Movie Review: X-Men Apocalypse (7.4/10)

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There are certainly things to like about this film.  From the introduction of the new X-Men (the new Cyclops, Jean Grey, Nightcrawler, Storm, and an increased role for Quicksilver), to the powerhouse acting performances by James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender, to several memorable action sequences, it’s a 2 hour and 25 minute movie sprinkled with highlights.

Which is precisely where the flaws of the film lie.  The film often drags on exposition and side plots to the point of dullness.  Also, as good an actor as Oscar Isaac is, he was not exactly menacing as Apocalypse.  For a mutant who was supposed to be the very first of its kind, who is able to change elements at will and whose power supersedes that of Professor X, he did not strike a fear into the viewer.  I was not terrified of Apocalypse; rather, my thought shifted to wondering how the X-Men would be able to defeat him.

(As much flak as Marvel has received for its lack of focus on its films’ villains, I gravitated towards the charming yet dangerous presence of Ultron, in the short moments he was featured in “The Avengers: Age of Ultron.”  It was really a waste of such a great performance by James Spader.)

It’s only June and already four comic book movies have been released.  I’d ranked them in this order, with the first being my must-see and last being wait for home video release.

  1. Captain America: Civil War
  2. Deadpool
  3. X-Men: Apocalypse
  4. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

 

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Spoiler Talk: Captain America: Civil War (Spoiler Alert!)

I will be giving a detailed spoiler-ridden discussion in this piece.  You’ve been warned!

For my spoiler-free review of this film, click here.

This won’t be an analysis of the film from start to finish, but rather things I want to bring up in terms of what impacted me the most.

Wow, what an awesome movie.  I have never been so entertained by a film and the range of emotions that it brought was astounding.  I laughed out loud at the jokes; I clenched my girlfriend’s hand so hard during the final fight when Iron Man tries to 1 v 2 Cap and Bucky, and especially when Bucky seemed like he had the upper hand and punched Iron Man’s chest and was about to rip out his core, only to have his arm eviscerated.

The reason this scene was so powerful (iconic, even), as with all great action scenes, was because of the stakes.  Action sequences mean nothing if there are no stakes involved (hello, Transformers).  Upon the shocking revelation that the then-mind-controlled-Winter Soldier was the one responsible for killing Tony Stark’s parents, there was a legitimate reason for him to seek revenge, and wage ‘war’ on Cap and Bucky.  At the same time, Cap, despite having prior knowledge of this and deciding not to tell Tony, now has to stand by his decision, and to stand by his friend and fight Tony.

This brings us to the one shortcoming of the movie, which has been the Achilles’s heel of most MCU films: The villain of “Civil War”, Zemo, barely has any screen time, and his motivations for revenge against the Avengers makes him hardly a villain at all.  He has no desire to wipe out the human race, nor the Avengers; he has no ambition to rule the galaxy.  His entire family was killed as a result of the events of “Age of Ultron”.  It is perfectly understandable for someone like him to want to cause the Avengers to fight each other.

While the scene mentioned above was great, the one being touted as one of the best comic book (or just overall) action scenes of all time was the epic team fight at the airport.  I’ll let everyone else talk about how awesome that scene was.  In fact, I liked the action scene prior to that one, the one where Black Panther first appeared, just as much.  It was exhilarating to see Bucky fling around a motorcycle that was going at top speed and ride it.

Ant-Man’s introduction into this movie was a bit sudden, as he just shows up in a van at the airport, minutes before the big confrontation.  And, as expected, as soon as Paul Rudd appears, he immediately steals the scene with his charm and wit.  I wished there was a little bit more of him.  The additional run time of having more of Ant-Man would be offset by shortening the bits with Vision and Scarlet Witch.  While that storyline was fine in developing chiefly the Avengers story line, it dragged on just a tiny bit.

Despite all my praises, “Civil War” isn’t perfect.  Bits of establishing shots and set up scenes could have been trimmed down to shorten the film’s 2 hour 27 minute run time.

The introductions to the new characters, however, were perfect.  Both Black Panther and Spiderman were set up so that they were appropriately motivated to join the conflict.  In particular, Tony’s recruitment of Spiderman… that 5-minute conversation between Peter and Tony was a superior build up to the new Spiderman than the entire retelling of the origin story in the previous rendition played by Andrew Garfield.  We don’t need to see Peter Parker be bitten by a radioactive spider and discover his powers again; the scriptwriters knew this and found a perfect way to address it.

I will be writing a piece ranking all of the Marvel Cinematic Universe films.  Suffice to say “Captain America: Civil War” will definitely be in the top 3.

Movie Review: Captain America: Civil War (9/10) (No spoilers)

“Captain America Civil War” was released in Hong Kong on April 27.

Easily one of the best comic book movies I have ever seen, and definitely one of my favorite films in recent years, “Captain America: Civil War” strikes all the right tones, and delivers on all my sky-high expectations, and more!

Against all odds of being labelled “The Avengers 2.5”, “Civil War” finds to distinguish itself from the other Marvel movies.  Despite the huge ensemble cast (featuring just about every Marvel character who has appeared before except Thor and Hulk), directors Joe and Anthony Russo made it clear that this was first and foremost a Captain America movie.  Even though attention was paid to each major character, the story still centers around Steve Rogers, played perfectly once again by Chris Evans, and his journey to redemption towards decisions he’s made, past and present.

Many had doubts as to whether the Russo brothers can create a movie that involves a legitimate conflict when future movies where the Avengers will undoubtedly reunite are confirmed (the Infinity Wars).  But the stakes were definitely high enough to warrant the title “Civil War”.   At the center of it stood Steve Rogers and Tony Stark, played once again by Robert Downey Jr.  Their conflict spawns from a fundamental disagreement on how to protect the world, and how the Avengers should operate.  There’s really no right or wrong; the subjectivity of the matter is what made it so powerful.

There were a number of set piece action sequences in the film, each unique and brilliantly choreographed.  The one that is shown in the trailer, which takes place at an airport, is being touted as one of the best action scenes in comic book movie (or just movie) history.  And just to have an idea of how good the action scenes were, that wasn’t even my personal favorite!

Other highlights include the great chemistry between the ensemble cast, including Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, Scarlett Johansson, Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Olsen, Jeremy Renner, Don Cheadle, and awesome additions to the MCU of Chadwick Boseman as Black Panther, and Tom Holland as Spiderman

Whether you are a fan of comic book movies or not, this is a must-see.  Absolutely blown away.

 

Movie Review: Deadpool (8.7/10)

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Uncompromisingly violent and vulgar, “Deadpool” is unlike any comic movie you have ever seen, and it’s a damn good time.

It’s hard to under-emphasize the explicit nature of the film; no other major comic book movie has been tagged with an R-rating (or whatever mature audience rating is in your country) as they usually want to appeal to the mass audience.  This film, however, is definitely not for kids.

The cast, headed by Ryan Reynolds, who seemed born to play the titular character, is a joy to watch, with witty dialogue and spot on comedic timings.

The film is bolstered by one of the most catchy and innovative viral ad campaign of all time.  Shown above and below are some of the posters used.  If you haven’t seen their trailers and TV spots, check them out as well.

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The film was shot well; the action was well choreographed and edited.  And it doesn’t feel over-scaled; often times comic book movies lose sight of its scale, and its audience along the way.  The stakes are muddled and we stop caring about the characters (Spider Man 3, Avengers Age of Ultron to some extent).  With “Deadpool”, we knew what we were going to get with this anti-‘hero’ (those who have seen the film will know why the quotation marks are still necessary) and we were behind him all the way.

Though immensely entertaining, the the third act of the film was a little bit cliched and predictable.  But aside from that, this Deadpool film definitely redeems the character from the hands of the writers of “X-Men Origins: Wolverine,” and I look forward to seeing more films like this! A definite recommendation!

Movie Review: Guardians of the Galaxy

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I watched this film during its first week of release, and have since watched it again.  For lack of a better term, the film is just flat out awesome. It is a very well executed piece of entertainment with solid storytelling, creating characters that we care about, and seamlessly integrating them into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The film is action-packed, funny, and, most importantly, doesn’t take itself too seriously.  When the film opened with Chris Pratt’s character dancing to “Come and Get Your Love” in an otherwise eerie setting, it establishes itself to appeal towards a wide array of audiences: the young and the old, the hipster and the nerd were on board. The casting was also perfect as the chemistry between Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Batista, Bradley Cooper (Rocket), and Groot (Vin Diesel) lit up the screen.  The banter between them never felt forced. I had my doubts about how successful the film would be considering the Guardians of the Galaxy is much less well known than Marvel’s other comic book heroes such as Iron Man or Captain America.  But when this film became the biggest office success this year, surpassing “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” Marvel has proven that it can bring its secondary franchises to the forefront. Barring a tiny bit of dialogue inadequacies, this was the not only the best Marvel film, but one of the best action films in recent years.  This film was a blast; I would recommend it to anyone who is looking to have a good time at the movies.

Movie Review: Captain America: Winter Soldier

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In a somewhat surprising turn, the sequel to 2011’s “Captain America: The First Avenger” not only tops its predecessor, but also outdoes the last two sequels released by Marvel, “Iron Man 3” and “Thor 2.”  While the plot of “Iron Man 3” is more of a character study of Tony Stark’s personal struggles since the events of “The Avengers”, and the plot of “Thor 2” focuses on the peace on a galactic scale, “The Winter Soldier” brings us back into Earth and continues the mission of keeping peace on our planet.

The stakes are never higher.  The plot and set pieces are well laid out and the audience is never confused as to what is going on.  The special effects perfectly accompanies the humanist story.  Finally, even with the obvious political undertones exploring the devastating potentials of state overreach, and laying the ground work for the next Avengers movie with the introduction of the Hydra organization and new villains, the film does not seem too preachy or drags along.

I chose to watch the film in IMAX 3D and it was worth every penny.  Every time the Winter Soldier punches Captain’s shield the theatre vibrated along with it.

As I mentioned, “The Winter Soldier” is the best Marvel (by Marvel Studios) film probably since 2012’s “The Avengers.”  Definitely catch it before “Avengers 2.”

Quick Review: Thor: The Dark World

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It was one of those movies which I enjoyed immensely as I walked out of the theater, but hasn’t withstood the test of time very well.  Tom Hiddleton steals the show as the charming and cunning Loki, whose character is infinitely more interesting than Chris Hemsworth’s titular character.

The filmmakers have once again tried in vain to emancipate Thor from the land of one-dimensional protagonists.  The character was utilized to full potential in “The Avengers,” when Thor was able to feed off of other more charming characters such as Iron Man, Captain America, and even Hulk.  It shows that, perhaps to the detriment of the character’s solo franchise, Thor is most appealing when part of an ensemble cast.

“The Dark World” is directed by Alan Taylor, already an established figure from directing episodes of “Game of Thrones” and “The Sopranos.”  Compared to his predecessor, Taylor’s darker, grittier style transfers well onto the big screen, and provides the franchise with a much needed change of pace.

Thor will next appear in the 2015 Avengers sequel, likely to be followed by “Thor 3” in 2016.  It’s probably for the better for the franchise to take a break, as audiences will no doubt suffer from ‘Thor fatigue’ if anymore comes out anytime soon.