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: Ready to Rumble (2000)

Also known as: Untitled Wrestling Movie (working title), Head Lock Go! Go! Professional Wrestling (Japanese English title)
Release Date: April 5th, 2000 (premiere)
Directed by: Brian Robbins
Written by: Steven Brill
Based on: World Championship Wrestling
Music by: George S. Clinton
Cast: David Arquette, Oliver Platt, Scott Caan, Bill Goldberg, Rose McGowan, Diamond Dallas Page, Joe Pantoliano, Martin Landau, Ahmet Zappa, Jill Ritchie, Caroline Rhea, Lewis Arquette, Kathleen Freeman, Steve “Sting” Borden, Bam Bam Bigelow, Randy Savage, Booker T, Sid “Vicious” Eudy, Juventud Guerrera, Curt Hennig, Disco Inferno, Billy Kidman, Konnan, Rey Misterio, Perry Saturn, Prince Iaukea, Van Hammer, Michael Buffer, Gene Okerlund, Tony Schiavone, Mike Tenay, Charles Robinson, Billy Silverman, The Nitro Girls, John Cena (uncredited)

Bel Air Entertainment, Outlaw Productions, Tollin/Robbins Productions, World Championship Wrestling, 107 Minutes

Review:

“Just cause it’s your dream doesn’t make it right or noble or whatever! Charles Manson was following his dream! Joseph Stalin, Michael Bolton, you get my point?” – Mr. Boggs

When this came out in 2000, I didn’t bother to see it. It didn’t matter that I was a wrestling fan or that WCW (World Championship Wrestling) was promoting the shit out of it. The movie just looked terrible beyond belief and well, frankly, movies with major wrestlers in them were never good, at least up until this point. Thanks for fixing that, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.

I finally caught this on TV a year or two later because I was trapped at home with my car in the shop, Uber didn’t yet exist, and there was nothing on in the afternoon other than soap operas, lame game shows and even lamer talk shows. So I gave in and watched this unfunny and bizarre turd.

Now I don’t want to sound like I’m just being mean and shitting on a shitty film for the sake of being an asshole. It’s just a bad fucking movie and that’s mostly because it was written by someone who doesn’t know a damn thing about wrestling. If they do, the script and the story doesn’t show it and it’s almost insulting for those who have a love for this stuff.

Frankly, professional wrestling was treated like a joke. I get that this is a comedy movie but that doesn’t mean that you don’t do your research and try to give the audience something more authentic. Look at Slap Shot, a movie about hockey that is, at times, batshit crazy. Yet, it respects the sport and it doesn’t insult the fans of it by being written by someone just writing about what they think hockey is about, as opposed to someone who actually knew because she spent a season traveling with her brother’s team, an experience that led to her writing the Slap Shot script.

I don’t know how the wrestlers in this weren’t furious and insulted. I don’t know how they didn’t have meltdowns on the set about how stupid and inaccurate the script was in regards to something that was their beloved profession. Granted, I’m sure they were held hostage by their contracts and had more mouths to feed other than their own but the actual wrestlers had to see the writing on the wall with this shit show.

Now all that being said, I can’t hate on David Arquette or Scott Caan for being in this. They both really tried to make the best out of it and Arquette is a lifelong wrestling fan that probably signed on to this with some enthusiasm. I hope he didn’t see how bad the script was until after he signed the dotted line though because I’d rather hope that he just got hoodwinked.

But the effects of this movie were so bad that it led to Arquette legitimately becoming the WCW World Heavyweight Champion in real life, something he was apprehensive about and felt disrespected the talent that spent their entire adult lives training for the spot that was handed to him just to help market a shit movie. The tactic massively backfired and the Arquette incident is a major factor in what led to WCW permanently shutting its doors a year later.

As for the movie, it’s terribly unfunny. It also doesn’t make a lot of sense and it makes wrestling look stupid as hell. The whole thing is a caricature of what it’s supposed to represent, written as if it were some asshole’s personal take on something he didn’t even give a shit about in the first place.

I honestly feel bad for the people in this film. And while I like Brian Robbins as a comedic actor, as a director, this is the equivalent of him volunteering to wear a dunce cap made out of excrement.

Rating: 2.75/10
Pairs well with: really, really shitty ’90s and ’00s buddy comedies.

Documentary Review: American Experience: War of the Worlds (2013)

Release Date: October 29th, 2013
Directed by: Cathleen O’Connell
Music by: John Kusiak
Narrated by: Oliver Platt

WGBH, PBS, 52 Minutes

Review:

The PBS television documentary series American Experience did an episode that covered the famous Orson Welles radio broadcast of War of the Worlds.

For those who don’t know, this broadcast convinced many Americans that New Jersey was being invaded by violent Martians. The radio program was done in the style of fake newscasts and those who tuned in too late to hear that this was a performance, were swept up in these fake news reports and thus, widespread panic ensued.

When I was a kid, I heard this story and I couldn’t understand how people could be duped like that. It made me think that people in the 1930s were morons. Living in the world today, I can now see how something like this would have been possible. The documentary also does a fine job outlining how this happened and the points it hits make a lot of sense.

Part of the documentary is made up of dramatizations and actors playing the roles of people who commented on the crazy incident from their historical point of view. These segments were filmed like typical talking head interviews and were there to add some context in regards to the public perception of the event.

Being a fan of Orson Welles, it was cool getting a lot more insight on this incident than just the basic story. It delved into the early production of the broadcast and also the aftermath and how well Welles handled the press and was able to have a huge career after this.

I really enjoyed this documentary and it is actually available on Netflix, at the time of this posting, anyway.

Rating: 7/10