‘The Predator’ Review

Director: Shane Black

Writers: Shane Black and Fred Dekker

Cast: Boyd Holbrook, Trevante Rhodes, Olivia Munn, Sterling K. Brown, Jacob Tremblay, Keegan-Michael Key, Alfie Allen, Augusto Aguilera, Jake Busey, Yvonne Strahovski and Thomas Jane.

Synopsis: When a young boy accidentally triggers the universe’s most lethal hunters’ return to Earth, only a ragtag crew of ex-soldiers and a disgruntled science teacher can prevent the end of the human race.

 

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

 

Predator is one of my favorite movies of all time, and is definitely one of my favorite action movies of all time too. The movie starts off as a action movie and then goes into sci-fi horror monster movie, and it works perfectly. Not only that, the movie introduced us to, now, one of the most iconic movie monsters of all time. Then the sequel came out and, while defenders exist, it wasn’t all that great. The franchise then branched off to the comic world and brought in the aliens, or Xenomorphs, from Alien giving us Alien vs. Predator movies – which are better not talked about, especially you Requiem.

We waited years for another movie, and then we got Predators, which I got to watch recently again, and still didn’t hate it s much as others do (although, the problems are there). Then rumors came out that Fox was working on another Predator movie, and finally Shane Black himself joined. For those who don’t remember, or just don’t know, Black was in the first movie in a supporting role. So, for me, having him come back to the franchise was actually a pretty great move since we know that he’ll treat the property with respect.

All that said, The Predator has had a rough road to its release. There was the reshoots to change up the final act, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as it happens all the time. However, right before the release of the movie, it was revealed by Olivia Munn that a scene was cut with actor Steven Wilder Striegel, because she found out he was convicted of sexually pursuing a 14-year-old female relative. The move has been drawing some lines with people, but I’ll let you decide where you fall in that. Of course, the important thing here is whether or not The Predator has been worth the wait. So let’s get to it.

The Predator opens up setting the overall threat of the movie as a Predator ship is trying to get away from another, bigger Predator ship. The former manages to get away as it jumps to Earth and crashes. The crash interrupts a mission lead by sniper Quinn McKenna (Boyd Holbrook) who then has the first face-to-monster-face with the Predator as it kills his men and sends him running away with some Predator gear. A special government agency eventually catches up to him, and he’s put in the crosshairs of special agent Traeger (Sterling K. Brown), who wants something from the Predator ship. Quinn is then sent to an institution and ends up on a bus filled with ex-soldiers with their problems.

Meanwhile, Traeger sends to get Dr. Casey Bracket, a biologist who could them and their secret Project Stargazer, figure out more about The Predator. There’s also Quinn’s young son Rory (Jacob Tremblay), who is on the spectrum, who ends up getting Quinn’s contraband Predator gear and activates it, accidentally bringing the new upgrade Super Predator to Earth. What follows is a balls-to-the-wall action comedy, yes, you read that right, action comedy as humans go up against not one, but two Predators.

Again, being a huge fan of the first Predator, I was really looking forward to The Predator, so I was just a tad disappointed with the final outcome. The movie is a mixed bag of these that work, things that don’t and things that could have used some more time to flesh out.

What definitely worked, at least for me, was that classic Shane Black humor. It’s not even forced humor either, when the characters are spitting out jokes or being smart asses it makes sense. Most of the humor comes from the group of ex-soldiers Quinn meets on the bus. We have “Nebraska” Williams played by Trevante Rhodes, the jokester Coyle (Keegan-Michael Key), Baxley (Thomas Jane) who has tourettes, Lynch (Alfie Allen) and Nettles (Augusto Aguilera). The dynamic of the group is easily the best part of the film, and most of them have their moment to shine – Allen gets the shaft on that end – but anytime they’re all together it’s great.

Someone else who clearly looked like he was having fun is Sterling K. Brown. Brown’s Traeger chews up a lot of his scenes, and while sometimes I feel like he goes just a bit over the top, having him as the human “villain” was a nice touch. Olivia Munn also gets to have some fun, and has a strong showing here, but seeing her bounce off the ex-soldiers and Holbrook’s straight-man character. Trevante Rhodes, from Moonlight, is arguably the standout as Nebraska, who essentially becomes the co-leader of the soldiers, and is one of the more fleshed out characters. Rhodes is definitely a name you should try to remember because this man is going to be huge.

When it comes to the things that don’t work too well, that comes when it tries to explain some of the science behind the Predator. Sure it’s fun explore the mythology and expand on that on the big screen – the comics have done that to great success – but it comes out as clucky and comes at weird moments in the movie that it comes off as weird. Secondly, like I mentioned, Alfie Allen gets the short-end of the stick in the main group ensemble, and he’s not alone, Yvonne Strahovski, who plays Quinn’s ex-wife and Rory’s father, doesn’t really do anything in the movie. Also, Jacob Tremblay could have done a little more in the movie, considering how important he becomes in the grand scheme of things.

Third, some of the CGI is also dodgy, with the Predator dogs coming off just a tad bit rubbery and some scenes rely a bit too much on CG blood which kind of lessens the fun on the gore factor. Speaking of which, the action and gore in this are up there. There are a few scenes that will make fans happy on both fronts, however, I will say the anticipated Predator vs. Super Predator fight is very underwhelming – at least for me – but that said, it does show you how lethal and dangerous the new Super Predator is, but still, I would have loved to see more of a throw down. Finally, and very quickly, the last scene isn’t all that great and I feel was a last minute addition and it shows.

All in all, The Predator is a lot of fun, but it is a very mixed bag. The humor works, and doesn’t become annoying, which it easily could have and the action and gore are fine when it’s allowed to be practical. The Predator isn’t Predator, and if you think it will be, I’m telling you right now, lower that expectation and you’ll enjoy the movie for what it is.

The Predator

3.5 out of 5

Advertisements

Mini-Reviews: Office Christmas Party, Nocturnal Animals, and La La Land

Hey everybody!

Welcome to another edition of Mini-Reviews. This time, it’s more of a mixed than it was last time. So let’s get to it, shall we?

 

*As always, these will be spoiler free reviews*

 

Office Christmas Party

Directors: Josh Gordon and Will Speck

Writers: Justin Malen, Laura Solon, and Dan Mazer

Cast: Jason Bateman, Olivia Munn, T.J. Miller, Jennifer Aniston, Kate McKinnon, Courtney B. Vance, Rob Corddry, Vanessa Bayer, Randall Park, Sam Richardson, Karan Soni, Jamie Chung, Abbey Lee, Da’Vine Joy Randolph, and Jillian Bell.

Synopsis: When his uptight CEO sister threatens to shut down his branch, the branch manager throws an epic Christmas party in order to land a big client and save the day, but the party gets way out of the hand…

 

Tis the season for Christmas films, and what better film than an office Christmas party movie where things go wrong, right? While Office Christmas Party does have some saving moment scattered throughout, the film falls flat on a lot of areas, which is a shame considering the pretty good cast the film fills out.

Office Christmas Party follows a tech company, Zenotech, that is threaten to be shut down by the company CEO Carol (Aniston). However, her brother Clay (Miller), who happens to have had the branch inherited to him by his father, intends to keeping the branch alive at any means. Along with his CTO Josh (Bateman) and programmer Tracy (Munn), Clay thinks they can save the branch by signing a big wig in Walter Davis (B. Vance). Carol seeing it as impossible gives them two days to get it done. Seeing their hopes slips, they decide to throw a massive office Christmas party to impressive him, get the deal and save the branch. Of course, things get out of hand.

The idea of an office Christmas party going crazy isn’t all the exciting, but you would think with a great cast like this, they would be able to conjure something worthwhile and better than average. Unfortunately, the film barely does that and fails to really connect to most of the core characters.

T.J. Miller plays pretty much the same character he’s done before, while Jason Bateman plays the straight-laced character and Kate McKinnon, who plays the head of HR, is a wacky and out-there character that has one big moment to shine. Jennifer Aniston playing the cut-throat CEO seems to a perfect fit for her. The rest of the cast have their moments to shine, but when the film takes time to focus on the main three characters in their respected stories, it fails to get us invested in them.

Bateman’s character goes through a divorce at the beginning of the film, but we don’t really see him affected by it or see his ex-wife. Olivia Munn’s character has her own arc that only serves the plot when it needs to, and there’s an interesting plot point with Jillian Bell that comes out of left field, but doesn’t really go anywhere. Also, seeing Courtney B. Vance break loose is a sight to see.

All in all, Office Christmas Party does have some great laughs scattered throughout, but the film doesn’t really bring anything new to the table.

Office Christmas Party

3 out of 5

office_christmas_party

 

 

 

Nocturnal Animals

Director: Tom Ford

Writer: Tom Ford

Cast: Amy Adams, Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Shannon, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Isla Fisher, Ellie Bamber, Armie Hammer, Karl Glusman, Michael Sheen, and Laura Linney

Synopsis: An art gallery owner is haunted by her ex-husband’s novel, a violent thriller she interprets as a veiled threat and a symbolic revenge tale.

 

Based on the novel by Austin Wright and directed by former designer Tom Ford, Nocturnal Animals follows Susan Morrow (Amy Adams) is an art dealer, who is not happy with her life, suddenly gets a package from her ex-husband Edward (Jake Gyllenhaal). The package contains a novel he wrote called Nocturnal Animals, which he dedicated to her – and something he once called her. Susan begins to read the book, seeing the lead character of Tony, as Edward, and follows a family driving through middle of nowhere Texas that end up getting attacked by three individuals lead by Ray Marcus (Aaron Taylor-Johnson). Tony manages to get away as his wife and daughter (played by Isla Fisher and Ellie Bamber) are kidnapped and gets help from Officer Bobby Andes (Michael Shannon).

During all this, Susan also starts getting flashbacks of former her life with Edward as her current husband (Armie Hammer) is away on business. There we see how her marriage failed, and we get enthralled in a haunting, tense thriller drama from beginning to end.

It’s not hard to see the parallels between the real-life story of Susan and Edward’s novel, and flows together rather nicely once everything picks up. However, there are some things that get lost in the shuffle. Even though the film is about Amy Adams’ Susan and Edward’s novel, it would have been nice to see more of Armie Hammer’s character fleshed out instead of just being Susan’s husband – they only shared about three scenes together. There is another character that random pops up and is never mentioned ever again, but for the sake of keeping my non-spoiler tag I won’t mention it here.

Despite some of the flaws, Nocturnal Animals is held together by the cast and the gripping novel plotline. Amy Adams is always reliable, and seeing her as this somewhat broken character is something she handles very well. Jake Gyllenhaal’s performance is mostly that of Tony, but watching Tony’s story is arguably the best part of the film. That being said, that also works as a bit of a negative. The fact that the story within a story works more and is more interesting than the “real” story is a bit of a shame, but that could be just me. Going back to the cast, Michael Shannon also continues his string of reliable and great characters with Andes, and Aaron Taylor-Johnson fines a great line of sadistic redneck and playing dumb.

All in all, Nocturnal Animals has all the elements to keep the film entertaining and keep you invested, but most of it relies on the story within the story. It’s not a bad thing overall, but when it parallels to Susan’s story it takes you out just a bit.

Nocturnal Animals

4 out of 5

nocturnal_animals_ver5

 

 

La La Land

Director: Damien Chazelle

Writer: Damien Chazelle

Cast: Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, John Legend, Rosemarie DeWitt, Callie Hernandez, Jessica Rothe, Sonoya Mizuno, Finn Wittrock, and J.K. Simmons

Synopsis: A jazz pianist falls for an aspiring actress in Los Angeles.

 

Damien Chazelle made waves with his last feature film, Whiplash, so people were really looking forward to what he had in store with La La Land. Turns out, it was another great story with great leads, an amazing score, awesome set-pieces and more importantly, a very old timey Hollywood feel.

The film follows Mia (Emma Stone), a struggling actress trying to keep her head above water, and works as a barista on the Warner Bros. studio backlot. She keeps meeting Sebastian (Ryan Gosling), a jazz pianist with dreams of his own: he wants to open his own club. The two eventually end up together and what follows is their relationship as it goes through ups and downs in Hollywood.

La La Land takes a bit to find its tempo – I’m not even sorry for the bad music pun – but once it does, the film instantly becomes a whole new animal. The film does fall into musical territory, just so you know, but the soundtrack and music by Justin Hurwitz works so well that you’ll be nodding your head and trying to sing along with the music. You combine that with the great looking set-designs and you’ll fully embrace the vivid colorful world La La Land brings to the table.

It also helps that Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone are – once again – great as the leads. The two obviously have great chemistry together (this is the third film together), and their leads are likeable dreamers that fall for each other in a nontraditional way, which was nice to see, and seeing their relationship smoothly transition is what makes us emotionally invested in their story from beginning to end. Also, each of them have their own story arcs that don’t need the other to hang get involved in any real way. Mia struggles with her acting on her own, and Sebastian needs to decide on he wants to move forward with his passion. Both storylines feel real, and once we see the resolution it makes sense why they would choose what they do.

All in all, La La Land is a film that feels like an old timey Hollywood film that pays huge homage to the musicals of old, but also enough to set itself apart and pave its own way. Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling carry the film from beginning to end, but it’s the music with the sets – or in many cases, real-life locations – and cinematography that makes the film work on multiple levels. Do yourself a favor and go watch La La Land as soon as you can.

La La Land

4.5 out of 5

la_la_land_ver3

December Movie Releases

It’s December, ladies and gentlemen!

The year is almost over! How has your year been, because it’s been a great year for films, huh? December is also a tough month to set, because this is the big Oscar month, so a lot of films end up getting limited releases, expansion releases, and then wide releases. So if anything is off, it’s because of that. I’ll do my best to get everything where it’s suppose to go, and if not I’ll come back and update the schedule.  So let’s jump right in the films that will close out the year.

Also, Happy Whatever-It-Is-You-Celebrate!

 

2nd

Limited Release: Jackie (Biography Drama – Fox Searchlight Pictures/Why Not Productions/Wild Bunch)

Following the assassination of her husband, First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy (played by Natalie Portman) fights through grief and trauma to regain her faith, console her children and define her husband’s historic legacy. The film has gotten a lot of love at the film festival circuit, and is getting a lot of Oscar buzz. It probably helped that this film has been in the works for a long time too. Jackie also stars Peter Sarsgaard, Greta Gerwig, John Hurt, Billy Crudip, Max Casella, Richard E. Grant, and Caspar Phillipson.

jackie

 

Limited Release: La La Land (Drama Comedy Musical)

Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone reunite for La La Land which follows a jazz pianist who falls for an aspiring actress in Los Angeles. The film is getting a ton of great reviews from the film festival circuit so this one is one you should keep your eye out for. Also the trailer really gives off the vibe that the film will be a nice tribute to films of old. The film also stars Finn Wittrock, Rosemarie DeWitt, John Legend, Jason Fuchs, Hemky Madera, and J.K. Simmons.

la_la_land_ver3

 

Incarnate (Horror Thriller – Universal Pictures/Blumhouse Productions/WWE Studios/IM Global/High Top Releasing/Deep Underground Films)

A scientist with the ability to enter the subconscious minds of the possessed must save a young boy from the grips of a demon with powers never seen before, while facing the horrors of his past. The film stars Aaron Eckhart, Carice van Houten, David Mazouz, Emjay Anthony, Matt Nable, and Catalina Sandino Moreno.

incarnate

 

 

9th

Expanded/Wide Release: Nocturnal Animals

Expanded Release: La La Land

Expanded Release: Jackie

 

 

Office Christmas Party (Comedy – Paramount Pictures/DreamWorks Pictures/Bluegrass Films)

When his uptight CEO sister (Jennifer Aniston) threatens to shut down his branch, the branch manager thrown an epic Christmas party in order to land a big client and save the day, but the party gets way out of hand. The film also stars T.J. Miller, Kate McKinnon, Jason Bateman, Rob Corddry, Olivia Munn, Jillian Bell, Jamie Chung, Abbey Lee, Randall Park, Matt Walsh and Courtney B. Vance.

office_christmas_party

 

16th

Limited Release: The Founder (Biography Drama)

Michael Keaton stars in this film that tells the story of McDonald’s founder, Ray Kroc. I don’t think I’ve ever actually thought about the story of McDonald’s and since I’ve seen the trailer, it’s peaked my interest and I’m sure to many others as well. The rest of the cast includes Laura Dern, Patrick Wilson, Linda Cardellini, Nick Offerman, B.J. Novak, and John Carroll Lynch.

 

 

Collateral Beauty (Drama – New Line Cinema/Village Roadshow Pictures/Overbrook Entertainment/Anonymous Content/Likely Star/PalmStar Media)

An advertising executive encounters three mysterious figures who encourage him to move on from the past. The film looks like it’s going to be a powerhouse with the cast, but the idea does seem odd, and one that you can probably figure out from the trailers. Hopefully the execution works. Will Smith, Kate Winslet, Keira Knightley, Edward Norton, Naomie Harris, Michael Pena, and Helen Mirren star.

collateral_beauty_ver2

 

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (Sci-Fi Adventure –Walt Disney Pictures/Lucasfilm)

Gareth Edwards directs the first spinoff/standalone film of the new set of Star Wars films, which actually takes us back in time as it follows Rebels on a mission to steal plans for the Death Star. Listen, it’s Star Wars, people are going to go watch it. However, the film’s last two trailers were freaking awesome, of course the film however, will have some closer eyes as the “dirty” word in Hollywood has hit the film: reshoots. Nonetheless, the film looks great and more importantly it looks different. The film stars Felicity Jones, Mads Mikkelsen, Alan Tudyk, Ben Mendelsohn, Donnie Yen, Diego Luna, Riz Ahmed, Jonathan Aris, and Forest Whittaker.

rogue_one_a_star_wars_story_ver5

 

21st

Sing (Animation – Universal Pictures/Illumination Entertainment)

A koala named Buster (Matthew McConaughey) recruits his best friend to help him drum up business for his theater by hosting a singing competition. I don’t know if I’m over talking animal animated film this year, but I’m not getting behind the Sing train. The voice cast also includes Scarlett Johansson, Reese Witherspoon, John C. Reilly, Seth MacFarlane, Taron Egerton, Nick Offerman, Peter Serafinowicz,  and Jennifer Saunders.

sing

 

Patriots Day (Lionsgate/CBS Films/Closest to the Hole Productions)

Directed by Peter Berg, the film is an account of Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis’s (played by John Goodman) actions in the events leading up to the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing and the aftermath, which includes the city-wide manhunt to find the terrorists behind it. Berg has already made a splash this year with Deepwater Horizon with Mark Wahlberg, so I can only think that this will be either as good or just as good. Patriots Day also stars J.K. Simmons, Kevin Bacon, Melissa Benoist, Michelle Monaghan, Alex Wolff, and Rachel Brosnahan.

patriots_day

 

Passengers (Sci-Fi Adventure – Sony Pictures/Columbia Pictures/Village Roadshow Pictures/LStar Capital/Original Film/Start Motion Pictures/Company Films)

A spacecraft traveling to a distant colony planet and transporting thousands of people has a malfunction in its sleep chambers. As a result, two passengers (Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence) are awakened 90 years early. Two of the most liked and extremely talented actors in Hollywood are getting together for a film, and one that looks not too bad, I think we looking at a big hit here, don’t you think? Michael Sheen, Laurence Fishburne, and Andy Garcia also star.

passengers

 

Assassin’s Creed (Action – 20th Century Fox)

Based on the popular video game franchise, Michael Fassbender stars as Callum Lynch, who with the help of revolutionary technology that unlocks his genetic memories, experiences the adventures of his ancestor, Aguilar, in 15th Century Spain. Callum discovers he is descended from a mysterious secret society, The Assassins, and amasses incredible knowledge and skills to take on the oppressive and powerful Templar organization in the present day. Justin Kurzel, who directed the well-received and great film Macbeth, directs and reunites not only with Fassbender but Marion Cotillard as well. The film also stars Jeremy Irons, Brendan Gleeson, Ariane Labed, Mathias Varela, Brian Gleeson, and Michael Kenneth Williams.

assassins_creed_ver2

 

 

23rd

Limited Release: A Monster Calls (Fantasy Drama – Focus Features/Participant Media/River Road Entertainment/Apaches Entertainment/La Trini)

Based on a script and book by Patrick Ness, A Monster Calls follows a boy as he seeks the help of a tree monster to cope with his single mom terminal illness. The film stars Liam Neeson as The Monster, Felicity Jones as the Mother, Sigourney Weaver as the Grandmother, Toby Kebbell as Dad, and Lewis MacDougall as the boy and Lily-Rose Aslandogdu as Lily. The film looks fantastic and I can’t wait to see how it does. The limited release is due to Focus Features trying to get the film an Oscar run. The film will come out early next year.

monster_calls_ver2

 

Limited Release: Silence (Drama)

Directed by Martin Scorsese and based off the novel by Shusaku Endo, the film is set in the seventeenth century, where we follow two Jesuit priests that face violence and persecution when they travel to Japan to locate their mentor and propagate Christianity. The film has been looking for a release date and what better date to come out in than in December around Oscar season right? The film stars Liam Neeson, Andrew Garfield, Adam Driver, Shin’ya Tsukamoto and Tadanobu Asano.

silence

 

Why Him? (Comedy – 20th Century Fox/Red Hour Films/21 Laps Entertainment)

A dad (Bryan Cranston) forms a bitter rivalry with his daughter’s young rich boyfriend (James Franco). The film looks decently funny, at least we can hope, and seeing Cranston on the big screen is always nice – even if it’s a film like this. The film stars Zoey Deutch, and Megan Mullally.

why_him

 

25th

Limited Release: 20th Century Women (Comedy Drama)

The story of three women who explore love and freedom in Southern California during the late 1970s. The film stars Annette Bening, Elle Fanning, Greta Gerwig, Alia Shawkat, Laura Wiggins, and Billy Crudup.

 

Limited Release: Paterson (Drama Comedy) 

Set in the present in Paterson, New Jersey, this is a tale about a bus driver and poet, who also happens to be named Paterson (Adam Driver). I saw the trailer for the first time recently, and it looks like a great little indie film that will showcase Adam Driver.

 

Limited Release: Hidden Figures (Drama)

Based on a true story, a team of African-American women provide NASA with important mathematical date needed to launch the program’s first successful space missions. The film stars Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monae, Kristen Dunst, Jim Parsons, Mahershala Ali, Aldis Hodge, Glen Powell, and Kevin Costner.

hidden_figures

 

Limited Release: Live By Night

Based off the novel of the same name by Dennis Lehane, Ben Affleck writes, directs and stars in this great looking film that is set during the Prohibition and follows Joe Coughlin, the son of a prominent Boston police captain, as he rises through the ranks of the criminal underworld and the trouble he falls into along the way. Besides the film looking great, it has a great cast in Zoe Saldana, Elle Fanning, Sienna Miller, Brendan Gleeson, Chris Sullivan, Anthony Michael Hall, Titus Welliver, Max Casella, Chris Messina, and Chris Cooper.

live_by_night

 

Fences (Drama – Paramount Pictures/Scott Rudin Productions/Bron Studios/MACRO)

Based on the play by August Wilson, and directed by Denzel Washington, Fences follows an African American father who struggles with race relations in the United States while trying to raise his family in the 1950s and coming to terms with the events of his life. The film stars Washington, Viola Davis, Mykelti Williamson, Russell Hornsby and Stephen Henderson.

fences

 

So, what are you looking forward to?

‘X-Men: Apocalypse’ Review

xmen_apocalypse_ver18

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.

new-trailer-shows-how-x-men-apocalypse-can-change-the-film-series-895617

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.

MV5BNzVmMjhkNDAtZmIxMi00NWZhLTk4MGMtZDY4OGJlZGYyNDM1XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNjUwNzk3NDc@._V1__SX1214_SY535_

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.

hqyqxvfnbce8jfpwptqn

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.

which-x-men-are-apocalypse-s-4-horsemen-712923

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.

MV5BMjMxODIxNTIwNV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwOTk0MTY0NzE@._V1__SX1214_SY579_

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

‘Deliver Us from Evil’ Review

deliver_us_from_evil

Dir: Scott Derrickson

Cast: Eric Bana, Edgar Ramirez, Olivia Munn, Chris Coy, Sean Harris, Olivia Horton and Joel McHale

Synopsis: NY police officer Ralph Sarchie investigates a series of crimes. He joins forces with an unconventional priest, schooled in the rituals of exorcism, to combat the possessions that are terrorizing their city.

 

 

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

 

 

Based on retired NYPD detective Ralph Sarchie’s memoir “Beware the Night,“ (I have not read the book so I don’t know how faithful it is) Deliver Us From Evil follows Bronx cop Sarchie (Bana) as he investigates a series of grisly and eerie crimes that end up being connected by the supernatural. He eventually crosses paths with a Jesuit priest and exorcist Mendoza (Ramirez). Mendoza tells him that there is two types of evil, and the evil he’s dealing with is one that he should not underestimate. Sarchie however doesn’t believe Mendoza because, of course, everything can be explained. Sarchie also has a hard time believing in religion because he never got anything from it. This leads the two of them to down a dangerous path against a demon.

 

Scott Derrickson (The Exorcism of Emily Rose, Sinister), who has quickly become one of my favorite directors (and will direct Marvel’s Doctor Strange), gives the movie a nice mix of police procedural and supernatural thriller. The police material is great and for the first half of the movie, it’s all cop stuff with some supernatural aspects with the second half following more of the supernatural with some cop stuff. The good thing is that Derrickson does not give too much of the supernatural elements. He teases us throughout the movie but not enough to annoy but enough to keep us interested. That’s one of the things Derrickson does so well in his movies. It’s the slow builds that make the third acts in his movie worthwhile. Like his other films Derrickson manages to evoke gritty imagery and makes New York, more partially, the Bronx a character in itself.

 

The supernatural stuff is more or less of the same we’ve seen in other movies. It’s creepy, disturbing, eerie and sometimes gut-wrenching. But Derrickson already has a knack for directing the genre that it still creeps you out when it unfolds. The demon’s plot, might seem a little “meh” for people but once we find out what’s going on we are already invested in Sarchie’s character and everything else that it (at least to me) didn’t matter.

 

There are some things that might take some people out of it. Obviously for the sake of no spoilers I won’t write them, but considering this is a supernatural/demon/exorcism movie, it hopefully won’t throw people off that much.

 

As for the cast, mostly everyone does a pretty good job. One of the missteps is Olivia Munn’s wife character. It’s nothing against her and her acting but more dealing with her character being underwritten and really having nothing to do expect for two scenes. Surprisingly, and nothing against him because I do like him, Joel McHale gives a nice turn as a badass and Sarchie’s wise-cracking partner who has a thing for knifes.

 

Eric Bana is reliable as ever and plays Sarchie as the audience’s skeptical surrogate. And props to him, and the rest of the cast, for putting on strong New York accents but Bana gets the most props since he’s not even American. Next to Bana, the movie’s other highlight is Edgar Ramirez. Most exorcists in movies tend to be old men whose faith is either tested or being lost but Ramirez’s Mendoza is much more complicated than that. His past isn’t a bright one but it’s that past that makes him keep his life together. He drinks, smokes, checks out girls, and wears a leather jacket, but that doesn’t stop him from knowing what has to be done.

 

A special mention also has to be given to Sean Harris as the man possessed making Sarchie and Mendoza’s life hell (no pun intended). The character could have been laughable or just a character that stands in the shadows. It’s Harris’ intense performance alongside Bana and Ramirez’s that make the demon-battling scenes a little more give. The same is to be said about Olivia Horton’s Jane, which we’ve seen in the promotional material.

 

All in all, Deliver Us from Evil might be a little dull than the other exorcism movies but Derrickson manages to keep us invested with his powerful imagery. Add Bana, Ramirez, and Harris’ performances and it makes the movie a little stronger and much more than an exorcism movie.

 

 

Deliver Us from Evil

4.5 out of 5