Saturday, June 4, 2016

Short Reviews: Mutants, Avengers and Nice Guys Singing with Gangsta Cats...

X-men: Apocalypse - Overall, a big disappointment after Days of Future Past and First Class. The first two films in the reboot focused on the competing ideologies of Professor X and Magneto with Mystique stuck in the middle, and that made for a compelling conflict. In this installment, they pay some lip service to the triangle, but mostly focus on introducing new characters and a generically realized villain. Aside from the design work done for some of the new characters (Storm, Psylocke and Nightcrawler look pretty awesome), the film is muddled and shallow. And if you're a comic book purist, you'll be thoroughly upset with the liberties taken with some of the characters.

Sing Street - Director John Carney has made headlines lately after trashing Kiera Knightley's work in his previous film, Begin Again. While I also had trouble with Knightley's casting in that film, Sing Street shows that Carney bears plenty of responsibility for his missteps. Like Once, this film is set in Ireland, but it's about a teenage boy in the 80s who starts a band to impress a girl. There's a certain sweetness and local flavor that lifts it up, but the songs are as mediocre as the ones in Begin Again and fail to fully support the rebellious stance taken by the story. The film is a pleasant, but fails to rise above the level of unreflective adult nostalgia.

The Nice Guys - Shane Black was once the highest paid screenwriter in Hollywood, having penned the highly influential Lethal Weapon series. More recently, he's been directing his own scripts, most notably the massive blockbuster Iron Man 3, but also the cult favorite Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. The Nice Guys follows in the vein of that small, neo-noir buddy film, but doesn't quite match its lofty virtues. The film makes some confusing choices at the beginning and then the last third of the film just sort of happens. However, the chemistry between Russell Crowe, Ryan Gosling and Angourie Rice (stealing the show as Gosling's character's daughter) is glorious and alone probably worth the price of admission. I'm not sure if there's going to be a sequel, but I'd love to see this crew again in a better film.

Captain American: Civil War - For my money, the Captain America series has been the highest quality Marvel Studios franchise to date, and Civil War keeps the streak alive. I'm in awe of the Russo brother's ability to keep a movie this big this balanced. Every one of the huge cast of characters gets their moment in the sun, but unlike other superhero films, Civil War knows which ones are the stars and which ones are merely the supporting cast. The themes of the film are interwoven masterfully with personal motivations, and you also get the best mass superhero battle of all time! Highly recommended. See it again and again...

Keanu - I really enjoy Key and Peele's sketch comedy show and was looking forward to a feature length treatment of their sensibilities. But greatness on the small screen doesn't always translate to the big one, and in many ways Keanu feels like a comedy sketch stretched from 5 to 100 minutes. There are some very funny scenes, and Key and Peele put on some tremendous performances, but there's just not enough to carry you all the way through.

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