Announcement 13

So, just so everyone is aware, I was planning on reviewing “Dr. No” after “The Gift.” But when I started watching it, I started too late, and I wasn’t able to finish it. After putting it off a bit longer, I watched it just now, but put it off again, and then started again. I’ll post a review of that movie tomorrow, and a review of the recently released “Wonder Woman” at a later interval tomorrow. (Yeah, I’m excited for seeing it, after a while of writing the DC Extended Universe off as a fad. Who’da thunk?)

I’d also like to extend a thank you to my new followers, as I don’t know if I would’ve kept updating this blog without you. It’s because of you that I have incentive to keep updating this blog, and I congratulate and thank you for that.

Review #12: “The Gift” (2015)

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Okay, so, as my limited number of followers might be aware, I promised to start reviewing horror movies in May. Well, at the end of May, I finally got around to it. Yeah, one problem with being an adult is how quickly the weeks and months get away from you. I apologize, and starting now, I’m going to try and keep you guys updated as much as I can.

Anyway, why am I reviewing this movie, of all things? Long story short, I’ve known about it for a long time, and I finally got around to watching it after two years of it being released. I’d always had intentions to watch it, because it did receive very positive reviews, but I’d never thought the cards of life would play out quite like this, where it’s the first movie I reviewed after months away from my blog.

One thing that stuck out to me is that, although the reviews of the movie were very positive, they were very vague about why it qualified as a thriller, especially because the way they described it made it seem like a domestic dispute movie like “Revolutionary Road.” With my viewing of the movie, I can say authoritatively that it is a thriller, and a rather unsettling one at that, even though the MPAA’s stated reason for its R rating is “language,” and that’s it. However, the reason why they were so vague about why the movie qualifies as a thriller also presented itself. I’ll go a little further in my assessment, and say that it tackles themes like distrust, lack of communications in interpersonal relations and bullying in high school and how it negatively affects life as an adult, all in ways that are thoughtfully explored and kept frighteningly relatable to the audience at all times. For the life of me, I will not spoil anything else about the movie, because it takes a while for the story to get moving, and the main conflict isn’t revealed until more than halfway through, which was an intentional choice on the part of the filmmakers. Because of this, I recommend that you see the movie, and then come back and read the review from this point, because, in the review proper, I will get into spoilers, because I can’t review movies in any other way.

Seen the movie? Yes? Well, let’s get this show on the road.

STORY

I do now understand why critics had a tough time describing why the movie is so good; it’s because, even now, two days after viewing it, I still have a tough time describing why the movie is so good. However, now that we’ve both seen it (you have seen it, right?), I can now say that it’s because of how fragile even the most affectionate relationships can really be when your significant other doesn’t communicate with you. This certainly isn’t the only theme tackled in the movie, but it’s the one that most pertains to Robyn and Simon’s end of the story. It also tells the audience that acting like you never did anything wrong in high school and rolled with the punches while others didn’t is silly to a sad degree as an adult, and can lead to well-meaning people who you don’t believe “rolled with the punches” having their livelihoods further impacted by your self-aggrandizement. As I said, the movie also shows the negative effects that Simon’s actions had on Gordo’s adult life, and is harshly critical of Simon for allowing them to go unhealed for so long. Yet still through all of this, the movie doesn’t portray Gordo as purely in the right, because his overall status of the story, whether it be misguided “good” supporting character, villain, hero or a little of all three, is left up to the viewer to decide. The slow build-up and slow-moving breaks in the story also work to the movie’s advantage well, and help show the banality of everyday life before it’s disrupted again and again.

Story Grade: 95% (A)


CHARACTERS


These characters are people who you feel could exist. Whether good or bad, their actions come from real, all-too-relatable places. One problem I did note after reviewing the movie in my head is that Robyn has a similar problem as Rey from “The Force Awakens,” where she’s a small role in a larger world, and isn’t portrayed as perfect, but has not as many depicted flaws as needed to be a truly memorable character. Aside from that, though, whether cringing or laughing with them, I found the characters interesting.

Characterization Grade: 85% (B)

SCRIPT

Concise and to the point. That’s all I can say.

 Script Grade: 85% (B)

 DIRECTION

This is what stands out to me the most from the movie. But I really did go over all of what makes this aspect of the movie work in the story section, so I’ll shut up.

 Direction Grade: 90% (A-)

ACTING

I like Jason Bateman (Simon) a lot, and Rebecca Hall (Robyn) and Joel Edgerton (Gordo, also the writer and director of the movie) are also quite good.

 Acting Grade: 95% (A)

SCARES

There are a few jump scares, but they complement the overall feeling of uneasiness in the movie, as opposed to release it. And make no mistake: This movie will make you feel uneasy after Gordo’s first gift, all the way to the end. It really does do well in making you feel like you’re watching a horror movie.

 

Scare Grade: 88% (B+)

EXECUTION

Very, very good.

Execution Grade: 100% (A+)

FINAL THOUGHTS

If you haven’t seen the movie, go see it. Just make sure you’re aware of its slow pace and its different approach to horror.

Final Grade: 85% (B)

Well, that took a longer time than I thought I would. Anyway, look for a review of a non-horror movie before I go back to horror movies completely. See you tomorrow with that (hopefully).

Announcement 2

Well, here we are again. To me, even from a young age, I always felt that once November rolls around, the time for being scared to celebrate Halloween has passed. Because of that (and my horrible ability to keep up with schedules), I’m going to review the movies I was planning to review in January, where they’ll take up most of the month. With that being said, I don’t want this Halloween to be a total waste, so I’ll be posting a rather special review tomorrow. What it is? You’ll have to find out when it comes.

Announcement 1

While I was planning to review “Nosferatu” today, I found I wasn’t in a great mood for another horror movie when it came time to watch it. I’ll get to it eventually, but I would like to start reviewing horror films as soon as possible. Tomorrow, I’m gonna review 1969’s “The Haunting.”

Review #11: “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” (1920)

I know what you’re probably thinking: “Where’s the review for ‘X-Men: Apocalypse?’” Don’t worry; It’s coming. I don’t when, but it’ll come. However, I can tell you it won’t be this month, as I’ve decided that I’m going to review horror movies (or just horror-themed movies) for this month of October.

Anyway, why am I spotlighting a silent movie, you may ask? Well, really, it was because I decided to watch it because it was Halloween when I saw that it was airing on TCM for the occasion. And it left that Halloween effect on me, for better or worse. (By the way, this is what I do to get in the mood for trick-or-treaters: Watch horror movies or horror-themed movies (as well as Halloween TV specials, not all of them horror-themed), play horror games or horror-themed games, and don’t participate in anything else.) This movie is among the last surviving silent movies of the German Expressionist Movement, and is often pointed to as the first “true” horror movie. (I doubt it was, but it’s the earliest surviving one, so whatever.) So, what are my thoughts on this landmark film? Well, sit back, relax, and hope that my writing entertains you.

STORY

This area might seem slow-moving and boring at first (especially for modern sensibilities), but it picks up big time in the fourth “act” (of six, by the way). And it all comes together at the end, just for the entire story to be thrown into suspicion by a twist ending that’s too good to spoil. Before that point, you think you’ll be given the “Hollywood ending,” but once the ending truly comes, it throws anything resembling one out the window. I don’t want to spoil anything, however, so if you haven’t seen the movie, go watch it. Sorry I can’t be more detailed here, but this is the kind of movie that relies on twists and surprises. Let me put it this way: It’s sad, suspenseful, atmospheric, tragic, and even gives the viewer a “make-up-your-own-mind” option with its twist ending.

Story Grade: 100% (A+)

CHARACTERS

Strip the monumental acting away, and you’re left with characters strong enough for the story told… and truthfully, not much else. They complement the story perfectly, but have too much riding on one personality trait for them to be that likable outside the confines of the story told. Let me put it this way: Most of the inner turmoil experienced by the characters is expressed through the acting, and not so much the characters themselves. You’ll feel for these characters, but they don’t contain any of the depth required for the intro scene to feel earned in its assessment that the main character went through a great deal more than the person he’s talking to. (See? Aside from Dr. Caligari himself and Alan, I don’t even remember anyone’s name.)

Characterization Grade: 80% (B-)

SCRIPT

There’s truthfully not much of it, due to the movie being a silent one, but what’s here is… decent.

Script Grade: 85% (B)

DIRECTION

This is the area where most of the movie shines. For a movie shot on a shoestring budget, everything is very fully realized (except for the sets, which look like something out of Whoville by today’s standards). Everything from the lighting of each scene, to the chase scenes, to the scenes where the somnambulist (whatever that means) is standing perfectly still, all the way down to the tiniest of details, everything is as close to flawless as you can get from a movie of this period.

Direction Grade: 98% (A+)

ACTING

This is one area where the people involved stepped up their game to the fullest capacity. As I said before, the characters are made not by the writing behind them, but for the performances of each one of the actors. Some might call the acting melodramatic, but since they had to rely on overexpression due to the lack of talking, it’s forgivable. (Or at least it is for me.)

Acting Grade: 100% (A+)

SCARES

This movie legitimately left me shaking in my boots. (Or it would have if I had boots on at the time.) That’s all you need to know.

Scare Grade: 98% (A+)

EXECUTION

Pretty much everything I mentioned that the movie excelled at earlier factors into this area, plus one more aspect: The color palette. It’s not much, but it feels as if the colors from their eight shades were used as well as they could.

Execution Grade: 95% (A)

FINAL THOUGHTS

What more can I say about it? It clearly laid down the framework for multiple horror movies to follow, and I’m glad to claim that I saw it after a (short) life of not seeing it. If you haven’t seen it, I absolutely recommend you track down a copy.

Final Grade: 94% (A)

Well, that was rather difficult to put together. What am I doing next time? Well, it’s another silent movie from the German Expressionist movement, and if you’re familiar with that movement, you probably know which one I’m talking about. For those who aren’t, I’ll leave it a surprise.

Review 10: “X-Men: Days of Future Past” (2014)

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In case you guys have been wondering what I’ve been doing, well, my timetable repeatedly failed to match with my family’s when it came to viewing both cuts of the film. That being said, I did finally get around to watching the movie’s “Rogue Cut” the day before I started writing this post (I’m beginning the writing of this post on Sunday the 9th of June), and I now have no excuse to postpone it any longer. So, let’s get to it.

STORY

Before I get to the creative differences between cuts, here’s what I think of the film as a whole: It’s the best “X-Men” movie yet. The story’s stakes are off the charts, keeping you constantly on the edge of your seat, and the emotional subtext and characterization are some of the series’ best. True, some characters struggle to gain an identity, but ultimately, there’s more than enough here to keep you both excited and engaged to your fullest potential as an audience member. It’s a harrowing time at the movies, but there’s enough substance at hand to make it feel worth it beyond a cheap thrill.

Story Grade: 98% (A+)

CHARACTERS

As I said before, some characters struggle to gain an identity, even major ones like Kitty, but when push came to shove, this creative team made all the right sacrifices of who to include prominently and who not to, to the point that even Storm, as poorly implemented as she is into the movie as a whole, comes full circle as a character as her time in the apocalyptic future rears its ugly head. This was a great way to send Halle Berry’s time in the role off. And who they did choose to include prominently never waste the audience’s time, with all of them feeling well-utilized and all of them getting a chance for glory and/or our sympathy. I honestly don’t know what else to say about it, except “It’s absolutely brilliant.”

Characterization Grade: 95% (A)

SCRIPT

Good.

Script Grade: 95% (A)

DIRECTION

Great.

Direction Grade: 95% (A)

ACTING

They’re all excellent. However, I’m still going to dock eight points for Halle Berry. (Singer, what’chu on?)

Acting Grade: 92% (A-)

ACTION

There’s almost too many good things to count about this area, so I’ll just grade it.

Action Grade: 100% (A+)

EXECUTION

Again, it’s got story stakes off the charts, rich emotional subtext and excellently staged action. What more can I say? (Wait until the final thoughts to get angry.)

Execution Grade: 98% (A+)

FINAL THOUGHTS

This film easily stands up as a film in and of itself the best of all films in the series. And it went a long way in making it feel like the less-than-stellar plot developments of “The Last Stand” were worth wading through. Just make sure you see at least “First Class” before you see this one, as a lot of the film does rely on knowledge of previous events in that film.

Honestly, though, I can’t decide which cut of the film I prefer, but I will say that both cuts have something in them that makes it seem like they should be the one you see first when you see the movie as a solo entity. The Rogue Cut has a scene that I think should’ve been in the theatrical cut between Hank and Raven, while the theatrical cut has a much more focused story. As much as I applaud Rogue’s presence in the film in some way, she barely does a thing within the context of this movie’s story besides getting rescued and taking over for Kitty. (Also, how is Kitty still alive when the Sentinels infiltrate the base? Shouldn’t she have bled out by then?) But ultimately, color me the most impressed I’ve ever been from any film in this series and I can’t recommend the movie enough.

Final Grade: 96% (A)

I humbly apologize for not seeing all the films on schedule, but I’m finally seeing “Apocalypse” today, so I’ll post a review tomorrow. Till then!

Reviews #8 & #9: “X-Men: The Last Stand” (2006) & “The Wolverine” (2013)

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Yeah, I figured I might as well do a double review, one for “The Last Stand,” one for “The Wolverine.” As always, make sure you see both films before reading the review. Now on with it!

X-MEN: THE LAST STAND

STORY

Yeah, I’m not gonna lie: I kind of think there’s something to this part that rings true. Does that mean I’m in love with it? No. Does that mean I think it feels like “X-Men?” No, and in fact, giving the X-Men a world where they’re kind of accepted kind of shoots in the foot some of the harsh truths that are part of what makes the property what it is. But, with that said, there are genuine questions raised by this area, and not all of them are resolutely answered, which makes me respect the movie to some degree. On top of that, the majority of the story works as a story for a movie you come and stay for the action to. It may not be a worthy follow-up to the other two films in any way (or even feel like an “X-Men” movie that much at all), but I can’t hate this area of the movie as much as some people on the Internet do, even if things that should be very well-justified to the audience, like Wolverine releasing Jean/Phoenix, aren’t. (Yeah, that goes in the other direction towards the end, too, I’ll admit.) I don’t know, it kind of works if you’re in the right mood for it, I guess.

Story Grade: 78% (C+)

CHARACTERS

Like I said, not every character action feels authentic, but there’s nothing that horribly perverts previously established characterization, either.

Character Grade: 75% (C)

SCRIPT

It’s average, not a whole lot to say, positive or negative.

Script Grade: 75% (C)

DIRECTION

As an action-movie director, I don’t hate Brett Ratner, but he’s not the right person to direct an “X-Men” movie, for sure. The choices he made with where to take the story and characters are mind-boggling to a lot of degrees, but he’s a very competent stager of action scenes, and I can respect that.

Direction Grade: 80% (B-)

ACTING

The script may not go all out, but damned if the actors don’t. This is objectively one of the best substantive parts of the movie.

Acting Grade: 90% (A-)

ACTION

Really exciting and engaging, even with a few dated visual effects here and there.

Action Grade: 90% (A-)

EXECUTION

Ham-fisted and kind of sloppy, but, again, I can’t hate it too much when the action is so well-done.

Execution Grade: 78% (C+)

FINAL THOUGHTS

I don’t think that this movie is as bad as some on the Internet think, but there’s nothing really noteworthy about it, either, making it thoroughly disappointing for a fan of the series. Let’s put it this way: I’m glad Brett Ratner won’t direct any more films in the series. Anyway, what’s my grade? (Remember, this based on objectivity, not my own feelings.)

Final Grade: 69% (D+)

THE WOLVERINE

STORY

HOW IS CHARLES STILL ALIVE? Okay, now that I got that outta my system, I can certainly say that this area is actually well-written, even if it isn’t really that deep or even as complex as it clearly wants to be (the delving into Wolverine’s grief over Jean notwithstanding). As a corporate thriller, it’s no “Spider-Man” (2002), but it’s perfectly acceptable. That’s really the best way I can describe this area: It’s passable and acceptable, easily worth the price of admission. It’s not the timeless storytelling classic that some of the proper “X-Men” movies are, but it’s perfectly acceptable, and it fits for the character of Wolverine.

Story Grade: 85% (B)

CHARACTERS

Wolverine’s progression as a character is well-handled, and the characters of Yukio and Mariko are… decent, even if they aren’t terribly deep. Aside from Wolverine, the only character who really stuck out to me was Viper, who I’m a little disappointed they killed off, because she’d make a great recurring villain.

Character Grade: 88% (B+)

SCRIPT

It’s acceptable and passable, and there’s something to the emotional moments that gives them a lot of heft that the script is partially to thank for.

Script Grade: 85% (B)

DIRECTION

I’ve gotta say, James Marigold is a good action director, and he certainly knows how to direct emotional dialogue scenes, too. Color me impressed.

Direction Grade: 90% (A-)

ACTING

Hugh Jackman is great, as always, and the actresses playing Mariko, Yukio and Viper really sink their teeth into their (sometimes selling them short) dialogue and characters.

Acting Grade: 90% (A-)

ACTION

Great, and somehow even more brutal than “X2,” probably because the character primarily responsible for that movie’s more brutally violent scenes is now the center of attention.

Action Grade: 95% (A)

EXECUTION

Like I said, it’s executed in a way that’s passable and acceptable, and worth the price of admission. 

Execution Grade: 85% (B)

FINAL THOUGHTS

It’s passable, acceptable and worth spending money on. What can I say?

Final Grade: 87% (B+)

Well, that’s it for today. See you tomorrow, where I take on two cuts of a single movie at once. (Don’t act like you don’t know what I’m talking about.)

Review #7: “X2: X-Men United” (2003)

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So, continuing on with the theme week, we have a sequel that improves upon the original in ways that are quite significant. As I’m sure you’re aware, I recommend you see the movie first. With that out of the way, let’s press on.

STORY

The idea of Magneto and the X-Men uniting against a common enemy is likely nothing new (especially where the comics are concerned), but this movie does it well, and considering that the audience is likely frightened out of their skin by this common enemy, it seems like it’s within their best interests in every way, even if Magneto inevitably betrays the X-Men’s other interests. On top of that, the cast is given more refined personalities and comes together better as an ensemble than the first movie. (Still waiting for Storm to earn her place, though.) In conclusion, color me impressed.

Story Grade: 95% (A)

CHARACTERS

With the unfortunate exception of Storm, every character is more developed here. On top if that, I think I’m gonna put all my cards on the table: Stryker is the scariest “X-Men” villain I’ve ever seen. The level of spite he has against mutants is quite frightening, and the lengths he’ll go to to see his warped world vision come to fruition are very disturbing. This area is much better than the first in every way.

Characterization Grade: 95% (A)

SCRIPT

Very solid.

Script Grade: 95% (A)

DIRECTION

Singer’s much more assured here than the first, to the point where I might just consider this movie among his best work (not counting the other things he’s done I haven’t seen). Color me impressed.

Direction Grade: 95% (A)

ACTING

Dock ten points for Halle Berry as Storm (seriously, what’s wrong with you, Singer, wasting the talents of an Oscar winner?), but that still leaves…

Acting Grade: 90% (A-)

ACTION

Bigger, badder, and surprisingly more brutal than the last film. Aside from the overly long climax, I’m impressed.

Action Grade: 85% (B)

EXECUTION

It’s all well-done, to the point where I might consider it among the best superhero movies I’ve seen.

Execution Grade: 95% (A)

FINAL THOUGHTS

Let’s jut calculate it.

Final Grade: 94% (A)

Okay, next time, we’ll be reviewing “X-Men: The Last Stand.” I’m not too thrilled with that, not even when it comes to the inevitable thrashing. Why? You’ll find out tomorrow. See you then!

Review #6: “X-Men” (2000)

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Okay, continuing on with X-Men Week, we have the movie that kicked off the series and started the now-common trend of superhero movies taking time to show emotion and turmoil. Does it still hold up after over fifteen years? Let’s find out. As always, I recommend you watch the movie so you can follow along with the review.

STORY

This part is well-written, and feels authentic to the general feeling of isolation experienced by the mutants. Not all characters are used to their full potential (looking at you, Storm and Cyclops), but aside from that, which I’ll talk more about in the direction section, the story is quite impressive, delivering on what the audience of a summer movie wanted at that point while sidestepping being the soulless drivel that summer movies were at that point with its thoughtfulness, moral ambiguity and dark tone. It’s got slightly more flaws than “First Class,” in my opinion (how did Wolverine not heal immediately after letting go of Rogue?), but it doesn’t detract too much from what you want.

Story Grade: 90% (A-)

CHARACTERS

Wolverine is the star here, and he’s a good star, but the other characters aren’t utilized in the way they need to be for it not to feel more like “Wolverine” than “X-Men.” I like all the other introduced characters except for Cyclops, who isn’t terribly developed at all, and the already established characters are still as interesting as ever. What more can I say?

Characterization Grade: 90% (A-)

SCRIPT

Mostly good, if a bit stilted at times, particularly during the action scenes.

Script Grade: 90% (A-)

DIRECTION

I prefer Vaughn to Singer, because Vaughn can work with an ensemble cast much better, but Singer’s certainly no slouch, either, even if he focuses a little too much on Wolverine to achieve anything that noteworthy for any other characters. He knows how to direct action effectively, as well as emotional moments, though some of his techniques don’t hold up as well today as they should, especially with the emotional moments, which seem to drag on unnecessarily in places. That said, I think he’s a strong director where the series is concerned and hope he continues to find solid work after “Apocalypse.” (Let’s hope what he does turns out better than “Superman Returns.”)

Direction Grade: 88% (B+)

ACTING

Aside from Halle Berry, whom Singer seems to not work with that well, this area is very solid.

Acting Grade: 90% (A-)

ACTION

Still pretty cool, even if the effects are kind of dated.

Action Grade: 95% (A)

EXECUTION

While not always the best, this area is good, if not as good as “First Class.”

Execution Grade: 88% (B+)

FINAL THOUGHTS

It still holds up, even if it kind of feels more like Wolverine’s movie than an ensemble feature like the first one.

Final Grade: 90% (A-)

Join me tomorrow, when I review “X2: X-Men United.” See you then.

Review #5: “X-Men: First Class” (2011)

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So, I wasn’t able to finish my review of “Rocky IV.” Make no mistake, though, I’m not done with the series, and will review them all (including “Creed”) before the inevitable sequel to “Creed” comes out. With that said, “X-Men: First Class.” Let’s review it, and, as always, I encourage you to go watch it so that you can follow along with my review.

STORY

I actually realized at some point while watching this movie that “X-Men” might be the darkest and most morally ambiguous property that Marvel’s ever made. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not all doom and gloom, but considering that multiple years (decades, even) of comics haven’t really changed human attitudes towards mutants, and considering that the villain (I’m speaking of future Erik here, not Shaw) is partially going after humans for not being able to accept him, a mutant, it’s hard to say whether Charles or Erik has the ideals that are “right.” But enough of that; I like this aspect, even its subtler touches, like Raven being coerced into switching to Erik’s side because of rejection from her crush. It’s not perfect (why on Earth would the CIA willingly kill an agent? Leaving for dead, I understand, but why kill her?), but thanks to a willingness to tackle big, sometimes unanswerable questions, as well as strong and relateable character development, this part of the movie is brought home quite well.

Story Grade: 90% (A-)

CHARACTERS

Aside from the supporting human characters, who come off as horrible people for the sake of it (Moira doesn’t count, as she’s a major character), this area is done very well and often very emotionally. It all serves the story well, often further enhancing the tragedies of being a mutant, as well as an outcast in general. Not much more to say, so let’s just give it a grade.

Character Grade: 95% (A)

SCRIPT

Well-done.

Script Grade: 90% (A-)

DIRECTION

Matthew Vaughn is a talented guy, and would be my personal favored choice for Bryan Singer’s replacement after he leaves after “X-Men: Apocalypse.” He does a good job here, too, often getting so much emotion out of an actor that you see them as their characters through and through, without fail.

Direction Grade: 95% (A)

ACTING

Like I said, I never found that anyone was underracting or not doing a good job.

Acting Grade: 95% (A)

ACTION

It’s quite impressive, with great visual effects to boot.

Action Grade: 100% (A+)

EXECUTION

It’s good, though I wish they had gotten the characters Erik had on his side that weren’t Raven back in “Days of Future Past.”

Execution Grade: 90% (A-)

FINAL THOUGHTS

The main thing I can say about this movie is that it’s exceptionally solid, with strong emotions, large-scale action, great performances, great direction, a solid story and deep characters.

Final Grade: 93% (A)

Well, thus starts X-Men Week. For the next six days, I’ll be reviewing every released film in the chronology, as well as “The Rogue Cut” of “Days of Future Past.” (The only one I’m not reviewing this week is “Deadpool,” which needs its own review.) See you tomorrow!