Hi. What's up. You wanna talk about the entire X-Men series in one giant review? Well, honestly, it doesn't really matter what you think because we are going to talk about it anyway. Ready or not, here comes a full review of every single X-Men movie to date. Now bear in mind this is not about to be a 17 page review so each individual review will be shorter than usual and will only have a final verdict score. No critique or anything. Additionally each movie will be reviewed from the perspective of the series as a whole. Now my viewing of the series was as follows: X-Men, X2: United, X3: The Last Stand, X-Men: First Class, X-Men: Days of Futures Past, X-Men Origins, and finally The Wolverine. However, the movies will be reviewed by order of release date, from oldest to newest. Ok so! Ready? Deep inhale, and let's talk about some mutants!
X-Men (2000): The first installment in the series accomplishes exactly what it sets out to do: it lays the groundwork for the series. The original X-Men is filled with many cliche moments and is quite predictable from start to finish, however the characters introduced are very interesting and well-played. Bryan Singer, the Joss Whedon of the X-Men trilogy aka its brainchild, does a phenomenal job with the casting here, mixing in new talent with seasoned veterans. The decision to make Patrick Stewart Professor Xavier, despite his fame in the Star Trek franchise was absolutely brilliant. And whoever decided to bring in Ian McKellen, despite the fact that he was in the middle of filming for Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy at the time of filming for X-Men deserves millions of dollars. To pit these two legendary actors against each other is arguably the bedrock of the entire franchise. To some it's not Magneto versus Xavier. To some it's simply Ian McKellen versus Patrick Stewart. And it's worth a watch just because of this one fact. And they could've stopped there. But they didn't. We may not realize it now, but at the time of the first X-Men Hugh Jackman was a nobody. But he is a perfect fit for the character, very similar to Robert Downey Jr as Iron Man. Jackman is Wolverine. And Wolverine is Jackman. Casting Halle Berry, who at the time was at the height of her career, as Storm was also an excellent decision then. She has certainly faded over time but that's ok. Her presence is welcomed here. Really the only miscast was of Famke Janssen as Jean Grey, however this miscast doesn't really come into play until X3. However when it does it becomes the worst thing imaginable. The story also surrounds a young Anna Paquin (True Blood) as Rogue. She was ok, however her character is not really given a chance to develop here. She must have been panned by the fans because her role gets smaller and smaller in every movie after, to the point that I didn't even realize she was in Days of Future Past. But her character is very poorly written, and I didn't really understand what she could and could not do. As for the rest of the plot, there are an insane amount of corners cut throughout the 104 minute story. And when it was over I was like ok. Where are they gonna go next. I think if I watched this movie in 2000 I would've thought it was awesome because it was a different time for superhero movies. The Dark Knight trilogy had yet to revolutionize the way superhero movies were told so as a result you could really feel like there was a comic book-ey aspect to this movie, and nowadays it definitely hurts its cause. Ultimately it is rather forgettable other than setting up the characters here. And making you want to see X2.
The Verdict: 6/10 Above Average
X2: United (2003): Definitely the best of the original trilogy, X2 takes the X-Men in a unique direction with the addition of the villain Stryker. He makes the movie great, creating a believable and heartless character with some very interesting but realistic motives. While the uniting of the X-Men with Magneto (not a spoiler because after all this movie is called United which should absolutely imply this fact) is kind of thrust upon you, and is absolutely the weakest-written part of the movie, it was still a really cool and clever tactic to switch up the roles as much as the writers did. And to make it believable. Everyone returns, with Halle Berry the true benefactor of X2. She has a much larger role in X2 than she did in the original, and she shines in the spotlight. Bryan Singer, who returned to the director's chair for X2, realized they had something special with Wolverine and gave him a large huge huge role here, essentially making him the main character. I mean I guess you could say in the original he was the lead too but here the story is largely and noticeably about him. And once again Hugh Jackman does not disappoint. Man if only there was an origin story of Wolverine that could probably be really interesting....anyway, X2 is a good movie, definitely one of the better superhero movies of the pre-Dark Knight era. You ask me and there might be only one superhero movie from this era that's better than this, and that is Spider-Man 2. However there are some faults though. While the most obvious is the giant leap of faith in expecting us to simply just trust that everyone can put behind their differences and align with Magneto with very little exposition behind it, there were a few others. Obviously I'm not going to go into all of them, but the one I will say is that the Wolverine backstory felt a little too dominating to the rest of the story. A kind of minor complaint, but still a complaint nonetheless. Additionally I commend Singer on making this a full movie. No cliffhanger. Just a good beginning, middle, and end. I absolutely recommend this one to all newcomers to the franchise. Oh ya. It's 134 minutes. Maybe a little long, but not by much.
The Verdict: 7.5/10 Almost Great
X- Men: The Last Stand (2006): We go from the high point of the original trilogy, to quite possibly the low point of the entire franchise. The Last Stand suffers from an absolutely horrible script from start to finish. There's still good performances to be had, as clearly all the actors do their best with the material they were handed, but the writing is just. So. Bad. It infuriates fans of the comic book series, and leaves people who haven't read the comics like myself on the side of the road to wonder, "What? WHO'S IDEA WAS THIS?" Between this and Origins the franchise very nearly died. And while some may wish for Marvel to get the rights to these characters again, I for one am extremely glad we have the three latest films in our lives. Fortunately, due to the ending of Days of Future Past, there's literally no reason to watch this film at all, as Director Bryan Singer has a clever way of wiping the existence of X3 (and Origins, for that matter) out of the X-Men timeline. Finally, the other reason this film was as bad as it was was the reliance on actress Famke Janssen. She plays Jean Grey, a pivotal character in this story. Only problem is Famke Janssen can only hit one note when she acts: she can be very charming. But as soon as you ask her to do anything else she falls apart. I really don't know how this actress became as prominent as she did in the early 2000s, but here she is asked to portray the biggest character ark in this story, and she fails in spectacular fashion. And it's only 104 minutes long. Simply a convoluted mess. Just skip this one, guys. It doesn't exist in the timeline anymore, after all.
The Verdict: 3/10 Bad.
X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009): Skip this one too, while you're at it. The boys over at Fox thought that they could get an "origins" franchise going for X-Men after concluding the original trilogy, as they planned to give Wolverine, Storm, and several other prominent characters a background film all to themselves. Well, this idea lasted for one film and proved to be a total disaster. There are so many problems with this film. While Hugh Jackman is as good as ever as The Wolverine, and there are a few decent action set-pieces, once again we got to witness a terrible screenplay over this 107 minute disaster. The biggest mistake of this film, and really of this whole franchise, however, was its treatment of Deadpool. A fan favorite, so many people were looking forward to seeing Deadpool finally show up in a film, and even more were excited over the fact that Ryan Reynolds was cast to play him. Well, what we got was a character so poorly written and wasted that a non-comic book fan like me didn't even REALIZE it was Deadpool the first time I saw this film. His role is so hopelessly squandered that there were likely tears coming out of the theater from the diehard fans that had been waiting to finally see Deadpool for years. The terrible reception of this film immediately killed any hope of more origin stories, and if The Last Stand didn't mark the low-point of the franchise, then this film certainly did. Fortunately it's all uphill from here.
The Verdict: 3/10 Bad.
X-Men: First Class (2011): Ohhhh was the franchise rejuvenated with this film. So, here's some insight into myself. While many people will say their favorite part of this franchise is Wolverine, I completely disagree with this. I believe the best part of the X-Men franchise is the relationship between Magneto and Professor Xavier, and this relationship is at the forefront of First Class. It also helps that these characters are played phenomenally by James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender. I would argue these actors are just as great at playing Professor Xavier and Magneto (respectfully) as Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan are playing Professor Xavier and Magneto. There's a chemistry to these actors that makes this film incredibly enjoyable. In addition, director Matthew Vaughn actually employees some creative editing in the training montages of the film to make something very enjoyable out of something that would typically be boring. The big loser of this film, however, is Jennifer Lawrence. She is woefully underused as Raven, especially since she ends up being a pivotal character in the story of Days of Future Past. Granted she wasn't the Jennifer Lawrence we know today in 2011, but she is a damn good actress who could've easily carried a few more scenes than just the "Oh, you're beautiful in blue." storyline we get. Actually, all the female characters in this film are pretty underused given that one is played by Jennifer Lawrence and another is played by Rose Byrne. But that's ok because the main storyline here between Magneto and Professor Xavier is executed flawlessly throughout the 132 minute film. I would honestly recommend watching this film first if you're getting into the franchise for the first time and know nothing about X-Men. Get the backstory between Professor Xavier and Magneto, then watch the original X-Men, then X2, then Days of Future Past. Then think about checking out The Last Stand, Origins, and The Wolverine.
The Verdict: 8/10 Great
The Wolverine (2013): Sooooo I'm not as high on this film as others are. The Wolverine started out with so much potential. There's a very interesting premise, and Japanese culture is integrated exceptionally well into 136 minute flick, but....the film squanders this interesting premise and all semblance or renown for this culture with a TERRIBLE third act. That's right, I said it. The third act of this film divulges into cliche, knick-of-time escapes, where it seems like every Japanese man imaginable except one has forsaken their honor for a quick buck. I literally just crossed my arms and waited for the film to finish during this final act. First Class sent this franchise to new heights, but they were somewhat reigned in by The Wolverine. I can't help but feel like this film was the "cash cow"' film of the franchise. After all, the events of this film were erased when Days of Future Past director Bryan Singer wiped away the events of The Last Stand at the end of Days of Future Past. (Because this film clearly and obviously takes place after The Last Stand) It's hard for me not to be cynical with this film. At this point I would recommend it to people who really like Hugh Jackman and The Wolverine, (as most X-Men fans do) but don't go in expecting a masterpiece. Expect a lot of Wolverine, no mention of any of the other X-Men until the post-credits scene, and a disaster of a third act. You do that, and you'll be fine. Aaaaaand cue the fanboy hate mail.
The Verdict: 5/10 Average
On another note, this film is getting a sequel because of course it is, but I was surprised to hear Hugh Jackman announce that The Wolverine 2 will be his last film due to corporate directive and not his own decision. This is very surprising to me. Just like Robert Downey Jr. is Tony Stark and Chris Evans/Hemsworth are Captain America and Thor, Hugh Jackman is The Wolverine. There is no other character, least in the X-Men franchise, who's actor is synonymous with their character. So, after The Wolverine 2, either Wolverine dies or Fox tries to get another actor to play him. If they chose the later, it's going to be a disaster. You heard it hear first, folks. We'll see if my prediction comes true after 2017.
X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014): Ohhhhh it's beautiful. Days of Future Past is not just the best movie of the X-Men franchise, it's quite possibly the best film of the entire superhero genre that isn't named The Dark Knight. Days of Future Past makes you feel something that almost every other superhero movie fails to make you feel: dread. You actually feel dread in the final act of this 132 minute masterpiece. The way this film accomplishes this is by its spectacular use of time travel. Days of Future Past incorporates time travel in an incredibly convincing and effective manner, and successfully integrates two stories and two very different timelines into one giant film. The side-characters are used very well, (I liked Quicksilver FAR more here than in The Avengers 2-yes I'm reviewing this after the release of Avengers 2) the acting in both timelines is at the top of its game, (when the weakest performance in your film is from Jennifer Lawrence, you've done a good job) and the overall atmosphere is just incredible. (Dem costumes dough) The only major complaint I have with the film is how underplayed Peter Dinklage is. His character is essentially a one-note villain, and I know Dinklage is capable of so much more. However when the movie falters here, it more than carries its weight with the relationship between Magneto and Professor Xavier. Carried over from First Class, this dynamic is perfectly well-written. Save the relationship between The Joker and Batman, this dynamic is easily the best dynamic between two characters in a superhero movie. Honestly, this film is sooooo good that it's worth watching X-Men, X2, AND First Class all before watching this film in order to really appreciate it. And I assure you: it's worth every second.
The Verdict: 9.5/10 Damn Near Perfect
Well, there you have it! The mega review of the X-Men series I started almost a year ago is finally finished. Once again, thank you so much for reading! You're awesome. If you read this entire review, pat yourself on the back from me. If you skimmed it, then pat yourself on the bat with only one finger for me. Kay? Kay. Thanks again and I'll see ya next time from inside the wonderful world of my mind!
http://nomoremutants.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/cropped-X-Men-Days-of-Future-Past-Full-Cast-Promo-Photo.jpg (full cast photo)
http://www.wired.com/images_blogs/underwire/2013/07/x-men-origins-wolverine-0.jpg (X-Men Origins)
http://wac.450f.edgecastcdn.net/80450F/comicsalliance.com/files/2012/09/xmfc39.jpg (First Class)
http://images.sequart.org/images/Hugh-Jackman-in-the-Wolverine-2013.jpg (The Wolverine)
http://www.yellmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/xmen-photo-2.jpg (Days of Future Past)
https://41.media.tumblr.com/32aa5cae56e869405d3482f7fcaa3d67/tumblr_nrh9j3IqXE1uziueyo1_500.jpg (final picture)
A masterfully acted, predictable boxer film
Southpaw (2015): Boxer Billy Hope turns to trainer Tick Willis to help him get his life back on track after losing his wife in a tragic accident and his daughter to child protection services.
......I love this film. Maybe I'm just a complete sucker for the predictable boxer film, but seriously....was Rocky any different? Were you really shocked by the results of Rocky? Was that love story really that gripping? Southpaw is getting panned by critics, but I really don't know why. Maybe it's because the Weinstein Brothers co-produced it? Movie critics have major beef with the Weinstein Brothers: they are in bed with the Oscar committee-who have basically reserved one of the spots for Best Picture for whatever "important" film they release on December 31-and have all-around made themselves as pretentious as possible. Southpaw is no exception: it wants to think its way more important than it actually is. But I still have no problem with that. Because I am a sucker for a fun boxer film, and despite its attempt to be more important than it actually is, Southpaw is still a very fun boxer film.
A big reason, no the MAIN reason, is the acting. Jake Gyllenhaal has AGAIN put in a masterful performance. This man is on some kind of role recently, putting in performance after performance where he flawlessly is absorbed into whatever character he is playing. It's incredible to me, because after being number 1 on my list for best performances of 2014, I obviously had extraordinarily high expectations for him going into this film. And he still surpassed them. STILL. He's got another film coming out this year in Everest, and between Southpaw and that film, I'm expecting this is the year where Gyllenhaal finally gets his first (and long overdue) nomination for Best Actor from the Academy. It has to be. And then there's everyone else. Forrest Whitaker and Rachel McAdams are excellent in their roles, also being absorbed into the characters they're playing. However, I have to give a shoutout to child-actress Oona Laurence. If she blew her role as the daughter of Gyllenhaal's character, this film would've fallen flat on its face. Good thing she didn't. Laurence has actually been in several films to this point, but this is the first film I've seen with her in it. I have a feeling we'll be seeing her again.
I also really liked the editing and cinematography. The way the boxing fights were shot was outstanding, featuring brutal close-ups, first-person views, and a few bottom up shots. They even tried to throw in a few jump-cuts into the fights to make it a little jarring, and while they didn't really work, I have to respect director Antoine Fuqua for at least trying, which is more than can be said for most films today. Now, there are some problems that some may view as pretty glaring. Just remember, though: I'm the guy who will defend Real Steel to the grave, even though some called it the worst film of 2011. I am a sucker for boxing films, ok? Well....if you want a film that keeps you guessing until the very end.....keep looking. Southpaw is extremely predictable.The story here was mostly spoiled by the trailers, and, after setting up an interesting premise, the filmmakers take no risks whatsoever in the final act. This is a fault of countless boxing films, but it's becoming more and more glaring to some when you look at the genre and see that Foxcatcher is essentially the only film with a twist in its final act. And that "twist" only occurs because Foxcatcher is based off of real-life events. So the "twist" had to be there because that's what happened in real-life. So, way to take a risk there, wrestling/boxing genre. Yay. But again....I don't care. Ummmm I guess the other big complaint here is that the film thinks it's more than it actually is. It's got the Weinstein touch-it's an "important" film, and you're a bad person if you don't see it-and that's going to turn off a lot of people. But damnit I'm not one of them! I'm happy that I got to scratch my itch for a boxing film, Southpaw. So thank you for that.
The Critique: While ridiculously predictable and heavy-handed, Southpaw delivers masterful performances from everyone involved, and it is exactly what any fan of the boxing genre wants out of their boxing film. Oh and Jake Gyllenhaal is shirtless for most of the film. That's always a plus.
The Recommendation: I think you know what I'm going to say here. If you like Rocky, you're gonna like Southpaw. If you like Jake Gyllenhaal, you better go and see this film. Ya. That's right. You better. ALL HAIL THE CHURCH OF JAKE.
Rewatchability: Moderately High
The Verdict: 8/10 Great
The Modern American Comedy Done Right
Trainwreck (2015): Having thought that monogamy was never possible, a commitment-phobic career woman may have to face her fears when she meets a good guy.
First off, I need to get something off my chest. Judd Apatow is satan. He is the main reason why most comedies today are visually and creatively lazy, and why most comedies today think they can be lightly edited improv and still be good films. He's the main reason modern American comedy is in the biggest funk we've seen from the genre in, well....ever. Whew! I feel better now. That said, it's good to watch this style of lightly edited improv straight from the source, because Apatow realizes that the improv shouldn't dictate the movie. A good story should dictate the movie, and Trainwreck has a really good story to go on top of some really good and lightly edited improv. So, let's jump into it shall we?
First off, let's talk Amy Schumer. Kudos to her, because in addition to being the lead she also wrote the screenplay for this film. She and Apatow share a connection, one which I really want to see again. Now, my experience of Amy Schumer is very limited. I have not watched her on Comedy Central, short of a few videos on YouTube, however I have watched enough of her in interviews to know she is hilarious. However fans of the series, from what I've been told, will be surprised to see that Schumer is very....restrained in this film. This film is a straight-up rom-com, guys. A good rom-com, but still a standard rom-com. Only this time it's from the female perspective, and not the male perspective. However, outside of Amy Schumer, the female of this film are somewhat limited. Brie Larson does a decent job with what she's given, but she's not given much. SNL alum Vanessa Bayer is completely wasted in her role, and Tilda Swinton is just a, well, a not-so-nice person for no real reason. And Chris Evert shows up in a bit that falls flat on its face when it has absolutely no reason to. Least given the talent that's in that scene. But that's all the female roles in a film who's main target audience is women. Ya sexism is totally dead now, right?
Moving on from that depressing bit, let's brighten our day by talking about men. Yay! Cough cough.... So the men of the film are outstanding. First off, Bill Hader. Another SNL alum, Hader has officially found himself a niche. He was outstanding last year in The Skeleton Twins (he was number 7 on my of Best Performances in my First Annual Awesome Actor Awards last year for this performance, by the way) and he is once again charming as ever here. However, it's Lebron James who steals the show. Yup. Lebron James. And I do not like Lebron. At all. But if anything is obvious about me yet, it should be that I love it when people make parodies of themselves in film. I love it so much aoweiaobnrwertyvq! That's exactly what Lebron does, delivering some of the best gags in the film and almost even stealing the show from Amy Schumer. There are several other cameos, including one that I don't want to spoil that shows up in a film the characters watch which was the greatest thing ever, that are hilarious and beautiful. Ultimately, that's the highest compliment I can give a comedy: it's hilarious!
So, besides for the fact that there's absolutely no editing, or cinematography, or anything else commendable from a technical standpoint, what else does this film do wrong? Well, it's too long. Clocking in at ridiculous 125 minutes, this film could've really benefited from having about 20-30 minutes shaved off. Certain gags go on way too long, and there's just too much fluff in the film to keep the pacing where it should be. That's all the complaints I have, but they're pretty damning. If only directos Judd Apatow and Edgar Wright got together and co-directed a comedy starring Amy Schumer and Simon Pegg, and have Nick Frost be the main supporting actor. Oh. My. God. I am ready to throw all kinds of money at that film. Get on it, Hollywood!
The Critique: While visually lazy, Trainwreck delivers exactly what it should: laughs, tears, and awwwws. 2015's best rom-com yet.
The Recommendation: You hear that, fellas? This has date movie written all over it. You hear that, ladies? Can you say girls night out? Because I sure can. Actually I can't. Because I'm a guy. Riiiiiiiight.....
Rewatchability: Moderately High
The Verdict: 7.5/10 Somewhere Between Good and Great
..........I love Bill Hader.
Marvel's Official Bottle Episode
Ant-Man (2015): Armed with a super-suit with the astonishing ability to shrink in scale but increase in strength, con-man Scott Lang must embrace his inner hero and help his mentor, Dr. Hank Pym, plan and pull off a heist that will save the world.
Let's get this out of the way right off the bat: this film is fine. It is a fun ride throughout its 117-minute runtime, but from a technical standpoint? It's a bloody mess. Which is a damn shame because this film really should've been a technical masterpiece: the cinematographer and editor should've had a blast transitioning set-pieces from big to small, and small to big, but who am I kidding? Why spend a bit more money to do something creative from a technical standpoint when you can just have standard cuts between big and small and no one will care? You could put out an Insurgent-level of crap from the CGI, editing, and cinematography departments and the Marvel fanboys will still say OMG THIS IS THE BEST FILM SINCE _______. (Insert some other Marvel film there) Look that's the first thing that we should get out of the way: don't listen to anyone who says Ant-Man is the best Marvel film or is the best thing ever or anything. They're just fanboys. If you really want to hear a non-fanboy opinion of this film, you've come to the right place. You put your faith in me now. Ok? Ok. So let's talk about why Ant-Man is just fine and nothing more.
First off, what the film gets right. Casting Paul Rudd as Ant-Man. Paul Rudd brings a nice bit of personality to the character, one which I really look forward to seeing in future films. I think he's going to be pivotal in ensuring these films have at least some semblance of lightheartedness as they get all heavy-handed in upcoming movies. Next up, Michael Douglas is having a blast in this film, which is great to see. He is excellent as Dr. Hank Pym, bringing as much charm to that character as Rudd brings to his. Evangeline Lilly is excellent as well. I've been waiting for her to really break out after Lost, and this just might be the film where she finally does it. Corey Stoll is also having a blast as Darren Cross. I absolutely love this actor, and this is easily his best performance since House of Cards. The story is good. As I said before. this film really removes the grandiose/epic-ness of previous Marvel films, and instead elects to go with a sort of "bottle episode" feel. No really attempt to make the consequence's be earth-changing, just drama between a family, a madman. and Paul Rudd. Which is great! I think a bottle episode at this time is needed given where the films are going and what we're going to get next. And, uhhhhhhhhhh......ya.
Now, let's talk about where the film screws up. (Deep breath-brace for fanboy rage) First off, not letting Paul Rudd be Paul Rudd in Ant-Man. Does he have his moments? Yes. Are they few and far between? Absolutely. Most of the time, Paul Rudd felt incredibly uncomfortable and stiff, and it drove me nuts. It's Paul Rudd! He can have a serious personality, guys! Have you seen him in Anchorman? I mean he has more personality as Brian Fantana than he does here as Ant-Man, and in Anchorman he's not even trying! Paul Rudd, while good, was mostly wasted in this role. And this stems from a bigger problem. The elephant in the room, so to say. Edgar Wright left a gapping hole in this film. My second-favorite director in Hollywood, (behind only Martin Scorsese, in case you were wondering) Edgar Wright's charm and wittiness only shows up a few times in the film we got, which is a damn shame. Paul Rudd under Edgar Wright would've been so great. Instead, we're left to wander what could've been. More on the lack of Edgar Wright-ness later.
Next up, Michael Peña. Seriously, guys? This actor is completely wasted in this role. Why did you feel like you needed a character solely for comedic relief when you have Paul Rudd as your lead? WHO'S IDEA WAS THIS? Michael Peña is a phenomenal actor, but here his bits made me cringe! CRINGE! Don't get me wrong: he has a few moments, but why couldn't we have gotten a character like Peña was in American Hustle? THAT was hilarious. But nope. Here, we get a silly, ridiculous comedic role in a film where everyone is supposed to be funny. Next up? The ending. F*** the ending. No. I can't talk about it here without spoiling anything, so go to the bottom if you want my discussion on the ending, however if you avoid the spoiler just know that I HATED the ending.
Finally, let's talk about one last glaring problem: the action sequences. This film signifies a growing problem with the Marvel cash-cow. This stems from Marvel execs observing the phenom that is the young adult film genre. When you know your film is going to make over $100 million no matter what you do, why bother spending an extra $5 million in your production budget to make your action scenes look, I don't know, real? Guys, let's not kid ourselves. The action sequences here are (AT TIMES) as bad as the final battle between Electro and Spider-Man in The Amazing Spider-Man 2. Yup. If the fanboys already didn't hate me, they do now for comparing Ant-Man to The Amazing Spider-Man 2. But it's true! You just don't want to admit it. Just like in The Amazing Spider-Man 2, at several points here immersion is completely broken for me when I realize, "There's not a single real thing on the screen right now. I'm looking at 100% CGI." The only difference between the two is that one is life-size, and the other is at ant-level. Doesn't make it any better guys. And the final battle between Ant-Man and Yellowjacket? While it had a few moments, and I appreciated them cutting between their ant-size battle and what it looks like at full-size, the fight could've been SO MUCH MORE. I almost don't want to say it, but had Edgar Wright been in charge, we would've gotten a much more technically creative final action sequence. Go watch The World's End, Hot Fuzz, and Scott Pilgrim, then tell me how that statement is untrue. But it's the messiness of these action sequences that really holds the film back from being good. I'm sorry for expecting my fight scenes to look real. Is it sad nowadays that films will actually use the notion that all their stunts are real as a selling point? That's just insane to me.
See why you should put your faith in me? Aren't you thankful for doing so? Here's my recommendation for this film: if you need to see a film right now, go see Trainwreck. Don't feed this cow. Wait until this film comes to Redbox and see it at home with some friends. While it has its moments, this film is not good enough to warrant all the money it's going to make. It's not! This film exists solely to continue setting up the Marvel Comic Universe, and to feed the Marvel cash-cow in the process. Nothing more. Don't do it, man. Let it be. Go out and see a good film that is worth your time in Trainwreck. You'll ultimately feel better with yourself I promise.
The Critique: Though not without a few good comedic moments, Ant-Man's glaring technical flaws hold its major set-pieces back from the standard we should expect from action films today.
The Recommendation: Redbox it. Please. Just be content with waiting a few months and Redbox it. Nothing is going to change in the next few months in the MCU I promise.
The Verdict: 6/10 Above Average
SPOILER ALERT: ONLY READ THIS IF YOU'VE SEEN THE FILM/DON'T CARE IF THE ENDING IS SPOILED FOR YOU
Ok. F*** the ending. Why? How am I supposed to just buy and accept that a burglar solves the space-time continuum in five seconds???? Oh ya. For those who don't know, Ant-Man enters an unknown dimension in order to finally defeat Yellowjacket. He apparently sacrifices himself to do so, but then OF COURSE he figures out how to escape the dimension he's in just so they can keep him on for future films. Here's a thought: Marvel, you know how you set up Evangeline Lilly at the end of this film to show up again as another Ant-Man like hero, right? Well, why don't you just have her become the Ant-Man? I just found myself shaking my head when this guy, a man who had no scientific knowledge whatsoever at the beginning of the film, figures out a way to solve a question that Michael Douglas's character, a scientific genius, has been struggling with for most of his life. Not to mention the entire modern real-life science community. I 100% agree with Edgar Wright. This ending is extremely cliché. And it sucks. But it'll make them more money in the long run I'm sure so yay sacrificing a good ending for better business practices! I mean all they really needed was the mere mention of Edgar Wright's name in order to get the Edgar Wright fans out he doesn't have to actually finish the film....
MacFarlane's fall from relevance Realized
Ted 2 (2015): Newlywed couple Ted and Tami-Lynn want to have a baby, but in order to qualify to be a parent, Ted will have to prove he's a person in a court of law.
This....is sad. It's sad that the only way I can defend a Seth MacFarlane film is by saying it's not as bad as A Million Ways to Die in the West, a film so bad that I struggled through some tears to finish it. Yes. Tears. Why tears? Because I love Seth MacFarlane. He is the number one person in show business that I want to buy a beer and have a crazy evening with. I think MacFarlane is the funniest person in the world. I do. I really do. I have seasons 1-6 of Family Guy practically memorized, and I still quote it with regularity. His brilliant cutaways to something completely irrelevant to the overarching story are, when they work, brilliant. But they add insult to injury when they don't work. Well, they did work in Ted 1. MacFarlane's directorial debut, Ted was hilarious and, despite a messy third act, one of my favorite comedies of 2012. Ted....is seasons 1-6 of Family Guy. A Million Ways to Die in the West was just a mess, like modern Family Guy-no energy, no edge, just a bland convoluted pile of garbage. Well, Ted 2 is not that. Not quite. But pretty damn close. Ted 2 is.....season 8 of Family Guy. You've seen the show go downhill for a season now, and you really hope it comes back.....but it doesn't. Ted 2 is just more of the same from Ted 1. However, it's missing the energy and the edginess its predecessor had. Ted 2.....and it pains me to say this, but.....Ted 2 is cashing in.
Well, what does this film do right? On the bright side, this is the single best performance I've seen from Amanda Seyfried. Mostly because she's asked to be pretty much the smartest person in the room. I feel like Amanda Seyfried is actually an insanely intelligent person. I'm convinced she runs a think tank that's trying to discover the God Particle or something, she just doesn't want everyone to know for fear of us "judging her" or something. Because she always plays the dumb blonde in every film she's in, and she always does it so poorly. Then, she does a smart role, and she nails it! Logic right? Well, she's just about the coolest lawyer ever let me tell ya. Ummmmm what else....there are a few good jokes. One joke was a musical joke so obviously I lost it at that point. I thought the musical joke was the best joke of the entire 115-minute film, but I might be a little biased. However, even unbiased me says....ya. You'll agree with me. It was the best joke of the film. I guess the cameos are good, too. There are a couple of them, including Sam Jones reprising his role (it's in all the trailers so it's not really a cameo) and I won't spoil the big one for you, which occurs early on. However this time, they're just cameos for the sake of cameos. The big cameo is funny, but they ultimately aren't integrated into the plot in any way because of course they aren't. Just gotta check "cameos" off the list, right?
Sooooo let's talk about negatives. First off! Seth MacFarlane is sexist as hell in this film. Every single female character in this film is objectified nonstop. Even Amanda Seyfried is oogled at for most of the film by Ted and Wahlberg's character. This is getting really old, Hollywood. I wouldn't buy for a second that someone who is as smart as Seyfried's character would fall for a moron like Wahlberg, so why force in a love story just so Wahlberg can "get the girl?" MacFarlane: you could've made Seyfried's character like a badass smart lawyer who doesn't have time for guys, and made fun of Wahlberg trying to get her to fall in love with him. That would've been hilarious. But no. Forced love story. Because....yes. And oh! You think it ends there? It doesn't end there. Oh no! The other main female character, Ted's wife Tami-Lynn (lol white trash names but that's a Ted 1 joke) is objectified from start to finish, and basically the ONLY other two female characters in this film AT ALL want to sleep with Wahlberg. Well, ok, there is another female character who shoots down an advance from Wahlberg, but she does it with the ol' "I have a boyfriend excuse." You know. Cause we can't go out on a limb and have her say, "No. Because I'm too good for you." This really has to stop, Hollywood. We saw it in Hot Pursuit earlier this year too! I think in the comedy genre the sexism is far worse than it is elsewhere, because those filmmakers have the audacity to hide behind the veils of humor and say, "well you're not supposed to take it seriously because it's a comedy." NO. Stop hiding and own up to your actions guys. What's even worse is the fact that this is Seth MacFarlane. MacFarlane is a huge liberal, and has, on multiple occasions, used his fame to fight for women's causes. But then he goes and directs sexist sh*t like this? C'MON.
......ok. So that turned into a bit of a rant. Sorry about that. Anyway, that isn't the only thing that's wrong with this film. The third act....is essentially the EXACT same as Ted 1's third act. Mess and all. Except this time, we're at New York Comic-Con instead of Fenway woo!!!! Isn't that a major difference? Doesn't the setting just change EVERYTHING? It even.....it even has Giovanni Ribisi, who is AGAIN massively underused. He isn't as underused as he was in Ted 1, but it's damn close. I guess just this time he pretends to be someone else to gain Ted's trust, which I guess requires a bit more acting than just being the weird guy who wants a teddy bear. But, that's really the biggest complaint I can make about this film: it's Ted 1. It's the same film. Just, with a bit of writing to explain why Amanda Seyfried is in the film and not Mila Kunis. You know, at the time, I gave Mila Kunis a hard time for skipping Ted 2 to be in Jupiter Ascending. Because boy did that film suck. But I got news for you, Mila: you didn't miss much.
This film....this film is the perfect summary of MacFarlane's long hard fall from grace, and from relevance. I really want to see some vintage family guy make a return. I saw glimpses of it here. There was one really sharp satire on modern 24-hour news networks that brought back memories of the glory days of MacFarlane. There's still greatness left in you, my friend. I still want to buy you a beer and get into shenanigans. That evening would still be the greatest evening of my life. But, that buried greatness is nowhere to be found in Ted 2. Someday....
The Critique: Ted 2 is the exact same as its predecessor, minus the edginess and energy that made the original great. While Amanda Seyfried shines, the few laughs in Ted 2 are not worthy of either your time or attention.
The Recommendation: ummmmm if you're a diehard Seth MacFarlane fan it's worth checking out, otherwise stay away.
Rewatchability: Moderately Low
The Verdict: 4/10 Below Average
This is why I love Cinema
Locke (2014): Ivan Locke, a dedicated family man and successful construction manager, receives a phone call on the eve of the biggest challenge of his career that sets in motion a series of events that threaten his carefully cultivated existence.
You know, there's a lot of crappy films out there. The young adult genre is a cash cow, and everyone knows it. There's sequel-bait everywhere. 2015 is the year of the remake, and all these films, most of which will likely be bad, will still make more money than most films this year. We complain that Hollywood is running out of ideas, but that's because we're going out and seeing the remakes and the sequels. We just don't want to face this fact. Sometimes, it's hard for me to find reasons to get really excited for cinema. But, every once in a while, a film comes along that reminds me "Oh ya! Hollywood is still awesome. And I love reviewing film." Gravity did it. Whiplash did it. And now Locke has done it. Locke is a masterpiece. I wish I had given this film the light of day back in January, but it was stuck between so many films that I only thought it was great at the time. But now, in between one crappy reboot in Jurassic World and Terminator Genysis, which I am not exactly hopeful for, this film blew me away. This is my second time watching this film, and had I given it the attention it deserved, it would've been my number two film of 2014. That's right.
So, what makes Locke so amazing? Well, it starts with the premise. The film, all 84 minutes of it, is simply Tom Hardy driving and talking on a cell phone. That's it. No cuts to the people he's talking to, just Tom Hardy, a car, and a cell phone. While many films will have a gimmick and it's labeled as such, such as the "found footage" genre or a film like Unfriended being shot entirely from a Skype box, this is not a gimmick. This single view is a major obstacle that requires flawless execution to even have a chance at working. And it didn't work at first: it took about 15 minutes for me to get into it. But I think director Steven Knight knew this. He gives you time to get situated, and right when you think the film is going to be a failure, he hits the accelerator. Suddenly, you start feeling for this man. More than you do for anyone in the vast majority of films out there. This character, brilliantly portrayed by Tom Hardy, emotionally wrecked me. And all he does is talk on his cell phone.
Locke is great because of the gripping, original, and brilliant story, but there are other reasons why this film is perfect. There's some lens flares and work with the cinematography to keep the film from becoming complacent. It does look as interesting as it can visually despite a rainy British night. However, there is also an amazing performance from Tom Hardy. He is forced to carry the movie, and he does so brilliantly. There isn't anything negative to say about this film. Except WHY COULDN'T THIS FILM HAVE BEEN LIKE THREE HOURS LONGER? I WANT TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENED TO THIS CHARACTER. I know: that's a good complaint to have. A complaint in the highest degree. But it's going to legitimately bother me. Just know this: Locke is original, simple, and an incredible ride. I cannot recommend enough that you take the time to see this film. You'll be thankful you did.
The Critique: A masterpiece of cinema. Stunning, creative, and elegant, Locke creates an intense ride on what should be a handcuff of a pretext because of its simplicity.
The Recommendation: An absolute must-watch. Find a way to see this film. Please. You'll thank me later.
The Verdict: 10/10 Perfect.
Photo Credit: http://www.gannett-cdn.com/media/USATODAY/USATODAY/2014/05/01//1398987130000-SR-Locke.jpg
The Kit Harrington Film WE've Been Waiting For
7 Days in Hell (2015): A fictional documentary-style expose on the rivalry between two of the greatest tennis players of all-time who battled it out in a 2001 match that lasted seven days.
This film....this film is ridiculous, unbelievable, and even somewhat appalling, and yet.....I love it. I laughed so hard during this short 43-minute HBO film that I almost couldn't control myself. This movie is freaking hysterical, guys. And there's literally one reason this film is as funny as it is. Andy Samberg and Kit Harrington. Well, I guess that's two reasons, but you know. There is an undeniable chemistry between these two actors that made this film one of the funniest comedies I've seen all year. Are the gags ridiculous? Did some have me shaking my head in disgust? Absolutely. For example, when a streaker comes out and starts having sex with Andy Samberg's character, initially I was just shaking my head and not laughing at all. But then, the camera cut to Kit Harrington's reaction and I just lost it. Maybe that's it, cause as I think more about this, Andy Samberg was essentially himself, which is fine because his persona is hilarious, but this is the best non-Jon Snow performance I've ever seen from Kit Harrington. Period. And yes, I cringed through Pompeii last year for him. I've been wanting to see what Kit Harrington can really do, and this film shows it. Finally. This mockumentary is definitely worth 43 minutes of your time just for Kit Harrington's performance. So, for all you Jon Snow fans out there, sit through the sex jokes and the ridiculousness of the film just to see how Kit Harrington reacts to the world around him. It's more than worth it I assure you.
The Critique: 7 Days in Hell is the Kit Harrington film we've been waiting for. While the mockumentary offers little else, Harrington knocks it out of the park.
The Recommendation: If you're asking me this then you know nothing, Jon Snow.
Rewatchability: Moderatly High
The Verdict: Gonna do a double-take here, because this really is all about Harrington with only a bit of humor coming from Sandberg.
With Kit Harrington: 8/10 Great
Without Kit Harrington: 3/10 Bad
Average: 5.5/10 Slightly Above Average
Minions. Minions Everywhere.
Minions (2015): Minions Stuart, Kevin and Bob are recruited by Scarlet Overkill, a super-villain who, alongside her inventor husband Herb, hatches a plot to take over the world.
So. Many. Minions. It should be noted that in a film like this, it doesn't really matter what I say. I haven't "rushed" to get this review out because if you like the minions you're going to see this film regardless of what I say. But if you're here, you might be wondering what I thought about this film. So I'll tell you! WHOA. So I had more fun that I was expecting with this film, however, this is not saying much. I had very low expectations going into it, so it wasn't difficult to pleasantly surprise me. Keep in mind, though, that this is a kids film. There are very few jokes for the older audience here. Least far fewer than there should be in a kids film that's made well over $100 million in its first weekend. Illumination Entertainment should take some lessons from Pixar of how to keep adults really entertained in a children's movie. It can be done I assure you.
Look. It's very hard to get past the fact that this film and this franchise is a cash cow for Universal. From a technical standpoint, this film is very lazy. The franchise hasn't really advanced technically since the first film in 2010, and now the animation is starting to look dated. But does it matter? No. The story is....predictable. I mean I never once would buy that any of these characters would adopt the minions, much less actually think they could do any of the things they did. But does it matter? No.The voice acting was lackluster. You could tell the actors were going for charm more than anything else, but Hamm and Bullock did a nice job as the two main characters. However, everyone else was extremely forgettable. But does it matter? No.
The only thing this film had to offer was an exceptional soundtrack. Not just that, but this is clearly where most of the production budget went. Jimi Hendrix, The Rolling Stones, and even The Beatles all show up in this film. I'm still on the outside looking in on this sort of thing, but even I know that it takes a ridiculous amount of money to feature a Beatles song in your film. For once, though, I wish that money had gone to creating a better story or better animation than expensive music that would play in establishing shots for a new location or something.The soundtrack, as great as it was, didn't add to the overall experience at all. It was recognizable music simply for recognizability's sake.
At the end of the day this film is.....fine. Neither good nor bad. Just average. I laughed a few times throughout the 104 minute film, and found myself smiling at others, but I couldn't get past the fact that this film is around just to be a cash cow.The technical deficiencies and forgettable voice acting didn't help its case, either. Basically....if you're gonna feed the cash cow, what I say doesn't matter. If you actually are skeptical about this film....just Redbox it.
The Critique: The definition of a cash cow. While somewhat enjoyable, Minions brings fans of the franchise exactly what they want to see and nothing more.
The Recommendation: If you want to see it, you've already seen it. If you haven't, don't bother until it's on Netflix or Redbox.
The Verdict: 5/10 Average
By: Peter Kosanovich
The definition of Underrated
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl (2015): High schooler Greg, who spends most of his time making parodies of classic movies with his co-worker Earl, finds his outlook forever altered after befriending a classmate who has just been diagnosed with cancer.
Before I start, I want to preface this review by saying this was easily both one of the funniest and one of the saddest movies I've ever seen! The first half to two thirds of the movie you are practically rolling in your seat, the laughs don't stop, but by the end you almost won't be able to stop crying because of how personal and intimate the story becomes.
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is an adaptation of the novel of the same name, written by Jesse Andrews. The film differs a bit from the novel, but Mr. Andrews wrote both, so he can do whatever he wants. And with that, let the plot begin.
Described in the opening line of the film "This is the story of my senior year in high school, and how it literally destroyed my life, and how I made a film so bad it literally killed someone." The movie starts with the audience meeting Greg, the "Me" in the title, a self-hating high school senior whose only real friend he refers to as his coworker. That will make sense later. Greg explains through montage and narration that he has figured out the secret to high school, instead of falling into the normal cliques that form - jocks, theatre kids, band geeks, pot heads - get on good terms with all groups, but don't really become friends with any of them. An interesting theory...? We then meet Earl, the coworker, but we don't learn much about him right away. Finally, we meet the "Dying Girl," Rachel. Rachel has been diagnosed with leukemia, and through her mom talking to Greg's mom Greg is forced to hang out with her. Yes, I do mean forced. He even tells her that...you can't get much more awkward than a guy telling a girl with cancer that his mom made him hang out with her, and that he doesn't even want to be there. Ouch. Slowly, or maybe not that slowly, the two actually bond, and become very close, hanging out daily as Rachel begins chemotherapy and misses more and more school. After not long Earl begins hanging with them as well and we finally learn that he and Greg make terrible parody movies together, hence coworker. It is suggested to them that they make a movie for Rachel, that that would be the best thing they could do for her.
That's the movie in a nutshell, but it's almost sad to leave the description so short. The movie relies on quirky, awkward humor that will leave you in stitches. That is, until the movie becomes so personal and intimate during the cancer diagnosis that you can't help bug shed a tear. No, seriously, people in the theatre with me literally could not stop crying.
Jesse Andrews and director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon do a brilliant job of tackling a sensitive, and very personal topic for many people. They address it with good humor and tact, never going too far over the edge, and keeping a sense of heart throughout the film. Alfonso Gomez-Rejon also does an fantastic job of making this movie visually unique. He utilizes bizarre and interesting camera angles to help set the tone of the story and overall flow of action.
Critique: I absolutely loved this movie. Jesse Andrews and Alfonso Gomez-Rejon did brilliant jobs, and conveyed the story perfectly. It has humor, and heart, and sadness, and a complete story that is both sad and satisfying. Easily one of the best movies of the year.
Recommendation: I definitely recommend this movie, but it's hard to say for who exactly. I found it amazing and touching, but some people just don't like sad movies, despite how funny and clever it also is. I would probably recommend it to just about anyone, so long as they're prepared to likely cry.
Rewatchability: Also a tough one. The first half to two thirds of the movie I could watch just about any time, but the latter part of the film I would possibly need to be in a mood for. Regardless, I would definitely watch this movie again, no hesitation!
Rating: 8.7-9 It's just so solid, with such unique visuals
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