X-Men: First Class Matthew Vaughn

X-Men: First Class Matthew Vaughn
While many people may have initially rolled their eyes at the thought of another in what's becoming an epidemic of prequels, X-Men: First Class actually improves upon the formula established by the previous films. It's one of the best Marvel Comics adaptations to date. Set in the early '60s (a perfect time to reinforce the civil rights theme of the series), First Class focuses on the early lives of Prof. Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and Eric Lehnsherr, soon to become Magneto (Michael Fassbender). When their paths cross, they join forces to defeat an ex-Nazi, who also happens to be a mutant (Kevin Bacon, yes that Kevin Bacon). The two become quite close throughout the course of the film, before inevitably parting ways over their approach to mutant civil rights (as we all know, Prof. X wants to work with humans, while Magneto grows to hate them). The film was directed by Matthew Vaughn, who proved his super-hero chops with last year's Kick-Ass. While First Class isn't quite as unconventional as Kick-Ass, the retro setting gives the film a lot of room to be stylish, mostly in the art direction and wardrobe. The cast is phenomenal; McAvoy and Fassbender play the roles with a humanity and depth that the previous X-Men films lacked, even with greats like Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan in their roles. Winter's Bone's Jennifer Lawrence is also a standout as Mystique, as is Nicholas Hoult, who plays Beast. The only weak link in the chain is January Jones, who isn't as bad as some have suggested, but pales in comparison to the other actors on screen. The extra features are disappointingly scant. There is a making-of doc that's quite interesting, but only addresses the conception of the project and the casting. For some reason, the only other extra feature is an anti-smoking advertisement, which would be more relevant on a Mad Men DVD. (Fox)