Film Review: X-Men: Apocalypse (2016)

Release Date: May 9th, 2016 (London premiere)
Directed by: Bryan Singer
Written by: Simon Kinberg, Bryan Singer, Michael Dougherty, Dan Harris
Based on: X-Men by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby
Music by: John Ottman
Cast: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Oscar Isaac, Nicholas Hoult, Rose Byrne, Tye Sheridan, Sophie Turner, Olivia Munn, Lucas Till, Hugh Jackman (cameo), Caleb Landry Jones (archive footage)

Marvel Entertainment, TSG Entertainment, Bad Hat Harry Productions, Kinberg Genre, The Donners’ Company, 20th Century Fox, 144 Minutes

Review:

“[sends the world’s nuclear weapons into space] Always the same, and now all this. No more stones. No more spears. No more slings. No more swords. No more weapons! No more systems! No more! No more superpowers… So much faith in their tools, in their machines. You can fire your arrows from the Tower of Babel, but you can never strike god!” – Apocalypse

At this point, the X-Men films don’t give a crap about continuity and I don’t care that Days of Future Past was used to try and fix that. Fox still dismisses a lot of what’s happened and just does what works well for each movie as a standalone picture. Because you can’t have Angel appear as a late teen in a 2006 movie and then have him in his twenties in 1983, regardless of whatever Doctor Who timey wimey shenanigans you try to pull. But truthfully, I don’t care at this point. I sort of just see each film as its own reality where each movie just shares some similarities. Sorry, I’ve got to make it make sense for my brain or I have to just dismiss the absurdity of it.

That being said, I don’t hate this chapter in the X-Men movie franchise. In fact, I liked it quite a bit in spite of its flaws, continuity hiccups and the underwhelming way that they presented Apocalypse.

What made this film work for me was the evolution of Magneto, who is the best character in these films and who seems to be handled with great care. I don’t care so much about all the teens and the constant influx of new characters every time I blink my eyes. It’s the core characters that matter in these movies. That being said, I think McAvoy’s Charles Xavier is damn good too.

When I first saw this film in theaters, my initial reaction was worse than it is now. Having time to digest and reflect on Apocalypse, it really isn’t as bad of a movie as I thought it was at first glance. It is the weakest of the newer generation of pictures but it is certainly better than 2000’s X-Men and 2006’s X-Men: The Last Stand. Don’t even get me started on X-Men Origins: Wolverine, as I find it less enjoyable than a piranha enema.

The plot in this is a bit rushed and shaky. Apocalypse, one of the most powerful forces in the entirety of the Marvel Universe just shows up, learns all about human history by touching a TV and starts taking over the Earth and brainwashing other mutants to be his “Four Horsemen”. It was interesting that Oscar Issac played Apocalypse because it wouldn’t have really mattered who played him, as he was just a dry, one note tyrant. Frankly, he should have been the X-Men‘s version of Thanos, at least in their movie universe.

The sequence with Wolverine is, by far, the high point of the movie. Hugh Jackman only shows up for about ten minutes but it is some of the best Wolverine action ever put to celluloid. Granted, Hollywood is allergic to celluloid now.

This is an epic film but it doesn’t feel as grandiose as its predecessor. It isn’t as good as its predecessor either and I think that is why I was disappointed with it initially. But the main players in the cast add more to their stories in a good way and ultimately, this enriched the modern X-Men movie universe.

I can’t say that I’m excited about the upcoming X-Men: Dark Phoenix movie but I’ll still see it because these films still have more positives than negatives. But really, it’s just time for the X-Men movies to get a much needed reboot and join the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: The current crop of X-Men movies since James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender took over the lead roles. Also, the last two Wolverine pictures.

Film Review: Deadpool 2 (2018)

Also known as: DP2 (promotional abbreviation), Daisy, Love Machine (both fake working titles)
Release Date: May 10th, 2018 (US limited)
Directed by: David Leitch
Written by: Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick, Ryan Reynolds
Based on: the character of Deadpool created by Fabian Nicieza, Rob Liefeld
Music by: Tyler Bates
Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Josh Brolin, Morena Baccarin, Julian Dennison, Zazie Beetz, T.J. Miller, Brianna Hildebrand, Jack Kesy, Leslie Uggams, Karan Soni, Terry Crews, Lewis Tan, Bill Skarsgård, Rob Delaney, Brad Pitt (cameo), James McAvoy (cameo), Evan Peters (cameo), Tye Sheridan (cameo), Nicholas Hoult (cameo), Hugh Jackman (archive footage), Alan Tudyk

Marvel Entertainment, Kinberg Genre, The Donners’ Company, 20th Century Fox, 119 Minutes

Review:

“I was born into war, bred into it. People think they understand pain, but they have no concept of it. What’s the most pain you’ve ever felt? Maybe the kind that leaves you more machine than man. ” – Cable

*There be spoilers here!

After what felt like too long of a wait but was actually only 27 months, Deadpool 2 has arrived. I guess if I were to sum up the experience in one word, that word would be “consistent”.

The film is very consistent to the first movie but it had a few things that were better and a few things that weren’t, which makes it break even, as to whether or not it was better or worse.

The positives were the addition of new cast members and the genesis of what is going to become the X-Force team.

Josh Brolin’s Cable is everything you would want a Josh Brolin Cable to be. I think the casting of Brolin was perfect and one hell of a great move and lucky break for this pocket of the X-Men film franchise.

Zazie Beetz’s Domino was really fun to watch and while I love the old school X-Force comics, which Domino was a big part of, this version of the character eclipses the comic book version. Plus, most of the Domino stories I remember were actually just Copycat posing as Domino because I stopped reading X-Force about a year after Rob Liefeld left and the X-Cutioner’s Song crossover ended.

The negatives or really just the one big one for me was that the plot seemed all over the place and kind of aimless at times. Lots of things happened that seemed way too convenient despite the film actually making note of that once or twice, especially with Deadpool’s “lazy writing” jab at his own film. Joke aside, poking fun at it doesn’t necessarily excuse the parts where it happens.

It’s just that the first film felt more refined and more fluid. This one propelled forward at a good pace but it seemed like it was all over the place. There also wasn’t a clearly defined villain, which isn’t a necessary component but I felt like Deadpool and Cable’s first meeting and eventual team-up should have come with a real threat other than just trying to save a kid from his anger. I was kind of hoping that Stryfe would at least appear, even if only to setup the X-Force film.

Juggernaut shows up and his bits are great but he’s really just there to setup a cool fight with Colossus. Also, you get Black Tom Cassidy but he was totally wasted and just sort of a prison thug that ends up getting killed in the lamest way possible. We didn’t get to see the BFF pairing of Black Tom and Juggernaut like we got to see in the earliest Deadpool solo stories and in the original X-Force run. I really hoped we were going to get to see Cassidy and Juggernaut form their villain tag team that was a thorn in Deadpool’s side back in the early ’90s.

My favorite part of the film was the mid-credits sequence, actually. This is packed full of some really cool stuff and more great moments of Ryan Reynolds poking fun at himself.

Deadpool 2 was good but it was a wee bit of a disappointment. With the mythos getting richer with new characters people have wanted to see for years, this should have taken the franchise to the next level. They had a solid foundation, new tools to work with and a world to branch out into. I’m hoping that X-Force, whenever that arrives, takes things to that next level.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: Obviously the first Deadpool film and Logan for being the only other R rated X-Men related film. I’d also pair this up with Legion, which is TV’s more mature take on the X-Men universe, although it’s nowhere near as hilarious as Deadpool.

Film Review: Atomic Blonde (2017)

Release Date: March 12th, 2017 (SXSW)
Directed by: David Leitch
Written by: Kurt Johnstad
Based on: The Coldest City by Antony Johnston, Sam Hart
Music by: Tyler Bates
Cast: Charlize Theron, James McAvoy, John Goodman, Til Schweiger, Eddie Marsan, Sofia Boutella, Toby Jones, Bill Skarsgård

Denver and Delilah Productions, Closed on Mondays Entertainment, 87Eleven, Focus Features, 115 Minutes

Review:

Let me preface this review by stating that this has been one of the best summers for movies in a long time and honestly, I wasn’t expecting much apart from one or two films. But the thing that has really set this year apart is the smaller films, not the massive blockbusters. This film, along with the magnificent Baby Driver are two motion pictures that I will continue to enjoy for years to come. Both will eventually make it into my permanent library.

So based off of the preceding paragraph, it is safe to assume that I really liked Atomic Blonde. While I thought that I would like it and was excited for it, the film was just a great marriage of several things I love: fantastic action, energy, style and a fantastic soundtrack. Plus, I’ve always had a soft spot for Cold War period pieces, especially those set in the 1980s.

One really cool aspect of the film, is that it takes place in Berlin – starting a week before the fall of the Berlin Wall and leading up to it actually coming down. The film shows life on both sides of the wall and the cultural differences and shifts between all the people in this 1989 Berlin bubble. There is even a casual reference to David Hasselhoff arriving in Berlin. Do I need to remind anyone of his famous Berlin Wall performance, as that concrete beast came crumbling down?

Atomic Blonde is a spy espionage thriller but starring a woman, which just doesn’t happen enough with the genre. It isn’t a groundbreaking concept or anything but after decades of James Bond movies and their male dominated clones, a stylized and high octane version of the concept starring Charlize Theron was music to my soul.

Theron does not disappoint but has she ever? She is perfect as the agent sent to Berlin to battle brutish KGB agents while engaging in a playful cat and mouse game with the always fantastic James McAvoy. In fact, the chemistry between Theron and McAvoy is uncanny and I wish that they actually had more screen time together.

Theron also has fantastic chemistry with Sofia Boutella and I’m glad to see Boutella getting meatier roles because she was exceptional in this. Also, you get to see both women naked in this. Sorry, but that’s a high point for anyone crushing on Theron for years and anyone that is currently crushing on Boutella, as she works here way up to bigger things. Both actresses are stellar in this, boobage or not.

The film employs an 80s new wave soundtrack, for the most part. The music style is fitting, as this takes place in 1989. It is the selection of songs that is most impressive, however. From David Bowie’s “Cat People” to Depeche Mode’s “Behind the Wheel” to the incredibly effective use of George Michael’s “Father Figure”, the music is just on point. Even Marilyn Manson’s cover of Ministry’s “Stigmata” works its magic with the visual smorgasbord it’s synced to.

The choice not to use any music during the climactic final brawl was a good one. Despite the stylized nature of the film, it grounds this scene back into reality and showcases the grittiness of the situation. The fights are brutal, especially the last round of fisticuffs. It is an impressive sequence that not only showcases Theron’s athleticism and toughness but it proves how hard she is willing to work to create movie magic. I already respect her but her dedication to these scenes, in particular, brings that respect to a new level.

The director, David Leitch, has a background in stunts and it shows. He’s been the stunt coordinator or stunt actor in the Bourne movies, TRON: Legacy300V for Vendetta, the Matrix series, Fight Club, Blade and several others. He is also the director of the upcoming Deadpool sequel and proves, with this film, that he will be able to handle those duties. I’m actually really enthused about what else Leitch can give us behind the camera.

Atomic Blonde is fantastic. There really isn’t anything to complain about or to dislike. It was explosive and even the slower parts kept your attention, as it doesn’t waste any time on things not integral to the plot. I hope that this becomes a series as checking in with this character every few years could be a lot of fun.

Film Review: Split (2016)

Release Date: September 26th, 2016 (Fantastic Fest)
Directed by: M. Night Shyamalan
Written by: M. Night Shyamalan
Music by: West Dylan Thordson
Cast: James McAvoy, Anya Taylor-Joy, Betty Buckley, Haley Lu Richardson, Jessica Sula, Brad William Henke, M. Night Shyamalan, Bruce Willis (uncredited)

Blinding Edge Pictures, Blumhouse Productions, Universal Pictures, 117 Minutes

Review:

It has been a really long time since I have wanted to see an M. Night Shyamalan movie. When I first caught the trailer for Split, I was very intrigued. Then I saw Shyamalan’s name attached and thought, “Well, this might bring you back to greatness, buddy. Don’t screw it up.” After having seen this, I can say that he certainly didn’t screw it up.

James McAvoy has never put in anything other than great performances. In this film, we get to see McAvoy at his greatest, up to this point in his career. He’s still young and has a lot of years left but McAvoy gave us an Oscar caliber performance. Why he wasn’t nominated for anything is kind of baffling. Maybe it’s because this got a wide release in January of 2017 and he’ll be considered next year. But by that point, he won’t be fresh in the Academy’s minds and they snub lots of great performers every year.

Alongside McAvoy, is Anya Taylor-Joy, a young woman who is becoming quite a good actress. This is the best that I have seen her but now that she is joining the X-Men franchise in next year’s New Mutants, I think she has definitely made her mark and will have a busy career going forward. She certainly deserves it after her performance in Split.

Betty Buckley was superb as the therapist while Haley Lu Richardson and Jessica Sula did a good job as the other girls held captive by McAvoy’s multiple personalities.

Brad William Henke stood out as the creeper uncle. I always love Henke’s work but he always gets the hulking creeper roles. I’d like to see him get bigger roles, the guy deserves it.

The film also gives us the obligatory M. Night Shyamalan cameo, as well as a Bruce Willis cameo. The Willis part ties into another great Shyamalan picture and ties these two movies together, as Shyamalan has plans to make a film that is a sequel to Split and that other movie.

Now I don’t want to talk too much about the plot, this isn’t a film that should be spoiled in any way. But I do want to explain why this works so well, as Shyamalan has struggled with narrative in the last decade and a half.

So, the only real spoiler is that Split has no big twist ending. Well, not really. I’ll explain.

It is a good solid story, it has a lot of revelations but none of those typical Shyamalan attempts at dumping the film on its head while screaming, “A-ha! I shocked you! It’s a twist!”

You see, I feel like Shyamalan painted himself into a corner with his famous twist endings. It got to the point where a twist was expected and people spent the whole movie bracing themselves and also, trying to figure it out. Eventually, the twists became really mundane and weren’t all that shocking.

In some films, like The Village, it felt like Shyamalan couldn’t decide what to do. Should the beasts be real or imaginary? What he gave us was a bizarre and awful twist in that regard and then another twist that completely destroyed the film. The twists became messes that ruined otherwise effective pictures.

In Split, the big twist is that there is no twist. And maybe that is Shyamalan’s greatest use of the twist, whether that was his intention or not.

After a slew of films that just didn’t cut the mustard, Shyamalan proved to me and the rest of the film-going masses, that he’s still got it. He may have been lost for too long but he found himself once again. I hope he’s learned from those many mistakes because I want Shyamalan on his A-game. He’s extremely talented on his best days and he’s a director that has shown that he is much better than some of the schlock he’s put out. Split is proof enough that The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable weren’t flukes.

Film Review: X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)

Release Date: May 10th, 2014 (Javits Center premiere)
Directed by: Bryan Singer
Written by: Simon Kinberg, Jane Goldman, Matthew Vaughn
Based on: Days of Future Past by Chris Claremont, John Byrne
Music by: John Ottman
Cast: Hugh Jackman, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Halle Berry, Anna Paquin, Ellen Page, Peter Dinklage, Ian McKellen, Patrick Stewart

20th Century Fox, Marvel Entertainment, TSG Entertainment, Bad Hat Harry Productions, The Donners’ Company, 131 Minutes

Review:

*Originally written in 2014.

I’m not really sure how Professor X is alive again after being disintegrated in the third X-Men movie but I don’t care. I also don’t know why he and Magneto showed up at the end of the most recent Wolverine film to ask Logan for his seemingly immediate assistance when they didn’t actually need him until much further in the future and only after Logan told them why they needed him. But who cares, right? This is a film series littered with massive continuity errors. And the point of this newest film in the series, is to rewrite its own history, wash away the confusion and reboot the series.

I think I still like X-Men: First Class the best. However, this film is certainly the best of the series out of the films that feature the original cast from the first three films. Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen have an amazing chemistry and this film maximized it. The plot was well constructed – for an X-Men film anyway, the action sequences were pretty well put together and the acting was top notch.

The fact of the matter is, I’ll pretty much watch anything with Michael Fassbender or James McAvoy in it. I’ll also watch Hugh Jackman as Wolverine every day of the week. Mix in the awesomeness that is Patrick Stewart and Sir Ian McKellen and you have damn near a masterpiece! Jennifer Lawrence was also great, as were Nicholas Hoult and Peter Dinklage. Actually, in many ways, Dinklage stole the show. Additionally, everyone was ripping Quicksilver before this film even came out. Well, jokes on you people because he was awesome!

Going into this chapter of the series, I felt that adding time travel and a massive cast of characters to the mix would make the plot convoluted. It actually flowed quite well and the balance between both sides of the universe came across nicely. However, I was hoping to see more from the future characters; Blink, Bishop, Sunspot and Warpath were just there to really add to the action and had no character development whatsoever. They just felt like fodder for the future Sentinels and really, that’s all they were. It’d be interesting to see their characters fleshed out more or even minutely, as they were just faces on a screen dying multiple times.

I felt like despite being integral to the time travel element, Kitty Pryde should have had more of an impact or an expanded role. Her entire presence in this film was just two hours of her leaning over a dude’s head and moaning. Iceman had some cool moments but nothing all that noteworthy. Hey was that Sookie? I couldn’t tell because she had less than two seconds of screen time! And man, Vampire Bill is going to be pissed she’s holding hands with the Ice Princess!

This was a damn good X-Men movie. For me, First Class still has the lead but this washed away the pain of The Last Stand and that first Wolverine film, which I still haven’t seen in its entirety. Speaking of which, it would’ve been nice to see Sabertooth in this film and by “Sabertooth”, I mean Liev Schreiber with claws straight tearing shit up!

Lastly, stay until the end of the credits because there is a scene that leads into the next film in the X-Men series. The scene introduces my favorite villain in all of X-Men lore, so enjoy.

Getting back to the question I had to start this review, I must have missed where this was mentioned in the film. However, IMDb answers the question of how Professor Charles Xavier is alive in the future. Here’s what their FAQ says:

It is said that Xavier transferred his consciousness into a comatose body believed to be that of his brother prior to being disintegrated. Thus, we can assume that the physical body of Xavier in Days of Future Past is actually that of the body which Xavier took control of.

Wait.. what?!