Dark Phoenix is out today, and who would have thought that ten years on it would end up being the worse adaptation of the ‘Dark Phoenix Saga’. But I’m getting ahead of myself; we’ve still got a few films to get through before we analyse why that is exactly, but for now, let’s take a look at Fox’s first attempt in the much maligned The Last Stand.
RELEASED: July 14th 2000 DIRECTED BY: Brett Ratner WRITTEN BY: Simon Kinberg & Zak Penn PRODUCED BY: Lauren Shuler Donner, Ralph Winter & Avi Arad MUSIC BY: John Powell STARRING: Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry, Ian McKellen, Famke Janssen, Anna Paquin, Kelsey Grammar, James Marsden, Rebecca Romijn, Shawn Ashmore, Ellen Page, Ben Foster, Daniel Cudmore, Aaron Stanford, Vinnie Jones, Dania Ramirez, Eric Dane & Patrick Stewart
After the heights of X2, The Last Stand sees the franchise handed over to director Brett Ratner, and sees the introduction of franchise stalwart Simon Kinberg. The result is a film that is often regarded as one of (if not the) worst X-Men films.
After mankind develops a so-called ‘cure’ for mutation, the X-Men find themselves split about how to move forward. Meanwhile, Magneto begins forming a mutant army to strike back at the U.S. Government for their effrontery, and may find a powerful ally in the recently resurrected Jean Grey, who seeks to unleash her true potential as the Phoenix.
I don’t know whether its because I’ve now seen what I consider to be a worst adaptation of this same story, nostalgia, or if it’s actually not awful, but I don’t think this film is as horrible as everyone says it is.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s not a good film. But there’s fun to be had with it.
Continuing our run-through of the X-Men film series, today’s review is of X2, or X-Men 2, or X2: X-Men United. Whatever you want to call it. The second film in the X-Men franchise from 2003.
RELEASED: May 2nd 2003 DIRECTED BY: Bryan Singer WRITTEN BY: Zak Penn, David Hayter, Dan Harris, Michael Dougherty & Bryan Singer PRODUCED BY: Lauren Shuler Donner & Ralph Winter MUSIC BY: John Ottman STARRING: Patrick Stewart, Hugh Jackman, Ian McKellen, Halle Berry, Famke Janssen, James Marsden, Bruce Davison, Rebecca Romijin-Stamos, Anna Paquin, Shawn Ashmore, Aaron Stanford, Brian Cox, Kelly Hu & Alan Cumming
After the defeat of Magneto in the first movie, X2 returns audiences to Charles Xavier’s school for Gifted Youngsters, where the X-Men find themselves under attack by mysterious men with a link to Wolverine’s past. With race-tensions at an all-time high, the X-Men must stop Magneto and Col. William Stryker and their plans to wipe out humans and mutants, respectively.
It’s strange to think about now, but at this point in the X-Men franchise, the future still seemed promising. X-Men was an enjoyable film with an interesting visual style, if a bit lacking in character development. X2 greatly improves things on that front, and while central X-Men like James Marsden’s Cyclops still get the short end of the stick in that regard, other characters, like Wolverine, Magneto, Nightcrawler, Iceman and to lesser extents Storm, Jean Grey and Mystique, finally get their time to truly shine. You come to really appreciate these characters as characters beyond their abilities to display cool looking superpowers.
The final film in Fox’s long-running X-Men franchise*, Dark Phoenix, is hitting cinemas soon. And while I’m a bit behind, it’s still a good excuse to go back and review the various X-Men films.
*And yes, I know there’s also New Mutants, but until its a certainty that that film is actually coming out, then this, for all intents and purposes, is the end.
RELEASED: July 14th 2000 DIRECTED BY: Bryan Singer WRITTEN BY: David Hayter, Tom DeSanto & Bryan Singer PRODUCED BY: Lauren Shuler Donner & Ralph Winter MUSIC BY: Michael Kamen STARRING: Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry, Famke Janssen, James Marsden, Bruce Davison, Rebecca Romijin-Stamos, Ray Park, Tyler Mane & Anna Paquin
In the near future, two outcasts, Wolverine and Rogue, are drawn into the conflict between the heroic X-Men and the villainous Brotherhood, who are fighting to decide the fate of mutants relationship with a human race that hates and fears them.
Looking back at these early films, they’re a far cry from the superheroics we’re used to in the modern day. They seem quite quaint now, both in the scale of their storytelling as well as the way they’re produced. Unlike modern day blockbusters like Endgame, which features space and time-travel and giant purple men, X-Men instead takes time to focus on more human issues and decidedly smaller thrills like basic superpowers and the occasional blue person.
RELEASED: May 10th 2019 DIRECTED BY: Rob Letterman WRITTEN BY: Dan Hernandez, Benji Samit, Derek Connolly, Nicole Perlman & Rob Letterman PRODUCED BY: Mary Parent, Cale Boyter, Hidenaga Katakami & Don McGowan MUSIC BY: Henry Jackman STARRING: Ryan Reynolds, Justice Smith, Kathryn Newton, Suki Waterhouse, Omar Chaparro, Chris Geere, Rita Ora, Diplo, Ken Watanabe & Bill Nighy
Twenty-three years after the release of Pokémon Red and Green (/Blue, to western audiences), Pokémon has finally hit our screens as a live-action movie. And unlike the majority of video-game adaptations, it’s pretty darn good!
The film follows former aspiring Pokémon trainer Tim Goodman (Smith), as he is forced to venture into Rime City after his father, an ace detective, dies on a case. There, he meets his father’s amnesiac Pokémon partner, Pikachu (Reynolds), who for some unknown reason, Tim can understand. Pikachu is adamant that Tim’s father is actually alive, and so the pair set off the solve the cases of Pikachu’s amnesia and Tim’s dad’s disappearance, both of which are somehow connected to the mysterious genetically engineered Pokémon Mewtwo.
When it comes to making a live-action Pokémon movie, there’s one thing that the creators had to get right – the Pokémon. Which, fortunately, they do. Rime City is rife with Pocket Monsters ranging from those we first met in Red and Blue back in the late nineties, all the way up to appearances from newer creatures who debuted in the Sun and Moon entries just a few years ago.
Fan favourites like Charizard and Greninja get their time in the spotlight, while a wealth of other Pokémon such as Treecko, Pidgeotto and Rattata proliferate the background. The world truly feels alive, and you can totally buy into the harmonious relationship between humans and Pokémon, and how that all works.
RELEASED: March 31sts 2017 DIRECTED BY: Rupert Sanders WRITTEN BY: Jamie Moss, William Wheeler & Ehren Kruger PRODUCED BY: Avi Arad, Steven Paul & Michael Costigan MUSIC BY: Clint Mansell & Lorne Balfe STARRING: Scarlett Johannson, Pilou Asbæk, Michael Carmen Pitt, Chin Han, Juliette Binoche & Takeshi Kitano
Ghost in the Shell follows Scarlett Johansson as ‘Major’ Mira Killian; a young Japanese woman resurrected in an artificial body after an untimely death and put to work as a new breed of police operative. However, after coming into conflict with a dangerous hacker, Killian begins to suspect that not everything she’s been told about her lost past is completely true.
RELEASED: April 25th 2019 DIRECTED BY: Joe & Anthony Russo WRITTEN BY: Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely PRODUCED BY: Kevin Feige MUSIC BY: Alan Silvestri STARRING: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Don Cheadle, Paul Rudd, Karen Gillan, Bradley Cooper, Gwyneth Paltrow, Brie Larson & Josh Brolin
When I walked out of the screening of Avengers: Endgame on Tuesday night, I was conflicted. I knew what I had watched was good, and I enjoyed a lot of it, but something didn’t sit right with me. I’ll probably have to watch the movie again (at which point I’ll amend anything in here that’s off) and I may even do a spoiler review at that point, but here are my initial thoughts…
Avengers: Endgame sees a world where the bad guys won. After snapping his fingers and wiping out half the life in the universe, Thanos has retreated to a distant planet to live out his days, while the Avengers are left on Earth to pick up the pieces. But after discovering Thanos’ location, the Avengers reunite and decide to take one last shot at retrieving the Infinity Stones and bringing the fallen back to life.
I had a fairly decent sense of how this movie was going to play out. Between set photos I’d seen a year or two ago, and the trailers (which show even less of the movie than you’d think) I had a reasonably good idea of what the various beats of this film would be.
And while I wasn’t wrong, I think for most this film will hold a lot of surprises. The first ten minutes quickly let you know that things aren’t going to go the way you think, before the movie proceeds to do a hard right turn into ‘bonkers’ territory. The tone is a lot more upbeat and goofy than what the trailers promised, and at times, that can be a bit jarring when compared to the expectations you enter the cinema with (that’s not the fault of the film-makers of course, so much as it is the audience and marketing). There’s a lot of humour, and from some characters, in particular, it can seem like a little much.
But there’s also a lot of heart. This film is a very emotional journey, but unfortunately, for me, on first viewing – not all of it resonated. There are some pretty big hits, and I was watching them knowing I was meant to be feeling more than I was (or at least something) and coming up short. Maybe that was down to the offbeat tone. Or maybe I’m just soulless. We’ll see after I’ve watched the film again.
However, in spite of both that and the fact we all know Spider-Man: Far From Home is coming out in a few short months, and the MCU will continue, this very much does feel like the end of the story, regardless of whether or not all these ends resonate with you. Marvel Studios could just stop here, and the series, as a whole, would work. There’s not a lot in the way of set-up for the future, just a focus on making sure what’s on the table now is taken to the wholesome destination it needs to go.
In this regard, praise should be heaped upon screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely. Here, they’ve managed to write a three-hour movie, full of fan-service and pay-off, and yet at no point does it feel like a drag, nor overly rushed. The character work is generally quite strong, with every character getting their time in the spotlight. Along with the directors, they’ve managed to make a movie that’s both breezy and epic, yet without being as action-packed as it’s predecessor. Instead, it’s filled with love for these characters and a desire to tell a very different sort of story to what’s come before.
But when the action does come around, it’s great. Although I felt a bit conflicted about the film as a whole, one thing that I am 100% certain on is that the action is fantastic. In particular, there’s one particular one-on-one fight that continues to display the excellent choreography on the Russo brothers’ previous films, and there’s one particular sequence later in the film that’s even more spectacular than ‘the airport scene’. I’ve seen someone describe it as something like ‘the most epic superhero battle of all time’. They’re not wrong.
Overall, this isn’t the best Marvel film of the lot. In my opinion, it doesn’t quite reach the heights of Winter Soldier, Civil War or Infinity War. But maybe that’s not the point. It’s like watching a TV series. The penultimate episode is usually the most exciting – the one where the stakes are the highest. The final episode, in contrast, is more about closing things out in a satisfying way. And in that respect, I’d say Endgame succeeds.
However, I also feel like this is a similar feeling to how I felt about The Last Jedi. At first, there was a sense of melancholy (maybe I’m just depressed about the fates of some characters and I haven’t realised?), but as I continued to think about all the various factors in the film, the more I grew to love it. This is a very dense film, and I’m still processing it the next day, and for every “**** bothered me a bit“, there are five more instances of “but I loved it when ***** did *****“. But I’m confident with each subsequent rewatch I’ll grow to love it even more.
It’s been a little quiet around here lately. I had planned to fill the gaps with reviews for the last two seasons of Game of Thrones, but by the time I got round to writing the season six review, I’d forgotten what exactly had happened in that season (like, I remember the events, but where did the lines between seasons five and seven end?) and so now I’m in the process of rewatching that.
But never fear, because Battlefront II has come to save the day, as the long-awaited new game mode has rounded out the second half of The Clone Wars updates.
So with three new updates since the arrival of Obi-Wan Kenobi in Battlefront II, there’s a lot of new content to unpack.