X Men: First Class

Posted on June 14, 2011. Filed under: Movies to see before you die, Reviews | Tags: , , , , , |

Cinemas. I remember them. They were those things I used to go to all the time before I started my medical degree.

When I first heard about X Men: First Class I dismissed it as Saved By The Bell with mutants.  But when they decided to combine it with the back stories of Xavier and Magneto (previously pitched as two or even three separate movies) it started to get interesting again. So off to Camden Odeon I went. And here’s what I thought.

X Men: First Class is awesome. I know I overuse that word, but it really is. For X Men fangirls/boys it’s got just enough new mutants to keep us geeking out without falling into the trap of Last Stand by having too many.  Of course, some are more interesting than others.  Although Havok’s existence in the movie was cool, the actual character didn’t do much to grab my attention, and Angel (mark 2? ‘cos I know we’ve already had one underused character called Angel) was just wallpaper.  Emma Frost was forgotten for half the movie, but she was cool to have around while she was there,  Banshee was more fun than I thought he’d be, and other more minor characters fulfilled their roles of having cool powers and then getting out of the way of the plot.

From the outset I’ve had issues with the casting of Jennifer Lawrence as Mystique. I’m not even sure what it is about her, she just feels wrong. It doesn’t help that I’ve always imagined Raven with black hair (as she had in Last Stand, and hence the name) but Lawrence’s version was a bit too whiny and not cool enough for one of my favourite X Men.

That is my only minor quibble. Other than that this film is brilliant.  It’s being hailed as the best of the franchise, and I’ll definitely agree that it’s up there with the best. McAvoy and Fassbender are well matched as Charles and Eric, without whom this movie would be completely flat. McAvoy in particular shines, with a great balance of dry wit and genuine heart that it is easy to imagine transforming into the Patrick Stewart version we know and love.  The brotherly relationship developed between our two leads is very well written, and sets the scene nicely for how they react to each other in later movies. It’s a kind of old fashioned bromance that works well, knowing as we do what the pair will go through together later

Nicholas Hoult as Beast was almost shockingly good.  Beast isn’t a character I’ve ever got that into, and as much as I love Kelsey Grammar I found his portrayal in the third movie clunky.  Hoult however captures a nerdy shyness within a strength of character that finally makes Beast sympathetic.  His Jekyll and Hyde sub plot is a nice device and although the affinity between him and Mystique is obvious he plays it well.

The plot moves along at a good pace and keeps refreshing itself with new obstacles to overcome.  There are a couple of great throwaway jokes which have managed to recapture the sort of humour that made the first two movies great, while still giving us the action set pieces that we have come to expect from the big budget superhero movies.  The final battle is a feast of visual effects.

As perhaps the only blogger on the planet who didn’t trash Wolverine, I found myself trying to fit this film around the timeline of that one, bearing in mind that some characters cross over.  There are a couple of bits I couldn’t quite match up (probably mostly due to not having seen Wolverine in a while) but on the whole I think the continuity of this film with the rest of the series is much better than what has gone before.  There weren’t any gaping inconsistencies that jumped out at me (apart from possibly one that I need to check) and everything else fit in well with my (albeit limited) knowledge of the X Men universe. Made this Marvel geek very happy.

There’s not much else I can say without wandering into spoiler territory.  Most of the reason I love X Men is  centred around a certain adamantium clawed anti-hero , yet I didn’t find myself missing him. It looks like the X Men movies are finally back on track after one or two slight derailments.  All I know is I left the cinema a couple of hours ago and I already want to go see it again. And again.

Oh, and if that was enough for you, this movie contains the best cameo appearance ever. Ever.

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It’s about time for another trailer…

Posted on February 11, 2011. Filed under: News, Trailers | Tags: , , , |

I know this blog has got pretty Marvel heavy recently but I couldn’t let this one go by without a post.  I’ve already caught it on three different blogs this morning so I’d be letting the side down if I didn’t post it too!

X Men: First Class. I had reservations. Then they cast McAvoy.  Now we have a trailer. And it looks gooooooood!

What do you think?

And if you haven’t voted in The Great Debate yet you can do so here

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Wimbledon

Posted on June 25, 2010. Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , , , , , , |

In December I wrote about my favourite Christmas movies that I watch every year.  There’s only one other seasonal film that always gets a viewing, this time during the Summer, and that’s Wimbledon.

Wimbledon is a great, and greatly under-appreciated, film which I’ll happily watch all year round, but the beginning of the championships usually reminds me that it’s been a while since my last viewing.  It’s not a film people tend to get terribly enthusiastic about, which I think is a shame because while it might not be the most surprising plot, it is a sweet story with a lot of heart and an endearing set of characters.

One of the best things about Wimbledon is that you don’t have to like tennis to enjoy it.  I have a pretty vague interest in the sport, but this film really grabbed my attention the first time, and, if I’m honest, I’ve probably become more interested in tennis since.

What we have here is another Working Title RomCom, and it’s a fairly predictable one: boy meets girl, obstacles are overcome, happily ever after etc. etc.  What makes the film great is the backdrop of the tennis tournament and, in no small part, Paul Bettany’s loveable failing ex-tennis champ Peter Colt, on his last legs as a wild card entry.

I think without Bettany, this film would have a lot less going for it.  He has just the right amount of sarcasm and self-deprecating humour to fit the part perfectly, while creating a character you really warm to.  In my opinion, he is a truly great actor who can brighten up even bad movies, effortlessly carrying this one.  There’s real emotion in the final match scenes, which still have me holding my breath as he serves, despite the fact I know exactly what’s going to happen.

And while we’re talking about the matches, a great deal of effort has gone into making each one an exciting ride, using bullet time technology and CGI tennis balls to give variety to what could be a very repetitive format.  The final match in particular is loaded with tension.  What I really love about the tennis matches though, are the occasions when we go inside Colt’s head and hear his thoughts, which are refreshingly un-confident and honest.

On to the rest of the cast, and what a supporting cast we have!  Kirsten Dunst just about manages to be likeable playing Lizzie, a character who is essentially a bit of a brat.  Although every time she says “Peter” I can’t help but think “Parker.”

Making up the rest we have a series of great British actors, including Bernard Hill, Eleanor Bron and the fantastic James McAvoy (no trace of Scots accent) who delivers a great overlooked sibling, his obvious cycling prowess never once mentioned by any of the other characters.  Jon Favreau works well as the money grabbing agent, and Sam Neil finishes the group nicely as Lizzie’s overbearing father.

Wimbledon portrays a certain kind of Englishness that I think is very much defined by the tennis tournament.  We sit and eat our strawberries in silence, only cheering at the allowed times, and will always, always, love an underdog on his way back up from the bottom.  There’s also a lot of dry British humour, which cuts through any moments of mushyness.  There’s a great friendship between Colt and German training partner Prohl, and of course the final match has to be pitted against an over-confident cocky American jerk, but Englishman Colt is just a stereotyped; as the privileged Middle Class boy, with bickering parents and constant need to apologise.

Wimbledon is a great film to watch as a warm up for the real life action to come, or at any other time when you need a pick me up.  It’s a heart-warming story, with edge-of-your-seat tennis matches and a hero you can really root for.  Makes me come over all patriotic.

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