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!
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.
The Snowman and all the images you see in this review are owned by Universal Pictures
Directed by Tomas Alfredson
Is anyone else super excited to see this movie? There’s something innately appealing about a serial killer movie, as morbid as that sounds, mostly because I feel they’re one of the purest forms of a Good Guy vs Bad Guy story that pits two characters against each other in a battle of wits to see who comes out on top! Face/Off, Death Note, Silence of the Lambs, Sherlock; the list goes on and on and I always find them to be at least somewhat enjoyable… though I have never seen that Alex Cross movie which I hear is so bad it’d probably ruin the whole genre for me. At least this movie looks better than THAT film did and from the trailers it looks like a rather interesting murder mystery with a neat little gimmick for the killer that certainly sets them apart from your typical slasher. Will this be another great film to add to the list, or will all the hopes I had for this melt into a sad little puddle like a snowman left in the sun for far too long? Let’s find out!!
The movie follows the adventure of the hilariously named Detective Harry Hole (Michael Fassbender) and if you think that’s just a poor translation; the writer of the book this is based on ALSO wrote a book called Doctor Proctor’s Fart Powder. Anyway, Detective Hole is a complete and utter wreck when we catch up with him as he’s constantly drinking and sleeping on park benches despite the fact that he’s supposedly a legendary detective who’s solved all sorts of difficult cases… I think. The latest mystery he’s tasked to solve is a series of disappearances which may end up being homicides and he’s got a fresh new detective out of the academy named Katrine Bratt (Rebecca Ferguson) to help and/or annoy him as he tries to find a connection between them. I’m not sure if he figures out that the connection is a snowman being built in front of the home of each victim (the movie is rather bad at conveying information) but that seems to be the killer’s signature; hence the title. Detective Hole has to get to the bottom of this case soon; not only to save whoever the killer’s next victim is, but because the killer seems to have taken a liking to the drunk detective and may be targeting him or his loved ones soon if he can’t catch him first. Can Detective Hole figure out who’s been kidnapping these people and cutting them to pieces; despite his hilarious name? Doe these recent kidnappings have anything to do with a case from six years ago that was led by Detective Gert Rafto (Val Kilmer) who died under mysterious circumstances? Seriously, did anyone read the script to this before filming? Were there pages missing or did someone ACTUALLY think that this all made sense?
Alien: Covenant and all the images you see in this review are owned by 20th Century Fox
Directed by Ridley Scott
Before I get into the review proper, I feel it might be worth discussing my thoughts on the series as a whole in order to provide the proper context for everything else I’m about to say. Ridley Scott’s original film from 1979 probably holds up the best; even more so than James Cameron’s Aliens from 1986 which is still a VERY fun action film and one of the few BIGGER IS BETTER sequels out there (matched only by his own Terminator 2 in 1991). I give the edge to the original because it’s a straight up horror film and those tend to hold up better than shoot-em-action flicks (the quality of special effects changes rather quickly while what scares us transcends generations), but both are damn near the pinnacles of their respective genres. Alien 3… not so much. Oh sure, there’s PLENTY of aspects in it that are outright brilliant and awe inspiring (as well as bone chilling and utterly haunting), but they’re all wasted on a portentous and sluggish script that’s too impressed with its own sense of self-importance to pace itself properly, and yes I’m referring to the Assembly Cut which has most of the stuff that David Fincher wanted in it. The one thing this movie DIDN’T need was to be over two freaking hours (also, killing the most interesting new character off halfway through didn’t help things either). That said I would watch that movie TWICE if it meant I never had to watch Resurrection again. Good GRIEF is that a monstrous product of its time! I don’t think I’ve seen a franchise so thoroughly 90s-ified in the worst ways imaginable outside of that Roland Emmerich Godzilla movie! Needless to say that the franchise needed a fresh start in order to get things back on track; and it wasn’t gonna be with those FREAKING Alien vs Predator movies! I REALLY enjoyed Prometheus which seems to be a minority opinion for some reason, and I’m not sure why. No matter how “scientifically minded” you are, there is always gonna be things you didn’t expect when traveling to ANOTHER FREAKING PLANET and people are gonna make mistakes! Honestly, it seems less like a true critical consensus (film stands at a solid 72% on Rotten Tomatoes) than some inexplicable backlash due to it… not being completely scientifically accurate I guess? What was your first clue? Was it the giant humanoid albino dudes or the baby alien growing in that one person’s stomach? Now I didn’t know ANYTHING about Alien: Covenant walking into it other than it was Ridley Scott directing and that it will indeed have Xenomorphs throughout, but considering how much I liked Prometheus I was hopeful that some of the cool stuff Ridley was working with in that movie would find its way into this seemingly straightforward Alien creature feature. Does Ridley Scott succeed in his true return to the franchise he started all those years ago, or it time to end this bug hunt once and for all? Let’s find out!!
The movie begins with the crew of the Covenant, a spaceship with thousands of cryogenically frozen humans and almost as many frozen embryos, being violently woken up due to some sort of science catastrophe. Now normally the crew is left to sleep with the passengers, all of whom are headed to a new planet to colonize it, while their Synthetic buddy Walter (Michael Fassbender) takes care of everything, but with this… solar flare or something? I don’t know, let’s just go with that. With this solar flare causing havoc on the ship, all of them need to be woken up and at their posts to avert disaster. Most of them are fine, but sadly enough the captain (James Franco in a very brief and crispy cameo) gets burned alive in the chaos; leaving the second in command Chris Oram (Billy Crudup) in charge. So already things are going pear shaped on this trip that’s gonna take another seven years to complete, but they just so happen to pick up a strange signal that might be the answer to their problems. The signal traces back to a rather close planet which they scan and find to be very hospitable to their needs, even more so than the planet they were heading to in the first place! Despite the protestations of one the scientists Danny Branson (Katherine Waterston), Chris decides to at least investigate the place and see if they can locate the source of the strange signal as well as check if the planet really is as good as their scans indicate it to be. Of course it’s not. You KNOW it’s not. This movie isn’t called Pleasant Space Cruise; it’s called ALIEN COVENANT! The question isn’t IF they’re gonna get killed by monsters; it’s HOW MANY of them will! Aside from the obvious revelations, does the crew of the Covenant find something unexpected on this seemingly perfect planet? What was the source of that strange signal to begin with? Maybe it’s someone from one of the other films who’s playing someone new in this movie!?
Assassin’s Creed and all the images you see in this review are owned by 20th Century Fox
Directed by Justin Kurzel
We all knew it was only a matter of time until they took a stab at making the next great video game movie, and since Warcraft turned out to be such a disaster there’s a nice big opening for Ubisoft to take the throne as the first company to get this right. Now the trailers really don’t inspire much hope as it looks like a bunch of overqualified actors in a routine action film, but then maybe that’s enough to make this a GOOD film (a feat unto itself at this point) even if it can’t quite be a great one. Does this manage to be the sign of things to come as studios begin to buckle down and seriously try to crack the code on adapting video games to the big screen, or will Resident Evil and Mortal Kombat still be the high bar that no one else has inexplicably been able to reach? Let’s find out!!
The movie begins with Cal Lynch as a young boy (Angus Brown) walking in on his mother (Essie Davis) with a stab wound in her neck and his dad (Brian Gleeson in the flashbacks and Brendan Gleeson in the present) with a bloody Assassin’s blade and wearing a very uncomfortable looking coat considering the scene seems to be set in New Mexico or something. Little Cal doesn’t have long to contemplate this as a whole bunch of black vans with hired goons rolls up on the house and tries to kill the both of him, but Cal manages to escape. Well, not for TOO long as we jump to present day where Little Cal is now Handsome Cal (Michael Fassbender) and is on death row for… some reason. Except not really! Apparently a super science corporation named Abstergo arranged it so that the state would PRETEND to kill him and then hand the poor sap over to Sofia and Alan Rikkin (Marion Cotillard and Jeremy Irons) who want him for their nefarious ends… I think. Apparently Cal is the Great Great Great Great Great Great (and so on) grandson of some Assassin from the fifteenth century and was ALSO the last known person to have the McGuffin of ultimate power… I mean the Apple of Eden. Using this giant crane device which is supposed to the Animus, they’re gonna send his brain back in time to live out the memories of his ancestor Aguilar de Nerha and find where he left the damn thing so they can find it and use it for whatever the hell it is they want to use it for. This of course is assuming that NO ONE MOVED IT OR FOUND IT IN FIVE HUNDRE YEARS, but I’m sure This all makes sense if I played Brotherhood or something. Will Cal be able to locate the Apple and gain his freedom in the process? What about all these OTHER assassins that Abstergo has collected and are housing in this Science Gulag? Are they gonna be all that happy that Cal is working to help find this artifact? Is there ANY reason this fucking thing had to be so damn complicated!?
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!?
Like any decent film critic, I’ve had a couple of movies that I promised myself I would eventually get to, but then they ended up slipping through the cracks for so long that I had given up hope on ever getting back to them. Well no more I say! Not only am I catching up on two movies I saw in 2015 that I never got to talk about, I have just recently had the chance to watch two other films from 2015 that are definitely worth discussing! So without procrastinating another second, here are four movies from the past year that I now have the chance to review!!
Rock the Kasbah and all the images you see in this review are owned by Open Road Films
Directed by Barry Levinson
Ah yes. The one where Bill Murray saves Afghanistan. See, THIS movie got a bit crowded out because it came to theaters the same week as Jem and the Holograms and The Last Witch Hunter. CLEARLY I was very busy at the time writing reviews for two of the worst movies of the year and things just snowballed after that to the point that I never got my thoughts down on this movie. It may have been the best movie of that week by a long shot, but that’s not saying a hell of a whole lot considering the not so stiff competition it was up against. Is it any good without the direct comparison to the garbage it was surrounded by when it was at the box office? Let’s find out!!
Richie Lanz (Bill Murray) is a guy who will try to get you to fall for anything, and probably believes half the bullshit that he’s spewing. At one time he was a somewhat successful manager to some big acts, but nowadays he just hangs out in his hotel room/office scamming wannabe singers out of some cash while trying to promote one of his clients Ronnie (Zooey Deschanel) who might actually have a bit of talent if he can just get her a break. Opportunity comes a knocking one night where a military man sees her perform and suggest that Richie take her on a USO tour in Afghanistan which is supposed to pay very well with only a slight chance of death in the process. Richie’s all on board but Ronnie eventually reveals that she’s not into being somewhere that rough and not long after arriving in Kabul, she robs him of all his money as well as his passport; leaving him without any identification and in debt to the mercenary (Bruce Willis) who got Ronnie out of the country and was only given half his fee in the process with promises that Richie had the rest. Will he be able to scramble up enough money to pay back the mercenary and get his ass out of the country? Well that actually becomes pretty moot as the REAL plot involves a young woman in a nearby village named Salima Khan (Leem Lubany) who can sing like an angel but will be killed if anyone in her fundamentalist village (and almost anyone her in her fundamentalist country apparently) hears her do it. Richie though sees fame and fortune in the story and eventually convinces her to join an American Idol like competition (Afghan Star) which has never had a female singer on before, and the rest of the movie is basically the fallout of that with Richie learning some lessons about himself along the way!