Tag Archives: PG13

Review: Doctor Strange

via Nerdy Rotten Scoundrel

Doctor Strange (2016)

PG-13 / 115 mins

Action / Adventure / Fantasy

Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Rachel McAdams

Director: Scott Derrickson

I am pretty much at the point where I will go to see any Marvel movie when it comes to theaters.  I have reached a level of confidence with these movies, knowing full well that I am going to enjoy the product that is presented to me on screen.  Maybe I am going to get burned one of these days, but that has not stopped me yet.  Doctor Strange was one of the few Marvel movies that I was not totally hyped for.  I have no affinity or familiarity with the character, so I had absolutely no clue what I was getting myself into in terms of the story it was going to tell and the characters it was going to present.  These preconceptions quickly fell to the wayside as Doctor Strange turned out to be one of my favorite movies of the year.

via Wallpapers Insider

There was a brand of complexity to this movie that made it enticing and engaging from the start.  We are quickly thrown into a world were reality is promptly turned on its head as sorcerers manipulate the world around them in alternate dimensions.  Based on the trailers that I saw before going into the movie, I knew that this movie was going to be complex and abnormal.  It only took a couple of minutes before what looked like London was being manipulated as if it were a kaleidoscope.

But let us get this out of the way right off the bat: Benedict Cumberbatch makes a great Doctor Strange.  Going into the movie I was unfamiliar with the superhero, his origins, and his personality.  After some conversations with some people, I was told that he is intelligent, egotistical, and kind of a wise-ass.  I quickly made connections, relating him to Tony Stark, who happens to be one of my favorite characters in the Marvel universe.  After seeing Cumberbatch deliver a role that matched these traits down to a T, I quickly realized that I was going to enjoy this character.  He sells the role perfectly which makes him instantly likable, or not likable if you are not a fan of wise-cracking know-it-alls.


Although the movie is structured around him, his supporting cast is great as well, especially when you look at the names that adorn the cast list.  Chiwetel Ejiofor plays Mordo, a master sorcerer who finds Doctor Strange, a broken (both physically and emotionally) neurosurgeon on a quest for healing, and takes him to a secret place where he learns about things like mysticism and alternate dimensions.  There’s also his love interest Christine, a fellow surgeon who’s played by Rachel McAdams.  Although her role in the movie is semi-small, she still does a great job with it.  Tilda Swinton plays the role of the Ancient One, a mysterious sorcerer who’s essentially the teacher, bringing Strange under her wing.  Finally, Mads Mikkelsen (of Hannibal fame) plays Kaecilius, the movie’s primary villain.  He has the looks of a fallen sorcerer turned evil, but he was the one character that had me wanting more.  There’s not much to his character, which was unfortunate.

The story involves Doctor Strange looking for healing after suffering from a bad motor accident that heavily damaged his nerves in his hands…his tools on the surgeon’s table…his claim to fame.  His ego drives him to find curing, but he is essentially put in his place by the Ancient One who opens his mind to the world of mysticism and sorcery…a world Strange never knew existed.  He then takes on the path of knowledge as he quickly learns about the world of sorcery.  In his studies, he starts to learn about darker magic and begins to uncover some darker secrets that spell trouble for the Marvel cinematic universe.

via Just Jared

In my opinion, it is the movie’s visuals and cinematography that really make Doctor Strange shine.  Like I mentioned before, the world is constantly being manipulated by the sorcerers in the mirror dimension (a dimension that “mirrors” the real world but the actions that take place in it have no effect on the actual real world), giving the movie an Inception-esque appearance.  There were multiple times throughout the movie where I was like, “huh, this would make for a really bomb-ass wallpaper!”  There are some other scenes, like the surgery scene in which Strange’s astral body (I’m not going to explain that) is directing Christine who’s operating on Strange’s physical body.  There’s some cool cinematography going on in some of these scenes that really make this movie a visual delight.

After going into Doctor Strange with absolutely zero expectations, I can officially say that I am sold on Doctor Strange as a character and I am excited to see his role in the larger Marvel cinematic universe.  The movie’s cast is nothing to scoff at and the movie delivers some of the best visual effects that I have seen in a long time.  Even if you have no familiarity with the characters, like I did, Doctor Strange is still worth checking out.



Review: Jason Bourne

jason bourne poster
via Live for Film

Jason Bourne (2016)

PG-13 / 123 min

Action / Thriller

Starring: Matt Damon, Tommy Lee Jones, Alicia Vikander

Director: Paul Greengrass

Everyone’s favorite misguided CIA operative is back and he’s looking for more answers.  Jason Bourne has been away from the game for a while now, almost ten years.  The CIA wants him back in the force, but Bourne has other plans.  He’s moved on and he isn’t going to make it easy for the CIA to bring him in.  Director Paul Greengrass brings the dormant hero back to the big screen in his plainly titled summer thriller Jason Bourne, a film that sticks to its guns and packs a punch.

jason bourne 1
via Digital Trends

Matt Damon is back and fits comfortably back into the role of the blank-slate Jason Bourne.  It’s been a while since we’ve seen him in the role.  He’s older now and has a grittier look, but he’s still the same guy, looking for answers.  He’s laying low…keeping a low profile everywhere he goes, but this doesn’t last long when CIA director Robert Dewey (Tommy Lee Jones) demands that he’s brought back into the light.  Aiding him in the hunt, Dewey enlists the help of fresh-faced and capable hacker Heather Lee (Alicia Vikander) who’s pretty confident that she has what it takes to bring in the elusive weapon that is Jason Bourne.  Coincidently the CIA aren’t the only ones interested in Bourne’s whereabouts.  A familiar face to Bourne fans, Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles), is also looking to meet up with Bourne with the interest of handing over a bunch of top-secret files that could put the CIA, and its operatives, at odds.

The movie’s central plot is very much a game of cat-and-mouse.  Jason Bourne is on a mission looking for answers in his past while the CIA is constantly on his tail trying to catch him with the upper hand.  The action is very much by the books and should be familiar to anyone who has seen a Bourne film, but that doesn’t take away from the movie’s thrills.  The action sequences are tightly planned out and were very fun to watch come together, especially the bits in Vegas and Germany.  Director Dewey entrusts the help of a certain Asset, played by Vincent Cassel, who has a history with Bourne and wants nothing more than to be the guy that takes him out.  There’s nothing overtly special about Cassel’s rough and tough performance, but he still managed to be one of my favorite parts of the film.

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There aren’t too many breaks to be had in the roller coaster ride that is Jason Bourne’s action, but there are some pauses in between the dust that attempt to establish character and dive deeper into more complex issues in today’s modern society.  The character building?  Nothing to really write home about.  We get some backstory behind Bourne’s father, the main drive behind his question-seeking, but it doesn’t really go deeper than what most fans already know.  There’s some new answers brought to the table, but nothing earth-shattering.  On the other hand, Greengrass pokes at ideas like internet privacy and hacking culture, even referencing guys like Snowden, in an attempt to bring relevance to the film.  I admire these ideas, but nothing is really done with them.  They’re constantly brought up but then quickly forgotten about in the presence of guns and bullets.  Jason Bourne wants to say more, but instead lets its self-settle into familiarity, which is a tad disappointing given the presence of such ideas.

As far as performance go, this is Matt Damon’s movie and his only.  There isn’t much to Bourne’s character to begin with, as he’s painted with a blank slate, but Damon still does a bang-up job at portraying the figure.  Although Damon steals the light, Alicia Vikander brings a much welcomed fresh face to the table.  She’s a strong-willed and very intelligent hacker that is working to bring a change to the CIA.  As the film runs deeper, Bourne and Lee’s relationship gets a lot more interesting as the two work together to bring down the CIA’s internalized sinister dealings.

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Despite it’s by the book plotting and inability to tap deeper into some of the more relevant issues of today, Jason Bourne still manages to provide exhilarating fun.  It was fun seeing Matt Damon slip back into one of his iconic roles, even though nothing has really changed about the character this time around.  I would have liked for Greengrass to have gone deeper than the surface level on things like Snowden and internet privacy, but who knows where that story could have gone.  The movie sticks to what it does best, which works out in the end.

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Review: Independence Day: Resurgence

resurgence poster
via Trailer Addict

Independence Day: Resurgence (2016)

PG-13 / 120 min

Action / Adventure / Sci-Fi

Starring: Liam Hemsworth, Jeff Goldblum, Bill Pullman

Director: Roland Emmerich

It’s been twenty years since the aliens attacked the earth in Independence Day: Resurgence.  The fabled attack, which put humankind in jeopardy, took place on the United States’ Independence Day, an attack which gave America more than just fireworks.  Fast forward twenty years later and the aliens have come back, conveniently on the Fourth of July, to mount an invasion much bigger than the first rodeo.  With the absence of Will Smith and the presence of many issues, Resurgence doesn’t amount to anything more than a major letdown when stacked up to its predecessor.

via Entertainment Focus

I don’t think it’s fair to say that Resurgence would have been a better movie with Will Smith, but his absence left the cast feeling a tad bit emptier.  There are some returning actors that reprise their roles, like Jeff Goldblum as David Levinson, Bill Pullman as President Whitmore, Judd Hirsch as Julius Levinson, Brent Spiner as Dr. Brackish Okun, and more.  Unfortunately, most of the screen time is dedicated to the new cast of characters, who are generally boring and not very interesting.  Liam Hemsworth plays the young hotshot Jake Morrison while Jessie T. Usher plays Dylan Hiller, the son of Will Smith’s character.  There’s some others, but frankly I just didn’t care about them.  Maybe the one exception to boring new ensemble is President Whitmore’s daughter, Patricia Whitmore, who is played by Maika Monroe.  She has some great moments throughout the film that outshine anything that Hemsworth or Usher bring to the table.

A second coming of this deadly alien species is no laughing matter.  They essentially blindside the nations of the world, causing mass destruction and hysteria around the world.  The stakes are high as this is no laughing matter.  This is what made me question the film’s overall tone, which came off as, well…goofy.  There was an unhealthy layer of cheese that was splashed over every single aspect of the movie.  Characters were delivering punchlines and groan-worthy one-liners left and right.  I get that this is a summer blockbuster and that most people show up for the action, but c’mon, we deserved a little more.  The writing is laughable with many a plot-hole to be found amidst the rubble.  It’s one big cheesy mess that stumbles all the way to the finish line.

resurgence 2
via Japan Today

Another aspect that doesn’t do the film any favors is the plethora of characters that all vie for screen time, both old and new.  As I mentioned before, the returning characters seem to get overshadowed by the new.  This is surprising given the amount of odes and references to the original movie.  To be honest, I would have much preferred having a movie devoid of any of the new characters.  I was a little disappointed in the ample usage of guys like Goldblum, Pullman, and Spiner.  These characters had their moments, which make up most of the movies most solid pieces, but I just wanted an experience with more of these characters.  Sure, some of the new characters are integral to the story’s main plot, but if it were me, I would have written them entirely out of the plot, with no offense to any of their acting skills. The writing and the characterizations were the problem.

Despite everything I have laid out so far, it’s hard to deny the fact that this movie’s biggest draw is it’s set-piece moments and its grand scope.  With a Roland Emmerich film, you should know what you’re getting at the door.  The movie’s visual destruction is one of its few redeeming qualities.  Destruction of areas like downtown London make for some eye-popping visuals full of bleak wonderment.  A lot of the fight scenes that take place in the air can get messy a times but there’s usually never a dull moment, visually.

resurgence 3
via Actucine

Just because something is bigger and more epic, doesn’t mean it is always better.  Independence Resurgence is a perfect example of this sentiment.  The marketing campaign behind the movie pushes the movie as a grand epic of destructive proportion.  The movie’s scale overpowers the original film, sure, but in terms of quality…this is about as bargain bin as it gets.  The movie is a visual treat and had its sparse moments, but everything else about the movie is as gross as the sloppy goo that spurts out of a dead alien carcass.  You welcome for that visual.

Independence Day Resurgence

Review: The Aviator

the aviator poster
via IMP Awards

The Aviator (2004)

PG-13 / 170 min

Biography / Drama

Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Cate Blanchett, Kate Beckinsale

Director: Martin Scorsese

Let’s talk about Howard Hughes, one of the most financially successful individuals in American History.  He was a business tycoon first, but his interests reached much farther than the business realm.  He was an aviation genius as well as a film aficionado.  He practically did everything from creating big Hollywood pictures to designing military-grade planes for the US.  He’s a fascinating figure that has been explored multiple times in pop culture.  Maybe the most prominent look into his life was Martin Scorsese’s The Aviator, a biographical drama that takes a glimpse into Hughes’ younger years and his rise to prominence.

the aviator 1
via Film Reviews n’ Such

The film begins in the 1920s with Hughes’ filming of his big war epic Hell’s Angels.  The multi-faceted tycoon is played by Leonardo DiCaprio, who does an amazing job at capturing the businessmen’s keen attention to detail, as well as his other peculiar quirks.  His accent might be a little grating at times, but it’s undeniable that DiCaprio takes the role by the throat and destroys it, in a good way of course.  Over the course of the movie, we discover the type of person Hughes is and how he does things.  The film spans twenty years and shows us his personal life as well as his dabbles in the film and aviation industries.  Some of the stuff might be dry, but it’s really captivating stuff.  I was constantly questioning whether the movie’s events were true, but Scorsese did a pretty good job at staying true to the story of Hughes.  He’s a really unique man whose instincts lead him to greatness, as well as some dark places as well.

Scorsese has assembled himself an ensemble cast that really complements DiCaprio’s performance.  Cate Blanchett and Kate Beckinsale play Katharine Hepburn and Ava Gardner respectively, Hughes’ two love interests.  They both give great performances, especially Blanchett who went on to win an Oscar for her performance.  There’s also Noah Dietrich and Juan Trippe, Hughes’ business associates, played by John C. Reilly and Alec Baldwin respectively.  These are the recurring characters that we see over the course of the movie’s story, but there’s a bunch of other important players that serve important roles as well.  I don’t think there was one bad performance in the movie.  Everyone was strong and really sold their characters.

the aviator 2
via Miramax

I’m always a big sucker for period pieces taking place in the 20s, and The Aviator did a bang-up job at recreating the period.  The movie looks great, with eye-popping visuals and rich colors.  The film just feels like an epic, in both scale and appearance.  It’s full of glitz, glamor, and spectacle, present around every turn in the movie.  I got to give some credit to Scorsese and the filmmaking that went into the look of this movie, because it sure was a treat to watch.

The only misstep The Aviator makes on its journey through Hughes’ life is in its pacing.  And when I say journey, I mean it’s a long one.  The movie almost cracks the three-hour mark, which is more of a detriment than an advantage.  Most of the film’s material is captivating and intriguing stuff but there are some lulls, especially during the film’s middle ground.  The first and third acts are really engaging, but the journey in between these acts is where the film slows down.  Trimming some of the fat would have kept the film a lot more compelling through and through.

the aviator 3

Despite some of its pacing issues, DiCaprio and the rest of his adjoining cast keep the movie going.  It’s a riveting, and at times sobering, tale of triumph and failure.  It’s no secret that Hughes, despite his massive successes, was a troubled man, especially during his later years.  Numerous flying accidents did a number on him and drove him deeper into a state of physical and mental instability.  Scorsese does a fantastic job at taking us through a vertical slice of Hughes’ life with The Aviator.  It not only captures his good side, but his more unfortunate side as well. It’s dynamic and engaging, and well worth your time, despite its intimidating runtime.

the aviator score

Review: Central Intelligence

central intelligence poster
via Good Film Guide

Central Intelligence (2016)

PG-13 / 114 min

Comedy / Crime

Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Amy Ryan

Director: Rawson Marshall Thurber

When you put Kevin Hart and Dwayne Johnson in a movie together, it should be pretty clear what kind of movie you’re going to get.  The two actors have some great off-screen chemistry, so buddying them up in a movie like Central Intelligence just seems like the right way to go.  In fact, the movie might not have been as good without the two stars.  Central Intelligence largely works because Hart and Johnson’s chemistry is what carries the movie.

central intelligence 1
via Filmonic

The fun begins in high school, where we are quickly introduced to Hart and Johnson’s characters.  Hart plays Calvin Joyner, the all-around cool kid at Central High.  He’s practically involved in everything and has been voted as “most likely to succeed.”  He’s the model student.  On the other hand, we have Johnson’s character, Bob Stone.  Bob Stone is his alias that he goes by, but frankly I forget his actual name. (I know it’s something similar to “weird dick”) Anyway, he’s a fat kid (The Rock was actually transformed into a fat kid, yeah I know, surprising!) who’s the target of every bully at school.  After being thrown out onto the gym floor in front of everyone at an assembly, naked, Calvin helps out Bob by giving him his varsity jacket to cover up his special parts.  This plants the seed for a future friendship.

Twenty years later, we find Calvin looks exactly the same, but he’s working as an accountant.  Not exactly the type of job he would have wanted after being voted most likely to succeed.  After sending Calvin a Facebook message asking him if he wanted to meet up, Calvin finally meets up with Bob Stone who now looks like…well, the Rock.  How did he get so jacked?  Well, he worked out six hours a day, every day for the past twenty years.  Pretty simple right?  Later that night Bob Stone, who happens to be part of the CIA, ropes Calvin into a matter of national security…one that he can’t get himself out of.  Thus, hilarity ensues.

central intelligence 2
The Austin Chronicle

The movie is about as formulaic as a mismatched buddy comedy can be.  If there was a golden slate listing all the common tropes that these films need to contain, Central Intelligence follows it to a T.  The thing that makes the film seem fresh is the scattered bits of bullet-spraying gunplay that usually involve Johnson’s character doing all the work while Hart somehow manages to flail around without getting hit.  No surprise there, but it still leads to some funny moments.  This is the kind of movie where a banana is a credible weapon that can do some serious damage.  The movie isn’t trying to be sophisticated.  That’s not its mission.  It’s a lot of dumb fun; a movie where you turn your brain off for a little while.

There’s a lot of laughs to be had throughout the movie thanks to the signature brand of Kevin Hart comedy.  Some might find it gets old, but I personally still enjoy every minute of it.  There’s also lots of movie and pop culture references to be found, more than I was expecting, that lead to some great moments as well.  16 Candles anyone?  Some of the film’s best moments however come from the interactions between Hart and Johnson’s characters.  The actor’s chemistry shows and they instantly become very likable.  Like I previously said, the movie would have been a bore if it weren’t for these two actors taking the top spots.

central intelligence 3
via The Wrap

Where Central Intelligence starts to break down a little is towards its ending, where plot-wise the movie starts to become a mess of who’s who. The movie’s main plotline is the identity of the mysterious Black Badger, the guy who is trying to buy some top secret intel from the CIA on black market auction sites.  Calvin and Bob’s mission is to find this guy, but there seems to be a bunch of people who are thought to be the Black Badger.  You don’t really know who the big baddie is until the movie’s final moments.  It becomes hard to follow, but once again it’s the humor from Hart and Johnson that pulls it all out of the water.

Central Intelligence isn’t a groundbreaking comedy by any means.  With a Hart and Johnson comedy, you should be well aware of the type of movie you’re signing up for.  There’s still a bunch of fun and laughs to be had however that makes this a comedy that works.  The movie might not be for everyone, but if you like Kevin Hart’s previous big-screen comedic efforts, then this should be a movie for you.

central intelligence score

Review: The Mummy

mummy poster
via Pintrest

The Mummy (1999)

PG-13 / 125 min

Action / Adventure / Fantasy

Starring: Brendan Fraser, Rachel Weisz, John Hannah

Director: Stephen Sommers

I love myself a classic 90’s adventure movie, especially ones that involve a hunt for an ancient foretold treasure.  These kinds of movies have the potential to be cheesy as hell, but that’s what makes them so special.  The Mummy, director Stephen Sommers’ Egypt-based creature feature, scratches that itch for me.  The film has a reverence for Stephen Spielberg’s Indiana Jones franchise while providing a new adventure, one that involves an ancient mummy that comes back to the land of the living.  The movie is nowhere near perfect; it’s predictable and splattered with cheese, but that doesn’t mean it was a bad time.

the mummy 1
via Fan Pop

After an evil high priest, who goes by the name Imhotep (Arnold Vosloo), is mummified alive thousands of years ago, a team of archeologists has the bright idea of messing around in his lair in hopes of finding the City of Gold, inevitably resurrecting the cursed mummy, which in turn set’s the mummy’s wrath free.  It’s then up to a rag-tag adventurer, an Egyptologist, and her very smart brother to put a stop to Imhotep’s evil fury on the city of Cairo.

Adventurer Rick O’Connell, played by Brendan Fraser, can essentially be described as Indiana Jones’ brother from another mother.  He’s charismatic and hungry for a good adventure, especially one that involves a good haul.  The Egyptologist Evelyn Carnahan is played by Rachel Weisz.  Despite what some of the other characters think, she is tremendously capable, although extremely clumsy at times.  The movie begins with her character bringing down an entire library of bookshelves, so you know that kind of character you’re getting with Evelyn.  Her brother Jonathan (John Hannah) reminded me a lot of Simon Pegg, not because of his looks but because of the type of supporting role he played.  He’s got the book smarts, but his common sense comes into question a lot over the course of the movie.  He’s the comic relief of the movie, even though the presence of another early character made me think otherwise.

the mummy 2
via Radiator Heaven

B-movie cheese can be found all over this movie.  Some of the acting performances, from both the main cast as well as the supporting cast, seemed phoned in at times.  Whether it was over expression or selling the emotions a little too hard, it could be found everywhere.  Arnold Vosloo might be the biggest culprit here.  His Imhotep was prone to frequent bouts of over-acting.  The Mummy is also pretty predictable.  It doesn’t take a genius to realize that the movie falls into the same mold as Indiana Jones and other movies of similar ilk.  We get the backstory to the treasure and then the adventure begins.  There’s another team of explorers who have the same mission as O’Connell and his gang, which then leads to a competition as to who can find the ancient treasure first.  The mummy, and his horrible curses, are found and then the different adventurers start to be picked off one by one.  It’s stuff we have seen before, especially if you have seen any treasure-hunting adventure movie.

Okay, so what?  The movie is flawed, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy my experience with the movie.  In fact, I enjoyed the movie quite a bit despite some of its imperfections that would plague most movies.  What makes The Mummy different is that it leans all the way into its cheesiness.  It has a certain level of self-awareness that allows you to laugh with the movie, not at it.  There’s a scene late in the movie where O’Connell literally breaks down the entire back half of the plot to another character, straight up.  Save the damsel, defeat the bad guy, and save the world.  This kind of predictability would be looked down upon in most movies but The Mummy realizes what kind of film it is and runs with it the entire way.  I realized that this movie, on paper and script, isn’t art but I still found myself with a smile on my face the whole time.

the mummy 3
via Theiapolis Media

This is a movie you shouldn’t take too seriously.  The minute you start measuring its merit is the minute you stop having fun.  The Mummy might not rival Indiana Jones, a set of movies it so desperately wants to be, but it’s fun enough that it doesn’t matter.  If you’re a big fan of Indiana Jones or other movies like National Treasure, then this will most likely be your cup of tea.

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Review: X-Men: Apocalypse

xmen apoc posterX-Men: Apocalypse (2016)

PG-13 / 144 min

Action / Adventure / Sci-Fi

Starring: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence

Director: Bryan Singer

The X-Men movies have always been low on the totem pole for me.  When you look at the different franchises that Marvel has put out, the X-Men universe usually ranks pretty low because I don’t have the affinity for the characters as much as I do with some of the other franchises.  It also gets confusing when they throw in a bunch of different characters and plot points, especially with the Days of Future Past and First Class.  In the series’ latest addition, X-Men: Apocalypse, the stakes are raised but the movie manages to provide more of the same.  I went in with pretty low expectations and came out pleasantly surprised, despite some of the movie’s misfires.

xmen apoc 1
via Fan Pop

Maybe the name of the movie hasn’t jumped out at you yet, but it should be easy to hypothesize that this movie has heavy circumstances at stake, including the end of the world and it’s up for the X-Men, once again, to save the earth from the clutches of evil.  Sound like a superhero movie yet?  After being buried thousands and thousands of years ago, the first mutant, who goes by the name Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac), remerges from the dark depths with the intent of taking a steamroller to society, starting fresh again under his rule.  Think of it like Noah’s Ark, except with much worse intentions.  Although his powers are seemingly incredible, he can’t carry out his mission by himself, which is why he assembles a team of powerful mutants, including the likes of Angel (Ben Hardy), Storm (Alexandra Shipp), Pyslocke (Olivia Munn), and Magneto (Michael Fassbender).

After Apocalypse literally sends a ripple through the earth, the mutants at Charles Xavier’s (James McAvoy) academy realize that they are going to need to unify in order to take down the looming threat.  Retuning folks like Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence), Beast (Nicholas Hoult), Havok (Lucas Till), Quicksilver (Evan Peters), and even Moira Mactaggert (Rose Byrne) make an appearance while newcomers Cyclops (Tye Sheridan), Jean Grey (Sophie Turner), and Nightcrawler (Kodi Smit-McPhee) share the screen as well.  Whew, got all of the names out of the way.  There’s a bunch of characters vying for screen time but the film’s handling of these characters is one thing that Apocalypse gets right.  There’s character moments galore, especially with the fan-favorite Quicksilver who steals the show numerous times, to no surprise.  Although most of these moments don’t really amount to much, they still put a smile on your face. In terms of the newcomers, both Sophie Turner and Kodi Smit-McPhee did a great job with their characters, while Tye Sheridan’s depiction of Cyclops was hit or miss.  They were collectively alright, but some shined more than others.  It’s also worth mentioning that Jennifer Lawrence was pretty great as well.  It’s looking pretty murky for the future of her involvement in the series, which could be a big blow for subsequent movies going forward.

xmen apoc 2
via Zap2it

As I’ve mentioned before, the scope and brevity of this movie is hard to deny.  With a movie that teases the end of the world, it only makes sense that the bars are raised.  The story, plot holes and all, might not mean that much in the end, but it provides for a dumb fun roller coaster of a ride.  The set pieces are gigantic and the fight scenes are well choreographed and engaging.  There were a couple of times where I was like, wow, this movie looks pretty great.  Days of Future Past featured Magneto’s upheaval of RFK stadium, but Apocalypse has a moment or two that definitely rivals its predecessor’s crowing moment.

Where Apocalypse trips up is with its titular villain, and his surrounding four henchmen.  Oscar Isaac’s early moments as the god-like villain were fun to watch, but as the second and third act started to unfold, his powers started to become inconsistent as he constantly bended the rules.  The concept of a dangerous doomsday villain like Apocalypse is cool, but they mishandled his character, giving him powers that made me wonder why he even needed any help in the first place.  In fact, he probably could have single handedly taken out the X-Men himself if he really wanted to.  Speaking of his hour helpers, what was the point of even having them in this movie?  With the exception of Storm, the other three mutants on Apocalypse’s team were pretty unnecessary as far as story goes.  They’re also never painted as being dangerous.  I’m not going to spoil anything, but let’s just say the team gets broken up in the form of a little whimper that will easily be forgettable the second you step outside the theater.  It’s a shame because they could have been so much more.  Instead, they were relegated to throwaway character material.

xmen apoc 3
via Collider

Apocalypse leaves things in a pretty good place as it comes to a close, which should give any fan of the series some hope for the franchise’s future.  Let’s be honest, the X-Men series has had its fair share of ups and downs.  It’s why I set my expectations for this movie pretty low.  Although the movie carries some flaws, it was actually a lot better than I thought it was initially going to be.  Maybe this is a product of my low expectations.  Who knows, this could be a pretty bad movie.  However, I’m pretty confident that if you’re a fan of the X-Men, then this might be a movie worth seeing.  As for everyone else, it’s another superhero movie…so do with that what you will?

xmen apoc score

Review: Captain America: Civil War

civil war poster
via Black Film

Captain America: Civil War (2016)

PG-13 / 147 min

Action / Adventure / Sci-Fi

Starring: Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson

Directors: Anthony and Joe Russo

Arguments and disagreements are commonplace in families.  Let’s face it, they’re a part of family life whether you like it or not.  The same goes for superhero families, although their arguments are not of the verbal variety.  Things get violent and escalate pretty quickly but agreements finally get worked out in the end, one way or another.  Such is the case in Captain America: Civil War, Marvel’s latest summer superhero romp, directed by Anthony and Joe Russo who are famous for their previous work in the Marvel Universe.  Although the story is toned down in scale, Civil War manages to provide a fun and crowd-pleasing experience while at the same time giving us a grounded and meaningful story that’s more than just a bunch of meatheads punching each other (although there’s plenty of punches to be thrown).

civil war 1
via Ask Men

Putting the Captain America moniker on the film might be a bit of a stretch, and perhaps a little misleading.  Unlike the previous Captain America films, this is more of an Avengers story than it is the Captain’s.  Hot off the heels of the Sokovia disaster from Age of Ultron and a chaotic Africa mission at the beginning of this movie, the Avengers are starting to become a little reckless in their ways.  They are keeping the world safe, but lots of innocent civilians are left in the crumbling wake left behind them.  To combat this dilemma, the Sokovia Accords are drafted to keep the Avengers, and all other meta-humans, accountable for their actions.  These accords would also put them under the jurisdiction of the government as well.  Captain Rogers, played by Chris Evans, believes that it’s their duty to keep the world safe, no matter what the cost while Tony Stark, played by Robert Downey Jr., believes they should be put in check.  Faced with the decision to sign, tempers start to rise and heads start to butt.  The “civil war” ensues.

Things get even more complicated with the sudden reappearance of the Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan), more commonly known as the Winter Solider as well as Captain America’s good friend.  After Bucky is seemingly held responsible for a disastrous bombing at the signing location of the Sokovia Accords, things get pretty bleak and trust starts to get misplaced.  There’s a lot of moving parts in Civil War, but things are pieced together nicely.  We get a grounded story that revolves around Captain America and Iron Man, and their respective teams that butt heads.  The world isn’t faced with mass destruction and there’s no global evil that is looming over the superheroes.  The film is just about the Avengers and their differences, which is a nice and refreshing change of pace.

civil war 2
via Movie Web

Now let’s get to the lineup cards.  Iron Man’s team consists of himself, as well as War Machine (Don Cheadle) and the Vision (Paul Bettany).  He’s also joined by newcomers Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) and Spider-Man (Tom Holland).  Captain America’s team features him and Bucky, as well as Falcon (Anthony Mackie), Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), Ant-Man (Paul Rudd), and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) who is called out of retirement.  The middle ground is occupied by Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) who struggles with choosing between the two sides.  Tom Holland’s depiction of Spider-Man is arguably one of the best parts of the entire movie.  He captures Spider-Man’s essence brilliantly and steals every scene he’s a part of.  He’s smart and nerdy, while still retaining his talkative nature during battle.  The only problem I had with his character was that there wasn’t enough of him.  The movie gets me super excited for Homecoming and the future of Spider-Man.  Other standouts include Paul Rudd’s Ant-Man, which is essentially a glorified cameo (full of hilarious moments), and Chadwick Boseman’s mysterious Black Panther who I’m interested to see more from.

Even though the story’s operating on a smaller scale, there’s still a good amount of high-thrills action and well-cut fight scenes.  In particular, the airport fight scene might be the best piece of fighting we have seen in a Marvel movie to date.  There’s plenty of surprises and big moments that made me giddy with excitement.  I don’t know if I was clear before, but this movie is a ton of fun.  Character moments also play a big part in the story as well.  The dynamic between characters are explored and relationships are tested.  The implied romance between the Vision and Scarlet Witch was cool to see and the friendship triangle between Iron Man, Captain America, and Bucky Barnes was also very interesting.  These are just a few of the relationships that the movie explored.  One of my biggest fears going into this movie was whether or not they were going to keep all of these friendships and conflicts straight, but the Russo brothers managed to keep the story coherent and well-paced, giving each character the amount of screen-time they deserve.

civil war 3
via The Critical Critics

Civil War, for the most part, fires on all cylinders.  However, when it comes to the film’s “bad guy,” there’s something left to be desired.  Played by Daniel Bruhl, Zemo is essentially a cookie-cutter villain that’s bland and generally uninteresting.  His motives seem serviceable, but there wasn’t much that really kept me invested in his character.  He’s essentially a means to an end, a device that drives a bigger story and a bigger conflict.

There’s humor, action, and emotion all over Civil War.  It’s a movie that feels like the satisfying culmination of all of Marvel’s previous work.  It also progresses the over-arching Avengers story in a way that moves it forward into the future.  There’s a lot to like about Civil War, so much so that I might consider it the best Marvel offering to date.  Captain America: The Winter Soldier is a phenomenal movie, but so is Civil War.  Unlike DC, Marvel continues to kill it on the big screen, providing (yet again) another must-see movie event.  Now pick your side and join in on the fun.

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Review: Pacific Rim

pacific rim poster
via Pintrest

Pacific Rim (2013)

PG-13 / 131 min

Action / Adventure / Sci-Fi

Starring: Idris Elba, Charlie Hunnam, Rinko Kikuchi

Director: Guillermo del Toro

In some alternate universe, I’d like to imagine that Godzilla and the Transformers exist together.  In that universe they are fighting each other in front of the backdrop of a towering city, leaving fiery destruction in their wake.  Monster versus technology in one epic battle for the ages.  Alright, this is a pipe dream of mine but Pacific Rim, Guillermo del Toro’s epic summer blockbuster, is the closest thing I have to my pipe dream.

pacific rim 1
via Anonymous Blog

Everything about Pacific Rim defines it as a summer blockbuster.  The film has epic battle sequences with massive set pieces.  It’s colorful, explosive, and thrilling.  Massive sea creatures, known as the Kaiju, are threatening humankind.  They come from an alternate universe and their main mission is the destruction of mankind.  In an effort to put a stop to this threat, massive weaponized robots called Jaegers are developed as the prime offensive against the Kaiju.  These mechs, piloted by humans, are mankind’s last hope against the apocalypse at the hands of the Kaiju.

As the war rages on, two pilots are called to lead a mission that involves a big showdown between the Jaegers and the Kaiju.  Raleigh Becket, played by Charlie Hunnam, is a trained pilot who has experience in the cockpit of a Jaeger while Mako Mori, played by Rinko Kikuchi, is a trainee who has had some history with the Kaiju in a different way.  Unlike most big summer action movies, these characters are actually likable.  They’re not just meatheads piloting mechs, but instead they have some memorable moments that set them apart from most characters of their type.  Idris Elba however might have had the best performance as commander Stacker Pentecost.

via Nerdist

In terms of story, Guillermo del Toro takes a lot of creative liberties.  The science behind the movie’s events is a little silly and sometimes the logic wasn’t always there.  The nature of the movie’s events doesn’t warrant realism but they could have maybe tried a little harder to make it seem more believable.  It also doesn’t help that the two scientists, Dr. Newton Geiszler and Gottlieb, played by Charlie Day and Burn Gorman respectively, are silly and don’t really seem qualified for their jobs.  Despite the film’s questionable logic, the film still manages to stand it’s ground.  The science is goofy and laughable, but that didn’t detract from the overall experience.

What makes this movie a standout is the visual experience that it offers.  The CGI that the movie employs is fantastic.  It’s colorful, explosive, and just really well done.  The battles between mech and sea monster were epic in scope and feel.  Buildings crumble in their wake as the gargantuan giants swing punches and throw each other around.  It was delicious candy for the eyes.  As I was watching the movie I couldn’t help but think about the kind of work that went into bringing the movie to life through its CGI.  The visual effects department put in a lot of work into the movie and it really shows.  With a movie like this, I have to give a shout out to the visual effects crew behind the movie, because Pacific Rim wouldn’t be the movie it is without its special effects.

via Destroy the Brain

Pacific Rim is a movie that deserves a lot more praise.  It was underrated when it was initially released during the summer of 2013, but it could be considered one of 2013’s biggest surprises.  Sometimes movies as big as this fall pretty hard under the weight of their own size but this film manages to stay on its feet.  It’s full of great characters and memorable action set pieces.  My younger self would have probably been obsessed with Pacific Rim and its undeniably monumental action, but it’s safe to say that even though I am older now, I still really like this movie.

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Review: Hail, Caesar!

hail caesar poster
via in10words.wordpress.com

Hail, Caesar! (2016)

PG13 / 106 min

Comedy / Drama / Musical

Starring: Josh Brolin, George Clooney, Alden Ehrenreich

Directors: Ethan and Joel Coen

The golden age of filmmaking was an exciting time for the motion picture industry in America.  The industry was one of the most visible industries in America, with the average citizen attending a movie at least once per week.  With their most recent film, brothers Joel and Ethan Coen pen a love letter to this golden era of Hollywood in the form of Hail, Caesar!

hail caesar 1
via Firewire Blog

What put this movie on my radar however was the star-studded cast that is sprinkled throughout the film.  Caesar! is a fictional tale about the real-life high-profile movie studio “fixer” Eddie Mannix, played by Josh Brolin.  Being one of the studio heads for Capitol Pictures is a tough job, being compared at one point to running a full-scale “circus.”  One of the more pressing matters thrown Mannix’s way is the kidnapping of the studio’s highly proclaimed actor Baird Whitlock, played by George Clooney.

Other stars that can be found in the film include Scarlett Johansson, Ralph Fiennes, Jonah Hill, Frances McDormand, Tilda Swinton, and Channing Tatum.  Most of the cast doesn’t get the screen time that you would hope, but they all give great performances that are all great in their own regards.  Perhaps the one actor that steals the show is Alden Ehrenreich, who plays the hootin’ and hollerin’ singing western star, Hobie Doyle.

hail caesar 2
via Tribute

Caesar! pretty much features everything you would want from a movie set 50’s Hollywood.  The main movie production that is featured in the movie is Capitol Records’ “Hail, Caesar!”  There’s also a western, a grandiose swimming routine, a dancing sailor movie, and a highly affluent drama being filmed in the movie.  Caesar! contains a healthy dose of Hollywood meta-humor and often pokes fun at the many different aspects of filmmaking.  Sometimes the movie’s wry humor won’t hit with everyone, but its smart and intelligent and maintains the classic Coen Brother’s wit that you have come to expect.

Despite the monstrous cast and attention to detail, the story unfortunately doesn’t keep up, essentially amounting to nothing by the time the credits roll.  There’s a lot going on during the course of the movie’s run-time and it sometimes proves tedious trying to lace all the different story lines together.  The kidnapping of actor Baird Whitlock is the primary focus of the movie, but that whole plot point doesn’t really go anywhere or reach a satisfying conclusion.  They manage to poke some fun at communism, but that’s about it.  I wasn’t expecting much from the film in terms of story, but it would have been nice to have something to grasp onto.

hail caesar 3
via Flavorwire

It’s a shame the story is a big negative, because everything else about the movie is fantastic, including the classic Coen Brothers cinematography.  The directorial duo has given us a lot of great movies in the past with some excellent direction, and this movie is no different.  Every aspect of Hail, Caesar! is brilliantly put together and everything works really well together.  It was a fun movie to watch, chock full of loving detail and tribute, making the underwhelming story a little easier to stomach.

It’s hard to say that Hail, Caesar! ranks high in the Coen Brothers filmography, but it’s a solid and enjoyable ode to the golden era of Hollywood.  Everything from the tight and well-oiled cinematography to the expertly casted actors and actresses make this movie a real treat.  If the story amounted to something more, then maybe this movie would be a lot higher on the totem pole of Coen Brothers movies.  It’s hard to be too disappointed though, because man this movie just made me smile.

hail caesar score