The Good Bits: May 2016

I’m not sure how May is already over. It’s crazy to think that summer is here already, but the movie studios have been ready for a long, long time. Two of the biggest movies of the year came out this past month, both following in the wake of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Since there wasn’t as much music for me to write about compared to April, I took the time to get a little lengthy with the film section for May. It may lean a bit towards the ranty side, but, hey, they’re superhero movies. Gotta put in my two cents just like everyone else in the world.

Music:

Fleshgod Apocalypse, King (Nuclear Blast)

fleshgod

The lone music entry for the month of may was actually released in February, but I missed out on it partly because of simply being interested in other bands and also because Fleshgod Apocalypse can sometimes be…a lot. Don’t get me wrong, they’re a really good band with enough technicality and ferocity to blow other bands out of the water. But the relentlessness of most of their material has the tendance to leave me feeling a bit drained, so I figured I’d get more of the same from King. I was only partly right. While the core of the album is still high energy death metal with a classical influence, the band switches things up a bit more this time around. The composition has improved and the classical side of the music gets to hold the reins more often, providing a nice break from onslaught of tracks like “Healing Through War”. It’s great that the band can keep their signature sound while also tinkering with it.

 

Film:

Captain America: Civil War (Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr.)
(Directors: Anthony and Joe Russo)

civil war

Sometimes I still can’t believe the state of superhero movies. If you’d told me in 2008 we’d see Batman and Superman onscreen the same year as a film based on Civil War, my disbelief would be overshadowed by my fanboy induced heart attack just from the idea. And yet here we are with Captain America: Civil War kicking off Phase Three of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and man are things getting shaken up. First off, it’s clear that Phase Three is going to different compared to its predecessors simply by the fact that it packs a bunch of superheroes in one movie. The first two phases focused on solo movies that culminated with the Avengers assembling, but in Civil War we start with the new Avengers lineup in action before it completely falls apart. Combine that with the inclusion of characters like Ant-Man, Black Panther, and Spider-man and the worry of “too many heroes” rears its ugly head. But the combined magic of Disney, Marvel, and the Russo brothers prevents that fear from coming to fruition.

Civil War‘s greatest strength is how it manages to devote time to each character and allows them time to shine or to develop. Scarlet Witch struggles with her powers and bonds with Vision, Falcon and War Machine see more action than ever before, Bucky struggles with his brainwashing, Black Widow debates where her loyalties lie, and, of course, ideals and fists clash between Cap and Iron Man. And lets not forget the fact that the movie also has to introduce us to Black Panther and reboot Spider-man (again). But none of this ever gets out of hand. Everything flows smoothly from one struggle to the next all under the overarching plot between the two sides. The MVP here is Chadwick Boseman as Black Panther, delivering a performance that gets you hyped for his solo movie if you weren’t already. And Tom Holland makes an excellent Peter Parker/Spider-man, pulling off the bookish timidness of the former and the chattiness of the latter. Daniel Brühl also deserves recognition for his subtle but compelling role as Zemo, pulling strings and moving pieces to appropriately build tension throughout the film.

What I did not expect from this movie was that I found the overall plot and reasoning behind the struggle to be more compelling than that of the comics. It’s not as clear-cut as whether or not heroes should have to have to be registered and have their identities public. This is about how best to protect the world, about consequences, about who is fighting for the greater good, how certain ideals can be a person’s strength but also their weakness. All of these aspects build to the emotionally charged finale, giving it more gravity than if it was just a straight up adaptation of the comic. Said finale, like Batman v Superman, gave us an iconic shot that made me spaz uncontrollably in my seat. In case you couldn’t tell, Civil War is one of the best MCU films so far, and even one of the best superhero films ever in general.

 

X-Men: Apocalypse (James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence)
(Director Bryan Singer)

apocalypse

A long time ago, I figured out that reading reviews before going to see a film can really warp your viewing experience. Critics can exacerbate minor flaws or make sweeping generalizations about the film, writing it off well before people are able to go to the theater. And I know everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but in this day and age of the internet, many feel the need to conform to said opinion simply because it comes from some imagined hierarchy or loud majority. It’s what happened with Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, a film I can understand people disliking despite the people going out to hate watch it because Rotten Tomatoes told them it was shit. But with X-Men: Apocalypse, I legitimately don’t understand where it negativity is coming from. This may run contrary to what you’ve heard, but I enjoyed Apocalypse even more than Days of Future Past.

This is the first film to really capture one of the core aspects of the X-Men: teamwork. Everyone gets their moment to shine, everyone contributes, everyone works together in the film’s exciting finale. While I’ve enjoyed most of the X-Men films, their depictions of the mutants working as a team are either overshadowed by someone else’s plot (X2: X-Men United) or sabotaged by a mostly mediocre film (X-Men: The Last Stand). Here, all the mutants get a kickass moment and even character development not unlike Civil War. Evan Peters’s Quicksilver once against steals the show with his hysterical rescue scene that outdoes his spot in the previous film. Sophie Turner proves she’s an excellent fit for Jean Grey in the final fight. Michael Fassbender still excels in Magneto’s more emotional scenes…I could go on but that’s about ten more mutants. You get the point.

I guess the only criticism I might allow is that Apocalypse, while well-performed by Oscar Issac, isn’t as formidable compared to his comic book counterpart. He’s great, but he’s not this hulking fearsome figure that most fans associate him with. Also, while Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine cameo made me all giddy, it also made me glad that his last film is finally going to be rated R. Seriously, I need to see Jackman turn someone into spaghetti before he retires. But these are minor complains, and the film is just so damn fun you won’t even pay them mind. And you shouldn’t pay any mind to any other criticism you might hear either. If you’re going to hate it, hate it because you saw it and hated it. Not because the internet told you so.

 

Currently Reading:

‘Salem’s Lot by Stephen King

salem's lot

My journey though King’s bibliography continues. It’s a good slow burn. More to come next month.

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