Access Week In Geek: Rating 'X-Men' & 'Transformers' 3-D Sneak Peek (June 3, 2011)

The Access Week In Geek takes a look at “X-Men: First Class” and reviews a 20-minute 3-D preview of “Transformers: Dark of the Moon.”

‘TRANSFORMERS: DARK OF THE MOON’ SOARS IN 3-D PREVIEW FOOTAGE
3-D is a format that has unfortunately been too watered down by quickie studio-forced conversions and films presented as such when frankly the end result adds little to the overall movie going experience. Some films are truly meant for 3-D — most aren’t. Rarely does the format advance or contribute to a film’s narrative, and often merely adds a lot of distracting motion blur on quick moving sequences. Plus who wants too shell out extra money per ticket for this unless it delivers high marks?

After seeing a 20-minute preview of “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” yesterday, I think there will be a reason to put some faith behind the future of the big screen 3-D experience.

While major plot points were purposely kept under wraps, it is apparent from the select scenes showcased that “Dark of the Moon” will deliver the visuals that will hopefully tip the 3-D trend strictly onto the side of the filmmakers who do it right. This could be the big game changer as far as shock and awe 3-D presentation is judged.

For the third and final film in the franchise, “Transformers” director Michael Bay worked with James Cameron’s “Avatar” camera rig and film crew. Bay has taken some serious critical flack in the past regarding his films, and has even admitted the faults with his “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen,” but the man knows one thing better than anyone, and it’s high octane big screen eye candy.

For some movie fans, this long awaited marriage of Bay’s fast moving camera style and Cameron’s technology may result in what a Friday night big summer movie experience in 3-D should be.

That said, Paramount showed the opening sequence of the film, which included some impressive battle scenes on the Transformers’ home world of Cybertron that lead into the 1969 moon landing scenes we’ve seen in previous teasers.

There was a solid montage of selected shots that Bay does well and an explosive highway chase with robots transforming mid-battle in stunning slow motion extended one-take shots. Also seen was an imposing fleet of new evil Decepticons that pretty much decimate Chicago.

If you have a fear of heights, a hair-raising scene of Josh Duhamel’s military squad skydiving out of a plane and soaring through the remains of the Windy City’s buildings will bring you to the edge of your seat. Bay even had cameras mounted on the helmets of the stuntmen for the shoot.

In addition, Bay hasn’t lost a beat from his Victoria’s Secrets commercials when it comes to shooting his new leading lady Rosie Huntington-Whitely. We also see that Bumblebee gets a high-tech artillery upgrade and Optimus Prime is once again at the center of the explosive action.

Bottom line: Paramount put forth a top-notch visual preview. We, of course, have to wait and see how the final full film plays out on June 29, but so far this looks likely to deliver what truly defines a big summer 3-D blockbuster.

WEEK IN GEEK APPROVED: ‘X-MEN: FIRST CLASS’

Not all comic book movies fly high, but “X-Men: First Class” indeed sits in a class by itself. If you felt less than ecstatic after seeing “X-Men: The Last Stand” and “X-Men Origins: Wolverine,” this ‘60s set prequel to the franchise is a big step back on the right track for the Marvel mutant franchise.

The early days of Professor X and Magneto are perfectly conveyed and portrayed by stars James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender. Their shattered friendship is given greater depth, and we witness the set up to the eventual opposing sides they take regarding humanity versus mutants in “X-Men” and “X2: X-Men United.”

The film uses its retro setting to its advantage and grounds all the characters’ superhuman abilities in a highly realistic world (with the Cuban Missile Crisis as the backdrop). One of its biggest strengths is that it doesn’t play like a big budget superhero movie until its action packed final act, and instead plays more on the doubts these new mutants have as they attempt to make sense of their misfit status and potentially dangerous powers.

The standout performance is clearly Michael Fassbender as the young Magneto (the character played by Ian McKellen in the previous films). Added with McAvoy as Charles Xavier (first played by Patrick Stewart) and Oscar nominee Jennifer Lawrence as the young blue-skinned shape shifter Mystique (made famous by Rebecca Romijn), they offer up a perfect triangle of how friendships and sides can tragically change.

It sometimes plays free with what is has been established in the previous films, but with clever, well-placed cameos and several nods for hardcore fans, the film firmly sits somewhere in between an all-out prequel and a loose reboot.

It was a big gamble by 20th Century Fox to recast all their familiar “X-Men” characters, add several new obscure mutants into the mix, and allow director Matthew Vaughn and original “X-Men” mastermind Bryan Singer the freedom to make a retro character-driven film that will stand firmly along side the best comic book movies like “The Dark Knight,” “Superman,” “Spider-Man 2,” “X2” and “Iron Man.”

It’s also rare a treat to watch a movie like this and at no point have images pop into your head of overzealous marketing and merchandising departments looming in the background looking to get their hands mixed into the filmmakers creative process.

The gamble was played, and it paid back big-time. “X-Men: First Class” is Week In Geek Approved.

ELIZA DUSHKU TO JOIN ‘TORCHWOOD’ & ‘WHITE COLLAR’
Week In Geek favorite Eliza Dushku will be busy this summer. Fans can look forward to seeing the former “Dollhouse” and “Angel” actress on USA’s “White Collar” in a guest role that may not be just a one-shot appearance, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

She even Tweeted a photo today from the set with “White Collar” star Matthew Bomer.

In addition to that, Entertainment Weekly reports that she will star in a series of 10 online animated shorts to tie in with “Torchwood: Miracle Day,” which is set to debut on Starz on July 8. The 10-part web series, titled “Torchwood: Web of Lies,” will also feature show vets John Barrowman (Captain Jack Harkness) and Eve Myles (Gwen Cooper).

ANGRY APES ‘RISE’ IN NEW TRAILER
Check out the fantastic new trailer to “Rise of the Planet of the Apes,” starring James Franco and Frieda Pinto. Those damn dirty apes hit the big screen on August 5. CLICK HERE for the trailer.

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