2016 Summer Movie Review: X-Men: Apocalypse

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Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and his lads try to spot Apocalypse in X-Men: Apocalypse

Bryan Singer returns for the fourth time as director in the X-Men franchise. His 2000 film introduced a world of mutants with different abilities. Along with its superior sequel, X2: X-Men United, it definitely ranks among one of my favorite character studies. After the disastrous The Last Stand and X-Men Origins: Wolverine, the franchise does back to where things started for Charles Xavier and Erik Lehnsherr in X-Men: First Class and having their older counterparts come back in Days of Future Past—which features one of the coolest action set pieces ever. Along with the other mutants, they begin to face the ultimate test in X-Men: Apocalypse.

In 1983, the rivalry of Professor X/Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and Magneto/Erik Lehnsherr (Michael Fassbender) is put to a rest. Xavier is still running his “School for Gifted Youngsters”. He gets an unexpected visitor. Raven (Jennifer Lawrence, who is rocking that ‘80s look) warns Xavier about Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac), the world’s first immortal mutant who ruled Ancient Egypt with an iron fist. Now, he is back to gain control of the mutants and destroy humanity to make his own order. Along with Nightcrawler (Kodi Smitt-McPhee), Jean Gray (Sophie Turner, Game of Thrones), Cyclops (Tye Sheridan), the mutants try to destroy the Apocalypse.

What makes the new X-Men movies work is the dynamic between Professor X and Magneto. They were two friends who had an idea that turned into a reality. Then, their friendship drifts them apart once they begin saving the world. In the case of Apocalypse, Singer does an exceptional job providing the devastating side of their rivalry. Furthermore, I appreciated Magneto’s backstory living a quiet life with his family in Poland.

However, Singer has made an undoubtedly ambitious movie. And it’s by far his weakest film in the series. It’s not bad as a lot of critics are saying (49% on Rotten Tomatoes). In my opinion, it’s actually very good. But it has its fair share of faults including Isaac’s portrayal of Apocalypse being a mixed bag—half-menacing; half-weak. As well as the CGI-heavy final act getting a bit out of hand. It’s still an enjoyable sequel. Quicksilver becomes a part in another awesome scene that you should see for yourself.

3/4

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Movie Review: Joy

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Joy (Jennifer Lawrence) and his family try to get out of debt in David O. Russell’s latest “Joy”

The quadrio–Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro, Bradley Cooper, and David O. Russell–of Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle return in this semi-autobiographical film of Joy Mangano. Lawrence plays the titular character who grew up in an Italian-American family. As a child, she always comes up with great ideas. However, the single mother of two children starts a business dynasty and invents the Miracle Mop. She meets QVC executive Neil Walker (Bradley Cooper), and the product is shown on QVC. While this is happening, Joy struggles with her marriage with Tony (Édgar Ramírez) and debt.

For someone who loved Silver Linings Playbook and enjoyed American Hustle (although being slightly overrated), I consider Joy being David O. Russell’s weakest film. Is it a terrible movie? No; it has its moments of greatness (especially the scene in which Joy shows her product on television), but there are times in which the movie feels like a soap opera, which is ironic considering there are occasions in Joy where Joy’s mother (Virginia Madsen) is confined in her room watching soap operas all day.

Russell’s previous movies had an offbeat sense of humor. In Joy, the comedy feels as incredibly forced as the drama. It’s hard to resist the stellar performances by Lawrence (in her most mature performance to date), the great Robert De Niro, and Bradley Cooper. Joy left me with mixed feelings.

2/4

Movie Review: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1

J-Law returns as Katniss Everdeen in the latest entry in "The Hunger Games" franchise.

J-Law returns as Katniss Everdeen in the latest entry in “The Hunger Games” franchise.

The moment we’ve all been waiting for…will be coming out next year.

Everyone left the theater speechless after the cliffhanger ending of The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. They couldn’t wait to see the franchise unfold with Mockingjay, which is separated into two films. The first part opens with Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) living in the bunkers of District 13 after destroying the force field in the Quarter Quell. She is reunited with her mother (Paula Malcomson) and sister Prim (Willow Shields), Gale (Liam Hemsworth), Haymitch, and Effie (an unrecognizable Elizabeth Banks) There, she meets President Alma Coin (Julianne Moore), who convinces her to be the mockingjay, symbolizing the rebellion. She accepts. As President Snow (Donald Sutherland) destroys just about every district of Panem, Katniss must save Peeta Mallark (Josh Hutcherson) from the Capitol.

For someone who has never read the books, I went into the movies with an open mind. I liked the first Hunger Games despite how shaky the camerawork is. Catching Fire was a slight improvement over the first with a lot of clever ideas and confident direction by Francis Lawrence. With Mockingjay: Part 1, I understand a lot of people would be disappointed that there is not a lot of action in the movie. Yes, it drags at times. However, I appreciated how Lawrence focuses more on the political side of Panem rather than the action around it. That way we would be pumped – albeit impatient – for the grand finale. Leading an all-star cast, Jennifer Lawrence has embraced her role as Katniss Everdeen in an emotional and astute political thriller. Bring on Part 2!

3/4