Film Review: X-Men: First Class (2011)

Release Date: May 25th, 2011 (New York City premiere)
Directed by: Matthew Vaughn
Written by: Ashley Edward Miller, Zack Stentz, Jane Goldman, Matthew Vaughn, Sheldon Turner, Bryan Singer
Based on: X-Men by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby
Music by: Henry Jackman
Cast: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Rose Byrne, January Jones, Oliver Plat, Kevin Bacon, Jennifer Lawrence, Nicholas Hoult, Jason Flemyng, Lucas Till, Edi Gathegi, Caleb Landry Jones, Zoe Kravitz, Michael Ironside, Ray Wise, James Remar, Hugh Jackman (cameo)

Marvel Entertainment, Dune Entertainment, The Donners’ Company, Bad Hat Harry Productions, Ingenious Film Partners, Twentieth Century Fox, 131 Minutes

Review:

“I can’t stop thinking about the others out there, all those minds that I touched. I could feel them, their isolation, their hopes, their ambitions. I tell you we can start something incredible, Erik. We can help them.” – Professor Charles Xavier

While I haven’t seen this picture since it was in the theater, it left a great impression on me and gave me hope for the future of the X-Men franchise in film. Granted, we’d get two pretty good movies and two mostly poopy ones, but the weak whimpering farts of the second half of the prequel series of films didn’t take away my satisfaction with this one and its followup, Days of Future Past.

It was nice to revisit this, all these years later, as it holds up fairly well, even if I’m not as optimistic about the franchise now.

To start, this was much better than the last of the first run of films, X-Men: The Last Stand. That movie left such a bad taste in my mouth that anything better would have made me happy. Luckily, this was a lot better but I think that my original impression was a bit over-inflated due to the precedent set before it.

That’s not to say that this isn’t solid, it is. This is, in fact, a damn good superhero film and one of the best in the schizophrenic X-Men series.

What really sets this one on a pedestal is that the story was pretty good and the acting, at least from the core actors, was convincing and impressive. I didn’t know much about Michael Fassbender, before this, and I wasn’t yet sold on James McAvoy, but this picture cemented both men as two of my favorites over the last decade.

On the flip side of that, you also had some really weak performances from January Jones, who felt out of place and awkward, as well as the younger actors in the cast. A few of them would become better actors over time but they all mostly felt green, here.

I did like the inclusion of Kevin Bacon and Oliver Platt in this, as well as character actors Michael Ironside, James Remar and Ray Wise. While the character actors had small roles, they added an extra level of legitimacy and coolness to the picture.

I loved that this took place in the ’60s, tied to the Cuban Missile Crisis and also went back into Nazi Germany to establish the relationship between Magneto and Sebastian Shaw. The general look and aesthetic of the film were really good and it actually fits with the previous X-Men films, despite those being set over thirty years later. One thing Fox did well, while they managed the X-Men movie franchise, was that they kept everything sort of visually consistent.

My only real gripe about the film is that there isn’t enough emphasis on the actual “first class” of students, which this film is named after. They all felt generic and disposable, cast to play archetypes and nothing more. Sure, some of them are major comic book characters but they didn’t feel that way in this movie.

Overall, this was a good, fresh, soft reboot of the series. It eventually ties to the older films and the series becomes an even bigger continuity clusterfuck but at least this generation of the franchise started out on the right foot.

Rating: 8.25/10
Pairs well with: the other Fox X-Men films.

Film Review: Kingsman: The Golden Circle (2017)

Release Date: September 18th, 2017 (London premiere)
Directed by: Matthew Vaughn
Written by: Jane Goldman, Matthew Vaughn
Based on: The Secret Service by Mark Millar, Dave Gibbons
Music by: Henry Jackman, Matthew Margeson
Cast: Taron Egerton, Colin Firth, Mark Strong, Julianne Moore, Pedro Pascal, Halle Berry, Elton John, Channing Tatum, Jeff Bridges, Emily Watson, Sophie Cookson, Michael Gambon, Poppy Delevingne

Marv Films, Cloudy Productions, Shangri-La Entertainment, TSG Entertainment, 20th Century Fox, 141 Minutes

Review:

“Kingsman is crumpets!” – Poppy

I didn’t see the first Kingsman film until a few months ago. In fact, it was the trailer for this film that made me watch the original, which I had heard good things about but never got around to seeing. I wanted to see this one in the theater, so I made it a point to see the first. I loved the first.

This chapter in the series, which I hope will continue and not just end at two like Matthew Vaughn’s Kick-Ass films, was a great follow-up to the first. It takes the established mythos, builds off of it and gets a bit crazier.

The film starts with the destruction of the Kingsman organization. Everyone is killed except for Eggsy and Merlin. Harry is still alive, as well, but the heroes still think he is dead after the events of the first film. It was kind of shitty seeing Roxy getting killed off early in the film because I was hoping to see more of her after the first picture.

The story then brings the Kingsman to the United States, Kentucky to be exact. They soon meet their American counterpart, the Statesman. The two groups form an alliance and discover the sinister plot that has been set in motion by Poppy, a crazy drug dealer with a nostalgic affinity for the 1950s. Julianne Moore is pretty friggin’ amazing in this role and it may be my favorite thing she has ever done.

The Golden Circle also features Elton John in much more than just a cameo role. He is in the film quite a bit, kicks some ass and delivers some great comedic lines.

Also joining the cast are the head of the Statesman, the Dude himself, Jeff Bridges. We also get Channing Tatum as Tequila, a Statesman agent that doesn’t have enough screen time, and Halle Berry as the Statesman’s equivalent to Merlin. Pedro Pascal is the Statesman that really steals the show, however.

Overall, this film is pretty much equal to the original. They are good companion pieces to each other and there is a real consistency in the quality, style and fun.

I feel that this chapter was more insane, even though the first was pretty ridiculous in all the right ways. You have a scene where the evil Poppy has a new henchman stuff an old henchman into a meat grinder and then she serves him a burger made out of the meat. It’s a moment that made me think, “As cool as this movie is and as much as I think she’d enjoy it, I won’t be bringing my mum to this.”

Even though these films have large ensemble casts with really talented stars, it is Taron Egerton that is the true star and is the glue of these movies. He doesn’t get the props he deserves but I hope doors open up for this kid because he’s incredibly talented and can carry a motion picture, outshining many of the stars around him. He has a presence and you have to take him seriously.

Kingsman: The Golden Circle is a lot of fun. It is exactly what I hoped for in a Kingsman sequel and I hope it is a sign that the series will maintain its quality, assuming it continues on. I really hope it does.

Rating: 8/10

Film Review: Kingsman: The Secret Service (2014)

Release Date: December 13th, 2014 (Butt-Numb-A-Thon)
Directed by: Matthew Vaughn
Written by: Jane Goldman, Matthew Vaughn
Based on: The Secret Service by Mark Millar, Dave Gibbons
Music by: Henry Jackman, Matthew Margeson
Cast: Taron Egerton, Colin Firth, Samuel L. Jackson, Mark Strong, Michael Caine, Sofia Boutella, Sophie Cookson, Mark Hamill

Marv Films, Cloudy Productions, Shangri-La Entertainment, TSG Entertainment, 20th Century Fox, 129 Minutes

Review:

“There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.” – Harry Hart

I missed this when it initially came out in the theater a few years back and then it sort of got lost in the shuffle of time. However, I’ve really heard nothing but great things about it since it came out and I wanted to give it a watch now that its sequel is coming out.

I certainly wasn’t disappointed and in fact, I was really impressed with the film but I guess I can expect great things from Matthew Vaughn after he gave us Layer CakeKick-Ass and X-Men: First Class. Plus, this thing had a solid cast with Colin Firth, Sam Jackson, Mark Strong, Michael Caine, Mark Hamill, Sofia Boutella and impressive newcomers Taron Egerton and Sophie Cookson.

It is impossible to not compare this film to the James Bond series, as it is a gadget-filled British action spy thriller. The main difference, is this is more of a comedy and features a young spy coming into the fold. Kingsman, though, is a much hipper take on the genre.

You see, as James Bond was forced to evolve into a more serious series at the beginning of the Daniel Craig era, the jovial spirit of the franchise has been missing. It is understandable that it had to change, as films like Austin Powers were parodying it to the point of no return and the Pierce Brosnan era (no fault of Brosnan’s) had gotten too hokey and playful for its own good.

Kingsman brings us back to that classic Bond energy without being overly cheesy. It somehow found the perfect balance between serious and playful for the modern era. It is also cooler than the modern Bond movies and a lot more interesting. It fills the giant void that has been gone for a long time and it has kind of cemented itself in there. In fact, the James Bond franchise could learn a lot from this film.

Parts of the movie, however, are a bit insane and very stylized. The thing is, it works to this film’s benefit. Kingsman knows what it is and it really embraces itself, for better or for worse. That being said, its self-confidence permeates with something truly genuine and fantastically bad ass. It has gravitas that the uber serious modern Bond pictures don’t have. And don’t get me wrong, I generally like the Craig Bond films but Kingsman is the true throwback to the classic era of spy thrillers, even if it brings its own refreshing take to the table.

The entire cast is extraordinary and there really isn’t a weak link. Taron Egerton was perfect casting as the main character, Eggsy. Samuel Jackson, Michael Caine and Mark Strong each had a great presence. It was cool seeing Mark Hamill and Sofia Boutella, now most famous as the newest version of the title character in The Mummy.

It is Colin Firth that really takes the cake in the picture, though. This is a great role for him, a man who has played just about everything and won an Oscar in the process. Honestly, as much as I loved him in The King’s Speech, this is now my favorite Firth role.

Kingsman: The Secret Service is a wonderful experience, especially for old school James Bond fans that have been yearning for something in that classic style. While this is a very modernized take on the genre, it truly knows its roots and it balances the new with the old pretty seamlessly. Most importantly, the film is exciting and fun.

Rating: 8/10

 

Film Review: X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)

Release Date: May 10th, 2014 (Javits Center premiere)
Directed by: Bryan Singer
Written by: Simon Kinberg, Jane Goldman, Matthew Vaughn
Based on: Days of Future Past by Chris Claremont, John Byrne
Music by: John Ottman
Cast: Hugh Jackman, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Halle Berry, Anna Paquin, Ellen Page, Peter Dinklage, Ian McKellen, Patrick Stewart

20th Century Fox, Marvel Entertainment, TSG Entertainment, Bad Hat Harry Productions, The Donners’ Company, 131 Minutes

Review:

*Originally written in 2014.

I’m not really sure how Professor X is alive again after being disintegrated in the third X-Men movie but I don’t care. I also don’t know why he and Magneto showed up at the end of the most recent Wolverine film to ask Logan for his seemingly immediate assistance when they didn’t actually need him until much further in the future and only after Logan told them why they needed him. But who cares, right? This is a film series littered with massive continuity errors. And the point of this newest film in the series, is to rewrite its own history, wash away the confusion and reboot the series.

I think I still like X-Men: First Class the best. However, this film is certainly the best of the series out of the films that feature the original cast from the first three films. Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen have an amazing chemistry and this film maximized it. The plot was well constructed – for an X-Men film anyway, the action sequences were pretty well put together and the acting was top notch.

The fact of the matter is, I’ll pretty much watch anything with Michael Fassbender or James McAvoy in it. I’ll also watch Hugh Jackman as Wolverine every day of the week. Mix in the awesomeness that is Patrick Stewart and Sir Ian McKellen and you have damn near a masterpiece! Jennifer Lawrence was also great, as were Nicholas Hoult and Peter Dinklage. Actually, in many ways, Dinklage stole the show. Additionally, everyone was ripping Quicksilver before this film even came out. Well, jokes on you people because he was awesome!

Going into this chapter of the series, I felt that adding time travel and a massive cast of characters to the mix would make the plot convoluted. It actually flowed quite well and the balance between both sides of the universe came across nicely. However, I was hoping to see more from the future characters; Blink, Bishop, Sunspot and Warpath were just there to really add to the action and had no character development whatsoever. They just felt like fodder for the future Sentinels and really, that’s all they were. It’d be interesting to see their characters fleshed out more or even minutely, as they were just faces on a screen dying multiple times.

I felt like despite being integral to the time travel element, Kitty Pryde should have had more of an impact or an expanded role. Her entire presence in this film was just two hours of her leaning over a dude’s head and moaning. Iceman had some cool moments but nothing all that noteworthy. Hey was that Sookie? I couldn’t tell because she had less than two seconds of screen time! And man, Vampire Bill is going to be pissed she’s holding hands with the Ice Princess!

This was a damn good X-Men movie. For me, First Class still has the lead but this washed away the pain of The Last Stand and that first Wolverine film, which I still haven’t seen in its entirety. Speaking of which, it would’ve been nice to see Sabertooth in this film and by “Sabertooth”, I mean Liev Schreiber with claws straight tearing shit up!

Lastly, stay until the end of the credits because there is a scene that leads into the next film in the X-Men series. The scene introduces my favorite villain in all of X-Men lore, so enjoy.

Getting back to the question I had to start this review, I must have missed where this was mentioned in the film. However, IMDb answers the question of how Professor Charles Xavier is alive in the future. Here’s what their FAQ says:

It is said that Xavier transferred his consciousness into a comatose body believed to be that of his brother prior to being disintegrated. Thus, we can assume that the physical body of Xavier in Days of Future Past is actually that of the body which Xavier took control of.

Wait.. what?!

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: The current crop of X-Men movies since James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender took over the lead roles. Also, the last two Wolverine pictures.