Tag Archive: Michael Fassbender


This year’s already seen the release of three major superhero films and it’s hard not to get burnt out on their familiar tricks. But the release of the year’s fourth big budget superhero movie – X-Men: Apocalypse – proves that the genre still has some life in it. The X-Men franchise has always been a step above most other comic book franchises and that’s mostly because of their choice in cast and directors. This may not be the best film in the franchise (that title still belongs to 2014’s excellent X-Men: Days of Future Past) but this is still a great film filled with awesome visuals, great characters and memorable action. It’s easily the year’s best blockbuster so far and the best superhero movie to come along since its predecessor.

Thousands of years ago, Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac) rose to power as the world’s first mutant. He had the ability to transfer into different bodies whenever he wanted and this allowed him to absorb numerous powers from other mutants. But he was eventually buried at the base of a great pyramid and he stayed that way until 1983. When he once again awakens, he sets out to purge the world of any non-mutants by recruiting four followers that he imbues with great power: Storm (Alexandra Shipp), Angel (Ben Hardy), Psylocke (Olivia Munn) and Magneto (Michael Fassbender). As Apocalypse begins to cause mayhem and destruction around the world, it’s going to take Professor X (James McAvoy), Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence), Beast (Nicholas Hoult) and a bunch of younger heroes to stop him.

It’s a fairly simple story of good versus evil and a nice change of pace from the complex themes of other entries in the franchise. A lot of the film relies on the portrayal of the villain and Apocalypse is one of the most memorable supervillains to come along in quite some time. Although he may be unrecognizable in the role, Isaac’s performance is perfectly menacing and powerful, while the design of the character is memorable and kind of frightening. The fact that they achieved this look through makeup and avoided using CGI or motion capture adds such a deal of weight to the character. He really feels like a legitimate part of the X-Men world and this focus on practical effects is what makes Apocalypse so much more intimidating than other powerful supervillains that are created using digital effects (Marvel’s Thanos comes to mind). Although his character and motivations are somewhat underdeveloped, he’s still a villain that commands the screen.

Praise then must go to director Bryan Singer, who continues to prove that his entries are easily the best in this franchise. It’s actually pretty crazy that he’s able to balance so many different characters, all of whom are given their moments to shine. The story and structure is admittedly a little all over the place, but it never feels confusing or bloated, even with a nearly two and a half hour runtime. The X-Men films simply feel more grand and cinematic than the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the majority of this is in the hands of the director. It also doesn’t hurt things that Apocalypse is a really dark film, more so than most people would be expecting. Children are killed, men get their heads lopped off by Apocalypse and, in one stunning sequence, Magneto even tears apart Auschwitz in a fit of rage. It’s safe to say that you may want to think twice before bringing your kids to this one.

Another reason why this movie might not interest children is its general lack of action. Some fanboys might be disappointed by this, but I found the focus on characters and story, rather than action and explosions, to be refreshing. But the action that is here is still very well done and much more memorable than in any other superhero film so far this year. The final extended action sequence is commendable in how all of the characters are able to work together and really feel like a team. Singer’s able to make the action easy to follow and the final thirty minutes of this film are much better than the airport fight scene in Captain America: Civil War that everyone seemed to be raving about. But the best action in the movie once again comes from Quicksilver (Evan Peters), who uses his speed to rescue an entire school from an explosion. Set to the tune of “Sweet Dream” by Eurythmics, it’s funny, visually interesting and a heck of a lot of fun. The scene may be a retread of his standout sequence in Days of Future Past, but it’s a retread that I had a blast with.

This franchise has always featured a great cast and Apocalypse is no exception. McAvoy continues to grow into the role of Professor X, delivering a performance that fits right alongside Patrick Stewart’s, while never feeling like a simple impression. Fassbender’s Magneto is put through the emotional ringer in this thing and he delivers what might be his best performance in the trilogy as a result. Lawrence once again does a fine job with the role of Mystique, but her portrayal is nowhere near as good as Rebecca Romijn’s in the original trilogy. Newcomers to the team include Sophie Turner as Jean Grey, Tye Sheridan as Cyclops and Kodi Smit-McPhee as Nightcrawler. Out of the newcomers, Smit-McPhee is probably the best, although there’s something to be said about Turner’s ability to portray such a complex character.

Whereas the Marvel Cinematic Universe makes superhero movies, the X-Men franchise features films that just happen to be about superheroes. They’re superior in almost every way including visuals, story, score, performances and direction. Singer has great control over the material and his direction is so strong that it will make you wish he could direct every superhero film from now into the foreseeable future. As a fan of superheroes, these last couple years had me losing faith that this genre could wow me again. But, luckily, X-Men: Apocalypse is the superhero movie we’ve been waiting for.

X-Men: Apocalypse receives 3.5/4

Steve Jobs – Movie Review

Chances are that you’ve used a product from Steve Jobs. The face of Apple helped unveil a slew of high-tech products in his lifetime and many of his ideas were extremely influential in the world of technology. Since his death in 2011, a number of films have been released chronicling his life, but Danny Boyle’s Steve Jobs will surely be viewed as the de facto Jobs biopic. Screenwriter Aaron Sorkin has cooked up one of the best screenplays in years, managing to showcase Jobs at his best and worst. Playing the often maligned CEO, Michael Fassbender hits a homerun, as do his supporting cast which includes Kate Winslet, Seth Rogen and Jeff Daniels. From the visuals, to the kinetic energy, to the unique structure, Steve Jobs scores in every department and manages to become the best film about technology since The Social Network.

What’s most unique about this take on Steve Jobs (Michael Fassbender) is that it only looks at three distinct moments in his life. While there are a few flashbacks scattered throughout the film, the majority of its runtime is spent following Jobs around before three product launches: the Macintosh in 1984, NeXT in 1988 and the iMac in 1998. While most biopics tend to follow someone’s life from beginning to end, this unique structure allows us to spend extended amounts of time with Jobs before a major moment in his life. These sequences occur almost in real time and we get to watch him interact with some of the most important people throughout his life and career. The majority of his time is spent with Joanna Hoffman (Kate Winslet) a marketing executive and seemingly his closest employee and friend. Jobs also receives visits from his friend and computer programmer Steve Wozniak (Seth Rogen) and CEO of Apple John Sculley (Jeff Daniels). But perhaps his most important relationship is with Lisa, a young girl who he refuses to admit is his daughter.

Sorkin doesn’t hold back and try to portray Jobs as a nice guy. He could be a real jerk and was often extremely difficult to work with. This shows in the film, especially when it comes to his relationship with programmer Andy Hertzfeld (Michael Stuhlbarg) who Jobs seems to bully around. Because the film doesn’t sugarcoat how awful of a person Jobs could sometimes be, it feels like we’re getting real, raw glimpses into the life of a genius. His dedication to perfection in his products alienated those around him, but it allowed him to revolutionize the landscape of computers and technology. These backstage glimpses feel like we’re seeing a part of Jobs that was hidden from the public’s eye and it’s absolutely exhilarating to watch.

Adding to the exhilaration is director Danny Boyle, who brings his usual energy and flair to pump up the film. The film went through an occasionally rocky production, with David Fincher originally attached to direct. As much as I love Fincher, it’s tough to imagine anyone being a better match for this material than Boyle. His style seems perfectly suited for a film that’s all about unveiling products and he makes sure that there’s never a dull moment in the film. One of the most interesting directorial choices that Boyle made was the decision to shoot each time period on a different format (16mm for 1984, 35mm for 1988 and digital for 1998). This feels like the kind of perfectionist decision that Jobs would have approved of and it only further helps to emphasize the development of Jobs and Apple throughout the film.

While it’s Boyle that breathes life and energy into the film, it’s Sorkin and Fassbender who ultimately bring the film’s title character to life. Admittedly, Fassbender doesn’t really look like Jobs, but the sharp writing and Fassbender’s excellent performance will allow people to suspend any disbelief they might have. Sorkin’s writing is so fast-paced that you’ll be struggling to keep up with every line and I mean that in the best possible way. Every word that comes out of Fassbender’s mouth genuinely feels like something the tech giant would say and Fassbender nails the delivery every time. He’s given a lot of great performances in the past few years, but this is undoubtedly one of his best. Not to be outdone, the supporting cast is excellent as well. Winslet, Rogen Daniels and Stuhlbarg all have incredible scenes with Fassbender and they’re able to reveal incredible layers of depth and emotion within their characters.

There’s hardly a single moment in Steve Jobs that isn’t entirely engrossing. Along with the praise that I’ve already heaped upon the film, the music from Daniel Pemberton and the cinematography from Alwin H. Küchler are awesome as well. Steve Jobs is more a film about people than technology, but it just so happens to excel in every technological department. Comparisons are sure to be made to 2010’s The Social Network and while it’s unfair to say if one film is better or worse than the other, they’re sure to make great companion pieces. Both films look at two different billionaires and contrast their perfect products with their imperfect lives. If you’ve ever used an Apple product, you owe it to yourself to see this film and take a peek at the man behind the curtain.

Steve Jobs receives 4/4

ImageIn less than 15 years, the X-Men franchise has produced a grand total of seven films, which is nothing short of an impressive feat. These films have ranged from quite good (X-Men: First Class) to downright awful (X-Men: The Last Stand), but the franchise failed to have a truly great entry until now. X-Men: Days of Future Past takes the long running superhero franchise to new heights with a dark storyline, fantastic action, plenty of emotion and strong performances from a cast that we have grown to love. This is the X-Men movie that we’ve been waiting for.

Beginning in the future, sometime after the events of X-Men: The Last Stand, mutants are being wiped out by an army of robots known as The Sentinels. Not only are these Sentinels targeting mutants, but they are also targeting humans who have helped mutants or may give birth to mutants in the future. Because of their ability to adapt to changing conditions, these enemies are far too powerful for mutants to defeat. In order to prevent this future from ever happening Professor Xavier (Patrick Stewart) and Magneto (Ian McKellen) send Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) back in time to 1973. They tell Wolverine to find their younger selves (James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender) and prevent Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) from murdering the creator of the Sentinels, Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage), an event that ultimately triggers the dystopian future that they currently inhabit.

Most time travel movies are bound to have plot holes and continuity errors when you really stop to think about the plot. Don’t dwell on this aspect too much; it’s inevitable. The story by Simon Kinberg, Matthew Vaughn and Jane Goldman may be complicated, but screenwriter Kinberg pieces it together with minimal fallout. The opening fifteen minutes rely heavily on exposition to set up the plot, but this is mostly forgivable because time travel can be a pain to wrap one’s mind around. Once everything is set up and Wolverine travels back to the past, confusion is practically non-existent and only a few distracting time travel questions arise throughout the course of the film.

Returning to direct his first X-Men film since 2003’s X2, Bryan Singer successfully blends both the cast from the original series with the cast from X-Men: First Class, without the film feeling convoluted. The film could have easily felt like it was trying to throw in too many characters, but Singer negates this problem by spending ample time exploring each character and their current state before moving onto the action. Several mutants who were featured prominently in First Class are notably absent here and while their exclusion was almost certainly done to prevent the film from feeling overloaded, their absence is felt and the quick explanation as to why they are gone feels disappointing.

This isn’t a film of nonstop action, but a film of characters and story. The action sequences never feel forced, feeling instead like a natural continuation of the story, making them all the more satisfying. Singer knows that the most important aspect of action sequences is to fill them with characters that we care about, which makes them all the more engaging. Due to their impressive size and strength, every scene involving the Sentinels is extremely intense and the visual effects that make them come to life are quite convincing. A prison break sequence is one of the film’s highlights, effectively mixing action and humor into a very enjoyable scene. Finally, the film’s climactic moments are a sight to behold, mixing together multiple threats, characters and timelines into a battle that has to be seen to be believed.

Returning for a seventh time as Wolverine, Hugh Jackman continues to be great in the role. Wolverine’s sense of humor is always intact and a late scene showcases Wolverine at his most emotional and Jackman genuinely pulls it off. James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender continue to excel as the young Professor Xavier and Magneto. The two of them have great chemistry together, making every scene of theirs fascinating. Having much more to do this time around than in First Class, Jennifer Lawrence successfully turns Mystique into the sexy warrior that she was in the original trilogy. Because he is a man who threatens with words and ideas, Peter Dinklage steals practically every scene that he is in as Bolivar Trask. The returning cast from the original trilogy all do a fine job in their future scenes, although several new characters who are introduced in the future timeline aren’t given any development beyond their unique abilities.

With an incredibly emotional third act that showcases an enthralling and touching score by John Ottman, X-Men: Days of Future Past could serve as a fitting finale to the long running franchise. While this isn’t the case (X-Men: Apocalypse is already scheduled for a 2016 release date), it speaks to the effectiveness of this film. Days of Future Past has the characters, action, humor and sense of fun that combine to create one of the best superhero films in years.

X-Men: Days of Future Past receives 3.5/4

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Nearly every film will have some sort of emotional reaction on the viewer. These reactions can range from joy, to fear, to boredom, to disgust. But it takes a truly great film to hit you on such an emotional level that it will leave you in tears. Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave will likely have this effect on people. It is such an emotionally tolling film, that I found myself tearing up in multiple moments throughout the film’s 133 minute run-time. It is horrifying in its realistic portrayal of slavery, breathtaking in the sheer amount of care and cinematic prowess that went into its production, and ultimately uplifting in the film’s message that, no matter how bad things may get, there is always something worth living for.

In this astonishing true story, Chiwetel Ejiofor stars as Solomon Northup, a free African American man who is living with his wife and two children in New York during the year 1841. One day he is approached by a pair of men (Taran Killam and Scoot McNairy) who offer him a job as a musician in a traveling circus. This job offer seems too good to be true and, unfortunately for Solomon, it is. He awakens the following morning in a jail cell, having been drugged the night before. Despite being a free man, Solomon is sent by ship to New Orleans to be sold as a slave.

In his third feature film, director Steve McQueen has crafted what will surely go down as a masterpiece. The cinematography by Sean Bobbitt is incredibly exquisite, somehow managing to simultaneously look beautiful and threatening, often within the same shot. An early scene in which the camera moves through a field of sugarcane is certainly a harbinger of the violence that the audience will soon be witness to. Also incredible are McQueen’s use of long takes. Some of them last for an excruciatingly long time, forcing the viewer to feel some of the distressing pain that Northup is also experiencing. One long take involving a whipping is so expertly shot and choreographed that it will likely be studied for years to come.

Many viewers may find the graphic violence depicted in the film simply too much to handle. In his portrayal of the hardships that were faced by African Americans during the time of slavery, McQueen simply doesn’t hold anything back. Not only is the physical violence in the film disturbing, but the actual dehumanization of the African Americans is brutal to watch as well. A scene in which white plantation owners walk through a room full of naked African Americans for sale will fill the viewer with disgust and a scene involving a rape is truly horrifying to watch. Never before has the calamity of slavery been portrayed so realistically on film.

Chiwetel Ejiofor has been delivering solid performances for over a decade, but it his role as Solomon Northup that should finally get audiences to take notice of his incredible abilities. Ejiofor delivers a magnificently emotional performance as Northup, a man who is willing to endure the most difficult of circumstances to survive and, hopefully, one day be reunited with his family. Ejiofor takes the audience on an emotional journey and really makes you feel what his character is experiencing.

Luckily, Ejiofor never overshadows any of his costars, who all deliver equally impressive performances. Michael Fassbender is brilliantly frightening as plantation owner Edwin Epps. Fassbender’s character often feels like a man who cannot be reasoned with, making him all the more intimidating. As the Mistress Epps, Sarah Paulson is often more terrifying than her onscreen husband, choosing to slowly torture any of her slaves that she is not fond of. The slave that receives most of this torture is Patsey and Lupita Nyong’o (in her feature film debut) is incredible in the role. Not every plantation owner is portrayed as truly evil and it is clear that Benedict Cumberbatch’s character, William Ford, is simply a product of the times that he has been born into. Cumberbatch is great in the role, further cementing him as one of our greatest up-and-coming actors. Finally, in a small but pivotal role, Brad Pitt turns on his Southern accent as Samuel Bass, but he does so with gravitas and sophistication.

The true story of Solomon Northup is so extraordinary and inspiring that it’s baffling that it has taken this long to adapt it into a feature film. Thankfully, it has been worth the wait because this story has been given the care that it deserves. With a musical score by Hans Zimmer that manages to feel both tender and imposing, and an intelligently crafted script from John Ridley, Steve McQueen has somehow managed to assemble a cast and crew of the highest pedigree. Not only is 12 Years a Slave one of the best films of the year, it is quite possibly the greatest film ever made about slavery in the American South.

12 Years a Slave receives 4/4

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With so much talent in front of and behind the camera, The Counselor should have been something more. With a script from author Cormac McCarthy (in his first original screenplay) and director Ridley Scott at the helm, it had the potential to be a hit thriller and potential Oscar contender similar to 2007’s No Country for Old Men. What we get instead is a film that feels so sporadically entertaining that it causes one to question whether the film was helmed by three, maybe four, different uncredited directors. Despite some great performances and a handful of great scenes, there is very little in the film to be impressed with. While it is far from the worst film of the year, it is almost certainly one of the most disappointing.

Michael Fassbender stars as The Counselor, a lawyer who has just recently become engaged to the love of his life Laura (Penelope Cruz). He soon gets involved with drug kingpin Reiner (Javier Bardem), Reiner’s hypersexual girlfriend, Malkina (Cameron Diaz) and middleman Westray (Brad Pitt). They begin to develop a deal that involves the trafficking of drugs into the United States. But their plan hits an unexpected snag, putting everyone’s life at risk.

There is a good film buried somewhere in The Counselor, but it is hampered by too much dull chit-chat, poor pacing and an almost useless first half. The film feels bloated and far too long, most likely due to the fact that events are not set into motion until halfway through the film. For nearly an hour we are forced to sit and watch underdeveloped characters gossip about useless anecdotes that pertain to the differences between men and women. Saying that these scenes feel similar to a weak romance isn’t too far off.

Once things start happening (and trust me, it takes a LONG time) the movie becomes much more entertaining, thanks mostly to director Ridley Scott. It can be difficult to work from a weak script, and Scott does the best he can with the material. A desert shootout that occurs halfway through the movie feels like a breath of fresh air and the death of a particular character towards the end of the film is equally entertaining and horrifying.

The cast mostly does an admirable job at portraying their weak characters, but some are much better than others. Michael Fassbender gives the solid lead performance that this film needed, doing the best with what was written as a fairly one-dimensional character. Brad Pitt and Penelope Cruz do a fine job, but it is Javier Bardem who gives the standout performance here. Reiner is without a doubt the most interesting character of the bunch and Bardem steals every scene that he is in. An anecdote involving Reiner, Malkina and a yellow Ferrari could have been ridiculous, but Bardem nails the delivery, making the scene a hilarious high in an otherwise bleak, bleak film. The weakest link in the cast is Cameron Diaz who feels a bit out of her element here. Much of her delivery feels unnatural and some of her character’s actions in the latter half of the film are unconvincing.

With an unoriginal story, The Counselor thinks that it is much smarter than it actually is. Perhaps Cormac McCarthy should stick to writing novels because the screenplay is one of the weakest aspects of the film. Despite some great performances and a few solid scenes, there is nothing particularly entertaining about the film. The Counselor had the potential to be one of the best films of the year, but the finished product can’t help but feel like a chore to sit through.

The Counselor receives 2/4

The origin of human life is a topic that has plagued mankind for centuries. Where do we come from? Why are we here? It is only human nature to ponder these questions. Our species is a curious one and, given the chance, I’m sure that we would go to great lengths to explore the dawn of our species. These are just some of the topics that are brought up in Ridley Scott’s Prometheus. While the film’s reach may exceed its grasp, it is still a dazzling motion picture that ranks with the best of the year so far.

In the year 2089, a pair of archeologists discover a star map pointing to a previously unexplored galaxy. Having found this same star map all over the globe, they believe that it is an invitation to discover where our species originates from. The ship Prometheus is then sent into space, along with a crew, to explore the moon LV-223. As they begin to explore the moon, they discover a horror that could, ultimately, bring forth the destruction of the human race.

Ever since the film was announced, it has been debated whether or not Prometheus was a prequel to Alien. After having seen the film, it is clear that both films share several important elements and they both have a similar tone and style. I personally believe that the film is a prequel, but I have heard arguments stating that while the film may take place in the Alien universe, the events in Prometheus do not have a direct impact on Alien. Ridley Scott has left this aspect of the film open to viewers, a topic that is sure to rage debate for quite some time.

Whether or not Prometheus is a prequel to Alien is just one of the many questions that the film leaves unanswered. The film brings up many ideas, such as the origins of human life and the basis of religion versus science, but it fails to fully address them. Many questions are raised in the film, but very few of them are truly answered.  The film answers the question of who created us, but it fails to answer the question of why did they create us or why did they decide to destroy us. Much of the film remains open to the viewer, which is smart filmmaking in some cases, but in Prometheus it feels like they overdid it. The lack of answers in the film is more frustrating than intriguing.

Despite the fact that the writing feels a bit lazy, the rest of the film is absolutely mesmerizing. Ridley Scott does a great job directing, creating haunting visuals that slowly add to the film’s sense of panic. The visual effects are fantastic, seamlessly creating a ship and a world that feel genuinely real. The fact that a lot of the film takes place in the dark could have created a difficult viewing experience, but the cinematography and set design are so good that the locations in the film always feel unique.

Michael Fassbender portrays an android named David and his performance is easily the best in the film. Everything from the way that he talks to the way that he walks makes him appear to be an android. He delivers his lines like a man who is trying to sound human, but cannot fully achieve this. Noomi Rapace does a great job of being a strong female lead, even though her accent is a bit shaky. Finally, you would not believe that the elderly Peter Weyland is portrayed by the young Guy Pearce. His performance, along with the fantastic makeup effects, makes him appear to be a man well into his nineties.

Prometheus is a fantastic film that will leave you thinking, even after the credits have started to roll. Its two hour runtime goes by in a flash, a testament to how a slow build can lead to a very satisfying payoff. In fact, this is a film that was so engrossing that I did not want it to end. There may be a lack of character development and some of the characters decide to partake in idiotic actions, but these flaws are overshadowed by everything in the film that works. It may not be as intelligent as it hopes to be, but Prometheus is a daring sci-fi film that deserves to be seen.

Prometheus receives 3.5/4

I have been following the marketing of Prometheus with great interest and I believe that their viral marketing is fantastic. While the actual trailer is fairly forgettable, the viral videos that they have released have been engaging and have made the movie one of my most anticipated of the summer. Today another viral video of the film was released, this one starring Noomi Rapace.

Rapace plays a character named Elizabeth Shaw who is asking for help with exploration from Peter Weyland. Weyland is played by Guy Pearce who appeared in another viral video released for Prometheus. Rapace’s performance appears to be quite good, impressive because she is actually from Sweden. It is also worth noting that Shaw is wearing a cross around her neck. This leads me to believe that the film will contain religious themes, which is interesting because it has been hinted that the film will explore the origins of mankind. Check out the video along with a Q & A that writer Damon Lindeloff did on his twitter:

Q: #Prometheus more of an action film like Aliens or does it have more of the horror aspect in it?
A: Hopefully, it’s part action, part horror, part thriller, part mystery and there’s like, some kissing and stuff, too.

Q: What is your favorite line from the movie? #Prometheus
A: I refuse to give it away. But it’s something Janek (Idris Elba) says to Vickers (Charlize Theron).

Q: Hi Damon! Was #prometheus written to allow for possible sequels? Do you like the idea of Prometheus becoming a franchise?
A: If you like it and want more, there is TOTALLY a design for this story to continue in cool and unexpected ways.

Q: Is there more then 1 android aboard #Prometheus ?
A: Well isn’t that a clever question? In fact, some of the crew are asking it, too.

Q: Was Quiet Eye an intentional homage to Lost’s Dharma Initative videos? #Prometheus
A: If by “intentional homage” you mean “total ripoff because I rarely have original ideas” then YES!!!