X-Men: Apocalypse (Full Review)

The X-Men franchise has seen some lows (X-Men: The Last Stand, X-Men Origins: Wolverine), but for the most part, some of the best films in the superhero genre have come from this 16 year film series about mutants with superpowers attempting to coexist with the humans who fear them. No director knows the heights of X-Men film success like Bryan Singer, Director of the first and second X-Men movies as well as 2014’s hit X-Men: Days of Future Past. Singer returns to direct the latest installment in the franchise, and has the unfortunate task of following Captain America: Civil War as well as trying to raise his own ridiculously high bar.

X-Men_-_ApocalypseX-Men: Apocalypse follows the trend of the recent X-Men films in picking up the story in a new decade. This time, the setting is the 1980’s where CIA agent Moira McTaggert (Rose Byrne) has stumbled upon a cult that awakens the world’s first recorded mutant, En Sabah Nur (Oscar Isaac) aka Apocalypse, who was betrayed by his followers in ancient Egypt. Apocalypse has survived for centuries by transferring his consciousness into new mutant bodies, collecting new mutant powers along the way and upon his awakening he sets out recruiting strong mutants to be his Four Horseman followers. Joining him is weather manipulating Storm (Alexandra Shipp), psychic knife wielding Psylocke (Olivia Munn), winged Angel (Ben Hardy), and former X-Men adversary, Magneto (Michael Fassbender).

The only thing standing between Apocalypse and his mission to cleanse the world of non-mutants is peace loving telepath Professor, Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and his young X-Men: psychic Jean Gray (Sophie Turner), optic blasting Cyclops (Tye Sheridan), and teleporting Nightcrawler (Kodi Smit-McPhee). Helping lead the team is Xavier’s furry, right hand man, Beast (Nicholas Hoult), shape-shifting anti-hero Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence), and comedic speedster, Quicksilver (Evan Peters).

There are a ton of characters in this movie and it’s easy to get lost among them. The film admittedly doesn’t do as well as most in the franchise have done with juggling all of the different mutants. The Four Horseman, for example, are virtually flat, underdeveloped characters with the exception of Magneto. The film also has a few pacing issues. One scene in particular, involving returning villain William Striker (Josh Helman), seems shoe horned in only for fan service and to set up sequels (A problem no superhero film seems able to avoid these days).

But none of these problems take away from the overall splendor of X-Men: Apocalypse. The action sequences and set pieces are once again top notch. From the climactic battle to one scene involving Evan Peter’s Quicksilver that manages to one up his sequence from Days of Future Past, there is plenty to gawk at. Even the aforementioned unnecessary scene is still wildly entertaining. And as with any X-Men film, there are plenty of metaphors for real human issues to give the story purpose and context.

The titular villain is also a big plus. Despite being a generic God-like figure bent on world domination, Apocalypse is portrayed by Oscar Isaac with a charismatic wit and deeply imposing astuteness that makes him far more captivating than anything the Marvel Cinematic Universe has tried to pass off as an antagonist not named Loki. And he isn’t alone in his standout performance. All of the young mutants are solid and Michael Fassbender once again manages to conjure all of the deepest emotions with a few notable scenes. If there’s a performance that lacks, it’s actually Jennifer Lawrence, who seems as if she is being thrown into the forefront of these movies more and more, simply because she’s Jennifer Lawrence and not because the story or the character has a need for it.

Bryan Singer’s latest X-Men film is certainly not as grand as his last, or my all time favorite X2: X-Men United (2003). But X-Men Apocalypse is filled with a fine dose of eye popping action, charismatic humor, and a threatening villain that moves the story and makes the stakes worthy of a 144 minute film. Masterpieces are hard to come by in this era of constant superhero flicks (just ask DC Comics), but X-Men Apocalypse is at the very least an exciting entry that shouldn’t be a letdown to casual fans or diehards.

FINAL GRADE: B+

X-Men: Apocalypse (Full Review)

NEIGHBORS 2/ANGRY BIRDS REVIEWS

Unless you were smart enough to watch The Nice Guys this past weekend, or were catching Captain America: Civil War for the fifth time, you might not have had the best weekend at the movies. I had the unfortunate experience of catching a double feature of disappointments. But that’s why I’m here: To experience the hour and a half letdowns so you don’t have to!

Neighbors_2_Sorority_RisingNEIGHBORS 2: SORORITY RISING The first Neighbors film (2014), about a couple (Seth Rogen and Rosy Byrne) and their newborn baby being tormented by a relentlessly partying fraternity next door, was pretty decent enough. My biggest gripe was that the film’s funniest moments were given away in the trailers, but Zac Efron and Dave Franco provided enough laughs to make the movie worth seeing at least once. Now comes the inevitable sequel, which finds the couple a few years later, expecting another child and preparing to sell their house. The only problem is that a new partying sorority is moving in next door. Now the couple must team up with Efron in a prank war to rid themselves of their new female adversaries (Chloe Grace Moretz, Kiersey Clemons, Beanie Feldstein) in 30 days before the new home buyers back out.

I had high hopes for this film, mainly because the trailers were full of laughs. Unfortunately, like its predecessor, the funniest moments like Chloe Graze Moretz trying to run away with a phone she thinks is cordless, are all in the trailers. Zac Efron along with cameos from Dave Franco and the rest of the main Delta Psi frat members from the previous film provide some welcomed humor, but otherwise the movie is a massive step backwards. For one, the sorority members aren’t remotely funny and despite a feminist context to their existence, they’re not that likable either. Some of the gags work (such as the air bag scene which is funnier than the one in the first movie), but there’s also a ton of gross out jokes that are unpleasant even for those with the most immature senses of humor. The plot also fumbles over itself from the start. In the first film, Efron and company were mostly college seniors so a noise complaint was the best a call to the police could warrant. But this time around, the antagonists are minors who nightly engage in underage drinking and drug conception, making all of this seem absolutely unnecessary even if it is a comedy. FINAL GRADE: C-

 

The_Angry_Birds_Movie_posterANGRY BIRDS In a world where Emoji’s and Play-Doh are getting their own feature length films (it’s true, Google it), it isn’t in the least bit surprising that a popular cell phone game could get the animated kids movie treatment. Somehow, a game where tiny, flightless birds are fired via slingshot into structures created by green pigs is good enough source material for an hour and a half movie. Thus, we get the story of Red (Jason Sudeikis), an angry loner who teams up with his anger management classmates Bomb (Danny McBride) and Chuck (Josh Gad) to stop a Pig King (Bill Hader) and his minions from stealing all of the eggs from their bird village.

Despite its ridiculous premise, the movie lends itself to at least some form of success. Lessons about acceptance and friendship are decent takeaways for all of the little ones who may be watching this movie. The action in the final portion of the movie that harkens back to the video game, also looks good in 3D. But everything else about the film, from its relatively flat sight gags and slapstick humor to the overly kinetic plot, is an absolute mess. The story flows like a concept being pitched by an imaginative 4th grader who’s making it all up as he’s playing the game for the first time. Characters have inexplicable superpowers and random motives, and even the film’s principal conflict seemingly takes forever to actually manifest. There is so much good content available for kids these days, so a movie with a goofy premise, manic flow, and weak comedy is something anyone older than 7 years old might want to skip out on.

FINAL GRADE: D

 

 

NEIGHBORS 2/ANGRY BIRDS REVIEWS

Captain America: Civil War (Full Review)

Just over a month ago, DC/Warner Bros. released a movie about superheroes fighting superheroes… sort of. Now, along comes the superhero film Goliath that is Marvel to one up them. Captain America: Civil War is an adaptation of one of the most popular comic storylines ever, pitting two of their most iconic heroes against each other. Loosely based on the source material, this cinematic version serves as a sequel to 2014’s phenomenal Captain America: The Winter Soldier as well as being a quasi Avengers 2.5.

Captain_America_Civil_War_posterIt’s been a year since the Avengers stopped Ultron from destroying the earth and now Captain America (Chris Evans) leads a new team featuring assassin turned heroine, Natasha “Black Widow” Romanov (Scarlett Johansson), intelligent android, Vision (Paul Bettany), sorceress, Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen), winged soldier, Sam “Falcon” Wilson (Anthony Mackie), and Iron Man bestie, James “War Machine” Rhodes (Don Cheadle). After a mission to stop a vengeful terrorist (Frank Grillo) goes horribly wrong, former Hulk adversary and current U.S. Secretary of State, Thaddeus Ross (William Hurt), brings down the Sokovia Accords: a doctrine forcing all heroes to adhere to the United Nations rather than act as an independent force. While guilt causes Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) to support the new law, the ever weary Captain America refuses to serve a government agenda, causing things to get dicey when Cap’s former best friend turned brainwashed assassin resurfaces (Sebastian Stan). The conflict splits the Avengers in two, with half siding with Iron Man and the others with Captain America.

All of the Marvel Cinematic Universe films aren’t great, as some might have you believe. Some are mediocre (Thor: The Dark World, Avengers: Age of Ultron) and others I just flat out don’t like (Any Iron Man movie after the first one). But the Captain America films have always stood out to me over the rest. This is due in large part to deeper subject matters and more intricate storytelling. Civil War is no different, in fact, it may be the MCU’s most earnest film yet.

Let’s start with the conflict, unlike with March’s Batman v Superman, this film’s budding rivalry has had several years to brew. So when things go downhill, it feels genuinely heartbreaking to see the two comrades and former friends warring against each other. An exceptional script that does a solid job sharing the two perspectives without condemning either one, makes this film feel more realistic than any Marvel movie to date. Both sides are right just as much as they are wrong, and this aspect drives the entire film and gives it more emotional weight than anything else in the MCU.

A stellar cast helps. Casting is perhaps the greatest strength of the MCU, and here everyone shines, even characters like Hawk Eye (Jermey Renner) and Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) who are only on screen for a few scenes. As for the newcomers, they make their mark and prove that they are worthy additions to an already impressive roster. Chadwick Boseman portrays vengeful Black Panther with a regal fervor while Tom Holland is perfectly witty and exuberant as the new Spider-Man. Both make you excited to see them in future films. And while the MCU hasn’t always given us the best villains, Daniel Bruhl is stellar as the film’s sneaky antagonist.

The film drags a bit in its final act, but directors Anthony and Joe Russo deserve a ton of credit simply for managing to effectively juggle the massive horde of characters involved. It never feels like too much or too little, and when the titular battle goes down, it feels like something out of nerd heaven for fans of the genre even in spite of a few noticeable patches of spotty CGI. But visuals are only one part of making a memorable film. Captain America: Civil War isn’t great simply because of its action. Its captivating subject matter and emotional core are what make it one of the best superhero film’s ever crafted. So regardless of whether you’re Team Cap or Team Iron Man, you’ll come out of Marvel’s latest film feeling like a winner.

FINAL GRADE: A

Captain America: Civil War (Full Review)