‘Dark Phoenix’ has its merits, but falls apart as you’re watching it

Look how pretty! Images courtesy — oh, god damn it! Walt Disney Motion Picture Studios.

3/10 X-Men: The Last Stand was a doomed production. Franchise director Bryan Singer and two of X2’s writers had jumped ship to makeSuperman Returns, which had its own problems, and 20th Century Fox producers set a May 26, 2006 release date and refused to move off of it despite an inability to find a new director. After being publicly turned down over a period of several months by four different directors, including Matthew Vaughn who explicitly said he quit the job because he didn’t want to rush to meet Fox’s deadlines, Fox settled on their eighth choice in Bret Ratner, who finally began production in August 2005. The Last Stand released on schedule, which is the best thing that can be said for it.

X-Men: The Last Stand is one of the first film credits for co-writer Simon Kinberg, who has since made a powerful name for himself as a writer and producer of several high-performing movies, but has always remained involved in the X-Men franchise. Kinberg considered it a personal failure to have written an adulterated, studio-mangled adaptation of the Phoenix story, and revisiting it was unfinished business for him. This time, he would be in the driver’s seat – Singer, who had returned to the franchise, was stepping away again as his personal problems began to affect his work, and star Jennifer Lawrence demanded that Kinberg direct the next X-Men film.

But 13 years later, Dark Phoenix was also a doomed production.

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Micro-budget thriller ‘Ma’ razor-sharp

Spencer’s performance defines Ma, oscillating from genuinely maternal to unhinged, sometimes within the same shot, without it feeling like a shift. Images courtesy Universal Pictures.

8/10 I came into Ma wondering how they drew in talent like Octavia Spencer, Luke Evans and Juliette Lewis for this $5 million goof. I stayed for a spectacular, nasty horror movie.

After losing her job in the city, Erica Thompson (Lewis) moves back to rural Ohio with her teenage daughter, Maggie (Diana Silvers). Maggie and her new friends, including her crush Andy Hawkins (Corey Fogelmanis), looking for an adult to buy them booze, come across Sue Ann Ellington (Spencer), who not only supplies them with drink, but also brings them to her basement for a place to party away from prying eyes.  Owning what quickly becomes a hub for underage drinking, Ellington, nicknamed “Ma,” hatches her revenge on Erica Thompson and Andy’s father, Ben Hawkins (Evans).

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‘Rocketman’ can’t break through

Images courtesy Paramount Pictures.

3/10 Hollywood biopics have grown more and more uniform as they’ve grown more lucrative over the years. That goes doubly for musician biopics, all of which seem to follow the same plot regardless of who they’re about and none of which seem to incorporate the artist’s music in any meaningful way.

Rocketman took off to fix all that. They weren’t going to take the work of Elton John and just play it over the same boring “Spinal Tap, but serious” rockstar movie you’ve seen a dozen times, they were going to make it big and real, incorporating it into a uniquely cinematic genre where they had room to make it as imaginative and flamboyant as John himself.

And yeah, Rocketman delivers on all that, I guess. It does. Technically, it does. It’s just not very good.

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‘Godzilla’ sequel no king among monster movies

Images courtesy Warner Bros. Pictures.

3/10 Godzilla: King of the Monsters tries to be almost everything to almost everyone. Unfortunately, the one thing it isn’t trying to be is a giant monster movie for people who just wanted to watch a giant monster movie.

Godzilla: King of the Monsters focuses on the Russell family, parents Kyle and Emma (Kyle Chandler and Vera Farmiga) and daughter Madison (Millie Bobby Brown). The family was torn apart in 2014’s Godzilla when Madison’s brother was killed during the monsters’ rampage through San Francisco. Now, five years later, Emma Russell has developed a sonic device that can control Godzilla and the other “titans,” but she, Madison, and the device are all kidnapped by eco-terrorist Col. Alan Jonah (Charles Dance). Kyle Russell, who had been helping his wife develop the device but turned to drink after their son’s death, is called in by Monarch, the secret government organization that handles giant monster business, to help track the device down and rescue his family.

Emma Russell awakens several other monsters, including King Ghidorah and Rodan the Fire Demon, and they have fights with Godzilla, but that’s mostly in the background – Warner Bros. knows that nobody came to see monster fights and wanton destruction. The Russell family dynamic is what really matters here.

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‘Booksmart’ a vapid non-film, do not waste your time on it

Watching other people having fun isn’t necessarily fun for you, the viewer. Images courtesy United Artists Releasing.

2/10 At long last, our suffering is over! There’s finally a Superbad for girls!

Because the first one is such a fucking classic!

In Booksmart, a pompous asshole called Molly (Beanie Feldstein) discovers that, after an entire high school career of working hard and never going out, she’s not the only one in her class getting into Yale, because she attends a rich, white Los Angeles high school and obviously everyone around her is also getting into big-name colleges because that’s how life works. Devastated that she wasted her youth pursuing ambitions that her family could have just bought, she and best friend Amy (Kaitlyn Dever) determine to go out to the last party of the year, which turns into an ordeal because no one will give them the address because they’re stuck-up losers.

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