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


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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

Here’s The Love-Filled Trailer For Equals!


Just in time for Valentine’s Day, here’s the trailer for the upcoming film, Equals!

Kristen Stewart and Nicholas Hoult live in one of those dreary futures where both emotion and flattering clothing have been outlawed.  Despite the law, Kristen and Nicholas fall in love and good for them!  Seriously, the law was made to be broken…

Why should we be hopeful about Equals?  Well, it was directed by Drake Doremus, who did the underrated Like Crazy.

X-Men Apocalypse Super Bowl TV Spot


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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

Quick Review: Mad Max – Fury Road (dir. by George Miller)


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When Mad Max: Fury Road was first announced, I was skeptical. We saw what happened when a director returns to a franchise they excelled at. Neither Ridley Scott’s Prometheus nor Lucas’ work on the Star Wars prequels were as amazing as the originals. Fury Road may be the exception to that rule, at least when compared to The Road Warrior and Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome. The visuals are bright and colorful, with chase sequences that left me smiling through it all. The 3D adds a nice touch, particularly in the chases (without giving too much away), the movie feels as if it was built for a 3D showing. I’m not sure how it comes across in a regular format.

Without looking at those films, Fury Road hits the ground running (almost literally) and continues to do so for most of the film. While the title of the film belongs to Tom Hardy’s character, Max takes something of a back seat to Charlize Theron’s Furiosa, who is the true heroine here. Max is the character that introduces the audience to the Wasteland, a world left barren after war and where Gas, Water & Blood are the richest commodities around. While I liked Hardy in this, I had the feeling that they could have put anyone in the role of Max and it wouldn’t have made much of a difference.
Furiosa is the one that carries the bulk of the story.

Fury Road’s plot is simple & thin, but given that it all takes place in a Wasteland made mostly of desert, it worked out okay for me. I wasnt expecting a whole lot on the story front, but was happily surprised with it. Imperator Furiosa is sent out with a crew for a Gas run, but decides to follow her own agenda, putting into motion the pursuit from the Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne) and one of gis up and comimg lackeys, Nux (Nicholas Hoult).

From a pacing standpoint, Fury Road shifts it’s gears often while managing to still keep the engine purring. Some of the chases are chaotic, with cars flipping through the air and wanton destruction all over the place. You even have cycles riding over dunes and speeding through salt flats. However, it never reaches a point where you can’t see what’s occurring. The film has just one moment that I thought was slower than it should be halfway in, but it also serves to set up the 2nd act. The movie is mostly one big truck chase, but it’s done incredibly well. If you’re looking for something incredibly deep, this might not be the film you’re looking for, though the movie does try it’s best to accommodate with the script.

Another standout is the music. I’m used to hearing Tom Holkenborg (a.k.a. Junkie XL) as the remix track maker for most of Hans Zimmer’s scores. With Fury Road, Holkenborg has a number of pulsing drum rhythms and guitar pieces that fuel the chases. While it may sound a little like his work on 300:Rise of an Empire, the music fits. Note that I if you’re looking to buy the score, there’s a deluxe version with extended tracks, perfect background music for motorcycle rides on your favorite highway.

Fury Road is rated R, though I’ll admit that it wasn’t as violent as I expected it to be. It can get bloody at times, but the film never becomes a gore fest or anything along those lines. As far as nudity is concerned, there are only two instances of this and both are related to the story. In my showing, we had full families, but there didn’t seem to be any kind of reaction (as far as I can tell).

So far, we’re on track for an interesting summer.

What a Lovely Day To Be Mad Max: Fury Road


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We have the first official trailer (not teaser which the others last year had been) for the upcoming vehicular masterpiece mayhem from the mind of George Miller. It’s been a couple of decades since Miller played in the post-apocalyptic world of one Max Rockatansky.

A special teaser trailer was released during last year’s Comic-Con in San Diego and it was universally-hailed as mind-blowing and melt-your-face in it’s awesomeness.

Today we get the first official trailer and, most likely, the only one since the film is nearing it’s release date. So, watch and try not to melt your face as you stare into the mayhem before you.

Mad Max: Fury Road is set for a May 15, 2015 release date.

Mad Max: Fury Road Official Teaser Trailer


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What a lovely day, indeed.

At this year’s Hall H over at Comc-Con this past summer a trailer was shown that figuratively blew off the roof at the convention. It was the trailer for all the upcoming films for 2015 and beyond that everyone ended up geeking up over. It wasn’t the sizzle reel for the upcoming Age of Ultron (though it seems that was a close second). It wasn’t the brief tease of Batman v. Superman (though from people I know who went the teaser went a long way in removing doubts about the film).

No, the film the trailer was all about was George Miller’s return to his post-apocalyptic world inhabited by one of the original badasses of the 1980’s: Max Rockatansky aka Mad Max.

Yes, we are going to have sandwiched between Avengers: Age of Ultron and Star Wars: The Force Awakens a new Mad Max film (4th in the series) with Tom Hardy in the title role. The title to this latest entry in the series will be Mad Max: Fury Road.

The Comic-Con teaser for Fury Road whetted the appetite and this latest teaser trailer released by Warner Brothers today will just feed the thirst for post-apocalyptic vehicle mayhem.

Mad Max: Fury Road will be set for a May 15, 2015 release.