‘X-Men: Apocalypse’ Review

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Director: Bryan Singer

Writers: Simon Kinberg

Cast: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Nicholas Hoult, Oscar Isaac, Rose Byrne, Evan Peters, Sophie Turner, Tye Sheridan, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Olivia Munn, Alexandra Shipp, Ben Hardy, Lucas Till, Josh Helman, and Lana Condor

Synopsis: With the emergence of the world’s first mutant, Apocalypse, the X-Men must unite to defeat his extinction level plan.

 

*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*

*Reviewer Note 2: There is a post-credits scene.*

 

This year has been a great year for comic book/superhero films. All of them different in their own way, and all of them will have their fans and detractors, but the mistake that everyone should avoid making is trying to compare the films in how each handled their subject matter, characters and plot. Is it completely wrong to do so? Probably not. But like I said, all the comic book/superhero films are done in their own way. Saying that, I hate that I’m making the comparison, but for the sake of making a point I guess, X-Men: Apocalypse, like Captain America: Civil War is a culmination of the last two X-Men films (First Class and Days of Future Past). What does that all mean? Well let’s find out.

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The film starts with what could be called the origin of Apocalypse (Isaac), set in the Nile Valley in 3600 BCE. However, something happens that seals him inside a pyramid until, of course, 1983, when he is set free. Seeing what the world has become, he sets out to find his followers, The Horsemen. Meanwhile, Charles Xavier (McAvoy) has opened his school with Hank (Hoult) as one of the professors. He also deals with new students like Jean Grey (Turner), who is afraid of her powers, and new student Scott Summers (Sheridan), who has just discovered his powers at the expense of a bully and bathroom stall. Raven/Mystique (Lawrence) is now seen as a public figure amongst humans and mutants, thanks to the events of Days of Future Past.

Finally, Magneto has moved on with this life and has a family, but with Apocalypse now awakened and finding his new Horsemen, Magneto gets dragged back into the world he thought he left behind. What follows is this new group of X-Men trying to stop Apocalypse from building a “better” world.

Like I, begrudgingly, mentioned earlier, one of the things X-Men: Apocalypse shares with Captain America: Civil War is that it is a culmination of the films before it. A good chunk of the film is built up from the events of First Class and Days of Future Past, so Apocalypse does feel like a true sequel to both films and a film you will appreciate more if you’ve seen both films, and know you’re previous X-Men movies history. There are some nice callbacks to the previous films and several subtle nods that fans can appreciate sprinkled throughout.

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The film itself is held together by the cast. James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender continue to prove that they are worthy successors to Patrick Stewart’s beloved Professor X and Ian McKellan’s Magneto. Fassbender has the better arc of the two at the beginning of the film, but gets a bit lost in the shuffle by the third act. Nicholas Hoult’s Hank/Beast is more of a background character this time around and Jennifer Lawrence does the best she can with what she’s given, but does take more a leader role by the end of the film that makes sense and isn’t shoehorned in. Evan Peters’ Quicksilver has, once again, a standout sequence and his own arc, that gives him more to do this time around, but it doesn’t go anywhere – at least in this movie, maybe?

The new cast holds their own against the veteran cast, and gives us a great hope for future X-Men films with this cast – at least for me. Tye Sheridan gives off a good vibe as Cyclops, while Sophie Turner gets some of the meatier material as Jean Grey. However, one of the big highlights is Kodi Smit-McPhee’s Nightcrawler, which we are introduced to in a mutant fight club along with pre-Horseman Angel (Hardy). Lana Condor has a brief appearance as Jubliee, but doesn’t go anywhere really.

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As for the rest of the Horsemen, Alexandra Shipp’s Storm is the first one introduced and the most interesting out of the three since she has her own story before she becomes a Horseman. Olivia Munn’s Psylocke is just a bit disappointing, only in that she doesn’t have too much going on before hand and it feels like she joins just for the hell of it. One of the good things is that he’s actually in the movie, and she’s one of the few that actually wears her comic book outfit.

When it comes to Oscar Isaac’s Apocalypse, Isaac owns it. Obviously, when images of him came out, Ivan Ooze was getting thrown around – which I hated – but seeing the costume in action and Isaac actually playing the character is great. One of the different between Apocalypse and other villains we’ve seen in the films is that Apocalypse doesn’t see himself as a mutant. He comes from a different time and sees himself as a God. That’s why he doesn’t care about anything or anyone that stands in his way, which is what makes him, arguably, the dangerous person the X-Men have dealt with to this point. And since the film is called Apocalypse, he does cause a lot of destruction.

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X-Men: Apocalypse does have some flaws. Some emotional beats could, and at one point should, have been stretched out. Like I previously stated, some characters aren’t completely developed, which is one of the missteps that every ensemble film does, so you really can’t hold that against the film. Even some return characters like Lucas Till’s Alex Summers/Havok, Rose Byrne’s Moira Mactaggert and Josh Helman’s William Stryker which have their moments but are put on the backburner to develop the newer characters. Not a knock on the film, and something that is completely understandable, but still a bummer.

I wouldn’t consider this a spoiler, but if you haven’t seen the last trailer for X-Men: Apocalypse, then maybe avoid this part. Wolverine does make an appearance in the film, and while it was awesome to watch him literally claw-up Stryker’s men. It did feel a little forced. I had no problem seeing Jackman in this especially knowing that this is one of his last performances as the character, but the scene felt like a way to lead into potentially Wolverine 3, and make us the audience know that Wolverine is a lot more dangerous, potentially, in this new timeline that was created thanks to Days of Future Past. It also adds a little more depth to the end-credits scene. Also, the scene pushes the boundary of PG-13 rating that could get fans excited for Wolverine 3, if they go the rumored R-rating.

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All in all, X-Men: Apocalypse is another good edition to the X-Men franchise. It’s fun, has great humor, and entertaining. Is it the best one? Well, that’s up to you, but the cast is once again solid. There are some real highlights and standout sequences, but the film does have some missteps that don’t hurt it, but are noticeable. If you’re an X-Men fan, you’ll get a kick out of the callbacks and nods.

X-Men: Apocalypse

4 out of 5

New Podcast: John Carpenter Involved in New Halloween Film, Rumors & More

Happy Memorial Day Weekend Everyone!

I talk about some of the big news items that came out this week like John Carpenter returning to the Halloween franchise, Disney considering The Little Mermaid live-action film, rumor killer for Spider-Man: Homecoming that involves Kingpin, and more.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to talk about the big James Bond news that involves Tom Hiddleston. I’ll talk about that next week. In the meantime, enjoy this week’s podcast.

‘The Nice Guys’ Review

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Director: Shane Black

Writers: Shane Black and Anthony Bagarozzi

Cast: Russell Crowe, Ryan Gosling, Angourie Rice, Matt Bomer, Margaret Qualley, Yaya DaCosta, Keith David, Beau Knapp, Lois Smith, and Kim Basinger

Synopsis: A mismatched pair of private eyes investigate the apparent suicide of a fading porn star in 1970s Los Angeles.

 

*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

While the official synopsis doesn’t really give you a good sense of what the film is about, The Nice Guys is a film that has a lot more going on than you would think. Not only that, it’s directed by Shane Black, who has his own style of humor and directing and the film is oozing with it in every scene. So while the description may not pull you in, Black and the cast make the film so much fun to watch.

Set in 1977 Los Angeles, The Nice Guys follows Jackson Healy (Crowe), a hired enforcer, and a private eye Holland March (Gosling), who work together to investigate a case that involves a dead porn star named Misty Mountains – it’s the 70s remember – and the odd connection that it has with Amelia (Qualley), the daughter of a powerful political figure that works at the States Department in Judith Kuttner (Basinger). What follows is a murder mystery with black humor and high jinks that not only takes the characters, but us the audience, along a deep rabbit hole.

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The film is labeled as a spiritual sequel to Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, and while that may not mean anything to people that haven’t seen Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, if you have watched it, you’ll see the similarities right from the get-go. The characters in March and Healy aren’t great person. Healy beats people up for money and March is a private eye that’s down on his luck and will take advantage of his clients for the money. By default, they are our heroes of the film, but just because they aren’t the purest people in the world, it doesn’t mean they know what the right thing to do is. They both know they have to find Amelia and protect her. It’s the little things they do that make us root for them.

It also helps March and Healy are played by Gosling and Crowe. The two have unbelievable chemistry together and elevate not only the film, but Black and Bagarozzi’s script. Crowe delivers his lines with a perfect deadpan demeanor and Gosling is a bit more of the goof with great physical comedy, like the heavily promoted bathroom stale scene. Even if you don’t like the film itself, I think we can all agree that Gosling and Crowe are perfect in their roles. However, someone who holds their own against these two stars is Angourie Rice, who plays Holly, March’s daughter. Holly is the conscience and moral compass for the characters and the film too you can arguably say.

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The other big players fall just a bit flat for me. Kim Basinger doesn’t have that much screen time, and she doesn’t pop in until the middle of the film. Keith David and Keanu Knapp play two guys who are after Amelia, who pop in-and-out through the film but interact more with Crowe’s Healy than Gosling’s March. One of the weaker characters for me was Margaret Qualley’s Amelia. She plays such in an important role in getting March and Healy together, that when she finally has actual screen time – she spends most of the film in hiding – she doesn’t really impress too much. It’s nothing against Qualley, who does the best with what’s she’s given, but unfortunately, she’s not the best part of the film. Matt Bomer appears in the around the last act of the film, and while I won’t say who he plays, it’s a bit of a shame that he doesn’t have more screen time because he’s a great character that could have been awesome to watch more of.

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All in all, The Nice Guys is a great action comedy mystery noir thriller. Yes, it’s all those things, and Shane Black makes it work smoothly with his great cast of Ryan Gosling, Russell Crowe, and Angourie Rice. The black comedy aspect works so well here and for the characters that we are introduced to. The film does lag for a bit, but the characters and chemistry between keeps those lagging moments to a minimum. The Nice Guys may not be for everyone, but it sure is a hell of a ride.

 

The Nice Guys

4 out of 5

‘Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising’ Review

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Director: Nicholas Stoller

Writers: Andrew Jay Cohen, Brendan O’Brien, Nicholas Stoller, Seth Rogen, & Evan Goldberg

Cast: Seth Rogen, Zac Efron, Rose Byrne, Chloe Grace Moretz, Ike Barinholtz, Kiersey Clemons, Dave Franco, Beanie Feldstein, Carla Gallo, Selena Gomez and Lisa Kudrow

Synopsis: After a sorority moves in next door, which is even more debaucherous than the fraternity before it, Mac and Kelly have to ask for help from their former enemy, Teddy.

 

*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

Comedy sequels are always hard. Most of them don’t work or only semi-work because they try to replicate the charm or what made them special the first time around. Very rarely comedy sequels work, and thankfully Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising doesn’t full too much into those pitfalls too much and is actually a different film with some nice callbacks and different-ish story from the first film.

The film follows Mac (Rogen) and Kelly (Byrne) as they bought a new house for their growing family, and are now in escrow on their old home. They have thirty days to make sure nothing spooks the new buyers, but turns out that new college students Shelby (Moretz), Beth (Clemons) and Nora (Feldstein), start a new sorority because they want to make their own sorority to break away from the Greek system. The problem is that they move into the house next door where the fraternity once lived. Mac and Kelly, scared that they could lose the buyers and the new house, try to find a way to get the sorority to either not party for thirty days, or once again, make them go away. Problem with that is these three are very headstrong and are all about sisterhood and empowerment. Then there is Teddy (Efron) who comes back into the fray.

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Like I said, comedy sequels tend not to work too well, and while Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising does follow some beat-for-beat moments from the first film, it thankfully tries and succeeds – for the most part – to be different and be a better movie. Comedy is subjective, but the sequel is still, maybe even more, raunchy than the first and has a probably more gross-out moment than the first one. Some jokes had made laughing out loud in the theater with everyone else, and while some jokes fall flat or just completely miss, there is a nice wave of jokes that are streamlined throughout the film.

The returning cast of Rogen, Byrne, and Efron are great and feels like they have better chemistry this time around than the first. Chloe Grace Moretz takes the Efron-role from the first one as Shelby, the leader of our new rebel group. Shelby wants to join a sorority but turns it down when she realizes that sororities aren’t allowed to throw parties in their houses, only frats can (which is apparently a real thing). Moretz is fine as the new leader along with her fellow friends and new sisters Beanie Feldstein and one of standouts in Dope, Kiersey Clemons.

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The film does have some social commentary and a theme that runs throughout the film that is centered around the new three female characters, and while the theme is acceptable and reasonable, it’s a bit too heavy handed for me by the end. They poke fun at it here and there, which leads to great jokes, but even though I like the message, I wasn’t all for it.

All in all, Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising is a worthwhile sequel that has some great laughs and run-on jokes that keep you invested in the film and characters. While the themes and social commentary are a bit heavy-handed for me personally, it doesn’t take away the enjoyment of the film as a whole. The case is fantastic together and there is no slow part of the film. Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising isn’t the perfect comedy sequel, but it’s one of the better ones out there.

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Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising

3.5 out of 5

New Podcast – Thor: Ragnarok, Spider-Man: Homecoming, Paul Feig Talks Ghostbusters & More

Who’s ready for another podcast?

This week I tackle Michael B. Jordan’s casting in Black Panther, Transformers 5, Sherlock Holmes 3, Andy Serkis’ darker toned Jungle Book film, Dwayne Johnson joining a cinematic universe, DC Films making some major changes and a movie with Harley Quinn in the works, and Paul Feig’s reaction to Ghostbusters internet reactions, Thor: Ragnarok’s big cast, and Spider-Man: Homecoming’s Villain and Michael Keaton possibly coming back.

 

Also, I’ll have a written reviews of Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising, The Nice Guys, and maybe The Angry Birds Movie this weekend. So stay tuned.

 

Like the Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/MoviePit

New Podcast: Wolverine 3 Rating, Black Widow Movie, Godzilla 2 Loses Director & More

I forgot to put the podcast up here, my bad.

I talk about all the big news items this week like the ones mentioned above and some rumors from Justice League – Part One and Star Wars. Also a new young Han Solo has been casted as well.

 

‘Captain America: Civil War’ Review

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Directors: Joe and Anthony Russo

Writers: Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely

Cast: Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, Don Cheadle, Jeremy Renner, Chadwick Boseman, Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Rudd, Emily VanCamp, Tom Holland, Daniel Bruhl, Frank Grillo, Martin Freeman, Marisa Tomei, and William Hurt

Synopsis: Political interference in the Avengers’ activities causes a rift between former allies Captain America and Iron Man.

 

*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*

*Reviewer Note 2: I think it goes without saying, stay for the credits*

 

After all the buzz, hype, and anticipation, Captain America: Civil War is here! And boy was it worth the wait. The concept is, of course, taken from the popular storyline in the comics that inspires the events in the film, but not a direct adaptation considering Marvel doesn’t own the movie rights to all their characters, and it would be really, really busy. However, that doesn’t change how great Civil War is, and how it handles its busy lineup.

Captain America: Civil War now follows Steve Rogers/Captain America (Evans) with his New Avengers in Falcon (Mackie), Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch (Olsen), and Natasha Romaonoff/Black Widow (Johansson) on a mission in Lagos as they hunt down Crossbones (Grillo) who’s trying to steal something. However, an accident happens that, to the world, is the final straw for The Avengers and causes the UN to create The Sokovia Accords. The Accords is a law that would make The Avengers essentially government agents who will go where they send them, and that’s it. No more Avengers going to a foreign land and acting as our saviors, if they sign, they will go where the UN sends them.

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This causes a rift between the team, more specifically, between leaders Captain America and Tony Stark/Iron Man (Downey Jr.). Stark believes the Avengers need to be put in check and the cost of innocent lives has become too high, while Cap thinks that the “safest hands are still our own,” and that the Avengers should be free to go where the danger is instead of others. The argument becomes more of an issue when a deadly attack happens and Bucky/Winter Soldier (Stan) looks to have done it. Cap, of course, jumps at the opportunity to protect his old friend and save him despite the circumstances and the Accords. With all that going on, a mysterious figure in Zemo (Bruhl) appears, and has his own plan in mind.

Despite the crowed feel and look to it, writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, and directors Joe and Anthony Russo really make Civil War work. Even with the inclusion of two new big characters in T’Challa/Black Panther (Boseman) and Peter Parker/Spider-Man (Holland), they give every character their moment to shine, without making it feel forced or unnecessary. That’s a pretty big achievement considering this isn’t really an Avengers movie, but a Captain America movie.

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“Hey everyone”

Not only that, but the concern that many people had when the movie was announced about the Avengers not really having a fight, but just a “disagreement” that would resolve itself by saying “sorry I hit you so hard, man,” is not really there. There are consequences for the actions these characters make and the dynamic has certainly changed among the team, and even the public, just like the events in The Winter Soldier did. Sure there is the quirky back-and-forth between Hawkeye (Renner) and Black Widow during the big brawl, but you kind of suspect that from these two, well, at least I could.

However, here is the big thing McFeely/Marcus and the Russo’s where able to do, that was extremely important for Civil War to work. They were able to make us – the audience – see both sides of the argument. You understand where Tony is coming from and why he decides to sign The Accords, and you can see why Steve doesn’t and chooses to fight them. There is no black and white, there is a lot, and I mean a lot, of grey. Nothing feels forced and everything has its place. Even if you’re Team Cap or Team Iron Man, you can feel yourself being persuaded to switch sides. Neither side is more right than the other, that’s why the film works on the drama and political side of things. It also helps that we’ve come to know the characters. After all these years, you kind of hate that everyone is fighting each other, but that same time, you may not be too surprised. Obviously, the first time we saw Avengers together, they fought each other.

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So when it comes to the cast, everyone is on their A-game. Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark is still the same Tony, but he’s more matured and headstrong than we’ve ever seen him before. Evan’s truly is Captain America at this point, if there was ever any doubt, it is going to be squashed after watching this. Chadwick Boseman carries T’Challa/Black Panther which such ease, that you forget for a minute that this is the character’s debut. Daniel Bruhl’s Zemo is likely, and already, being called one of Marvel’s great villains in sometime, which is hard to argue. His reasoning isn’t revealed until the very end, but everything he does up until that point is very slow and when it’s revealed why he’s doing what he is doing, you find it a bit genius, and leads to one most impactful moments of Civil War.

Everyone else, like I said that’s their moments, but this is a Captain America movie, so they don’t completely steal the show. Unless you’re Spider-Man. Tom Holland, who has a descent amount – not too much – screen time is great. You get a good feel for what we’re going to expect in Spider-Man: Homecoming. We should save our judgment for what we think of Holland as the character until we actually watch Homecoming, but so far, I really like what we have so far.

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All right, so the big brawl that has been promoted in all the ads was pretty damn great. Matter of fact, all the action in the film is pretty top notch. Not only that, all the action sequences feel and are very personal. I won’t get into why, but watching the film you’ll know why. But the big brawl that happens at the airport is one of the best parts of the whole film, and one of the best action sequences in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. There are a lot of surprises in there as well, which I obviously won’t spoil here, but as a fan, I didn’t think they would go there. However, after the brawl, a lot of steam and momentum gets sucked out of the film, which to me, is the only real misstep of the film.

All in all, Captain America: Civil War is one of the best films that Marvel has done. It also shouldn’t have worked with all its moving parts, but what a tremendous job by everyone involved to make it work, to make it fun, and make it emotionally challenging to watch. There a only a couple of missteps, but overall, I would not hesitant a minute to put Captain America: Civil War on my top five best Marvel films of all time. Maybe, even the top five comic book movies of all time.

Missing Spider-Man of course

Missing Spider-Man of course

Captain America: Civil War

4.5 out of 5