Dark Phoenix and all the images you see in this review are owned by 20th Century Fox and Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Directed by Simon Kinberg
I’ve probably been nicer than most about the X-Men franchise, going so far as to be somewhat positive about Apocalypse, and even I can’t be bothered to muster any enthusiasm for The Last Stand: Remastered. I mean I GUESS I can see why Fox would want to prove that it was the other guy’s fault and not their own, and it certainly worked well enough for Dexter Fletcher, but with this franchise being so easily overshadowed by Deadpool, the MCU, and even some of the better DC films, it’s starting to feel more Quixotic than artistically advisable. Still, I have been surprised by movies I didn’t expect much out of before, and it’s not like they have much to lose considering this franchise is more or less done whether they make this movie or not, so hey! Let’s see if Fox can pull it off one more time for old time’s sake!
It’s the radical nineties for the X-Men with Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and his crew of charismatic comrades more popular than ever; much like the ACTUAL nineties. Newcomers Jean Grey, Scott Summers, Ororo Munroe, and Kurt Wagner (Sophie Turner, Tye Sheridan, Alexandra Shipp, and Kodi Smit-McPhee) are fitting in well enough, Mystique’s (Jennifer Lawrence) barely contained annoyance with all of this is about as same as usual which is greatly contrasted with Beast (Nicholas Hoult) who looks like he couldn’t be happier to be there, and Quicksilver (Even Peters) is… around. ANYWAY! The big difference in this film that I alluded to just now which I don’t BELIEVE was the case last time is that The X-Men have become household names and everyone wants to be them! No more mutant discrimination, at least not outright, and all the jerk mutants went with Magneto (Michael Fassbender) to some island somewhere to keep things nice and peaceful. Why, the only thing that could ruin this perfect existence is if one of the high profile mutants on Xavier’s team went off and started blowing stuff up, but what are the odds of THAT happening!? Yeah, so Jean Grey gets hit by some sort of cosmic ray in the beginning of the film during an astronaut rescue, and it seems to have overcharged her system to the point that she can barely control her powers as well as her emotions; the latter of which is exacerbated by some dark secrets she’s made keenly aware of and have made things rather awkward at the academy. With one big public relations nightmare that could lead to Mutant internment AGAIN, Xavier and his crew have to find out what’s happening to Jean and if there’s any way to save her from whatever it is that will either destroy her from the inside or give her enough power to destroy us all from the outside. Oh, and Jessica Chastain is in this somewhere in the background. I’m sure she can’t be up to any good though! Will Jean Grey succumb to the power she’s been granted and become the worst enemy the X-Men have ever faced? Will Xavier finally learn that despite his idealistic rhetoric that he’s made huge mistakes in the past that could bring the world closer to destruction than anything his more militant counterpart ever came up with? If this is worse than X3, does Fox get like a Lifetime Achievement award for how badly they can ruin a franchise? I mean they should have already gotten one for their Fantastic Four movies, but you know the Academy! Give it to them when convenient; not when they deserve it!
Red Sparrow and all the images you see in this review are owned by 20th Century Fox
Directed by Francis Lawrence
What, were you expecting a review for Death Wish? Yeah… no. Eli Roth isn’t about to get another cent from me after the crap I went through with his LAST film, and seeing him remake an already tonally uneven film with the ham handedness that he makes all his other films is an experience I am VERY much willing to overlook and stuff down the memory hole along with everything else I’d like to forget; like Devilman Crybaby or that guy who’s occupying in the Oval Office right now where an ACTUAL President should be sitting. So that left me with this Jennifer Lawrence starring spy thriller which… I don’t know. The trailers didn’t really do enough to get me interested in the story, and I still have nightmares over the LAST time I saw Jennifer Lawrence star with uneasiness into a camera while contending with impending doom. At the very least though, it won’t be as bad as Death Wish… right? Let’s find out!!
Alright everyone! Now that we’ve had our fun with the GOOD list, it’s time to put on some work pants as we start wading through the unimaginable dreck that was yet another “fun” aspect of the abysmal year that we all had to suffer through. You know what though? Most of us made it through to the other side, so if looking back at the year that couldn’t beat us and having a laugh (or one last bitter tirade) at the pathetic excuses for entertainment that made daily life just a little bit worse, well I think we all deserved it, don’t you?
Anyway, let’s not beat around the bush any longer! WE’RE DIVING RIGHT IN!!
Dishonorable Mentions: Death Note & Bright
Since I didn’t even bother trying to watch another Adam Sandler movie this year, this dubious distinction goes to two OTHER Netflix features; albeit it for very different reasons. The truth of the matter is, I didn’t particularly mind either of these films as I think they had some good ideas buried within their mediocre (and cheap looking) execution with Death Note having an interestingly different take on its main character (a whiny little punk with issues of inadequacy instead a megalomaniacal genius) and Bright having an ALRIGHT set up for what is essentially a weaker version of 16 Blocks. That said… yeah, these films are REALLY flawed and in glaringly offensive ways. As much as I like the idea of taking some of the pomp and circumstance out of Death Note and reframing Light Yagami to be a less foreboding figure, I don’t see why that necessitated him to be white since they never play with that change in his identity within the text of the film. There could have been a component of White Privilege to the story (especially with L being black), but that seems to have never been the intent on the part of the filmmakers who simply seemed to associate AMERICAN REMAKE with WHITE AS DEFAULT. Similarly, the half-baked and ham fisted social commentary in the script for Bright creates one of the most cringe inducing screenplays of the year which has Orcs standing in for Black People in a world that still has Black People, and it even finds an excuse to get Will Smith to say “Fairy Lives Don’t Matter” before beating said fairy to death. Sure, the movie picks up once it gets away from its proudly ignorant views on race and becomes a straight up chase film with Will Smith and Joel Edgerton (who’s under a decent enough make up job), but that’s hardly enough to excuse everything that it gets wrong in the process. Now I don’t want this to come across as Netflix bashing because they DO put out quite a bit of decent content as I’ve heard good things about First They Killed My Father, Beast of No Nation, even The Babysitter, and while it wasn’t my favorite King Adaptation this year I thought Gerald’s Game was pretty good too. That said, they’ve had quite a few stumbles over the years, pretty much starting with their awful Adam Sandler deal, and these two movies are just further examples of their awkward steps towards becoming a media empire of their own; something they’ll need to keep working on now that Disney is gonna own everything else in the world and will eventually come out with their own streaming service to try and crush them. If Netflix wants a chance to survive the Disney/Fox merger, they’ll need to avoid having clunkers like this clogging up their service.
So I guess we’re gonna have to talk about this one again, huh? It certainly seems that everyone else is getting in on the action with various think pieces about what the movie actually means and how audiences are reacting to it, which… I guess I can’t criticize because I’m currently doing the exact same thing, but I’m still feeling a bit irksome about how much publicity this movie is getting when what I saw really didn’t merit all the hoopla. Making matters worse is the fact that CinemaScore (a poll of general audience moviegoers) have given the film a rating of F; bringing back the tired argument about how art films are just too GOOD for mainstream audiences to understand. I mean… sure, I’ve certainly held firmly on one side of that debate in the past (I bring up Michael Bay as often as possible), but after seeing the film itself, I just don’t think this is the one for some of the more snobby among us to lord over the undiscerning masses, because… well if you read my review, you’d know that I am rather close to absolutely hating this film; stopping just short of that due to the technical acumen, the finely tuned tension curve that’s constantly raising the stakes, and Aronfosky’s undoubtedly strong command of cinematic storytelling. Make no mistake; this isn’t an amateur hour shit show like God’s Not Dead 2 or Incarnate. This is a phenomenal filmmaker who tried to do something great but I feel has failed in spectacular fashion, and while I do understand the reasoning behind for softening ones opinions about a movie that genuinely tries THAT hard (the story of Icarus is usually seen to be a tragic one), I just… couldn’t. Too much about this movie is misguided for me to want to give it much of a pass, at least as far as my own feelings on it as I think it’s STILL probably a movie worth seeing at some point even if you ultimately hate it the same way I did. So I guess that begs the question, what is it that everyone seems to be getting out of this movie, and why do I feel it was done so poorly?
Mother! and all the images you see in this review are owned by Paramount Pictures
Directed by Darren Aronofsky
I’ve never really been a fan of David Fincher, yet I’ve very much appreciated Aronofsky despite them sharing quite a few similarities; mostly in regards to just how dark and cynical they can be when it comes to their subject matter. I guess Aronofsky still manages to CARE about his characters even when they’re terrible people or getting mercilessly destroyed which is something that feels absent from a lot of Fincher’s work like Fight Club or Gone Girl; both are about terrible people but never seem to get past simply PRESENTING us with their unpleasantness. Aronofsky’s different, especially with movies like The Wrestler and Black Swan which are straight up tragedies about broken people trying desperately to get their lives together and failing miserably in the process. Now we have Mother! which, aside from the gratuitous punctuation, seems to be in the same vein though leaning much more on horror tropes and absurd excess than a more focused psychological horror narrative and seems to be in the same vein as Noah (another one of his movies that I like) at least as far as just how far he’s willing to take the strangeness of it all. Is this another classic to add to his already impressive catalogue, or has he made his biggest misstep since The Fountain? Let’s find out!!
The movie begins with a HUGE spoiler, but AFTER that we follow around a woman (Jennifer Lawrence) who lives with her husband (Javier Bardem) in a REALLY nice house that is in desperate need of repair, but at least it gives Jennifer Lawrence something to do while FAMED POET JAVIER BARDEM putters around not writing anything. Still, she seems perfectly content with her day to day life of fixing the place up and making it look more hospitable… but everything changes once some guy and his wife (Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer) shows up at their doorstep and Bardem is MORE than happy to offer their house, their food, and their personal space to the couple with no consultation from Jennifer Lawrence. Things escalate from there, but in ways I’d rather not spoil as the movie goes place you really couldn’t imagine from the trailers which sell this as a much different film. Does Jennifer Lawrence find a way to assert herself and regain control of what is hers? What is Javier Bardem’s deal with letting these people come in in the first place, and what ulterior motives do they have? No seriously, Aronfosky. What the fuck did you do here?
Passengers and all the images you see in this review are owned by Columbia Pictures
Directed by Morten Tyldum
I’ve started watching Parks and Recreations recently and seeing Chris Pratt in that film has started to color my perceptions of him as a leading man. Sure, Guardians of the Galaxy still holds up as he’s still playing up to his comedic strengths, but every time I see the poster for this movie with him and Jennifer Lawrence blandly starring back with their chiseled Hollywood looks, it’s just gotten harder to take that seriously when all I can think of Burt Macklin: The best FBI agent ever! Still, the guy does have a HUGE amount of talent and more than enough charisma to carry a movie, so maybe he’s the right fit to bring some humanity to this kind of science fiction story and can hold his own against an actress of Jennifer Lawrence’s caliber. Does Passengers manage to give us a compelling story anchored by two great performances from some of the most bankable names in the business right now, or is this a giant misstep that will be stain on their relatively strong careers up to this point? Let’s find out!!
The movie begins with everyone’s favorite member of Mouse Rat in a giant space mall that’s hurtling through the galaxy at a preposterous rate but still too slow for anyone to if they had to manually control the damn thing. That’s why the ship is on autopilot and presumptive hero Jim Preston (Chris Pratt) along with the other five thousand people on this ship are in hibernation pods and riding out this long journey to the new space colony on Homestead II. Unfortunately for Starlord, there’s some malfunction that wakes his ass, and ONLY his ass, before everyone else with no way to go back to sleep and is trapped alone on this space ship for the next ninety years. At first it’s not all bad considering he sort of has the run of the place which is full of video games, movies, and sushi, and he even has a friendly robotic bartender (Michael Sheen) to air his grievances at. Eventually though, he manages to taste every variation on the tuna roll, got the high score in the latest instalment of Just Dance, and manages to drink half the ship’s wine cellar within about a year, so doing this for another 89 of them isn’t all that appealing. He basically has two options at this point; kill himself or wake someone else up to keep him company. Well we wouldn’t really have a movie if they went with the former (that actually would be a pretty awesome short film) so he JUST SO HAPPENS to fixate on a writer named Aurora (Jennifer Lawrence) and eventually cracks open her hibernation pod and pretends it was an accident just like his was. Will she be able to fill the silence that has driven him to the brink of madness and give a reason to live once again? What could he possibly do to make up for essentially kidnapping her and ruining her life as she’s doomed to suffer the same fate as him, and what will happen when she finds out the truth? Well there IS an airlock. I’m pretty sure she could have some fun with that.
X-Men: Apocalypse and all the images you see in this review are owned by 20th Century Fox
Directed by Bryan Singer
It’s that time again for another X-Men movie to try and prove its relevance in a post MCU world! So far, I think they’ve been doing a fairly good job of keeping this series humming along since Mathew Vaughn kicked the franchise back to life again five years ago. The post First Class movies haven’t been perfect, but the second shot at a Wolverine solo picture and the one that brought Brian Singer back to the franchise were both fine enough films, and now that Deadpool is kinda sorta in the mix, there may be hope yet that this franchise can make that leap to the big leagues instead of sitting comfortably as the acceptable knock off. Is this movie the start of that transition, or is this series just gonna keep spinning its wheels until another X3 disaster kills it off for good? Let’s find out!!
The movie picks up about ten years after Days of Future Past which is still about twenty years before the original X-Men, which I THINK is still in continuity (only X3 is the one we know for sure got blinked out of existence). In the intervening time, Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) has finally set up his school, Erik Lensherr (Michael Fassbender) has gone into hiding and now has a family in Poland, and Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence)… well she’s basically doing the same thing as she as in the last movie, only now she’s a symbol of peace rather than a violent radical after she had saved the president from Magneto. Things seem to be at a tentative state of peace with the humans being somewhat okay with mutants and Erik more or less retiring Magento so he can live a normal life. We don’t come to an X-Men movie to see people be happy though! What’s gonna screw it up for everyone!? Well two things really. First is that Erik suffers a tragedy that throws him back into his anti-human hobby, and second is that there is a millennia old mutant calling himself, among other names, Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac) that just so happened to wake up from his deep slumber and is ready to take over the world (presumably after getting a shower and a bite to eat). It doesn’t take long for him to make his presence known so the X-Men must reunite and get some of the new students to fight the greatest threat to all of humanity… at least now that the Sentinels aren’t gonna be a thing anymore. Can Charles and Mystique whip these newbies into tip top shape to fight the new bad guy and save the world? What exactly will Erik do now that he’s given up on ever finding peace for himself? How many times are they gonna blow up the damn school!?