BOOK: Armada (2015)

Armada Year: 2015 Author: Ernest Cline Length: 384 pages When I first heard about Ready Player One years ago, I was excited an author would even try to capture the spirit of the hardcore pop culture lover. After I received a hardcover copy of that book for Christmas, I devoured every word and loved every moment of it. This was why, when I saw Ernest Cline had written another book appearing to be in the same vein of Ready Player One, I had to buy it and give it a read. This book was Armada. Unfortunately, I was not nearly as impressed with Armada as I was with Ready Player One. In Armada, the pop culture references were there, but almost to the point of oversaturation. There were plenty of references I didn’t understand because I haven’t encountered the source material, which was somewhat frustrating. Furthermore, what made the references entertaining and fun in Ready Player One was that they were tied to unravelling the...
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MOVIE: X-Men – Apocalypse (2016)

X-Men: Apocalypse Year: 2016 Rating: PG-13 Length: 144 minutes / 2.4 hours I’ll admit that I was excited for this film, mostly because I was somewhat familiar with its premise. I grew up on the X-Men: Evolution TV show, so I knew that the defining arc of that series was none other than the Apocalypse arc. This may have actually spoiled the movie for me, because it wasn’t quite in line with the plot I knew. Sure, Bryan Singer returned to direct this penultimate piece of the X-Men franchise, but there were just a few things that bugged me about this movie. First off, one of the elements of the previous prequel films I liked and appreciated was the inclusion of historical events and people into the storyline. This way it felt like an alternate reality not so far removed from our own. While there were loose elements of this present, it wasn’t nearly as integrated as it had been done in the past. Add...
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MOVIE: X-Men – Days of Future Past (2014)

X-Men: Days of Future Past Year: 2014 Rating: PG-13 Length: 132 minutes / 2.2 hours One of the more difficult plots to pull off in a film is that of the simultaneous prequel/sequel. Perhaps the most famous of this plotline is The Godfather: Part II (1974). However, I would argue that X-Men: Days of Future Past perfected it. Just like X-Men: First Class (2011) before it, Days of Future Past takes the retro stylings of its decade (this time the 1970’s) and places a plot intertwined with the well-known figures and events of the time. It also simultaneously puts the X-Men in a dire and hopeless situation in a distant future, thus driving the need to go into the past to fix the initial conditions that got them into this quandary. Plus, most of the film is driven by Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), which just shows how vital he is to the series. In a return to form that was sorely missing in the previous two...
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MOVIE: X-Men – First Class (2011)

X-Men: First Class Year: 2011 Rating: PG-13 Length: 132 minutes / 2.2 hours While prequels always hold the distinction of being the one type of movie that you know how it will end, seeing how they get there is certainly entertaining. Much like the Star Wars prequels gave us a point before the original trilogy to learn more about the background of the characters, the X-Men prequels manage to do this, but with a much better result. My only major qualm with prequel trilogies is that, while the mainstays of the franchise were there in terms of characters, the only ones who maintained their actor from the first set of movies were relegated to cameo appearances. This is only heightened by my opinion that the original X-Men trilogy’s cast was perfect in almost every way. That being said, with the prequel trilogy now complete, the younger cast has definitely grown on me as well, James McAvoy’s Xavier being my favorite of the prequel group. Because X-Men: First...
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MOVIE: X-Men – The Last Stand (2006)

X-Men: The Last Stand Year: 2006 Rating: PG-13 Length: 104 minutes / 1.73 hours What a difference a director makes. While the previous two films in this franchise used Bryan Singer, the choice to go with Brett Ratner in this final film of the trilogy was a mistake. There was a tone and style to the previous X-Men movies that was just never quite captured in this one. The comedy seemed unnatural, the plot wasn’t taken quite seriously enough, and the new characters were never given enough time to really fully develop. Perhaps some of the weakness of this film can be blamed on the previous two films being strong, independent storylines, thus not giving much to tie into a conclusive chapter of a trilogy. Despite X2 (2003) not holding to the traditional form of “the trilogy conundrum”, the fact that X-Men III has to start with some very main characters missing is a plot point that requires viewers to have seen the previous film. The...
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MOVIE: X2 (2003)

X2 Year: 2003 Rating: PG-13 Length: 134 minutes / 2.23 hours I’ve often held that the sequel of a superhero film is better than the original. Most superhero film franchises start out with an origin story, so by the time the second film comes around, all the “exposition” is out of the way and the heroes can really take on some powerful villains. However, since X-Men (2000) didn’t have much of an origin story, its sequel, X2 is almost relegated to the fate of a “flashback” sequel. Still, the darker tone does help set it apart from its predecessor, which is nice. Granted, the choice of exploring Wolverine’s (Hugh Jackman) past was a good one, considering the strength of the character. Heck, he got two more movies outside the main X-Men saga, so clearly he’s a fan favorite. What’s nice about the superhero sequel is that most comic book story arcs are short enough that they can be incorporated into a single film. In this...
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MOVIE: X-Men (2000)

X-Men Year: 2000 Rating: PG-13 Length: 104 minutes / 1.73 hours Up until the 21st Century, DC had dominated the comic book adaptations on the big screen. Film franchises like Superman and Batman were essentially the only acts in town. Of course, by the time the year 2000 rolled around, Superman hadn’t been in theaters for more than a decade, and Batman had become almost as campy and goofy as its 1960’s counterpart. This was now Marvel’s time to shine. Partly due to a large cast of recognizable characters, X-Men was the right choice to reboot the comic book adaptation film franchise. Even though X-Men set the standard pretty high for comic book adaptations, very few have followed in its stead. Where most first films in a hero franchise focus on the origins of the main character, the X-Men spans such an enormous timeframe, with characters coming in and out of relevance, that it would be difficult to give all of their origins at once. Instead,...
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MOVIE: Allegiant (2016)

Allegiant Year: 2016 Rating: PG-13 Length: 120 minutes / 2.0 hours For those following along at home, Allegiant is the third film based on the third book in the Divergent series. As I have made comparisons to The Hunger Games in each installment of these reviews, I will continue to not disappoint. Seems to me that the trend of splitting the last book of a literary series into two movies is annoyingly out of hand. Sure, having written the end of my own trilogies, I know there's a lot of plot and sub-plots to bring to a conclusion. I also know that much of the Divergent series didn't feel like it really did or said anything. Sure, there's the nod to some political statement or worldview that's relevant today, but honestly I want something that only the survivors of a post-apocalyptic future should have to solve. Where the previous two films in this series really excelled in their portrayal of "simulations", this film had absolutely none of...
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MOVIE: Insurgent (2015)

Insurgent Year: 2015 Rating: PG-13 Length: 119 minutes / 1.98 hours If The Hunger Games has given us anything from this uprising of Young Adult film adaptations, it's that each successive film is released in each successive year. There's no waiting for years for the next part of the trilogy to come out, only to have characters cast differently. The Divergent series is no different, but still stands in the shadow of its Hunger Games predecessor. This time around, we get the pleasure of Robert Schwentke directing the post-apocalyptic action. With his previous films like RED (2010) and The Time Traveler's Wife (2009), it's clear he can handle action as much as he can romance. While the action is excellent, the romance seemed to be a little lacking. Having read this book after watching the film, the plots start to diverge a bit (ha ha, get it?) almost in part due to the removal of the more sexually-charged relationship between Tris (Shailene Woodley) and Four (Theo James). Since the...
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MOVIE: Divergent (2014)

Divergent Year: 2014 Rating: PG-13 Length: 139 minutes / 2.31 hours While The Hunger Games really cornered the market in the "young adult dystopian future" category, many authors jumped on the bandwagon to cash in on this phenomenon. I'll admit that many of these series that got movie adaptations I had never heard of before and likely will not see/read. The Divergent series, though did stand out as the top of "the rest". It can be difficult to create a dystopian world, especially one that's at least somewhat set in our current one. The CGI-modified Chicago looks pretty good for a city that's been through what it has, but where the computer imagery really comes to shine is in the dream sequences. I would have liked them to be a little more obvious so the audience isn't always guessing if it's a dream or not, but that's part of the charm, I suppose. Having since read the book this was based on, I do have to say that the director...
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