It’s Better Than Last Stand: X-Men: Apocalypse (2016, directed by Bryan Singer)


X-Men_-_ApocalypseIt is easy to forget what a big deal the first X-Men movie was in 2000.  At a time when Joel Schumacher was still the industry’s go-to director for super hero films, X-Men announced that films based on comic books did not have to be campy, silly, stupid, or feature Alicia Silverstone.  When X-Men was first released, critics and audiences were surprised to see a comic book film that was intelligent, well-acted, and actually about something.

The only people who were not shocked were those of us who grew up reading the X-Men books.  We already knew that the X-Men was about more than just heroes with super powers and flashy costumes.  We knew that the battles within the pages of the X-books were always meant to serve as a metaphor for racism and real-world prejudice and, since many of us felt like outcasts and mutants ourselves, we related to the characters.  We already knew that Magneto was often a sympathetic villain while Prof. X was not always a likable hero.  We knew that almost every battle that the X-Men fought came down to the question of whether or not different types of people could peacefully co-exist.  Unlike the critics, we were not shocked by X-Men‘s subtext.  Instead, we were just happy that Bryan Singer did not fuck things up.

All of the comic books films that have followed have owed a debt to critical and commercial success the first X-Men movie.  Without that success, there would probably have never been a Dark Knight trilogy or even an MCU.

FallofmutantsThe success of X-Men has also led to a 16 year-old franchise of movies about mutants and their struggle to live in a world that fears them.  X-Men: Apocalypse is the 9th installment in that franchise and it is based on the Fall of the Mutants storyline, which ran through several Marvel comics in 1988.

Continuing the pattern set by X-Men: First Class and X-Men: Days of Future Past, Apocalypse takes place in the past, back when Charles Xavier was still James McAvoy and Magneto was still Michael Fassbender.  (Unlike Days of Future Past, neither Patrick Strewart nor Ian McKellan makes an appearance.)  The year is 1983.  Ronald Reagan is President.  The Cold War still rages.  The music is better than it is today.  Xavier is running his school for gifted mutants youngsters.  Magneto is living, under an assumed name, in Poland.  Magneto is married and has a young daughter and as soon as I saw them, I knew they were going to die.  Magneto’s family never survives.

In Egypt, an ancient and powerful mutant named En Sabah Nur (Oscar Isaac) is awakened after being entombed for centuries.  Readers of the comic books will immediately recognize En Sabah Nur as Apocalypse.  Planning to destroy the world so that he can rebuild it in his own image, Apocalypse recruits his four horseman — Storm (Alexandra Shipp), Angel (Ben Hardy), Psylocke (Olivia Munn), and Magneto.  Apocalypse also wants to recruit Xavier to his side but Prof. X still believes that humans and mutants must learn to co-exist.

livingeraser1What’s interesting is that, even though Fassbender and McAvoy share a few scenes, this is the first X-Men film to not feature any sort of debate between Xavier and Magneto.  Magneto, one of the greatest comic book villains of all time, is actually a little boring here and, without those debates, Apocalypse lacks the subtext that distinguished the best of the previous X-Men films.  The emphasis is less on what it means to be an outsider and more on defeating Apocalypse.  Unfortunately, Apocalypse is a great character in the comic books but he does not translate well into film.  Unlike Magneto, who has several good and justifiable reasons for not trusting humanity, the film version of Apocalypse is portrayed as being pure evil and little else.  His plan to destroy the world never makes much sense and he is almost as bland as Dr. Doom in the latest Fantastic Four reboot.  Apocalypse could be any villain from any comic book movie that has been released over the past 16 years.  He could just as easily be the Living Eraser.

Apocalypse is also an origin story, showing how the modern incarnation of the X-Men first came to be.  We meet young versions of Scott Summers, Jean Grey, and Nightcrawler (played by Tye Sheridan, Sophie Turner, and Kodi Smit-McPhee) and Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) makes a brief appearance that feels like it was mostly included to set up the character’s third stand-alone film.  Jennifer Lawrence, Nicholas Hoult, and Evan Peters also return in the roles of Mystique, the Beast, and Quicksilver.  Peters is featured in the movie’s coolest scene, though that scene is basically just a redo of Days of Future Past‘s coolest scene.

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(There’s also a blink-or-you’ll-miss-it cameo from Dazzler, which I guess means that Marvel’s disco queen will eventually be appearing on movie screens.)

X-Men: Apocalypse is not as good as either First Class or Days of Future Past but it’s still better than The Last Stand.  (Since Apocalypse takes place in 1983, Scott and Jean go to see Return of the Jedi and talk about how the third film of any franchise always sucks.)  It’s entertaining but, without an interesting villain or any sort of examination of what it really means to be an outcast,  Apocalypse is also forgettable in a way that X2 and Days of Future Past never were.  As a lifelong fan of the X-Men, I could not help but be disappointed.

Plus, this movie needed more Deadpool! (Note: Deadpool is not in X-Men: Apocalypse.)

Plus, this movie needed more Deadpool! (Note: Deadpool is not in X-Men: Apocalypse.)

One thing that especially bothered me is that Days of Future Past ended with Xavier promising to explain to Wolverine why he, Scott, and Jean were all still alive despite having been killed in The Last Stand.  If you were hoping Apocalypse would clear that up, don’t hold your breath.  I guess that question will remain unanswered until the 10th film.

Speaking of which, First Class was set in the 1960s and Days of Future Past largely took place in the 70s.  Apocalypse is an 80s movie so the next installment should be set in the early 90s.  Will Scott be listening to Nirvana or will he be playing air guitar to November Rain?  I guess we’ll have to wait to find out!

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Here’s The Trailer For Assassin’s Creed!


Here’s the trailer for Assassin’s Creed!

I know next to nothing about the game that this film is based on, beyond what I’ve seen in commercials.  (Apparently, it involves a lot of building jumping.)  But the trailer features Michael Fassbender, looking all intense and haunted and sexy and that’s a good thing!

X-Men: Apocalypse Drops In With It’s Final Trailer


X-Men Apocalypse

20th Century Fox have to be feeling quite giddy and confident with their slate of blockbusters this summer. Deadpool slayed everyone that went up against it during it’s February release and has climbed the box-office charts to the levels I think even Fox executives couldn’t imagine.

Now comes it’s main comic book film property returning this summer with it’s biggest story, yet. X-Men: Apocalypse has been a storyline fans of the Marvel Mutants (not part of the MCU) have been clamoring for ever since the first X-Men film surprised everyone all the way back in 2000.

Bryan Singer returns for his 4th go-round with these new band of Merry Mutants (Hugh Jackman as Wolverine the only holdover from his original cast) with the immortal and first mutant En Sabah Nur aka Apocalypse up to no good. We get a bit more of the plot in this final trailer and even more city-wide destruction (I’ll give it a pass considering it’s being committed by someone called Apocalypse and not Superman).

X-Men: Apocalypse will bring the war on May 27, 2016

X-Men Apocalypse Super Bowl TV Spot


X-Men Apocalypse

The X-Men film franchise helped usher in the this golden age of comic book films. Looking back at those early films makes for a love them or hate them reaction. The first two helped establish the beloved characters onto the bigscreen while successive sequels and spinoffs did much to try and tear down the goodwill created by the former.

Matthew Vaughn helped in the franchise course correction with the surprisingly good X-Men: First Class. Bryan Singer’s return with that film’s follow-up with X-Men: Days of Future Past was another step in the right direction. It even marked the beginning of Fox’s attempt to replicate Marvel Studios’ cinematic universe building.

X-Men: Apocalypse is suppose to help build on the foundation laid down by the last film. It also looks to be a sort of reboot of the core characters to their much younger versions. The doomsday vibe of the film really comes off well in the trailer and it shows enough action to excite fans.

Then they show a great looking Psylocke using her psy-blade in a way it was never meant to be as. Just embrace books Fox. Just embrace it instead of mucking it up.

X-Men: Apocalypse will bring the war on May 27, 2016

Here Are The Oscar Nominees!


Oscars

I am so happy that Mad Max, Brooklyn, and Room were nominated but considering how many great films were released in 2015, it’s hard not to be disappointed with the nominees for Best Picture.  No Carol.  No Ex Machina.  No Sicario or Inside Out.  No Straight Out Of Compton, Creed, or Beasts of No Nation.  Is The Martian the only best picture winner to even have more than one African-American prominently featured in the cast?  10 years from now, when people can see past the politics and concentrate on the filmmaking, The Big Short will be recognized as one of the worst best picture nominees of all time.

As for other snubs, I am so sad to see that Kristen Stewart and Benicio Del Toro were not nominated in the supporting races.  For that matter, Rooney was the lead in Carol and that’s where she should have been nominated.  It’s also interesting to note that Mark Ruffalo was nominated for giving the worst performance in Spotlight.

I know that Spotlight is the official front runner but, looking at the nominations, I wouldn’t be surprised to see The Revenant win.  Or maybe even (bleh!)  The Big Short.

Best Picture
“The Big Short”
“Bridge of Spies”
“Brooklyn”
“Mad Max: Fury Road”
“The Martian”
“The Revenant”
“Room”
“Spotlight”

Best Director
Lenny Abrahamson, “Room”
Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, “The Revenant”
Tom McCarthy, “Spotlight”
Adam McKay, “The Big Short”
George Miller, “Mad Max: Fury Road”

Best Actor
Bryan Cranston, “Trumbo”
Matt Damon, “The Martian”
Leonardo DiCaprio, “The Revenant”
Michael Fassbender, “Steve Jobs”
Eddie Redmayne, “The Danish Girl”

Best Actress
Cate Blanchett, “Carol”
Brie Larson, “Room”
Jennifer Lawrence, “Joy”
Charlotte Rampling, “45 Years”
Saoirse Ronan, “Brooklyn”

Best Supporting Actor
Christian Bale, “The Big Short”
Tom Hardy, “The Revenant”
Mark Ruffalo, “Spotlight”
Mark Rylance, “Bridge of Spies”
Sylvester Stallone, “Creed”

Best Supporting Actress
Jennifer Jason Leigh, “The Hateful Eight”
Rooney Mara, “Carol”
Rachel McAdams, “Spotlight”
Alicia Vikander, “The Danish Girl”
Kate Winslet, “Steve Jobs”

Best Original Screenplay
“Bridge of Spies”
“Ex Machina”
“Inside Out”
“Spotlight”
“Straight Outta Compton”

Best Adapted Screenplay
“The Big Short”
“Brooklyn”
“Carol”
“The Martian”
“Room”

Best Cinematography
“Carol”
“The Hateful Eight”
“Mad Max: Fury Road”
“The Revenant”
“Sicario”

Best Costume Design
“Carol”
“Cinderella”
“The Danish Girl”
“Mad Max: Fury Road”
“The Revenant”

Best Film Editing
“The Big Short”
“Mad Max: Fury Road”
“The Revenant”
“Spotlight”
“Star Wars: The Force Awakens”

Best Makeup and Hairstyling
“Mad Max: Fury Road”
“The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed out the Window and Disappeared”
“The Revenant”

Best Production Design
“Bridge of Spies”
“The Danish Girl”
“Mad Max: Fury Road”
“The Martian”
“The Revenant”

Best Score
“Bridge of Spies”
“Carol”
“The Hateful Eight”
“Sicario”
“Star Wars: The Force Awakens”

Best Song
“Fifty Shades of Grey” – “Earned It”
“The Hunting Ground” – “Til it Happens to You”
“Racing Extinction” – “Manta Ray”
“Spectre” – “Writing’s on the Wall”
“Youth” – “Simple Song #3”

Best Sound Editing
“Mad Max: Fury Road”
“The Martian”
“The Revenant”
“Sicario”
“Star Wars: The Force Awakens”

Best Sound Mixing
“Bridge of Spies”
“Mad Max: Fury Road”
“The Martian”
“The Revenant”
“Star Wars: The Force Awakens”

Best Visual Effects
“Ex Machina”
“Mad Max: Fury Road”
“The Martian”
“The Revenant”
“Star Wars: The Force Awakens”

Best Animated Feature
“Anomalisa”
“Boy and the World”
“Inside Out”
“Shaun the Sheep Movie”
“When Marnie Was There”

Best Documentary Feature
“Amy”
“Cartel Land”
“The Look of Silence”
“What Happened, Miss Simone?”
“Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom”

Best Foreign Language Film
“Embrace of the Serpent”
“Mustang”
“Son of Saul”
“Theeb”
“A War”

Best Animated Short
“Bear Story”
“Prologue”
“Sanjay’s Super Team”
“We Can’t Live without Cosmos”
“World of Tomorrow”

Best Documentary Short
“Body Team 12”
“Chau, Beyond the Lines”
“Claude Lanzmann: Spectres of the Shoah”
“A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness”
“Last Day of Freedom”

Best Live Action Short
“Ave Maria”
“Day One”
“Everything Will Be Okay (Alles Wird Gut)”
“Shok”
“Stutterer”

Here Are The Dorian Award Nominees!


Carol_(film)_POSTER

The Dorian Awards are handed out by the Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Film Critics Association.  Here are their film nominations for 2015.

FILM OF THE YEAR
The Big Short / Paramount, Regency
Brooklyn / Fox Searchlight
Carol / The Weinstein Company
Mad Max: Fury Road / Warner Bros., Village Road Show
Spotlight / Open Road, Participant, First Look

DIRECTOR OF THE YEAR
(Film or Television)
Sean Baker, Tangerine / Magnolia Pictures
Todd Haynes, Carol / The Weinstein Company
Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu, The Revenant / Fox
Tom McCarthy, Spotlight / Open Road, Participant, First Look
George Miller, Mad Max: Fury Road / Warner Bros., Village Road Show

PERFORMANCE OF THE YEAR — ACTRESS
Cate Blanchett, Carol / The Weinstein Company
Brie Larson, Room / A24
Rooney Mara, Carol / The Weinstein Company
Charlotte Rampling, 45 Years / Sundance Selects
Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn / Fox Searchlight

PERFORMANCE OF THE YEAR — ACTOR
Matt Damon, The Martian / Fox
Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant / Fox
Michael Fassbender, Steve Jobs / Universal
Tom Hardy, Legend / Universal, Cross Creek
Eddie Redmayne, The Danish Girl / Focus, Working Title

LGBTQ FILM OF THE YEAR
Carol / The Weinstein Company
The Danish Girl / Focus, Working Title
Freeheld / Summit
Grandma / Sony Pictures Classics
Tangerine / Magnolia Pictures

FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM OF THE YEAR
The Assassin / Central Motion Pictures, Well Go USA
Mustang / Cohen Media Group
Phoenix / Sundance Selects
Son of Saul / Sony Pictures Classics
Viva / Magnolia Pictures

SCREENPLAY OF THE YEAR
Emma Donoghue, Room / A24
Phyllis Nagy, Carol / The Weinstein Company
Charles Randolph and Adam McKay, The Big Short / Paramount, Regency
Josh Singer & Tom McCarthy, Spotlight / Open Road, Participant, First Look
Aaron Sorkin, Steve Jobs / Universal

DOCUMENTARY OF THE YEAR
(theatrical release, TV airing or DVD release)
Amy / A24
Best of Enemies / Magnolia Pictures, Magnet
Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief / HBO
Making a Murderer / Netflix
What Happened, Miss Simone? / Netflix

VISUALLY STRIKING FILM OF THE YEAR
(honoring a production of stunning beauty, from art direction to cinematography)
Carol / The Weinstein Company
The Danish Girl / Focus, Working Title
Mad Max: Fury Road / Warner Bros., Village Road Show
The Martian / Fox
The Revenant / Fox

UNSUNG FILM OF THE YEAR
The Diary of a Teenage Girl / Sony Pictures Classics
Ex Machina / A24
Grandma / Sony Pictures Classics
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl / Fox Searchlight
Tangerine (Magnolia)

CAMPY FLICK OF THE YEAR
The Boy Next Door
Fifty Shades of Grey
Magic Mike XXL
Jupiter Ascending
Stonewall

The Seattle Film Critics Survey Is Mad For Max! We Love You, Seattle!


MadMaxFuryRoad

The Seattle Film Critics Survey announced their nominees for the best of 2015 earlier today and I have to say, their nominations are pretty interesting!  (Also interesting to note is that they did not nominate Oscar front runner Spotlight.) Way to go, Seattle!

BEST PICTURE OF THE YEAR:

BEST DIRECTOR:

BEST ACTOR in a LEADING ROLE:

BEST ACTRESS in a LEADING ROLE:

  • Cate Blanchett – CAROL
  • Nina Hoss – PHOENIX
  • Brie Larson – ROOM
  • Rooney Mara – CAROL
  • Saoirse RonanBROOKLYN

BEST ACTOR in a SUPPORTING ROLE:

  • Benicio del ToroSICARIO
  • Tom Hardy – THE REVENANT
  • Oscar IsaacEX MACHINA
  • Mark Rylance – BRIDGE OF SPIES
  • Sylvester StalloneCREED

BEST ACTRESS in a SUPPORTING ROLE:

  • Jennifer Jason Leigh – THE HATEFUL EIGHT
  • Kristen Stewart – CLOUDS OF SILS MARIA
  • Mya Taylor – TANGERINE
  • Alicia VikanderEX MACHINA
  • Kate WinsletSTEVE JOBS

BEST ENSEMBLE CAST:

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY:

  • EX MACHINAAlex Garland
  • THE HATEFUL EIGHTQuentin Tarantino
  • INSIDE OUTPete Docter, Meg LeFauve, and Josh Cooley (screenplay); Pete Docter and Ronnie del Carmen (story)
  • SICARIO Taylor Sheridan
  • SPOTLIGHTJosh Singer & Tom McCarthy

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY:

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE:

  • ANOMALISACharlie Kaufman and Duke Johnson, directors
  • INSIDE OUTPete Docter, director
  • THE PEANUTS MOVIESteve Martino, director
  • SHAUN THE SHEEP MOVIE Mark Burton, Richard Starzak, Julie Lockhart and Paul Kewley, directors
  • WHEN MARNIE WAS THEREHiromasa Yonebayashi, director

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE:

  • AMYAsif Kapadia, director
  • CARTEL LANDMatthew Heineman, director
  • GOING CLEAR: SCIENTOLOGY AND THE POWER OF BELIEF Alex Gibney, director
  • KURT COBAIN: MONTAGE OF HECKBrett Morgen, director
  • THE LOOK OF SILENCEJoshua Oppenheimer, director

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM:

  • THE ASSASSINHou Hsiao-Hsien, director
  • MUSTANGDeniz Gamze Ergüven, director
  • PHOENIXChristian Petzold, director
  • SON OF SAULLászló Nemes, director
  • WHITE GODKornél Mundruczó, director

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY:

  • CAROLEdward Lachman
  • THE HATEFUL EIGHTRobert Richardson
  • MAD MAX: FURY ROADJohn Seale
  • THE REVENANTEmmanuel Lubezki
  • SICARIORoger Deakins

BEST COSTUME DESIGN:

BEST FILM EDITING:

BEST MAKEUP & HAIRSTYLING:

  • CAROLPatricia Regan, Jerry DeCarlo
  • MAD MAX: FURY ROAD Lesley Vanderwalt, Damian Martin, Elka Wardega
  • THE REVENANTGraham Johnston, Robert Pandini

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE:

BEST ORIGINAL SONG:

  • CREED – “Grip”, Ludwig Göransson, Sam Dew, Tessa Thompson (composers)
  • FIFTY SHADES OF GREY – “Earned It (Fifty Shades of Grey)”, Abel Tesfaye, Stephan Moccio, Jason  Quenneville, Ahmad Balshe (composers)
  • FURIOUS 7 – “See You Again”, Justin Franks, Andrew Cedar, Charlie Puth, Cameron Thomaz (composers)
  • THE HUNTING GROUND – “Til It Happens To You”, Lady Gaga, Diane Warren (composers)
  • SPECTRE – “Writing’s On The Wall”, Sam Smith, James Napier (composers)

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN:

  • CAROLJudy Becker (production design); Heather Loeffler (set decorator)
  • CRIMSON PEAK Tom Sanders (production design); Shane Vieau, Jeffrey A. Melvin (set decorator)
  • MAD MAX: FURY ROADColin Gibson (production design); Lisa Thompson (set decorator)
  • THE REVENANTJack Fisk (production design); Hamish Purdy (set decorator)
  • STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENSRick Carter and Darren Gilford (production design); Lee Sandales (set decorator)

BEST SOUND DESIGN:

  • MAD MAX: FURY ROADBen Osmo, Chris Jenkins, Gregg Rudloff (sound mixing); Scott Hecker, Mark Mangini, David White (sound editing)
  • THE MARTIANMac Ruth, Paul Massey, Mark Taylor (sound mixing); Oliver Tarney (sound editing)
  • THE REVENANTChris Duesterdisk, Jon Taylor, Frank A. Moñtano, Randy Thom (sound mixing); Martin Hernandez, Randy Thom, Lon Bender (sound editing)
  • SICARIOJohn Reitz, Tom Ozanich, William Sarokin (sound mixing); Alan Robert Murray (sound editing)
  • STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENSAndy Nelson, Christopher Scarabosio, Stuart Wilson (sound mixing); Matthew Wood, David Acord (sound editing)

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS: