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X-Men Reviews 3

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Post by Admin on Sun Jun 12, 2011 3:39 am

http://www.dvdtalk.com/reviews/50183/x-men-first-class/

X-Men: First Class
20th Century Fox // PG-13 // June 3, 2011
Review by Brian Orndorf | posted June 2, 2011

Prequels are a dicey proposition, and most make it unnecessarily hard on themselves by trying to exhaustively satisfy a fan base that's already an easy lay. "X-Men: First Class" is a feisty prequel effort, effectively restoring badly needed snap into the mutant franchise, breaking away from Wolverine to fiddle with a colorful community of heroes and villains. It's also ludicrous beyond belief at times, madly searching for ways to establish connections between this origin tale and the four films that technically follow it. "First Class" works too hard to be clever, when all anyone is truly asking for is a restoration of the group dynamic that made the earlier pictures exciting and expansive.

Tortured in a Nazi concentration camp during WWII, Erik Lehnsherr/Magneto (Michael Fassbender, forceful but underused) has matured into a killing machine, on the hunt for his diabolical captor, Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon). Professor Charles Xavier (a charming James McAvoy) is a powerful telepath and a swinging bachelor, looking to put his gifts to proper use with the help of his associate, Raven Darkholme/Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence). When Shaw and his team of mutants, including diamond-skinned Emma Frost (a comatose January Jones), organize a master plan to initiate WWIII off the shores of Cuba, the C.I.A., including Moira MacTaggert (Rose Byrne), reaches out to Charles, who assembles a squad of young mutants to help bring down Shaw. Training his adolescent outcasts while nurturing a tentative friendship with a frustrated Erik, Charles forms his "X-Men," setting off to save a world clearly disturbed by this show of mutant force.

Perhaps the most satisfying feeling "First Class" offers is the return of the mutant squad, a team commotion solidified brilliantly in Bryan Singer's "X2: X-Men United." Singer returns here to nab producer and story credits, and his influence is felt all through the production, which welcomes a restart of the franchise by dialing back the clock to 1962, infusing the film with a cold war feel and a retro vibe, illustrating the mutant reveal while world politics head to the brink of global destruction.

The director here is Matthew Vaughn, who recently worked out a different set of comic book muscles with his disappointing comedy, "Kick-Ass." "First Class" offers a more reflective opportunity for the filmmaker, who approaches the material with an eye for mutant melodrama, exploring the discomfort of these characters as they're revealed to the world, exposing their secrets to those who judge harshly. Continuing the outsider theme of "X2," "First Class" takes great pains to establish the mutants as vulnerable souls, unsure of themselves, looking to Charles for guidance and wisdom, imbued with a sense of purpose from a caring man. Scenes of self-discovery are played broadly, but Vaughn retains the mournful essence of the "X-Men" experience, sustaining an intimacy with the ensemble and their private desires, building a thrilling lift hill of gradual acceptance before the blockbuster theatrics kick in.

Instead of playing sleek, "First Class" is thrust into a pop world of 1960's architecture and costuming, with period ornamentation providing an unusual personality to the picture, massaged well by Vaughn and his gifted crew. The film retains a lively visual design, which extends to the new group of mutants, including Zoe Kravitz as Angel Salvadore, Jason Flemyng as the demonic Azazel, and Caleb Landry Jones as Sean Cassidy/Banshee. Vaughn makes the most out of the gang, keeping displays of power and training montages in constant rotation, boosted by impressive special effects and competent performances, producing an atmosphere of varied personalities and striking powers, padding the widescreen space with a host of testy mutants learning to control themselves on the eve of war. The score from Henry Jackman lacks a proper hero theme to send the activities soaring, but the cast is quite energetic, with special attention to Nicholas Hoult, who makes a fine impression as budding mutant scientist (and creator of Cerebro), Hank McCoy/Beast.

What's unexpected about "First Class" is how prequely it becomes, with the script dashing back and forth to create connections to the established storyline. The picture has an intriguing plot that's best played on its own, with little touches of foreshadowing placed into the corners of the frame. Instead, "First Class" bends over backwards to remind viewers of everything that's about to come, with Charles making bald jokes and Raven abruptly showing sexual attraction to Erik despite a clearly pronounced romantic development with Hank. The presentation of Magneto's helmet and the introduction of Charles's mansion as the X-Men safe haven is one thing, but do we need to see how the future Professor X loses his ability to walk? Is it crucial to witness the origin of the mutant code names? Must Charles and Erik have their dividing row immediately? "First Class" rushes the details or plays cutesy with them, cramming the essentials into a single picture instead of spreading the inside references around, building conflict over sequels to come in what looks to be a new start for the "X-Men" franchise. The absurdity is piled too high at times by Vaughn, who seems eager to please, though it often dilutes the feature's dignity.

"First Class" is sure to please younger audiences and comic book believers, while the rest should also be heartily entertained. It's a solid "X-Men" adventure with the fresh take on superhero concerns, but it also feels rushed, racing to hammer in its position as the first film of the saga, often forgetting to kick back and simply enjoy the vast mutant view.
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Post by Admin on Sun Jun 12, 2011 3:40 am

http://www.dallasvoice.com/freak-1078602.html

Get your freak on

Posted on 02 Jun 2011 at 6:15pm
VIRTUALLY NORMAL | Xavier (James McAvoy, top) and Magneto (Michael Fassbender) team up to fight a common enemy in the smart, savvy prequel ‘X-Men: First Class.’

Mutants-as-metaphors? The pro-gay message is unmistakable in ‘X-Men’

ARNOLD WAYNE JONES | Life+Style Editor
jones@dallasvoice.com

2011 is becoming the summer of supers. And it is a Marvel.

We’ve already had Thor, and before July is over, we’ll have Green Lantern and Captain America. But it will be remarkable if any manage to outdo X-Men: First Class. More than a kiddie version of an established franchise, this prequel has the scope of a Bond film and touches on serious issues like Nazi camps, nuclear annihilation and homophobia. First Class is that rarest of summer movies: A socially conscious superhero comic.

In 1944, pre-teens Erik Lensherr and Charles Xavier are leading vastly different lives. Charles lives in a castle on Long Island with his wealthy family, using his psychic powers to carve out an academic career. Meanwhile, Erik finds his ability to control metal with his mind is put to sick use by a Nazi doctor Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon) while his family is butchered in a concentration camp.

Eighteen years later, Charles (James McAvoy) and Erik (Michael Fassbender) team up, united in their efforts to stop Shaw (himself a mutant of intimidating power) from starting WWIII, in a sophisticated good cop/bad cop routine where they recruit new young mutants to join their cause.

The X-Men have been about outsiders not fitting in since the comics debuted in the 1960s, but it has been since the film series started in 2000 that the obvious parallels between mutant and gay have been most apparent. That’s true even in First Class, set long before the gay rights movement began.

“I didn’t mean to out you,” one character says to a secret mutant, who justifies not telling his boss by saying, “You didn’t ask, I didn’t tell.” “I’m not the only one who is different,” one confesses tearfully. There’s just no way that’s a coincidence.

Especially not with Matthew Vaughn directing. The last four X-Men movies have been directed by capable but quick-to-go-commercial directors, but Vaughn is a savvy, thoughtful director who composes more than he stages. Vaughn has an artist’s ethos, as he proved with his debut feature, Layer Cake, and demonstrated subsequently with the smart, edgy actioner Kick-Ass last year. His style oozes classic craftsmanship (one scene, set in a bar, generates incredible tension as Tarantino did in a similar set piece in Inglourious Basterds, though in an abbreviated version).

There’s an efficiency of storytelling, couched within the conventions of the superhero “origins” format, that’s admirable. It took George Lucas three full films to explain what circumstances made Darth Vader who he was; Vaughn does it in two hours. Of course, Lucas was hamstrung by having to use Hayden Christensen as the conduit for telling that story; First Class benefits from Fassbender’s sexy bravado as Magneto.

For the film — for the series — to work, you need to like Magneto a little to understand how he became a villain. Fassbender is sympathetic and reckless, and when he finally begins to believe in how the cause of mutants must supersede those of humanity, it’s difficult not to detect traces of Larry Kramer and ACT UP! in his passionate, separatist radicalism. It’s enough to make you wanna hold up a sign saying “Mutant and proud.”

Bacon is an unusual but effective choice as the supervillain, though January Jones, in a sexy, Bond-Girl-with-Balls cheesecake performance, more than holds her own.

Ultimately, it’s the message of being virtually normal — that is, redefining the baseline for what normal is — that makes the entire X-Men franchise resonate so strongly with modern, enlightened audiences. That’s especially true here. First Class is just that … in every sense.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition June 3, 2011.
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Post by Admin on Sun Jun 12, 2011 3:45 am

http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/theticket/2011/0603/1224298297997.html

The Irish Times - Friday, June 3, 2011
Directed by Matthew Vaughn. Starring James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Rose Byrne, Jennifer Lawrence, January Jones, Nicholas Hoult, Oliver Platt, Edi Gathegi, Jason Flemyng, Kevin Bacon 12A cert, gen release, 132 min
X-Men: First Class

Directed by Matthew Vaughn. Starring James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Rose Byrne, Jennifer Lawrence, January Jones, Nicholas Hoult, Oliver Platt, Edi Gathegi, Jason Flemyng, Kevin Bacon 12A cert, gen release, 132 min

This 1960s-set prequel is an anachronistic, bombastic but amusing fantasy, writes DONALD CLARKE

IT WAS beginning to look as if the good people behind the X-Men franchise were intent on immolating their own moderately engaging series. After all, they did hire Brett Ratner – one of those directors whose name has evolved into a pejorative adjective – to direct the lobotomised, dishonestly titled, plain Ratneresque X-Men: The Last Stand.

Well, the studio has made an effort to restore a degree of respectability. It’s hired a mildly voguish director and, following current practices and procedures, dragged the story back to its origins. If there were, dear reader, any way of avoiding the dread word “reboot”, then we would gladly oblige.

Matthew Vaughn, creator of the bafflingly lauded Kick-Ass , has been handed the megaphone and likeable young movie stars such as Michael Fassbender, James McAvoy and Jennifer Lawrence have been squeezed into the unflattering Lycra suits.

We begin with another wholly inappropriate prologue set in a concentration camp: Theodor Adorno may have overstated the case when he said there could be “no poetry after Auschwitz”, but we might reasonably have expected a moratorium on superhero adventures set in that place. Then, thank goodness, the film settles down to tell a story that rubs up against the Cuban Missile Crisis.

The young Charles Xavier (McAvoy), not quite a professor yet, is teaching some sort of quasi-scientific mumbo jumbo at Oxford. Eric Lehnsherr (Fassbender), whose skill in manipulating metals will later attract the moniker Magneto, is touring the world in search of fugitive, still middle-aged Nazis. All significant remaining X-persons later turn up in unfamiliar youthful incarnations.

Dreamed up by Bryan Singer, who directed the first two films, the scenario offers a great deal of scope for stylistic flourishes and knowing allusions, not to mention a veritable avalanche of preposterous anachronisms.

Sometimes dallying in Rat Pack territory (we briefly visit Las Vegas in its pre-theme park pomp) and elsewhere nodding towards James Bond (Kevin Bacon’s villain operates from a funky submarine), the film builds upon our era’s weird love affair with the early 1960s and strains that affection close to breaking point. Mad Men’s January Jones, more wooden than a boardroom drinks cabinet, turns up to remind us of the craze’s principal inspiration.

In somewhat perfunctory fashion, the narrative nudges Eric and Charles towards a more than usually secretive wing of the CIA. Recruiting other young mutants to their cause, the improvised team sets out to stop evil Dr Bacon, a former Nazi who refuses to age, from reducing the planet to quiescent rubble.

Here’s the thing. Yes, the picture’s hold on the epoch is very shaky indeed. Xavier uses the word “groovy” – not properly in fashion for a year or two after the events detailed – on at least two occasions. In one silly moment, a young X-Man actually describes another mutant’s costume as “bad-ass”. Uninteresting situations are dismissed with a wildly anachronistic “whatever”.

Still, the melange of slim-suits, cigaretting villains and Cold War paranoia is amusingly maintained throughout First Class’s diverting opening act.

The problems set in when the film becomes X-Men Babies . There are only so many times you can surprise us by revealing that this apparently ordinary chap or that seemingly commonplace chick has the ability to sprout wings, call up typhoons or shoot laser beams from fingernails. By the time we have made our way to that conflagration in the Caribbean, X-Men: First Class – jokes now nudged aside by looming annihilation – looks and sounds like a dozen other overstaffed, overly noisy superhero efforts.

In truth, the film is a very conventional summer potboiler repackaged in reasonably pretty, moderately crisp wrapping paper. In short, not quite groovy enough.
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Post by Admin on Sun Jun 12, 2011 3:46 am

http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/showbiz/sftw/3615387/Zane-Lowe-reviews-X-Men-First-Class.html

First Class
Head over heels for this movie ... X-Men: First Class

Published: 03 Jun 2011

X-Men: First Class

(12A) 132mins

"DON'T touch my hair!" warns James McAvoy's Professor Charles Xavier when someone suggests shaving his head.

It's just one of this prequel's sly nods to the inevitable fates of many of these characters and, indeed, their barnets.

Focusing on the first meeting and initial shaky alliance between Xavier and Michael Fassbender's Erik Lehnsherr, soon to be Magneto, this could be renamed X-Men: When Charles Met Erik.

It's their friendship and back-story that give the movie a serious emotional punch to go with some spectacular action. An extended prologue shows us Charles' first encounter with another mutant as a child, along with Erik's cruel treatment in the concentration camps at the hands of the Nazis.

But it's as McAvoy and Fassbender step into the roles as young blokes in the Sixties that it becomes clear we're in good hands.

A student at Oxford, Xavier uses his power to help him chat up women and says "Groovy" a lot, thankfully never veering into Austin Powers territory, while Fassbender is pretty much a mutant 007 as he travels the globe from Switzerland to Argentina assassinating remaining Nazis.

Masters of their game ... Professor Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and Erik Lehnsherr (Michael Fassbender)
Masters of their game ... Professor Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and Erik Lehnsherr (Michael Fassbender)

So fun are these scenes it's almost a shame when the film has to crack on with the story but, that said, there's quite a bit to get through.

The film's director, Matthew Vaughn, and writer Jane Goldman, having given the world of the superhero a good kicking in Kick-Ass, now give us a story packed full of the blighters.

Sexy in the Sixties ... Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon) and Emma Frost (January Jones)
Sexy in the Sixties ... Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon) and Emma Frost (January Jones)

There are in fact perhaps too many for each to be given enough screen time. Jennifer Lawrence (Winter's Bone) is memorable as Mystique as is Nicholas Hoult's Beast, but it's the villains who come off best. Jason Flemyng's Azazel is suitably silent-but-vicious, Mad Men's January Jones is great but under used as Emma Frost (she sits out most of the second half) and Kevin Bacon's Sebastian Shaw is the perfect megalomaniac, attempting to start a nuclear war against the backdrop of the real-life Cuban missile crisis.

You can't not love a villain who has his submarine decked out with an ice-white interior.

However, it's an old favourite who steals the show with what may well be the greatest one-line cameo in the history of cinema.

Occasionally the SFX can look a bit ropey but that's a minor quibble because in scale, story and action this is spectacular.

In every sense this is genuinely First Class.

RATING: FOUR OUT OF FIVE
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Post by Admin on Sun Jun 12, 2011 3:52 am

http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/films/reviews/xmen-first-class-12a-2292269.html

X-Men First Class (12A)

(Rated 2/ 5 )

Starring: James McAvoy, Jennifer Lawrence, Rose Byrne, Michael Fassbender

Reviewed by Anthony Quinn

Friday, 3 June 2011

In which the X-Men saga is traced back to its origins, and we learn how Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart became friends before falling out over the small matter of world domination.

James McAvoy plays Professor X, rather smarmily, but Michael Fassbender is good value as Erik, aka Magneto, traumatised by Nazi experiments in the camps and determined to hunt down the evil scientist (Kevin Bacon) who murdered his mother. Amid marvels of telepathy and teleportation, the film's basic premise is that the X-Men did nothing less than save the world during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Not "First Class", but it's OK. A pity, all the same, that promising young actors such as Jennifer Lawrence (Winter's Bone) and Nicholas Hoult have been burdened with silly characters and even sillier make-up.
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Post by Admin on Sun Jun 12, 2011 4:04 am

http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2011/jun/2/movie-review-x-men-first-class/

MOVIE REVIEW: ‘X-Men: First Class’
Engrossing film resets a tired trilogy

20th Century Fox via Associated Press From left: Caleb Landry Jones, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Rose Byrne, Nicholas Hoult, James McAvoy and Lucas Till may look normal in this scene from "X-Men: First Class," but their characters' mutant powers stop a nuclear war and give new life to a story line that should intrigue devotees of the comic book series.20th Century Fox via Associated Press From left: Caleb Landry Jones, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Rose Byrne, Nicholas Hoult, James McAvoy and Lucas Till may look normal in this scene from “X-Men: First Class,” but their characters’ mutant powers stop a nuclear war and give new life to a story line that should intrigue devotees of the comic book series.

By Christian Toto

-

The Washington Times

6:50 p.m., Thursday, June 2, 2011

Prequels give Hollywood one last chance to resurrect exhausted movie franchises. But origin stories such as “Hannibal Rising” and director Rob Zombie’s “Halloween” only proved that some characters are best left in cold storage.

“X-Men: First Class,” an attempt to reboot the successful “X-Men” trilogy, makes audiences feel as if they just met Professor X and his merry band of mutants. Add one pitch-perfect cameo, and “First Class” stands as the superhero film to beat in a summer teeming with colorful heroes.

Director Matthew Vaughn of “Kick-Ass” fame doesn’t mind plumbing dark material to reset the saga. The story’s prologue features a child watching his mother’s execution by a Nazi thug.

“First Class” is set primarily in 1962, when the Cold War was raging and a mind reader named Charles Xavier (James McAvoy as a young Professor X) was starting his obsession with mutants.

When Charles learns about a CIA mission to stop a fellow mutant (a well-cast Kevin Bacon) from pushing the superpowers into nuclear war, he is only too eager to help. And that means finding more mutants to rally to America’s side.

Meanwhile, the boy tortured by his mother’s death is all grown up and eager for revenge. Erik (Michael Fassbender), who possesses a mastery of all things metal, reluctantly joins forces with Charles‘ mutant brigade. But what does Erik really want in return?

The mutants-as-pariahs theme, which felt tapped out after “X-Men: The Last Stand,” the third film in the “X” trilogy, blazes anew in “First Class.” Credit a sensitive turn by Jennifer Lawrence (“Winter’s Bone”) as the shape-shifting Raven, a mutant ashamed of her cobalt blue skin. Even better is Nicholas Hoult’s Hank McCoy, a scientist cursed with beastly feet.

They don’t fit in anywhere save Charles‘ mutant troupe, and their self-confidence blooms once they’re with their own kind.

Not all the new mutant characters are ready for their close-ups. “Mad Men’s” January Jones is merely adequate as Emma Frost, a dishy dame with powers far beyond her impressive decolletage.

But try taking your eyes off Mr. Fassbender as the man destined to become the villainous Magneto. The Irish actor’s initial scenes are so frightening they could have been swiped from a horror franchise.

“Let’s just say I’m Frankenstein’s Monster,” he growls while hunting down anyone associated with Mr. Bacon’s character. Mr. Fassbender’s ascension to the A-list after “First Class” may be the surest bet this summer.

The Cuban missile crisis gets woven seamlessly into the X-universe, with footage of President Kennedy reinforcing the historical context.

What should please comic book devotees is how “First Class” plugs into the existing “X-Men” features. The film solves some nagging mysteries and opens up a few more, all thanks to a script that is clear-eyed and bracing.

While the naive Charles sees only the best in humanity, Erik cannot ignore the hate and distrust that their powers inspire. Their friendship, based on mutual respect as well as necessity, grounds the story’s impressive action sequences. Their bond also makes the fanciful makeup on display easier to swallow.

Mr. Hoult’s Beast persona looks like a fur ball plucked from a washing machine.

“X-Men: First Class” bullies past cynical motivations to deliver a smart, engrossing story that might just kick-start a whole new “X” franchise.

★★★★

TITLE: “X-Men: First Class”

CREDITS: Directed by Matthew Vaughn; screenplay by Ashley Miller, Zack Stentz, Jane Goldman and Mr. Vaughn

RATING: PG-13, for intense action, partial nudity and strong language

RUNNING TIME: 132 minutes

MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS

© Copyright 2011 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
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Post by Admin on Sun Jun 12, 2011 4:05 am

http://www.time.com/time/arts/article/0,8599,2075502,00.html

A Failing Grade to X-Men: First Class
By Richard Corliss Thursday, June 02, 2011

Let's say you want to take an early-summer break from the weekly onslaught of action pictures and want to trade up in quality to an art-house film. Which actors would attract you? Surely Michael Fassbender, a smoldering sensation in Hunger, Fish Tank, Inglourious Basterds and Jane Eyre and a true MENSA heartthrob. Perhaps James McAvoy, the winsome Scot who played the naïve doctor to Forest Whitaker's Idi Amin in The Last King of Scotland and Keira Knightley's noble servant-class lover in Atonement. If these two aren't the Laurence Olivier and John Gielgud of modern movies, they personify better than any 30ish stars the yin-yang of Brit passion and sensitivity. Add Jennifer Lawrence, the Best Actress Oscar nominee for Winter's Bone, and Mad Men's pretty, pouty January Jones, and you have an ideal cast for an uplifting transatlantic indie drama — or, since the director is Matthew Vaughn of Stardust and Kick-Ass luster, the makings of a smart fantasy parable.

Instead, McAvoy, Fassbender, Lawrence, Jones and several other actors with upmarket résumés (Oliver Platt, Rose Byrne, Kevin Bacon) are the stars of X-Men: First Class, a farfetched farrago meant to serve as the "origins story" to the 2000-2006 trilogy about the Marvel comics' crew of preternatural mutants. First Class alludes not just to the earliest group of strangely gifted students assembled by their genial mastermind Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart in the other movies, McAvoy here) but also to the new film's self-congratulatory air. It boldly solicits reviewers' blurbs proclaiming that the picture lives up to its title — that it is less a cash cow than a sacred one, equal to the éclat of its celebrated young stars. Too bad that First Class torpedoes its lofty intentions with flights of idiocy so wrongheaded as to be almost endearing. (See movies in TIME's 2011 Summer Entertainment Preview.)

The X-Men films portrayed the battle of powerful minds: even-tempered, righteous Charles Xavier and the menacing Erik Lehnsherr, aka Magneto (Ian McKellen), representing all that is evil, cunning and cinematically seductive. First Class transports them to their respective pre-teens, when Charles was a privileged orphan in a Westchester castle and Erik a Jewish prisoner in a Nazi concentration camp, where a prison doctor (Kevin Bacon) ordered the boy to "Bend this coin with your mind or I'll kill your mother right in front of you." Erik couldn't; the doctor did. By 1962, now in their 20s and played by McAvoy and Fassbender, Charles and Erik have joined forces to assemble other diff-abled young people, resolve the Cuban Missile Crisis and save the world — a mission that conveniently coincides with Erik's obsession to avenge his mother's death by killing the doctor, now a standard-issue sneering villain, named Sebastian Shaw, with some special powers and mutants of his own.

To begin a superhero movie with the cataclysmic slaughter of one war (with the gaunt, haunted faces of Jewish victims) and end it with an event that brought the world close to Armageddon (with newsreel footage of Kennedy and Khrushchev) takes, well, nerve. It is the film's conceit, in both senses of the word, that the combined talents of the X-kids can avert wars and mass death; too bad they sat out Vietnam, Czechoslovakia, the Cultural Revolution and any number of African genocides. The problem with dreaming up a scheme this grand is that you cheat the audience by applying it selectively. First Class does. Young Erik, for example, needs emotional fury to stoke his disruptive potency. But a gun aimed at his helpless mom — not to mention the knowledge that the doctor pointing it is part of a government conspiracy to eradicate his people — isn't sufficient incentive, until he sees her killed.

OK, hundreds of movies, books, plays and novels have fictionalized the Final Solution for purposes of melodrama. We're not knocking First Class for fitting Art Spiegelman's definition of Holokitsch — though we could have done without the hint that Erik's pursuit of Schmidt/Shaw is the vengeance of all Jews on all their predators. (Erik's climactic declaration: "Never again!") But why the Cuban Missile Crisis? In part, to propose Charles as the sensibly omnipotent JFK figure, with Erik as a more combative Khrushchev type. And why the early '60s? Because it gave rise to three pop-cultural currents that flow in the blood of adults and kids a half-century later. (See the top 10 macho movie posses.)

The most obvious is the Marvel comics renaissance. In the first three years of that decade, Stan Lee and his cohorts spawned their glorious mutants: Spider-Man, the Hulk, Iron Man, the Fantastic Four and the X-Men. But this was also the period when Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis and others in the Rat Pack made their jokey, randomly numeraled action films: Ocean's Eleven, Sergeants 3, Robin and the 7 Hoods. The new film cites the Rat Pack oeuvre by setting an important scene in a Las Vegas hotel, where Shaw's Hellfire Club meets. First Class also sets up Jones — who in the role of the mutant ice goddess Emma Frost is a cheesecake vision in skimpy white lingerie — as First Class's Angie Dickinson, channeling Dickinson's connections to both Sinatra (she was the female lead in the original Ocean's Eleven) and Kennedy.

And the third pop phenomenon of 1962? The first James Bond film, Dr. No, which opened in London the same month as the Cuban Missile Crisis. In all but name, First Class is a Bond movie, from the Cold War scheming of rival superpowers to the script's plethora of glamorous or treacherous locations — right up to the end, with an animated credits sequence very much in the spirit of Maurice Binder's work on the Bonds. Above all, it a handsome, platinum-jawed agent: Erik, with Sean Connery's aplomb and Daniel Craig's ruthless determination. (In this context, the more thoughtful, sedentary Charles Xavier is M to Erik's Bond.) Speaking of which, and with due respect to Craig: Wouldn't Fassbender, the macho dreamboat, make a perfect oo7?

Among actors of his generation, Fassbender has few competitors for radiating brains and heat: touch his forehead, and your fingerprints burn off. I n the indie films he's made so far he's almost always been volcanic; and Vaughn obviously didn't tell him to lighten up just because this is a fantasy prequel. Apparently under the impression that this is Shakespeare, not Stan Lee, Fassbender exerts all his skills to transform this Magneto-in-the-making into a tragic hero. He simmers and rages, cries real tears, in an outsize performance that, whether appropriate or not to the superhero genre, dwarfs the work of his colleagues. (Has Hollywood killed superheroes?)

McAvoy's job as the mind-reading Charles Xavier is to keep massaging his temples like a sideshow mentalist with a migraine. Bacon has a snarky authority when he tells Charles' young mutant pupils that "You can stay and fight for the people who enslave you, or follow me and live like kings," though his tone is less Marvel 1962 than Diner 1982. But the actor is sabotaged in the big showdown by having to wear a metal helmet (to ward off Charles' mind waves) that makes him look like Butters in his Professor Chaos outfit on South Park. Remember that Butters' loyal assistant Dougie, also in supervillain garb, was known as General Disarray? That's what First Class collapses into when Erik puts on the helmet. And the movie sinks into its own silliness with him.

It's hard to be hard on any movie with Jones as a nasty bikini babe in bondage, and a point-of-view shot from inside a Swiss banker's mouth as a gold filling flies out, and some energetic work from the young actors who play the mutants (each of whom, in the cosmic Marvel design, may some day get his or her own movie) and a brief cameo by Hugh Jackman as Wolverine, who, when Charles Xavier comes to recruit him, mutters "Go f--- yourself." Audiences may be grateful that they won't have to spring an extra $4 for goggles: First Class is in ordinary, good-looking 2-D. And even a movie that drives itself crazy with the internal contradictions of its big ideas is preferable to one that just lies there feet up, like a dog taking a nap. (Yes, you, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides.)

But if Fassbender, Jones, McAvoy and Lawrence are going to be cast together in a story about bright, crippled people desperately battling their demons and tearing one another part, I'd just as soon it were a remake of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
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Post by Admin on Sun Jun 12, 2011 4:06 am

http://www.bohemian.com/bohemian/06.01.11/movies-1122.html

Full Circle

Simple fun, shallow characters in 'X-Men: First Class'

By Richard von Busack

Overloaded and over-charactered, X-Men: First Class is a movie about the 1960s, and like all recent movies about the 1960s, it assumes that every historical moment in that decade happened at the same time. Nonetheless, Cold War paranoia and the Cuban Missile Crisis add historical resonance to the dispute between mutants and humans.

James McAvoy is the young Professor Xavier, the world's most powerful psychic; Michael Fassbender is the bitter Erik, later to become master of magnetism, Magneto. The conflict of two worthy adversaries evokes the dispute between Martin Luther King and a young Malcolm X, and CIA liaison Moira (Rose Byrne) and the mutant Raven (Jennifer Lawrence) add their personalities to the struggle.

There's also a '60s spy movie motif, complete with split screen, mini-skirts and Austin Powers pickup lines. Fassbender is on the trail of a powerful ex-Nazi, Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon), who has a private nuclear submarine loaded with a collection of post-impressionist art, a literally Satanic henchman (Jason Flemyng) and a lingerie-clad psychic moll Emma Frost (January Jones).

This is, as it sounds, fun.

But it wasn't enough. Someone also thought this movie should be Harry Potter; thus, dead-on-the-screen scenes of students sharing their powers over Cokes, Oreos and "The Hippy Hippy Shake."

By the finale, director Matthew Vaughn (Kick-Ass) is lining up his mutants like a boy playing with action figures. Vaughn's strength—not that I admire it—is to employ cartoon violence and take it too far.

In X-Men: First Class, Vaughn could have gotten further punch from the destruction by telling us more about the characters we came to see. We don't get the sense Xavier ever had childhood trouble because he read the wrong mind; we don't see the two adversaries agree that people are often no good. And Xavier has no hothead tendencies, even when he's young.

Lack of dramatic ground work leads to the uninspiring finale: a moment of caped and cowled menace made dismayingly, ineptly comic.

'X-Men: First Class' opens in wide release Friday, June 3.

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Post by Admin on Sun Jun 12, 2011 4:08 am

http://www.redeyechicago.com/entertainment/la-et-x-men-20110603,0,6825942.story

Movie review: 'X-Men: First Class'
Multiple plots, overreaching effects and ancillary characters derail the latest installment of the comic-fantasy franchise, set in the 1960s.

By Betsy Sharkey, Los Angeles Times Film Critic

June 3, 2011
It would take a brain far more telepathically powerful than that of Professor X to untangle what went wrong with "X-Men: First Class," but misplaced and misplayed ambition, to say nothing of a massive misspent budget, comes to my nonmutant mind.

The latest edition of the sprawling action-comic-fantasy epic takes us back to the future with moments of greatness. But those flashes of amazing are fleeting, ultimately undone by a frustrating mire of multiple plots, overreaching special effects, leaden ancillary players and world-ending military standoffs that have all the tension of a water balloon fight.

The film stars James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender, two "First Class" standouts, as Professor X and Magneto in the '60s, when they were just a couple of mutants working through their power issues. But there is more, so much more … a back story about the Cold War and the Cuban missile crisis; a subplot tied to an evil Nazi mutant (Kevin Bacon doing vile particularly well); a running teen coming-of-age bit featuring some X-Men mutant favorites; a CIA-in-conflict story; a U.S. colonel compromised by lingerie models; and a few more threads I'm probably forgetting.

The stories unfold in — deep breath — Auschwitz, New York,England, Argentina, Las Vegas, Miami, Moscow, somewhere outside of Moscow, Virginia, under the ocean, in the sky, on the ground, underground, under polar icecaps and in several undisclosed locations. At times it feels like someone was playing spin and point with an old globe of the world.

British director Matthew Vaughn somehow lets everything get away from him, which is unlike most of his well-calibrated early work, from his 2005 debut, "Layer Cake," to 2009's "Harry Brown," which he produced. The script is from a team whose players included Ashley Edward Miller and Zack Stentz, and Jane Goldman and Vaughn (they collaborated on "Kick-Ass" among others).

The film begins with such promise, a near perfect re-creation of the powerful Auschwitz scene that opened the original "X-Men" in 2000. It's when Magneto was a boy heartbreakingly separated from his parents at the prison gates, his metal-twisting powers unleashed, but too late to save them. We get the next terrible chapter in that book now, which introduces us to Sebastian Shaw (Bacon) as a Nazi big shot with an operating room next to his office and a persuasive gun who presses Erik into service. It plants the seeds of revenge and mistrust that will drive Erik the rest of his days.

At the same time, across the world, things are a lot easier for Charles, living a life of ease in the Westchester mansion in upstate New York that will eventually become the school for "gifted" children. He has been awakened during the night and finds someone who looks like his mother in the kitchen, suspicious since she doesn't cook. It turns out of be the shape-shifting Raven ("Winter's Bone's" Jennifer Lawrence), then just a little, lost blue girl.

In short order (though not short enough): Charles is teaching at Oxford, Erik is scouring Argentina for Shaw, Shaw is in his Vegas gentlemen's club with diamond-queen Emma Frost (January Jones) trying to force Colonel Hendry (Glenn Morshower) to help with Shaw's Bay of Pigs scheme, while new CIA agent Moira MacTaggert (Rose Byrne, who is proving to be a versatile actress) strips down to black, lacy nothings to go undercover.

It's a frenzied pace, but when Vaughn does slow things down, good things begin to surface. The excellent McAvoy ("Atonement," "Last King of Scotland") is a total charmer as the young genius already dedicated to protecting and forgiving the human race. The intense Fassbender (a darkly romantic Rochester in "Jane Eyre") opens a window into Erik's pain as well as his need for friendship. The actors play off each other in ways that make their emotional connection palpable. But before it can develop into something truly meaningful, the story is off and running again to a Russian outpost or the special CIA MIB compound run by Oliver Platt's MIB (stands for man in black suit, a.k.a. men in black, get it?).

McAvoy, Fassbender and Bacon, continuing his good work streak, are a potent mutant trio locked in an escalating series of good-versus-evil battles. Those fights involve all sorts of large-scale special effects — the digital overseen by John Dykstra ("Spider-Man" and others); the physical created by Chris Corbould ("Inception" and more). Though he's given a lot of massive action sequences to play with, cinematographer John Mathieson ("Gladiator") makes the smaller, more intimate moments the most affecting. Sprinkled between the big and small are a series of clever nods to "X-Men's" cinematic past lives and lore that are tongue in cheek, cleverly done and sure to be crowd pleasers.

Less pleasing are all the other mutants who will have to choose sides, a swath of young Hollywood talent badly squandered including Lawrence's Raven, Beast (Nicholas Hoult), Angel (Zoe Kravitz), Havoc (Lucas Till) and the list goes on. As does the film, a tedious two-plus hours. There were such possibilities in the origins idea. Maybe if filmmakers had slipped on Cerebro, that mystical mind-enhancing, metal helmet, for a bit; it seemed to help everyone else.

betsy.sharkey@latimes.com

Copyright © 2011, Los Angeles Times
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Post by Admin on Sun Jun 12, 2011 4:15 am

http://vanvoice.com/article?articleTitle=summer+season%27s+hero+appetizer--1307052589--843--film_tv

June 02, 2011

The missile crisis isn’t the only thing burning in here. Mlehhh. / Courtesy 20th Century Fox
Summer season's hero appetizer
Quin Benzel
For The Vancouver Voice

Taking inspiration from movie re-starts like Casino Royale and Batman Begins, X-Men: First Class rebooted the mutant franchise by instilling it with fresh, young faces. Straight back from his GQ photo shoot is Magneto (Michael Fassbender), ripping out teeth fillings, flinging knives and lifting subs right out of the Caribbean Sea. James McAvoy brings to Professor X a full head of hair, some charm, constant head massaging and the ability to placate any lost and wandering mutant.

Set amidst the Cuban Missile Crisis and intermittently stocked with proclamations by John F. Kennedy, X-Men: First Class is the appetizer of jingoistic nostalgia heroes before Captain America hits theaters this July. But the thing is, it actually proves to be quite refreshing. Prequels are usually the death of a series, because, really, where is there to go after that? Jumping back to the beginning worked for Batman and Bond, and 20th Century Fox hopes to follow suit.

The movie is a cacophonous mix of CGI and rapid-fire storytelling. We first meet Erik Lehnsherr, soon to be Magneto, as a boy being experimented on by Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon). Years later, a matured Erik goes all Boys From Brazil and hunts down Nazis hiding in Argentina on his quest to kill Shaw for murdering his mother back in Poland. Angry and eager, Fassbender is the only actor to really milk the role of a tormented mutant, and his dilemma is a huge saving grace in a movie careening towards a hokey mess.

Because I can’t imagine any of the newcomers are fan favorites: There’s Banshee (Caleb Landry Jones), decked out in a squirrel suit and screaming at the top of his lungs; winged-insect woman Angel Salvadore (Zoë Kravitz); Darwin (Edi Gathegi), who can turn into a fish, basically; Havok (Lucas Till), who’s your basic “plasma shooting” mutant, and who will not turn into Cyclops one day, as some Marvel cinema goers might assume; Jennifer Lawrence as Mystique; and of course Beast (Nicholas Hoult), looking like the Grinch bulked up and dyed his fur blue.

And still, X-Men: First Class somehow remains vibrant, partly due to its constant globetrotting and Soviet/American headbutting. Not long after a layover in Las Vegas, the movie takes you to the Soviet Union, then to Washington D.C., then to Geneva, then to a “covert CIA research base,” then to Cuba, pausing briefly to portray montages of mutants honing in on their abilities and Magneto manipulating a gigantic satellite from miles away. It’s hard to picture a better movie this summer delineating a character’s descent into depravity than what director Matthew Vaughn (Kick-Ass) and Fassbender have cooked up.

PG-13. X-Men: First Class opens Friday, June 3 at Regal Theaters and Cinetopia.
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Post by Admin on Sun Jun 12, 2011 4:15 am

http://www.washingtonpost.com/gog/movies/x-men-first-class,1163132/critic-review.html

X-Men: First Class Critic's Pick

Critic Rating:

A whole other kind of Cold War superpower
By Ann Hornaday
Friday, June 3, 2011

Judge “X-Men: First Class” not on the color of its mutants’ skin but on the content of its characters.

In Matthew Vaughn’s eagerly awaited prequel to the filmed adaptations of Stan Lee’s iconic comic books, even the strangest-looking genetic outliers take on disarmingly human frailties, quirks and admirable qualities. Charles Xavier, whose benevolent persona was channeled by a paternal Patrick Stewart in previous “X-Men” movies, turns out to have been a bit of a Carnaby Street Lothario back in the swingin’ London of the 1960s. Raven, also known as Mystique, was once just a teenage girl with skin that tended to break out (albeit in blue scales). And who knew that Magneto — Xavier’s nemesis — could be worthy not just of understanding but sympathy?

Actually, “X-Men” fans probably know all this, and they’re the ones who will be best served by “First Class,” which begins, like the comic book series itself, in 1944. That’s when a young German boy named Erik Lehnsherr watches his parents being hauled off to Auschwitz. In a fit of fear and rage, he bends the metal gate separating him from his family, commanding the attention of a scientist eager to harness young Erik’s telekinetic powers.

Twenty years later, the grown Erik (Michael Fassbender) contemplates his revenge against the man who went on to ruin his life, and who now goes by the name of Sebastian Shaw. Meanwhile, the genially telepathic Xavier (James McAvoy) is earning his doctorate in genetic research at Oxford, with his shape-shifting friend and surrogate sister, Raven (Jennifer Lawrence), by his side.

Then what? Things happen, taking “First Class” on a whirlwind tour of Las Vegas, Argentina, Russia, Miami and finally the waters just off Cuba where — what do you know? — Shaw turns out to be a shadowy Cold Warrior. (Making it all the more appropriate that his primary factotum is an ice queen named Emma Frost, played by January Jones.) While Erik obsessively hunts down Shaw for his own vengeful purposes, Xavier meets an attractive CIA agent named Moira MacTaggert (Rose Byrne), who enlists him to recruit genetic mutants to help her bosses stop Shaw themselves.

That recruitment sequence, by the way, is one of the funnier passages in “First Class,” featuring a cameo that will surely qualify as the movie’s most hilarious (and profane) takeaway. Mostly it’s a chance to see some otherwise little-known X-Men in their younger incarnations, including Darwin (Edi Gathegi), Banshee (Caleb Landry Jones) and Angel (Zoe Kravitz), whose web-like tattoos sprout real wings, allowing her to buzz and hover like an ethereal dragonfly.

Its subtitle notwithstanding, though, “First Class” is less about the rag-tag group of disaffected teen “freaks” whom Xavier must discipline into fighting form than about the psychodrama between him and Erik, whose experience during World War II has made him more militant than the accommodationist Xavier finds comfortable. A by-any-means-necessary separatist when it comes to genetic identity, Erik doesn’t trust mainstream society to accord mutants full human rights. Xavier — whose telepathic powers are more a function of extreme empathy than more supernatural gifts — believes that assimilation is not only possible but imperative.

It would all be so much fantasy-land hoo-ha were it not for the actors Vaughn has enlisted to bring the characters to life: With his thumb poised along his limpid blue eyes, McAvoy aptly embodies Xavier’s pensive humanism. Lawrence, last year’s breakout star in “Winter’s Bone,” proves to be a voluptuous and compelling screen presence as Raven/Mystique, developing a thoroughly believable chemistry with another fresh face, Nicholas Hoult, as a young CIA researcher named Hank McCoy. (Jones, whose impassivity has bordered on the inert in similarly ’60s-kitsch “Mad Men,” here wears Frost’s white-boots-and-bras with a fembot’s stony aplomb, in another instance of pitch-perfect casting.)

In all honesty, though, “First Class” belongs to one actor, and that’s Fassbender, whose Erik/Magneto emerges as one of the most nuanced, conflicted, genuinely antiheroic protagonists in recent comic-book-movie memory. As a transparent and eminently watchable vessel for contradictory impulses — vulnerability and superhuman strength, victimization and destruction, discipline and reckless rage — Fassbender’s Magneto is not unlike Bobby Sands, the IRA activist he portrayed in the 2008 film “Hunger.” His penultimate set piece, when Magneto singlehandedly raises a submarine out of deep waters through sheer force of his will, is one of those rare instances when an authentic screen performance isn’t drowned out by sheer spectacle.

For the most part, that’s true of the rest of “First Class,” which skitters between locales and languages with sometimes confounding, scattershot speed. Still, “First Class” happily delivers on the escapism and rich narrative texture the best of its predecessors have promised. With action, atmosphere and mixed feelings to burn (not to mention a few jokes about shaving Xavier’s head), it seems well on its way to giving the well-traveled “X-Men” franchise a resuscitating breath of genetically superior, nuclear-powered life.

Contains intense sequences of action and violence, some sexual content including brief partial nudity and profanity.
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Post by Admin on Sun Jun 12, 2011 4:16 am

http://www.oregonlive.com/movies/index.ssf/2011/06/x-men_mutant_mania_returns_to.html

X-Men: Mutant mania returns to form in 'First Class'
Published: Thursday, June 02, 2011, 3:00 PM
Mike Russell

After the blemished rush-job of "X-Men: The Last Stand" and the hilariously awful "X-Men Origins: Wolverine," it's a relief to report that "X-Men: First Class" recaptures the character-driven strengths of the first two films in this superhero series -- while adding a surprising dash of '60s spy-movie style.

This return to form is thanks partly to the director of those first two films, Bryan Singer, returning to the series as producer and story developer. Matthew Vaughn ("Kick-Ass," "Layer Cake") directs the new flick -- a prequel that has idealistic young Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) teaming up with furious young Nazi-hunter Magneto (Michael Fassbender) to stop the supervillain (Kevin Bacon) secretly engineering the Cuban Missile Crisis. They're joined by bright and lovely emo-20-something versions of Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) and Beast (Nicholas Hoult), among many others.

"First Class" puts big fat exclamation points on the parallels between mutant and civil rights -- it's like a '60s "Star Trek" episode that way -- and maybe the story shouldn't have so many gadgets, costumes and signature character traits from the first "X-Men" movie making their debut over the course of a couple of days in 1962.

But the movie gets so much else surprisingly right. For starters, it often looks and feels like a '60s Bond film, right down to Bacon's ridiculous-but-groovy super-submarine. Its team-building montages (which take up much of the film's running time) are funny and charming. And Fassbender plays Magneto as a supercool assassin with a completely understandable set of beefs. I spent most of the movie rooting for him, and would watch a "Magneto, 1960s Nazi Hunter" sequel in a second.

(130 min., PG-13, multiple locations) Grade: B

-- Mike Russell
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Post by Admin on Sun Jun 12, 2011 4:17 am

http://www.wtam.com/cc-common/news/sections/newsarticle.html?feed=104667&article=8656018

Thursday, June 2, 2011
REVIEW: X-Men: First Class
Turn the page and enjoy this summer comic book origin story!

By Derek Sante - Clear Channel

It's the middle of the century and the world is in turmoil as the Soviet Union and the United States face a head on collision that could end in World War III. This impending doom is looked upon by Americans, Russians and a new genetic subset named mutants.

This story starts before their was a Wolverine or an X-men. Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) enters the world a professor with high hopes and dreams. Eric Lensherr (Michael Fassbender) is a Holocaust survivor filled with anger and vengeance. Together they embark on a journey to save the world and mutantkind from War and an evil mutant threat led by Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon). Shaw has plans to create a utopian society for the next evolution of mankind, namely mutants. All other species, including humans, are expendable.

Faced with this enormous threat, Charles and Eric team together with the C.I.A. to find new mutants to fight the upcoming war. Through their search they discover mutants with abilities to create and destroy, so the lessons begin and heroes are born.

As a comic book fan, I am aware of these characters and was looking forward to this movie. The hard part is giving my critic opinion and keeping it balanced for those new to this comic book universe. Luckily, X:Men: First Class takes the time to introduce the mutants and characters that make this world so colorful. Director Matthew Vaughn (Director Kick-Ass) takes Bryan Singer's story and makes it believable and action packed. Also, the fun historical and time period angle gives new life to the franchise and new depth to these superheroes. Kids are going to love this movie, while parents will enjoy the imagination and ingenuity in the historical action packed storyline.

Grade: B

Check out another review from Shelli Sonstein:

This is the best Jewish-revenge-of-the-Nazis since “Inglorious Bastereds” and coincidentally stars an actor from that Quentin Tarantino masterpiece. Michael Fassbender (who becomes Magneto) just steals this prequel, which plays out the back stories of the mutants. That’s hard to do when the cast includes a deliciously wicked Kevin Bacon, the iciest of the ice queens January Jones, James McAvoy as Professor X, Rose Byrne and Jennifer Lawrence , who now becomes a household name after giving an Oscar nominated performance in the barely seen but astoundingly well-acted “Winter’s Bone”.

No- you don’t have to be a fanboy or even an “X-Men” fan to love this explosive balance of non-stop action and history. My only criticism: it’s a bit light on humor . Actually, the funniest bits are the cameos of Rebecca Romijn and Hugh Jackman, whose one line is a hard curse. Oh- another reason to celebrate this film. No 3-D. Yea!!!!!!

Back to Fassbender. To see the depths of his talent, rent “Hunger”, the story of IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands. It’ll leave you limp.

4 stars

Rating: PG-13

X-men: First Class movie trailer


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Post by Admin on Sun Jun 12, 2011 4:17 am

http://www.vancouversun.com/entertainment/movie-guide/Movie+review+First+Class/4882856/story.html

Movie review: X-Men: First Class

Superhero flick details growing pains of our favourite mutants

By Katherine Monk, Postmedia News June 2, 2011

Michael Fassbender portrays Erik Lehnsherr, who has the power to control magnetism. Lehnsherr is determined to exact revenge on the monstrous evil who created him in X-Men: First Class.

Michael Fassbender portrays Erik Lehnsherr, who has the power to control magnetism. Lehnsherr is determined to exact revenge on the monstrous evil who created him in X-Men: First Class.

Starring James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Rose Byrne, January Jones and Kevin Bacon

Parental Advisory: Violence

Running time: 132 minutes

Rating: Three and a half stars out of five

VANCOUVER — Believe it or not, the world wasn't crying out for the X-Men backstory. Like most comic book franchises to get a big screen birthing, the appeal of an X-Men movie lay in the physical embodiment of the familiar characters — not a David Copperfield-styled biopic.

For instance, we all knew Wolverine — and we liked him — which made Hugh Jackman's X-Men character an easy page-to-screen transition: He was well-defined, easy to understand and his special mutant power of fast-healing and super strength (combined with high-tech weapons grade metal implants) made him completely cinematic.

Professor X and Magneto may not have the same narrative sex-appeal given one is in a wheelchair, and the other shaded under a prophylactic chapeau, but they are the two poles that hold the X-Men universe in position, and in this prequel, we find out how these former mutant allies became enemies.

If you're already enrapt by the premise, this X-Men movie is a must-see because dramatically speaking, it's probably got the biggest ambitions of any X-Men spectacle to date.

After all, it deals directly with the Holocaust, complete with scenes of concentration camps, people in striped clothing and cold-blooded killing.

Marrying systematic mass murder and comic book sensibilities is a big challenge, but one director Matthew Vaughn (Kick-Ass, Layer Cake) handles with relative ease as he tapers the story down to two charismatic characters: Professor X and Magneto.

The most magnetic of the two is Erik Lehnsherr, which is where our story begins: Young Erik has just been separated from his family by Nazis when he demonstrates an unusual talent for bending metal. The show proves so compelling, he's recruited for experiments by a creepy camp doctor named Shaw (Kevin Bacon).

The only problem for young Erik is his lack of control. He can't command metal on a whim. He needs emotional urgency to access his mutant gift, which means the Nazis use his family to conjure emotional responses of the worst kind.

While Erik is being emotionally tortured by Shaw, young Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) is living quite comfortably on the English countryside in a mansion. Rich, privileged and well-educated, Charles is a blue sky thinker who also has the curious ability to read minds. Charles always figured he was alone in the universe, but one day, a shape-shifter appears in his kitchen.

He can read her mind, and in an instant, Charles and Raven (later known as Mystique, played here by Jennifer Lawrence) become best friends and spiritual mutant siblings.

Flash forward to the height of the Cold War circa 1960. Charles Xavier has just graduated from university, where he was a clear winner with the ladies thanks to his opening line: "Hey gorgeous! That's a groovy mutation you've got there. . . "

Erik (Michael Fassbender), meanwhile, has been hunting down Nazis, hoping to trap and kill his arch-enemy Shaw.

These two central mutants are on opposite tracks. One is focused on killing. The other is dedicated to teaching the world to embrace mutant differences. War versus peace, love versus hate, mutant versus human: It's drama on an epic scale and Vaughn renders the players with a loving hand — and plenty of frame time.

It's a good decision — for the most part — because the mutant triumvirate is comprised of top-notch talents: McAvoy, Fassbender and Lawrence are standouts of their generation, and no matter how moronic the script gets, they find a way to inject genuine feeling into each moment.

McAvoy plays out the part of privileged hero with an almost Kennedy-esque persona — one that is both noble, and just a tad scandalous, at the same time. Fassbender (Inglourious Basterds) hands in such an emotionally driven performance, he may actually reduce the audience to tears — which is no small feat in a Hollywood action reel.

Lawrence's role isn't as big as those of the two men, but she proves her Oscar-nominated turn in Winter's Bone was just the beginning of a flowering dramatic career as she carves out the conflicted heart of the turncoat Mystique.

Mystique is the symbolic core of First Class because she's struggling with self-acceptance. Ostracized and alone as a result of her blue skin and yellow eyes, she's learned self-loathing.

She wants to be like everyone else. She wants to be "normal," and that's where this movie makes its most articulate points as it challenges our human propensity to judge all books by their cover.

Only Erik has the depth of experience to understand the importance, and the beauty, of individual difference. When he looks into Mystique's yellow eyes, he sees someone worth loving for who she is — which makes Erik surprisingly attractive, despite his hate-on for just about everyone and everything.

X-Men: First Class handles all these themes with just enough gravitas to bring the emotional moments home, without sacrificing the kitsch appeal of a story about mutant superheroes and their connection to such historical events as the Bay of Pigs crisis.

Vaughn balances the whole precarious assembly with grace, but there are still some glaring problems — namely, January Jones and Jason Flemyng. Jones is altogether comatose for the duration as a mutant Ice Queen with diamond flesh, while Flemyng plays a mutant with a devilish appearance — red face, pointy tail and all.

The diamond special effect is kind of lame, and the red makeup for Flemyng is downright comical. Then again, it's an X-Men movie: Its central mission is entertainment, and on that score, it delivers.

That First Class also offers up a decent narrative about the importance of self-love, family bonding and friendship gives it extra dimension — even if the overall dramatic range only goes X to Z.

kmonk@postmedia.com

twitter.com/katherinemonk
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Post by Admin on Sun Jun 12, 2011 4:18 am

http://www.vancouversun.com/entertainment/movie-guide/Other+Voices+Raves+First+Class/4882934/story.html

Other Voices: Raves for X-Men: First Class

'The best superhero movie since The Dark Knight.'

Postmedia News June 2, 2011

Jennifer Lawrence as Mystique in X-Men: First Class.
Photograph by: Handout, File

A large and talented cast manages to make more than a dozen characters pop, but still this is the Michael Fassbender show.

— Kyle Smith, New York Post

The result is one of the best Marvel adaptations, packed with action, humour, retro 1960s style that's both campy and sexy and a revisionist history lesson that puts the X-Men at the centre of the Cuban missile crisis.

— David Germain, Associated Press

It's big, bright, savvy, and so expansive you'll undoubtedly leave feeling you got your money's worth.

— Elizabeth Weitzman, New York Daily News

Entertaining enough for a Saturday night, and much more satisfying than the last X-Men' offshoot, the woeful Wolverine.

Ty Burr, Boston Globe

If there is to be yet another X-Men movie in the future — though I have to say that now might be the time to call it quits — then a solo effort with Fassbender's super-nasty Magneto would be the way to go.

— Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian

The best superhero movie since The Dark Knight. An excellent balance of fun and serious, high-stakes excitement

— Matt Pais, RedEye
© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun
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Post by Admin on Sun Jun 12, 2011 4:19 am

http://articles.cnn.com/2011-06-02/entertainment/x.men.movie.review_1_emma-frost-charles-xavier-jennifer-lawrence?_s=PM:SHOWBIZ

Review: 'X-Men' isn't all that first class
June 02, 2011|By Tom Charity, CNN

Gen X takes on a new meaning in "X-Men: First Class."

After three films and 2009's slightly lackluster spin-off ("Wolverine"), Twentieth Century Fox is hoping the "X-Men" franchise can extend into a second decade by injecting new blood and turning the clock back to the characters' younger days.

It's a strategy that paid off handsomely for JJ Abrams' "Star Trek." "X-Men: First Class" isn't in the same league, and won't generate the same excitement, but in most respects it's a solid effort that maintains the integrity of this rather earnest series.

Returning to the Nazi era that seems to exert such a strong pull on "X-Men" producer Bryan Singer, the film introduces Erik Lansherr as he's being herded away from his mother by the SS at the height of WWII. The boy's furious reaction brings him to the attention of a Josef Mengele-figure -- Kevin Bacon, initially in German -- a scientist who believes Hitler's notion of a blond-haired, blue-eyed Master Race doesn't begin to go far enough.

The next time we see Erik, the '60s are just starting to swing and he's played with welcome intensity by rising star Michael Fassbender (Rochester in this year's excellent "Jane Eyre") as an angry Nazi-hunter with potent telekinetic weapons. By now his erstwhile tormentor has reinvented himself as Sebastian Shaw, whose Hellfire Club is quietly shaping nuclear policy from backrooms and bedrooms in Las Vegas and Moscow.

Meanwhile in England, Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) is just beginning to make a name for himself and earn his professorship with his groundbreaking work on genetic mutation.

The battle lines for the X-Men haven't really changed, but not everyone has figured out on which side they belong.

Nurtured by the Establishment, Charles is soon co-opted by the CIA to help prevent Shaw and his allies from choreographing WWIII off the coast of Cuba. Arguably more true to his nature, Erik signs on too, but remains deeply cynical about how far the humans can be trusted.

A bevy of promising young actors, including Nicholas Hoult ("A Single Man"), Jennifer Lawrence ("Winter's Bone") and Zoe Kravitz ("Californication") make very 1960s-style choices about being proud of their skin color (blue, in Raven's case), and whether revolution trumps assimilation.

Any subversive hopes that "Kickass" writer-director team Jane Goldman and Matthew Vaughn would inject some levity into the proceedings peter out pretty quickly. A wittier, less vapid actress than January Jones might have vamped it up a bit as Emma Frost, a telepath who models a series of scanty go-go outfits but turns to ice when you get under her skin.,

There's a nice gag when the first gen-Xers come up with their "stage names" during something that seems suspiciously like a drunken frat party (not that we see them imbibe), but mostly the movie takes itself a shade too seriously. Except for the guy who learns how to fly by screaming, nobody seems to be having much fun -- and that includes the audience.

So far as action goes, it's all CGI pie- (or submarine) in-the-sky stuff, impressive up to a point, but never truly suspenseful. The fate of the world may hang in the balance, but we have a fairly good idea of how it's going to turn out. One genuinely mind-bending death scene apart, Vaughn's clunky staging of the green screen sequences doesn't help -- unless those echoes of "Mighty Morphin Power Rangers" are intentional?

But that's too harsh an assessment of a reasonably smart, fairly engrossing Marvel movie. If you stuck through "Wolverine," you'll be relieved that the Origin series seems back on an even keel.

For the rest, what may be most noteworthy is the consecration of a magnetic new star. The name is Fassbender: Michael Fassbender, and once he's got that pesky Irish brogue under control he should have an exciting career ahead of him.
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Post by Admin on Sun Jun 12, 2011 4:26 am

http://lakeconews.com/content/view/20111/923/

The first class prequel of 'X-Men' superbly entertains PDF Print E-mail
Written by Tim Riley
Saturday, 11 June 2011

X-MEN: FIRST CLASS (Rated PG-13)

That the original “Star Wars,” released in 1977, was one of the best action adventure movies of all time is nearly indisputable. The prequels that came later, well not so much.

“The Phantom Menace” and “Attack of the Clones” are, to be charitable, forgettable. Few would even likely recall the name of the actor who played Anakin Skywalker before he became Darth Vader.

Why do I bring this up, you ask? Simply to illustrate that prequels are often inferior to the real thing. Yet, “X-Men: First Class” stands, on its merits, as a forceful argument to the contrary.

Without any doubt, “X-Men: First Class” is so far superior as a prequel to the “X-Men” franchise that I would only consider viewing the sequels once again out of a vague sense of curiosity.

For a comic book series that had become increasingly tedious, “X-Men: First Class” is a refreshing boost of adrenaline, injecting much needed vitality into a bland exercise of superpower heroics.

I only fear that the brilliance of this newest “X-Men” may be wasted on a younger generation largely ignorant of Cold War history and the frightening relevance of the Cuban Missile Crisis.

It’s possible to imagine that some of the dolts walking among us may come to think that nuclear Armageddon was averted solely due to the manipulations of the mutants with superpowers.

For those who know history, you may have figured that the setting of “X-Men: First Class” is circa 1962, when tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union are at a fever pitch.

A brief prelude set during World War II introduces a young Erik Lensherr as a concentration camp internee subjected to brutal treatment by the Nazi camp doctor (Kevin Bacon).

Meanwhile, a young Charles Xavier befriends a young Raven when she breaks into his suburban New York mansion in search of food. The lonely Charles adopts her as the sibling he’s never had.

Moving forward to the 1960s, Xavier (James McAvoy), the future Professor X, is completing his doctorate at Oxford and uses his brilliant academic observations and telepathic powers to court the ladies.

When not tweaking her brother Charles, Raven (Jennifer Lawrence), struggles to find her place in the world, as her shape-shifting tendency to turn into blue-skinned mutant Mystique is off-putting to mankind.

Bent on revenge, the adult Erik (Michael Fassbender) hunts down old Nazis in Argentina. An explosive scene at a pub frequented by ex-pat Germans demonstrates the extent of Erik’s pent-up rage, whose power to bend metal puts him on track to become Magneto.

The former Nazi doctor turns up as villainous mogul Sebastian Shaw, whose partner in crime is the sexy Emma Frost (January Jones, who looks really hot in white lace underwear and garters).

Like one of those larger-than-life James Bond villains in search of world domination, Shaw’s evil scheme is to start World War III as the result of a showdown in the Caribbean seas.

Plucky CIA agent Moira MacTaggert (Rose Byrne), after going undercover in her lingerie at a Vegas strip club, argues with her oblivious superiors that it is necessary to recruit Xavier and other mutants.

Working with another offbeat CIA agent (Oliver Platt), Moira brings Erik and Xavier together in a concerted effort to pursue the malevolent Sebastian Shaw.

A remote CIA facility becomes a training camp for all kinds of mutants, including a sonic screamer, a fire breather, a storm-tosser, an adaptive chameleon and a human fly.

The CIA-trained mutants get the chance to put their full talents on display, but unfortunately learn that they must fight a group of bad mutants who have been seduced by Shaw’s spiel of a dominant race soon to take world power.

“X-Men: First Class” is at its best for the formative character development of Xavier and Erik leading up to the adversarial relationship that is inevitable to come between Professor X and Magneto.

Insofar as this prequel has much to do with conjuring the psychological underpinnings of the mutants’ developing awareness, there is still an extremely effective focus on the sheer energy of their nifty physical talents.

On an emotional and effects-laden basis, the ultimate showdown during the Cuban Missile Crisis is undeniably thrilling. The resultant mayhem is well orchestrated by director Matthew Vaughn.

“X-Men: First Class,” a really great blockbuster thriller, has a terrific overall cast, made all the better by Kevin Bacon’s deliciously twisted arch-villain.
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Post by Admin on Sun Jun 12, 2011 4:26 am

http://www.hbucollegian.com/mobile/entertainment/x-men-prequel-first-in-class-1.2599569

X-Men prequel first in class

By JESSICA ALDANA

Courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

Michael Fassbender stars as Magneto in the new summer blockbuster "X-Men: First Class."

The origins of one of the greatest superhero teams known to man are revealed in director Matthew Vaughn's summer hit "X-Men: First Class."

The prequel to director Bryan Singer's famed superhero trilogy takes place in 1962, a time when mutants were still in hiding and the world was unaware of their existence and threat to mankind.

James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender portray Dr. Charles Xavier and Erik Lensherr, two mutants who band together to defeat the malevolent mutant Sebastian Shaw.

Shaw, played by Kevin Bacon, plans to start World War III in an effort to bring mutants to power.

Xavier and Lensherr, along with a team of young mutants, must learn to control their powers in order to prevent the execution of Shaw's nefarious plan. Their friendship comes to an abrupt end when their irreconcilable differences of ideas concerning mutants in power turns Xavier and Lensherr into archenemies.

Admirers of the X-Men saga will not be disappointed by the long-awaited prequel. The film is very fast-paced yet easy to follow. Vaughn brings plenty of action to the screen with intense fighting and a clear picture of how Xavier and Lensherr turn from best friends to mortal enemies.

As the film's two protagonists, McAvoy and Fassbender bring their characters to life. Fassbender and Jennifer Lawrence, who portrays the shape-shifting mutant Mystique, humanize their characters, showing a different side to the Magneto and Mystique seen in the previous X-Men films.

Audience members will struggle with loving and rooting for two characters that they have seen as villains for many years.

The supporting cast of mutants, although well portrayed by the movie's actors, could have been more three-dimensional in its conveyance of emotion and believability. Xavier, Magneto and Mystique are the only characters in the film with whom the audience can emotionally connect.

The film does not remain faithful to the Marvel Universe canon, which may annoy devoted followers of the comic books, but the movie will not disappoint those who watch just for fun.

While most films use music to transition between scenes, the soundtrack for "X-Men: First Class" is very subtle and flows well without overpowering scenes.

Vaughn has an eye for using landscaping images to move the audience from one location and day to another.

An entertaining summer blockbuster, "X-Men: First Class" does not do justice to the film franchise. The film lacked humor, and although the prejudicial themes for which the comic is known are present, there was no tangible emotion or conflict between humans and mutants.

Furthermore, the motif of racial prejudice in the film was nonexistent, which is a shocking inaccuracy, considering that the film is set in 1962, part of an era during which minority groups in the United States battled for equal rights.

Despite the factual changes and lack of emotion, "X-Men: First Class" is an enjoyable addition to the series and creates a need to watch the other X-Men films; those who expect to be entertained will not be disappointed.

Stimulating and fast-paced, the action-adventure film is a summer prequel that will tie up loose ends for those who watched the other X-Men movies while serving as an understandable introduction for those new to the superhero saga.
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Post by Admin on Sun Jun 12, 2011 4:27 am

http://www.eaglenews.org/mobile/fans-won-t-be-let-down-with-x-men-first-class-1.2599622

Fans won’t be let down with 'X-Men: First Class'

By Joel Morris

Staff writer

Considering the last couple of installments, it would appear the X-Men series had stopped evolving. Leave it to "Kick-Ass" director Matthew Vaughn to give "X-Men: First Class" the boot in the rear the franchise needs. Set in the midst of the Cuban Missile Crisis, "First Class" chronicles the first meeting and subsequent friendship of Erik Lehnsherr (Michael Fassbender) and Charles Xavier (James MacAvoy), better known as Magneto and Professor X, respectively. They develop their bromance as they pursue the Hellfire Club—a rogue group of mutants' intent on triggering World War III.

The action and the acting are great, obviously with Fassbender and MacAvoy, but surprisingly from Nicholas Hoult, who plays Hank McCoy/Beast. Hoult manages to play a scientist who defies both the "mad" and "overly nerdy" stereotypes. However, despite the ultra-cool 1960s period feel, there are numerous moments that take the audience right out of the film. Some emotional scenes between Erik and Charles are overly cheesy, which is fine if you prefer comic book movies that way, it's just clear that it was not the filmmakers' intent.

Essentially, all the problems come from the dialogue, like the groan-inducing declaration of the birth of Magneto. In addition, while secondary characters Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) and Beast have even progressive character arcs, main character Erik has a sudden change of heart in the third act when he shows he has only regressed, despite his experiences. A minor spoiler is basically despite his great friendship with Charles; Erik just ditches him miles from reputable medical care, after the former is gravely injured by Erik's own hand.

Trying to fit this film in with the rest of the series will hurt your head, because the plot holes are everywhere and even within the film, the relationships are at odds with each other. Although, if you want some fun Sean Connery like action and a couple of cool cameos, "X-Men: First Class" isn't a horrible way to kill a couple hours.
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Post by Admin on Sun Jun 12, 2011 4:29 am

http://blogs.alternet.org/speakeasy/2011/06/11/more-thoughts-on-x-men-first-class/

Posted by sarahjaffe at 11:18 am
June 11, 2011

More Thoughts on X-Men: First Class

So I saw it again last night, because I’m an addict, and because I haven’t seen a movie since Inglourious Basterds that I wanted to pull apart so much. I swear it’s just coincidence that they both star Michael Fassbender.

I’ve already written about the queer subtext (basically text) of the film, and Ta-Nehisi Coates has written beautifully about the near-complete absence of any acknowledgment of the Civil Rights movement (I saw a tweet yesterday: “Where are the black people?” “The white people are metaphors for the black people!” that sort of summed that up) and the generally crap race politics of the film.

But what struck me last night, which relates to what I wrote before, was the gender politics. And while I’ve seen a few posts generally “calling out” the film on its regressive gender treatment, I want to complicate that a little more.

I confess to being a Magneto fangirl—I’ve always been the girl who likes the bad boys, and also the Xavier/Magneto tension has always been fascinating before being subtly queered by casting out gay actor Ian McKellen to play opposite sexy Patrick Stewart in the first few films. And anyone who follows my Tumblr knows what I think of Fassbender. So of course I come to this film with a pro-Erik Lehnsherr slant.

But even so, I think that his treatment of women adds a layer that’s been missed in most of the posts I’ve read on the subject.

Erik is defined by the loss of his mother and his singleminded focus on revenge. Until he meets Xavier, we have no other insight into his character. Until Xavier says “There’s so much more to you than you know,” no hint that he might have a personality, a life outside of the hunt.

He doesn’t seem innocent, but rather bored by the whole thing. “Kinky,” he says, laconically, coming upon Raven flirting with Hank McCoy as Hank tries to take her blood for research. In the strip club with Angel, he makes a dirty joke but both he and Charles appear more interested in one another than in her body (and Angel later goes off with Sebastian Shaw after making the telling remark that she’d rather be stared at with her clothes off—Shaw will certainly oblige that).

While Charles exhibits casual sexism, ignores Raven in favor of more “normal” girls and uses the same pick-up line on several of them, lines up female mannequins for Havok to practice on, and generally treats women quite differently from men, Erik treats everyone with the same disinterest or scorn. His interest in Raven is never sexual (even their kiss is nearly chaste, and then cuts straight to her confronting Charles, implying that she did indeed leave as he told her to), but in making her see and embrace her mutant self. “Perfect,” he says to her when she lets her natural shape take over, but he also tells Hank “Never looked better,” when he’s in full-on Beast mode.

Sebastian Shaw, of course, is the near-pure embodiment of masculinity (I’d argue the only better example in the X-Men mythos is the Juggernaut), and he entertains powerful men by bringing in gaggles of scantily-clad girls, and treats Emma like a servant—and what a great subplot that would have made, were this movie at all interested in Emma Frost, for her to subtly undermine Shaw or flat-out turn against him and decide to help Erik, rather than to be passively stuck waiting in jail for whomever will free her.

While I’m on the subject of Emma, I acknowledged in my first piece that she was completely wasted here, but I need to linger on it because I love the character so, normally. The script (which has at least one woman’s name credited) does her no favors, but January Jones does herself no favors, either. I’m not a Mad Men watcher, so I don’t know if Jones is capable of much better. Interestingly, Kay Steiger wonders if Mad Men is the inspiration for the sexism (and perhaps the 60s setting?). If the part had been better written and acted, even though it’s a small role, it could have done more to undermine the feeling that Kay notes here, that the sexism is sprinkled into the film without commentary.

(One of the reasons I couldn’t get into Mad Men after a couple of episodes, actually, was that I had trouble understanding where that commentary was on the show’s sexism. But I haven’t watched much, so.)

I want to disagree with Kay, though, on the lack of commentary on the sexism in X-Men: First Class, though, because I think that the contrast between Charles’s treatment of women and Erik’s, or Shaw’s and Erik’s, is telling.

Professor X is too often painted as near-saintly, the Perfect Mentor (and the most interesting part of X3 was his admission that he’d screwed up with Jean), the Perfect Friend always ready to forgive Erik and welcome him back. The fact that he does as much to drive Erik away as Erik does to leave is too rarely remarked upon, as is his arrogance, his willingness to decide that he knows best for everyone around him.

By showing us his mistakes, his foibles, his generally jerky moments, this film humanizes him and makes him a real character—but it also makes plausible that Raven/Mystique and Erik don’t just up and turn evil because it’s fun. That they were driven off by a guy who talks a good game about mutant rights and equality but wants to shove them in the closet, by a guy who finds mutants attractive as long as they don’t step too far outside the bounds of “normal,” by a guy who treats women like dirt.

Come on, progressive women, don’t we all know men like that? And don’t they just make you want to bail on the whole project, sometimes?

Erik, meanwhile, treats Emma and Raven as equals. He treats Emma with the same violence that he treats male enemies (less so, actually, because he doesn’t kill her, but he shows the same willingness to use pain to get what he wants), and he treats Raven not as a child to be coddled or a trophy to be bedded by as a person in need of mentoring. While Charles has ignored her to mentor the boys (remember, the only other woman in the “First Class” of the title has gone off with Shaw to be his new arm candy), Erik takes the time to push her, to support her.

Yes, the scene with Emma against the bed, the pole wrapped around her throat and cracking is unnerving. It’s meant to be. So is the scene where Erik stabs through a man’s hand twice, or where he slowly yanks out a man’s tooth by its metal filling. He’s a victim of abuse and torture who now uses it on others. But he doesn’t go out of his way to do it to women, or to abuse them in ways specific to their femininity. Further, Emma Frost has already, in a previous scene, dropped him to his knees with her telepathy and then knocked him off a boat with one punch. She’s hardly helpless.

(In a way, it reminds me of the “Ellen Willis test”, where Willis wrote that to test the sexism of a song, reverse the genders. Thus the Stones’ “Under My Thumb” is less sexist than Cat Stevens’ “Wild World,” because “Under My Thumb” works fine when you picture it sung by a woman, but the condescension in “Wild World” is of a sort nearly always directed at women by men. In my version, if you flip the genders in a particular scene, would it work? You could easily picture Erik wrapping a bedpost around the throat of a male villain, but could you see Charles treating a male CIA agent the way he treats Moira, or treating his male trainees the way he does Raven?)

Erik’s violence is part of his character, part of what repeated abuse as a child did to him. Part of his trauma and part of his appeal. I over-quote this Jean Genet line, but I can’t resist applying it to this character, this actor, this portrayal:

“I give the name violence to a boldness lying idle and enamoured of danger. It can be seen in a look, a walk, a smile, and it is in you that it creates an eddying. It unnerves you. This violence is a calm that disturbs you.”

Near-great movies sometimes interest me more than great ones. I often want to rewrite small parts of them to make them better. This one does that to me again and again. Its ending, for instance, would be once again a much more powerful commentary on the sexism of its time if the crash heard right after the CIA agents mock Moira for her femininity was Emma Frost breaking her own badass self out of jail. They’ve already shown her breaking through the glass to talk to her jailers on the other side—couldn’t she then force them to let her go? She’s certainly capable of it, with the one-two punch of telepathy and near-unbreakable diamond form.

But no, Emma waits.

Waits for Erik, who then once again acknowledges her as equal—this time to Charles, asking Emma to fill the gap in his life.

And leaving me hoping for a sequel that actually spends some time and effort on her character. That draws out all of Charles’s unacknowledged privilege and Raven’s growing into the fierce Mystique we know and love, and that maybe spends some time grounding itself not in near-nuclear war, but instead in the social movements and upheaval of the 60s.

What better place for the X-Men to continue hashing out all their identity issues?
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Post by Admin on Sun Jun 12, 2011 4:30 am

http://www.thehindu.com/arts/cinema/article2096308.ece

Mutant appeal
Baradwaj Rangan

Rifling through the script of X-Men: First Class after a series of sturdy, semi-successful Oscar-bait dramas, James McAvoy must have felt that this was his shot at superstardom, the key to worldwide fame, being mobbed on streets and felt up by screaming fans. Why else would he have accepted the part of the not-yet-Professor Charles Xavier, when every working brain cell must have advised otherwise? There is, first, the imminent possibility of being smothered by the shadow of Patrick Stewart, who played Xavier in the earlier X-Men movies with orotund intonations that made the tritest dialogue resonate like Shakespeare.

But a more immediate danger lurks in the person of co-star Michael Fassbender, who is handsome in the dashing manner of a 1940s Hollywood hero and beside whom McAvoy looks like a prim boy scout. Fassbender, playing Erik Lehnsherr (aka not-yet-Magneto) and stepping effortlessly into the super-sized shoes of Ian McKellen, gets the bracing backstory, the opportunity to seethe and simmer and activate every ounce of actorly muscle, and in contrast, McAvoy, perpetually rubbing his temples in order to tap into other people's thoughts, comes off like a milquetoast with a migraine.

As the story of the would-be Magneto, X-Men: First Class is, well, first class, possibly the best attempt at birthing a brooding man of action since Casino Royale stripped away the frills and fancies and dialled James Bond back to the feral Ian Fleming creation, less punster than predator. Unlike the typical summer superhero saga, which is merely heroic, Magneto's story feels mythic. Erik is first glimpsed as a boy in a concentration camp, separated from his mother, and this instantly marks him with our sympathies, especially since the corresponding childhood instalment of Charles plays out in a New York mansion right out of Edith Wharton.

Erik's powers are first understood and later unleashed by Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon), an act that not only turns the boy against the man but also taints this man as a father figure, and when an adult Erik embarks on a mission to finish Shaw, he growls, “Let's just say I'm Frankenstein's monster and I'm looking for my creator.” This is a great character, with just the right blend of pop-culture frivolity and patricidal fury, and Fassbender, fittingly, is the actor who looms largest in the film's final frame.

Erik and Charles meet mid-sea and become thick friends, and the director, Matthew Vaughn, anchors these early scenes with this bond of brotherhood. The film, in these sections, has its tongue firmly in cheek and hops across the globe like a Cold War-era Bond adventure (and Bacon plays the villain, very accurately, like a Blofeld-like megalomaniac).

And then the Cold War actually happens, with America and Russia coming to a head over missiles in Cuba. (Among the many amusing homages to the period is the casting of January Jones, the icy mother from television's 1960s-set Mad Men, as the appropriately named Emma Frost.) The real conflict, unsurprisingly, is between the good mutants (Erik, Charles, and company) and the evil ones led by Shaw.

And the film begins to lose its footing. Fassbender is so magnetic that his appeal to fellow mutants to unite against humankind is more potent than McAvoy's call for temperance. Their face-off is dramatically lopsided, which is a problem in a climactic conflict that's not just between two nations and two species but these two men. The end, though, redeems itself, hinting at the rivals we know from the earlier films — Xavier gets a wheelchair and jokes about losing his hair, Magneto gets a helmet and loses his sense of humour.

X Men: First Class

Genre: Action-Fantasy

Director: Matthew Vaughn

Cast: James, Michael Fassbender, Kevin Bacon

Storyline: The story of how everyone's favourite mutant superheroes came to be

Bottomline: As entertaining a beginnings-story as you could expect
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Post by Admin on Sun Jun 12, 2011 4:30 am

http://mangalorean.com/news.php?newstype=local&newsid=244373

Jun 12, 2011

'X-Men: First Class' - first class indeed!

Film: "X-Men: First Class"; Cast: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender and Jennifer Lawrence; Director: Matthew Vaughn; Rating: ***1/2

Americans, in the absence of their own ancient mythology unlike the Indians, Chinese or Europeans, have developed a national mythology of a different kind where instead of gods and goddesses, they have their Anakin Skywalker, Darth Vader and Superman. "X-Men - First Class", with its near perfect script, apt direction and some breathtaking visual effects, firmly enforces another mythological universe to this - those of the mutants.

Much before Professor X (James McAvoy) and Magneto (Michael Fassbender) fought at the opposite end of the fragile war and peace with inferior humans, they were best of friends, fighting for the good of humanity and mutants alike, in a world that did not know mutants existed.

When a powerful mutant threatens the world, the two working together develop a difference of perspective that will pit them against each other.

The film's focus is on Erik Lensherr or Magneto, beginning with the same scene that the first "X-Men" opened to in a concentration camp. It moves through his hatred of the man that killed his father.

The character of Charles, almost Gandhi-like with his infinite love and belief in humanity, takes second fiddle. And that's all right. After all hatred makes for a better subject than love especially in a film with dark undertones like "X-Men".

Director Matthew Vaughn and his writers do an apt job in articulating the mutant universe, their fear and their need to belong. The metaphor is the insecurity of every geek or everyone different desperately trying to belong in a world hostile to them.

While Professor X chooses the path of love, Magneto chooses that of hatred, thus pitting them against each other in an eternal war.

The film thus navigates the many shades between black and white expertly, reaching in the end a point where both Magneto and Professor X, though being at the same end of spectrum with similar intentions, are nonetheless divided by the choices they make.

It is just like the rest of us find ourselves in life and the position we take and follow, which ultimately define us.

Magneto is also a perfect choice, and the good writing ensures that in the end he is made a tragic hero, on the lines of Prometheus of Greek mythology with the same angst, love and rebelliousness.

The main drawback of the film is that it is a little awkward and caricatures many situations in an attempt to be true to the other "X-Men" films.

It also draws heavily from Zack Snyder's underrated masterpiece "Watchmen" and though it refuses to go dense into the human, and mutant condition, it is a commendable effort.

Though the audience can predict the end, aware as they are of the other "X-Men" movies, yet a good scriptwriting (consider handling so many characters and infusing life in them through good characterising) ensures that the entertainment and novelty values are not lost.

The casting is also almost spotless and all the actors revel in bringing out the angst and sublimity of their emotions.

"X-Men: First Class" in the scope of its story and its deft handling thus not just becomes the confirmation of a well-established franchise but the birth of a new one as well. Same when you consider an American mythology.
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Post by Admin on Sun Jun 12, 2011 4:31 am

http://www.airdriecityview.com/article/GR/20110611/SAG0306/306119987/-1/ACV0306/x-men-backstory-has-superpowers-substandards&Template=ACVART

X-Men backstory has superpowers, substandards
Jun 11, 2011 06:00 am | By scott Hayes

Michael Fassbender plays the role of Magneto in the latest installment of the X-men franchise that tries to fill in much of the backstory of the characters but ultimately comes up flat.

Can somebody please tell Matthew Vaughn how to direct a movie that builds interest, rather than destroys it entirely?

The X-Men series is so ripe and rich with interesting characters and possible arcs and plots that it seems it would be impossible to dry out that floodplain.

Here, he drains a lot of power out of the backstory of two groups of mutants, one good and the other bad, before they even really started to not like each other.

They first find their callings as superheroes during the peak of the Cold War in 1962. We already knew that Erik Lensherr a.k.a. Magneto (Michael Fassbender) was a young Polish boy in 1944 when the Nazis sent him and his family to a concentration camp. Now in his 20s, he’s out to track down his former captors and tormentors, especially singling out a man named Dr. Schmidt, now known as Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon).

Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) is a British upper crust boy who grows up obsessing about mutation for obvious reasons. He even publishes a thesis on the topic. The guy is so much a nerd that he talks endlessly about it and somehow finds a way to hit on girls (successfully too) while dropping lines about their recessive genes. He even calls mutation ‘groovy.’

Shaw is revealed to be the sinister mastermind behind so much antagonism and enmity of the age of Russian and American superpower tension. He also happens to have his own superpower: the ability to absorb energy and manipulate it to his will. No wonder a guy like that would want the threat of nuclear war to escalate — more power to him.

Xavier and Lensherr, or Professor X and Magneto as they come to be known, work with the CIA to track down Shaw and stop a Third World War. It’s all very poetic as Magneto has plenty reason to be vengeful but ends up becoming so filled with hate that it’s the only way he can use his powers.

I generally enjoy the X-Men movies more than most other comic book superhero movies. They have a spate of interesting characters, each with an interesting trait that always seems to have an appropriate and undeniable purpose. Also, there’s always an underlying social message of tolerance of the strange and the unknown, respect and co-operation. When Hank McCoy (Nicholas Hoult) finally reveals himself as a mutant to his boss, the mysterious man in the black suit (Oliver Platt), it is so akin to coming out of the closet that he even says, “You didn’t ask, so I didn’t tell.”

Unfortunately, this movie suffers from an unusual case of uneven casting. Here, Kevin Bacon is superlative. When will this guy get an Oscar? He makes the most of his part as the brilliant polyglot and quietly malevolent Shaw. Bacon has been awesome for years and he especially excels as an antagonist.

Oliver Platt is one of my all-time favourite actors so it comes with great pleasure to see him here, although with abbreviated screen time. I could watch this guy alone for two hours straight and be constantly and consistently entertained. Fassbender is also a gem.

I don’t really care for stories that try so earnestly to fill in known details like reverse engineered scripts. Xavier frets about his hair and we already know he goes bald. We learn how he gets paralyzed. There’s even an excruciating line of dialogue about calling his team the X-Men instead of G-Men.

The super-massive problem comes with January Jones. She simply cannot act. Putting her in a movie is like unleashing a black hole of anti-creativity in the middle of a supernova. She just drains all of the enjoyment, fun and interest out of everything. Perhaps that’s her real life superpower.
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Post by Admin on Sun Jun 12, 2011 4:31 am

http://www.mediablvd.com/magazine/the_news/current/%93x-men%3A_first_class%94_%96_best_superhero_film_ever?_201106102535.html

“X-Men: First Class” – Best Superhero Film Ever?
Saturday, 11 June 2011
By Frederic Germay

The X-Men film franchise has had a very interesting history. Originating at the start of the millennium, director Bryan Singer’s X-Men received generally positive reviews, with critics praising the movie for tackling the issues of discrimination, empowerment, and self-awareness. The saga continued with Singer returning to the helm with X2: X-Men United, and the film was one of the select few sequels deemed better than the original. Rather than remaining on board for the entire trilogy, Singer left the franchise to direct the critically praised, yet commercially disappointing, Superman Returns.

In Singer’s absence, 20th Century Fox and Marvel made the inexplicable and eternally criticized decision to hire Rush Hour director, Brett Ratner, for the third installment of X-Men. Needless to say, X3: The Last Stand was a critical failure, but ended up grossing $459 million worldwide – which isn’t that much considering its budget, $210 million, made it the most expensive film ever made at the time of its release. What really boggles my mind is why the studios settled on Ratner when there were so many other more qualified (and interested) candidates, such as Joss Whedon (my hero!), Darren Aronofsky, and Zack Snyder!

According to the film’s wiki, Matthew Vaughn, the director of X-Men: First Class, was originally hired to direct the film, but left early in the pre-production phase. If Vaughn (or Singer) had chosen to stay, there’s no question in my mind that the franchise would have remained critically intact and beloved – but at the same time, it would have diminished the glorious redemption that is X-Men: First Class. So, I guess the moral of the story is that you have to sit through a few bad apples (X3: The Last Stand, X-Men Origins: Wolverine) before you get to the good stuff. And as bleak as that sounds, trust me, X-Men: First Class is worth the wait.

The story starts off in World War II, an almost shot-by-shot reenactment of the original X-Men opening sequence – a young Erik Lensherr, when separated from his mother in a Nazi concentration camp, bends a metal gate into a steely pulp. One of the Nazi scientists, Dr. Schmidt (Kevin Bacon) witnesses this feat and tries to force young Erik to move a metal coin with his mind. When Erik tries and fails, Schmidt kills his mother and we get a first hand glimpse into the convoluted, hate-riddled pathos of Magneto’s mind. The rest of the story takes place in the 60’s during the Cuban Missile Crisis, where Charles Xavier (James McAvoy), a telepath and expert in mutation, tries to find more people with special abilities.

In a largely irrelevant role, Moriah MacTaggert (Rose Byrne) helps align the CIA with Xavier’s mission in finding all these mutants, while an older Erik Lensherr (Michael Fassbender) hunts down Nazi war criminals, all in the hopes of eventually finding and killing Dr. Schmidt. Without giving away too much of the story, Dr. Schmidt is now Sebastian Shaw, a mutant capable of absorbing energy to make himself more powerful, and Shaw is determined to bring Russia and The United States to the brink of a nuclear war. As for Xavier, he’s brought mutants, such as Banshee (a mutant with a truly powerful scream) and Havok, who apparently has the ability to shoot wildly uncontrolled bolts of weird energy out of his chest. Shaw also has a few like-minded mutants up his sleeve as well, including the seductive Emma Frost (January Jones), who can basically rival Xavier’s telepathic abilities, and Azazel – a teleporting mutant reminiscent of X2’s Nightcrawler.

The brilliant Xavier and the stoic Lensherr soon cross paths and join forces against Shaw. Xavier believes in the possibility of Shaw’s redemption, while Lensherr desperately craves revenge for his mother’s murder. In one of the film’s more memorable quotes, Xavier warns Lensherr, stating that the murder won’t give him peace, but Lensherr coldly replies that “peace was never an option.” Eventually, their different approaches lead to growing friction between the two, with the film’s conclusion splitting the mutants with disastrous results.

Part of this film’s genius lies with the creative decision to include actual historical events into the storyline, a feat which adds a much-needed, additional air of credibility to a film that includes a mutant that can fly by screaming loudly. At the same time, I’m worried that bringing the Cuban Missile Crisis into the mix might alienate some viewers who are unfamiliar with the event. I’m all for smart films, but this is a comic-book adaptation – and they have a history of attracting the not-so-bright, popcorn-munching, action-junkie masses. And if they can’t understand the film, then that leads to some pretty negative word-of-mouth advertising, which might deter movie-goers from experiencing one of the best superhero films in recent memory.

I also noticed that this X-Men film has a sense of humor, much unlike its predecessors. Banshee (Caleb Landry Jones), in particular, was the source of much comedic relief, as was Xavier with his surprisingly effortless charm. However, the most laugh-worthy scene of the film came to us, courtesy of Hugh Jackman, during a brief cameo appearance by Wolverine. Additionally, a fair amount of the humor is just subtle enough that you might miss it – there are a few pointed references here and there to the comics and the previous films, which brings to mind an instance where Xavier jokingly dismisses going bald, which eventually not only occurs, but ends up being an unmistakable aspect of his iconic appearance.
The acting in this film is good, occasionally great, but mostly good. Fortunately, it never really dips into subpar territory. The film’s two main leads, James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender, are brilliant actors. I’m already a huge fan of McAvoy’s work, but I was less familiar with Fassbender, who surprised me with his deliciously brooding performance. Jennifer Lawrence, who played a younger Mystique, underwhelmed me. After getting nominated for a truly magnificent performance in Winter’s Bone at the Oscars, I expected something memorable from her, but it never happened. Perhaps she pulled a Natalie Portman and chose X-Men: First Class as a way to unwind from her grueling performance in Winter’s Bone, much like Portman chose Thor after Black Swan.

January Jones was sexy and delightful as the mind-twisting temptress, Emma Frost, and Kevin Bacon was just plain – wow. He needs to play more out-of-the-box roles like this more often, because I can’t honestly remember the last time I looked forward to seeing anything Bacon’s done. But with a devilish glint in his eyes and more malice than Voldemort and Hans Gruber combined, Bacon steals every scene he’s in.

The script is superb, but it’s the beyond brilliant direction that takes this film to another level. Director Matthew Vaughn, who worked as a producer on several Guy Ritchie films before making his directorial debut on Layer Cake, has a distinct yet indefinable style, which allows him to effortlessly contemporize a period piece. Vaughn might not be a recognizable name, but Layer Cake is heralded as the film that propelled Daniel Craig to Bond stardom. After Layer Cake, Vaughn tackled a chunk of Neil Gaiman awesomeness with 2007’s Stardust. Just last year, Vaughn blew me out of the water with the gloriously violent cinematic gem, Kick-Ass. So when I heard that Vaughn was going to direct an X-Men film, I had little doubt that the movie would turn out great – and I was right. Perfect character development, perfect plot progression, magnificent scoring, brilliant art direction and costume design – I could go on and on.
Ultimately, the only comic-book adaptation that can hold a candle to this one is The Dark Knight, and that’s high praise coming from me. I give X-Men: First Class the rare score of 10/10.

Author's Note: Thanks to a correction by a Facebook friend, I was notified about an NPR interview that Vaughn did, explaining why he dropped out of X3. Apparently, the producers of the product had the entire idea laid out, and Matthew Vaughn had very little input and he wouldn't have been able to salvage the film into something watchable, so he bailed on the project. Since Bryan Singer and Brett Ratner knew each other rather well, Ratner was brought onboard to helm the project in the eleventh hour, although he had minimal say in the creative direction either. Bottom line, my review unfairly lambasted Ratner for X3 when it wasn't entirely his fault, and my comment about Singer or Vaughn being able to fix X3 was also inaccurate. The producers were the true culprit in the tradegy of X3. My apologies.
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Post by Admin on Sun Jun 12, 2011 4:33 am

http://www.spencerdailyreporter.com/story/1735291.html

Cuban standoff figures heavily in origin of X-Men
Friday, June 10, 2011
By Randy M. Cauthron, Managing Editor
(Photo)
Randy's Review - X-Men First Class

Before the world was aware that mutants walked among us, they were busy trying to save humanity from nuclear war. And the audience gets the birds-eye view of how the X-Men came to be, forming to prevent cataclysmic results as American and Soviet tensions build near a little land mass just off the Florida coast known as Cuba.

Such is the story told in "X-Men First Class" - a prequel to the four other X films - explaining how mutants were introduced to an unsuspecting human population.

Before they became adversaries, Professor Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and Erik Lensherr (Michael Fassbender) - known to X-Men fans as Professor X and Magneto - they were friends working together to bring about the end of The Hellfire Club and its mutant leader Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon). But the story begins even further back than that.

Lehnsherr first demonstrates his powers as a Jewish child, separated from his family in a Polish concentration camp. His ability to manipulate metals draws the attention of a doctor, working with the Nazis, who is convinced that mutant abilities are the key to the next step in evolution.

At the same time, young Charles is being raised in a mansion on the East Coast of America, enjoying a life of privilege. He encounters a young girl, Raven (Jennifer Lawrence), who has the ability to identically replicate any person. It's the first time he realizes he is not alone in the world. There are others with unique powers as well.

Lehnsherr grows up, driven to avenge the death of his mother, and tracking those responsible across Europe. Xavier goes to Oxford where he becomes an expert on genetic mutations, aided in his studies by his best friend and assistant, Raven.

Government Agent Moira MacTaggert (Rose Byrne) is pursuing information on American communists when she accidentally stumbles across Shaw and his Hellfire associates, demanding an American military official promote the placement of U.S. nuclear weapons in Turkey. Shaw then uses his muscle to force Soviet leaders to set up shop in Cuba.

Knowing she's in over her head, and dealing with something she can't explain, MacTaggert searches out Xavier to assist her in stopping Shaw from creating any additional damage.

Xavier and Lehnsherr first encounter one another as the latter is attempting to kill Shaw and his group. The two join forces under the umbrella of a covert government agency in an effort to stop Shaw and his plans for world war.

Along the way, the two attempt to recruit other mutants to join the team - sometimes failing, in a great cameo appearance featuring a certain metal-boned, clawed mutant - and fight for the protection of humankind. While Xavier believes in the cause and invests in the belief that humans will accept mutants, Lehnsherr has his misgivings, seeing similarities between his mutant status and his Jewish status in WWII Europe.

First Class introduces audiences to some of the most beloved X-Men, but also provides the reasoning behind the split of the two main characters. Friends and brothers - their vision of the future can not coexist - and they are destined to battle on opposite sides of the line.

There are several chuckles as we get references to things X-Men fans realize will come as the story evolves. We learn why Professor X is wheelchair bound, why Raven chooses to side with Magneto over her lifelong friend, and why the Cuban missile crisis was "really" averted.

Not as much as action as the previous films, most prequels don't as they spend more time establishing back story, but still plenty for X fans to enjoy. You understand a lot more about Magneto's hatred for humans, and sympathize with Xavier as he tries to provide a calming influence in unstable times.

It's a fun ride and plays a bit with what you may - or may not have - learned in history class. If only we'd been told the truth.

Randy's Review:

On a scale of 5 popcorn buckets, I give "X-Men First Class" 3 1/2 buckets, seasoned and buttered to genetic perfection. Don't go in looking for an Oscar winning film, just go in looking to have some fun and you won't be disappointed. MPAA Rating: PG-13 for brief strong language, some sexuality and a violent image. This film was screened at the Southpark 7 in Spencer.
© Copyright 2011 Spencer Daily Reporter
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