Call for Essays About Any Aspect of Popular Culture, Present or Past

 
Film

10 - 6

Bookmark and Share
Text:AAA


cover art

X-Men: First Class

Director: Matthew Vaughn
Cast: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Kevin Bacon, Rose Byrne, January Jones, Jennifer Lawrence, Nicholas Hoult, Oliver Platt

10


X-Men: First Class


A model of blockbuster filmmaking as well as a compelling political allegory, Matthew Vaughan’s well-crafted reboot of the X-Men franchise is a smart and intermittently exciting superhero film that, like the best examples of the genre, never feels like merely a superhero film. Privileging story, character development, and sociopolitical ramifications above frenzied movement in his stately action sequences, Vaughan leans heavily on his contesting male leads. Although James McAvoy fashions Charles Xavier’s idealism with an ease that masks his effort, it’s Michael Fassbender’s turn as the viciously elegant nascent Magneto that elevates the film. Resplendent in his period wardrobe, Fassbender exerts his power over the movie, molding it to his preferred form as his character manipulates metal. It’s perhaps not his finest accomplishment in a tremendous year onscreen, but First Class heralds Fassbender’s ascent to film’s elite and revivifies a major property in the process. Ross Langager


 

cover art

Martha Marcy May Marlene

Director: T. Sean Durkin
Cast: Elizabeth Olsen, Sarah Paulson, John Hawkes, Hugh Dancy, Brady Corbet, Julie Garner, Christopher Abbott, Maria Dizzia, Louisa Krause

9


Martha Marcy May Marlene


Is it one of the most engrossing films about a cult ever made, or a multilayered drama about an unreliable narrator with an impressively vivid imagination? Writer/director Sean Durkin doesn’t provide many easy answers in this dreamy but nail-sharp story of Martha, a lost young woman (Elizabeth Olsen, purposefully blank and sketchy) who holes up with her annoyed older sister while undergoing creepy flashbacks to her time with the cult she just apparently escaped from. There won’t be an easy reprogramming for Martha, as she may have found the strength to escape the pull of the quietly sadistic leader (a malignant John Hawkes) but not to empty her mind of his poisonous ideas. Chris Barsanti


 

cover art

The Artist

Director: Michel Hazanavicius
Cast: Jean Dujardin, Bérénice Bejo, John Goodman, Missi Pyle, Malcolm McDowell, Penelope Ann Miller

8


The Artist


Yes, Mel Brooks made a silent movie back in during the height of his Me Decades power and no one then was suggesting it be nominated for Best Picture. The accolade that accompanied the release of this twee experiment by French filmmaker Michel Hazanavicius may be putting off some film fans, but it’s actually well deserved. By utilizing the antiquated format and finding the right balance between music and melodrama, The Artist actually transcends its type to become something more than a stunt. True, the gimmick is front and center, but it’s also just one part of the merry meta experience. Indeed, everything, from the dead on performances to the use of known elements (musical cues, old Hollywood archetypes) tips Hazanavicius’ hand. The rest is up to the audience… and for now, they just can’t get enough. Bill Gibron


 

cover art

Midnight in Paris

Director: Woody Allen
Cast: Owen Wilson, Rachel McAdams, Marion Cotillard, Kathy Bates, Adrien Brody, Michael Sheen, Nina Arianda, Carla Bruni, Kurt Fuller, Tom Hiddleston, Mimi Kennedy, Alison Pill, Corey Stoll

7


Midnight in Paris


Some of the year’s most lauded movies dealt with nostalgia for the past, but none did so with the incisiveness of Woody Allen’s love song to Paris. Owen Wilson plays a modern day writer—the Woody surrogate—who finds sudden inspiration in the City of Lights after befriending Ernest Hemingway, Salvador Dalí and F. Scott Fitzgerald. The film’s time-traveling concept defies physics and the female characters are tinged with unbecoming shrillness, but still, few were unable to surrender to the film’s exquisite joys. With a superb ensemble that combined A-listers with scene-stealing character actors, and dialogues that let you in on the jokes despite their artsy elitism, the movie was a delight for both the soul and the brain. Perhaps the most pleasant surprise of all was to see that the old continent seemed to refresh Woody’s outlook on life; he still fears mortality, loneliness and thinks too highly of intellectualism, but Midnight in Paris proved to be his most optimistic, pleasurable movie since Manhattan. Jose Solís Mayén


 

cover art

Hugo

Director: Martin Scorsese
Cast: Ben Kingsley, Sacha Baron Cohen, Asa Butterfield, Chloë Grace Moretz, Ray Winstone, Emily Mortimer, Christopher Lee, Frances de la Tour, Richard Griffiths, Jude Law

6


Hugo


Hugo, Martin Scorsese’s adaptaion of Brian Selznick’s marvelous The Invention of Hugo Cabret, is at once a time machine, a dream, a magic spell, a symphony and a love letter to cinema itself, past, present and future. Set in 1930s Paris, a scant few years after the invention of the “talkie”, Hugo is concerned primarily with the early days of the silent short (and especially the works of George Melies, played masterfully by Ben Kingsley), and filmed with the latest in 3D technology. But don’t let the apparent gimmickry fool you; Scorsese’s film is not just a crossroads of cinema through time, but a massive artistic achievement no matter how you look at the final product. Simply put, Hugo is an instant classic. Kevin Brettauer


Related Articles
9 Sep 2014
Never once do Night Moves's three lead characters genuinely consider the ramifications of what they're doing. Naturally, they can't foresee their downfall.
4 Sep 2014
Room 237 is one of the only films that respects and even admires cinephilia and its various forms.
19 Aug 2014
Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon are reinvesting the so-called buddy comedy with the concept that, sometimes, friendship is not enough.
13 Aug 2014
Again and again, The Knick makes visible the traumas suffered by bodies, at risk, unequal by law, and struggling to survive.
Comments
Now on PopMatters
PM Picks
Announcements

© 1999-2014 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters.com™ and PopMatters™ are trademarks
of PopMatters Media, Inc.

PopMatters is wholly independently owned and operated.