X-Men: First Class: Cinefantastique Spotlight Podcast 2:21.1

A Subtle Attraction?: Magneto (Michael Fassbender, left) and Professor X (James McAvoy) join forces in X-MEN: FIRST CLASS.
A Subtle Attraction?: Magneto (Michael Fassbender, left) and Professor X (James McAvoy) join forces in X-MEN: FIRST CLASS.

It isn’t particularly well known, but mutants were with Washington when he crossed the Delaware, with Einstein when he developed the theory of relativity, and with Sarah Palin while she was waiting for Russia to raise its head above Alaska. Most specifically, they were directly engaged in the Cuban Missile Crisis — the world-changing historical event that is the backdrop for the first meeting of the psychic Professor X a.k.a. Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and the magnetically-charged Erik Lehnsherr, otherwise known as Magneto (Michael Fassbender). Come join special guest Orenthal V. Hawkins as he sits in with Steve Biodrowski, Lawrence French, and Dan Persons to discuss X-MEN: FIRST CLASS, the latest installment of the Marvel film franchise that uses comic book action to address some potent social issues. Does this chapter live up to the standard established by Bryan Singer? Is the first team-up of mutants — which includes Beast (Nicholas Hoult), Banshee (Caleb Landry Jones), and Darwin (Edi Gathegi) — as impressive as the more famous ensemble of the previous films? And is Moria MacTaggert’s (Rose Byrne) choice of lingerie government-issued, or does Victoria’s Secret sell bullet-proof brassieres? Listen to the show and find out!


X-Men: First Class — Trailer

Well, here it is — the first trailer for X-MEN: FIRST CLASS.
Well, I can see why 20th Century Fox didn’t air it durning the Super Bowl: Downbeat and turgid, with no charm and surprisingly little  energy, despite the action bits shown.
It looked (to me) like a sci-fi/fantasy spin on a self-important Cold War political thriller.
Hopefully, the finished film will play better, paying off on the moments that seemed more interesting in the trailer. 
It does look like it’s well photographed.
Now of course,  an advance trailer is no clear sign of the quality of a feature. Some movies have great trailers and turn out poorly, and vice-versa.
I’m sure plenty of X-Men fans were thrilled by the very serious and portentous tone of this preview.

"Official" X-Men Pics, Vaughn Comments

SlashFilm is featuring a talk with X-MEN: FIRST CLASS director Matthew Vaughn, in which he disavowed the cast picture released yesterday.

“I freaked out on them yesterday. I don’t know where the hell that came from. I don’t think it’s a Fox image. It’s not a pre-approved image. When I found out, I said, what the f*ck is this sh*t, and Fox is running around trying to figure out what happened as well…

An APPROVED shot of the cast. (yawn...) Click to Enlarge

It’s like a bad photoshop, which maybe it was by someone. It didn’t reflect the movie. I was shocked when I saw it. I was like ‘Jesus Christ’…”

“I’m a fan of X-Men. We’re not bastardizing X-Men, I’m trying to get them back to being whole again.”

The costumes are apparently authentic.

Yes, the costumes are real.
Yes, the costumes are real.

“The costumes are blue and yellow as well, because f*ck it, lets take it back it the original. Also, by the way, those costumes are hardly in the movie. The main costumes are like these cool 60’s James Bond…”

Were there fans upset because the picture featured costumes that were an actual attempt to reflect the comics? I guess so, comic book fans are notoriously hard to please. I don’t read the responses on other sites.
 Personally, I was thrilled. A comic book movie brave enough to embrace its 4-Color origins. Only it seems not too closely, after all.

'X-Men: First Class Pic'—Jones on Hellfire Club

20th Century Fox released this cast picture from X-MEN: FIRST CLASS.

Click to Enlarge
Click to Enlarge

Looks like  the costumes are intended to actually resemble the ones from the comics. Imagine that.
Over at IGN, they’re featuring an interview with January Jones (MADMEN). Among other things, they ask her about the Hellfire club and the period setting. 

“…I  can say that it doesn’t feel like a period movie. There’s obviously historical aspects in the storytelling and some of the props and stuff, but I think it feels very modern. It does take place in 1962.
One of the things that’s brought in from that time, the Hellfire Club aspect especially, is that it’s pretty — I dunno, the Bunnies and the Playboy clubs. It’s really cool. You’d think Sinatra was there. The sets are really cool and the vibe of the whole thing is really neat.”

X-MEN: FIRST CLASS is due in  theaters on June 3rd.
It stars James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Rose Byrne, Kevin Bacon, Nicholas Hoult, Jennifer Lawrence, Caleb Landry Jones, Lucas Till, Edi Gathegi, Jason Flemyng, Oliver Platt, Morgan Lily, and Zoe Kravitz.
Matthew Vaugh directs, from a screenplay by Jane Goldman,
Ashley Miller, Jamie Moss, Josh Schwartz  and Zack Stentz. Story by Bryan Singer, based on the Marvel Comics characters.

Official 'X-Men 1st Class' Synopsis

X-Men_1st_Class_ComicFrom 20th Centrury Fox:

“X-MEN: FIRST CLASS charts the epic beginning of the X-Men saga, and reveals a secret history of famous global events.
Before mutants had revealed themselves to the world, and before Charles Xavier and Erik Lensherr took the names Professor X and Magneto, they were two young men discovering their powers for the first time. Not archenemies, they were instead at first the closest of friends, working together with other Mutants (some familiar, some new), to stop Armageddon.
In the process, a grave rift between them opened, which began the eternal war between Magneto’s Brotherhood and Professor X’s X-Men. “

Even More X-Men Casting

rose_byrneDeadline.com reports that Rose Byrne (28 DAYS LATER) and Oliver Platt (2012) have joined the cast of X-MEN: FIRST CLASS.
Byrne (pictured) will play Moira MacTaggert, reportedly Charles Xavier’s (James McAvoy) love interest in the film.
Oliver Platt’s role is said to be a new, non-mutant character, referred to as The Man in Black.
Jason Flemyng (CLASH OF THE TITANS) will portray the teleporting mutant Azazel, the future father of the X-Man Nightcrawler, as reported earlier today.
X-MEN:FIRST CLASS is a 20th Century Fox film, directed by Matthew Vaughn (KICK-ASS). Production begins this September in England.

Stardust coming to Blu-ray on September 7

click to pre-order
click to pre-order

Paramount has sent out a press release announcing that STARDUST (2007) will make its U.S. Blu-ray debut on September 7. The good-natured fantasy film – based on the novel by Neil Gaiman – was previously available on DVD and Region 2 Blu-ray disc. The new Blu-ray disc will port over bonus features from the DVD release and add some new ones, including audio commentary and an extensive behind-the-scenes featurette. STARDUST was adapted for the screen by Jane Goldman and Matthew Vaughn; the later also directed. Claire Danes, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Robert DeNiro star.
Read the press release below:

Prepare for a magical journey filled with witches, pirates, maidens and true love as STARDUST makes its Blu-ray debut on September 7, 2010 from Paramount Home Entertainment. The epic adventure stars Claire Danes as Yvaine, the embodiment of a fallen star, who is pursued by the youthful and inexperienced Tristan (Charlie Cox) because he believes that retrieving the star will win him the heart of the village beauty (Sienna Miller). But a ruthless witch named Lamia (Michelle Pfeiffer) has other plans for Yvaine—she intends to eat her heart to gain eternal youth. As Tristan attempts to protect Yvaine, they encounter a number of wildly entertaining characters, including Captain Shakespeare (Robert De Niro), a much-feared seafarer who is partial to performing the can-can. Based on the novel by Neil Gaiman, the rollicking fairy tale is filled with action, humor and stunning visuals and will leave viewers believing in the power of true love.
The STARDUST Blu-ray features “Crossing the Wall: The Making of Stardust”, a new behind-the-scenes documentary that takes viewers on a journey into the supernatural kingdom of Stormhold, deleted scenes, a blooper reel, as well as a new commentary by writer and director Matthew Vaughn and writer Jane Goldman and a new featurette entitled “Nothing is True…”.
The STARDUST Blu-ray is presented in 1080p high definition with English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, French 5.1 Dolby Digital, German 5.1 Dolby Digital, Castilian Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, Latin American Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital and Italian 5.1 Dolby Digital with English, English SDH, French, Danish, German, Castilian Spanish, Latin American Spanish, Italian, Dutch, Norwegian, Portuguese, Finnish and Swedish subtitles. The disc includes the following new bonus features:

  • Commentary by writer and director Matthew Vaughn and writer Jane Goldman
  • Crossing the Wall: The Making of Stardust (HD): The Quest for the Stone; A Portal to Another World; What Do Stars Do?; A Quest of Enormous Importance; Have You Seen a Fallen Star?
  • Nothing Is True…(HD)

The following previously released bonus features are also included on the disc:

  • Deleted Scenes
  • Blooper Reel
  • Theatrical Trailer (HD)


Matthew Vaughn To Direct X-Men: First Class

Director Matthew Vaughn
Director Matthew Vaughn

According to The Hollywood Reporter Matthew Vaughn (KICK-ASS, STARDUST) has finally, after lots of back-and-forth, signed on to direct superhero origins tale, X-MEN: FIRST CLASS. Vaughn has been rumoured to be circling the project for the last couple of weeks but has now sealed the deal with the studio, who are hoping to get the film out by June 3, 2011.

The date is shockingly close for a film of this scale, a blockbuster film loaded with special effects, but the studio are feeling confident since reading a rewrite of the script by Ashley Miller and Zack Stentz (THOR, TERMINATOR: THE SARAH CONNOR CHRONICLES) and securing Vaughn as director. According to Fox FIRST CLASS will,

“Chart the epic beginning of the X-Men saga. Before Charles Xavier and Erik Lensherr took the names Professor X and Magneto, they were two young men discovering their powers for the first time. Before they were archenemies, they were the closest of friends, working together, with other Mutants (some familiar, some new), to stop the greatest threat the world has ever known. In the process, a rift between them opened, which began the eternal war between Magneto’s Brotherhood and Professor X’s X-Men.”

Almost everything about this project sounds dodgy. First off, do we really need another X-MEN film? LAST STAND and WOLVERINE were both pretty poor and I’d rather see them leave the franchise alone. Secondly, the plot sounds a lot like the terrible cartoon series, X-MEN: EVOLUTION, and seems like another excuse for Hollywood to carry on the teen-centric trend which is currently plaguing our screens. Thirdly, a year to cast, shoot and edit the thing? Really Fox? That’s just pushing it.
Fourthly, (yes, fourthly) while Vaughn isn’t a bad director, he’s certainly not remarkable and I’d much rather Bryan Singer (who directed the first two X-MEN films, conceived the story for FIRST CLASS and was originally going to direct the film before leaving it for JACK THE GIANT KILLER) come back to the franchise if it’s to carry on at all. Also, how is Vaughn going to fit in the newly announced KICK-ASS: BALLS TO THE WALL, which is meant to hit cinemas in 2012?
Whatever your view on the film, X-MEN: FIRST CLASS is due to hit cinemas on the 3rd of June, 2011.

Sense of Wonder: Kick-Ass Movie or Kiss-Ass Critics?

he self-styled superhero rescues a helpless victim of street crime.
The self-styled superhero risks his own life to rescue a helpless victim of street crime.

Well, the geek, fan-boy wet-dream of a movie known as KICK-ASS is now in theatres, and critical reaction has been adoringly positive (one might even say “kiss ass” in its kindness), with the Rotten Tomatoes tomato-meter currently registering a 77% approval rating and declaring the critical consensus to be that the film “takes the comic adaptation genre to new levels of visual style, bloody violence, and gleeful profanity.”
Sounds like a rockin’, rowdy good-time, and it is – up to a point. The problem – for me, at least – is that the point is well short of the superlatives being lavish on the film. For all its alleged edginess, KICK-ASS actually plays it safe; it only pretends to be dangerous. Its single memorable innovation is the sight of an eleven-year-old girl effortlessly dispatching bad guys like a tiny-tot version of the Bride in KILL BILL, but after the novelty wears off, there’s not a lot left to the movie, which never really dares to do anything really daring.
Not that the critics have noticed in their rush to heap praise on the film. In one typical example,  Brian Tallerico at HollywoodChicago.com writes:

With a half dozen superhero movies every year that feel as if they were created by a Hollywood blockbuster machine, it’s so refreshing to see one with its own distinct, subversive personality.

Equally ecstatic, Chris Vognar – writing for the Dallas Morning News –  claims that KICK-ASS…

“…has the courage of its genre convictions. It doesn’t have even a whiff of market testing. It does everything on its own terms, and in this age of McMansion movies, that’s a super accomplishment.”

Well, yeah, I suppose so – except that that KICK-ASS’s own terms are as carefully calculated as any McMansion movie. It’s the fake courage that serves up blood for its superficial shock value but would never dream of doing anything truly shocking (even the alleged heart-felt moments are buried beneath a wash of too-cool-to-be-true archness intended to distance us from – and inure us to – any potential sting). Sure, timid viewers may be appalled by the level of violence, but that’s part of the appeal to the target audience, who can then shake their heads at the squares and pat themselves on the back while chortling “We’re cool and they’re not!”.
Although KICK-ASS pretends to be a real-world variation on the costumed crime-fighter genre, its presentation of “reality” is ultimately less convincing that that of THE DARK KNIGHT.  The only semblance of realism comes during the first act, when Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson) suits up as the titular character; the film manages a queasy suspense as this inexperienced, naive kid gets himself into dangerous situations that turn out as badly for him as for the criminals he is trying to fight. Its best moment comes when “Kick-Ass” pretty much gets his own ass kicked while defending a fallen man from three attackers. The only thing the would-be superhero truly accomplishes is keeping the crooks busy until police sirens approach, scaring them off. His true moment of heroism (which is ultimately forgotten by the film) comes when one of the attackers pulls a knife and offers him the choice: walk away, or die. Breathless, beaten, probably unable to mount any defense, Dave refuses to back off. It’s easy to take a stand when you’re impervious to bullets; it takes real guts when you life is on the line.
Unfortunately,  once Hit Girl (Chloe Moretz) and Big Daddy (Nicolas Cage) show up, the film abandons this approach, retreating into safely familiar superhero territory, in which our caped crusaders can effortless dispatch numerous  bad guys while pausing only long enough between kills to deliver some carefully calculated bon mot of the “Hast La Vista” variety.
As escapism, this sort of thing is decently entertaining, but it’s hardly ground-breaking; even the allegedly “new levels of visual stylization” consist of nothing we haven’t seen before: comic book-style montages from SPEED RACER, gun play from John Woo (who is at least referenced in the dialogue so I guess we can’t fault KICK-ASS here), and martial arts from just about every Western imitation of Hong Kong action films in the last decade.
By the time KICK-ASS builds to its climax, it has gone so far down the rabbit hole that genuine suspense is lost; it’s just empty spectacle, watching the villains get their come-uppance (which, to be fair, they justly deserve, and it is fun watching them get it). As if realizing this, the film turns around and hands mob boss Frank D’Amico a Death Battle Exemption, turning him into the only character in the film who can possibly defeat Hit Girl. It’s rather like the ending of a FRIDAY THE 13TH film but with the Final Girl and Jason roles reversed; in this case, the girl is the formerly unstoppable killing machine, who suddenly finds herself working up a sweat because she is no longer able to dispatch her prey in the blink of an eye.
No doubt we are supposed to be concerned by this turn of events, but the film’s overall artificiality refuses to recede and allow a genuine emotion to the surface; we get only the faux-suspense of obligatory screenwriting (the villain cannot be allowed to die too easily – that would not be satisfying). Even the blood looks phony, and the fallen heroine’s reactions are no more convincing. (It’s a good thing that the Hit Girl character is costumed and masked, allowing for stunt doubles to sell the action, because the actual acting performance, all scowling faces and foul-mouthed one-liners, falls short; it feels just like what it is – a little kid pretending to be tough.)
Had KICK-ASS been all it’s cracked up to be, this climactic moment would have reached critical mass, hitting the audience hard over the head with the blunt force trauma of what happens when fantasy collides with messy reality. Maybe dressing up in a costume and fighting dangerous criminals is not the brightest  idea; especially it’s not a good way to raise a daughter. Addressing these questions would have created emotional consequences undermining the simple revenge-fantasy storyline, but it would have elevated the film to a level at which it would have deserved the praise it is receiving.
Instead, it’s just another superhero film, R-rated but not really adult, the violence and  profanity just a misleading sheen hiding the otherwise conventional approach (which includes a James Bond-style jet-pack, complete with machine guns). If you want to feel the sting of what happens when a believable character finds himself in over his head, back against the wall, and no longer confident that he can prevail, check out the worried expression on Robert Downey Jr’s face in the IRON MAN 2 trailer after Whiplash (Mickey Rourke) demolishes his race car – that single, fleeting glimpse carries more weight than all of KICK-ASS.
Oh, and lest we forget, this supposedly subversive KICK-ASS, in the worst tradition of Hollywood McMovies, ends with a promise of a sequel, and seals the deal by quoting from one of those Hollywood blockbuster machines. They used to say imitation is the truest form of flattery. Now we might say that subversion is the newest form of imitation.
FULL DISCLOSURE: This article was written in something of a devil’s advocate mode, in response to the wildly positive critical response to a film that I found only mildly entertaining. Nothing here should be taken to imply that KICK-ASS is bad filmmaking, simply that critical assertions about its “having the courage of its convictions” are somewhat over-stated. As an oddball superhero film, it is miles beyond something like THE SPIRIT, and as a depiction of life among geek culture, I’ll take it over MALLRATS any day. If you want a more positive assessment of the film;s virtues, check out our previously published review by Dennis Routledge Tizzard, who calls it “inventive, cool, and funnier than a Bugs Bunny Saturday morning cartoon.”
P.S.–Not that this anything to do with the theme of this editorial, but I have to ask: Am I the only one who thinks it weird that Elizabeth McGovern, who in the ’80s seemed poised to become a major star with roles in ONCE UPON A TIME IN AMERICA and THE BEDROOM WINDOW, is now reduced to playing virtually the same role back-to-back in this and CLASH OF THE TITANS: a a mother who dies so early in the opening reel that you don’t even realize who played the character until you see the credits role at the end.

Kick-Ass (2010)


KICK-ASS is inventive, cool and funnier than a Bugs Bunny Saturday morning cartoon.

Over the last decade it has become an industry standard for studios to release at least one superhero film as a tent-pole for their summer schedule. More recently, having been kick-started by SIN CITY, a new trend has surfaced: releasing smaller budgeted, more violent comic book adaptations around the Easter holidays. Films such as 300 and WATCHMEN aren’t particularly suitable for summertime, in which cinemas are dominated by mass-appeal blockbusters; these films stand more of a chance in an earlier slot in the year.
New entry in this strategic release model is KICK-ASS, based upon Mark Miller’s extremely violent comic book of the same name and directed by Matthew Vaughn (LAYER CAKE, STARDUST). The story concerns Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson), an unnoticed high school student and comic book fan who one day decides to become a super-hero, even though he has no powers, training, or meaningful reason to do so. KICK-ASS does exactly what it says on the tin and, although it’s let down by a few tonal missteps, is best summed up as a wildly entertaining synthesis of SPIDER-MAN and KILL BILL.
Make no mistake, KICK-ASS is tremendously violent, and it doesn’t give a damn if you’re offended by it. Bullets fly, legs are severed and, in one of the film’s most splatter-hungry moments, a man is blown up in an industrial microwave. To make matters worse (read: better) a lot of the time the pain is being dealt out by a twelve year-old girl, uttering profanity-ridden punch lines such as, “OK you c*nts, let’s see what you can do now”. The film then, is clearly not one to take grandma to see on the Sunday matinee.
The ensuing fight scenes are some of the best I’ve seen in years: inventive, cool and funnier than a Bugs Bunny Saturday morning cartoon. The two stand-out sequences would have to be the first involving ‘Hit-Girl’ (the previously mentioned twelve-year-old, played by Chloe Moretz) – which is hilariously abrupt and highly visceral – and the slick and satisfying one-take attack by ‘Big Daddy’ (Hit-Girl’s father and partner in crime, played by Nicolas Cage) upon a warehouse full of gangsters.
20091222_164609_hitgirl_LKICK-ASS is more than a collection of Tarantino-worthy action set-pieces, however; most of the story focuses on Dave’s adolescent trials and tribulations. They aren’t, as you might expect, riddled with Peter Parkeresque clichés and outdated morality struggles; the story attempts to take a more modern and humorous look at today’s teenagers. Dave isn’t a loner or a complete loser but isn’t exactly one of the popular kids either, marking a refreshing twist in genre conventions.
The insertion of pop-culture references such as YouTube and MySpace, as well as a sub-plot which sees Dave pretend to be gay in order to get close to the girl of his dreams, make the film much more culturally relevant. KICK-ASS also works very well as an amusing parody of superhero films, beginning with a false-start involving an Armenian teenager testing out his Icarus-inspired costume and plunging head-first into a taxi rather than soaring into the skies.
In fact, Vaughn has so much to pack into KICK-ASS that it could have easily become an overly long mess of ideas. The director pulls it off, fortunately, by employing a swift and energetic pace that keeps almost the entire narrative intact in less than two hours – a worthy achievement in and of itself. The soundtrack is similarly energetic and fun, comprising of a selection of modern licensed tracks, which give the film an extra sheen of cool. The film is also impressive from a technical standpoint, taking most of its stylistic cues from the medium it’s adapting.
Caption cards reading “Meanwhile” and “Six months later”, a bright and bold colour pallet, as well as a gorgeously animated flashback, all aid in creating the look of a comic book come to life. The acting is first class, and you can tell everyone involved had a blast making the thing. Aaron Johnson does a good job of making Dave’s somewhat senseless actions seem empathetic, and Chloe Moretz seems an actress wise beyond her years; she makes you truly believe a twelve-year-old girl could kick that much ass. Nicolas Cage is also in rare comedic top form here, with a perfect deadpan delivery and brilliant parody of Adam West’s Batman.
For the most part, KICK-ASS is a very faithful adaptation of the comic book, and for that alone it should be praised. Most of the films pitfalls, however, occur when it chooses to stray too far from the source material. Notable changes to the relationship between Dave and his love interest, Big Daddy’s history, and the ending of the story only make the film cheesier and more fantastical than it needed be. For a film seemingly so intent on creating a semi-realistic world in which real people try to be superheroes, additions such as a jet-pack with mini-guns attached simply seem unnecessary (even if they are fun in their own way).
Additionally, the conclusion of the Dave’s romantic aspirations clashed with the overall tone of the film, and there is also a slight awkwardness to some moments in which tragedy and comedy are blended. Nevertheless, KICK-ASS is the most invigorating and exciting comic book adaptation to come along for a long time and is certainly not to be missed.
KICK-ASS (2010). Director: Matthew Vaughn. Writer: Jane Goldman (screenplay) and Mark Miller (original comic). Cast: Aaron Johnson, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Chloe Moretz and Nicolas Cage.