Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Cuz Marvel mutants don't fly coach, baby...

X-Men: First Class  (20th Century Fox, 2011)

It's hard to find the real poster as most theaters now just stick up the teaser
version and you never really see the release poster. And then there are all the
fake ones on the internet; some of which look better than the real one! In any
case, this was my fave among the choices; I think it's a non quad UK version.

Before the Camera:

James McAvoy  (Bollywood Queen)
Michael Fassbender  (Inglorious Basterds)
Kevin Bacon  (Friday the 13th '80)
Rose Byrne  (Bridesmaids)
Jennifer Lawrence  (Winter's Bone)
Oliver Platt  (Lake Placid)
Álex González  (The Good Boy)
Jason Flemyng  (Spice World)
Zoë Kravitz  (Assassination of a High School President)
January Jones  (TV's Mad Men)
Nicholas Hoult  (Clash of the Titans)
Caleb Landry Jones  (The Last Exorcism)
Edi Gathegi  (My Bloody Valentine 3-D)
Corey Johnson  (Out for a Kill)
Lucas Till  (Battle: Los Angeles)
Glenn Morshower  (Dead and Buried)
Matt Craven  (Indian Summer)
James Remar  (48 Hours)
Ray Wise  (Robocop)
Brendan Fehr  (Final Destination)
Michael Ironside  (Scanners)

Behind the Camera:
Directed by Matthew Vaughn
Produced by Gregory Goodman, Simon Kinberg, Josh McLaglen, Tarquin Pack, Lauren Shuler Donner, Bryan Singer, and Stan Lee

Written By Ashley Miller & Zack Stentz and Jane Goldman & Matthew Vaughn / Sheldon Turner (story) and Bryan Singer (story)

Based on characters and concepts created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby

Stan Lee brought a novel twist to the superhero genre in the early 60's: he made his heroes shlubs like the rest of us out of costume. Together with his co-creators, artists like Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko, he found a lot of success with titles like The Fantastic Four, The Amazing Spider-Man, and The Incredible Hulk. For his next effort, Lee thought of taking the "regular joe"concept a bit further - what if he had a group of heroes born with their powers - mutants - and instead of being regaled as heroes, they were instead feared and hated by most of the world for their physical and mental superiority? And with that, he and Jack Kirby sat down and put together The Uncanny X-Men, a title that had a comparatively unspectacular run throughout the 1960's. The comic was cancelled in 1970, but the characters popped up in guest spots in other comics throughout the early 70's, and their old comics were reprinted and did as well if not better in sales the second time out. It seems the age range for comics had shifted up, and teens going through all their hormonal angst were beginning to discover that the X-Men and their weird body changes and disgruntled view of a world that viewed them negatively really struck home. So Marvel revamped the team, and relaunched the comic in 1975. This time the combo of the original concept with the new characters and some deeper storytelling sent the sales through the roof, and for about the next 20 years anything Marvel released that was mutant related sold like hotcakes, especially so if it had an "X" in the title.

Left to right - Magneto, Moira McTaggart, Emma Frost, Azazel, Beast, Havoc, Angel, Mystique, and Professor X.
Not pictured - the mutant Photoshoppo, who can make people appear in the same picture despite no proximity...

    The X-Men came to the movie world in 2000 in Marvel's first respectable showing as a purveyor of filmic entertainment; and everyone seems to agree that the sequel X2 (2003) really hit it out of the park. However, most seem to feel that X-Men: The Last Stand is terrible because regardless of what ended up on screen there was an asshat behind the camera; and no one seems to like the spinoff X-Men Origins: Wolverine all that much for some reason. Personally, I enjoyed all of them to varying degrees, but none were less than entertaining. And now comes the fifth film in the franchise. And boy howdy did they take this one in a different direction. The first three movies detail a running battle between Professor Charles Xavier and his mutant students - the X-Men - against Xavier's former friend Erik Lensherr - now known as the villain Magneto - and his army of evil mutants. The Wolverine flick dropped this plotline to concentrate on one of the most popular of the new (1975) mutant team members and his early days. And now comes this new movie, which drops back in time (too far?) to show the early days of mutants Charles Xavier and Erik Lensherr, starting with their childhoods in 1944. There's a lot of plot here, so I'm going to try to boil this down a bit to keep this post from running from now until doomsday - the main plot picks up in 1962. Xavier (McAvoy), with his mental telepathy and mind control is now a world expert on mutants. Lensherr (Fassbender), the master of magnetism, is now a revenge seeking Nazi hunter. They come together along with the CIA when it turns out they are all trying to stop the same man: Sebastian Shaw (Bacon); the mysterious mutant head of the evil Hellfire Club. Shaw's got delusions of Bond villain as he plans to take over the world with his squad of evil mutants, even if he has to start World War III to do it. Xavier and Lensherr begin recruiting their own mutant team to stop the madman, and among them are some familiar faces for those up on the comic lore; others are newbies to the story. While the superhero action comes fast and furious as the two groups battle for supremacy, a rift begins to tear at the men's new friendship when Lensherr's violent methods do not set well with the more peaceful Xavier. And then a load of Russian nuclear missiles headed to Cuba becomes the catalyst that may set off a nuclear holocaust, and the two men are forced to work together for what will likely be the last time, win or lose. Can they stop Shaw in his crazed bid for ultimate power?

"I told you not to order the refried beans and guac, didn't I? Somebody turn on the fan!"

The second of three Marvel comics movies to hit the Big Screen this season, this is a thoroughly engaging
movie which surpasses the entertaining Thor and arguably takes the top spot in the X-movies as well. Setting the movie as far back as 1962 has some problems if this is to be taken as a precursor to the other films in the series - Halle Berry wasn't even born in 1962, for one thing - but what a terrific palette of fashion and design it gives the filmmakers to play with! After a dark and rightfully somber opening sequence, the 1962 section kicks the movie into high gear.
"You know the first movie I was in was set in 1962 too.
Perhaps you've heard of Animal House?"
"Oh, yeah, I think that came out the year I was born!"
Tapping into the current cultural zeitgeist for the early 60's brought about at least in part by the TV series Mad Men (and even borrowing one of its actresses), this movie gives us an almost playful look at the decade before the dramatics take over and things take a more serious turn for the final act. The middle section is very much like a pastiche of the James Bond movies of the time, with spy gadgets, big villainous lairs, and eye popping sets and effects. I also love the incredibly short skirts on all the ladies - each roughly four inches higher up the leg than you probably would have found in the real 1962, but appreciated here nonetheless! The storyline takes elements from all the way back to the original Lee and Kirby run, and mixes them like a dry martini with twists and turns layered in from across almost 50 years of comics history. Hey, speaking of Stan Lee - where was his cameo? He's been popping up in larger and more important cameos in the last several Marvel movies - and then he's nowhere to be seen in this movie despite giant conference tables full of military guys and businessmen. *sigh* At least there is another well placed walk-on for a familiar face...but that's all I'm going to say about that.
    And not having our Stan Lee moment is a total quibble, because this movie is simply a lot of fun. The actors are all well suited to their roles, with leads McAvoy and Fassbender suggestive of their older counterparts (Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen for those not paying attention) without resorting to full on impressions. As the Big Villain, Kevin Bacon lives up to his last name - and you all know how much I love bacon! He's so nasty in the opening scenes my wondrous wife Suze leaned over and advised she hoped he was just doing a cameo because she wanted to see him reach a bad end very soon in the movie. But he is the wily main baddie, and is terrific in the role. The younger cast members acquit themselves well; and the supporting cast is well sprinkled with familiar faces. The effects are stupendous, and I was very pleased to see ol' John Dykstra (Star Wars) listed as the Visual Effects Designer. This one goes beyond being a good superhero movie. It's a good movie, period. So, what has two thumbs and gives this a solid recommendation? 

Who says this isn't the LGOOH Age of Blog Cameos in Stan Lee's honor?

Let's Get Out of Here ?

As seems to always be the case - I'm listening so hard for the line I don't hear it - if it's there. More research to come!

Eye Candy ?


For never wearing more than 1 square yard of material across her entire body for the entire film - January Jones is in!

I don't care that it's June. I've got a January Jones now!

For proving that actresses can be blue for reasons other than an enviromental temperature below 80 degrees and .01% body fat, and still look sexy - Jennifer Lawrence brings home the prize!

A blonde vision - a blue fantasy - one and the same, sharing the name - Jennifer Lawrence.

For proving that I do find brunettes attractive, especially when they step up to the plate and drop trou for a nice lingerie scene - Rose Byrne completes our winner's circle this time out!

This is not the outfit she wears in the movie - but it is this
blog artist's representation of it...

Buddha Man's Capsule Review

Buddha Man says "X-Men First Class lives up to its title
in all departments."

Thank you Mr. Man, and til next post, you Can Poke Me With A Fork, Cause I Am Outta Here!

1 comment:

  1. Terrific review, pal! I always enjoy your historical context. And I must admit, I was kind of surprised by the absence of Stan Lee. Where was his patented marvel cameo? Was he in it and we just missed him? Strange. Great job!