X-Men: First Class (2011)

X-Men: First Class is Matthew Vaughn‘s newest film, written by Ashley Miller, Zack Stentz, Jane Goldman and Matthew Vaughn, starring James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Nicholas Hoult, Kevin Bacon, Rose Byrne, Oliver Platt, January Jones and Michael Ironside.

Plot:
Erik (Michael Fassbender) survived the Nazi concentration camps, mostly because he has the power to move metal and scientist Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon) wanted to study him. After the end of the war, Erik starts continually hunting down Nazis, trying to get at Shaw.
At the same time, Charles (James McAvoy) is a leading scientist in the field of genetic mutation – and himself a telepath. He is approached by CIA agent Moira MacTaggert (Rose Byrne) who saw Shaw with a couple of mutants and tries to figure out what’s going on. Charles and his adoptive sister Raven (Jennifer Lawrence), who can take on the form of other people, start working with the CIA and pretty soon the cross paths with Erik.
Despite their different backgrounds, Erik and Charles start working together to find other mutants – and to get at Shaw.

X-Men: First Class is not a perfect film – but it’s pretty damn close. The performances are mostly amazing, the script is intelligent, the action is wonderful and there is a lot of fodder for discussion.

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The Last Station (2009)

The Last Station is the newest movie by Michael Hoffman, based on the book by Jay Parini and starring Helen Mirren, Christopher Plummer, James McAvoy, Paul Giamatti, Kerry Condon and Anne-Marie Duff.

Plot:
Valentin Bulgakov (James McAvoy) gets a post as the new secretary of Leo Tolstoy (Christopher Plummer). Tolstoy is currently considering donating the rights to his works to the Russian people, much supported by Vladimir Chertkov (Paul Giamatti), his friend and partner-in-politics. Alone Tolstoy’s wife Sofya (Helen Mirren) strongly opposes this – she fears for her future, as well as the future of her kids. This fight leaves their marriage more than strained.

This is one impressive movie, thanks to Helen Mirren and Christopher Plummer. Also, the relationship between Sofya and Leo is very fascinating. Unfortunately, not all progressions within the story are completely clear to me…

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Penelope (2006)

Penelope, Penelope, why can’t more movies be like you?

Just so you know, I absolutely loved every frickin detail of this story. Starting with the plot, continuing with the characters, ending with set/production/costume design. Oh, and let’s not forget the beautiful message this movie sends, which actually makes sense.

Penelope is the daughter of a rich, aristocratic family. Unfortunately, she was cursed and is born with a pig nose. In an attempt to keep her safe until the nose is gone and the curse lifted, her parents lock her in at home and bring her one blue-blooded husband contender after the other, in the hopes that he’s Mr Right.

The setting is magical realism (tor has a great essay up on magical realism), the style reminded me of Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium or Big Fish. And it really made me want more movies set in worlds like that. In literature, it’s pretty prevalent (think Gabriel García Márquez or Haruki Murakami among others), in movies, it’s not. Very sad.

Anyway, back to the topic at hand. Christina Ricci is a wonderful Penelope, sweet and naive, but also strong and powerful, filled with purpose and a sharp mind. Catherine O’Hara is the well-meaning mother of everybody’s nightmares. James McAvoy, Reese Witherspoon, Peter Dinklage, Simon Woods and Russell Brand (who is everywhere nowadays) complete a perfect and very funny cast.

As I said before, I loved the design of the whole thing – Penelope’s clothes, her room, the city… it all fits the general mood of the movie and is just extremely pretty. And magic.

What it boils down to is that it’s a wonderful fairy tale that reminds you that the world is kind of enchanted. When you look at it closely.

And it’s actually a movie that got 10 out of 10 points on my list.

Wanted and Religion

I went to see Wanted the other day. I have to say, I’m not convinced. I expected cool special effects and mindless entertainment, and that’s what I got. But apparantly, I have to recheck my ability to turn my brain off, because it so didn’t work with this movie…

[THIS POST CONTAINS SPOILERS THROUGHOUT!]

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Movie-Mania

Ok, my last two posts were about movies, this one will be, too, but as I won’t have time to go to the cinema for at least until Tuesday, I guess, next time you’ll read something else. Probably about what I’m reading now (Siegfried Lenz – “Die Deutschstunde”, Tad Williams – “Otherland: Mountain of Black Glass”, Angela Baron & Michael Armstrong – “Human Capital Management”), probably not.

Anyway, yesterday I went to the cinema, again. My partner in crime: K. Maybe she will wake from her blogging coma to post about the movies we saw yesterday because they were really good. Made up for the two bad ones I saw before.

To not keep you on tenterhooks (I love that word) anymore: We saw “Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium” and Becoming Jane.

Mr. Magorium is just wonderful. Although there was a slight technical difficulty (after the advertisement we just got a black screen for about 10 minutes), it definitely was my highlight of the week. I laughed, I cried, I watched the colours and the lack of colours with fascination and I saw the saddest stuffed animal ever (even though K. claims to have seen an even sadder one – I can’t really believe it). Eric, the little boy and hat collector (played by Zach Mills), is sooo cute (I wonder why jug ears are cute when a boy is 12, but not anymore when he’s 22…). Never heard of Jason Bateman before (though every time I see/hear the name Bateman I have to think about American Psycho) but he completely convinced me as the accounting mutant, especially in the scene where he plays with Eric in his room. Natalie Portman and Dustin Hoffman play just wonderfully and altogether it’s the perfect Christmas story.
Go and see it RIGHT NOW! (Ok, you may finish reading this post first…)

[Warning Spoiler!]
Becoming Jane
is beautiful. Sad, witty, well played. It gave off the vibe of her books, although the obligatory happy ending is missing. You keep on hoping until the end. Anne Hathaway plays well, very passionately. James McAvoy was as he always was – perfect actor, but I’m still not sure about his looks. (It was the same in Atonement – one minute I think that he’s oh-so-good-looking, the next I think he will be, when he’s older, and the next I think he never will reach the good-looking-status. [I just saw his picture on the imdb… oh my… he really should change that…]) The casting for the supporting roles was amazing – Maggie Smith, Julie Walters, James Cromwell, and also the not so famous actors were perfectly chosen: Joe Anderson (I was sure I saw him in another movie before but after looking on his site, on the imdb as usual, I don’t think I have), Laurence Fox, Leo Bill and Ian Richardson.
Again, I laughed and cried and thought about what I would have done in her situation. *sigh* Beautiful.