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Round-Up 01/06-18/06

June 18, 2011

The 500 Five-Star project has kept me pretty busy for the past couple of weeks, meaning other cinema/DVD viewings have been neglected.  I’ve therefore bundled them together for this round-up, so as to make it look a little less pointless! 😉



X-Men: First Class

Comic book origin stories are difficult.  There have been plenty of entertaining ones (Spiderman, Singer’s X-Men, Iron Man), perhaps even one classic (Batman Begins), but the amount of exposition and character introductions required generally means the makers are unable to let loose and have fun, and villains are often included just to satisfy the studio’s need for a superhero conflict.  Matthew Vaughan is therefore lucky; in X-Men: First Class, the origin story IS the conflict.  All the aforementioned problems still have to be attacked, but for once it’s all building to a genuinely gripping finale.  Part of the credit for that must go to the cast.  Gathering actors together of the class of James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Kevin Bacon and Jennifer Lawrence was a masterstroke of Vaughan’s as they ground the supernatural story in reality.  The screenplay is also full of fun moments, and the action is excellent.  It’s not a perfect film, however.  The second act lags a little, and some of the mutants are either neglected or simply not interesting.  X-Men: First Class is still a very successful reboot of the franchise though, and sets things up nicely for what will hopefully be an explosive sequel.



If you’re a fan of Formula 1, then chances are you’re already well aware of the events surrounding Ayrton Senna and his tragic death at San Marino.  You probably also have a fairly indepth knowledge of his career and achievements.  However, that doesn’t make this any less absorbing, engrossing or fascinating.  Even without the sudden, devastating end to his life, he would have been a worthy subject for a documentary; his death only serves to make it all the more poignant.  Admittedly, ‘Senna’ is quite clearly biased, rarely giving any glimpse into character flaws or controversy but that takes nothing away from what a well-crafted film it is.  Using old home video footage, famous racing images, interviews of the time, and voiceovers from those close to him, it’s a brilliant portrait of a brilliant man which deserves to be a huge hit.



The Iron Giant:

Brad Bird is such a godsend to mainstream animation, making his name with The Simpsons, and moving on to create films that work on multiple levels, appealing equally to adults and children.  I expected a lot from The Iron Giant, but sadly it didn’t quite live up to my expectations.  It’s a daring film, with quite grown-up themes, and the animation is naturally beautiful, but I struggled to emotionally invest in it…which is a problem when the film is obviously geared towards making the audience feel something for the plight of the giant and his new human friend.  It’s a nice enough watch but unlike Bird’s other efforts, I won’t be making an effort to rewatch it.


Mary & Max


And now an animated film which is most definitely aimed at adults instead of children, and most definitely easy to emotionally invest in.  I’m a penpal.  I have penpalled since I was nine years old, just a year older than Mary when she sends a letter to an obese man called Max, who she randomly selected from the NYC phonebook.  Most of my closest friends have come from pen and paper.  Like the film’s protagonists, I have suffered from an anxiety disorder for most of my life, and have to deal with low self-esteem/confidence and insecurities on a daily basis.  No wonder then that it was easy for me to fall in love with Mary & Max.  Director Adam Elliot, and stars Toni Collette and Philip Seymour Hoffman do an excellent job of representing those of us who aren’t always so comfortable with ‘real life’ and prefer the security and friendship that comes from writing.  Of course, this being a quirky animation, the character’s lives and personalities are a little more exaggerated, a little more funny, a little more dramatic, but still…no less real.  There are flaws: it’s a bit too depressing at times, and there isn’t really much of a story to follow.  However, it’s a very sweet, amusing, gorgeous look at a very unique friendship and I urge everyone to seek it out.


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