‘Dark Phoenix’ Review

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If you have been following my site for a while you know I’ve had a very rocky relationship with Fox’s X-Men series (For my best shots of the series click here). I like about half of them (I haven’t seen Deadpool or Logan but I strongly disliked Once Upon a Deadpool if that counts). However, I loved X-Men Days of Future Past but was very disappointed by X-Men Apocalypse. I found it irritating and extremely frustrating to watch (I hated the character of Apocalypse soooo much). I actually prefer Batman v Superman over X-Men Apocalypse.

Now we have Dark Phoenix, which has gone through development hell and has been dumped by Disney after their acquisition of Fox. It also features the beloved ‘Phoenix Saga’ storyline which was so poorly handled in X-Men: the Last Stand. One would hope they could learn from their mistakes and end on a high note. Unfortunately Dark Phoenix is a weak movie that even franchise fans are likely to forget very quickly. It’s not the worst of the group but certainly not one I can recommend.

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I must start by saying nothing in Dark Phoenix irritated me the way Apocalypse did in X-Men Apocalypse. In fact, nothing got much of any reaction. It was all pretty bland. Most of the actors do a good job with what is asked of them. The problem lies with the script and terrible dialogue. The one exception is Jessica Chastain: who really needs to be more careful with her big budget film projects. She is terrible in this film.

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The rest of the cast feels laden with a dull and robotic script that even they can’t elevate. For example, James McAvoy does a fine job in his scenes but they decide to write Charles Xavier as an insufferable egomaniac for some bizarre reason. He’s supposed to be the moral center of the saga and it feels very odd to end his character by literally replacing him as leader and calling into question all he has accomplished.

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Michael Fassbender as Magneto does his normal ‘I’m a villain but actually not a villain’ routine that is so tired but he’s a good actor and handsome enough for me to give him a pass. And then Jennifer Lawrence is so obviously done in her role as Mystique that her scenes are a snooze. Nicholas Hoult (Beast) has a super cringe-worthy use of the F word, and Tye Sheridan (Cyclops), Alexandra Ship (Storm), and Evan Peters (Quicksilver) are just arm candy or tools for exposition. The script doesn’t allow them to be anything more.

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As far as the ‘Phoenix Saga’, Sophie Turner is fine as Jean Grey (I also think Famke Janssen is fine in The Last Stand). Unfortunately the script doesn’t allow us to connect with her character, as it takes us from one action set-piece to another. It’s a strange choice because they established her powers in Apocalypse, so they had a jumping off point for her dealing with those powers from the beginning of the film. Why they decide to retcon all that I will never know. The whole point of Jean Grey’s character is she is battling between the light and darkness and here she comes across as more of an unstable crazy person, which isn’t as interesting.

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The only version of Jean Grey that’s gotten it right is X-Men: the Animated Series and perhaps that’s where it belongs? On television a complex character like Jean can have many episodes to flesh out the struggle in a way a movie can’t (yes I am actually recommending television over movies!!).

There are some entertaining action set pieces in Dark Phoenix, and like I said, the acting is decent, but it leaves the viewer wanting more. It’s not a disaster. It just feels like a weird way to end the franchise and a missed opportunity. I liked it better than the other ‘bad’ X-Men movies, but I certainly can’t recommend it.

Frown Worthy

4 out of 10

frown

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Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children Review

peregrine4Man oh man. What has happened to Tim Burton? It has been nearly a decade since he made a film that didn’t make me want to rip my eyes out and yet I still believe in his talent. I know Tim has the ability to be a great storyteller. I’ve seen it in Beetlejuice and Edward Scissorhands but instead all we seem to get are horrible misfires like Dark Shadows, Alice in Wonderland, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Planet of the Apes, Big Eyes, the list goes on….When I saw the trailer for his latest project Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children I got excited. Could this be a redemption film for Tim Burton?

I was so interested in the film I read the book, which I found kind of boring but it had potential to be a better movie. This could be Tim Burton’s X-Men about a school in Wales for children with special abilities. The school is led by a woman named Miss Peregrine who is part bird. That sounds like a great premise for a Tim Burton movie but much like his recent films it is all promise and no execution.

Let me just come out and say it this movie bored me to tears. It felt like it would never end.

The biggest problem with the film is all the exposition. It reminded me of Last Airbender (never a promising start to a sentence) in the way it took magical lore and made it unmagical by explaining everything. Even the final fight is mostly people explaining their motivations and how they are going to get away with it. Kill me now.

peregrin2I haven’t been so bored in a movie since Warcraft. The trailer makes it seem like you are going to spend all this time with all these crazy fun kids. Not so much. Most of the kids you barely see and when you do see them it is more explaining with ever so brief glimpses at their skills (and absolutely no sense of attachment or heart to these mutant kids).

peregrineEva Green looks the part of Miss Peregrine but is left explaining to Jake how loops work and what the wights are (the school is in a loop repeating the same day and there are all these other loops all around the world…). There’s a scene where she shoots a crossbow at a wight and that should be awesome but it’s not because the script won’t allow it to be.

peregrine5I fell asleep for a few minutes at one point which is never a good sign. Asa Butterfield plays Jake who is grieving over his grandfather who dies in a rather horrific way (pretty scary movie for little kids). But he’s completely bland and the screenplay never allows us to connect with him emotionally.

This movie reminded me a bit of the 5th Wave. A premise that should be epic and exciting but instead is just dull and bland. It doesn’t even have Tim Burton’s signature colors or artistry. There is one fun fight with skeletons at the end but even that is interrupted by a scene with a lot of talking. The film is set in Wales so the cinematography feels foggy and muddled, so I didn’t even enjoy it on a visual level (at least a movie like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, which I hate, has a little bit of cool production design). I guess the only thing that looked kind of cool was when Jake and Ella are underwater and one of her bubbles becomes a helmet for him. That’s all I’ve got.

peregrine7There’s a twist with the villain that is supposed to surprise you but since we have spent no time with this person we don’t care. We also get Judi Dench for about 5 minutes to further explain things.

Everyone feels miscast and bored in the film. Samuel L Jackson has a little bit of a fun but he does a lot of explaining too. It’s just some kind of curse on this movie.

I really hated it. It might seem like I am being harsh but I really was that bored. The movie didn’t say anything to me or have a message I could appreciate or anything. I just kept wondering when it would be over and I could go home.

Overall Grade- D-

DO BETTER TIM!!!!

X-Men Apocalypse Review

xmen apocolypse2You guys I am so disappointed. Going to see X-Men Apocalypse I had heard the negative reviews but as a big X-Men fan I was hoping they were being too hard on it. After seeing it I actually think they are being kind. It’s current 47% on Rotten Tomatoes is a lot higher than I would give it. I liked it less than Batman v Superman and that is saying something…

I almost don’t know where to begin. Let’s start with what I want out of an X-Men movie. At their best X-Men movies say something about class and the way we treat those that are different. Unlike most franchises where bad guys and good guys are more one-note X-Men characters feel well-rounded when they are done right. Magneto, for instance, is a villain but only because he has given up on humanity. There’s a hopelessness about his villainy that can actually be quite moving.

X-Men Apocalypse had a few moments showing Magneto being conflicted and once again losing something dear to him (evidently the Holocaust isn’t enough of a motivator.  They have to keep piling it on for the poor man).  Unfortunately the film keeps moving away from Magneto for long stretches and gives us instead Apocalypse who I thought was power rangers worthy bad guy and spouting the Bible to sound important which was just annoying.

The biggest problem with X-Men Apocalypse is that it is completely fragmented. Days of Future Past had a lot of characters but it was focused on 2- Wolverine and Mystique. Everyone else was peppered in where needed. They also had a clear goal, to get Mystique to change her mind. This is muddled. Sometimes it is Scott’s story, sometimes Magnetos, sometimes Charles, sometimes Mystique, the list goes on. None of them are executed in a satisfactory way and none of them really matter in defeating Apocalypse. They all kind of throw stuff at him hoping it will work.

This leads to a lot of epic shouting and destruction with no momentum or sense that anything was being accomplished. You just knew they would find a way out of it because more movies are coming. Honestly I thought it was shouty, self-important, annoying and insufferable.

The female characters that I love in X-Men are all underused especially Storm and Psylocke. There is a fun scene when Quicksilver does his thing but since it’s a copy of what we saw in Days of Future Past I won’t give it too much credit.

The final battle has a few good moments and all the actors try but I really didn’t like it. The broader metaphors aren’t really there so it is at best a dopey 90s style superhero movie. Sorry, it was my third most anticipated movie of the year and it really let me down. And people are criticizing Jennifer Lawrence for her performance but that was the least of this movies problems.

Oh and Wolverine shows up for like 3 minutes just to remind us of all the better movies he is in.

I know other people liked it but I’m sorry it really didn’t work for me.

Overall Grade- D+

It’s also very violent and there is some profanity so I would not recommend it for kids.

My youtube review and rant