X-Men: Apocalypse

Posted on May 24, 2016 at 5:18 pm

Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for sequences of violence, action and destruction, brief strong language and some suggestive images
Profanity: Brief strong language
Alcohol/ Drugs: None
Violence/ Scariness: Extended comic book/action peril and violence, characters injured and killed
Diversity Issues: A metaphorical theme of the movie
Date Released to Theaters: May 27, 2016
Date Released to DVD: October 3, 2016
Amazon.com ASIN: B01G9AXWH2
Copyright 20th Century Fox 2016
Copyright 20th Century Fox 2016

We love superheroes, but most of the time what makes a superhero movie work is the supervillain. Just as the Avengers on the other side of the Marvel Universe move into X-Men territory by having the supes fight each other, with a villain in “Civil War” who is a mere human, with the most human of motives and goals rather than Loki’s “let’s blow up the universe and roast marshmallows on the flames” sort of threat, the X-Men, whose primary plotlines rest on the shifting loyalties of its mutant members, switches direction toward a more Loki-esque bad guy.

That would be the first mutant of all, going all the way back to ancient Egypt, where he was a god. He is resurrected, he is nearly omnipotent, and he is played by one of the most exciting actors in movies, Oscar Isaac. But there are three big problems with Apocalypse, and that means there are three big problems with the movie.

First, we never really understand that “nearly” part about his powers, and therefore we cannot judge the threat he poses in any given confrontation. Second, Isaac is a superb actor with deeply expressive eyes and voice. Yet he is put into a mask that conceals his eyes and given a double-tracked distortion of his voice. The big, hulking outfit also impairs the precise, distinctive physicality he has brought to roles as different as “Star Wars” ace Po Dameron, the title folk musician of “Inside Llewyn Davis,” and billionaire Nathan Bateman (“Ex Machina”). The power of his presence as a performer is all but muted just when we need a character to be terrifying.

Plus, we’ve seen ancient Egyptian super villains before. After the many versions of “The Mummy,” we need something more than he’s from the time of the pyramids plus chanting. But there is a very cool opening sequence that brings us through history to 1983, the pre-digital era when overhead projectors in classrooms represented cutting-edge technology. And Magneto seems to have found peace, in a small town, with a factory job, and a loving wife and daughter.

Of course, that can’t last. And soon he has experienced yet another devastating loss, and returns to his bad, furious, destructive self — until someone who is even more furious and destructive comes along.

When I say that this episode is a “Muppet Babies” take on the X-Men, I do not necessarily mean that in a bad way. Origin stories are intriguing, and the X-Men have always had an adolescent quality, with the onset of their mutant powers coming with puberty and acting as a heightened metaphor to examine the sense of uncertainty, anxiety, and isolation that comes with the physical and emotional changes that separate teenagers from their childhood. It is intriguing to see Scott (Tye Sheridan) rubbing his red eyes as he becomes Cyclops. But Sophie Turner does not have the screen presence of Famke Janssen as the young Jean Grey, in part because her telepathic gift is not as cinematically dynamic.

Quicksilver (Evan Peters) once again provides the high point, not just in a darker showpiece callback to the sensational Pentagon kitchen scene in the last film but in the film’s brief but most emotionally authentic scene, involving his relationship to Magneto. In a movie about mutants with superpowers, the best moment is human.

Parents should know that this film includes extended comic book-style action violence, with characters injured and killed and some disturbing images, skimpy costumes, and some strong language.

Family discussion: What is the biggest challenge in getting the X-Men to work together? Which powers would you like to have?

If you like this try: the other X-Men movies, especially “Days of Future Past”

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Happy 2016! Here’s What’s Coming to Theaters This Year

Posted on January 1, 2016 at 8:00 am

Happy new year! Here’s some of what we’re looking forward to seeing in theaters in 2016. As usual, we have sequels, remakes, superheroes, movies based on best-selling books, and movies based on real-life stories. And, as usual, what I look forward to most is knowing that a year from today I will be a fan of movies and performers and writers and directors I do not yet know anything about. Can’t wait to meet them. (All release dates subject to change)


Norm of the North (looks kind of like “Happy Feet” crossed with “Madagascar?”)


Hail Caesar! (The Coen brothers take on the golden age of Hollywood)

Zoolander 2 (Blue Steel! This time with Benedict Cumberbatch!)

Race (the story of Olympic champion and American hero Jesse Owens)


Knight of Cups (from Terrence Malick, so it will be beautiful and opaque)

Me Before You (based on the best-seller about a young woman who is hired to help a wealthy young man who is paralyzed following an accident)

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot (Tina Fey and Margot Robbie star in this fact-based story of a war correspondent)

Zootopia (animated comedy about a city of animals)


Batman vs. Superman (Clash of the DC titans)

My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 (even Greekier and weddingier!)


Keeping Up with the Joneses (Jon Hamm, Isla Fisher, and Zach Galifianakis star in a comedy about suburbanites who suspect their neighbor might be a spy)

The Boss (Melissa McCarthy is a bad boss gone rogue)

Barbershop: The Next Cut (Ice Cube and the gang are back for more haircuts, trash talk, and potential apple juice theft)

Everybody Wants Some (“Boyhood” director Richard Linklater follows up his classic “Dazed and Confused” with some some dazed and confused 80’s jams — in both senses of the word)

The Jungle Book (live-action re-telling of the Rudyard Kipling classic story of a boy raised by animals)

Keanu (Key and Peele play “blerds” (“black nerds” who must save a kitten, with Method Man, Nia Long, and Will Forte)

Mother’s Day (from the same folks who brought you all-star dramedies about New Year’s Day and Valentine’s Day)

Nine Lives (Kevin Spacey and Jennifer Garner star in a story about a man who is trapped in the body of the family’s cat)

Same Kind of Different as Me (Greg Kinnear, Renee Zellwegger, and Djimon Honsou star in this real-life story based on the best-seller about a homeless man and an art dealer who become friends)


Captain America: Civil War (Cap is back. So is the Winter Soldier.)

Going in Style (remake of the comedy heist film about an over-the-hill mob, starring Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, and Christopher LLoyd — and Ann-Margret)

The Free State of Jones (Matthew McConaughey and Gugu Mbatha-Raw star in this fact-based story of a farmer married to a former slave who rebelled against the Confederacy during the Civil War)

Money Monster (Jodie Foster directs George Clooney and Julia Roberts in the story of a television investing guru held hostage on the air)

Snowden (Oliver Stone directs Joseph Gordon-Levitt in the story of the notorious former NSA contractor seen by some as a traitor and some as a heroic whistleblower)

The Angry Birds Movie (ever wonder how the birds got so angry?)

X-Men: Apocalypse (more mutants!)


Now You See Me 2 (that rich guy is not happy about the magicians stealing his money)

Finding Dory (Nemo and Marlin must take another journey)


The BFG (Roald Dahl’s classic story stars Mark Rylance from “Bridge of Spies”)

The Secret Life of Pets (what do they do all day when we’re at work?)

Ghostbusters (Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, and Kate McKinnon probably get slimed)

Lala Land (Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone in a musical from “Whiplash” writer/director Damien Chazelle)


Ben-Hur (Jack Huston and Rodrigo Santoro star in this remake of the Charlton Heston classic)

Kubo and the Two Strings (the latest from LAIKA)


The Magnificent Seven (remake of the classic western with Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, and Matt Bomer)

Masterminds (Zach Galifianakis and Kristen Wiig star in this fact-based story of some very dumb criminals)



The Girl on the Train (Rebecca Ferguson and Emily Blunt star in this mystery based on the best-selling book)


Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (JK Rowling’s new story stars Eddie Redmayne and takes place in New York)

Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch stars as the DC sorcerer)


Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (Tim Burton directs this fantasy based on the series by Ransom Riggs)

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