Last Stand Of The X-Men: Dark Phoenix (2019, directed by Simon Kinberg)


Last week, I finally watched Dark Phoenix and I could tell within 15 minutes that it wasn’t going to be good.  From the start, everything about it seemed to be off, particularly compared with other, more recent comic book films.  This is not Logan or Joker.  It’s not even as good as ApocalypseDark Phoenix felt like a comic book film from 2002 that somehow got made and released in 2019.

The latest installment of the X-Men film saga opens in 1992.  The X-Men have been hailed as heroes and it finally looks like like the dreams of Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) are going to come true.  Humans and mutants are going to co-exist.  Unfortunately, all of that progress is undone when Jean Grey (Sophie Turner) connects with a surge of energy and her powers go supernova.  Jean discovers that she was responsible for her mother’s death and her father rejected her as a result.  She also learns Xavier placed a mental block in her mind.  Seriously pissed off, Jean flees to the island of Genosha, which is ruled over by Magneto (Michael Fassbender).  She also accidentally kills Mystique, therefore freeing Jennifer Lawrence from having to appear in any more of these movies.  All the while, a shape-shifting alien named Vuk (a slumming Jessica Chastain) wants to capture Jean’s powers and use them for herself.

This was the second attempt to bring the Dark Phoenix saga to the screen and somehow, it was even more bland and forgettable than X-Men: Last Stand.  The Dark Phoenix saga is one of the greatest comic book storylines of all time but it seems destined to never be the basis of a good movie.  In the comic books, the Dark Phoenix saga was the accumulation of two decades of storytelling.  After being the most forgettable member of the original X-Men, Jean suddenly became the most powerful mutant in the world.  When she sacrificed herself for the good of the universe, it was not only the end of her life but also the end of one of Marvel’s longest-running love stories, as Cyclops could only cradle her body afterwards.  As usual, Marvel later lessened the emotional impact by revealing that the Phoenix wasn’t actually Jean but just an alien force that took on her memories and personality while the real Jean remained in suspended animation at the bottom of Jamaica Bay.  Despite this, the Dark Phoenix saga still remains a prime example of Marvel at its best.

Why, with such great source material and a talented cast, was this latest film version of the Dark Phoenix saga so cumbersome?  No one seemed to care.  Unlike in the comic books, there was no emotional depth to the story of Jean Grey losing herself and becoming the Dark Phoenix.  Instead, every scene felt like it was just there to set up the next CGI-fueled confrontation.   Sophie Turner and Tye Sheridan (who played Cyclops) seemed to barely know each other and the film spent more time on Nicholas Hoult’s Beast mourning for Mystique than on the relationship that should have been at the center of the film.  None of the actors seemed to be invested in the story.  I’ve never seen Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Fassbender, and James McAvoy look so bored.  The inevitable Magneto scene felt pointless.  The comic books could take a break from Magneto and let other villains have a turn.  The movies have to find an excuse to force him into every story.

It’s been said that the X-Men will be moving into the MCU and will get a whole new reboot.  We’ll probably get a third Dark Phoenix film someday.  I hope this one gets it right.

Film Review: Red Sparrow (dir by Francis Lawrence)


God, this film was a mess.

Red Sparrow is a spy thriller that features a lot of spies but not many thrills.  Jennifer Lawrence plays Dominika Ergova, a Russian ballerina whose career with the Bolshoi is ended when another dancer drops her on stage.  Fortunately, Dominka’s sleazy uncle Ivan (Matthias Schoenaerts) has a new career in mind!  Maybe Dominka could be a sparrow, a spy who seduces the enemy!  Just in case Dominka doesn’t want to spend the rest of her life seducing westerners, Ivan arranges for her to witness a murder and then informs her that she’ll be eliminated as a witness unless she does what he tells her.  This, of course, leads to Dominkia attending State School 4, where she is schooled in the arts of seduction by Matron (Charlotte Rampling).  Upon graduation, Dominka is sent to Budapest, where she falls in love with a CIA agent named Nash (Joel Edgerton) and a lot of predictable spy stuff happens.  Despite all of the sex and violence, it’s just not much fun.

Red Sparrow has all the ingredients to be an enjoyably trashy 90-minute spy flick but instead, it’s a slowly paced, 140-minute slog that just seems to go on forever.  Throughout the film, director Francis Lawrence (no relation to the film’s star) struggles to maintain a steady pace.  Too much time is spent on Dominka’s life before she suffers the injury that should have opened the film.  Meanwhile, the only interesting part of the film — Dominka’s education at State School 4 — goes by far too quickly and, despite the fact that she was giving one of the few interesting performances in Red Sparrow, Charlotte Rampling vanishes from the film early on.  Once Dominkia gets to Budapest, the film really slow down to a crawl.  Joel Edgerton’s a good actor and an even better director but he gives an overly grim and serious performance in Red Sparrow and he and Jennifer Lawrence have next to no romantic chemistry.

(That lack of romantic chemistry petty much dooms the final forty minutes of the film.  It’s easy to imagine a much better version of Red Sparrow in which Bradley Cooper played the role of Nash.  True, that would have been like the 100th time that Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence starred opposite each other but why not?  It worked for William Powell and Myrna Loy.)

As for Jennifer Lawrence, her performance is okay.  It’s not one of her best and there’s a few moments where it seems as if she’s more concerned with maintaining her Russian accent than with what’s actually going on in the scene but, for the most part, it’s a good enough performance.  That said, you do have to wonder how long she can go without having another hit film.  Despite being heavily hyped, Passengers, Mother!, and Red Sparrow all underperformed at the box office.  (In defense of Mother!, it was never going to be a box office hit, regardless of who starred in it.)  As talented as she is, it’s sometimes hard not to feel that, as an actress, Jennifer Lawrence has lost some of the natural spark that took viewers by surprise in Winter’s Bone, launched a whole new genre of dystopian YA adaptations with The Hunger Games, and which previously elevated unlikely films like The House At The End Of The Street.  She was a far more interesting actress before she became J Law.

Here’s hoping that she finally gets another role worthy of her talent!

Here’s The Red Sparrow Super Bowl Spot!


It’s Super Bowl Sunday and you know what that means!  Commercials, commercials, and more commercials.

(And, apparently, some football game.)

As I did last year, I’m going to do my best to post every movie teaser that airs during the Super Bowl.  Things started off tonight with this intriguing teaser for Red Sparrow!  Jennifer Lawrence plays a Russian agent in this movie, which has been rated R for torture, violence, sex, language, drugs, and everything else that can win a film an R-rating.

Blade Runner 2049 wins in New Mexico!


Yesterday, the New Mexico Film Critics Association named their picks for the best of 2017!  They also became the first group to pick Blade Runner 2049 as the best film of 2017.

Here are their winners:

Best Picture
Winner: “Blade Runner 2049”
Runner Up: “Lady Bird:

Best Director
Winner: Greta Gerwig, “Lady Bird”
Runner Up: Denis Villeneuve, “Blade Runner 2049”

Glenn Strange Honorary Awards

  • Glenn Close
  • Olivia De Haviland
  • John Carpenter
  • David Lynch

Best Actor
Winner: Sam Elliot, “The Hero”
Runner Up: James Franco, “The Disaster Artist”

Best Actress
Winner: Jennifer Lawrence, “mother!”
Runner Up: Jessica Rothe, “Happy Death Day”

Best Supporting Actress
Winner: Catherine Kenner, “Get Out”
Runner Up: Maryana Spivak, “Loveless”

Best Supporting Actor
Winner: Harrison Ford, “Blade Runner 2049”
Runner Up: Ewen Bremner, “Trainspotting II”

Best Ensemble
Winner: “Raw”
Runner Up: “The Killing of a Sacred Deer”

Best Original Screenplay
Winner: “November”
Runner Up: “Lady Bird”

Best Adapted Screenplay
Winner: “The Disaster Artist”
Runner Up: “Call Me By Your Name”

Best Animated Film
Winner: “Loving Vincent”
Runner Up: “The Breadwinner”

Best Foreign Language Film
Winner: “November” (Estonia)
Runner Up: “BPM” (France)

Best Editing
Winner: “November”
Runner Up: “Blade Runner 2049”

Best Cinematography
Winner: “Blade Runner 2049”
Runner Up: “Song of Granite”

Best Music/Score
Winner: “The Shape of Water”
Runner Up: “mother!”

Best Production Design
Winner: “Blade Runner 2049”
Runner Up: “The Shape of Water”

Best Documentary
Winner: “City of Ghosts”
Runner Up: “Faces Places”

Best Young Actor/Actress
Winner: Garance Mirillier, “Raw”
Runner Up: Sophia Lillis, “It”

Best Original Song
Winner: “The Misery of Love” from “Call Me By Your Name”
Runner Up: “Prayers for this World” from “Cries from Syria”

Belatedly, Here Are The Nominations of the North Texas Film Critics!


Two days ago, the North Texas Film Critics Association announced their nominations for the best of 2017!

On twitter, there’s been a lot of speculation as to why the NTFCA totally snubbed Call Me By Your Name in their nominations.  Hilariously, some people — all from out-of-state, of course — are assuming that the NTFCA must be made up of evangelical, right-wingers because it’s a Texas organization.  Seriously, those people have no idea how left-wing most members of the Texas media are.  Texas may be a Republican state but most of our native film critics are somewhere to the left of Bernie Sanders.

Anyway, here are the nominees:

BEST PICTURE
“Baby Driver”
“The Big Sick”
“Dunkirk”
“Get Out”
“The Florida Project”
“Lady Bird”
“Logan”
“The Post”
“The Shape of Water”
“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”

BEST ACTOR
James Franco, “The Disaster Artist”
Jake Gyllenhaal, “Stronger”
Tom Hanks, “The Post”
Hugh Jackman, “Logan”
Daniel Kaluuya, “Get Out”
James McAvoy, “Split”
Kumail Nanijiani, “The Big Sick”
Gary Oldman, “Darkest Hour”
Robert Pattinson, “Good Time”
Jeremy Renner, “Wind River”
Andy Serkis, “War for the Planet of the Apes”

BEST ACTRESS
Jessica Chastain, “Molly’s Game”
Judi Dench, “Victoria & Abdul”
Gal Gadot, “Wonder Woman”
Jennifer Lawrence, “mother!”
Frances McDormand, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”
Brooklynn Prince, “The Florida Project”
Margot Robbie, “I, Tonya”
Saoirse Ronan, “Lady Bird”
Emma Stone, “Battle of the Sexes”
Meryl Streep, “The Post”

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Mary J. Blige, “Mudbound”
Holly Hunter, “The Big Sick”
Allison Janney, “I, Tonya”
Nicole Kidman, “The Killing of a Sacred Deer”
Tatiana Maslany, “Stronger”
Laurie Metcalf, “Lady Bird”
Octavia Spencer, “The Shape of Water”
Tilda Swinton, “Okja”
Kristin Scott Thomas, “Darkest Hour”
Bria Vinaite, “The Florida Project”
Allison Williams, “Get Out”

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Steve Carell, “Battle of the Sexes”
Daniel Craig, “Logan Lucky”
Bryan Cranston, “Last Flag Flying”
Willem Dafoe, “The Florida Project”
Idris Elba, “Molly’s Game”
Will Poulter, “Detroit”
Sam Rockwell, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”
Ray Romano, “The Big Sick”
Mark Rylance, “Dunkirk”
Patrick Stewart, “Logan”

BEST DIRECTOR
Sean Baker, “The Florida Project”
Guillermo del Toro, “The Shape of Water”
Greta Gerwig, “Lady Bird”
Patty Jenkins, “Wonder Woman”
Christopher Nolan, “Dunkirk”
Jordan Peele, “Get Out”
Steven Spielberg, “The Post”
Aaron Sorkin, “Molly’s Game”
Denis Villeneuve, “Blade Runner 2049”
Joe Wright, “Darkest Hour”

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY
Thimios Bakatakis, “The Killing of a Sacred Deer”
Roger Deakins, “Blade Runner 2049”
Hoyte Van Hoytema, “Dunkirk”
Matthew Jensen, “Wonder Woman”
Dan Laustsen, “The Shape of Water”
Janusz Kaminski, “The Post”
Michael Seresin, “War for the Planet of the Apes”

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
“First They Killed My Father”
“In the Fade”
“Menashe”
“Raw”
“The Square”

BEST DOCUMENTARY
“Abacus: Small Enough to Jail”
“Chasing Coral”
“City of Ghosts”
“Cries from Syria”
“An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power”
“Jane”
“Step”

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
“The Breadwinner”
“Cars 3”
“Coco”
“Despicable Me 3:
“The LEGO Batman Movie”
“Loving Vincent”

Oh my God! Here’s the Trailer for Mother!


Oh my God!

Okay, forget anything that I may have said about being reluctant to see Mother!, the latest film from Darren Aronofsky.  Forget anything that I may have said about suspecting that Jennifer Lawrence is no longer as interesting an actress as she was at the start of her career.

Seriously, this looks fucking brilliant!

Mother! opens on September 15th and I can’t wait to see it!

Here’s The Teaser for Mother!


Here’s the teaser for Mother!  The full trailer drops on the 8th.

No one seems to be really sure what Mother! is about.  It appears to be a horror/thriller sort of thing but, with Darren Aronofsky directing, it’s safe to assume that there will be all sorts of layers of meaning.  Along with starring Jennifer Lawrence (who, after Joy and Passengers, could really use a movie that’s worthy of her talents), Mother! also features Javier Bardem, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Ed Harris.  Judging by how the majority of this teaser goes out of it’s way to portray Jennifer Lawrence as being isolated in a big house, I wouldn’t be surprised to discover that Bardem, Pfieffer, and Harris all plays figments of Lawrence’s imagination.

Who knows?  We’ll find out on September 15th!