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Movies Playing This Week: X-Men: Dark Phoenix and more

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Opening this week: The pickings are a tad slimmer than anticipated at Orlando multiplexes this week, with the highly anticipated Emma Thompson/Mindy Kaling comedy Late Night pushed to June 14 in our market. That leaves two major openers for Friday: The Secret Life of Pets 2 (see review) has the kids covered, while the rest of us have to be satisfied with:

X-Men: Dark Phoenix Really? Really? THIS is the movie no one dared go up against? As 800-pound gorillas go, Dark Phoenix is Harambe after the political assassination. (Dicks out for Jean Grey!) To employ another metaphor, witnessing the rollout of this film's promotion has been like watching a car head slowly but determinedly toward a brick wall – if you knew the vehicle model in question had already been recalled. For one thing, the acquisition of Fox by Disney has made all of the former's remaining Marvel projects instantly irrelevant, with the conversation centering on how the likes of the X-Men and the Fantastic Four are going to be portrayed now that somebody competent is in charge. And it doesn't help that the set reports from, and trailer materials for, Dark Phoenix have inspired reactions ranging from deep concern to outright disavowal. Remember when the rescue of the X-Men franchise from Brett Ratner was considered something of an artistic miracle? Well that's four movies ago, brother, and now we have to deal with the worrisome prospect that yet another creative team has tanked the merry mutants while shredding the same one of their most cherished story arcs. (Previous title holder in this category: Warner Bros., for squandering key story elements from Batman: The Dark Knight Returns across two entirely separate features. And let me tell ya, it takes a lot to make a decent man utter the sentence "Frank Miller deserved better.") Making matters worse, Dark Phoenix was reportedly pushed back a year because director Simon Kinberg had to completely reshoot its ending, to avoid uncomfortable similarities to another superhero flick that had come out in the interim. (The speculation: Captain Marvel.) Star Sophie Turner is on record saying she really loves the new ending because it's more "grounded" than the original battle in deep space – which sounds to me like a politic way of saying, "We ran out of money." But go easy on her, because she's already had to deal with the public flameout of another big fantasy franchise this month. Amidst all this commotion, Fox has pushed its New Mutants feature – allegedly the final entry in its X-universe before the whole magilla gets shuttled off to the Mouse House – from summer 2019 to 2020. If Dark Phoenix pushes up daisies as expected, I'm predicting that one goes straight to Vimeo. (PG-13)

Also playing: Hail Satan? Take a humorous yet enlightening look at the ways in which the Satanic Temple has challenged the commingling of church and state by demanding equal time for its infernal monuments on public grounds. This documentary was one of Orlando Weekly's favorites from the 2019 Florida Film Festival. But that shouldn't surprise anybody, as it's well known exactly whom we're in thrall to. (R; playing at Enzian Theater, Maitland)

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