Category Archives: Film Reviews
The essence of the X-Men mythology has placed it with some ideals of archetypes but, with some of the actors involved, the texture of nuance is always an interesting progression in what is embraced and what is shown below the surface. This reviewer did interviews for “X-Men: The Last Stand” back in the last iteration of the cast before “First Class” but also visited the set of “X-Men: Apocalypse”. With “The Last Stand”, the approach involved the aspect of Jean Grey as well. However unlike Famke Jannsen’s iteration, there seems a times a lack of stakes or perhaps disconnection from Sophie Turner’s inhabiting of the character, much in the way of Captain Marvel in “Endgame”: she is so indestructible that the balance of her take down is somewhat like ants trying to destroy gods . That said, this installment is the most engrossing since “First Class”. The inclusion of Jennifer Lawrence works simply because of the structure of what it is setting up and that allows in true form the most connective tissue that motivates all the characters. Whether it be Tye Sheridan’s Psyclops or in a more pronounced fashion Beast played by Nicolas Hoult, “Dark Phoenix” has some more true acting from these performers because the entire proceeding is not overtaken by visual effects unlike some of the iterations before. It comes off more practical.
Also the characters, even more so, seem to engage in their baser desires at times which makes them more fully realized. Michael Fassbender’s Magneto seems both more conflicted but also at times more brutal than before. When he emerges in terms of his focus, it is interesting because it you can see him fighting against his own instincts (even though his character comes off more as supporting). James McAvoy as Professor X also has a more dynamic approach because his character is not the all wise. He makes mistakes and ego plays a part in this outing. These are superheroes but they are flawed and that is what this picture is allowing (perhaps in a darker way than perhaps Disney would approach it at a different time). Even Nightcrawler becomes brutal in a way not seen since “X2” when he was on the opposite viewpoint. That said, the story timing conversely is, at times, erratic. However this does not take away from the emotional notes. What scattershots the beats is Jessica Chastain and her minions. Chastain is on point in terms of her performance but there is not a reflective basis of her motivation. Her character’s origins are left to the ether which works to a point but not in the final revelation. “Dark Phoenix” in a great way handles many emotional beats in a way far superior to some of its predecessors thanks in part to director Simon Kinsberg who understands this mythology and the characters through and through. But endings, especially of an era, never are clean. They are messy. “Endgame” tried to do everything and reflected emotional but many plot holes still remained. “Dark Phoenix” writes a different story than the one previous to “The Last Stand” but in doing some creates something more contextual even if the final shot reflects a vague contentment.
By Tim Wassberg
The texture of a monster movie relies on its sheer size but the diametrics of destruction have a certain threshold of believability and therefore, art in a way. Sometimes with certain dialogue it is better to say nothing at all, than risk an essence of impact. “Godzilla: King Of The Monsters” suffers from this ailment in numerous and many ways. Even though the texture of some of the large monster scenes is indeed impressive, the core family story that is supposed to fuel it with Kyle Chandler, Vera Farmiga and Millie Bobby Brown just falls flat mainly because of confused motivations and simply bad dialogue. “The MEG” functioned in this same way but with more of a tongue-in-cheek sense of humor but that cannot save a bad script. Now popcorn movies can be just that but they can be done with that sense of weight. The first “Godzilla” made by Gareth Edwards took a different approach with Godzilla in terms of the mystery and especially with the Bryan Cranston family angle, it definitely gave it a sense of stakes. Here it switches it around but Farmiga’s character who is motivated by loss is one sided. Vera is an exceptional actress but one cannot save bad motivation. Kyle Chandler, so great in “Wolf Of Wall Street”, seems exceptional cardboard and flat here. Millie Bobbie Brown is the only that seems to understand or at least try to impact what she is doing but she seems like she is doing almost a different movie or script than what is being filmed. Her part works. In essence, this is likely the fault of the director.
Michael Dougherty wanted to take the film to a different tone than the first one with this sense of scale. But oddly enough Godzilla had much more a sense of scale in the Gareth Edwards’ version. Another actor that understands what film should be created is Ken Watanabe, He has a sense of weight and genuinely a sense of loss for what Godzilla could be. His solo scene where he confronts Godzilla is perhaps the high point in the movie. The overall dexterity of the film though lacks cohesion as if the director was more interested in the sequences than the actual story. That is fine in certain cases but it really creates a separation of definition when the motivations come off as a laughable. There is somewhat of a happy medium somewhere between what Gareth Edwards’ Godzilla was and this. One is a disaster movie and one is a perception on survival. The aspect here that should inspire comes out as schlock.
By Tim Wassberg
The essence of any film is a method of voice. “Booksmart” is a great anomaly but hopefully not. It is in some ways a modern day female “Superbad” but with more heart. While the exec producers are Will Ferrell and Adam McKay, this film is guided with a steady hand and as much of a good feature debut as done by many by Olivia Wilde. The performances are pinpoint but the way the music works moves it well. This could have been a simple movie about rite of passage but it has more because the subtext but also what is on surface is done with aplomb direction. Wilde brings in some of her friends (and her husband’s friends) but doesn’t overwhelm with any star power. It is the two girls that are the leads that power this. Kaitlyn Dever as Amy is great because the performance crosses many lines and persuasions but is so universal. Beanie Feldstein plays Molly and she is a wonderful folly in many ways…but Dever is the compass of the film. Like “Superbad” there is the would-be gross out moments but not in the way Seth Rogen would do it. There is a different energy here, like “Clueless” meets something this reviewer cannot quite place. It is organic and yet there is heartbreak. There is laughs and yet a bit of truth. There is heart and yet there is awkwardness. The balance is steadily maintained.
The movie doesn’t not dumb itself down. Despite any criticisms, this is the great thing about Annapurna, Megan Ellison’s company. In a world where there is just reboots and comic book characters, this is an original and it shines like a light (even though there are certain influences from before). Even all the secondary characters from Jared, a would be rich kid to Ryan whom Amy assumes aspects about is finely drawn but not a caricature. The film is all about assumption and the damage it does but also its undeniable nature. One person with a thankless persuasion who steals almost all the scenes she is in is Billie Lourd as Gigi. You would never know that this is the girl that was in the “Star Wars” movies with her mom Carrie Fisher. You can see the brilliance that was her mom coming through here as far as physical comedy and just enough of a wink. Again all the characters stick in your mind. At graduation this is very apparent as it shows how well the film is built. It is a smaller film but that is the beauty of the mid to lower range films that get lost…that beauty of films more than an indie but less than a studio with pedigree and talent firing correctly with a director with a steady hand who knows actors in and out and can obviously communicate exactly what she wants. Bravo Olivia.
By Tim Wassberg