X-Men: Days of Future Past (4.25/5):
The birth of the comic book franchise is forever indebted to Bryan Singer’s vision back in 2001. His adaptation of the X-Men characters ignited our gluttonous demand for capes and heroes every summer. Even though the X-Men characters started the comic film revolution, it never quite grew along with it. Brett Ratner’s flaming turd of a film known as X-Men Last Stand all but killed the franchise. Three years ago, through the efforts of Matthew Vaughn and an astute re-positioning of the franchise, which now took place 40 years before the narrative of X-Men, Marvel’s collection of mutants escaped the cinematic slums in X-Men First Class. A new cast and a youthful bravado reminded filmgoers of where the comic phenomenon all started. The success of First Class thankfully assured the creation of Days of Future Past, a melding of the original X-Men cast (Patrick Stewart, Hugh Jackman, Ian McKellan) with their youthful counterparts (James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, and Jennifer Lawrence). Set in a desolate future, one overrun with violent robots (called Sentinels) predicated on dishing out death to all types of life, Days of Future Past rather brilliantly explores how a singular action echoes throughout time. The bridge between the past and present is Wolverine, who is subconsciously sent back in time to end the robot threat of the future.
The film’s narrative structure jumps back and forth between the future and past, delivering a clever vehicle that shrinks the gap between the franchise’s disparate time frames. In many ways, Days of the Future Past is a means for Bryan Singer to hit the reset button, and open up the franchise for an endless amount of possibilities going forward. Outside of expanding the universe, the time travel aspect of the film exists beyond a gimmick. Rather, it’s a springboard into the darkness that shrouds our character’s hearts, as well as an exploratory tool into our country’s unseemly past. Singer’s deft grasp on the film’s time travel logic ensures the film’s emotional complexity isn’t undermined by a narrative device. Don’t get me wrong, watching the past and future collide is exciting, but the film’s true intentions are more sincere than a blockbuster film aiming for the lowest common denominator. Instead, Days of the Future Past is an exciting blockbuster exploding with breathtaking action and emotionally resonant performances. Anchoring the film’s feet to the ground are fantastic performances from McAvoy, Fassbender, and Jennifer Lawrence, with the latter’s Mystique being the film’s major catalyst. The actor’s collective effort, in conjunction with Singer’s eye behind the camera, establish a new future for the once fledgling franchise.
22 Jump Street (4.75/5):
Hollywood’s nauseating dedication to sequels isn’t a new trend, especially if you lurk around message boards. But I can’t help but wonder if our increasing mistrust of filmmakers has made us ignorant. There are a great deal of sequels manufactured solely for the exploitation of an established customer base, but only a few actually supersede their predecessors. 22 Jump Street, the obvious sequel to 2012’s fantastic 21 Jump Street, is a rarity in its field. Hewing closely to its predecessor in plot, 22 Jump Street actively dissects its existence as a sequel, winking heavily in our direction as it playfully reenact tropes found in sequels. After botching a drug bust, our foolish heroes, Schmidt and Jenko, slip back undercover. This time they’re placed at a college campus where a new synthetic drug known as WHYPHY, a hilarious combination of Adderall and ecstasy, runs rampant. As the boys sniff out the drug’s source, they morph into the archetypes they played so perfectly in high school. Jenko becomes a golden god, and Schmidt lingers in his shadow, losing the level of confidence and popularity he achieved in the first film.
Once again, Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum make for a fantastic team, as they masterfully riff off one another like an old married couple that knows each other too well. Hill, who has cemented himself as a fantastic spit baller, is deliriously funny, while Tatum grants us access to his character’s vacuous skull. Even though Tatum and Hill are funny, often exposing their character’s insecurities through uproarious gags, there’s a sweetness to their performances that not only endears us to their characters, but makes us envious of their kinship. Directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, the duo who brought us the fantastic Lego Movie earlier this year, surround their stars with a great deal of irreverence. From a mind melting drug sequence to a scene featuring Jenko and Schmidt partaking in drug fueled espionage, Miller and Lord aren’t afraid to reach for a punchline. If there was one area 22 Jump Street fails to match its predecessor, it’s in its action sequences. The film’s action sequences aren’t as inspired as they were in the first go around, but they deliver enough laughs to make up for their lack of ingenuity. Through the combination of Lord, Miller, Hill and Tatum, 22 Jump Street is one of the year’s best comedies. And even though the film pokes fun at potential sequels, if they’re as good as this, I’d happily shell out money for fifty more Jump Street films.