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Post by Admin on Tue May 03, 2011 7:46 pm

http://moviemusereviews.com/summer-movie-preview-2011-superhero-movies/

Summer Movie Preview 2011: Superhero Movies

* May 3, 2011 8:53 AM
* Steven

I’m not sure if the major movie studios are ready for the summer. I mean, yes, they’re ready for the upswing in box-office totals after a terribly slow 2011 so far, but are they truly ready? I’ve mentioned before here on MMR that Jon Favreau sometime last year called summer 2011 a “box-office bloodbath.” I don’t think anyone is truly prepared for the reality of that statement, not even theatergoers.

That’s why I’ve chosen to kick-off my massive Summer Movie Preview 2011 with superhero films. Last year, this category would have included “Iron Man 2″ and that’s it. This summer, four superhero movies will be released within two and a half months of each other. Paramount releases “Thor” this Friday to kick things off and also ends the superhero season on July 22 with “Captain America: The First Avenger.” In June, Fox releases “X-Men: First Class.” Two weeks later, Warner Bros. delivers “Green Lantern.” The genre is known for raking in the big bucks, so all these films could make bank, right? Not so fast.

Between “Thor” and “Captain America,” the following films will be released: “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides,” “The Hangover: Part II,” “Kung Fu Panda 2,” “Cars 2,” “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” and “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pt. 2.” With the debatable exception of “X-Men,” none of these films has the luxury of being a sequel to a great or loved movie/franchise. Are people going to respond positively and come out every weekend ready to spend their summer earnings, or are they going to be a bit more choosy, especially when it comes to these superheroes they likely don’t know?

Here’s my preview for these four films, the big four that are being heavily marketed to you that you might not know as much about:



Thor (May 6)

Directed by Kenneth Branagh
Written by Ashley Miller, Zack Stentz, Don Payne (screenplay), J. Michael Straczynski and Mark Protosevich (story), Stan Lee, Larry Lieber and Jack Kirby (comic)
Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Anthony Hopkins, Tom Hiddleston

Summary: For a foolish mistake, the Norse god Thor is stripped of his power, including his almighty hammer Mjolnir, and banned from the heavenly realm of Asgard to Earth. He’s discovered by scientists, one being Jane Foster (Portman). From then on a battle ensues to stop a plan to destroy Earth headed by Thor’s malicious brother Loki (Hiddleston).

The Word: British thespian Kenneth Branagh takes the reigns of one of Marvel’s more obscure and less relatable heroes, Thor, Norse god of thunder. Since he’s not human, Thor can be tough, but in the hands of a true craftsman like Branagh, the sky seems the limit. If Branagh seems unusual, note that he was a huge fan of the comic as a young boy. That’s usually a good sign and one that indicates the source material was treated with utmost respect.

My Thoughts: Despite some excellent grandeur as seen in the set pieces and costumes, my initial reaction was that “Thor” looked cheesy. Hemsworth certainly looks the part and capable of being a rugged leading man, but the real struggle here will be balancing the mythological with modern day. If the script and Branagh could strike that balance, something truly special could happen here.

Box-Office Potential: “Thor” has the benefit of being first. Although “Fast Five” made $86 million this past weekend and will threaten to take some of the film’s audience, fans of the genre who recognize the first weekend in May as signifying the release of the year’s biggest superhero film will still likely come out in droves. An early overseas release with positive reviews could also help “Thor” reach close to “Fast Five” numbers. It hardly has the appeal of “Iron Man,” which earned $98 million in 2008, but no reason $75 M-plus can’t be met. Then again, “Thor” is in fact an obscure and strange character, so a mild disappointment wouldn’t be out of the question.


X-Men: First Class (June 3)

Directed by Matthew Vaughn
Written by Ashley Miller, Zack Stentz, Jane Goldman, Matthew Vaughn (screenplay), Sheldon Turner and Bryan Singer (story)
Starring: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Rose Byrne

Summary: Set during the Cuban Missile Crisis in the ’60s, “First Class” is a true X-Men origin story in which two young friends, Charles and Erik (who would later become enemies Professor X and Magneto), decide to use their powers to intervene in the famous global struggle. Other mutants, including familiar ones such as Mystique (Lawrence) and Beast (Nicholas Hoult) turn up as do new faces including fan-favorite beauty Emma Frost (January Jones).

The Word: It might be the most well-known of all the franchises, but many are wary of “First Class” because of its rushed production schedule and shoddy-looking promotional materials. Matthew Vaughn (“Kick-Ass”) has terrific credentials and “X-Men” godfather Bryan Singer supervised the prequel of sorts, but a film of this magnitude rarely gets turned around in less than a year like “First Class” was. Can this be pulled off?

My Thoughts: I like the story potential for “First Class” much more than the others. The period setting gives it something we haven’t seen before in the modern superhero era (but only by a month or so because “Captain America” comes out) and the story of how two characters we love from the previous films came to develop different ideologies certainly holds promise. There are lots of characters, however, and subplots like Beast and Mystique as young lovers and something with Kevin Bacon as the villainous Sebastian Shaw might mean too much is going on. This film also has the best young cast of its three other superhero competitors. McAvoy and Fassbender are on the cusp of stardom and Lawrence and Hoult have been cast to star in and lead future young-adult tentpole films in “The Hunger Games” and “Jack the Giant Killer” respectively.

Box-Office Potential: Fox is putting all its chips on the “X-Men” brand to bring it a big pile of winnings this June. The film has plenty of distance from “Thor” and a week’s cushion from “Pirates of the Caribbean.” It should have a nice second weekend with only “Super 8″ coming out the following Friday, but then “Green Lantern” will possibly sweep up its audience. It will need a big opening and glowing reviews as well as some nice overseas work, which it ought to have with McAvoy and Fassbender being Scottish and Irish respectively. The June placement is odd for “X-Men” anything, but all the films have been a success so far, so expect no less, even if its on the tamer side.


Green Lantern (June 17)

Directed by Martin Campbell
Written by Greg Berlanti, Michael Green, Marc Guggenheim and Michael Goldenberg
Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Blake Lively, Peter Sarsgaard, Mark Strong

Summary: Cocky pilot Hal Jordan discovers the body of a dying alien who hands him a ring possessing great power. With it, he becomes a Green Lantern, one of many defenders of the universe, and he is the first of his kind, which doesn’t make the other Lanterns happy. However, he must learn to harness his power quickly as he could be the key to defeating a menacing threat to all life forms everywhere.

The Word: Fittingly, it seems Warner Bros. has placed a lot of power on Ryan Reynolds. The bankable star might be an odd choice for a pure action film, but he certainly could have enough to make a “Green Lantern” film work. With aliens and all kinds of non-lifelike entities and concepts, this is a tough film to sell. Martin Campbell, director of two of the most beloved modern Bond films in “Casino Royale” and “Goldeneye,” certainly has the chops, but the film will lean heavily on CGI sets, characters and other special effects that will likely not be finished until the last minute.

My Thoughts: If Campbell and Warner Bros. have drawn up an intergalactic world that can even come close to captivating us like “Avatar” did, then “Green Lantern” easily has the most potential as far as action, excitement and never-before-seen entertainment. As such, a lot rests with Reynolds to give the film its humanity and bring the film down to a level that non-comic nerds can identify with. He’s not exactly what Robert Downey Jr. is to “Iron Man,” but that’s what he needs to be for DC Comics to have its first successful non-Batman/Superman franchise-to-be.

Box-Office Potential: With “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” sure to eclipse it completely two weeks after its release, “Green Lantern” needs a heck of an opening too. Reynolds has never truly had his box-office potential tested, but since 2009′s “The Proposal,” he’s become a household name that seems capable. If J.J. Abrams and Steven Spielberg’s “Super 8″ has a booming opening and great reviews that weekend before, however, that could be a major problem for this movie. If “Thor” seems obscure with Norse gods and such, try talking aliens named Kilowog. Warner Bros. can market as good as if not better than any studio, but with the crazy potential for “The Hangover: Part II” and “Harry Potter” this summer, it might focus on those and hope for the best with “Green Lantern.” Overall, I see it as having the steepest climb to a big summer gross.


Captain America: The First Avenger (July 22)

Directed by Joe Johnston
Written by Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely (screenplay), Jack Kirby, Joe Simon (comic)
Starring: Chris Evans, Hayley Atwell, Hugo Weaving, Stanley Tucci

Summary: World War II is underway and Steve Rogers is a sickly and scrawny guy deemed unfit for military service, but he becomes involved in an experimental procedure that tests a super-soldier serum on him and he becomes Captain America.

The Word: The final piece of the puzzle to be introduced for next year’s “The Avengers,” Captain America becomes the final second-tier Marvel superhero to make it to the big screen after Thor and Iron Man. Chris Evans, who has superhero experience playing The Human Torch in the “Fantastic Four” films, takes the lead and hopes he can bring an all-American charisma to this superhero period film that has a slight flavor of “Indiana Jones.” Veteran Joe Johnston (“Jumanji,” “Jurassic Park 3,” “The Wolfman”) helmed the project.

My Thoughts: If the dozens other summer blockbusters haven’t worn me down by then, “Captain America” sits surprisingly atop my list of superhero films to look forward to this summer. The period angle looks good and the casting of Hugo Weaving as crazed Nazi Red Skull definitely ranks atop all of the summer’s superhero casting decisions. Perhaps the appeal of “Captain America” is that it’s safest: no aliens, no Norse gods and not too many potential characters/story lines.

Box-Office Potential: If fatigue is averted from all the blockbusters out before July 22, “Captain America” might make for the last huge weekend of 2011. It sits three weeks after “Transformers,” which is critical, but only a week after “Harry Potter.” It has to hope that non-Potter fans will be amped up to see it and that “Potter’s” grand finale won’t completely cast a shadow over its opening weekend. A film like this would look much better near the Fourth of July, but it should still do well, just not as much as it could with a better slot.
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Post by Admin on Fri May 13, 2011 10:28 pm

http://mag.bent.com/blog/super-torsos/

Super Torsos

May 11, 2011

This Summer is a good one for three things: superhero films, torsos and not enjoying the cover artwork of Lady Gaga’s new album (eep!). There are four major comic book adaptations this Summer - Captain America, Green Lantern and X-Men First Class, with Thor already showing, that not only look rather good, but have been well casted physically as well. While the muscle-mary look might not be for everybody, you can’t deny it’s impressive, particularly when combined with spandex costumes. So here is a run down of what we can expect in super-powered chest action this Summer.1) Thor (in cinemas): Chris Hemworth (pictured gloriously above and also here) plays the eponymous hero in a fantastically entertaining film that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Catch it while it’s still in cinemas!

2) X-Men: First Class (30/05): James MacAvoy, Michael Fassbender and many more star in this mutant prequel. Who says blue and yellow don’t go together?

3) Green Lantern (17/06): Ryan Reynolds plays a pilot chosen to be our planet’s protector against an alien threat. His digitally added (skin-tight) costume leaves little to the imagination.

4) Captain America (29/07): Chris Evans has bulked up exponentially since Fantastic Four for the title role of this new franchise. The film depicts his transformation from average joe to super-soldier fighting the Nazi’s for Uncle Sam.

Unless Harry Potter sneaks in some serious sex appeal, these could be the front runners for hottest blockbusters this year, let alone some of the most entertaining.
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Post by Admin on Fri May 13, 2011 10:31 pm

http://thisisbrandx.com/2011/05/summer-movies-superheroes-heat-things-up/

Summer movies: Superheroes heat things up
May 11, 2011 @ 9:00 am

X-Men: First Class

This summer sees a veritable Justice League — or should we say Avengers — of superhero movies leaping into theaters. With “Thor” hitting theaters last Friday, this season’s barrage of comic book movies has just begun. Here’s the scoop on three more epics that will have you reaching for the popcorn.

“X-Men First Class” finds an unlikely inspiration

How’s this for unexpected territory in a superhero film: “X-Men: First Class” not only uses the Kennedy years, the civil rights movement and the Cuban missile crisis as a backdrop for its retro tale, the movie’s story of two massively powerful mutants who struggle against bitter prejudice was directly informed by the complicated lives of Malcolm X and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

“It came up early on in the rehearsal period, and that was the path we took,” says Michael Fassbender, who stars as the emotionally scarred Erik Lehnsherr, who will become the militant mutant known as Magneto. “These two brilliant minds coming together and their views aren’t that different on some key things. As you watch them you know that if their understanding, ability and intelligence could somehow come together it would be really special. But the split is what makes them even more interesting and tragic.”

The other half of the film’s “frenemy” pair is Charles Xavier, a.k.a. Professor X, who is portrayed by James McAvoy, who in this film steps into a younger version of the role made famous by Patrick Stewart in four “X-Men” films.

The movie has a challenge with its throwback conceits and all the new faces. Still, the four mutant-hero movies to date have pulled in $1.53 billion in worldwide box office, and even when devoted fans grumbled about the story, they still bought tickets and joined the Internet debates. The opposite of love isn’t hate, it’s apathy — and to date there has been no apathy when it comes to the X-Men characters, which created a publishing bonanza for Marvel in the 1980s and ’90s.

The new film also marks the return of Bryan Singer to the franchise. The director of the first two “X-Men” movies left for the third installment and the 2009 spin-off “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” but he’s back, this time as producer. Matthew Vaughn, the firebrand filmmaker behind “Kick-Ass,” is in the director’s chair and has inspired plenty of studio angst with his public candor about the rushed production. “I feel like a boxer against the ropes,” the Brit told The Times in January.

Less stressed out were Fassbender and McAvoy, two rising stars who have plenty of special-effects film credits between them (the first “Chronicles of Narnia” film, “300,” “Wanted,” “Jonah Hex,” etc.) and a measured confidence as they inherit roles from fanboy-world icons Ian McKellen, who played Magneto in three films, and Stewart.

“At one point I thought, should I study Ian McKellen as a young man? Should I take that approach? Matthew wasn’t so keen on it, and after discussing it we decided it might lead off away from the real priorities. Just returning to the comic books, you find that Erik can — in terms of taking on a voice — Erik can be anything when we meet him”

McAvoy said he was glad to go back to a version of younger Professor X that wasn’t the “selfless, sexless monk” of the previous movies.

At the heart of it all, McAvoy says, are Charles and Erik and the magnetic hold they have on each other.

“It’s kind of a love story, like ‘Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,’ which, really, was a love story between two men. This is the first time in their lives they’ve met someone who is an equal of sorts, someone who understands them and can connect and push them too.”
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Post by Admin on Sun May 22, 2011 8:51 pm

http://topyxyz.wordpress.com/2011/05/22/anticipation-station-part-3-a-preview-of-june-2011-movies/

Anticipation Station Part 3: A Preview of June 2011 Movies

Welcome to Part 3 of Anticipation Station 2011. As you all know, I love watching movies, so I wanna spread the love and give you guys another preview of what’s to come in the theaters. This time I’ll give you a look on what the month of June has to offer. If you feel like you’ve missed a good movie over the past two months, don’t hesitate to check out the first two parts of my article here and here!

Last June we witnessed the fall of the Shrek franchise as it opened at number one but earned only half of Shrek The Third’s opening weekend gross. We also saw the lack of interest for The A-Team and the opposite for The Karate Kid. June was also the month where 2010′s highest grossing movie of the year opened, which was Toy Story 3.

So, what does this year’s June have to offer? Well, I hope we have a huge opening weekend every week because there are only 7 wide releases this month, and I expect not all of them are gonna grab the attention of the viewers.

WITHOUT FURTHER ADO, LET’S START WITH…

1.) X-MEN: FIRST CLASS

X-Men: First Class

In 1963, Charles Xavier starts up a school and later a team, for humans with superhuman abilities. Among them is Erik Lensherr, his best friend… and future archenemy.

Director: Matthew Vaughn

Starring: Michael Fassbender (Inglourious Basterds), James McAvoy (Wanted), Jennifer Lawrence (The Hunger Games), January Jones (American Pie: The Wedding), Rose Byrne (Bridesmaids), Nicolas Hoult (Clash of The Titans), Kevin Bacon (Frost/Nixon), Lucas Till (Hannah Montana: The Movie)

Comments: June kicks of with a bang with X-Men: First Class. I like the cast because it’s a mix of veteran and rising stars. I think Jennifer Lawrence is one actress we should watch out, as her performance in here will predetermine if she’s got what it takes to be Katniss in The Hunger Games. There is absolutely no way I won’t watch this in its opening weekend.

ANTICIPATION LEVEL: 9/10

———

2.) SUPER 8

Super 8

After witnessing a mysterious train crash, a group of friends in the summer of 1979 begin noticing strange happenings going around in their small town, and begin to investigate into the creepy phenomenon.

Director: J.J. Abrams Producer: Steven Spielberg

Starring: Elle Fanning (Astro Boy), Amanda Michalka (The Lovely Bones), Kyle Chandler (The Day The Earth Stood Still), Joel Courtney

Comments: This one’s probably the most mysterious summer blockbuster out this year, much like Cloverfield, only it looks so…much…better! I love J.J. Abrams, and when he collaborates with Steven Spielberg, it’s almost certain that we’ll witness one hell of a movie. The cast is also a fresh batch, and some are sisters of already-famous people (Dakota Fanning, Alyson Michalka). This is also the first movie of a kid named Joel Courtney, and he has the lead role! So be prepared to check them out on Google. I’m not a big fan of watching horror/suspense movies in theaters, but clearly this one will be an exception.

ANTICIPATION LEVEL: 8/10

———–

3.) JUDY MOODY AND THE NOT BUMMER SUMMER

Judy Moody and The Not Bummer Summer

Third-grader Judy Moody sets out to have the most thrilling summer of her life.

Director: John Schultz

Starring: Heather Graham (Austin Powers 4), Preston Bailey (Dexter), Jordana Beatty,

Comments: Let me give you 4 reasons why I won’t be watching this movie: 1. I’ve never heard of this movie until now, 2. It’s a movie for kids, 3. The title sucks, 4. Heather Graham’s a tad too old to be considered hot. The most thrilladelic summer adventure ever? Not for grown-ups!

ANTICIPATION LEVEL: 0/10

———-

4.) GREEN LANTERN

Green Lantern

A test pilot is granted a mystical green ring that bestows him with otherworldly powers, as well as membership into an intergalactic squadron tasked with keeping peace within the universe.

Director: Martin Campbell

Starring: Ryan Reynolds (The Proposal), Blake Lively (Gossip Girl), Peter Sarsgaard (Knight and Day), Mark Strong (Sherlock Holmes), Geoffrey Rush (Pirates of the Caribbean)

Comments: I believe that not every superhero can be a hit in the theaters. I think this one won’t be a big hit. It has a good fanbase, but I’m not sure if the Green Lantern can capture the eyes of kids and average Joes around the world. I like Reynolds and Lively, but I’m not that interested about the story. I mean, it looks a little cornier than Thor, and I liked Thor. I think this one will be a good movie, but I don’t know if I’ll see this one in theaters.

ANTICIPATION LEVEL: 6/10

————-

5.) MR. POPPER’S PENGUINS

Mr. Popper's Penguins

The life of a businessman begins to change after he inherits six penguins, and as he transforms his apartment into a winter wonderland, his professional side starts to unravel.

Director: Mark Waters

Starring: Jim Carrey (Yes Man), Carla Gugino (Sucker Punch), Ophelia Lovibond (No Strings Attached), Madeline Carroll (Flipped)

Comments: I admit I’ve only recently discovered this film, but we’ve seen what Jim Carrey could do when he’s with animals. In my opinion, he’s the true king of comedy. I’m not sure if I’ll watch this in theaters, but I definitely need to see this one before the year ends.

ANTICIPATION LEVEL: 7/10
———-

6.) CARS 2

Cars 2

Racing star Lightning McQueen teams up with his best friend Mater for an international adventure as they go up against the world’s fastest cars.

Director: John Lasseter, Brad Lewis

Starring: Owen Wilson (Wedding Crashers), Larry The Cable Guy (Cars), Michael Caine (The Dark Knight),

Comments: This is Pixar Animation Studios’ second of three sequels scheduled for release between 2010-2013 (Toy Story 3, Monsters University). Many people say that Cars is the “Black Sheep” among Pixar films as it is the lowest rated (but still good), but with this sequel they’ll have a chance to prove them wrong. I’m not that excited though. I, too, think that it’s one of the least interesting films of the studio.

ANTICIPATION LEVEL: 6/10

———

7.) BAD TEACHER

Bad Teacher

A comedy centered around a foul-mouthed, junior high teacher who, after being dumped by her sugar daddy, begins to woo a colleague — a move that pits her against a well-loved teacher.

Director: Jake Kasdan

Starring: Cameron Diaz (Knight and Day), Justin Timberlake (The Social Network), Jason Segel (How I Met Your Mother)

Comments: Ex-couple Cameron Diaz and Justin Timberlake teams up once again in this movie. I like the two, especially JT, who has proven every single time that he’s got what it takes to be an actor. Hhe deserved an Oscar nomination for his performance in The Social Network! Plus, if you add How I Met Your Mother’s Jason Segel, you’ll have a recipe for success!

ANTICIPATION LEVEL: 7/10

————

Yep, that’s it. Only 7 movies out this June so I guess you won’t have a hard time figuring out what you’re gonna watch. Hope this article helps you out!

POLL TIME! Once again, choose THREE films you’re can’t wait to see within the next few weeks. If you have time, comment on my work please! Thank you for reading my blog!
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Post by Admin on Mon May 23, 2011 5:20 pm

http://nymag.com/daily/entertainment/2011/05/summer_movies_sequels_hangover.html

The New Summer Blockbuster Economy: Reboots, Prequels, and the End of the Superstar Cash Grab

5/22/11 at 9:50 PM

The X-Men: First Class cast, with not a big-payday star to be found

This summer, nine sequels will open over twelve weekends, including a second Hangover, a third Transformers, a fourth Pirates of the Caribbean, an eighth Harry Potter, and so on. That's a new record for summer franchise domination.* However, there's something very different about this banner year: Only one of these follow-ups — Johnny Depp's Pirates — features a real live, major movie star. A-listers have been losing leverage over the years, but nowhere is this becoming more clear than in the world of sequels. Familiar titles are more important than ever to studios, but they've decided that they can do them without being weighed down by enormous, gross-gobbling paychecks and profit-participation deals. "In the eighties and early nineties, the movie star was the brand," explains Simon Kinberg, producer of X-Men: First Class. "Then in the nineties, visual effects became the brand. Now, the brand is the brand."

The Rise and Fall of the Megastar Megadeal

Back in the eighties and nineties, the glory days of the action star, if an actor could lock onto a franchise, it could subsidize his family tree for generations. Mel had his Lethal Weapon, Stallone had Rocky and Rambo, and Harrison Ford had three annuities: Star Wars, Indiana Jones, and Jack Ryan. Audiences knew what these stars stood for, and studio executives knew their deals painfully well: high salaries and profit participation that got them paid before the studio got paid, and often earned them more than the studio would make on an entire film.

And these blockbusters kept getting bigger. In the late nineties, every time a new action movie would introduce a groundbreaking special effect (Terminator 2's morphing cyborg, The Matrix's bullet time), studios would scream their mantra, "Raise the bar!" Audiences, already jaded by the last monster they saw, demanded ever more astonishing special effects, and moviemakers raced to outspectacle each other. Paired with big movie stars, such a formula got expensive and risky, fast. Recall that Keanu Reeves was paid a whopping $30 million upfront to make back-to-back Matrix sequels, but that his paycheck ultimately amounted to roughly $165 million, as his deal promised him an astonishing 15 percent of the final two films' $1.1 billion (that’s with a "b," people!) in worldwide grosses.

It appeared that something had to go: Either the big stars or the pricey effects. And while stars have become less dependable at the box office, CGI-packed sequels have not. Yes, they often wind up making less than their forebears, but according to a 2008 study published in the Journal of Business Research, they still tend to do much better than non-sequels, which is why studios return to them again and again.

"I wouldn't even pitch an original idea anymore," says Christopher McQuarrie, who, lest we forget, won the Best Original Screenplay Oscar in 1995 for The Usual Suspects. Most recently, he wrote the Wolverine sequel at Fox. "What [studios] want is — through no fault of their own — a piece of pre-existing material that's survived some sort of a litmus test, like a graphic novel. It's kind of ironic, because the number of copies that a graphic novel has to sell to be wildly successful in no way forecasts what or how a movie is going to open. But it creates a visual template on which the movie is based. Someone in marketing can look at that, and say, ‘We're selling this.’ An original piece of material is a complete gamble."

And if a cast gets too expensive, well, Hasta la vista, baby! Reboot or prequel-ize, refresh the brand, expand its universe, and, most important, bring in cheaper actors who won't gobble your profits.

When You've Got a Brand, Who Needs a Name?

The roots of the idea of star replacement can be found in the James Bond movies. (The series' longtime producers, the Broccolis, have always refused to give their spy-of-the-moment profit participation; when Pierce Brosnan started asking, he was retired.) But the idea really took hold as a profitable solution when Fox wanted to do a fifth Alien movie, but it would cost over $20 million to get Sigourney Weaver. Instead, in 2004 they made AVP: Alien vs. Predator for around $40 million with no stars: Including video sales, the film made some $92 million for the studio. Mind you, that's profit, not grosses — which is to say roughly double what Fox made from 2006’s star-packed X-Men: The Last Stand, which cost five times as much. Yes, some prequels fail on every level (Dumb and Dumberer), but they make a lot more when they don't. As for whether they're better or worse without the original stars, ultimately, that doesn't matter: They're cheaper, so there's less pressure to be good.

Kinberg is seeing this trend happen firsthand with two of his projects. He wrote the 2005 hit Mr. & Mrs. Smith, which the Fox-based mini-studio New Regency is in the process of rebooting without Mr. Pitt-Jolie or Mrs. Jolie-Pitt: After all, they would command 40 percent of the gross if they returned, assuming they weren’t already booked up through the year 2047. So Fox's idea is to spin it off as something called Mr. & Mrs. Jones — about another pair of married spies with an ampersand — and if it ever gets made, it will star far smaller, cheaper fish.

Kinberg’s X-Men: First Class is a more tangible case of casting downward while maintaining a healthy brand. It centers around the familiar characters of Magneto and Professor Xavier, which justifies its marketing under the X-Men brand, but it's a prequel, which means it stars all new actors, mostly up-and-coming. They won't strain the budget, let alone take a piece of the gross.

“The reason why they didn’t make another X-Men after The Last Stand is that it would have been too expensive,” insists Last Stand’s director, Brett Ratner. “For that matter, that’s why another Rush Hour 4 probably won’t get made, either: It’d be too much to pay me, Chris [Tucker], and Jackie [Chan] to come back.”

Fox declined to comment on its development, but a studio insider familiar with the development of X-Men: First Class agrees with Ratner's assessment, explaining, “The success or failure of these movies is in the back-end participation.” If you pool the paychecks of First Class stars James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, and Nicholas Hoult, they likely don't add up to what it would cost to get, say, Mark Wahlberg, who usually commands $10 million and 8 percent of the gross.

Okay, so you've cast a talented, gorgeous unknown as your lead. What happens when the reboot succeeds wildly, and the once guppy-sized star becomes a really popular whale? Again, the new Hollywood math favors the house, not the players. One talent agent notes the story of Chris Pine: After appearing as Captain Kirk in J.J. Abrams’s reboot of Star Trek for Paramount, which was the highest-grossing film of the summer of 2009, he became highly sought-after by every studio in town. But Pine’s ability to be considered for even bigger roles, such as the lead in Universal’s reboot of The Bourne Legacy, has been hampered by the contract Paramount negotiated with him to do Star Trek. For example, they wanted him for their reboot of Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan franchise, and per that original contract they had the right to make him do it, and he came relatively cheap. And for a star plucked from total obscurity, such as Thor star Chris Hemsworth, Marvel could easily have demanded four or five such options. These newbies have very few cards to play: Ridley Scott wanted Michael Fassbender for his Alien prequel, and when the actor's agents pressed for a better deal, they were surprised that the director and the studio were more than willing to cast someone else. Suddenly, Team Fassbender was forced to backpedal furiously; the last offer was just fine, thank you. Yes, eventually these actors will serve out their contracts and demand more cash, but by that point the franchise will probably have burned itself out, and, hey, time for a reboot!

Everybody Into the Pool! But This One Isn't Olympic-Size

Now, the studios aren't entirely counting stars out. They can still help a movie: The Fast and the Furious series was stalling until Vin Diesel came back for the fourth installment. And when they added The Rock for the fifth, it became the biggest entry yet. And for all of the money Fox is saving by making X-Men: First Class with a cheaper cast, they're also paying Hugh Jackman movie-star money to do another Wolverine sequel. (Though they're keeping costs down: A source tells us that the targeted budget for The Wolverine was $90 million.) The key to keeping superstars in your blockbuster is something called "the pool," which drastically reduces the profit participation of big stars so that the studio is no longer left paying tens of millions of dollars to an actor for a movie that never made the studio a dime.

The pool was designed about four years ago, when the DVD market started shrinking. Without that afterburner, studios were far more dependent on the box-office gross, of which the stars were grabbing an enormous chunk. The pool is a set percentage of the gross put aside to be divvied up by the film's heavy-hitters after the movie breaks even; this as opposed to the first-dollar gross they used to get, through which they got paid even before the studio did. But neither is it net profit, which became a joke because it never existed: By factoring in everything from marketing and advertising costs to interest and distribution fees, studios claimed there was never a profit to share.

The pool kicks in after the strict physical costs of the production (agreed on by all parties) have been recouped; this way the studio makes sure they won't lose money on a blockbuster. And, the pool never exceeds 25 percent of the gross. One producer familiar with Marvel's dealings says that this is how they can afford to make The Avengers, with its many big names; the actors' claim on the pool is reduced because they don’t work as much. "Maybe a big star like Robert [Downey, Jr.] gets only three or four points of the pool," says our source. "But he only works for three or four weeks.”

As Ratner explains, “Marvel’s model is: We’re not paying gross to anybody. And it’s not just Marvel; it’s all the studios. They don’t want to pay gross. We used to get paid before they could recoup. The studios don’t want to do that anymore. They have these new rules. They were tired of losing money, but seeing an actor walking away with $50 million.”

Big Stars May Be Down, But They're Not Out

Sony is currently enmeshed in a dangerously old-school A-lister-driven sequel: Men in Black 3, starring one of the biggest stars in the world, Will Smith. Currently (and eternally?) in production in New York, MiB3 has grabbed headlines lately with a metaphor for the production’s excess: Local residents have been loudly complaining about Smith’s city-block-swallowing, diesel-fumes-belching luxury trailer. But believe it or not, this installment has been on a crash diet compared with previous incarnations. Previously, Smith, Tommy Lee Jones, director Barry Sonnenfeld, producer Walter Parkes, and executive producer Steven Spielberg swallowed much of the first two films' profits with their massive gross participations. Spielberg alone is thought to have made $100 million just from lending his name as an “executive producer” on the first film.

The cost of the third installment is ballooning, as Smith (who is also the film's producer) extended a planned hiatus to play screenwriter on a script that hadn't been finished before the movie was rushed to a green light. But there’s one bright spot on the studio's ledger: This time out, Sony was able to create a pool for gross participation, and limited it to 24 percent, with Smith taking the biggest chunk. It doesn't reduce the massive budget any, or get rid of the Excedrin headache script problems, but at least Sony will be able to recoup far more of its investment when it finally opens.

Which brings us back to Johnny Depp, the only major sequel star of the summer of 2011. One couldn't imagine the Pirates franchise without him; he's inarguably the only reason the movie became a franchise. But there's far less of a chance that a star with his price tag would launch a similarly extravagant series today. And so he seems to have something cheaper in mind: As Vulture first reported, one of his next projects will be a remake of The Thin Man, the 1934 comedy whodunit with William Powell and Myrna Loy that spawned five sequels. Clearly, Depp sees not just a classic detective comedy to be remade (about yet another amusing, high-functioning alcoholic, to boot), but a potential new franchise for himself, too — and perhaps not a terribly expensive one at that. (One would assume that a Thin Man remake wouldn't involve pricey battle scenes and CGI villains. That said, knowing Hollywood, it may well be set in deep space by the time it's finished.) But at the rate things are going in Hollywood, Depp could safely ensconce himself in this for a while. Heck, he might even make it to The Thin Man 4: On Stranger Diets before they cast some unknown from Australia to replace him.

*Well, the summer of '88 did technically have nine, but cheapies Phantasm II and Strike Commander 2 hardly qualify as major films.

Related: F, Marry, Kill: The Summer Movie Edition
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Post by Admin on Fri May 27, 2011 3:18 pm

http://www.hitfix.com/articles/six-reasons-why-x-men-first-class-may-save-the-summer

Six reasons why 'X-Men: First Class' may save the summer
By HitFix Staff - Brand new clips show off the film's action, drama and attractive cast

Thursday, May 26, 2011 3:01 PM

1. Real history meets reel action

In the film, we discover that the Cuban Missile Crisis wasn't diffused with diplomacy and deal-making between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. We see here that Xavier (James McAvoy) and Magneto (Michael Fassbender) did all the heavy lifting, with a little help from the screaming Banshee (Caleb Landry Jones).

2. January Jones shows her stuff

Here, mutant telepath Emma Frost ("Mad Men" star January Jones) proves that sometimes diamonds are a girl's best friend...and sometimes girls ARE diamonds.

3. Introducing Sebastian Shaw

A long-running character in the comics, Shaw (played by the eternally cool Kevin Bacon) leads the powerful secret society known as The Hellfire Club. Shaw and his organization could potentially play a key role in any future "X-Men"-related films. Here, Shaw (wearing a familiar helmet) and some mutant cronies stage a spectacular break-in into a compound where some young mutants are being held. Lotsa guns, lotsa fire, lotsa Bampf!

4. Kevin Bacon is a very persuasive guy.

In this clip, Bacon (as Sebastian Shaw) delivers an attractive offer to some of the young X-Men (including Jennifer Lawrence, Nicholas Hoult and Zoe Kravitz). But he's also asking you to go see the movie. Are you gonna say no? You can live like a king!

5. Does Jennifer Lawrence look hotter in blue than Rebecca Romijn?

The Oscar-nominated actress ("Winter's Bone") gets a life lesson from Magneto (Michael Fassbender) in this clip. Lawrence plays Mystique, the shape-shifting role memorably played by model-actress Rebecca Romijn in "X-Men" and its two sequels. The actress will soon be seen as Katniss in the highly-anticipated "Hunger Games."

6. Michael Fassbender & James McAvoy = Magneto & Professor X

Director Matthew Vaughn ("Kick-Ass") and his writers appear to take the core relationship between the two equally charismatic -- but ethically polarized -- mutant leaders very seriously, as seen in this clip. For fans of both the comics and the films, this scene speaks volumes about the two and foreshadows their future rivalry (played out in the previous films by Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart). Fassbender, so good in "Inglourious Basterds" and "Fish Tank," seems particularly intense when he states "never again." Plus, the effects are cool.

"X-Men: First Class" opens nationwide June 3.

Check out some photos from last night's New York of the film premiere here.

Read Drew McWeeny's review of the film here.
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Post by Admin on Fri May 27, 2011 3:28 pm

http://www.slate.com/id/2295169/

The Blockbuster Goes Retro
X-Men, Super 8, and Captain America attempt to reboot the past.
By Tom ShoneUpdated Tuesday, May 24, 2011, at 6:57 AM ET

Still from "Super 8." Click image to expand.Elle Fanning and Joel Courtney
in Super 8Prepare to dip your madeleines, as the blockbuster is experiencing a Proustian rush. If the movement of last summer's movies was solipsistically inward, probing such deep epistemological matters as whether we are—or are not—a figment of Leonardo DiCaprio's imagination, this year's crop jumps backward, their plots o'ercast with the amber hue of retrospect.

On June 3, we have X-Men: First Class, an origins story set in the 1960s.* Magneto and Professor X are in college, duking it out over who gets top bunk while the Cuban Missile Crisis plays out in the background. This is followed a week later by J.J. Abrams' Super 8, a touching ode to being 10 in 1979, when aliens from another planet were greeted with Spielbergian wonder and not a full pat-down and cavity search. On July 22 we have Captain America: The First Avenger, in which a 90-pound weakling steps into a science lab and emerges big enough to bounce Nazis off his bicep. A week after that, we have Cowboys & Aliens, which pretty much speaks for itself.

If this keeps up, we can presumably look forward to a new Superman movie in which the caped crusader is returned to his Depression-era roots to do battle with moonshine bootleggers, and the new Terminator movie, in which Arnold Schwarzenegger travels back to the roaring '20s to protect Zelda Fitzgerald from character assassination by future biographers of her husband.

What the deuce—or blue blazes, depending on period—is going on? The summer is not traditionally the time when Merchant Ivory trot out their picnic hampers and cucumber sandwiches. Not that you could mistake any of these films for the latest Henry James adaptation, exactly—no film called Cowboys & Aliens is intent on cleaving too hard to the historical record. On the contrary, the anachronism is the point, just as the appearance of blackberries in Guy Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes was designed to send the pince-nez flying from the noses of Conan Doyle fans. We live in the era of the movie mash-up—in the salad bar that is the head of the modern movie executive, the past is ripe for tossing.
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In some ways, pictures like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter constitute the sweetest of compliments, there being no greater attribute we can bestow on historical personages than an ability to smush the undead. Even Roland Emmerich, king of the disaster zone, is making a picture about Shakespeare, for heaven's sake, which tells you something about the shifting loyalties of today's audiences: We've seen how the world ends, and, frankly, it's getting a little samey.

Have you been back to the future recently? If the last installment of the Terminator franchise was anything to go by, the future has long since succumbed to terminal rust. That film, like so many others, gave us a darkened, battle-scarred plainland of mud browns and post-apocalyptic taupes, in which the haggard bark orders at the hoarse beneath skies the color of vengeance. Buck Rogers would fall into a dead faint.

The present is scarcely much brighter. Ever since Chris Nolan turned The Dark Knight into a scowling disquisition on Bush-era justice, no self-respecting piece of popcorn cinema has felt complete without a salting of war-on-terror subtext, whether it be the responsibilities that beset a lone superpower (the Spider-Man series), the threat of the illegal arms trade (the Iron Man series), or the virtues of diplomacy versus boots on the ground (Transformers 2). Even the last Harry Potter sank to a profound, late-stage Imperial gloom. "These are dark times, there is no denying it," intoned Bill Nighy, while the forces of darkness encircled our heroes, shivering, in a tent. I always thought pop culture was supposed to be about fake uplift—a draft of Leithian forgetfulness to ease the pain of our cramped late-capitalist existences with a cheerful blast of false consciousness?

Alone among recent blockbuster franchises, only the J.J. Abrams reboot of Star Trek has dared stoke the high spirits of summers past, with Mr. Spock and Lt. Uhura making out in much the same spirit of multilateral co-operation that buoyed the original TV series.* Abrams continues the nostalgia trip with Super 8, an attempt to effect a Vulcan mind-meld with the work of the young Steven Spielberg, and also roll back the clock to a time when Americans still looked to the skies with something like wonder. The mixture of kids and bicycles is right out of E.T.—Spielberg's love sonnet to suburban America, caught in the glow of dawn and dusk—but Abrams' film owes even more to Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Spielberg's junk version of The Sorcerer's Apprentice, with its vision of America roused from its slumber by an array of whirring toys and runaway washing machines. "Its better than goofy golf!" urges Richard Dreyfuss. "It's like Halloween for grown-ups," whispers Melinda Dillon.

Or July 4th for moviegoers. The one thing the whole aliens-arriving-from-outer-space really resembles, of course, is a blockbuster movie opening. "They were invited" insists Francois Truffaut—but nobody points this out, for back then, in the fall of 1977, blockbusters were still things that arrived once a generation, not every week, piling up like buses. If Close Encounters is Spielberg's most magical film, it's because he still had no idea what "Spielbergian" meant: That was all being mapped out for the first time, the flying toys and spilled fridges, sprinkled lawns and roiling clouds. He could still reach for a child's toy and not be in any danger of it being one of his own.

This summer, Spielberg is everywhere; his name is attached as producer to three films (Cowboys & Aliens, Transformers: Dark of the Moon, and Super Cool, but that tone he struck in 1977—benevolent, playful, utopian, childlike—is long vanished. Spielberg and Lucas were scrawny beta males, making movies for the little guy. Michael Bay and his ilk now make top-dog movies, heavy-metal hymns to American hard power. You knew the UFOs were about to arrive in Close Encounters because the crickets stopped chirping. You know that something big is about to happen in a Michael Bay movie because your eardrums are being pounded like timpani.

Whether Abrams can recapture some of that hush—or even whether we still have the ears to hear it—remains to be seen, although if the rapt silence with which audiences drank in the Up marriage montage, or the first 20 of Wall-E, are anything to go by, people are plenty willing to pay good money for a little silent wonder. Once you've seen one Point Dume beachfront mansion with glass-spiral staircase and en suite nuclear capability turned to matchwood by warring robots, you've seen 'em all. Tony Stark's digs in last year's Iron Man 2 looked natty enough, but the film reduced them to rubble all the same. More intriguing was the casting of Mad Men's John Slattery as Stark's atom-splitting father, glimpsed in a super-8 home movie, complete with Walt Disney moustache and martini-hour manner. This summer, X-Men: First Class follows suit: Kennedy-era lapels, a Pentagon war room straight out of Dr. Strangelove, even the ice-popsicle presence of January Jones, who practically counts as a period detail unto herself. These details confirm what Slattery first suggested: The stylistic salvation of the summer blockbuster seems to run through the offices of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce.

Just as importantly, we get a temporary halt to the onscreen arms race that has stalled so many movies in superpowered detente. Somewhere in the middle of the Matrix movies, I worked out that if you took the number of skills Neo could download, multiplied it by the number of times Agent Smith could regenerate himself and divided it by the number of sequels, there was no reason theoretically why that series need ever end. Both Neo, Smith, and the audience were trapped in an infinite loop of one-upmanship, an eternity of pure, pointless escalation from which the only escape would be to abruptly get up and leave the theatre. By contrast, X-Men: First Class tacks back to a time when a nuclear blast was something you didn't recover from and generally wanted to avoid, not least for reasons of historical continuity. The film must leave the world as the history books found it, which should help dampen the temptation toward megalomaniacal plot-swell that killed the previous X-Men movie.

Rolling back the clock even further we have the last of this summer's historical jaunts, Captain America: The Last Avenger. The original Captain America ditched his stars-n-stripes uniform to become the crime-fighter Nomad in 1972, out of disgust with Watergate and U.S. foreign policy in Vietnam. With Superman threatening to renounce his American citizenship in a recent edition of Action Comics ("I'm tired of having my actions construed as instruments of U.S. policy"), director Joe Johnston was perhaps wise to look up Captain America in 1943, when comic book superheroes bestrode the globe like the gentle giants they were, and Nazis could be rubbed out with impunity.* Origins stories are all the rage in Hollywood, of course, and Johnston is something of a dab hand at retro thrills, having directed The Rocketeer in 1991—a ripping adaptation of Dave Stevens' 1982 comic about a jet-pack-wearing superhero who zips across the sky in Deco-ish tribute to matinee serials past.

On the other hand, Christopher Nolan didn't return to the 1940s for Batman Begins, and the most recent Spider-Man movies didn't see fit to return Spidey to the decade from whence he came, though nothing says 1962 like being bitten by a radioactive spider, and Tobey Maguire—we happen to know—happens to look great in bellbottoms. So why this sudden outbreak of period superheroism? Why are our thrill rides doubling up nostalgia trips? Is everyone that fearful of the future, these days?

Let's face it: if any franchise is in need of a little reboot, it's America's. She's seen one too many pointless sequels (the Iraq war), CGI effects (tornadoes, floods, explosions in the Gulf), and cartoonish villains (Palin, Trump) recently. Only the killing of Bin Laden has served to quicken the nation's pulse. Maybe the Tea Partiers are onto something after all. What we need is a return to basics, a refresher course, a rewrite, a younger cast, an origins story to end all origins story. As Miss Palin so helpfully puts it: Don't Retreat, Reload. Or was that the Wachowski brothers?

Corrections, May 24, 2011: This article originally stated that X-Men: First Class was set in 1963. Many of the movie's events—particularly those related to the Cuban Missile Crisis—are set in 1962. (Return to the corrected sentence.)

The article also misspelled the name of the Star Trek character Lt. Uhura. (Return to the corrected sentence.)

This sentence originally stated that this edition of Action Comics was "forthcoming"—it hit newsstands at the beginning of May—and misspelled the last name of Joe Johnston. (Return to the corrected sentence.)
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Post by Admin on Sat May 28, 2011 1:37 am

http://www.mlive.com/movies/index.ssf/2011/05/summer_movie_season_boasts_ret.html

2011 summer movie season preview: 13 potential blockbusters to check out
Published: Friday, May 27, 2011, 7:00 AM Updated: Friday, May 27, 2011, 8:43 AM
John Serba | The Grand Rapids Press By John Serba | The Grand Rapids Press

Here be a quest for hugeness.

Thus is the summer movie season, where potential blockbusters stack up at the cinema every weekend.

And, if I were a betting man, I’d be hedging my wagers about which movie will sell the most tickets as the air conditioner whirs: The latest “Transformers” messtravaganza? The hotly anticipated “Harry Potter” finale? Or “Cars 2,” to which families will flock in droves? It’s too close to call.

I can say the following with utmost confidence, though: I’m most excited to see “Super 8,” “The Tree of Life” and “30 Minutes or Less,” which will put Grand Rapids on the screen for the entire world to see.

All of the above are among a baker’s dozen of gargantumongous movies coming to the marquee in the next three months — OK, except for “Conan the Barbarian,” which I include among the anointed few only because I can. Check ’em out, and please note that release dates are subject to change:

‘X-Men: First Class’ (PG-13)
We’ve almost forgotten about Marvel Comics’ “X-Men” franchise amid all the “Avengers”/“Thor”/“Captain America” hype. But here’s a prequel set in 1963, when Professor X (a seemingly smartly cast James McAvoy) still had hair and no wheelchair, and first organized mutant heroes Beast, Azazel, Emma Frost, Mystique (played by “Winter’s Bone” Oscar nominee and future “Hunger Games” star Jennifer Lawrence), etc., into a super team. Michael Fassbender (“Inglourious Basterds”) should be an inspired Magneto, the bad guy. And the film is directed by Matthew Vaughn, who proved with “Kick-Ass” that he can kick butt with action sequences. Cautious optimism here.
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Post by Admin on Sat May 28, 2011 1:42 am

http://www.mlive.com/movies/index.ssf/2011/05/summer_movie_season_boasts_ret.html

2011 summer movie season preview: 13 potential blockbusters to check out
Published: Friday, May 27, 2011, 7:00 AM Updated: Friday, May 27, 2011, 8:43 AM
John Serba | The Grand Rapids Press By John Serba | The Grand Rapids Press

Here be a quest for hugeness.

Thus is the summer movie season, where potential blockbusters stack up at the cinema every weekend.

And, if I were a betting man, I’d be hedging my wagers about which movie will sell the most tickets as the air conditioner whirs: The latest “Transformers” messtravaganza? The hotly anticipated “Harry Potter” finale? Or “Cars 2,” to which families will flock in droves? It’s too close to call.

I can say the following with utmost confidence, though: I’m most excited to see “Super 8,” “The Tree of Life” and “30 Minutes or Less,” which will put Grand Rapids on the screen for the entire world to see.

All of the above are among a baker’s dozen of gargantumongous movies coming to the marquee in the next three months — OK, except for “Conan the Barbarian,” which I include among the anointed few only because I can. Check ’em out, and please note that release dates are subject to change:

‘X-Men: First Class’ (PG-13)
We’ve almost forgotten about Marvel Comics’ “X-Men” franchise amid all the “Avengers”/“Thor”/“Captain America” hype. But here’s a prequel set in 1963, when Professor X (a seemingly smartly cast James McAvoy) still had hair and no wheelchair, and first organized mutant heroes Beast, Azazel, Emma Frost, Mystique (played by “Winter’s Bone” Oscar nominee and future “Hunger Games” star Jennifer Lawrence), etc., into a super team. Michael Fassbender (“Inglourious Basterds”) should be an inspired Magneto, the bad guy. And the film is directed by Matthew Vaughn, who proved with “Kick-Ass” that he can kick butt with action sequences. Cautious optimism here.
(Opens Friday)
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