X-Men: First Class

The Movie Snob declines to be assimilated

X-Men: First Class  (B).  The Borg Queen panned this movie a few weeks ago (see her review here), but I have to disagree.  As everyone knows, this is a prequel about the origins of the mutants and Charles Xavier’s school for same.  First, we get a quick look at the childhoods of two of the first mutants, the telepath Charles Xavier (James McAvoy, Becoming Jane) and the metal-manipulating Erik Lensherr a/k/a Magneto (Michael Fassbender, Centurion).  Flash forward to the early 1960s, when the CIA becomes aware that sinister forces seem to be driving both the United States and the Soviet Union towards a nuclear confrontation.  The ubiquitous Rose Byrne (Bridesmaids) plays the savvy CIA agent who discovers that those sinister forces are evil mutants, and she seeks the aid of Xavier (at first not knowing he is a mutant himself).  I was surprised to see that Mystique (played here by Jennifer Lawrence, Winter’s Bone) is roughly the same age as Xavier, since she looks much younger than he in the later movies.  Anyhoo, I thought the movie was generally a good ride.  The X-Men movies in general seem to try harder to get at the humanity beneath the awesome superpowers.  The movie has its shortcomings–it’s too long, some of the characters seem to switch sides with little or no motivation, and the Borg Queen is right that there is a gratuitous scene of a bunch of half-naked women.  Also, I was annoyed when I sat through all the closing credits to see the usual final scene, only to discover that there wasn’t one.  But on the whole the movie was definitely worth watching.

Nacho Libre

DVD review from The Movie Snob

Nacho Libre (B-).  Honestly, I have no idea how this DVD made it into my collection.  It must have been in a super-bargain bin at Walmart way back when I thought Jack Black (School of Rock) was the greatest actor working.  Anyhoo, this is very strange movie.  Maybe not The Big Lebowski strange, but getting there.  Black plays Ignatio, who is a cook at a poor Catholic orphanage in Mexico.  (Why do so many people in Mexico speak to each other in English?  Beats me!)  His secret ambition, though, is to be a professional wrestler.  He teams up with a scrawny guy who used to steal food from him, and together they proceed to get beaten up in one amateur wrestling bout after another.  They embark on harebrained schemes to try to find a way to start winning some fights.  Meanwhile, a beautiful young nun comes to work at the orphanage and steals Ignatio’s heart.  It is a goofy mess of a movie, but I laughed out loud at some of the bizarre on-screen antics.  Worth a look.

The Ghost in Love (book review)

New from The Movie Snob

The Ghost in Love, by Jonathan Caroll (2008).  This is a trippy novel.  It’s about a guy named Ben Gould, who slips on the ice, falls, hits his head, and is supposed to die.  His ghost is standing by, ready to take over its ghostly duties as soon as Ben assumes room temperature.  But then, for some unknown reason, he doesn’t die.  The ghost’s boss, the Angel of Death, shows up and says there’s been some sort of glitch, so the ghost will just have to follow Ben around while the guys working behind the scenes try to figure out why Ben didn’t kick the bucket.  Ben’s ex-girlfriend German is an important character.  So is his dog, Pilot, whom the ghost is able to converse with.  Things get progressively weirder, as the numerous “rules” that supposedly govern the cosmos (according to the ghost) continue to break down with increasing speed.  As it gets weirder, the story also gets more and more philosophical about love, fate, and human nature.  It kind of reminded me of this old sci-fi novel I read eons ago, Dinosaur Beach, which was about time travel, and how these sophisticated time travelers would go around trying to undo the damage caused by the previous generation of time travelers, only to have even more advanced time travelers show up hot on their heels to undo the damage they were causing.  Anyway, The Ghost in Love is enjoyable enough if you’re into weird stories where the Angel of Death is a guy named Stan. I doubt they’ll be making a movie out of it anytime soon.

Thor

The Movie Snob records a dissent

Thor  (A-).  I see that my fellow judge Movie Man Mike gave this comic-book movie a B- about a month ago.  Maybe I was just in the right mood for a comic-book movie today, because I thought it was really top-notch.  First we get a ton of backstory about this race of alien immortals, led by Odin (Anthony Hopkins, The Wolfman), who saved the human race from a bunch of alien frost giants and got worshiped by the Vikings as a result.  Nowadays Odin and his kin live off on their own planet of Asgard, but Bifrost, the Rainbow Bridge, will still enable you to cross between the two realms (if its guardian Heimdall (Idris Elba, Obsessed) will let you).  Odin’s impetuous son Thor (Chris Hemsworth, Star Trek) disobeys his father and gets banished to Earth — minus his fabulous powers and awesome hammer Mjolnir.  But then Odin has a god-sized heart attack or something, leaving a power vacuum that Thor’s untrustworthy brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston, Midnight in Paris) hastens to fill.  Meanwhile, back on Earth, a physicist named Jane Foster (Natalie Portman, Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones) tries to help Thor get his bearings as a mere mortal.  I’m not saying it’s Hamlet, but I thought it was a really good popcorn flick.

Bridesmaids

From the desk of The Movie Snob

Bridesmaids  (B).  The Bleacher Bum gave this comedy a B+ a few weeks ago, and I generally concur in his judgment.  There is something sweet and vulnerable about Kristen Wiig (Paul) as she plays Annie, a failed bakery owner and unsuccessful romantic who reacts like a cornered animal when her position as the best friend of the newly engaged Lillian (Maya Rudolph, A Prairie Home Companion) is threatened by the wealthy and gorgeous Helen (Rose Byrne, I Capture the Castle).  Jon Hamm (The Town) is hilariously loathsome as Annie’s pseudo-boyfriend, as is Melissa McCarthy (Pumpkin) as the overweight, let-it-all-hang-out sister of Lillian’s fiance.  There is one gross-out scene that you shouldn’t watch if you have a phobia about vomiting, and125 minutes got a little long, but on the whole I enjoyed it.

Green Lantern

Movie Man Mike takes on another superhero flick

Green Lantern (B).  I was a little skeptical about seeing this one.  The comic book character was in the second tier of superheroes and then I heard about the CGI of Ryan Reynolds’ body and wondered what that was all about.  After seeing this film, I concluded that it’s on par with all of the Spiderman movies, most—if not all—of the Superman movies, and some of the Batman movies.  In short, it’s good, clean Summer entertainment.  The story was good.  The message was good.  Ryan Reynolds did a nice job playing a superhero.  I was pleasantly surprised to see that Tim Robbins was in the film playing a U.S. Senator, and I got to hear the voice of Geoffrey Rush (which is never bad) as one of the Green Lanterns.  I recommend this film and would advise you to stay through the first, short set of credits to see a little bonus preview of the next installment in the series.

Repo Men

Movie Man Mike sends us this DVD review

Repo Men (C-).   This was a pretty dark and gruesome futuristic film about guys who repossess artificial body organs whose users have defaulted on the very expensive payments on the organs.   I was prepared to stop watching it early on because it was so bad, but once you get past the initial set up of the storyline, it gets a little better.  There are aspects of this theme that remind me a bit of Blade Runner, only Blade Runner is a superior film in so many ways.  I generally like Jude Law and Forest Whitaker and despite their nice performances in this film, they simply chose a bad script/concept to sign up for.   If you’ve already seen this, I’m sorry.  If you’re thinking about renting it as I did, don’t bother.