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Kin Dza Dza
Arguably, it's the best sci fi comedy ever made and yet it's also the most famous film that nobody has ever heard of! Kin Dza Dza is a giant of science fiction and near the top of all good sci fi movie lists. If you like good, unusual cult sci fi -you need to see this film! Checkout the SadCAST review of Kin Dza Dza or click the links below to see the film on the Mosfilm Youtube channel.
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It's easy to get overexcited and prone to hyperbole when caught up in a new film after all the build-up of personal anticipation and global marketing.
But I've now seen X-Men: Days of Future Past three times - once at an advance press screening, twice in cinemas - so I don't say this lightly: This is the new Dark Knight of the superhero genre.
And here's why.
We're in a golden age of comic book adaptations - and this is the third such release this year (following Captain America: The Winter Soldier and The Amazing Spider-Man 2), with one more superhero movie to come (Guardians of the Galaxy).
But hundreds of movies come out each year so the notion of there being too many, or of the idea of superhero fatigue, is not at all true.
Comic books and the films made from them are today's mythology, wrapping (hopefully) powerful stories and relevant themes in sci-fi spectacle.
X-Men: Days of Future Past never forgets the human part of the superhuman, and thus delivers a story-driven tale full of emotion, drama, stakes and surprises.
Whereas Marvel's The Avengers celebrated the genre and fulfilled our expectations of seeing a comic book team brought to life on screen, this goes far beyond and exceeds our expectations. Just as The Dark Knight did back in 2008.
X-Men: Days of Future Past acknowledges the comics on which it is based, stays true to all the previous films, provides deep layers of emotion, builds a powerful mythology and, without giving anything away, will make X-Men fans truly happy at the result of its time-hopping antics.
The story begins in a terrible future where mutants (and any humans supporting them or capable of giving birth to mutant children) are being targeted by Sentinels, robots now able to adapt so they can withstand superpowered attacks.
Among the survivors are members of the X-Men; Ian McKellen's Magneto; and a handful of other characters we haven't met before. The remaining X-Men include Ellen Page's Kitty Pryde whose power has expanded from three dimensions to four: in addition to 'phasing' matter (herself or others) through solid objects, she has now learned to move people's minds through time. Also there is Patrick Stewart's Professor Xavier who, as we saw in an end-credits scene in X-Men: The Last Stand, transferred his own consciousness to survive being disintegrated in a battle with Jean Grey.
These future survivors band together and come up with a last-ditch plan to send someone's mind back in time and prevent the terrible war from ever happening. It turns out that Wolverine is the only one who can make the trip, because his healing powers mean he can handle having his mind flung back 50 years into his younger self.
Once there, he must find the younger Xavier (James McAvoy) and Magneto (Michael Fassbender) and stop the pivotal moment, which occurs when younger Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) assassinates the man who first created the Sentinels (Bolivar Trask, played by Peter Dinklage). The assassination led to her being captured and her transformative abilities used to build a new generation of super-adaptive Sentinels in the far future.
In the past - where the 70s are very well re-created - Xavier and Magneto are in very different places, and Wolverine has quite a job on his hands getting everyone on his side. Amid some powerhouse acting from everyone on screen - especially McAvoy and Fassbender - Jackman and the others seek the help of superfast Peter Maximoff (aka Quicksilver in the comics) to carry out a daring prison break in the Pentagon. It's one of the highlights of the movie, all the more special because initial images revealing the look of Evan Peters' quirky, goofy teenage speedster didn't go down too well with fanboys. The reality of seeing the character in the movie sweeps away all that and shows the filmmakers had it right all along.
Suspense is cleverly built during the middle of the movie towards a grand finale that could go in any number of directions. And when it does come, it doesn't disappoint. The climax is a refreshing change from the usual explosions of vehicles and buildings. Instead, the film ramps up the tensions by switching cleverly from past to future at key points. As the Sentinels close in on the future team who are guarding Wolverine during his time-travel slumber, the character's mission back in the past becomes more and more desperate.
And what will the outcome be when he returns to the future? What will he find has changed? Will it be for better or worse? Let's just say the devoted followers of these films will absolutely love it.
Skilfully using a well-written time-travel tale, Bryan Singer and screenwriter Simon Kinberg leave us in a position where - in many ways - we see the torch passed from the older cast to their younger incarnations. It's a resetting of the franchise that makes so much sense. Not only is this a feast of solid filmmaking and fantasy spectacle but it clears the table and leaves it open for new adventures.
No longer is the past (or future, for that matter) restricted to lining up with the previous films, as each has been given a fresh start freed from the complexities of continuity.
Future Past is a solid stone in the franchise's foundation for the future, and an end-credits teaser provides a hint at what's to come.
And I assure readers that there's no fanboy hysteria to be found here in this review. Singer is back in the franchise where he clearly belongs and judged purely on technical levels - acting, writing, directing, visual effects, cinematography, etc - this is an amazing film that deserves much love from the mainstream viewer as well as X-Men devotees. A Dark Knight that creates a bright future for this series.
Go to see it if you haven't already - and if you have, I can promise that further viewings only enrich the experience.
Rating: 9 out of 10 (and I could be pushed to 10/10 after my latest viewing, as the quibbles are so minor).
May 22 sees the release of the hotly anticipated new X-Men movie, Days of Future Past.
The time-hopping tale marks the return of Bryan Singer to the mutant movie series and sees new and old casts brought together for an epic adventure.
So what's it all about?
Here are 14 things you need to know about X-Men: Days of Future Past.
There is a general overview of the story but no spoilers about specific events or character fates in the movie.
1. What's the plot of the movie?
In a nutshell, Wolverine is sent back in time from a terrible future to change history and prevent that future from ever happening.
The story is adapted from a 1981 X-Men comic that, in fact, was published several years before time-travel movies The Terminator (1984) and Back To The Future (1985).
To add a little more detail, mutants are being hunted to extinction in a dark, dystopian future by robots called Sentinels. As the situation gets bleaker and bleaker, a band of surviving mutants - some of the remaining X-Men and a few other characters - figure out a way to attempt time travel so they can try to stop the war from ever happening.
2. So who time travels?
It's Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) who is sent back - but only his consciousness. Using some of the mutants' abilities, the X-Men figure out how to send his mind back into his younger body in 1973.
In the comic book story, it was Kitty Pryde whose mind was sent back in time, but the film version of Kitty would not even have been born in 1973.
Wolverine goes back because he was definitely around back then and, more significantly, because his healing abilities will enable him to survive the strain of being flung 50 years into the past. And, of course, Wolverine has always been a central character in this film series.
3. What does he have to do when he arrives in his younger body in 1973?
Wolverine needs to stop the Sentinels being created. He has to work with the younger versions of Xavier (James McAvoy), Magneto (Michael Fassbender) and Beast (Nicholas Hoult) to stop Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) doing something that will unwittingly bring about a future where mutants are wiped out.
To make matters more complicated, Magneto is now in prison and Xavier has sunk into a depression.
By all accounts, the time-travel provides plenty of twists and surprises, including chance to 'correct' some events from the existing films. I've heard several rumours and am intrigued as to how it will all work out in the end.
4. Are there any other characters in the past?
Yes, the creator of the Sentinels is Bolivar Trask, played by Peter Dinklage. He believes mutants will replace normal humans as the dominant species and so he sets about controlling and, ultimately, exterminating them. He unveils the very first Sentinels - a more basic Mark 1 version - in the past.
We also meet Peter Maximoff, aka Quicksilver, a mutant with the power of super-speed, played by Evan Peters. Early reviews say a sequence where he uses his abilities is a highlight of the movie.
Others include Havok (who was in X-Men: First Class and is played by Lucas Till), a younger version of Toad (played by Evan Jonigkeit), and a mutant called Ink (Gregg Lowe).
5. So the Sentinels already existed in the past?
Yes. Remember the scene in X-Men: The Last Stand, where the X-Men battled a Sentinel in a training sequence in the school's Danger Room? We could take that as an indication that Sentinels were once a much greater presence. Clearly, they were reactivated further into the future as mutant/human relations fell apart.
The website for Trask Industries - a viral site created by the studio - indicates that Sentinels were no longer being made after 1996. Maybe they were deemed a weapon of mass destruction and were not being actively deployed after that date, much like nuclear weapons in our own real world. But they were still included in the Danger Room computer programs as a potential opponent. However, the Sentinels that did reappear in the further future had been upgraded to be far more deadly than the X-Men could have imagined.
6. So do these films have a timeline and continuity?
The series has been running for 14 years, with five different directors and many different writers, so there have been some creative liberties taken over that time.
But, despite any creases and crinkles in the overall road map, there is a timeline. It was laid out in Empire magazine, and details how the existing films fit together.
Briefly, X-Men: First Class was in 1962 and the past setting of Days of Future Past is 1973. X-Men took place in 2005, X2 in 2006 and X-Men: The Last Stand in 2007. The Wolverine took place in 2013 and the future part of Days of Future Past is set in 2023.
7. So who is in the future part of the new film?
Familiar faces including Magneto (Ian McKellen), Xavier (Patrick Stewart), Wolverine, Storm (Halle Berry), Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page), Iceman (Shawn Ashmore), Colossus (Daniel Cudmore) and Rogue (Anna Paquin)
Plus some mutant rebels we haven't met before, including Bishop, Blink, Warpath and Sunspot. They're played by Omar Sy, Bingbing Fan, Booboo Stewart and Adan Canto, respectively.
8. That's a lot of characters. Will there be too many characters to do justice to in a two-hour movie?
Director Bryan Singer loves ensemble movies and has a lot of experience in doing them, so it doesn't seem a major cause for concern.
Also, remember that some of these characters are there to populate the story and build a world where mutants exist, some are there to show what is at stake - in other words, don't expect them all to survive if the Sentinels are as deadly as suggested.
9. Bringing all these characters together sounds like Avengers? Is that why they're doing it?
Producers have been wanting to adapt Days of Future Past for many years. And then the ready-made existence of young versions in the past setting of First Class, and the older versions of the original trilogy, provided the perfect platform to do it.
It's not like Avengers though - in this film, there are two time periods and the characters don't all have their own solo movies (except Wolverine, so far). It's also supposed to be darker and more complex than Avengers. But there's still enough spectacle, action and fun for the casual moviegoer and for families with kids.
What Marvel Studios' successful Avengers franchise is providing a template for is a more structured 'mapping out' of future films, and the interconnection of stories so they really do feel part of one grand saga. The return of Bryan Singer should help ensure a stronger and more consistent overall vision for this continuing series.
10. How long is the film and what's the rating?
It's 131 minutes (2hrs 11minutes) and has a UK rating of 12A (meaning no one under age 12 may see it unless accompanied by an adult).
11. What's the buzz online? Is it worth seeing?
The buzz is very good. At the time of writing, X-Men: Days of Future Past has an overall score of 94 per cent on Rotten Tomatoes (where critics' reviews are compiled into an overall rating). Looking at other movies in the superhero genre, we find a score of 89 per cent for Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and 54 per cent for The Amazing Spider-Man 2.
On the similar review aggregator Metacritic, X-Men: Days of Future Past has 72 per cent, Captain America: The Winter Soldier has 70 per cent and The Amazing Spider-Man 2 has 53 per cent.
12. There seem to be a lot of superhero movies these days. Can we cope?
Hopefully! As long as they are made well, and as long as they each try to be original and have something different to offer, and if they are nicely spread apart across the calendar. There are plenty of other films around and only four superhero movies this year among the hundreds of films released in 2014. The powerful fan/geek presence online makes it seem like there are more of these superhero films than there actually are.
13. What's the particular appeal of the X-Men movies?
They have a brilliant cast, and they offer deeper themes (discrimination, persecution of minorities, tolerance) than is sometimes typical of this genre, as well as great stories and fantastic action.
14. So what's next for the X-Men series?
The next movie after X-Men: Days of Future Past is X-Men: Apocalypse, which is due out on May 27, 2016, and we can expect a scene hinting at that after the credits of Days of Future Past, so don't leave the cinema as soon as the main feature ends.
Another Wolverine movie is set for March 3, 2017 and Fox has booked July 13, 2018, for an untitled comic book adaptation that many assume is some sort of X-Men crossover.
Channing Tatum has just been cast as a new version of Gambit (replacing Taylor Kitsch who played the part in X-Men Origins: Wolverine) and is expected to appear in X-Men: Apocalypse as well as in a planned solo spin-off.
Check back for my review of X-Men: Days of Future Past.