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X-Men: First Class

X-Men: First Class is a prequel to the X-Men trilogy. The studio plans on it being the start of a new trilogy. It’s the origin story of Charles Xavier and Erik Lensherr and how they became Professor X and Magneto. It’s set in the swingin’ sixties, right around the Cuban Missile Crisis, which plays an important part in the film. I love movies with alternate histories, it’s better that blatantly sabotaging history like they did in Michael Bay’s Pearl Harbor.

X-Men First Class Poster

The movie starts out with a familiar scene: a young Erik Lensherr is being separated from his parents in a concentration camp and he demonstrates his ability to manipulate metal. An evil Nazi doctor (Kevin Bacon) tries to get Erik to recreate the event and kills his mom. For motivation I guess. And so Erik gets a little emotional and unleashes his powers.

Meanwhile back in America, a young Charles Xavier meets a young runaway shape shifter named Raven Darkholme, and he invites her to live with his family within ten minutes of knowing her and without consulting with his parents. It was a simpler time back then.

The movie jumps to the 1960s and CIA agent Moira MacTaggert (Rose Byrne from Bridesmaids) finds out that a former evil Nazi doctor, currently using the alias Sebastian Shaw, is planning on starting World War III. He’s the leader of the Hellfire Club, filled with mutants like the telepathic Emma Frost (January Jones), the teleporting Azazel, and the tornado-maker that they call Riptide for some stupid reason. Moira decides she needs to find an expert on mutants, and she turns to Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) for help. Charles and Raven decide to help the CIA stop Sebastian Shaw and the Hellfire Club.

Meanwhile Erik Lensherr (Michael Fassbender) is busy tracking down former Nazis and killing them, all the while searching for Sebastian Shaw to seek revenge for killing his mom. Erik, Charles and the CIA all find Shaw at the same time, and shit goes down, Shaw escapes, and Erik and Charles become friends.

Charles and Erik meet Dr. Hank McCoy, and Charles makes his first use of Cerebro to track down mutants to join their cause. They recruit the winged stripper named Angel, the ultrasonic screamer Banshee, the rapidly evolving Darwin, and Havoc the hula hooping energy blaster. There are some pretty lame powers. A spitting dragonfly lady?!? A man with such a shrill scream that he can use it to fly?!? Darwin has an awesome power, too bad it looks stupid as fuck on screen.

While the young recruits are bonding the plot keeps trudging forward and eventually the Hellfire Club manipulates a Russian general into sending weapons to Cuba, thus starting the Cuban Missile Crisis. The X-Men go to battle with the Hellfire Club and Erik gets to Shaw and gets his revenge.

Erik goes crazy with power and tries to destroy a bunch of military ships. Charles tries to stop him and they fight and Charles ends up getting shot. Erik is sad that Charles got paralyzed and stuff, but he decides to part ways with his friend, taking Angel, Riptide, Azazel and Mystique with him. The movie ends with Erik, now calling himself Magneto, recruiting Emma Frost to his side… The sides are set for X-Men: First Class 2 – How Xavier Goes Bald.

I would rate this the third best X-Men movie. X2 is the best, followed by the original X-Men, and First Class is after that. The film was rushed into production, and there are a few parts where it is evident, but for the most part it’s a solid script with a lot of good moments. The cast lacks the star power of the original trilogy, and a lot of the mutants are second string. They changed a lot of stuff from the comics. There are some cool fight scenes, but I was disappointed with a lot of the powers. They are pretty second-rate. There are way too many mediocre mutants showcasing boring powers.

The third X-Men movie was a huge setback for the franchise. The Wolverine movie had its moments, but it was a terrible movie and butchered a lot of good Marvel characters. First Class is a step in the right direction, and even though it has a few flaws, it still redeems the franchise.

Critically Rated at 13/17

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White Water Summer

Long before Kevin Bacon was a creepy guy on The River Wild, he was a creepy guy in White Water Summer. White Water Summer is about a kid named Alan (played by a young Sean Astin), and a few other kids who go on an extended backpacking trip with an older guide name Vic (played by Kevin Bacon). Vic uses the trip to teach the kids valuable life lessons, but in dangerous and careless ways. Alan has a problem with this, and the two of them butt heads and the tension between them rises.

Sean Astin narrates the movie in an extensive interview that’s intercut throughout the film. It’s very jarring, especially because it was filmed two years after the rest of the movie. He looks way older, is sitting on a chair in the woods,  he’s wearing a Hawaiian shirt, and it seems like a blatant rip-off of Ferris Bueller or something. It doesn’t suit the tone of the movie.

The bulk of the movie is filmed outdoors. It makes you want to go camping. There are a lot of cool scenes and shots of them hiking and canoeing, and it makes you want to get outside too.

Vic tries to teach the boys to respect nature. He just wants them to respect it the same way that he does. He teaches them fishing techniques, but gets mad when Alan does things his own, more effective way. Vic wants the boys to become men, he just does it in an over the top manner. Alan is just a little whiney bitch who thinks that he is the shit because he is a teenager. Granted Vic is fucked up in the head, but his heart is in the right place. Alan is stubborn and unwilling to listen to a point of view that differs from his own.

There is a part of the movie where the boys and Vic part ways. The boys all end up huddled together, sleeping on the ground, some of them using their sleeping bags as pillows. WTF? Did it not dawn on any of the actors, producers, writers or director to have them actually sleep in the sleeping bags? Seriously, that shit bugs me more than any nitpicky thing I’ve seen in any movie. FUCKING SLEEP IN YOUR SLEEPING BAG, THAT’S WHAT IT IS FUCKING FOR.

So anyway, at one point Vic breaks his leg, and Alan must use his wilderness skills to get him safely off the mountain. It is a very anti-climactic ending. Vic doesn’t go totally crazy, and Alan never kills him in self-defense. The whole movie builds up a tension that only escalates into a mutual respect for each other. This is America, we want violence and death.

This is a lame movie. It is not a classic. It is not very good. I am only writing about this because I saw it on HBO a few weeks ago and was duped into watching the whole thing. If this is your favorite movie, I am pretty sure that we are not friends.

Critically Rated at 3/17

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