“X-MEN” Movies Ranking

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Below is my ranking of the movies I have seen from the “X-MEN” film franchise.  Warning: many may not agree with it:

“X-MEN” MOVIES RANKING

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1. “X2: X-Men United” (2003) – Bryan Singer directed this film about Army colonel William Stryker’s plans to use Professor Charles Xavier to destroy the world’s mutant population once and for all. As you can see, this is my favorite in the franchise.

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3. “X-Men: First-Class” (2011) – Matthew Vaughn directed this tale set in 1962 about the first meeting between Charles Xavier “Professor X” and Erik Lensherr “Magneto”, their creation of the X-Men and their efforts to prevent mutant villain Sebastian Shaw from using the Cuban Missile Crisis to acquire world domination. Despite the questionable costumes and a few plot holes, this was a big favorite of mine.

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3. “X-Men: The Last Stand” (2006) – Brett Ratner directed this tale about the X-Men overcoming tragedy to deal with the resurrected and more powerful Jean Grey and Magneto’s continuing war on non-mutant humans. Many fans hated this film. I enjoyed it, although I found the pacing a bit too rushed. Enough said.

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4. “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” (2009) – Gavin Hood directed this movie about the origins of James Howlett aka the Wolverine and his relationship with his murderous half-brother Victor Creed aka Sabertooth and his first class with William Stryker in the 1970s. Another movie hated by the fans. And again, I enjoyed it, although I consider it lesser than the 2006 movie.

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5. “X-Men: Days of Future Days” (2014) – Directed by Bryan Singer, this movie is a time-travel adventure for Wolverine, who must convince a younger Charles Xavier and Erik Lensherr to prevent Mystique from murdering a anti-mutant scientist, whose work will prove deadly for mutants within a half century. Great premise, but shaky execution. Too many plot holes, but still enjoyable.

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6. “The Wolverine” (2013) – James Mangold directed this atmospheric tale about Wolverine, still grieving over a recent tragedy, traveling to Japan to meet the Wolverine heading to Japan for a reunion with a soldier named Ichirō Yashida whose life he saved during the Nagasaki bombing at the end of World War II. He ends up defending Yashida’s granddaughter from the Yakuza and her avaricious father. Great Japanese atmosphere and interesting beginning, but it nearly fell to pieces in the last half hour.

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7. “X-Men” (2000) – Bryan Singer directed this first movie in the franchise about Wolverine and a young Marie aka “Rogue”’s introduction to the X-Men and their efforts to defeat Magneto’s plans to transform the entire population into mutants against their will. Enjoyable, but it felt like a B-movie trying to disguise itself as an A-lister. Also, too many plot holes.

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8. “Deadpool” (2016) – Ryan Reynolds starred in this reboot of the Deadpool character about the comic book hero’s origins and his hunt for the man who gave him an accelerated healing factor, but also a scarred physical appearance. Despite the sharp humor and fourth wall cinematic device, the narrative struck me as sloppily written and mediocre.

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“X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST” (2014) Review

 

“X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST” (2014) Review

When the news reached many fans that Bryan Singer would be helming the next film, fans rejoiced. As far as they were concerned, the best movies from the franchise had been directed by Singer. And since he had served as one of the producers for 2011’s “X-MEN: FIRST CLASS”, that particular film is highly regarded by fans as well.

The latest film in question, “X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST” seemed to serve as a sequel to both “FIRST-CLASS” and the 2006 movie, “X-MEN: THE LAST STAND”. Adapted from Chris Claremont John Byrne’s 1981 storyline, “Days of Future Past”, for comic book, The Uncanny X-Men, Issues #141-142; “DAYS OF FUTURE PAST” starts in the 2020s in which robots known as Sentinels are exterminating mutants, humans who harbor the genes that lead to mutant offspring, and humans who help mutants. A band of mutants led by Charles Xavier “Professor X” and Erik Lehnsherr “Magneto” manage to evade the Sentients and eventually find refuge in China. Realizing that the Sentients will finally catch up with them, Xavier and Magneto, along with fellow mutant Kitty Pryde, come up with a plan to prevent the events that would kick-start the creation of the Sentients.

Using Kitty’s ability to project an individual’s consciousness through time, they instruct her to do the same to Logan’s “Wolverine” consciousness back to late January 1973 (over ten years following the events of “X-MEN: FIRST CLASS” – to prevent Raven Darkhölme “Mystique” from assassinating Bolivar Trask, the creator of the Sentinels. Following the assassination, the U.S. government captured Mystique and allowed Trask’s company to use her DNA to create Sentinels that are near-invincible due to their ability to adapt to any mutant power. Xavier and Magneto advise Wolverine to seek out both of their younger selves for aid. When Logan finally arrives in the past, he learns that the younger Xavier has become an embittered man over the premature closing of his school for mutants and addicted to a serum created by Hank McCoy “the Beast” to suppress his mutation. Logan also learns that the younger Magneto has spent over 10 years imprisoned for the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

I might as well lay my cards on the table. I love time travel movies. It is the reason why I am such a big fan of the“BACK TO THE FUTURE” franchise and especially 2012’s “MEN IN BLACK 3”. The return of Bryan Singer as the director of an X-MEN film was not the reason why I had anticipated this film so much. It was the story’s theme of time travel. Only in this case, the movie’s time traveler, Logan, does not bodily travel back through time. Instead, his 2020s consciousness is sent back to his 1973 body. I found nothing wrong with that. After all, the 2011 movie, “SOURCE CODE”used a similar method. And the 2000 movie, “FREQUENCY” featured the communication between father and son – across a period of thirty years via a shortwave radio. When I realized what the plot was about, I suspected “X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST” might prove to be the best film in the franchise.

The movie certainly featured a great deal that made it memorable. Unlike “FIRST CLASS”, “DAYS OF FUTURE PAST”did an excellent job in re-creating the early 1970s. One has to thank John Myhre’s excellent production designs, along with Gordon Sim’s set decorations, the special effects team and Newton Thomas Sigel’s superb photography. I was especially impressed by Sigel’s photography and the special effects in the following scenes:

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More importantly, Louise Mingenbach did a much better job in creating costumes that adhere correctly to the movie’s setting (especially the early 1970s) than Sammy Sheldon did for the early 1960s costumes for “FIRST CLASS”.

“DAYS OF FUTURE PAST” also featured some excellent action sequences that left me feeling slightly dazzled. I especially enjoyed the two battles fought between the mutant and the Sentinels in the movie’s first five minutes and its last ten to twenty minutes, Mystique’s rescue of her fellow mutants from an Army base in South Vietnam, the rescue of Magneto from a Federal prison and especially Mystique’s attempt to assassinate Bolivar Trask at the latter’s meeting with North Vietnam generals, following the signing of the Paris Peace Accords.

But action scenes, cinematography and special effects do not alone make a good movie. Thankfully, “DAYS OF FUTURE PAST” featured some excellent dramatic scenes and a decent narrative – with some flaws. I must admit that I was impressed at how screenwriter Simon Kinberg carried over the early Xavier-Magneto relationship from “FIRST CLASS” in two scenes – Xavier greeting the recently imprisoned Magneto with a punch to the face and their embittered quarrel aboard Xavier’s private plane, as they fly to Paris. He also did an excellent job in carrying over the same for the two men’s relationship with Mystique. The first meeting – actually, I should say Magneto’s first meeting with Wolverine proved to be interesting. It did not take long for the animosity between the two to immediately spark. One of the best dramatic sequences proved to be – ironically – in the middle of the film’s last action scene that was set on the White House lawn. I am speaking of that moment in which Xavier tried to talk Mystique out of carrying out her plan to assassinate Trask. As for the sequences set in the 2020s, I cannot recall any memorable dramatic moments. But there is one unforgettable scene that linked the two time settings that I will never forget. It featured a conversation between the young and old Xavier, thanks to a psychic link set up by Logan. A great, dramatic and emotional moment.

I read on the Wikipedia site that “X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST” is regarded as the best film in the X-MEN franchise and the best reviewed. I feel that it had the potential to be the best in the franchise, thanks to its time travel theme. But . . . I am afraid it did not achieve that goal. At least for me. What tripped up this movie? Simon Kinberg’s screenplay. However, I cannot solely place the blame on him. As one of the producers and the director of the film, I believe Bryan Singer deserves most of the blame.

I read somewhere that Josh Helman had originally been hired to portray a younger version of Juggernaut, who was portrayed by Vinnie Jones in 2006’s “X-MEN: THE LAST STAND”. But the filmmakers changed their minds, dropped the Juggernaut character from the script and gave Helman the role of a younger William Stryker. And this was the biggest mistake that Singer, his crew and the rest of the producers made. A big mistake. The 2009 film, “X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE” made it clear that Stryker was the leader of a group of mutant mercenaries hired to help him develop his Weapons X project. Stryker was portrayed by the then 46-47 year-old Danny Huston, who portrayed Stryker as someone in his late thirties or early forties. I recall that Stryker had recruited both Logan and his half-brother, Victor Creed “Sabretooth” in Vietnam. Later, Logan had left the group in 1973. But there was no sign of Sabretooth and the other mutants working for Stryker in “DAYS OF FUTURE PAST”. And we are also supposed to be believe that a Stryker portrayed by a 26-27 year-old Josh Helman, was the son of a 10 year-old boy. Are they kidding? When I had pointed out this problem on the Internet, I was told that the audience was supposed to dismiss the 2009 movie as part of the franchise. What the hell? Was this really Singer’s idea of handling the continuity problem of William Stryker in this movie? If so, this is sloppy film writing at its worse.

The William Stryker character proved to be a problem in other areas of the story. In the movie, he is supposed to be Boliviar Trask’s Army liaison. Okay, I can buy that. But would an officer of the U.S. Army stand by silently, while Trask meets with a group of Communist military generals (especially from an army that had just been at war with the United States) in order to sell his Sentinel program? I rather doubt it. Even if Congress was not interested in using Trask’s program, I doubt it or Stryker would be so cavalier about Trask selling his program for combatant robots to military armies they would deem enemies of the U.S. The movie also featured a scene with President Richard M. Nixondiscussing the chaos and violence caused by Mystique’s assassination attempt in Paris with his political and military advisers in the White House’s Oval Office. Nixon and his advisers are suddenly surprised by Trask and Stryker’s appearance, who were there to push the Sentinel program again. Guess what? I was also surprised. How did Trask and Stryker gain entry into the Oval Office without an appointment or security agents stopping them? How was it even possible?

Since I am on a roll, there are other matters in the script that I find questionable. For example . . . did anyone notice any similarities between the plot for “X-MEN UNITED” and this film? In the 2003 movie, Magneto hijacked William Stryker’s plans to use the kidnapped Xavier to kill all mutant in order to use his old friend against non-mutants. And in“DAYS OF FUTURE PAST”, Magneto (again) hijacked Trask’s Sentient robots that were created to kill mutants in order to bump of President Nixon and his advisers. Hmmmm . . . how unoriginal. And how was Magneto able to reprogram the prototype Sentinel robots in the first place? He had never displayed any technological skill or talent in the past. I read in Wikipedia’s recap of the movie’s plot that Magneto had intercepted the Sentinels that were in transit by rail and laced their polymer-based frames with steel, allowing him control of them. What the hell? I have never heard of such contrived bullshit in my life. I take that back. I just realized more contrived bullshit in the plot. When did Kitty Pryde acquire the ability to send a person’s consciousness back through time? Her ability is to phase through objects like walls, doors, etc. How did she acquire this second ability, when it was non-existent in the comics? According to Bryan Singer, Kitty’s phasing ability enables time travel. Hmmm. More bullshit to explain vague and bad writing. And speaking of the future segments, could someone explain what was going on the movie’s first action sequence that involved the younger mutants fighting Sentients . . . and nearly being wiped out? And yet, the next thing I know, all of them rendezvous with the older mutants in China – Xavier, Magneto, Ororo Munroe aka Storm, and Logan. So . . . could someone please explain in full detail what the hell was going on?

And could someone please explain why Storm ended up as a background character in this movie? All she did was stand around, while others around her talked . . . until a few minutes before her death. I read that actress Halle Berry was pregnant at the time of the movie’s production. All I can say is . . . so what? Rosamund Pike (her co-star from the 2002 Bond movie, “DIE ANOTHER DAY”) was pregnant during the production of “JACK REACHER”. She was not treated like a background character. And Berry could have been provided with a great deal more dialogue than she was given. There was no need for her to be involved in mainly action sequences. Also, I am at a loss on how Jean Grey and Scott Summers aka Cyclops ended up alive and well in the altered timeline. How? How on earth did their fates have anything to do with Trask’s Sentinels? It was Stryker’s actions in “X-2: X-MEN UNITED” that eventually led to Jean’s “death” in this movie and eventually hers and Scott’s actual deaths in “X-MEN: THE LAST STAND”. And I do not recall Stryker’s Army career being affected by Trask’s downfall by the end of this movie. Some fans claim that the post-credit scene of “X-MEN: THE LAST STAND” explained how Xavier was resurrected, following his death at the hands of Jean. Uh . . . it did not explain anything to me. And you know what? Neither “THE WOLVERINE” or “DAYS OF FUTURE PAST”. Am I to assume that Xavier’s resurrection in the franchise’s movieverse will always remain a mystery?

The movie eventually revealed that the younger Magneto had been imprisoned for Kennedy’s assassination. As it turned out, Magneto was trying to save Kennedy’s life. Why? Because according to Magneto, the 35th President was a mutant. What was the point of this tidbit? To give Kennedy a reason for his . . . so-called liberal politics? Why was that necessary? Speaking of Magneto, I noticed in one scene that was dressed in this manner in order to retrieve his uniform and telepathy-blocking helmet:

Mind you, Michael Fassbender looked good. But honestly . . . why did his character, a forty-something year-old man who was born and raised in Europe, had to channel “Superfly” in order to retrieve his old uniform? I have one last quibble. This movie is supposed to be set around late January to early February, 1973; during the time when the Paris Peace Accords to end the Vietnam War were signed. Could someone explain why the weather conditions – for locations in the State of New York; Paris, France; and Washington D.C. – in the movie made it seem this story was set during the spring or summer? No one wore a heavy coat. Nor did I see signs of snow, blustery weather or trees with dead leaves.

Before one thinks I hate this movie, I do not. I believe “X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST” has a great deal of flaws. But it does have its merits. I have already commented on them, earlier in this review. But I have not touched upon the performances. Personally, I have no complaints about them. Sure, Halle Berry barely had any dialogue. Ian McKellen was slightly more fortunate, which I found surprising. Anna Paquin as Marie aka Rogue, Kelsey Grammer as the older Hank McCoy aka the Beast, Famke Janssen as Jean Grey, and James Marsden as Scott Summers aka Cyclops all made ten (10) seconds or more appearances at the end of the film. What a waste. However, Ellen Page as Kitty Pryde and Shawn Ashmore as Bobby Drake aka Iceman gave solid performances. So did Josh Helman , who made a very effective and scary younger William Stryker. Evan Peters gave a very entertaining and crowd-pleasing performance as supersonic mutant Peter Maximoff aka Quicksilver. I enjoyed Nicholas Hoult’s quiet, yet intense performance as the younger Hank McCoy. Hugh Jackman gave his usual intense and deliciously sardonic portrayal of the time traveling Logan aka Wolverine. However . . . I sense that he is getting a bit too old to be portraying a mutant that barely ages. And his physique looked extremely muscular . . . even more so than he did at the age of 31 in 2000’s “X-MEN”. In fact, his body looked downright unnatural and heavily veined.

However, there were outstanding performances in the movie. Patrick Stewart did an excellent job in conveying the many aspects of the older Xavier’s emotional reactions to the war against the Sentients. Also, both he and McKellen continued their first-rate chemistry as the former foes who had renewed their friendship. Both James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender continued their strong screen chemistry as the younger Xavier and Magneto. I was especially impressed by their performances in the scene that featured their quarrel aboard Xavier’s private plane. And remember the rapture I had expressed over the scene that featured the two Xaviers? Well, one should thank both Stewart and McAvoy for making it so memorable. Peter Dinklage gave an outstanding performance as the intelligent mastermind behind the Sentient robots, Bolivar Trask. But the best performance, I believe, came from Jennifer Lawrence’s portrayal of the younger Mystique, who seemed hellbent upon assassinating the man she perceived as a threat to the mutants’ future. She was all over the place . . . and in the right way. I found her performance a lot more impressive than the one she gave in “FIRST CLASS”.

Unlike many other fans of the X-MEN movies, I was not particularly impressed by the news that Bryan Singer had returned to direct this latest film for the franchise. I was more impressed by the movie’s theme of time travel. “DAYS OF FUTURE” had a lot to offer – colorful visual effects, great dramatic moments, superb action sequences and some excellent performances by the cast. But the inconsistencies that popped up in the movie’s plot were too many for me to dismiss. And I believe that in the end, those inconsistencies prevented the movie from achieving its potential to be the best in the X-MEN franchise. Hmmm . . . too bad.

“X-MEN” (2000) Review

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“X-MEN” (2000) Review

If anyone had asked me what was the first genuine superhero film, based upon Marvel Comics characters, my choice would be the 2000 flick, “X-MEN”. In fact, I suspect that it was the first Marvel film ever shown in the movie theaters. Its success spawned a series of superhero films that continue to this day.

Based upon the Marvel Comics series, the plot for “X-MEN” began first in 1944, at a concentration camp in German-occupied Poland. Thirteen year-old Erik Lehnsherr is separated from his parents, upon entry to the camp. And in an attempt to reach them, he causes a set of gates to bend with a magnetic force and is knocked unconscious by the guards. The story jumps several decades later when a 17 year-old girl from Meridan, Mississippi named Marie aka Rogue is flirting with her boyfriend. They kiss and her boyfriend goes into a coma, thanks to Marie’s ability to suck an individual’s life force. Instead of immediately killing a mutant, Marie’s ability manages to suck his or her ability before dying. Upset over the harm she had inadvertently caused, Marie runs away from home and ends up in Laughlin City, Alaska. She meets Logan, an amateur fighter known as “The Wolverine” at a local bar. He also possesses superhuman healing abilities, heightened senses, and metal claws that extend outwards from between his knuckles. Marie hitches a ride with Logan. While on the road together, they are both attacked by Sabretooth, a fellow mutant and an associate of the adult Erik Lehnsherr, who has become known as Magneto. Two mutants – Scott Summers aka Cyclops and Ororo Munroe aka Storm arrive on time to save Wolverine and Rogue, and bring them to Charles Xavier’s mansion in Westchester County, New York. Xavier is an old friend of Magneto’s.

Xavier’s mansion serves as headquarters for Cyclops and Storm, the two mutants who had rescued Rogue and Logan. They are part of a group called the X-Men, who try to seek peace with non-mutant humans, educate young mutants in the responsible use of their powers, and stop Magneto from starting a war with humanity. While Xavier, Cyclops, Storm and a fourth member of the X-Men named Jean Grey try to figure out the reason by Magneto’s attempt to kidnap Logan and Marie; Magneto sets his plan in motion with the kidnapping of an anti-mutant politician named Senator Robert Kelly by Sabretooth and another minion, a shapeshifter named Mystique. Kelly is behind a Federal legislation called the “Mutant Registration Act”, which would force mutants to publicly reveal their identities and abilities. Magneto uses Kelly as a subject for a machine that artificially induces mutation. He plans to use it on the entire non-mutant population. But a mutant has to generate the machine’s power. When it weakens Magneto during his experimentation on Senator Kelly, it becomes clear to the X-Men that Magneto wants to use Rogue’s transferring ability and the Statue of Liberty to power the machine.

I never saw “X-MEN” at the movie theater. In fact, I had never heard of Marvel’s “X-MEN” comic series, until I saw the movie after its video release in late 2000. Needless to say, I became an immediate fan. I found the idea of a group of people with psychic abilities divided by moral compass and political beliefs, and who are regarded by others as freaks, rather fascinating. I realize that the movie is not particularly faithful to the comic book series that it is based upon. However, director Bryan Singer and screenwriter David Hayter did a pretty solid job of using the comic source to create their own cinematic version of the series. The movie also featured some first-rate acting and excellent production values.

After seeing the film, I saw how the original costumes for the X-Men looked in the comics. And all I have to say is thank goodness Louise Mingenbach designed a more uniformed look for the superheroes . . . even if it involved black leather. Newton Thomas Sigel’s photography struck me as solid. His best work seemed to be featured in the Liberty Island sequence. Ann Brodie and her team did excellent work on the makeup for some of the characters – especially Logan, Sabretooth, Toad and Mystique. Mike Fink and his team received an Oscar nomination for the film’s visual effects. Fink later expressed dissatisfaction with his work and I can see why. They struck me as . . . okay, but nothing more or less. I found the visual affects used during Logan’s fight against Sabertooth atop the Statue of Liberty as somewhat clumsy. And considering that most of the movie was either set indoors or at night, I cannot honestly say that “X-MEN” was a visually stunning film.

Most of the performances featured in “X-MEN” struck me as solid. There were a few exceptional ones. The movie made a star out of Hugh Jackman and it is easy to see why. Jackman is obviously a talented actor and he had the good luck to be cast in one of the comic franchise’s most memorable characters. I could also say the same about Ian McKellen’s performance as Erik Lensherr aka Magneto. What I found fascinating about McKellen’s take on the character is that he managed to convey Magneto’s willingness to pretend that his heinous actions were for the benefit of his fellow mutants, whom he believe should rule the earth. Patrick Stewart gave a fine performance as the more tolerant Charles Xavier, who would rather mutants and non-mutants to live side-by-side, instead of engaging in eternal conflict. I was also impressed by Anna Paquin’s poignant performance as the young Marie aka Rogue, who seemed desperate to make some kind of connection to others, despite her ability. Bruce Davidson gave an excellent and complex performance as Senator Robert Kelly, whose fervent anti-mutant stance eventually softens from a traumatic experience and a conversation with Ororo Munroe aka Storm.

Among the movie’s solid performances came from James Marsden’s Scott Summers aka Cyclops, Famke Jenssen’s Jean Grey and Rebecca Romijn as Magneto’s hench woman, Mystique. I suspect some might be astonished by my description of Romijn’s performance as “solid”. I stand by my word. Mind you, I found the Mystique character rather striking – especially physically – but Romijn’s performance merely struck me as solid. I wish I could say the same about Ray Park’s portrayal of another of Magneto’s minions, Toad. Honestly? I found the character cartoonish and one-dimension. Unfortunately, Park failed to rise above the material. I hate to say this, but I have to say the same about Halle Berry’s performance as X-Men Storm aka Ororo Munroe. Most fans tend to blame Berry for the poor portrayal of Storm in this film. I cannot, considering her more positive portrayals of the character in subsequent films. Frankly, I blame Bryan Singer and screenwriter David Hayter. Poor Storm was merely used as a background character, except in a few crucial scenes. And Hayter wrote one of the worst pieces of dialogue in Hollywood history for the character. However, there was one scene in which Berry gave an excellent performance; and it featured Storm’s poignant conversation with Senator Kelly.

As much as I liked “X-MEN”, I feel that it is very overrated by many critics and the franchise’s fans. I can honestly say that it is probably my least favorite X-MEN film. The main problem I have with this film is the number of plot holes or lack of logic in the story. I could say that it is indicative of the franchise’s growing reputation for plot inconsistency. I never understood how Magneto learned about Rogue’s ability to absorb a mutant’s ability. I realize he must have learned about what she had done to her boyfriend David. But how did he learn about her ability’s impact upon mutants? How did he or Sabretooth discover that she had traveled all the way from Mississippi to Alaska? I was also unimpressed by Logan’s first scene at Xavier’s school in which he woke up, heard voices in his head and ended up roaming all over the place in confusion. I am confused. Did Professor Xavier used telepathy to awaken him? Or did Logan simply hear voices, thanks to his enhanced hearing?

The one sequence that really puzzles me was Mystique’s activities at Xavier’s School. The scene began with Mystique shape shifting into Rogue’s new boyfriend, Bobby Drake aka Iceman in order to convince the adolescent that Xavier was angry at her for using her ability on Logan to heal herself and that she should leave the school. Why? So that Magneto could have an opportunity to snatch her. Later, Mystique transformed into Xavier in order to infiltrate Cerebro, Xavier’s telepathic enhancing machine and sabotage it. Why on earth did Singer and Hayter create such a convoluted situation? They could have easily allowed Mystique to first sabotage Cerebro and then snatch Rogue from the school, herself. I also realize that Jean Grey, being both telepathic andtelekinetic, could have easily rescued herself and her fellow X-Men from Magneto’s trap inside the Liberty statue’s interior. I have already commented on the clumsily shot fight scene between Logan and Sabretooth. The former’s fight against Mystique was somewhat better and probably enhanced by slow motion. And if I must be honest, I found the movie’s writing and pacing almost episodic. Every time I watch “X-MEN”, I get the feeling that it is a first-rate “B” or television movie . . . or a second-rate “A” movie, even if it is entertaining.

In the end, my opinion of “X-MEN” has diminished over the years. It is still an entertaining film with a decent story, and a mixture of solid and first-rate performances from the cast. And I have to give it credit for successful kick-starting not only the X-MEN franchise, but also spawning a reemergence of superhero films – especially from Marvel. However, I believe the movie is tainted by some very questionable writing and a style that nearly strikes me as slightly sub par. I still like the movie, but it has become my least favorite X-MEN film in the entire franchise.

New Ranking of JAMES BOND Movies

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With the recent release of the new James Bond movie, “SKYFALL”, I have made a new ranking of all the Bond films produced and released by EON Productions (do not expect to find 1967’s “CASINO ROYALE” or 1983’s “NEVER SAY NEVER AGAIN” on this list) from favorite to least favorite:

 

NEW RANKING OF JAMES BOND MOVIES

1-On Her Majesty Secret Service

1. “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” (1969) – The only film to feature Australian George Lazenby, this adaptation of Ian Fleming’s 1963 novel has James Bond’s search for master criminal Ernst Stravos Blofeld affecting his private life. Directed by Peter Hunt, the movie also stars Diana Rigg and Telly Savalas.

2-Casino Royale

2. “Casino Royale” (2006) – Daniel Craig made his debut as James Bond in this adaptation of Fleming’s 1953 novel about Bond’s efforts to beat a banker for a terrorist organization at a poker tournament, in order to force the latter to provide information about the organization. Directed by Martin Campbell, the movie co-stars Eva Green, Mads Mikkelsen and Judi Dench.

3-The Living Daylights

3. “The Living Daylights” (1987) – Timothy Dalton made his debut as Bond in this partial adaptation of Fleming’s 1966 short story in which Bond’s efforts to stop a Soviet sniper from killing a defector leads to a revelation of a conspiracy between the defector and an American arms dealer. Directed by John Glen, the movie co-stars Maryam D’Abo, Joe Don Baker and Jeroen Krabbe.

4-For Your Eyes Only

4. “For Your Eyes Only” (1981) – Based on two Fleming short stories from 1960, the movie has Bond searching for a missing missile command system, while becoming tangled in a web of deception spun by rival Greek businessmen and dealing with a woman seeking revenge for the murder of her parents. Co-starring Carole Bouquet, Julian Glover and Topol; the movie marked the directing debut of John Glen.

5-From Russia With Love

5. “From Russia With Love” (1963) – Terence Young directed this adaptation of Fleming’s 1957 novel about Bond’s efforts to acquire the Soviet’s Lektor machine, unaware that he is being set up by SPECTRE. The movie starred Sean Connery as Bond, along with Daniela Bianchi, Lotte Lenya, Robert Shaw and Pedro Armendáriz.

6-Octopussy

6. Octopussy” (1983) – A fake Fabergé egg and a fellow agent’s death leads James Bond to uncover an international jewel smuggling operation, headed by the mysterious Octopussy, being used by a Soviet general and an Afghan prince to disguise a nuclear attack on NATO forces in West Germany. Directed by John Glen, the movie stars Roger Moore as Bond, Maud Adams, Louis Jordan, Steven Berkoff and Robert Brown in his debut as “M”.

7-Thunderball

7. “Thunderball” (1965) – Adapted from Fleming’s 1961 novel, this movie has Bond and CIA agent Felix Leiter attempting to recover two nuclear warheads stolen by SPECTRE for an extortion scheme. Directed by Terence Young, the movie stars Sean Connery as Bond, Claudine Auger, Adolfo Celi and Luciana Paluzzi.

8-Goldeneye

8. “Goldeneye” (1995) – Pierce Brosnan made his debut as Bond in this tale about the agent’s efforts to prevent an arms syndicate from using Russia’s GoldenEye satellite weapon against London in order to cause a global financial meltdown. Directed by Martin Campbell, the movie co-stars Sean Bean, Izabella Scorupco, Famke Janssen and Judi Dench in her debut as “M”.

9-The Spy Who Loved Me

9. “The Spy Who Loved Me” (1977) – Taking its title from Fleming’s 1962 novel, this movie has Bond and Soviet agent Anya Amasova investigate the disappearances of British and Soviet submarines carrying nuclear warheads. Directed by Lewis Gilbert, the movie starred Roger Moore as Bond, Barbara Bach, Kurt Jurgens and Richard Kiel.

10-Quantum of Solace

10. “Quantum of Solace” (2008) – Taking its title from a Fleming short story, this movie is a follow up to “CASINO ROYALE”, continuing Bond’s investigation into the terrorist organization Quantum, while dealing with the emotional effects of a tragic death. Directed by Marc Foster, the movie starred Daniel Craig as Bond, Olga Kurylenko and Mathieu Amalric.

11-License to Kill

11. “License to Kill” (1989) – Directed by John Glen, this movie has Bond resigning from MI-6 in order to seek revenge against the Latin American drug lord that maimed his best friend, Felix Leiter. The movie starred Timothy Dalton as Bond, Carey Lowell, Robert Davi, Talisa Soto and Don Stroud.

12-The World Is Not Enough

12. “The World Is Not Enough” (1999) – Directed by Michael Apted, the movie has Bond uncovering a nuclear plot, when he protects an oil heiress from her former kidnapper, an international terrorist who cannot feel pain. The movie starred Pierce Brosnan as Bond, Sophie Marceau, Robert Carlyle and Denise Richards.

13-A View to a Kill

13. “A View to a Kill” (1985) – Taking its title from one of Fleming’s 1960 short stories, this film has Bond investigating an East-German born industrialist with possible ties to the KGB. Directed by John Glen, the movie starred Roger Moore as Bond, Tanya Roberts, Christopher Walken and Grace Jones.

14-You Only Live Twice

14. “You Only Live Twice” (1967) – Loosely based on Fleming’s 1964 novel, the movie has Bond and Japan’s Secret Service investigating the disappearance of American and Soviet manned spacecrafts in orbit, due to the actions of SPECTRE. Directed by Lewis Gilbert, the movie starred Sean Connery as Bond, Mie Hama, Akiko Wakabayashi, Tetsurō Tamba and Donald Pleasence.

15-Die Another Day

15. “Die Another Day” (2002) – A failed mission in North Korea leads to Bond’s capture, fourteen months in captivity, a desire to find the MI-6 mole responsible and a British billionaire with ties to a North Korean agent. Directed by Lee Tamahori, the movie starred Pierce Brosnan as Bond, Halle Berry, Toby Stephens, Rosamund Pike and Will Yun Lee.

16-Live and Let Die

16. “Live and Let Die” (1973) – Roger Moore made his debut as Bond in this adaptation of Fleming’s 1954 novel about MI-6’s investigation into the deaths of three fellow agents who had been investigating the Prime Minister of San Monique.

17-Moonraker

17. “Moonraker” (1979) – Based on Fleming’s 1955 novel, this movie features Bond’s investigation into the disappearance of a space shuttle on loan to the British government by a millionaire with catastrophic plans of his own. Directed by Lewis Gilbert, the movie starred Roger Moore as Bond, Lois Chiles, Michel Lonsdale and Richard Kiel.

18-Tomorrow Never Dies

18. “Tomorrow Never Dies” (1997) – Bond and a Chinese agent form an alliance to prevent a media mogul from creating a war between Britain and China in order to obtain exclusive global media coverage. Directed by Roger Spottiswoode, the movie starred Pierce Brosnan as Bond, Michelle Yeoh, Jonathan Pryce and Teri Hatcher.

19-The Man With the Golden Gun

19. “The Man With the Golden Gun” (1974) – Loosely based on Fleming’s 1965 novel, this movie has Bond sent after the Solex Agitator, a device that can harness the power of the sun, while facing the assassin Francisco Scaramanga, the “Man with the Golden Gun”. Directed by Guy Hamilton, the movie starred Roger Moore as Bond, Britt Ekland, Christopher Lee and Maud Adams.

20-Dr. No

20. “Dr. No” (1962) – Based upon Fleming’s 1958 novel, this movie kicked off the Bond movie franchise and featured Sean Connery’s debut as the British agent, whose investigation into the death of a fellow agent leads him to a Eurasian agent for SPECTRE and their plans to disrupt the U.S. space program. Directed by Terence Young, the movie co-starred Ursula Andress and Joseph Wiseman.

21-Skyfall

21. “Skyfall” – Directed by Sam Mendes, this film has Bond’s loyalty to “M” tested, when her past comes back to haunt her in the form of a former agent, who initiates a series of attacks upon MI-6. The movie starred Daniel Craig as Bond, Judi Dench, Javier Bardem and Naomie Harris.

22-Diamonds Are Forever

22. “Diamonds Are Forever” (1971) – Based on Fleming’s 1956 novel, this movie has Bond’s investigations into a diamond smuggling ring lead to another conflict with SPECTRE and Ernst Stravos Blofeld. Directed by Guy Hamilton, the movie starred Sean Connery as Bond, Jill St. John and Charles Gray.

23-Goldfinger

23. “Goldfinger” – Based on Fleming’s 1959 novel, this movie has Bond investigating a German-born gold magnate, who harbors plans to destroy the U.S. gold supply at Fort Knox. Directed by Guy Hamilton, the movie starred Sean Connery as Bond, Honor Blackman and Gert Frobe.

“SKYFALL” (2012) Review

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“SKYFALL” (2012) Review

Before I had sat down in a movie theater to watch the latest James Bond movie, “SKYFALL”, it occurred to me that four years had passed since the last movie about the MI-6 agent. During those four years, EON Productions endured another round of legal entanglements regarding the Bond franchise, delaying the production and release of “SKYFALL”by at least two years. But in the end, producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson came through and released the company’s 23rd James Bond film. 

“SKYFALL” begins in Istanbul, Turkey; where MI-6 agents James Bond and “Eve” go after a mercenary named Patrice, who has managed to steal a list of undercover NATO agents from the laptop hard drive of a MI-6 field agent. Their assignment ends in disaster after Patrice wounds Bond in the shoulder, and “Eve” accidentally shoots Bond, during his fight with the mercenary atop a moving train. Following the Istanbul debacle, “M” is pressured by Intelligence and Security Committee Chairman Gareth Mallory to retire. During M’s return from her meeting, the MI-6 computer servers are breached, resulting in an explosion at the building that kills a number of employees. Bond, who had used his “death” to retire, returns to London and asks to return to the field. Despite his failure to pass a series of physical and psychological examinations, M allows Bond to find the person behind the theft of the list of NATO agents and the MI-6 explosions. Bond’s investigations eventually leads him to a former MI-6 agent named Raoul Silva who wants to humiliate, discredit and ultimately kill M as revenge against her for betraying him years ago.

When I finally walked out of that movie theater, as the end credits for “SKYFALL” rolled, the first thought that came to my mind was that the movie was a piece of crap. I was very disappointed by “SKYFALL”. The more I thought about the plot and characterizations featured in “SKYFALL”, I finally realized that my feelings about the movie had not changed. I still believe it was a piece of crap and one of the worst James Bond movies I have ever seen.

There are certain aspects of “SKYFALL” that I found admirable. And before I delve into the reasons behind my dislike of the film, I might as point out these admirable traits. Unlike 2008’s “QUANTUM OF SOLACE”“SKYFALL” was not marred by an uneven pacing. Directed Sam Mendes did an excellent job of giving the movie a steady pace that did not leave me breathless or groggy. I also have to give kudos to cinematographer Roger Deakins for his sharp, yet beautiful photography of the different locations featured in the film – especially for Istanbul, London and Scotland. And most of the action sequences in the movie – especially Raoul Silva’s attack upon M at a public inquiry and the chase scene through London’s Underground system – struck me as very exciting and well shot, thanks to Mendes’ direction, along with Stuart and Kate Baird’s editing.

Looking back on “SKYFALL”, I noticed that it featured some first-rate acting, by a superb cast. Daniel Craig returned for a third time to portray 007. And as usual, he was in top form, capturing the British agent’s self doubts after being shot in Istanbul. After seventeen years, Judi Dench portrayed “M” for the last time in a plot in which her character plays a major role in the story. Many have been speculating about an Academy Award for her excellent performance. The only reason I am not jumping on this bandwagon is that Dench has been knocking it out of the ballpark as “M”, ever since she first assumed the role in 1995’s “GOLDENEYE”. Javier Bardeem seemed to have been inspired by Heath Ledger’s Oscar winning performance as the Joker in his portrayal of Raoul Silva, a former MI-6 agent who seeks revenge against “M”. In his way, the actor’s performance was just as colorful. However, I do not think I will ever consider him to be one of my favorite Bond villains. I found his performance a little too showy and not very original for my tastes.

Naomie Harris was in fine form as MI-6 agent “Eve”, who turned out to be the iconic Miss Moneypenny. I really enjoyed Harris’ performance, but I have something to say about her transformation from field agent to secretary. Bérénice Marlohe did the best she could with the small role of Sévérine, a former victim of the sex trade who became Silva’s representative and mistress. Ben Whishaw was a ball as a young and geeky “Q”, who seemed more like a computer hacker, instead of an arms quartermaster. Both Ralph Fiennes and Rory Kinnear gave solid performances as Intelligence and Security Committee Chairman Gareth Mallory and Bill Tanner, “M”‘s Chief of Staff. And Albert Finney gave a lively and entertaining performance as Kincade, the gamekeeper of the Skyfall estate that belongs to Bond.

But despite its positive attributes, in the end I found “SKYFALL” very disappointing. And I believe the movie’s main problems could be found in the script written by Neal Purvis, Robert Wade and John Logan. The movie began in Istanbul with Bond and Moneypenny attempting to get their hands on the list of undercover NATO agents that had been stolen from another MI-6 agent. Unfortunately, the movie never explained how a field agent ended up with such a list on his laptop hard drive in the first place. Some fans have dismissed this plot hole, claiming it would have been unnecessary for the script to explain such a situation. I am sorry, but I refuse to dismiss it. For me, it does not make sense that a field agent stationed in Istanbul would have such a list in the first place. Only unusual circumstances could explain this situation . . . and the screenplay refused to do so.

The screenplay also failed to explain why Silva waited so long to go after the NATO agents on the list Patrice stole for him. A certain period of time had passed between the incident in Istanbul and the bombing at MI-6. What took Silva so long to go after those agents? And did “M” or the British government ever bothered to alert NATO that some of their agents were exposed? Judging by the ease Silva killed some of the agents, I gather not. I also found Silva’s plans regarding his revenge against “M” rather convoluted. From what I gathered, he wanted to humiliate her before he can kill her. If it was that easy for him to bomb MI-6, why did he have to resort to allowing himself to be captured by Bond, in order to get close enough to kill her? He could have flown to the U.K. and killed before Bond or anyone else was able to guess he was behind the debacles that dogged “M” in the movie. And how did he know she would be appearing before a public inquiry on the very day he busted out of MI-6’s new quarters?

I also found Bond’s efforts to save “M” very questionable. One, how did Silva managed to track Bond and “M” to the former’s Scottish estate so easily? Were Bond and “M” wearing tracking devices? Did Silva use their cell phones? How? And if Bond had expected Silva to track them, why on earth did he not recruit back up to help him? If Silva had men to help attack “M” at the public inquiry, surely Bond must have realized that the former MI-6 agent would have help in Scotland. Instead, Bond relied upon the aging Kincade. I do not know who to charge with incompetence – the Bond character or the writers that created this scenario. Speaking of Skyfall, the sequence there featured two graves with the names of Bond’s parents, Andrew and Monique Bond. One might ask “what is wrong with that?” This would have been fine . . . if Purvis, Wade and screenwriter Paul Haggis had not re-written Bond’s past in 2006’s “CASINO ROYALE”. In that particular movie, Tresury agent Vesper Lynd accurately surmised that Bond was a middle-class or working-class orphan, whose education had been financed by a wealthy benefactor. In “SKYFALL”, the writers used Bond’s literary background. In other words, his father came from the Scottish landed gentry and his mother, from Switzerland. So . . . what happened to the background established in “CASINO ROYALE”? Did EON Productions rebooted the franchise for a second time, during Craig’s tenure? If so, I find this very sloppy on the writers’ part.

Before “SKYFALL” was released in U.S. movie theaters, I came across a few articles on the Internet, claiming that the movie might be less sexist than the previous Bond films. They cited the expanded role of “M” as an example of this more politically correct portrayal. After seeing “SKYFALL”, I realized that this opinion of a more feminist friendly movie is a joke. This movie has set the portrayal of female characters in the Bond franchise back at least forty to fifty years . . . back to characters such as Honey Ryder, Jill and Tilly Masterson, Tiffany Case, Solitaire, Andrea Anders and Mary Goodnight. Here is a look at the four female characters featured in this movie:

*Clair Dowar MP – Helen McCrory portrayed the Member of Parliament who led the inquiry into “M”‘s leadership of MI-6. It was bad enough that McCrory portrayed the character as a screeching harpy. But during the inquiry, she was interrupted by Gareth Mallory, who “suggested” in a patronizing manner that she cease her rants and allow “M” to talk. And she did! Why on earth did the screenwriters allowed Mallory to get away with such behavior to a MP? The script should have allowed Dowar to order Mallory to shut his hole and continue her rant, before allowing “M” to speak. But no. . . the all knowning male, Mallory, is allowed to shut her up in a very patronizing manner.

*Sévérine – Bérénice Marlohe, who portrayed Raoul Silva’s mistress, claimed she was inspired by Famke Janssen’s portrayal of “GOLDENEYE” villainess Xenia Onatopp. Honestly, I do not see the resemblance. Onatopp was a badass and slightly psychotic former fighter pilot and killer. Marlohe’s Sévérine simply struck me as a world weary woman who turned out to be nothing more than a bed warmer for Bond and a long time sex toy and tool for Silva. One, she barely lasted longer than a half hour in the film. Two, Bond had sex with her, despite guessing that she used to be a part of Asia’s child sex trade. Even worse, he failed to consider that sex with her would endanger her life. But he screwed her anyway in a rather . . . tasteless scene and Silva ended up shooting her like a dog. In the end, I realized that Sévérine reminded me of all those female Bond sacrificial lambs, whom Bond got to screw before they got bumped off. Marlohe was really wasted in this movie.

*Eve Moneypenny – Poor Naomie Harris. I realize that as the new Miss Moneypenny, she will have a job with the Bond franchise, as long as Craig continues to portray 007. But honestly, the screenwriters really screwed her in this film. Are audiences really supposed to believe that her character was unsuited to be a field agent, after the debacle in Istanbul? After all, she told “M” that she did not have a clean shot, before the latter ordered her to take it. Yet, upon Eve’s reunion with Bond in London, he tries to undermine her self-esteem by claiming she was unsuited for such a role. And then . . . what happens? Eve is assigned to assist Bond in Macau and ends up saving his life. Later, she held herself well during Silva’s attack against “M” at the public inquiry. Yet, near the end of the film, she informs Bond that he was right and decided to leave the field and become a secretary. A fucking secretary? This is how EON Productions set up Moneypenny for the Craig tenure? Not once did the film ever really indicated that Moneypenny had any difficulty over what happened in Istanbul. I felt really insulted after that last scene between Bond and Moneypenny.

*“M” – “SKYFALL” was supposed to be Judi Dench’s swan song in the role of Head of MI-6, after seventeen years. And this was EON Productions’ idea of a send off for Dench? Transforming her character into an incompetent boob? They had her character making mistakes left and right. Even worse, they reduced this “strong woman” into a useless and helpless female, who needed Mallory to come to her defense during MP Dowar’s rant against her and Bond to save her from Silva. And yet . . . if she was really that incompetent, how is it that she was the only one who figured out that a former MI-6 was behind their troubles? If the portrayal of “M” was supposed to be an example of a proper female hero, EON Productions can keep it.

There were other aspects of “SKYFALL” that left me feeling disappointed. I am a great admirer of Adele as a singer. But honestly? I have no memories of the movie’s theme song performed by her. The song simply went into one ear and out of the other. I also noticed that certain moments in the film showcased Craig posing in a standing position. In other words, he usually stood in one spot – whether at the bow of the boat delivering him to the Macau casino, next to Sévérine at the bow of Silva’s yacht, on a hill overlooking his family’s estate or on the rooftop overlooking the London skyline – feet apart and well dressed. Here is an example of that pose:

31

Before the movie ended, I could not tell whether I was watching a James Bond action film or a photo spread from a“GQ” magazine.

Ah . . . EON Productions. You really disappointed me this time. I had bought all of the claptrap about this being one of the best James Bond movies in years. Looking back, I now realize that Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson had overreacted to some of the negative press over “QUANTUM OF SOLACE”, which I actually enjoyed despite its flaws. The fans could not deal with a dark and grim follow-up to “CASINO ROYALE”, and the two producers reacted by delivering a movie that could not make up its mind on whether it was a grim espionage tale or a typical Bond fantasy adventure. It tried to be both and failed in the end . . . at least for me.

“GOLDENEYE” (1995) Review

“GOLDENEYE” (1995) Review

What can I say about 1995’s ”GOLDENEYE”? For one, it marked a series of firsts for the Bond franchise. The movie happened to be Pierce Brosnan’s first outing as James Bond. ”GOLDENEYE” turned out to be Dame Judi Dench’s first time portraying Bond’s MI-6 boss, “M”. And the movie also proved to be a first Bond film for director Martin Campbell, who will return eleven years later to direct 2006’s ”CASINO ROYALE”

After 1989’s ”LICENSE TO KILL”, I found myself frustrated by talk that it was time for EON Productions to give up on Timothy Dalton as Bond and find a new actor. To be frank, I did not want them to give up on Dalton. I thought he could have done at least one or two more Bond films in the 1990s. Needless to say, a lengthy lawsuit and Dalton’s reluctance to return to the role had put an end to my hopes. I was quite prepared to dislike ”GOLDENEYE”, until I heard that Pierce Brosnan had took over the Bond role. As much as I had grown to love Dalton’s interpretation of Bond, I had always been a Brosnan fan since his four-year stint as TV detective, ”REMINGTON STEELE”. I felt certain that he would be the right man for the job.

Needless to say, ”GOLDENEYE” proved me right. Brosnan’s introduction as the British agent proved to be a major success. The man had the talent and the presence to pull off the job. I must confess that originally, he did not strike me as possessing his own originally style to portray Bond. Critic Roger Ebert once described Brosnan’s Bond as a combination of both Sean Connery and Roger Moore’s styles. To be honest, Ebert’s comments did not impress me very much. True, Brosnan’s style seemed like a combination of his two predecessors on the surface. But in time, I realized that he had his own style – that of a well-dressed dandy who hid his emotions and insecurities behind a poser façade. And yet, sometimes that façade cracked whenever faced by betrayal . . . as it did when he learned that his late colleague – Alec Trevelyan (Agent 006) – had faked his death in order to create a crime syndicate and eventually wreck havoc upon Britain with the aid of a stolen Russian weapons system. Many claimed that Brosnan did not really come into his own as Bond until his next film, ”TOMORROW NEVER DIES” (1997). Frankly, I disagree. I think that Brosnan did a very good job in establishing himself as the James Bond of 1990s, right off the bat.

Looking back on the Brosnan era, I realize that the Irish-born actor had been very lucky with his leading ladies. And that luck began with Izabella Scorupco, the Polish-Swedish actress who portrayed Natalya Simonova, a Level 2 programmer at Russia’s Severnaya Satellite Control Station. With her exotic looks and no-nonsense attitude, Scorupco seemed to have no trouble at all keeping up with the more experienced Brosnan. Her Natalya is an intelligent and plucky woman who proved to be a very tenacious survivor . . . no matter what came her way. My only problem with the Natalya character was her tendency to use the ”Boys with toys” phrase or comment upon Bond’s destructive uses of vehicles. I found it tiresome after the second or third time.

Brosnan had even better luck with the actor who portrayed 006 Agent-turned Janus crime syndicate leader – Alec Trevelyan. What can one say about Sean Bean? This guy is a true professional and his Alec Trevelyan turned out to be – at least in my opinion – one of the best Bond villains in the franchise. Because he was trained as a MI-6 agent, he proved to be a true match for Bond, as a nemesis. This was never more apparent than in the exciting martial arts fight between the two in the film’s last 30 minutes. Did I have any complaints about Bean’s performance? Nope. Did I have any problems with his character? Unfortunately, yes. Poor Alec Trevelyan seemed to suffer the same malaise as other Bond villains – setting up the agent for an over-the-top death. Shame. He could have been the best amongst the bunch.

As I had stated before, ”GOLDENEYE” marked Dame Judi Dench’s first appearance as the head of the British Secret Service – M. I am a great admirer of Dame Judi, but her debut as M seemed a bit stiff to me. I realize that her character is supposed to be new in the position, but I got the feeling that not only did the character went through great lengths to prove that she could be Bond’s supervisor, the actress also went to great lengths to prove that she could portray a ruthless and no-nonsense head of intelligence. Thankfully, Dame Judi will get better in the role.

Bond is assisted by two characters in ”GOLDENEYE” – CIA agent Jack Wade (portrayed by former Bond villain, Joe Don Baker) and former KGB-turned-entrepreneur Valentin Zukovksy (Robbie Coltrane). Baker was his usual competent self and he had some good moments during Bond’s initial meeting with Wade. But eventually, I found the character a little tiresome, especially with his nicknames for Bond – namely “Jim” and “Jimbo”. Coltrane seemed more effective to me. He was just as funny as he was in 1999’s ”THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH”, but Zukovsky came off as a little more intimidating in this film.

Trevelyan also had his assistants – namely former Soviet pilot Xenia Onatopp (Famke Jenssen) and the computer geek Boris Grishenko, who had betrayed Natalya and other programmers at the Severnaya Satellite Control Station. I had been worried that Jenssen would prove to be as over-the-top (please, no jokes) as Barbara Carrera’s Fatima Blush in ”NEVER SAY NEVER AGAIN”. Thankfully, my fears proved groundless. Well . . . somewhat. There were moments when Onatopp’s penchant for rough sex seemed a little tiresome. However, those moments seemed few and far in between. As for Alan Cummings (both he and Jenssen would go on to portray costumed mutants in the comic book franchise, ”X-MEN” with other Bond girl Halle Berry), his Boris Grishenko seemed at times very amusing and at other times, downright annoying. I must admit that he and Scorupco managed to create a nice little screen chemistry.

The plot for ”GOLDENEYE” revolved around former MI-6 agent Alec Trevelyan’s desire to exact revenge upon Great Britain for betraying his family and other Leniz Cossacks (former Nazi collaborators) to the Soviet Union following World War II. Trevelyan’s parents managed to survive the purge, but they eventually committed suicide in the face of survivor’s guilt. After Alec learned of his bloody past, he decided to get his revenge. He defected secretly during a routine mission in Soviet Russia with Bond and immersed himself in the underground world of the Russian Mafia. Nine years later, Trevelyan emerged as the mysterious Janus – leader of the Janus Crime Syndicate. And how does he get his revenge? First, he stole “keys” to the secret Russian EMP weapon, “GoldenEye”, before disappearing into Cuba. With the keys to“GoldenEye”, he planned to electronically rob every bank in the UK setting off the GoldenEye blast – crippling every electronic device in the Great Britain and disguising his theft. Not a bad plot. Of course Bond and Natalya foiled him in the end.

Although the plot seemed to have similar nuances to those “megalomaniacal” plots to destroy the superpowers and rule the world . . . it seems bearable without going over the top. And despite the almost out-of-this-world aura of Trevelyan’s scheme, director Martin Campbell managed to film ”GOLDENEYE” as a tight and suspenseful thriller with good performances and believable action sequences like Trevelyan and Onatopp’s theft of the NATO Tiger fighter helicopter, General Ourumov and Onatopp’s theft of the GoldenEye satellite keys, Natalya’s survival of the massacre and destruction of the Severnaya Satellite Control Station, Bond and Natalya’s escape from both the Russian holding cell (the tank chase aside) and their escape from Trevelyan’s ICBM train. But the piece-de-resistance for me turned out to be the Bond/Trevelyan fight. I have commented upon how much I enjoyed it. But I more than enjoyed it. For me, it was the best hand-to-hand fight scene in the entire franchise. I consider it superior to the Bond/Grant fight in ”FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE”. However, I doubt that many would agree with me.

However, there were scenes that defy reality . . . and logic. I never could understand why Trevelyan did not simply have Bond shot dead in that icon graveyard, instead of setting both him and Natalya up to be blown up inside that Tiger helicopter. Bond’s escape from that chemical weapons facility in the pre-title sequence . . . a tad unbelievable. Although the tank chase through St. Petersburg is considered one of the best in the franchise, I hated it. I’m sorry but I do. By including a tank in a chase scene, it simply bogged down the story for me. And I am not particularly fond of the finale at Trevelyan’s Cuban facility. The acting seemed in danger of going over-the-top and the method of how Trevelyan finally met his death (having the entire complex) fall upon him seemed to ridiculous to believe. He should have died after that fall he had suffered.

If there is one thing about ”GOLDENEYE” I truly hated, it was the theme song, performed by diva Tina Turner. Poor Ms. Turner. I think she had the bad luck to perform what I consider to be the absolute worst song in the entire Bond franchise. And the musical score (written by Eric Serra), with its computerized tones combined with music to be . . . I will simply state that I hated it as much as I did the song. End of story.

Despite its flaws, I still enjoy ”GOLDENEYE” very much, after twelve years. It possessed enough good performances and action sequences to be a worthwhile entry for EON Productions. As far as I am concerned, ”GOLDENEYE” is probably Brosnan’s best Bond film and Campbell’s second best film overall. And it is number eight on my list of favorite Bond films.

Memorable Quotes

“If I want sarcasm, I’ll speak to my children.” – M

Onatopp: “You don’t need the gun.”
Bond: “Well, that depends on your definition of safe sex.”

Wade: “His name’s Zukovsky. Tough mother. Big guy with a limp.”
Bond: “Valentin Dmitrovitch Zukovsky?”
Wade: “Yeah, you know him?”
Bond: “I gave him the limp.”

“What, no small talk? No chit-chat? You know, that’s the problem these days. No one bothers to take the time to give a really sinister interrogation.” – Bond

“Unlike the America government, we prefer not to get our bad news from CNN.” – M

“In 16 minutes and 43 sec… no, 42 seconds, the United Kingdom will re-enter the Stone Age.” – Trevelyan

“Oh yeah? And what are you, the weatherman? I mean, for crying out loud… another stiff ass Brit, with your secret codes and your passwords. One of these days you guys are gonna learn to just drop it.” – Wade

“She always did enjoy a good squeeze.” – Bond (on the very dead Onatopp)

Moneypenny: “You know, this kind of behaviour could qualify as sexual harassment.”
Bond: “And what’s the penalty for that?”
Moneypenny: “Some day, you’ll have to make good on your innuendos.”

“What’s true is that in 24 hours you and I will have more money than God. And Bond here will have a small memorial service with only Moneypenny and a few heartbroken restaurateurs in attendance.” – Trevelyan

“Oh, Stop it both of you! Stop it! You’re like boys with toys!” – Natalya

Zukovsky: “He wants to ask ME for a favor! My knee aches every single day! Twice as bad when it is cold. Do you have any idea how long the winter lasts in this country? Tell him, Dmitri.”
Bodyguard: Well, it depends…
Zukovsky: “SILENCE!”

“Okay, April is a spring month, but here in St. Petersburg, we’re freezing our butts off. Isn’t that enough for government work?” – Wade

“I might as well ask if all those vodka martinis silence the screams of all the men you’ve killed… or if you’ve found forgiveness in the arms of all those women, for the ones you failed to protect?” – Trevelyan

“TAKEN” (2009) Review

”TAKEN” (2009) Review

Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen wrote this tight thriller about a retired CIA agent who tracks down his daughter after she was kidnapped by Albanian criminals engaged in the sex slave traffic, while traveling in Europe. Directed by Pierre Morel, the movie stars Liam Neeson, Maggie Grace, Famke Janssen and Olivier Rabourdin.

Neeson stars as Bryan Mills, a divorced, former paramilitary officer from the CIA’s famed Special Activities Division. His 17-year-old daughter Kim (Maggie Grace) lives with his ex-wife Lenore (Famke Janssen) and her new wealthy husband Stuart (Xander Berkeley). After Kim accompanies her close friend, Amanda (Katie Cassidy) to Europe, they are kidnapped by sex trade traffickers from the apartment they share in Paris. Since Mills was talking to Kim at the time the kidnapping took place, he is able to get some information on who may have snatched her and Amanda before heading to Paris to track them down.

I am going to put my cards on the table. I enjoyed ”TAKEN” . . . a lot. It was a fast paced thriller filled with the usual stuff one can find in a top-notch action film – exciting car chases, tension, well choreographed fight scenes and sharp acting. I would not view it as an exceptional film. If I have to be honest, there is nothing new in this film that I have not seen in previous action thrillers. It also had its share of clichés that usually pop up in other action films. But I still enjoyed it. If there is one thing I must commend upon the movie is the level of global involvement in the sex slave traffic. Morel and screenwriters Besson and Kamen not only involved Kim’s Albanian kidnappers into the trade, but also French government officials and customers from all over the globe.

The cast did a pretty good job. But I was particularly impressed by four actors in particular. Olivier Rabourdin was surprisingly interesting as Jean-Claude – an old friend of Mills’ who also happens to be a former operative and now deputy director of the French intelligence agency. At first, I had assumed that Rabourdin would act as an ally who would help Mills in his search for his daughter. But thanks to Rabourdin’s performance, his role turned out to be surprisingly more ambiguous. I was also impressed by Famke Janssen’s performance as Mills’ ex-wife, Leonore. This was a different Janssen, who portrayed an uptight woman still harboring some residual of bitterness toward Mills and the way their marriage had ended. And I have to give kudos to Maggie Grace for effectively portraying a character that was at least seven to eight years her junior. Although I am certain that many actresses in their mid-twenties have portrayed a teenager, I have rarely come across many that were as convincing as Grace. She was excellent.

Liam Neeson must have been at least fifty-five years old when he filmed ”TAKEN”. Mind you, there have been other actors around his age or older who have managed to convincingly portray action characters. But his performance as Bryan Mills could give Jason Bourne or James Bond some stiff competition. Granted, his interactions with the various thugs and bodyguards almost made him seem unnaturally superhuman. But if one might as well accuse Matt Damon’s Bourne or Daniel Craig’s Bond of the same thing. Thankfully, Neeson’s Mills was more than just an above-average action hero. The Irish-born actor also infused his character with all of the emotional angst, paranoia and anger any father would face at the prospect of one’s child being snatched by strangers and placed into danger.

I do have one major complaint about ”TAKEN” – namely the photography and editing featured in the movie. Like ”THE BOURNE SUPREMACY”, ”THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM” and ”QUANTUM OF SOLACE” before it, ”TAKEN” is filled with that ”shaky camera” technique that I loathe so much. I realize that this technique was used to give a film an ad-hoc, news, or documentary feel. Frankly, I have never seen the need for to give action movies such as ”TAKEN” this type of style for action films, with the exception of movies based upon real life dramas or war movies. Thanks to director Morel, cinematographer Michel Abramowicz, and editor Frédéric Thoraval; the shaky camera technique only made me feel dizzy and frustrated. I am thankful that the fight scenes – especially in the film’s last twenty minutes – did not seem affected by this technique. However . . . Paul Greengrass, who directed the last two ”BOURNE” films, has a lot to answer for making this filming technique popular for action films.

In a nutshell, ”TAKEN” is not exactly what I would call an original film. It utilized many of the typical clichés used in action films. And the subject – the sex slave traffic – has been told with greater detail in such productions like 2005’s ”HUMAN TRAFFICKING”. And the shaky camera technique used by Morel, Abramowicz and Thoraval made it difficult for me to enjoy some of the actions scenes, especially those featuring car chases. But thanks to a first-rate cast led by Liam Neeson and Maggie Grace, solid direction by Morel and a straightforward script written by Besson and Kamen, ”TAKEN” is a tense, yet entertaining film that I found very satisfying. I enjoyed it so much that I might be inclined to go see it again.