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.