Is it possible to surpass expectations and make an intelligent, character-driven drama that is also a hugely entertaining Marvel franchise blockbuster?
We have to say yes – the seventh in the X-Men series is a many-splendoured thing. Director Bryan Singer comes back to the saga he handed on after 2003’s X-Men 2 and gives it a superior polishing with a script that might have overwhelmed a lesser talent – incorporating two timelines and both sets of X-Men characters coming together for an exploration of the nature of change.
With the future of humans and mutants apparently doomed by a race of robots called Sentinels, the X-Men are sent back in time to inhabit their younger selves in a 70s world of big hair, Vietnam and Richard Nixon in the hope that they can prevent a future catastrophe.
In terms of acting prowess, we have Hugh Jackman giving probably his best performance as Wolverine, leading the audience through the complex story, while around him we are treated to a top cast on outstanding form. James McAvoy and Patrick Stewart play the young and old Charles Xavier, Michael Fassbender and Ian McKellen are Magneto, while Jennifer Lawrence is a young Raven and Mystique.
It could all have been too much – and perhaps not everyone gets enough screen time to do their roles justice – but the overall result is more impressive than almost any other recent Marvel offshoot, and some of those have been pretty darned good.
Review by Joe Gill
Dylan McDermott plays a New York mechanic who wakes up and finds he’s locked inside a restaurant’s cold storage slowly chilling to the bone. The arrival of some Russian mobsters demanding to know where their money is reveals a case of mistaken identity. Then he discovers a wounded cop who may or may not hold the answer to the mystery. It follows the same principles of Saw, and a lot hangs on whether you care enough about the characters to ignore the implausibility of the plot.
Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane stars and directs in this western comedy in which the clue to the joke is in the title. If you’re a western lover, MacFarlane’s knowing wink – with gags sending up the old west with the subtlety of a Gatling gun – will either work, or make you feel he’s not so cleverly trouncing a genre that’s already way beyond parody. Sterling support from Sarah Silverman, Liam Neeson and Charlize Theron.
Fresh from its phenomenal success with Frozen, Disney brings us another update of a classic fairy tale, with a new twist on Sleeping Beauty. Angelina Jolie plays the evil fairy Maleficent, who places a curse on the king’s daughter that sends her into a years-long sleep. When the child (Elle Fanning) awakes, it seems she maybe the only one who can stop her father’s kingdom descending into war. It promises spectacular fantasy with a big dose of Lord of the Rings-style magic and monsters.
One to Avoid: The Angriest Man in Brooklyn
Robin Williams is a very cranky estate agent whose generally bad attitude is made worse when his car is wrecked by a homicidal Russian immigrant. He goes to the doctor (Mila Kunis) – who is also not too happy because her cat jumped out of a window – for a brain scan result and is told he only has 90 minutes to live.
Cue a frantic attempt to make amends with friends and settle accounts with a family who can’t stand one another. It’s highly unlikely you will survive the whole unfunny hour and a half without losing the will to live.