For those that know me, it is no secret that I love to go to the movies. This year, I was lucky enough to watch about 24 movies (mostly) in theaters. In these last few days before the new year, I will be sharing my thoughts on these films, from the good, to the bad, to the mediocre. To keep things manageable, I will be breaking things up into a few different posts based on the original release dates for the films. I do have to be up front about one thing, most of the films on this list are popular releases, unfortunately I didn’t have as many opportunities to see “indie” and “art house” films as I would have liked, and I have only seen a handful of films that would actually be nominated for awards.
In terms of structure for looking at these films, I will give my brief take on the synopsis of the film, provide my initial thoughts that I had when I first watched the film, and finally share some thoughts I have had since seeing the film initially, sometimes providing links to videos or articles that may better articulate my feelings.
May featured two big continuations of storied superhero franchises, provided a few cheap laughs, and introduced us to a couple of nice guys just trying to make it in the world. The stakes ran the gamut this month, ranging from the destruction of the world to keeping your property’s value up when a sorority moves in next door.
Fair warning, I will try not to get into story details but there may be some spoilers ahead.
Captain American: Civil War
Released: May 6, 2016 | Directors: Anthony & Joe Russo
Synopsis: The results of every previous Marvel movie have finally caught up with the Avengers as the governments of the world sign an accord calling for greater oversight over superpowered people, while in the background, a shadowy figure begins to move pieces into place as he plots to pull the Avengers apart from within.
Initial Thoughts: (Taken from Facebook) I enjoyed Civil War, and I thought it was good, but not great. It did have some fantastic action sequences and actual laugh out loud humor, but the story felt like something I’ve seen before so many times. Don’t get me wrong, it did hit several emotional beats, and I’m interested to see how it shakes things up in the future films, but it just didn’t feel compelling all the way through. Spiderman was fantastic, and I really wish my dad could have been here to see this (pretty much perfect) rendition of his favorite character. I also wish he could’ve been here to watch a movie featuring 3 prominent and kick-ass black superheroes, especially Black Panther, whose solo film I can’t wait to see opening day.
Reflection: Civil War is still one of my favorites from this year, besides its less than original story. I felt that the characters were once again given good development, the heroes we were introduced to in this film were well fleshed out, and I actually liked the villains more grounded plot of trying to destroy the Avengers rather than destroying the earth. This is definitely the better of the two heroes fight each other movies this year, but much like BvS, I find myself thinking about Iron Man 2. We crap on that movie all of the time, but it served as a decent template for the two movies. Think about this with me for a second: Hero is under scrutiny by the government who believes there needs to be more oversight of his actions.
- Hero is under scrutiny by the government who believes there needs to be more oversight of his actions.
- Hero pushes back against this.
- Hero has to fight another hero.
- Resolution shows us someone behind the scenes who had been pulling the strings.
Yeah, I know I just over-simplified things, but it kind of is that simple. One of the challenges that Marvel really needs to figure out is how to create original stories that don’t feel like the retreading of their previous films. That said, their characters are still second to none in my book, and I can’t wait to see more adventures with these heroes as the branch out into their own arcs.
The Nice Guys
Released: May 20, 2016 | Director: Shane Black
Synopsis: An odd couple of private detectives turn LA upside down as they try to solve the mystery of a missing girl and a dead pornstar.
Initial Thoughts: The Nice Guys was a great “buddy” comedy with great performances from Russell Crowe, Ryan Gosling, and Angourie Rice. All three present their characters in a way that makes them feel complex and believable and really gets you to invest in them. The styling of the film was top notch and felt era-appropriate, the villains had this great 70s camp to them that felt right out of a Bond flick, and the mixture of drama, action, and comedy formed a perfect cocktail that I would love to order again.
Reflection: It’s really too bad that so many people didn’t go see this film. In addition to the comedy perfection that is Ryan Gosling, the great performances, and action, this is a story with a lot of heart. There are levels to this film which explore how different people cope with depression and attempt to remain functioning members of society. Those parts, for me, are areas where this film really shines. It easily can reel us in with the premise and the elements, but it is the gritty, in the dirt character moments that really sell this film. I care about these characters, I understand their pain, and I feel their reactions are valid. I really shouldn’t be surprised given that the guy behind the scenes of the first two Lethal Weapon movies is at the helm, but it is really hard to do these neo-noir, buddy crime films in a way that actually makes sense, is enjoyable, and is believable.
Personally, I also applaud this film for allowing Angourie Rice stand toe to toe with Gosling and Crowe. For me, the young actress was the lifeblood of the film and commanded my attention as much as, if not more than, the two leads. Being able to see smart, driven, and together young women and girls on screen is something that we need more of, not simply in the Force Awakens heroine style, but in the putting her family on her back and takes care of her alcoholic father kind of way. Showing female characters as capable and not just super-powered is a must in this day and age, and I hope to see more characters like this one.
Outside of the character work, there is also a lot to be said about the way that Shane Black uses violence or action in his films, but once again I’ll let the Nerdwriter1 tell you about that:
Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising
Released: May 20, 2016 | Director: Nicholas Stoller
Synopsis: Having survived the fraternity next door, Mac and Kelly prepare to sell their home when all of the sudden a wild sorority appears next door. Now they must join forces with their former enemy and Delta Psi Beta brother, Teddy, to stop the girls.
Initial Thoughts: You know how the Hangover 2 is just the Hangover with a few changes and the “originality” drained out? Yeah, this is like that. I still laughed but it just didn’t have the same impact as the first one. That said, Zac Efron really helped carry this film and definitely proved himself a deft comedian.
Reflection: I still feel the same way, the film is funny but not as funny as its predecessor. I don’t have much more to say about it than that. Sorry if someone loved it, but this definitely one of those passable movies that can be funny in a pinch, but if you missed it, you didn’t miss much at all.
Released: May 27, 2016 | Director: Bryan Singer
Synopsis: An ancient evil awakens and assembles the world’s most powerful mutants to lead mutants to their rightful place above regular humans. It’s up to the X-Men to band together and recruit new members to defeat this new threat and protect mankind.
Initial Thoughts: (Taken from Facebook) X-Men: Apocalypse is an exercise in wasted actors, characters, source material, and superpowers. The lazy storytelling amounts to basically nothing, and the ensuing boredom makes you wish the X-Men could be as exciting as they used to be. The ham-fisted symbolism is absurdly distracting and renders the overall piece nothing more than a self-referential cash grab.
Also, how do they keep failing Storm as a character? She is essentially a goddess, and this rendering of her negates the character’s inherent power and fortitude.
Reflection: So many people told me that I was too hard on this movie… F*** THAT! It wasn’t anything special and, dammit, I love the X-Men and want so much more from nearly all of their films. This was my least favorite superhero movie of the year (yes, I know that Suicide Squad came out this year). Sure, the new X-Kids were good, we got a great new Cyclops, Jean Grey, and Nightcrawler, but Psylocke was so undercooked that she was just unmixed ingredients sitting in a mold and Angel was so strangely characterized and almost a non-entity. From the trailers, I was easily the most excited about Storm since it looked like we would finally be saved from the memory of Halle Berry’s awful African accent, but nah, she was underused and didn’t have nearly the onscreen or in story impact that I had hoped for.
Some bright spots were Michael Fassbender as Magneto, who once again was the most compelling character in the new set of X-Films. James McAvoy as Professor X was fine once again, I’m somewhat indifferent to him, but I do recognize how he is moving his character towards the version Patrick Stewart so stylishly introduced us to in the previous X-Men films.
Jennifer Lawrence bores me to some extreme levels. She seems like she is sleepwalking through the series and I find her completely uncompelling and disinterested in the film around her. She just doesn’t have the right level of excitement to draw us into her character and fails to add anything of worth to a narrative that could have effectively worked without her.
Lastly, Apocalypse… I don’t really want to complain about Apocalypse, so here are some clips of the animated Apocalypse being what I wanted him to be in the film.
So have you seen these films? Is Civil War superhero perfection? Did the Nice Guys deserve a better shot? Is Neighbors 2 really that much worse than the original? I’d love to hear your thoughts, hit me up here or on social media!