Trick or Treat: Trailer or Spoiler Big Deluxe Halloween Edition

Mindscape, movie, poster, Mark Strong, Taissa Farmiga, Jorge Dorado

 

There’s a bumper crop of new films headed for your multiplex. Luckily I’m here to help you separate the wheat from the chaff with brand new trailers for a handful of those films.  Since it is Halloween, I’ve chosen four with lots of candy supernatural, spooky or fantastic overtones. Okay, so The Wolf of Wall Street doesn’t actually have any of those, but it has Leonardo DiCaprio directed by Martin Scorsese (which means it could conceivably be fantastic). I just thought the title looked good with the other three. Sue me.

Okay, so that was a trick, now for some treats: We’ll start with the first English language trailer for the supernatural thriller, Mindscape, about a man with the ability to enter peoples’ minds and memories (see? Spooky!),  who takes on the case of a brilliant, yet troubled sixteen-year-old girl. Is she a victim…or a sociopath? Dun dun dun…

Produced and “presented” by Jaume Collet-Serra (Orphan, Unknown), Mindscape marks the feature directorial debut of Jorge Dorado, for which he has assembled a pretty impressive cast. It includes the smoldering Mark Strong (in a leading role, huzzah!) as John, and Taissa Farmiga (“American Horror Story”) as Anna,  with Brian Cox, Indira Varma (“Rome”, “Luther”), Noah Taylor and Saskia Reeves.

Walk this way and have a look at the trailer:

See? Candy. Finely chiseled rock candy…

Admittedly, I’m an easy sell, since this promises to have, ounce per ounce, more Mark Strong than anything else on his big screen resume, but I think the film itself has enormous potential.  It’s being compared to Inception, and it turns out mind-bending thrillers with ambiguous endings are popular if done right. On the other hand, Inception is undoubtedly the gold-standard of the genre and if Mindscape doesn’t get good “word-of-mouth”, that comparison might spell disaster. (Much the way that being compared to “Breaking Bad” did that other Mark Strong-starring project, AMC’s “Low Winter Sun”, no favors either.)

We don’t have any domestic release information yet, but since they’ve bothered to put out an English trailer, I’d say they’ll be forthcoming. Warner Brothers has the rights both domestically and overseas. They’ll open it in Dorado’s native Spain first (fitting of course. It premiered at the Sitges Film Festival as well) on 31st January 2014.  That tells me that since it won’t be opening cold in the dread January doldrums in this country, the WB must have some faith in it.

This first trailer sets up the story in only bold strokes. My interest is piqued, but I don’t feel like I’ve seen the whole movie in two and a half minutes, which, as you know, I consider to be a very good thing,  We’ll see how much we’re given next time, but for now, they’re doing it right.

Moving on to long, tall British Curley Whirley candy

Richard Armitage, Thorin Oakenshield, The Hobbit, movie, still

via imdb

The second in a trilogy of films adapting the enduringly popular masterpiece The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug continues the adventure of the title character Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) as he journeys with the Wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellen) and thirteen Dwarves, led by Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) on an epic quest to reclaim the lost Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor.

I still don’t understand why the “Lord of the Rings Trilogy” got only one movie per book and “The Hobbit” is one book with three movies. I hope it’s because Peter Jackson knows that the world just doesn’t want to part company forever with the hobbits, elves, dwarves, dragons, trolls and wizards that we all know and love, and not so they can fleece us of our hard earned cash. It’s the dreamer in me.  I’m certainly not immune to the draw and I am eagerly awaiting this installment.

While this is the first full-length trailer for The Desolation of Smaug, there has been a version of this kicking around since late summer. We’re all familiar with Jackson’s vision of Middle Earth and with this bit of carefully curated footage, we’re immersed in it once more. The first of the Hobbit series may not have been as warmly greeted as the LOTR trilogy, after all there were all sorts of plot lines going off in a lot of directions (the better to justify three movies), and it was a setup for the next two, but this middle segment looks to pack in a lot more action, as well as getting to some of those portents of events yet to come that we’ve been expecting, since this is still and all a prequel to what we’ve already got committed to memory.

Bilbo lies to Gandalf about his discovery of the One Ring, and for his part, he warns about the rise of Sauron’s forces. Orlando Bloom returns as Legolas and apparently has a love interest, Evangeline Lilly‘s Tauriel is an entirely new character created by screenwriter (and the world’s foremost Tolkien expert) Philippa Boyens “to bring feminine energy {to the film}… completely within the spirit of Tolkien”. We also see the Dwarves, led by Thorin Oakenshield (Armitage) as they seek help from their arch enemies, the Elves and their king Thranduil (Lee Pace).

The main event, of course is Bilbo’s first encounter with Smaug,  the dragon who has taken over the Lonely Mountain.

“”Well thief, where are you? Come now, don’t be shy. Step into the light,”

Was that what you imagined Tolkien’s  villainous dragon would sound like? It’s exactly what I imagined. Benedict Cumberbatch nailed it, in my humble opinion, and that for me was the burning question that Peter Jackson had to answer here. Is it a spoiler? Hell no. It’s an enticement, exactly what a good trailer should do. Since this is essentially Smaug’s movie,  and Smaug, a dragon, is going to be entirely CGI, we have to be hooked by the visuals and the sound of his voice.  It seems to me that we can also trust  that the rest of the story he’s wrapped in will be the spectacular visual and visceral experience we’ve come to expect from Jackson.

A batch of new tv spots have recently popped up as well – online, even if they’re not yet saturating the television. I’m especially fond of this one:

“I have the only right.”

Richard Armitage has another one of those great British voices that I could just listen to read the phone book or the back of a soup can. I’m glad he’s getting some exposure, even if he is pretty much unrecognizable.

As luck would have it, five new international posters were released today as well. They feature Bilbo, Gandalf, Elves Legolas, Tauriel and Thranduil, Bard the Bowman (Luke Evans) and Dwarves Kili (Aidan Turner), Fili (Dean O’Gorman) and Thorin. More treats! You can check them out below.

X-Men:Days of Future Past, Patrick Stewart, James McAvoy, Charles Xavier, poster, movie

via imdb

Discussing the trailer for X-Men: Days of Future Past is, for me, the perfect Michael Fassbender interlude, between having written about the intensity of his performance in The Counselor, and preparing to write about the infinitely more intense performance he gives in 12 Years a Slave. Although quite frankly, there isn’t nearly enough German Irish Crème candy in this trailer.

What there is a lot of, is the older Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) and the younger (James McAvoy) and as hoped, the twain shall meet. This trailer has been picked over with the proverbial fine toothed comb (more like tweezers) by those more familiar with X-Men lore than I, but even the eyes of this philistine caught a lot that was familiar, including Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine (hell after 7 movies, if you don’t know Wolverine, why are still reading this?), Halle Berry’s Storm, Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page), Iceman (Shawn Ashmore), Rogue (Anna Paquin) all from first series and Jennifer Lawrence as Mystique, and Nicholas Hoult as Beast from X-Men: First Class. Mercifully, there was no January Jones as Emma Frost. I saw a lot of new characters that look intriguing, like Bishop (Omar Sy), Sunspot (Adan Canto), Blink (Fan Bing Bing), and Warpath (Booboo Stewart), but about which I don’t have a clue. Then there’s villain Bolivar Trask played by Peter Dinklage, whose casting had the fanboys foaming at their mouths from the moment it was leaked online.

The ultimate X-Men ensemble fights a war for the survival of the species across two time periods in X-Men: Days of Future Past. The characters from the original X-Men film trilogy join forces with their younger selves from X-Men: First Class in an epic battle that must change the past – to save our future.

The focus in this first trailer is clearly Professor X, but since I’m still not sure what exactly the plot is, other than it will feature “an epic battle that must change the past – to save our future”, which obviously means the two Xs have to work together to avoid some catastrophe (and I really don’t want to think too long on the science or the whole space/time continuum thing), I’d say that’s the mark of a good trailer.  I’m already looking ahead to the next one, thinking that it will give us the Magneto we (or just I) crave.

I do know that the storyline for X-Men: Days of Future Passed comes from the similarly titled comic-book? graphic novel? by Chris Claremont and John Byrne.  XMDoFP will also see the return of director Bryan Singer (After XMFC director Matthew Vaughn passed), who created the series by hasn’t directed an installment since 2003’s X2. The bad news is that it was written by hit-or-miss Simon Kinburg who wrote Mr & Mrs Smith and 2009’s Sherlock Holmes, but was also responsible for This Means War and X-Men: The Last Stand, generally considered to be the worst in the series.  Luckily, Kinburg worked from Matthew Vaughn’s story. (If Vaughn had been allowed to go with his initial idea, to make XMDoFP a direct sequel to XMFC, which would have included things like Magneto being responsible for the Kennedy assassination, he would have directed as well.) Keep your digits, paws and flippers crossed for this one.

If you want more, MTV has the trailer with Bryan Singer’s commentary. X-Men: Days of Future Passed is currently scheduled for US release May 23, 2014.

Leonardo DiCaprio, The Wolf of Wall Street, Jordan Belfort, Martin Scorsese, movie

via imdb

So what’s Leonardo DiCaprio? I don’t know. Given how long I’ve had a crush on him and how good he continues to be, how about an Everlasting Gobstopper? No? What’ve you got?

The Wolf of Wall Street, directed by Martin Scorsese, chronicles the true story of Jordan Belfort, a Wall Street wizard living large in early 90’s Manhattan. The flick charts Belfort’s (played by Scorsese muse DiCaprio)  involvement with crime, corruption, an expensive drug habit and the Feds, bumps on the way down from Park Avenue all the way to Taft Federal Correctional Institution, where he spent four years for securities fraud and money laundering (and with his cell-mate Tommy Chong). The penny stock “boiler room” he operated served as the inspiration for the the 2000 film The Boiler Room which starred Ben Affleck, Vin Diesel and Giovanni Ribisi. The Wolf of Wall Street costars Jonah Hill, Matthew McConaughey (who has been in the most incredible streak of incredibly good movies, giving incredible performances in all of them), Jon Bernthal (who knew zombies could be so could for one’s career? Then again, just ask Zack Snyder about that one), Jon Favreau, Kyle Chandler, Shea Whigham, Joanna Lumley, Rob Reiner and Jean Dujardin.

That trailer is actually the second one released. Does it give anything away? Yes, but in this case, the particulars are known. We’re not looking for surprises. We’re looking to experience the schadenfreude that comes from watching the “haves” get caught with their hands in the cookie jar and get punished for it. Warner Brothers knows that with this cast and this director, they need only make sure they bang the drum loudly enough throughout middle America, and it will make piles of money. Hence the new trailer.

Scorsese, one of the producers of HBO’s “Boardwalk Empire”, turned to that show’s creator and head writer (Terrence Winter) for his screenplay. I think we can expect The Wolf of Wall Street to be howlingly good. My description may be lame, but c’mon, it’s already been added to the Oscar “most likely to be nominated” list in the Best Actor, Picture, Director and Adapted Screenplay categories. They may think of a new category for Jonah Hill’s teeth.

The Wolf of Wall Street, it has finally been confirmed, will come out on Christmas Day here in the US. Santa is giving movie goers a lot of choices that day, including Labor Day with Kate Winslet, Ben Stiller‘s The Secret Life of Walter Mitty and pure-bred Oscar bait, August: Osage County, to name but a few. So any adult who gives their money to Justin Bieber (who also has a movie opening that day) instead of well made adult fare like this, deserves a lump of coal.

That’s it for this installment. Four trailers done right. Happy Halloween boys and ghouls!

Trailer or Spoiler: The Counselor with Michael Fassbender – UK Edition

MichaelFassbender, movie, The Counselor

courtesy 20th Century Fox via imdb

The latest and greatest – the international – trailer for Sir Ridley Scott’s The Counselor has just hit. We looked at the domestic version a couple of weeks ago.  This one packs about 30 seconds more footage, as well as recutting what we’ve already seen. We get a lot of information here, not to mention a better idea of why Fassbender is already being touted as a probable Oscar nominee.

As thrilled as I am to see more of this, I have to ask yet again, “How much is too much?” Has the entire game been given away? Who are the producers aiming for with this trailer? Who could they possibly be trying to reel in, that isn’t already impressed with the combination of Fassbender, Bardem, Cruz, Diaz, and Pitt all directed by Sir Ridley Scott from an original script by Cormac McCarthy?

As we know, Michael Fassbender stars as a lawyer who gets in over his head when he enters the drug trade. While this new trailer, the longest one yet,  does go deeper into the plot with a decided emphasis on character, and definitely amping up the drama, is it possible that the producers are hoping to entice fans attracted to less high-brow fare than films with this pedigree, say Jason Statham flicks like Parker or The Transporter, or perhaps The Fast and Furious franchise? I’m not suggesting that there is anything inherently wrong with those movies and certainly not with liking them, but I’m always curious about what motivates some of the marketing decisions behind a film, and this trailer looks to have been cut with an eye toward the fans of those films.

Have a look:

trailer courtesy 20th Century Fox UK via YouTube

So this time around we get more sexy times with Fassbender and Penelope Cruz. “Life is being in bed with you,” Fassbender whispers. “Everything else is just waiting.”   (The female demographic is a lock.)

Speaking of sexy, we have what appears to be a deliciously sinister Cameron Diaz,  (in what may be her best role ever in years as “Malkina”) whose character seems to enjoy playing mind games (among other things). Love the tatts.

Cut to Bardem and his wacky hair and we’re back in the action.

“You are the world you have created, and when you cease to exist, this world that you have created, will also cease to exist,”  drug kingpin Reiner warns The Counselor.

Whoa…philosophy. Not for long though.

Enter Westray, played by Brad Pitt (and his bad hair). Is he aiding and abetting or is he scamming our good Counselor? (The Counselor, by the way, is both the film’s title and Fassbender’s only moniker).

Even if we hadn’t been told, it’s obvious from the quick cut of him breaking down and the shots of an obviously freaked Cruz, that Fassbender is indeed “in way over his head” and things are going to get really ugly.

But the question still remains, does this give too much away? Almost all of the questions I asked in my last post, have been answered. Now, as indicated above, I’m extremely eager to see what Sir Ridley has in store for us, but I am a guaranteed butt in the seat.  I’m one of those they had with the cast, director and script. Period.  And although each new bit revealed is a tantalizing treat, I don’t want to see the whole thing BEFORE I buy my ticket. No matter how much I think I know, I want to watch it all unfold, in the dark, with my vat o’popcorn.

It is a shame that it appears, in order to lure those ticket buyers that they’re still working on, that producers feel that they will have to spell it all out with placards and hand puppets.  But that’s JMHO and I can always just refuse to watch the next trailer. (Yeah, right.)

The Counselor also stars Dean Norris, Rosie Perez, John Leguizamo, Natalie Dormer, and Goran Visnjic.  It opens on October 25th in the US and 15th November in the UK.

***********

OH! And in other Fassy news: how cool is it that Marion Cotillard will be playing Lady Macbeth opposite Michael Fassbender?  I wonder if James McAvoy (an actual Scot) is pissed. He did just end a run in the play in London’s West End, after all.  So we have The Scottish play starring a German/Irishman and a French woman, directed by Aussie  Justin Kurzel (The Snowtown Murders) from a screenplay cowritten by actor/director Todd Louiso (of Jerry Maguire fame), an American.  And yet, I’m ever hopeful.

Hae a Taste a’ This: Welcome to the Punch Now on DVD

James McAvoy, Mark Strong, Welcome to the Punch, movie

courtesy IFC Films via imdb

It’s  a safe bet that you missed Eran Creevy’s action thriller Welcome to the Punch when  it was in the theaters last Spring, at least here in the US. Luckily, it has just become available on dvd. If you’re a fan of  British crime flicks, the neo-noir stylings of Michael Mann, the frenetic style of crime thrillers by the late Tony Scott (whose brother Sir Ridley exec. produced here) or Asian crime thrillers like Infernal Affairs (Creevy made Welcome to the Punch as an homage to that film), then you’re going to want to check this out, and since one of the film’s stars (and one of our favorites), Mark Strong, is going to be on my tv for the next nine weeks in AMC’s gritty new drama, “Low Winter Sun”, it would seem now is an ideal time to talk about the movie.

Synopsis:

Former criminal Jacob Sternwood is forced to return to London from his Icelandic hideaway when his son is involved in a heist gone wrong. This gives detective Max Lewinsky one last chance to catch the man he has always been after. As they face off, they start to uncover a deeper conspiracy they both need to solve in order to survive.

Writer/director Creevy made a bold entrance with his first feature, Shifty, a minor hit in the UK produced for next to nothing and earning a BAFTA nomination. Welcome to the Punch is his ultra-stylish sophomore effort.  Taking place almost totally at night, there are several slick and violent set pieces filmed by Creevy’s Shifty cinematographer Ed Wild against the backdrop of London’s Canary Wharf and colored in various shades of blue. Visually, it reminded me of Heat and Thief (both by the aforementioned Michael Mann), thematically, it’s very much like the former.

Alongside Strong, the hyper-talented cast includes James McAvoy (who between the trifecta of Welcome to the Punch, Trance and the upcoming Filth, might finally be able to leave Mr. Tumnus* behind – at least in my mind), Andrea Riseborough, David Morrissey, Shifty star Daniel Mays, Jason Flemyng (whose apparent goal is to be in every Brit crime movie made in his lifetime), Ruth Sheen, the fabulous Johnny Harris (who looks like and sounds so much like a younger Eddie Marsan that I had to keep reminding myself that he wasn’t Eddie Marsan) and Peter Mullan, who should just be in everything. (That he wasn’t Emmy-nominated alongside Elisabeth Moss for “Top of the Lake” is pure sacrilege.)

The film opens with career criminal Jacob Sternwood (Strong) and his gang pulling off yet another high tech, meticulously planned bank heist. McAvoy’s detective Max Lewinsky is on hard on his tail, but ends up with a debilitating bullet to the knee, thanks to Sternwood, who gets away yet again.


courtesy IGN via YouTube

Flash forward three years and it is Sternwood’s son Ruan (Elyes Gabel), who sets the game in motion yet again. We see Sternwood living the life of a retired bank robber in Iceland (and keeping himself mighty fit too, thank you Giacomo Farci**). A phone call from his son shatters the quiet, if not altogether happy or content, illusion of safety he’s created.

Lewinsky, still suffering the consequences, both physical and emotional, of letting Sternwood get away, has a chance to redeem himself by luring Sternwood back to London to save Ruan, who has followed his father into the family business.

Max’s immediate supervisor, Nathan Bartnick (Mays), constantly reminds him that it was his impulsiveness that nearly got him killed. His partner, Sarah (Riseborough) wants to be supportive, but he shuts her out instead of showing her the ropes. Max’s superior and former mentor Thomas Geiger (Morrissey) appears to have his back, but then nothing is as it seems, is it?

The script may be a bit trite,  corrupt police and politicos and the little people who get in their way, but if it doesn’t necessary bring anything new to the table, the presentation is well worth your time.

The modernization of London is a theme so sharply angled construction sites overlook both sleek modern buildings like the bank in which the film opens and the rain-soaked metallic shine of industrial areas, like the container yard central to the plot and from which the film gets its name. The cool blue lighting, both inside a dim and deserted club and outside lit everywhere by neon, works with the muzzle flashes from copious amounts of gunfire to heighten the tension and add to the thrill.

This is definitely style over substance. As I said the plot isn’t going to tax anyone’s synapses too heavily. Creevy even uses Geiger to lay out the entire story for those in need of a catch-up. I will say, however, that he has given his cast a lot of credit and trusts them to do most of the heavy lifting in terms of character development.

A tilt of the head from Strong at the beginning and we know Sternwood’s assessing the risk between leaving Lewinsky hobbled or killing him outright. The fact that he leaves him alive speaks volumes about Sternwood. Even with everything that comes after, it’s not a decision that he regrets.

I actually like that we don’t know the exact nature of Max’s relationship with Sarah. Sure, they’re partners, but has it always been strictly professional? Would one or both of them like it to be otherwise? Again, it’s what isn’t said that gives us the clues.

Johnny Harris’ heavy Dean Warns could have been a mindless thug and gotten the job done, but he spits out a particularly memorable line of dialogue and from those few words, layers of the character peel away. We may see mayhem and violence, but he sees honor and duty.

Sadly, Peter Mullan doesn’t have a lot to do, but then I’m just greedy. His Roy Edwards is Sternwood’s partner in crime and BFF. He does get one of the best lines in the movie: (to Sternwood) “I can shave this {goatee}, but you’ll still look like a bag of smashed crabs”. Funny, but imagine it said in Mullan’s whisky and cigarette smoke-shrouded Scots burr.

The movie of course belongs to McAvoy and Strong. McAvoy very convincingly conveyed his desperation and determination to capture Sternwood and his frustration at being hobbled by the constraints of his superior officers as well as his physical limitations. His howl of pain when he isn’t able to literally pursue his quarry is gut-wrenching.

As for Mark Strong, it should come as no surprise that he very ably gives us a man who is both capable of cold, calculated violence and of being a worried and loving father.  We, like Max, feel his anguish and know his tears and his pain are genuine when he learns of his son’s death, as well as the guilt for having led him down the path to that morgue. What is the real treat here is that Strong is the co-lead. It’s rare that we get so much of him in one film. As his profile has increased, Strong’s film roles have taken him all over the world. He nearly missed the birth of his youngest son because he was in Morocco making Body of Lies, so he takes smaller roles which mean less time away from home. Welcome to the Punch was made in his backyard. (As far as I’m concerned, if it means we get more Mark Strong, all movies can be British movies.)

Welcome to the Punch had a larger budget than Creevy’s first film, so of course, the expectations were higher. If Punch didn’t exceed those expectations, neither did it squander Creevy’s evident potential and I look forward to his next film. In the meantime, Welcome to the Punch is a fun little thriller whose cast is so good that the movie will bear repeat viewings just to watch them work.

JMHO, but I give it 3 & ½ hobbes 2 (out of 5).   What did you think? Agree? Disagree? Let me hear it.

*Mr. Tumnus was an anthropomorphic faun, McAvoy’s character in The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe

**Giacomo Farci is Mark Strong’s personal trainer

Where Do I Begin?

I want to talk about X-Men: First Class. I don’t want to do a typical review. There are plenty of them available, by amateurs and professionals alike, if that’s what you’re looking for. I also don’t want to turn this into a gushing Fassbender fangurrrl post either…and I SOOO easily could.

Okay, I guess I’ll start there. Succinctly, Michael Fassbender OWNED this movie. There are, of course, two characters at the center of this film, James McAvoy’s Charles Xavier and Fassbender’s Erik Lehnsherr. Everything and everyone orbits around them. They are tentative friends, uneasy allies, yin and yang, two sides of the same coin. McAvoy was good. I don’t want to take anything away from him, but I always see either James McAvoy or I see Mr. Tumnus* in every role he plays. Charles Xavier is also the less "showy" or flashy of the two. The manifestation of his mutation isn’t visible to the naked eye.  He has merely to lay a finger alongside of his temple and concentrate, as if he were in deep thought.  His character looks like a ‘professor’. All that is missing from his wardrobe are suede elbow patches. (Those probably come later. I have to say other than the fact that I’m aware of some of the characters portrayed in the earlier films, I don’t know much about them. Someone else will have to tell you how well this movie fits in with the canon.)

Fassbender’s Magneto on the other hand, is in a word, magnetic. If Charles Xavier looks like your eccentric uncle who taught you to play chess and gave you a chemistry set for Christmas, Erik Lehnsherr looks like your swinging single bachelor uncle that you know is probably up to no good, but is probably having a hell of a lot of fun. He speaks several languages with ease (including French, Castilian Spanish and the actor’s native German.) We know what Charles’ best pick up lines are. We doubt Erik needs them.  (I could sing odes to the menswear of the early sixties, write sonnets extolling the virtues of well-tailored flat front, straight legged trousers or the joys of a good leather jacket. Costume Designer Sammy Sheldon-who also did the costumes for Kick-Ass and Stardust– is going on my Christmas card list for that three piece suit that matched the color of Fassbender’s eyes. She goes in my will for the pocket square**.)

The character’s backstory is heart wrenching and compelling and the actor takes full advantage of it.  There is so much going on inside Erik at all times and Fassbender makes sure we know it. At one point, Charles says to Erik, "There is so much more to you than just your anger." And we know that. We see it. The scene in question comes at about the midpoint of the movie and in it, McAvoy comes the closet to matching Fassbender’s intensity. Both times I saw the film and the scene, I had an emotional reaction, but it is another moment that ultimately belongs only to Fassbender. When Charles pulls that memory out of Erik, Fassbender makes the viewer feel and experience it the same way that Erik does.  When it’s a physical struggle to use his gift, he makes sure we know that too. It is clear from the first time that we see the adult Erik Lehnsherr that Fassbender has approached the role with the same zeal and passion with which he approaches every role he tackles.

Apparently, the decision to let us see Magneto shed tears in the above mentioned scene was the actor’s own. As he told Chris Lee of ‘The Daily Beast’, "Everything I put my name to and take part in, I want to be good. That’s not saying it will always happen. But I want to make bold choices. That scene was very important to me." Given what he went through to change his entire body for Hunger, I think we can believe him.

Much has been said about the style of this film and that it could be seen as not only an homage to, but an audition for the James Bond franchise. I think director Matthew Vaughn probably did have the Connery era Bond films in mind when creating the look and feel of …First Class, which frankly is only natural. The timing is apt in terms of when the film is set, which would naturally dictate the wardrobe and set decoration. There are even the requisite two "Bond girls" in January Jones’ Emma Frost*** (the bad girl) and Rose Byrne’s Moira McTaggert (the good girl- without this premise, there can be no other explanation for Byrne running around in vintage lingerie.) Beyond that, the early Bond films were excellent examples of how to do this type of film right. They all appeared to take the subject matter seriously, including outlandish plots, sci-fi inspired gadgets and over-the-top villains, but did so with a twinkle in the eye. Vaughn has captured the spirit of those films while also imbuing this one with a great deal of heart and soul.

I love Daniel Craig’s Bond, but if he decided to step down, I wouldn’t mind seeing Michael Fassbender take the Astin Martin out for a spin. He could certainly bring the suave sophistication and charm needed for the role, and I don’t think his ability to handle the action sequences required should be in question either. (You have seen 300, right?)  

I also like the idea of Vaughn someday being invited to take the reins of a Bond film. Matthew Vaughn’s previous three films all reside on my dvd shelves and JMHO, they are among the best of the last ten years. They are genre defying, as if Vaughn is resisting being put into any sort of niche and proving that there isn’t anything he can’t tackle. It’s tempting to say that  X-Men: First Class resembles his last film, Kick-Ass, and that’s probably the film that got him this gig, but that would be missing the point. Kick-Ass is based on a comic book, as are the X-Men films. But Kick-Ass is tongue-in-cheek if not outright parody. In my opinion, the main thing they have in common is that the players and film makers translated their love of the material to the screen and that both films are a lot of fun to watch.

To digress but a little, I love that Matthew Vaughn has accrued a "company" of sorts. He’s made three films with screenwriter Jane Goldman, three with Costume Designer Sammy Sheldon, this is his second with composer Henry Jackman (and I must say I loved the score for this film) and all four of his films have featured actor Jason Flemyng. I had all but forgotten that Azazel was Flemyng until the credits because his makeup renders him unrecognizable. Bit of Vaughn trivia: Sebastian Shaw’s yacht shares the name "Caspertina" with Capt. Shakespeare’s boat in Stardust. The name is a hybrid of two of Vaughn’s children: Caspar and Clementine.

Brandon Gray at Box Office Mojo is claiming that the $21 million opening day take for X-Men: First Class was a sizable step down from X-Men Origins: Wolverine which made $34.4 million on its opening day. (Living in a large metropolitan and avidly movie-going city, I am sometimes misled by appearances. I saw the film on opening day in the middle of a Friday afternoon and the theater was full. I saw it again the following morning at 10am and the theater was full.)  In any case, what is not taken into account by these numbers is that Wolverine had at best lukewarm reviews and the box office dropped off sharply after opening weekend. I predict that …First Class has legs.

It’s already received very high marks from critics and I suspect that word of mouth will keep it alive for many weeks to come. Next week, its only real competition will come from the Spielberg-esque, JJ Abrams film Super 8.  If the internet and social media have distorted the appetite for …First Class, it has provided nearly all of the appetite for Super 8. If …First Class supposedly suffered from the lack of marquee names like Hugh Jackman, but still included McAvoy, Fassbender, Bacon et al, consider that Super 8 has NO big name stars. JJ Abrams’ name has a certain amount of cachet, as of course, does producer Spielberg’s, but trailers just started to appear on television about a week ago. I saw one in the theater with Thor, but none since. I just don’t see it as being a threat. JMHO. And while Kung Fu Panda 2 and Hangover 2 will still be around, they have already slipped considerably.  I predict that X-Men: First Class will hang on to the number one spot next week.

In any case, based on this report and Gray’s supposition at the top of his piece, I have to concur with Edward Douglas of comingsoon.net who tweeted: "Based on this opening weekend, I predict that at least one X-Men cameo appears in the commercials next week." I’m trying desperately to only hint and not spoil. Work with me here people.

As I said, I’m unfamiliar with the other X-Men films. I can only take X-Men: First Class at face value. As an entertainment and as a showcase for the talents of its cast and crew, I have to declare it an unqualified success.

Side note: Ultimately I’m not sure it matters since the purists who care about this sort of thing have probably already dismissed Gavin Hood’s Wolverine film, but the timeline’s will probably make some fan boys heads explode. (I succumbed and finally watched X-Men Origins: Wolverine between starting and finishing this piece. It was a struggle.) At the end of Wolverine, a young Emma Frost is seen getting on a plane with an already bald, but still walking Charles Xavier and yet the adult Emma Frost in …First Class knows Charles as a young man with a full head of hair and becomes paraplegic while she’s incarcerated at CIA headquarters.  Just sayin’.







*McAvoy’s breakout role from The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
**Oh yes, a perfectly folded pocket square with just a half inch of deep purple silk above the edge. You’re welcome 😉
***A word about January Jones. She is one of the luckiest "actresses" on the planet, to have stumbled into not one but 2 roles that only require her to stand there and look good and all with the same expression on her face. The minute she opens her mouth all bets are off.

“Ready For This?”

"Let’s find out…"

We are officially mere days away from the US Premiere of X-Men: First Class and reviews, which  have been overwhelmingly favorable, are EVERYWHERE, as are interviews with the cast. It seems that every movie site on the web has managed an "exclusive", not to mention high profile sit downs, either collectively with the likes of Matt Lauer on the "Today Show" or singularly as with James McAvoy on Letterman or January Jones on Leno. The promotion machine has been cranking overtime for this film.  Let’s face it, there have been high hopes for Matthew Vaughn’s fourth film (yes that’s right, this is only his fourth film and every one that preceded it has been a gem) right from its announcement. It must be gratifying for all involved that there is so much positive buzz going in to next Friday, June 3rd’s release and that it’s not just the fanboys and comic book nerds who are salivating.

I do have to wonder if the two actors at the center of the film, James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender, really know what they’re in for and how much their lives are about to change.  Both actors have recently talked about their lack of notoriety and the fact that they can walk down the street unnoticed.  No sooner had they said that than paparazzi shots of McAvoy leaving his hotel in London turned up on the web.

And today, Just Jared posted pap shots of Michael Fassbender and his ‘girlfriend’ and XMFC castmate, Zoe Kravitz (well, she’s a girl and I’m willing to concede they are friends. Anything else…*la la la I cannnn’t heeearr youuuu.*) walking the streets of New York City.  ‘So what?’ you say? Well, click on his name and all you get are promo shots from a movie or a movie premiere or a photo shoot.  This is the first time he’s been "papped" just for being out living his life.   I guarantee it will not be the last.

This film is going to be huge. If Fassbender thought his life would change by appearing in Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds, and I’m sure it did to some extent, since then he’s worked with directors like David Cronenberg and Steven Soderbergh and is currently working with Sir Ridley Scott, to name a few, but Inglourious Basterds was rated R and Tarantino is not everyone’s cuppa, and while he stole his scenes, Fassbender was only in three. This time around he’s truly one of the stars of a major summer tentpole film, rated PG-13 and directed by the man who gave us Stardust.  Mom, Dad and the kids will be seeing this one.

There certainly is an upside to this impending notoriety: A Dangerous Method, in which Fassbender plays Carl Jung to Viggo Mortensen’s Sigmund Freud, still has no US release date, Soderbergh’s Haywire is listed on imdb.com vaguely as August 2011.  I want very much to see these films. I’m hoping that huge numbers for XMFC and the spotlight that is only just beginning to find Michael Fassbender will spill over to these films as well.  If I have to lose him to the masses, then I hope that it will mean people will seek out his back catalog and new viewers will watch and appreciate films like Fish Tank and Hunger, even Eden Lake, and that little known mini-series like "The Devil’s Whore" will get a full blown dvd release.

The downside is that he won’t be anonymous anymore. The masses will be aware of him and the masses must be appeased lest they grow bored and move on to the next big thing.

And so it begins…