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SUMMER MOVIE BUZZ: Looking at X-MEN APOCALYPSE, TMNT: OUT OF THE SHADOWS, WARCRAFT, & NOW YOU SEE ME 2

SUMMERBUZZCaptain America: Civil War kicked off the 2016 summer movie season in grand fashion with an impressive $179 million dollars for the film’s opening weekend earnings.

Hollywood hopes this is the first of what will be a box office wave of currency as there are several blockbusters waiting in the wings.

Let’s take a look at some of this year’s summer movie offerings.

X-Men: Apocalypse 

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Opens on May 27

Official synopsis:
Worshiped as a god since the dawn of civilization, the immortal Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac) becomes the first and most powerful mutant. Awakening after thousands of years, he recruits the disheartened Magneto (Michael Fassbender) and other mutants to create a new world order. As the fate of the Earth hangs in the balance, Professor X (James McAvoy) and Raven (Jennifer Lawrence) lead a team of young X-Men to stop their seemingly invincible nemesis from destroying mankind.

The Buzz:
Age of Apocalypse is one of the most popular comic book crossover storylines and fans have been itching to see the big blue baddie on screen for quite some time. While we’re finally getting this long waited moment, perhaps it’s too little too late.

The last film, Days of Future Past reset the timeline thus erasing the events of the Brett Ratner directed The Last Stand. However, we also saw far into the future with our heroes safe and alive. Presumably this makes the introduction of the new Jean Grey (Sophie Turner) and Cyclops (Tye Sheridan) an uphill battle because any of the life threatening stakes they encounter in the film have already been spoiled since we know they survive.

The same can be said for Professor Xavier, Beast, Storm, and the world that Apocalypse is trying to destroy and rebuild for that matter. When we walk into a movie theater, plop a bucket of popcorn on our lap, and wait for the house lights to drop, it’s a given that the good guys are going to win. This usually isn’t a bad thing, but we were essentially told the results of this film two years in advance.

Director Bryan Singer has had more ups than downs with the X-Men movie franchise. But all of his creative ingenuity will have to focus primarily on the journey of these characters in order for the audience to be invested in future films.

It’s a task that is easier said than done. Can Singer pull it off?

FOG! editor Stefan Blitz reviewed the film this week, and the verdict wasn’t good.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows

Opens on June 3

Opens on June 3

Official Synopsis:
The Turtles spring into action to battle Shredder, who creates his own mutants in the form of Bebop and Rocksteady to even the score, along with mad scientist Baxter and the notorious Dimension X overlord known as Krang.

The Buzz:
The last TMNT film made over $493 million dollars worldwide despite being damned with faint praise from fans. While there were some problems with the movie, it wasn’t the epic car crash that some made it out to be. While film opinions are subjective, it stands to reason that a lot of people viewed the movie through the lens of Kevin Eastman’s groundbreaking work in the comic books and/or watched it with the classic cartoon series in mind.

The thing is, this new series of films are not made for us old school die-hard fans and they don’t even try to hide it. There is a new generation of fans who enjoy the current TMNT animated series on Nickelodeon. New, yet similar, status quos have been established, which means it makes all the economic sense to cater to that audience. Yes, the acting of Megan Fox is nonexistent and the only thing that remotely makes her April O’Neil is the yellow jacket she wore in the film from time to time.

The trailers for the sequel have shown an overabundance of action and adventure with the additions of Krang, Bebop, Rocksteady, Baxter Stockman, and Casey Jones. Speaking of Jones, when looking for someone to play a street vigilante, Stephen Amell certainly fits the bill. His role here, in the abstract, isn’t much of a stretch from his portrayal of Oliver Queen on The CW’s Arrow, it will be interesting to see if he has something different to offer while serving the new role well as he trades in a bow and arrow for a hockey stick and puck.

Japanese-American actor Brian Tee, playing the Turtles arch-nemesis Shredder, is a breath of fresh air to a lot of fans. The last film underwent a series of reshoots, which most people believe were done to cover up the fact that William Fichtner’s Eric Sacks was really Shredder. In a day and age where fans (rightfully so) get damn near hostile about whitewashing ethnic characters, Fichtner’s casting was met with all sorts of social media venom. The studio listened and now Tee is the one under the helmet who looks to dine on Turtle Soup.

For all of its flaws, the first one was an enjoyable experience when watching it in the right context, however, the studio listened to the fans and has already one major change to the film. Maybe this is a sign that perhaps more changes are in store that will appeal to longtime fans of the franchise.

Warcraft

Opens on June 10

Opens on June 10

Official synopsis:
Fleeing their dying home to colonize another, fearsome orc warriors invade the peaceful realm of Azeroth.

The Buzz:
I’m not going to lie. I’ve never played World of Warcraft and I know very little about the franchise. That being said, there is a lot riding on this film from a fan perspective. The game is one of the most popular of its genre but video game movies have been……..GAHBIDGE.

On paper, Warcraft has all of the right ingredients to not only be the first successful video game film adaptation, but a damn good overall movie, too. Duncan Jones is an ambitious director who has garnered some Hollywood street credit in a short amount of time.

In the acting category, the film is loaded with talent, with a lineup comprised of Ben Foster, Travis Fimmel, Paula Patton, Toby Kebbell, Clancy Brown (Shawshank Redemption…like I need to remind anyone), and Dominic Cooper. If you’re unfamiliar with Cooper’s work, check out the 2011 film The Devil’s Double (and comic book fans know him as the younger Howard Stark and as Jesse Custer in AMC’s upcoming Preacher series).

The Warcraft trailers didn’t wow me, but they didn’t give me any indication that this is going to be a bad movie, either. I’ll still see it. The franchise has a passionate fan following and if the movie lives to up to their standards, or go beyond them, it could be a great way to be introduced to this particular realm of fantasy.

Now You See Me 2

Opens on June 10

Opens on June 10

Official Synopsis:
The illusionists (Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson) known as the Four Horsemen must perform an unprecedented stunt to clear their names and expose the unethical practices of a tech magnate.

The Buzz:
Now You See Me excited many, while being panned by others for not having enough substance and too much spectacle, which is where the film’s subject matter is derived from.

There has been one change up in the cast regarding the thieving magicians, the Four Horsemen. This time around, Lizzy Caplan, portraying a new character, fills in for Isla Fisher, who was unable to return due to the birth of her third child. Caplan’s stock is on the rise as an actress and should work nicely with the returning David Franco, Mark Ruffalo, Jesse Eisenberg and Woody Harrelson.

Daniel Radcliffe appears to have a large role in the movie, which is a plus since he has put in some good work since his wizarding days at Hogwarts. Morgan Freeman and Michael Cain also return to their respective roles, with Freeman’s reappearance being the more interesting of the two considering his character, Thaddeus Bradley was sent to prison.

A good and smart heist movie is hard to pull off. Considering the fact that Now You See Me has added magic to the equation, people want a well-balanced picture with all of the above. The first film, for the most part, accomplished that feat while earning enough money and goodwill to bring about a sequel.
Jon Chu in the director’s chair gives me pause as his movies fancy style and spectacle as opposed to a strong narrative. This is ultimately popcorn entertainment, but smoke and mirrors couldn’t hide the scripts weakness in its first outing. Anything weaker then that will produce a hollow illusion.

Next week, we’ll take a look at Independence Day: Resurgence, Finding Dory, The Legend of Tarzan, and Ghostbusters.

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