"X-Men: Days of Future Past" ***1/2 (out of four)
The "X-Men" movie franchise is back on track with "X-Men: Days of Future Past," a stunning action adventure epic that effectively recalls the brilliance of the first two films in the series, yet erases the disappointing memories of "X-Men: The Last Stand" and "X-Men Origins: Wolverine."
“X-Men: Days of Future Past” finds the original cast in a dystopian future where Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), Professor X (Patrick Stewart), Magneto (Ian McKellen), Storm (Halle Berry) and a small band of other mutants are clinging to survival. The world has become overrun by Sentinels – giant robots infused with mutant DNA – which have not only decimated the mutant population, but targeted any humans sympathetic to the mutant cause.
The dismal state of the world is all tied to a key event involving a mutant 50 years earlier that led to the creation of the Sentinels. In the hope of altering the course of history, Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page) uses her powers to enable Wolverine’s mind to travel back to 1973, where his consciousness would be implanted in a younger version of himself to find the young Professor X (James McAvoy), Magneto (Michael Fassbender) and Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) in a desperate attempt to avert disaster.
Employing a fan-favorite plotline from the Marvel Comics series, "X-Men: Days of Future Past" cleverly finds a way to bring together most of the cast members of the original film series in addition to the 2011 prequel "X-Men: First Class," and manages to bounce back-and-forth between alternate timelines without being confusing. The visual effects are brilliant as to be expected, yet the characters' importance to an expertly crafted narrative never once suffer because of it. It's the best movie of the summer so far, and probably the best "X-Men" movie to date.
"Blended" (PG-13) *** (out of four)
Adam Sandler has found his movie mojo again with "Blended," a wonderfully sweet family-themed comedy with plenty of humor and most importantly, heart. The key the magic is the reunion of Sandler with Drew Barrymore and filmmaker Frank Coraci, who directed the duo in the hit charmer "The Wedding Singer" in 1998.
"Blended" stars Sandler and Barrymore as a pair of single parents whose personalities collide on a disastrous blind date, yet who are fatefully thrown together with their kids on a family vacation at an African resort. The two fall for each other, naturally, but not in the traditional way we see most romantic comedies come together.
While the film has its share of stupid comedy moments, it's the infectiously sweet Barrymore and her comedic antics, as well as Sandler – who underplays a character for a welcome change – that elevates "Blended" to the next level. Clearly Sandler can handle a role when he casts aside the over-the-top characterizations and annoying voices, so hopefully he remembers how his career came of age in (appropriately) a film about taking responsibility.