The Legend of Tarzan
Director: David Yates
Cast: Alexander Skarsgard, Margot Robbie, Christoph Waltz, Samuel L. Jackson, Djimon Hounsou, Ben Chaplin, Jim Broadbent, Osy Ikhile, Antony Acheampong
British director David Yates who was responsible for Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows returns to the director’s chair headlining a re-imagining of the mythical Tarzan, in the new visually astounding film, The Legend of Tarzan, featuring Swedish hunk Alexander Skarsgard in the titular role.
Tarzan, also known as Lord Greystoke, John Clayton is accompanied by his beautiful and vivacious wife Jane, wonderfully played by Margot Robbie (The Wolf of Wall Street, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot) and an American emissary George Washington Williams played against type by Oscar nominee Samuel L. Jackson (Pulp Fiction, Kingsman: Secret Service). The villain in Legend of Tarzan is played by none other than Austrian Oscar winner Christoph Waltz (Spectre, Django Unchained) who portrays the evil and repugnant Leon Rom. The year is 1884 and the colonization of Africa by European powers is gaining rapid and unparalleled momentum.
Set in the beautiful and vast Belgian Congo, when King Leopold was rapaciously raping the Congo of its mineral wealth, particularly diamonds using slave labour and devious means including turning warring local tribes against each other. One such tribe headed by Chief Mbonga muscularly played by Djimon Hounsou (Blood Diamond) wants Tarzan’s head on a plate and makes an unlikely pact with the unscrupulous Rom, who will stop at nothing to complete his reigning monarch’s ambitious colonial plans.
John and Jane Clayton are persuaded to leave the comforts of late Victorian England behind and head for the exotic and wild plains of the Belgian Congo, where they soon confront the evil Leon Rom and his multitude of force publique officers who are out to enslave and enforce the will of the Belgian monarch upon the unsuspecting locals.
What really makes The Legend of Tarzan worth seeing is the brilliant incorporation of superb visual effects using performance capture technology for a vivid portrayal of the wildlife featured in the film, mainly the gorillas, lions and hordes of wildebeest. The brilliantly featured gorillas are a highlight. These creatures of the wild, raised baby Tarzan as one of their own, teaching him the laws of the jungle and how important it is to respect the hierarchy of the Animal Kingdom.
Whilst Skarsgard’s performance of the iconic Tarzan is not perfect, he certainly has the muscular and gorgeous body to pull off this particularly physical role. After all the success of casting a male actor as Tarzan depends entirely on his physique. The well chiselled Skarsgard is naturally born for this role.
Margot Robbie breathes new life into Jane, as a feisty independent American woman who has attitude and her best scenes ironically shine through when played opposite the scheming villain Rom. In terms of dialogue, the best scene is between Robbie and Waltz as they dine precariously together on a steamer travelling down the Congo River, in a visual reference to The Heart of Darkness.
The Legend of Tarzan is better than anticipated, with magnificent visual effects elevating the film out of cinematic parody. It’s a well plotted, action filled and entertaining film, a worthwhile trip to the cinema where audiences can delve into a real adventure story which features the exotic and the brave.
In this version, the shirtless Tarzan swinging in the proverbial jungle should keep many swooning for years to come.
Director: Paolo Sorrentino
Cast: Michael Caine, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, Paul Dano, Jane Fonda, Nate Dern, Ed Stoppard, Tom Lipinski, Alex Beckett, Alex Macqueen
Italian director Paolo Sorrentino first caught my attention with the visually impressive film, This Must be the Place about an aging rocker who leaves England and travels across America. The film starred Sean Penn. Then Sorrentino made the beautiful La Dolce Vita inspired masterpiece, The Great Beauty set in Rome about an aging playboy who reflects on his life of indulgence and decadence.
Now, Sorrentino returns with another visually impressive film Youth starring Michael Caine, Harvey Keitel and Jane Fonda. Youth is film as art.
A sublime and intriguing cinematic meditation on both the horrors and concealed desires of aging. It is a superb film, especially the last third of the film, which is so visually arresting and gorgeous it will be difficult for viewers not to be moved.
Set mainly in a luxurious Swiss Spa resort which naturally focuses on well-being, health and vitality, Youth centres on the uncomplicated friendship between two aging celebrities, Fred Ballinger, superbly played by Oscar winner Michael Caine (The Cider House Rules) and film director Mick Boyle also brilliantly played by Harvey Keitel (Casino, The Piano).
Oscar winner Rachel Weisz (The Constant Gardener) also stars as Ballinger petulant but continuously sad daughter and assistant, who happens to be married to Boyle’s son.
Paul Dano (There will be Blood) appears as a hip Hollywood actor who is experimenting with his next major onscreen role. He finally decides to choose Desire over Horror.
The repartee between Keitel and Caine is superb, punctuated by some fantastically crafted scenes on aging bodies recuperating under the guidance of the Swiss. Ballinger is also constantly being pestered by the Queen of England’s emissary to conduct a concert of one of his most prolific works, Simple Songs, which was created as a sign of his complicated love for his wife.
Youth is a beautiful film, wonderfully shot, taking full advantage of the pristine Swiss countryside and surrounding mountain ranges. What is even more captivating in the film, is Michael Caine’s droll and almost nonchalant performance as the reluctant composer who is being enticed at every turn to come out of semi-retirement.
Caine’s performance is phenomenal considering how few well-written roles there are in Hollywood for actors over the age of seventy in this youth obsessed digitized contemporary culture that currently influence Western cinema. Which brings us to the second most captivating scene in the film, the mind-blowing moment between Harvey Keitel and screen legend and icon, Jane Fonda (Barbarella, The China Syndrome, The Butler). In such a brief scene, Fonda is sizzling and absolutely defines the film.
Fonda plays Brenda Morrell a high maintenance Hollywood diva who unexpectedly arrives at the Swiss resort to break some startling news to her director Mick Boyle. This scene is cinematically brilliant in that it occurs just after Ballinger and Boyle are drooling over the voluptuous Miss Universe as she takes a dip in the same swimming pool they are in.
Youth is a cinematic feast, a gorgeous and rich meditation on the wonders and horrors of grow old gracefully. Aesthetically challenging, Youth is highly recommended viewing and worth a visit for a discerning audience who like their films to be inventive, invigorating and poignant.
Director: Michael Grandage
Cast: Colin Firth, Jude Law, Nicole Kidman, Laura Linney, Guy Pierce, Dominic West, Vanessa Kirby
Jude Law reunites with his Cold Mountain co-star Nicole Kidman and shares the screen with Oscar winner Colin Firth (The King’s Speech) in actor turned director Michael Grandage’s handsome literary film, Genius which premiered at the 37th Durban International Film Festival – http://www.durbanfilmfest.co.za/
Genius is based upon the biography of Max Perkins written by A. Scott Berg and transformed into an enlightening screenplay by John Logan.
Set in New York in the late 1920’s and on the brink of the Great Depression, Colin Firth gives a measured and subtle performance as the literary editor Max Perkins who has to contend with the overzealous and brilliant Carolingian writer Thomas Wolfe wonderfully played by Jude Law (The Talented Mr Ripley) who has written a masterpiece, Look Homeward, Angel but needs the editing skills of the diligent Max Perkins to edit the text into a readable novel.
Perkins was responsible for editing the literary works of Ernest Hemingway played in this film by Dominic West (Testament of Youth) and F. Scott Fitzgerald post his Parisian phase, played by Guy Pearce (L.A. Confidential). Genius is the examination of a male bond and friendship which strikes up between the reserved and slightly conservative Perkins and the wild and exuberant Thomas Wolfe, whose patronage is supported by the jealous and possessive Aline Bernstein superbly played by Nicole Kidman (The Hours).
Genius is about the evolution of a literary text, from creation through editing to publication, and how that process can be fraught with distraction, despair and most importantly passion.
Perkins neglects his long suffering wife Louise played by Oscar nominee Laura Linney (Kinsey, Mr Holmes) and his family of daughters. Perkins unwittingly and perhaps subconsciously finds solace in the male friendship of the erratic and gifted Thomas Wolfe, although their affection for each other borders upon the homo-erotic, which both Aline and Louise can perceive and are certainly threatened by.
Firth wears a hat for the majority of the film and only at the end of Genius after he admits his true feelings for the incorrigible Wolfe, does he take it off. Perkin’s hat serves as a signifier of conformity in the film, despite the raging modernist and Bloomsbury movement which was engulfing Paris and London at the times. New York was still fairly conservative by European standards especially as the full effects of the Great Depression are realized by American society.
Despite an Oscar worthy cast and ambitious literary intentions, Genius is not a superb film in the same vein that The Hours was or Christopher Hampton’s Carrington, yet it is worth watching and would appeal to audiences who possess sophisticated literary tastes.
Nevertheless with polished production values, and brilliant performances by Jude Law and Nicole Kidman, Genius is an informative portrayal of a hugely talented writer Thomas Wolfe who never quite achieved the same international posthumous recognition as F. Scott Fitzgerald or Ernest Hemingway.
Genius is recommended viewing and certainly a reason to rediscover the literary works of Wolfe who wrote Look Homeward, Angel and Of Time and The River.
Director: Don Cheadle
Cast: Don Cheadle, Ewan McGregor, Michael Stulbarg, Emayatzy Corinealdi, Austin Lyon, Keith Stanfield
Don Cheadle (Hotel Rwanda) makes his directorial debut in the superb, frenetic portrait of legendary jazz musician Miles Davis and starring in the main role in the brilliant film Miles Ahead which premiered at the 37th Durban International Film Festival http://www.durbanfilmfest.co.za/ . If the 2017 Oscars are looking for more diversity they should look no further than Don Cheadle’s wonderful performance, so captivating, energetic and entrancing. Cheadle should definitely earn an Oscar nomination for this studied and embracing performance of a jazz icon, that he holds in high esteem.
Set in New York at the end of the 1970’s Cheadle plays a reclusive Miles Davis who along with struggling a multitude of additions has not release a new album in years. In steps Ewan McGregor as the brash Rolling Stones journalist Dave Brill who coaxes Davis out of his liar to confront his own demons and a music business which is cut throat dangerous and down right greedy.
Through a series of perfectly placed flashbacks audiences get a glimpse of an earlier version of Miles Davis as he begins courting the gorgeous dancer Frances Taylor wonderfully played by the beautiful Emayatzy Corinealdi who was last seen in the stunningly brutal mini-series Roots.
As Miles and Dave embark on a frantic search for a recording of some his new music which was unfortunately stolen at a wild party at Davis’s New York apartment, they come across the shady and almost unrecognizable Michael Stulbarg last seen in Trumbo as gangster Harper Hamilton who has vested interests in the music business. Watch the brilliant 1970’s series Vinyl for more substance on this topic.
At the heart of Miles Ahead, is Miles Davis’s passion for brilliant music and his understanding of how classical music informed the evolution of the jazz movement which many in the establishment regarded as risque.
Interestingly, Miles Ahead, also makes a strong point about racial integration as Davis was definitely a man who had been prejudiced against and he desperately wanted to smash any racial stereotypes. In one scene in the film, Miles Davis is even arrested by a bigoted cop outside the venue where he is performing for loitering.
The dynamic scenes between Cheadle and McGregor make Miles Ahead so fascinating as they race around New York fuelled by drugs and alcohol to find the missing jazz score. More importantly, fans of Miles Davis will love the soundtrack as a jazzy jive which keeps the film fresh, funky and absolutely engaging.
Miles Ahead is highly recommended viewing, an entertaining portrait of the legendary Miles Davis who by his attitude and music was definitely way ahead of his time.
The Endless River
Director: Oliver Hermanus
Cast: Crystal-Donna Roberts, Nicolas Duvauchelle, Denise Newman, Darren Kelfkens, Clayton Evertson, Carel Nel
After South African director Oliver Hermanus’s controversial debut with his 2011 film, Skoonheid, which made into the Un Certain Regard category at the Cannes Film Festival, Hermanus returns to the prestigious 37th Durban International Film Festival http://www.durbanfilmfest.co.za/ with his new film Endless River.
The Endless River is set in contemporary South Africa and focuses on an immigrant French family headed by Gilles played by Nicolas Duvauchelle, who suffers a heart wrenching loss when his wife and two children are killed in a brutal farm and home attack. Set in the small rural community of Riviersonderend geographically situated between Caledon and Swellendam in the Western Cape which historically got the nickname of Tygerhoek which translates into English as Tiger’s Corner.
Visually, The Endless River is stylised like a Western with big bold lettering announcing the actor’s names as the opening credits appear on screen. Audiences immediately expect a dramatic showdown, instead Hermanus gives us an emotional showdown between different communities both foreign and local, angry and unforgiving.
The opening shot of the film is of Giles sitting in the local restaurant chatting to a friendly waitress, Tiny, wonderfully played by Crystal-Donna Roberts, which sets the scene for these two character’s lives being irrevocably entwined.
Hermanus divides The Endless River into three distinct chapters, Gilles, Tiny’s and Tiny’s gangster boyfriend played by Clayton Evertson.
Soon Giles and Tiny start a tentative love affair although Hermanus stays clear of the sexually explicit nature of this affair, something he didn’t do in the obsessive love story of his previous film Skoonheid which made it so ground-breaking and shocking.
The Endless River is a fascinating portrayal of mutually shared grief, loss, love and the power of two people to reconcile their differences and form a strong bond which ultimately is doomed to fail.
Whilst The Endless River does not pack the same shock value as Skoonheid, except during the brutal home invasion sequence in which Gilles’s beautiful French wife is gang-raped and his two young sons shot in the bath, it is a film which resonates with provocative images signifying deeper issues in South Africa such as gang violence, the brutal crime of home invasion and unemployment.
Audiences should not expect to experience a cathartic release in Hermanus’s narrative, except a beautiful if poignant yet tragic portrayal of love, loss and revenge set in Riviersonderend, a place which since settlers have first arrived in South Africa have found to be as unforgiving as it is revealing. Look out for a powerful cameo by Denise Newman (Material, Shirley Adams, Disgrace) as Tiny’s mother Mona who is weary of welcoming her daughter’s boyfriend fresh out of prison into their domestic environment.
Endless River is not as brilliant as Skoonheid but judging by the packed audience at its first screening at the 37th Durban International Film Festival http://www.durbanfilmfest.co.za/ is sure to attract a curious following and is testament to Oliver Hermanus’s rising status as an influential South African film maker.
Filled with some well-constructed and breath-taking images especially of Tsitsikamma forest and of the Garden Route, The Endless River is a love story born out of pain, grief and mutual mistrust.
Now You See Me 2
Director: Jon M. Chu
Cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Lizzy Caplan, Mark Ruffalo, Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, Daniel Radcliffe, Dave Franco, Sanaa Lathan
Following the success of the 2013 magical film Now You See Me, there was definitely a call to make a sequel and reunite the illusive four horsemen.
In the sequel, Now You See Me 2, G. I. Joe: Retaliation director Jon M. Chu misses the mark in providing a magical follow up to the original film, despite reuniting the same cast including Jesse Eisenberg as Daniel Atlas, Woody Harrelson as Merritt McKinney who also has a rather irritating identical twin brother in this film, Mark Ruffalo as Dylan Rhodes and Dave Franco as Jack Wilder.
New to the cast is master illusionist Lula played by Lizzy Caplan famous from the raunchy Masters of Sex TV series and the superfluous Daniel Radcliffe as a reclusive tech billionaire Walter Mabry who recruits the magicians to steal back a ubiquitous yet highly guarded computer chip which can hack into anything at an international exchange in the glamorous resort casinos of Macau.
As the action moves swiftly from New York to Macau and then onto London, the magical tricks and digital illusions even involving numerous card tricks in which the microchip seemingly passes from one horseman to another, Now You See Me 2 appears to be lacking in the essential element of revelation. Something the first film did so brilliantly. For as the optical illusions, card tricks and magic increases, there is less time to provide valuable explanations to the bewildered if slightly amused audience.
Veteran actors Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman reprise their roles as Arthur Tressler and Thaddeus Bradley respectively whose unholy alliance leads the Four Horseman to play the ultimate trick on the chief villain, a poorly played part by Daniel Radcliffe, who unfortunately appeared to be out of place in this sequel. Perhaps Radcliffe should stick to stronger script material with meatier roles in mind like he did in Victor Frankenstein and Kill Your Darlings.
Oscar nominee Mark Ruffalo (Spotlight, Foxcatcher) is plausibly believable as the elusive FBI agent Rhodes despite occasionally giving the impression that he should not have signed on for this sequel. Harrelson is in top form playing twins and the only sparks are provided by Eisenberg and Caplan who seem to be the most energetic and enthusiastic magicians.
Whilst Now You See Me 2 falls short of being as brilliant as the first film, it certainly is a fun film to watch even if the plot is slightly convoluted especially in between the globetrotting disappearing acts that the main actors seem to do quite effortlessly. Now You See Me 2 is an enjoyable film, but nothing as magical or dazzling as the original. Lets hope the third film in this magical trilogy is more impressive.
Director: Duncan Jones
Cast: Travis Fimmel, Dominic Cooper, Ben Foster, Paula Patton, Toby Kebbell, Daniel Wu, Ben Schnetzer, Glenn Close, Anna Galvin, Robert Kazinsky, Clancy Brown
Moon and Source Code director Duncan Jones who incidentally is the son of the late pop icon David Bowie takes on a big budget action fantasy in the highly anticipated Warcraft featuring some dazzling motion capture technology which even gives Dawn of the Planet of the Apes credible competition.
Featuring an all-star cast including the roguishly handsome Travis Fimmel of Vikings TV fame as Anduin Lothar, warrior of the fictional world of Azeroth who has to contend with the orc’s arriving en masse from their dying world of Draenor through a visually spectacular portal which causes worlds to collide.
On the orcs side, Toby Kebbell (Dawn of the Plant of the Apes), plays Durotan who soon realizes that the orcs mission is doomed to fail and Paula Patton (Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol) plays Garona a conflicted and gorgeous looking half orc, half human who becomes a prisoner of the Azeroth warriors.
On the human side, there is the dashing Dominic Cooper (The Duchess, Devil’s Double) as King Llane Wrynn and the brilliant Ben Foster (Kill Your Darlings, The Finest Hours) as the mercurial magical protector Medivh who are all tasked with protecting Stormwind Keep from the invading Orcs and their malevolent leader.
Ben Schnetzer (The Riot Club, The Book Thief) pops up as a gifted young wizard named Khadgar who assists in protecting Stormwind Keep while discovering the significant source of the Orc invasion in Azeroth. Audiences should also watch out for a brief uncredited appearance by Glenn Close.
Based upon a series of extremely popular real time strategy computer games created by Blizzard entertainment, Warcraft is a superbly produced, visually spectacular fantasy film catering to a wide audience including those that are not even familiar with the apparently addictive and highly entertaining PC games which opened up entire realms of imagination.
As the worlds of Azeroth and Draenor collide, there are epic battle scenes, visually impressive fight sequences and a twist in this fantasy drama which is enough to even cater for hard core Game of Thrones fans. Warcraft is surprisingly brilliant, a superbly directed epic fantasy which is sure to attract a loyal fan base especially if there are sequels in the pipeline.
Highly recommended viewing for those that relish the world of fantasy and the eternal battle between good and evil in whatever form it takes, both beautiful and hideous.
The Nice Guys
Director: Shane Black
Cast: Ryan Gosling, Russell Crowe, Kim Basinger, Matt Bomer, Angourie Rice, Margaret Qualley, Beau Knapp
Russell Crowe reunites with his L.A. Confidential co-star Kim Basinger along with Ryan Gosling in the Buddy action film The Nice Guys set in Los Angeles in 1977, amidst a sleazy world of fading porn stars, smog and gas restrictions.
Actually, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang director Shane Black sums up The Nice Guys in the opening sequence of the film, with a young boy stealing a porn magazine from under his parents bed, only to narrowly escape a sports car driving through the house whereby he discovers the curvaceous body of the porn star Misty Mountains, bloodied and trapped in a wrecked car asking “How do you like my car?”
Sex and driving are equated multiple times in this seventies L. A. crime caper romp.
Oscar nominee Ryan Gosling (Half Nelson, Drive) teams up with Oscar winner Russell Crowe (A Beautiful Mind, Gladiator) for a seventies buddy movie in the vein of Starsky and Hutch although slightly more X-rated and definitely more violent. If the plot appears slightly convoluted that’s because it’s meant to be and possibly points to one of the structural weaknesses of the film.
But the on-screen bromance between Gosling and Crowe is perfect and central to what makes The Nice Guys such a humourous and quirky film. That and Gosling’s character, Holland March, a sleazy hard drinking and hapless private eye who is trying to keep his life together while raising a teenage daughter Holly superbly played by Angourie Rice. The disorganized March’s relationship with his daughter is what makes this film work as it is the central motivating factor forcing him to get his act together, acting as the emotional core of an otherwise macho buddy film.
The action sequences are wild and spectacular including a bizarre sequence at a studio 54 inspired party in a Bellair mansion as well as the dazzling finale at the Bonaventura Hotel in downtown Los Angeles at the 1978 California car show which goes haywire when JohnnyBoy a Detroit assassin wonderfully played against type by Matt Bomer (The Normal Heart, Magic Mike) attempts to retrieve an important porn film which implicates highranking officials in the American auto industry as well as a ruthless and cold California Chief Justice Judith Kuttner played by Oscar winner Kim Basinger.
Shane Black’s The Nice Guys is not a perfect film, but rather a homage to the late 1970’s California, a society obsessed with fame, cars and fading porn stars as well as a hedonistic desire to escape the worst of the post-Nixon Watergate scandal.
Highly recommended viewing if audiences enjoy a quirky seventies tale with off the wall action, lots of retro style and peppered with witty dialogue which will keep them guessing. It’s also a chance to see two brilliant Hollywood actors take a turn at physical comedy especially Gosling who is hilarious in the smoking on the toilet with a gun in his hand bathroom scene.
Audiences should also look out for Val Kilmer’s son Jack Kilmer as the impressionable projectionist Chet who unwillingly gets caught up in the whole investigation initiated by The Nice Guys while searching for the mysterious girl in the yellow dress named Amelia.
Director: Jodie Foster
Cast: Julia Roberts, George Clooney, Jack O’Connell, Dominic West, Caitriona Balfe, Giancarlo Esposito, Christopher Denham
Young British actor Jack O’Connell certainly seems to be handpicked by Oscar winner female actresses turned directors to star in their films. First it was O’Connell’s brilliant portrayal of Olympic athlete Louis Zamperini turned prisoner of war in the World War two epic Unbroken directed by Angelina Jolie and now he is cast as the disgruntled young investor Kyle Budwell in Jodie Foster’s live action hostage drama, Money Monster set on Wall Street, New York city.
Echoing a similar vibe to the brilliant Spike Lee film, Inside Man, in which Jodie Foster starred, Money Monster is a gripping tale of TV show which is taken hostage by the unhinged yet scared Budwell, who holds the show’s vain TV host Lee Gates hostage. Gates is wonderfully played by Oscar winner George Clooney (Syriana) who literally has to put his life in the hands of the Money Monster show producer Patty Fenn, a sharp and sassy performance by Oscar winner Julia Roberts.
The fact that Money Monster has Julia Roberts and George Clooney as the two main leads is testament to the film’s star power yet rising star Jack O’Connell holds his own as the desperate and slightly idiotic Budwell who has literally bitten off more than he can chew, when he creates a live hostage drama so that the show, Money Monster can ascertain the real truth behind an investment company Ibis mysteriously losing $800 million which is initially blamed on a glitch due to a trading algorithm.
As Money Monster develops, it soon emerges, that the slimy CEO of the murky multi-national Ibis, Walt Camby wonderfully played by Dominic West, last seen in the brilliant series The Affair, has done some dodgy stock manipulation as well as orchestrating some labour unrest at a platinum mine in South Africa. No surprise there.
Money Monster is a taut, watchable thriller and whilst the plot is at times contrived, it is a fascinating indictment on the power of broadcast media especially in the public’s hunger to witness a dramatic spectacle unfold, made more pertinent as the conflict being televised relates to the incomprehensible world of international high finance, where a chosen few are entrusted with the financial futures of millions of shareholders in these precarious economic times.
As a director Jodie Foster highlights the immediacy of Live Television while skilfully blending in the less than glamorous, but flawed characters behind the scenes which generate such flashy media content. Clooney and Roberts are particularly well cast as TV host and producer while O’Connell once again demonstrates that his star is on the rise.
Money Monster is highly recommended viewing, extremely watchable, unpredictable and very entertaining.
Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Fassbender, James McAvoy, Rose Byrne, Oscar Isaac, Nicholas Hoult, Sophie Turner, Tye Sheridan, Olivia Munn, Josh Helman, Ben Hardy, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Lucas Till, Evan Peters
Director Bryan Singer’s latest film forms the conclusion of a prequel trilogy. X-Men Apocalypse is a pastiche of 80’s paranoia even though the main villain Apocalypse originates from Ancient Egypt and is set upon decimating the world of man and mutants circa 1983, having risen out of a gold pyramid in modern day Egypt and decides annihilation is in order.
Reassembling much of the cast of X-Men: First Class, X-Men Apocalypse stars Jennifer Lawrence (The Hunger Games Trilogy) as Raven/Mystique, James McAvoy (Victor Frankenstein) as Charles Xavier, Michael Fassbender (Macbeth) as Magneto, Nicholas Hoult as Hank McCoy/Beast and Game of Thrones star Sophie Turner as a young Jean Grey and Rose Byrne returns as Moira Mactaggert who first confronts the devastating power of Apocalypse in Cairo and alerts Charles Xavier and his band of mutants to the imminent danger.
Despite some of the mutants not wanting to be drawn into another conflict, they soon all bandy together when they realize how dangerous Apocalypse is, in his unrelenting quest to destroy human civilization circa 1983 and along with that eighties world, the parallel community of the mutants.
X-Men: Apocalypse is more mutants versus a more formidable mutant, than man vs mutant, although like always Magneto has several changes of conscience especially after seeing his young wife and daughter accidentally killed in a Polish forest. Soon Erik Lehnsherr aka Magneto unleashes all his anger and becomes the perfect ally for Apocalypse’s annihilating antics.
Much of the action alternates between America, Poland and Egypt and whilst X-Men: Apocalypse does not have that some groovy retro feel as the seventies set X-Men: First Class, there are some distinct 1980’s signifiers including a collage of Reagan material, nuclear armament as well as stock images pointing to the last decade of the cold war, where mistrust defined global politics.
Bryan Singer knows how to direct such a large ensemble cast even though audiences at times might get a sense of Mutant overload, but then again this is X-Men: Apocalypse and the more superhumans the better. X-Men: Apocalypse is definitely a case of the Unusual Suspects.
Clearly the cast of this film had great fun making it and the visual effects are truly inspiring especially the Egyptian sequence when the Mutants take on Apocalypse with his band of malevolent mutants including Psylocke played by Olivia Munn and birdman Angel played by Ben Hardy.
Audiences should also watch out for Tye Sheridan as a young Cyclops and Kodi Smit-McPhee as the turquoise teleporter Nightcrawler, who Mystique discovers in a cage fight in East Berlin.
X-Men: Apocalypse is recommended viewing for those that enjoyed X-Men: First Class and X-Men: Days of Future Past, all three films now make up the prequel trilogy. Marvel is certainly milking a lucrative franchise for all its worth and audiences are lapping up the ever expanding mutant universe.