Monday, May 30, 2016

'X-Men: Apocalypse review: Quicksilver Almost Stops a Disaster


Four Star Rating: **

Starring: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Oscar Isaac, Nicholas Hoult, Rose Byrne, Tye Sheridan, Sophie Turner, Olivia Munn, Lucas Till, Evan Peters, Alexandra Shipp
Director: Bryan Singer
Screenplay: Simon Kinberg
Genre: Action, Adventure, Fantasy, Science Fiction
Rated: PG (Canada)/PG-13 (US) - violence, coarse language, disturbing scenes
Release Date: May 27, 2016
Run Time: 144 minutes

There is a bit of a feeling of coming late to the party when you're the fourth super hero movie to be released in a span of four months. X-Men: Apocalypse battles the supposed superhero fatigue by being bigger. The problem is how the filmmakers decided to be bigger by stuffing a seams busting level amount of characters. This leads to a first hour where we hop from character to character with each getting an introduction and mini-origin story. It not only leaves you with the feeling that 10 different movies have been stitched together, but I was scrambling under my seat for the hidden guidebook that helped me keep track of everyone.

I understand that director Bryan Singer and screenwriter Simon Kinberg were facing the challenge of needing to introduce new mutants to service the loyal fans and also needing to re-introduce old characters who have fresh backstories and are played by new actors thanks to the alternate timeline created in X-Men: Days of Future Past. It's a clunky and disjointed first half as we jump around meeting Scott Summers/Cyclops (Tye Sheridan), Jean Grey (Sophia Turner), Psylocke (Olivia Munn), Ororo Munroe/Storm (Alexandra Shipp), Kurt Wagner/Nightcrawler (Kodi Smit-McPhee), Angel (Ben Hardy), and Jubilee (Lana Condor). On top of that we need to catch up on the stories of returning characters Charles Xavier (James McAvoy), Erik Lehnsherr/Magneto (Michael Fassbender), Raven/Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence), Hank McCoy/Beast (Nicholas Hoult), Alex Summer/Havok (Lucas Till), and Peter Maximoff/Quicksilver (Evan Peters),

If that wasn't enough, we have Moira Mactaggert (Rose Byrne) who through nosing around in Egypt accidentally awakens the first ever mutant in the deity-like Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac). You know Apocalypse has to be important because he earned the title of the movie and has an extended introduction scene in ancient Egypt to explain his several millennium-long slumber. Apocalypse isn't impressed with the 1980s (the time period for this adventure) and goes on a recruiting mission to assemble his Four Horsemen to aid him in wiping out civilization and starting fresh. An almost all-powerful villain with plans for global destruction should make for a grand-scale movie, except bad guys wanting to destroy the world is standard super-hero plot now and the threat of mass destruction often leaves the viewer wondering if they should have got extra butter on their popcorn. This is another reason why Deadpool felt so fresh because he was out to save the girl and exact vengeance against the man who ruined his life, which made it more intimate and personal.

The most disappointing thing is that the two previous X-Men movies were very character driven and delved into the personal struggles that shaped each character's actions. X-Men has worked best as an allegory for the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s and using the plight of the mutant as an exploration into race relations. The strife between mutants and humans still exist in this movie but it is blurred and pushed to the background in favour of big set pieces and action sequences.

The issue arises when the special effects and action are competent rather than spectacular. Our expectations and standards have been raised in a year where Disney created living breathing animals from CGI and an entire vibrant jungle in a studio with The Jungle Book. With a big special effects actioner coming out monthly if not more, we're now desensitized to the crushing of major landmarks or big explosive team battles, so everything here just feels like following the standard routine.

The bigger problem comes from a dull villain, which is a major disappointment as Oscar Isaac has given us memorable characters in movie like Ex Machina, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and Inside Llewyn Davis. Isaac's immense charisma is buried in latex and CGI. The script digs any interest even further by having him spend most of the movie just bestowing powers upon his protégés rather than anything interesting. All we end up knowing about him is he wants to destroy the world but we're never really given his motivation or any sense of who he is other someone for the X-Men to topple.

Most of the other performance are solid, which should be expected with such an amazing cast of young superstar actors. The script stops us from connecting with them by either its erratic pacing or going down the predictable path.

Magneto's happy for a change, at the beginning of the picture, as he is working in a factory in Poland, keeping his mutant identity hidden, and now has a loving wife and daughter. But if you can't predict how that turns out so he can align with Apocalypse, then congratulations on seeing your first ever movie because it must be cool.

Mystique is now out trying to rescue mutants around the world, but soon realizes the one she really wants to save his her long-time friend Magneto. It is another battle for his soul as she recruits Professor Xavier, which all adds to a feeling of covering ground we've explored in every past movie.

Jean Grey and Cyclops have one of the more interesting stories as they wrestle with being outsiders among the outsider themselves by having dangerous powers that they can't control and through that they start to bond with each other. Turner does a great job of bringing layers and depth to her underwritten character, but unfortunately, the lack of focus means her and Summer's big payoff falls flat.

Flat is the key word to describe this movie, except for one sequence. There is a scene where Quicksilver uses his super-sonic speed to race through the burning mansion to save all the students while 'Sweet Dreams' by the Eurythmics plays. It is the one scene that makes you aware it is the 1980s but is also oozing with a sense of style and personality while combining thrills and an ample amount of humour. This scene proves the huge potential for this movie and shows what this entire movie should have aspired to be,

The Breakdown of 'X-Men: Apocalypse', 'The Do-Over', 'We Are What We Are', 'The Adjustment Bureau', and 'Texas Chainsaw'


It was on the first ever Breakdown of the Mid-Year show that Scott declared Texas Chainsaw 3D as a delightful surprise, and now, this week Scott apologizes for such a lie as we review the dreadful movie. We also review the latest big superhero adventure in X-Men: Apocalypse, and for some reason, we think it is a good idea to review Adam Sandler's new movie, The Do-Over. As always if you enjoy the show then please spread the word.

Remember you can now subscribe either to The Movie Breakdown feed (a subscription link is at the top right hand of this site) or on iTunes.



Ratings Rundown:

X-Men: Apocalypse ** (CS) & **½ (SM)
The Do-Over ½* (CS & SM)
We Are What We Are ***½ (CS & SM)
The Adjustment Bureau *** (CS) & **½ (SM)
Texas Chainsaw ½* (CS & SM)

Christopher:
1. Captain America: Civil War $181 790 000.00
2. X-Men: Apocalypse $65 000 000.00
3. Ghostbusters
4. Ice Age: Collision Course
5. Suicide Squad
6. Central Intelligence
7. BFG
8. The Secret Life of Pets
9. Warcraft
10. Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates
Total: $246 790 000.00

Scott:
1. Finding Dory
2. Star Trek Beyond
3. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows
4. Alice in the Looking Glass: $28 112 000.00
5. Independence Day: Resurgence
6. Conjuring 2
7. Angry Birds $39 000 000.00 
8. Jason Bourne
9. Neighbors 2: Sorority Rises $21 790 000.00
10. The Purge: Election Day
Total: $88 902 000.00



Thursday, May 26, 2016

Rebooting the Blog with 'Beauty and the Beast' and 'Halloween' Remake and Video Adaptation Talk


No more vague allegories of my emotional state that contain vain promises of me writing on here again. I'm launching this right with the long promised movie talk.

The last few days of movie news has made it hard to argue against the belief there aren't any new ideas in Hollywood, It has been remake, reboot and adaptation mania. While my gut instinct is to normally groan, I have to confess that some of the news is a little bit exciting. But first let's start with the absurd and ridiculous that made my eyes roll right out of my head.

We live in a world that movie adaptations of Tetris and Fruit Ninja are moving forward. Because when you think of big blockbuster smash hits, you think movies based off games you play on your phone while waiting for the bus. Tetris is going to be a sci-fi thriller, because that is exactly what I always assumed would be the perfect genre for a block stacking game. I'm assuming the pitch was "It is Pixels but replacing the variety of classic video game characters with CGI blocks." Some suit agreed that the diverse array of video game characters is what hurt the Adam Sandler movie and approved the movie about colourful descending blocks for an $80 million budget. We're at least promised amazing looking blocks.  From my few times playing the game, I'd wager the intricate backstory is about giant cubed shapes that crush major cities until the world is saved by the heroic letter L.

Fruit Ninja is going to be a family comedy, because all my childhood memories of laughter with my parents and siblings involved sliced watermelon. The people behind this should be given some credit for actually coming up with a premise for this thing, which is ninjas who are out for vengeance against produce. It sounds like a gag that may work as a SNL skit but gets tedious after the 3 minute mark. I assume it will also star Josh Gad and Rob Schneider (who will play the Asian ninja). If there was a screenwriter out there really itching to do a grand CGI battle between a martial artist and a mango, did it really need to be as an adaptation from an iPhone game that people play because they've already passed Angry Birds?

The only reason I can guess that someone thought Tetris and Fruit Ninja needed movies was less about their rich backstory or even that their names would be box office draws, and more that they can make "movie versions" of the games and increase merchandising opportunities. Or maybe I'm just cynical and oblivious to the loud vocal fan base that demands these stories to be told.


I also was once very cynical towards Disney's goal of making a live action adaptations of their animated features. It would be that type of cynicism that would throw up my hands and wonder what is the point of a live action musical of Beauty and the Beast. The animated movie is a definite classic and when something is that ingrained in childhood memories then it is more reason to not mess around.



The trailer leans very heavy on nostalgia with almost identical set pieces and costumes, and the story with the rose and talking furniture is all there along with the same score. I'd have chalked that up to pointlessness except Disney has an impressive success rate with their live-action adaptations. The Jungle Book is destined to be a modern classic that this generation's children will remember fondly, and both Cinderella and Maleficent turned out to be really solid and at times magical movies. All three had several scenes and elements designed to conjure up vivid and fond memories of the originals but after nostalgia warmed you up, the movies had some major reworkings and twists on the common story. All three ended up having different messages than the older works and became fresh takes on classic stories, I need to trust Beauty and the Beast is going to follow a similar path and expect something special. At this point, the visuals look marvelous.


The final big remake news of this week is one that I'd normally be opposed but then some announcements pulled me over to Team Excited. Halloween is one of my all-time favourite horror pictures and is without doubt the best ever slasher. It also fits alongside Texas Chainsaw Massacre as great original movies that have dreadful sequels. I'll concede Halloween 2 is acceptable, but I'd rather never think about those bad Rob Zombie remakes (though the morbid side of me feels that I need to write a review for both).

We live in a world where I'm excited for a new installment in a franchise that hasn't been great since 1978. The first good bit of news was John Carpenter and Jason Blum teaming up as producers. Carpenter not only was the great director for the original but is one of the all-time great genre filmmakers with classics like The Thing, Big Trouble in Little China and Escape from New York ((and the master of the ear buggy synth score). He also has been removed from mainstream filmmaking for a significant amount of time, which makes me hopeful that he may be less influenced by modern horror tropes and will attempt to bring something fresh (or at least bring back a long forgotten horror element). I once had my qualms with Blum, mostly for the not very good but very popular Paranormal Activity series, but for independent genre filmmaking, he is one of the best producers out there and has found some great directors. Plus I've become a big fan of a lot of the movies that have come out of his studios like Insidious Chapter 3 and Sinister.

Before I start dancing on the rooftops, Carpenter was also the producer of Halloween 2 and apparently, the reason it played out more like Friday the 13th by having gruesome kills and less attention on psychology. He also was the one with the idea to give us Silver Shamrock. Those were all decades ago, and he is someone that I trust learns from his mistakes and missteps (which is why we never got Escape from Detroit).

Though they haven't outright said this is a reboot, I'm hoping this is far removed from all previous Halloween movies except maybe the original (kind of like how Neill Blomkamp wants to do an Alien movie that only acknowledges the existence of the first two). What I'd really like is to leave out the Strode family and maybe even Michael Myers. Make it a spiritual successor with a new babysitter killer, where it plays off the atmosphere and fears and style of the original movie but updated to modern phobias and concerns. After 40 years, I don't think large heavy breathers wielding a butcher knife are scary anymore, but rather they've become kind of cool and cheered and expected. But I realize there is no way they aren't at least having Michael Myers in this and it is accepted canon that Laurie is his sister even though that didn't come along until the second. If we need to revisit this world then all I hope is that it is being driven by a worthwhile story with an attempt at revitalizing and shaking up the slasher genre.

This is why Mike Flanagan, director of Oculus and Hush, is near perfect to helm this movie. His past two horror movies were an example of following typical horror beats and set-ups, but adding in unexpected twists and some reworkings on the tropes. He also has proven to be excellent at using shots and scores and visuals to amplify the senses and to really get you emotionally invested rather than rely on just typical jump scares. Both his movies got more frights out of me than most other modern horrors combined. Based on how he built up the tension in Hush, I'm stoked to see what ideas he has for the Shape and his evil intentions for sex-starved babysitters. If this ends up really happening, I don't want a typical routine slasher but a ground-breaking movie that fits alongside the original Halloween, Scream and Nightmare on Elm Street as a movie that reshapes the subgenre.

Monday, May 23, 2016

The Breakdown of 'The Nice Guys'. 'Team Foxcatcher', 'Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising', 'Smashed'


The Breakdown delivers four movie reviews this week including the buddy action comedy set in 1977 Los Angeles, The Nice Guys, and a sequels to the 2014 hit, Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising. As well, we discuss the dark side to the backlash against the upcoming Ghostbusters sequel. As always if you love the show then please spread the word.

Remember you can now subscribe either to The Movie Breakdown feed (a subscription link is at the top right hand of this site) or on iTunes.



Ratings Recap:

The Nice Guys ***½ (CS & SM)
Team Foxcatcher ***½ (CS & SM)
Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising *** (CS)
Smashed ***½ (CS & SM)

Christopher:
1. Captain America: Civil War $181, 790 000.00
2. X-Men: Apocalypse
3. Ghostbusters
4. Ice Age: Collision Course
5. Suicide Squad
6. Central Intelligence
7. BFG
8. The Secret Life of Pets
9. Warcraft
10. Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates
Total: $181, 790 000.00

Scott:
1. Finding Dory
2. Star Trek Beyond
3. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows
4. Alice in the Looking Glass
5. Independence Day: Resurgence
6. Conjuring 2
7. Angry Birds $39, 000,000.00 
8. Jason Bourne
9. Neighbors 2: Sorority Rises $21, 790,000.00
10. The Purge: Election Day
Total: $60, 790, 000.00

Monday, May 16, 2016

The Breakdown of 'Captain America: Civil War' and 'Money Monster'

It is a loaded episode this week with five big movie reviews including one of the biggest movies of the year in latest Marvel adventure, Captain America: Civil War. We also review two other new releases in the Jodie Foster directed thriller, Money Monster and the drama about drone warfare in Eye in the Sky. As always if you love the show then please spread the word or give us a five star review on our iTunes page.

Remember you can now subscribe either to The Movie Breakdown feed (a subscription link is at the top right hand of this site) or on iTunes.

 
Ratings Rundown:

Captain America: Civil War ***½ (CS) & *** (SM)
Money Monster *** (CS & SM)
Estranged ** (CS) & *½ (SM)
Eye in the Sky ***½ (CS & SM)
Ava's Possessions ** (CS & SM)

Summer Box Office Challenge Standings:

Christopher:
1. Captain America: Civil War 181.79 million
2. X-Men: Apocalypse
3. Ghostbusters
4. Ice Age: Collision Course
5. Suicide Squad
6. Central Intelligence
7. BFG
8. The Secret Life of Pets
9. Warcraft
10. Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates
Total: 181.79 million

Scott:
1. Finding Dory
2. Star Trek Beyond
3. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows
4. Alice in the Looking Glass
5. Independence Day: Resurgence
6. Conjuring 2
7. Angry Birds
8. Jason Bourne
9. Neighbors 2: Sorority Rises
10. The Purge: Election Day
Total: N/A



Sunday, May 15, 2016

Time for a Change

For the last year now, I've been stuck in a rather deep hole and have been convinced the best way out is to dig in the direction that I want to be. This means that I've been flailing my shovel in the air catching heaping piles of air and occasionally whacking the blade upside my head. It has taken a few lacerations but I've now smartened up to the need of a revised strategy. Even though it is against the screaming voice and the dark ominous spectre taunting me, I'm now digging downwards in an effort to uncover something new and helpful, and maybe even get the strength to create a tunnel to the much sought after sunlight. I know this effort will strike a sewage pipe and uncover a few "off to the farm" pets and for a bit it is going to stink and be filthy, but I trust there is a gem or two down there. There must be treasure in these parts or why did I start digging six years ago? I can sense it. I'll get it even if I have to suffer some garbage and rot for the first little bit. It is time for more digging.

Monday, May 09, 2016

The Breakdown of the Marvel Effect


It's a special episode this week called The Breakdown of the Marvel Effect, as we analyze the powerhouse that is Marvel Studios and look at how they've transformed the movie industry and influenced the strategies of every major movie studio. We also recorded this podcast at night and it is probably one of our more relaxed and rabbit-trail heavy shows in a while. If you like it when we cut loose or when I keep talking about Terminator, then this is the show for you. As always if you do enjoy the show then please spread the word.

Remember you can now subscribe either to The Movie Breakdown feed (a subscription link is at the top right hand of this site) or on iTunes.

Monday, May 02, 2016

The Breakdown of 'Keanu' and 'Purple Rain'


This week Scott and I review four pictures including two 2016 comedies in the buddy actioner parody, Keanu, and Ricky Gervais's latest effort, Special Correspondents. As promised last week, we also review Prince's acting debut in the cult classic, Purple Rain. After the movie reviewing, we hold the draft for our second annual Summer Box Office Challenge. As always, if you enjoy the show then please spread the love to other movie fans.

Remember you can now subscribe either to The Movie Breakdown feed (a subscription link is at the top right hand of this site) or on iTunes.



Movie Rating Rundown:

Keanu *** (CS & SM)
Special Correspondents ** (CS & SM)\
Chuck Norris vs. Communism ***½ (CS) & **** (SM)
Purple Rain ***½ (CS) & *** (SM)

Summer Box Office Challenge Draft Picks:

Christopher:
1. Captain America: Civil War
2. X-Men: Apocalypse
3. Ghostbusters
4. Ice Age: Collision Course
5. Suicide Squad
6. Central Intelligence
7. BFG
8. The Secret Life of Pets
9. Warcraft
10. Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates

Scott:
1. Finding Dory
2. Star Trek Beyond
3. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows
4. Alice in the Looking Glass
5. Independence Day: Resurgence
6. Conjuring 2
7. Angry Birds
8. Jason Bourne
9. Neighbors 2: Sorority Rises
10. The Purge: Election Day