Ellen Page

X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014, Bryan Singer)

There's a fair amount of mess in X-Men: Days of Future Past, but it’s often good mess. It’s also intentional mess because it’s a time travel picture. If you remember any of the previous X-Men movies, lots doesn't make any sense. But it also doesn't matter–director Singer and screenwriter Simon Kinberg rely heavily on a viewer's shaky memory of the franchise.

Future has a good pace and some good sequences. Not a lot of them, unfortunately; the big finale is a disappointment, for example, with Singer trying to emphasize a personal story there. Only that personal story hasn't really been important to the rest of the movie because it's all been about the end of the world.

All of the stuff in the apocalyptic future is goofy. There's a lot of murky CG and unmemorable supporting cast in busy fight scenes. Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart look somewhat lost in the confusion.

The acting quality varies. Hugh Jackman has fun, before the script demotes him. James McAvoy and Nicholas Hoult are both good. Evan Peters gets the best sequence, Michael Fassbender gets the worst. Fassbender gets the shortchanged throughout the picture. While he’s really underused, he does get a couple excellent scenes. Big villain Peter Dinklage is awesome. Jennifer Lawrence is mediocre. Everyone in the future except Ellen Page is bad. Like I said, it's just too goofy.

Good photography from Newton Thomas Sigel, bad music from John Ottman.

Though any ambition beyond franchise revitalization is disingenuous, the film definitely entertains. Sometimes distinctively.

1/4

CREDITS

Directed by Bryan Singer; screenplay by Simon Kinberg, based on a story by Jane Goldman, Kinberg and Matthew Vaughn; director of photography, Newton Thomas Sigel; edited by John Ottman; music by Ottman; production designer, John Myhre; produced by Lauren Shuler Donner, Singer, Kinberg and Hutch Parker; released by 20th Century Fox.

Starring Hugh Jackman (Logan / Wolverine), James McAvoy (Charles Xavier), Michael Fassbender (Erik Lehnsherr), Jennifer Lawrence (Raven / Mystique), Halle Berry (Storm), Nicholas Hoult (Hank / Beast), Anna Paquin (Rogue), Ellen Page (Kitty Pryde), Peter Dinklage (Dr. Bolivar Trask), Shawn Ashmore (Bobby / Iceman), Omar Sy (Bishop), Evan Peters (Peter / Quicksilver), Josh Helman (Maj. Bill Stryker), Daniel Cudmore (Colossus), Fan Bingbing (Blink), Adan Canto (Sunspot), Booboo Stewart (Warpath) with Ian McKellen (Magneto) and Patrick Stewart (Professor X).


To Rome with Love (2012, Woody Allen)

To Rome with Love is sort of hostile to its viewer. Allen sets up three (or four, depending on how you want to count) plots and plays them all concurrently. However, these three (or four) plots don’t necessarily coexist in the same Rome, certainly not at the same time they linearly play out in the run time. He’s also a little dishonest in how he introduces them–Alec Baldwin’s plot gets a big introduction but it immediately shifts gears.

Wait, there are four plots. I keep losing count….

There’s Alison Pill as a young American tourist. Allen and Judy Davis play her parents. Allen and Davis are great together, in case I forget to mention later. Davis just sits and watches him, with real laughs at his deliveries.

Then there’s Alec Baldwin, who gets entangled in Jesse Eisenberg’s love triangle with Greta Gerwig and Ellen Page.

Alessandra Mastronardi and Alessandro Tiberi are honeymooners. Penelope Cruz figures in at some point.

And then Roberto Benigni is the example of the middle class Roman.

Okay, there are four plots. There are sort of five.

Anyway… the best ones are the Tiberi and Mastronardi one and the Benigni one. Or, as one might say, the Roman ones.

Pill’s not in her story enough, though it’s fairly charming.

The one with Eisenberg misfires. He’s ineffectual, Page’s woefully miscast and Gerwig’s great but underutilized.

Allen experiments with narrative here… and doesn’t seem to like the results.

Rome… and gorgeous Darius Khondji photography help a lot.

3/4★★★

CREDITS

Written and directed by Woody Allen; director of photography, Darius Khondji; edited by Alisa Lepselter; production designer, Anne Seibel; produced by Letty Aronson, Stephen Tenenbaum, Giampaolo Letta and Faruk Alatan; released by Sony Pictures Classics.

Starring Woody Allen (Jerry), Alec Baldwin (John), Roberto Benigni (Leopoldo), Penélope Cruz (Anna), Judy Davis (Phyllis), Jesse Eisenberg (Jack), Greta Gerwig (Sally), Ellen Page (Monica), Antonio Albanese (Luca Salta), Fabio Armiliato (Giancarlo), Alessandra Mastronardi (Milly), Ornella Muti (Pia Fusari), Flavio Parenti (Michelangelo), Alison Pill (Hayley), Riccardo Scamarcio (Rapinatore hotel) and Alessandro Tiberi (Antonio).


Inception (2010, Christopher Nolan)

Inception is a moderately engaging, globe-trotting adventure. On any reflection, it’s also mind-numbingly dumb.

What’s brilliant is how Nolan packages it. He takes a heist film, with all its inherent engagement, and triples it. Three times the things going wrong and the characters having to figure out new, CG-aided solutions.

Another smart move is making it a future movie without any future stuff. By never explaining Inception’s dream science, Nolan doesn’t have to create a reality. He doesn’t have to worry about having any real characters or human emotion. Much of his cast seems trapped in adolescence–Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Ellen Page–so it’s a smart move. When Gordon-Levitt shows attraction towards Page, it’s like they’re playing dress-up.

Inception, for all its Nolan pretension, is just a blockbuster. Nolan’s gimmick is to make stupid populist entertainment appear smart and thoughtful. Inception excels at it, making me think Nolan knows exactly what to sell to general audiences (like Shyamalan used to).

Technically, Nolan’s direction is solid. Wally Pfister’s lighting occasionally makes it look good quite good (usually outside the dreams–inside it’s too claustrophobic). Hans Zimmer’s score is sublime.

Great performances from Tom Hardy (he’s amazing), Cillian Murphy and Ken Watanabe. DiCaprio effectively imitates Brad Pitt. Gordon-Levitt embarrasses himself. Page is weak. Marion Cotillard is awful. Michael Caine dodders about.

Nolan blended Vanilla Sky and The Matrix, added one pinch each Dreamscape and Memento, then an abbreviated Shyamalan ending. Hurray for him.

1/4

CREDITS

Written and directed by Christopher Nolan; director of photography, Wally Pfister; edited by Lee Smith; music by Hans Zimmer; production designer, Guy Hendrix Dyas; produced by Emma Thomas and Nolan; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Leonardo DiCaprio (Cobb), Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Arthur), Ellen Page (Ariadne), Tom Hardy (Eames), Ken Watanabe (Saito), Dileep Rao (Yusuf), Cillian Murphy (Robert Fischer), Tom Berenger (Peter Browning), Marion Cotillard (Mal), Pete Postlethwaite (Maurice Fischer), Michael Caine (Miles) and Lukas Haas (Nash).


X-Men: The Last Stand (2006, Brett Ratner)

Apparently all the X-Men movies needed was the vapidness of Brett Ratner. What’s strangest about his replacing of Singer is the mutation being a metaphor for homosexuality. Singer used it as a metaphor (poorly) for race in the first one. I don’t think there were any metaphors in the second one, but it works perfectly in this one–especially since the mutation can be hidden and so on. But Ratner doesn’t harp on it, it’s just a little detail.

Maybe it’s Ratner’s lack of harping–Dante Spinotti’s cinematography and some great special effects sequences (the whole Golden Gate bridge scene is handled maybe better than any superhero movie moment since Superman)–but X-Men: The Last Stand is a lot of fun. It features some great character actors in bit roles–Michael Murphy, Bill Duke, Josef Sommer, Anthony Heald–finally casts some good actors in the supporting roles–Ben Foster and Kelsey Grammer. Grammer, under pounds of makeup, is great.

The regular cast is better this time too. Berry’s not as annoying as usual, Hugh Jackman’s fine, Patrick Stewart and James Marsden aren’t in it enough to hurt much… Ian McKellan finally gets a director who understands encouraging his overacting is funny. And even though Aaron Stanford’s a terrible actor, it’s hard not to get a homoerotic vibe off he and McKellan’s scenes together.

Anna Paquin’s terrible, but no worse than usual. Ellen Page is pretty obnoxious. Famke Janssen’s blank, but it’s finally her role.

It’s a good time.

1/4

CREDITS

Directed by Brett Ratner; written by Simon Kinberg and Zak Penn; director of photography, Dante Spinotti; edited by Mark Helfrich, Mark Goldblatt and Julia Wong; music by John Powell; production designer, Edward Verreaux; produced by Lauren Shuler Donner, Ralph Winter and Avi Arad; released by 20th Century Fox.

Starring Hugh Jackman (Wolverine), Halle Berry (Storm), Patrick Stewart (Professor Charles Xavier), Ian McKellen (Magneto), Famke Janssen (Jean Grey), Anna Paquin (Rogue), Kelsey Grammer (Dr. Henry McCoy), James Marsden (Cyclops), Rebecca Romijn (Mystique), Shawn Ashmore (Bobby Drake), Aaron Stanford (Pyro), Vinnie Jones (Juggernaut), Ben Foster (Warren Worthington III), Ellen Page (Kitty Pryde), Michael Murphy (Warren Worthington II), Shohreh Aghdashloo (Dr. Kavita Rao), Bill Duke (Trask) and Josef Sommer as the President.


Smart People (2008, Noam Murro)

It’s hard to intelligently describe Smart People because the best way to describe it is quite simple. It’s a bunch of movie trailers for quirky family dramatic comedies strung together. Not five minutes goes by without two montages to songs (I’m shocked the soundtrack CD wasn’t available in the lobby) and one instrumental. There are no scenes in the whole movie, just snippets. Half scenes, missing their beginning and ending.

I thought, at the beginning, director Murro was just doing a–by now, very familiar–indie introduction to his characters with the montages. He wasn’t. He was just making the movie. Murro is a bad director, but in interesting ways at least. He doesn’t do establishing shots, he doesn’t understand headroom, nor does he account for interior dimensions. If it weren’t for one interesting shot (Dennis Quaid turning and pointing left while on the right side of a Panavision frame), I’d call him all together atrocious.

As for the writer, I really can’t tell. It’s possible Mark Poirier wrote a decent movie and it got cut to shreds in post-production. Or maybe he did write this one, which Murro ruined. Same script, all instrumental–well-scored–sometimes drowning out dialogue and fifteen or twenty minutes shorter, Smart People would have really been a quirky movie, instead of a packaged attempt at an indie crossover success.

And it’s pretty obvious the filmmakers aren’t very smart themselves. It’s in their handling of the material and, after some amusing scenes, it gets mildly offensive. But then–and here’s where I’ll shock myself typing it–Sarah Jessica Parker shows up. She gives the best performance in the film. Had the movie been about her–like it was for ten or fifteen minutes of montages (so figure around forty-five montages)–and the weird family she encounters, it would have been a screwy “Addams Family” knockoff. But it isn’t. Her performance, however, is excellent.

Second best is Thomas Haden Church, because he’s a supporting character and the fact the script doesn’t give him a character doesn’t matter so much. It really hurts Dennis Quaid, who–at times–can be seen to be acting, but to no real purpose. He and Parker have some chemistry though.

Ellen Page is one-note. Look, she’s an acerbic bitch. Ha. Funny. Not at all impressive by her.

Unfortunately, the movie manages to get worse as it closes, since it dismisses three of its four plot threads. It doesn’t forget them, it just makes them all better so the movie can end. Wait, no. Four of five, I forgot the last scene.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Noam Murro; written by Mark Poirier; director of photography, Toby Irwin; edited by Robert Frazen and Yana Gorskaya; music by Nuno Bettencourt; production designer, Patti Podesta; produced by Bridget Johnson, Michael Costigan, Michael London and Bruna Papandrea; released by Miramax Films.

Starring Dennis Quaid (Lawrence), Sarah Jessica Parker (Janet), Thomas Haden Church (Chuck), Ellen Page (Vanessa), Ashton Holmes (James), Christine Lahti (Nancy), David Denman (William) and Camille Mana (Missy).


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