Yes, There’s a Scene After the “X-Men: Apocalypse” End Credits

X-Men Apocalypse!

In an unprecedented negotiation victory, the cast’s contracts allowed them to rewrite the entire screenplay between takes to their own satisfaction and without the director’s input. Believe it or not!

Marvel’s merry mutants are back! Academy Award Winner Jennifer Lawrence and her amazingly lower-paid friends return for X-Men: Apocalypse, the ninth film in a cinematic universe that’s unwritten at least 3¾ previous installments out of its own continuity. Everything you thought you knew, every film you thought was worth saving, every character you thought was more important than other characters, you’re wrong. Shut up, go to the concession stand, and don’t come back until you agree to stop thinking so hard about any of this. Just be happy that director Bryan Singer is finally telling the one major story that You, the Viewers at Home, clearly demanded most: the secret origin of Professor X’s bald head.

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“Mockingjay Part 2”: Girl on Fire Burns Out, Fades Away

Mockingjay 2!

Even in dystopia, there’s always time for handheld gaming.

At long last, the 1853 book series that was turned into a beloved but unfinished 1970s film series has reached its long-forgotten conclusion! That’s how long it’s felt since this franchise started, anyway.

It began with The Hunger Games, which brought Battle Royale to the West, adding shaky-cam and subtracting sex. It escalated in Catching Fire, in which the adult characters had to bring their A-game because the Games themselves no longer mattered. In Mockingjay Part 1 it paid homage to Wag the Dog, went behind the scenes at a post-apocalyptic marketing firm, and basically felt like one of those all-talk episodes of The Walking Dead where the stunt crew takes a week off while the characters sit around exchanging feelings so their eventual, horrible deaths will mean something.

And now, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 is here to wrap up the character arcs for anyone who didn’t read the books, to finish adapting the remaining 213 pages of the 390-page novel that concluded the original trilogy. Closure is here for one and all, especially for DVD fans waiting to buy the eventual Hunger Games Quadrilogy set for cheap on some future Black Friday.

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Yes, There’s a Small Thing After the “Mockingjay Part 1” End Credits

Mockingjay Part 1!

From the Hollywood adaptation trend that brought you all the Part Ones of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, The Hobbit, and Twilight, it’s split-sequel time once again with The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part One. Its lean running time of 123 minutes, which includes roughly 15-60 minutes of visual-effects end credits, would suggest the complete finale to Suzanne Collins’ world-famous trilogy could’ve been translated into a single, epic-length film if dozens of pages’ worth of thinking, feeling moments had been deleted from the screenplay. Sure, why not whittle it all down to a more economical 154 minutes, the average run time of Michael Bay’s four Transformers movies? Less talk, more rock!

Meanwhile, the two-hour Fargo is adapted into a ten-episode TV season, and no one reacts with a facepalm. Critics find it in their heart to forgive and bestow glowing approval upon it.

Making extra movies doesn’t have to be a sin in and of itself. The question is, can they make the extra space worth our time and money? Or would you like to be the fussy producer who tells director Francis Lawrence, “I’m sorry, but we only want one film, so you’ll need to give us less Phillip Seymour Hoffman”?

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Yes, There’s a Scene After the “X-Men: Days of Future Past” End Credits

XvM!

James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender return for another Game of Genes.

From the same line of thought as The Avengers, Fast & Furious 6, and The Expendables comes another supermovie in which characters from other movies join forces in hopes of tripling their box office grosses while settling for a fraction of their normal screen time.

X-Men: Days of Future Past, the seventh film set in Fox’s version of Marvel’s mutantverse, may invite comparisons to the Back to the Future trilogy, but it’s based on an Uncanny X-Men two-parter cover-dated January and February 1981, four years before Marty McFly’s first trip, back in my day when the all-star creative team of Chris Claremont, John Byrne, and Terry Austin were on a roll (though Byrne and Austin exited after the next issue). Some plot elements have been added or reworked to mesh with the previous films (well, with some of them, anyway), but this adaptation doesn’t stray as far from the framework as I expected, throws in a couple of new surprises, and tries to give its award-winners reasons to return to a crowded ensemble.

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“American Hustle”: Liars in Love

Christian Bale, Amy Adams, American Hustle

The years have been rough for Batman and Lois Lane…

My annual Oscar quest concludes at last! David O. Russell’s layered, fascinating American Hustle was the ninth and final film on my playlist, saved for last because I correctly guessed that all the other nominees would exit our local theaters first. A healthy U.S. box office gross of $144 million (and counting) ensured that Hustle would stick around exactly as long as I’d hoped. This week has arrived just in time — after this month-long marathon, my local theater and I could really use a break from each other for a while.

But enough about me; more about the film…

“Catching Fire”: And They All Lived Fearfully Ever After

Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Hunger Games: Catching Fire

Katniss and Peeta practice their strained banter for their next gig hosting the PanEm Oscars.

In the more engrossing and less shaky-looking sequel, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, we’re told “The Games mean nothing.” In fact they’re not even the central plot; they’re the extended climax appended to a more interesting, feature-length coda in which the quote-unquote “victors” of PanEm’s 74th Hunger Games receive their “rewards”, learn about their new responsibilities, and figure out for themselves that sometimes victory is only as meaningful as your handlers allow.

Continue here as The MAN tries to extinguish the Girl on Fire…

“Silver Linings Playbook”: Your Best Bet for an Oscar/Valentine Crossover

Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper, Silver Linings PlaybookI saw Silver Linings Playbook over a week ago and have been procrastinating saying anything about it because it’s tough to express my opinion without ruining the ending. I suppose the ads aren’t that coy about the gist of the film, but part of my enjoyment was derived from that rare feeling of having no idea what would happen next. Under the guidance of director David O. Russell (previously appreciated for The Fighter and Three Kings), I wasn’t sure if Playbook would be predictably atypical or deceptively Hollywood about the strange relationship between its May/December starring couple. Would it end in for-your-Oscar-consideration breakup and tears? Would it opt for the mushy happily-ever-after ending, complete with gratuitous dance party at the end? Would the payoff be just-good-friendship, like Lost in Translation? Would they both die horribly of movie cancer? My second-guessing was useless against it.

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