X-Men: First Class (2011)

X-Men:  First Class is a small indie picture from earlier this year.  You probably haven’t heard of it.  It deals with a group of young adults railing against the evils of Corporate America at the turn of the century and their influence on the Columbine tragedy, while subtly touching on the subject of net-neutrality and the dangers of an internet without Freedom of Speech.

X-Men: First Class (2011)

All joking aside, I fucking loved this movie.  I’m super pissed that I let the dark side get the better of me, and avoided it in the theatre.

Things that I loved:

Pacing.  You hear me complain about it a lot.  I do this because most movies today suffer from horrible pacing.  They’re too slow in the slow parts.  They’re too fast in the fast parts.  Not here.  The pacing is perfect.

Action.  When I watch a comic book movie, particularly an X-Men movie, I want action.  I want it to be good.  I want it to make me sit up in my seat, at the edge.  I want to see awesome powers being used to fuck people up in creative ways.  I want to scream “Fuck yeah!” when some random asshole guard gets fucked up by ridiculous mutant powers.  I did all that.
Character.  The only thing that is almost as awesome as mutant powers, is the dynamic character that the best X-People have.  Make no mistake:  This is the story of Professor X, Magneto, Mystique, Beast and Kevin Bacon (I knew there was a reason he doesn’t seem to have aged since Tremors.)  The others are tack on characters that don’t matter.  Who cares about Banshee?  (No one.  No, not even you, lone objector in the comments.  No one.)  This is about the big characters.  Their story is interesting.  Their reactions and emotions are believable, and stay in character… or rather… form the character.

We see the important moments in the lives of Chuck, Hank, Erik and Raven that shape their future.  Their origin, if you will.  In an origin story?  That’s crazy talk!  It shouldn’t be surprising that you’d see the origins of characters in an origin story…  but they’ve been fucked up so hard in the past (I’m looking at you, Lucas) that it’s actually damn near astonishing to see one that’s done well.

Cameos.  They were excellent.

Building a Universe.  Marvel Studios has been getting a lot of credit for building their non-mutant Marvel Movie Universe, heading towards The Avengers next year.  While I agree with all that praise, I have to nod towards Fox and the Mutant Marvel Universe they’re creating.  Even with the steaming pile of shit that was X3, and the ridiculous, but fun, romp that was Origins: Wolverine, they seem to laid the groundwork for another trilogy, or more, with this picture.  There are plenty of stories to be told with these characters still, and I’m looking forward to them.

Things that I didn’t love:


The Fat Guy With Glasses in me can’t always get past the little details… and here it’s no different.  I’m watching the movie and thinking to myself…  “Isn’t Raven even older than Chuck?  I thought she was, like, Wolverine old.”  “That’s not the right Angel!” “That’s not the original class at all!” “Hank’s hair looks like shit!” “I thought Kevin Bacon already learned a valuable lesson about playing chicken in Footloose!”  Turn off that voice.  You know you can do it.  Just shut it off and everything will be fine.

The poster art.  Look at that photoshop disaster.  Chuck’s head looks like Matt Stone and/or Trey Parker cut it out in cardboard and taped it there, guy.  Mags looks like he’s in the middle of walking down the runway, seconds away from stopping us all in our tracks with Blue Steel.  The only one that isn’t looking like a tool is, of course, Kevin Bacon, who is obviously now the frontrunner to replace Daniel Craig as 007 in the next movie.

That’s it, though.  I loved everything else.  At least, I don’t remember anything else I hated.  I’ve heard some people complain that January Jones was too distant as Emma Frost…  These are probably the people that complained that Eric Bana was too distant as Bruce Banner.  Or that Christian Bale seemed stiff as Batman.

Final Thoughts:


Re…. memm…  ‘Member that part where the guy was teleporting all over the place, and dropping lackeys from the sky and then Bacon basically walks in through some rubble like Vader at the beginning of Star Wars and blows the crap out of that guy that does the stuff?  FLABOOM!  Yeah… that was awesome.

5/5

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Re-Watching Dead: Tell It to the Frogs



Three Down…

Melanie and I have been rewatching AMC’s The Walking Dead, and we’re now halfway done.

Read what we thought of the show’s second episode, “Tell It to the Frogs.” It’s a doozie.  As always, spoilers lie within.  If you can’t handle that, stay out.


I’m pretty confident that this will go down as being the best episode of the series.  It has everything, everything, I look for in a post-zombie-apocalyptic setting.  A racially diverse group of people barely getting along.  Great characters.  A severed head opening its eyes and gurgling.

The acting in this episode is outstanding.  Particularly by the prinicples.  Rick (Andrew Lincoln), Shane (Jon Bernthal), and Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies) knock it out of the park.  Dale and Glenn also shine on the sidelines.  The performance of the hour, however, goes to Michael Rooker.  As Merle, Rooker opens the show with a rant so wild, crazy and desperate, you would almost believe he had been locked and handcuffed on a rooftop with the ominous moans and clamouring of zombies nearby.


This whole episode is fantastic.  Even the lulls are interesting.  There’s so much going on just in the eyes of the actors.  Mel and I are in agreement about the greatness of this episode, so instead of dividing what we agreed on versus disagreed, I’ll be pointing out our favourite parts.  


My Favourite Parts:

Aside from the opening sequence, where Merle goes from incoherent mumblings, to shock, to bargaining with God, to finally a self-reliant rage against God, there are several other quality moments to this particular episode.

First is when Rick reunites with his family.  The scene, which I’ve probably seen 4 times now, still gives me goosebumps (even as I write about it now).  I don’t know if it’s because I’m a (relatively) new father myself, or that I’ve always been drawn to Father-Child moments in television, but the love and relief in his eyes as he falls to the ground in joy with Carl in his arms is breathtaking.  It’s as good a piece of art as any film or TV Show I’ve watched, in my opinion.  To repurpose a line from Bill O’Reilly, there’s no words here.  We see everything that Rick, Lori, Shane, Carl and even some of the other survivors are feeling, in their eyes, and their body language.  I fucking love it when this is done, and works, like it does here.

Another favourite moment, or moments really, is the growing bond between Shane and Carl.  It’s something that wasn’t really explored in the early issues of the comic book.  And should the show ever take the same path…  it will work so much better.  Shane’s such an interesting character on the show at this point.  He’s just trying to build the family he wasn’t ever able to have in the old world.  He’s making the right decisions.  Seriously, Comic Book Shane is a fuck-up, constantly making the wrong survival choices, and letting jealousy cloud his judgement.  TV Shane makes responsible choices, and even when he loses his cool near episode’s end… he’s still doing the right thing.  In the world they’re living in, Ed needed to be beaten to within an inch of his life.  He wasn’t going to understand any other language.

I felt like destroying something that was an asshole, beautiful.

Finally, we have Lori.  I think this episode is as interesting as her character is going to get.  She’s a major part of the greatness of the reunion.  We see pretty much every high and low emotion one can have on her face in the span of a few seconds.  Throughout her interactions with Rick, we can see how much she wants to tell him about her mistake.  Then we see her fly into Shane, over his lie about Rick being dead.  At this point, we can’t tell if Shane was right to lie or not, but we do get to see in his eyes just how hurt he is, now that he’s basically lost that family that he always wanted.

Mel’s Favourite Part:

The opening with Merle was quality.  Mel said, “[he] was a fucker and I was glad to see him left up on the roof… but still, watching him writhe around and beg Jesus to show him the way was uncomfortable…”  In other words… fucking awesome.  But that’s still only second place to her high point of the show:  the ending.

The entire sequence cutting back and forth–from the stairwell and rooftop, to the banks of the quarry with Shane showing Ed what being an asshole will get you in the new world order–is fantastic.  The music is perfect, even if it is a soundalike of John Murphy’s song used during Cillian Murphy’s (or Nick Cage’s) rampage from 28 Days Later (or Kick-Ass).  The show peaks at the very end, though, as we slow pan through first the hacksaw, then the severed hand, and then the still clasped handcuffs hanging every so ominously from that random piece of re-bar as Daryl lets out a pained squeal.

In a word:  

Choice.

Final Thoughts:

This particular episode was directed by Gweneth Horder-Payton, who along with some other movies and series, worked as 1st Assistant Director on 36 episodes of The Shield, and directed 5 of them.  One of them being “Of Mice and Lem”, the second last episode of Season 5*.  I can’t praise the work done there enough, and it clearly continues on here.  She obviously knows how to squeeze even more talent out of an already talented cast.

Holy Shit.  That was fucktastic.

*If you’ve seen The Shield you know why everything leading up to the end of Season 5 is amazing.  If you haven’t… go buy the DVDs.  Now..