Massive casts like this are only possible in sequels, and Days of Future Past shows how to do it right. They picked the best characters from the original trilogy and from First Class, and swept the less interesting ones out under the rug, but not in a particularly jarring way. Then they introduced some great new characters, especially Blink, who makes all the “future” action sequences so utterly fantastic (well the awesome future sentinels certainly helped too). Fassbender continues to excel, Lawrence is still great, and Dinklage performs admirably. And of course I can never get enough Patrick Stewart. But Quicksilver easily gets the best sequence in the whole film. He steals the first half, and I was incredibly disappointed he got left behind for the finale.
American Hustle had all the ingredients for a favorite; five actors I like, a director whose previous works I’ve enjoyed, and critical acclaim. Alas, all that didn’t congeal into the cinematic dish I was salivating over. It had the humor of Silver Linings Playbook, but not consistently. The characters were strong, but not as strong as in The Fighter. The performances, however, were absolutely up to expectations, especially Bale, Lawrence, and Renner. The soundtrack was also awesome and perfectly utilized.
Catching fire is a true rarity: a film that’s significantly better than the book. The book bored me nearly to the point of giving up, while I felt the film was even more entertaining than the first. Gone were all the unnecessary detail and tedious filler scenes. Even more impressive, I liked it better than the first film, which I liked more than the first book. The focus shifted to the places it needed to, and thankfully we’ve moved away from shaky cam. After my disappointment with the Catching Fire novel, I never bothered with Mockingjay. Now I find myself wanting to see the end on film. (Though, lamentably, it’s being split in two. Hopefully that’s the next trend we can escape.)
My opinion of Hunger Games is skewed from reading the book. And not in the normal “the book was better why’d they change things” sort of way. It was too faithful to the book. This hyper-faithfulness, while I’m sure will solidify the movie’s success, left me with no surprises. But they did well with the material. The other bigger problem was the camera. Shaky camera and out-of-focus zooming are like 3D: a stupid gimmick that hurts the viewing experience. It’s acceptable during action scenes (though still better without it) but during moments of quiet or suspense they’re distracting and pointless.
This X-Men movie double-entendred its name by being the first to bring some class to the series. (Rimshot!) Most of the characters, when introduced, are sly and interesting. (Ok, maybe just the main few characters.) This allows some forgiveness after the movie progresses into the cheesier comic-book-movie style that I expected since the core characters are so well developed. The revenge themes and the civil rights allegories play out smoothly and elegantly and the final actiony bits, though displaying a bit of poor CGI, run about as one would expect (as hoped.)