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X-Men Apocalypse movie review



Grade: C

xmen_apocalypse_ver18Here’s the thing — I am a fan of all things X-Men. I collected X-Men comics, watched X-Men cartoons and love the X-Men movie series. Well, mostly love. I wasn’t a big fan of the third X-Men movie X-Men: The Last Stand but otherwise I think for the most part those films are my favorite of all the comic books to movie series with X-Men: Days of Future Past being my favorite of the bunch.

That’s why it sucks for me so much to report that the latest X-Men movie X-Men: Apocalypse is a real stinker.

X-Men: Apocalypse takes place in 1983, 10 years after the previous X-Men: Days of Future Past which itself took place 10 years after the first X-Men: First Class. Which is the first problem with the movie — the characters have been around for 20 years of movie-time at this point yet they simply haven’t aged. Magneto (Michael Fassbender) and Xavier (James McAvoy) should be in their 50s with Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) and Beast (Nicholas Hoult ) in their 40s with the passage of time, yet they all look as young and vibrant as ever.

Which admittedly is a minor quibble that’s easily overlooked except the movie’s chock full of stuff like that.

Most of the story deals with an ancient godlike En Sabah Nur/Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac). Apocalypse is accidentally awakened in Egypt where he’s been slumbering for 5,000 years and promptly goes about recruiting a new team of his four horsemen of the apocalypse which he finds in the mutants of the 1980s. These acolytes include Magneto, Angel (Ben Hardy), Storm (Alexandra Shipp) and Psylocke (Olivia Munn). Apocalypse’s plan is to enhance these four mutants powers so they can go around and destroy the world so that the weak (or most everyone on the planet) dies leaving only the strong behind.

xmen0001

And why do these four mutants go along with Apocalypse and his planetary genocidal scheme? Well, that’s never really explained or explored. One minute these mutants wouldn’t harm a fly and the next they’re ready to murder mankind on a global scale which really makes no sense. So you give me something and say you’re the boss, and I’m ready to become a mass murdered because you say so no questions asked?

And lots of regular people die in this movie. Magneto kills a handful up-close and while using his powers to destroy cities ala Metropolis in Man of Steel thousands, if not millions more. And what price does he pay at the end of his movie for harming so many? Nothing whatsoever. This man who survived the death camps at Auschwitz and spent the first movie of the series hunting down the man who killed his mother becomes a mass murderer that would place him in the top tier of killers of all time. Worst of all at the end of X-Men: Days of Future Past he’s a smiling, unburdened and free from being in jail of all the mass-destruction he’s caused.

Seriously, at the end of the movie many major cities have massive Magneto caused damages, yet at the end of the film everthing’s supposed to be hunky-dory.

X-Men the Age of Apocalypse posterAgainst Apocalypse and his minions are Xavier and a hodgepodge team of mutant students including shapeshifting Mystique, strong Beast, telekinetic Jean Grey (Sophie Turner), able to shoot blasts of energy from his eyes Scott Summers (Tye Sheridan), lightning-fast Quicksilver (Evan Peters), able to transport himself short distances Nightcrawler (Kodi Smit-McPhee) and stands around looking concerned Moira Mactaggert (Rose Byrne). But these aren’t the X-Men per-se, they’re mostly students and other helpers from previous films thrown together in order to try and stop Apocalypse when Xavier is incapacitated.

Which is another problem with the movie — these characters have no training whatsoever in using their powers or working tighter as a team, yet here they fight like seasoned veterans of 1,000 wars. They aren’t so much the X-Men, but instead they’re who the X-Men will be at the end of the film when the movie studio is teasing the next one in the final scene.

Of course these good-guys, Apocalypse and his horsemen meet and do battle, this time in a ruined Cairo Apocalypse leveled when making a grand pyramid to himself. Which is another problem — for a character who’s strong enough to level a city from sheer willpower lane he doesn’t seem like he’d need the help of anyone else to ruin/rule the world.

And now that I think about it, this is the third X-Men movie of the current franchise yet there’s never really been a legitimate X-Men team. Okay, there were the future X-Men in Days of Future Past but otherwise in these prequel movies the main characters have always been young students thrown together in some fight to save the planet from some level of devastation. Yet in the decades of movie time between films Xavier never took the initiative to actually build an X-Men team, EVEN THOUGH THE MOVIE’S HAVE ALWAYS HAD X-MEN IN THE TITLE!

If there are two rays of light in X-Men: Days of Future Past it’s of the character of Nightcrawler who’s actually used quite well in this movie — his powers allow him to go places others can’t — and that of Quicksilver who was used to good effect in the previous movie too. Otherwise, the movie was mostly cloudy.

I dunno. I was really looking forward to X-Men: Apocalypse for a long while and have really enjoyed watching this current version of the cast inhabit their roles the last few films. But this movie was such an utter disappointment on so many levels I don’t know if with the next one — and there will be a next movie, X-Men: Apocalypse earned more than $500 million at the box office — I’d be so quick to see it.

That next X-Men movie might be one I wait to turn up on cable some Saturday night.

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X-Men: The Last Stand (2006) movie review



This is a repost of a review I originally wrote back in 2006.

In yet another case of a movie not quite living up to the hype, X-Men: The Last Stand (aka X-Men 3) mostly delivers on the visuals but underperforms on the story.

In X-Men 3, a “cure” has been found for the “mutant gene” dividing the mutants into two camps. One camp, lead by Magneto (Ian McKellen), wants the cure destroyed and the mutants left as-is. The other, lead by Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart), wants to take a “live and let live” approach, allowing the mutants themselves decide their own fates.

Whereas the fight scenes between the mutants are awe inspiring, the story is paper thin with major holes and dialogue that’s shoddy/cliché. Characters motivations/actions seem to be driven by moving the plot forward rather than how those characters would normally act.

One would suspect that when a movie costs a reported $200 million to make at least some of that money would be spent on developing an excellent script, but apparently not.

Most frustrating of all, many of the major twists and turns in the movie seem to be driven more by contract negotiations with the actors than by servicing the plot.

Back in 2002 I called X-Men 2: X-Men United one of the best movies of the year and lamented that I couldn’t wait for X-Men 3. Unfortunately, X-Men 3 wasn’t worth the wait. (7/10)




X-Men paved the way!



The 20th Century Fox X-Men movies are probably the most important superhero franchise in movie history. While today they might be second to the more popular Marvel Studios movies like The Avengers, Guardians of the Galaxy and Captain America, none of those films would exist without X-Men (2000).

xmen_ver1Long before Iron Man smashed box office records and ignited the current superhero comic book movie craze or Deadpool became one of the highest grossing “R” rated movies of all-time came X-Men to a very different movie landscape back in 2000. Then, superhero movies weren’t a sure thing, they weren’t popular and they weren’t even all that respected. In fact, in the years just before X-Men there were a slew of TV movies-of-the-week that were based on then popular comic titles, of which only the super-fans seemed to tune in to watch. The failure of these TV movies would only go onto prove the point that comic book TV movies, and therefor all things comic book related, were “just for kids.”

And while the Tim Burton Batman movies had been popular in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the slew of comic book related films that followed including the post Burton Bat-sequels, Captain America, The Punisher and Fantastic Four all were poorly received — to the extent that the Marvel movies were only ever released on home video here in the US or weren’t ever released at all in the case of the 1994 Fantastic Four.

And into all this would come the announcement of the first X-Men movie in the late 1990s.

For years us fans had heard rumblings of superhero movies in the works from Iron Man to Spider-Man to, yes, X-Men. But for years that’s just what those rumors were, rumors and nothing more. Year after year these announcements would be made and fans would talk about their dream casts for these films but nothing ever came to be.

Until X-Men that is.

Famke Janssen, Halle Berry and James Marsden

Famke Janssen, Halle Berry and James Marsden

But when the first X-Men movie was announced and trailers for it began to be released I remember feeling a little trepidation. Gone were the usual costumes of the X-Men, replaced with something more uniformly black and more The Matrix like. And while there were familiar characters like Jean Grey, Wolverine and Cyclops in the mix, there were also odd choices like Toad with his extra-long tongue and the blue/nude Mystique.

I remember thinking that the movie looked good, but that “looking good” and actually “being good” are two totally separate things. In fact, I didn’t see X-Men in the theater. I think I was too worried that my all-time favorite superhero team would be something gross and unrecognizable on the big screen and stayed away. It wasn’t until months later that I finally saw the movie on DVD and liked it.

The first X-Men isn’t a great film but it’s not a bad film either. I’d call it “good-ish.” And while this “good-ish” movie didn’t break box office records, it grossed about $400 million in today’s dollars, it did good enough that it would pave the way for other superhero movies to follow.

Hugh Jackman as Wolverine

Hugh Jackman as Wolverine

Movies like the first Spider-Man film series and the new Batman and Incredible Hulk movies, along with loads of really bad super-hero movies too, would follow. All because the first X-Men wasn’t total crap and was actually “good-ish.”

And now 16 years later comes a new X-Men movie, X-Men: Apocalypse that’s the eighth X-Men movie if you could the character spin-off X-Men films. Some of the X-Men movies like X2, First Class and Days of Future Past would be very good. And some like The Last Stand and Wolverine very bad.

But it’s because of that very first X-Men movie back in 2000 and that it wasn’t total crap and didn’t bomb at the box office that we have any super-hero movies to talk about or watch at all. Because without X-Men there’d be no Captain America: Winter Soldier or The Avengers which would make Marvel and Disney several billion dollars poorer.

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X-Men: Pryde of the X-Men (1989) opening credits






Direct Beam Comms #21



TV

Game of Thrones  &  Veep

Both Game of Thrones and Veep returned to HBO last week with GoT entering its sixth and Veep its fifth seasons. These two series are still pretty good, but I feel that, especially with GoT, they’ve started to slip.

game-of-thrones-season-6-1-4To me, GoT is kind’a starting to feel like The Walking Dead, where there’s no end in sight for the story with the series set to go on and on and on. Which is fine, as long as interesting things are happening on the show — which, if this were, say, the second season of GoT it’d still be good. Except that much of the GoT story this season and last has been introducing new story elements, suddenly and sometimes violently killing characters while at the same time not really ending any particular story.

Lately, the storylines of GoT is like a ballon being filled. And which each breath the ballon grows larger and larger. Next to the balloon is a sharp knife and slowly the ballon gets bigger and gets closer and closer to the knife and destruction. And when the first ballon is starting to get realllllly close to that knife another ballon appears and like the first is slowly inflated until it begins to get closer and closer another sharp, pointy knife and oblivion.

And then there’s more and more balloons introduced to the point where the tension rises and rises with each breath and expectant pop.

Except that when you look back at the first balloon, the one that had you on the edge of your seat for so long it’s not so much as touched the knife and exploded, instead all the air’s just been let out of it and since you were paying attention to all those other balloons you never noticed that instead of some fantastic explosion that first balloon ended in a big flabby mess.

To me, that’s the formula of GoT. Lots of stories are introduced and lots of exciting things happen, but there’s not much closure or resolution on anything.

There’s still a war, the great GoT “houses” still don’t like each other and the series is full of characters only looking out for themselves. And much of this feels like it’s in place to keep the show in a “steady state.” That if we look back on GoT in a few years time maybe the faces have changed, but the stories will have not.

I’ve heard arguments that the stories of GoT are like real life. That these things really do happen and people really do look out for themselves. And that’s true, except that GoT isn’t real life. It’s a fictional story with dragons and magic and zombies. Which to me means that GoT really should be heading towards some conclusion. I get that maybe this conclusion might be the conclusion of part of the story and not the conclusion of the story as a whole. But it should seem like overall GoT is headed somewhere. Otherwise, GoT is just covering the same unique territory it covered in the first season but it doesn’t feel all that “unique” all these years later.

Veep, on the other hand has done a good job of changing and morphing as the series has progressed. The first season started with the title character Selina Meyer (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) as the Vice President of the US, then changed with her having delusions of power as she became the actual President as the President she served under stepped down. Now Meyer’s in an election fight on three sides with her holding onto the office in doubt.

Aliens Defiance

Aliens Defiance

To me, Veep works best in short, controlled bursts. The first season of the series had eight episodes while later ones ten. Which isn’t many extra — but it does seem like when the creators of Veep are forced to be focused with a limited run like with the first season, Veep is a much more focused show. With more episodes sometimes the story wanders a bit, and I wonder if it’s more because that’s what the writers wanted to do, or if it’s because they had to create more content for the longer season?

Game of Thrones – Grade B- Veep – Grade B+

Comics

Out now is Aliens: Defiance #1 from Dark Horse. What makes me interested in his comic is the cover artist; Mark A. Nelson. Nelson drew the very first Aliens title for Dark Horse back in 1988 and this image marks a sort of return for the artist to a character he hasn’t drawn in quite some time.

Movies

X-Men: Apocalypse trailer

“Just because there’s not a war doesn’t mean there’s peace.”

“Not all of us can control our powers.”
“Then don’t.”

Toys

NECA is set to release even more toys from the movie Aliens (1986) this time based on the characters of Vasquez and Frost. They already have a few figures released from that movie including Bishop, Ripley, Hicks and Hudson. Which makes me wonder if NECA is planning on releasing all of the A and B squad Colonial Marines?

On the Horizon

I’ve got columns in the works/planned for the X-Men film franchise, Independence Day: Resurgence, the movies of 1986, Suicide Squad and Star Trek too.