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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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“Up In the Air”
a review by Darby O’Gill

I think the best way to sum up my feelings about Up In the Air, is just that… up in the air. I know a lot of people are going over the moon for this film, but I’m not as in love with it. Don’t get me wrong, I think the movie is fantastic, but I just don’t think it’s as groundbreaking as people are making it out to be. The writing, directing, and performances in Up In the Air are all top notch. I just feel there have been other, all be it smaller, films that have handled the subject matter better. It’s not their fault they couldn’t land George Clooney to star, and the son of Ghostbusters to direct. Now, I’m not hating on Jason Reitman. In fact, I thought Juno was great! And, I think he’s proved himself to be an extremely talented director with this film, and I look forward to his next.

In Up In the Air, Ryan Bingham, played by George Clooney, is in the business of letting people go. Ryan travels from city to city and fires hundreds of people a day. What a wonderfully uplifting theme for a movie in these times when unemployment is at an all-time high. I guess the studio just really wanted to release a movie that people could relate to. As you would imagine, Ryan is quite the frequent flyer, and is very close to reaching his ultimate goal of ten million frequent flyer miles. But before he can, his company is about to do some budget cuts of their own. Why fly all over the country, when you can just iChat or Skype with the client from the home office? But before the changes can take effect, Ryan gets one last trip as he takes a young protégé, played by Anna Kendrick, on the road for some old school hands on training. At its heart, Up In the Air is about a man coming to terms with his life, and also the fact that we may not always end up with the life we planned for. It is a really well written script, which is equally matched by Jason Reitman’s amazing directing style.

George Clooney gives an outstanding performance, but its just Clooney being classic brilliant Clooney. You could easily intercut Ryan Bingham with Danny Ocean and not miss a beat. I’m not saying Clooney phoned it in. I’m just saying that this character is the same sort of soft spoken intelligent man that we come to expect to see Clooney play. Truth be told, I wouldn’t want anyone else to play a role like this, but I really can’t see this as the best performance of his career. Which brings me back to my first point, this movie is all over the award shows this year, and I just honestly don’t think it’s one of the best movies of the year. It might be in my top ten, but definitely not in my top five for this year. Up In the Air really reminds me of this great movie that came out back in 2000, called Diamond Men. I know, you’ve never heard of it. And, that is a crime. But, if you are one of the millions of people that loved Up In the Air, and think it disserves to win best picture, do yourself a favor and watch Diamond Men. You might also want to checkout one of my all time favorite movies, Spring Forward; which also has some of the same undertones as Up In the Air, and is quite a fantastic movie of it’s own. Look, Up In the Air is a great movie, and I will gladly add it to my DVD library. But, best movie of the year? Maybe not. Don’t get me wrong, I highly recommend seeing Up In the Air, it’s everything a movie should be, and you’ll be very glad that you saw it.

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