X-Men: Apocalypse


Jim’s Thoughts

I went into X-Men: Apocalypse with the expectation for it to be “baseline good,” and I wasn’t disappointed. It didn’t exceed that expectation but it met it.

One problem I have with the X-Men comics is that they have an unwieldy roster and a deeply murky continuity. The films (or at least most of them) do a pretty good job of whittling that down and presenting a more manageable story, but Apocalypse stumbled there a bit. They try and have a lot of subplots moving at once; Quicksilver being Magneto’s son, Magneto’s attempt to have a normal life in Poland, Cyclops coming to terms with his power, Jean wrestling with hers, and Xavier meeting back up with Moira after having taken her memories of him. There’s a lot going on there, and it’s a bit too much for every component to give us a satisfying resolution.

The visuals, and the action sequences don’t disappoint. What I particularly appreciated was Bryan Singer seems to have found a nice balance between action on a massive scale and mindless “destruction porn.” By that, I mean he shows us landmarks being destroyed, cities crumbling, but it seems to have been woven more into scenes that move the plot forward.

Most of the performances were solid in Apocalypse. Sophie Turner’s British accent kept leaking through, and Kodi Smit-McPhee’s German accent came out a little cartoonish at times, and there were some quieter moments in the film where that got distracting.

Without spoiling the ending of the movie, I’ll say my biggest, non-nitpicky critique of the film was how easily things are wrapped up. Certain characters’ motivations change very suddenly, and in the end, Apocalypse’s undoing undermined the character.

As you can see, there’s plenty to pick on with this movie, but for all its faults, it held my attention, and it was genuinely fun.

Kyle’s Take

X-Men: Apocalypse worked for a big, dumb action movie, but for a kid like me, who grew up in the Deep South, undersized, of mixed heritage, and who got his ass kicked every day for being different, these newer X-Men movies don’t live up to the promise of the comic. This probably makes me sound like a social justice warrior, and I don’t care. The X-Men are the social justice warriors of the comic book world. They’re an allegory for the civil rights movement. And these were chief reasons why I was drawn to the X-Men.

Professor X and Magneto are fictional stand-ins for Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X, respectively, and yet the X-Men films have done increasingly less for characters of color. Storm, Psylocke, and Jubilee are nothing more than window dressing. Alexandra Shipp (the new Storm) had more lines, screen time, and did more in her thank you speech before the movie than she did in the actual movie. Jubilee was the quirky Asian friend, going to the mall with the white kids. And while Psylocke kept her comic book look, it’s a look that objectifies women: a svelte Asian woman in a purple dominatrix suit. How can you trivialize two minorities at once when you’re supposed to be the comic book champion for minorities?

Alright. I’m done ranting for now. I agree with Jim, the comic book X-Men do have an unwieldy roster, but it’s not as much the size (hundreds of characters versus the Avengers’ thousands) as much as it is characters changing allegiance at the slightest provocation. It’s common (in the comics) to have one moment with Magneto ripping the adamantium from Wolverine’s skeleton through his pores, and have the next one showing Erik washing Beast’s jockeys and cutting the crust off of Jubilee’s PB&J. Okay. That was an exaggeration, but I did watch Magneto do laundry at the X-Mansion once. Often, these shifts are arbitrary, sudden, and/or have little pretext.

The X-Men films (with the new cast) have done a decent job of explaining and building up to these changes of heart, but X-Men: Apocalypse crowds more mutants into 150 minutes than Avengers films slap men and women into tights. Apocalypse shoves Mystique as the hero of all mutant-kind down our throats. This doesn’t do as well of a job of character development—or explaining motivation changes—as the film thinks it does. It comes off as X-Men cashing in on Jennifer Lawrence’s star-making turn as Katniss Everdeen (The Hunger Games). Mystique even hides her true blue-skinned self for most of the movie, not because she’s ashamed of who she is or she’s trying to hide but because we have to see Lawrence’s face. It’s pandering. And this doesn’t even scratch the surface of the continuity issues Jim mentioned.

I had forgotten that Days of Future Past changed the course of the X-Men storyline, but the previous X-Men movie did more than erase the awful X-Men: The Last Stand, it killed off some characters, changed the relationships of others, and warped the sequence of events for everyone. This yielded a lot of questions in Apocalypse like hey, wasn’t he/she supposed to be in a different country or be a different age or behave in a completely different manner? And that’s before we come back to the X-Men and their history with the civil rights movement.

The newer X-Men films give lip service to the group being outcasts but anyone who has had to live through any discrimination of that type can tell you that what’s in the movies is false. It’s still a joy seeing these characters on the big screen, but the X-Men films need to rediscover their roots.

Justice League: Flashpoint Paradox


Kyle and I have talked a bit about covering some movies from DC’s Animated Universe (DCAU). Now, with Arrow and The Flash finishing up with their respective seasons, I figure there’s no time like the present. If you haven’t checked out any of these movies in the past, you’re missing out. We’ve been hard on DC’s live action work, but the DCAU has given us some really high quality material. In the spirit of getting back to the positive things we like within our fandoms, let’s celebrate that.

Since we mentioned the Flashpoint event with this week’s write-up on The Flash season 2 finale, I decided to start with Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox (2013). As with a lot of the DCAU, it’s sort of a repackaged, slightly condensed version of the comic book event. Just so it’s said, I won’t necessarily cover these in any specific order, so if I take some time to get to one of your favorites, don’t worry.

Ordinarily, I’m not crazy about “elseworlds” stories. By that, I mean stories that depict an alternate reality, but Flashpoint Paradox does it well. The story envisions what would happen if Barry Allen were to go back in time and prevent his mother’s murder. The answer is sort of a classic butterfly effect that sees Barry wake up in a dystopian future where not only does The Justice League not exist, but some of its members are at war.

If I were to hit the story with anything negative, it’d be to mention that the fates of members of the league are very drastically changed, but for unclear reasons. Actually, the characters themselves are entirely different, and there’s no real explanation for how Barry’s interference in his mother’s murder caused those changes. It’s addressed in a peripheral sort of way, but there isn’t much of an effort to sell the audience on that. In the end, its for the best, because it allows the story to move quicker and focus on the more interesting plot points.

The animation here reminds me a little more of the anime style. Now, let me say I’m not really an “anime guy.” I’m extremely far from being an authority on any of it. All I mean to say is the action and movements remind me of that style. It’s something I’ve seen the DCAU lean more toward in the last few years. It’s not a negative exactly, it’s just a slight change from what I’m accustomed to with earlier titles like Justice League: Doom, or Under the Red Hood (both of which I’ll cover in time).

If there’s anything else to dock this movie for, it’s that the voice acting falls flat in parts, not so much with the central characters, but in the supporting cast. There are moments, both in the buildup to the final confrontation and during it, that it got a little distracting.

This isn’t the ideal movie if you’re looking to dive into a typical Justice League story. The focus, and most of the run-time is on the alternate universe. Except for the very beginning, and a scene with Bruce Wayne toward the end, the only traditional Justice League-er you spend time with is Barry Allen, but it’s an entertaining movie, and worth your time on Netflix.

Captain America: Civil War Review


Kyle’s Thoughts

What a difference a focused, well-written script makes. Age of Ultron had a similar cast as Captain America: Civil War, but the characters in Age of Ultron felt out of place, and the action forced down the viewers’ throats, while Civil War’s script better understood its characters, and that’s weird for a movie that features heroes fighting heroes. The biggest reason for this is that Civil War starts with a quieter script and explores the inner thoughts of superheroes.

If you read my rankings of Marvel movies (here’s a link to it), you’ll see a common thread for most of them: their villains are non-existent or they weren’t developed as well as they should be. Captain America: Civil War avoided this—for the most part—by having heroes fighting other heroes. Usually, I don’t care for the plot device of heroes taking arms against other heroes, because at least one character is written out of character (read Jim’s portion of our Batman v. Superman review here), but Civil War has done the best job I’ve seen of using this device. While you may not side with a particular hero in Civil War, you can understand why the heroes on the other side of the issue chose their path. That was something the comic book series of the same name didn’t do well. Great job, Civil War, great job.

I’m not saying Civil War is a perfect movie or that it goes light on the action. It crams as much action as it can in short order, but the two hours of Civil War were better used and paced than the two hours of Age of Ultron. The characters weren’t given equal time—and that might have been the reason Age of Ultron was lopsided—but they were given their own moments, and the viewers knew where each hero was as a character if nothing else. Civil War is a Captain America movie after all, so certain characters had to take a backseat.

It’s difficult not to spoil any of Civil War, and I’m trying hard not to drop any spoilers, but I will get into some particular heroes. Cap (Chris Evans), Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansen), and The Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan) work well off each other, illustrating where each character falls on the spectrum of government oversight as it pertains to The Avengers. We know most of these characters well, so that shouldn’t have been a surprise, but Chadwick Boseman (Black Panther) was a breath of fresh air.

T’Challa wasn’t just an excuse to have an African hero, he served as a third party to The Avengers. His inclusion painted how The Avengers are seen outside of the United States. And that is one of Civil War’s central themes. Viewers caught a hint of T’Challa’s origin as Black Panther, but since his presence was integral to the main story arc, Civil War incorporated his origin in stride. I’ve always liked how Wakanda was the most technologically advanced country in the Marvel Universe and how it developed, unfettered by colonialism. After Civil War, viewers should be primed for 2018’s Black Panther.

I’m sure a lot of fans are interested in Spider-Man. He was amazing—pun intended. Spidey was a larger part of Civil War than I thought he’d be, and Tom Holland did a great job of portraying a really young Peter Parker. Civil War integrated him into the cast as well as it did T’Challa. We’ll have to see whether or not Spider-Man: Homecoming will be weighted down with Spidey’s origin, but at least Civil War didn’t go that route.

Like I said before, every character had a moment. Scarlet Witch, Vision, Ant-Man, Falcon, Hawkeye, and War Machine each had flashes of what made them tick as characters and why they chose which side they chose. Civil War was a hero versus hero story done about as well as it can be done. Sure, it had a bloated cast—we knew that before watching the movie—and the story did drag because of its large cast, but if Marvel can remind us why we care about these heroes (like it does in Civil War), I’ll continue to find enjoyment with these movies.

Jim’s Take

As Kyle noted, I’ve been pretty open about disliking the plot device of heroes fighting heroes. It does require at least one side being written out of character, and Captain America: Civil War is no exception. Tony Stark is out of character in supporting government oversight. This is the guy who refused to turn his suit over to the government, right? Well, Marvel has done a lot to develop Tony Stark’s character, and they use his guilt over what happened in New York, D.C., and Sokovia to make his surprise decision to serve governments a little less unbelievable. Of course, Stark’s logic still requires a selective memory, as Captain America: The Winter Soldier showed us Hydra (and other rogue elements) can infiltrate any governing body. Suffice it to say, I’m Team Cap.

What helped Civil War was keeping the conflict contained. These heroes are opposed to one another, but for the vast majority of the film, there is focus on how the characters are pulling their punches. This isn’t so much a Civil War as a Civil sparring match, and that helps these characters not feel like they’ve completely lost perspective.

I won’t blow the villain’s identity here, because fans of the comics may appreciate the surprise. It’s a version of a character from the comics who doesn’t really resemble the comic book character in any way, so that might upset some hardcore fans, but I’ll leave that to you to decide.

The important thing about the villain in this story was his plot. What Civil War does so well is it makes you think the villain is aiming much higher than he is, then the plot shrinks. It’s refreshing to me to see a comic book film where the fate of the planet or even the galaxy aren’t on the line. Civil War manages to keep the plot small, but the stakes high, and that’s a compelling story.

I wish there had been a little more closure in the end, but it would’ve been hard to do without glossing over everything the story did, so I can’t fault the film for that. I will say what I loved, and respected, so much about The Winter Soldier is how that movie changed the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It forced all of their storytelling to adapt, and Civil War has done that again. I was nervous about this movie going in, and I can tell you my fears were put to rest. I’m sure I’ll see this at least a couple more times before it’s out of theatres.

Batman v Superman Review


Jim’s Thoughts

***SPOILER FREE section***

I’ll tell you what I told my friends. If you’re going to see Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, and you’re hoping the critics are wrong, or that they’re being too hard on the movie, “Abandon hope, all ye who enter here.” Simply put, it’s an objectively terrible movie. If you’re a fan of the comics, it’ll manage to insult you, and if you’re not, it’ll just bewilder and sometimes bore you.

I won’t say the film doesn’t do anything that’s any good. There are small moments that have potential, but there is no element of the story that isn’t botched at some point along the way. Dawn of Justice tries to do many things, and the end result is that none are done well.

Most of the actors do a serviceable job with what they’re given. I’m sorry to say I think Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor may be the lone glaring exception. His portrayal of Luthor is manic and hyperactive in a way that is neither believable nor menacing. It reminded me of Jim Carey’s portrayal of The Riddler from back in the days when Batman movies bummed us all out in a very different way.

Zack Snyder seems to have drawn most of the fire for this movie. The director usually does, and he deserves his fair share of it, but the writing was atrocious. I can’t imagine any way to put this script together that wouldn’t have been an irredeemable mess. Character motivations are only loosely defined, then changed without much reason. The dialogue, when not cliché-laden, is nonsensical.

Those are the broad points. I’ll get into some specific complaints that delve into plot details, but I can honestly say there isn’t much to spoil. The trailers for this movie just about showed this movie. Maybe that’s the ultimate criticism of it. It takes 2 1/2 hours to cover what a handful of 3 minute trailers got across. How can that possibly entertain you?


The big fight. The “v” in Batman v Superman is brought on almost entirely by Bruce Wayne. He views Superman as a threat, and he means to kill him. That’s not an overstatement. Batman kills people in this movie, and it comes off as though he has done it before. No, I don’t mean that he knocks people out in ways that fans like to laugh at and point out that he would probably have killed them. I mean he kills people. He shoots bullets and missiles at them. This is a more barbaric Batman, and that’s Superman’s gripe with him.

Lex Luthor is pulling strings, egging the two on into this showdown for reasons that aren’t entirely clear. Ultimately, Lex’s plan to get Batman to kill Superman (or Superman to kill Batman) fails when Lois Lane wanders onto the screen and asks them nicely to stop fighting, and reminds them that each of their mothers are named Martha. Seriously, that’s pretty much what happens. Not to be foiled, Luthor creates and unleashes Doomsday. Now brothers from other, but similarly named, mothers Batman and Superman team up with Wonder Woman to take out Doomsday. Does it feel like Wonder Woman was just sort of dropped in there? Yeah, she was. Think of her as the vestigial tail of this movie.

It feels weird putting all that under the “spoiler” heading, because you could have surmised it all from the trailers, but I wanted to make it clear for those who hadn’t done that amount of homework, and also to lead up to the one thing that could actually be a spoiler. Superman dies. He kills Doomsday, and Doomsday kills him. It was a famous plot in the comics years ago, so it may sound familiar. There are many problems with this, but I’ll focus on two, and try to leave something for Kyle to talk about. First, Batman and Wonder Woman are shown grieving at the graveside. Why? Wonder Woman knew Superman for about twenty minutes, and Batman liked him for those twenty minutes, just after he meant to kill the guy himself. Nothing was resolved. Superman died still being Superman, still possessing the power to destroy mankind, should he choose to. Batman never swore to be a gentler Batman, to stop torturing criminals and let the law deal out punishment. Second, Superman’s death is the true end of the movie. Yes, the soundtrack offers us a couple thumps of a heartbeat, and that could be inferred as Superman’s, but he never rises out of the grave. Are we really expected to believe they’re going to begin their Justice League franchise by ending their Superman one? Of course not, so where is the tension in that?


I’ve written a bit of a manifesto here, and I could write much more, but I’ll spare you. All I can say is I hope the negative critical response to this movie shocks DC into action. I love these characters, and I have since I was a child. They deserve better storytelling than this.

Kyle’s Take

Wow. Jim hit on a lot of Batman v. Superman’s writing and comic book flaws, but unfortunately, there’s still more he didn’t touch.

I want to like a DC cinematic universe movie. I’d love to see a great Justice League film. I kept trying to find something Dawn of Justice did well, but all I could come up with was that I knew the dream sequence Superman had of Pa Kent was indeed a dream sequence. That doesn’t mean it was an effective dream sequence; I just knew that it was a dream sequence while the scene occurred and that’s something the rest of the movie didn’t make clear.

Evidently there were flashbacks, flash forwards, dream sequences, and hallucinations, and they all looked the same. And some were braided together, so even comic book aficionados couldn’t figure out what was going on in a single viewing. That’s not a good way to get repeat ticket sales, Warner Brothers and DC. Jim mentioned to me an hour or two after we had finished watching Batman v Superman that he read that Darkseid’s Omega symbol was in one of the “dream sequences.” After he said that, I slapped my forehead and said, “And those crazy looking flying beasts could be Parademons.” And then he said that the “dream sequence” in question wasn’t a “dream sequence” but a flash forward. If that sounded confusing, you’ll be lost in the movie’s first five minutes.

Kid Bruce Wayne falls into a bat cave during his parents’ funeral. He strikes a Jesus Christ on the cross pose and ascends the bat cave by means of the wind generated from a camp of bats. Seriously. DC thought the opening scene of a movie released on Good Friday needed a young Bruce Wayne striking a Jesus Christ Pose. I’m not religious but even I found Bat-Christ—and the countless other appropriated Christian images—in bad taste.

Batman v Superman didn’t even know its own characters. Jim mentioned the many ways the film messed up Batman and Superman, but it also cast Wonder Woman as the reluctant hero. Sure, Wonder Woman plays the reluctant hero often, but it’d be empowering to see her spring into action because she wants to take action. And it helps when she isn’t an afterthought.

Oh, and Lex Luthor came off like a psychotic, adult Peter Pan. He had severe daddy issues and his go-to move was placing his hands on his hips and cocking his head to the side. All he needed was Tinker Bell on his shoulder.

Okay. There was one half-way decent part of this film. Jeremy Irons made an interesting Alfred. Michael Caine was a sympathetic father-figure, but Irons was gruff and had a military background. I liked the change of pace but it was drowned out by the unholy mess that was the rest of Batman v Superman.

At this point DC needs to hit the reset button with its cinematic universe. I don’t know why they don’t use the characters and actors from Arrow and Flash to flesh out the DC movie-verse, but for whatever reason they won’t or can’t. Whatever the reason DC placed more of an emphasis on what their rival Marvel currently has in their cinematic universe than see what’s working with their properties.

Daredevil Season 2 Review


Jim’s Thoughts

If you want a short, spoiler-free answer, Daredevil’s season 2 was excellent. I’d rank it a little better than Jessica Jones, and a little beneath Daredevil’s first season. The things that worked so well last time are still working here. The new additions to the show are well done, but the creative team may have over-extended itself to some degree. By that, I mean my one criticism of the season as a whole is that it lacked some of the focus of last season, as there were simply more moving parts to the story. With that said, I’ll try to keep spoilers limited, but consider this the end of the spoiler-free section.

This season’s big baddie turns out to be a returning Nobu, and The Hand. If you’re a fan of Marvel comics, you know about The Hand, and if you’re not, I’ll tell you they’re a shadowy mystic cult of ninja, and that’s functionally all you need to know. The problem with this angle is that it takes some time for that to solidify as the endgame to the season. As it starts, season 2 seems to be about the showdown between Daredevil and Punisher, then about a government cover-up regarding the murder of Punisher’s family, then we get more about “the war” between The Hand and The Chaste which Stick alluded to when we met him last season, but by then, we’re in the home stretch of the season.

It’s true that Daredevil offered plenty of side-plots last season, so it may seem unfair to be critical of that here, but I would say that Kingpin was presented early as the main antagonist, and that conflict was built slowly as the season progressed. Because the show seemed to want to keep Nobu’s return under wraps for a big reveal, we were denied that slow build this season.

With that relatively minor grievance out of the way, let me say a lot of the side-plots of season 2 were done spectacularly. In particular, The Punisher was portrayed in a way that I think should be satisfying to fans of the character. Bernthal’s performance was excellent, and with the exception of a few scenes (one on the rooftop with Daredevil in chains) where the show became too literally a debate about vigilante justice and vengeance, it was well written.

Where Punisher seemed to fit perfectly into the show’s dynamic, I can’t say I was equally impressed with Elektra. I don’t fault the actress (Yung) so much as the fact that her relationship with Matt shifted too suddenly. He goes from flashbacks where he loved her in college, hated her in the present, then loved her again. Given that he’s known for some time about her cruel nature, his wafting opinion feels off to me, and his willingness to run off with her just as he’s begun a relationship with Karen undercuts Matt’s character.

Speaking of things that came too easily, Kingpin’s rise to power in prison felt rushed, and unexplainable considering how we’re told his funds are now limited. I had a hard time believing Kingpin could buy the unquestioning loyalty of every prisoner and guard with what was described as a “percentage” of the wealth he held before. However, the show clearly doesn’t want to keep Kingpin out of play as a character, and I can agree with that decision on some level, so I can forgive the messiness at least until he returns to the show as a central figure.

The breakup of Nelson and Murdock felt inevitable. Watching Matt leave Foggy holding the proverbial bag during the trial of the decade ran the risk of making it harder to like the show’s main protagonist, and letting the two part ways came out as a good way to let Foggy grow as a character and Matt delve deeper into being Daredevil.

I wasn’t crazy about the cliffhanger, having Matt reveal to Karen that he’s Daredevil. To be clear, I like that he told her. I usually get annoyed with masked heroes keeping their secret from their closest friends and love interests, but it should have happened much sooner. Letting it come in the last moments of the season finale was a cheat, wanting to create interest in season 3 (which was already there from where I sit) without playing any real cards.

Despite a handful of specific gripes, season 2 was every bit as good as I’d hoped it would be. Though the season felt more like a series of conflicts being resolved in succession than one large one unfolding over time, every subplot held some amount of my attention. It captured everything I enjoy about Daredevil in the comics, and continued to build on that more grounded level of the Marvel Universe, and the things that happen while the Avengers fight gods and aliens.

Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens (Spoiler Free) Review

Star Wars The Force Awakens

Jim’s Review

Folks, I will attempt to tread very lightly with regard to spoilers here. Let me just start by saying if you’re nervous about The Force Awakens, I really don’t think you need to be. Is it perfect? No, but it’s very good.

In the typical way that these films do it, character development is a little rushed, and part of that has to do with making screen time for all the returning characters, while building up the younger cast that’s going to carry this new leg of the story forward. While some of the characterization is unearned, it succeeds in making these into people whose stories you’re invested in.

One of the more surprising elements of Episode VII is Kylo Ren. The assumption is that he’s this story’s Darth Vader, but he’s not there yet, and he’s not supposed to be. As some people speculated, he’s early in his training, and that gives us a different look at the character than I expected. He’s not some unstoppable juggernaut, at least not yet. That makes him interesting.

If the film gives us anything else to pick on, it’s that it may pay a little too much homage to the original trilogy. Star Wars is very much a story about the paths people choose, versus ones for which they are destined, so the idea of mirroring story arcs is a recurring theme, but The Force Awakens dips pretty deep into that well.

With that said, believe me when I tell you those critiques don’t add up to a disappointing movie, not at all. The great thing about The Force Awakens is that it’s clear Abrams knows what made this franchise a pop culture icon, and he sticks to it. The movie may be a little too familiar in spots, but it’s never dull, and it carries some very genuine emotional weight.

Mockingjay Part 2 Review


Kyle’s Review

It was difficult for Mockingjay Part 2 to live up to its hype. It did a good job with what material was left in the book, but there wasn’t much left.

The fourth film in the Hunger Games franchise showed the rebels infiltration of Panem’s capitol and very little beyond that. Mockingjay Part 2 had to add a love-triangle that, while it existed in the novels, was never used in the movies until the creative team realized they didn’t have two hours of show time. Now, I liked the game Peeta and Katniss play, Real or Not Real (it’s actually one of my favorite part of the film), and the inclusion of a love-triangle between Katniss, Peeta, and Gale necessitated this game, but no one questioned who Katniss would end up with through the first two films. Still, Peeta and Katniss’s game was a nice addition. Too bad so many other elements left me scratching my head. Warning, there will be spoilers.

What was with the cameo by Tigress? I had to search my databanks to remember who she was, even after Katniss said she had given her a makeover at the games. Haymitch and Effie shared a goodbye kiss; that’s new. They also had to stand in for Plutarch (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) because of the actor’s passing. That made sense, but adding Plutarch to the cast with few spoken lines felt off. You couldn’t shut Plutarch up in the books and yet he hardly said a word, because Hoffman wasn’t there to deliver them. You could also see Hoffman’s bloodshot eyes which was painful to watch and made me wonder if the editors had heard of CGI. I wouldn’t have minded a little touch up there. And I know a lot of fans wanted to see the epilogue and watch Katniss’s happily ever after, but the ending didn’t work for me. I would’ve been fine with the first fade to black after Peeta and Katniss play their final game of Real or Not Real—again, I loved that game—but even if the creative team wanted to add the epilogue, there were so many better ways they could’ve handled it. The biggest omission from the novel was the fact that Katniss only had kids after fifteen years of marriage because Peeta wanted them. Here, they look like they had kids right away. In short, Mockingjay Part 2 extended things that didn’t need to be extended and sped up things that needed more time, but I still enjoyed.

With some exceptions Mockingjay Part 2 was faithful to the book. The action sequences were handled well and were entertaining; the hot oil and mutt scenes were especially effective. The actors didn’t phone it in either, which can happen for movie franchises that stick around a little longer than they should. I had a good time. I just don’t know why we needed a fourth movie. The further into Mockingjay Part 2 I got, the more I questioned why they didn’t omit twenty to thirty minutes from Part 1 and added forty to fifty minutes of the capital’s infiltration and the rest to the third film.



Jim’s Review

On the surface, I think I expected Sicario to be a simpler movie than it turned out to be. I went in prepared for shootouts and explosions, the standard action fare, and there was plenty of that, but the film managed to be surprisingly heady without being heavy-handed.

On an aesthetic level, the movie works quite well shot-by-shot in portraying the delicate nature of the struggle between border-states and the cartels. The aerial views of desert landscapes and urban neighborhoods convey that idea of a crisis lurking just beyond increasingly flimsy borders. The portrayal of corruption and brutality on both sides of the conflict rarely felt gratuitous to me, and more importantly, it came off as even-handed. The script certainly reaches beyond good-guys and bad-guys with its themes, and it conveys the idea that there is no clean way to fight.

Sicario’s greatest strength may be in its performances. Josh Brolin is convincing, and even perversely likeable as a government operative whose jurisdiction and character are always questionable. As the familiar rough-man-with-checkered-past, Benicio del Toro is solid, if a little formulaic, and Emily Blunt’s lead has great chemistry with Daniel Kaluuya.

I have some minor complaints with the script. Blunt’s character feels entirely too naïve. For a woman we’re introduced to as she kicks in a door and guns down a cartel henchman, it doesn’t add up. I know they want her character to serve as a surrogate for audience, but she shouldn’t feel as overwhelmed and unprepared for what she sees as is the audience. The reveal about del Toro’s character also hit me as an anticlimax. It’s teased before it happens. Some people who know him give their condolences, so it’s clear he’s tragedy-stricken, but this in conjunction with his “mysterious stranger” demeanor feel a little like a paint-by-numbers character sketch. There’s also a parallel plot with a Mexican state police officer that’s given just enough screen time to raise your expectations for a bigger payoff than it provides.

None of my gripes amount to a particularly big deal. If you sit down to watch Sicario, you’ll find yourself entertained, and probably even somewhat challenged. It moves at a good pace, and it doesn’t outstay its welcome. It isn’t as graphic as it could be, though it has its share of shock value, so if you’ve got a particular sensitivity to these things, you may want to stay clear. Otherwise, I’d say Sicario is worth a look.

The Visit


Jim’s Review

Whenever I tell someone I saw a movie, invariably they ask, “How was it?” or “Did you have fun?” but with a movie like The Visit, those are two completely separate questions. Respectively, my answers are, “awful,” and “yes.” The movie’s premise is flawed. A woman who is estranged from her parents, hasn’t seen or spoken to them in fifteen years sends her kids to spend a week alone with them. Furthermore, while her kids are off with these people she can’t even bring herself to be sociable with, she decides to take off for a cruise with her boyfriend, you know, so there’d be nothing she could do to come to the rescue and end our story prematurely should something go awry. If none of this sounds normal to you, congratulations. You’re probably not a particularly crazy person, but I don’t think Mr. Shyamalan will cast you in a movie.

The kids are the main characters here. The big sister is a tightly-wound, pedantic wannabe-filmmaker who throws around just enough vocab words pertaining to “narrative” to satisfy people who may have slept through a creative-writing course or two. Her little brother believes himself to be a rap prodigy, but is actually the single best argument I’ve ever seen for forced sterilization. You may think I’m overstating the case, but I’ll tell you this: at one point in this movie we see a naked woman in her 70’s howling and scratching at a wall, and that’s nowhere near as hard to watch as this kid’s freestyle rap about pineapple upside-down cake. I can assure you, by the time you hear the haughty Dawson’s Creek rip-off tell her little brother she’s at least “two standard deviations” smarter than him, you’re actually rooting for the old lady with the kitchen knife.

As you may be able to tell, all of this gets to be kind of funny, whether it wants to be or not. If you can keep your popcorn down during T-Diamond-Stylus’ (yes, that’s our rap prodigy’s assumed name) raps, it actually gets to be entertaining against its own will. The implausible elements add up to what becomes a fun game of I-Spy, if you can talk your movie neighbor into playing with you, and some of the attempts at jump-scares create legitimate laugh-out-loud moments.

I won’t spoil it for you, but you will never play Yahtzee the same way again after watching this film. It’s definitely a so-bad-it’s-good type of movie, but it’s not such a good so-good-it’s-bad type of movie that I’d recommend a trip to the theatre. It’ll be on Netflix soon enough. When that happens, invite a friend over, invent a drinking game, and go to town on it.

Fantastic Four


Kyle’s Review

The new Fantastic Four movie has received so many negative reviews that you’d think you’d get contact cosmic radiation from watching the film. As of the time of this review, Fantastic Four was holding firm at 10% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, which is good enough – or bad enough – for a tie (with Pixels) for the summer’s worst movie. We’ll get to the movie’s cons in a bit, but let’s discuss what the film did well first. Yes, there are some highlights.

The Good

The cast showed signs of chemistry. The actors Fox cast as the FF are some of Hollywood’s most promising young stars, so the chemistry wasn’t a huge surprise. You got a sense of depth and history. The love triangle between Sue Storm, Reed Richards, and Victor von Doom was understated and worked for the most part. Sue and Johnny Storm showed levels of sibling love and familial responsibility. We even saw Ben and Reed’s friendship begin and grow.

The final five to ten minutes gave fans some hope for the series’ second installment. Fox announced a Fantastic Four sequel, which is set for a June 2017 release, before the first movie even opened. (They have to retain their movie rights.) Thank goodness we saw a team that more resembled the Fantastic Four, even if it was just before the credits rolled.

This might be a horrible case of optimism on my part, but the acting performances and the glimpse of a true Fantastic Four at the movie’s end, left me hopeful.

The Bad

There’s plenty to not like about Fantastic Four, but most of the internet’s ire stems from the movie’s slow pace and the grim versions of the characters, and I can’t disagree with them.

(Director) Trank built an iceberg of a plot with little payoff. The glacial pace reminded me of a low budget sci-fi film where the focus is on asking a thought provoking question about humanity, but we’re never given a thought provoking question. At its heart, Fantastic Four should be a comic book movie and yet it tried to apologize for how ridiculous a man bursting into flames is. Note to Fox: You don’t have to apologize. The customers who paid for admission expect to see a man burst into flames.

To make matters worse, every character had a chip on their shoulder, and not just the literal chip for the Thing. This movie was the emo version of the Fantastic Four: the Fantastic Four who could star in a Zoloft commercial. I never cared for the brooding nature of Ultimate Fantastic Four (the comic of which the new Fantastic Four movie is based). It says something when Doctor Doom looks like the well-adjusted one emotionally.

Speaking of Doom, he got built up as blood-thirsty and all-powerful, and then he got beaten by a thirty-second-old superhero team in record time. If you were expecting one of Reed and Victor’s classic battle of wits, don’t. The way the Fantastic Four takes out Doc Doom could be found on any elementary school playground.

The Get-Over-Yourselves

Prior to Fantastic Four’s release, fans were belly aching that Johnny Storm was recast as an African-American. This casting choice didn’t hurt the film and since Michael B. Jordan gave a solid performance, Fantastic Four benefited from the recasting. They may look different, but you could tell Sue and Johnny were family. So “we don’t need hateration, holleration’ in this dance for me.” It’s okay to add a little flavor to Marvel’s vanilla ice cream team of superheroes.


Even though Fantastic Four has earned most of its hateration, it’s still worth a movie rental for those moments of fine acting. I wouldn’t spend the extra dough for the theatrical release unless you can catch it at a bargain movie theater. If you’re a huge FF fan, you might consider a matinee.