Tuesday, August 30, 2016

"Crossroads of the Force" [PG-13] - Chapter One




"CROSSROADS OF THE FORCE"

CHAPTER ONE

8BBY - CORUSCANT

The announciator inside her private office distracted Senator Zoebeida Dahlma from her work. She glanced up and said, "Enter."

Seconds later, a petite, dark-haired woman dressed in royal blue entered the Maldarian senator's office. "Pardon me, Senator Dahlma, but you have a communiqué from Senator Mon Mothma." 

Returning her gaze to the data pad in her hand, Senator Dahlma replied, "Upload it into my computer."

The younger woman hesitated. "It's a . . . private communiqué." 

Zoebeida glanced up. She noticed the small holoemitter in her aide's open palm. A sigh left her mouth. "I see. Give it to me." The aide, Igraine Colbert, handed the holoemitter over to the senator. "Thank you, Igraine. You may go."

Igraine nodded and left the office. Although the twenty-six year-old aide knew about Zoebeida's activities with the barely formed Rebel Alliance, the senator made sure that she remained ignorant of any details . . . in case the Empire ever learned of Zoebeida's secret activities.

Now alone, the senator placed the holoemitter on her desk and switched it on. Mon Mothma's statuesque figure illuminated above the device. "Greetings Zoebeida," the Chandrilian began. "A special conference will be held at the Hotel Grand in Worlport, on Ord Mantell, to discuss the Alliance's future agenda. Because this is a special meeting, Bail Organa, Garm Iblis and I have decided it would be best not to hold this meeting here on Coruscant. If you plan to participate, please respond to either Bail or myself within the next twenty-four hours. I hope to hear from you soon." The hologram disappeared.

Zoebeida leaned back into her chair and sighed. A special meeting for the Rebel Alliance? In reality, no such alliance really existed. At least not yet. The Maldarian senator had originally been amongst the Delegation of 2000 - a group of senators who had opposed Palpatine's growing power around the end of the Clone Wars. The Delagation had presented a petition to the former Chancellor that demanded he find a peaceful resolution to the war and give up his emergency powers. Instead, a conflict with the Jedi led Palpatine to declare himself emperor and order the destruction of the Jedi Order. Many who had signed the petition ended up either killed, imprisoned or forced into exile. Of course, there were those senators like herself, Organa and Mothma, who managed to elude Palpatine's retribution by removing their names from the petition and continuing their opposition against Palpatine, as a secret.

Padme Amidala, along with other senators like Solipo Yeb and Garm Bel Iblis had ended up in exile. Zoebeida recalled that the discovery of a fugitive Jedi Knight on Andalia had led to the Imperial annexation of Solipo's homeworld. And poor Garm had nearly been killed by Palpatine's troops - a fate that his family had failed to avoid - because of the Corellian's past open opposition against the former Chancellor-turned-Emperor. But Zoebeida could not fathom Padme Amidala's reason for evading the Empire. The former Naboo senator had once been Palpatine's protégée. And Naboo's ties to the Empire seemed free of any conflict with its former Emperor - despite the mysterious death of Queen Apiliana, some nine years ago. What exactly had led Amidala to fake her own death?

If this meeting on Ord Mantell proved to be a major one for the Alliance, then it seemed possible that Organa, Mothma and Iblis had finally discovered a way to unite many individual factions and resistance cells now fighting against the Empire. Zoebeida wondered if Amidala and Yeb will be present. Both former senators possessed connections to various resistance cells in the Outer Rim Territories.

Zoebeida finally erased Mothma's message from the holoemitter. Then she replaced it with one of her own: "Greetings Mon. I am more than happy to accept the invitation to attend this conference. Please provide me with the details, so that I can make arrangements. Thank you." She ended the recording and summoned Igraine. The younger woman entered the office and Zoebeida handed over the holoemitter. "Return this to Senator Mothma. And if you're unable to find her, give it to Senator Organa of Alderaan. Make sure that you give it to either one of those two . . . personally."

"Yes, Senator Dahlma," the pretty young woman dutifully replied with a nod, before leaving the office. Zoebeida remained behind her desk and contemplated upon the upcoming conference. Has the day for an organized resistance against the Empire finally arrived? The Maldarian senator sincerely hoped so.

------- 

LE YER, ABREGADO-RAE


"Happy Birthday!"

The handsome, 21 year-old Corellian broke into a wide grin, as his partner, along with several friends and acquaintances sang to him inside a private room at the Triple Nova Casino. As the singing continued, an attractive, blue-skinned Twi'lek placed a Pyollian cake with 21-lit candles in front of him. Once the singing ceased, everyone broke into applause.

"Congratulations, Han. Today, you are a man." The 33 year-old Anakin Skywalker also grinned, as his younger partner shot him a disbelieving stare. "What did I say?"

Han grumbled, "Nothing." He blew out the candles and more applause followed.

The Twi'let, a fellow pilot and smuggler by the name of Vi'dal Mira, leaned down to plant a light kiss on the Corellian's cheek. "So, what did you wish for?" she asked.

"I believe that my wish had already been granted," Han replied slyly. "About two years ago, on Ord Montell." He shot a meaningful glance at Vi'dal, who smirked.

Anakin understood the meaning behind Han's words. Nearly two years ago, Han had suffered a setback from a serious romance and turned to Vi'dal for one night with the Twi'lek smuggler. Fortunately, nothing serious had evolved from the brief affair. With a straight face and his tongue firmly tucked in his cheek, Anakin commented, "Was that the extent of your birthday wish? Vi'dal?"

Han nearly snickered out loud. Vi'dal glared at the wide-eyed Anakin. "And what did you mean by that, Captain Horus? Don't you feel that one night with me would make a worthy birthday wish?" Set Horus happened to be the name that Anakin used as an alias to avoid Imperial detection.

"Well . . ." Anakin began, as he allowed his eyes to sweep appreciatively over the Twi'lek's voluptuous figure. ". . . I have yet to experience such a night to make that kind of judgment."

Vi'dal eased next to Anakin with hands on her hips. "I would be happy to make arrangements for such an experience. Believe me, you will not be unsatisfied." 

"My birthday had passed two months ago."

"Irrevelant."

Anakin allowed one of his brows to arch. "I beg your pardon?"

Vi'dal continued in a seductive voice, "I don't care whether it's your birthday or not. Why should you?"

Both the human and the Twi'lek regarded each other for what seemed like a very long moment to Anakin. He almost sensed an electrical charge between himself and the female smuggler. Aside from his brief period as a Sith Lord, Anakin has always tried to be honest regarding his personal character. He could not deny his attraction toward the beautiful Vi'dal. But he found it difficult to become romantically involved with other females - despite being a widower for the past eleven years. The memory of Padme and what he had done to her became a stumbling block to any possible relationship with another woman - whether serious or not.

Anakin inhaled deeply and gave Vi'dal his most charming smile. "To be honest, I don't . . ." He paused briefly. Then, "How about another time? When the time is right?"

Disappointment flashed briefly in Vi'dal's large brown eyes before she returned his smile. "I look forward to that moment, Set Horus."

"If you find it hard to wait for Set," a fourth voice began, "there's always me." Anakin suppressed an urge to roll his eyes in disgust. The voice belonged to Mako Spence, a fellow smuggler from Corellia.

Vi'dal shot a contemptuous glance at the handsome, bearded pilot. "I'm not that desperate," she retorted bitingly. "If you're longing for company tonight, I suggest that you pay a visit to the Blue Orchid. I'm sure that Umekei Sun would be more than happy to see you." Vi'dal spoke of Mako's regular patronage of the spaceport's most prosperous pleasure house. The older Corellian's face turned scarlet.

Anakin smirked at Mako's discomfort. He never really liked the Corellian. Nor did he see any reason to pretend otherwise and be a hypocrite. Besides, even Han - who happened to be friends with Mako - smirked. "Anyone for a piece of cake?" the younger Corellian asked. "I'm starved."

-------- 

Nearly a half hour later, the two partners strolled out of the private room and made their way across the casino's floor. "Not a bad haul, huh?" Han indicated the bag filled with birthday presents. "Even Bascko gave me power converters. And I didn't think that he liked me."

"Of course he does," Anakin reassured the younger man. "Bascko likes those who don't bother to agree to everything he says." Bascko happened to be a local merchant and a Verpine from the Roche asteroid belt. Both Han and Anakin were amongst his regular clients.

A brief silence followed before Han surreptiously added, "Are you referring to Mako?"

Contempt flickered in Anakin's blue eyes. "I don't recall Bascko ever giving him a birthday present."

Han remained silent. He viewed Mako Spince as a very close friend. Scion of a prominent senator from Corellia, Mako had ended up expelled from the Imperial Academy due to a dangerous prank he had pulled. Disgraced and estranged from his family, Mako used his trust fund and a few connections from the Academy to become a smuggler. With Mako, Han had someone with whom he could enjoy nights at popular establishments like the Triple Nova Casino. Anakin might be a brother and mentor to him, but the former Jedi had never developed the habit of frequenting the galaxy's many pleasure spots on a regular basis. And although Anakin never protested against his friendship with Mako, his partner never did warm up to the older Corellian.

In an attempt to change the subject, Han asked, "Why didn't you take up Vi'dal's offer?"

"What?" Anakin looked startled by Han's sudden change of the subject.

"Vi'dal," Han repeated. "Why didn't you take up her offer? She likes you. And you obviously like her."

One of Anakin's brows arched. "Obviously?"

Han rolled his eyes. "I'm not blind, Anakin. I saw the way you two were staring at each other, tonight. I mean . . . why deny yourself?"

A long, suffering sigh left Anakin's mouth. "Look, I'm just not that interested in Vi'dal . . . in that way. Yes, she's a beautiful woman, but I only think of her as a friend. Nothing else."

"Uh-huh." The two men passed one of the gaming tables, where they spotted a Rodian yelling with glee. Han added, "So, what you're trying to tell me is that your devotion to your old hokey religion has nothing to do with this decision to act like a monk."

Anakin shot a dark look at the younger man. "Since when did my Jedi beliefs become 'a hokey religion'? Since Ylesia?"

The mention of Ylesia brought back painful memories for Han. While Anakin was on Dantooine for a retreat, two years ago, Han did a private smuggling job for the Tatooine gangster, Jabba the Hutt that led him to a tropical planet called Ylesia. There, he discovered that a fellow Corellian had escaped an arranged engagement to join a religious cult operated by the Besadii clan. Han promptly fell in love with the beautiful, red-haired Bria Tharen. After exposing the Besadii's cult as a hoax to Bria, he helped her escape from Ylesia with guns blazing and a sack full of precious antiquities that belonged to one of the cult's high priests. The pair eventually made their way to Coruscant via stops at Corellia and Togoria. There, Bria eventually abandoned the love-struck Han before the latter eventually made his way to Dantooine . . . and Anakin.

"My trip to Ylesia has nothing to do with my opinion of your old order," Han firmly retorted. He added in a mumbling voice, "I've just never been the religious type. That's all." Then his voice reasserted itself. "Besides, I only wanted to know why you won't consider the time of day with Vi . . ."

Anakin interrupted, "Because I'm not ready for another relationship, Han. At least one with the opposite sex. And I don't think I'll ever be. I'm ju . . ." He sighed, as a faraway look gleamed in his eyes. "Maybe I'm not one for casual relationships."

It never ceased to amaze Han that despite being a good twelve years younger than Anakin, his experience with women has been more extensive. "Okay," the Corellian said, "I can accept . . ." Han broke off, as a third figure rushed toward the pair.

"Han! Set!" Mako Spince halted before the two men, breathing heavily. The casino's fluorescent lights highlighted his light-brown hair. "I need to speak to both of you."

Han shrugged his shoulders. "So speak."

"Not here." Mako glanced around the casino, as if expecting to be overheard by an eavesdropper. "Outside." He led the two partners outside, until he halted next to a marble balustrade that overlooked a wide, blue canal filled with boats of all kinds. Le Yer boasted a series of water canals that made the entire city very popular with tourists and other visitors.

Anakin brusquely added, "Okay, we're alone. What do you want?"

Mako took a deep breath. "I have a business proposition. This business . . ." He paused dramatically. "Actually, he's a Quarren named Sekka Verdu. It turns out that he's a . . . representative of Garulla the Hutt and he needs pilots to fly a large shipment of Glitterstim from Kessel to Maldore."

"Glitterstim?" Anakin frowned.

An exasperated sigh left Mako's mouth. "C'mon Horus! Don't tell me that a successful smuggler like you has something against shipping spice! Haven't you done it before?"

"Of course I have!" Anakin retorted. "But you're talking about the Kessel Run! It's heavily patrolled by Imperial ships and the Empire has grown less tolerant of spice during the last few years."

Mako nodded. "I understand. That's what I had said to Verdu. But we're talking about a large shipment of spice worth at least two million credits. Verdu is willing to pay one hundred thousand credits to fly it to Maldore. That's fifty thousand for me and fifty thousand for the both of you."

Han frowned at his friend. He and Anakin would have to split one-half of the fee? Not if he could help it. "Why can't we split the one hundred thousand in three ways?" he demanded.

"Because three starships won't be involved," Mako coolly replied. "Fifty thousand per ship. It's only fair. I would have made the run myself, but my cargo hold isn't big enough for the entire shipment. I need another starship to conclude the deal."

Han saw the word "no" form on Anakin's lips. Fifty thousand credits would greatly make up for the money they had recently spent on repairs for the Javian Hawk. "Just a minute," he said, taking Anakin by surprise. "Uh . . . Set and me need to discuss this." He drew the older man aside.

"You're not serious about this, are you?" Anakin immediately demanded in a low voice.

Han shot back under his breath, "C'mon Anakin! We need the money. Those repairs for the Hawk took a lot out of our account. Besides, what do you have against this deal?"

"Simple. It was proposed by Mako. He's part of the deal."

The younger man shot back, "Look, I realize that you don't like the guy - why, I don't know - but this is a sweet deal. And Mako hasn't done nothing . . ."

"Anything," Anakin immediately corrected.

With a sigh, Han re-phrased his last word. “Like I said, he hasn’t done anything to give us a reason to distrust him.” He paused. “Unless you know something . . .”

“No, I didn’t,” Anakin snapped. Looking defeated, he shook his head. “I know I’m going to regret this, but okay. I’m willing to accept Spince’s offer.”

Relief filled Han’s mind. “Great!” he crowed. Then he returned to Mako. “We’ll do it. As for the fee . . . that hundred thousand credits have to be divided three ways. We’ll all be taking the risk, no matter how many ships are involved.”

Mako looked slightly taken aback. “Wait a minute. I mean . . . I’m the one had approached you about this deal. I think . . .”

“Take it,” Han insisted. “Or find yourself a new partner.”

The older Corellian sighed. Han deduced from that sigh that Mako had been unable to find another pilot to accompany him on this venture. “All right. We’ll split the money three ways. By the way, I suggest that we all leave for Kessel, tomorrow morning.”

“See you tomorrow, then.” Han watched his friend walk back into the casino. Then he approached Anakin. “The deal is on.”

Doubt flickered in the older man’s eyes. “I only hope that we won’t end up regretting this.”


END OF CHAPTER ONE

Monday, August 29, 2016

"LIFE WITH FATHER" (1947) Photo Gallery


Below are images from "LIFE WITH FATHER", the 1947 adaptation of Howard Lindsay and Russel Crose's 1939 play, which is an adaptation of Clarence Day's 1935 novel.  Directed by Michael Curtiz, the movie starred William Powell and Irene Dunne:


"LIFE WITH FATHER" (1947) Photo Gallery















Saturday, August 27, 2016

Five Favorite Episodes of "UNDERGROUND" Season One (2016)

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Below is a list of my five favorite episodes from the WGN series, "UNDERGROUND". Created by Misha Green and Joe Pokaski, the series stars Jurnee Smollett-Bell and Aldis Hodge: 


FIVE FAVORITE EPISODES OF "UNDERGROUND" SEASON ONE (2016)

1 - 1.05 Run and Guns

1. (1.05) "Run & Gun" - The attempt by the escapees from the Macon plantation to catch a northbound train out of the state is complicated at every turn; while Tom and Susanna Macon have the remaining slaves - especially Pearly Mae, who was captured while trying to run - questioned about their plans.



2 - 1.09 Black and Blue

2. (1.09) "Black & Blue" - One of the escapees, former house slave Rosalee, is captured in a small Kentucky town and held at a slaughter house, while fellow escapees Noah and Cato plot to rescue her. Underground Railroad agent John Hawkes (who is also Tom Mason's brother) learns of his wife Elizabeth's reckless action to save the orphaned escapee Boo from her ex-fiancé and U.S. Federal Marshal Kyle Risdin.



3 - 1.04 Firefly

3. (1.04) "Firefly" - A notorious slave hunter named August Pullman and his son Ben track Noah and Rosalee, following their escape from the Macon plantation at the end of the previous episode. The other slaves involved in Noah's plot contemplate running, as well. Meanwhile, John and Elizabeth face a lethal predicament, when one of the runaways they are sheltering turns hostile.



5 - 1.01 Macon Seven

4. (1.01) "The Macon 7" - In the series premiere, Noah begins to plot an escape from the Macon plantation to the Ohio River and free states. He contemplates on choosing which slaves to be included in his plan, while dealing with a hostile Cato, who also happens to be one of the plantation field drivers.



4 - 1.07 Cradle

5. (1.07) "Cradle" - This episode featured a collection of vignettes about the younger characters - all children - facing the harsh realities of the world in antebellum America.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

"DR. NO" (1962) Photo Gallery

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Below are images from "DR. NO", the 1962 adaptation of Ian Fleming's 1958 novel.  Directed by Terence Young, the movie starred Sean Connery as James Bond: 


"DR. NO" (1962) Photo Gallery

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Wednesday, August 24, 2016

"X-MEN: APOCALYPSE" (2016) Review




"X-MEN: APOCALYPSE" (2016) Review

Two years following the success of 2014's "X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST", Marvel Entertainment released a new "X-MEN" film set ten years after the previous one. The movie proved to be the fourth one directed by Bryan Singer. 

"X-MEN: APOCALYPSE" began in ancient Egypt, where the world's first mutant, a powerful individual named En Sabah Nur, ruled by by transferring his mind into new bodies. Unfortunately, a group of former worshipprs betrayed En Sabah Nur aka "Apocalypse" by entombing him alive. They also killed his four lieutenants, the "Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse", who tried to protect him. The movie jumped to 1983 Egypt where C.I.A. Agent Moira MacTaggert (last seen in 2011's "X-MEN: FIRST CLASS") has been investigating a cult in Egypt that worships En Sabah Nur. Her accidental exposure his tomb to sunlight awakened the ancient mutant and produced a shock wave around the globe. Following his awakening, En Sabah Nur set out to recruit four mutants as his new "Four Horsemen":

*Ororo Munroe aka "Storm" - an orphan and pickpocket from the streets of Cairo, who is able to control the weather

*Warren Worthington III aka "Angel" - a mutant with feathered wings on his back, who has resorted to participating in underground fight clubs in Berlin

*Psylocke - an enforcer for the black marketeer mutant Caliban, who is not only telepathic and telekinetic, but can also produce a purple-colored psychic energy

*Erik Lehnsherr aka "Magneto" - a Holocaust survivor and former friend of Charles Xavier, who has the ability to manipulate metal and control magnetic fields, and who is recently grieving over the accidental deaths of his wife and daughter by the Polish police

Apocalypse's shock wave also caused Jean Grey, an adolescent student and mutant at Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters to have a nightmare and momentarily lose control of her powers. When Charles Xavier attempted to investigate the power source he discovered that Moira was involved. Although her previous memories of them together were erased, Xavier meets with her to discuss the legend of En Sabah Nur. But when they become aware of the ancient mutant's plans to bring about the apocalypse; Xavier and Moira recruit fellow mutants like Raven aka "Mystique", Hank McCoy aka "Beast", Alex Summers aka "Havok", and Peter Maximoff aka "Quicksilver" to stop Apocalypse's plans. Xavier students like Jean Grey, Scott Summers aka "Cyclops" (Alex's nephew) and Kurt Wagner aka "Nightcrawler" also join the campaign to stop En Sabah Nur.

Let me be frank. "X-MEN: APOCALYPSE" was not well received by the critics and many filmgoers. I am not going to explain why they felt this way about the movie. Needless to say, I do not agree with this pervading view. I am not saying that "X-MEN: APOCALYPSE" was a great film. It was not. I believe the movie had some problems. 

One of those problems is that some of the cast members were obviously too young for their roles. This certainly seemed to be the case for James McAvoy Michael Fassbender and Rose Byrne, who portrayed Charles Xavier, Magneto and Moira McTaggart. All three are in their mid-to-late 30s and portrayed characters who were in their early 50s (late 40s for Moira, I suspect) . . . with no make-up to convey their characters' aging. Both Jennifer Lawrence and Nicholas Hoult portrayed Mystique and Hank McCoy, who were slightly younger than Xavier and Magneto. But "X-MEN: FIRST CLASS" gave a good excuse for their slow aging . . . Mystique's blood. Another cast member who portrayed a character much older than himself (without makeup) is Lucas Till, who is at least 25 or 26 years old, reprising his role as the late 30s to early 40s Alex Summers. And finally, we have Josh Helman, who is barely 30 years old, who reprised his role as William Stryker, who must have been around the same age as Xavier and Magneto. Does Singer have something against aging in his "X-MEN"films? And if he wanted to maintain the same cast, could he have at least consider using aging makeup for at least five members of the cast?

Two, what was the point in including both Stryker and Wolverine in this movie? Why? They were not essential to the plot. Was it really necessary for Singer to convey that Stryker had ended up giving Wolverine adamantium after all? Despite the time change in "DAYS OF FUTURE PAST"? What was the point? Could we at least have one "X-MEN" film in which Hugh Jackman does not appear? I also see that Singer, along with screenwriter Simon Kinberg, decided to include Stryker in this tale as a plot device to delay Hank, Raven, Peter, and Moira from reaching Cairo. Pointless. It was the most pointless moment in this movie. Finally, I had a problem with the "Four Horsemen". Aside from Magneto, the other three were barely used. What was the point in showing how they were recruited by En Sabah Nur, when Oscar Isaac and Michael Fassbender seemed to be the only ones in scenes featuring the ancient mutant and his "Horsemen", who had the most lines. It is bad enough that once again, Singer indulged in his penchant for ignoring minority characters like Storm and Psylocke. Then he includes Angel into this movie - who was shown to be younger than Storm, Scott and Jean in 2006's "X-MEN: THE LAST STAND" - and barely give the latter any lines.

And yet . . . I still liked "X-MEN: APOCALYPSE". In fact, I liked it more than I did "X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST". The 2016 movie had its problems, but it never seemed racked with so many plot holes like the 2014 movie did. Without the cloud of time travel hovering over the movie, the writing for "APOCALPYSE" struck me as a little clearer and a lot more straightforward. I can applause Singer for attempting to tackle something complicated as time travel. I simply believe that he, Kinberg and the other screenwriters did not handle it very well. On the other hand, the more straightforward narrative for "X-MEN: APOCALYPSE" seemed to suit both Singer and Kinberg.

I did not care for the minor arc regarding William Stryker and Wolverine. And yes, En Sabah Nur's plot to retake the world seemed a bit unoriginal. But Singer and Kinberg handled this story a lot better than they did the time travel plot for the 2014 movie. And to be honest, I rather liked it. I did not love it, but I liked it. I also liked the fact that En Sabah Nur's plot had a surprising twist (well, one that I did not see coming) that did not involved his "Four Horsemen". 

I may not have a high opinion of "DAYS OF FUTURE PAST". But the movie did provide some interesting consequences that played out in "APOCALYPSE". One, both movies allowed Xavier and Mystique to become close again, following their estrangement in "X-MEN: FIRST-CLASS". In one of the movie's more interesting scenes, Mystique discovers that she has become something of a legend to some of the younger mutants, including Xavier's students. The movie also allowed Jean Grey the opportunity to learn to utilize her "Dark Phoenix" powers with more control . . . and without Xavier trying to suppress her. Do not get me wrong. I am one of those fans who actually enjoyed "X-MEN: THE LAST STAND". But it was nice to see Xavier dealing with Jean's powers with a healthier attitude. And although I was not impressed by how Singer and Kinberg pushed Storm into the background - especially during the film's second half, it was nice to get a peek into her life as a young Cairo pickpocket before she ended up as one of Apocalypse's minions and later, a student at Xavier's school.

I certainly had no problem with the movie's productions. I thought Grant Major did an exceptional job in not only re-creating ancient Egypt for the movie's prologue and for the rest of it, the early 1980s. This is not surprising, considering Major's work with director Peter Jackson on movies such as "THE LORD OF THE RINGS" trilogy. Newton Thomas Sigel's cinematography contributed to the movie's epic and sweeping look. Louise Mingenbach's costumes, along with Geoffroy Gosselin and Anne Kuljian's set decorations struck me as a solid reflection of the movie's early 1980s setting. But the two aspects of the movie's visual style that really impressed me were Michael Louis Hill and John Ottman's editing, especially in scenes that involved En Sabah Nur's entombing in the movie's beginning and the X-Men's showdown with the ancient mutant. I was especially impressed with the movie's special effects, especially in the very two scenes that I had just pointed out.

The acting featured in "X-MEN: APOCALYPSE" also struck me as impressive. Well, to be honest, there were only a few performances that really caught my notice. However, I certainly had no problem with the other performances. Of the four actors who portrayed En Sabah Nur's "Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse", only one left no impression upon me - namely Ben Hardy, who portrayed Angel. The character barely had any lines and if I am mistaken, I could have sworn that Angel's character was from a younger generation (that of Rogue and Iceman's) - at least in the current movie franchise. I can also say the same about actress Lana Candor, who portrayed Jubilee. Not only did the actress barely had any lines, she was also portrayed as an Xavier student from Rogue and Iceman's generation in a previous movie. 

Although Alexandra Shipp, who portrayed Storm, and Olivia Munn, who portrayed Psylocke; were shifted to the background after their characters were introduced; both managed to impress me in the end. Shipp's portrayal of the adolescent Storm struck me as rather lively and energetic. And Munn was effectively intimidating as the mutant enforcer, who becomes one of En Sabah Nur's minions. The movie also featured solid performances from Rose Byrne, who returned as C.I.A. Agent Moira McTaggert; Sophie Turner and Tye Sheridan as the adolescent Jean Grey and Scott Summers aka "Cyclops"; Kodi Smit-McPhee as the younger Kurt Wagner aka "Nightcrawler"; Lucas Till as Alex Summers aka Havok; Nicholas Hoult as Dr. Hank McCoy aka "Beast"; Josh Helman as William Stryker; and Evan Peters as the always amusing Peter Maximoff aka "Quicksilver". If you are careful, you might also spot Hugh Jackman, Zeljko Ivanek, Ally Sheedy and of course, Stan Lee. 

Only four performances in this movie really impressed me. One of them turned out to be James McAvoy's portrayal of Charles Xavier aka "Professor X". At first, McAvoy's performance seemed solid . . . almost perfunctory. But once it became apparent that Professor Xavier's fate was connected with with En Sabah Nur's scheme, McAvoy skillfully portrayed the telepathic mutant with a great deal of emotion and pathos. Michael Fassbender proved to be equally fascinating as the emotionally battered Erik Lensherr. He did a great job in conveying Magneto's reactions to the deaths of a family and peaceful life, and to being emotionally manipulated by En Sabah Nur. Jennifer Lawrence continued to impress me with her excellent portrayal of the complex Raven aka "Mystique". I found it fascinating to watch the 20-something actress portray a character who had become battle hardened and mature after spending two decades fighting on behalf of fellow mutants. Many critics have complained about Oscar Isaac's portrayal of the movie's main villain, En Sabah Nur aka "Apocalypse". Apparently, they could not get past the actor's make-up or mask. Well, I could. And I thought Isaac did a pretty damn good job in portraying a villain who was not only something of an egomaniac, but also a world-class manipulator. And he did so with great skill and subtlety. 

I am not saying that "X-MEN: APOCALYPSE" was one of the best movies from the summer of 2016. Nor am I saying that it was one of the best in the "X-MEN" movie franchise. But I certainly do not believe that it was one of the worst. As far as I am concerned, the worst in the movie franchise was released four-and-a-half months earlier. But I thought it was something of an improvement over the convoluted plot that seemed to mar "X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST", thanks to Bryan Singer's direction, Simon Kinberg's screenplay and an excellent cast led by James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender.