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Movie Metropolis (309 KP) rated X-Men: Dark Phoenix (2019) in Movies

Jun 10, 2019 (Updated Jun 10, 2019)  
X-Men: Dark Phoenix (2019)
X-Men: Dark Phoenix (2019)
2019 | Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi
Goodbye Normal Jean
It would be easy to write off X-Men: Dark Phoenix as a complete and utter disaster. With the departure of Bryan Singer (again) from the franchise, first-time director Simon Kinberg taking his place and rumours of costly reshoots pushing the budget north of $200million, things weren’t looking good for this adaptation of the popular Marvel comic.

Let’s not forget that the last time Fox tried to adapt this storyline we ended up with 2006’s The Last Stand, and the less said about that the better. Looking back over the last 20 years, the X-Men’s film franchise history has been chequered to say the least.

Nevertheless, this particular timeline that started with Matthew Vaughn’s adequate First Class, followed up by the excellent Days of Future Past and the flabby Apocalypse ends with Dark Phoenix. But is it worthy of your consideration?

This is the story of one of the X-Men’s most beloved characters, Jean Grey (Sophie Turner), as she evolves into the iconic Phoenix. During a rescue mission in space, Jean is hit by a cosmic force that transforms her into one of the most powerful mutants of all. Wrestling with this increasingly unstable power as well as her own personal demons, Jean spirals out of control, tearing the X-Men family apart and threatening to destroy the very fabric of our planet.

First things first – this is not a bad film. Yes, you heard me right. Leagues above Apocalypse and much better than The Last Stand, Dark Phoenix is a film that has been let down by catastrophically poor marketing. It’s not perfect, as we’ll discover in this review, but it tries a different approach, and for that it should be applauded.

For this reviewer, the modern day cast of characters has always been a weak spot for the series and that doesn’t really change in Dark Phoenix. James McAvoy remains miscast as Charles Xavier, especially since packing on the muscle for this Glass, but he performs much better here than he did in its predecessor. His transition into egotistical maniac, obsessed by the celebrity status the X-Men have acquired at the outset of the film is an intriguing diversion from where he was at the end of Apocalypse.

The younger cast are more likeable. Kodi Smitt-McPhee’s portrayal of Nightcrawler is fabulous and he gets more to do this time around. Tye Sheridan is great as young Cyclops and Evan Peters’ Quicksilver remains a highlight, though it’s unfortunate he’s cast aside relatively quickly – for fans of his set pieces from the previous two films, you’ll be disappointed here. Michael Fassbender and Nicholas Hoult bring their a-games, but they even seem a little bored by what’s going on. “You’re always sorry, Charles. And there’s always a speech. But nobody cares anymore!” bites Michael Fassbender at one point in the film – perhaps he’s onto something?

The first hour is perhaps the best the series has been since Days of Future Past
Of the female cast, Sophie Turner does her best with the material she’s given, and her Jean Grey is full of anger, angst and melancholy. The script struggles to provide her with any other emotion, but she’s a pleasing protagonist for the most part. Unfortunately, Jennifer Lawrence completely phones in her performance as Mystique and Jessica Chastain’s horrifically underwritten villain wastes a fabulous actor in a thankless role – much like Oscar Issac in Apocalypse.

With reports of heavy reshoots, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the film would end up a royal mess. Thankfully, the first hour is perhaps the best the series has been since Days of Future Past. Focusing on character development rather than all-out action, it’s a pleasing change and one which is more than welcome. Unfortunately, as time ticks away, the film loses all semblance of sanity and becomes muddled as it steamrolls towards an underwhelming climax.

And despite the reported budget of $200million, some of the shot choices and outfits feel cheap. It’s clear director Simon Kinberg is a fan of the series, but the X-Men costumes are bland, ill-fitting and a world away from what we’ve seen before. Closer to the comics they may be, but that’s not always a good thing. Elsewhere, the film feels cut-rate, almost TV-movie like and that’s a real shame because the special effects are top-notch. Mercifully, Hans Zimmer’s score is wonderful. The soaring orchestral soundtrack works brilliantly with the film – it’s probably the best music in the series to date.

Overall, X-Men: Dark Phoenix has been a victim of poor marketing with trailers that spoilt perhaps the most pivotal moment of the film (which we won’t spoil here). Nevertheless, the first hour is great and the special effects provide the film with some thrilling set pieces. It’s a shame then that the film offers up nothing new to the table despite some committed performances – this Phoenix just doesn’t quite rise to the occasion.
Wordslingers: The Story of Self-Publishing (2021)
Wordslingers: The Story of Self-Publishing (2021)
2021 | Documentary
7.0 (1 Ratings)
Movie Rating
They say that everyone has a book in them. I guess the key question is whether anyone else wants to read it. Such is the subject of this new documentary from A. Brooks Bennett. As a publisher says at one point “Writing a book is a creative act; publishing a book is a business”.

The democratization of publishing
The internet has brought many advantages to modern life, but perhaps one of the most interesting is the democratization of publishing. No longer is control in the hands of publishing houses, who might glance at and immediately dismiss new ideas in literature. It’s worth remembering that 12 publishing houses turned down J.K. Rowling’s draft for Harry Potter! Now anyone can be creative in writing and self-publish on the web. My own wife – Sue Mann – did just this, self-publishing the WW1 poems and reminiscences of two of her great-uncles. (It’s available from all good bookshops… oh, no…. actually just from here!) Are the poems artistically any good? I have no idea! Will it sell many copies? Clearly not! Was it a personal goal achieved in honouring their memory? Absolutely! Different people want different things from the medium.

Very ‘American’.
It’s probably down to the pioneer spirit, but as a generalisation Americans seem far more ambitious than Brits: or at least, more OPENLY ambitious. Whereas most Brits will quietly get on with building their careers, some Americans will go hell-for-leather towards their vision of “success” no matter the cost: no guts; no glory; and be noisy about it!

But for every J.K. Rowling or Bill Bryson there are several thousand writers who have ‘failed to launch’.

Here we follow two budding authors – one from California; the other from North Carolina – self-publishing their work and seeking sales.

One – Giles A (“Andy”) Anderson – has self-published a seemingly disturbing work called “Vidu” – the first of what he hopes will be a five-part series. He first talks from a ghoulish bookstore, speaking psycho-babble with the requisite hyperbole of an ‘artiste’. (It suggests how the books might read… but perhaps that’s misjudging). It comes then as a surprise when we find he doesn’t live alone in a coffin playing video games on his own, but has a lovely wife and two young and perfectly normal children. So his book is an “off the beaten track kinda book”, but the man seems well-grounded and following his dream in bite-size pieces.

Moral: Avoid the Travel Books
As is often the case though, the documentary homes in on, and spends most of its time with, the other author – Adam Shephard. Shephard is struggling to launch as an author and also – in parallel – wrestling with the Green Card process for his supportive and vivacious Croatian wife Ivana. The problem is that Shephard has written an extended travel blog: ten-a-penny on sites like WordPress.

I read a Forbes article last year that reported that – astonishingly – in a survey 11% of American respondents had never travelled outside of their home state and 40% had never left the country. For such a well-heeled country, the US is incredibly insular. So Shephard’s vision is to encourage youngsters to step outside of their comfort zone and jump on that plane to Guatemala. It’s a fine objective. But does anyone want to listen? And – crucially – is the book any good and commercial enough? As the famous ‘founder of self-publishing’, the late Dan Poynter (to who the film is dedicated) says “You can’t make any money off a travel book”.

The film never goes as far as having either of the featured books critically reviewed: that might have added some extra spice to the story (and possibly provoked some painful reactions). But the piles of unopened boxes in Adam’s clinically white storage facility rather speaks for itself. Since Shephard never seems to do anything by halves, the boxes are piled high and thus the fall from grace is hard, long…. and absolutely riveting. (Ivana’s support and love in such difficult circumstances is commendable: he is a truly blessed man).

Jaw-dropping Walmart scene
At least at the start of the film, Adam’s self-belief and confidence in himself is infectious. The peak of his bravado, and a jaw-dropping highpoint in the movie for me, was a scene filmed in Walmart. Shephard, in a case of “reverse shoplifting”, sneaks HIS books onto the bookshelves of Walmart. What happens when they then try to buy one? It’s a real eye-opener and worth watching the documentary for in its own right.

It’s an interesting legal position: if Walmart were to be upset about this scene, what on earth could they charge them with!? Littering?

Highs and lows.
Shephard seems to have talent as a speaker, and it struck me that he would be genuinely suited to a job in sales. In the movie we see him performing self-confidence-building pitches to young people (and, boy, could we sometimes use that in the UK post-Brexit). A few books sold. But another event barely breaking even. The pattern becomes familiar and, in a way, rather tragic.

There are unexpected highs and lows for Adam and Ivana along the way though, unrelated to the publishing story, and the filmmaker skillfully weaves them into the narrative to good effect.

I watched this on a whim and thought I’d probably switch off after 10 minutes. Documentaries normally are not my thing! But no. It had me gripped to see how things would turn out – like watching a slow-motion car crash! The journey was well-worth the ride: a real page-turner you might say.
Hellboy (2019)
Hellboy (2019)
2019 | Action, Adventure, Fantasy
Make up (0 more)
Acting (0 more)
It all looked soooo promising
Contains spoilers, click to show
Let me say this upfront; David Harbour looks f---ing boss as Hellboy. The makeup is far superior to that of Ron Perlman, not that there was anything wrong with Ron Perlman’s, but with this new incarnation it’s all in the eyes. Deep red, sunken, pained. Sadly, that is all I can say about this movie that is one hundred percent genuinely positive. There are positives however, but they come with a big ‘however’.
I was initially a little concerned that we were getting a re-boot and not a direct sequel to Hellboy II: The Golden Army (2008), especially as it still seemed so recent and was so well made. I know it was over a decade ago but quality is timeless, yeah? Then David Harbour was cast and Neil Marshall announced as director. Great, thought I, an actor I like and a director who’s put out some solid genre material. I saw the first picture of Harbour as Hellboy and I was genuinely excited. I saw the trailer and again, excited. Then I watched the film.
Eurgh, where to start?
Firstly, Ian McShane’s initial voice over is clunky and ill fitting, then they throw in some b@llocks about King Arthur and Excalibur. I had my first wobble here, as some of the effects seemed less than special.
Cue opening titles.
The film starts with a Mexican wrestling match that is purely exposition to let us know Hellboy is a hard drinking and hard fighting anti-hero working for an organisation that deals with the paranormal. The make up for his vampiric opponent is also great (can’t fault the makeup department), but the scene seemed superfluous. We get the nubbin of the story forming now; some horrible witchy wench from way back when was cut into bits and flung around jolly old England to prevent her from spreading a right ‘orrible plague. Turns out a potty-mouthed Liverpudlian pig-monster is collecting said bits in the hope of putting her back together in exchange for his normal appearance. Scouse pig-monster is quite entertaining.
Hellboy goes to England at the request of an upper-class paranormal society to help them kill giants; this goes t1ts up. Again, this seems like unnecessary exposition to introduce Alice, a medium who he rescued as a baby, who now rescues him in a transit van. We also get introduced to M11’s Agent Daimio. There something wrong with him, he keeps injecting himself with a serum to stop something happening. I knew at this point we’d get to see what it was eventually, probably at a juncture where something is needed to rescue someone important. However, at this point I had a feeling it would be bad, I just didn’t know how bad.
There some more fighting, some good effects, some mediocre effects and some terrible effects. There’s some good one-liners, there’s some dull and/or terrible dialogue and then we get the film’s conclusion.
There’s something I’ve been putting off mentioning as I didn’t want the entire review to be about it, and it could have been; the witchy wench at the heart of all this paranormal consternation, Nimue, is played by Milla Jovovich and she is terrible. From when she first opens her mouth to her predictable demise, she is terrible. Terrible. TERRIBLE.
I love some of the Resident Evil films but all she’s required to do is some slow-motion scissor kicks and shoot zombies and zombie-dogs in the face. She is tolerated, rather than enjoyed. Here she is emoting, or at least I think that’s what she was going for, and as a depiction of an evil entity bent of the destruction of all mankind, she is, for want of a better word, cack.
David Harbour and the Hellboy franchise deserve better than this. To be blunt, the franchise has better than this and Mike Mignola should be a bit more f---ing precious with his creation.
Hellboy (2004) was genuinely exciting; it was an origin story that bought that story full circle for its thrilling and apocalyptical conclusion. It has a wonderful nemesis, great support and breath-taking visuals. The re-tread of the origin story in Hellboy (2019) is, again, one more unnecessary diversion from a sketchy plot, which, for all its meagre bones takes a f-ck load of time to tell.
Hellboy II: The Golden Army (2008) was equally impressive. It also introduced a fully formed community of creatures and customs hiding alongside mankind. It did so with nonchalant aplomb. Nothing seemed irrelevant or forced. For two films with almost identical running times, Hellboy (2019) tells less of a story with way more waffle.
So, I did mention there were some positives. David Harbour is great. He’s dour, sarcastic, defiant and funny, he just has no engaging story in which to be all those things. Ian McShane is good as the father figure but he is overshadowed by memories of the late, unbelievably great John Hurt. The story of a witch trying to destroy mankind is solid fantasy movie gold and the unleashing of her plague late in the final act is suitably hellish; bizarre demons emerging from city streets and tearing humans limb from limb, it’s bloody wonderful and wonderfully bloody. They all could have come straight out of a Clive Barker fever dream. However, it’s too little too late, by this point in the story we’ve had too many cutaways, too much shoddy CGI, and Agent Daimio stinking up many a scene with his ‘will he won’t he’ turn into something rubbish… he does.
The worst part of all this is I don’t know if they can come back from this. The film may have sunk the franchise at least for the next few years.
I do however, look forward to a re-boot in a decade or so, if we haven’t all been assimilated by aliens, overrun by AI robots or decimated by a supernatural plague bought on by some witchy wench with an axe to grind.