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Part-Time Characters: The Disney-Fox Deal and What We’ve Been Watching

fox-disney1

In our first episode of 2018, we discuss everything we watched during the holiday break, our opinions over the Disney-Fox deal, and the repercussions it might create.

We start off talking about our Christmas break what we’ve been up to. We also briefly pick our favorite holiday foods and traditions. This is when we all realize Adonis has never had the distinct pleasure of tasting Baileys.

After we each discuss the movies and series we have been watching, we talk about the Disney-Fox deal and what it means for the future of the movie industry. While many are excited because X-Men will finally show up in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the consequences of this merger will change the industry as we know it.

Go on…Part-Time Characters: The Disney-Fox Deal and What We’ve Been Watching

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X-Men Through the Looking Glass

x-men through the looking glass

This week on the Now Conspiring, we review X-Men: Apocalypse and Alice Through the Looking Glass. We also cover some pressing entertainment news and debate whether or not Fox should give the X-Men rights back to Marvel Studios.

QUESTION OF THE WEEK: Do you think X-Men movies should be made by Marvel now?

Go on…X-Men Through the Looking Glass

Review: ‘X-Men: Apocalypse’ Takes Fan Service to New Heights

x-men apocalypse review

Apocalypse will have a hard time swaying movie fans over to its clunky, bombastic style that feels more like a comic-book adapted to the screen than even Snyder’s Watchmen, and this latest X-Men sequel isn’t even strictly based on any one story.

Other factors work against Apocalypse in the sense that it will lose many different types of viewers along the running time. It still suffers from problems it can’t readily solve, like with how overwhelming this cinematic universe has become in terms alternate timelines, the large cast of characters, and keeping your mind off of its now irrelevant predecessors (especially when Sophie Turner’s Jean Grey makes a not-so-subtle wink at how Last Stand is the “worst.”)

These were problems with Days of Future Past, too, but for the first time since X2, an X-Men movie has come along that does far more with its material than we should have otherwise suspected. Flaws and all, X-Men: Apocalypse is an excellent work of film in both ambition and execution, despite how alienating it will be for a wide swatch of viewers.

Even at its most convoluted, director Bryan Singer offers a movie with some thrilling set pieces that connect a lot of meandering pieces. They’re some of the best moments in the franchise, even if they have to share screen time with some of the weirdest flaws in the franchise.

x-men apocalypse review

This is the third film of the trilogy started by First Class, and it even sports several flashbacks to both that and the second film in order to deepen the lore many of us took for granted over the years, including plot involvement from Rose Byrne’s Moira and even Alex Summers.

Some of the loose story threads from those films come to a head in Apocalypse, though not in a way that feels paid off by the main narrative of this movie. Apocalypse opens with the origin of its titular villain, the “first” mutant played by Oscar Isaac, a power-collecting man worshipped like a god who was buried by rebellious followers thousands of years ago. Mystique and Magneto’s actions in D.C. ten years prior have since sparked mutant cults, including one that sets out to resurrect Apocalypse for no real explanation beyond…well, he exists to be worshipped.

While this happens, the film spends a lot of time catching fans up with the established characters and setting up new mutant students that will inevitably team up to face this new threat. The pacing and plot jumping from these characters is actually quite competent, though sure to confound anyone who skipped First Class or hasn’t seen it since 2011. If you’re invested in this universe, it’s more exciting than worthy of head-scratching.

For once, Tye Sheridan’s Cyclops is given the screen time worth his due, including a sub plot that better sets him up as a future leader within the ranks. Jean Grey’s character arc is a little messier, but easy to latch onto, and Nightcrawler is handed scraps he turns into some meaty offerings, thanks to a fun rivalry established between him and Angel.

x-men apocalypse review

Jennifer Lawrence plays a more relaxed Mystique than her somewhat lazy performance in Days of Future Past. She still seems miscast here, but Apocalypse seems to have a better idea of what to do with this hero/villain who constantly finds herself switching sides. In Apocalypse, she has a more solid foot in the heroic camp, and it’s refreshing to see her work with the X-Men without the tedious guesswork over whether or not she’s sincere. It’s a testament to the film’s willingness to allow Mystique a story in these movies that follows swiftly from the first two films, rather than a correction to make her evil for the sake of being truer to the comic.

As for Apocalypse and his four, loyal followers, the film falls a bit short in giving them time to shine, aside from a satisfying continuation of Magneto’s tragic story. Yet once again, we’re forced to sit through familiar stories that place Charles Xavier and Magneto at the center, with offhand characters (including the villain and a just-as-good-as-last-time Quicksilver played by Evan Peters) working around them.

In other words, Apocalypse lives, breathes, and dies as a comic book story, not a movie. Like a comic, it shifts locations quickly and without much cohesion. Its colors brightly match the 80s time period in a way that makes me wish for more X-Men films in this decade. And the plot boils down to a simple battle between good and evil that focuses more on the main characters deciding what truly is good and evil, as well as how their actions in this battle will affect future storylines in the series.

x-men apocalypse review

Its biggest flaw is probably where it falls extremely short with visuals. The CGI is either decent or poor to the point of distraction. You have to be fully onboard with this universe of zany characters and over-the-top action in order to overlook some of the weaker effects, but it’s somewhat matched by some of the most entertaining fight choreography seen in these films, including what may forever be a wholly underrated fight sequence between Beast (reprised by Nicholas Hoult) and Psylocke (played by Olivia Munn), that utilizes both characters in a way X-Men fans probably never expected to make it to the movies.

Perhaps along the way, Singer decided to make this the X-Men film that pays more service to fans of X-Men, rather than movie fans. Unfortunately, that’s sure to be a problem for plenty of big X-Men fans as well, but that doesn’t negate much of Apocalypse that is just solidly entertaining.

Grade: B

Extra credits: 

  • I really wanted to give this film a higher score, if only because I was so enthralled by it, in a way that rivals Deadpool and Civil War even. Unfortunately, it’s impossible to overlook some of the bigger flaws and how they will be deal breakers for most audiences. Hopefully, you’ll enjoy Apocalypse as much as I did, because it’s easily one of my favorite X-Men films to date.
  • No spoilers, but stick around for the end of the credits. Not like you needed to be reminded.
  • Comparisons will likely be made to Dawn of Justice, a film that is also likened to being too much of a comic-book in terms of structure, so it’s off-putting to movie fans. The big difference is that Apocalypse does a much better job, all around. At no point was I shaking my head at plot holes or gaps in character motivation.
  • I was always a fan of X-Men: Evolution more than the older animated cartoon. Sorry. But for that reason, Apocalypse worked on a deeper level for me considering the similarities. Something about seeing Jean, Scott, and Nightcrawler as students felt right.
  • Not enough Storm. Not even close.
  • I might actually be in the camp of people who now wish for an X-Men movie that takes a break from Magneto and Mystique for a while. Apocalypse might have been something really special (and for everyone) if it had streamlined its characters more and made this an Xavier vs. Apocalypse affair.

I’m Jon and thanks for reading this. You can subscribe to my posts by clicking “Follow” in the right sidebar. Or just say hey on Twitter! @JonNegroni

Second Opinion: ‘Days of Future Past’ Is a Good, But Not Great X-Men Film

days of future past opinion

Days of Future Past was quite the success story when it finished its run in 2014, amid competition from Captain America: Winter Soldier and Amazing Spider-Man 2 in what was quite the crowded spring for comic-book movies, only to be upended by Guardians of the Galaxy that August.

Fans were divided on whether or not the film would actually work with time traveling in the mix, yet that very plot device is what enabled some of the film’s best moments, like seeing the previous generation of X-Men stars exist in the same universe as the fresher, more upbeat cast introduced in First Class. Because of this and a certain character named Quicksilver, DOFP was a huge hit with both audiences and critics, gaining almost double the average worldwide box office for X-Men films and getting the highest overall ratings.

And yet it’s probably not the best X-Men film, perhaps tying for second with First Class and submitting to the superior X2, if only because that film had the luxury of being a continuation of a solid pilot movie, as well as a more complete feature.

Like X2, DOFP’s biggest strength is its lack of having to tell another origin story. It’s a seamless continuation of two movies: X-Men: First Class and The Wolverine (or Last Stand, perhaps), making this the first X-Men sequel to feel like a comic-book movie, rather than a movie based on comic-book characters. It worked for Marvel’s slate of films, and it worked well here for X-Men, as well.

days of future past opinion

But also like Marvel, DOFP suffers from having a severe barrier to entry, preventing most newcomers from being able to jump in and start watching. Because of the complexity set forth by multiple soft reboots thanks to non-starters such as Last Stand and Origins: Wolverine, DOFP requires a full viewing of almost all of its films dating back to 2000 in order for viewers to have a complete picture of the “what” and “who” that makes up this film.

You can arguably get away with skipping the first X-Men, but then you wouldn’t understand the implication of Rogue’s actions in the subsequent two films. Skipping The Wolverine robs of you a crucial end-credits sequence that explains what goes completely unexplained in DOFP concerning the reappearance of two major characters presumed either dead or powerless. And even Origins: Wolverine lends some context to…well, never mind about that one.

Take a look at the complexity of the set up alone: In the future, Sentinels have all but rid the world of mutants, creating an apocalyptic wasteland in the process. So Shadowcat, reprised by Ellen Paige, uses a new power to send Wolverine’s consciousness back in time to 1973 to prevent a series of events that leads to the creation of the murderous sentinels, starting with Mystique’s mission to assassinate their creator, Bolivar Trask.

For invested fans, DOFP works on every level because there’s enough familiarity to fuel the drama that parallels between the past, with characters from First Class, and the dystopian future battled out with the cast of the first trilogy of movies. But most of the fun truly lies in the main plot occurring in 1973, as the movie feels most at home combining stunning special effects sequences with historical fiction, and doing it even better than First Class for that matter.

days of future past opinion

The main problem is that you spend more time trying to understand where everything exists in this movie than you do trying to analyze and think about the story. Little of the drama between characters is appreciated or slowed down to be appreciated, traded instead for a series of “big” moments compounding on each other in order to get to the finish line, which involves a sweeping retcon of previous X-Men flops.

Like First ClassDays of Future Past is certainly a good movie. It’s just not very great because it has to pave the way for something better, later. When it first came out, many fans were worried about getting their hopes up to high because director Bryan Singer had an almost impossible task set before him. But it’s clear that the task was to make a good film out of a complicated premise, rather than something amazing that manages to stand out and convert new fans into the X-Men universe.

Second Opinion Grade: B


I’m Jon and thanks for reading this. You can subscribe to my posts by clicking “Follow” in the right sidebar. Or just say hey on Twitter! @JonNegroni

Review: ‘Deadpool’ Is Fantastic at a Few Things

deadpool review

The makers of Deadpool had a tall order on their hands.

A beloved comic-book antihero conceived in the early 90s, Deadpool has collected a legion of fans for a list of specific, stringent reasons. Failing to capture the exact spirit of the character would land Fox in a repeat of X-Men Origins: Wolverine history, when they first tried to fit the merc on the big screen.

But Deadpool also had to be a movie. Which means Fox had to work hard for the affections of Deadpool fans…and everyone else. And in a lot of ways, Deadpool more or less pulls this off with some creative humor and storytelling.

The film stars Ryan Reynolds, again playing Wade Wilson in a new origin story for the same character he played in Origins (sort of). After finding out he has terminal cancer, Wade leaves the love of his life, Vanessa (played by Gotham‘s Morena Baccarin), and tries to find a cure.

A group of scientists, led by “Ajax” (Ed Skrein from last year’s Transporter Refueled), manage to save Wade’s life, but they give him mutant abilities in the process. The procedure viciously scars Wade in more ways than one, setting him off on a mission to track Ajax down using his new abilities as the assassin, “Deadpool.”

deadpool review

If this sounds like a straightforward superhero movie, then I’m doing a decent job of preserving a lot of the jokes and humor that comprise Deadpool. Going into too much detail surrounding the plot and how certain scenes are set up would probably ruin a lot of the laughs you would otherwise have in the theater.

Because as you’ll realize within the first ten seconds of the film, Deadpool is absolutely a post-modern comedy. More than that, it’s a satire of superhero movies, much like how the original comic was a satire of the macho, violent 90s comics Wade Wilson was created to mock.

This is as funny as it is poignant, considering what it took to greenlight a feature film for a character most people have never heard of. And fans of superhero movies will likely consider Deadpool to be one of the best offerings in the superhero genre in years.

But Deadpool also provides an appeal that casual fans of the genre can appreciate, thanks mostly to Reynolds’ performance. His quick delivery lands more jokes than I think anyone else in the business could pull off, and his likability keeps the plot “moving forward” as you’ll discover.

deadpool review

Violence is also a hallmark of the Deadpool franchise, and Fox didn’t hold back at all this time. Deadpool belongs to a small club of R-rated superhero films, and the rating is spot on. There’s plenty of gore and grisly mayhem to justify the restriction, but that’s all part of what makes the source material so endearing. While it’s not as on the nose as the comics trying to spoof the 90s, the gratuitous violence certainly feels welcome in a genre stuffed with sanitized action and fake-out deaths.

What’s more impressive than the violence, however, is how competently Deadpool is shot as an action film. While parts of the origin story drag for a bit before getting back into the action, what we do get in these scenes is typically worth the wait.

The camera cuts at just the right moments when you want to feel the pain of a character’s head getting smashed against a wall, and impressive stunt work and effects make for an immersive comic-book movie on par with some of the best ever made.

You’d have to be pretty demanding to expect anything more from a movie that is as well-made as Deadpool, but there are enough issues to remember that Fox is just getting started.

deadpool review

The movie is overflowing with a surprising amount of faithfulness to the source material, and it’s fairly inventive. But it’s also generic, anyway. Underneath all of the delight you’ll get from well-written, self-aware humor is masked by an origin story that feels by-the-numbers and formulaic—a stark contrast to the risky business displayed by everything else in the movie, from the side characters to the soundtrack.

Perhaps this was necessary in order for Fox to ensure that there can, in fact, be a superhero movie for people who are sick of them. But for everyone else who can’t stomach the genre, Deadpool won’t do much to entertain them.

I’m going to give Deadpool a B+

If you like superhero movies, X-Men or otherwise, you’ll find a lot to love in Deadpool. Otherwise, you may find a lot of the humor flat and uninteresting. It would be a must-see for the action and Reynolds alone if only it didn’t fall back on so many origin story cliches it could have easily sidestepped.

Did you like Deadpool? Let’s talk about it in the comments.

I’m Jon and thanks for reading this. You can subscribe to my posts by clicking “Follow” in the right sidebar. Or just say hey on Twitter! @JonNegroni

Retronalysis: Ryan Reynolds Was the Least of ‘X-Men Origins: Wolverine’s Problems

deadpool ryan reynolds x-men origins wolverine

In 2009, the X-Men film franchise took a step backward in more ways than one. It stepped backward in time, literally, to explore the origins of Wolverine, played a fourth time by Hugh Jackman.

The problem? We had already experienced a Wolverine-centric trilogy. Seriously, those movies were all about Wolverine. Many people, myself included, had no idea why we needed an origin film for a character we already knew so much about .

But we were still excited going into Origins because it featured our favorite mutant, and perhaps, we thought, there was still a great story to be told. And even more new X-Men characters for Fox to show us, including Gambit, a fully realized Sabertooth, and yes, Deadpool.

X-Men Origins: Wolverine has its fans, to be sure, as it serves up at least a passable romp of an action movie (as well as a far superior video game made by Activision). But what made the origin movie unforgivable for legions of X-Men fans had a lot to do with that character I mentioned earlier: Deadpool.

deadpool ryan reynolds x-men origins wolverine

The “Merc with a Mouth” made his debut on the big screen with Origins, and he was actually played by Ryan Reynolds (a hint that the casting was one of the character’s few bright spots).

What’s odd about Origins‘ take on Deadpool has a lot more to do with the Deadpool we got in the final act of the film, not his initial introduction. Early on, he was still Wade Wilson, before getting the Weapon X treatment that would transform him into the fully fleshed (depending on how you look at it) Deadpool.

The movie portrayed him as the mercenary for hire with enhanced reflexes. This, of course, was before he would undergo the nightmarish operations granting him Wolverine’s healing factor.

And this version of Deadpool was one of the highlights of what was mostly a dreary retread of the first X-Men with more montages. Just take a look at how they nailed Wilson’s ninjaesthetic in just one scene:

Reynolds’ quick wit was a welcome addition to the exposition-heavy origin story, and it set up for an even more interesting story we were getting with the character who would become Deadpool.

Then he became Deadpool. And all hell broke loose.

Spoilers for X-Men Origins: Wolverine going forward. 

As I stated earlier, the final act of Origins is where the bastardization of Deadpool came into effect. Stryker unleashes “Deadpool” on Wolverine, whose mouth is sewn shut to somehow resemble the comic book character in a grittier manner. Deep sigh.

Not only that, but Stryker dumped several mutant powers upon Deadpool, rather than just the healing factor. For whatever reason, they even decided to give him Cyclops’ optic beams. The result was a pale shadow of what makes Deadpool a compelling character, complete with blades coming out of his arms to mimic Wolverine.

The message was clear. Fox was so convinced that Wolverine was their only draw for these movies, they had to manufacture more characters to emulate him. Tinkering with source material is one thing, but assuming fans only care about one character in such an expansive mythology is just idiotic.

Which is why I hesitate to lay any blame on Reynolds. True, “Deadpool” contributed heavily to why Origins was a failure, but that’s removing a decent take on the character that we can place on Reynolds. He fit the part, just not the script.

deadpool ryan reynolds x-men origins wolverine

And when it comes to Origins as a whole, the problems begin long before the final act. For one thing, the movie removes a key trait of Wolverine that makes him interesting: the mystery of his origins (who’d have thought?) Taylor Kitsch as Gambit is given nothing to do, along with many of the other characters you saw in the video above. Adamantium bullets. CGI Patrick Stewart. It all adds up to something bizarrely awful.

The side characters are hard to place fault on, even Will.I.Am (yes, this was his debut on the big screen). Origins spends the majority of its time trying to get two hours out of a somewhat substantial rivalry between Wolverine and Sabertooth, played expertly by Liev Schrieber.

Granted, it’s a better set up than their conflict in the first of these movies, but it wasn’t interesting enough to sweep the film’s other side plots aside, a decision I suspect the writers were either forced to make late in production, or chose to in order to save the movie. The result ended up being all the same.

deadpool ryan reynolds x-men origins wolverine

While I don’t expect the upcoming Deadpool to be a revolution in superhero cinema, there’s little doubt that Fox has learned its lesson in spades these last few years, with nary a truly terrible X-Men film to be found. Some still find all of these later entries, even First Class, mostly generic, but there’s a certain level of effort being shown every time.

And for better or worse, that hasn’t changed with Reynolds’ next foray into the X-Men universe.

My Retronalysis grade for X-Men Origins: Wolverine is a D. 

Thanks for reading this! You can subscribe to my posts by clicking “Follow” in the right sidebar. Or just say hey on Twitter: @JonNegroni

When Disney Makes A ‘Big Hero 6’ Sequel, They’ll Almost Certainly Bring Back Tadashi.

I’ve been hanging on to this theory since before I even watched the movie back in November. In fact, the movie itself almost confirms that this is what will happen when Disney ultimately makes the Big Hero 6 sequel.

Oh? You don’t think there will be a sequel?

Here we go.

tadashi big hero 6 sequel

Big Hero 6 is one of the riskiest animated movies Disney has ever made. Period. They’ve never spent that much money to make a film based on something so obscure. Even Wreck-It Ralph and Meet the Robinsons looked better on paper to a Disney executive.

And it paid off. On top of getting the Academy Award nomination for Best Animated Movie, Big Hero 6 made half a billion in the box office. Only Frozen and The Lion King have made more money than this film.

That, and it’s based off of a serial comic connected to Disney’s other money-making machine: Marvel. And if there’s one thing Marvel and Disney know how to do together, it’s making Marvel sequels.

tadashi big hero 6 sequel

Keep in mind that although Disney has traditionally shied away from making sequels to its flagship animated features, they’ve also learned from Pixar and even DreamWorks that sequels are worth doing if the creatives behind them want the story to be told.

That’s why even Wreck-It Ralph is getting a sequel, and Frozen is of course getting milked in all sorts of media. Even though it’s not in development yet, Big Hero 6 is almost 100% for sure getting a sequel. And it will probably be called…

Big Hero 7.

tadashi big hero 6 sequel

That “7” will belong to a character we know from the first movie: Tadashi. I’m calling it right now. He’ll be a villain of sorts in the sequel, inevitably joining the team fully to add that number (after all, Big Hero 6 2 is just weird branding).

But wait! Tadashi isn’t a superhero. He’s not even alive!

Only one of those statements is true, considering he was a hero, as proven by your belief he died.

tadashi big hero 6 sequel

Let’s put on our flashback hats and revisit just what exactly happened to the older brother of Hiro Hamada.

Hiro wanted to get accepted into the robotics program at the university where his brother and friends attended. To do this, he had to impress Callahan amidst a competitive group of other scientific geniuses. Somehow, a fire broke out, trapping Callahan. Tadashi, Hiro’s older brother, ran back inside to save him, but the building exploded moments later.

tadashi big hero 6 sequel

Later, we learn Callahan survived by accessing Hiro’s microbots, but it appeared Tadashi didn’t make it.

Look, if you know anything about movies, it’s that if there’s no body, that character is alive. That’s just a rule. I’m not the one who made it up.

tadashi big hero 6 sequel

Second, the inclusion of a fire is tantamount to how this theory works. Where do you think it came from? Most likely, one of the inventions, and no one else apparently died from its flames.

I believe this invention had to do with nuclear energy. Why? Because Big Hero 6 (and Disney) is purposefully setting up Tadashi to be Sunfire, one of the original members of the first Big Hero 6 team and a prominent character in the Marvel universe.

One of the inventions, or even something special about the fire itself, must have given Tadashi abilities that would protect him from harm, ultimately transforming him into Sunfire.

Now, I imagine a good number of you already assumed this because you know certain things. Well, here’s some more ammunition for you to spread around.

Sunfire is a Japanese mutant (like X-Men mutant) who can absorb heat and turn it into plasma. In the comics, his mutant powers were triggered by radiation from Hiroshima. He’s been in comics since the 1970s as an Uncanny Avenger, member of the X-Men, and of course, a member of the original Big Hero 6 team.

tadashi big hero 6 sequel

One important thing to note is that Marvel is currently forbidden from even using the word “mutant” in its movies, making it difficult for them to use any characters from the X-Men side of Marvel. But they have managed to find wiggle room with characters like Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch, who have many affiliations.

The same can easily go for Sunfire, and his story arc is already perfectly progressing. When Sunfire reluctantly joins Big Hero 6 in the comics (after being found by Hiro, no doubt), he actually gets possessed by their enemy and becomes a villain.

tadashi big hero 6 sequel

I doubt the movie would use this villain, who is known as Everwraith, because he’s literally the combined legion of souls destroyed by the atomic bombs that fell on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. That’s tough to write out. But Disney could easily find another way to leverage this story arc to create some compelling narrative surrounding Hiro and his lost brother.

After all, can you imagine a fight between Tadashi/Sunfire and Baymax/Hiro? That would make Revenge of the Sith look like The Babysitters Club.

tadashi big hero 6 sequel

And hey, if Elsa can have ice powers…

My biggest evidence for this theory being true is the fact is that this all fits way too perfectly for Disney not to do it. I can’t even imagine what else the writers should or could do to make the sequel even bigger than the first movie, which frankly suffered from being too much of an origin story instead of a movie about superheroes actually being superheroes.

tadashi big hero 6 sequel

Big Hero 6 is one of the most beautiful animated films of our time, and a beacon of the Disney Revival. And that’s why I think it deserves a sequel that delivers a story that is just as sincere and passionate as the first one.

And hopefully, more of the team outside of Hiro and Baymax…


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Or just say hey on Twitter: @JonNegroni

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