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Top 7 Last Minute Christmas Movie Gifts

Holy holiday shopping, Batman!

Last Minute

Greetings, Movie Buffs, with only a couple days left to shop, you had better be past your making lists and checking them (at least the first check). But if you are not, your old buddy The Professor is here to help you in a pinch. Here are some mini-reviews for films that are already out on BD/DVD/Digital that might make good gifts for your fellow nerds. To be honest, I wanted to bring up some of these films but couldn’t make whole reviews out of them without being entirely excessive. I’ve got a lot, so we’ll break this up into two parts: new stuff and old stuff. We’ll start off with the new stuff, and then move on to some oldies but very goodies, to mull over for those last minute peace offerings after you family’s traditional airing of grievances.

1. X-Men: Apocalypse (2016)

xmenapocalypse

This third film in the new (rebooted?) timeline of X-Men films was met by both professional and armchair critics with some heavy criticisms. This movie was no small feat for the filmmakers and cast as this was not only the closing of a trilogy of films, beginning with 2011’s First Class, but it’s also the 6th film in a (purportedly) continuing franchise based on the Marvel property. That is a tough place to be for a film, and Apocalypse attempts to combine several major comic book plots into one film, including “Age of Apocalypse”, “Weapon X”, and anything to do with Jean and Scott’s romance. Oh…and Xavier’s hairline. That’s a biggie. While each part of the film is solid in its own right, the whole is less than the sum of its parts. One cannot help but wonder if this franchise would be better served in an episodic television format. Certainly, even more so than the other X-Men films, this one feels like a mash-up of a whole season of a show, rather than a self-contained film. It is a shame, to my mind, since all of these plots are awesome and deserve better treatment than they get here. Frankly, while I enjoyed this film, it left me with a deep desire to revisit the 90s cartoon series, which freakin’ ruled. This film felt like they released a “Rogue Cut” as a theatrical version (and if you know what I mean by that reference, you understand how badly this movie needed more editing). I think that Bryan Singer needs to stop making homages to other films and just make his own film (he references EVERY MOVIE EVER MADE in the commentary and it gets redundant).

My rating:
2.5/5 (because while it is okay, it drags on too long and never feels as epic as it tries to be)

Why you want to buy this for a friend:
Because hard-core X-Men fans will not be able to pass up the opportunity to see these different plots played out on the big screen. It does look good and we get to revisit some fan favorite characters like Xavier, Magneto, and Quicksilver. Also, the commentary does offer a priceless moment where Singer explains how he coaxed some actors to go “full Skeletor” in their acting. That alone preserved my respect for his directing skills.

 

2. Ghostbusters (2016)

ghostbusters

Here is where I probably get a lot of backlash from readers, but I’m going to do this anyhow: I’m going to actually defend (a little bit) the Ghostbusters reboot. Let’s be clear: the first Ghostbusters is my absolute favorite comedy and I grew up modeling my sarcasm on Bill Murray’s delivery of every line he has in that film. That film is on a reeeeeaaaaallllly high pedestal for me. So I was NEVER on board with a sequel/prequel/reboot…nada. BUT, they made it so let’s take it for what it is. Director Paul Feig knows how to get great stuff from the actresses he works with and there is plenty of fun to be had with Melissa McCarthy and Kristen Wiig. Leslie Jones is hammy as heck and elicits plenty of chuckles. But the real fun is had with Kate McKinnon’s Holtzman and Chris Hemsworth’s Kevin. Honestly, I could have just watched those two characters for 90 minutes and been super-happy. They are the two most original characters in this film and they exemplify what is best about this movie: its bits of originality. When it tries to be Ghostbusters, it fails. Nothing could ever come close and they were foolish to try. But when this is a movie about a group of non-Ghostbuster scientists trying to jumpstart their paranormal investigation business, it is quite good. Like the X-Men movie above, this movie suffers most from its inability to edit out the unnecessary, especially the extended cut which is easily 30 minutes too long. HEY HOLLYWOOD! THE DIRECTOR’S/EXTENDED CUT IS AN ART FORM, NOT A MANDATORY SPECIAL FEATURE! Did I feel like I betrayed my inner child by watching this? No. It didn’t suck. Was it flawless? Nope, not even close.

My rating:
0/5 when it tries to be Ghostbusters; 3/5 when it tries to be its own thing; 5/5 for McKinnon alone.

Why you want to buy this for a friend:
Frankly, maybe you don’t. But maybe, just maybe, you’ll trust me not to lead you into a trap and you’ll watch it. Give it a chance. And if you don’t hate it, you pay it forward by telling another friend to give it a chance. Honestly, this is just me flipping the bird to all those trolls who damned it for its all-woman cast. They were wrong. Women make good paranormal investigators.

3. Captain America: Civil War (2016)

captainamericacivilwar

Okay, those last two were gambits, but this one is a sure-fire win. The third Captain America movie is as much about Cap coming to terms with his own character arch as it is about EVERY MCU CHARACTER doing the same. Historically, putting this many super-powered beings into one movie (and how many villains were there?) meant disaster but Marvel Studios proves, yet again, that it knows exactly what its audience wants and delivers it without compromise. And, as if the movie isn’t just awesome for all the Avengers it crams in, it introduces Black Panther (who has proven to be a huge hit with viewers) and…get ready for this…a Spider-Man we can enjoy again! Was it just me, or did they finally and totally get Spidey correct? Judging by the recently released trailer for Spider-Man: Homecoming, they nailed it. Is this perhaps the closest a super-hero movie gets to perfection while still staying within the genre (remember The Dark Knight transcended its genre)? I say yes, and judging by the ridiculous amounts of cheering that went up from theatrical audiences all over the world most people agree with me.

My rating:
5/5 (because anything less would be criminal neglect on my part)

Why you want to buy this for a friend:
This movie is too perfect not to share with someone. And, as usual, Marvel puts some nifty special features on this, including character discussions for Spidey and Panther. Oh, and look for the Civil War story for Thor. Priceless.

4. Finding Dory (2016)

findingdory

No good shopping list for this season would be complete without throwing in something for the kiddies. 2003’s Finding Nemo is a fantastic adventure film for kids and adults, full of colorful characters, awesome actors, and funny fish (alliteration unintended, I swear, except that last one). So why wait 13 years to follow it up? Pixar’s been busy, sheesh! While Dory lacks the originality of its predecessor (it uses a lot of similar or same jokes and scenarios), it would be hard to improve on the first. So they took what worked best, slapped it onto what is arguably the best character in a kid’s movie ever (how can you not like Dory?), and went for it. Ed O’Neill’s jail-breaking octopus character will certainly make you happy, if nothing else does (and it will unless you have no heart). So while the film can be described as predictable and derivative, you could also say it is familiar and inviting like a warm embrace. While I initially balked at its initial release, I found this film enjoyable and entertaining. Okay, enough alliteration already!

My rating:
4/5 (because it isn’t totally original or necessary but it was still fun to watch)

Why you want to buy this for a friend:
While many would rather die than admit it publically, nerds love Pixar films, if only for the spectacular computer animation. Finding Dory provides many laughs and just the right amount of heart to make you get a bit misty-eyed without losing coolness points for crying like a baby. Your friend might scoff at first, just to save face, but odds are they will silently thank you for getting this for them.

Okay, friends, that’s the young cinematic whippersnappers out of the way! Time to move onto some unexpected oldies that you should definitely consider putting on your holiday shopping list.

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