X-MEN:APOCALYPSE – mutants showdown!

It’s here! The long-waited final part of the X-Men trilogy made up by X-Men: First Class and X-Men: Days Of Future Past is out in the cinemas all around the world. What will the fans think about this last Marvel blockbuster?

 

The movie is directed by Bryan Singer and welcomes back on the screen not only the most famous of our beloved mutants like Professor X (James McAvoy), Magneto (Michael Fassbenger), Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) and Beast (Nicholas Hoult), but also “new” characters like the incredibly powerful Psylocke (Olivia Munn) and Archangel (Ben Hardy). Mostly we see new versions of a lot of gifted youngsters we already know and love: young Jean Grey (Sophie Turner), Scott Summers (Tye Sheridan), Storm (Alexandra Shipp), Nightcrawler (Kodi Smith-McPhee and many more!

 

First things first… When are we?

 

The X-Men are a Marvel creation and they comprehend an incredible amount of different characters. It’s hardly surprising that even the amount of movies about them is pretty impressive – we have now a total of nine, if we count the recent Deadpool (2016). As it often happens with such huge series of films, the timeline has gotten slightly… confusing. Not only the movies are divided in three sets of trilogies that have some incongruences between them, but all those who have seen the previous movies know that time travel is involved.

So when is the story of Apocalypse set? We can pretty much say by now that everything that has happened in the original trilogy (X-Men, X-Men 2 and X-Men: The Last Stand) has… not actually happened any longer. While X-Men Origins: Wolverine could still be valid, we have some doubts with The Wolverine, but what’s for sure is that Apocalypse follows up on the actions of X-Men: Days of Future Past, which is the sequel of X-Men: First Class. Since Days of Future Past is the movie with time travel, we start from the future, get back to the past to change events, and then at the end of the movie get a glimpse of a new future. Now with Apocalypse we explore the part of the past from where the events have been changed forever and discover what our dear characters are making with their second chance. So in the end… the ’80s are back!

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When someone calls himself Apocalypse you know things are about to get messy…

 

The story of the movie starts with the discovery of a God-like mutant who seems to be the first mutant in the history of the world – and of course he wants this fact to be well known to everyone, because after taking a forced nap lasted a couple millennia, the guy has really strong ideas about how the world should work and he has the means to make it work his way. While the first part of the plot is a bit slow and full drama (the amount of money the world will have to pay to rebuild everything after Apocalypse’s stunt is unprecedented, but I’m going to say that that same amount of money spent in therapy for Magneto would not fix all the guy’s problems at this point), the second half of the story if full of action. Our “good” mutants have to try to save the world… With some unexpected allies and a lot of twists!

We get to see new sides of people we thought we knew – considering the really high number of important characters, the roles are really well managed. Everyone’s presence turns out to be pretty important and the mutants’ special abilities are incredibly well played. We can’t complain about the special effects either – the fights are not boring in the slightest.

The movie can be said to not have been disappointing – although I must admit to have been expecting something a bit different. Considering the way Singer had directed Days of Future Past, I assumed this movie would also be of a similar kind – action based – but I have to say it was slightly surprising. There sure were a lot of common aspects, but emotions and love stories played a bigger role than expected. Hard to say if this was a good or bad thing!

 

Stellar Cast

 

It’s really hard to find someone to complain about in the cast – not only because most of the actors have already acted as their characters a few times, but because their chemistry is so obviously solid they’re always a joy to see. We have been shown in interviews and bloopers that all the main cast is at this point very friendly and close – and that sure comes through the screen! The younger and brand new part of the cast seems to have adapted pretty well too – now I can’t wait to see those behind the scenes, considering the X-Men cast is famous to play pranks on each other normally… add a bunch of kids to the mix… what could they possibly have been up to?

A special shout out goes to Michael Fassbender’s emotional scenes and Jennifer Lawrence’ acting – her character has a huge part in the movie and she portrays her fierceness and insecurities perfectly.

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4.5/5 Recommended

 

 

 

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THE DRESSMAKER – You can’t hide from style… and revenge

The Dressmaker  is a 2015 drama directed by Jocelyn Moorhouse, starring beautiful and talented Kate Winslet (widely known for Titanic, Revolutionary Road, Finding Neverland and many more) and young Liam Hemsworth (The Hunger Games, The Last Song), as well as Hugo Weaving, great Judy Davis and Sarah Snook. The story is based on the homonymous novel by Rosalie Ham.

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What to expect from a middle-of-nowhere Australian town in the ‘50s

The plot of the movie sees Mirtle “Tilly” Dunnage (Kate Winslet), who is a strong woman previously sent away from her birth town for unclear reasons, making an epic return to Dungatar, in rural Australia. It’s clear from the start the far-fetched local population does not like her in the least, going as far as judging her to be “cursed”. Even her mother “Mad Molly” Dunnage (Judy Davis), who is also not one of the city’s most popular presences, seems to be at odds with Tilly.

What’s for sure is that we have at least one person who really does not seem to care in the least for the rumours about our protagonist: the exception is made by Teddy McSwiney (Liam Hemsworth), who is swept right off his feet by the unusual presence of Tilly, so different from the rest of the girls in Dungatar. Her unfortunate forced banishment at a young age, while being traumatic for herself and her mother, has given Tilly the chance to travel and make incredible experiences in a world she loves dearly: fashion.

Now that she’s back in town, her sophisticated and unique style causes a bit of a ruckus among the local women, who are ready to run over each other to get a taste of real class. Tilly seems to have the power to transform common and plain girls into works of art, bursting with self-confidence. The change is quite heady for some of them. Even so, most of the townspeople still don’t like the Dunnage women, and are more than ready to come up with a range of solutions to run a dent into Tilly’s new popularity and career… But our stylist is not one who’ll just bend her head in defeat, rather she seems to be ready to finally discover whether she is deserving of the hatred of her town and get revenge for all the wrongdoings she had to go through.

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The good and the bad

Let’s start with the positive aspects: the actors are talented and the chemistry among them is sound. I especially appreciated the emotional mother-daughter bond portrayed by Winslet and Davis, which changes drastically during the story in a bizarre but realistic way. It’s not the usual close parental relationship, and we like it because of this. The romantic relationship between Tilly and Teddy also gives us some chills – both because they make for an extremely attractive couple and because of the peculiar personalities of the two.

Another interesting character can be found in Sergeant Farrat (Hugo Weaving), who is very hard to dislike and gifts us with a couple chuckles during the story. The whole cast is generally talented and relies beautifully the unusual characters of the plot, that for some reason or another all have their own quirkiness or are downright clinically insane.

A special point should be made for the settings and the talent displayed by whoever worked with cameras and photography – the ambience was dramatic (the whole movie was actually shot in Australia), the scenery peculiar and perfectly suited for the plot. Great shots and angles. Even the soundtrack was on point (composed by David Hirschfelder).

So what critics can we make against this movie? Well, it sure isn’t a life-changing story, but we have to admit that it’s not like they tried to sell it to us as one. It’s a relatively light drama, with quite a few dark moments mixed with hilarious and unrealistic scenes, ideal for a nice night out when you don’t feel like putting too much effort in following a complicated narrative. A couple downsides I have to point out are the mysterious disappearances of a couple characters, whose fate remains unknown to us at the end of the film, leaving me slightly disappointed and perplexed. But all in all, the story is good and enjoyable, not to say that if you appreciate fashion the way I do… that alone should be a huge point in favour of seeing this movie. The seductiveness of the clothes, even if in a completely different style, almost rivals the one of the great The Devil Wars Prada. The elegance and quality of the costumes might be one of the selling points of the film – my most sincere congrats to all the costume designers.

 

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Final foughts

If you want to see a light-hearted but still dramatic, unusual movie for a relaxing night alone or in company, The Dressmaker sure is worthy of being taken into consideration. It will make you laugh, it will make you sad, it will show you a way of life completely different from what you’re used to, thanks to the arrangement of portrayals of unique characters in a strange story. Give it a try – you won’t be disappointed.

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3.5/5 – Recommended

 

 

 

CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR – FLOP OR JAW DROP?

It’s finally coming out the highly anticipated new instalment of the MCU (Marvel Cinematographic Universe), Captain America: Civil War. After a fierce advertising campaign based mostly on the iconic question #TeamCap or #TeamIronMan, has the blockbuster managed to satisfy the most dedicated fans from all over the world?

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What are we fighting for?

As most people probably already know, or at least have a vague and general idea of, the new (and last!) film that sees our beloved Captain America aka Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) as the main character takes some distance from the classic plot of superhero movies. This because, as highlighted by the title itself, the film is not about the usual fight against the super villain of choice, but rather the central focus of the story are internal problems among our dear heroes.

The main issue is a difference of opinion about how to run the Avengers – if on one side team Cap, made up by Falcon/Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie), Ant-Man/Scott Lang (Paul Rudd), Hawkeye/Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner), Scarlet Witch/Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) and the added bonus of the Winter Soldier/Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan), has lost all faith in governments and wants to self-handle the squad, on the other side we have team Iron Man/Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr), with Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson), War Machine/James “Rhodey” Rhodes (Don Cheadle), Vision (Paul Bettany), Spider Man/Peter Parker (Tom Holland) and Black Panther/T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman), who fear that being left completely to their own devices without any kind of external supervision does not make them better than the bad guys. Part of the world sees them as heroes, but some see them as dangerous vigilantes. The United Nations are more than ready to take matters into their own hands. What team are you on?

If there’s still a tiny chance to find a compromise at this point, some misunderstandings and unforeseen happenings destroy any left possibility. The battle seems to be unavoidable. And you know what they say… “United we stand, divided we fall!

ALERT: READ AT YOUR OWN RISK. THE FOLLOWING SECTION CONTAINS SPOILERS AND DISCUSSES THE MOVIE IN DETAIL.

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What do our heroes stand for?

Political matters aside, most of the characters in the movie have their own personal reasons and secret agendas that lead them towards one team or the other. Let’s start with order: Captain America. It’s true that thanks to the whole Hydra debacle he has lost his trust for S.H.I.E.L.D. and consequently basically every kind of powerful human association. It’s also true that he has his own private motivations for not wanting to abide to the Sokovia Accords (the laws that the United Nations want to pass to control the Avengers) – read as: one world-wide wanted ex-assassin slash former best friend, Bucky Barnes. Our dear Winter Soldier is trying to quit his forced career but the governments aren’t his number one fans and obviously want him secured and interrogated. Naturally though, Steve is still his best pal and his unwavering loyalty won’t let him turn his back towards Bucky. Falcon is (slightly annoyed but) ready to help Cap.

What about Tony? We can all admit that he has fucked up a couple of times, sure, but everyone seems to be determined to put all the blame on him. By now we know the poor guy does not deal well with guilt (he did give up the safest road to richness when he realized what his weapons did and is always doing his best to fix whatever mess he makes) and anxiety (bless Marvel for making a realistic hero who has panic attacks after almost dying a bazillion of times and fighting scary aliens and basically feeling the weight of the whole world on his shoulders). Tony does not want to be blamed for something else, for not being able to save everyone, and he’d rightly feel more serene under someone else’s direction – even though we also know that he’s not the most obedient fella and does not take that kindly to orders (especially ones he deems stupid and imparted by less intelligent people which, let’s be real, practically means 99.9% of the population by his standards).

Black Widow has a similar vision – she can’t handle any more guilt. Our baby Spider Man gets recruited a bit out of the blue, mostly out of necessity of finding some sort of balance between the two teams, but Peter seems to be convinced he’s on the right part of the confrontation. Rhodey not only is Tony’s best bud, but being an important and expert military man surely makes his loyalties clear – he’ll stick with the government. He’s not the kind of guy to believe his own ideas are more valid than those of the ones he has always fought for. Vision is slightly trickier – we don’t know that much about the movie version of this character yet, but we can see now that he seems to be a bit scared of his own abilities and he does not want to be seen as a monster due to his incredible powers. He is ready to respect the rules of the world he lives in, whether or not he agrees with all the humans’ decisions. Black Panther has his own agenda for most of the movie – long story short, he believes the Winter Soldier has killed his father (the King of Wakanda) at the bombing that occurs at the UN reunion to pass the Sokovia Accords, and basically just wants to avenge his beloved dad. Since the latter was a promoter of the Accords and his premature death has made him the new King, he also shares the ideals of team Iron Man.

Ant-Man is a bit the Spider Man of team Cap – he gets called to help, and we have to admit that his appearance turns out to make a… huge difference, which was not expected at all (what with him being usually the size of a flea). Seeing Hawkeye fighting Black Widow is all kinds of wrong, but our dear Clint gets back from the shortest retirement in the history of the world and shares Captain America’s ideas. Maybe after his stint as Loki’s puppet he’s still unwilling to stay on anyone else’s leash? S.H.I.E.L.D. sure has disappointed him as well. Wanda makes a bit of a mess in the beginning of the movie, causing the deaths of some innocent people to save Steve, and her powers are seen as truly scary by many. While Captain America acts very protectively towards her, Tony is more diplomatic and agrees that it’s better to keep her under confinement (in the Avengers headquarters) until the waters settle. This surely does not make Wanda the biggest fan of the last mentioned Avenger, as she wants to roam freely and doesn’t think other people should be afraid of her (do I spy a bit of her daddy’s attitude here?).

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Basically the whole thing is a mess. The battle happens, but thankfully no one seriously wants to injure anyone else. Seeing our heroes fight among themselves is sad, but what’s even worse is the showdown towards the end of the movie. Thanks (but not really) to the secret vindictive mission of Colonel Helmut Zemo (Daniel Bruhl), a former Sokovian soldier who has lost all his family during the shitshow of Avengers 2, there is a perfectly orchestrated meeting in a Siberian Hydra facility with Steve, Bucky and Tony. Zemo does not want to fight the three himself, but rather we discover that the civil war of our superheroes was his plan all along – and he gives the final push by revealing that (as we had already had hints of) Bucky, when he was brainwashed as the Winter Soldier, is the one who killed Tony’s parents to steal a serum to build more super soldiers like himself. What’s worse? Cap knew. Tony feels crushingly betrayed. A terrible fight ensues, and we can say that no one really wins, but everyone comes out of it shaken and hurt. Even if the end of the movie gives us hope for the friendship between all the Avengers, it’s hard to believe that there won’t be any scars left behind by this disastrous matter.

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Marvelous or disastrous?

Plot aside, what can we say about how the movie was handled? The sheer number of important characters involved made for a high risk of not being able to handle all of them well, of not being able to give everyone enough space. Sure, some of them only have minor parts, but their presences still had to be justified and make sense. Did the Russo brothers (the directors of the movie) manage to do their job right?

Of course Captain America and Iron Man were handled just fine – their roles in the movie were clear throughout the whole story. Bucky also played a big part in the plot, and while his actions were more rightfully mysterious his characters was also well handled. The fight scene between the three of them was exceptionally carried out – we could clearly see Tony’s anger towards Bucky, Steve’s need to protect his childhood friend mixed with his reluctance to actually hurt Tony, and Bucky’s obvious determination to protect himself while at the same time his desire to stop being a murderer. The battle was both thrilling and emotional, full of purposeful moves strategically aimed more towards rendering each other harmless than actually inflicting any lasting damage.

Black Widow enters the scene with the same fierceness one can expect by a goddess warrior – while everyone else either has some kind of power or abnormal invulnerability, or at the very least a badass armor, she waltzes in casually dressed and single-handedly throttles a bunch of fully armed guys twice her size. It makes me scared to think what she could do with actual superpowers. Her role is also pretty important, influencing many other characters throughout the course of the story.

Sam’s contribution is slightly disappointing – sure he helps a lot during the battle scenes, but some of us would like to hear more of what he has to say. His dislike towards Bucky is pretty hilarious (and possibly mutual). Falcon’s fight moves are as awesome as ever.

Rhodey is Sam’s counterpart, the loyal friend who’s more than ready to help Tony, but does not really contribute to the actual story in any other way than in the fight scenes. The poor guy is also the one who gets out of the battle more seriously injured – hopefully having Tony Stark as his best bud will help him get a full recovery.

Scott, Clint and Wanda are a bit more marginal. Scott in particular is only present for the main battle and his motivations are unclear – does he have any good reasons to agree with team Cap or is he just there to make up for messing with Falcon in his own movie? Clint’s own reasons are a bit muddy as well – he’s sure also there to protect Wanda (his tenderness towards the Maximoff twins continues to be heartbreakingly sweet), who has a slightly bigger role but does not tell us as much as we’d like to know. We can at least see the beginning of a (romantic?) bond between her and Vision, who keeps being a bit of an enigmatic character. But we must admit that the enigmatic feature seems to be wanted, as he himself claims not to know his full capabilities and is particularly unsure about the Mind Stone he was endowed with in Avengers 2.

T’Challa is a completely new and fascinating character. We still don’t know much about him, but he clearly has strong ideals and is highly loyal to his country and his kingly duties. His fighting style is, of course, as smooth and graceful as expected from a great feline, and his armor made out of vibranium mesh surely helps making him even deadlier.

Peter’s recruitment scene is highly hilarious and while we can see in the fight that he can handle himself just fine, Tony clearly has at the forefront of his mind the whole time that the kid is just basically this – a kid, still inexpert and fighting his first serious battle. Iron Man gives him some helpful gadgets as well as a professional suit but he still makes sure to check on him the most. Spider Man’s role is minor but, as we get clearly told in the last post-credit scene, we’ll soon see more of the little guy.

Even if she’s exactly a part of the teams (not being an actual Avenger), Emily VanCamp also deserves a mention for starring as Agent 13/Sharon Carter, the beautiful and talented CIA agent, nephew of the late Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell), whose funeral is shown in this movie. Sharon had already shown sympathy towards Steve, and in this movie we catch clear glimpses of a possible romantic relationship between the two of them (Cap’s best pals seem to approve of this, too!). What’s up with you and these Carter girls, Steve?

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Recommended?

In the end – should you see this movie? Hell yeah. Good plot, great characters, awesome fight scenes and no complaints whatsoever about special effects and soundtrack. This new MCU instalment more than upholds the great Marvel’s standards, going as far as becoming a favourite. You will not be disappointed.

4.8/5 – Highly Recommended