Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Movie Review: Big Hero 6

One of the fun things about watching TV shows and cartoons from Japan is to see their unique take on Western culture. They are experts in taking very common Western ideas such as superheroes, Christianity, and science fiction and giving them an incredibly fresh and fun spin. While Big Hero 6 is an American production, it is based on an idea by Man of Action (creators of Ben 10) who have a healthy dose of Japanese influence in their work.

Big Hero 6 is a computer-generated, action, adventure, comedy, science fiction, family film produced by Walt Disney Animation inspired by an obscure Marvel Comic created by Man of Action. It is rated PG and is appropriate for all ages.

The Good

Approach. Superheroes are big, and so you see a lot of people jumping on that bandwagon. Unfortunately, most of those attempts end up little more than love letters to the Silver Age of comics or a bad pastiche of the 1966 Adam West Batman (such as the Disney Pixar film The Incredibles). Big Hero 6 avoids the overused cliches and goes the route of a Japanese reimagining of superheroes like the anime Tiger & Bunny or Science Team Gatchaman. While it isn't the most original idea, it is a refreshing change with many more possibilities. The characters have new powers such as the magnetic discs, laser blades, a medical droid, and a fire breathing mascot suit instead of the usual stretching, flying, super strong, and freezing powers.

Production Design. The designers cleverly merged Tokyo with San Francisco creating a new world called San Fransokyo with the best of both worlds seamlessly combined into a world that is both familiar and fantastical. And the robot designs were a nice change from the usual mecha or homage to the 30s and 40s. The visuals were probably the strongest aspect of the film.

Characters. While the characters begin as usual cardboard stereotypes that regularly appear in this type of show (a White kid, a Black kid, an Asian girl, a mexican girl, a super capable protagonist who is living below his potential, a silly girl, and an angry girl who can fight). Fortunately they leave their "types" behind and become much more likable and unique. While none of them are groundbreaking in their characterizations, they stay far enough away from stereotype representations of their respective cultures and instead act like a group of normal friends would.

Action. The action was fun and really good for a family film. The super powers were ones we don't see often, and the robots acted in ways we don't usually see robots act which was nice.

The Bad

Story. The story followed the usual pattern and character arcs you see in every cgi film these days. While it wasn't boring, so much more could have been done.

Ending. I saw the ending coming from pretty early on. There were several twists, none of which were shocking or unexpected. Even the cameo by Stan Lee after the credits was so strongly foreshadowed by his portrait that it lost a lot of the punch it could have had.

Jokes. The little children in the theater were laughing hysterically for large parts of the movie, but for those of us over twelve, the jokes weren't as clever or as funny as they could have been. For such a fresh approach and brilliant production design, the jokes were a major letdown.

The Villain. The villain had a really cool visual look and a great power. Unfortunately they do so little with him that you're left shaking your head at yet another squandered bit of greatness. And the "twist" of who is and why he became a villain are so cliched and overdone.

Animated Short. One thing I love about Jonh Lasseter being in charge of Disney Animation is his love for animation and its rich history. So many wonderful shorts have been created under his guidance breaking new ground and trying out new ideas. From an artistic and technical standpoint, the animated short about a man's life and relationships as seen thru the eyes of a dog was successful. From an entertainment point of view, I could have done without it. I've never been a fan of computer-generated 3-D animation rendered in a flat cell style, and this short did nothing to change my mind. Another lost opportunity.

What I Would Like to Have Seen

I would have liked to see more creativity. While there were some funny jokes, the plot followed a pretty typical pattern with the expected emotional arcs and reveals we see in almost every animated family movie. Guardians of the Galaxy showed us you can deviate from the usual script, do something completely different and original, and still have a major hit. I wish others would take the risk. And the villain had such a strong visual look and such a cool superpower that made for a few cool action scenes, but so much more could have been done. And the redemption at the end was kind of weak.


Overall, Big Hero 6 was a thoroughly entertaining movie that will delight young and old. It is a refreshing take on the superhero genre. While the story was nothing special and the "twists" at the end predictable from pretty early on, the production design was a visual treat, the action pretty fun, and the characters likable. I give it a solid 4 boxes of popcorn out of 5.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Movie Review: The Maze Runner

I'm a big Teen Wolf fan. I never miss an episode. So when one of the cast, Stiles, showed up in a movie, I decided to go see it even though the previews weren't that good. And really, Stiles is the only reason to go see the movie.

The Maze Runner is a 2014 science fiction, dystopian future, action thriller based on a young adult novel of the same name that is the first in a trilogy. It is rated PG-13 for language and intense scenes. It is appropriate for tweens and up.

The Good

Dylan O'Brian (Stiles). Dylan O'Brian is a good actor and very likable guy and the main reason for going to the movie. He played the main character Thomas and did an excellent job making you feel the terror, frustration, and bit of hope that the character goes thru. Without him, the movie wouldn't be worth watching.

The Action. The movie had a good number of action scenes with several very tense moments that kept me on the edge of my seat. They were filmed well enough to generate the tension without being confusing as to what was going on.

Mihno. Mihno is a runner who ends up partnering with Thomas to explore the maze surrounding the Glade to find a way out. He starts out being a generic figure but shows enough bravery and skill to be memorable and interesting.

Newt. Newt is the second in command and

Pace. This movie has a dark and heavy feeling but moves along quickly enough to keep it from dragging.

The Bad

Alby. Alby is the token black figurehead that shows up in almost every movie and TV show for the last decade and a half (revised Nick Fury in Marvel's Avengers, the captain in Castle, the first boss on Bones, the President in 24, and every comic book from John Byrne). And like most token figureheads, this one is a dull, boring, cardboard cutout that displays no intelligence or skill worthy of being the leader. Supposedly he survived in the Glade all by himself for a month, and yet the writers forgot to give him any sort of skill or ability that would make that possible. He also doesn't show good judgment nor the charisma to attract followers. He is pure propaganda.

The Villain. The main antagonist is a generic bully character who picks on Thomas from the first scene until the very end. He is never developed as anything more than an ignorant bully who refuses to break out of his traditions or dogma. He isn't likable or hatable. He's just annoying and more propaganda.

Twist at the end. While the twists at the end were completely unexpected, they also negated the point of the whole movie reducing it to little more than a prologue with the real movie coming in the sequel. It cheapened the whole experience and was a dissatisfying payoff for sitting thru the whole movie.

What I Would Like to Have Seen

I would have enjoyed more substance to the movie. The film makers spent too much time showing how confused people were and suggesting that there is some big secret without ever giving the audience anything until the very end. And then when we do get a hint at the big secret at the end, it isn't very satisfying. I'm not all that excited to see the sequel scheduled for next year.


Overall the movie was entertaining to watch once, but I would never sit thru it again. It tries too hard to be mysterious and intense with insufficient payoff at the end and a twist that negates what little good there was. Other than Dylan O'Brian, the characters aren't interesting and the plot the pretty thin. Still, Dylan O'Brian does a brilliant job and the actions scenes are exciting. I give it a 3 out of 5 boxes of popcorn.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Movie Review: The Book of Life

I'm always up for a good Halloween flick. I think the ghosts and goblins and witches and skeletons are lots of fun. I detest anything mexican, because it always tends to be really boring and the same thing over and over, but The Book of Life was a pleasant surprise.

The Book of Life is a 2014 computer-generated, animated, comedy, romance, family movie based on the Day of the Dead from producer Guillermo del Toro, the director behind Hellboy, Hellboy II: The Golden Army, and Pacific Rim. It's appropriate for all ages.

The Good

The Visuals. The Visuals were stunning! From the colors to the scenery to the costumes, everything was a visual feast to behold. The figures were designed to look like hand-carved wooden puppets which fit the culture behind the film.

The Characters. The characters were fun and interesting, especially, Manolo and Joaquín, both suitors for the hand of the beautiful María. Manolo is a musician from a family of bull fighters, and Joaquín is a soldier from a family of fighters. They're a little cliched but still fun enough to be likable. The main supernatural characters, one representing good (La Muerte) and the other evil (Xibalba), were beautifully designed and had enough character to make them interesting.

The Story. The movie begins with a field trip to a museum that is used as a framing sequence for the movie with a set of wooden puppets of the characters as a nod to the style used. The museum tour guide acts as narrator with a few breaks back to the framing sequence for dramatic effect. The pace moves quickly enough that the story never drags but never too quickly to enjoy what's going on or develop the story.

The Action. This movie had of lot of quality action scenes from the multiple bull fighting sequences to the multiple battles with the bandits.

Family. This movie had a strong message for family and families working together but wasn't preachy about it, which you almost never see nowadays. It was a refreshing change.

The Bad

Old Jokes. Most movies in this genre are clever and witty with a lot of original jokes and winks to pop culture. This had none of that. Everything was cliched and recycled from other shows.

María. María is the cliched pretty girl that is strong willed and skilled in fighing. There is nothing new or original about her, and one has to wonder why two cool dudes like Manolo and Joaquín would want her after they get old enough to know better.

Villain's Change of Heart. The main villain has a change of heart at the end (no surprise there), but there seems to be no reason or motivation for it. He just suddenly goes from bad to good because it's convenient for the plot.

What I Would Like to Have Seen

I really would have enjoyed original jokes and witty dialogue. This one had funny jokes--20 years ago. I was really surprised that they recycled old jokes that aren't funny anymore and witty twists that have been done enough times to make them not witty anymore. I guess that fits with the whole mexican culture it's based on--nothing new and lots of the same thing over and over.


Overall I was thoroughly entertained by this movie. It was a visual treat with great characters (for the most part) and a story that was fun to watch. None of the twists or surprises were surprising but they weren't so cliched they were boring either. The message of families helping each other was well portrayed without being preachy and a nice change from other films and shows. I give it a solid 4 out of 5 boxes of popcorn.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Movie Review: Guardians of the Galaxy

While I read a lot of comic books (and I mean A LOT), I've never read Guardians of the Galaxy or even heard of them until the movie trailer came out, so I was hesitant to see this movie. But the trailer was really entertaining, and I heard so many good things about it, that I gave in and spent the two hours. And am I glad I did! This is a near perfect movie that will entertain people from 8 to 80 with very little to offend anyone.

Guardians of the Galaxy is a science fiction space opera based on the Marvel Comic. It is rated PG-13 and is appropriate for tweens and up because of language and a few off color jokes.


Action. Too often space operas are comedies with token action to satisfy the genre, but this movie is first and foremost an action flick that takes itself seriously with humor added to enhance the movie, not make up for the lack of story, plot, and action. This movie is filled with great hand-to-hand fighting, use of weapons, and cool vehicle scenes.

Comedy. This movie is funny with jokes that only work in a Guardians of the Galaxy movie. The humor was fairly unique and not the same jokes we've seen and heard a million times. That was a really enjoyable change.

Cast. I don't think this movie could have been better cast. Each actor and actress fit his or her part perfectly and played them like they were the character and not an actor playing a character.

Star Lord. Too often in these types of movies, the main character is incompetent and either saves the day by accident or has to do a lot of failing with everyone else sacrificing and making up the difference until the main character has no choice but to save the day at the end after much resistence. Star Lord isn't like that. While he's funny, he's not a goof or a bimbo. He's actually quite competent and skilled. It isn't hard to believe he would save the day. How refreshing, a hero that's actually competent.

Production Design. The visuals and design of this movie look like they came straight out of a late 70s to mid 80s scifi flick like Battlestar Galactica or Michael Jackson's Epcot Center movie. They spent the time and money to make it look like a major blockbuster, and it paid off. This movie will hold up for years to come with it's classic designs and attention to detail.

Music. The music is mostly 70s and 80s movies and fits the 80s scifi production design. It has the same vibe as the visuals, cast, action, and comedy. Amazing to see such harmony.

Pace. The pace is great. It never moves too quickly and loses the audience, more does it ever move to slowly and bore the audience.

Unique Footage. The footage from the trailer was great and told a story. I was concerned they had used up all the jokes in the trailer, but surprisingly, very little of the clips from the trailer made it into the final film which surprised me at first, and then pleased me when I thought about it. I hadn't already seen the movie before seeing the movie. What a refreshing change!

The Bad

This is a near perfect movie. If you aren't a hardcore Marvel fan, you wouldn't catch all the references nor realize why Thanos was such a big bad guy, because that's never explained and needed to be. But it doesn't ruin the movie or even detract very much.

What I Would Like to Have Seen

I'm good.


Overall, this is a near perfect movie with great action, comedy, casting, special effects, and pacing. It's been a long time since anyone has made a movie like this. It's a solid flick that keeps you entertained from the beginning to the end. It's packed with things to interest an audience from 8 to 80. I can't wait to see it again.  I give it 5 boxes of popcorn out of 5.

Friday, October 17, 2014

DVD Review - Batman: Assault on Arkham

I've been a Batman fan since I first followed his adventures in SuperFriends and Batman and the Super 7. I've enjoyed all of his different incarnations from the kid friendly SuperFriends to the campy Batman '66 to the grim and gritty Dark Knight. He's a character that works well in all forms and all genres. And his popularity just seems to keep growing, which is probably why he seems to appear in every other DC Original Animated Movie.

Batman: Assault on Arkham is a direct-to-DVD original animated action superhero movie. It has Batman in the title, but the movie really focuses on the Suicide Squad with Batman making appearances at the beginning and the end. It is appropriate for teenagers and up due to violence, language, and sexual situations.

The Good

Story. This movie had a really good, solid story with a tight plot, and excellent pacing. I never got bored or started looking at my watch once. I was also never confused as to what was going on, and yet it still managed a few surprises that I didn't expect but that fit and seemed appropriate.

Action.The action started from the first minute and didn't let up until the end. And it was exciting action, well animated, with pretty good variety.

Voice Acting. Kevin Conroy was back, and he always does an excellent job as do the other voice actors.

The Bad

Adult Elements. This movie is one of the most violent versions of Batman I've seen with several characters having their heads blown off on screen. There is more skin shown than necessary, and the language was coarser than other DC Original Animated Movies. It felt gratuitous meaning it wasn't necessary and didn't add to the story. It felt a little desperate like the producers were trying to do something to attract viewers and set this apart. Note to producers: great story and solid animation always works.

Amanda Waller. I'm not an Amanda Waller fan, but there are times the character works and adds. This isn't one of them. She was as cardboard cutout and ruthless as they come. I'm fine with cardboard cutout characters as long as they're interesting. She wasn't. I'm fine with ruthless as long as the character is intriguing. She wasn't.

Thin Story. While I thought the story was solid, it was a little skimpy. The bare minimum happened to move the story along. It felt more like an incident then a fully developed movie or story. It could have used a few interesting subplots to fill out the world. They had the time.

What I Would Like to Have Seen

I would have enjoyed more story and more stuff happening. Most of these original movies seem pretty thin on story, I suppose to keep the action moving. This felt more like an incident than a complete story or movie. I would have enjoyed a few more subplots and a little more development of relationships. I also think the adult elements could have been toned down. They didn't add to the story and seemed to be a desperate attempt to cover the weak story.


Overall, Batman: Assault on Arkham was an entertaining 70 minutes. It was fun. It was exciting. And while it wasn't anything groundbreaking, it wasn't a rehash of the same old same old. It's definitely worth renting. Maybe even worth owning if you are a big fan of Batman or action animation. I give it 4 boxes of popcorn out of 5.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Movie Review: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

I've been a Ninja Turtle fan since I first saw the cartoon and the toys in the store in the 80s. What a fun, fresh, yet classic concept. Eastman and Laird wrote and drew some memorable issues, and the Fred Wolf cartoon and toy line made them legendary by introducing elements that are still considered canon today. Nickelodeon bought the rights to the characters and has relaunched them as a successful new comic book series published by IDW that takes a fresh approach to the mythology while including and paying tribute to all previous incarnations, a cgi television series that's less successful, and a movie that won't be causing anyone to wax nostalgic in twenty years.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is a two hour action, science fiction show that attempts to reboot the franchise. There is action, mild language, and intense, over-the-top stunts that is appropriated for tweens and up.

The Good

Plot. The movie actually had a pretty tight, linear plot that was easy to follow and yet interesting enough to keep one from getting board.

Pacing. The movie moved at a nice pace and never seemed to drag or move too quickly.

Vern. Vern is the comic relief, but unlike the typical stereotype appearing in most movies, he is fairly intelligent, brave, and competent. It was a refreshing change from the usual dopey, screw up klutz we see in most movies.

Character Designs. The character designs of the Turtles were actually pretty nice and worked well on the big screen. They were different enough from anything that's come before to feel unique, and yet still retained enough of the classic look to not alienate long-time fans.

The Bad

Characterization. Other than Michelangelo, everyone was very flat character wise and uninteresting. No one had much personality. A mad scientist who was a trusted childhood friend is the bad guy, and he was one of the more interesting characters.

Origin. They made changes to the origin following the IDW comic book series' take, but forgot to include the reincarnation that made it work. It really made the Turtles feel less special and purposeless.

The Shredder. The Shredder basically looked like a giant Transformer, had no personality, and was little more than a hired good for the evil scientist mastermind. I've never seen this character interpreted so weakly. The Shredder is supposed to be a brilliant yet ruthless leader. Not here. He's the obedient muscle with no strategy. And that armor was ridiculous, even for a Michael Bay movie.

The Ending. The ending was so over-the-top and silly that there was no sense of peril. I understand wanting something big, but you have to have some credibility, some believability to make the audience feel, and it just wasn't there. The Turtles saved the day so easily with no real sense of peril that the victory felt very hollow and meaningless.


The new Ninja Turtles movie is no classic, but the plot was pretty tight and the movie enjoyable enough that is isn't a waste of time either. This movie won't be causing anyone to wax nostalgic in twenty years. You'd be well advised to wait for it to come on TV or wait for your roommate to rent it. I give it three boxes of popcorn out of five.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Movie Review - Transformers 4: Age of Extinction

One Line Summary: "Transformers 4 felt like a low budget scifi flick from the 50s where some terrible threat from outer space crashes near a town, the army is called out to fight it, and the cast over acts leaving no question why they only appear in B flicks."

I've been a Transformers fan since I first saw the cartoon in the 80s. What's not to love about transforming robots fighting a battle across the vastness of space? I especially loved the Dinobots, so when I heard they would appear in this movie, I was pretty excited.

Transformers 4: Age of Extinction is a 2 1/2 hour science fiction/action/monster movie based on the Hasbro toys from the 1980s. It is rated PG-13 for violence and language and is appropriate for teenagers and up.

The Good

Dinobots. I really like how the Dinobots were portrayed. The designs were definitely cool with a nice balance between the originals and the movie look.

Mythology. I really like how the Transformers mythology was further explored by hinting at their origins and setting up a sequel to find the "creators".

The Truth. We learn the truth of how the dinosaurs went extinct. And here you probably thought it was an asteroid. Nope. Invaders from space.

The Bad

Dinobots. I know, I included Dinobots in the The Good, so what the heck am I doing mentioning them again under The Bad? While they were really cool, they were not introduced until the end, they just appeared with the barest of explanation of where they came from, and they did little more than mindlessly battle the bad guys. There was no real development of the individual robots. This really cool concept was wasted and could have been so much more.

Pacing. This movie suffered from poor pacing. The first hour was a lot of slow exposition setting up the bad guys: evil big business conspiring with the corrupt government to make big profits while the White House sits clueless to what is going on (a very realistic portrayal); and the heroes: poor average citizens who have been kicked around in life. It was very cliched and boring. The next half hour introduces the new bit of mythology, which was really entertaining. The last hour was a series of four action scenes that eventually result in the good guys triumphing over the bad guys.

Action. All four action scenes felt the same length and level of intensity. The movie felt really long, and the director could have easily cut out two of them since all four were pretty superfluous and led no where until the very end. After watching the last three movies, this brought nothing new in terms of special effects.

Characters. Just like the 50s flicks this reminded me of, the characters were very shallow, cliched, and uninteresting and all of them over act. I feel like I've seen the poor struggling father and the daughter trying to escape and start a life of her own with her secret boyfriend waaaaaay too many times. And the evil businessman conspiring with corrupt government? I just need to turn on the news to see that. Couldn't they have come up with something a little more original or creative? I mean, seriously, we're talking about giant transforming robots and dinosaurs--how do you mess THAT up?

What I Would Like to Have Seen

I wish they would have spent more time on the Dinobots and shown a more interesting origin for them than mere prisoners on a ship. They could have connected it to the opening scene when the dinosaurs were wiped out.


This movie is a typical Michael Bay film with over-the-top visuals and so much intense action it becomes boring. Overall the movie was entertaining and worth watching once. I like the new additions to the mythology and hope they explore those in the next movie. I give it a 3 out of 5 boxes of popcorn.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Movie Review: Maleficent

I grew up watching Disney films and loving a good number of them. One of my favorites was Sleeping Beauty because of the visuals, the action scenes, and the brilliant villain. When I heard Disney was creating a live action version, I was pretty excited. The trailer looked excellent. But would the movie be?

Maleficent is a 2014 live-action, fantasy film based on the animated film Sleeping Beauty. It is rated PG and is appropriate for most ages but may be a little scary for the littlest ones.

The Good

Angelina Jolie. Angelina Jolie did an excellent job portraying the title character.

Recapturing the Original. In terms of visuals and a few key scenes,  Maleficent did a great job recreating the original. Angelina Jolie looked like Maleficient. Prince Phillip, the King, and the cursing scene looked like they did in the animated version.

Premise. The producers approached the story from an interesting place and gave the main characters a back story and motivation completely different from the original creating a whole new story.

King Stephan. The changes to King Stephan are really the crux of the whole story. While I didn't find the character likeable, it did create a whole new perspective, and the producers did an excellent job of showing how his choices affected everyone and everything else.

The Bad

The Visuals. One of the best parts of the original animated feature was the unique look and gorgeous visuals. It had a unique and distinct look. The live action version had a unique look, but it wasn't the beautiful, colorful, stylized version I fell in love with, which would have been okay if it had been something neat. Unfortunately, it was kind of a weird and somewhat creepy fantasy version that looked similar to other recent films.

Same Approach as Frozen. After watching this movie, I thought to myself, "Self, that movie was just like Frozen, only live action and without the music." It basically took the traditional fairy tale story and twisted the usual troupes: true love's kiss, love at first sight, making the heroes pursue their best interests instead of being purely good, and making the clearly wicked villain misunderstood. If I hadn't seen Frozen, I probably would have thought it was clever, but like most other people I had seen it.

Characters. This film took a film noir approach where no one is truly good or evil but flawed and make decisions based on what will benefit them most. It's the complete opposite of a fairy tale. It was a risky move that didn't work as well as it needed to.

Fairies. In the movie, the human world and the fairy world don't like each other. The three fairies come to Aurora's christening to try and bridge the gap. This was an interesting take, but it made handing over the newborn baby to the three to raise completely insane. Also, the three fairies were so annoying and didn't do any cool magic.

Music. The animated version had a memorable soundtrack. The live action film didn't. I missed that.

What I Would Like to Have Seen

I wish the producers had done something original instead of copying Frozen. I wish the visuals had been more exciting and not just strange. I wish the characters had been more likeable or at least more compelling. I wish there had been good and evil instead of a lot of moral ambiguity. I wish they had used the music from the animated film or composed a new score equally as memorable. I wish they either would have been true to the original or had gone further with changes instead of stopping in between.


This movie was entertaining, but it's not a classic. It had a really good premise, but the director just didn't exploit it to its fullest. The approach was almost identical to Frozen, which was great for one movie but not strong enough for two. So many things that made the animated version work were either changed or left out which was disappointing considering how well the few things they recreated so faithfully turned out. I wasn't in love with the film noir approach. I give this movie a 3 out of 5 boxes of popcorn. It's worth watching once, but you may want to wait for DVD, streaming, or even TV.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Movie Review: X-Men: Days of Future Past

While I'm a huge fan of superheroes and comic books, I've never gotten into X-Men, mainly because it's just a big soap opera at its best and heavy handed propaganda at its worst. Fortunately, the movies focus more on the story and character exploration and aren't as heavy handed with the preachy messages, although plenty of that jumps out in your face.

X-Men: Days of Future Past is a 2014 live action, science fiction, superhero movie rated PG-13 for violence, killing, nudity, language, and a few tense scenes. It's appropriate for teens and older. It is a continuation of the X-Men story seen in the previous six films.

The Good

The Story. The story was solid and the movie did not deviate or go off onto any unnecessary tangents. It was interesting, original, and true to the spirit of the comics and the previous films. It moved at a great pace never going too fast or too slow. Everything was explained well, but not overexplained.

Use of Characters. When I heard who was cast in the movie and which characters were being used, I was very worried that it would be a jumbled mess with too many character and too little screen time. Fortunately, the film focused on a handful of main characters and followed their story. Most of the other characters were still given a respectable amount of screen time and something important to do so they didn't feel like mere cameos. The two characters who did appear at the end as mere cameos only needed to show up for a few seconds to make their impact. A cast of characters this large could not have been handled better.

Ties to Previous Movies. When X-Men: First Class came out, I wondered if it was a relaunch of the franchise and would ignore all previous movies as so many others have (I'm pointing my finger at you Dark Knight and Amazing Spider-man). Fortunately, the previous six movies were all woven into this movie with their events being essential to this one and several clips shown as flashbacks. I really appreciated that. It made the story that much richer. And being a time travel story, they could believably undo parts of previous movies and did.

Character Development. I really enjoyed seeing the different sides of characters portrayed by two different actors at two different stages of their lives. You really got inside of their heads and understood what they were going thru. The only one who seemed short changed was young Magneto, but after all we saw of him in First Class, I don't know that we needed to see much more in this movie.

Ties to History. As with X-Men: First Class, this one ties into two major events in history, the Kennedy assassination and the end of the Vietnam War, and integrates its story seamlessly into those events without disrespecting what really happened and without requiring too great a stretch of the imagination.

Apocalypse. The next movie has been announced, so I'm not spoiling anything by saying the coda after the credits featuring Apocalypse was one of the most satisfying and meaningful teasers yet. I'm excited to see what they'll do with that movie.

The Bad

Charles Xavier's Change of Heart. One of the main themes and story lines revolved around Charles Xavier and his struggle to deal with what he considered his failures. I loved and appreciated everything about how he was portrayed, the stark contrast between young and old, and the journey he went thru. My only complaint (and it's a small one) is he seemed to come around and get out of his funk a little too quickly and easily. While that worked well to keep the film moving and the story going, I felt it was too little and cheapened his depression and struggle.

Special Effects. The special effects were very disappointing. The heavy use of cgi was average and looked like a video game. The live actors were obviously on wires and did little to make you believe otherwise. The special effects looked like they did in the previous films from a decade ago. While the movie was more about story than visuals, this is a comic book movie and the visuals are still very important. They really dropped the ball on bringing anything new or different to the table.

What I Would Like to Have Seen

 Sentinels. I'm not sure why they changed the design of the Sentinel robots from the Jack Kirby bots of the comics to a weird hybrid of the robots from iRobot and the Gamilions from Space Battleship Yamato. They used the original design in X-Men 3: The Last Stand, and it worked beautifully.

Special Effects/Action. As I stated earlier, the special effects and action look like they did in the first two X-Men movies. It's been a decade. Couldn't they have brought something new to the table and made a few leaps forward? They didn't need to reinvent the action movie, but at least one scene that had me going "Wow! That was so cool!" would have been appreciated.


Overall, I thought this movie was excellent. The story was solid, the acting was top notch, the use of characters was impressive, and the integration with the other movies couldn't have been better. I give this movie a solid 4.5 out of 5 boxes of popcorn.