X-Men: Apocalypse

The X-Men films have always been a mixed bag of party terrible and pretty awesome. Sometimes it leans more one way than the other, but except for The Wolverine I've always come out feeling somewhat entertained despite major problems. The reviews on Apocalypse have been mixed to terrible which puts a different perspective on this reaction. Take for example Oscar Isaac. The franchise has done a pretty good job to this point getting high-caliber actors into some rich, complex scenes. Now we have this future acting legend playing the main bad guy and he gets remarkably little to do. (So little, there's a scene showing him working on cool costumes for his four allies while the good mutants are still organizing.) There's a scene with just Isaac and Fassbender and the two have nothing interesting to talk about.

That's all downside and I expected that going in, but that's not all Oscar Isaac gets to do. The buzz of disappointment has set the bar so low that anytime he wasn't shouting to the heavens, which is more often than not, I was delighted. That's a good way of explaining my non-hate for this movie. The entire middle is a lengthy side trip involving Col. William Stryker and three new mutants (Jean Grey, Cyclops and Nightcrawler) attempting to rescue Mystique, Beast and Quicksilver. Disconnected from the main plot, the script puts in everything you want to see in an X-Men movie, like another awesome and hilarious Quicksilver rescue - that joke has not gotten old - and an old (surprise?) favorite returning for some of the most violent action ever seen in the franchise. I'd always heard about the R-rated rage attacks of Wolverine, and they got away with it here. It's like Friday the 13th directed by Robert Rodriguez. The moment also ends with a great line of dialogue.

My favorite mutant

The quantity of special effects is way out of proportion to the story and character. The opening reminded me of The Mummy Returns. (Why does the sunlight look like computer screen? They couldn't get the glow of sunlight correct?) However, Fassbender gets more of an arc here than Days of Future Past, as does McAvoy, who I felt spent too much of the last film feeling sorry for himself. Jennifer Lawrence is above this, but she hasn't checked out. These are actors who can hold the screen, no matter what. Because of them, the series remains more of an actor's showcase than other superhero franchises, including Marvel. The new additions don't do as good of a job, particularly Sophie Turner (Jean Grey) who seems overwhelmed and Alexandra Shipp (Storm), who seems more excited to be in the film, like she won a contest. 

"Not all of us can control our powers."
"Then don't!"

Bryan Singer ends up with a movie that works better as a collection of scenes, but he also brings back one of the key elements that sets this superhero group apart. These aren't the cool kids, like The Avengers. Even though they can do cool things, they are outcasts in society, often picked upon because they're different. Even at Xavier's school, some students call one of the team a freak and in their own insecurity each think the slur is aimed at them. That's powerful and effective stuff that doesn't go unnoticed. This isn't the epic fun of Captain America: Civil War, but it's nowhere near as bad as Batman vs. Superman.
RATING: * * * - Okay

2015 Awards

1)    Daisy Ridley – The Force Awakens
2)    Lily James – Cinderella
3)    Charlize Theron – Mad Max: Fury Road
4)    Anne Dorval – Mommy
5)    Sarah Snook - Predestination
6)    Julianne Moore – Maps to the Stars
7)    Mary Elizabeth Winstead – Faults
8)    Ellen Dorrit Petersen – Blind 
9)    Brie Larson – Room 
10) Cate Blanchett – Carol 
1)    Matt Damon – The Martian
2)    Leland Orser – Faults
3)    Michael B. Jordan – Creed 
4)    Hugh Bonneville – Paddington
5)    Paul Dano – Love & Mercy
6)    Leonardo DiCaprio – The Revenant
7)    Jacob Tremblay – Room 
8)    Antoine-Oliver Pilon – Mommy 
9)    Jason Mitchell – Straight Outta Compton
10) Colin Farrell - The Lobster

1)    Suzanne Clement – Mommy
2)    Cate Blanchett – Cinderella
3)    Jennifer Jason Leigh – The Hateful Eight
4)    Mia Wasikowska – Maps to the Stars
5)    Elizabeth Banks – Love & Mercy
6)    Alicia Vikander – Ex Machina
7)    Kristen Stewert – Clouds of Sils Maria
8)    Rachel Weisz – The Lobster
9)    Rooney Mara – Carol 
10) Kate Winslet – Steve Jobs

1)    Sylvester Stallone – Creed 
2)    Steve Carell – The Big Short
3)    Harrison Ford – The Force Awakens
4)    Michael Keaton – Spotlight
5)    Nicholus Hoult – Mad Max: Fury Road
6)    Joel Edgerton – The Gift
7)    Chris Ellis – Faults
8)    Oscar Isaac – Ex Machina
9)    Mark Rylance – Bridge of Spies
10) Tom Noonan – Anomalisa

1)   The Big Short
2)   The Hateful Eight
3)   Spotlight
4)   Cinderella
5)   Mommy
6)   What We Do in the Shadows
7)   Faults
8)   Straight Outta Compton
9)   The Martian
10) The Lobster

1)    Mommy
2)    Mad Max: Fury Road
3)    The Big Short
4)    Blind
5)    The Hateful Eight
6)    The Martian
7)    Anomalisa
8)    Faults
9)    The Gift

10) Ex Machina


1)    Ex Machina
2)    Force Awakens
3)    San Andreas
4)    The Martian
5)    Mad Max: Fury Road
6)    Jurassic World
7)    Avengers: Ultron
8)    Paddington
9)    The Nightmare
10) What We Do in the Shadows


1)    Mad Max: Fury Road
2)    Ex Machina
3)    Predestination
4)    Carol
5)    The Hateful Eight
6)    Crimson Peak
7)    What We Do in the Shadows
8)    Goodnight Mommy
9)    Cinderella
10) Brooklyn

1)    Mad Max: Fury Road
2)    The Hateful Eight
3)    Furious 7
4)    Jurassic World
5)    The Tribe
6)    The Revenant
7)    The Force Awakens
8)    Ex Machina
9)    The Martian
10) San Andreas


1)    The Hateful Eight
2)    Mad Max: Fury Road
3)    The Force Awakens
4)    Cinderella
5)    It Follows
6)    Carol
7)    Ex Machina
8)    Sicario
9)    Inside Out
10) Bridge of Spies

1.   Crimson Peak
2.   Cinderella
3.   Mad Max: Fury Road
4.   Carol
5.   The Hateful Eight
6.   The Revenant
7.   The Force Awakens
8.   Kingsman
9.   Krampus
10.  Paddington


1)    Cinderella
2)    Carol
3)    Mad Max: Fury Road
4)    Crimson Peak
5)    The Hateful Eight
6)    Kingsman: The Secret Service
7)    The Duke of Burgundy
8)    The Force Awakens
9)    Brooklyn
10) Chi-Raq


1)    Blind
2)   Mad Max: Fury Road
3)    Mommy
4)    Furious 7
5)    The Force Awakens
6)    The Martian
7)    Sicario
8)   Tangerine
9)    M:I – Rogue Nation
10) The Big Short


1)    Mad Max: Fury Road
2)    The Revenant
3)    Crimson Peak
4)    Carol
5)    The Good Dinosaur
6)    The Assassin
7)    The Hateful Eight
8)    Cinderella
9)    Chi-Raq
10) Youth

1)    The Big Short
2)    Mad Max: Fury Road
3)    The Martian
4)    Cinderella
5)    Predestination
6)    Paddington
7)    Spotlight
8)    Room
9)    Straight Outta Compton
10) Steve Jobs

1)    Mommy
2)    Faults
3)    Blind
4)    What We Do in the Shadows
5)    The Hateful Eight
6)    Maps to the Stars
7)    The Lobster
8)    Anomalisa
9)    Gett
10) Carol

1)    Mommy – Wonderwall
2)    Mad Max: Fury Road – First chase
3)    Jurassic World – Pteradyctals on Main Street
4)    Furious 7 – The Heist
5)    Straight Outta Compton – Listening to “No Vasaline”
6)    Pitch Perfect 2 – Underground Battle
7)    Mommy – What might’ve been
8)    Inside Out – Inside other minds
9)    Phoenix – Last Scene
10) The Martian – Rescue
11) Room – The Escape
12) Sicario – Parked Ambush

Most Original Film or Filmmaking
1.    The Tribe
2.    Anomalisa
3.    Chi-Raq
4.    Mad Max: Fury Road
5.    The Lobster
6.    What We Do in the Shadows
7.    Predestination
8.    Blind
9.    Room
10. Ex Machina
11. Wild Tales
12. The Nightmare
13. Inside Out
14. Tangerine

Best 2015 Release Listed as 2014 on IMDB
1.    Mommy
2.    What We Do in the Shadows
3.    Predestination
4.    Faults
5.    Paddington
6.    Blind
7.    Maps to the Stars
8.    Gett, The Trial of Viviane Amsalem
9.    Creep
10. Wild Tales
11. Love & Mercy 


Discoveries of 2015

Many believe that I watch too many movies, while enjoying few. Also, I've already seen all the Great ones. There's nothing left to Discover. Here are experiences that say otherwise.

American Madness (1932)
Frank Capra already has 6 films on my list of Essentials, but this was the one I didn't see coming. I selected it for Walter Huston and Pat O'Brien, but Capra makes them just two parts in a mosaic about the banking industry 70 years ago that still speaks to today's fragile economy. Capra has always been a master of taking important subjects and making them about great people and this is right up there. Huston also proves to be a perfect fit for the idealistic Capra hero.

Home From the Hill (1960)
Selected for Robert Mitchum, he's perfectly cast as an uber-macho, neglectful father who returns to find his son has become a "mama's boy". Mitchum aims to set the boy straight in this melodrama from Vincente Minnelli. I'm not a fan of Minnelli, but putting him at the helm of a masculine vs. feminine deathmatch is perfect. Mitchum gets to be ultra-Mitchum while every action he takes is reframed for us as questionable.

Blues in the Night (1941)
This is my current tastes in a single film. It's a great musical, a great noir, with great dialogue and some great performances from personal favorite Llloyd Nolan to the dependable Jack Carson to Betty Field, who is the year's femme fatale discovery.

Hachi: A Dog's Tale (2009)
I put this one off for years because it sounded so sad and from Lasse Hallström I expected more mawkish heart pulling. This is not a typical tearjerker. The dog isn't abused or injured and if it dies it's going to be of old age. Instead the dog becomes a symbol for all of us who ever had to deal with something bad happening that we can never quite wrap our heads around. We may never understand it, while we keep to our routine day after day, waiting for things to get right.

3 by Basil Dearden (1959/1960/1962)
A great night at the movie. What began as one planned viewing turned into a triple feature from a director I was largely unfamiliar with. The Eclipse Set Basil Dearden’s London Underground covers three popular Noir sub-genres, a racially charged murder mystery, a heist film and a jazzed up version of Shakespeare's Othello. All 3 are different enough from each other while capturing a particular feel for Britain during this time period.

Mistaken For Strangers (2013)
Initially funny, ultimately emotional documentary of two brothers. One is a confident rock star, while the other continually screws up to avoid facing his constant doubt in himself. This says more about family than any fictional tale of family dysfunction.

The Heartbreak Kid(1972)
I am not a fan of director Elaine May, but I really liked The Heartbreak Kid for all the reasons why people like May's type of awkward comedy. "The Office" created a lot of great uncomfortable comedy, but nothing is as hilariously, uncomfortably awkward as some of the highlights here.

A Walk In The Sun (1945)
A war picture that emphasizes the waiting but isn't tedious because there's a lot of conversation (provided by the great Robert Rossen). A great ensemble, but the standout is Richard Conte who jumped from outlier to major star in my mind. I watched a lot of his films during Noir-vember because this had me wanting to see more.

Ghostwatch (1992)
A proto-Paranormal Activity from Britain is like a modern War of the Worlds. Builds nicely to some creepy and scary moments that are hard to shake off.

Burn Witch Burn (1962)
Like Village of the Damned, this British chiller takes a new turn every few minutes so you're never quite sure what's coming, though you're certain that damned eagle statue is going to be a part of it.

Orphan (2009)
Something is wrong with Esther, alright. From a pulpy premise, the script and director go classy. Good performances keep the screws tightening for almost two hours. A horror film that plays the long game rather than trying to jolt you with scares every 5 minutes. That's what makes it such a find.