james mcavoy

Movie Review: X-Men: Days of Future Past

xmendaysoffuturepast_posterThere’s usually one or two things I don’t ever expect from superhero movies. One being that I don’t expect my IQ to grow even slightly and two being I don’t expect to feel any type of emotional connection. There’s a few superhero movies that surprised by making me feel the latter- X-MEN: FIRST CLASS was one of those special few. It was so surprising to me that I would feel so connected to the relationship between Magneto and Professor X that it almost felt silly. Regardless of the shame I feel on the front of having any emotional connection to a character nicknamed Magneto, it really made me love that movie. So here we are with X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST and I’m left wondering what happened to that magic?

This film blends the old cast and new cast by showing a future where mutants face extinction by an unbeatable foe, the Sentinals. To combat the threat Professor X (Patrick Stewart) and the gang come up with a plan to send Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) into the past to the point in history where the threat began. When he awakes in his younger body Wolverine/Logan must do the impossible and unite Charles (James McAvoy) and Eric (Michael Fassbender) at a time they were bitter enemies. Together they all have to track down Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) before she unintentionally gives the war on mutants exactly what it needs to defeat them. (more…)

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Movie Review: Arthur Christmas (2011)

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Christmas comes but once a year and the season is never short of the movies that take advantage of the setting. There is any number of fresh takes on the legend of Santa and the responsibilities bestowed upon him and none have been quite as fun as in ARTHUR CHRISTMAS. All Christmas movies are fun in their own right, but right off the bat ARTHUR CHRISTMAS introduced a take on the character and how the world works in a way that I found charming and interesting, before tapering off in the middle and reeling me back in with good old fashioned heart for the finale.

Every kid’s worst nightmare around Christmas is being the kid Santa forgot around Christmas and that is the idea the film explores. Santa has evolved into more of a celebrity that doesn’t do any of the work and instead his eldest son, Steve, has created a well oiled present delivering machine in the form of a ship that travels at incredible speeds and hordes of elves operating with great precision to carry out all the normal Santa functions. Santa himself shows up to deliver one specific present to each child with the signature “From Santa” tag and moves on. However, Santa’s youngest son, Arthur, has a heart of gold and deals with all the letters from the children. After a simple accident within the ship ends with a present getting lost and a glitch in Steve’s system allows it to go un-noticed Arthur and his grandfather set out to make it right so that no child wakes up Christmas morning feeling like Santa does not care about them.

The beauty of ARTHUR CHRISTMAS is the imagination behind it. Beyond that, the icing on the cake is the care done to explore the wonder of exploring how things used to be and the overall tone and warm fuzzies that the Christmas season is capable of giving us all. The film starts off with a more modern look at how the folks at the North Pole have advanced with technology and how the advancements have made the process that much more mechanical and impersonal thus taking out the magic on some level. Once the adventure half of the film begins the wonderment of the season takes over, before getting lost somewhere in the middle just as characters do before wrapping itself up in a neat and tidy way- and as the elf character that tags along for the ride always says, “There’s always time for a bow.”

The animation is dazzling at times, showing off the imagination of the folks involved with the film especially during the opening gift delivering scene. There are plenty of moments though for the animation to get into different settings that don’t resemble the winter fantasy of the early scenes that are just as impressive as the more fantastic elements. There’s humor within the animation as well, which at times doesn’t feel as kid friendly as most holiday films tend to be.

As Christmas movies go, they tend to lean heavily on what makes kids tick and focus on jokes that are easy for them to understand. ARTHUR CHRISTMAS has jokes tailor fit for the kids in the audience, but there are plenty of one liners and visual references that are likely to fly right over their heads. So basically, what we end up with here is a holiday film with the goods to satisfy the old and the young, but not always both at the same time.

The scope of the film is large and the ambition might have been much narrower, yet the results nonetheless come out on the side of crowd pleasing entertainment that’s brisk and inoffensive. ARTHUR CHRISTMAS tends to feel a bit off-track at times, but when its on-track the film is immensely charming and a whole lot of fun to watch. The beautiful animation only sweetens the pot that much more for a film with its heart placed firmly in the right spot and a wonderful choice for family holiday viewing.

Rating: B+

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

In the world of comics I am admittedly naïve and somewhat aloof of many mythologies that exist within them. I know quite a bit about Batman despite reading just a single Batman comic, but I’ve always stuck primarily to the movie incarnations than the print. I do read the occasional comic, but they are few and far between. The X-Men mythology is one I’ve learned or absorbed almost entirely from the films that have been released. I have to say I have liked but not loved a single one of them, but with Matthew Vaughn involved with X-MEN: FIRST CLASS I was more than willing to give it a fair shake, having been a huge fan of KICK ASS. As it stands, X-MEN FIRST CLASS is easily my favorite in the world of X-Men movies due to a fun yet cheesy script, Vaughn’s stylish direction and the acting chops of Michael Fassbender.

X-MEN: FIRST CLASS is a prequel to the original trilogy that follows the origins of both Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) who later becomes Professor X and Erik Lehnsherr (Michael Fassbender) who later becomes Magneto. Erik becomes consumed with revenge when a Nazi leader, Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon) kills his mother right in front of him in order to get him to prove his ability. His quest for revenge causes his path to cross with Charles who is assisting the CIA in trying to solve a plot involving mutants that Shaw has assembled and are orchestrating tensions between the U.S. And Russia in order to get one of them to ignite World War III. Erik and Charles become good friends while training a group of young mutants to use their powers responsibly in order to defeat Shaw.

One of my favorite aspects of X-MEN: FIRST CLASS was Michael Fassbender’s performance as Erik/Magneto. If I had one complaint it’s that there wasn’t enough of just him going around hunting the Nazi’s and tracking down Shaw, not quite enough of him developing both the relationships between him and Charles and him with the other mutants Charles recruits. There is enough there to make the film work and make it work well, but not enough to make it as unforgettable as I wish it was. Erik’s relationship with Charles is that of two separate ideologies regarding their perception of the human race; that’s also my favorite aspect regarding Fassbender’s portrayal of Magneto. Here he’s a sympathetic character that we know is destined for a tragic crossroads with Erik but you never have that sense that he is a villain. So the audience is free to root for both sides while also being able to pick which side they believe is more right than the other.

A couple of things that kept me from being head over heels with X-MEN: FIRST CLASS was some of the cheesier moments within the script and some of the really cartoonish special effects. The script itself is quite strong even with some of the cheesy dialogue; it just seemed a little too much at times. There are some very striking images that are set up with the visual effects, but then again some of them are undoubtedly fake and silly looking. There is also an abundance of montage moments and music; some that work and some that just don’t seem to fit. Not all the performances are that great, specifically January Jones. She might be great to look at but as a character in X-MEN: FIRST CLASS she has the movements and personality of a fembot from AUSTIN POWERS.

A lot of credit for the quality here goes to Matthew Vaughn. He gives the film a slick and stylish look as well as a tone that is tense in all the right places, great superhero action, some good comedic beats that includes a very cool cameo. Vaughn directs some very memorable visuals and action scenes that include the shot of Magneto lifting a sub straight from the ocean, hundreds of missiles hurling their way at the mutants on an island, shots of which can each be seen in the trailer.

I do look forward to seeing more of a variety as far as the mutants and their powers should sequels be thrown into development. There are some cool characters in X-MEN: FIRST CLASS, including Havoc, Azazel and Banshee. I will say that Azazel’s character design at times gave me a Hellboy vibe, mostly due to the bright red look and the devil tail. As I mentioned though, Fassbender as Magneto more than steals the show; although I still wish that the friendship dynamic between him and McAvoy’s character was fleshed out a little more.

I have to admit, at first the prospect of an origin story did not appeal to me in the slightest when X-MEN: FIRST CLASS was announced. After seeing it though, I’m pretty excited about more films from this storyline as long as they are at or above this quality. Matthew Vaughn has proven he is a very talented director especially in regards to the fantasy aspects of a hero’s story and the internal struggle of the characters. X-MEN: FIRST CLASS lacks a certain level of consistency at times but the flaws are easily overlooked due to the quality of the script, action and overall tone of the film. Comic and film fans alike can find something to enjoy here as the film works as a fun action movie and as a comic book adaptation.