being dour, the pace is quick without being dizzying, every character seems instantly iconic, they cram in a few sharp yuks, and in general this entry does not violate the fast n’ loose Mad Max mythos.
On that last point…
The main antagonist of Fury Road is played by Hugh Keays-Byrne, who also played the Toecutter in the inaugural Mad Max. Hugh’s got very distinct eyes and they are in fact the only bit of his face you can see in the new film. His hair is kinda the same too. Thus, it is my belief that his Fury Road character is actually the Toecutter (the same way the Humungus in Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior is thought to be Max’s fallen partner from Mad Max 1). Yes, somehow the Toecutter survived being run over by that tractor trailer. Stranger things have happened.
Following this logic, Fury Road is taking place thirty years after the events of Beyond Thunderdome, in real time, and Tom Hardy is not playing the original Mad Max but Max’s son. The Rockatansky clan isn’t defeated on screen in the first movie a la the Toecutter. It looks like the bikers hit them, and then Max hears they’re dead or near death at the hospital. So again, the child, though a defenseless infant creamed by a motorcycle, could have lived.
This is why the Max of Fury Road is hesitant about giving his name—he isn’t even sure who he is. He’s still piecing it all together. This is also why the film doesn’t make any great pains to say “this is MAD MAX, the LEGEND.” He’s not. He’s Max Junior. Or Sprog, rather, as he was known in 1979.
There are holes in this theory. How could Max’s son be driving his father’s car, the legendary last of the V8 Interceptors, when it was destroyed in The Road Warrior? I don’t know. Maybe everyone in Road Warrior was mistaken about the availability of V8 Interceptors. You know, people find stuff that’s supposedly lost to history all the time. Maybe someone in the Outback hung on to this car like Obi-Wan hung onto that lightsaber on the off chance his pal’s kid would show up one day.
And what of the elder Mad Max? Does he still roam the wastelands? Sure, why not. That would make an excellent sequel. Max versus Max, father versus son. Charlize Theron’s Furiosa wouldn’t know whose side to take. Then Tina Turner could show up with fuckin’ Emil Minty and take this dirty-ass circus to a whole ‘nother level.
Mad Max²: Beyond Fury Road. That’s what I’d call it. License to print money!
“Nuremberg: Nazis On Trial”: Three episode docudrama focusing on the infamous post-war prosecution’s most interesting defendants: the business man who was only sort of a Nazi but still took accountability b/c he knew no one else would, the Nazi second to Hitler who claimed no knowledge of the Holocaust and was apparently very taken aback by what the trial revealed, and the Nazi who believed the Jewish people had hypnotized him into being rude to waiters and that’s why he sided with his country. Fascinating peak into this chapter of history but not the full tale. If you’re anything like me it’ll make you want to read a few books.
“The Amish: Shunned”: Can you believe we’ve had a period of culture we could call Amish sensationalism? This episode of American Experience is far from that—just an honest account of what some individuals go through as they float between strict Amish society and our modern landscape. I felt it in my heart when the one girl decides to return to Amish life but laments how much she’ll miss music.
Supermensch: Alice Cooper’s manager has had a pretty bonkers life. Stumbled his way into working with several icons at once, more or less invented celebrity chefdom, is still searching for love. Mike Myers directed this doc; he definitely needs to direct a few more.
Don’t Stop Believin': Everyman’s Journey: Classic rock band needs new singer, they scour the Internet, find some kid on YouTube many worlds away. Entertaining enough. I was more intrigued by the sight of Neal Schon in a Clash t-shirt. Had Joe Strummer lived would they have collaborated?
Radio Unnameable: The story of free form deejay Bob Fass, another great piece of everlasting New York City weirdness. You WILL be soothed by his dulcet vocal tones, you WILL want to live in the world of harmony and love he tries to create. Also, you WILL cringe the moment you hear Bobby “Boris” Pickett’s forgotten ode to King Kong ’76.
I burned through all eight episodes of “Other Space” last night. The selling point for people in my demo (thirty-somethings who spent the nineties glued to basic cable) is the reemergence of Joel Hodgson and Trace Beaulieu as far out space nuts. Sure, it’s a thrill to watch these two spoof their “MST3K” personas, but the rest of the cast is equally great (particularly Karan Soni as the insecure boy captain). Amusing concepts, snappy dialogue, a sassy robot—what more do you want from a free program on Yahoo! Screen?
If you liked “NewsRadio” but wished it was in space and Joe Rogan wasn’t involved, stop wasting your time and go devour “Other Space.” Jimbob gives it three and a half stars. Check it out.