Better late than never with the Summer Blockbuster Kickoff Ticket Stub!
* X-Men 3 -- What's not to like about mutants? I'm no comic fanboy, but I've enjoyed the installments of the X-Men movies well enough, and this one delivered competently. That's saying plenty for hacktastic replacement director Brett Ratner, who keeps things moving along nicely. The story gets a little sidetracked in half-assed teenage drama, a la The O.C., and there are oddly few battle sequences, though most are well done -- especially the appearance of Kitty Pryde, who can outsmart and dematerialize big galoots like Juggernaut. There are also some riveting moments of metaphorical grace: the image of Archangel (or Gayngel, as we dubbed him) soaring over San Francisco bay, or of the tormented Jean Gray/Dark Phoenix caught in the swirling vortex of her own id. It wasn't as funny as it's predecessors (except for Wolverine) but it got the job done. Hey, it's a comic book. Many extra points for the gratuitous shot of Hugh Jackman walking away from the camera in snug leather pants! (B)
* The DaVinci Code -- This cinematic whipping boy was not half as bad as I expected, which was pretty bad, considering the book is like a Choose Your Own Adventure for adults, with all the choices pre-made for you. With low enough expectations, it might even seem like a great movie -- emphasis on "seem," because it's at least 30 minutes too long for a romance-free one-track McGuffin chase. Tom Hanks (and I had no problem with the hair) and the Amelie girl traipse around Paris and London, following cryptic clues about art, secret societies, the Catholic church, and whatnot, pursued by a dyspeptic Jean Reno and apparently rabid Paul Bettany. Each set piece works well, and the interspersed flashbacks were surprisingly effective, but there's just too many of each, they start to blur together. Some of the switcheroos are clever, others are at a sub-Word Search level (the cryptex spells WHAT?), so take your fun where you can get it. Incidentally, I can't understand the religious controversy over this thing -- the whole "Who was Mary Magdalene?" bombshell is soft-pedaled at best, with the whole movie ending on a bit of a "maybe so, maybe no" whimper. I think this might actually have made a better Sunday night miniseries than a feature -- again, the power of low expectations. One extra point for Ian McKellen in a semi-Gandalfian turn as wise old mentor, complete with not one but two walking sticks! (C+)