Friday, March 31, 2017

A Quick One: X-MEN: APOCALYPSE (2016)

Considering I've recently sat down to try to read the entire existence of the X-Men from the beginning, and I'm known to have an opinion or two about comic book superhero movies, it shouldn't be surprising that when I finally (BLTN) sat down to watch X-Men: Apocalypse, last year's big screen x-adventure, I would have at least a thought or two. But life's too short to spill 2000 words about this ultimately minor blockbuster film so let's just get to the bullet points:

  • Superhero movies are constantly getting bigger, obviously. The Avengers made it hard to go back to small movies, 30 or so superheroes and villains were on deck for Civil War, and ts to ape that with their Justice League.
  • The X-movies were unwieldy to begin with, having to introduce these characters from the ground up and only given about 2 hours to define them in any way. They usually have more plot than they can handle.
  • X-Men: First Class is the best X-Men team movie because it knows it's a movie about Professor X and Magneto, uses Beast and Mystique in strong supporting roles, and gives not hardly a damn about the rest of the crew they've assembled to fill out the team.
  • In any case, as befits the X-franchise, these movies tend to be overly full of crazy stuff but lately they've been pretty lucid too, and that has made them a really enjoyable alternative to the move rigidly quality-controlled Marvel films.
  • The trilogy that has been birthed by that movie has been oddly coherent in its character arcs, as long as you can buy into the rubber-band status quo of Mystique starting as a loner and Magneto being a villain, then both joining back up with Charles, only to leave again. There is almost no way to reconcile that with the first three X-movies but I guess thanks to Days of Future Past, we don't have to.
  • Apocalypse is better than Days of Future Past.
  • Apocalypse is a bit of an underachiever - it doesn't quite do enough to fill its 144-minute runtime, but what's there is fine. It's fun to watch Professor X and Jean Grey team up to mind-punch a 5000-year-old ancient mutant God, sure.
  • With lots and lots of characters, including new versions of Jean, Scott, Storm, Nightcrawler, and Angel, the movie doesn't work too hard to get in a lot of stuff about them, which is oddly just right even as it reiterates the Xavier-Magneto-Mystique-Moira business.
  • But! With a school full of hot superpowered teens I'm dismayed that the X-Men, in neither the movies nor the comics, has quite harnessed the Hunger Games/Divergent/Maze Runner energy yet. Such wasted crossover potential.
  • This is probably only the third best, maybe less, Oscar Isaac movie you could be watching on Netflix tonight, behind Inside Llewyn Davis and Star Wars: The Force Awakens and maybe Drive, which he has a smaller role in. He didn't need to be Apocalypse, under all that makeup and voice modulation, but someone had to do it, sure.
  • Apocalypse is a better villain when he's already won, as in the "Age of Apocalypse" or the future Cable comes from. His powers are so nebulous and weird, his philosophies so heady, that the whole affair seems very silly if he's not already in power. Oddly this led to me hoping - naively, I guess - they might actually imply that there was a whole mini Age of Apocalypse in the 1980's. With all the other historical/time travel nonsense in the X-Men's second trilogy, why the eff not? (Well, the answer to that is that they already did a dystopian future in DoFP and it was bleak and I'll never wanna revisit that again thanks.)
  • I'm not saying it's a better movie from a technical or structural standpoint, but I would honestly rather watch X-Men Apocalypse again than Captain America: Civil War, which everyone but me loved?
  • After 16 years of retrofitting the X-Men into leather jumpsuit uniforms and Psylocke is the one whose look they keep true to the comics? With her purple ninja cheesecake swimsuit? Ok, ok.
Thanks, and please do read Uncanny X-Cerpts. It's a lot of fun for me and may be a little bit of fun for you.

Friday, January 6, 2017

The New Jam: Hollerado, "Born Yesterday"

Hollerado's new single, "Born Yesterday" sounds like the work of a younger, fresher band - maybe even one from a decade or more ago. Compared to singles like "Juliette," "Americanarama," "Got To Lose" "Pick Me Up," "So It Goes" and "Fireflies," which intermittently blend their garagey DIY power pop with funk, bluegrass, and a whole bunch of other neat tricks there aren't really words for, "Born Yesterday" sounds a bit primordial - a callback to the early-2000's pop-punk boom, a three-chord throwback to the Ramones played at blistering speed and big enough to fill an arena. It's the same sound that Weezer has been trying to recapture for the back half of their career (occasionally with great success, don't take that as a dig, Rivers.)

And yet, they still sound utterly like themselves. If the song is simplistic, it's still pure Hollerado: powerful, fun, joyful and inescapably catchy - before it's even over it feels like it's been one of your favourite songs for years. The anthemic chorus, "You make me feel / Like I was born yesterday / Like I've never been broken" - is pure Hollerado, and the verses carry that characteristic eloquence, wit and heart. It shows that pure joy in making music and that strangely studied knowledge of the craft that it takes to make the call todo something so stripped down and not have it come out sounding halfway-there. This song fits together like clockwork. They have done more ambitious things, but they don't need to reinvent the wheel every time out to prove they know how to drive. I could go for a whole disc in this vein, easily, although knowing this band's restless experimentation it's likely just a piece of their next sonic puzzle.

I've been cheerleading for this band for years, and I'll be cursed if they're not still one of the best things going in this sodden world.