The Under-Ranked: X-Men: First Class
This weekend, the first of many upcoming superhero reboots will be released. Leading the pack before the rumored Fantastic Four restart and next summer’s The Amazing Spider-Man is X-Men: First Class, director Matthew Vaughn’s tale of the beginning of Professor Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters in the 60s and the friendship between Xavier and Erik Lehnsherr, who will become Magneto. Vaughn has cast this new film in the X-Men franchise with some of the most talented actors of today. So before seeing his newest film, check out some of the under-ranked films from the stars of X-Men: First Class.
James McAvoy has always chosen a wide variety of different roles. In the last decade, he has played everything from Mr. Tumnus in The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe to Idi Amin’s doctor in The Last King of Scotland to Gnomeo in Gnomeo and Juliet. But a film in which he was unjustly overlooked was in 2009’s The Last Station. In the film, McAvoy plays Valentin Bulgakov, a devout follower of Leo Tolstoy and a strict believer of the Tolstoyan Movement, in which earthly possessions and sexual love are given up in the hope of a united world. When he is hired by Vladimir Chertkov, played by Paul Giamatti, to become a personal assistant to Tolystoy himself, played wonderfully by Christopher Plummer, he is ecstatic at the possibility. But once he arrives at Tolystoy’s home with the other believers, he finds his beliefs questioned as he learns more about the man that he idolizes. Also a power struggle between Chertkov and Tolystoy’s wife Sofya, an excellent Helen Mirren, and the struggle with himself falling in love makes Bulgakov’s job all the more difficult. Of course Plummer, Mirren and Giamatti are great as always, and McAvoy is able to act remarkably alongside these living legends. The Last Station is a historical drama that may seem quite dry and may need a bit editing down, but is filled with humor at the double standards we all deal with in our lives and the way what we believe changes as we grow through life.
You may not be familiar with Michael Fassbender, but very soon, you will be. This year alone, he will be in new films from David Cronenberg and Steven Soderbergh and next year will be one of the stars in Ridley Scott’s highly anticipated Prometheus. But even before Fassbender played a pivotal part in Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds, he was in a remarkable Irish film called Hunger. The film tells the story of Bobby Sands, the leader of the IRA Hunger Strike in Ireland’s Maze Prison. The strikers refused to eat and were even taking to smearing their own feces on their cell walls in order to fight against the prison guards. Sands went on his hunger strike for 66 incredible days, which Fassbender portrays with epic beauty and struggle. Director Steve McQueen won the Golden Camera award at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival for his remarkable directing, which includes an incredible 17 minute single shot scene between Fassbender and a priest that is staggering. Hunger is a moving depiction of Sands and Fassbender’s unbelievable performance and dedication to the role immediately puts him at the top of any list of upcoming actors to watch out for.
For Kevin Bacon, X-Men: First Class isn’t his first foray into superhero films this year. Before he played the character Sebastian Shaw, he played the villain Jacques in one of 2011’s best movies so far, Super. The film follows Frank D’Arbo (Rainn Wilson), a lifelong loser who wakes one morning to find his wife (Liv Tyler) to be missing. While he believes her to be kidnapped, he quickly realizes she has moved out and is living with her drug dealer boyfriend, Bacon’s Jacques. As he succumbs to the depression of having lost his wife, he has a vision wherein he believes he has been chosen by God to fight crime as a superhero. Frank soon becomes The Crimson Bolt, a homemade superhero who likes to tell crime to shut up and bash in criminal’s heads with a wrench. He is reluctantly joined by the hyperactive comic book nerd Libby (Ellen Page), who becomes his sidekick Boltie. Together they try to save their town from crime, while also trying to save Frank’s wife from drugs and Jacques. Super is a great film for anyone who likes superhero films based in reality, such as Vaughn’s Kick-Ass, or like ridiculous takes on already existing genres, like Super director James Gunn’s previous film Slither. Super is a very dark comedy that creates moving characters and insane situations that I guarantee you have not seen in film before.