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Rarely can I think of an instance where a sequel has taken 14 years to be made, yet it completely lives up to the expectations of the audience. The only other recent instance I can think of is 2016’s sequel to Finding Nemo, Finding Dory. While Dory may not have been better, or even as good as Nemo, it definitely lived up to the expectations of its 13 year wait and gave us a solid follow up to the Pixar classic. With the sky high standard set by The Incredibles, there was a lot of potential for Pixar to miss the mark with any sequel, especially after waiting for so long. Thankfully, however, Pixar has done it again with Incredibles 2.

The story of Incredibles 2 takes place directly after 2004’s The Incredibles, throwing us right into the fire with the Parr family’s pursuit of the Underminer. This opening is a perfect tone-setter for the film, as we see the family juggle heroics and family life all at once as they protect the city and watch after Jack-Jack. During the pursuit, the wealthy superhero fanatic Winston Deavor, voiced by Bob Odenkirk, sees the Incredibles in action. This inspires him to spearhead a movement to legalize “Supers” again, using Elastigirl as the face of his campaign. What follows is an incredibly fun role reversal from the first film, as Bob/Mr. Incredible stays home to care for the family while Helen/Elastigirl attempts to return the title of Super to one of respect through her actions.

Helen does this by hunting down the nefarious new villain “the Screenslaver,” who hypnotizes and enslaves people through the screens of their electronic devices, such as computers and television sets. The use of social commentary here is on point, if not a bit obvious with Screenslaver’s blatant monologue on the topic. The film is ripe with social commentary, from Bob’s frustration at “new math,” Helen’s feminist optimism about a woman’s place in the world, and the Screenslaver’s entire schtick. The commentary works overall and doesn’t come across as preachy or forced, but I will admit, it is a bit weird seeing the modern commentary set against the retro setting of 1962, the year in which the film takes place.

The key difference between the Incredibles films is the emphasis on story. While the original Incredibles certainly had a great story, it served mostly as a backdrop for the family to shine over, with them being the focus. Incredibles 2 instead emphasizes the story, with the Parr family’s antics taking a backseat to Elastigirl’s pursuit of the Screenslaver. In my honest opinion, I prefer the approach of the first Incredibles a bit more, but that doesn’t mean the sequel falls flat. Incredibles 2 has a fantastic story, and is definitely a worthy successor to The Incredibles.

Speaking of the characters, they’re all still great. Every original voice actor returns for the sequel, save for Spencer Fox who voiced Dash in 2004. Huck Milner does a great job taking over, and the rest of the voice cast does a perfect job recapturing their performance from 14 years ago. Bob gets some decent development as he deals with the role reversal and being sidelined, Helen does a great job with her heroics, and Violet and Dash, while definitely not as focused on, have some good scenes dealing with their normal lives while being Supers. Jack-Jack definitely steals the show in a great way, managing to bring an adorable side story that doesn’t distract too much, and doesn’t go overboard like some other cute mascot characters do.

As far as the new characters, they’re all alright if not a bit forgettable. The best new character, in my mind, is Winston Deavor. Bob Odenkirk does a wonderful job as the starry-eyed billionaire who sets the entire film in motion, and I hope to see more of him if we ever get an Incredibles 3. Beyond that, the new Supers we meet are all interesting enough, but a bit flat in my mind. Screenslaver makes for a decent villain, but unfortunately can’t hold a candle to Syndrome. They’re all serviceable enough, but they unfortunately are cursed with the task of being compared to the iconic characters of the original Incredibles.

The highlight of the film is definitely the music and animation. The animation both matches and enhances the 2004 film, fitting in perfectly while adding the extra levels of detail that 14 years of technology advancement has to offer. Each character looks better than they did, without changing the core character design drastically. The music is possibly the best part of the film, with Michael Giacchio returning to compose. The iconic theme makes a triumphant return, and his new music doesn’t just fit the film, but molds the scenes around it. Music is one of the most important parts of the film, and Incredibles 2 is a prime example of that.

It goes without saying, the film isn’t perfect. The Screenslaver has decent enough motivation as a villain, but it isn’t anything near the level of Snydrome’s character. This sort of goes back to what I mentioned about it being tough to live up to The Incredibles, because Syndrome was just such a perfectly crafted villain. The Screenslaver, while fine enough, leaves a bit to be desired in motivation, execution, and overall coherence of their plan. Another issue I have is that the Parr family takes a major backseat to Helen’s adventures as a heroine. Dash in particular I felt didn’t get nearly enough to do, and spent most of the movie as a side/after thought. When they’re all in action, they’re all great. But I’d love to have seen more of them.

In all, Incredibles 2 had a daunting task before it; It had to live up to both the standards set by the classic film it’s a sequel to, and it had to live up to 14 years worth of hype from fans clamoring for a sequel. Luckily, while different in many good ways and despite some hiccups, the film manages to entertain and delight for the two hour runtime, and make that 14 year wait all worth it. I’m giving Incredibles 2 a 4/5.

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Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last ten years, I’m sure you’ve noticed the absolute explosion of superhero films, and their complete takeover of the industry. From the Avengers to the Justice League, from Marvel to Fox to DC, superhero films are being released now more than ever. With such an influx of these films, it’s easy to get burnt out, especially when some of them feel like more of the same. For every ambitious crossover like Avengers: Infinity War, there’s another by-the-numbers origin story to fill the space and set up the next movies. Thankfully, in this sea of franchises, the good ship Deadpool has returned to give us some more meta humor based fun, in another less than typical superhero story.

The story of Deadpool 2 is pretty simple. Through a series of unfortunate events, Deadpool is sent to an all-mutant prison with a young mutant named Russell, calling himself Firefist. While locked up, the time traveling mutant known as Cable breaks into the prison and tries to kill Russell, attempting to stop him in the past from causing death and destruction in the future. Concerned for Russell’s safety, Deadpool puts together a team known as X-Force to take on Cable, and with the help of some b-list X-Men, tries to put Russell on the straight and narrow to save Cable’s future without killing him.

Much like the first film, the plot for Deadpool 2 comes from an unlikely source; where Deadpool was a love story, Deadpool 2 is a family film, showing both characters in the audience the importance of family. While this sounds like a strange distinction for the meta-humored superhero film, it definitely rings true in the most technical of ways. Every major character is driven by their family in some way, and that’s the key to what makes the story work. In particular, Deadpool himself receives some pretty solid development through the film that helps distinguish him from the Wade Wilson of the first film.

The performances in this film, much like the original Deadpool, were outstanding, and one of the highlights. Ryan Reynolds continues to prove that he’s the only choice to play the merc with a mouth, Karan Soni’s Dopinder is a joy as always, Morena Baccarin’s Vanessa provides the grounding that Wade needs to grow through the story… just about every character from Deadpool returns to form here. In terms of our newest characters, the entirety of Deadpool’s X-Force is a delight for the entirety of their screen time, and Julian Dennison’s Russell/Firefist gives us a quite complex, tragic character who drives the story as the center of Cable and Deadpool’s conflict. The real stars of the film, though, are Josh Brolin’s Cable and Zazi Beetz’s Domino.

The fan favorite characters from the comics finally got their chance to shine, and they couldn’t be brighter. Cable brings his trademark gruff and tough attitude to the party, serving as an excellent foil to Deadpool’s quirks and wise-cracking. This Cable comes from a dark future and has his own troubled past, which gives him the motivation necessary to be an excellent antagonist and driving force for the film’s conflict. When it comes to comic accuracy, this Cable is a bit on the mean side of the character, but it’s still incredibly accurate. The no-nonsense, save the future mindset is there in spades, and we learn through the film that he might not be as bad of a guy as we originally thought.

Domino, meanwhile, couldn’t be more different from her comic book counterpart. While Domino from the comics is very serious and a bit traumatized due to her history, Zazie Beetz’s portrayal is a much happier, fun loving take on lady luck herself. Hardcore comic fans may lament this “betrayal” of Domino’s character, but personally I love it. This incarnation of Domino works so well as a companion to Ryan Reynolds’ Deadpool, and she steals just about every scene that she’s in.

Now for how much I liked the film, I do have some problems with it. The biggest problem, ironically, coming from how much I loved Cable and Domino. While they were a welcomed addition, they completely overshadowed the existing side characters of Colossus, Negasonic Teenage Warhead, Blind Al, Dopinder, and Weasle. While these characters all got an adequate amount of screen time, I felt that their role in Deadpool 2 was significantly lessened to the point where most of them were completely unnecessary. Particularly, Blind Al and Dopinder added next to nothing to the plot, and could’ve been removed without issue to the storytelling. It’s a conflicting issue, because as a fan of the comics, I couldn’t be happier to see Cable and Domino succeed on the big screen like this. But as a fan of the original film and these characters, I can’t help but feel they got a bit slighted, and deserved better.

In all honesty though, this was my biggest issue with the film. Some minor problems exist, such as a few jokes not landing, and the trailer having better humor in some parts than the actual film did. But overall, I absolutely loved Deadpool 2. It had a daunting task of living up to the standards set by Deadpool, and it didn’t just meet them in my mind, but it exceeded them in every way. It’s hard to say which film I like better, but I can confidently say I do appreciate them both equally, and love both installments. I’m giving Deadpool 2 a 4.5/5.

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On May 2, 2008, almost ten years ago exactly, Paramount Pictures in association with Marvel Comics released Iron Man, an incredible superhero film that, unknown to us at the time, would change the game of not only superhero films, but of film franchises altogether. Iron Man would break ground in being the first of five movies leading up to what was, at the time, Marvel’s magnum opus… The Avengers, released on May 4th, 2012. The Avengers was a triumph for comic book films, and was the first superhero film to take the heroes established in their own film, and bring them together to take down a threat fit for Earth’s mightiest heroes. To this day it’s still my favorite MCU film.

At the end of The Avengers, the patented Marvel after credits scene revealed the mastermind who sent Loki to Earth… bearing his smuggest grin, the world was introduced to Thanos, the Mad Titan himself. As a comic book fan, this horrified me, and I knew immediately where the MCU was headed. The following Marvel films would build the world, lay the groundwork, and ultimately, lead to the ultimate payoff. And six years later, almost to the day, we got that payoff with Avengers: Infinity War. Infinity War was incredibly hyped, and marketed as the most ambitious crossover ever put to screen. This comic fan is happy to report that not only did Infinity War live up to the hype, but it completely surpassed it somehow, and gave us one of the finest MCU films we’ve ever been presented with.

The plot of Infinity War is fairly faithful to the comics it takes its cues from; Thanos is finally done waiting, and has started gathering the Infinity Stones (Gems in the comics) himself, with the help of the Black Order, a group of four cultists who worship him. With all six Infinity Stones, Thanos can eliminate life in the universe as we know it. Knowing him to be the strongest threat yet, just about every major player Marvel has introduced steps up to the plate to try and stop the Mad Titan. The now scattered Avengers, Doctor Strange, the Guardians of the Galaxy, Spider-Man, Black Panther and his Wakandan army… the list of those who didn’t show up is significantly shorter than those who did. If you’ve got a favorite hero in the MCU, odds are good they showed up to fight.

I’m intentionally keeping the plot description vague, because this is one film best enjoyed if you know little about it going in. I will say this much, though, fans of Marvel Comics, the MCU, and just comic book films in general will find something they like in this film. Personally, I couldn’t find much that I didn’t like, only things I wish there’d have been time to see more of. With that in mind, everything they did do was done very well. Each character was given plenty of screen time on their own, and we got to see a lot of cool team ups you may not have thought you would. No characters felt downplayed, which is really impressive given the massive scale of the picture.

One of the strongest aspects of the film was Thanos himself. This was definitely his story, and he stole the scene in every shot he was in. I’ll be upfront about it… this is not the same Thanos you may know from the comics. With that being said, this iteration of the Mad Titan is possibly the best Marvel villain we’ve seen to date. His goals are clear, his motivation is solid, his emotions are complex, and he has just enough hints of that traditional insanity and brutality that Thanos is known for. This MCU version of the character is a welcome addition to the franchise, and I can only hope the MCU gets more villains that are even a fraction as good as him.

Usually in these reviews I like to point out flaws, and maybe it’s the afterglow of the 10 year crescendo, but honestly I can’t think of any that stick out as detracting from the film. There are certain elements that I wish would’ve been covered more, or some characters I wish we would’ve gotten to see just a bit more of, but not in a bad way. On the contrary, everything was so captivating that I just wanted more. With an over two and a half hour runtime, it’s hard to not be satisfied with what we had, and I take this feeling more as being excited to see what comes next, as opposed to wishing the film did a better job.

With Iron Man, Marvel set the new standard for what a superhero film should be. And with Avengers: Infinity War, they’ve raised the bar even further. The ten year buildup, and six year wait, was all more than worth it, and the biggest complaint I have, is that I have to wait for a year to see the follow up. I give Avengers: Infinity War a 5/5, and encourage everybody to go see it as soon as you can!

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If you would’ve told me five years ago that Jim Halpert from The Office was going to write, direct, and star in one of the best horror thrillers of the decade, I’d have never believed you. Lo and behold, here we are in 2018, and A Quiet Place not only set the expectations that I went in with, but it proceeded to absolutely blow those expectations away. The silent storytelling and unique concept are driving factors that we don’t see much of these days, and I couldn’t be happier to see this film released.

A Quiet Place is fairly simple in terms of plot; in the year 2020, an invasion of sightless aliens with extra sensitive hearing has taken out the majority of Earth’s population. A year after the invasion we’re following the Abbott family, led by John Krasinski and Emily Blunt, as they try keep their family alive and defend themselves from the aliens, with a twist; any sound they make can alert the aliens to their location, so they must stay silent. With such a simple plot, I was honestly afraid that the film might drag on too long, and could’ve been a case where an interesting short film was taken too far. The film, however, goes on just long enough, and keeps the stakes high throughout the duration.

While the plot may be simple, the storytelling techniques used in the film are far from it. A Quiet Place relies almost entirely on visual storytelling, using background details and character actions on screen to tell the story, and has maybe five minutes of total dialogue in the entire hour and a half runtime. This is complemented fantastically by the sound design, where silence is used to the fullest advantage and raises tension with every passing second. Music rarely scores the scenes, allowing that tension to come to come crashing down when a loud sound blares through, breaking the silence and startling both the audience, and the characters. In this way, the sound helps put the viewer in the characters’ shoes as we feel the emotions we see them experiencing on screen. In this way, the sound becomes the strongest element of A Quiet Place.

The performances in this film are outstanding, from every member of the cast. John Krasinski is perfect in his role as the father and protector of the family, whose sole mission in life has become to keep his wife and children alive. Emily Blunt delivers some of the best acting I’ve seen all year, as she brings a silent yet emotional anchor to the film. She’s definitely the highlight of the whole thing. Child actress Millicent Simmonds is wonderful as well, bringing an angst-driven performance to the table, as her character continues attempting to heal from a tragedy that struck the family a year ago, for which she blames herself. Every character, while not super fleshed out, are developed enough to feel real and keep the audience scared for their safety every time a sudden sound is heard.

Of course the film isn’t without its flaws, but they’re so minor that the positives outweigh them, almost entirely without question. Some of the dialogue isn’t great, but the film relies so little on it that I don’t even care. I’d love to learn more about about this world Krasinski has built, but the story of this film is told perfectly as is, and doesn’t leave any glaring plot holes or questions. While I definitely want more, I came away from A Quiet Place not only satisfied, but blown away.

Very rarely these days do we get films that not only use sound and visuals almost exclusively to tell the story, and very rarely does the use of sound put us in the place of the characters so well. It’s almost unheard of to see a film do both, especially in the era of franchises that we seem to be in, but A Quiet Place does so, in an incredibly unique and memorable way, that will keep viewers coming back for years to come. I give A Quiet Place a 5/5.

 

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For fans of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, 2014’s reboot of the series was less than well received, to put it lightly. Despite creatively depicting the design of the titular characters, the film’s focus on being a dark, gritty, and semi-realistic take on the characters wasn’t appreciated by many, despite being relatively faithful to the tone of the source comics. Though I appreciated this take on the Turtles, I found the film to be disjointed, tonally confused, and an overall poor representation of the characters I, like many others, grew up enjoying through their popular cartoon. When I saw the trailer for the sequel, I was immediately interested as the tone conveyed by the trailer, as well as the inclusion of two popular characters from the 1987 cartoon, Bebop and Rocksteady, showed me that the sequel was at least aware of what made the characters so popular in the first place, and was going to go that direction in this second outing. And I’m happy to announce, it certainly delivered.

The plot of this sequel comes a year after the first film, with the Turtles continuing to act in the shadows as to not alarm New York City, knowing it’s better to operate and be successful without the credit, than to reveal themselves and discredit all of the good they’ve done. This is challenged when Shredder is broken out of prison and contacted by an inter-dimensional being known as Krang, who has teamed up with Shredder to help bring him to Earth in order to take it over. The turtles do what they do best in hunting down Shredder, whose assisted by his foot soldiers as well as fan favorite henchmen Bebop and Rocksteady, as he gathers the components of a device needed to bring Krang from Dimension X to Earth, helped along the way by their old friends April O’Neil and Vernon Fenwick, in addition to their new team member, former corrections officer Casey Jones.

One of the strongest aspects of this film is the characterizations of the Turtles themselves. One of my biggest complaints of the original films is that while each turtle had a unique APPEARANCE, their individual personalities were lost on me, save for Raphael who took center stage for a good chunk of the film. When the turtles WERE together, I just didn’t feel the brotherly chemistry that makes them such an incredible and special group. Luckily, this was changed for the sequel, and from the very first scene we can see how perfectly they work together as a unit, while still remaining individuals. Most importantly, each personality is more than apparent in this sequel, matching up perfectly with the Turtles longtime fans of the series have come to love.

As far as the other characters of the film go, I found them all to be handled extraordinarily well. Except for the Turtles themselves, the definite stars of the film came in the form of Gary Anthony Williams and Stephen “Sheamus” Farrelly as Bebop and Rocksteady, respectively. The two have excellent on screen chemistry, on par at the very least with that of the Turtles. They bring the characters to life, and they’re a lot of fun to see on the big screen after all of these years. Brad Garrett’s Krang is another welcome addition that fans have been waiting to see on the big screen for years, and though his time is short, he makes a definitive impact and leaves you wanting more of Krang, which I hope we will get in a third film of the series. Megan Fox and Will Arnett take a smaller role in this film, which I found welcome; I felt they were given a larger role than necessary in the first film, so the downsizing of their roles in favor of better Turtle chemistry, and the addition of Bebop and Rocksteady, was incredibly welcome.

Shredder and Baxter Stockman are played fairly decently if not slightly forgettable, which is a shame considering how memorable these characters are in the cartoon. Ideally with both characters, we’ll see more of them in future films, where their characters will be brought up to par with all of the other well portrayed characters. Finally, there’s Stephen Amell’s Casey Jones, who in this film takes on the role of a former corrections officer who’s willing to do anything needed to bring Bebop and Rocksteady to justice. Amell plays this very well, giving us a likably sarcastic, quick-witted addition to the Turtles’ core team. He does lose some of the vigilante charm that made Jones such a popular fan favorite amongst the various shows, movies and comics, but Amell’s natural chemistry with the rest of the cast as well as his personal charisma is enough to make this new interpretation of the character stand tall amongst the rest.

Based on the characters added into the film, it would appear that this film is basically a live action adaptation of the 80’s cartoon. In many ways it is, though the general tone of dark realism is still present throughout the film. This helps compliment it as a sequel to the 2014 reboot very well, but at the same time it doesn’t work for the same reasons it didn’t work in 2014; the entire concept is fairly ridiculous, and best handled in a light hearted, if not full blown cartoonish fashion. The Turtles themselves look better than they did in 2014, but are still fairly jarring to see next to our live action cast, and the same can be said for Bebop and Rocksteady. Though they don’t necessarily fit in next to the human cast, they don’t look completely out there… Krang however, does. Out of all of the characters in the film, Krang feels the most like a cartoon character, and for that reason I’m fairly glad his time on screen is short, as I feel any longer seeing him and he would’ve not only overstayed his welcome, but brought down the entire tone the film was going for.

Because of all of this nostalgia factor and  for long time fans, you’d think that this would be your generic kids action flick with nothing to really think about, but the film does have an underlying message – the importance of individualism and accepting yourself. The Turtles face a bit of an identity crisis, disappointed that they must stay secluded in the shadows for the greater good, knowing what makes them different will cause rejection from the world above the sewers. Yet when given the opportunity to change themselves into humans in order to live above ground and be accepted, they ultimately reject the opportunity, finally content with who they are, and able to work together cohesively as a team despite their personality clashes. Given that this is a film that will primarily be marketed to children, this is an important message to have at the forefront, and makes it better than just a generic nostalgia-fest; it makes it a vehicle to teach kids the importance of simply being themselves, and accepting others for who they are.

Overall, the film does have problems. But it also does a lot of things right, and it’s a definite improvement over its predecessor. Because of this, I’m giving Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows a 3.5/5. I still don’t think the overall tone works very well, and the use of mixed media falls short from working perfectly yet again, but the film has more thought put into it than the 2014 predecessor did, it stuck true to what made the Turtles franchise so successful in the first place, and it’s just a lot more fun overall. Kids will enjoy it, and long time fans of the series will appreciate it.

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The X-Men have a rocky cinematic history, to say the least. For a team that has consistently starred in some of Marvel’s best performing comics and television series, some of the films have been downright disappointing. I won’t go into too much detail on the whole history of the X-Men film series, as I recently did with a couple of my friends on “The Mother Flickers” YouTube channel, where we did a series of film reviews on the entire X-Men series. Needless to say, however, we mostly agreed that despite a dip in quality, the latest of the few films definitely set an upward trend, peaking with Bryan Singer’s return to the franchise with X-Men: Days of Future Past. So how does Singer’s follow up, X-Men: Apocalypse hold up? Let’s take a look.

The plot to X-Men: Apocalypse is very busy, but it revolves around Professor Xavier as he attempts to teach young mutants to control their abilities. Part of this class involves newcomer to Xavier’s school Scott Summers, played by Tye Sheridan, Jean Grey, played by Sophie Turner of Game of Thrones fame, and Nightcrawler, played by Kodi Smit-McPhee. Meanwhile, Mystique (reprised by Jennifer Lawrence) is on the search for Erik Lehnsherr, better known as the mutant Magneto, who has recently been re-exposed as a mutant after going into hiding, and having his wife and daughter killed because of him. This all takes a back seat, however, to the awakening of the ancient mutant En Sabah Nur, best known as Apocalypse, and portrayed by Oscar Isaac. Apocalypse gathers four mutants as his followers, including Magneto, and disarms the world of their nuclear weapons in an attempt to take over and “purge” the world of humanity, leaving only mutants to rebuild in the aftermath. This leaves it up to the new team of X-Men to stop Apocalypse and save the world.

This is the most basic explanation of the plot, and leads into two of my biggest complaints about the film; it’s overstuffed, and it’s tonally confused. To touch on how overstuffed it is, there’s a ton going on on screen at any given time; from Scott learning how to fit in, to Xavier trying to figure out what this new apocalyptic force he feels stems from, to Erik’s personal conflict of trying to fit in as a normal human, to Mystique helping refugee mutants, to Apocalypse himself amassing his power… the film is incredibly overstuffed, hardly giving any of these plotlines room to breathe, and thus leaves the film feeling like a jumbled mess. While hardly any of these plotlines felt unnecessary, there was simply too much, and though I feel Bryan Singer did a decent enough job juggling everything he wanted in the film, it didn’t all work.

This leads nicely into my second complaint, which is the tonal confusion this film suffers from. For the first half of the film, as everything is being set up to fall into place, each separate plotline of the film feels like its own separate film, making the transitions fairly jarring. An overall tone is never established, which left me wanting more. This is somewhat rectified at about the halfway point of the film, as all of the plotlines finally intersect there is a definite tone of urgency present, which gives plenty to enjoy as the final battle against Apocalypse and his Four Horsemen commences. The road there, however, is long and confusing. To compare it to an earlier summer superhero blockbuster, Captain America: Civil War, the two have roughly the same runtime, and Civil War moved at a much quicker and more coherent pace than X-Men: Apocalypse, which disappointed me.

Moving on from the negatives to one of the biggest positives of the film, to me, is the overall performances by our new cast of characters. Tye Sheridan, Sophie Turner, and Kodi Smit-McPhee all do an absolutely phenomenal job in their roles. They all have fantastic chemistry on screen, and as a beginning to the next generation of X-Men, they absolutely won me over. James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender do great reprising their roles as Professor Xavier and Magneto, and though I feel their chemistry is weaker compared to their previous outings in First Class and Days of Future Past, this mostly stems from how conflicted Erik as a character is throughout the plot. By the end of the film, Fassbender and McAvoy have their chemistry back, and while I still feel that you can never touch the level that Stewart and McKellen reached in their portrayal of the characters, McAvoy and Fassbender continue to prove that they can do a great job in their own right.

The rest of the characters do a fine job as well; Evan Peters’ return as Quicksilver is a welcome addition, and Lawrence and Hoult are up to snuff in their respective performances as well. It’s hard for me to judge Olivia Munn and Ben Hardy’s performances as they really aren’t given much to do, but they do alright for what they’re given. While I wish Alexandra Shipp as Storm was given a bit more, she’s shown to be sticking around for the future of the series, so that leaves me hopeful for her future performances. Unfortunately, amongst all of these fantastic performances in the film, we’re also treated to an incredibly weak portrayal in the form of our title character.

First I’ll address Oscar Isaac’s performance, which I would say is quite good. Isaac clearly did the best he could with his script, and plays the “ingenious mastermind” quite well. Unfortunately, Apocalypse is given very little to do outside of his quest to gather his Four Horsemen, and we’re never truly given a full example of what his powers can truly do that makes him the most powerful mutant in the world. Instead, Apocalypse spends most of the film trying to convince his horsemen that he’s who they should align themselves with, and once it gets to the point where he actually needs to act, he simply has Magneto do the bulk of the work for him as far as building his base of action. To fight the X-Men, he assigns his horsemen to take care of them, and only once they’re all defeated to we get to see Apocalypse in action. Once in action, Apocalypse is decent, but at that point in the film I’d become so disappointed by Apocalypse’s lack of activity that it was tough to rebound from.

This, I feel, is the absolute most disappointing aspect of the film; the title character is the weakest point. Apocalypse has been called for by X-Men fans for years, wanting to see an epic film adaptation of the team’s greatest foe. While the film certainly becomes epic in scale, the character of Apocalypse himself is far from it. As I mentioned earlier, Apocalypse does very little in the film, which is the worst thing that could be said about the character; in comic’s lore, he is the arch enemy of the X-Men, and in the film, he is talked about as being one of the strongest mutants ever to live. Neither of these are portrayed properly in the film, which left me wanting more.

Sophie Turner has a line in the film about how the third in a series is always the worst, in regards to the group having gone to see Return of the Jedi. Apocalypse, acting as the third in the “new timeline” trilogy of First Class, Days of Future Past, and Apocalypse, unfortunately does indeed fit this descriptor in that it’s inferior to the films previous to it. However, it does more than act as a simple end to a trilogy, as it also marks the beginning of a new series of X-Men films starring this group of new X-Men. My hope is the film will become much more appreciated as the series goes on, much in the way Iron Man 2 holds up much better after watching The Avengers.

Despite all of the negatives the film has, it handles what works very well, and makes it memorable. The film does a good job of entertaining, and is ultimately a lot of fun in the right parts. That’s what it boils down to at the end, is whether or not you enjoyed the product. In a sea of X-Men films, it blends in as simply “not the worst,” and being released the same year as Deadpool and Civil War, it’s unfortunately going to suffer a bit since those two films were just so damn good. I’m giving X-Men: Apocalypse a 3/5; the confused and stuffed plot may drag it down a bit, and the titular Apocalypse may not have been handled all that well, but the portrayals of the rest of the characters are more than enough to safe the film from disaster, just like the X-Men they’re playing.

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When it comes to Greek life representation in movies, the result is usually played up for laughs. The most famous example obviously comes from Animal House, which did an excellent job of playing with the tropes and stereotypes of Greek life at college. Nicholas Stoller’s 2014 comedy Neighbors did an excellent job playing with the stereotypes of fraternities, while adding a creative and new spin on the typical representation, obviously by adding in the element of next-door neighbors being affected by the fraternity’s antics, but also by adding Teddy’s arc of feeling dissatisfied with his life and worried about joining the real world. This made it one of my personal favorite films relating to Greek life, and one of my favorite comedies of 2014. While I don’t feel it necessarily warranted a sequel, Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising did a fine job of expanding on these themes, and even bringing some new elements to the table.

The plot to Neighbors 2 is fairly straight forward, even more simple than the plot to the original Neighbors was. Mac and Kelly, reprised by Seth Rogen and Rose Byren, are selling their house to move to the suburbs, once their 30-day escrow period has completed. Meanwhile college freshman Shelby, played by Chloë Grace Moretz, is disheartened by the inequality of the campus Greek life system which seems to favor fraternities over sororities. This leads Shelby to band together with her fellow disheartened freshmen and start her own, off campus sorority. Meanwhile Teddy, reprised by Zac Effron, feels lost and alone in the world seeing his fraternity brothers moving on and becoming successful with their lives. Teddy meets Shelby and her sorority, and offers to help them start up as they move into Teddy’s old fraternity house. Teddy does this to get back at Mac and Kelly, who he feels ruined his life through the events of the previous film. This is his plan, until the sorority abandons him, leading him to join forces with Mac and Kelly to try and stop the sorority from getting too out of control, and scaring away Mac and Kelly’s potential buyers for their home.

The performances are all fantastic; Seth Rogen and Rose Byren do an excellent job as the seasoned veterans to the films shenanigans, and are smart enough to not think that the same old tricks they used to rid themselves of Teddy’s fraternity in Neighbors will be their simple solution for this second go round. Chloë Grace Moretz is a welcome addition to the talented cast, taking the role of the central antagonist yet being a likable, sympathetic character who simply wants to be treated fairly while finding her place at college, giving the film some less than subtle feminist tonality. The true star of the show here, I felt, was Zac Effron reprising his role as Teddy from the first film. Teddy is a truly sympathetic character in this film, having not grown at all over the last two years and continuing to struggle finding a place in life, mostly due to his criminal record from the first films events. This leads him to lash out in vengeance against Mac and Kelly, only to find at the end of the film that they’ve taught him a valuable lesson about comradery and friendship. For a character who had such a small arc in the first film, this sequel does wonders for expanding his character, bringing about a true arc between the two that shows an amazing, positive change for the character.

For as much as I liked about this film, however, there was plenty to dislike as well. For as smart as the writing was in terms of plot and refusing to simply recycle the plot of Neighbors but adding in a sorority, I found myself laughing significantly less at this film than I did when I first saw Neighbors. In addition to this, Zac’s character is the only one who I felt truly grew stronger from the events. Sure Chloë’s character learns a bit, but she doesn’t change much from when we’re first introduced to her. Seth and Rose’s characters, meanwhile, learn just a little about their abilities as parents, but otherwise remain mostly unchanged from their appearance in the first film.

Finally, the feminist elements of the film I feel unfortunately fell flat. The film makes some solid points about the Greek life system, and as a member of a fraternity myself I can admit freely that the sororities do seem to be held to a higher standard than the male fraternities on campus are, when it comes to things such as recruitment, event planning, and even something as simple as verbiage used when around certain people and members. So there’s definitely a lot to say about the equality of women in the Greek system, which is indeed what spurs the events of the film in the first place. This quickly devolves, however, and the feminist tones that were set up as the foundation of the film become the butt of the joke. While I’m glad to see the film laughing at EVERYONE and not just a specific group, the result is the feminist message being lost in the comedy, and thus feeling contrived when the more serious moments do occur, and falling flat when trying to make a point.

The film does have a very important theme, however, and that’s the importance and lastingness of friendship. Despite everything that has gone on through the film, the sisters of Shelby’s sorority learn that as long as they have each other, that’s what makes them a sorority, not having a house or being liked on campus. Teddy learns that despite his friends and brothers growing up and moving on with their lives doesn’t mean that they’ve forgotten him, and that their brotherhood is lifelong, not simply for a college career. This is a powerful message, and one of the core tenants of Greek life; these relationships are lifelong, and you will always have your brothers/sisters there for you, both during college and post-graduation. Seeing this outlined in the film made me ecstatic, and I’m all too happy to see this side of Greek life represented in cinema.

Overall, the film stands out amongst a sea of mediocre-at-best comedy sequels, and does its best to be new, creative, and powerful when it needs to be. It’s not perfect, and I still like the original Neighbors more than I like this film. That being said, I appreciate the direction taken with the film, and I especially appreciate the message of lasting brotherhood/sisterhood. I’m giving Neighbors 2 a 3.5/5, and strongly recommend anyone who was a fan of Neighbors to check it out!