* X-Men: Apocalypse – PG-13: This is like the fifth or sixth installment (I lost count) of the X-Men movies, and it shows. It’s long, overstuffed, tired, and stodgy. The story is ridiculous and silly. And it seems like I’ve already seen it before in two other superhero movies in the last four months. Yes, it’s another “superheroes v. superheroes” civil war movie, which we already saw in “Captain America: Civil War” (read my review) and “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice” (read my review). Enough, Hollywood. Come up with something new. Or at least, slightly different.
More problems with this movie: it has too many characters, so many that you may get confused. Plus, it has too many flashbacks and flash forwards. That’s bad enough, but the movie takes place in the late ’80s or early ’90s, so it’s hard to figure out and keep track of what’s what and when, since the whole movie is already a flashback of sorts, and then there are these flashbacks within that. I probably needed a map to follow things. On top of that, there are the allusions and references to things that happened in previous X-Men movies, and who can remember what happened in each of those, unless you’re a diehard fanboy and don’t see as many movies as I do. A good sequel is an independent movie without all of that, or at the very least, it has a brief rehash or reminder/explanation of what they are talking about. This didn’t have any of that. So, if you’re not familiar with the characters from previous X-Men movies, good luck.
This movie had a ton of special effects, action, fights, and computer generated images (CGI). But, while it was high on the effects and action, it was very light on story. The story: an ancient Egyptian villain who is mummified below a pyramid in Cairo (I thought the pyramids were elsewhere), is revived by some fellow Egyptians. He is the mutant X-men villain known as “Apocalypse.” Some of the renegade X-Men, such as Magneto, join his team to fight and try to destroy the “good” X-Men and to destroy the world. He begins by destroying some of the world’s major cities. The X-Men fight back and try to stop him, all with the leadership of Xavier, who heads the gifted school where they stay and develop their powers.
Posters for this bear the motto, “Only the Strong Will Survive.” And this is a weak movie, so it should die quickly. But because it’s a superhero movie with a lot of hype and a built-in fanbse, it will dominate at this weekend’s box office. I saw this movie about a month ago, and the studio said I could post my review immediately. Normally, I would do that. But I was so underwhelmed by this, and it’s so forgettable, that I waited until today, it’s debut. That’s how lackluster this is. These superheroes aren’t so super. Not even close. Which is why, I’m being incredibly generous when I give this a positive rating (because it’s neither political nor offensive and the good guys do win in the end) of . . .
HALF A REAGAN
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* Alice Through the Looking Glass – PG: Six years ago, I reviewed “Alice in Wonderland,” of which this is supposed to be a sequel. As you may recall, I hated it. In that version, Alice isn’t the Lewis Carroll Alice. She’s the Gloria Steinem Alice–a feminist action hero who bears little resemblance to the story you remember from your childhood. This is more of the same. Only worse.
I mean, how many female ship captains do you think there actually were in 1875 and 1876, when this movie takes place? It’s a sure bet the number was zero. But in this, a grown Alice is a ship captain who has just returned from a three-year voyage in the dangerous high seas. The movie is something of a feminist fight by Alice (Mia Wasikowska) to continue to sail ships instead of giving in to the stock Hollywood evil White male capitalist who wants to stop her and make her a clerk. That man is someone who proposed to Alice, but she turned him down in order to be an independent swashbuckling ship captain, and so he’s now a man scorned trying to take away her widowed mother’s home and her deceased father’s company and ship. Ultimately, Alice, of course, prevails, cuts her long locks short in a lesbionic butch cut, and wears pants. Talk about heavy-handed.
And amidst that as the back story, adult Alice also travels back to Wonderland (this time through a mirror in the aforementioned evil rich guy’s mansion) to save the ever annoying and weird Johnny Depp’s depressed and dying Mad Hatter. He’s very sad and has given up on life because he believes that his parents, siblings, wife, and kids are dead and that he’s the indirect cause. But then there is a glimmer of hope that they may all be alive, and Alice travels through Wonderland to try to find and save them so her dear old friend, the Mad Hatter, will come back to life and vitality. She does this by stealing an orb from Time (a man played by Sacha Baron Cohen), which helps her to time travel throughout Wonderland. Time’s minions are chasing her to get it back, and Time’s girlfriend, the evil Queen of Hearts (Helena Bonham Carter) is back and trying to help him get Alice.
The movie has great special effects. I saw this in 3D (but you’ll lose nothing except $10 if you don’t), and the colorful, whimsical sets, costumes, and effects are wonderful eye candy. The movie is very high on style. But, sadly, it’s also equally low on story and anything else of interest.
Mostly, I thought this was a bore and a propaganda film cross-dressing as a childhood fairy tale. Unfortunately, the audience of free ticket holders with whom I saw it, just didn’t get that. They applauded at the end, being the American sheeple without critical thinking skills that they are. If that sounds snobby, in this case snobbery is vastly underrated. Betty Friedan would be proud.
TWO BETTY FRIEDANS PLUS A MARX
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* The Lobster – R: I love science fiction. But this is the worst and most disturbing science fiction film I’ve ever seen, tied only with “The Skin I Live In” (read my review). It’s stupid. It’s ridiculous. It’s barbaric. And it’s disgusting. What was an interesting premise and what could have been an even more interesting movie, is a big mess. And horrifying to boot. That is, unless women being deliberately blinded, and men having their hands put in hot toasters is your idea of fun. Not mine. But apparently it appeals to the sicko filmmakers behind this celluloid crap.
The story: it’s the dystopian future (as in far too many movie these days), and if you lose your romantic partner (either through death, divorce, or break-up), you must go to a hotel where you have 45 days to find a new love. If you do not, then at the end of the 45 days, you are transformed into the animal of your choice, until the animal is killed or dies. You can extend the 45 days if, during the nightly hunts, you kill other humans. Then your life before animalhood is extended by an extra day for each person you kill. Sounds like a really great movie, right? But, wait, it gets worse.
For the first full night and day in the hotel, you have to have one of your hands handcuffed to your pants, which are locked. They never explain why. But Colin Farrell, who stars in this, manages to squeeze the pants off, though, so he can relieve himself. Also, no masturbation is allowed, so John C. Reilly, who befriends Farrell, gets punished when he is caught doing that. The hotel managers force him to put his dominant hand in a toaster, which they turn on while holding his hand in the toaster to burn. Yup, Hollywood’s and ISIS’ warped minds have common barbaric fantasies, none of which make for pleasant or purposeful movie viewing. Oh, and did I mention that the maid comes into the men’s hotel rooms daily to do a “lap dance” on them to make sure they are still, um, sexually functional?
Farrell, when he first arrives at the hotel, identifies the lobster as the animal he’d want to be transformed into if he fails to fall in love. But he never turns into one of them, so the title is kind of pointless. Farrell arrives with a dog, who used to be his brother. Eventually, Farrell like some of the others he’s met at the hotel, fakes certain aspects of his personality in order to get a women to like and couple with him. The woman he couples up with is a heartless killer. Ultimately, he escapes into the forest and joins a group of partisans there. But he falls in love with one of them (Rachel Weisz) despite their leader’s express prohibitions against it. So, the leader takes Weisz into the city to get an operation which blinds her.
This brutal, sick, disgusting movie is what Hollywood and mainstream (a/k/a liberal) movie critics think is “art.” It’s torture. And it’s a bore. It went on forever and in a million different irrelevant tangents. Two hours of this felt like five.
Watch the trailer . . .
* Love & Friendship – PG: I’m normally a fan of Jane Austen and movies based on her work. But not this. This movie, based on an Austen novella, “Lady Susan,” is boring and mostly unfunny, especially for something that’s supposed to be a comedy.
Kate Beckinsale plays Lady Susan, a member of English nobility in the 1700s or 1800s (I can’t remember and don’t really care). She’s widowed and looking for a husband for herself and her daughter. And she’s looking for rich husbands for the two of them, in order to keep up the wealthy lifestyle to which she’s accustomed. To that end, she’s decided to stay at the estate of her wealthy relatives (her in-laws) and plots to find a suitable husband from among their friends and acquaintances.
The cast in this movie is far too large and hard to keep up with. But, essentially, Lady Susan plots to set herself up with a much younger man (I guess she was the original “cougar”) and her daughter with an idiot. The results change, and there is a hurt wife of a man along the way. There is also Lady Susan’s American friend (Chloe Sevigny), who plots along with her.
As with many of these bloated and lackluster period movies, I loved the costumes, sets, and Victorian accoutrements. This movie is high on style. But it’s also low on story and an interesting plot, which is nowhere to be seen here. Although Kate Beckinsale is lovely, she has little to work with here and to many cast members with which to share the stage. I also don’t think she’s very suited to comedy and find her performances are better in dramas and thrillers. The story/plot isn’t new, it’s not interesting, and I feel like I’ve seen this kind of thing–done far better–many times before. Also, Lady Susan just isn’t likable, nor is anyone else in this film. So, you just don’t care about her or the others or anything that happens here. Lady Susan is manipulative, scheming, spoiled, and entitled. Not to mention conceited and cocksure. Who wants that? Sadly, some men in the movie are pulled in. It’s also hard to believe that Lady Susan’s semi-sweet, pathetic, and meek daughter is really related to her nasty mom or that she continues to have anything to do with her.
This movie is only 92 minutes, which I’d normally praise. I like brevity. But, unfortunately, it felt like it was twice that long. And I struggled to get through it. I definitely wouldn’t pay ten bucks plus to see this. But if I did, I’d ask for my money back. There is neither love nor friendship anywhere in this movie. Or even close.
Watch the trailer . . .