‘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

May Movie Releases

Hello Boys and Girls!

It’s the beginning of the Summer Movie Season!

What better way to start off this run of movies than a great month of films. We got a lot of films to get to, so let’s get to it!

 

4th

Limited Release: A Bigger Splash

The vacation of famous rock star (Tilda Swinton) and a filmmaker (Matthias Schoenaerts) is disrupted by the expected visit of an old friend (Ralph Fiennes) and his daughter (Dakota Johnson). This creates a whirlwind of jealousy, passion and a dangerous situation for everyone. The film got some buzz on the film festival circuit and with a cast like this, I can imagine why.

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6th

Captain America: Civil War (Action Thriller – Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures/Marvel Studios)

One of the biggest, and arguably best, comic book storylines that Marvel has ever done is hitting the big screen. Civil War sees The Avengers in a rift after an international incident – that may or may not have been caused by Steve Rogers/Captain America’s old friend Bucky Barnes/The Winter Soldiers (Sebastian Stan) – causing the world enlist a law that hinders the actions of “enhanced” people. The law splits the Avengers, one side led by Steve and the other by Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.). The film looks damn great and I can’t wait to see how they bring the story to the big screen. Captain America: Civil War also stars Scarlett Johansson, Elizabeth Olsen, Chadwick Boseman, Anthony Mackie, Jeremy Renner, Paul Bettany, Don Cheadle, Frank Grillo, Paul Rudd, Tom Holland, Emily VanCamp, Daniel Bruhl, and William Hurt

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13th

Limited Release: Kill Zone 2 (Action)

This one is really more for me. A sequel, and separate story, for the great SPL – or Killzone as it was renamed in America – film, Kill Zone 2 follows an undercover cop Kit, played by Wu Jing, going into prison to catch the mastermind of a crime syndicate (Louis Koo). But when things go wrong in the prison and a riot breaks out, Kit must work with a guard Chai (Tony Jaa), who has his own reasons for being in the prison, to survive and get what they want.

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Limited Release: The Lobster (Romance Dramedy)

Colin Farrell stars in a near dystopian future where single people, according to the laws of The City, are taken to The Hotel, where they are obliged to find a romantic partner in forty-five days or are transformed into beasts and sent off into The Woods. The film has already received a mix reaction, mostly positive, in the festival circuit, so now it can find a new audience. Also starring are Rachel Weisz, Ben Whishaw, John C. Reilly, Michael Smiley and Lea Seydoux.

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Limited Release: High-Rise (Sci-Fi Action Drama)

Based on the novel by J.G. Ballard, Tom Hiddleston stars as the manager of a tower block where the residents’ life starts to run out of control. The movie has an impressive cast of Jeremy Irons, Sienna Miller, Luke Evans, Elisabeth Moss, Sienna Guillory and James Purefoy.

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The Darkness (Horror – Universal Pictures/Blumhouse Productions/Chapter One Films)

A family returns from a Grand Canyon vacation with a supernatural presence in tow. The film stars Kevin Bacon, Radha Mitchell, David Mazouz, Lucy Fry, Matt Walsh, Jennifer Morrison, Parker Mack, Ming-Na Wen, and Paul Reiser. The movie looks pretty damn creepy and could have some great horror moments.

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Money Monster (Drama Thriller – Sony Pictures/TriStar Pictures/Village Roadshow Pictures/Smokehouse Pictures/Allegiance Theater)

Kyle (Jack O’Connell) loses all of his family’s money on a bad tip from Lee Gates (George Clooney), a TV personality whose insider tips have made him the money guru of Wall Street. Kyle then holds Lee and his entire show hostage on air threatening to kill Lee is he does not get the stock up 24 and half points before the bell. During the hostage situation sheds light on a possible scandal involving the company in question. The film will undoubtedly, and does already really, have economic ties. Money Monster also stars Julia Roberts, Dominic West, and Giancarlo Esposito.

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20th

The Nice Guys (Crime Thriller – Warner Bros./Silver Pictures/Waypoint Entertainment)

Directed by Shane Black – and supposed spiritual sequel to Kiss Kiss Bang Bang – The Nice Gusy follows a private eye (Ryan Gosling) and a “fixer” (Russell Crowe) who are hired by a government officer (Kim Basinger) to track down her daughter who is being tracked down by the mob, who are moving in to L.A in the 1970s. The film looks damn hilarious and I can’t wait to watch this. The film also stars Matt Bomer, Rachele Brooke Smith, Margaret Qualley, Ty Simpkins, and Keith David.

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The Angry Birds Movie (Animation – Sony Pictures Animation/Columbia Pictures/Village Roadshow Pictures/LStar Capital/Rovio Entertainment)

Based on the popular mobile app game, The Angry Birds movie follows the angry birds from the game as they are invaded by pigs. The voice cast includes Jason Sudeikis, Danny McBride, Bill Hader, Josh Gad, Maya Rudolph, Jillian Bell, Keegan-Michal Key, Kate McKinnon and Peter Dinklage

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Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising (Comedy – Universal Pictures/Good Universe/Point Grey Pictures)

Following the events of the first film, married couple Mac (Seth Rogen) and Kelly (Rose Byrne) finds themselves once again living next to a partying college home, this time it’s a sorority, and Mac and Kelly enlist Teddy (Zac Efron) to help them fight them off. The film also stars Chloe Grace Moretz, Selena Gomez, Kiersey Clemons, Dave Franco, Ike Barinholtz, Carla Gallo, and Lisa Kudrow.

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27th

Alice Through the Looking Glass (Fantasy Adventure – Walt Disney Pictures/Roth Films/Tim Burton Productions/Team Todd)

Alice (Mia Wasikowska) returns back to Wonderland, but this time finds it run by Lord of Time (Sacha Baron Cohen), and has turned the time forward turning Wonderland into a lifeless old world. With the help of new friends, Alice must also uncover an evil plot to put the Queen of Hearts (Helena Bonham Carter) back on the throne, and save the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp). I didn’t watch the first film as it didn’t really interest me too much, but it looks like the film will take some of the same palette as the first film despite Tim Burton only having a producer credit. The cast, both voice and live-action, also include Alan Rickman, Michael Sheen, Anne Hathaway, Rhys Ifans, Stephen Fry, Timothy Spall, and  Andrew Scott.

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X-Men: Apocalypse (Action Adventure – 20th Century Fox/Marvel Entertainment/TSG Entertainment/Bad Hat Harry Productions/Donners’ Company/Kinberg Genre)

X-Men: Apocalypse will finally bring one of the biggest X-Men villains in history in Apocalypse (played by Oscar Isaac) to the big screen. Director Bryan Singer promises a jam-packed action film that asks a lot of questions and an end to the new trilogy. The film also has some detachers due to Apocalypse’s look, but I for one can’t wait to watch it. Apocalypse will star James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Nicholas Hoult, Evan Peters, Olivia Munn, Sophie Turner, Tye Sheridan, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Josh Helman, Lucas Till, Alexandra Shipp, Lana Condor, Ben Hardy, Rochelle Okoye, Monique Ganderton, and Rose Byrne.

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What are you looking forward to?

‘Fantastic Four’ Review

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Dir: Josh Trank

Writer(s): Josh Trank, Jeremy Slater, and Simon Kinberg

Cast: Miles Teller, Michael B. Jordan, Kate Mara, Jamie Bell, Toby Kebbell, Tim Blake Nelson and Reg E. Cathey.

Synopsis: Four young outsiders teleport to an alternate and dangerous universe which alters their physical form in shocking ways. The four must learn to harness their new abilities and work together to save Earth from a former friend turned enemy.

 

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

 

The Fantastic Four aka “Marvel’s First Family” is very beloved by many fans. However, 20th Century Fox has never really been able to nail down the characters. Tim Story’s 2005 film, and its sequel in 2007 were not received well and came off as too goofy and campy. Enter the age of gritty and darker comic book movies and Josh Trank brings his take – sort of – to the Fantastic Four with a movie more connected to science instead of science-fiction, with elements of experiments gone wrong and familiar characters. However, it’s all the behind-the-scenes drama that most people will probably remember from his reboot.

 

I don’t want to focus on the behind-the-scenes drama because if you walk in to the movie with all that in your head, as much as you want to enjoy the movie for what it is – which you should always do that – it will get to you. However, Trank isn’t completely to blame, at least according to some well place and reliable people. That being said, this review will ONLY focus on the movie and not things that unfortunately happened. I will just say this, Trank and Fox may take the hits, but at the end of day, it’s the fans that lose.

 

The movie starts off by showing us a young Reed Richards (Owen Judge) building a machine that he believes at the time to only be a teleporter. With the help from a young Ben Grimm (Evan Hannermann), the two pull it off. Up ahead seven years, an older Reed (Teller) and Ben (Bell) try to show off their invention at a science fair only to be disqualified because they think it’s a magic trick. However, Reed and Ben meet Dr. Franklin Storm (Cathey) and his adopted daughter Sue (Mara), who sees Reed’s invention as the last piece of their own project they’ve been doing. Reed gets to go work at the Baxter Institute where he continues his work.

 

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Franklin Storm eventually brings in a resentful former worker and co-founder of the project they bought Reed into do, Victor Von Doom (Kebbell) and Johnny (Jordan) to help finish transporting to another dimension. Seeing that the machine works, and it is possible to travel safely to the alternate dimension, the project takes a bump that they didn’t see coming. So Reed calls Ben so the two, along with Victor and Johnny, can go and see their work for themselves. However, disaster hits as the four try to return and as they try to head back the four – along with Sue by accident – becoming affected with abilities they don’t know and can’t explain.

 

For all intent-and-purposes, Fantastic Four is an origin story. The characters are new version from what you’ve seen before. In fact, the movie tries to play them as teenagers. Yes, teenagers: Miles Teller, who is 28, and Jamie Bell, who is 29, are treated as that and when we see the “adult” versions of them, they are in a science fair in school. Sue is apparently the same age or maybe older, and Johnny is able to drive – the first time we see him he’s street racing – and tells his father during an encounter later in the movie that he’s in adult. Victor is the most notable adult of the five. The age issue is probably a small thing, and not the worse part of this movie, but it is odd once you think about it.

 

The nice thing about the film is, for the most part, you know who these characters are. Reed wants his work to mean something and do good for everyone, he’s not doing it for the fame. Sue wants the same thing, but goes about it for own way. Johnny wants to be his own man and doesn’t want to really follow in his father’s footsteps although he could. Victor is driven by ambition and doesn’t want his work to be messed with by anyone, especially the government.

 

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The least developed character at the start is Ben Grimm. The only thing we get from his character is that he comes from a poor income family and gets beaten up by his older brother. Once he gets turned into The Thing he becomes angry, but, he uses his anger. It’s hard to talk about it because I don’t want to get into spoilers, but there is a single shot that connects to what he’s been up to since turning The Thing, that I thought would be a great place to go and have that be a new character trait or something that can change the character that we’ve known for ages. But, no, instead it gets tossed aside and it never mentioned again.

 

I’ll say this, the first two-thirds of the movie work, even with the middle of the movie being a bit sluggish and unbalanced. Fantastic Four is a filled with action. Instead it brings the focus to the characters and dealing with their newfound abilities. Instead of automatically embracing it, they are actually scarred, especially Ben, who of course gets the worse of it. The film jumps a year after they get their powers and sees them be able to use them. It did irk me that we couldn’t see the actual scenes of them learning how to use their powers because it would have given us an extra layer to attach to, but as is some of the rest of the movie, a missed opportunity.

 

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Now, that’s the first two-thirds, and again, it isn’t that bad as many are saying it is. It’s not perfect. However, the final act of the movie is what really hurts Fantastic Four, so much so that no matter how hard I tried to not think of the behind-the-scenes problems, I thought of them, and you can clearly see some of the problems. Moreover, the final act is way too rushed and kills any sort of potential and monument the movie had. It’s almost a shame to say, because you obviously you want a movie to end strong, but Fantastic Four’s ending feels like they were doing too much in little time.

 

The cast does okay with what they are given. Miles Teller is pretty reserved here and doesn’t step foot into the typical leadership role until the very end. Kate Mara’s Sue Storm has her very brief moments to shine, but gets a little stronger as the movie goes on. Jaime Bell, again, is one of the most underdeveloped characters as human Ben Grimm and even The Thing. There was some great potential for his character, but they don’t do anything with it. Also, the CGI-d Thing isn’t too bad. It’s probably the best effect the movie has, which is saying something because some of the CGI is a bit wonky in areas.

 

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Michael B. Jordan is okay as Johnny Storm aka The Human Torch. He a certain attitude to him that makes sense when you look at everything that he goes through. Of course, everyone was up in arms when he was cast as Johnny and the question of race came up – along with some disturbing and disgusting comments – but no one batted in eye when Reg E. Cathey was cast as Franklin Storm. Anyway, the stupid argument of race doesn’t even matter at the end since Sue is the one that’s actually adopted. The adoption is bought up about twice, never to full effect, but it almost doesn’t matter. Which brings me to my next point.

 

The four never really feel like a full fledge team. Instead when they face Doom at the end, it feels like they are just teaming up because Doom is trying to kill everyone on Earth. Even when the movie tries to make it seem like they’ve always been together as a group, it feels forced. Yes, the argument could be made that it is an origin story and this is how they become the team or they haven’t earned the team at this point, but considering Sue and Johnny are supposed to be siblings, and Ben and Reed are suppose to be best childhood friends – although they only have a few scenes together and some don’t even work – the group doesn’t blend well together.

 

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As for Toby Kebbell’s Victor Von Doom aka Dr. Doom, or just Doom, well, let’s just say that it isn’t all that great. Kebbell is a great actor and is finally getting some recognition for that, but wow, did Fox mess this up. I’m even going to say that Victor is a better character than Doom, and Doom has superpowers! Maybe it was because there isn’t enough Doom in the movie, and even his short screentime isn’t the best. I think if his look was different, than the scenes of him using his powers could have been more terrifying. I’m indifferent about the look, only because of the way they went about making the look. Unfortunately, even Kebbell couldn’t save the character.

 

Reg E. Cathey is highly misused here and no thanks to some weird editing – most likely by Fox when the kicked Trank out of the editing process – is robbed of what could have been a great scene with Jordan before the final act. Tim Blake Nelson plays a greedy government official that chews up any scene he’s in, but the role is wasted on Nelson, who is a great actor, because it really adds nothing, other than have a human antagonist opposite Doom.

 

All in all, Fantastic Four is not as bad as people and critics are saying. The movie isn’t fantastic (sorry, I had to), but it isn’t terrible either. The final act of the movie does hurt the film a lot because of how rushed it feels and the terrible structure of it. The behind-the-scenes drama coming out does hurt the film a bit, but only because it is extremely noticeable in a lot of places. Also, there are quite a few shots in the trailer that seemed really cool that aren’t even in the movie! So be ready for that. Yes, Fox and Josh Trank will take the hit, but it is us the fans that suffer from all the drama. So is Fantastic Four worth watching? In most cases it is, and then the ending comes around, and then it isn’t.

 

Fantastic Four

2.5 out of 5

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August Movie Releases

Can you believe it’s already August? Seriously, where has the all the time gone geez. Anyway, August is filled some films that could have potential. It’s also the last month of the Summer Movie Season, also known to some as studios’ “dump month”  or just dumping movies they don’t have complete faith in. Let’s hope that it is not the true case.

 

 

7th

Limited Releases: Dark Places & The Diary of a Teenager Girl

 

Ricki and the Flash

Everyone’s favorite Meryl Streep goes a little against type playing a rock-and-roll musician who left home and her family to follow her dreams, but returns home when her daughter’s, played by Mamie Gummer, husband leaves her. I like Meryl Streep as much as the next person, but I feel like I’ve watched the whole movie on the trailer. So maybe avoid the full trailer if you want to watch it. The film also stars Sebastian Stan, Rick Springfield, Audra McDonald, and Kevin Kline.

 

Shaun the Sheep Movie

A stop-motion movie based on TV show of the same name which follows titular character Shaun trying to get some of his friends back to the farm. The adventure leads to Shaun and some of his other sheep friends to the “Big City.” I’ve actually heard of the show in passing but never watched it for myself, but I like stop-motion work so I might give this a shot.

 

The Gift

Jason Bateman, Joel Edgerton and Rebecca Hall star in this mystery thriller as a married couple’s (Bateman and Hall) lives get thrown into a tailspin after an old acquaintance (Edgerton) from the husband’s past brings gifts and starts to act mysteriously around the couple. This one kind of popped out of nowhere for me. The cast is great and I’m interested to see what exactly the mystery is and hoping it’s not too cliché.

 

Fantastic Four

Fox is giving another go at the most popular family in comic book history. The movie is directed by Josh Trank (Chronicle) and is taking the grittier approach from the first look at the trailers. The movie is taking a lot of crap because of the tonal shift, the weird casting, changing Dr. Doom’s name and origin, and the race changing of Johnny Storm/The Human Torch being played by Michael B. Jordan (although I don’t remember anyone giving any flake to Reg E. Cathey for playing Franklin Storm, the father of Johnny and Sue Storm (Kate Mara)). Nonetheless, the movie could end up surprising us, so let’s see what they bring to the table. The film also stars Miler Teller, Jamie Bell, and Toby Kebbell.

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14th

Underdogs

An animated film that is pretty self-explanatory. The film follows Amadeo, a local top Foosball player, as his town is about to be taken over by an old rival. Amadeo challenges his rival to a game of real soccer; the catch is that Amadeo has help from the players in his Foosball table that have come to life. The movie looks okay, I’m not really excited for it too much, but I’m sure it’ll find an audience.  Rupert Grint, Ariana Grande, Nicholas Hoult, Anthony Head, John Leguizamo, and Belle Throne voice the cast.

 

Straight Outta Compton

The biopic about one of the most popular and outspoken groups in music history: N.W.A. The film has been in the works for a few years now, but it wasn’t until recently that it started to pick up steam, and now, we’re finally getting it. The movie is being produced by members Dr. Dre and Ice Cube, so we can expect something close to and maybe some sort of inside look to the group life we didn’t know. The movie also feels a little more personal since Ice Cube’s son is being played by his actual son. The rest of the cast is filled out by only a few familiar faces like Paul Giamatti playing the group’s manager, Jerry Heller, but is filled with most newcomers to the scene like Corey Hawkins (Dr. Dre), Jason Mitchell (Eazy-E), Neil Brown Jr. (Dj Yella), Aldis Hodge (MC Ren), R. Marcos Taylor (Suge Knight) and Alexandra Shipp (Kim).

 

The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

Superman and The Lone Ranger partner up, well at least the actors. The film is based on the show of the same name that ran from the mid 60s about a CIA agent (Henry Cavill) and a KGB operative (Armie Hammer) have to work together to stop an organization from setting off a nuclear weapon. The film is directed by Guy Ritchie and the film does have his style all over it, so let’s hope that The Man from U.N.C.L.E. is good enough especially with the rest of the cast of Alicia Vikander, Elizabeth Debicki, Jared Harris and Hugh Grant.

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21st

American Ultra

Max Landis wrote this film that stars Jesse Eisenberg as a stoner store clerk that actually happens to be a sleeper government agent, but his programming is phased because of all the drugs. Trouble brews when he becomes a target and the government also captures his girlfriend (Kristen Stewart). I’m going to watch the movie, but I’m actually a little tired of seeing Eisenberg playing a stoner-like character. The rest of the cast fills out to Topher grace, Walton Goggins, Connie Britton, John Leguizamo, Tony Hale, and Bill Pullman.

 

Hitman: Agent 47

Fox has decided to reboot their video game adaptation of Hitman. This time the film is called Hitman: Agent 47 which sees the titled agent (played by Rupert Friend) teaming up with a woman to help her find her father, who may have had a hand on creating the program that made him an assassin. I had no problem with the last film – it had its moments – but I will say this reboot looks pretty action-heavy. Friend is from the Showtime show Homeland, which he’s pretty good in and I think he’s going to nail to nail this role. The rest of the cast is Hannah Ware, playing the woman mentioned earlier, Thomas Kretschmann, Emilio Rivera, Ciaran Hinds, and Zachary Quinto.

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28th

Limited Release: Z for Zachariah

The film opened at the Toronto Film Festival to rave reviews and with three strong leads – and possibly the only cast members – I can see why. The film follows three survivors (Margot Robbie, Chiwetel Ejifor and Chris Pine) who are bought together after a disaster wipes out civilization. The film isn’t going to be like most post-apocalyptic films, as the movie looks to be a straightforward drama with some thriller aspects thrown in.  Can’t wait to see it.

 

We Are Your Friends

Zac Efron plays an aspiring DJ who looks to make it in the electronic music (EMD) scene. The trailer doesn’t do too much for me to be honest. It’s not even that I’m not a huge fan of EMD, but the trailer doesn’t make the movie seem that appealing. The rest of the cast is filled out by Emily Ratajokwski, Jon Bernthal, Jonny Weston, Shiloh Fernandez, and Wes Bentley.

 

Sinister 2

The horror sequel will see the urban legend Bughuul return to haunt a new family of a single mother (Shannyn Sossamon) and her two sons. The movie is said to have Bughuul involved more – possibly even more about his history, along with the spirits of his past children victims. The only help they have will be from the returning character of Deputy So & So (James Ransone). I don’t know how I feel about the movie after watching the first trailer. Not because it didn’t look any good, but because it looks like it gave just a tad bit too much away. Although, the last film looked like it gave a tad bit much in the trailers, but it didn’t.

 

Regression

Emma Watson and Ethan Hawke star in this suspense thriller that finds a detective (Hawke) trying to solve a mysterious case that involves a girl (Watson), her family and a possible cult. I didn’t know too much about the movie, but once the trailer came out I was fully on board. The trailer is creepy and it looks like the film will keep us guessing until the very end.

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So, what are you looking forward to?

My Best/Favorite Movies of the Year 2014

It’s the end of the year boys and girls, you know what that means? It’s list time!!

 

There were some good movies and films that came out this year, and then there were movies and films that I highly enjoyed that made the list too. The list really ranges all over the place, so you’ll see a wide array of titles. But, of course, this is my list and my opinion so your list might be different and obviously it is okay.

 

The list will have the movies in alphabetical order, just to be fair, and because I really don’t want to go through the trouble anymore of picking a number one because it would be really tough.

 

Movies That I Missed That I Wanted to Watch

Wild

The Theory of Everything

Inherent Vice & American Sniper (although it was only a limited release around here)

How to Train Your Dragon 2

Joe

A Fantastic Fear of Everything

Bad Words

Under the Skin

Cold in July

Life Itself

Wish I Was Here

Magic in the Moonlight

Frank

Starred Up

The Skeleton Twins

Hector and the Search for Happiness

Tusk

Kill the Messenger

The Judge

Laggies

Horns

Rosewater

The Babadook

Stretch

Unbroken

 

(To watch a video form of the list, you can go here: )

 

Just Missed The List:

A Most Wanted Man: I love movies that keep me thinking until the end. A Most Wanted Man had elements of that but it was also of the great performance of Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Rachel McAdams, and Willem Dafoe. It was odd to hear all of them put on German accents but that’s just being nitpicky right?

 

Boyhood: Don’t get me wrong, Richard Linklater’s twelve-year film following a boy from childhood to adulthood was a great experiment to see unfold. The movie had some great things in it but at the end of year, against some of the other movies that I’ve seen; I had to barely leave it off the list.

 

Nightcrawler: While Jake Gyllenhaal gave one of the best performance’s I’ve ever seen him do and his character is so complex in a compelling and frightening way, Nightcrawler was a mixed bag and while there are gaps of great scenes and what seems like unnecessary filler.

 

The Drop: While the film was filled with strong performances all around (Tom Hardy, Noomi Rapace, Matthis Schoenaerts, and the late James Gandolfini in his last finished role), the film compared to the others is just a tad bit under the others.

 

The Rover: David Michod’s not really apocalyptic story has Guy Pearce playing a loner gets his car stolen and is eventually left with one of the thieves’ brother (Robert Pattinson) and goes after them. That’s about it for the movie. After that there really isn’t a plot and you’ll mostly catch things on second watch, but performances by Pearce and surprisingly Pattinson makes the movie watchable the first time around.

 

Whiplash: Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons gave great performances in the drama where a young man tries to become a great jazz drummer and meets his match with a well known instructor that pushes him to his limits. Again, the performances make the film worthwhile and the last performance of the movie is what the film really builds up to, but Whiplash does have some moments and decisions that made me question it.

 

Honorable Mentions

300: Rise of an Empire

Birdman

Edge of Tomorrow

Foxcatcher

Her

John Wick

Lone Survivor

The Book of Life

The Guest

The Purge: Anarchy

This Is Where I Leave You

X-Men: Days of Future Past

 

Best/Favorite Movies of the Year

Begin Again

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I hardly knew anything, if at all, about Begin Again before I saw the trailer and final film. I was completely surprised and floored by how good the film was and the original soundtrack they made for it was fantastic.

 

Big Hero 6

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Disney’s first Marvel animated property came in the form of a group that no one really knew about and they turned it into their own thing. Disney followed their formula and created a movie that tons of fun and full of heart. It also doesn’t hurt that they created a loveable character of Baymax.

 

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

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I think we all would be lying to ourselves if we thought Captain America: The Winter Soldier was going to be that great. Marvel and the Russo Brothers turned Captain America into a spy thriller with just some comic book elements and made – and dare I say this – the best Marvel film to date.

 

Chef

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2014 has been slightly dubbed the year of comedian actors trying to the public take them seriously. Chris Rock did it with Top Five but the best example for me would be Jon Favreau’s Chef. Favreau wrote, directed, and starred in this uplifting dramedy about a chef and father trying to find his passion again and trying to reconnect with his son. Favreau showed that he handle every aspect of filmmaking and you can tell that he has also found his passion for filmmaking doing an independent film.

 

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

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There is something to be said that Dawn of the Planet of the Apes turned out better than Rise of the Planet of the Apes since Rise was a very well done film that probably shouldn’t have been as good as it was. Dawn continued and elevated what made Rise good and expanded on them. Andy Serkis also continues to prove that he is the master of motion capture and can probably out act a real actor, but now has some competition with Toby Kebbell who played Koba and gave Serkis a run for his money. Finally, that siege scene was a work of art and fantastic to watch.

 

Godzilla

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Godzilla didn’t get a lot love, and I’ll even admit there were parts that made it uneven but the whole movie was an adventure and seeing “The King of the Monsters” back on screen was a sight to see.

 

Gone Girl

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Talk about a total mind-twisting film. Gone Girl had me guessing throughout the whole thing and if you knew what was going on, 1) I’d say you read the book or 2) you’re covering it up. Rosamund Pike was fantastic in this and I’m glad more people got to see how good of an actress she is.

 

Guardians of the Galaxy

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Much to everyone’s surprise, Marvel pulled this off. Dubbed “Marvel’s Biggest Risk to Date” Guardians of the Galaxy had it all: humor, action, heart, and a great soundtrack. The whole cast held their own and this showed us that Chris Pratt and Dave Bautista are going to be bonafide movie stars.

 

Interstellar

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I like Christopher Nolan and there are some people that don’t like for whatever reasons they have. Which is fine since that’s the way the world works, but I do know some people out there don’t like him for the hell of it. Anyway, Interstellar probably isn’t the best Nolan film but it’s still a good one and visually it’s Nolan’s best. Even if you didn’t like the premise you have to at least appreciate the acting from Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, David Gyasi and the youngest and probably best actor of the film Mackenzie Foy.

 

Locke

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If you wanted to stare at Tom Hardy for eighty-five minutes as he drives a car, then Locke was the movie for you. Seriously, the whole movie takes places in a car on one night with Hardy talking to various characters over his phone. Hardy is compelling and gives one of his best performances of his career and one of the best his year. I know it doesn’t so like much but believe me, check this out when you get the chance.

 

Snowpiercer

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Most post-apocalyptic movies (good ones anyway) are usually bleak, dark and somewhat morbid. Joon-ho Bong first American film was all of those and with a great cast behind him of Chris Evans, Kang-ho Song, Tilda Swinton, Ah-sung Ko, and Jamie Bell, the film was great from start to finish.

 

The Grand Budapest Hotel

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Wes Anderson is one of those directors not everyone gets, and I’ll admit I was one of them early on. However, I have quickly become a fan of his and his films, and The Grand Budapest Hotel is one of those films. I don’t think I laughed as hard as I did in theaters this year when watching this. It’s a great quirky film with laughs, mystery and romance.

 

The Imitation Game

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Based on the real life and accomplishment of English mathematician Alan Turing who cracked the Enigma code during WWII, The Imitation Game is a great drama with great performances by Keira Knightley, Matthew Goode, and Rory Kinnear. But all of them are lead by Benedict Cumberbatch, who gives one of the best performances of the year and completely embodies the character so well that you really want to see him succeed and feel for him at the end.

 

The LEGO Movie

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Another movie that probably shouldn’t have worked, The LEGO Movie directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller managed to pull off a great movie based a huge product that literally has no story to it. The LEGO Movie has so many layers to it that every time I watch it I find something new to love. Everything is Awesome!

 

The Raid 2

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I didn’t think it would be possible for Gareth Evans to top what he did in the first The Raid, but wow, was I wrong. The Raid 2 might be one of the best action films of the year, if not the best. I know a lot of people were irked by how slow things moved, but looking at how all the things turned out, all that build up made the ending so satisfying

 

So what is on your list? What do you think of my list?

 

Happy New Year!

and here’s to another great year of movies

‘Big Hero 6’ Review

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Dir: Don Hall & Chris Williams

Cast: Scott Adsit, Ryan Potter, Daniel Henney, T.J. Miller, Jamie Chung, Damon Wayans Jr., Genesis Rodriguez, James Cromwell, Alan Tudyk, and Maya Rudolph

Synopsis: The special bond that develops between plus-sized inflatable robot Baymax, and prodigy Hiro Hamada, who team up with a group of friends to form a band of hig-tech heroes.

 

 

 

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

 

 

If you were surprised to see that Big Hero 6 was based off a Marvel comic, you are not the only one. While not the most well known group of heroes, Big Hero 6 is the first animated movie that Disney has taken on and it is glorious.

 

Set in the futuristic city of San Fransokyo, the movie follows Hiro Hamada (Potter), a robotic genius that instead of putting his talents to good use and going to school spends his time robot fighting for money. His older and equally as smart brother Tadashi (Henney) finally has enough and takes him to the university his goes to show Hiro the potential he can have and what he can really do. Hiro goes with the idea and enters a competition to get into the school by creating “microbots.” Hiro’s creation could be used for multiple things like transportation and construction.

 

However, tragedy strikes and Hiro is left with Tadashi’s invention, a gentle nursing robot named Baymax (Adsit). The two discover a mysterious figure has gotten his hands on Hiro’s microbots and is using them. In order to stop him, they recruit some of Tadashi’s friends Go Go (Chung), Fred (Miller), Honey Lemon (Rodriguez), and Wasabi (Wayans Jr.) to use their scientific skills to become superheroes.

 

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While the group does eventually become superheroes, they don’t really have powers per say. Their superpower happens to be that they’re really smart and use it to their advantage. One character even says “we’re not superheroes, we’re nerds!” which reminds you that these characters are human (in the movie world anyway) and when they finally go up against the bad guy there is a real danger.

 

The supporting characters are great. Go Go is punky and always let’s you know what’s on her mind, Wasabi is a well-built guy that is overly-precious, Honey Lemon is a goofy and the gentle soul of the group, and finally there is Fred, who is a somewhat of a slacker but has a wild imagination and a heart of gold.

 

But the real focus of this movie is between Hiro and Baymax. Their relationship grows from their first time they meet. Baymax isn’t really like other robots we’ve seen. His sole purpose is to be nurturing and then power down. His exterior is like a giant marshmallow – which is really made of soft vinyl – and even though he looks huge he’s not the strongest robot out there – although he can lift up to a thousand pounds. He’s also hilariously naïve and oblivious, although not entirely, to his surroundings. Baymax knows when there is danger approaching and protects Hiro and the rest of the group. He’s so innocent and lovable you can’t help but love him.

 

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Besides the characters, the best thing about Big Hero 6 is the visuals. I know, it’s an animated movie, it’s all visuals! But, Big Hero 6 is pretty ambitious when it comes to world building. San Fransokyo is futuristic and filled with bright neon colors that I wished we spend more time just going around the city.

 

The mircobots are really cool to see and are best used in one of the better action sequences in the movie that involves all our characters racing down empty streets as the villain is basically surfing on them and throwing everything at them. The mircobots are almost a better villain than the person controlling them but the animation is so great it doesn’t matter.

 

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All in all, Big Hero 6 is great on pretty much all levels. It does have some great messages in there and like all Disney animated movies now, it knows how to pull on the heart strings and makes us tear up.

 

 

Big Hero 6

5 out of 5

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‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ Review

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Dir: James Gunn

Cast: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Lee Pace, Michael Rooker, Karen Gillan, Djimon Hounsou, John C. Reilly, Gleen Close and Benicio Del Toro

Synopsis: In the far reaches of space, an American pilot named Peter Quill finds himself the object of a manhunt after stealing an orb coveted by the villainous Ronan

 

 

*Reviewer Note: This will have minor spoilers but nothing that will spoil the movie itself.*

 

 

When Marvel announced they would be doing a movie based on relatively unknown characters in Guardians of the Galaxy, pretty much everyone voiced an opinion on the matter. Was it going to be good? Bad? Would it be too weird? However, what everyone agreed on was this would be one of the Marvel’s biggest risks. So was the start of Phase 2 and the so called “Cosmic Era” the hit Marvel expected it to be? Yes, yes it was.

 

The movie starts off with a strong emotional scene set in the 80s of a young Peter Quill in the hospital. After a strong goodbye to a family member he runs out and gets scooped by a ship. Fast forward 20-something years later and Peter Quill (Pratt) is all grown up and now goes by the moniker “Star-Lord” although it’s almost only to himself and goes around the galaxy gather things to sell.

 

The movie than opens with Quill retrieving a silver orb that everyone wants. The orb puts him in the crosshairs of the assassin Gamora (Saldana), who is working for a Kree religious fanatic Ronan (Pace).  Ronan wants to wipe out the Xandarians, which is the home planet of the Nova’s – an intergalactic police force – for commissioning a peace treaty with the Kree, and will get help from Gamora’s father Thanos (voiced by Josh Brolin) in exchange for the orb.

 

While all that is going on, Quill gets a bounty placed on his head and that is where we get introduced to the duo of Rocket (voiced by Cooper), an angry, talking raccoon, and Groot (voiced by Diesel), a walking tree who can only say, “I am Groot.”  The four eventually end up on Xandar and end up getting thrown in jail. It’s in the jail where we meet Drax, who wants to avenge his family’s death by killing Ronan and Thanos. They eventually decide to put some of their differences aside, and even with their own agendas, to escape the prison and find out why Thanos and Ronan want to the orb.

 

The movie is a bit plot-heavy, which isn’t a bad thing, but it really doesn’t feel that way. It’s a bit slow at the beginning – what movie isn’t – but it picks up as it progress. But even with everything going on, like the universe being threaten or the beautiful landscapes and designs, it’s all about the characters. Each character has their own moments, whether it’s individually or together, and probably one of the best scenes of the movie is when they finally decide to be an actual team. Kudos has to be given to director James Gunn for making this team up work in a little over two hours as oppose to The Avengers where we had the foundation of that team up being laid out by several movies over years.

 

What? A picture in my review?

What? A picture in my review?

 

But next to Gunn’s direction, the movie is bought together by it’s impressive cast, which is lead by Chris Pratt, who is almost perfectly cast as Star-Lord. He’s cocky, heroic and can also deliver a hero’s speech as he is also coming up with one-liners. Being a child of the 80s, his references are usually themed to that era but they don’t seemed dated or cheesy and they actually work.

 

Zoe Saldana is already use to playing strong kick ass female characters and Gamora no different. She’s determined, deadly and at times feels like she’s the compass of the group, which is weird considering she is one of the daughters of “The Mad Titan” Thanos. Equally as deadly is Drax, played by Dave Bautista. Although it would seem like he’s the muscle of the group, although he does have some great action moments, Drax will definitely be a favorite for some. He has some of the funniest lines and moments in the movie and does so with great timing and deadpan wit.

 

But of course we have to talk about Rocket and Groot. Both characters were done by motion-capture and CGI, but while it seems so simple to put in a walking, talking, machine gun touting, genetically modified raccoon and a walking tree that only says three words, the character provide the team with some, even more, comic relief and warmth. Bradley Cooper brings a great sarcastic tone to Rocket and without spoiling anything also brings some great emotional scenes. Diesel, who already has a limited talking character under his belt with The Iron Giant, does it yet again. Who knew that “I am Groot” can be said so many different ways and when said can mean something entirely different.

 

The villains are also pretty great here, Ronan the Accuser, played by Lee Pace has a great menacing look to him and is almost unstoppable, although some might see him as one-dimensional, which I can see but Pace does a great job every time he’s on screen. Karen Gillan’s Nebula, the other daughter of Thanos and least favorite, is also pretty cool although it would have been nice to see a little more of her. Even Korath (Hounsou) who has a great look to him isn’t really anything more than glorified henchmen. Of course, the ever so reliable Michael Rooker as Yondu has a standout moment.

 

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Finally, John C. Reilly and Glenn Close make the most of their supporting roles, as part of the Nova Cop. However, comic book fans already know, and as I stated earlier, Josh Brolin voices Thanos. Thanos does show up and I wouldn’t be a fan if I didn’t mention him. He only has one real scene and then shows up on screens and is talked about a lot. One shot in particular should be recognizable to comic book fans when we see Thanos as a whole character, it might be fan service but its welcomed fan service.

 

While the movie is a “Marvel” movie, it also feels like a James Gunn movie. It’s sarcastic, humorous, some dark humor (especially one that involves bodily fluids) and pushes its PG-13 rating but never really feels that way. More importantly, this is Gunn’s first big budgeted film and you can tell by the set-pieces and how much everything feels someone was let loose to create something from the ground up. The other nice thing is although this will eventually fall into the Marvel Cinematic Universe – there are elements from the already set MCU – Guardians feels like it could be set in it’s own universe, which seems odd to say since it’s set in the Galaxy.

 

All in all, Guardians of the Galaxy is fun, funny, has sly dialogue and is action-packed. The design and set-pieces are great to look at (even in 3D) and the music choices are great and fit very well into the movie as a whole. Marvel’s big risk, for me, wasn’t a big risk at all. Yes, it takes risks but it is those risks that make the movie what it is and what makes it so fun. The movie’s connective pieces to the MCU are great to see and to see Thanos have some screen time is really awesome to see (also the mention of the Kree!). Is it the best Marvel movie yet? I’d say it is up there.

 

 

Guardians of the Galaxy

5 out of 5

‘Hercules’ Review

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Dir: Brett Ratner

Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Ian McShane, Rufus Sewell, Aksel Hennie, Ingrid Bolso Berdal, Reece Ritchie, Rebecca Ferguson, Peter Mullan, and John Hurt

Synopsis: Having endured his legendary twelve labors, Hercules, the Greek demigod, has his life as a sword-for-hire tested when the King of Thrace and his daughter seek his aid in defeating a tyrannical warlord

 

 

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

 

 

We are all pretty much familiar with the character of Hercules. Whether it be the animated Disney film or the Kevin Sorbo TV series from the 90s, Hercules is one of those characters we know. This is the second Hercules film this year and while I didn’t see The Legend of Hercules early this year, his adaptation of Hercules take both the legend of the hero and takes its basis from the Steve Moore comic book called Hercules: The Thracian Wars and adds a little more.

 

Director Brett Ratner explores a different view of the legend known as Hercules. Dwayne Johnson’s Hercules doesn’t work alone. He has five loyal to the core followers that have helped him finish his infamous 12 labors. But the main thing Ratner does here is he walks the line between the legend and the actual man. The question he offers is if Hercules really is the son of Zeus. Can one man do all this amazing things or are they all exaggerations?

 

In Hercules, Hercules and his group of mercenaries; Amphiaraus (McShane), Autolycus (Sewell), Tydeus (Hennie), Atalanta (Berdal) and Iolaus (Ritchie) are asked by Lord Cotys (Hurt) daughter, Ergenia (Ferguson) to help them save Thrace from a civil war started by a war lord. It’s a rather simple story, Hercules and his group go and help Cortys farmers becomes actual soldiers to go to war.

 

Johnson obviously looks the part and add some of his charisma, and you have a likeable Hercules. But he isn’t just dealing with saving Thrace, Hercules is also dealing with tragic past, making sure he keeps composure to his men and Cortys’s army, and keep up his legacy.

 

But Johnson wouldn’t be able to do that without his group of warriors. They all serve their purpose and have moments to shine on their own or together. Ritchie’s Iolaus is Hercules’s nephew and is the mouth piece of the group, his job is to talk up Hercules and his stories to make his seem larger than life. Although not a warrior he wants to prove himself to his uncle and the group. Hennie’s Tydeus doesn’t talk through the movie and is a bit unstable but is a skilled fighter. Berdal is the only female fighter but is excellent with a bow. Sewell’s Autolycus is Hercules’s oldest friend and skilled with small knives. Finally there is McShane’s Amphiaraus who is a mystic but still kicks a lot of ass his very cool weapon.

 

We get some back stories on them but it doesn’t really seem like enough. I’ll admit I think I would watch a side story or prequel with those characters just so I can get to see more of them. They are a cool group so it’s a shame to not really get to know them. McShane and Sewell get most of the screen time and share nice quips and add in most of the humor in the movie.

 

Speaking of the humor, there is a great deal of it. Not saying that it’s a bad thing, it’s actually welcomed. The movie has a fair amount of violence and a couple of darker moments, so seeing Sewell and McShane delivering some hilarious one-liners was nice to see.

 

The action scenes are pretty impressive. The sets are real so it gives the scenes some more levity and makes you feel immersed in the movie. The scenes are cool to look at and I almost feel sorry for everyone involved because there is so much going on that it makes you feel like it was a pain to shoot.

 

The movie of course does have some drawbacks. Besides the supporting characters not really being fleshed out, John Hurt is almost completely wasted but does leave an impression because he does his best with the character that he can. Rebecca Ferguson’s Ergenia has her moments but otherwise isn’t really a main player. The other problem, and it might seem nitpicky, but some of the CGI is a bit wonky and kind of took me away considering how much work they put into the set-pieces, clothing, and armor. But, it’s the question of is Hercules really a demigod or not, that kind sort of makes it stand out but also hurts it in some way.

 

All in all, Hercules was a little better than I thought it would be but by no means is it a great one (no pun intended). Dwayne Johnson is Hercules and some of the supporting cast is great. Even with some drawbacks, the movie has it’s fun and funny moments but overall is nothing more than an average action movie.

 

 

Hercules

3.5 out of 5

‘X-Men: Days of Future Past’ Review

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Dir: Bryan Singer

Cast: Hugh Jackman, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Nicholas Hoult, Ellen Page, Shawn Ashmore, Peter Dinklage, Halle Berry, Omar Sy, Josh Helman, Daniel Cudmore, Bingbing Fan, Adan Canto, Booboo Stewart, Evan Peters, Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart

Synopsis: The X-Men send Wolverine to the past in a desperate effort to change history and prevent an event that results in doom for both humans and mutants.

 

 

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

*Reviewer Note #2: Stay for the end credits.*

 

 

Loosely adapted from the classic Chris Claremont comic storyline of the same name, X-Men: Days of Future Past puts together the big screen’s original X-Men (Wolverine, Professor X, Storm, Kitty Pryde, Iceman, Colossus, and one-time enemy Magneto) and their latest members (Bishop, Warpath, Sunspot, and Blink) living in a dystopian future where mutant-hunting Sentinels have practically exterminated mutants, imprisoned the surviving ones in concentration camps with the humans who helped them. The only way for the X-Men to survive is to send one of their own back in time in order to stop the assassination that paved the way for the mutant holocaust.

 

One of the biggest differences from the comic (don’t worry, I won’t be comparing the comic to the movie during the whole review) the comics had the older Kitty (Page) transfer her consciousness into her younger self in order to warn their past-selves. In the film, the initial argument is that only Professor X (Stewart) is a strong enough telepath to do the job, but since he can’t physically handle such a long trip back the mission falls to Wolverine (Jackman). Waking up in his younger body in 1973, Logan seeks out the younger Xavier (McAvoy) who has become a shambling version of the man we met in X-Men: First Class.

 

Charles has spent the time in-between First Class and Days of Future Past moping around his mansion brooding about what he’s lost. The only one who’s still with him is Hank aka Beast (Hoult), who has made a serum to not only control is “animal form” but also for Xavier’s paralysis. The big side effect of the drug is that it has affected Charles’ psychic powers. But Charles doesn’t seem to care as he no longer wants to hear all the voices and suffering and who has lost hope since losing his Mystique (Lawrence) to Magneto (Fassbender).

 

Although she still playing a supporting character in the great ensemble, Mystique plays a major key to changing the future as she’s out to assassinate Sentinels creator Dr. Bolivar Trask (Dinklage). In order to help them track down Mystique, Logan, Xavier, and Hank will need help from Magneto, who is imprisoned at the bottom of the Pentagon. They then recruit young speedster Peter Maximoff (Peters), aka Quicksilver. From there it becomes a race against time to stop Mystique, restore young Xavier’s hope, and prevent the X-Men of the future from being wiped out.

 

This is a plot heavy sci-fi/time travel film with lots of moving parts, so we should give credit to both director Bryan Singer and screenwriter Simon Kinberg that they balance all those elements with relatively little confusion. There are some clunky moments, but overall Days of Future Past does a great job in keeping the storytelling concise and clear.

 

Days of Future Past gives each of its core crew of characters something important to do. It’s pretty clever how the story manages to make the movie’s biggest stars – particularly Lawrence integral to the plot. Xavier’s arc from self-pity to the hopeful leader embodied by Patrick Stewart is moving and one of the strongest aspects of the movie. As for young Magneto, despite agreeing to help find Raven/Mystique, he still remains firm in his beliefs even if that means turning against Xavier and Mystique.

 

Days of Future Past can be amusing and funny at times, but the movie has an overall feel of grim. You can feel it more with the future setting, as all of them are hiding and during the standoffs with the Sentinels, the filmmakers did not hold back any punches. But going back to the humor, I was somewhat surprised how much of it there was. There are also some nice callbacks to the other X-Men films (and even the comics) that will make fans happy.

 

The movie’s biggest surprise is the character that’s been the greatest object of scorn online: Quicksilver. Quicksilver does not have a ton of screen-time but he’s Pentagon prison break sequence is a highlight of the movie. I do not know if it’s a scene stealer – although some people are saying it is – but this is another example of not judging a character by his publicity shots.

 

I already hinted at it earlier in the review, but the cast is great. James McAvoy’s Charles Xavier is more at the forefront this time around and has a great arc that McAvoy handles so well. Jackman does his usual best as Logan aka Wolverine. Nicholas Hoult has less to do than he did in First Class. Lawrence, who has become a major star since the first movie turns into a badass but is also conflicted once she finds out she’s the key to the future. Fassbender was one of the best things about First Class, so it kind of sucks that he doesn’t have a ton to do this time around. Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart of course bring their A-game and it’s nice to see them together again as the characters.

 

The other mutants like Sunspot (Canto), Warpath (Booboo Stewart), and Blink (Fan) have some cool moments teaming up with Bobby/Iceman (Ashmore) and Storm (Berry). Fan favorite Bishop (Sy) is nice to see on the big screen finally but some will feel like he was underused. One underused and slightly disappointing characters is Bolivar Trask played by the awesome Peter Dinklage. This is not a knock on Dinklage who plays Trask well but the character as a villain is not compelling enough.

 

The film’s action sequences are well-done and engaging, from its opening scene of the future X-Men fighting the Sentinels to the Paris standoff through to the climactic battle in Washington D.C. Even the Pentagon prison break sequence, which nicely balances humor, visual effects, character, and tension.

 

All in all, X-Men: Days of Future Past is funny, grim, bleak and filled with great action and some strong performances. For fans of the series and comic, you will appreciate the fact that Bryan Singer and Simon Kinberg attempt such a beloved and complex story.

 

 

X-Men: Days of Future Past

5 out of 5

‘Captain America: The Winter Soldier’ Review

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Dir: Anthony and Joe Russo

Cast: Chris Evans, Samuel L. Jackson, Scarlett Johansson, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, Cobie Smulders, Frank Grillo, Emily VanCamp, Maximilano Hernandez, and Robert Redford

Synopsis: Steve Rogers struggles to embrace his role in the modern world and battles a new threat from old history: the Soviet agent known as the Winter Soldier.

 

 

*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review. Also, (of course being a Marvel movie) stay for the credits, both of them.*

 

 

Loosely based on the Ed Brubaker arc The Winter Soldier, Marvel raises the bar and scope of the Marvel Cinematic Universe with the Russo Brothers-directed Captain America: The Winter Soldier. The movie follows super soldier Steve Rogers aka Captain America (Evans) and Black Widow (Johansson) working for/with Nick Fury when they discover that S.H.I.E.L.D. may be compromised. Unsure of whom, if anyone, to trust, they must uncover a hidden threat before everything they know it torn apart.

 

The movie is one of, if not the strongest individual installments to date. Besides being a superhero/comic book adventure the movie is also, in many ways, a character journey with elements of a spy action thriller. The Winter Soldier hits all of the right notes and gives us the best of what comic book movies have to offer. The scale of the film alone is a huge and ambitious take for Marvel. Not only is it a great sequel but it also feels like a sequel to The Avengers in some way too. However, the ambitious take of this is the fact the movie has some major repercussions will change the Cinematic Universe and should be interesting how they manage that in the future movies.

 

Directors Anthony and Joe Russo managed everything close to perfection. The movie moves at great pace and never once does it seem like the time is wasted. Car chases, hardcore hand-to-hand combat, aerial dogfights and intense gun battles are interwoven that combines elements of at least three genres. But, another thing they do great is the humor. The movie even starts with a joke and though the plot is filled with serious themes and plenty of drama, it never forgets to make us laugh.  They’re not ironic laughs or defensive ones.  They’re just good-hearted, clever jokes, and they’re yet another example of why the movie is successful.
Not only does the film potentially shake-up the structure of their entire cinematic universe, but the creators understand the political thriller enough to get that if they’re going to do one, and do it well, then they’re going to have to introduce a strong point-of-view about something that is relevant to our world – and that they do. The Winter Soldier offers a strong perspective about a current political hot button issue – the cost and meaning of freedom. The execution isn’t hitting us over the head but is gone in a graceful way. There are ideas to think about, if you are into that, but at its core, the movie remains a fast paced piece of entertainment.

 

All that being said, usually character development gets lost when trying to expand the plot but with The Winter Soldier, character isn’t sacrificed. The big and small moments are equally filled with tension and there is some powerful development in this film. Of course the big one is Steve Rogers, the man out of time. There is a sequence early on in the film that hits the nail with the hammer, and is a bit sad to see but really shows the vulnerability of Rogers in this film. But, even with that said, early on and throughout the movie, we see him Rogers as a real badass. The shield is even utilized more as an offensive as much as a defensive one.

 

If Chris Evans didn’t prove himself to anybody that he is Steve Rogers or Captain America, then this will surely prove it. Evans brings a depth to the character that has not been seen yet. But, it’s Cap’s partner Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow that also has an arc here as well. Scarlett Johansson has played the character as many times as Evans and it isn’t until now that we get to know more about her. She is given a ton more to do than just be eye candy. Evans and Johansson have tremendous chemistry, and their witty banter or confrontations only adds to that.

 

Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury also gets more time to shine this time around. He plays a major role in the events of the movie but also brings in more humor and emotion than any of his other appearances.

 

New addition to the cast is Anthony Mackie, who plays Sam Wilson aka Falcon. A former solider himself, he now works at the VA helping soldiers who come back from war. Mackie brings in a good sense of charisma as Cap’s sidekick but has a great, possibly scene-stealing action sequence. Emily VanCamp’s Agent 13 will make some comic book fans happy, and give them a possible hint of things to come even though she doesn’t really do too much in the movie.

 

Then there is the odd one out of the bunch, Robert Redford who plays Alexander Pierce. Of course Redford has his share of spy-thrillers but in a way it also brings the spy thriller of this movie out in front. He brings the weight of his cinematic legacy with him, which also helps us to immediately buy into his character’s power and authority.

 

Finally, there is the man himself, The Winter Soldier. It’s arguable that Sebastian Stan’s Winter Soldier is – other than Loki – Marvel’s most successful, and terrifying, villain to date. Of course, if you are an avid comic reader than you know who and what The Winter Soldier is. His background is given in the movie as his history through time until now. Stan plays him in a heartbreaking and legitimately chilling way. He is relentless, feels unstoppable, and will do anything to complete his mission. Whenever he shows up, you are genuinely worried for anybody standing in his way.

 

All in all, Captain America: The Winter Soldier is a game changer in every sense of the word. It’s funny, thrilling, action packed and above all, it’s entertaining as hell.

 

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

5 out of 5