Film Review: X-Men Apocalypse 


The second X-Men film of 2016 is here. Following on the heels of the totally awesome and successful Deadpool, can Marvel’s main mutants maintain their place on movie screens?

X-Men Apocalypse takes place in the 1980s. This continues the period piece trend that began in the 1960s with 2011’s X-Men: First Class and proceeded into the 1970s with 2014’s X-Men: Days of Future Past. The story involves the return of the ancient mutant En Sabah Nur (the titular Apocalypse) and his quest to cleanse the world of weakness and rebuild it in his image with mutants in charge and himself worshiped as a god. That just may be the shortest plot synopsis I’ve written this year. Mostly because there’s nothing new under the sun with this entry into the series. And you know what? That was fine with me as I enjoyed this for some superhero action and my expectations were met.As I stated earlier the plot is pretty self-explanatory and even if you don’t see this movie in theaters, you’ll probably guess everything that’s gonna happen. Apocalypse may be the title of the film, but this is really about the formation of the X-Men that we mostly are familiar with. We have younger versions of Cyclops, Jean Grey, Storm and Nightcrawler to go with the veterans of Professor X, Magneto, Mystique and Beast.


All members of the cast do a decent job in their roles. The heart of the characters of course belong to the roles of Charles and Erik. James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender continue to own these roles and bring such dimensions to both of them. Jennifer Lawrence and Nicholas Hoult hold down the fort again as Mystique and Beast. Evan Peters steals the show for the second consecutive film as Quicksilver and Oscar Issac takes a break from Star Wars to play Apocalypse. The newcomers which include Tye Sheridan, Kodi Smit-McPhee and Sansa Stark herself, Games of Thrones’ Sophie Turner get the bulk of the screen time. I would have liked to get more from Alexandra Shipp’s Storm. Hopefully we get more in the next film. 

 If you like CGI in your movies you will get that in spades. I don’t usually consider the presence of CGI as a negative unless it’s badly implemented. In this case it’s nothing out of the ordinary. 


As I said earlier this is pretty straightforward film. There isn’t too much underneath as far as themes or drama. I will say that I really enjoyed the final act, because it sort of came full circle from the events in X-Men: First Class.

So in a nutshell, X-Men: Apocalypse plays it pretty safe. This isn’t on the level of X-Men: The Last Stand or X-Men Origins: Wolverine, but it isn’t on the level of First Class or Days of Future Past either. It sits somewhere in the middle. It offers superhero action that kept me entertained from start to finish and that’s alright with me.

Final Rating – 3/5 (Not near the best of the series, not near the worst of the series.)

Film Review – Captain America: Civil War


The third phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe kicks off with a film inspired by the 2007 Marvel Comics storyline “Civil War.” I was a tiny bit skeptical about this one. Not that I don’t think that Marvel Studios wouldn’t do a good job, rather that with the smaller amount of characters involved the impact may not have been as strong as it did in the comics. Skepticism should never have entered my mind. This film met and surpassed my expectations and while it may be too early to say, has taken the top spot on my MCU rankings. What held the title? Captain America: The Winter Soldier. That movie was a high bar and this one basically set a new bar. 

Taking place in the aftermath of Age of Ultron, Civil War has the Avengers facing government accountability for all their actions after a mission in Lagos goes terribly awry. The United Nations comes together to issue the Sokovia Accords which would let the Avengers know when and where they should step in. Steve Rogers is in opposition to these terms as he feels the team works best when not under the thumb of any entity but themselves. Tony Stark is in favor of the oversight, feeling that the fallout of their actions is too great. Their conflict on this splinters the team. To add fuel to the fire, Cap’s friend Bucky (The Winter Soldier) is a wanted man after a bombing at the UN kills King T’Chaka of Wakanda leaving his son T’Challa as the new king.


Directors Joe and Anthony Russo continue using the political backdrop as a setting in the vein of 2014’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier. They know how to take this complex genre and make it even more complex with the addition of superheroes. This makes for a great ideological drama between Rogers and Stark, further complicated by the situation with Bucky. 

I loved this film. I loved both the action and the acting. Chris Evans and Robert Downey Jr both bring such gravitas to their roles. As you watch how things deteriorate between them you really see the results of the reverse character arcs they have been on since their characters first films. The rest of our Avengers veterans (Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Don Cheadle, Anthony Mackie, Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Olsen) are superb as usual and for the most part do a decent job showing us who they side with and why. 

I wanted to bring special mention to the two stand outs of the Civil War cast, Chadwick Boseman as T’Challa/Black Panther and Tom Holland as Peter Parker/Spider-Man. Boseman as the Prince, later King of Wakanda brings a stoic gracefulness to the role and that carries over when he appears as Black Panther. Even his fighting style is as graceful as his diplomacy is. Holland on the other hand displays quite the youthful exuberance as Spider-Man. He actually reminds me in a way of the Spectacular Spider-Man version of Parker. I felt I could see the excitement on his face as he met the team for the first time.The action sequences are a step up in my opinion from Winter Soldier. As great as that film was it appeared to have been just slightly influenced by the shaky cam style of fight scenes. By no means was it the worst example of that but it did at times make the action a bit hard to follow for me. Civil War on the other hand has nice fluid action that I was able to follow. In addition the dialogue was well written and other than your standard MCU jokes, never felt cheesy. Especially in the final confrontation, you see not so much the enmity, but rather hurt between Tony and Steve. As a viewer you realize both have presented viewpoints that make you not want to pick a side even if you have before you sat down in the theater.


The only aspect of the film that I felt was weak was the film’s villain. I won’t disclose who it is since it wasn’t revealed in any trailers, but while I understand the motivations of their actions, it felt almost inconsequential. You could have removed that aspect of the story and it would not have made any difference.Knowing that the comic book storyline had some immediate changes for the Marvel universe, I was concerned that this wouldn’t have consequences for the movie universe. Considering that the MCU is heading toward the battle with Thanos in Infinity War, would this change anything before we get to that moment? It certainly does and I am even more hooked into the upcoming films to see how the Avengers can recover as we draw closer to meeting the Mad Titan.


Captain America: Civil War is for me an automatic top tier MCU entry. There is action aplenty and most importantly a conflict that threatens to tear apart characters we care about from within. It kind of makes Ultron’s words about doing that a little more poignant. The MCU has changed now and I can’t wait for what’s next.

Final Rating (4.5/5) Only weakness involves the villain’s storyline. It doesn’t however detract from the rest of the movie. It just felt a little pointless. Other than that. Fantastic movie!

Face-Offs

Some shots of my Funko Pops squaring off and ready for battle.

Civil War

Alien Warfare

Ideological Conflict

The Lion vs Evil

Clown Prince vs Caped Crusader

Lightning and Ice

My Five Favorite Albums

Taking a movie break and giving you a music post. I don’t just love movie music, but I love music in general. My main love is rap/hip-hop and R&B. Different albums and artists can invoke different feelings and I can pretty much recall what I was going through when I listened to these albums. These are albums that if I was stranded on an island these would be what I need to get through it. So here they are!

Nas – Illmatic (1994) 

I love Illmatic. It’s not the first hip-hop but I love to listen to it as an overture of sorts in regard to the genre. 10 tracks. Not a word wasted. Great beats and Nas’ lyrics make this a classic of urban life. 

Michael Jackson – Off the Wall (1979) 

 

10 years ago if you asked me what the best Michael Jackson album was I would have told you Thriller. Then I was on a bus trip listening to Off the Wall on my iPod. And it clicked. This is basically a perfect album. I can listen from start to finish and no matter where you are, you can put this on and everyone will instantly have a great time.

TLC – CrazySexyCool (1994) 

 

An R&B album that blends so many styles yet feels totally cohesive. TLC’s second album is their best. There are so many hits and not one feels hollow. It shining example of 90s R&B but really comes across as timeless over 20 years later.

The Notorious BIG – Ready to Die (1994) 


The best songs tell a story. And Biggie is one of the best storytellers ever in hip-hop. You can’t help but to sit back and imagine what is actually going on in each track off his debut album and play them in your head almost cinematically.


Jay-Z – The Blueprint (2001) 

 

The album that got me through high school. A near perfect blend of old school soul and new school mentality. Classics have to be timeless and this certainly is one. Perfect for any listening scenario.

So there you have it my five favorite albums! Now to think about what the next five would be in order to make a top 10.