DVD Round Up: The Losers, Conan the Barbarian and X- Men First Class

A while ago I wrote about my habit of constantly buying books leading to a backlog, well, I do the same thing with DVDs. I’ll pick up some flick that’s been recommended to me or I missed at the cinema and then they sit, unwatched on a shelf for a while.

Anyway, last week, with an evening to myself I decided to have a bit of a film fest and here are my thoughts on the three movies I watched.

First up is The Losers an action movie about a black ops team who are betrayed, framed and left for dead. They team up with a mysterious girl (Zoe Saldana) to get revenge on the shifty CIA spook responsible for their situation.

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I quite enjoyed this movie, the plot is standard action fare and its quite daft in places, but I really liked the absurd, OTT action sequences. There are some nice touches and fun scenes, the standout for me being a fight between Saldana’s enigmatic Aisha and the team’s leader played by Jeffrey Dean Morgan. Before the fight both limber up in seperate rooms and the fight is a scrappy, surprisingly violent brawl.

The team is pretty cool, with JDM and his right hand man, Idris Elba being badass. Chris Evans is almost unrecognisable as the group’s awkward, loudmouth tech, but the show is stolen by the sniper, Cougar (Oscar Jaenada) who says little but oozes badassery.

Loud, dumb fun with nice flourishes 6/10

I followed this up with the new version of Conan the Barbarian. I was apprehenive as I’m a Conan fan and love the old Arnie movie.

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Here Jason Momoa takes the role, with Conan on the vengeance trail for the murder of his entire people. Along the way he has to hack and slash his way through various enemies, rescue a princess and save the world.

Momoa definitely looks the part, being unbelievably ripped and he also is fairly charismatic, with Conan seeming to revel in his life of fighting, drinking and womanising, being a barbarian looks bloody good fun.

There are some great touches especially the way that Conan’s dad (played by the legendary Ron Perlman) is bumped off. Its a nasty, violent death that sets up the villain’s sadistic cruelty and Conan’s lust for revenge.

There’s also a brilliant early scene where we see that even as a kid Conan was one tough bastard.

I loved that quite a bit of the action was old school stunt work, avoiding an overdose of CGI.

The villains are hissable and Rose McGowan, completely transformed under make up seems to be having a ball playing a crazy witch.

While it will never replace the Arnie version in my heart this is probably the better movie, even though the Morgan Freeman voiceover is off putting, mainly as it always reminds me of Family Guy (“like a twinkie”).
Momoa does a good job, and its a fun, rollicking sword and sorcery yarn. 7/10
Last up, and most feted was X-Men: First Class the prequel to the X-movies. Being a geek I’m a little suprised I missed this on the big screen.

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The movie follows the meeting of Professor X (James McAvoy) and Magneto (Michael Fassbender) against the back drop of the Cuban missile crisis, which is being escalated by the villainous Hellfire Club, and their leader Sebastien Shaw (Kevin Bacon), who is the nazi who tortured and experimented on Magneto when he was a boy in the concentration camps.
It sees Xavier and Magneto gather the first team and argue over methods and mutants’ relationship with normal humans.
Its quite a good film, with the two leads doing very good work. Fassbender is incredibly charismatic as Magneto, capturing the rage and bitterness within while also showing the charm and wit that McKellen had in the role (almost described his performance as “magnetic”, lucky I avoided that pun mine). McAvoy though also does wonderfully, showing us Xavier as a cocksure, charmer who isn’t quite up to his responsibility to start off with.
There are wonderful touches and some great big action scenes, but for me it felt a little flat.
I think though that this was down to what I took into the film.
Being a big geek I’ve never really warmed to the movies of the X-Men, they were the first comics I got into and I love the characters, and the movies, while entertaining have a knack for watering them down.
The best example of this is taking the strong, authoritative Storm and turning her into Halle Berry in a cheap wig.
A few of the characters suffer from this (Emma Frost and Banshee are pale shadows of their comic book selves) but the worst is Hank McCoy aka Beast played here by Nicholas Hoult. Hoult’s performance is okay, but its what the writers have done that grates. In this version McCoy is just your common or garden nerdy scientist- stammering, awkward, shy.

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Which sucks.
What makes the Beast such a good character is that rather than merely being the X-Men’s resident brain he’s also wonderfully larger than life- a joker and fast talker imbued with a natural swagger, he’s charming, witty and verbose. Like a furry Stephen Fry.
Still, these are geekboy whinings, and some of the film’s characterisations really work. I especially liked adding the Mystique-Xavier unrequited love thing, and Jennifer Lawrence is magnificent as the young, fragile shapeshifter, expressing the hurt she feels at Xavier’s offhand manner. The film shows why she ends up with Magneto, and Fassbender’s charm makes it seem like the right choice.
Bacon is also brilliant as the villain, never overplaying it.
All in all, a good movie, quite fun in places with strong performances.
Also, features a fantastic cameo from Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) that made me laugh out loud.
A good addition to the series, with Fassbender, McAvoy, Lawrence and Bacon giving good showings. Nice tweaks to some characters, but my inner angry geek can’t score it more than 7.
Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO

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