Thursday, June 2, 2016

A Bigger Splash and X-Men: Apocalypse

                                Ego-Disasters of Varying Magnitudes

                                                       Reviews by Ken Burke
Take care, curious readers, for plot spoilers gallop rampantly throughout the Two Guys’ insightful reviews.  Therefore, be warned, beware, and read on when you’re ready to be transported to … wherever we end up.  Please protect your eyes from the dazzling brilliance.
                                      A Bigger Splash (Luca Guadagnino)
A famous rock star is resting her voice after an operation so she’s off to a remote Italian island for a relaxing break only to be “invaded” by her former lover/music producer and his young daughter; tensions soon emerge in all directions as the daughter sets about seducing the star’s current companion while her boisterous dad attempts to rekindle his previous romance.
What Happens: World-class-rock-star Marianne Lane (Tilda Swinton)—sort of Annie Lennox crossed with David Bowie in terms of appearance, costuming, and worldwide-adulation—has recently had a throat operation so she needs to rest her voice; her lover, filmmaker Paul De Smedt (Matthias Schoenaerts), whisks her away to the seclusion of an isolated villa on the isolated Italian island of Pantelleria (southwest of Sicily but actually a bit closer to Tunisia in North Africa) where they eat, drink, nude-swim in their pool, take mud-baths at the beach until their reverie is interrupted by a phone call from her former music producer/lover Harry Hawkes (Ralph Fiennes) who’s somehow tracked them down, is in the process of flying in uninvited with his young (but Lolita-ish) daughter, Penelope Lanier (Dakota Johnson), who later tells the intruded-upon-couple that she’s 22, on summer break from college, just discovered her Dad about a year ago, and is now with him because her mother wanted some time away from this troublesome girl.  Soon, overly-gregarious Harry’s not only made himself at home in this invaded space (carefreely-jumping nude into the pool), he’s also invited over a couple of his local friends, an older (Mireille [Aurore Clément]) and a younger (Sylvie [Lily McMenamy]) woman.  Harry also keeps trying to get Marianne to talk to him, which she refuses to do (with Paul's irritation), although she does whisper with Paul when they’re alone.  Through some regularly-occurring-flashbacks we get glimpses of Marianne in concert, Marianne sharing passion (and cocaine) with Harry, Harry admitting to good-friend-Paul that he and Marianne are drifting apart so that Paul might be interested in her (he is; the feeling’s mutual), as well as some animated memories at the villa from Harry about how he both contributed to a percussion decision (trash can instead of drums on one of the Rolling Stones’ Voodoo Lounge cuts—although I can find no hint that this is anything but a script invention) and is always swept away by their version of “Emotional Rescue” (more on that below) as he ferociously sings along with it all over the villa in one frantic scene.

 As time and story events move along, though, we find that Harry’s really come to Italy in hopes of enticing Marianne to come back into his orbit (despite her protestations that she’s now extremely happy with Paul as her partner), Penelope admits that Harry might not really be her father (if he is, they keep having interactions that border on incest—without going that far, although there’s tension between Harry and Paul over the implications that Dad’s sleeping with his [maybe] daughter) while this wild child takes every opportunity to act very seductively toward Paul (setting up the consideration that maybe Harry’s intention was to divert Paul’s interest to better open up the rekindling-possibilities with Marianne).  In various snatches of otherwise-throwaway-dialogue we eventually learn that Marianne was with Harry for 6 years, now has finished 6 with Paul (leaving all of them with a tense feeling about life’s sometimes-symmetry, even as Penelope notes that record albums used to have 6 cuts to a side so that you have to make a change to hear the rest of it); Paul’s not drinking, trying to overcome his alcoholism and a previous depressive-episode with a car crash as a suicide attempt; and Harry has no use for boundaries of any kind, especially those that might interrupt his constant need for hedonistic-pleasure.  Harry keeps pushing every limit he can find, including going with Marianne to some local festival when Paul declines to join them (he’s got a work deadline to meet, although he doesn’t get much accomplished) so Harry dances with her, shares some drug, gets a karaoke session going in a local bar (although she declines to sing, despite being recognized by the locals as the celebrity that she is); he also manages to hang the car he’s driving one day over the edge of the road (with a steep cliff below) which he and Paul are unable to push back onto the pavement, but none of this seems to bother him a bit (all that matters is that he reconnect with Marianne, even as Paul grows more aware of his disruptive-intentions).

 On the day that all civility finally collapses Penelope subtly convinces Paul to accompany her on a hike to the nearby-beach while Marianne and Harry go shopping, then visit a local woman making ricotta cheese; in parallel seductions, Penelope is sunbathing in the nude, encouraging Paul to come join her (we don’t see anything between them but the later sordid implications are too strong to ignore) while the other 2 return to the villa to share a sudden bout of torrid sex up against the kitchen wall.  Dinner that night is tense among all of them, with the men meeting up later at the pool, sharing accusations, then throwing each other into the water, finally fighting in earnest which results in Paul putting Harry in a choke hold that leaves him unconscious.  Panicked, Paul tries resuscitation but to no avail so he lets Harry’s body sink down into the pool (somehow a copy of the Emotional Rescue album ends up there as well, but I have no idea how that happened).  Paul comes to bed, trying to act as if he knows nothing about Harry, leaving horrified Marianne and Clara (Elena Bucci) the housekeeper to find Harry the next morning.  Although Marianne sees a notable scratch on Paul’s torso she goes along with a supportive story to the police later that day, telling the Carabinieri Marshall (Corrado Guzzanti) that if foul play occurred it was probably the result of migrants slipping up the hillside because they have no protection from these invaders (contradicting a TV news story in the background of the ricotta scene that spoke in positive terms about these new arrivals, leaving the impression of Marianne as an “ugly American”).

 The couple now want Penelope to leave but are shocked to be told that they need her mother’s permission because she only 17.  In a final scene of tension at the airport when they send her off, Marianne confronts the girl about her lies (still hiding her own indiscretion with Harry), then slaps the kid based on her responses before the arrogant youngster departs, only to break down in tears on the plane, even as our initial couple survive one more close call when the Marshall stops their car on their way back home but only to fawningly get an autograph from this above-suspicion-star.

So What? Compared to the massive coverage that the new X-Men movie reviewed below has already achieved (opening very wide, in 4,150 domestic theaters last weekend in addition to many other countries the week before that 
[71 to be exact, with China and South Korea still to come on this weekend]), A Bigger Splash isn’t the sort of film to actually make a “big splash” in the marketplace, having been out in the U.S.-Canada market for a month now but playing in only 378 theaters (up from 128 the week before) with a small return so far of $1.43 million on its investment (even if you look at per-theatre-average there’s no comparison with … Splash getting a $1,376 result compared to … Apocalypse’s hefty $19,231).  So, even though I want to encourage you to find … Splash, I realize that will be a difficult task, made even more problematic by the mainstream-competition it faces where you’ll find more active stories than this one with its emphasis on sexual tension, infidelity, lying about murder.  (Accidental or not—Paul tries desperately to get Harry breathing again, then tearfully confesses something to Marianne but based on what I could hear I’m still not sure if he owned up to the homicide or simply was showing his distress at not being able to bring his former-friend back to consciousness; either way she knows that he’s lying about not being in the pool that night but chooses to smooth her own ambiguous situation by taking the path of least resistance, helping protect a questionable alibi, although Penelope says she was awake when the commotion occurred in the pool, saw the same torso-cut on Paul, yet she also makes no attempt to cast doubt on the man whom she knows likely killed another man who may or may not be her father.)  All of this personal negotiation shows why “Emotional Rescue” is such an appropriate song for this narrative (it plays under the closing credits as well, but not the Stones’ version), as all of these characters are in desperate need of such salvation, though it’s not likely going to be available for any of them.

 The story is haunting here (based on the 1969 Italian-French-production, Las Piscine—translated to English, The Swimming Pool—[Jacques Deray], but I know nothing about that earlier version except it sounds similar in plot*), the acting is superb on all counts (as usual, Swinton never disappoints), with Fiennes here especially continuing to show a much greater comic-and-unhinged-range than he became known for in those fascinating (if not horrifying) serious roles earlier in his career in such work as Schindler’s List (Steven Spielberg, 1993), Quiz Show (Robert Redford, 1994), The English Patient (Anthony Minghella, 1996), Red Dragon (Brett Ratner, 2002), and the ultimate villain, Lord Voldemort, in various Harry Potter movies (Mike Newell, 2005; David Yates, 2007, 2010, 2011). The cinematic technique largely serves to underscore the script but there are occasional moments of grandeur such as shots of the rugged island landscape along with the discomforting death scene where a grating percussive beat underscores the men’s argumentative-struggle, capped off by the camera soaring high above the pool as Harry’s lifeless body lies still as physical testament to the psychological assaults that have increasingly overtaken all these people, supposedly on vacation.

*Another Swimming Pool film I am familiar with, though [directed by François Ozon, 2003], does share common elements of a famous older woman in the arts, a countryside villa, a sensuous younger woman, a swimming pool, a death [maybe?] but otherwise the stories diverge quite a bit.

Bottom Line 
Final Comments: A Bigger Splash is one of the best films I’ve yet to see this year (technically it debuted in Italy in 
2015 but for Oscar consideration it’ll qualify as a domestic 2016 release) with its growing tensions among the 4 main players finally reaching a dramatic climax in Harry’s death but then carrying after-the-fact-contemplative-significance into the mostly-quieter-but-still-intense-encounters between Paul and Marianne, Penelope and Marianne as the film draws to a close.  I’m also pleased to note that I’m finally finding some equivalence with the larger critical consensus on this film (my 4 of 5 stars [the highest rating I normally give, reserving the higher numbers for true classics]—essentially 80%—vs. 89% positive for Rotten Tomatoes, 74% for the normally-lower-Metacritic-average; more details in the links far below), which I’ve done in matching at least 1 of those critics-collection-sites only 18 times of 42 in reviews I’ve posted in 2016 (with the others being about evenly-divided between my ratings being higher or lower than their numbers); not that I care if I’m out of sync with the rest of the critical world because I stand behind my decisions no matter how far afield they may be, but it’s still nice to know that at least some of the time the rest of those dopes catch up with my much-better-insights.  A Bigger Splash is simply a great film, one well worth your troubled-time (it’s not often pleasant to watch but it’s stunning in its direct impact, given Harry’s constantly-disruptive-presence in every scene that he dominates and the discordant-undercurrents generated by the other main characters) if you’re willing to invest in such problematic-human-behavior.  However, if you’d rather just dive in to immerse yourself in a Musical Metaphor that speaks to what’s happening on this overheated-summer-isle, I’m immediately led back to the Rolling Stones, because of the Voodoo Lounge business noted above, the implications of borrowing the film’s title from the Stones’ A Bigger Bang album (2005)—along with the furious race the men have in the pool at 1 point—and, of course, the obvious implications of “Emotional Rescue” so let’s just settle on that significant song at https:// in memory of these sunbaked- … Splash folks who know all too well that “promises were never made to keep,” where there will be no “knight in shining armour” or “savior, steadfast and true” coming to anyone’s rescue “tonight [or any other] night.”*

* On a marginally-related-side-topic concerning the Rolling Stones you might be interested in this argument about why they—and other likely contenders, like Elvis, Dylan, The Beatles—may not be remembered as the quintessential-essence of rock and roll in coming centuries, but you'll have to read this NY Times Magazine piece to see who will be known as such, in that author's opinion.

 By comparison to what Swinton does with her largely-silent-part in A Bigger Splash, you might like to see what I still consider the epitome of an actor going through the narrative of a feature-length-sound-film while offering a bare minimum of dialogue, Ingmar Bergman’s Persona (1966)—#2 on my All-Time-Best-List (behind Citizen Kane [Orson Welles, 1941])—where Liv Ullman gives a masterful performance as a stage actor who suddenly, willingly decides to stop talking even though her screen presence is a match for the equally-talented Bibi Andersson who gets the dialogue-burden of almost the entire film, essentially speaking for both women much of the time.  This entire masterpiece (about 80 min.) can be watched at but unless you speak Swedish there are no subtitles so you’d just have to compare the on-screen-impact of 1 female actor giving a master class in dialogue-delivery to the other performing a similar feat of expressiveness without words at all; however, there’s another version at of about equal visual quality (you can pay a small amount for sharper-HD at this site if you like, so I’ll leave that to you) that does have English subtitles because if you want to fully appreciate what Andersson is providing to balance out Ullman’s silence you need access to the searing words often being spoken (assuming the translation is accurate, something I’ve never been able to do with Bergman despite how much I’m in awe of his work, so I just have to hope that what I’ve read over the years does justice to the original scripts)—just be sure that if you watch either version that you use full-screen-mode to block out the other distractions at these sites because the exquisite cinematography by Sven Nykvist needs to be appreciated as well.  (However, if you’d like some comic relief to this serious cinematic powerhouse, go here for another Persona where you can go into the closed captions box under the right edge of the screen, along with the settings wheel, to change the German subtitles to English; the only problem is that whatever the translation program is seems to be using completely random words relative to the actual dialogue which makes for a very disconnected, unintentionally awful experience—yet humorous in its random strangeness.)

 Swinton says a lot more in her film that Ullman does in hers so it’s not a fully-direct-comparison, but that's why I give even more of an edge to Ullman in terms of overall impact with practically no verbalization, although as with just about everything else I review on a regular basis it’s a difficult task for almost anything that comes out currently to match the masterworks that I consider true-5-star-cinematic-pinnacles so that Ullman had an advantage even going into this “competition.”
                          X-Men: Apocalypse (Bryan Singer)
Once again, existence as we know it is in peril this time from an ages-old mutant, Apocalypse, who’s recently revived from unconsciousness with a mission to eliminate what he sees as the rampant weaknesses of planet Earth to be replaced by a stronger world under his domain; 4 other mutants, predominantly Magneto, are recruited to help with 8 X-Men in opposition.
What Happens: As regards “competitions” from the conclusion of the above review, X-Men: Apocalypse has to compete with not only 2 other huge-budget-intended-blockbusters (both of which are proving to answer that call with Captain America: Civil War [Anthony and Joe Russo] now at $1,110.6 billion worldwide, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice [Zack Snyder] at $871.8 million [review of the former in our May 13, 2016 posting, the latter in our April 1, 2016 posting]) but also with 8 other previous X-Men episodes, the older ones set in our present-day while the more recent in this franchise take place in the later-20th-century as we see these various mutants band together, learn to take command of their unique skills, and decide whether they’re on the side of teamwork for the greater good or resistance to humanity’s ongoing-fear of their very existence.  Unlike the current competitors for superhero audience dollars, though, when you see an X-Men movie you expect to see enhanced-beings in battle with each other while it’s an anomaly (so far) to have the main players from the DC and Avengers universes (with the latter not fully equating to the Marvel Universe of the comic books because of real-world-corporate-considerations so that Disney has the Avengers, Sony owns the main rights to Spider-Man [despite loaning him out for Avengers: Civil War, just as MGM loaned Clark Gable to Selznick International Pictures for Gone with the Wind {Victor Fleming, 1939} in return for distribution rights and ½ of the profits for that immense blockbuster] with 20th Century Fox in control of the many X-Men) engaging in internal warfare. 

 This does up the potential-interest-ante where the various X-Men are concerned, though, in that we’ve seen variations on their internal-squabbles (which ultimately impact the world around them) many times before so the premise has to keep being refreshed to prevent a ho-hum-response every time a new episode comes forth (as will be the case soon as a brief post-credits-scenes clearly tells us that there’s more of this in our future).  So, in terms of what actually goes on here, let me offer you a brief rundown (although it might help to know what happened in the previous episode, X-Men: Days of Future Past [Singer, 2014] so check out my review if you like [despite its clumsy-paragraph-layout, an inherent flaw in my postings that I'm still working valiantly to improve]).

 About 5,700 years ago in ancient Egypt we find the 1st superhuman-mutant, En Sabah Nur (Oscar Isaac), an extremely-powerful-being (who emerged about 10,000 years back), about to undergo one of his many essential-essence-transformations so that he can move the inner-core of himself into the body of another mutant to further take on the powers of his new host.  (This one was capable of quickly recovering from injuries—like Wolverine, but more on him in a bit—so that Nur’ll essentially become immortal; later legends credit him with the superior-god-manifestations of the earliest cultures, even though the historical record’s been fictionalized somewhat here as the beginning civilizations of Egypt and Sumeria hadn’t quite evolved by this time, let alone developed into powerful empires with pyramids, but let’s not forget that we’re watching history as previously interpreted by comic-book-authors, not proper researchers such as the ones responsible for the 1970s or current versions of TV’s impactful Roots mini-series.)  As the body-shift occurs, though, rebellious forces (a mutiny against mutants) manage to pull down the surrounding massive-stone-temple, killing this powerful being’s acolytes while stunning him into unconsciousness.  We then move forward to 1983 where a good number of subplots are put into motion, including CIA agent Moira MacTaggert (Rose Byrne) locating the entrance to the underground remains of that opening catastrophe (guarded simply by 1 guy and a piece of plywood), then entering it but she doesn’t pull the plywood behind her (as apparently others had done for eons when worshiping Nur's remains) so the sunlight streaming into the lower chambers revives the power-mad-monster as Moira  beats a hasty retreat back to Washington, D.C.

 In the other parallel-agenda-setters, one takes us to East Berlin where winged Warren Worthington III/Angel (Ben Hardy) is kept in an electrified-fight-club-cage, forced to battle various opponents for the wagering-pleasure of unruly onlookers (with the general attitude of those members of humanity fearful toward mutants, despite the rosy finale of … Days of Future Past) until he meets his match in elusive Kurt Wagner/ Nightcrawler (Kodi Smit-McPhee) whose power is teleportation, allowing him to instantly shift location before his opponent can deliver a knockout blow.  Shape-shifting Raven/Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) quietly shows up, cuts the power, frees her fellow mutants, takes Kurt to obnoxious Caliban (Tómas Lemarquis) for a new passport, followed by a teleportation for both of them to Professor Charles Xavier’s (James McAvoy) School for Gifted Youngsters in Westchester County, NY.  Another newcomer there is Scott Summers (Tye Sheridan), brought by older brother, Alex/Havoc (Lucas Till), to learn to deal with his new-found-power of shooting energy beams from his eyes which causes chaos until a special pair of glasses is able to contain the deadly force.  In Poland, Erik Lehnsherr (Michael Fassbender), better known as Magneto, is living quietly undercover with his wife, Magda (Carolina Bartczak), and daughter, Nina (T.J. McGibbon), working in a steel mill in an attempt to distance himself from the mayhem he caused in D.C. in that previous 
X-Men episode.  Finally, getting back to En Sabah Nur (whom Moira later explains is often referred to in various legends as Apocalypse, so I’ll use that name from here on out), he’s recruited a Cairo street thief, Ororo Munroe (Alexandra Shipp), upgraded her powers to become the weather-controlling-Storm, then further enlisted despondent Angel (turning his wings to deadly-metal), along with bringing in Caliban’s accomplice, Elizabeth Braddock (Olivia Munn), whom he empowers as the deadly psychic-energy/sword-wielding-Psylocke, and Magneto, who’s in a state of fury after an accident at his job forces him to reveal his powers leading to a police interrogation in which his wife and daughter are mistakenly killed (in a brutal death in which the same arrow pierces both) so he retaliates, then falls into despair which is enhanced by Apocalypse taking him to Auschwitz (where his parents died), allowing him to unleash the anger that Apocalypse needs to destroy most of our world so that it can start over in this new master’s image.  (Back in Cairo he updated himself on what had occurred during his suspended-animation by putting his hand on a TV set, absorbing enough information to tell him that the world had become weak, in need of termination [almost sounds like one of our current Presidential candidates]; his 1st major act of disarming his opponents is to hack into Xavier’s telepathic-mind-enhancing-Cerebro-computer to force Charles to enable the worldwide-military to launch all of their nuclear weapons into deep space to prevent retaliation against mega-usurper-Apocalypse.)

 After all of this lengthy set-up (an inherent drawback of these X-Men stories, in that there are so many characters to deal with it takes quite awhile to get all of the various wheels in motion), Apocalypse and his 4 Horseman followers (reprising at times their New Testament Book of Revelations' names: War, Famine, Pestilence, Death) invade Xavier’s school, take him captive as Alex fights back setting off an explosion that destroys the place potentially along with all of the young mutants in training but speedster Peter Maximoff/Quicksilver (Evan Peters)—who’s learned he’s Magneto’s son—has just arrived, also hoping for guidance, so (in a marvelous scene of slow-motion-rescue [backed in a funky manner by “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” on the soundtrack, from the Eurhythmics album of the same name, 1983; if you want a listen, here you go]) he manages to get almost everyone to safety (Alex’s apparently killed in the blast), then is likewise captured by the arriving Col. William Striker (Josh Helman)—an anti-mutant crusader—along with Mystique, Moira, and strongman Hank McCoy/ Beast (Nicholas Hoult), but, as they’re being whisked away to a secret facility in the Soviet Union, Scott (who’ll later be known as Cyclops), Nightcrawler, and hesitantly-powerful Jean Grey (Sophie Turner) sneak aboard the transport, finally release their colleagues from a holding cell in this remote, military-grade-installation, along with what’s being referred to as Weapon X—who turns out to be Wolverine (an uncredited Hugh Jackman) with his memories removed, although Jean’s able to restore some of them before he runs off into the wilderness.  Apocalypse enhances Xavier’s telepathic powers to send a doomsday message to everyone on Earth—along with a mutant-recruitment-call—as Magneto begins to disrupt the planet’s magnetic poles, causing crises everywhere.  As you can imagine, a massive battle ensues among the various mutants, with the external clobberings joined by an internal mind-war between Apocalypse and Xavier (Mr. Original Mutant wants Charles’ telepathic powers so that he can control everyone in his new world).

 All seems lost by the hero team until Jean’s convinced by Xavier to overcome her fears, unleashing her full-telekinetic-impact onto their chief adversary who’s finally destroyed by her immense power, although Magneto’s also turned back to the side of good in realizing that he truly does have friends among these X-Men despite the tragic loss of his family (Storm also changes sides, using her powerful energy against her former master).  In the end, Angel’s wounded (maybe dead?), Psylocke slips off somewhere, Magneto and Jean use their powers to quickly rebuild Xavier’s school, and Mystique sticks around to train the new recruits (Charles also restores Moira’s memory which he partially wiped at the end of X-Men: First Class [Matthew Vaughn, 2011] so that they can resume their love affair).  In a post-credits scene, men from the Essex Corp. retrieve a vial of “Weapon X” blood from Stryker’s facility, so get ready for a Wolverine sequel in the near future, followed by another dose of the X-Men.

So What? One of the most interesting aspects of this movie for me—given that I’ve seen more than my reasonable-share of huge-battle-special-effects many times before in a good number of other superhero stories—is the opening statement from Munroe welcoming us to the theater (I’ve also recently seen this tactic in the very small-budget, independent film Dough [John Goldschmidt; review in our May 5, 2016 posting]), seemingly as an appeal for audiences to keep coming out to screenings rather than indulging in various Video On Demand (including YouTube, where you can frequently find multiple offers of watching current cinema in full-length-versions) or pirated options (some YouTube choices may be pirated as well, but if so I’m not sure why the Google police haven’t shut them down yet).  You’d think … Apocalypse wouldn’t need such tactics but even with the worldwide haul scored by movies such as these (… Civil War’s taken in $1,112.1 billion, … Dawn of Justice $871.8 million so far, although … Apocalypse hasn’t started all that fabulously with a “mere” $103.3 internationally in the week prior to its domestic release when it debuted with another $79.8 million, so maybe intra-squad-superhero-battles are becoming a bit tedious this spring, maybe not depending on how well … Apocalypse holds up in the next few weeks facing further summer-season-contenders) there’s still lots more cash to be made in the industry-segment of traditional distribution/exhibition so now we’re being thanked for not watching such fare on our cellphones even as we’re being reminded to turn them off while the theatrical movie’s in progress.  I guess if that’s what most intrigued me about this X-Men-offering then there’s not too much going on here beyond the production technology.  (Maybe there is; however, as I’ve noted in previous reviews of this type, Marvel Comics weren’t my childhood/adolescent-print-entertainment [DC was] so I’d likely appreciate better what’s going on here if I had a more solid reference point of the many pulp pages that this story springs from.)

 At least the primary cast becomes a clear 8-on-5-conflict but with most attention given to just a few of them at a time, with the Earth in the process of deterioration as we watch the fights, so it’s more than just the internecine-warfare we got in the Marvel … Civil War tale, plus the X-Men we need to keep up with are always focused upon so that ultimately this not-particularly-necessary-but-still-constantly-active-enough-to-remain-entertaining-movie at least works better for me than the new Captain America … where its equally-primary-cast-of-12 has far too much of an attempt to give all of them a share of appropriate screen time as they battle for the concept of social order vs. individual action (again, from a comic-book-source I’m not familiar with), as philosophy and combat interfere too much with each other.  In ... Apocalypse most everyone on Earth is about to die unless a small band of dedicated warriors can rise to their best abilities (more on that below as well), which of course they do, rather than leaving us with the murky resolution of the Disney-Marvel movie (intentional murk, I’m sure, as a set-up for the next editions of that segment of the Marvel Cinematic Universe).

Bottom Line 
Final Comments: Whatever else you may think of my opinions (which I’d be glad to hear about, in that I’m still averaging over 12,000 unique hits per month—however it is that Google calculates a month because that number can change several times in the same day as I curiously check in on it—with the top audience currently in France, the U.S., and the United Arab Emirates [How’s that for diversity?], I still get direct feedback from only about a ½-dozen of you), I’m certainly heading in opposite directions from the critical consensus where these superhero movies are concerned, as I gave … Dawn of Justice 3½ stars of 5 (70% mathematically but ambiguously-higher than that, given I rarely rate anything above 4 stars) whereas Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic averaged out at 29%, 44% positive respectively, then I deemed … Civil War worthy of only 3 stars (roughly 60%) whereas the surveyed groups were much higher (RT 90%, M 75%—as they were with Deadpool [Tim Miller; review in our February 23, 2016 posting—3 stars from me, 83% and 65% from them]), yet for … Apocalypse I’m coming in higher again with my 3½ stars whereas the Tomato Tossers hit only 48%, the Metas just a bit better at 52%, but my generosity—if my evaluation does amount to that—is based on X-Men: Apocalypse being self-contained-enough so that I was able to easily follow it even before rereading my comments on X-Men: Days of Future Past; the villain’s supremely-egomaniacal-motives were clear, even to the point of merging his existence with various Middle Eastern-mythologies that he seems to now be the inspiration for; and equal motivation on the part of the 4 Horsemen to align themselves with this über-villain in response to their torment by the world-at-large (less so with Psylocke than the others but maybe this is the case where I need more backstory within the movie itself to fully appreciate her lust for power [there’s an enormous amount about her and Apocalypse in Marvel Comics which you can find Internet summaries of, although I didn’t note any overlap between their stories in these sources]).

 Further, there’s clarity in the well-produced-battle-scenes so it was easy enough to keep up with who’s pounding whom even though I have little memory of nor much investment in these characters from their past adventures.  (I wonder whether more dedicated fans of this series will accept that Lawrence says she’s done with it, just as Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen say no more of the older depictions of Professor X and Magneto, although the previous-time-travel-dislocation-plot of … Days of Future Past seemingly has erased the continuity of the earlier, present-set-movies of this group so if McAvoy and Fassbender can be convinced to keep cranking these things out into their near-retirement-years this franchise may outlast all of the others where the original stars’ contracts keep finding their limits.)  Still, when I started searching my own psychic powers for a proper Musical Metaphor the only thing that kept coming to mind was Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young’s “Déjà Vu” (from the 1970 album of the same name) at because where these X-Men are concerned we “have all been here before,” but I’ve leave it to you as to whether that’s a good thing or not.  (Admittedly, this video version of this song gets far afield from concerns about repetitious-superhero-movies into anti-war [but not anti-soldier] and related leftist political statements [that I support, sorry if you don't], but I see this as relevant to … Apocalypse as well with its warning about warmongering, self-appointed dictators needing to be stopped before their madness becomes uncontrollable, stoppage that often comes only through the dedicated sacrifices of true heroes, fictional or otherwise; the messages connected here to this song may well overcomplicate the narrative-line of the movie under review; however, unless we remain more vigilant about “What’s going on under the ground” [metaphorically] we may never get “another time around the wheel” when we might “know just how to deal With all of you” [whatever “you” might represent in its metaphorical contexts, as we all can debate what a “good” interpretation might be].)

 Very briefly, to end up my posting for this week, what is a good thing—for me at least, not for Midwestern fans of teams that have been playing my East (San Francisco) Bay baseball Oakland Athletics and basketball Golden State Warriors lately—is that my long-suffering A’s have now actually won 5 in a row against the Detroit Tigers and the Minnesota Twins (although they’re still close to the cellar in the American League West, but they’re about to begin a series against their companion-near-cellar-dwelling-Houston Astros so maybe they’ll actually be able to “own” 3rd place soon), but the real victory just came with Warriors winning the NBA Western Conference Championship after being down 3 games to 1 (in a best-of-7-series) against the Oklahoma City Thunder who looked easily ready to replace the Warriors as overall NBA champs (Oakland [but that should be their name] Golden State took that title last year for the 1st time since 1975) until the Warriors managed to find that missing mojo that I noted toward the end (prior to the Short Takes section) of my May 26, 2016 posting.  In order to repeat as NBA champs, though, they have to beat another Midwestern buzz saw, the Cleveland Cavaliers, starting tonight (even as I'm posting this), June 2, 2016, so we’ll see how that plays out (so to speak) over the next couple of nerve-wracking-weeks for fans of both teams.  (In the meantime, “Go A’s!” with more Midwestern teams, the Milwaukee Brewers and the Cincinnati Reds, on the calendar after their trip to Houston.)
Related Links Which You Might Find Interesting:
We encourage you to visit the summary of Two Guys reviews for our past posts.  Other overall notations for this blog—including Internet formatting craziness beyond our control—may be found at our Two Guys in the Dark homepageIf you’d like to Like us on Facebook please visit our Facebook page. We appreciate your support whenever and however you can offer it!

Here’s more information about A Bigger Splash: (12:16 press conference with director Luca Guadagnino and actor Tilda Swinton; she handles most of the answers)

Here’s more information about X-Men: Apocalypse: (a 15:54 video that explores all of the Easter Eggs in the trailer but done without the narrators having yet seen the movie [so they do make a few mistaken assumptions], although they clearly know more about the comic book background of these characters than I do so it was interesting for me to listen to their various speculations, but if you want to know a lot more specific information about the X-Men from the comics to the previous movies here’s, which, in 21:45, presents 107 facts about this movie and its characters in a very rapid fashion)

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If you’d rather contact Ken directly rather than leaving a comment here please use my new email at  Thanks.

By the way, if you’re ever at The Hotel California knock on my door—but you know what the check out policy is so be prepared to stay for awhile.    Ken

P.S.  Just to show that I haven’t fully flushed Texas out of my system here’s an alternative destination for you, Home in a Texas Bar, with Gary P. Nunn and Jerry Jeff Walker.

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