X-Files, The (1998)
X-Men: Apocalypse (2016)
X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)
X-Men: First Class (2011)
X-Men: The Last Stand (2006)
X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009)
Xi yan (1993)
Outlaw King (2018)
★★★ / ★★★★
With a keen eye for beautiful vistas of majestic cliffs overlooking rivers and oceans, verdant forests, and flat terrains plagued with bogs, “Outlaw King,” directed by David Mackenzie, is visual splendor. It has a knack for placing the viewer into its particular time and place. But the deeper it gets in excavating the conflict between Robert the Bruce (Chris Pine), soon-to-be murderous king of Scotland, and the tyrannical King Edward I of England (Stephen Dillane), details are presented in a cursory and unsatisfying manner some of the time. Its constricted two-hour running time does not allow for the material to breathe between major turn of events. Right when one is finished, the next one is presented. It becomes a challenge to buy into the passage of time and so a fully immersive experience is not achieved. In the middle of it, one considers that perhaps telling the story in the form of mini-series might have been more effective. The work is elevated, however, by committed supporting performances, from Florence Pugh as Elizabeth de Burgh, Robert’s intelligent, supportive, and headstrong wife; Billy Howle as the irascible Prince of Wales with serious daddy issues; and Aaron Taylor-Johnson as revenge-driven James Douglas whose lands have been taken away on the basis of treason. I wished to know these figures and all their complexities, but we are provided only a glance.
★★ / ★★★★
Luc Besson’s action-thriller “Anna” tells the story of a Russian woman (Sasha Luss) recruited by the KGB during the intelligence war against the CIA. A victim of domestic abuse and a drug addict, she considers working for the government as a short-term solution that might lead to a better life, but, after having proven her efficiency as a tyro agent, her superior (Eric Godon) demands that she serve for the long haul—or die. Occasionally entertaining are the ridiculous action scenes in which Anna must storm a place and shoot every person in a suit or uniform, but there is a disconnect between the complex, glossy choreography and the titular character’s desperation to achieve freedom. And so when the busy buzzing of bullets and cracking of bones die down, the personal drama comes across rather disingenuous most of the time. It lacks a certain abrasiveness that allows the drama to become convincing and compelling. The picture, however, is elevated somewhat by supporting actors who strive to deliver solid performances: Luke Evans the brooding KGB officer, Helen Mirren as the sharp and tough KGB handler, and Cillian Murphy as an unwavering CIA agent constantly on Anna’s heels.
★ / ★★★★
The near-lifeless suspense-thriller “Burn” takes a look at a gas station attendant named Melinda (Tilda Cobham-Hervey) who is so lonely and so tired of being treated like she’s invisible that during a seemingly ordinary graveyard shift, instead of finding ways to alert the police, she decides to help a desperate robber (Josh Hutcherson), hoping that, after proving her loyalty, he would take her along for the ride. Although the picture takes risks and offers a number surprises, particularly in how it portrays its protagonist as sympathetic while struggling with serious mental health issues, nearly every single one comes across unconvincing, fake, a performance. Events occur simply because the plot must move forward. Its attempts at dark humor—a rape scene, for instance—do not land exactly on target and so viewers are left feeling dirty, awkward, cheated. It proves to possess a minimal understanding—if that—of thrillers that unfold in and around one location in real time. Thus, by the time its eighty minutes are up, the movie provides no catharsis. By first-time writer-director Mike Gan.
Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019)
★★ / ★★★★
Michael Dougherty’s “Godzilla: King of the Monsters” appears to be confused between spectacle and sense of wonder—something Gareth Edwards’ superior “Godzilla” understands without question. In this limp, barely written sequel we follow a group composed of scientists and military personnel whose mission is to stop a three-headed dragon from bringing about the apocalypse. But for a story involving a global emergency, the picture is tonally flat, the characters reduced to stereotypes, and the supposedly impressive visuals suffer from diminishing returns. By the third confrontation among titans that inevitably demolish entire villages and cities within minutes, it is apparent that the work has gone on autopilot. While we are able to see more of the monsters in this installment, there is a lower level of intrigue to them which matches that of generic action sequences that almost always end up with a massive explosion and characters escaping death in the very last second somehow. We never shake the feeling that the actors are acting in front of a green or blue screen because the circumstances are never compelling. The work strives to deliver entertainment but all it manages to provide is exhaustion.
The Foreigner (2017)
★★★ / ★★★★
12 dead, 38 injured from a clothing store bombing in London claimed by a group called “Authentic IRA.” Minh, a restaurant owner, played with a permanently dour expression by Jackie Chan, demands to learn the identities of those responsible after his teenage daughter perished in the terrorist attack. His target: Northern Island First Minister Liam Hennessy (Pierce Brosnan), a former IRA leader who works with the British to maintain peace between the two countries. Martin Campbell’s action-thriller “The Foreigner” is not a straightforward action picture with revenge at its core. As can be expected from a Chan flick, there are jaw dropping stunts and energetic violence. Surprisingly, however, our protagonist’s methods can be downright questionable at times, particularly when he sets off bombs to try to get what he wants. Even the minister’s loyalty is obfuscated, a politician who holds his cards close to his chest while at work and at home. There is intrigue, even if it is the superficial variety, because David Marconi’s screenplay ensures that the audience has an appreciation of each key player’s motivation. It moves at a brisk pace and never wears out its welcome.
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