Matthew Vaughn // 2012 // 12A // 132 mins
On the heels of Kick Ass, director Matthew Vaughn proves he is greatly adept at constructing a solid Superhero film, this time presenting the early history of Marvel's primary comic team the X-Men. The story covers the origins of the franchises two lead figures, Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and Erik Lehnsherr (Michael Fassbender), from their childhoods to their first meeting, through their formation of a team of powerful mutants and to the conflict that drove them in opposite directions. The performances are all solid with not a single weak link amongst the cast, which features the likes of Kevin Bacon, Jennifer Lawrence, Rose Byrne and January Jones, while McAvoy and Fassbender best the lot with highly emotional and refreshing representations of familiar characters. The only drawbacks are a lack of focus in the first third of the film as it covers the times periods and multiple locations necessary to set up the complex world that has been created here and the distracting nature of an often Irish Magneto and completely un-Scottish Moira due to the lack of enforced accents within the cast. Aside from such minor complaints the film features fantastic action and effects, well placed humour, complex characters and plot as well as a perfect cameo from Hugh Jackman as Wolverine and an even more brilliantly placed one from Rebecca Romijn. Overall the film is an exciting exploration of the infamous superhero team's origins, with entertaining allusions to the characters and stories of the earlier films and the ability to re-launch the franchise.
Lee Toland Krieger // 2012 // 15 // 92 mins
Jesse (Andy Samberg) and Celeste (Rashida Jones) are best friends. They share crude jokes, mutual friends, an address, and did share a marriage that has now been over for six months. When Jesse begins dating again tensions rise between the pair and they part ways, which is made even more problematic when Celeste's feelings for Jesse begin to resurface. The most important element for the success of a romantic comedy is the chemistry between the leads, and Samberg and Jones have chemistry galore, elevating simple jokes to a greater comedic status and making heightening the viewers emotional engagement with their relationship. Jones gives a strong performance, delivering well on both the humour and the drama of the character, with an emotional speech at her friend's wedding being the most effective display of her abilities within the role. A sub-plot, featuring Emma Roberts as a trashy teen pop star under Celeste's company label, helps show another aspect of the lead character but often feels like a needless distraction to flesh out the run time, while Elijah Wood as Celeste's gay best friend and business partner becomes increasingly more ridiculous throughout the film. Rather than providing a satirical commentary on the stereotypes of the genre simply perpetuates them further, which is disappointing as most everything else at play here seems to work perfectly in making this a distinct and enjoyable film.
Zack Snyder // 2009 // 18 // 162 mins
In 1985, after the death of a retired superhero, the remaining members of his vigilante team return to their costumed alter-ego's in order to prevent a plot to change the balance of power in a world edging dangerously close to nuclear war. Viewer's witness events through the eyes of the cynical Rorschach (Jackie Earle Haley), the all-knowing and seeing Dr. Manhattan (Billy Crudup) and the humble, retired Nite Owl (Patrick Wilson), as devious plans are revealed and dark past's revisited.The film sets a strong visual standard early on and is often stunning, with both costume and settings providing a great depth and attention to detail that harkens back to the films roots as a graphic novel. The opening credits display this aspect in all it's glory and is easily one of the films finest moments, also displaying the brilliant soundtrack that is present throughout the film. The ensemble cast deliver fine performances, with Haley, Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Carla Gugino the most captivating and only Matthew Goode and Malin Åkerman struggling as poor, one-note characters, which is as much a fault of the script as theirs. At times the film feels episodic, focusing on single characters for prolonged periods, however the story covers such a vast time period and cast of characters that this is inevitable if each aspect of the narrative is to be explored in any depth. This is fast-paced violent action and a helluva lot of fun to watch.
Jason Moore // 2012 // 12A // 112 mins
When Beca (Anna Kendrick) reluctantly enrols at the college where her dad works, she makes a deal with him to join a club and make some friends, if she fails to enjoy her first year he will let her pursue her dream of making music in LA. She is coaxed into joining the Barden Bella's, one of four competitive a cappella groups on campus and attracts the attentions of Jesse (Skylar Astin), a member of fellow group The Treblemakers, who are strictly off limits to the Bella's. The film repeatedly satirises and pokes fun at the likes of Glee with numerous jokes and set pieces that would fall flat if it wasn't for the conviction of the brilliant cast. Rebel Wilson dominates every one of her scenes, carefully treading the line of a caricature and always delivering on the laughs, securing her place at the forefront of current comedy. The rest of the cast are equally successful and provide a great variety of comedic styles and performances, from the subtle (Brittany Snow) to the ridiculously bizarre (Hana Mae Lee). However the biggest surprise of the film is the truly laugh-out-loud dialogue between Elizabeth Banks and John Michael Higgins as the contest commentators, which is dry, cringe-worthy and consistently funny. The songs are all well chosen and the mash-ups fantastic, and while the plot hits all of the notes expected of the genre the characters are engaging enough to keep it from ever feeling derivative. This film is a rare beast: a genuinely funny and entertaining teen movie, and you can be sure that it's a ca-awesome!