X-MEN: FIRST CLASS. I suppose it had to happen. OK, I've been getting the geezer discount at various local stores for a while now and servers mostly call me "sir." But to see my advanced age memorialized in print raises the issue to a new level. After all, if Andrew Goff is the "junior reviewer" (review of Hangover 2 in last week's Journal), then I can only be a senior reviewer, although he nicely calls my advanced state "reviewer-in-chief." But we all know what he really means.
So, here is the geezer take on X-Men: First Class, a decidedly non-senior film. Actually, as film adaptations of a comic book series go, the first two in the series, X-Men (2000) and X2 (2003) were among the better examples of the genre. But, as tends to happen to such a series, there was a precipitous decline with the third, X-Men: The Last Stand (2006). The spin-off prequel X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009) attempted a resuscitation of the franchise; the latest in the series is another origins film set in the 1960s.
Directed with crisp efficiency, if little imagination, by Matthew Vaughn (Kick-Ass), First Class opens with a scene set in a Nazi concentration camp where a young Eric Lehnsherr (Michael Fassbender) demonstrates an unusual ability to bend physical objects when he is separated from his mother. He also witnesses his mother being shot by Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon), an event that informs both his adult life and the film's primary narrative.
The story then shifts to the '60s where, as the title suggests, we are introduced to the emerging mutants: Raven/Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence), Charles Xavier (James McAvoy), Emma Frost (January Jones), Dr. Hank McCoy/Beast (Nicholas Hoult) and so on, including the primary non-mutant character, CIA Agent Moira MacTaggert (Rose Byrne).
It turns out that the evil Shaw plans to set the Russians and the Americans against each other in a nuclear war so the mutants, with him as the head, can take over. Unlike the more contemplative first entry in this series, First Class is primarily an action film leading to the big showdown between the "bad" and "good" mutants, while each of the future X-Men gets to strut his or her stuff along the way.
I did learn a history lesson though. Who knew that a mutant precipitated the Cuban missile crisis or that another group of mutants saved the world from a nuclear holocaust? Lawrence is one of the best young actresses around, as she showed in Winter's Bone, but she is straitjacketed by her character here. Byrne actually smiles once and Jones proves again she can be an icy, attractive blonde. I wanted more. Rated PG-13. 132m. At the Broadway, the Minor, Mill Creek and Fortuna.
-- Charlie Myers
SUPER 8. The latest summer blockbuster is a monster movie of sorts from writer/director J. J. Abrams (Star Trek) produced by Steven Spielberg. The setting is a small Midwestern town, 1979: A group of pre-teens shooting a super-8 movie at a train station (Riley Griffiths, Joel Courtney, Dakota's little sister, Elle Fanning) witness a horrific trainwreck, perhaps caused by an escaping alien. Life in town is disrupted, particularly when the CIA shows up looking for the E.T. 112m. Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi action and violence, language and some drug use. Opening at the Broadway, Mill Creek, the Minor and the Fortuna.
MIDNIGHT IN PARIS. The latest from writer/director/auteur Woody Allen has Owen Wilson in the lead (Woody-esque) role as Gil, a struggling novelist living in Paris with his fiancée Inez (Rachel McAdams). He pines for a more romantic past, then disappears into that past where he meets iconic figures such as Gertrude Stein (Kathy Bates), Hemingway (Corey Stoll), Dali (Adrien Brody) and the Fitzgeralds (Tom Hiddleston and Alison Pill). 94m. Rated PG-13 for some sexual references and smoking. Opening Friday at the Broadway.
JUDY MOODY AND THE NOT BUMMER SUMMER. Kid flick based on a series of books by Megan McDonald aimed at 1st-3rd-graders about 3rd-grader Judy Moody (played by Jordana Beatty), her little brother Stink (Parris Mosteller) and their plans for a "mega-cool" summer with their hip Aunt Opal (Heather Graham, Boogie Nights). 91m. Rated PG for some mild rude humor and language. Opening at the Broadway and Mill Creek.
SCI-FI PINT'N'PIZZA NITE. A vampire-ish double bill: THE VAMPIRE BAT, from 1933, has Fay Wray (King Kong) and Lionel Atwill (Dr. X) in a tale of serious blood-loss issues in a European town. The 1963 Italian horror flick Seddok, l'erede di Satana (Seddok, heir of Satan) features mad scientist Seddok (Alberto Lupo) using irradiated blood to preserve the beauty of a singer (Susanne Loret) whose face is messed up in an auto accident. For marketing reasons the U.S. title was ATOM AGE VAMPIRE, even though there are no bloodsuckers involved. Next Wednesday at the Arcata Theatre Lounge.
-- Bob Doran
BRIDESMAIDS. A lovelorn maid-of-honor navigates her way through wedding weirdness with hilarious results. Rated R. 125m. At the Broadway, Garberville, Mill Creek and Fortuna.
FAST FIVE. Vin Diesel steals more cars. The Rock tries to stop him. Rated R. 130m. At the Broadway.
THE HANGOVER 2. Like the first one, but more Thai. Rated R. 102m. At the Broadway, the Minor, Mill Creek and Fortuna.
KUNG FU PANDA 2. Jack Black voices the adorable and dangerous Po. Again! Rated PG. 90m. At the Broadway, Fortuna and Mill Creek.
PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: ON STRANGER TIDES. Disney plants another money tree. Rated PG-13. 137m. At the Broadway, Fortuna and Mill Creek.
THOR. Powerful but arrogant warrior is cast down to Earth to live among humans. Running out of comic books. Rated PG-13. 117m. At the Broadway.
WATER FOR ELEPHANTS. Reese Witherspoon and Robert Pattinson fall in love because of their compassion for a special circus elephant. Rated PG-13. 121m. At the Broadway and Garberville.