Michael Scott

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X-Men: 3-Film Collection



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Movie: :4stars:
Video: :4stars:
Audio: :5stars:
Extras: :2stars:
Final Score: :4stars:


WARNING: THE SCORES ABOVE ARE A COMBINED SCORE FROM ALL THREE FILMS, THE INDIVIDUAL SCORES ARE CONTAINED BELOW IN THE INDIVIDUAL SECTIONS OF THE REVIEW

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Movie

I actually did a bit of a double take when 20th Century Fox announced the 4K UHD release of the last remaining X-Men films a month or so ago. Usually they only do upgrades like these when a new movie in the franchise is coming out (Ala Predator), so I started looking up some IMDB info and no, it still looks like The Dark Phoenix and The New Mutants are coming out late in 2019, almost a year away. So I guess they decided to not time the release with the new film and just push it out on it’s own, which I have absolutely zero problems with, as we can never have enough 4K UHD content.


X-Men :4stars:
In 2000 I was just graduating High School and had grown up reading X-Men comics, and lived and breathed the animated 90s series as a young boy. Hearing that some of my favorite super heroes ever was coming to the big screen was a really big deal for an 18 year old nerd. It also was a much bigger thing back at the turn of the century, as comic book movies were not NEARLY as prevalent as they are now. Sure we had our share of Batmans, Supermans, Blades, and a smattering of other super hero films that had been successful, but there was no cohesive plan by Marvel, and the DC Extended Universe hadn’t even been thought up back then. So you can imagine it was HUGE to see one of the biggest franchises make it’s way to the silver screen.

I was completely enamored with the 2000 film from the get go, and after getting over the fact that Wolverine (played by newbie Aussie actor Hugh Jackman) showed some distinct compromises from his comic book counterpart (that and he was just too tall! Something an 18 year old me actually took issue with), I really was hooked. It was big, exciting, we saw some of the core X-men, and several of the characters pretty much iconicized their rolls for the next two decades. Patrick Stewart was born to play Professor X, and Ian McKellan was jaw dropping. Both of them are beyond talented men, and they put such a powerful spin on the characters that even Michael Fassbender and James Macavoy couldn’t out stage the royal Shakespearean actors in what is actually a rather rough comic book introduction.

The film was back when super hero movies weren’t massively budgeted, so the CGI looks a little wonky in today’s world of high budget blockbusters that make over a billion dollars PER film, but it surprisingly holds up pretty well. The world is ever changing, and in this world humanity is being introduced to mutants, powerful humans who have mutated and gained special various abilities. Some of the world has accepted the next evolution of humanity, while others are naturally terrified and wish to stick their head in the sands. Others, even among the mutant kind, see that mankind and mutants are different and predict a great war of survival. The leader of these mutants, one Magneto by name (McKellan), is manipulating events to kick start that war, and the only ones who can possibly stop him is his own kind.

Professor X and his X-men is probably one of the most iconic group of comic book super heroes ever. The team is made up of wildly different mutants with different powers, and all bonded together in one creed. Friendship and inclusivity. The comics were originally forged in the heat of the civil rights movements, and the ideas put forth have been modified for several different populace groups. Back in 2000 it was intimated that Mutants and their lack of acceptance was in regards to immigration, while, others have associated it with the LGBTQ movement due to Bryan Singer being an outspoken advocate of their cause. Either way, the ideals transcend individual social issues, and can pretty much blend into any generation, making it one of the most adaptable comic series of all time.

The first film had its issues, and watching it years later I have to admit it wasn’t AS good as I originally thought. The introduction of characters was well done, but Wolverine was changed quite a bit, and the old costumes were a huge disappointment when they didn’t show up. Still, it was an early 21st century film and paved the way for entire generations of superhero films to make it big, and Hugh Jackman has so iconicized the role of Wolverine, that I have a REALLY difficult time imagining anyone else filling those shows for quite some time.

X-2: X-Men United :4.5stars:
I like to compare the original X-Men trilogy to the Sam Raimi Spiderman trilogy. It starts out with a solid first entry, then peaks with an amazing second film, only to have the third film literally destroy the franchise for years to come. X-2: X-Men United follows that same pattern, becoming the pinnacle of the X-Men franchise and my absolute favorite Superhero film of the non “canon” Marvel films. Being the longest of the three films one would think that it would become a bit bloated, but the 2 hour and 13 minute runtime is expertly able to handle multiple coinciding story lines and overlapping characters without seemingly breaking a sweat.

With Magneto (Ian McKellan) locked up behind bars and mutant hatred still going strong, Professor X (Patrick Stewart) and his school for mutant kind still has a lot of work to do. However, his efforts for good are thwarted when a teleporting mutant named Nightcrawler (Alan Cumming in a LOOOT of blue makeup) attacks the President of the United States with a pro mutant battle cry. Like most people in power who are physically threatened, the President authorizes a black ops commander named William Stryker (Brian Cox) permission to take out Xavier’s “suspicious” school. Under fire and on the run, the Mutants are forced to lay low and figure out what’s going on, only to find out that it’s MUCH worse than they initially thought. Their first suspicion was that Magneto and Mystique (Rebecca Romijn) are manipulating things, only to find out that Magneto has been manipulated and controlled by someone with a bigger axe to grind. Now with both their forces on the run and under the gun, the brotherhood of Mutants and Professor X’s X-Men have to band together and fight a threat that wants the war between mutants and humans as badly as Magneto does, just with slightly different results.

X-2 really is a great film. 15 years since it’s theatrical release date, it is able to stand on its own two legs as a truly great superhero film. There are so many iconic scenes in the film that I was getting giddy just watching it this weekend. I’ve complained about Wolverine being a bit “tame” and not the same vicious beast from the comics, but the battle at the school is probably the one time in the original series when the ACTUAL wolverine came out to play. That battle is still just incredibly visceral and exciting even after aging 15 years. Not to mention blending in the sub stories about Alkali lake and wolverine’s heritage, Deathstrike (who I DO have qualms about, as they really just kind of blended Deathstrike with Weapon XI), the setup for the Phoenix saga (which was botched in the next film sadly), AND the introduction of William Stryker and his son Jason. All balanced rather evenly and coalescing together for an incredibly nuanced film that balances social issues, with superhero excitement and does so without being nearly as cheesy as that sounds.

There’s a few issues with some of the relationship with Bobby and Rogue, but overall the characters are very well fleshed out and the series keeps to its roots well. It’s right about here that Hugh Jackman started really getting into his character and making it his own, and it really shows on screen. He blends a nice sense of savage animalistic fury with sentiment, and a rogue nature that is kind of at odds with the rest of his team, while still being an integral part. Singer really outdid himself with X-2 and I was severely disappointed that he wasn’t able to come back for the third movie (although he did come back with the latest two films, although with mixed results).

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X-Men: The Last Stand: :3stars:
I was one of those people who initially defended X-Men: The Last Stand to the hilt. “It wasn’t that bad”. “It’s still enjoyable even though the first two were better” were phrases I used to use. Well, I took about a 5-6 year break from the films and just before X-Men Apocalypse I decided to binge the entire series and see how they had aged, only to discover that yup, The Last Stand really was as bad as everyone had said. Age and perspective made it a jarring film in the original trilogy, and remind of just how badly the 20th Century Fox talking heads had ruined what could have been a decent film. I’m once again reminded of Sony’s Spiderman films, and have to hearken this to Spiderman III, the movie that pretty much killed the Raimi iterations. The Last Stand had a massively troubled start in 2005-2006. Singer was working on Superman Returns at the time and the old head of Fox rammed the film into production without even trying to bring Singer back, and wanted to have it compete with Superman Returns on the summer schedule. The film was all ready to shoot, but there was no director, leaving studio yes-man Brett Ratner to come in and mop up the film.

This alone caused a whole mess of issues as Ratner wanted to work in the cure concept from the comics, but X-2 had set the film up for the Dark Phoenix saga, and Ratner did the only thing he could think of. Do both, with the end result being a movie that had a half baked attempt at the Dark Phoenix (which is being rectified in 2019) and a lame attempt at making the mutant cure (while blending in some social justice elements that feel just a bit cheesy compared to how social justice elements were handled in X-Men and X-2). The film really is a gigantic mess, and while it’s still mildly entertaining, is EASILY the worst film of the Patrick Steward trilogy, as well as the new rebooted ones as well (although X-Men Apocalypse tried to come as close as it could to that distinction).

It’s been a bit since Jean Gray (Famke Janssen) gave her life for the rest of her team, and the world has only gotten more tumultuous. A scientist named Warren Worthington II (hint hint at who’s daddy he is, played by Michael Murphy) has come up with a mutant “cure” derived from a unique mutant that has the ability to suppress the mutant gene. This creates a division among the mutant ranks, with some of them desiring to be “normal” again, while others see the cure as nothing but a way to subjugate them. Even Rogue (Anna Paquin) is desirous of the cure so that she and Iceman/Bobby (Shawn Ashmore) can have a physical relationship (draining the life force and mutant powers from whomever you touch doesn’t it lend itself towards physical intimacy much I would imagine). However, others including the ever vigilante Magneto (Ian McKellan) see it as an act of war and vow to destroy the cure, and destroy the child who is allowing the humans to even create this “abomination” in the first place.

The idea of the cure is kind of neat, and a really great story from the comics, but it is the inept handling of the source material and the myriad of other narrative issues that turns The Last Stand into a mushed up pile mediocrity. The script was wonky from the beginning, but because of James Marsters being attached to Bryan Singer’s Superman attempt, his involvement was relegated to the first 20 minutes of the movie where he’s offed in undue fashion, leaving the audiences a bit shocked and cheated when Cyclops just vanishes without a trace. The same can be said for killing off Xavier (Patrick Stewart) and turning Jean Grey into a shell of the ACTUAL Phoenix, instead just making her a mindless zombie that is akin to how Stryker controlled the mutants in X-2.

The movie isn’t all bad, as there are a couple of really neat action sequences. The opening fight as well as the ending battle are pretty nifty, showing off a lot more of the mutant world (although it butchered a few as well, such as Psylocke’s little cameo, as well as some of the more unknowns only having a few seconds of screen time). Kelsey Grammer is also the perfect Beast. I don’t care how the new one was done, it just doesn’t come close to how perfect Kelsey made the roll. It was almost as if Beast was just a clone of Kelsey, and if you’ve ever seen the man with his shirt off (sorry, I’ve watched Frasier too many times), then you know all they had to do was die his masses of chest hair blue and he IS Beast. Ben Foster is wasted as Angel, which is an incredibly sad thing as the guy has developed into a great actor (despite some recent poor film choices in his repertoire. The only problem is, these bookending action sequences are filled up with mindless drivel and cheesy dialog that would make even the diamond in the rough dialog in X-Men look like Hamlet.




Rated PG-13 for sci-fi action violence / Rated PG-13 for sci-fi action/violence, some sexuality and brief language / Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of action violence, some sexual content and language




Video: :4stars:
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X-Men: :4stars:

Given a brand new 4K master, 2000’s X-Men looks rather impressive on 4K UHD, and makes some rather big strides over the aging 1080p Blu-ray. X-Men isn’t as bright and colorful as some of the others, as it is a movie that was distinctly graded to be saturated with cool icy blues and soft shades of gray. Still, there are some rather bright splashes of color inside of the mansion, as well as the energy blasts from Cyclops’s eyes and Jean Grey’s costume. The first thing I noticed off the bat was how much sharper the image look. X-Men has always been a slightly soft film on Blu-ray, and while it is still a BIT soft on 4K UHD, is a good step up over the old Blu-ray. Fine details along the faces and costumes are impeccable, and the CGI backdrops are sometimes a bit TOO noticeable due to the increased clarity. The softness isn’t something that I’d be too worried about, as most of the people I’ve discussed this with believe it’s a stylistic choice and has been present in everything from the 35mm copy of the film, down to each of the home video releases. It’s not razor sharp like most modern blockbusters, but X-Men is a well done 4K UHD disc that makes some impressive strides over its predecessor.

X-2: X-Men United :4.5stars:
Both the first two films were reported to receive a 4K remaster, and I’m actually quite pleased with the results. The films were shot on actual 35mm film stock back then instead of digital, and the new transfer really brings out a luscious grain layer that looks very natural, with only a few spikes in dark sequences to make it stand out from the rest of the movie. The fine detailing in the 4K UHD release shows noticeable improvement over the decade old Blu-ray, with the mutant costumes showing some of the really nice upgrades. Look at the markings and lines along Nightcrawler’s face, or the intricate wood carvings in Professor X’s mansion. These are just two of the many little nuances that show off some incredibly well defined textures and details that I had never seen before. The biggest improvement is probably going to be the use of HDR in the film, as the colors just pop off the screen. The blues of Nightcrawler and Mystique are jaw dropping, and Professor X’s mansion is given a wonderful shade of mahogany that just lights up the dimly lit place. The underground lair at Alkali lake is a bit desaturated and greenish/blue, but that’s by design and it contrasts quite nicely with the sharp white/blue of the surrounding snow. Black levels are deep and inky, with no signs of any major crush or poor shadow detailing anywhere.

X-Men: The Last Stand :3.5stars:

Even though it was shot on film with the rest of the movies, The Last Stand was late enough in the game where it already had a 2K digital master created for it (unlike the first two) and Fox decided to not remaster it with a new 4K master and just use the 2K DI for this release. Sadly that means a slight dip in quality, as comparing all three films against each other back to back shows that The Last Stand is the one with the least amount of upgrade in the mix (which may not be a big deal to some, as most fans will put this one in as the “I own it, but never will watch it” category). Colors are a bit brighter and the HDR shows some pop on the darker end of the spectrum, but fine details are just barely more apparent than the 1080p disc, and there is a softer look to it that is even more noticeable than X-2. This is not a deal breaker, as there ARE definite improvements in the picture in regards to artifacting and slight clarity boosts. It just isn’t as startlingly clear as the first two.




Audio: :5stars:
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20th Century Fox has once again ported over the 5.1 DTS-HD MA (and 6.1 for The Last Stand) mixes from the Blu-ray, and while I really would like to have seen an Atmos upgrade, those 5.1/6.1 tracks were stellar back in the day, and still remain amazing audio mixes to this day. I used to give them a 5/5 rating for sheer perfection, but being that modern Atmos/DTS:X tracks add a different dimension I have to give them a solid 4.5/5 just due to technical aspects. All three tracks are remarkably similar across the board, and all three sound simply amazing. All three of the original X-Men movies are given powerhouse action mixes that exuded energy and excitement. The rousing score from Michael Karmen in the first film just gets you into the swing of things, and the near non stop action creates some awesome sound effects from the surround channels. When toad lashes out his tongue and starts throwing Storm around you can actually hear it whip out from the rear of the room, in the thundering power of water swirling around the jet in X-2 just puts the listener right into the heart of the action. LFE is just devestating for all three films, and the heavy amounts of action means that things are pounding away on the low frequencies for a large portion of the run times. Dialog is clean, clear and perfectly balanced, making these some of my favorite legacy mixes on the Blu-ray format.









Extras: :2stars:
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• Audio Commentaries on The 4K UHD discs
• Legacy Bonus Features from Disc One of the Blu-rays







Final Score: :4stars:


The original 2 X-men movies are still my favorite in the entire franchise, with X-2 leading the way for being the greatest. 20th Century Fox does a good job remastering the first two and giving them all very solid looking 4K UHD upgrades, albeit with a few caveats to those upgrades. If you remember from back in the day (getting on my old man soap box here), the first three films were given 2 disc special editions with a VAST majority of the special features being housed on the second disc. Later pressings gave up that 2nd disc, and the Fox has continued on with that pattern by only transporting across the extras that were found on the 1st Blu-ray disc to this set (as it’s a combo pack and it only includes the first disc that has the feature film on it for the Blu-ray portion), leaving out that wealth of special features that was present on the 2 disc Blu-rays as well as the old Blu-ray boxset. The same thing is true of the audio, as Fox continues to port over the 5.1 (and 6.1 for The Last Stand ) mixes for the 4K release, rendering a moot point for upgrading on the audio front. Still, they’re stellar tracks and the new remasters for the first two films are excellent. If this was super expensive for a brand new 4K set I’d hesitate to recommend going out and buying immediately, but being that 20th Century Fox is releasing the set with a $29.99 (as of this review) price point, the lack of new audio and the old special features doesn’t sting nearly as much, and makes the new video encodes worth it, in my opinion. Definitely recommended.



Technical Specifications:

Starring: Patrick Stewart, Hugh Jackman, Famke Janssen, Ian McKellan, Kelsey Grammer, Anna Paquin, Halle Berry, Scott Marsters
Directed by Bryan Singer / Bryan Singer / Brett Ratner
Written by: Bryan Singer, Tom DeSanto, David Hayter / David Hayter, Bryan Singer, Zak Penn / Simon Kinburg, Zak Penn
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1 HEVC / 2.39:1 HEVC / 2.39:1 HEVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1, English DTS-HD MA 6.1 (X-Men: The Last Stand), English DD EX 6.1, Spanish DD 5.1, French, Spanish, German, Italian, DTS 5.1, Czech, Polish DD 2.0
Subtitles:
English SDH, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Cantonese, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Mandarin (Traditional), Norwegian, Polish, Swedish
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Rated: PG-13 / PG-13 / PG-13
Runtime: 104 Minutes / 134 Minutes / 104 Minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: September 25th, 2018







Recommendation: Recommended
 

tripplej

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Thanks for the review. Enjoyed all of the x-men movies. :)
 
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