TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES: OUT OF THE SHADOWS

Only One Team Can Save Us All

Director
Dave Green

Starring
Pete Ploszek
Jeremy Howard
Alan Ritchson
Noel Fisher
Megan Fox
Stephen Amell



In the year that passed since the events of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles the four mutated brothers, Leonardo [Ploszek] Donatello [Howard] Raphael [Ritchson] and Michelangelo [Fisher], continue to watch over New York City from the shadows but when a prisoner transfer of their old adversary Shredder (now being played by Brian Tee) is under threat of attack from loyal members of the Foot clan, they are forced to unite with live-wire police officer Casey Jones [Amell] to retrieve him. Meanwhile, TCRI scientist Baxter Stockman [Tyler Perry] is charged by Shredder to create henchmen who would be able to dispatch the Turtles with ease. Using a purple substance from another dimension, Stockman is able to mutate two eccentric criminals, Bebop [Gary Anthony Williams] and Rocksteady [Stephen Farrelly], into a giant rhinoceros and warthog respectively, hell-bent on mayhem and destruction.

Two years ago, I received a lot of flak for stating that there was no golden age of TMNT and that the first film wasn’t that bad. I stand by that opinion and still maintain that these films are better than the billion dollar grossing Transformers sequels. Out Of The Shadows very much feels like it’s trying to fix the problems of the first film. Curiously, people never really wanted a faithful adaptation of the comics, they wanted a faithful adaptation of an unfaithful adaptation (i.e. the 80’s cartoon series). Bringing in characters like Bebop, Rocksteady and Krang while focusing more on the Turtles than the human characters is clearly the studios attempt to give the people more of what they want. In doing so, the film feels more focused and stands out from a barrage of dark, gritty comic adaptations by giving us something light and completely silly.

Again, the key to this film feeling like an acceptable addition to the sprawling franchise, is the tone of character, which continues to be the highpoint. The four lead roles gel nicely and allowing Ploszek to voice his own character, rather than being dubbed by Johnny Knoxville, was a welcome change. Megan Fox returns and the script desperately tries to prove her ingenuity and relevance but still comes off a little flat. Pairing her with Stephen Amell as fan-favourite Casey Jones was a decent touch and while there is heavy flirtation, at least we’re not subjected to a concluded relationship by the film’s close. Speaking of Amell, he’s not bad, admittedly there’s not a great departure from his role as Oliver Queen in Arrow (maybe a little less moody) but that’s why he was cast, so I can’t say I’m that surprised. The new digital characters take the form of Bebop, Rocksteady and Krang, which fans have been crying out for since the first live-action film. Firstly, Krang is such a ridiculous over-the-top character and this rendition, while fucking annoying, is supposed to be fucking annoying. He’s brought in without any foreshadowing or build-up, he just appears and we’re all expected to either know exactly who he is or just go along with it. Then we have Bebop and Rocksteady. In both their human form and mutated bodies, they’re pretty good. I mean, dumb as hell exhibiting base-level humour but that’s what they’ve always been. People crying out for a loyal rendition of 80’s Saturday morning cartoon characters shouldn’t bemoan them because this is pretty much what they are and were. Part of me really wants to bitch about a scene that takes place in every trailer and query the logic of driving a tank under water but as it’s driven by a Rhino, I won’t.

Out Of The Shadows picks up where its predecessor left off, Lula Carvalho returns as director of photography and everything is clearly lit and followable. The visual effects also hold up again, albeit in a cartoonish way that will no doubt age horribly as the technology evolves. Replacing Brian Tyler with Steve Jablonsky’s was interesting. The score is good but doesn’t have the same impact as Tyler’s, taking the established theme and morphing it to feel a little too close to his work on Transformers. But it’s perfectly serviceable either way. The film is far from perfect and if the first one annoyed you, you will no doubt also hate this one. But for those who could stomach the new character designs and overall comedic direction, this serves as a decent follow-up. For those that couldn’t, probably best to steer clear.


Release Date:
3rd June 2016

The Scene To Look Out For:
This film performs at its strongest when the Turtles are effectively messing around. A particularly nice mini-moment is when Casey is being introduced to the ninja’s subterranean lair. Catching sight of Splinter, Casey panics and warns the group about the giant rat. Seeing an opportunity to haze the new addition, the brothers play up that the mysterious creature has been lurking for days but the trick is to tackle him head on. Casey naturally attacks the ninjutsu master and receives a summarial beating, to the amusement of the teenage mutants.

Notable Characters:
The human/mutant ratio strikes a better balance than before but inclusions of Tyler Perry’s madcap scientist and Laura Linney as the stern police overseer, Rebecca Vincent, are pleasant touches. But really the fact that Bebop and Rocksteady deliver everything they are supposed to is a noteworthy highlight. The only other thing I would like to touch on was the choice to recast the actors playing Shredder and Karai. I had no particular problem with the previous actors and wouldn’t speculate on motive or justification but these faces perform acceptably, despite the fact their characters are given very little to do.

Highlighted Quote:
“We were sent by the supreme leader to eat delicious humans and dip them in ranch dressing”

In A Few Words:
“Another acceptable Turtles film that finds a decent, if sophomoric, balance between comedy and action”

Total Score:

3/5

WARCRAFT

Two Worlds, One Destiny

Director
Duncan Jones

Starring
Travis Fimmel
Toby Kebbell
Paula Patton
Ben Schnetzer



The Orc homeworld, Draenor, is on the verge of death but through the use of a magical portal, the desperate war-hungry horde are able to transport themselves to the lush, seemingly undefended world of Azeroth. The human population are ill-prepared for such an invasion and several settlements fall to the mighty beasts. Among the horde is Chieftain Durotan [Kebbell] who has suspicions that the magic used by their lead warlock is also responsible for killing their world. Meanwhile, Sir Lothar [Fimmel] commander of the king’s guard catches Khadgar [Schnetzer], a young mage, lurking around the barracks who believes he may know what brought the invaders to Azeroth. But to defeat the dark magic, both sides will have to respectively rally support and discover the truth behind the life-draining magic known as the Fel.

It is has been a long held opinion that films adapted from video games are often terrible. Part of the reason for this is that video games used to have very simple puzzle-based objectives with little room for an actual story and those in charge of creating the films would have little interest or understanding of the game itself; departing from the source material heavily or focusing on the wrong elements. To date there has only really been one half-decent adaptation (Silent Hill) which was well handled and impressed fans of the game but still fell flat as a rounded cinematic release. Warcraft falls into similar grading.

Despite the immense success and popularity of things like Lord Of The Rings, Harry Potter and Game Of Thrones, mainstream audiences have never really experienced high fantasy on this scale. To date everything has been dark, gritty and grounded rather than heightened to the levels of unabashed absurdity that it has the potential for. Warcraft is a bright, colourful, vibrant release that injects a lot of soul and depth into a very simple premise. It is also, however, extremely flawed. For those that don’t know, director Duncan Jones is an avid fan of the Warcraft series. These days, most people think of World Of Warcraft but in 1994 the real-time strategy game Warcraft: Orcs & Humans was released based on the mechanic of harvesting resources, building bases/forces and attacking an opponent. Behind this was a backstory of warriors, kingdoms, magic and portals, much of which has been condensed and transposed into this film. But no amount of condensing can really prepare the uninitiated for a full-on fantasy setting. With this genre, mythology and lore are everything (along with maps) and fans of fantasy novels, video games or tabletop releases will know you either keep up or get left behind. Cinema is a different animal and while I would say the same applies, many people haven’t the time, tolerance or patience to absorb it all; they barely keep up with science fiction and superheroes. You may think I’m being exceptionally harsh and judgmental but one need only look at how both John Carter and Pacific Rim were handled and received. Both went full throttle ridiculous and committed to the worlds, beings and terminologies that were being conjured up but neither really struck the desired chord.

Before we get on to why the film doesn’t really work, in my opinion, let’s cover what it gets right. Right off the bat, we need to acknowledge the fantastic production design. Every costume, prop, hair, make-up and set is created lovingly and with clear attention to detail from the source material. Going into a Warcraft film, I want to see runic symbols decorating ancient halls, huge shoulder-padded suits of armour, blood-red war paint splashed over Orc faces, gilded stone chambers and beautifully forged weapons and this film delivers on every account. There’s also good use of humour which adds a touch of levity to the barrage of stern, end of the world developments. Speaking of which, this film takes itself very seriously. There’s an earnestness that runs throughout, almost stating to the audience, “This is real to us, ok? These people, their suffering, it’s a real world and I’m not going to make fart jokes or adhere to rules that contradict what I’m trying to do.” At no point does the film lampoon itself or highlight the genuine absurdity of what’s happening and in all honesty, that pleases me. For some bizarre reason, genre films are expected to tone things down, compromise and almost break the fourth wall saying, “I know this is dumb, just go with it” and I’ve never understood why. Too often films are diluted for a wider demographic who neither understand nor care about this kind of film and the final product suffers because of it. It’s unnecessary and damaging. But at the same time, you also end up with something that can be so niche that it limits viewership and how much money the film will take.

As stated earlier, there are a lot of problems with this movie. A great deal of the CGI is very CGI; by which I mean it feels less like a photo-realistic film and more like a video game. I don’t know if this was in trying to remain faithful to a decades-old game or limitations of the technology/budget but often the visuals don’t hit the marker they’re aiming for. Also, while the sound effects are great, the music is largely overbearing. Ramin Djawadi has made a notable impression on the genre (as composer of the iconic Game Of Thrones theme music) yet here his efforts are fairly mundane. The themes are a bit generic but the biggest offense is that there is little range. Everything is all go all the time, leaving little room for subtlety or nuance. Then there’s the editing, which graces us with God knows how many bloody cross dissolves and ensures the pacing is one rapid march to the finale. The sequences themselves are edited reasonably well but it’s the transitions between them that feel rushed. Finally we have Jones’ direction and script. Admittedly, the direction is solid, command of scenes and camera work is commendable and he has transitioned from independent director to blockbuster helmer rather well but the script is whence all the problems stem. Jones and co-writer Charles Leavitt do an admirable job packing so much into a relatively short period of time but with so much exposition and world building, the only other notable lines of dialogue are cheeseball garbage.

I really want to like this film and while I respect everything that has been achieved, I can’t bring myself to say it’s a good film. There are certainly positive elements and it will be interesting to see how this performs at the box office as I can almost guarantee critics aren’t going to get it and it’s going to be slated. This film talks the franchise talk and sets up so much (some would say too much) that will be covered in supposed future instalments but if it gets a sequel a lot of honing and refining needs to take place before I’ll be able to truly sit back and enjoy myself.


Release Date:
3rd June 2016

The Scene To Look Out For:
**Major spoilers toward the end of this paragraph**
These two things I want to highlight both demonstrate where Jones’ influence plays perfectly, where other writers/directors would have chosen a different or easier path. The first concerns language. The Orcs and Humans speak different languages and part of what makes each species terrifying to the other is the lack of understanding between them. If you can’t communicate with your enemy you can neither negotiate nor spy on them. Flittering back and forth between the Orcish language with subtitles and a lilty-humany language with subtitles was a really nice touch and executed in a way that felt natural. The second is a major plot point that could have gone to piss. There are a handful of key deaths and while the demise of Lothar’s son is so very obvious and cliché, doing away with both Durotan and King Wrynn were bold moves that furthered the story in a nice and credible way. I also loved that it wasn’t simply resolved by the end of the film.

Notable Characters:
You may have noticed I didn’t mention the acting whatsoever in the bulk of my review. This is because there is a clear divide between the three key players: decently acted leads, odd supports and everyone else is pretty forgettable. I find Travis Fimmel rather charming and he brings a lot of what makes his character work in Vikings to the role of Lothar. Toby Kebbell is also an astoundingly talented individual and he’s always a pleasure to see on-screen, even through motion capture. His turn as Durotan (and the minor Antonidas cameo) is a solid and rounded one, giving a real heart, presence and notion of tradition to these fictional beings.

Highlighted Quote:
“For Orcs, war is the solution to every problem”

In A Few Words:
“A wholly commendable attempt that just falls short of achieving the ambitious goals set out”

Total Score:

2/5

ALICE THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS

It’s Time For A Little Madness

Director
James Bobin

Starring
Mia Wasikowska
Sacha Baron Cohen
Johnny Depp
Helena Bonham Carter



Three years have passed since Alice’s [Wasikowska] previous adventure and in that time she has been captaining her father’s ship and sailing the world. Upon her return to London she discovers that the company has been inherited by ex-suitor Hamish Ascot, who is intent on driving Alice out of the business. Feeling trapped by her predicament, Alice escapes through a mirror back into Underland, where she learns that Tarrant Hightop (the Mad Hatter once again played by Johnny Depp) is unwell. And so she sets off on her merry way to steal the chronosphere from Time himself [Baron Cohen] and set things right… sort of.

Six years ago I reviewed a rather drab, unimpressive film that somehow went on to make over one billion dollars. There were certainly praiseworthy elements but overall it was excessive style and a great deal of borrowed substance. Considering Burton’s Alice In Wonderland wasn’t exactly an adaptation of the book, highlighting how this instalment only selects piecemeal snippets is a touch moot. But rather than furthering the story of Alice’s madcap adventures, either in the real world or.. well.. her head I guess (they never really clarified in the other film if it’s a real place or if she’s just a nutbag) we are treated to a self-indulgent time travelling tale. In fact, the plot feels a bit like a video game premise from a decade or so ago. Main character is given a bit of a plot then set off on a flimsy quest that quickly spirals into multiple side-quests that turn out to be a bit pointless. Through an interesting (and I use that word cautiously) quasi-predeterminism development Alice’s actions in the past have already caused the future to unfold the way it has – maybe that’s a spoiler, I don’t care. It’s a momentary example of decent writing but from the very get-go the whole quest feels haphazardly futile and Alice’s interference is more hindrance than help, not to mention exceptionally selfish and stupid; which undermines a lot of groundwork set out earlier on. The film tries so desperately to portray Alice as a headstrong and thoroughly capable businesswoman but through her actions in Underland, proves that she really doesn’t think through any of her decisions and is chaos personified. Now that I think about it, her story in the real world was sometimes more fantastical and compelling than the dream-world sequences.

The first thing one notices is that Mia Wasikowska is the only one who’s actually trying. Everyone else’s performances (bar Baron Cohen who is genuinely amusing and a few moments by Bonham Carter) are so horribly phoned in. In fact, other than Anne Hathaway, who flitters her fingers and looks off forlornly, all the supporting characters feel like 2-3 line reappearing cameos. Which brings me back to this series’ amazing bugbear. Not only the script but the credit sequence once again focuses on the Mad Hatter as if he’s the main character, as if we give two shits about Depp’s balmy lispy, schizophrenic rendition of a rather absurd individual. I didn’t find his character exactly endearing the first time round but here he’s even more lazily clowning around, chewing on the scenery, given a major plot point about saving his family or bringing them back from the dead. I know Underland’s events are supposed to mirror Alice’s real-world frustrations and tribulations but the moral here is so heavy-handed and clumsy.

Danny Elfman’s score, which was a high point of the 2010 film is reduced to a medley of forgettable flutters interlaced with the series ‘theme.’ It’s kind of reminiscent of everything Elfman’s been doing of late; the man who usually brings so much verve and originality to his themes is, much like the acting cast, producing the bare minimum. Which really only leaves us with the visuals and while the abundance of colour is a welcome treat over Burton’s moody gothic interpretation, it still feels like actors plodding around a green screen set (because they are) highlighted even more when you see the difference between physically constructed props/sets and digitally created ones. And I don’t know what camera this was shot on but shooting in such high definition with extreme close-ups meant I could see every aspect of the over-the-top make-up which sort of takes away some of the prestige. Instead of thinking, “Wow, what a fantastically talented and unique design” I’m left muttering, “Those eyes are a bit uneven.. and could have been blended a bit better there.”

There was never a need for this sequel but when a film makes a surprise one billion dollars, of course you’re going to get another one. The disappointment is that there actually was a half decent foundation for madcap hijinks and hilarity and instead we got a rather half-arsed cash-in. As I’ve said time and again, for something different and powerful, we need a horribly dark adaptation of American McGee’s Alice: Madness Returns.


Release Date:
27th May 2016

The Scene To Look Out For:
Once again the film tries to impress upon the audience that Alice is living in a backward unfair patriarchy wherein every action she takes is scrutinised and every suggestion made, dismissed because of her gender. It both serves to inform people that the past was a shit to women and the present isn’t a great improvement but at least there are ways to overcome it without surrendering who you are. The way these sequences are shot, lit and directed feel distanced from both the Underland madness and even Burton’s previous version of real-life and gave me pause for hope that this film could actually be half decent. I was wrong and they were incredibly short-lived.

Notable Characters:
As stated above, the acting is pretty dismal. Except for Sacha Baron Cohen as the physical manifestation of Time. Baron Cohen has proven time and again that he can give the base common performance but also through things like Hugo and Sweeney Todd that he has superb range and ability. Alice is such a ditzy character that she’s rather humourless meaning a lot of the intended humour is supposed to stem from the predicaments she finds herself in and the eccentric people of Underland. The only one who manages to achieve that is Time, who is a great combination of a ridiculous silent film villain and Saturday cartoon adversary (the kind who the lead kid messes with despite the fact he’s not at all villainous and is just performing a vital task; like a teacher or janitor).

Highlighted Quote:
“Everyone parts with everything eventually, my dear”

In A Few Words:
“Everyone and everything is incredibly mediocre in this high budget non-event”

Total Score:

2/5

Cinema City Film Quiz #167

[22 May 2016]


Winning Team:
You Had Me At Cello
Genre – A sexy cellist starts an orchestral orgy

Runners Up:
Mr Holland’s Octopus
Genre – A sub-aqua symphony
The Artists Formerly Known As Steam Boat Willies
Genre – A failing quiz team resort to composing movie scores for straight to DVD titles
Lord Of The Sings
Genre – Howard Shore will win us the quiz
We’re Not Justin Bieber; He’s Just A Construct
Genre – Tween pop; or not
Schindler’s Playlist
Genre – Harrowing drama
Buck Rodgers And MC Hammerstein
Genre – Brigadoon in the future
Matt Stogdon: The Musical
Genre – A man must prepare for a film quiz every two weeks, featuring Brian Blessed as Matt
Edward Zimmer Hans
Genre – Vincent Price invents a music man who captures the heart of Hollywood


ROUND I: Pre-Production
1. La Haine was set and filmed in which country? [bonus point for naming the city]
FRANCE [Paris]
2. How many individuals make up the Ghsotbusters team in the film of the same name?
FOUR
3. What is the name of Alan Rickman’s character in the Harry Potter films?
SEVERUS SNAPE
4. “There can be only one” is a repeated line from which film series?
HIGHLANDER
5. What is the alias of the killer in the Saw series?
JIGSAW
6. Who played the lead role of Topper Harley in Hot Shots and its sequel?
CHARLIE SHEEN
7. Disney’s Basil The Great Mouse Detective is based on which fictional character?
SHERLOCK HOLMES
8. What is the title of the 2007 comedy about teen pregnancy starring Ellen Page and Michael Cera?
JUNO
9. What household device is used to exit the matrix in the film of the same name?
A TELEPHONE
10. What colour is Fiona’s hair in Shrek?
RED


ROUND II: Filming [Movie Score special]
1. The Lord Of The Rings / Howard Shore
2. Inception / Hans Zimmer
3. Star Trek / Michael Giacchino
4. Requiem For A Dream / Clint Mansell
5. Jurassic Park / John Williams
6. Escape From New York / John Carpenter
7. Iron Man 3 / Brian Tyler
8. Once Upon A Time In The West / Ennio Morricone
9. The Social Network / Trent Reznor
10. Lawrence Of Arabia / Maurice Jarre


ROUND III: Post-Production
1. Pete Mitchell, Charlotte Blackwood, Nick Bradshaw and Tom Kazanski are the lead characters in which film?
TOP GUN
2. Which actor has appeared in prominent roles in all of Steve McQueen’s features to date?
MICHAEL FASSBENDER
3. The following is the poster tagline for which film, “America was born in the streets”?
GANGS OF NEW YORK
4. The opening, pre-titles sequence in Casino Royale takes place in which European city?
PRAGUE
5. How many X-Men films have been released to date (including solo features)
NINE (X-Men, X2, X-Men: The Last Stand, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, X-Men: First Class, The Wolverine, X-Men: Days Of Future Past, Deadpool, X-Men: Apocalypse)
6. What is the full title of the Sacha Baron Cohen comedy, Borat?
BORAT: CULTURAL LEARNINGS OF AMERICA FOR MAKE BENEFIT GLORIOUS NATION OF KAZAKHSTAN
7. Nicolas Cage played Benjamin Franklin Gates in which film series?
NATIONAL TREASURE
8. What is the name of the vessel on course for the sun in Danny Boyle’s Sunshine?
ICARUS II
9. How many films about Herbie do not have Herbie in the title?
ONE (The Love Bug)
10. What did Steven Spielberg direct in between The Lost World: Jurassic Park and Saving Private Ryan?
AMISTAD


ROUND IV: Promotion & Release
1. How long does the ‘contest’ take place in Battle Royale (how many days do the students have to kill each other)? 3 days? 5 days? 7 days?
THREE DAYS
2. Which of the following films did not star Tommy Lee Jones? The Three Burials Of Melquiades Estrada? Under Siege? Mississippi Burning?
MISSISSIPPI BURNING
3. How many feature films has Lars Von Trier directed (counting Nymphomaniac Parts 1 & 2 as one)? 14? 28? 46?
FOURTEEN
4. Clint Eastwood runs a gym called the Hit Pit in which film? Tightrope? The Rookie? Million Dollar Baby?
MILLION DOLLAR BABY
5. What is the only food that Oh Dae-su is fed while imprisoned in Oldboy? Dumplings? Noodles? Sushi?
DUMPLINGS
6. Which of the following did not appear in 2006’s The Queen? James Cromwell? Michael Sheen? Dominic Cooper?
DOMINIC COOPER
7. What was the title of Wes Anderson’s debut feature film? Rushmore? Bottle Rocket? Election?
BOTTLE ROCKET
8. Max Bialystock and Leopold Bloom are the lead characters in which film? See No Evil, Hear No Evil? The Producers? Blazing Saddles?
THE PRODUCERS
9. What is the name of the fictitious band that William Miller follows around in Almost Famous? Stiltskin? Stitches? Stillwater?
STILLWATER
10. 2001’s Monsoon Wedding tells the story of four weddings and a funeral in Delhi. True or False?
FALSE


BOUNS IMAGE ROUND
Screenshots: X-Men: First Class / The Hunger Games: Catching Fire / Silver Linings Playbook
Poster: The Beaver
Actor: Jennifer Lawrence


X-MEN: APOCALYPSE

Only The Strong Will Survive

Director
Bryan Singer

Starring
James McAvoy
Michael Fassbender
Oscar Isaac



Apocalypse opens with a brief prologue set in ancient Egypt, introducing us to En Sabah Nur [Isaac], an all-powerful mutant with four loyal followers and thousands of devout subjects. During a ritual wherein En Sabah Nur transfers his consciousness to a new host, he is betrayed by humanity and imprisoned under the ruins of a collapsed pyramid. Time hop forward to the 1980s and CIA agent Moira MacTaggert (Rose Byrne returning to the role she filled five years ago) is investigating an underground cult who are worshiping at the site of En Sabah Nur’s body. Through her accidental intervention, the ancient mutant’s transferal process is completed and he wakes to find the world a very different place, with humanity ruling over each other with the constant threat of nuclear attack. Appalled by the state of the world, En Sabah Nur (dubbed Apocalypse, among other titles, by history and legend) sets out to recruit four powerful mutants who will aid him in cleansing the Earth of the weak. Following the events of Days Of Future Past, Professor Xavier’s [McAvoy] school for the gifted is flourishing, Lehnsherr [Fassbender] is living in quiet anonymity in Poland and Mystique [Jennifer Lawrence] is travelling the world, liberating mutants but with the arrival of Apocalypse all of them will be drawn in on one side or another.

As the X-Men cinematic franchise continues, audiences should keep in mind that these prequels/reboots don’t play directly into the first four X-Men releases, they don’t necessarily even tie-up with the Wolverine solo features or the flash forward at the end of Days Of Future Past. These movies are chartering their own course and subsequently things like character introductions and origins may feel familiar but are in fact new iterations. Once you get your head around that, everything works perfectly; if you start saying, “but why doesn’t Cyclops recognise Wolverine in X-Men?” then you’re failing to understand how extensively the time travel aspects of Days Of Future Past reset the narrative.

As mentioned in my Captain America: Civil War review, the nature of superhero franchise means that when it comes to character we break things down to ‘how are the new characters treated’ and ‘do the returning characters bring anything worthwhile to this instalment’? Starting with the veterans, Magneto, Xavier and Mystique continue to represent moral polarity with Charles embodying virtue, Erik driven by bitter self-interest and Raven sitting on the fence and drifting between the two, yet all of them continue to believe they are walking the right path. Until the end of the film, of course and then they just sink into hero and barely anti-hero roles. If I’m honest, Magneto remains the most interesting character in these prequel titles and in Fassbender’s hands carves an exceptional amount of complexity out of the standard villainous role. Admittedly, his motivation is a touch annoying and he’s becoming less and less of an accountable villain as the series progresses but I’ll get back to that later.

Focusing on the new characters, we have new heroes and new bad guys. As far as the heroes are concerned, the kids are decently written and acted. Tye Sheridan’s performance as a cocky young Cyclops is great, as is Kodi Smit-McPhee’s timid but earnest Nightcrawler, Jubilee is annoyingly once again reduced to background fodder but Sophie Turner as Jean Grey was wonderful. If they do intend to revisit the Phoenix storyline (and it’s very apparent they do) I can genuinely see that being extremely enthralling with these current actors. The villains were less pleasing. For all their hyped importance, the four horsemen barely get a look-in, despite being extremely well cast. Olivia Munn plays Psylocke perfectly, Alexandra Shipp gives a better performance in ten minutes as Storm than Halle Berry did in three feature films but Ben Hardy as Angel is, like Jubilee, criminally underused and has no real development. But in all honesty, these three are whittled down to henchmen and add very little to the film. Oscar Isaac gives a good performance as Apocalypse but everything else about his character is a bit unclear. I get his ‘survival of the fittest’ motivation but I couldn’t tell you what his powers were. And while that is a problem that crops up in a lot of ‘powers’ films, it’s something that needs to be established if you’re going to have him threaten the world so thoroughly.

Disappointingly, the production design was decent enough but didn’t really embody the 80’s as well as previous instalments represented their respective decades. You have the general nods in the form of a few odd hairdos and items of clothing but it feels 80’s-lite and you would be forgiven for thinking several scenes were set in the present day. The real indicator of the era is the fucking product placement because even when cities are being reduced to ash billboards will remain perfectly intact – otherwise how would people know the film is set in the past? Furthermore, the use of CGI is really ropey in places with lots of plasticine effects reminiscent of Emmerich disaster films from ten years ago. The problem with all this ‘destruction from a distance’ is that it doesn’t hold any weight. Sure, we have a few close-ups of randos staring in awe but without a death toll the impact is lost. And don’t tell me that cliché war room exposition bullshit covers it because I’m sick of situation room discussions that boil down to ham-fisted lines for those in the audience too dumb to keep up. All that “My God” “That’ll wipe out all human life” “He’s not going to stop” “It would take a miracle” “It’s stopped” “The effects are reversing” crap infuriates me to the core. And the only thing compensating for what should be a spectacular visual treat is John Ottman’s bombastic score doing what it can to emphasise scale and grandeur.

**Spoilers in this paragraph**
While it would be easy to chalk the problems up to the writing, the film’s greatest impediment is its general direction and flow. I have no idea where any of this is going, it just feels like a limping TV series that continues to jump the shark; case in point, the deaths of Havok and the Lehnsherrs, feel less like an opportunity for character growth and more like lazy ‘woman in the fridge’ motivation. I can’t tell you what they are doing with Magneto, is he a murderous terrorist or a playful anti-hero? I like the conflict he feels but at the minute his moral alignment is closer to Wolverine than someone like Apocalypse. Then you have Mystique’s u-turn from her “mutant and proud” speeches from X-Men: First Class; one could argue that she’s just become guarded in the wake of previous events but I think it’s more they don’t know what to do with these characters other than repeat the same arc over-and-over. The key components are in place but the execution doesn’t have enough impact or resonance, leaving the whole thing fairly flat. Maybe the problem is leaping forward by a decade each film to these world ending scenarios. Perhaps what we need is a returning cast who can evolve satisfyingly with a simple conflict that wouldn’t set itself apart, visually, from the others. Having said that, I feel it would be a very unlikely development.


Release Date:
20th May 2016

The Scene To Look Out For:
**All spoilers**
We’ve got to talk about the ending. The final/only showdown between Apocalypse and the X-Men exists as a microcosm for every problem with this film. The music pulses wonderfully, the characters undergo emotional strain, the fight is tense and yet, it’s all a bit dull. One second you have a heart-pounding high in the form of a particular revelation or development in the fight and the next you realise that this melee is essentially contained outside one building. Mixing a psychic battlefield with a real-world one is a nice touch but if it wasn’t for the sheer cinematic heft of Jean saving the day by unleashing the Phoenix force, it would have been disappointing. As it stands, it’s just alright; which is not what you need after a two and a half hour build up.

Notable Characters:
**Spoiler comment at the end**
With so many characters jostling for attention and not a lot of them having a rewarding arc from the start to the end of the film, highlighting a character of note isn’t easy. I also find it interesting that despite these massive leaps in time, the crew of this film don’t seem to appreciate how much the human form ages in twenty years; ignoring any curative effects of the mutant gene for a minute, I think Erik and Charles are supposed to be in their early 50s at this point. So instead, I’m just going to talk about a character I’ve glazed over entirely; no, not Beast, he’s still too boring. One of the biggest question marks that hung over Days Of Future Past was how they would handle Quicksilver (played by Evan Peters) and even then we all assumed he would be cooler in Avengers: Age Of Ultron. Interestingly, he turned out to be one of the film’s highlights and the MCU’s Quicksilver was killed off, so the narrative opportunity was presented to give him a much more substantial role – which will only grow in the next feature, judging by the final shots of the film. I have no problem with Peters’ portrayal of the fast-footed mutant but he’s so overpowered that it took a half-battered Apocalypse to stop him. Curiously, having his leg broken could limit how fast he zips around and make him a much more practical character (rather than the deus ex machine that he effectively is) which is good because the humour and levity he injects is greatly appreciated.

Highlighted Quote:
“You can fire your arrows from the tower of Babel but you can never strike God”

In A Few Words:
“A combination of amazing highs and tedious lows produce a weirdly average release which, considering the talent involved, is frankly unacceptable”

Total Score:

3/5

Cinema City Film Quiz #166

[08 May 2016]


Winning Team:
Sister Fact
Genre – On the run from the Las Vegas mob, Whoopi Goldberg stars as a nun who violently subjugates the British quiz show circuit along with a jilted convent pub quiz team

Runners Up:
Humpin’ Jack Flasher
Genre – Whoopi is being pursued by Ann Summers after making carrots made of pottery
Fister Act
Genre – Whoopi Goldberg’s only banned movie
Sister Act 8: Kicking The Habit
Genre – Whoopi Goldberg returns to the nunnery to help her friends kick a crippling crack addiction
Quizter Act!
Genre – Hilarious hijinks, some questions and a musical number
Three Norwich Nuns On The Run
Genre – Bad habits come with criminal conditions
Making Whoopi
Genre – It takes two to handle a whooper


ROUND I: Pre-Production
1. Richard III starring Ian McKellan is an adaptation of which Shakespearean play?
RICHARD III
2. Robin Williams played a grown-up Peter Pan in which film?
HOOK
3. Who played the role of Jack Dawson in Titanic?
LEONARDO DICAPRIO
4. Michael Biehn and Linda Hamilton outrun a cyborg from the future in which film?
THE TERMINATOR
5. Which Indiana Jones film does not start with the words Indiana Jones?
RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK
6. Which film featured the quote, “Hear that thumping? That’s why they call me thumper”?
BAMBI
7. What was the title of the first James Bond film?
DR NO
8. Which two actors played the lead roles in Fight Club? (one point per correct answer)
EDWARD NORTON / BRAD PITT
9. Which Pixar film is set in Scotland?
BRAVE
10. Who directed 1960’s Psycho?
ALFRED HITCHCOCK


ROUND II: Filming [Whoopi Goldberg special]
1. Which of the following is not one of the title characters in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles? Michelangelo? Donatello? Caravaggio?
CARAVAGGIO
2. Star Trek Generations was released in which year? 1992? 1994? 1995?
1994
3. How many anthropomorphic books join Richard on his quest through the library in The Pagemaster? 2? 3? 4?
THREE
4. Which of the following did not star in Rat Race? Kathy Bates? Kathy Najimy? Cheech Marin?
CHEECH MARIN
5. Finish the following quote from Ghost, “I love you, I really love you”. Me too? Ditto? I know?
DITTO
6. In How Stella Got Her Groove Back, Stella goes to Jamaica and starts a relationship with Winston Shakespeare, who is how many years younger than her? 10? 20? 30?
TWENTY
7. How many nuns are on the poster for Sister Act 2: Back In The Habit? 1? 4? 9?
ONE (nine in the first film’s poster)
8. What is Rita Rizzoli’s (played by Goldberg) profession in Fatal Beauty? Detective? Bartender? Burglar?
DETECTIVE
9. Who directed Ghosts Of Mississippi? Spike Lee? Alan Parker? Rob Reiner?
ROB REINER
10. Whoopi Goldberg’s real name is Margaret Mary Emily Hyra. True or False?
FALSE (it’s Caryn Elaine Johnson)


ROUND III: Post-Production
1. Which animated film featured the voices of Jesse Eisenberg, Anne Hathaway, Jamie Foxx and will.i.am?
RIO
2. The following exchange is from which film, “Excuse me, sir, there’s been a little problem in the cockpit / The cockpit? What is it? / It’s the little room in the front of the plane where the pilot sits but that’s not important right now”?
AIRPLANE!
3. Which 2011 film focuses on a smart drug coded NZT-48?
LIMITLESS
4. To date, James Gunn has directed 3 feature film, name them. (one point per correct answer)
SLITHER / SUPER / GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY
5. Defiance, Blood Diamond, The Last Samurai and Legends Of The Fall were all directed by whom?
ED ZWICK
6. The title of action film RED is an acronym. What does it stand for?
RETIRED EXTREMELY DANGEROUS
7. What is the name of the island in the How To Train Your Dragon franchise?
BERK
8. Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Kellan Lutz and Lou Ferrigno have all played which character?
HERCULES
9. Sports drama Moneyball centres around which sport?
BASEBALL
10. Who played the lead role in the 1980 film, The Long Good Friday?
BOB HOSKINS


ROUND IV: Promotion & Release
1. Which of the following is not a Clint Eastwood western? Joe Kidd? Coogan’s Bluff? Pale Rider?
COOGAN’S BLUFF
2. Which Judd Apatow production features the characters Dale Denton, Saul Silver, Red, Budlofsky and Matheson? Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story? Step Brothers? Pineapple Express?
PINEAPPLE EXPRESS
3. The following quote is from which film, “The life of one individual ant does not matter. What matters is the colony”? The Ant Bully? Antz? A Bug’s Life?
ANTZ
4. In Half Nelson, Ryan Gosling plays a middle school teacher with a drug habit. Which drug is he addicted to? Cocain? Heroin? LSD?
COCAIN
5. What is the title of the Jon Turtletaub comedy starring Michael Douglas, Robert De Niro, Morgan Freeman and Kevin Kline? Ricki And The Flash? The Extra Man? Last Vegas?
LAST VEGAS
6. How are Brendan and Tommy related in Warrior? Cousins? Brothers? Partners?
BROTHERS
7. The following is the poster tagline for which film, “For the good of all men and the love of one woman, he fought to uphold justice by breaking the law”? Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves (1991)? Robin Hood (2010)? The Adventures Of Robin Hood (1938)?
ROBIN HOOD: PRINCE OF THIEVES
8. Who wrote the script for Tony Scott’s True Romance? Aaron Sorkin? Quentin Tarantino? Shane Black?
QUENTIN TARANTINO
9. What is the full title of Dr Strangelove? Or: I Learned To Stop Worrying And Started To Love The Bomb? Or: How I Learned To Love The Bomb And Stop Worrying? Or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb?
OR HOW I LEARNED TO STOP WORRYING AND LOVE THE BOMB
10. The Pteranodon kiss scene in Jurassic World was made up on the spot and nobody told Bryce Dallas Howard. True or False?
TRUE (this take was used in the movie)


BOUNS IMAGE ROUND
Screenshots: Scary Movie 3 / Little Fockers / This Is The End
Poster: Ride Along
Actor: Kevin Hart