Thursday, May 26, 2016

X-Men: Apocalypse (2016)

X-Men: Apocalypse (2016)

Director: Bryan Singer

Cast: James McAvoy, Michael Fasbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Nicholas Hoult, Oscar Isaac, Rose Byrne, Evan Peters, Sophie Turner, Tye Sheridan, Olivia Munn

Bryan Singer’s X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014), was a step up from the Bret Rattner directed atrocity known as X-Men: The Last Stand (2006), the worst film in the entire X-Men franchise. Sure it had its moments, but overall, there’s no denying it was a dud. X-Men: Days of Future past wasn’t perfect either, it needed that little extra oomph to make it perfectly awesome, which is something that director Bryan Singer has fixed with X-Men: Apocalypse (2016), which as it turns out is now one of the best in the franchise. To be honest, I went to see Apocalypse expecting another run of the mill X-Men film, something fun but not exactly memorable, yet Bryan Singer proved me wrong. The X-director took this opportunity to blow our minds away! Yup, I really dug this one!

If you remember the after credits sequence that appeared in X-Men: Days of Future Past, we saw a blue skinned individual, high above a sandy dune in Egypt, building a pyramid with the power of his mind. In the background, four horsemen oversaw the whole thing. Well, X-Men: Apocalypse picks up a few years after this, when this individual has turned into the ultra powerful first mutant known as Apocalypse. He has amassed a cult following that worships him as a god, but like any god, he has a few detractors who would rather see him dead, and so he ends up buried underground for a myriad years. That is until a group of modern day followers resurrects him and Apocalypse’s plans to destroy and rebuild our world are put into motion once again. Will he manage to destroy our society?  Or will the X-Men have what it takes to stop him?

There are many cool things about this film, but one of them is that it takes place during the 80’s, one of my favorite decades. This lends itself to many cultural references to that era, so keep your eyes peeled because there’s a lot of those! Keeping true to the whole 80’s vibe, even some of the characters look the way they did during the 80’s, for example Storm looks the way she did in the comics during the 80’s with her white Mohawk! Speaking of this whole thing about the film taking place during the 80's, we can see a pattern forming. X-Men: First Class (2011), took place during the 70's, X-Men: Apocalypse (2016) during the 80's and from what I hear, the next one will take place during the 90's. It's a cool gimmick they've been fooling around with. On this one we even get Angel done right! We even see how he gets his metallic wings, which happens exactly the way it did in the comics. Speaking of this film being like the comics, there are a lot of moments taken right out of some of the best X-Men stories! There are hints to the Dark Phoenix Saga, which will apparently be explored in future films and done right, not half assed like in X-Men: The Last Stand (2006). And there’s a whole segment dedicated to Barry Windsor Smith’s epic Wolverine storyline Weapon X.

And speaking of cool things that happen on this film, I’ve always been a huge fan of Barry Windsor Smith’s Weapon X storyline, it’s one of the goriest Wolverine stories ever drawn. On that story we see Wolverine in a beast-like form, as he is awakened for the first time after he is given his adamantium claws. He storms out of a secret lab, slashing and maiming every single foot soldier that gets in his way. Well, Bryan Singer has brought that comic to life and incorporated it into this film and it freaking blew me away to see Barry Windsor Smith’s classic artwork coming to life on this film! Some might not be happy with the fact that the Weapon X storyline was reduced to a mere segment on X-Men: Apocalypse. The Weapon X storyline is so seminal, so good that it should have gotten an entire film dedicated to it instead of a segment sandwiched into X-Men: Apocalypse. I agree with these sentiments wholeheartedly. Weapon X would have made the basis for the perfect Wolverine origin story, instead of the god awful X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009) movie we got. Still, I was happy to see it as an extended showstopping sequence in X-Men: Apocalypse.  Wolverine fans, strap yourselves on tight!

Another great thing about X-Men: Apocalypse is that it’s well acted and written. I dug Magneto’s storyline, it’s so personal, so dramatic. It humanized the character a lot, it makes us sympathize with the villain once again. And once again, Fassbender steals the show as Magneto.  Performance wise, this is one of the best X-Men films in my book. Then there’s the show stopping scenes in the film, of which there are many. Its one showstopper after the next, every character gets a moment to shine; every one of them shows the full capability of their powers. Once again, Evan Peters as Quicksilver gets not one, but two amazing scenes in the movie! He moves at lightning fast speed to the tune of an amazing song! Not gonna spoil it for ya! Point is, not a moment is wasted on this film, there’s no boring filler on this one, this one is jam packed with action!

I’d forgotten that it was Oscar Isaac playing Apocalypse, and while watching the film, I didn’t realize it either because he is unrecognizable under all that make up, but in my opinion he delivered. Sure the only downside to this film is how Apocalypse looks; they should’ve done something closer to how he looks in the comics instead of redesigning him so much. It’s true, sadly he does look like a Power Rangers villain. On the upside of things, Isaac’s performance as Apocalypse is good enough that you’ll forget all that jazz and just enjoy the movie. On a final note, I do not understand how or why this movie has gotten such low numbers on Rotten Tomatoes even before the film’s release. If these numbers are based on critics reviews, I wonder if the critics saw the same film I did because this movie rocked! So screw that noise; in my opinion this film is extremely solid and highly entertaining! Bryan Singer has made one of the best in the series with X-Men Apocalypse, trust me, you will not be disappointed!

Rating: 5 out of 5

Friday, May 6, 2016

Captain America: Civil War (2016)

Captain America: Civil War (2016)

Directors: Anthony & Joe Russo

Cast: Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, Don Cheadle, Jeremy Renner, Chadwick Boseman, Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Rudd, Tom Holland, Marisa Tomei, Daniel Bruhl

I finally got to watch Captain America: Civil War, one of the most anticipated films of the year and it was quite noticeable that audiences were salivating to see this one, how much? Well, my plan was to see this one on an early screening, during the morning, on a weekday, you know to avoid the crowd. I got there early but to my surprise the first show was sold out! I started to realize that maybe I had underestimated this movie, so I decided I’d better buy tickets for the next show. The thing is this was a weekday, a school day and yet, there was a huge line to buy tickets and it was mostly kids on the line. Kids who were supposed to be in school I might add! My take on it was that Captain America: Civil War was way more important on their list than the math test they had that day. So yeah, looks like everyone and their mother wanted to see this one, which says a lot about the kind of money this movie is going to make once everything is said and done. On this screening of the film people were audibly excited, clapping when Black Panther and Spider Man first appeared, and yelling stuff like “no that movie didn’t just finish there!” Don’t know about you guys but I love watching a movie with a giddy audience. But, excitement aside how was this third Captain America movie?

Well, this time around, same as in a lot of recent comic book movies, the heroes are seen as the villains because they’ve caused so much death and destruction while ‘saving the world’. The government wants to bring in Captain America and his team of sympathizers in order to keep them under control and used whenever they see fit. But Captain America will have none of that. On the other hand, we have Iron Man, who sympathizes with the government and thinks they are right, heroes are out of control and need to be kept in check. Who’s right and who’s wrong? Of course this all leads up to the big battle, which is just as cool as you’d expect it to be.

This story line was recently played out in Batman vs.Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016), a film in which the world starts seeing Superman as more of a threat than a savior. And same as in that one, the government wants to exert some sort of control over the super powered individuals. This similarity in plot lines and themes doesn’t surprise me because Hollywood has always fed on each other when ever a new idea pops up. When a new idea is hot, the 'modus operandi' is each studio will put out their own version of it, at the end of the day, what matters is how well they played out their version of the idea. Superman vs. Batman had flaws but I managed to enjoy it. You do get the feeling they could’ve gone further with the whole government trying to control superman thing. Instead, that film focused more on Superman fighting Doomsday and left the whole government after Superman story floating in the air. In retrospect, it does seem like Batman vs. Superman:Dawn of Justice (2016) should have stuck to one story line, maybe it might have had the cohesiveness that this film has, you see Captain America: Civil War stays with its proposed plot line and plays it out well, without introducing a new sub plot every five minutes. 

An example of this cohesiveness is the fact that they didn’t really go into the whole Infinity Gems/Thanos plot line that will be played out in the upcoming Avengers: Infinity War films. They’ve been leaving little hints in other movies, and could have easily added something about that film on this one. Instead, there’s not much about the upcoming Infinity Gauntlet story line except for The Vision talking a bit about the yellow Infinity Gem that’s on his forehead. Other than that, this film is solely about Team Captain America, the group of heroes who want to be in control of their actions and Team Iron Man, the heroes who think it’s best to be a government lap dog. Who will win? Freedom or subjugation? Will superheroes be subdued?

The thing about this Captain America movie is that, it feels more like an Avengers film than a Captain America movie, I mean, look at the credits! This is one gigantic cast! Everyone gets their time on screen, but like I said, there's so many characters on this movie that we sort of lose focus on the main guy, Captain America. That’s really the only flaw I could find on this otherwise perfect comic book film. The action sequences are spectacular, loved that chase down the highway, where the heroes are running faster than the cars themselves, that was a novel approach to a chase sequence. The entire airport fight sequence was like, wow, gigantic in nature and had some unexpected twists and turns. Then of course we get the Black Panther and Spiderman intros, both of which got claps from the audience of mega geeks I saw the film with. I must say, Black Panther was so well introduced, it definitely feels like he could get his own movie, same with Spiderman, who’s portrayal was one of the moments that everyone was expecting the most here. I gotta say I loved this new Spiderman. He comes off as an inexperienced kid learning to be a hero. He doesn’t look like an adult trying to play a teenager, he is a teenager, he talks like a teenager and that’s how it should be. Loved the father son relationship that’s building up between Iron Man and Spidey, that was extremely cool. Another surprise is just how much Spidey is on this movie. I thought he’d do more of a cameo appearance, but he really is a part of the film. Actually it feels like his first try out at being an Avenger!  I’m really curious to see what Marvel will do with Spiderman: Homecoming (2017), the upcoming Spiderman film from Marvel. All in all, Captain America: Civil War is a film jam-packed with goodness, and all delivered in a coherent and thoroughly entertaining way. By the way, this movie has two extra endings, so stay all the way to the end of the credits to see both. Marvel/Disney has got comic book movies down flat, it seems like they get better with each passing film.

Rating:  5 out of 5

Monday, May 2, 2016

Hardcore Henry (2016)

Hardcore Henry (2016)

Director: Ilya Naishuller

Cast: Sharlto Copley

Hardcore Henry is an amazing movie in many ways; first off, let’s start this out by saying that this film was partially funded by an Indiegogo campaign, Indiegogo is a crowd funding website. For those of you who don’t know what crowd funding is, well, basically these are websites in which you can promote your project. You post a target amount that you want to reach and if people like it, they will give you their money in order for you to complete your dream project. Once you reach your desired budget, the site keeps a small percent, and you keep the rest to complete your project. A lot of films have been funded this way. The nazi zombie movie Iron Sky (2012) and Rob Zombies 31 (2016) come to mind. Well, Hardcore Henry was the dream project of Ilya Naishuller, the film’s director. Before this, he’d only directed music videos for his band ‘Biting Elbows’, which were shot in a similar fashion. So impressively enough; this is Naishuller’s first feature film. It’s groundbreaking in some ways, while repetitive in others, either way you won’t be able to stop watching it.

This is the story of Henry, a guy who wakes up with no memory of who he might have been. All he knows is that someone is always chasing him and trying to kill him and that these same people have stolen his wife away, so he has to save her. The innovative element of the film is that it’s all told from the first person perspective. Sure other films have had first person view segments, but this film is entirely told this way, so basically, we are Henry, we are running and jumping and shooting. If you’re a fan of first person shooters, you will absolutely love this movie. If on the other hand you’re the kind of person who gets dizzy or nauseous watching this type of point of view, don’t bother, because it goes on for the whole film. But, if you can take this sort of thing, you’re in for a trip!

Hardcore Henry reminded me of Robocop (1987)because it’s about a cyborg trying to remember who he used to be, who he loved, so it’s a film in which the main character has an identity crisis. In terms of pacing, it reminded me also of the frenetic nonstop pace of Crank (2006) and Crank 2: High Voltage (2009), if you haven’t seen either of these films, well, basically they are nonstop action fests in which something crazy happens every five seconds in which reality doesn’t really apply. It’s exaggerated action, like that of a comic book or sci-fi film. Hardcore Henry is this type of film, it’s none stop insanity on top of insanity. The cool thing is that when crazy shit happens, you feel it’s happening to you. I dug this element of it, which is what I personally love about first person shooters; you feel things more intensely then on third person games, or watching a regular movie.

Sharlto Copley steals the show on this one because even though Henry is the main character, we never see him, we ARE him. Who we do see most of the time is Sharlto Copley who plays this crazy scientist who clones himself, so we see different versions of him pop up all throughout the film, each one crazier than the next! This one’s a giant coke head, that one smokes weed, that one is a homeless person and so on. It’s pretty amusing, so it’s basically Sharlto Copley’s show here. But aside from Copley, the real star of the film is the style in which it was made. The movie just keeps blowing you away with the way things were shot. I kept asking myself how the hell they shot some of the scenes! Actually, there’s this one moment in the film, which to me was the apex of the whole thing where I just had to clap, I almost stood up and screamed in movie buff delight at this amazing sequence. It’s towards the finale; you’ll know it when you see it because you’ll be blown away. Does it have any flaws? Well, in this type of film I’m not exactly looking for depth or anything, for the kind of film it is, we get exactly what we’re supposed to get. You never get bored, you get cool effects, none stop action and effects. My only gripe was maybe that there’s so much shooting going on that at one point it feels repetitive. But that quickly dissipates when we go to the next awesome shot. Final word is, I recommend Hardcore Henry. It’s groundbreaking stuff because no film has ever been done entirely in first person, and not only that, the filmmakers truly exploited this angle of the film. They really put Henry in some crazy situations where you get the most out of the whole first person thing. Hardcore Henry is worth going to the movies to see, it was a real adrenaline infused surprise.

Rating: 4 out of 5


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