Top Ten Moments That Make Me Believe in the X-Men Franchise

By:

Matthew J.R. Kohler

10.) The Cast of Characters

It’s usually hard to cast a superhero character.  X-Men succeeded at this with most of the original cast and its reboot cast.  Have you ever heard anyone say that Hugh Jackman or James McAvoy were miscast?

09.) The reason they are fighting

X-Men is one of the few superhero series that has a strong reason for the action.  Unlike most Marvel films, X-Men is straight forward.  Magneto wants to protect the mutants through violence and Professor X wants to protect mutants by protecting humans.  Each film built on this idea.

08.) It’s more than action

The best X-Men films are dramas first and action movies second.  Look at the first two films and First Class.  The climactic moment in First Class is not dozens of superheroes and super villains attacking each other, but simply three people standing, and one of them screaming.  By the way, I love this!

07.) The Villains are Bad!

Stryker, Kevin Bacon, and Stryker!  All of these characters are just bad people.  None of them have any redeemable characteristics.  Both experimented on mutants.  In their movies, you want them to get their comeuppance.

06.) Nightcrawler was epic!

X2 is probably the greatest X-Men movie.  One reason is the opening scene that introduces a new character…Nightcrawler.  Nightcrawler was one of the best parts of that movie.  And you know what…it left me wanting more.

05.) When Toad Actually Mattered

Toad is a small character in the first film, but boy did he shine in the final action scene!  He faced the entire X-Men (besides Wolverine) and held his own.  Toad was made special for that reason.  Also, he was given great energy by Ray Park who at that point was a fanboy favorite thanks to his turn as Darth Maul.  It’s awesome to see how such a minor character brought so much fan service.

04.) Magneto!

Magneto might be one of the best villains created by Marvel, so it’s almost impossible for them to get him wrong.  Not only did the great Ian McKellen play him, but he was also played by the brilliant Michael Fassbender.  Both actors brought new ideas to Magneto, which has made the character endure through all of these years.

03.) The tone is perfect

For the most part, the franchise is dead serious, but every once in a while they slip in a joke.  The best of the X-Men series has been a breath of fresh air because most superhero films now are more about making jokes than telling a thought-out story.

02.) It has a purpose

When “X-Men” first started in the comics, the idea was based on the African American movement with Malcom X (Magneto) and Martin Luther King Jr. (Professor X).  In 2000, Bryan Singer used these characters to talk about a new topic—homosexuality.  The franchise started with a fresh take.  As a result, this is one of the few superhero franchises that has brought relatable topics to the mainstream audience.

01.) The reboot was a success

First Class was amazing!  This scene explains it all.

Will Apocalypse X out the X-Men Movies?

By:

Matthew J.R. Kohler

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The X-Men franchise has had its ups and downs.  One of its major downs is that for some time the movies haven’t quite hit the mark with the mainstream audience.  “X-Men” is one of Marvel’s most prolific comic book series, featuring some of the most popular characters in the Marvel universe.  So why is that not reflecting in the box office anymore?

Back in 2000, the first live-action X-Men movie was released, and it was a smash hit with critics and at the box office.  This film told not only the fans, but also the mainstream (and, of course, Hollywood) that superhero movies were here to stay (for a long time).  X-Men and its sequel, X2, (along with competitors Spider-Man 1 and 2) comprised a major breakthrough in the superhero genre.  These films captivated the comic book lovers by staying true to the source material, while also appealing to the everyday person.  The first X-Men movie started the ball rolling, and X2 (again, with help from the first two Spider-Man movies) made that ball score some serious cash for Hollywood.  In other words, X-Men was a viable franchise.  Then came the letdown.

X-Men: The Last Stand might be more than a title, it might actually be Fox saying, “Hey, this is the last time these characters will be relevant.”  It was bad enough that Bryan Singer (who directed the first two) did not direct this, but Fox really stuck it to the fans by hiring Brett Ratner as Singer’s replacement.  You know him, right?  He’s the guy who freely admitted to knowing nothing about X-Men.  Not surprisingly, The Last Stand was a disappointingly bad film.  At that time, I had never seen so many mistakes from a comic book film in my life.  The biggest reason it is a letdown is for its lazy treatment of the source material, “The Dark Phoenix Saga”.  This was a heinous crime.

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Despite the trilogy (miserably) ending, Fox was intent on punishing us for giving us two great X-Men movies by also giving us X-Men Origins: Wolverine.  The movie is, of course, about Wolverine, but who asked for this?  The first three movies dealt with Wolverine’s past and present problems.  I guess the main draw of Origins is that you get to actually see it, because Fox believed that the fans’ imagination is as blank as theirs.  The movie looked like it had a budget that was half that of the first two X-Men movies, as evidenced by the infamous CG Wolverine claws, and pretty much every special effect looking like it got lost on its way to a PS2 game.

All momentum for X-Men was stifled thanks to two horrendous films, and it never came back.  After taking a couple years off from killing their fan base, Fox decided to reground the series.  Thus, we were given First Class.  It is an excellent film, and might be my favorite of the entire series.  But for how great this film was, sadly the box office didn’t reflect that.  The movie made as much as Last Stand’s opening weekend.  After two horrid films, was it any wonder to Fox that not enough people were interested in the franchise anymore?  Alas, First Class was the start of bringing the fans back.  So, the next logical step was to…erase The Last Stand?

We all know Last Stand sucks, but until I saw Days of Future Past, I had never seen a film that has the sole purpose of erasing a past film.  Watching DOFP was like watching another prequel from George Lucas, whose intent was to erase the bad moments of the prequel trilogy.  Say what you will about Lucas, but at least he knows they suck and is willing to admit it.  Fox just said, “Please don’t buy the third one” and treated DOFP as the third one instead.  Well, I guess that worked, but we really didn’t need it to.  In a lot of fans’ minds, First Class was a fresh start that didn’t need any of the original cast in a sequel.  In Fox’s mind, though, Wolverine needed to be a part of it.  Otherwise, it wouldn’t make money, because obviously his absence (save for a 5-second cameo) was the reason First Class failed, and his major presence is what made Last Stand and Wolverine such monumental successes.  Days of Future Past was the first X-Men movie to receive a mixed response.  A lot of people believed it to be a great film, but a lot of others, who were expecting to see the old and new X-Men unite, felt let down that it was just another Wolverine movie.  One thing is for sure, though: the buzz didn’t reach the heights of the first two, nor did it innovate anything.

Flash forward to present day.  Like Last Stand, the title X-Men: Apocalypse can be taken to mean the end of the franchise.  If not, then the box office numbers for it sure do.  Last Stand and Wolverine butchered this once-great franchise, and as long as each new movie affiliates with those, nobody will care.

Ahhh…good times.

Don’t Believe the Hype – Issue Six Assassin’s Creed Trailer

By:

Matthew J.R. Kohler

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Over the last twenty years, Hollywood has tried to crack the code for successfully adapting video games to film.  Their latest attempt is called Assassin’s Creed, starring Michael Fassbender.  Once again, this is a disaster waiting to happen onscreen.

When the popularity of video games exploded in the 90s, movies were coming out left and right.  Now, are any of these movies good?  In this era, favorites such as Super Mario Bros, Street Fighter, and Mortal Kombat: Annihilation killed any Hollywood desire to make movies based off of video games, for a few years anyway.  But there is one film from that era that came close to cracking the code.  In fact, it is the closest we have ever seen—Mortal Kombat.

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Not even close.

No, Mortal Kombat is not good in terms of quality, but it IS fun.  Not only were the action scenes enjoyable, but also the music added a new (and memorable) layer to the characters.  Aside from “Get over here!”, the Mortal Kombat theme song has become the most popular part of the movie.  Mortal Kombat gave hope to us all that video game adaptations could be at least entertaining, and, of course, make a lot of money to guarantee more of such movies.  Granted, a lot of its financial success was due to timing.

In the mid 90s, the “Mortal Kombat” franchise was at its peak.  Many other video game films, such as Street Fighter and Prince of Persia, failed mainly because they came out long after their respective franchises left the spotlight (and because they were not good films).  Sadly, even though Mortal Kombat succeeded at the box office, Hollywood could not build on the momentum.  Now, let’s jump back to present day, with “Assassin’s Creed”.

Pictured: franchises NOT at their peaks

It is one of the biggest games of the last ten years.  Ever since “Assassin’s Creed II”, the games have received mainstream success.  But, after that game, the momentum went downhill.  The Assassin’s Creed movie could still be a huge success, but I think Hollywood waited too long after the franchise’s peak to make it.  By comparison, the second “Mortal Kombat” game came out at the same time as the first Mortal Kombat movie.

Most people have complained about everything with the present era of “Assassin’s Creed”.  In this game, you are a character who is related to past assassins.  You have to be “plugged in” to become whichever past character is necessary for a certain mission.  These scenes were atrocious, and I continued to despise these scenes after every ensuing game.  Once again, we will have to watch scenes just like that in the upcoming movie.

So can Assassin’s Creed be an excellent film?  In light of recent history of the franchise and video game adaptations, I say no.  Example: the new Ratchet and Clank film, I bet nobody even knew this happened.  It came out less than a month ago and did nothing at the box office.  It was intended for families—but THEY didn’t go see it!  This summer, Angry Birds and Warcraft will hit theaters.  If they flop, don’t ignore that as signs that Assassin’s Creed will too.

14045_poster2.jpgFinally!  The future of video game movies is here!

Action Review: Eye in the Sky

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by: Matthew J.R. Kohler

Eye in the Sky is not your normal action film.  To be honest, I don’t know if it even is an action film.  However, it has traits that a good action film should have.  This weekend, I got to watch Alan Rickman’s last major role, and I was not disappointed.

The movie doesn’t take long to set up.  The main three characters, played by Helen Mirren, Aaron Paul, and Alan Rickman, are introduced and are defined within ten minutes.  It also helps that the movie is only 100 minutes.  Shorter running times often force the film to move straight into the conflict, rather than adding scenes that aren’t needed.

It has been a while since I have seen a small movie.  What I mean by a small movie is that the scope of the movie only focuses on a small group of people in a specific, limited situation. It’s about a certain select people who are in danger, not the fate of the world.  Overall, the conflict hinges on a little girl who is playing next to a house. There are armed suicide bombers are in the house, and her proximity to the house means she would die if an airborne drone were to strike at the terrorists. Who knew a movie can cut so deeply over a small problem? That’s what makes this movie intense.  Not only can every human understand what the problem is, but you follow the little girl throughout the movie.  This helps the conflict build as she becomes someone you want to see survive.  How many times do you watch an action movie and feel emotional by the end?  Not many.

In Eye in the Sky, the character’s personalities are shown through their decision making.  Alan Rickman and Helen Mirren are strong leaders who will do whatever it takes to get the job done.  Aaron Paul is a new pilot whose never experienced war, but follows orders. The rest of the government officials have most likely never experienced battle.

Helen Mirren, who has worked on the case surrounding these terrorists for six years, is fixated on getting the job done.  Not only does she know what is at stake (the little girl’s life and the repercussions of the missile fire), but also she has a task to do, and she wants to prevent as many casualties as possible.  I could never accomplish what Helen’s character did.  But, I can see her point of view.  In her mind it’s either one girl’s death (followed swiftly by a PR nightmare), or potentially watching eighty people get killed as a result of her failure to strike at the terrorists.  On the other hand, the little girl has a face.

Giving the collateral damage a face makes the story more powerful. For example, in Star Wars, the audience cares a lot about Alderaan when it gets destroyed by the Death Star because we have seen and gotten to know Princess Leia, and understand how much her home means to her.  Contrast this with the destruction of the Hosnian system in The Force Awakens. Because we know so little about those affected by the disaster (or might have missed the system’s name even mentioned), as an audience, our ability to sympathize is significantly lessened.  Besides giving the girl a face, how the filmmakers showed her character, as a peaceful child who respected her elders and worked hard, was very effective. She was also innocent to the events happening above her.

As the film progresses, the stakes are continually increased.  At first, the mission was one of capture, and suddenly it became shoot to kill.  At this point, the situation gets more serious.  The stakes do rise, and they make sense for the film.  The opening scene sets up the little girl in the story too, so that the audience isn’t shocked that she is part of the conflict in the movie.

The final twenty minutes is gripping, but also ends it the best way possible.  In the end, you leave with a lot of questions.  Personally, I knew I could never do what these people do, but also realize that nobody should have to make those choices.  But in this movie, the ending wisely keeps it clean.  Yes, it is a serious topic, but it is tamed.  What also helped me enjoy this movie was that it didn’t beat me over the head constantly with its point.  Eye in the Sky is a great film; and in a world of huge blockbusters, it proves that less can be more .  The story delivers from beginning to end.  It is not the greatest movie of all time, but never tries to be.

Rating: 9/10

+ The entire cast

+ Pacing of the film

+ Build up to the main conflict

+ Gives a lot to question after viewing

+ Ending is great

– Wish the end had a little more impact

 

Don’t Believe the Hype! – The World of Warcraft Movie

by: Matthew J.R. Kohler

Sometimes a trailer does not indicate the quality of a movie, but other times you just know when you’ve seen the trailer that the movie just isn’t going to be good.  Such is the case with the upcoming Warcraft.  “World of Warcraft” is one of the biggest games ever, and its developer, Blizzard, is one of the biggest names in gaming.  I’ve talked to several peers about the upcoming film adaptation. They told me the film would look sweet if it were done in the same style as the cinematic cut scenes from the game.  If you’ve never seen one, then pause for a moment and watch.  The cut scenes are amazing!  They’re also animated.  The trailer, of course, clearly shows live action footage.  Well, barely.  We actually see the classic mishmash of garish CGI and badly colored live-action footage.  This movie looks exceptionally bad, so I decided to make a complaint/remind you that this movie is happening.

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When The Hobbit films came out, people were furious that the movie was mainly CGI.  Why were they mad?  Not only were The Lord of the Rings films made with mostly practical effects, but also because the filmmakers meshed the practical and digital effects together seamlessly.  Despite the backlash, the filmmakers of Warcraft decided to go for The Hobbit look.  Why?  Don’t you want more people to go see your movie?  In the trailer, there are cuts from CG orcs to actual actors.It’s very jarring because of how different the live-action footage looks when compared to the CGI.  These type of shots are the worst shots because most of the CGI looks like a dang PS2 cut scene!  If you want the movie to be dominated by CGI, why don’t you just make an animated film instead?

Because nothing was real in The Hobbit, none of the action scenes were cool, or could ever be believable.  You also never get magical moments in those films.  Many of the actors spilled blood when filming The Lord of the Rings trilogy, and it shows.  The only thing that was spilled in The Hobbit was the tears of Ian McKellan, who was so sick and tired of standing in a studio, in front of a green screen, saying lines to people who weren’t there.

And don’t even get me started on the lighting!  Well, actually, I’ll discuss it, because it’s important.  When everything in a movie is dark (in both lighting and color), that is a sign that the filmmakers are trying to hide their substandard CGI.  Just look at how most movies with terrible animation look dark.  Sadly, the attempt to mask it usually fails.  Look back at Harry Potter 5.  I remember watching it in theatres and laughing out loud when they showed the giant.  That was nine years ago, and today the same strategy is being used.  No longer can they be out in the sunlight thanks to us making fun of the fight scenes of The Matrix Reloaded.  Now, everything is dark!

So, should you care?  No. The trailers don’t make me want to view this movie at all.  But, some good could come from this movie.  It could be such a colossal failure that we’ll stop getting video game adaptations once and for all.

Choreography 101: Flips Hurt the Fight

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by: Matthew J.R. Kohler

I don’t know when this trend started, but every movie now has characters who know Parkour.  As Captain America and the Transformers have demonstrated, somehow Parkour is very easy to learn.  It CAN be used effectively, and I’m here to tell everyone how to use this dangerous tool.

People doing aerials: I’m all for that.  Over the last year, I’ve been learning more acrobatics to increase my falling dynamic.  But, sometimes Parkour is used so much that it stops becoming special.  When you give away the kitchen sink in the first scene, the character’s maneuvers become less special.  A good example is Captain America in The Winter Soldier.  We see what he is capable in the first ten minutes of the fight, so there are no surprises in the rest of the film.  Every time I watch Police Story 2, I’m blown away by the showdown in the park.  Jackie Chan is fast, but this might be some of his fastest choreography.  When Chan uses the pipe, he is quick.  I would have loved to see more diversity instead of the occasional flip.  If you want to talk about realistic, then let’s discuss Parkour’s biggest problem.

            -Watch closely, these are TRAINED warriors

How many times have you seen someone flip, and their opponent just watches them?  Why doesn’t the opponent just kick the flipper in the face?  It’s such a boneheaded choreography mistake that upsets me not only as a martial artist, but also as an action fan.  I want to be in the universe, but if you keep having choreography errors where one just watches the other guy do something cool, then I’m going to lose interest.  “Daredevil” the show is guilty of what I just described.  The fight scene between Nobu the ninja and Daredevil was a fight between two great martial artists.  Yet the fight suffers at the hands of Parkour.  Several times Daredevil throws a corkscrew kick or a “high risk” move, and the NINJA just stands and takes it.  Now, I know if you can get the move off then the speed of the flip is fast, but the ninja’s reflexes should be too.  It would have been great to see Daredevil paying for doing these childish moves on him.  Instead, they both do childish moves!

Flipping makes no sense when someone is critically injured.  Unless you are a superhuman, “Daredevil” the show is about an ordinary human (with insane athleticism).  So how is a man, whose body is downright shredded, able to still do kip ups and handsprings?  He is bleeding a lot, AND he is injured in vital areas, which should prevent him from moving that way.  In the final fight of Romeo Must Die, Jet Li’s fists are burnt.  Then, the villain peels flesh from his hands.  Li is not able to use his hands for most the fight, and he has to protect his hands.  This told a story.  Daredevil didn’t do any of that.  The fight scene could have showed Daredevil understanding that his battles have to be shorter.  Otherwise, his injuries will catch up to him one day.

The concept of involving gymnastics in a fight scene is exciting.  Jackie Chan used them for falls and Tony Jaa used them to showcase his skills.  Which one is right?  Both are; they just have to be used in the right way.  I think fight scenes fall flat when they try to be flashy.  When you are just showing moves on the screen that don’t mean anything and do not advance the story, then this is how you lose your audience.

 

Don’t Believe the Hype! – The Civil War Trailer

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by: Matthew J.R. Kohler

Well, Marvel had been teasing that Spider-Man would be in the new Civil War trailer, and you know what?  It happened!  That’s right, everyone: we finally saw a glimpse at the third iteration of Spider-Man within nine years.  But, honestly, who cares?  Here’s why you shouldn’t.

Spider-Man is one of the most popular characters in the Marvel universe. However, in the films, the only story that he really has is “Do I stay Spider-Man or not?”.  We have had five films, and all of follow this same question.  The only legit Spider-Man story is “Kraven’s Last Hunt”, about the black-suited Spider-Man, which was tarnished by the lackluster Spider-Man 3. Spider-Man is a classic character, and he did have an interesting and prominent role in the “Civil War” comic book.  In this upcoming movie, though, Marvel has already said that Black Panther would fill this role.  Whatever Spider-Man’s role is in this film does not seem essential, seeing as how this is Captain America’s movie, and Spider-Man’s getting his own solo film next year.  So, from a story standpoint, what’s the point of including him?

Financially, we all know the point of including Spider-Man.  In the trailer, we see him grab Cap’s shield and say a canned line.  That is sure to draw fans of Spider-Man into the theater, but  the point remains that trailers nowadays should be less about gimmicks and action, and more about content.  With how much money Hollywood is pumping into movies now, there is no way the action or costumes shouldn’t look professional, nor should it be surprising that a certain character owned by a separate company is appearing in a Marvel movie, so let’s just get over it!  Story is the missing piece in most things now, and it is something that can’t be purchased the same way that a visual effect or costume can be.  The proof that this film is just another cash grab is illustrated by how this movie is straight-up ripping off the Civil War comic, and relying on every superhero and his brother to bring home the bacon.

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            -Why are they posing like models?

How many heartless movies have you watched that have budgets of over $100 million?  There are the Transformers series, G.I. Joe series, the new TMNT series, Iron Man 2 and 3, Thor 1 and 2, Captain America 1, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Amazing Spider-Man 1 and 2, Ant-Man, Spider-Man 3, X-Men: The Last Stand, Wolverine 1 and 2, X-Men: Days of Future Past, The Dark Knight Rises, Man of Steel, Green Lantern, Fantastic Four 1, 2, and the reboot, Ghost Rider 1 and 2, all of the Punisher movies, and Daredevil.  A couple of these movies some could consider fine, but most are terrible.  Notice that the last three Spider-Man movies were part of that list.  That means the last time Spider-Man was cool in a movie was twelve years ago.  Back then, Hollywood had less control over the content of superhero films, because it was a new, largely unproven, idea.  But, as the films became more profitable, that all changed.  Spider-Man 3 and Amazing Spider-Man 2 were less about the titular character and more about the villains; and Amazing Spider-Man was a product of Hollywood’s insistence on rehashing the original Spider-Man—the top-grossing movie of the franchise.  True fans of Captain America, perhaps the most popular character in the Marvel universe next to Spider-Man and Wolverine, have not been happy with his less-than-accurate films courtesy of Marvel.  I don’t even like the Thor character, but I was still amazed by how awful his character has been handled by Marvel.  That said, if you are a true fan of Spider-Man, then you should be scared that he’s in Marvel’s hands.

As I mentioned, there are too many characters in this movie.  So, how much screen time is Spider-Man really going to have?  Not a lot.  Again, what’s the point of him being in it?  Why should we care?

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Now, go buy “Kraven’s Last Hunt” and read it.