Reviews: Warcraft, X-Men: Apocalypse, and Now You See Me 2

On the podcast, it was always hard talking about new movies, because we were always having to tiptoe around spoilers. Of all the horrible things that can come from the internet, and I've talked about playing a few games of "just the tip" with the deep web, nothing rates quite as high on the hate list as spoilers...or at least the people doing the spoiling with little to no warning. It's hard not to be that guy. A few minutes is hardly a lot of advanced notice to give, and we can't exactly tell you where to resume listening if you want to skip ahead.

Audio is tricky. Text is easy. All you have to do is go big and bold, and maybe say something like

SPOILERS MAY FOLLOW, READ AT YOUR OWN RISK

...and everyone easily gets the point.

Right? Does everyone get the point? Thought so...so without further ado, on with the show!

Warcraft: The Beginning

I'm going to preface this by saying that I have a strong bias; I've never played Warcraft or World of Warcraft. I had no idea going into this movie who any of the notable characters are in the series, what the idealogies are, or what any of the big caveats are of the games. It was clear that some knowledge of the universe in which this exists was a prerequisite to seeing this. Lothar...Durotan...Khadgar...Gul'dan... ...I spent the whole movie getting these characters confused, as character development seems to have been left largely in the hands of the game makers, who were far removed from the production of the film it seems.

As much as I can gather, this movie is the preface for where the original Warcraft game picks up. Before there was the war between the Alliance and the Horde, there was the Gate, bridging the two worlds of Draenor and Azeroth, fueled by a dark magic called Fel. The Orcs face extinction, as their home world of Draenor slowly dies, and the races of Azeroth now face the wrath of the Orc Horde as they try to claim a new home using the only form of negotiation they know...War.

This is as much as I've managed to gather about the lore of Warcraft from the film, and...I'm going to go ahead and throw this out there...I didn't like it. But, my reasons are obvious, so let's see if I can be objective about this.

My gripe primarily was with the lack of developing the characters, and establishing lore. This was definitely intended as a movie for existing fans of the Warcraft franchise, that already are firmly rooted in its adage and legend.
This movie wasn't made to bring in a larger fanbase, it was more made to cater to its already established fanbase, in my opinion anyways. And while I'm sure this will make some new fans of the franchise, this is a fan service movie.

The special effects were actually very good. I mean, this is CG dominated movie, so it kind of has to be. I think computer graphics haven't gotten to the point now though that that shouldn't even need to be a call out, but it's still something that means a lot to me. It's attention to detail.

The story, once you can finally get your head around it if you're uninitiated to the tribe, is pretty solid. A tale of multiple betrayals, the fall of a hero, the rise of a villain, and the genesis of a franchise.

The action is decent; magic and swordplay throughout. The biggest sets of armor I have ever seen, huge weapons, and large colorful spells. It's good.

The acting felt a little forced. The guy that played Lothar especially; he was all over the place with rage, macheesmo, and disdain. He couldn't find a tone that suited the character, so role had kind of a bipolar feel to it. And Medivh...could we please find a deific character type that has more ab and less flab? Also, someone that didn't look like they just did a line of coke in the green room. Not making accusations, just stating an opinion.

There was one saving grace on the acting/casting side...

Paula Patton is just...she's a lot of yes. Okay, her performance was a bit flat, but I believed more in her character than Lothar.

So, in summary...lacking in a broad audience appeal, and the acting/casting felt hollow, but the story and the visuals held it up quite a bit.

Warcraft: The Beginning
3 out of 5 stars

X-Men: Apocalypse

This is the third installment since they more or less rebooted the franchise with X-Men: First Class. Never mind that Days of Future Past went about crossing two alternate timelines with two sets of actors, and one of the most convoluted plot lines I've seen yet, I'm still counting it as a prequel movie.

Anyways, without giving away much more than what the TV ads did, One of the first of mutants, that lived back in the time of pharaoh era Egypt has been awoken...and he is pissed. En Sabah Nur is the name of this big baddie, reawakened back in the 80s(approximately 10 years past the events that changed the future in Days of Future Past)...and he is looking to rid the world of its'...weaknesses. Where his resistance was minimal in the past, he now has the X-Men to contend with.

We see the reintroduction this time of some of the X-Men staple characters; Scott Summers(Cyclops), Ororo Munroe(Storm), Jean Grey, and even Jubilee finally gets some face time. The only other character that is new to the silver screen is Psylocke(Ok, yes. She was in Last Stand, but I don't think she even had a speaking role, let alone screen time totalling more that 5 minutes, so :p ). Olivia Munn has been a long time favorite for me, so seeing her get the chance to suit up and be a badass is I feel a long time coming for me.

Now, the complaints I hear most about this movie are that En Sabah Nur/Apocalypse is not how he should be. Early renderings released to the public had him looking a lot like Ivan Ooze from the original Power Rangers movie.

They ended up making him a bit darker and a bit more ominous, but the theater version really wasn't all that different.

So yea, many didn't feel like Apocalypse lived up to looking like the badass that he was in the comics. Don't let that fool you though, he is still one of the most powerful mutants I have seen displayed in the movies, and I don't even know what the extent of his powers are.

Ok, brass tax. The action is the most intense I've see in any X-Men movie, and I'm including the first three with Patrick Stewart as the Professor and Ian McKellen as Magneto. The whole world is thrown into chaos. Everyone that can fight makes it out to the battlefield in this one, Charles even goes up against Apocalypse, one-on-one. Top marks as far as I'm concerned.

The casting was also great for me. Regardless of what you think about the visual look of Apocalypse, Oscar Isaac played that role like a fiddle. I've already expressed my approval of the "rebooted" cast of regulars, and they did not disappoint at all. McAvoy I think, is becoming the definitive Charles...I think he's at Patrick Stewart's level. And I mean no offense to Ian McKellan, none whatsoever, but I think that Michael Fassbender brings so much more intensity to the role of Magneto.

Don't even get me started with Mystique. I think you all know that I've got a thing for Jennifer Lawrence.

Just...yes. I mean...hngh. The thirst is strong.

The new guys killed it too. Scott Summers and Jean Grey felt as young as they ought to, and seeing them at that point when their powers were still out of control was really cool.

This is X-Men, so mentioning the graphics is kind of a moot point...of course they're spectacular.

The story is, well, same thing, different spin. It's up to them to save the world. It's not from a super mutant trying to start World War 3, or from there own pasts this time...but from a super mutant from the past that wants to bring about the apocalypse. Original concepts. 

All things considered, I thought this was a good summer movie. It's not going to win an oscar anytime soon, but it was a good couple of hours worth of eye candy.

X-Men: Apocalypse
3.5 out of 5 stars

Now You See Me 2

Right off the bat, this is going to be a hard sell. The obvious assumption going into this movie is that it is a film about magic. Going into this expecting what you got out of The Illusionist or The Prestige...will leave you very disappointed. The same can be said about the first one. Everyone said about the first movie that, if you instead went into it expecting more of a heist movie, that you would feel a lot better walking out that you got your monies worth.

::Sidebar:: Is that a real word, monies? Or is that something that greasy gangsters made up? Like irregardless. It doesn't feel real. ::/Sidebar::

So, the expectation might be then, that with the second movie here with the same thought that it might be a heist move...that our expectations might be much better managed.
Well, maybe...and maybe not. Is there magic...yes. Is there a heist...yes. You'd still be missing quite a bit, but I'm not about spoilers here, so there's not much more to say. I guess what I can say is that there are aspects of revenge, and secret societies at play here, and you're getting pretty close to the whole picture.

Meat and taters. A lot of what makes up the "4 Horsemen's" arsenal of magical tricks is misdirection and slight of hand. So, this is not largely an effects driven movie. Given that, what is used feels very situationally appropriate, and not blown out and overly flashy.

The casting/acting is a bit anomalous for me. I feel like most of these actors are typecast into certain situations.

Jessie Eisenberg: A pretentious know it all, and usually someone I quite dislike.
Dave Franco: A brainless, frat boy like partier.
Woody Harrelson: Adorexic, aloof, uncaring, and often time stoned.
Isla Fisher: Bubble headed, sex driven, and naive.

Well this time Jessie Eisenberg does end up in this same type of roll, but not in a capacity that makes me dislike him...Franco actually has some wit and charm in his character...Harrelson seems caring, concerned, and motivated...and Isla Fisher...has been replaced. Filling her perky, plucky, and titular role this time is Lizzy Caplan. I'll go ahead and say it...I usually am a sucker for redheads, but I didn't miss Isla Fisher with Caplan in her place. She added a zany and scatter-brained charm that was missing from Fisher's role in the first film, and I appreciated the inclusion.

Daniel Radcliffe was also given a role as a motivating factor for our Horsemen, and I've got to say...what the fuck is going on with Daniel Radcliffe?

It seems like all the other kids from Harry Potter grew up to be hot and charismatic. Radcliffe though must have drawn some sort of short straw. He now looks like someone's stereotypical uncle pedorapist. He's awkward as crap in this movie.

The plot and arc are where this movie got knocked down a bit the first time around, and it certainly isn't going to get any points back this time. So...

All things considered

Now You See Me 2
3 out of 5 stars

Until next time.

Keep your heads up, your minds sharp, and your hearts open.