X-Men: Daze of Movies Past

 

“Hey bub. Gimme 17 tickets for Guardians of the Galaxy.”

Fair Warning:  Here There Be Lots of  SPOILERS.  

You gotta hand it to director Bryan Singer.  It’s not easy to take 14 years worth  of X-Men movies spread  and essentially hit the “Reset” button on all of them,  especially the widely despised X-Men: The Last Stand or “X3” (for short because these titles are getting too damn long).

I don’t hate X3. I hate X-Men Origins: Wolverine. I don’t like X3 for two specific reasons.

1. Brett Ratner is a huge hack.
2. “I’m the Juggernaut, bitch!”

Many fans of the X-Men revile X3 as one of the worst superhero flicks ever, but as long as Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, Jonah Hex, Batman and Robin, Green Lantern, Supergirl, Blade: Trinity, Catwoman, Elektra and Spider-Man 3 exist it won’t be and doesn’t even come close.

I finally got around to X-Men: Days of Future Past on Father Day’s as the guest of my daughter, though we got in with some passes I had.   I enjoyed the popcorn more than the popcorn movie.

Days of Future Past is what you get when you have movie studios trying to achieve Avengers-level success without bothering to lay the foundation for the success the Avengers achieved.   It starts right with the casting.  Why was Hugh Jackman even in this movie besides he was under contract to do another X-Men movie?   All he got was one fight scene at the beginning and then he spent the next two hours glaring and looking serious until Magneto totally punks him. I hope Jackman was well-paid to rock up, show his butt and do nothing.

Michael Fassbender and Jennifer Lawrence walked through the flick looked bored, especially Lawrence. She had a blank look glued on her face that practically screamed, “Dammit! Why did I sign that contract obligating me to keep making this crap? I’ve got another franchise that’s a license to print money and I’m the star of it.  I’ve got an Oscar now. I don’t need this shit.”

Halle Berry wasn’t even in this one long enough to be awful, so there’s a small blessing. Ellen Page’s Kitty Pryde got to sweat, look intense and manifest a mutant ability she never had in the comics. Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart had so much makeup on they looked like they were embalmed–badly.

“Step aside Kitty Pryde/Ellen Page. I’m a bigger star then you’ll ever be.”

Peter Dinklage was okay in an underwritten and confused part.  One minute his Bolivar Trask is a Nazi scientist and the next he’s a grand humanitarian?  Like, I said, confused.   Most of the future X-Men were there to only to be introduced, fight and die. James McAvoy has never impressed me as young Charles Xavier. He comes off as such a clueless, boring dope compared to the charismatic Magneto.  It’s obvious what Magneto’s cause is. I haven’t the foggiest what Prof. Xavier expects to accomplish.

When the Sentinels (who really looked like shit) went wild on the White House lawn and started shooting up the joint, the body count should have been in the triple digits. If they’re such lousy shots it’s no wonder Trask needed Mystique’s DNA to actually hurt the X-Men.

Yeah, the Quicksilver scene was a nice touch, but it only updates what The Matrix did first and as it’s the movie’s money shot and comes way too early. Plus, as effective as the guy is, why wouldn’t you use Quicksilver on a mission where he could be pretty useful?

All the other roles were either underdeveloped or barely even a cameo. Anna Paquin was literally blink-and-miss her yet she gets seventh billing in the titles? She must have a really good agent!   No Stan Lee cameo? No problem. But no Nightcrawler? If you can recast the Toad, you can recast Nightcrawler.

I found the movie an improvement over X3, but nowhere as interesting as X-Men: First Class. A smaller cast and tighter story would have made for a better movie.   There aren’t even that many  X-Men for most of the running time except Wolverine and the Beast.  This is a bloated and overstuffed entry that proves bigness is all it takes to make billions.   X-Men: Days of Future Past is a “good enough” movie that wants to be great and isn’t.

Singer’s job was to deliver a reset of a franchise that probably needed one.  It would have nice though if he had delivered a better movie as well.

“Dammit, Ellen, you’re in my spotlight. Move, woman!”

It’s Lupita’s World (Now Can She Make It In It?)

Lupita Nyong’o has a little naked gold man to carry around after winning Best Supporting Actress for her amazing performance as the long-suffering Patsey in 12 Years A Slave.  The reason I ended my decade-long moratorium of watching The Academy Awards was my rooting interest in 12 Years and my hope Lupita would walk away with yet another acting award.

The same weekend of the Oscars, Nyong’o show up in the week’s Number One movie, Non-Stop, the new Liam Neeson film, a role that requires no heavy lifting and only a few lines as Nyong’o plays a stewardess in a generic nothing part.

ABC News dubbed the Mexican-born Kenyan “Hollywood’s New ‘IT’ Girl” comparing her favorably to Jennifer Lawrence, Sandra Bullock, Hillary Swank and Julia Roberts.   That’s heavy company for Nyong’o to run with after just two films.

The expectation would be after racking up a series of accolades and awards, Nyong’o would have her pick of future films roles, yet she has no upcoming projects on her IMDB page.  Maybe she is taking her time before choosing what she does next.  The fear is she’s the latest Black actress to win Best Supporting Actress only to find Hollywood doesn’t know what to do with them as Jennifer Hudson, Octavia Spencer and Mo’nique have previously learned.

Nyong’o has the looks and the talent to have a long and successful career, but will she be given roles that offer her opportunities to build on 12 Years A Slave or will she end up in Zoe Saldana territory as the Black girlfriend of the starring White actor?  Ending up as ethnic eye-candy would be a terrible waste of Nyong’o’s potential.

While Nyong’o’s career in front of the camera remains a work-in-progress, she has quickly become a much-admired role model for overcoming her own doubts and embracing her beauty as a dark-skinned African woman.  At the 7th annual Black Women in Hollywood luncheon, Nyong’o spoke from the heart.

Lupita Nyong'o

Lupita Nyong’o (Photo credit: gdcgraphics)

I want to take this opportunity to talk about beauty. Black beauty. Dark beauty. I received a letter from a girl and I’d like to share just a small part of it with you: “Dear Lupita,” it reads, “I think you’re really lucky to be this Black but yet this successful in Hollywood overnight. I was just about to buy Dencia’s Whitenicious cream to lighten my skin when you appeared on the world map and saved me.”

My heart bled a little when I read those words. I could never have guessed that my first job out of school would be so powerful in and of itself and that it would propel me to be such an image of hope in the same way that the women of The Color Purple were to me.

I remember a time when I too felt unbeautiful. I put on the TV and only saw pale skin, I got teased and taunted about my night-shaded skin. And my one prayer to God, the miracle worker, was that I would wake up lighter-skinned. The morning would come and I would be so excited about seeing my new skin that I would refuse to look down at myself until I was in front of a mirror because I wanted to see my fair face first. And every day I experienced the same disappointment of being just as dark as I had been the day before. I tried to negotiate with God: I told him I would stop stealing sugar cubes at night if he gave me what I wanted; I would listen to my mother’s every word and never lose my school sweater again if he just made me a little lighter. But I guess God was unimpressed with my bargaining chips because He never listened.

And when I was a teenager my self-hate grew worse, as you can imagine happens with adolescence. My mother reminded me often that she thought that I was beautiful but that was no consolation: She’s my mother, of course she’s supposed to think I am beautiful. And then Alek Wek came on the international scene. A celebrated model, she was dark as night, she was on all of the runways and in every magazine and everyone was talking about how beautiful she was. Even Oprah called her beautiful and that made it a fact. I couldn’t believe that people were embracing a woman who looked so much like me as beautiful. My complexion had always been an obstacle to overcome and all of a sudden, Oprah was telling me it wasn’t. It was perplexing and I wanted to reject it because I had begun to enjoy the seduction of inadequacy. But a flower couldn’t help but bloom inside of me. When I saw Alek I inadvertently saw a reflection of myself that I could not deny. Now, I had a spring in my step because I felt more seen, more appreciated by the far away gatekeepers of beauty, but around me the preference for light skin prevailed. To the beholders that I thought mattered, I was still unbeautiful. And my mother again would say to me, “You can’t eat beauty. It doesn’t feed you.” And these words plagued and bothered me; I didn’t really understand them until finally I realized that beauty was not a thing that I could acquire or consume, it was something that I just had to be.

And what my mother meant when she said you can’t eat beauty was that you can’t rely on how you look to sustain you. What is fundamentally beautiful is compassion for yourself and for those around you. That kind of beauty enflames the heart and enchants the soul. It is what got Patsey in so much trouble with her master, but it is also what has kept her story alive to this day. We remember the beauty of her spirit even after the beauty of her body has faded away.

And so I hope that my presence on your screens and in the magazines may lead you, young girl, on a similar journey. That you will feel the validation of your external beauty but also get to the deeper business of being beautiful inside. There is no shade to that beauty.

Nyongo's Facebook page featured this pic the morning after the Oscars.

Nyongo’s Facebook page featured this pic the morning after the Oscars.

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