20th Century Fox
Rated PG-13 for violence, action, destruction, suggestive images and brief profanity
Ragtag Team Of Young Mutants Rally Against Ancient Adversary Bent On Major Mayhem
X-Men: Apocalypse is the ninth installment in the much-beloved, Marvel Comics franchise launched back in 2000. This episode is the fourth directed by the series’ originator, Bryan Singer, whose sophisticated touch always allows an audience to enjoy a relatively-cerebral cinematic experience.
Thus, this character-driven adventure includes not only the trademark action sequences featuring flamboyant exhibitions of superpowers but also an absorbing plotline that keeps the brain engaged for the duration of the story. The upshot is a film for kids of all ages that’s memorable for more than its state-of-the-arts special f/x.
The fun starts in Cairo in 1983, which is where we find the ancient mutant Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac) rising from the dead. Disenchanted with the world’s current state of affairs, he decides to destroy civilization and start over.
Although Apocalypse is already the most powerful mutant around, he recruits a quartet of renegades to assist him in his nefarious endeavor. Dubbed the Four Horsemen, the confederacy is composed of Magneto (Michael Fassbender), Storm (Alexandra Shipp), Psylocke (Olivia Munn) and Archangel (Ben Hardy), representing War, Famine, Pestilence and Death, respectively.
It is almost too late by the time the forces of good finally catch wind of Apocalypse’s diabolical scheme, as cities from New York to Sydney are suddenly under attack. And when X-Men leader Professor Xavier (James McAvoy) falls under Apocalypse’s spell, his protégé, shape-shifting Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence), rises to the occasion to rally the next generation of mutants in the defense of the embattled planet.
Among her cohorts are telekinetic Jean Grey (Sophie Turner), teleporting Nightcrawler (Kodi Smit-McPhee, supersonic Quicksilver (Evan Peters), brawny and brilliant Beast (Nicholas Hoult), laser-eyed Cyclops (Tye Sheridan) and CIA agent Moira MacTaggert (Rose Byrne). Initially, they prove no match for Apocalypse, who has been harnessing an assortment of awesome powers for several millennia.
Only by pooling their skills and resources very effectively are our intrepid protagonists able to conquer evil, save the free world and thereby survive for another sequel.
Excellent (3.5 stars)
In English, German, Polish, Arabic and Ancient Egyptian
Running time: 144 minutes
Destination Planet Negro
Candy Factory Films
Goofy Spoof Of ’50s Sci-Fi Flicks Explores Issue Of Race In America
It is 1939, and we find a committee of African-American leaders seeking a solution for the “Negro problem.” The group agrees that blacks seem permanently relegated to second-class status because of lynchings, Jim Crow segregation and racial discrimination.
After dismissing such solutions as emigrating to Europe or going back to Africa, they are pitched on a plan by Dr. Warrington Avery (Kevin Willmott). He suggests that African-Americans attempt to colonize Mars, and turn the red planet into a virtual utopia where they will be entirely free from white oppression.
And wouldn’t you know, a spaceship has already been built and George Washington Carver (George Forbes) has developed an atomic rocket fuel made from peanuts and sweet potatoes. The crew volunteering for the maiden voyage consists of Dr. Avery, his daughter Beneatha (Danielle Cooper) and their pilot, Captain Race Johnson (Tosin Morohunfola).
The three astronauts blastoff, travel through space and eventually crash on the surface of what they believe to be a distant star. However, only after christening it “Planet Negro,” do they gradually come to realize that they’ve time-traveled to the future and landed back on Earth in present-day Kansas City.
There, the trio is in for quite an awakening, between discovering that the United States has an African-American president and that blacks now use the “N-word” as a term of endearment. “Where we come from, that’s what they call you right before they kill you,” Dr. Avery explains to B-12 (Trai Byers), a rapper ostensibly oblivious of the slur’s ugly legacy.
Written and directed by and starring Kevin Willmott, Destination Planet Negro is a goofy spoof of the B-movie genre that’s basically played for laughs. Yet, it simultaneously serves as a sophisticated satire that makes some thought-provoking observations about American culture along the way.
In that regard, it is reminiscent of Willmott’s own C.S.A.: The Confederate States Of America, a brilliant, alternate-reality comedy which speculated about what the country would be like today if the South had won the Civil War. As for Destination Planet Negro, it’s also highly recommended, provided you’re in the mood for a campy, low-budget sci-fi whose cheesy special effects are more than offset by a profusion of insightful social statements.
Excellent (4 stars)
Running time: 98 minutes
OPENING THIS WEEK
For movies opening June 10, 2016
The Conjuring 2 (R for violence and terror) Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson reprise their roles as peripatetic investigators of paranormal activity in this suspense thriller, set in London, where the couple comes to the assistance of a family whose house is haunted by evil spirits. With Frances O’Connor, Lauren Esposito and Franka Potente.
Now You See Me 2 (PG-13 for violence and some profanity) Mind-bending sequel finds the Four Horsemen (Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Dave Franco and Lizzy Caplan) reuniting for another illusion-driven adventure in order to clear their names while exposing the unethical practices of a young tech magnate (Daniel Radcliffe). A-list ensemble includes Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, Sanaa Lathan and Mark Ruffalo.
Warcraft (PG-13 for intense violence) Fantasy adventure, inspired by the video game series of the same name, revolving around an epic showdown between the peaceful inhabitants of an idyllic realm and a race of warlike invaders from a dying world facing extinction. Starring Paula Patton, Travis Fimmel, Ben Foster and Dominic Cooper.
Be Somebody (PG for mature themes, suggestive comments and mild epithets) Romance drama about a jaded pop star (Matthew Espinosa) burdened by fame who finds love with an ordinary, small-town girl (Sarah Jeffery) while taking a break from the limelight. With Allison Paige, LaMonica Garrett and Mahaley Patel and Caitlin Keats.
De Palma (R for sexuality, profanity, violent images and graphic nudity) Reverential portrait of iconoclastic filmmaker Brian De Palma, director of such screen classics as Scarface, The Untouchables, Carlito’s Way, Carrie, Blow Out and Mission Impossible.
Genius (PG-13 for mature themes and suggestive content) Prestige biopic chronicling the career of Max Perkins (Colin Firth), the legendary editor at Scribner’s who discovered such literary giants as Ernest Hemingway (Dominic West), F. Scott Fitzgerald (Guy Pearce) and Thomas Wolfe (Jude Law). Supporting cast includes Nicole Kidman, Laura Linney and Vanessa Kirby.
Germans & Jews (Unrated) Truth and reconciliation documentary chronicling the cultural transformation of Berlin, the European city with the fastest growing Jewish population.
King Jack (Unrated) Charlie Plummer plays the title character in this coming-of-age tale, set over the course of a very eventful weekend, about an ostracized 15-year-old outcast being bullied by a sadistic, bigger boy (Danny Flaherty). With Cory Nichols, Christian Madsen, Chloe Levine and Erin Davie.
Last Cab To Darwin (Unrated) Bittersweet dramedy about a terminally-ill loner (Michael Caton) who embarks on a long trek to the Australian Outback in order to pass away on his own terms. Featuring Ningali Lawford, Mark Coles Smith and Emma Hamilton and Jacki Weaver.
The Music Of Strangers (PG-13 for brief profanity) Multicultural documentary in which renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma and members of the Silk Road Ensemble expound upon their musical philosophies.
Puerto Ricans In Paris (R for profanity and sexual references) Fish-out-of-water comedy about a couple of Latino NYPD detectives (Luis Guzman and Edgar Garcia) who travel to France to track down some stolen designer handbags. With Rosario Dawson, Rosie Perez and Ravi Patel.
Traded (Unrated) High body-count Western, set in Kansas in the 1880s, about a gunslinger-turned-rancher’s (Michael Pare) attempt to rescue his 17-year-old daughter (Brittany Elizabeth Williams) from the clutches of an evil adversary (Trace Adkins) with the help of a wily, old sidekick (Kris Kristofferson). Cast includes Tom Sizemore, Martin Kove and Quinton Aaron.