Tuesday, May 31, 2016

X-Men: Apocalypse


"Forget everything you think you know," Raven/Mystique tells a bunch of recruits, "None of that matters." 

Ugh. Could that dialogue be any more parallel with the way this whole franchise has gone in general? Seriously, no one knows what is going on anymore in the X-Men timeline. Bryan Singer decided he wanted to make sure The Last Stand and Origins: Wolverine never happened; but sadly, in the process he basically ended up erasing the first two movies as well (and that Wolverine film that takes place in Japan) in Days of Future Past, leaving the only other for-certain canon movie being... First Class. At this point, we're pretty much forced to take what they've given us now and see if we can make anything out of it. 

So, in this particular film that takes place 10 years after Days of Future Past, the original first mutant named Apocalypse wakes up after millennia of sleep. And this mutant who thought of himself as a god looked upon the world that he saw now. And he saw that it was not good. Apparently. So, much like Bryan Singer himself with this franchise, he decides to take it upon himself (and his Horsemen--Magneto, Angel, Psylocke (who?) and Storm) to remake the world. Leaving pretty much just the X-Men to stop him--which is made up of no one but Mystique, Beast, and a bunch of new recruits... that you actually know (Jean Grey, Cyclops, Nightcrawler). Oh yeah, and Quicksilver's back. 

What we are treated to is a first 30 minutes that drags slightly slowly at times, before then giving us a pretty relentless remaining run time of action, destruction, and a prison breakout scene. The spectacle that ensues is pretty awesome, and there's quite a bit of plot going on in the background too (so it's not just mindless action/destruction). Some scenes are admittedly better than others, but there are some that are just fantastic (namely the "nuclear launch" sequence as well as Quicksilver's latest awesome slow-mo run--which somehow manages to outdo the one from the previous movie). 

The movie's pretty loaded with a good cast as well; James McAvoy and Jennifer Lawrence do quite well again, and Michael Fassbender pretty much earns himself an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor (which means he won't get it, because it's the Oscars). Oscar Isaac is okay as well as Apocalypse, while Evan Peters is awesome again as Quicksilver, as is the new Sophie Turner as Jean Grey, as she seems to step into the role surprisingly well. 

Apocalypse hasn't exactly gotten good critical reception, which I'm finding a bit hard to understand. At worst, you could say it's predictable (I pretty much guessed how they would defeat Apocalypse before I even saw the movie--at least part of how they did it, anyway); but that doesn't stop it from be an exciting action/adventure film that actually works as a part of the new X-Men timeline (whatever that timeline is). 

Really, the biggest problem with this film overall is the same one that hangs over pretty much *all* the movies in this franchise: we can't figure out what's canon and what isn't anymore, and what's going on in the timeline. If you're a fan of the franchise thus far, then this should be another brilliant installment for you. If you haven't really enjoyed X-Men before, this is quite unlikely to change your mind. But overall, it's quite a fabulous superhero movie that, despite the fact that we can't figure out the timeline, manages to be incredibly entertaining on its own merits with its own characters and plot. Just like pretty much all the other movies in this series. 

Friday, May 27, 2016



I never bothered to read the Goosebumps series; for one, I've never been into the horror genre in any way; even when I was younger, I was never interested in the whole thing. Secondly, there's *so many of them.* Apparently there's about 180 of those books? Jeez. So it was partially by accident that I even became mildly interested in watching this movie in the first place. Unless I had randomly seen a trailer of it, I wouldn't have cared when I found out it was coming out. 

As best as I can tell, this actually isn't based off a particular book in the series or even multiple books; it's more or less just based off the various monsters. And other creatures. And, um, the author himself. Fictionalized for the movie. Yup, you read that right. In a clever move, we end up getting R.L. Stine himself as a character (played by Jack Black in one of his better performances). 

The plot of this movie revolves around when some kid named Zach (played by an actor I was stunned to find was not Logan Lerman--must've been his twin he never knew about) moves next door to the reclusive Stine and his much less reclusive daughter Hannah. Through a series of misunderstandings and circumstances, Zach and his idiot new "friend" Champ end up breaking into Stine's house where they find a bunch of Goosebumps manuscripts. Locked. And Zach decides to unlock one of them. 

And lo and behold, out comes the Abominable Snowman of Pasadena (well, that's what they call him in the actual book he came from, anyway). Because the creatures that Stine wrote about can actually become real (although *how,* exactly, is never really explained--aside from some apparently magical typewriter). And then a bunch of other creatures get released accidentally. And so on. And now Stine, Zach, and Hannah have to capture these creatures and put them back into the books before they lay waste to their hometown--Gremlins & Jumanji style. 

I have to admit, I wasn't expecting too much out of this movie, but I was surprisingly entertained most of the way through it. The events that set the movie in motion are admittedly rather dumb, and to be fair, it's not a movie that you can take too seriously. Thankfully, you're allowed to figure that out fairly quick--considering that when the first monster (the Snowman) appears, he doesn't rampage first--he investigates his surroundings first like a lost dog. Amusingly. But it's actually pretty decent entertainment all around for the most part. We're actually given a couple of clever plot twists (one of which is impossible to see coming), and Jack Black's performance is *brilliant* (even if no one else's is). Probably the actual worst thing about this film is the male sidekick "Champ," whom I guess was supposed to be comic relief because of his idiocy and social ineptness. Guess what? It wasn't funny. It was annoying. 

The often tongue-in-cheek-ness of the film actually allows for an almost throwback-to-the-80's feel at times, while still keeping a clear 2010's flavor--something that actually works for them. That said, the film does feel ever-so-slightly ridiculous every now and then. And there are a couple plot points that make little sense (I guess you have to read the books). It's not a classic, but it's fun enough that it makes for pretty good family viewing. I've never read the books, nor do I still wish to. But this movie is good enough to stand on its own merits. 

Friday, May 20, 2016



Hey, remember those two Despicable Me movies we all loved? Well, guess what? They made a spin-off film about the hilarious sidekicks in the background. A prequel, actually. About the Minions and their desire to serve an evil master, and where that takes them; particularly in the late 1960's. 

Specifically, this movie focuses on the Minions and their history of accidentally killing their evil masters (by the way, this flick contains one of the highest body counts I've ever seen in an animated film, even if almost all of the deaths are humorous). During a dark time for them in the 1960s where they are stuck in an ice cave with no purpose, three minions--Kevin, Stuart and Bob--volunteer to go and find a new master for them again. And they just happen to stumble upon an event called "Villain-Con" where they end up becoming servants to Scarlet Overkill; a control freak of a villain who has very specific goals (taking over England). 

For a film about normally hilarious sidekicks, this is actually a stunningly dumb film. There's very little plot, and a lot of it makes little sense (example: Scarlet ultimately turning on the Minions for no reason even when they actually get her the thing she wants). The humor is mostly incredibly cheesy, cheap or cringeworthy at times. In fact, ironically, most of the few actually humorous moments in the movie *don't* directly involve the Minions; namely, when Scarlet declares to a crowd of villains, "We have one thing that makes us all equal!" and a weird fish creature randomly yells, "We were all born with flippers! ... No? Just me?" 

What's sad--aside from the shocking lack of actually good humor involving the Minions--is how much time we spend around the annoying villain Scarlet; especially considering that young Gru himself actually shows up near the end (and pretty awesomely too), making you wonder why this movie wasn't actually about young Gru and the minions instead--which would've probably ultimately turned out better. 

When it's all said and done, this is actually one of the more stupid animated films I've seen recently; lacking plot or humor, this movie has almost nothing in its favor. Sure, it has the minions; but they're ultimately just victims of a cash-grab film that gives little thought to the film itself. The younger ones might like it, but pity the adults and anyone else who is forced to sit through it. Hopefully they'll be able to convince the kids to watch either of the two superior Despicable Me movies instead. 

Saturday, May 14, 2016

The 5th Wave


One of the more recent trend surges in film has been the book-to-movie adaptions of various young adult series; most of them dystopian, with Hunger Games, Maze Runner and Divergent leading the way. This one, however, could hardly be considered dystopian at all; if anything, it's a little more like I Am Number Four in that it's a young adult series about aliens, even if the plots are quite different. Unfortunately, just like that other series, the film adaptions might be doomed to defeat after the first one. 

The 5th Wave revolves around a group of aliens that attack Earth via different "waves" or styles of attack in order to exterminate the humans. The first wave? Worldwide EMP. The second wave? Literal waves. The third wave? Ebola rip-off. Fourth wave? Taking over human's bodies, apparently. The fifth wave? Remains yet to be seen. 

This one girl named Cassie is the protagonist, and she doesn't really get involved in the conflict until the fourth wave when the Army starts training the kids to fight back and she and her little brother Sam are accidentally separated. On her own, she is forced to go after him, though she is joined by a mysterious stranger named Evan whose intentions are somewhat unclear. 

The 5th Wave actually has a very interesting idea, revolving around aliens wiping us out via a step-by-step process. The plot twist that reveals what the 5th wave actually is is pretty genius (even if you're able to see it coming before it's actually revealed). I'm sure the book is probably quite a bit better, but unfortunately, there's a lot of nonsense to sit through in the movie. 

For starters, the acting is quite lackluster; although that may have more to do with the script, or lack thereof. The direction, despite a couple decent set pieces and camera shots, is quite sloppy and some parts of the film don't make much sense as well (though I'm sure they're explained in the book). You're left asking random questions like, "How in the world do the soldiers get the Army vehicles and school buses working after the EMP?" and "Why would soldiers or anyone, for that matter, train kids that aren't even teenagers to go into the field, since they should still have plenty of forces otherwise?" 

The 5th Wave is a quite a mess; which is unfortunate, because it has a pretty interesting basic story/idea surrounding it. You get the feeling that this could've been a much better movie had they gotten the right people working on it. But this particular series didn't have that kind of luck, and it looks like it won't survive long enough to become an actual "series." 

Friday, May 6, 2016

Captain America: Civil War


The Marvel Cinematic Universe film series has been running pretty strong for multiple movies now. Their newest objective? To take on the apparently hugely popular comic book storyline "Civil War." Which, of course, I know absolutely nothing about (since I don't read the comics). The idea still sounded pretty awesome to me. 

The Civil War is sparked due to two sides sparring over really two things: first, there's the Sokovia Accords--an attempt by the United Nations to control the Avengers after too much destruction and death during their heroics. "We need to be put in check," Tony Stark/Iron Man says, who feels guilt after the Ultron incident. Steve Rogers/Captain America on the other hand? "The safest hands are our own." 

Things get worse when Bucky Barnes (the "Winter Soldier") appears to be going rogue again, and of course Captain America wants to protect him... while Iron Man wants to bring him in. Obviously, things are only going to escalate from there. 

A couple of new heroes are introduced as well; one being Black Panther, whom I was somewhat skeptical about but who turned out to be quite awesome, actually. And I can safely say I'm ready for his movie in 2018. As for the much-anticipated Tom Holland's Spider-Man? Jury's still out. He's somewhat entertaining and is pretty good during a fight scene, but in all actuality, I've still seen too little of him to be able to make a clear decision on whether he's no joke or not. 

This movie is quite entertaining indeed, and the Russo Brothers once again establish their ability to create some brilliant fight scenes. The big fight sequence between *all* the Avengers is spectacular and is the highlight of the movie by far, but the opening fight with Crossbones and the climactic fight are pretty darn good as well. Dialogue is still quite good, giving a little bit of food for thought as well as wit. 

I think the biggest problem with this movie revolves around its choice of main antagonist. (Maybe a slight spoiler alert ahead?) We get this dude named Helmut Zemo, who is probably the weakest villain we've seen yet in the MCU. Even his motivations really aren't that interesting, as it's nothing we haven't seen before; I'd be able to look past that easily if he was at least a cool villain like Crossbones (who really should've been the main antagonist instead), or at least if he was truly despicable. But he isn't. He's just kinda... there. Without giving away much, the *true* reason the Civil War happens (Sokovia Accords aside) is a tad weak for a story that's this huge in the Marvel universe and makes me think, "Really? Couldn't we just have stuck with them fighting over being controlled by the government? That's good enough on its own!" 

That said, Civil War is still quite a fun movie to watch and it has a couple twists and turns you don't see coming. Even if I was perhaps expecting a bit more out of it (perhaps a darker turn, which I guess sort of happens but not really), it's still a good movie in its own right. Could it have been better? Yes. Is it still worth watching? Yes. It's probably not in the top half of the MCU, but considering the success of this series, that's still not saying a whole lot.