New Podcast Episode: Oscar Picks, Nightwing Film Being Developed, Matt Reeves Directing The Batman & More

It’s been a while since I’ve posted the podcast up here, but here’s a new episode of the podcast with a guest.

‘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

‘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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‘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