Sunday, May 28, 2006

X-Men: The Last Stand
Overview- Includes Spoilers for entire film:

X-Men the Last Stand looks to be the final chapter in the X-Men trilogy.
Mutants have become semi-mainstream, at least in the United States—Hank McCoy— a former X-Man code-named Beast—is Secretary for Mutant Affairs, and apparently the shape-shifting villainess Mystique has just been captured—or so it seems. Jimmy, aka ‘Leech’, is a mutant whose very presence cancels out the powers of nearby mutants, through pheromones. He has been somehow captured, his mutant-power harnessed and synthesized into a chemical ‘cure’ for mutants in society. The spearhead of this is business mogul Warren Worthington Jr., whose son, Warren III, has bird-like wings that allow him to fly. A press conference is announced regarding the cure, bringing both alarm and relief to the mutant community.
McCoy is apprised of the developments of Worthington Industries, and is sent by the President to investigate. In the meanwhile, the X-Men’s arch-foe Magneto recruits disgruntled mutants from society’s fringe and begins organizing his Brotherhood into a virtual army. Convinced this
is simply a formality in a planned extermination of mutantkind, Magneto intends to destroy Worthington Laboratories: The corporation apparently bought out Alcatraz Island to use as their headquarters, and Jimmy/Leech is housed there

But another wrinkle has developed. The X-Men’s field leader Cyclops keeps having nightmares of his deceased lover Jean Grey, who seemingly died at Alkali Lake, the abandoned military facility where Wolverine apparently received his adamantium skeleton. Acting on impulse, Cyclops heads to Alkali Lake, where the seemingly impossible happens—Jean rises from the lake, resurrected right in front of his eyes. More powerful than ever before, Jean suppresses Cyclops’ optic laser-power, normally only kept in check by his special glasses. The couple embraces and kisses each other passionately, but only at the last moment does Cyclops realize that Jean is not ‘all right’…

A psychic ‘explosion’ alerts the telepathic Professor X to the calamity, and the X-Men’s founder and moral leader sends Storm and Wolverine to investigate. At Alkali Lake, the pair finds Jean’s body amidst a maze of floating debris, but Cyclops’ eyeglasses are the only remaining proof that he was there.
Back at the mansion, tensions rise among the younger mutants and X-Men trainees. Marie, a.k.a. Rogue, still cannot touch anyone without absorbing their life-energy (and mutant powers if they have any); her boyfriend Bobby, the Iceman, finds himself getting closer to Kitty Pryde, whose ghostlike ‘phasing’ power allows her to pass through walls and other obstacles.
Magneto crashes an urban mutant rally, recruiting tattooed mutant Callisto and her ragtag band of mutants to the Brotherhood cause. Among Callisto’s talents are locating other mutants and instinctually gauging their power level. Her abilities are put to the test in finding Mystique, currently imprisoned on a military convoy. Magneto orchestrates a violent jailbreak, but it is a pyrrhic victory as Mystique ends up shot with the mutant ‘cure’ in dart-form. Reverting back to her human form—permanently—she is abandoned by Magneto, but not before he frees and recruits two other mutants also on the convoy: The self-duplicating Multiple Man, and the rampaging strongman Juggernaut.
Back at the X-Mansion, Jean is in the medical lab, attended to by Professor X. It is revealed that he placed psychic barriers on Jean’s mind while she was still a young girl, to prevent her potentially catastrophic-level telekinetic powers from overwhelming her—and others. Left alone, Wolverine visits her, and Jean’s emotional side erupts, releasing the dark ‘Phoenix’ within her, and she forcibly breaks out of the mansion. She is tracked back to her childhood home, where Magneto is already there—two new recruits in tow and looking for a third.
The two senior mutant leaders try to talk with Jean, but her powers quickly grow further out of control—in the meanwhile, Storm and Wolverine scrap with Callisto and Juggernaut. Jean’s emotions reach a fever pitch, and she ultimately atomizes Professor X while a helpless Magneto can only watch. With Wolverine and Storm subdued, Jean—now the Phoenix—leaves with Magneto by default.
Shortly thereafter, Magneto orchestrates a series of violent demonstrations at the various mutant-cure clinics that have proliferated in the wake of Worthington’s announcement. The Xavier school is reeling after Professor X’s death, facing possible closure. Storm decides against it, and vows to maintain the Professor’s ideals. Beast has resigned his post after discovering that the military already has a hand in the just-publicized cure serum. Returning to the X-Mansion, he stands with Storm and Wolverine as they confront the possibility of Magneto’s war coming to pass.
The third act begins when Magneto leads his Brotherhood army to the Worthington Laboratory on Alcatraz—he uses his powers to uproot the entire Golden Gate Bridge, displacing it to link the island to the mainland. Knowing that Magneto must be stopped, the remaining adult X-Men—including Beast—bring along junior X-Men Iceman, Colossus, and Shadowcat—Rogue has left the mansion, heading for one of the mutant-cure clinics. When the team arrives at Alcatraz, Magneto has already begun his assault on the facility, unswayed by the fact that military security are all armed with mutant-cure darts and grenades. Both sides are decimated heavily, and ultimately the X-Men oppose Magneto’s forces, fighting them to a virtual standstill. Leech is rescued by Shadowcat, but only the combined efforts of the other team members finally defeat Magneto, Beast sticking him with mutant-cure darts.
Yet, the remaining ‘x-factor’ is the Phoenix. Angrily igniting her powers again, she threatens to obliterate everything around her. The X-Men evacuate their own, but many others are caught in the Phoenix’s cataclysmic waves of destruction. The only mutant who can resist is the fast-healing Wolverine, who begs Jean to resist her vengeful alter-ego. But she’s too far gone. Ultimately, Wolverine has to engage in mercy-killing to end the telekinetic maelstrom.
Picking up some weeks later, the Xavier School for the Gifted is apparently still active—though two more gravesites have been added next to Professor X—those of Scott Summers (Cyclops) and Jean Grey. Beast has returned to the diplomatic world as the newly appointed U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. The Angel still has his wings, and longtime loner Wolverine has stayed on as a teacher at the school. Rogue apparently went through with the cure, and is able to hold hands with Bobby—skin-to-skin—for the first time. Finally, somewhere in San Francisco, an old man sits in a public park playing chess by himself. Holding his hand in front of a metal chess piece, it wobbles, just slightly…

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Mission: Unlikely?
Ah. Looking at Tom Cruise's MI3- it’s a good-looking film, with lots of action and gadgets. I think the plot is mishandled, however. Keri Russell has a bit part as a protégé of Ethan Hunt, who ends up captured on her first field mission. Hunt and crew go to rescue her, but she ends up dying from a micro-bomb implanted up her nose. Hunt’s fiancee knows nothing about his life as a spy. Unfortunately, when the team ends up capturing arms dealer Davian, he ends up finding out information on Hunt. As it turns out, there’s a mole in the IMF organization. Evidence discovered by Keri points to boss Laurence Fishburne. Fiancee June is kidnapped by Davian’s followers, and Davian himself is freed in a daring highway escape. Ethan’s framed as the rogue agent, and breaks out of the IMF headquarters to go find the ‘rabbit’s foot’ and rescue June. His teammates are with him. They help Ethan break into the facility that has the Rabbit’s Foot, but Ethan ends up being captured. He eventually escapes custody, then runs the streets of Shanghai to find June- there, Davian is waiting for him, and Ethan now faces a handicap—a mini-bomb like the one that killed Keri has been planted in his own head. The fight with Davian is fierce, but Hunt wins. Then, he must convince his wife to give him a jerry-rigged shock treatment to disable the bomb inside him. Reluctantly, she does, then grabs his gun and shoots the last of Davian’s henchmen. June is able to revive Hunt, and then the whole team is reunited in the states.
It didn’t have the same kineticism as the previous M:I-2 movie did, which was directed by John Woo. I felt that the climax should have had more bad guys, and something should have gotten blown up at the end. Come on! I wouldn’t have minded seeing Thandie Newton return in this movie, as well. Maybe she could have been a part of the team, and they could touch on the fact that her romance with Hunt didn’t last. I wonder if June’s character will work for the IMF in the next film. And yeah, she does look like Katie Holmes a little. Coincidence?
Jazzy Jeff: Where Ya At?

DJ Jazzy Jeff is supposed to come out with a new studio album this year. According to the administrator of a Jazzy Jeff/Fresh Prince fan website, I may be ‘surprised’ when the album comes out this year. I was inquiring about Jazzy Jeff and KRS-One, and the fact that they’ve seemingly never collaborated over the years. Both artists spent several years on Jive Records, with not even a remix surfacing in public. I’d like to see them do an entire album together. "The Magnificent" is a tight album.. I'll have to check out the other records he's done for indie label BBE/Rapster.
I’m really looking forward to X-Men: The Last Stand, which comes out on May 26. Hopefully, it will open that Wednesday the 24th, so it will have an even bigger Memorial Day opening than it normally would. The basic plot is this: A ‘cure’ for the mutant condition has apparently been developed by a pharmaceutical company. The Angel’s father, Warren Worthington Sr., is a top executive there. He is spearheading the cure research to eventually take his son’s wings away. Meanwhile, there are psychic rumblings from Alkali Lake, where Jean Grey apparently died while saving the team at the end of X-Men II. It turns out, Jean has been resurrected—as (Dark) Phoenix. Magneto is appraised of the ‘solution’, and mounts what he feels is retaliation for a war being declared on mutants.
From what I see, there will be conflict between Iceman and Pyro. Multiple Man will join the Brotherhood, also Callisto will have a role. Juggernaut is on Magneto’s team as well. The X-Men squad have finally brought Shadowcat and Colossus into the mix, and then Angel seems like the next likely recruit. Also, Kelsey Grammer plays Beast! Here, he’s a former X-Men student/teacher who went on to be the Secretary of Mutant Affairs for the White House. I’m kind of ticked that Nightcrawler won’t be in this—maybe the next one (oh, he is in the new video game they’re coming out with).
So is Fox really eager to be done with X-Men as a franchise? Well, if they are, after this movie is done and put on dvd (I’m sure there will be a trilogy set as well), then Marvel may benefit from Fox washing their hands of the franchise. If Fox ends the relationship regarding X-Men characters, then Marvel is free to develop any further X-Men/mutant based projects. They would include, but not be limited to, sequels, ‘prequels’, and solo spinoffs. So far, what has been discussed is this: The next X-Men movie may focus on the younger, student mutants. In the X3 film they include Iceman, Rogue, Colossus and Shadowcat. In the next film, the mature X-Men would presumably play a limited role, if any. If that’s the case, I’d also like to see several New Mutants brought into the team: Sunspot, Cannonball, Mirage, Magma, Magik, Cypher, Wolfsbane. I’d also like to see some mutants from other eras of the X-Men: Dazzler, Thunderbird I, Psylocke, Sunfire, Bishop. Mostly I’d like to see Firestar, though she has not been a canonical X-Men member.
John Bruno is the special effects supervisor for the X-Men 3 movie. He says that many of the special effects are ‘practical’, or real effects. Still, there was CGI used for various stunts and sequences. The biggest major effects sequence involves Magneto apparently destroying a major bridge in San Francisco, as well as a sequence involving Alcatraz island. So, would I side with Magneto or Xavier? I can see merits to Magneto’s contentions. Still, I draw the line at blatant murder, so I could not tolerate following his ultra-hard-line stance.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Doin’ the Ipod Shuffle
I got an Ipod Shuffle for a Christmas present last year, but I never bothered to activate it until now. This is pretty neat. About the size of a pack of chewing gum, it’s one of the smaller Ipods, so it doesn’t hold as many songs as the standard-sized ones. Still, better not to look a gift horse in the mouth—or a gift Ipod in the headphones port or whatever applies here.
So far, what I’ve got uploaded:

Lowdown- Ground Zero. Great, funky indie hip-hop from my peeps C-Doc and Tirade.

Booker T & the MG’s- Stax Profiles. Beyond their standards, a set of sides personally chosen by Elvis Costello.

Four Brothers soundtrack- 1970’s Motown tunes selected for the John Singleton action film.