Category: Review

X-Men: First Class Review & Edi Gathegi As Darwin

In 1962, at the height of the Cold War, two men from different backgrounds pool their resources to bring attention to the plight of those with genetic mutations, some that give them extraordinary powers, others that make them look different. Professor Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) is an academic in genetic mutations, while Erik Lehnsherr (Mike Fassbender) is a Holocaust survivor bent on getting revenge against those responsible for his parents’ death in the concentration camps. In particular, he’s after Klaus Schmidt (Kevin Bacon) who years later has turned up as a wealthy power broker known as Sebastian Shaw, who has become involved with playing both sides of the conflict between the United States and the Soviets.

Fans of Bryan Singer’s work to bring Marvel’s not-so-merry mutants to the big screen should be thrilled by his return to the franchise, this time overseeing the prequel as a producer while allowing “Kick-Ass” director Matthew Vaughn to bring his own creative personality to the mix. Together, they’ve created a movie that fits well into the context of the other films without worrying so much about continuity, making for a satisfying prequel.

This is a true origin story showing how Charles Xavier and Erik Lensherr first met and how they worked together until the formation of their divergent ideologies led them to create warring mutant factions. In his movies, Singer used mutants as an analogy for the persecution of homosexuals, but here they’re thrown into the context of the Cuban Missile Crisis and impending Space Race between the US and the Soviet Union with the government playing just as an important part as Charles tries to work with them to find and train mutants. There is a certain feel and language Singer created in the original “X-Men” in 2000 that helped set the standard for all the superhero movies that have come since then, and Vaughn thrives in the prequel’s 1962 setting to create something that incorporates influences ranging from James Bond to “Mad Men” to “Dr. Strangelove.”

The first half hour cuts between Charles and Erik each making their way in this world following their early epiphanies, Erik essentially turning into “Erik Lensherr: Nazi Hunter,” as his anger drives him to violence in order to find the man who killed his mother, while Charles focuses on his studies to become a professor of genetics.

Casting for any comic book movie is crucial and Vaughn could not have done much better than having James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender playing the roles made famous by Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen. There’s little question that the conflict between Professor X and Magneto is the core both of the comics and earlier movies, and the rapport between McAvoy and Fassbender is certainly on par. McAvoy brings a great deal of charm to the table showing younger Xavier to be more of the ladies’ man we’ve seen in the comics; Fassbender oozes a far more dangerous “bad boy” energy, as he turns to Charles to help control his anger-driven magnetic powers. The way this relationship is established and evolves over the course of “First Class” is absolutely perfect, and the thought of seeing Magneto when he was still young and vibrant plays a large part in what makes this such a strong reboot (of sorts). (It’s fun to watch Fassbender’s mastery of languages, but it’s unclear why a Polish Jewish immigrant would have a British accent… or an Irish one, as Fassbender’s own accent sometimes slips in.)

Another revelation in casting is Jennifer Lawrence as Raven Darkholme aka Mystique, Charles’ earliest mutant discovery and childhood friend who plays an enormous role in the division of the friends. Lawrence is a stronger actor than Rebecca Romijn, so we can actually see her transform from a fairly innocent teenager to the seductress she’ll later become. The fourth cog in the wheel is Nicholas Hoult as Dr. Hank McCoy, not quite in his blue and furry phase just yet, but he is already the group’s genius inventing things like early incarnations of Cerebro and the Blackbird. Hank adds an intriguing dynamic to the love triangle because Raven finds a kindred spirit in a mutant who must hide his mutation to be accepted. This subplot introduces the early vestiges of McCoy trying to find a cure for mutation, a brilliant tease for some of the comic storylines as well as the main plot of “The Last Stand.” The casting works well because you can truly believe these are the four characters that will go on to be the ones in Bryan Singer and Brett Ratner’s movies.

I wasn’t as thrilled by Kevin Bacon’s portrayal of Sebastian Shaw, maybe because other than his powers, he’s nothing like the character from the comics and more like a stock comic book villain. Likewise, January Jones gives a fairly lifeless performance as Emma Frost, though her deliberately cold delivery may be what’s necessary for the character. Jason Flemyng’s Azazel has cool teleportation powers that will appeal to fans of Nightcrawler – it’s not a coincidence but who knows if they can connect the two characters with what’s been established in this movie?

On the other hand, creating a connection between Shaw and Magneto by having the former being the Nazi who killed Erik’s mother doesn’t make a lot of sense, especially once Shaw shows up with no accent and with mutant abilities that were nowhere to be found during his earlier scene. It makes you wonder why bother including the Hellfire Club in there at all, because here, they’re just another group of mutants with none of what makes the group so distinctive in the comics.

At times, the movie tends to drag, because it takes so long to get to the part most X-Men fans will be waiting to see, which is Charles and Erik joining forces to assemble and train the first team of young mutants. Due to decisions made in earlier films, the movie X-Men are already a mish-mash of characters and storylines from the comic books, and “First Class” follows suit, pulling together mutants from all fifty odd years of the books, some more esoteric than the others. The two mutants that will bring comic fans the most thrills are Lucas Till as Havok and Caleb Landry Jones as Banshee, and they offer some of the best moments in an extended montage showing them learning to hone and control their powers. The decision to include Darwin and Angel (the Grant Morrison one) are both odd choices, especially since they’re characters who don’t seem that necessary to the story.

Oddly missing is the international diversity of the group that was so prominent in comics. Banshee isn’t Irish, for instance, nor is Rose Byrne’s Moira McTaggert Scottish. In fact, she isn’t even a genetic scientist, instead being the CIA agent who first discovers the existence of mutants and becomes Charles’ government liaison. Byrne’s character thrives in the first section of the movie when it’s all about secret agents and “Mad Men”-like settings, but she is almost forgotten once Charles and Erik join forces.

Despite introducing so many characters, Vaughn somehow manages to keep the story tightly focused using a slightly conventional structure broken up into four distinct sections. In fact, it’s fairly impressive what he’s created in terms of the scope of this world and the scale of the set pieces considering the comparatively short production window. With FX designed by John Dykstra, who performed similar duties on “Star Wars” and “Star Trek: The Motion Picture,” they find cool ways of depicting the mutant powers with Emma Frost’s crystalline form being one of the few that just doesn’t look right. Even so, they do clever things to make what may seem like the more innocuous psychic powers of Frost and Charles Xavier interesting to make up for them not being as visual. Some of the practical make-up also looks a bit funky at times.

Placing the movie firmly in the early ’60s creates its own set of problems because none of the younger actors really look or act like kids of that era, instead bringing their own MTV-influenced teen angst to the movie. This is a fairly minor quibble, but it does show inconsistencies in Vaughn’s attempt at setting the story within a realistic historical context of the times, essentially building up to a reworking of the Bay of Pigs invasion to include a battle between the two groups of mutants.

The Bottom Line:
Fans of the comics may be confused by how disparate elements from the books have been tossed together, but fans of the movies should appreciate how Matthew Vaughn has established characters they love in a unique setting with a strong cast and set pieces just as big and impressive as the other movies. It may not quite reach the level of perfection of “X2,” but it does a far better job introducing the characters than Singer did in his first movie, and that alone is something worth commending.

Edi Gathegi as Armando Muñoz / Darwin

Edi Mue Gathegi (born March 10, 1979) is a Kenyan-American film, stage and television actor. He is best known for his recurring character Dr. Jeffrey Cole (aka “Big Love”) in the television series House, as Cheese in the 2007 film Gone Baby Gone and as Laurent in the films Twilight, its sequel The Twilight Saga: New Moon and Darwin in the new film X-Men: First Class.Born in Nairobi, Kenya, Gathegi grew up in Albany, California.As an undeclared undergraduate at the University of California, Santa Barbara, he was more interested in playing basketball and was good at it, until he injured his knee; This plunged him into a depression so he took up an acting class as an “easy course”. That is where he discovered his love for acting.Afterwards, he attended the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University for a graduate school acting program.Gathegi’s career began in theatre,and his stage credits include Two Trains Running at the Old Globe Theatre, As You Like It, Twelfth Night, Othello,A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Cyrano de Bergerac, among others.

Gathegi’s first professional role was the Haitian Cabbie in the 2006 film Crank. Though he had originally auditioned for the role of Kaylo, the producers gave the role to Efren Ramirez and instead offered Gathegi an appearance as the Haitian Cabbie. He was dubious at first about performing a Haitian accent, but was coached by a Haitian friend. In 2007, after guest-starring on Lincoln Heights and Veronica Mars, Gathegi went on to star as Bodie in Death Sentence, Darudi inThe Fifth Patient and Cheese in Gone Baby Gone. He later had a recurring role as Mormon intern Dr. Jeffrey Cole on the television medical drama House, and guest-starred on CSI: Miami, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation and Life on Mars in 2008 before being cast as Laurent in Twilight. When Gathegi first auditioned for the 2008 film, adapted from the same-titled first book in Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series, he had not heard of the series and was not aware that his character was a vampire.He now has read the whole series and calls himself a hardcore fan.He will play A-Guy in Son of Magnet. He portrays Eddie Willers in Atlas Shrugged (2011), based on Ayn Rand’s novel of the same name.

Transformers 3 Review & Decepticons Hideout In Kenya

Disaster movies usual find their roots in some great social anxiety, and Transformers offers two: world domination by machines and an alien invasion that will enslave mankind. Perhaps you could add a third anxiety to the Transformers storyline. Late in the film, during the final epic showdown between Opitimus Prime and Sentinel Prime, Sentinel chides his opponent and former pupil, “On our planet we were gods!” He wants to be godlike again on earth, and we turn white in anticipation of the consequences: a metaphysical revolt, the return of Zeus and the citizens of Olympus, chided for millennia and unleashing their fury against the gnat-y ambition of humanity. Machines, aliens, and angry mythological beings: Transformers betrays the psychoses of a very uncomfortable humanity.

But don’t worry, theses sweeping allegorical readings only play lightly in the background of Michael Bay’s latest super-blow ‘em up, super shoot ‘em up, super-charged summer blockbuster. Transformers is derived from the Hasbro line of toys that became popular in the 1980s, garnering its own television cartoon. Coming off a dismal sequel to a well-loved reimagining of the Transformers story, with Transformers: Dark of the Moon director Michael Bay seems intent on getting the roller coaster ride back on track.

And as a kick-ass summer blockbuster, Transformers: Dark of the Moon is pretty kick-ass. Its chases are adrenaline-filled and inventive. Its explosions and crashes are massive and mesmerizing. And for the final epic showdown, which, truth be told, runs a good twenty minutes longer than it should, the entire city of Chicago becomes the setting of large scale urban/mechanical warfare, which sees skyscrapers toppling over skyscrapers, humans flying out of helicopters in winged suits, robots dancing through the constant rain of broken glass, and plenty of cheesy action dialogue: “Look out!” “Fire!” “Heads up!” “Aarrrgh!” It’s everything you want from a giant air conditioned movie theater in July.

The latest Transformers is not without its dozens of dramatic shortcomings, but it opens with a rather well-crafted sequence that took the air out of the crowded theater I was in during the preview. Intercutting historical archive footage and recreated scenes,Transformers: Dark of the Moon re-imagines the entire United States space program as a mission to find a mysterious extraterrestrial object that scientists observed crash landing into the dark side of the moon. We see Kennedy demanding a united effort to man a lunar landing. We see Neal Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin (who actually makes a real cameo later on) landing their lunar pod on the powdery moon surface. Then, when America is told that the spacecraft is on the far side of the moon and radio contact is lost, the real mission begins, and the historic figures inspect what turns out to be an alien spacecraft.

This would have been a great way to launch the entire Transformers movie series, but we’re dealing here with episode three, so the movie jumps forward to where the second film left off. Shia LeBeouf is Sam Witwicky, the wet behind the ears twenty something who first befriended the good Transformers – the Autobots – and helped them fend off the evil Decepticons in the prior movies. Now he is an unemployed loudmouth somehow dating and living with a woman far out of his league, Carly (Rosie Huntington-Whiteley), whose role in this movie seems to be 90 percent eye candy and 10 percent fueling a superfluous romantic subplot. Carly is one of only three women in the film, the others being Frances McDormand’s impossibly domineering, ball-breaking military officer and Julie White’s nagging wife and mother, Judy Witwicky, reassuring us that chauvinism is alive and well in Hollywood.

Sam is miffed because the U.S. military, which is now working with the Autobots to take care of all sorts of international problems (like blowing up nuclear sites in the Middle East), has left him out of the fun. The US government partnership with the super-powered machine race is worrysome enough, but in the movie it is brushed off, naturally, as a perfectly fine evolution in global geo-political order.

Much of the early part of the movie revolves around Sam’s lackluster attempts to find work. This churns up John Malkovich, who infuses the movie with some of its only true charm as the overbearing, obsessive compulsive boss Bruce Brazos. Bruce hires Sam for some reason, and it quickly turns out that the young man finds himself at the center of Decepticon effort to use a handful of humans as pawns in their effort to resume the task of world domination. There’s a semi-hilarious scene between Sam and a co-worker Jerry Wang (Ken Jeong), who conveniently hands him some folder papers that explain the whole thing. Then Wang is wacked by his Decepticon handler and the chase heats up. Sam digs up some old friends – Simmons (John Turturro) – and takes it on himself to save the world on behalf of the U.S. government.

As an hors d’œuvre to the main course of action, this early-film goofing around is entertaining enough to keep us involved, even if Sam and Rosie’s relationship, and the addition of her nasty boss Dylan (Patrick Dempsey) to the mix is a chore to sit through (as is the copious product placement). There are some sudden and interspersed chases, and the whole thing develops in a clunky manner until we get to the great culminating video game that is the real focus of the film. There, Transformers 3 succeeds by comparison, overcoming the visual clutter and suspense-less-ness of the second installment with some quality, if not its dragged-out showdowns. It’s good versus evil, bullets verses brawn, and as a thoughtless, no nonsense, drawn-out summer ride, it is pretty darn fun to subject yourself to it.If nothing else as a Kenyan you will not surprised the Decepticons were hiding in Amboseli at some point in the movie.Spectacular pictures of wildlife and the Kilimanjaro.(P.S Megatron probably got a Kenyan passport or work permit from our yet to be reformed and ineffective immigration department.Hiding out until it was time to strike that’s my take on how they ended up hiding in Kenya)