Movie reviews: X-Men: Days of Future Past

X-Men: Days of Future Past ★★★★

Movie reviews: X-Men: Days of Future Past

Everyone knows the deal with time-travel movies: whatever you do when you go back into the past, don’t do anything that might alter the future. X-Men: Days of Future Past (12A) tears up the time-travel rule book when the last of the mutant superheroes led by Professor X (Patrick Stewart), facing extinction in their war with humanity, takes the nuclear option of travelling back in time to change the course of history. At least, Logan’s (Hugh Jackman) consciousness travels back in time, to 1973, in a bid to prevent Raven (Jennifer Lawrence) from being captured and her DNA used by Dr Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage) to create the Sentinels, the species currently wiping out the mutants, who are at war with one another, as the younger Professor X (James McAvoy) tries to prevent Erik (Michael Fassbender) from becoming the megalomaniac Magneto. If that sounds a tad convoluted, well, brace yourself: a diagram of the various story arcs in Days of Future Past would not look entirely dissimilar to a plate of meatball spaghetti. That said, and providing you have even a rudimentary knowledge of the X-Men universe, director Bryan Singer and writers Matthew Vaughn, Jane Goldman and Simon Kinberg do a very good job of maintaining the twin narratives of past and future events, whilst also having a lot of fun with the 1970s era and tossing in plenty of in-jokes to lighten the tone. In a very crowded cast — co-stars Ian McKellen, Halle Berry, Nicholas Hoult, Ellen Page and Anna Paquin all jostle for screen-time — Michael Fassbender provides the stand-out performance as the ruthless Erik/Magneto.

With its jazz soundtrack and grainy footage of New York running under the opening titles, Fading Gigolo (15A) has all the hallmarks of a Woody Allen movie, although Allen contents himself here with a starring role in writer-director John Turturro’s film. Allen plays Murray, a retired bookseller who decides to supplement his meagre income by hiring out his friend, the flower arranger Fioravente (Turturro), as a male escort. Reluctant at first, nice guy Fioravente begins to enjoy his assignations with rich and bored women such as Selima (Sofia Vergara) and Dr Parker (Sharon Stone) — but then he meets Avigail (Vanessa Paradis), a Hasidic widow who craves human contact. It’s a quirkily implausible set-up and when taken in combination with the audio-visual clues mentioned above, it initially appears that Turturro is paying homage to Allen’s offbeat romantic comedies. As the story proceeds, however, it becomes clear that Turturro is much more interested in exploring alienation as a theme, with his surprisingly tender characters offering variations on a theme of love, loss and loneliness. Turturro, Stone and Paradis are all excellent at evoking the maximum emotional return from a minimalist script, although Allen’s wise-cracking schtick comes across as a rather clumsy parody of some of his own characters from previous films. As the initially jocular tone gives way to a downbeat mood of existential crisis, Turturro creates a measured, bittersweet tale of unrequited longing, although the story as a whole never quite lives up to the potential of its intriguing characters.

Blended (12A) opens with widower Jim (Adam Sandler) and divorcée Lauren (Drew Barrymore) on a blind date in a Hooters bar — his choice, as if you have to be told. Needless to say, romance does not blossom, which makes things more than a little awkward when Jim and his three daughters, taking a spring break trip, wind up at the same family-oriented African resort as Lauren and her two sons. Directed by Frank Coraci, Blended is a rom-com that has far more laughs than it does romance, although that’s not to say it’s a laugh-a-minute romp: the scattergun humour is for the most part crude and lewd, and matters aren’t helped by the starchy delivery. Neither Barrymore nor Sandler seem capable of finding any wiggle-room in the strait-jacket of a very predictable script, and the story trundles along in no great hurry to pair off the ostensibly odd couple. What spark the movie does possess comes from the younger characters as Jim and Lauren’s children try to cope with the loss of a parent, and particularly in the poignant turn from Jim’s daughter Espn (Emma Fuhrmann) as she mourns her mother in a touchingly idiosyncratic way.

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