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“X-Men: First Class”
a review by Darby O’Gill

What would happen if you took a comic book origin story and mixed it with an actual historical event? In a two words… pure awesomeness! X-Men: First Class does just that. Set during the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, a young Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) is called upon by the CIA, to put together a team of young mutant powered heroes. One of which is Erik Lennsherr (Michael Fassbender), or as he’s better known Magneto, and Charles’ future nemesis. The two have very different views on the future of mutant-kind, and both are right in their own way. Now, I’ve stated before that I’m not the biggest Marvel Comics fan, but the one book that has always worked for me is The Uncanny X-Men. The story just works on so many levels: isolation, segregation, political and social unrest, and even varying stages of awkward pubescent adolescence. Even though the comics dealt with the adventures of costume clad super-powered heroes, they also always managed to always keep the subject matter of segregation as its driving force. It was that subject matter that director Bryan Singer was able to so brilliantly convey in the first X-Men movie. I think the first movie really opened the public’s eyes to the types of subject matters comic books could instill in children. I for one, remember my own mother after seeing the first movie saying, “Is that what those comics were about?! I had no idea they gave you so much to think about.” And it’s that same attitude that makes X-Men: First Class just as good. Director Matthew Vaughn (Kick-Ass) doesn’t just re-boot the series. He truly took his time in making X-Men: First Class a prequel that not only honors the previous films, but could also be seamlessly linked back to them. The surprise cameos helped in that department, but on a whole the movie just works.

With Magneto on Professor X’s side this time around, the franchise gets to introduce yet another key protagonist in the X-Men saga, head of the Hellfire Club himself Sebastian Shaw, brilliantly played by Kevin Bacon. I don’t think I would have ever considered Kevin Bacon for the role of Sebastian Shaw, but it worked! He oozes the character of Shaw, as I remember him from the books, on to the big screen. The hair and wardrobe, it’s all dead-on. And yes, die hard comic book fans are just going to have to go with some of the movie’s changes, as characters and events are slightly askew for this new tale. Another character making her big screen début is Emma Frost, played by January Jones. Jones definitely has the look, and she fit the ‘60’s setting perfectly, but Frost’s diamond form was a little off. I realize that this is a hard one to pull off, and that it worked to some degree, but I just think it could have been done a little better. Other than little things like that, the movie works amazingly well! Also, this story is truly epic! They manage to squeeze so much into the almost two and a half hour running time, that at times I found myself wishing it had been a TV series. I would have really loved to have seen plot points from this movie played out as hour long episodes. You can also tell that things were cut in order to keep the movie under a three hour mark, but will hopefully be made available when the movie comes out on DVD and Blu-ray. This is the summer of Marvel movies, and even though X-Men: First Class received the least amount of hype of Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger, I think it’s going to end up by far being the best one of the bunch!

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Astonishing X-Men: Gifted
a review by Darby O’Gill

When I first got my screener copy of Astonishing X-Men: Gifted, I was really excited to watch it, but then I quickly realized it wasn’t an animated movie of the hit comic book series, but rather a motion comic on DVD. For those of you completely lost right now, I’ll take a moment to clarify; a motion comic takes the original art from the comic books and manipulates the images into a somewhat animated format. With the addition of voice talent, the comics come to life… Well, as much alive as they can, when they’re not being fully animated. As you can probably tell, I’m not that big of a fan of motion comics, which pretty much catches everybody up. So as I was saying, when I found out that Astonishing X-Men: Gifted was a motion comic, I was really disappointed. And, that would probably be the end of this review, if I hadn’t received this DVD as a screener. But, luckily I did. And because of that, I made myself sit down and give it a fair chance.

When a so-called “mutant cure” is developed, the X-Men find themselves once again battling against science, prejudice, a newfound alien threat and not to mention themselves. I was already a really big fan of the Joss Whedon penned comic book series when it first came out, and knew that the story would be fantastic, but I still didn’t think it would be strong enough to save it. So, I sat down and decided to watch at least two out of the six, almost fifteen-minute episodes, and before I knew it I was on episode five. Okay, I was wrong. Not about motion comics. I’m still not a big fan, although in this series they did start to grow on me. No, I was wrong about the writing not being strong enough. It was the story that made me want to keep watching them, and I think the longer you watch them the easier it is to get into the motion comic aspect of it all. There’s only one thing I would like to see different on the next volume of this series, and that is a play all, which this DVD has, but you still get the open and close credits popping up every fifteen minutes. I realize that the biggest market for motion comics is on the iPhone and iPad as downloadable content, and the episodes are pre-packaged as fifteen minute shorts with those downloads in mind, but a play all with no interruptions would probably be a nice selling point for the DVD sales. Just an idea. I know, I would have enjoyed not seeing those end credits every ten minutes. Surprisingly, I find myself looking forward to the next release in this series, and I’m glad I gave this one a chance. I must say it did surprise me.

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DVD Special Features:

  • A Conversation with Joe Quesada and Neal Adams
  • Behind-The-Scenes Look at Marvel Knights Animation
  • Visual History of the Characters
  • “Rise Up” Music Video
  • Trailers
  • And More!

The interviews and behind-the-scenes footage does manage to give you a better idea of the reasons for making a motion comic, but I personally would have liked to have heard from Joss Whedon somewhere on the special features. It would have been great to hear how he came up with the story idea, and his thoughts on the way his story came to life through the use of the motion comics. Oh well, maybe next time.

DVD Special Feature Rating:


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