Tag Archives: Sir Ian McKellen

X-Men: Days of Future Past | Review | Film

X-Men Days of Future PastAs bands of misfits go, it’s difficult not to relate to the X-Men. As the seventh film in the franchise (depending whether you have a selective memory about X-Men 3: The Last Stand or not), the series has gone the distance without succumbing to the allure of a reboot, and here’s hoping there’s a long way to go yet.

X-Men Days of Future PastHugh Jackman might be typecast as the poster boy for the X-Men, but there’s no hiding that he carries the role well, and this film is no exception. In Days of Future Past, Wolverine is integral to the plot, acting as the time-defying bridge between the ‘current’ cast and that of the 2011 prequel X-Men First Class.

Getting your head around the contorted plot might prove a challenge of you’re someone who needs to understand things rather than take them at face value. The key to the story is Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page)’s new mutant ability, the power to send people’s consciousness back in time.

Like many aspects of the film, no explanation is given for this, but it does give us a good excuse to why there’s two versions of a few characters in the movie, namely Professor X and Magneto.

The past sections pick up 10 years after the events of First Class and the years have not been kind to the Professor (James McAvoy) who has sacrificed his powers for the ability to walk again, thanks to a handy serum developed by Hank McCoy (Nicholas Holt), which explains why you’ll have spotted him walking in some of the trailers.

Herein lies the beauty of what Director Bryan Singer has created. Touches like that which seem like a disregard for the established canon are expertly explained. It’s clear that Singer has a great love for the franchise, and from his track record fans were excited to see him return to the helm.

Even more reassuringly, Singer’s work here is easily up to the standard he set with the original X-Men and X-Men 2. Getting the balance of so many characters right is a tricky skill, one which went awry when Brett Ratner picked up the third installment with disappointing results.

All of this adds up to a film packed with familiar characters – with big name actors to do them justice – and a complex but exciting plot. All it needed to top things off was a devastating new enemy: the sentinel.

Created by Dr. Bolivar Trask (Game of Thrones’ Peter Dinklage on top form), these towering robots, with more than a hint of the fire-breathing titan from Thor, can adapt to the abilities of mutants when they are attacked, and since they soon decided to get rid of most humans as well, a bleak future awaits mankind – unless James McAvoy and the gang cant stop them.

X-Men Days of Future PastBack in the 70s alongside Professor X is Magneto (Michael Fassbender), who has been locked in the most secure building in the world – The Pentagon. Luckily, Wolverine knows someone who can help them, leading to the introduction of the most fun character in the entire film, Quicksilver, who can move at incredible speed. One gripe with this film could be that we didn’t see enough of him.

The stakes are high with this film, not just in the story but for the franchise too, since a critical flop could have led to a loss of faith from fans. Fortunately Bryan Singer has delivered a film which ticks all the boxes and is consistent in a universe wrought with irregularities.

Whether the already announced X-Men: Apocalypse can keep up the standard remains to be seen but for now it’s time to sit back and enjoy the best film of the year so far.

Rating: 5/5

James Michael Parry

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Ten most anticipated titles of 2014 – Part 2 | Opinion | Entertainment

2014 ones to watch pt2That’s right, we ran out of space to fit in ten before – there’s just so much to talk about. In case you missed it, have a read of the first five things we are excited about this year, then take a look at another five below. After that you may go, or if you’re feeling really interactive you can leave a comment with what yours are.

X-Men: Days of Future Past – 22 May

X-Men: Days of Future PastIs more always better? We aren’t so sure. It definitely made Spider-Man 3 messy and is history is threatening to repeat itself with the second remake (see part one). That said, it’s difficult to bet against the pedigree of the cast involved with X-Men: Days of Future Past.

Promising new-ish talent in the form of Evan Peters as Quicksilver and rising star Jennifer Lawrence as Mystique, while old guard like Hugh Jackman (born to be Wolverine) bring some gravitas to proceedings and knights of the realm Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart bringing up the rear.

Of course this time roles are doubled up, as both Michael Fassbender and McKellen take on the iconic role of Magneto and make uneasy alliance with James McAvoy and Stewart’s Professor X.

To say that this is an anticipated title would be an understatement. Original film series helmsman Bryan Singer is back and there’s some fantastic writers on board as well, with so many great characters, special effects and action sequences to come – what can go wrong? If the trailer is anything to go by we are in for a treat.

House of Cards: Series 2 – 14 February

The first of two multimedia TV choices on this list, both significant for different reasons. Last year House of Cards was Netflix’s first real foray into the world of original programming, and thanks to its success a handful of shows, both established and brand new, have followed suit. Now they have to do it again to prove that it’s not just a one-trick pony or a fluke – a second series is serious business.

The show isn’t strictly original, since it’s a remake of a UK show, but I think given the differences between attitudes and political systems in the two countries it can stand alone with its head held high. Kevin Spacey nails the part of Frank Underwood expertly, so much so that he gained a number of award nominations, but, alas, only a (well-deserved) Golden Globe win for Spacey’s co-star Robin Wright. Netflix will want to improve on that this time around, to prove that they ‘count’ in the big leagues.

Since the scrabble up the political ladder was vicious and frantic at times in series one, viewers won’t want Frank’s journey to get too easy this time around. All the episodes drop in at once on Valentine’s Day, will they make enough impact to tear people away from their loved ones?

The Halo TV Series – TBA

HaloThe Xbox One announcement was undoubtedly a multimedia entertainment affair, rather than a reveal of ‘a games console’. Microsoft had their sights set on something greater, and still do. Filming a TV series though, takes time, and with collaborator Steven Spielberg working on other TV projects as producer his time is sure to be in high demand.

The potential of this show is what makes it such an exciting prospect though. The Halo 4: Forward  Unto Dawn web series demonstrated fantastic production values and, crucially, a compelling story which wasn’t over-reliant on the games – a very difficult balance to get right.

The expectation from series fans is high, and as one of Microsoft’s key exclusives, they will definitely want to take the time they need to get it right first time. Particularly considering all the flack they got in 2013 for various PR mis-steps.

The potential of the concept is huge though, and there’s a lot to play for. A massive captive audience and exclusive delivery platform just waiting to get going, while the interplay between the show and the game series itself, which is also keeping its audience hungry. MS have an opportunity to make a bold statement about what they can achieve in multimedia. It might not come this year in the end, but there is sure to be more revealed by the end of the year.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier – March 28

Captain America: The Winter SoldierPoor Cap. Thanks to merely his name, his origin story wasn’t as well received in the UK as it was in his homeland. Luckily he has another chance with The Winter Soldier, and early forecasts are looking extremely promising.

The character established in the first film had a surprisingly deep arc compared to his fellow Avengers, and as such was short-changed by critics. In this instalment the trailer paints a very compelling picture.

Cap is still working with SHIELD, including Nick Fury and Black Widow, and is beginning to question the motives and methods of this highly destructive organisation. Not a gritty superhero story like The Dark Knight trilogy, but a very personal story which explores his character – albeit with some explosions thrown in for good measure.

Directing are little-known pair Anthony and Joe Russo, who are sure to bring their own spin to proceedings, while the rest of the crew are equally unknown to the Marvel film universe, meaning the film has that mixture of excitement and fear you often find with an unknown quantity.

The next Google Nexus tablet – TBA

Google Nexus 10 2 concept imageGoogle have been making strides over the past few months, buying up companies left and right and making progress with both software and concept hardware such as Google Glass, but since the release of the Google Nexus 7, things have been quiet in the tablet division.

The advertising for Google Play as the place to get your music, films and TV shows has seen a marked increase, giving the softest of indications that the next logical step on their tablet journey may be coming.

Another patent deal with Samsung done and dusted in the smartphones division means there’s a few more patents to play with and since there has been a lot of expectation for a more specced iPad or wearable tech. At the recent Consumer Electronics Show (CES), product launches from Google were conspicuous by their absence and after Apple’s shares took a tumble on the back of less-than-overwhelming sales performance – now is the time to strike.

The technology needed isn’t a million miles ahead of the excellent Google Nexus 10, produced by Samsung, with its screen in particular going down well and generally performance stacking up to the equivalent offering from Apple. To really turn heads though, they will need to go further. Does that mean a Nexus 11? Time, as ever, will tell, but there’s potential there for the taking.

The ones to watch: Watch Dogs, Titanfall, Dragon Age: Inquisition, The Division, The Fray – Helios, Rancid’s new album, Robocop, 300: Rise of an Empire, The Hobbit: There and Back Again, Steam Machines, Oculus Rift, Hannibal and Game of Thrones.
James Michael Parry

13 for 2013: Our most anticipated films, music, gaming, technology and cyberculture | Entertainment | This Is Entertainment

The fun and games of 2012 is behind us, so it’s time to stop doing Gangnam Style, put down your ‘New’ iPad and think about all the exciting things which will clamour for both your attention and your wallet this year. Here are 13 things we are really looking forward to:

  1. Ingress (Available Now)

Screenshot_2013-01-03-07-50-32It might seem strange to start with something which you probably haven’t heard of, but its mysterious nature is what makes it interesting. Currently search giant Google is beta testing an augmented reality app, which calls for users to investigate the world around them using their phone as a scanner.

Using the software from the Google glasses demo released last year, the team have come up with a narrative based around CERN’s Higgs Boson experiment. To request an invite for the beta go to the Ingress website (but expect to wait a few weeks). Expect more on the site in the coming months as we delve deeper into the mystery.

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  1. DmC: Devil May Cry (11 January)

dmcWhile the obvious candidate for the crown of ‘anticipated game of the year’ is Grand Theft Auto V, we decided to avoid tackling Rockstar’s media-teasing monstrosity and talk about some of the smaller hitters, beginning with DmC, a reboot of Devil May Cry.

Danté is back, now with a harcore-fan-outraging new look, and a more user-friendly play and combat style. Developers Ninja Theory haven’t held back in taking the series’ ingredients and throwing them in a blender to make a more dynamic and edgy game, not that it’s tricky to make a demon hunter who is half angel and half devil look edgy. What we’ve seen so far looks impressive, though the team have an uphill struggle to convincingly gain ground in the third person slash-’em-up arena.

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  1. The Joy Formidable – Wolf’s Law (21 January)

Wolf's LawAfter a stunning debut album from the Welsh three-piece, they are due to strike back this year with their second album. The band perform amazingly well live, and their songs have that element of originality mixed with a few familiar pop tricks which make them compulsive listening.

Lead vocalist Ritzy’s voice is immediately striking and the synergy in the group is second to none. First single ‘The Ladder is Ours’ picks up where the first album left off and drives the band’s music forward. Expect some well received live performances on the back of this CD later in the year.

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  1. Bad Religion – True North (22 January)

True NorthHardcore punk rockers Bad Religion continue to churn out albums at an alarmingly consistent rate and this latest effort is looking to be no exception. First single, ‘Fuck You’, has all the uncompromising energy and attitude you could expect from a punk band who have been making music for over 30 years.

Title track ‘True North’ reveals more, and gives a sense of the overall tone of the album itself, somewhere between the blisteringly quick songs of early days with albums like Incomplete and the philosophy of The Process of Belief.

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  1. Windows Surface Pro (28 January TBC)

Windows Surface ProWe’ve already waxed lyrical about Microsoft’s latest operating system, Windows 8, and what more could you want? Windows 8 in a handy portable package of course. The RT version of the Windows Surface tablet has been out for a few months and has sold “modestly”, but many IT enthusiasts are holding off for the full ‘Pro’ version, which runs standard windows programs as well as Windows‘ own tailor-made apps.

With boosted specs and plenty of positive reviews of the RT version already circulating, this could be the technology purchase of the year (well it’s less likely to be replaced in a few months like a new iPad might in any case).

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  1. New(ish) gaming IPs: Remember Me (May 2013) and South Park: The Stick of Truth (March 2013)

Remember MeDespite the Xbox 360 nearing the end of its life (see point 11), there are still new IPs coming to the console which look promising. South Park: The Stick of Truth, though not entirely new since it is based on the South Park cartoon series, is the first which cartoon creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone have been directly involved with throughout (reportedly because they were sick and tired of bad South Park games). The game riffs on the classic staples of turn-based RPGs and is sure to have plenty of the sort of laughs and cultural references the TV show is known for.

Remember Me is Capcom’s take on manipulating reality by changing people’s memory in the near future. The game features a protagonist called Nilin, a ‘memory hunter’ who has lost her own memory and is on a quest to get back what she’s lost, while forcing people to kill themselves through memory manipulation along the way. The game is being handled by newcomers Dontnod Entertainment, but reception to the game so far has been promising, so hopefully this won’t be a case of all shine and no substance like fellow near-future jaunt Syndicate was last year.

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  1. Star Trek into Darkness (17 May)

Star Trek into DarknessZachary Quinto and Chris Pine reprise their roles as Spock and Kirk as we go Star Trekking once again, this time with the help of Sherlock Holmes, well, Benedict Cumberbatch. Star Fleet is under direct attack this time around, and Cumberbatch, who plays an unknown character who may or may not be linked to classic Trek film The Wrath of Khan‘s Khan.

The first teaser trailer shows all the destruction and drama you have come to expect from J.J. Abrams’ reboot, and with the acting talent in the mix it would be difficult to not make this the cinematic spectacle of the year. At least unless a bunch of superheroes turn up…oh…

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  1. Man Of Steel (14 June)

Man Of SteelZack Snyder directs the latest in a long line of Superman films, but this time, for the first time ever, Superman himself is British. Jersey-born Henry Cavill, who you may have seen in The Tudors TV series or 2007’s Stardust, dons the red boots in a familiar tale, retold.

Not much to get excited about you might think? But with Christopher Nolan on Producer duty, the studio must be keen for some of his success with The Dark Knight Trilogy to rub off on Man Of Steel.

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  1. Comic book films return (Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (4 Oct USA), Kick-Ass 2 (19 July), Thor: The Dark World (Nov 8), Iron Man 3 (26 April), The Wolverine (26 July))

Christopher Mintz-Plasse in Kick-Ass 2Superman isn’t the only superhero doing the rounds this year of course, there are a bunch of sequels on the way to astound and delight us all. Of these the most exciting is Kick-Ass 2, which sees Kick-Ass, Hit Girl and Red Mist all return, with original actors Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Chloe Morentz and Christopher Mintz-Plasse, for another round of crude and comic caped action.

This time Red Mist is seeking revenge, as teased at the close of the first film and Jim Carrey also makes an appearance as Colonel Stars and Stripes. With so many dark and ‘mature’ style superhero flicks flying around it’s good to have something like this as an antidote.

(No Kick-Ass 2 trailer just yet I’m afraid, but Iron Man is shaping up nicely too).

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  1. Reading Festival 2013 (23-25 August)

Reading Festival 2012With organisers Festival Republic kicking off the hype train early this year, we already know that Eminem will be one of this year’s Reading Festival headliners. Also in the mix are Alt-J, Deftones and Sub Focus.

The event always pulls in some of the greatest acts in the world for the year and the atmosphere is difficult to beat for a full weekend festival. Plus following the re-jig and re-brand last year things will be running even more smoothly, leaving more time for drinking and moshing than ever before.

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  1. The next Xbox (Q4 TBC)

The next Xbox?The Xbox 360 has now been on shop shelves for seven years, with hardware older than that, and in some places it’s beginning to creak at the seams. The lack of big game release dates after May this year leans heavily towards a hardware reveal at this year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo, after a decidedly by-the-numbers affair last year.

The gaming community are beginning to cry out and despite manufacturer Microsoft’s claims in 2010 that the console was only half way through it’s life cycle, the clock is ticking. The time makes sense for the company too, since they won’t want to risk falling behind rival Sony‘s next release, which is still unannounced.

At present no concrete news has come out about the next Xbox console, despite rumours being rife, but whatever happens it is likely to slot effortlessly into its parent company’s efforts with Windows 8. The question is, will they strike while the iron is hot?

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  1. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (13 December)

The Desolation of SmaugAfter the success which Peter Jackson had with the first instalment of The Hobbit, An Unexpected Journey, we have our fingers firmly crossed he can keep up the momentum for a further two films. The subtitle for this year’s film, The Desolation of Smaug, would suggest this is the chapter in which Smaug is vanquished, but what does that leave for film three?

The multi Oscar-winning director is doing it for the love at this point, so it’s hard to see him making a misstep at this stage, but the real draw for this next film is the returning cast, all of whom shone in part one. How can you say no to more Gandalf?

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  1. The digital entertainment tipping point (TBC?)

The final point in our list is more speculation (speculation you say? On a blog? Outrageous!) around the subject of digital distribution. It might not be something to look forward to if you are keen on polishing the boxes on your CD shelf, but the digital revolution is happening right now. In music in particular the market is struggling to cope, as consumers begin to buy songs online through the likes of iTunes more and more.

The BBC recently reported that in 2012 CD sales fell by 11.2% overall, with sales of physical copies down 20% to 69.4million, compared to a rise or 14.8% for digital, bringing its total up to 30.5million. Surely the day we see digital in the majority isn’t far away?

In gaming and films too things are changing, as more people stream or watch films online, sometimes through games consoles, and various on demand services such as Netflix providing access to thousands of films without the bother of popping down to Blockbuster. Games on demand on Xbox remains uncompetitively priced, but avenues such as Valve’s Steam platform are proving more popular than ever before.

The interconnected nature of technology is making viewing entertainment easier every year and this year could be the time when we start to see the digital future really come into its own.

A Digital FutureJames Michael Parry

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Review | Film | This Is Entertainment

The HobbitIt must be fun being short (or ‘vertically challenged’ if you want to go for the overly PC term). There’s no low ceilings or door frames to be contended with, hide and seek is a doddle and most exciting of all you are perfectly suited for an epic adventure.

At least that’s what The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey would have us believe. On this latest foray into the Lord of the Rings universe, everyone’s second (or third…or more, delete as appropriate) hobbit Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) is joined by a cohort of 13 dwarves and Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellen), or rather he finds himself swept off on an adventure before you can say Gollum.

The story begins as something of an intro to the Lord of the Rings trilogy, setting up events before Bilbo’s long-expected 111th birthday party. Here the weight of the franchise falls heaviest, with a somewhat unnecessary cameo from Elijah Wood as Frodo Baggins, and the entire section seems to drag on too long, as much as you have to love Ian Holm as old Bilbo.

The fun really begins as Gandalf quizzes young Bilbo about the exact meaning of ‘Good day’, immediately cementing Freeman in the audience’s mind as the Bilbo from here on in.

Freeman, who was sought after to the point that Peter Jackson put a break in filming specifically so he could take the lead, shines as the reluctant hero, showing all the traits of the character we know and a whole lot more.

The dwarves are a rag tag bunch of personalities, too numerous to be able to pick out every one (or even remember specific names…), but the obvious stand out is Thorin Oakenshield, played by Richard Armitage of Spooks and Captain America fame.

This film itself is driven by Thorin’s need to reclaim his grandfather’s realm from the great dragon Smaug, whose lust for gold drew him to take the fortress and leave it’s inhabitants running for their lives. Thorin’s tale is well told, and there is a real sense of pity for the character, while at the same time being intimidated by him, despite his stature, just as Bilbo is.

The other dwarves serve their purpose but only James Nesbitt as Bofur is really memorable, serving as effective comic relief. In fact you can spend much of the film working out who is playing each one and where you have seen them before.

Gandalf the Grey and Radagast the Brown in The HobbitThe tale takes us to familiar locations such as Rivendell and we meet characters such as Saruman, who we immediately do not trust, knowing of his later betrayal. There are also new faces such as Radagast the Brown (Sylvester McCoy), a fellow great, but rag tag, wizard who spends his time in the forest with animals, including rabbits which pull his slay, like a cross between Father Christmas and Worzel Gummidge.

Gollum’s return is a welcome one and Andy Serkis puts 10 years of advancement in technology to good use in making him look more scarily real than ever. The chemistry between Freeman and Serkis on screen makes for some tense moments, but you do worry whether this card has been played too early, with the real meat of the adventure still to come, and how can the film top the tales of Gollum in LOTR?

The epic camera sweeps across beautiful New Zealand return, but don’t make the mistake of thinking this is a mere retread of LOTR. The quest and the story are both much more personal, character-driven affairs, which make for a more intimate feature. Of course there are grand moments, such as a chase sequence when the gang try to escape a goblin stronghold, but there are more dialogue driven scenes.

Leaps of faith are necessary in some areas, particularly when Gandalf uses his old ‘summon the giant eagles’ trick, prompting much eye-rolling followed by “Why did they drop them off there rather than at the lonely mountain?” Luckily the story itself is interesting enough for you to want to see the journey just as much as the destination.

Music and cinematography are top quality, something you would expect from a team led by Oscar-winning director Peter Jackson who filmed the previous films, but in order to hold audience’s attention for a further two films, he will need to give more. Many things which are forgiveable about this instalment of The Hobbit won’t be overlooked in part two: The Desolation of Smaug.

In all, the film is a solid effort which is a must for existing fans of the universe, but unlikely to sway those put off by the initial trilogy.

Rating: 4/5

James Michael Parry

Believing the Hype – Part 1: Most Antipated Films of 2012 | This Is Entertainment

With the excitement of New Year over and done with and the daily grind of work and school already kicking in, it’s time to think about what’s worth getting excited about in 2012. Sure there’s some sort of Olympics and a European football tournament, and even the end of the world (perhaps), but the really interesting stuff comes in the form of our daily distractions of film, music and computer games.

So, in order to kick the hype machine into gear, This Is Entertainment presents a series of articles highlighting the top five most anticipated from the world of film, music and Xbox games, beginning with the silverscreen:

made by Ryan LuckooThe Dark Knight Rises 20 July

Christian Bale returns (slightly higher than before) for the conclusion of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy. This time around it’s a very Inception-inspired affair with Tom Hardy taking the role of big bad terrorist Bane and Joseph Gordon-Levitt joining the team as Batman’s new helper beat cop John Blake. The exciting thing about the premise is that the film is set eight years after the events of The Dark Knight, when the Caped Crusader took the fall for Harvey Dent’s killing spree. With Nolan at the helm, and several blockbusters under his belt, there’s little chance of the team dropping the ball, and with promise of antics from Catwoman, courtesy of Anne Hathaway, this is a serious contender for big hit of the summer.

The Avengers27 April

Another entry in the ‘Year of the superhero’, and this is certainly the big one in terms of numbers of heroes involved. Thor, The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man, Hawkeye, Black Widow and of course the top man Captain America all thrown together in one action-packed adrenaline ride – sound appealing? The balance of personalities will be key, especially with Robert Downey Jr. threatening to steal the show as king of swagger Tony Stark. Writing duties come from Zak Penn (X-men 2, X-men 3 and The Incredible Hulk) and Joss Whedon (Firefly, Serenity and Buffy the Vampire Slayer), undoubtedly an impressive pedigree, and with Whedon taking directing duties as well he’ll be sure their story gets realised with all the style and humour it deserves.

made by RNK Fan ArtSkyfall26 October

Bond is finally back. After a four year absence Daniel Craig picks up the Walther PPK again to protect the people of Britain, and this time it’s in a story with the least links to the Fleming-verse, since Skyfall is a the first film not to be in any way based on one of the Bond creator’s stories. Judy Dench is back as M, and Naomi Harris is on Bond girl duty, in a story which delves into M’s past as it “comes back to haunt her”. With long-running relationships to be tested, it could prove to be the most personal story since 1994’s Goldeneye. As ever the story is being kept fairly under wraps, but don’t expect to see a return of the ‘Quantum’ organisation, although the style is unlikely to stray far from the ‘new’ Bond formula.

The Hobbit14 December

Before the story told in arguably the most successful trilogy of the 00s, there was Bilbo Baggins, dwarves and a very large dragon. In print a more child-friendly tale than The Lord of the Rings, but on screen Peter Jackson is creating a story on his usual epic scale. Martin Freeman is Bilbo Baggins, and was so wanted by Jackson that he scheduled in a break in shooting for Freeman to reprise his role as Watson in the Stephen Moffat’s sublime Sherlock. Sir Ian McKellen leads the band of dwarves, filled with well-known names in its own right, on their quest, as they are re-united with plenty of other familiar faces from the proceeding films (which are actually set afterwards, just to be confusing). For those with a thirst for fantasy will have no better journey than this in 2012.

The Amazing Spider-Man4 July

In the other side of the big superhero face-off, the return of Spider-Man sees us going back to the beginning (again) with The Social Network star Andrew Garfield as Peter Parker. This reboot, now a groan-inducingly familiar term, focuses on Peter Parker’s high school years, so no Daily Bugle or sideline in pizza delivery. Marc Webb is the aptly named director of the flick, known previously for (500) Days of Summer, has a background in music videos. Webb put together numerous micro-films in the past decade for the likes of Green Day, Good Charlotte, AFI, My Chemical Romance, 3 Doors Down, Maroon 5 and Yellowcard, which might result in a particularly poignant use of music for Spidey. The supporting cast includes Emma Stone, as love interest Gwen Stacy, and Rhys Ifans as Doctor Curt Connors, the unfortunate scientist who, after an inevitable accident, becomes Spider-Man’s nemesis The Lizard. It may be a story we’ve seen before in Sam Raimi’s 2002 film, and certainly there is a lot to live up to for Garfield in Tobey McGuire’s performance, but Webb has everything to prove with what is only his second feature length picture – plus there isn’t a goblin in sight.

Plus: Under the Radar – Keep an eye on Prometheus, Ridley Scott’s sort-of Alien prequel set in the same universe, expect the same chill-factor as you get from watching the original alone in the dark and a massively ambitious project all round.

Check back soon for the next instalment looking at the most anticipated albums of the year.

James Michael Parry

Film: Review – X-Men: First Class

Getting their mutant on

Mutation is “groovy.” At least according to Charles Xavier, played by James McAvoy,   following in the wheels of the great Patrick Stewart in this latest instalment of the superhero franchise.

It’s back to where it all began for the X-Men, with the film’s opening echoing the beginning of the first film back in 2000. A young Erik Lehnsherr screams in agony as his parents are taken from him in a German concentration camp during the World War II. As he reaches out to them, the gates which separate them contort and bend, his desperation activating his devastating mutation. Little does he know he is destined to become Magneto, the villain who was brought to life in the first three films by Sir Ian McKellen.

In First Class Michael Fassbender plays the metal-manipulating mutant, delivering a dominant and icy performance of a man driven to vengeance by the horrors he suffered as a child.

Luckily his path of destruction is halted when he meets Charles Xavier, a young Oxford graduate with the power to read people’s minds. Charles convinces Erik to work with him to bring mutants together to take down the ultimate threat, a man named Sebastian Shaw, who wants to start World War III by provoking Russia and America in the midst of the Cuban missile crisis.

Shaw (Kevin Bacon), and his band of mutants known as the Hellfire Club, threatens various political figures to take steps towards war through the film, leading to a fleet-on-fleet face-off just off the coast of Cuba, where the X-Men intervene and we discover both where Magneto gained his signature helmet and Xavier lost the ability to walk.

The mutants of this film are a combination of the new and the familiar, including a perfectly-timed cameo from one series regular, with the striking blue duo of Mystique and Beast probably being the most well-known. New recruits include Banshee, who can produce glass-shattering screams and sonar, and a relative of the more familiar mutant, Adam Summers, otherwise known as Havoc, who can create arcs of red energy around his body.

The film is very much within the continuity of its predecessors – with the odd inconsistency, such as how Mystique can be a teenager in 1960 and middle aged in 2000, explained away with some well-placed techno-babble. Some of the films funniest moments come from quips about Charles’ hair, but equally there is much enjoyment to be had if you’d never heard of these characters before, so you don’t have to be a massive X-Men geek to keep track of what’s going on.

The dynamic of the plot is built around the difference in ideals between Charles and Eric; Charles seeks cooperation and peace with humanity, while Erik does not believe mutants will ever be accepted and pushes for dominance and superiority.

McAvoy shines as a young Charles, more cheeky and charming than Patrick Stewart’s incarnation, and yet his conviction and dedication to what he believes are solid, with the wisdom of his later self just waiting to be unlocked.

Fassbender too makes a bold impression, building on Erik’s single-minded nature in the opening act to a complex character struggling between his emotions and actions, with his anger at his past and determination to avenge his mother’s death epitomised with the immortal phrase: “Never again.”

The rest of the cast complete the team brilliantly, with each character having their own revelations and growing as their confidence builds and they hone their powers. No one character seems overbearing or left out, a testament to the skill of Director Matthew Vaughn, who is no stranger to superheroes after directing the superb Kick-Ass last year.

In all the film delivers everything you could want on celluloid: action, emotion, a glimmer of romance and believable characters who you really care about, even if some are a tad larger than life. The balance between every aspect, from story to special effects, is perfect, and takes you on an action-packed thrill ride with real substance. The bar for all superhero films, if not action films in general, has been raised.

Rating: 5/5

James Michael Parry