Sunday, December 5, 1999

The X-Files (TV episode)

Did you see tonight's The X-Files? Wow, what a terrific episode! Definitely one of my favorites! The plot dealt with a teenager who'd discovered the ability to move at superhuman speeds -- he could do things so fast the eye couldn't see him. Unfortunately, he used this ability for evil, and the "high" he got from speed was adicting. It was destroying his body, which was developing micro-fractures due to the extreme pressure of moving so fast, but he didn't want to listen to the doctors. The ending was classic poetic justice. Very good show.


Sunday, December 12, 1999

The X-Files (TV)

Wow, two weeks in a row of great episodes! This one, about a man "cursed" with being lucky (he falls 30 stories and walks away), is a classic. See, the man is lucky -- he could win the lottery easily -- but bad luck follows all those around him, so he's forced to live a sheltered, isolated life. This episode is hilarious, witty, inteligent, and thought provoking. The ending is so cool you've just got to see it! Highly recommended, even for non X-Filers. The Rube Goldberg sets are pure genius.


Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The X-Files: I Want To Believe

Movie: The X-Files: I Want To Believe

I had little interest in this; the promos didn't intrigue me at all and I only went because I liked the TV show. It turned out to not be that bad, but it's not great, either. There's a lot of weirdness: Gillian Anderson, while not looking bad, looks surprisingly old. Apparently her character and Fox Mulder are living (and sleeping) together, and they each take advantage of this being a movie and not a TV show to swear a few times for no good reason (and it feels odd). The plot is also strange: Mulder's a runaway and the FBI bring him back in to help find a missing agent. They have a psychic who's given them leads, but is he real or fake? Fox is the supposed expert, but it seems a flimsy reason to bring him in. After all, if the psychic's leads work, why do they need Fox? And if they don't work, what good is Fox? But the psychic gimmick does provoke some interesting debate over truth and the existence of God and such things; we get the irrational Mulder conflicting with the rational Scully, who's now working as a doctor and struggling to deal with a terminal child she cannot help. I liked the debate, but as usual it's just word games and there are no answers or conclusions, just more questions and mysteries. The plot turns out to be some sort of weird internal organ thief thing, which feels awfully small for a big screen movie. But at least there isn't the dreaded "conspiracy theory" mantra that plagued the show. The first half of the movie is a bit too mysterious and muddled, but the latter half is more action (though of a low-key variety), which feels equally strange in that it's such a change from the rest of the film. The best part is the middle, when Scully confronts the child molester-priest/psychic and he challenges her beliefs. It's definitely an interesting film for fans of the series, but it's still not the movie fans want (there are no answers).


Tuesday, September 12, 2000


Movie: X-Men (2000)

Excellent action-adventure, based on the Marvel comic. I love comic book adaptations when they are done seriously, and this one is. Comics are a fantasy medium, and thus work best when presented in an ultra-realistic fashion as the fantasy elements are less dismissable (and silly). While the story's not too deep, it does involve the interesting concept of discrimination against mutants, and there was even some decent acting. Two thumbs up.


Friday, May 1, 2009

X-Men Origins: Wolverine

Movie: X-Men Origins: Wolverine

In some ways this film delivers on what it promises: cool action and special effects. But the problem is that the film is so ineptly written and directed that the flaws outweigh the fun. The story is overly convoluted and the editing so choppy (especially in the first third) that nothing makes sense. Many storyline threads are dropped and never picked up again, leaving me unsure if that was even intentional. For instance, one key character might have died, but it was so unclear what happened that I'm not sure: perhaps the door was left opened for him to return in a sequel? Don't we deserve an explanation as to what happened, even a hint?

Despite the problems, the movie does have a few fun scenes, and a couple tender moments that are genuinely emotive. Unfortunately, those moments are ruined by intrusive action or artificial plot twists. Even the action sequences and special effects aren't particularly artful or interesting. I found myself bored even as Wolverine did "amazing" things like attack a flying helicopter. There's just something dead and empty about the way the action was shot, and several sequences looked like they just didn't turn out as good as the creators thought from the storyboard, but instead of fixing them, they ended up in the final cut. No, I'm not asking for my money back: I'm not upset at seeing this dreck, but I will say this is one of the worst movies I have ever seen. It is disappointing mostly because of its promise and potential. It purports to be about Wolverine's "origin" but has little to say about that, with historically footage so badly put together I still don't know what it's about. And if anyone can explain the plot to me in a way that makes sense, please do. I'm still confused.


Friday, June 3, 2011

X-Men: First Class

Movie: X-Men: First Class

This was excellent. It has a lot of the heart of the first film, with the whole "mutants as oppressed minority" thing, but this time overshadowed and enhanced by the recent events of WWII and Nazi Germany (the bulk of the film takes place in 1962). Here we learn the history of the X-Men and find out what shaped the characters and why they do what they do. It's well done, with a terrific cast, and though there's an awful lot going on, the director does a remarkable job keeping everything from being overwhelming. It's not perfect -- there are a few areas where the editing seemed rushed and an incomplete scene or two will leave you scratching your head a bit -- but impressive considering the monumental task. Though I didn't get every question answered (I'm still confused about a couple of things), for the most part this film did a great job of explaining everything (both for this plot and as a setup for the other films). Visually the film is quite good, though the 1960s era seemed to come and go. When it was obvious, I really liked it, but too much of the time it wasn't clear we were in the past and when something like a black-and-white TV video came along it was jarring and felt odd. Much of the mutants' tech felt much too modern (it could have still done the same thing but just looked 1960ish). In terms of the plot, I was really impressed. We follow the origin story of Magneto and his creator/nemesis, while eventually catching up with the other mutants and the forming of Professor X's school and everyone teaming together to stop the bad guy. I loved the way the plot blended in real history (according to this film, the Cuba missile crisis was caused by the bad guy and it was the mutants who saved us all from nuclear war). The mutants we get to see are all pretty good, though, as usual, not being familiar with the comic series, I found sometimes found their powers confusing. (I'm still baffled by Emma Frost. I didn't understand her character's abilities at all. She seemed super-powerful in her first battle, but then she's tamed remarkably easily later. I didn't figure out that she can turn into a diamond suit until after I read something later. The special effects of that diamond form were really poor.) I also thought some of the mutant scenes seemed forced, as in, "We need another special effect here to make this look cool so have a mutant do something." What I liked much better were the stories of the characters. Understanding their motivations was fascinating, especially knowing that in the future several of these mutants will become enemies. I thought Raven/Mystique's character could have used a more elaboration -- she's in a lot of scenes but most of those don't really help us understand her. But the bottom line is I was thoroughly entertained. I found the story thought-provoking, the performances above average, and the plot was compelling. Two thumbs up. The best X-Men so far by a wide margin (though I am saying that as someone who isn't a reader of the comics so there could be flaws I didn't notice).


Friday, May 26, 2006

X-Men: The Last Stand

Movie: X-Men: The Last Stand

I hated the second film, and this one's worse. Everyone dies in this one. As usual, the basic concept's amazing -- they just don't do anything with it. In this case the plot's about a "cure" for mutanism, which is a radically powerful idea: Do mutants want to be cured? Are they sick or special? Is this "cure" really the ultimate anti-mutant weapon? There are a few great scenes -- my favorite is when Magneto dismisses Mystique as "no longer one of us" once she's cured -- but overall this overdone production is nothing but elaborate set pieces disjointed together and it completely misses on the human element it so desperately tries to figure out.


Friday, May 2, 2003

X2: X-Men United

Movie: X2: X-Men United

A decent sequel, though not as innovative as the first. This time we know the characters so we don't need time to be introduced to their powers, etc., which should make the film stronger, but it doesn't. It feels like there's less action. I also didn't like that the film resurrects the same villains as the first film. Sure, this time the mutants are "united" against another enemy, but it would have been much more interesting to see some cool new mutants. The film's climax was anti-climactic, and a bit of a downer (one of the main X-Men dies) in a way that seemed completely pointless to me (just while watching it I thought of four or five alternate escape methods and the film never did explain why that person couldn't escape with the others). The ending did leave a lot of openings for a sequel, which, while I'd like to see it, weakens this movie by making it feel unfinished. The story, while it gave every character a brief moment to shine, didn't focus enough on any of them (though again Wolverine appears to be the star). I was disappointed in the screen time for Patrick Stewart (Professor X) who's barely in this. Also, the movie feels long at over two hours. And there weren't enough new mutants.

All that negative stuff aside, however, the film's still interesting, and I enjoyed all the different characters. There were some neat scenes and cool special effects. The Wolverine-Kitty fight was excellent, but the film really needed two or three more of those. Not bad, but I liked the first one better.


Tuesday, December 26, 2000

Xiu Xiu: the Sent Down Girl

Movie: Xiu Xiu: the Sent Down Girl
Director(s): Joan Chen

Excellent movie with awesome subtle acting. Well-worth seeing twice so you really understand everything. There's a lot of metaphor in the scenes and actions (i.e. the "gift" apples, bathing, sewing the tent, etc.). Very deep. The story is based on a program in China that ran from 1967 to 1976 in which Chinese youngsters are sent to remote parts of the country to broaden their skills, but many of these children came back as aliens to their families, and some didn't come back at all. This is the story of one girl who is sent to a remote area of Tibet where she essentially becomes a prostitute: local officials promise her she can return home in exchange for sexual favors, but they don't deliver their end of the bargain. Slowly she comes to realize she will never be allowed to go home. Some very strange reasoning from the Western perspective: our system of justice does not allow such things to occur. For instance, in one scene the girl explains she cannot simply run away because she'd be without papers, and there is no life in China without proper identification and work permits and stuff like that. Sounds like Big Brother from 1984. Makes me glad I live in the United States!


Tuesday, August 20, 2002


Movie: XXX

Decent actioner, but not really as James Bondish as promoted. Partly that's because this takes place almost entirely in Prague, where a characteristic of Bond films is they go all over the world. I went in not expecting much from Vin Diesel's performance, but he actually did a decent job. Action-wise, the film's pretty cool, though the endless hard rock music in every action scene gets old after a while. The plot's pretty typical of the genre: a mad anarchist is going to bomb the planet with a bio-chemical weapon in order to destroy all government. A little long, but above average.