Ingenious, rage-inducing movie, which I wouldn’t like to ever watch again. Jennifer Lawrence is humbly fixing up her beloved poet husband Javier Bardem’s family house while he searches for inspirado, then the house is no longer their own, as random stranger Ed Harris and eventually his wife Michelle Pfeiffer and murderous children move in. Bardem publishes his new work and fans and media flock to the house to meet him, and he welcomes the chaos, while Lawrence is having a baby then trying in vain to keep it from the insane mob. The movie becomes more and more ludicrous, but in a purposeful way, until it loops back on itself. This is all a Metaphor, everyone agrees, but curiously, the critics disagreed on what exactly it’s a Metaphor for. Script by visionary nutcase The Fountain Aronofsky, photography by grimy underlit-interiors The Wrestler Aronofsky, featuring an appearance by Crazed Kristen Wiig.

Joy (J. Lawrence) dreams of being an inventor, but then her life gets sidetracked with a husband (E. Ramirez), two kids, a divorce, a lazy mom (V. Madsen), an erratic dad (De Niro) and a spiteful sister. One day she hits on a new idea for a miracle mop, and sets to producing and marketing it, bringing the whole family along with dad’s rich girlfriend (I. Rossellini) and Joy’s supportive grandma (D. Ladd) and best friend. Then there are pricing and patent disputes. Then after everything has been pretty lousy and hopeless for Joy for an hour and fifty-eight minutes, she wins a major victory against a crooked business partner then becomes wildly successful in postscript.

It feels like Russell builds overcomplicated situations in American Hustle and Silver Linings Playbook, shoots the scenes with his trusted cast, and figures out how it’ll all work in the editing room, relying on energy and instinct to carry him through – and this time, he didn’t have it. The scenes and sporadic voiceover and transitions and characters often felt half-assed, and if I hadn’t known a distinguished filmmaker was behind the whole thing, I rarely would’ve guessed.

The cast gathers ’round to watch NAILED on cable:

T. Robinson:

Every character feels like a half-sketched first draft, awaiting development that never comes … The excruciatingly literal dialogue also feels like first draft material. “I feel like I’m in a prison,” Joy sighs about her house. Later, she and her supportive best friend Jackie reminisce about “all the things we used to dream about,” and Jackie introduces a flashback with “Remember the party where it all started?” Exposition inevitably comes either via Mimi’s gushing voiceover, or “As everyone here already knows…” speeches. Joy’s own emotional development consists of a recurring nightmare in which her childhood self scolds her for abandoning her ambitions.

M. Singer:

Lawrence is too good of an actress not to be watchable in the part, but she’s totally miscast as a divorced mother of two who’s been repeatedly beaten down by life’s disappointments. This part was meant for the Jennifer Lawrence of 2025, not the one of 2015.

At a time when movies are dominated by comics, Bryan Singer’s got a franchise all to himself. He directed parts 1 and 2, cowrote and produced part 4, directed parts 5 and 6… and had nothing to do with part 3. “At least we can all agree: the third one‘s always the worst,” says Jean Grey leaving a Return of the Jedi screening, establishing our mid-1980’s setting while letting us know Singer’s thoughts on the Brett Ratner entry. Soon after, Quicksilver tells someone that Magneto is his father, and I can’t tell if we’re still making Star Wars references.

Quicksilver:

Quicksilver and Nightcrawler in the same movie is a dream come true – every time they warp through time and space it’s thrilling. The Professor X vs. Magneto thing is old hat by now, nobody cares about Agent Rose Byrne, Beast is okay and Mystique is blah. Oscar Isaac appears as his unconscious self for ten seconds before becoming Apocalypse and ceasing to be Oscar Isaac completely – it’s either an immersive performance or a total waste of a promising young actor in a role that could’ve been played by a CG-enhanced mannequin. As always, the ending hinges on whether Magneto is truly evil or can be convinced to compromise.

Apocalypse and his Horsemen: Storm, Angel, and this lightsaber girl, the fourth horseman being Magneto, who becomes evil again out of rage when his perfect wife and kid are murdered by some doomed motherfuckers in Poland where he’s hiding out after whatever happened in part four.

Since I don’t rewatch the movies and the first one was nearly two decades ago, it’s hard to keep track of all the characters and timelines and paradoxes, but I assume the writers have this stuff taken care of, and the fact that Angel dies in 1984 but is back in part three (?) makes sense to someone. Also, I keep seeing Jubilee in the credits for X-Men movies – who the hell is Jubilee?

Sophie Turner (Game of Thrones) is Young Jean Grey, seen here with Young Cyclops (Tye Sheridan of Mud) and Beast:

I notice Days of Future Past and this movie bringing back Stryker (Brian Cox’s character in part two) as a minor baddie, and I assume he’s the tie-in to the solo Wolverine films, none of which I’ve seen. And coincidentally, the week after watching this movie I saw a trailer for the third one of those, Logan, which looks awful.

Some uncomfortable politics as usual, bringing up Auschwitz yet again, and having a middle-eastern villain watching American news footage of 1980’s decadence and decrying our false idols and weak leaders. Also Professor X’s chamber where he can spy on the thoughts of anyone in the world hasn’t aged so well. Better to focus on the series’ overall focus on acceptance of difference, but even that has taken a back seat to the action scenes since part two.

Wow, not only was this a return to the high quality of the second film, it also justifies the existence of the boring fourth film and goes back in time to erase the events of the stupid third film, single-handedly resurrecting the franchise from mediocrity. Actually I’m not positive about the order of events of the older movies and how this time travel affects them, but in the repaired future, Wolverine is happy to see Cyclops and Jean alive again and didn’t they die in part 3? Anyway this is the most excited I’ve felt about comic movies since 2004.

So in a future run by mutant-killing Sentinels, a small team survives by having Ellen Page send Bishop (Omar Sy of Intouchables) back in time a few days to warn when the sentinels are approaching. Wolverine (alongside Old X/Magneto) thinks he can be sent back further, so he heads for the 1970’s to reunite Young X/Magneto and keep Mystique from killing Sentinel architect Peter Dinklage, and maybe convince the scared humans that some mutants are alright and shouldn’t all be exterminated.

Prison guard vs. Quicksilver and a few rolls of duct tape:

Who Were All Those Mutants:
Beast returns from the prequel, but Azazel, Banshee, Angel and I think either Frost or Riptide have already been killed in backstory. Survivors in the sentinel-future include good ol’ Storm, portal-creating Blink, knifey Warpath, fiery Sunspot, icy Iceman, and metal-skinned Colossus. I barely remember Iceman and Colossus from part 3, thought for a minute that they and Sunspot might be from the Fantastic Four. Helping break Magneto out of another non-metal prison is the great Quicksilver. Rogue wasn’t even in the movie, though she’s in the credits – I was hoping to watch the extended “rogue cut” in theatrical re-release but it’s apparently not playing here and I got impatient. Stryker is introduced in the 70’s, and Toad gets a small role.

Also: apparently 1970’s tech allowed for DNA proximity readers, giant non-metal robot creation, and unexplained combinations of DNA with the robots.

Major prequelitis, all about its digi-effects and massive Henry “Hugh” Jackman score. X and Magneto are buddies, meeting a bunch more friendly mutants and trying to defeat Kevin Bacon, who starts the Cuban Missile Crisis and killed Magneto’s mom. At least Oliver Platt and Michael Fassbender were good. And at least, since it’s a male-driven comic movie, all the girls get sexy and half-naked.

Sexy J-Jones:

Sexy J-Lawrence:

Mutant Round-Up: Magneto (Fassbender), X (James McAvoy), energy-consuming, anti-psychic-helmet-creating Shaw (Bacon). Shaw’s crew: disappearing devil Azazel (Jason Flemyng, chasin’ women), diamond-fleshed psychic Frost (January Jones of Mad Men), tornado-chuckin’ Riptide (Alex Gonzalez), fire-breathing dragonfly Angel (Zoe Kravitz). X’s crew: Beast (Nicholas Hoult, Firth-stalker in A Single Man), scream/flying Banshee (Caleb Jones of Antiviral), energy-whip-shooting Havoc (Lucas Till), easily killed gill-man Darwin (Edi Gathegi of Gone Baby Gone), shapeshiftin’ Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence), and their no-powers CIA contact Rose Byrne (Sunshine, Insidious).

Sexy Byrne:

Sexy Kravitz:

IMDB says Azazel and Mystique are Nightcrawler’s parents, and that Bryan Singer couldn’t be arsed to direct since he was devoting four years of his life to Jack The Giant Slayer. Vaughn later made Kingsman: The Secret Service, which I didn’t watch on the plane since they had a lousy looking, censored version.

Mighty Morphin’ Bacon in nuclear mirror room:

Total acting showcase, starring two oscar winners and three multiple-nominees. So who do you get for the sixth-billed slot? Louis C.K., hell yes!

Scammer Christian Bale attracts scammer Amy Adams, who both attract the attention of overeager federal agent Bradley Cooper, who wants to go big with the scams and nab charismatic mayor Jeremy Renner. Also Bale is married to Jennifer Lawrence, who seems to have been pried into the movie. Also Robert DeNiro plays a scary gangster, and the scammers screw over the agent (and, reluctantly, the mayor) at the end.

Lawrence (who made Water For Elephants and the music video for Gone Till November) turns in a much better Hunger Games movie than the last guy did. This movie will, of course, be best remembered for bringing together both mid-2000’s Truman Capotes: Philip Seymour Hoffman and Toby Jones. New additions to the movie’s revolutionary team include Jeffrey Wright (also in Only Lovers Left Alive this year) and Sam Claflin (Snow White and the Huntsman).

Our second “guy just out of mental institution struggles to readjust” romantic drama-comedy in a row, after The Perks of Being a Wallflower. This one seemed to try harder for slightly lesser results. But the two leads were great, and Robert De Niro and Chris Tucker are better than they’ve been since Jackie Brown.

Bradley Cooper is our disturbed hero – I’m pretty sure I’m the only person who mainly knows him from Midnight Meat Train, yet there was a MMT reference in this movie – and Jennifer Winter’s Bone Lawrence is his disturbed new friend with whom he tries to enter a dance competition. Bradley moves back in with his mom (Jacki Weaver from Picnic at Hanging Rock) and dad (compulsive gambler De Niro) and spends all his time stalking his ex-wife and hurting J-Lawrence’s feelings, until they realize after the dance thing that they were meant for each other.

Also, Dewart from Take Shelter plays Bradley’s brother and Dash Mihok from The Thin Red Line shows up as a cop.

Just like the book, plus a bunch of good actors (hello, Jennifer Lawrence and Woody Harrelson), minus all depth or feeling, and with the worst camerawork I’ve seen in years. Ross made Pleasantville and his DP shot all the latter-day Clint Eastwood pictures, so what happened here? The soundtrack is nice, anyway.