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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!

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The beginning of summer has been marked by the release of the latest installment to the Marvel Cinematic Universe for the last six years straight, with the franchise taking a break in 2009. While some of these films have certainly been better than others, it’s become something to look forward to as both a fan of comic books, a fan of film, and a general Marvel fan since childhood. This summer we’re marked by the release of Captain America: Civil War, which also happens to be the start of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Phase Three series of films, leading up to the constantly teased fight against the Mad Titan Thanos, and capping off with The Avengers: Infinity War Part II in 2019. As the beginning of a new phase, Civil War shows us exactly what to expect from the future of the MCU… and does a damn good job with it at that.

The story for Captain America: Civil War is loosely based on the Civil War arc from the comic books, but it handles much of the same material in a more personal, affective way than the comic event did. Without going into too much detail, the United Nations has drafted the Sokovia Accords, the MCU’s version of the Superhuman Registration Act, to act as a governing body for the Avengers, and all other “enhanced humans” as they’re called to make sure that the Avengers don’t go around policing the world as they have been, which has lead to the collateral damage seen in New York from The Avengers, Washington D.C. as seen in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Sokovia in Avengers: Age of Ultron, and it’s even spurred on a little bit by an event that takes place right in the beginning of the film, when the intervention of the Avengers causes massive damage done in Lagos, killing many in the process. The Avengers are split on the accords, and thus split off into different factions, giving us the titular “civil war.” Along the way, however, we see an agenda being pushed into place by Zemo, one of the new characters who is loosely based on the iconic Captain America villain, Baron Zemo. Zemo is a Sokovian, and wanted to use not only the Winter Soldier, but deeply held secrets of the past to tear the Avengers apart from the inside as retribution for what happened in Sokovia. While Zemo’s plotline does feel a bit forced in and even rushed at times, he serves to give our heroes something to unite against despite all of the turmoil of the Sokovia Accords, and leads to one of the most personally driven battles we’ve seen in the MCU.

One of the major criticisms leading up to the film was how there just weren’t enough heroes in the MCU to constitute calling this a “war,” but the film is leaps and bounds more effective than the comic was, and a lot of this comes from just how few heroes we DO get. When they fight, not only do we get more time to focus on individuals throughout the fight, but we truly feel emotionally connected to the conflict; Steve and Tony have been working together for four years now, and watching them disagree to the point of physically fighting just spoke to me as an audience member. Without getting too into comparisons between the two films, I feel like Civil War is doing here what Zach Snyder was trying to do with Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, but does so in a much better way; this comes from the Russo brothers having four years of on-screen history together to back up this major conflict, not only meaning that it made more sense in the context of the film, but also that it’s more effective to the viewer as anyone whose made it this far into the MCU has likely been watching at least since The Avengers, just giving the film more gravitas than BvS had. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed certain aspects of BvS and I’m very curious to see where the DCEU goes, but I just feel from a filmmaking perspective, Civil War just did it better.

When it comes to fidelity of the characters to their source material, Civil War just goes ahead and knocks it out of the park. For a series that’s known for their accurate depictions of their characters, Civil War stands out amongst even all of that. The two standouts here come from our newcomers, Black Panther and Spider-Man. Both of these characters are incredibly accurate to their comic book counterparts, with this version of Spider-Man being by far the most accurate to the source version we’ve ever seen in film. While this comes as no surprise, it’s incredible to see just how easily he fits into the MCU mold, while keeping true to what a 15 year-old would be doing in a situation like this. Though his time is brief, his scenes are some of the most memorable, and he takes a major part in what I believe to be the best fight scene of not just the film, but in the franchise as a whole. Black Panther, on the other hand, has his time spread out through more of the film; the film serves as a quite personal, and incredibly engaging origin story for King T’challa, and ends up being memorable in his own right, giving everyone something to look forward to with his solo film coming out in 2018.

For our veteran characters, we all know how accurate they are to their comic book counterparts, but this film gave some much needed, much welcomed development of the characters; Sharon Carter finally gets some expanded characterization as one of Captain America’s closest allies, we see much more of what kind of “person” Vision is than we were able to in Age of Ultron, and we’re seeing how Wanda is coping to her new life as an Avenger (POTENTIAL SPOILER: We also get a hint at some of the feelings Wanda and Vision share for each other in the comics, a welcome addition in my opinion). On top of all this, we see first hand the struggle Bucky Barnes faces as the Winter Soldier, wanting to leave that life behind and just do the right thing, but continuing to be picked up and simply used as if he were a weapon, which he retains no memories from outside of “Winter Soldier mode,” and thus gives him his own conflict to deal with, which he does well in my opinion.

The best character development, however, comes from our headline matchup, Captain America and Iron Man. Iron Man has certainly come a long way in eight years, as the once unapologetic playboy tech mogul has morphed into a desperate, guilt-ridden shell of who he once used to be; Iron Man has clearly been affected the most by the actions of the franchise, and is tired of being responsible for so much chaos and destruction. Because of this, he favors the Sokovia Accords. He realizes they’re too dangerous to the world without this supervision, and despite all the times they’ve saved the world, they simply haven’t cared about the cost up to this point. So while Iron Man seems to be on the “bad side” of the conflict, the film portrays him to do so out of what he feels is necessary. Tony has certainly grown up a lot in eight years, and the film does a fantastic job showing us not just that he has, but why he has.

Captain America, on the other hand, has completed his transition from “America’s best boy” that was started in Winter Soldier. Thanks to the accords and his unwavering loyalty to do what he feels is the right thing, he becomes a full on fugitive from the law yet again by refusing to sign the accords, and harboring Bucky from the government who wants him to answer for a crime he was framed for. Steve shows once again that he does what he thinks is right no matter what the situation is, and no matter who he’s up against, which has become par for the course for Captain America. He hasn’t changed much since his last film unlike Tony, but in a way, that’s the point of their characters. Tony, much like the technology he built his fame around, is constantly changing, and always adapting to what he thinks is right for the given situation, where Steve stands firm in his ideals, unwilling to compromise if it means even one person might lose their liberty over it. Much as the Captain America of the comics told Spider-Man in the Civil War event, and much like Sharon Carter tells Steve in this film, he plants himself like a tree when the whole world says “move.” And all he has to say to that is “No, you move.”

When it comes down to it, this might just be the best MCU film to date in my opinion. The way the film handles the material, both content wise and how personal they were able to make it, the way the film handles both veteran and newcomer characters, and the way it just loves and respects the comics the series came from, Civil War is sure to be a delight, not just for fans of Marvel comics, but for fans of the MCU and even film fans in general. I’m giving Captain America: Civil War 5/5 stars, and I urge anyone who hasn’t yet to please go check it out. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed, as it isn’t just a good superhero movie… it’s a damn good film.

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In the early summer of 2009, director Gavin Wood brought the latest installment in the X-Men film franchise to the world, X-Men Origins: Wolverine. As part of the film involved a look at Weapon X and Wolverine’s infamous run in with them, it’s no surprise that Weapon X’s second most famous patient Wade Wilson, played by Ryan Reynolds, made an appearance. Wade Wilson is where that specific appearance ended, though. While the character went on to become a “Dead pool of superpowers” from Weapon X, this is where the similarities to the comic book character ended.  The character went from being a mouthy merc with deadly skills to match, to a serious and deadly killing machine with his mouth sewn shut. Deadpool fans worldwide were rightfully disappointed by this portrayal of their favorite Marvel character, and it would be the only silver-screen portrayal we’d get for seven long years.

Despite the backlash to the character, Reynolds didn’t give up. From the moment Origins was released, he continued to work on a solo Deadpool project out of his love for the character, and after eleven total years of work, stress, internet leaks, and a massively successful ad campaign, we finally have a proper Deadpool film that delivers the experience fans have been waiting for.

The basic plotline for Deadpool is as follows: After being diagnosed with terminal cancer, mercenary Wade Wilson agrees to undergo an experimental procedure to give him a superhuman healing factor in an attempt to cure the cancer, so that he may live a long, normal life with his new fiancé, Vanessa. After the treatment disfigures him and the surgeon who experimented on him, Ajax (or Francis, as Deadpool lovingly reminds us is his real name), tries to kill him unaware of how advanced his healing factor is. Once he rises from the ashes of his grave, he sets off on his quest to hunt down Ajax and cure his disfigurement, so that he can feel worthy enough to be with Vanessa once again. Along the way he’s helped by the X-Men Colossus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead (the coolest name EVER), teaching him a bit about teamwork along the way.

Right off the bat, this film goes for the laughs, opening with one of the funniest and original credit sequences I’ve ever seen, which serves not only to grab a laugh or two from the audience, but also to foreshadow the epic freeway battle that unfolds mere minutes later. From the moment Deadpool is first on screen, you can tell it’s a completely different character from the X-Men Origins abomination from 2009. He’s funny, yet lethal. Intelligent, yet a smartass. Cares about nothing but accomplishing his own goals, yet has a soft spot that very few get to witness. In short, this is the Deadpool fans have been waiting for.

As a comedy, the film holds nothing back. Deadpool is known for breaking the fourth wall in his various forms of media, and this film plays with that creatively, yet tastefully; None of the fourth wall gags seemed forced or took away from the story, which was a fine line that the film needed to walk with this type of humor. Outside of fourth wall humor, the film did a tremendous job. From an increasingly ridiculous sex montage between Vanessa and Wade, to a barrage of insults about Wade’s disfigurement from his friend Weasel, to even just every single fight scene, this is a film that knows what the fans want; over the top action juxtaposed with witty, dark humor along the way. And from that standpoint, this film succeeds immensely.

It doesn’t just go for all laughs however; one of the lesser known aspects about Deadpool’s character is the dark past associated with the character, a past which is touched upon in the form of flashbacks throughout the first act of the film. The disfigurement from his experimentation goes far beyond the physical deformities. It affected his mind, making him unstable and prone to violent outrages, as well as clinically insane. His once sarcastic form of humor turned sadistic, and was used as a coping mechanism for the scars and traumas he experienced daily; This was touched on very well in the film, and I’m incredibly glad it was. It made the character that much more empathetic, as well as making fans happy that it isn’t just the wacky and random Deadpool so common on the internet, or “Memepool” as he’s been dubbed by some.

Contrary to what some fans may have you think, Deadpool wasn’t the ONLY character to be featured in the film. He was certainly the driving force as well as the most interesting character, but just about every character is done well here. Ed Skrein’s portrayal of Ajax did seem a bit one dimensional at times, but the way he and Reynolds worked together on screen made up for that in my mind. Morena Baccarin, as Deadpool’s lover Vanessa, was just as insane and messed up as Reynolds’ Deadpool, leading to one of the most adorably disturbing on screen romances in recent memory. Colossus and Warhead added needed morality to the film, and also served to make the world simply feel bigger by adding in the idea of the X-Men being present.

In my mind, however, T.J. Miller and Leslie Uggams absolutely killed it as Deadpool’s friends and sidekicks, Weasel and Blind Al. Miller and Reynolds have excellent chemistry on set no matter what scene they’re in, and Uggams stands out in her own way by bringing life to this often-overlooked stable of Deadpool’s past. Both characters have been all but forgotten in recent comic book iterations, and it’s my hope that these fantastic performances will only bring more credit to the characters, and maybe even bring them back to the limelight in comic form.

Despite how much I clearly loved this movie, the film does have some flaws as all films do. As I mentioned Ajax as a villain seems very one-dimensional and without purpose whenever he’s on screen alone. This is a minor gripe, but it did leave me wanting for a bit more out of Skrein for the character. Additionally, a lot of the jokes did serve to be mostly fan-service and a clear “wink-and-nod” for the fans to understand that this is the film they’ve wanted. While I personally enjoyed this as a Deadpool fan, it doesn’t leave much room for outside audiences, and those who aren’t big fans of Deadpool may feel like they’re missing the joke during these scenes. Despite these flaws, however, I don’t feel that they detract from the overall experience that the film is able to give.

My final thoughts from Deadpool involve its status as a superhero film. Specifically, how it’s changed the game. In a cinematic world ran by Marvel Studio’s MCU, it can be hard for a new superhero property to break the mold and get noticed. Deadpool did just that, and on a smaller budget than most films of its genre in recent history. Not only has the film proven how viable non-franchised heroes can be in this world of cinematic universes, but it’s broken the traditional formula behind superhero films as a whole by giving us something new, and someone who plays by his own rules.

Overall, I’m giving Deadpool 5/5 stars. It’s the film the fans have wanted, that for the most part leaves itself open for anyone whose interested to take a look and enjoy. Even if you’re not a fan of the usual superhero story, I’d say check it out. If the heart-wrenching ballad of Wade Wilson doesn’t get to you, the over the top action and theater rumbling comedy just might.

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To call me a Star Wars fan would be a gross understatement. Like most children growing up in the late ‘90s/early 2000s, I was absolutely engrossed in the world of Jedi, Sith lords, and the Force. Having been 6 years old when the prequel trilogy started with The Phantom Menace, I was exposed to the original trilogy of episodes IV-VI by my caring mother in between episodes I and II. While I loved the prequel trilogy as a child, growing older I like many others grew to resent the overly childish, poorly written trilogy of Anakin Skywalker, and preferred the much better executed, more mature original trilogy. Having lived to face the disappointment of mediocre Star Wars films, I’ve been excited but wary since hearing that Disney obtained the rights to the series and planned to set a course on yet another trilogy. Today, having finally seen The Force Awakens, I can safely say that fans can rejoice. Star Wars is great again.

Sitting in the theatre as the opening title crawl scrolled, giving us a summary of the 30 years of backstory that took place between episodes VI and VII, I immediately felt the chills go down my spine, and an ear-to-ear smile break out on my face. The John Williams composition, the familiar scroll superimposed over the vast openness of space, all preceded by those words, “A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away…” This was the Star Wars that I remembered. And this feeling of childlike glee is what would set the tone for the remainder of the film.

The film is chock full of nostalgic goodness, that will make any long time fan of the franchise scream with joy. From the familiar characters popping up, to references of the original trilogy, and even the familiar beats of the story that are reminiscent of Episode IV, A New Hope, this film is a much needed reminder of just how fun a Star Wars film can be when not bogged down by talk of ancient prophecy’s and trade negotiations. This doesn’t make the film inaccessible, however. The story is well fleshed out to stand on its own without needing to know all of the background information from the previous films of the series. Something important, as this film is likely some of the first exposure an entirely new generation of fans will be receiving to the franchise. Moving along from just how nostalgic this film made me, however, let’s take a look at the film on a technical level.

Without getting into spoilers, the film is distinctly a Star Wars film. As mentioned earlier, the film takes some major inspiration from the original trilogy, right down to the beats of the film being very reminiscent of Episode IV. Despite this, director J.J. Abrams adds his own style to the film, helping it stand out as a more “modern” Star Wars film despite the inspiration from the originals. The characters are all solid, and not just the established heroes from the Galactic Civil War. While it’s fun to see Han and Leia back together again, Chewy sitting co-pilot in the Millennium Falcon, and C-3P0 back to his helpful if not slightly overbearing ways, the new cast of characters do their best to establish themselves, and they do it well. Finn and Poe are great both in their scenes together and apart, and Captain Phasma is incredible during her short time on screen. Adam Driver gives us an excellent antagonist in Kylo Ren, a surprisingly complex antagonist who gives us more than your standard Star Wars villain is used to. I’d go as far to say as he was my second favorite character in the film, keeping me most interested in his character, second only to the leading lady herself.

I personally believe Daisy Ridley steals the show in her portrayal of Rey, providing an excellent female lead who manages to avoid most tropes that typically befall the women in these films. She’s strong and independent, not relying on her male counterparts to come to the rescue. She’s an interesting and compelling character, who leaves just enough of her back story unknown to keep fans speculating and talking until Episode VIII is released in 2017. Among this talented cast of both familiar and new faces, I think it’s safe to say that Ridley will be the “new face” of the next generation of Star Wars.

While I’ve been singing the praises of this film, it does have some flaws as most films do. The dialogue, while good for the most part, is still very clunky in some parts, and makes a point to tell us many things that could be simply shown on screen. That being said, it’s still far better than the dialogue that George Lucas gave us in Episodes I-III. In addition, the story while good did seem a bit forced and scattered in parts. Finally, as much as I like the nostalgic feel that the film exudes, this is the beginning of a new trilogy, so while I feel this strategy worked for one film, the next two films are going to need to work hard to give us something different and interesting to keep the fans interested and giving it the positive feedback that Episode VII got.  While these are flaws in the film, they weren’t enough to ruin my experience, and won’t ruin the experience for a die hard fan.

In all, J.J. Abrams has brought life back to the franchise. The film is much more than a sequel. It’s an invitation to a new generation, to experience Star Wars the same way generations before them did. Both as this invitation and as a continuation of the established story, the film succeeds. I’m giving The Force Awakens a perfect 5/5. The characters, story, and references to the previous films are enough to keep the most diehard fans entertained, and interesting enough to introduce a new generation of Jedi to the Force.

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“Your Legacy is More Than a Name.” That’s the tagline for Ryan Coogler’s spinoff of the Rocky series, Creed. And that theme, the theme of your legacy, is apparent throughout the film. It’s been 9 years since the Italian Stallion’s last appearance on the big screen, but that hasn’t slowed him down, as even behind new director Coogler, I feel that this may be one of the strongest entries in the Rocky series to date.

The story to Creed is simple enough; a young man named Adonis “Hollywood Donny” Johnson (Michael B. Jordan), the illegitimate son of Apollo Creed, makes his way to Philly to seek out Rocky Balboa in order to begin the training necessary to learn how to be a champion boxer. Throughout the film, Donny and Rocky hone his skills as a boxer while he tries to figure out his place in the world. Along the way he finds out just what it means to be a family, and learns to accept his father’s name without diminishing his own legacy.

As can be expected from a Rocky film, the characters are compelling and very well written. Coogler’s excellent writing mixed with the talented performance of every actor involved, especially from Stallone and Jordan. These two put everything they have into their performances, and it shows on the screen. Stallone truly encapsulates Rocky’s older, weathered attitude throughout the film. He’s significantly older than the last time we saw him in the ring in Rocky Balboa, and he’s completely retired once again. In exact contrast, Jordan’s youthful energy and attitude gives him the motivation he needs to be the best boxer he can be. The way these two work with each other, and the way their attitudes both mix and clash throughout the film is entirely realistic, and you really feel for both characters. Really everyone on screen puts out a decent performance, but Stallone and Jordan really make this film their own. Fitting, as they’re the star characters.

The concept of your legacy is the major theme throughout the film. Donny wants to make a name for himself as a boxer without having to use the crutch of his father’s name to gain the notoriety he wants. Meanwhile, Rocky shows slight signs of his legacy going to waste through his retirement. Before Donny shows up, Rocky doesn’t have much of anything to do as he’s tried to keep himself away from the boxing scene. Once he’s face to face with Creed’s son, though, he takes up the mantle as Donny’s trainer and passes on everything he knows to him. The two become a family, and Donny is set on the track to become one of the greatest boxers around.

The characters aren’t the only ones dealing with the concept of a legacy, though. That concept translates to the actual film itself. Stallone didn’t write or direct this film like he did with previous entries in the series. Passing on the mantle of writer/director to Ryan Coogler is Stallone’s legacy of the series. Taking a back seat both as a character and as a director shows that Stallone is ready to let Rocky’s world move on. And part of that moving on is helping usher in a new generation – Both for the characters, and for the filmmakers.

Overall, Creed was a fantastic callback to the Rocky series that still stands on its own as a fantastic film with a worthwhile message. The compelling characters and simplistic yet heart filled story keeps you entertained for the duration of the film, and the message is a relatable one that sticks with you. I’m giving Creed a 5/5, and recommend everyone go see this phenomenal piece of filmmaking.