X-Men: Apocalypse

Director: Bryan Singer (2016)

Yawn your way to the end of the world in this inert episode of the increasingly under powered superhero franchise.

Bloated and boring, an exasperting multitude of characters are poorly served by laboured direction, haphazard editing and dialogue empty of any lyricism, humour or subtlety.

Lines of exposition are expanded to scene length and decorated with close ups of actors indifferent to the weightless CGI events occurring behind them. Presented with a lacklustre script, the top drawer cast offer up correspondent performances.

James McAvoy returns as Professor X, the wheelchair bound and telepathic leader of supergroup the X-Men who believes in peaceful co-existence with non-mutants. As his one time friend Magneto, Michael Fassbender wants the world to feel his pain.

Minor characters pose in heroic silence as the pair once again rehash their world views. In a film adverse to brevity, their relationship is underlined by the inclusion of footage of earlier films.

Oscar Isaac is barely recognisable and mostly immobile as the eponymous Apocalypse, a mutant from ancient Egypt who is resurrected by devout yet curiously security lax followers.

With the  ability to turn people to earth and metal, Apocalypse wants to build a better world from the ashes of the present one and starts recruiting mutants to serve him in his nefarious plan.

Jennifer Lawrence looks bored as the shapeshifting Mystique who seems to have mutated into a thin copy of her character Katnis Everdeen from The Hunger Games series (2012-15).

Now a reluctant global poster girl for mutants in hiding, Mystique needs convincing to take arms against Apocalypse.

Hugh Jackman cameos as Wolverine while Rose Byrne is beginning to rival Fassbender for being the best actor making the weakest career choices.

Evan Peters and Kodi Smit-McPhee as Quicksilver and Nightcrawler are the best of the B team. Olivia Munn, Ben Hardy, Alexandra Shipp and Sophie Turner are eager but forgettable.

The setting of 1983 allows for pop culture references to be scattered around but there’s a lack of the wit to exploit their comic potential.

Though the Cold War and the nuclear arms race are a major subplot, a nuclear launch occurs and is promptly forgotten about while our focus hurries away elsewhere.

Director Singer kickstarted with his career with the masterful The Usual Suspects (1995) and launched this series with the energetic X-Men (2000) but this is closer in muddled mediocrity to his Jack The Giant Slayer (2013).

The end of the world can’t come soon enough for this flatlining franchise.

 

Bad Neighbours 2

Director: Nicholas Stoller (2016)

I strongly suspect this sequel to the successful 2014 frat boy comedy was only made so Zac Efron could be paid once again to oil his pecs and dance semi naked in front of a crowd of college girls.

Mind you, I’ve made worse career decisions myself.

However this proudly politically correct comedy is alarmingly enjoyable in its own undemanding bad taste way.

Efron returns as Teddy Sanders, now with a criminal record after event in the previous movie.

Wanting revenge on his former next door neighbours, Efron teams up with Chloe Grace Moretz who has rented his previous home to establish her own sorority.

Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne are again the family under siege while Selena Gomez, Lisa Kudrow and Kelsey Grammer cameo.

 

 

 

Spy

Director: Paul Feig (2015)

The world of espionage will never be the same after this enjoyable action caper smears poo and puke jokes over the glossy veneer of a James Bond parody.

As one-time 007 star George Lazenby once put it: ‘this never happened to the other fella‘.

Following the hugely successful Kingsman (2015), it’s the second Bond inspired movie of 2015. In October we’ll see Spectre, Daniel Craig’s last roll of the dice as the British spy.

It offers big budget foul-mouthed laughs though the blunt-edged comedy of leading lady Melissa McCarthy are more likely to dislocate your funny bone that tickle it.

It’s the third time after Bridesmaids (2011) and The Heat (2013) she’s teamed with writer/director Paul Feig but this time the result is less successful.

A nuclear bomb in a suitcase is being touted around the bad guys of Europe.

With key agents incapacitated the CIA are forced to send clumsy back-room computer operative Susan Cooper (McCarthy) undercover.

She is so unsuited to fieldwork she faints at the sight of blood and must fight not only heavily-armed bad guys – but her own inexperience and insecurity.

Decorated with the typical Bond furniture of casinos, helicopters, fast cars and gadgets, the plot moves briskly through the familiar locations of Paris, Rome and Budapest.

As Theodore Shapiro’s music reaches a satisfactory Bond-esque pitch, the action is technically well executed.

However it’s handled leniently by the editor; one explosion is seen from at least seven different camera angles.

If this is intended to be exaggeration for comic effect such as mastered by Paul Verhoeven in Robocop (1987) and John Landis in The Blues Brothers (1980), it’s insufficiently developed.

More likely it’s aping the current trend in editing for repeating the same shot from different angles to exploit the budget for maximum onscreen effect.

Either way it slows the pace and contributes to the generous running time. This lack of ruthlessness in the edit is a big problem and Spy keeps repeating it.

The unnecessary appearance of rapper 50 Cent is another example, as is the weary repetition of an excellent joke about the consequences of having an Operations room in a basement.

There’s a great knife in a kitchen with glamorous assassin Lia (Nargis Fakhri) where comedy and action combine instead of competing – the film would be much improved with more scenes like it.

Jude Law’s champagne swilling tuxedo’d super-spy Bradley Fine offers a glimpse of a James Bond we’ll never have.

The British star is happy to send himself up as the vainest man on the planet but labours under an American accent and a script offering him few decent lines.

Fortunately Jason Statham and Peter Serafinowicz abseil in with expertly calibrated comic performances and rescue the Americans from a mire of directorial appeasement.

Their deranged performances steal their every scene. Rick Ford (Statham) is a barking mad rogue agent while Aldo (Serafinowicz) is an undercover Italian operative with unsuppressed passions.

It’s fair enough the men are vain idiots and the women do the actual work – but Spy seems overly-pleased with itself for this reversal and the result is more indulgence.

Miranda Hart riffs on her TV persona as Cooper’s dowdy sex-starved colleague Nancy B. Artingstall. She’s a not-so best friend who’s happy to embarrass Cooper in front of glamorous agent Karen Walker (Morena Baccarin in not much more than a cameo).

As criminal mastermind Rayna Boynaov, Aussie actress Rose Byrne dresses up in a cut-glass accent and trashy outfits and commendably commits herself to ridicule in a broad performance.

McCarthy’s a fine and engaging actress who capably charts the journey from put upon underling to confident ass-kicker. But her ad libbing is rarely as funny as the film thinks it is.

A running joke sees McCarthy in a variety of terrible outfits and looking at one point not unlike Dawn French in the Vicar Of Dibley. One or two inspired lines aside, she’s also about as funny.