About James Butlin

I'm a journalism graduate writing about films here and there, whilst looking for a job in journalism. Films, magazines, entertainment are what I like, and food, I like food too.

X-Men: First Class review

X-Men has had its ups and downs. Starting with the ups and then ending with the downs in equal measures. Bryan Singer started the franchise solidly with two action-packed films featuring the most famous of the X-Men, Brett Ratner introduced The Juggernaut (bitch) and killed the franchise where it was standing (from what I remember). X-Men Origins: Wolverine tried to do the prequel thing, and managed to mess up Deadpool, one of the franchises favourite characters, alienating fanboys all over the world.

BUT then X-Men: First Class came along, they nabbed Jane Goldman to write it and Matthew Vaughn to direct. This is where it got interesting, the Kick-Ass writer and director on board for a ‘real’ superhero film and they’ve only bloody gone and made it really good.

James McAvoy stars as the young Professor Xavier, Michael Fassbender stars as Erik Lensherr AKA Magneto and they both have to fight off Kevin Bacon as Sebastian Shaw, the leader of The Hellfire Club, who wants to start the nuclear war between Russia and America and kickstart his jump to being leader of the entire world. Sort of like Hitler, but with the ability to absorb power and then shoot it back out. He has the likes of January Jones in a bra, Nightcrawler’s red-skinned dad Azazel and Riptide, who throws whirlwinds around, on his side.

McAvoy and Fassbender are tasked by the CIA to sort Kevin Bacon out and stop World War 3, but Fassbender has other issues with him and wants to kill him, which is well Magneto. McAvoy wants peace. So anyway, they enlist the help of a handful of other mutants that they find by a budget version of cerebro (the thing that Professor X uses in the first films). These are the likes of Angel (she’s got wings and fiery spit), Banshee (he’s so loud at screaming it makes him fly), Havok (big red rings of powerfulness fire from everywhere on him) and Darwin (he can protect himself). They also have Mystique, who Xavier met when he was young and Beast, who has been making stuff for the CIA.

Now, after that extended synopsis that I wrote for not much reason, here’s the verdict:

It was really brilliant, not perfect, but really brilliant and it certainly sets the franchise up for a brand new timeline with some fantastic actors. Michael Fassbender steals the show as the complex Erik Lensherr, he’s the one with the history and has a real reason to be hateful towards the human race, it grounds his villainy in a real way, and you can really see tones of Ian McKellen’s Magneto in him. He does drift into his native Irish accent on a number of occasions, but that could be down to the rushed schedule that the production was under.

James McAvoy drifts between cool hippie womaniser and logical professor, which at times does edge into the cheesy side of things, but mostly keeps along the straight and narrow. He doesn’t quite embody the character as fully as Fassbender, but Xavier is the voice of reason and McAvoy shows some signs of that, but doesn’t really stand out for me.

As with all X-Men films, the other mutants take a back-seat until they have their ‘moment’ where their power comes into the storyline. Beast and Mystique get an interesting love-story which plays on their appearance. Other than that, the rest don’t do much, especially January Jones, who just spends her time looking pretty.

The storyline infuses the history of the ’60s alongside the mutants very well. Taking key aspects of the Cold War and the Cuban Missile Crisis and adding an alternate timeline, much like Watchmen did. It isn’t overly complex, and has some fantastic action sequences which should give it the Summer blockbuster power it needs to top the likes of Transformers and Harry Potter.

We’re well into the blockbuster season and X-Men provides a solid stand to go up against the big boys in the next couple of months. So far, we’ve got the one to beat right here.

9/10

Bridesmaids review

You’re unlikely to find a funnier rom-com this year. That’s the truth of the matter. Bridesmaids is the story of Annie (Kristen Wiig), who is at rock bottom and her childhood best friend, Lillian (Maya Rudolph) is getting married. She is given the task of being maid of honour at the wedding and given the responsibility of organising everything from the bachelorette party (hen party for us Brits) and the wedding shower and everything else in between. Her new best friend Helen (Rose Byrne) has the wealth and the social status, so she proves some powerful competition when it comes to impressing Lillian. Along the way, Annie has man troubles, car troubles, money troubles and every other trouble imaginable.

Firstly, every other review I’ve read seems to call this the female version of The Hangover, but this is both wrong and misleading. Going in, I imagined it would be a drunken storm through the hen party and all the not very nice parts of female life. The crude humour had been bigged up to that extent as well. Coming out, what you’ve got is more akin to a rom-com, which understandably could put people off, but this is a good rom-com, with doses of crude humour, but not so much that it puts you off.

This film is everything a good rom-com should be, hopefully it should pave the way for less fearful representations of women in films. Kristen Wiig is all leading lady here, showing off everything that makes her to likeable in Saturday Night Live, being a good actress first, but secondly, she’s unafraid of how she may come across, gurning and embarrassing her way through the film. She seems genuine in the role, making the audience feel sorry for her as well as laughing at her misfortune. She co-wrote the film and you can feel the SNL influences coming through, with a lot of the scenes, especially those featuring her and Maya Rudolph, feeling unscripted and improvised and with Judd Apatow producing, it’s likely he had some key input with that as well.

Judd Apatow seems to be a draw for this film, the whole movie has a similar feel to his other producing and directorial efforts, the only difference being, that it has a group of girls instead of a group of guys. And yes, these girls are funny, not only funny, but they’re believable (for the most-part). The dialogue doesn’t reek of being forced, like most rom-coms, the girls sound like, well, like modern girls. They’re not playing to a stereotype, they’re talking like real girls.

I’ll refer back to The Hangover, briefly, but only for the comparison of Zach Galifianakis and Melissa McCarthy, who will certainly be a break-out star when Bridesmaids comes out. She steals every scene she appears in as the crude Megan, sister of Lillian’s fiancé. Although I said the crude humour wasn’t what filled the film, it appears a fair amount, but not so much as to put people off. In fact it provides some of the films funniest moments. From an ill-fated dress-fitting to an in-air plane incident.

This was my first pre-release free screening ever, and if it’s a sign of things to come, then give me a job and send me on my way. I would happily have paid to see this. Great fun, and although leaning towards the females, the men will still have a great laugh. I really hope this film does well, because it deserves it.

9/10

The Hangover Part II review

The Hangover Part II, which I’ll call The Hangover 2 from now on reunites Bradley Cooper, Zach Galifianakis and Ed Helms as they lose their memories once again to provide a plot to a film. Todd Phillips returns to helm the sequel and he said that he didn’t want to stray from the formula they set out and indeed, he doesn’t, he stays with exactly the same formula. EXACTLY the same.

This time around Stu (Helms) is getting married to a Thai lady and they want the wedding in her home country, so along come Doug (Justin Bartha) and Phil (Cooper) for the ride. Due to the last film’s events, Alan (Galifninwiwjdsidlkdakis) isn’t invited, but when his sister (Doug’s wife) says how upset he is, they invite him along for the ride. Off they trot to Thailand and in their peaceful resort they have a few drinks by a beach bonfire and then the rest, as they say, is history.

The last film shot the three leads to the A-list and this doesn’t have the same feel of the unknown that made the last one so great. It also has less of the surprise of the relatively unknown Zach Galifianakis, who provided most of the last films more quotable lines. However, that said, they haven’t done a Jack Sparrow with him and made him the centre of attention, Cooper and Helms still have as much of the fun in the film.

As other reviews have pointed out, and as everyone will tell you, the film is almost exactly the same as the previous film, so much so that it quickly starts to grate. Once you’re into the body of the film though, if you’re a fan of the original, you’ll get swept along for the ride. Everything is switched up a notch, the baby is now a drug-mule monkey that smokes, Stu’s missing tooth is now a Mike Tyson tattoo and instead of a Las Vegas hotel suite, it’s a run-down Bangkok hotel room with dodgy electricity.

The situations may be different but there is a strong chemistry between the three in the leading roles, Galifianakis gives off the craziness, and makes for a some fun while Cooper and Helms are the ones who don’t understand what the hell is going on. They’re all incredibly likeable and it makes for a film which under the wrong actors could be terrible, but it’s just difficult to dislike the film because of them.

Criticism for it being a carbon copy is warranted, but for me personally, I enjoyed the first so I was happy to come back to do it all again with them a second time. It’s all good as they say, it’s better than them taking a new concept and it not coming off. Some extra fun in the same format is fine by me, and it’s odd to have such a nice looking comedy film. Rarely do you find cinematography that looks this nice in a comedy film, but this is what big-budget comedy looks like and it looks fantastic.

Obviously, it isn’t as good as the first film and you don’t get the same feeling of not knowing what will happen, but it’s still enjoyable and with little in the way of decent comedy coming up, it should tide you over until the very brilliant looking Bridesmaids comes along.

7/10

The first episode of Geordie Shore and a delve into the ‘lower’ form of culture ‘n’ that like

This isn’t something I make a habit of, watching these kind of faux-reality shows, but this one peaked my interest because it isn’t often they air something from the North East around the whole world on MTV. I also fancied a laugh.

Geordie Shore is the British version of the hit show Jersey Shore which I’ve never seen. I’ve also only seen one episode of The Only Way Is Essex and I’ve never watched The Hills, so I’m not going to compare anything. If they’re anything like this, I can absolutely see the appeal though, I honestly hope people don’t take these programmes seriously and god forbid anyone who relates to them. All I know is, it was hilarious in whatever way it came out.

8 humans entered the Geordie Shore house in somewhere like Jesmond, probably. They had a hot tub, a few rooms, a secret sex den in the back garden and loads of booze. It took one of them one hour to throw up and be put to bed. There was only one person in a relationship and she was the first one getting her tits out and then having sex. The next night they had to do their ‘jobs’, they went out and got people to hang out in their party bus. Then two of the lads took two girls back to the shag-pad, one lad left, the other lad had both of them. The next night, two of them got together and went home, while the rest of them had a fight.

If I’m counting correctly, that was only three nights staying in the Geordie house, coupled with the always funny Geordie accent (complete with subtitled Geordie) and you’ve got a pretty action-packed show. They are going straight for the lowest of the low in terms of culture and not passing go on the way there.

It’s fucking brilliant.

The only problem is, I’m from the North East and my Facebook is full of other people from the North East, and most didn’t see the funny side and I can’t imagine a lot of actual Geordies would see the funny side either. Newcastle has tried to re-vamp itself to become a city of culture and tried to shake the reputation it has as a city where nobody wears a jacket and the girls don’t wear anything shorter than a belt. Here they’ve gone the opposite way and tried to convey that exact reputation, these producers want people to think they’re going to have a night out and get a shag at the end of it. If they’re going anywhere near this lot, they’re likely to get exactly that.

Any complaints aside, for an hour, I could let my brain turn to mush and enjoy this, but the next episode better go bigger. I want at least five fights, two flashes and a four-person orgy.

Here’s a picture of Holly, who can hold a bottle between her boobs and drink from it, enjoy:

Lady Gaga – The Edge of Glory review

I just listened to Lady Gaga’s new song, and unknowingly managed to live blog it in a conversation with my good friend Joseph Stashko. Here is the live-blogged text in full. (This may or not be a shameless attempt to get some hits by pouncing on the almost definitely popular Lady Gaga and to milk her ‘monsters’ for all they’re worth)

James Butlin

oh…it sounds a bit…x factor?

Joseph Stashko

hahah, yeah it does so far

James Butlin

but like maybe take that quality x factor

Joseph Stashko

bit kareoke

I’m hoping there’s some massive chorus

James Butlin

a huge breakdown

oh, it just got really cascada

intense synth

i think it sounds like katy perry actually

it reminds me loads of a song

can’t put my finger on it

but basically, she’s going to be playing in front of a huge fucking wind machine

Joseph Stashko

haha

yeah

Joseph Stashko

with fuckloads of confetti

and shit

James Butlin

brilliant, some jazz synth

i’ve no idea what this is

Joseph Stashko

oooh, just got it

haha, that’s awesome

wtf

it’s lke

tina turner

James Butlin

this is like whitney houston being fucked by trance

Joseph Stashko

with miles davis bumming her

James Butlin

just lolled

i quite like it

it’s like “i’m not messing around, this is me doing some pop, some proper pop”

“but wait for the jazz, because that will come at you like a rapist”

Joseph Stashko

ahhahahhaah

Cedar Rapids review

Cedar Rapids has had some decent reviews up until now and before I’d watched it, I had a mild interest, solely for the involvement of Ed Helms and John C. Reilly. The feel it gave off was an antithesis to Up In The Air, this is the man who never travels and discovers himself through his small-town eyes rather than the always travelling man who knows the world.

Compulsory plot paragraph: When the top salesman from a small-town insurance company dies, it is up to Ed Helms to go to represent the company at a regional insurance conference in Cedar Rapids and secure the much sought after Two Diamonds award for the fourth year in a row. End of compulsory plot paragraph

Ed Helms is the key to the film, he has the leading role and he carries it superbly, he is both likeable and believable as the small-town man with a big heart who ultimately discovers that life isn’t how his rose-tinted view shows it to be. It is up to John C. Reilly to break him down and teach him how to live his life, Reilly, as always puts in a fantastic comedic performance. I can’t even remember him as a serious actor now, after his turns in Talladega Nights and Step Brothers, he is now fully ingrained in the comedy society.

The mixture of dark comedy, gross-out humour and touching sweetness makes for a very enjoyable film that neither forces itself on the audience nor does it shy into the background. A welcome surprise which I hope people will go and take a look at.

My most-anticipated films for Summer 2011: Part II

It has been around a week since Part I of my most anticipated summer films and since then, this top five has had a few shuffles due to some fantastic trailers appearing (I definitely didn’t forget about it). So here it is, numbers 5 through to 1.

5 – The Hangover: Part II

Originally, I was very apprehensive about a sequel to The Hangover, it worked so well because it was essentially a mystery made out of the unknown the characters found after losing their memories. The whole premise was really a breath of fresh air to the comedy genre and the characters were all brilliant. Bradley Cooper does well with the mixture of serious and slightly cheeky, Ed Helms does well with the uptight and worrisome, Justin Bartha barely features as the husband-to-be, then Zach Galifianakis and Ken Jeong give the all-out crazy to the audience and steal the show. Zach Galifianakis had popped up on my radar every now and then with his Between Two Ferns sketches on FunnyOrDie.com and here he jumped straight onto everyone elses radars and straight into every comedy film that came onto the Hollywood radar.

Now, aside from all that garbled nonsense, I wasn’t excited for a sequel, how could they do any better? However, after seeing a full trailer, I’m looking forward to it and seeing the gang back together can only go right (I hope, fingers crossed, touch wood).

4 – Captain America: The First Avenger

Captain America is the next film up alongside Thor this Summer as part of the Marvel lead-up to The Avengers. This is much more of a sure-fire hit than Thor was, no gods, just a weak man injected with Super-Soldier serum to turn him into the ultimate fighter in World War 2. The trailer gives off a bit of an Indiana Jones vibe, but maybe that’s just the Nazis. Whatever it is, Marvel have done some solid Summer action the past few years and I don’t think this is going to be a disappointment, Chris Evans looks solid in the lead-role and Hugo Weaving plays the villain, the fact is, Hugo Weaving is the best man for villainy this side of Alan Rickman. Very excited for this one and maybe more so for the potential post-credit scene. It has to be good.

3 – Transformers: Dark Side Of The Moon

Now obviously, Transformers’ third instalment isn’t named after the famous Pink Floyd album, don’t be stupid. It’s actually called ‘Dark of the Moon’ which refers to the other side of the moon where a Transformer landed and that’s why the space race happened, or something. The real point is that Shia LaBeouf is back, Megan Fox isn’t, John Turturro is, robots are. Michael Bay has admitted that the last one was a bit naff, I quite liked it (not story wise, but it was noisy and entertaining), but he says they’ve sorted it this time and the trailer seems to show off a nice amount of carnage in a bit of a post-apocalyptic setting. Whatever happens, I’ll be there, I love a bit of Bayhem and I love a bit of Transformer carnage. I have a nice feeling about this one, and after the latest trailer, it has cemented my excitement, but it has slipped down the rankings, the next two are the ones to really look out for and were hard to choose between.

Here they come.

2 – Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows Part 2

It’s Harry-fucking-Potter and if you don’t like it, you can do one. End.

1 – X-Men: First Class

I’m not entirely sure why, but I’ve just got a really good feeling about this. It could be the Matthew Vaughn/Jane Goldman team that did so well with Kick-Ass, it could also be the casting of such brilliant actors as James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender, it could also be that it is X-Men and for as long as I can remember, I wish I had one of the many superpowers of the X-Men. X-Men started the franchise well with a decent origin story, but it wasn’t until X-Men 2 that things really kicked into gear and they created one of the best superhero films around, bested only by The Dark Knight. First Class takes things to the start again, Magneto and Xavier are friends and they’re just finding that other mutants exist. It’s the 60s and the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Civil Rights Movement are in full swing, alongside that, mutants are about to be outlawed and slowly but surely a rift forms between the two friends. The return of the mutants has intrigued me all the way through and each trailer has done the job for me, I couldn’t be more excited, it’s just a shame they couldn’t get some decent poster designs. You can’t have everything though.

There you have it, my top ten. Look forward to my reviews throughout Summer.

Thor review

Thor is the latest addition to the Marvel canon, following from last year’s Iron Man 2 and appearing just before Captain America’s appearance later in the summer. A lot like Iron Man, Thor is one of the least known superheroes from the Marvel universe, although Iron Man had a cartoon to refer to. Thor is for those who care to follow the Marvel films, or for those who care to follow the comic books, or even for those who care for Norse mythology.

AS WITH ALL THESE FILMS, YOU’LL BE PROBABLY FIND SOMETHING A BIT SPOILERY, I’LL KEEP IT AS NON-SPOILERY AS POSSIBLE UNTIL THE LAST PARAGRAPH, WHICH WILL BE REALLY SPOILERY, BUT I’LL WARN YOU LIKE I HAVE DONE HERE WHEN THAT HAPPENS.

Compulsory plot paragraph: Thor is the next in line to take over being the king of Asgard, Odin (Anthony Hopkins doing his best Gandalf impression) has chosen Thor to take over, but when the frost giants come calling, he heads off to sort them out, only to be saved by Odin and for Odin to be well annoyed. Odin casts Mr Thor out to Earth, where he must hang around as a mortal, with Natalie Portman, Stellan Skarsgard and Kat Dennings. Thor’s brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) does some double-crossing because he wants to be king and then Thor’s friends have to try to get Thor back to Asgard. End of compulsory plot paragraph

In terms of being brought together as a film, Kenneth Branagh has done a fantastic job. Film audiences have a want for at least an ounce of realism to go along with their superhero films these days, and Branagh balances the split between the God stuff and the human stuff very nicely. Asgard is a fantastical golden city, ruled over by Odin, while there everything is bright and shiny, everyone talks very majestically. When we’re back on Earth, everyone talks normally and Thor is the weird one who talks like a Shakespearean actor.

It remains to be seen whether mainstream audiences will lap this up, it’s always hard to not be blinkered when I’ve been following the Marvel films as they intertwine with each other. It’s so easy to draw comparisons with Iron Man, there’s not much more than an introductory story here, although the action is fearsome and very exciting. There’s not a great deal of it, nice bits and pieces here and there and the story doesn’t stutter. It flows very nicely and boredom doesn’t set in at all. It’s all fine though, with a sequel lined up already and The Avengers coming next year, the wait isn’t going to be too long before you see Chris Hemsworth bringing back hammer time once again (lol, Thor pun).

While we’re on the subject, lets just have a little look at Chris Hemsworth, not that any girls will need encouraging. From Home & Away or some equally futile Australian soap, to Thor, the God of Thunder. I really think Hemsworth has a long shelf-life, he has the stature and acting ability to stand the test of time, it may be a while before he moves away from being Thor and being his own person, but he has decent comic-timing along with the believability to take on the big action films.

Natalie Portman is her more laid-back self, after scaring the living shit out of everyone in Black Swan. She does a lot more than Gwyneth Paltrow in the Iron Man films and is a damn sight more interesting, but as per, she’s mainly just a cog to move the film along and give Thor a reason to be on/come back to (delete as appropriate, once you’ve seen the film) Earth.

In conclusion, Thor is as solid a start to the Summer season as you’re going to get, very entertaining, a worthy addition to the Marvel gang and well-made start to what will surely be a successful franchise.

SPOILERS COMING, SPOILERS COMING, AFTER THE PICTURE, SOME POST-CREDIT SPOILERS COMING!!!

Here it comes.

Time for the spoilers.

As has become a near-tradition with Marvel films, a nice little post-credit scene comes along here. Loki has plummeted to his death at the end of the film and Thor is in Asgard with his family, ready to be king. The credits roll and then we’re treated to another look at Nick Fury, played by Samuel L. Jackson. He has invited Dr. Selvig (Stellan Skarsgard) to help his scientists at S.H.I.E.L.D. study the Cosmic Cube which they have found (I’m not a big comic book geek, but it has something to do with Captain America I think). He says he will do, and as he does so, it is revealed that Loki is controlling his mind/living inside him/something along those lines (represented by him being in his reflection). There you have it, I gave you plenty of warning too, so don’t tell me off. Oh and Jeremy Renner pops up as Hawkeye as well, which was nice.

Scre4m review (Part II:The part where I review how much I hate humans)

Hopefully you’ve already read my review of the film, where I’m calm, collected and of mostly sound mind. It’s here if you want it. This isn’t that, this is where I review what can only be described as the most soul-destroyingly annoying cinema experience I’ve ever had and it re-kindled my hatred of idiots.

From here on in, my language may get pretty harsh on the eyes, things could get broken and shit could get real. You’ve been warned.

We took our seats in the Middlesbrough Cineworld, Screen 1, it was already quite busy with 15 minutes until the film started. We shuffled ourselves to the far end of one of the central rows. A shoeless girl was sat on her own waiting for her friend in the centre of the row, in front was a group of about 10 girls, dolled-up to the nines. In front of those girls were an even rowdier group of girls, of unknown number, but with the volume of about 80. The whole cinema seemed to know each other, with phones going off and people standing up and waving towards the back of the cinema. Dressed up, waving, excitement, young girls. Had I just walked into some sort of Justin Bieber concert? You’d be forgiven for thinking that. More and more people flooded in, my agitation became palpable, my want and need for an onslaught of passive aggressive tweeting was growing.

I thought, no, this will be okay, everyone will calm down when the lights go down.

The lights went down and no one bothered to shut up. No one. When the film started, it only got worse. Some girl down the front said to her friend, “I can’t watch it”, this is fucking Scream for christ’s sake, it’s a slasher film, it’s not meant to get inside your head and scare you, you might get the odd shock, but it’s very doubtful. Don’t buy a ticket if you’re going to jump, scream and shout, in fact, don’t even fucking leave the house.

The film started playing, there was a scream as soon as it started, I sighed, I knew this was going to be a long night. Everytime someone opened a door, a girl in front screamed her head off. Everytime someone looked inside a cupboard. Everytime someone had a sit down. Everytime anything remotely jumpy happened, massive, audible scream.

Even when nothing happened, this particular girl’s friend gave her a little scare and as loud as you like, she screamed, “AHHH PEYTON YA BITCH!” and not to ‘diss’ the Middlesbrough accent, but if you hear that in a Middlesbrough accent, it sounds dreadful, it sounds well Jeremy Kyle. It wasn’t just her though, there were a fair few offenders throughout the whole cinema screen, the girls next to my girlfriend were chatting away as though they were in a bar and the film was just a mild inconvenience stopping them from their much needed catch-up.

This is what happens when films are given 15 certificates, this is what happens when you go and see films that have a target audience crossing both the ‘fan’ boundary and the ‘general public’ boundary. This is also what happens when you’re an idiot who decides to go to the cinema during Easter holidays and on a Wednesday, well done James, well done. I am always just hopeful that people going to the cinema want to see a film, not dress up and have a catch up.

The final straw was when, after so many Halloween references, a character said the name ‘Michael Myers’ and the girl in front, the captain of the screams, said to her friend, “I DON’T KNOW WHO THAT IS.” Do your homework, you fucking idiot.