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Review: X-Men: Apocalypse (2016) — It’s the End of the World as we Know It, and I Feel… Fine?

Bryan Singer is back to direct his fourth X-Men film; X-Men: Apocalypse. Luke Miksa checks to see whether it stacks up.

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The year is 1983, ten years after the events of X-Men: Days of Future Past. Upon awakening after thousands of dormant years, the first mutant, the immortal En Sabah Nur, Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac), embarks on a plan to destroy humanity and remake it under his will. Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and the X-Men must band together to face the cataclysmic force that is Apocalypse and his disciples of doom, the Four Horsemen: Storm, Psylocke, Angel, and Magneto — mutants lured by the charismatic allure of Apocalypse.

X-Men: Apocalypse is the sixth X-Men movie — ninth if you count spin-off films from Wolverine and Deadpool — and the fourth run at the helm from director Bryan Singer. Having practically pioneered the modern run of superhero films with 2000’s X-Men, Singer certainly has experience in films of this nature, but this really is his weakest effort with this franchise to date. Not to say that this film is bad, it honestly isn’t, but it just feels like a stale retread as opposed to advancing the X-Men films to the next level.

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As with most X-Men films, Apocalypse features many characters, probably too many by normal standards, but these films have always been about the large ensemble. Most major characters are actually well formed despite the sheer number of them. Their motivations are juggled reasonably well: senior characters like ‘Beast’ Hank McCoy (Nicholas Hoult), ‘Professor X’ Charles Xavier, and ‘Mystique’ Raven Darkholme (Jennifer Lawrence) get to continue on the paths set from prior films, with the ongoing tragedy of ‘Magneto’ Erik Lehnsherr (Michael Fassbender) a highlight thanks again to some solid output from Fassbender. But it’s also the fresh faces, the younger cast of ‘Cyclops’ Scott Summers (Tye Sheridan), Jean Grey (Sophie Turner), ‘NightCrawler’ Kurt Wagner (Kodi Smit-McPhee), and ‘Storm’ Ororo Munroe (Alexandra Shipp) showing promise for the direction of these younger versions of characters we know and love.

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Review: Fantastic Four (2015) — Fantastic Faux Pas: Defying the Odds to Become the Worst Fantastic Four Movie

Fantastic Four is back, and this time it’s serious. Luke Miksa reviews:

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Based on the popular Marvel Comics characters, Fantastic Four is another attempt at a big-screen adaptation for Marvel’s First Family. Directed by Josh Trank (Chronicle), Fantastic Four (Fant4stic if you’re an idiot) is a more serious take at the origin story of the super-team and follows a young Reed Richards (Miles Teller, Whiplash), a hyper-intelligent young man who is recruited into the “Baxter Foundation” and joins a team including Sue Storm (Kate Mara, House of Cards), Johnny Storm (Michael B. Jordan, Fruitvale Station), and Victor Von Doom (Toby Kebbell, RocknRolla). The team develop a transporter capable of inter-dimensional travel, but when the team, including Reed’s childhood friend Ben Grimm (Jamie Bell, Snowpiercer), encounter problems on “Planet Zero”, they return with their molecules altered, resulting in various powers and abilities which will change them forever.

Fantastic Four is a movie that has been plagued with well documented production problems. I shouldn’t be getting into on-set dramas while reviewing a film, but the squabbles between director Josh Trank and 20th Century Fox have unfortunately manifested into the finished film, which is a jumbled mess of ideas, tone, and plot. What we have with Fantastic Four is two movies. One being the directors vision: a serious scientific exploration into inter-dimensional travel combined with Cronenberg-esque body-horror. The second: an action based movie where the team gets together to stop a cataclysmic event. It’s obvious where the different visions intersect and the resulting mess is the worst-reviewed Marvel-based movie to date.*

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Review: Trainwreck (2015) — Amy Schumer’s Breakthrough in Judd Apatow’s Return to Form

Ladies and gentlemen, Amy Schumer. Luke Miksa reviews her new film Trainwreck:

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“Monogamy isn’t realistic” is the quote a very young Amy Townsend (Amy Schumer) repeatedly has drilled into her head by her womanising father (Colin Quinn) in the opening flashback of romantic comedy Trainwreck. As an adult, Amy works at a popular men’s magazine, and her personal life is filled with heavy drinking, carefree sex, and partying — clearly adopting her father’s advice all those years earlier. Amy is assigned to write an article on successful sports doctor Aaron Connors (Bill Hader), mainly because she has absolutely no interest in the subject. As they spend time together, Amy and Aaron develop a romantic relationship, which can only survive if Amy can overcome her pre-existing conceptions on monogamy.

Ah, the look of regret.

Ah, the look of regret.

Trainwreck was written by star Amy Schumer, and is her feature debut both in screen-writing and in a leading role. Schumer’s success thus far has been relegated to stand-up comedy and her very successful sketch show, Inside Amy Schumer. Here, Schumer shows that not only can she write a strong, realistic, and hilariously outrageous female character, on-screen she can carry the whole film to boot! Schumer was a breath of fresh air that has been needed, and she brings a feminist voice to mainstream comedy which has been sorely lacking.

Director Judd Apatow has been in somewhat of a rut for his last few films, with Funny People and This is 40 receiving mixed reviews and mediocre responses. Trainwreck is the first feature directed by Apatow that he hasn’t written himself and it is quite obviously reflected in the final product, as Apatow hasn’t directed something so fresh since 2007’s Knocked Up. Gone is the free-wheeling style of filmmaking, replaced with a fairly tighter script. Although the runtime of Trainwreck still clocks in at over two hours, it moves briskly and is nowhere near as over-long as his previous efforts.

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Review: Terminator: Genisys (2015) — Quick, Someone Go Back in Time and Save This Franchise

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Terminator: Genisys (yes, that is a real title) is the fifth film in the Terminator franchise and follows the same basic premise of all but one: robot/human is sent back in time to kill/protect John Connor; an important figure in a future war with machines. In the year 2029, Skynet — in a last-ditch effort to win the war against humanity — sends a T-800 Terminator back in time to 1984 to assassinate Sarah Connor, the mother of resistance leader John. In response, Connor (Jason Clarke, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes) sends Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney, Live Free or Die Hard) back to protect her from the unstoppable machine. Upon arrival to 1984, Reese soon learns that things are not as they were anticipated, as Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke, Game of Thrones) has been raised by a re-programmed T-800 (Arnold Schwarzenegger, reprising his famous role) since the age of nine. Now that the timeline is changed, the trio must now embark on another mission to prevent Skynet from initiating Judgment Day, the end of humanity as we know it.

Does that sound confusing? Don’t worry you’re not alone, as Terminator: Genisys (real title) is one hell of a convoluted time-travel story, and the retcon from the first act is only the start of the insanity. Director Alan Taylor (Thor: The Dark World), struggles to balance the many, many various plot threads and the result is a garbled mess of a film with mediocre performances, a nonsense plot that makes less sense the more you think about it, and that frankly doesn’t even look that good.

"I'll be back. Again. And Again. And..."

“I’ll be back. Again. And Again. And…”

Honestly, the first hour or so of the movie was pretty good. I was on board for the alternate 1984, and it was fun revisiting scenes we’ve seen before, but altered slightly. This is something I also liked from Back to the Future II. Unfortunately, there is another time-jump that takes place which sends the story to the year 2017 and that’s where the movie completely implodes.

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Review: Spy (2015) — Bending Genres and Stereotypes, Spy is Surprisingly Full of Cultural Relevance and Laughs

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Popular director Paul Feig (Bridesmaids, The Heat) tackles the spy genre with the aptly titled Spy, which sees Susan Cooper (Melissa McCarthy) as a desk-jockey for the CIA, working as a liaison for one of the agency’s super-spies Bradley Fine (Jude Law). Cooper is a terrific analyst, but an underachiever and a joke to her fellow operatives, but when Fine is apparently killed in action by mob queen Rayna Boyanov (Rose Byrne), and the identities of many top CIA agents are compromised, Cooper must leave the safety of her desk and go undercover to expose the plot of Rayna and her arms dealer associate (Bobby Cannavale) before it’s too late.

Both serious and in comedy, the spy genre is already loaded — the freaking sequel to Cars was a spy movie! — and 2015 alone will see the release of new instalments of James Bond and Mission: Impossible films, amongst others. The question is whether Spy contains anything to make it stand out from an already crowded sub-genre. The answer is yes, Spy does hold it’s own in many ways, but it may not be what you were expecting.

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Review: Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015) — All The Eye-Popping Spectacle You Want, No Strings Attached

But of course this is a Marvel Studios film, and ALL strings are attached, but does Avengers: Age of Ultron surpass the original? Luke Miksa reviews:

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Avengers: Age of Ultron is a movie that genuinely needs no introduction. If you are not familiar with billionaire philanthropist Tony Stark (aka Iron Man, Robert Downey Jr.), Asgardian prince Thor (Chris Hemsworth), or time-displaced World War II super-soldier Steve Rogers (aka Captain America, Chris Evans), then perhaps you have been in suspended animation the last eight years. Avengers: Age of Ultron is the sequel to the 2012 superhero team-up film The Avengers and the 11th film in the interconnected Marvel Cinematic Universe. This time, the Avengers must again team up to fight a power of their own creation, the sentient artificial intelligence known as Ultron (James Spader), a being with the intent of cleansing the world of humanity.

The boys are back (plus a girl or two, I guess).

The boys are back (plus a girl or two, I guess).

The movie opens right in the thick of The Avengers raiding the Hydra base of Baron von Strucker to regain the sceptre seen in previous films. Director/screenwriter Joss Whedon doesn’t bother with building up the opening — we have seen this before — so jumping straight into the action from the get-go is the perfect way to establish what this movie is all about: all action, all the time. This opening scene in particular features a wonderful long tracking shot following all the characters battling the Hydra army, with many insta-iconic imagery coming from just this single scene; welcome back, everyone!

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