Tag Archives: Ian McKellen

X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014) Movie Retro Review By Stephen McLaughlin

DAYS OF FUTURE PAST

Director: Bryan Singer
Writers: Simon Kinberg (screenplay), Jane Goldman (story by)
Stars: Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Hugh Jackman, Jennifer Lawrence, Peter Dinklage, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender

With Bryan Singer back to basically do a “Doctor Sam Beckett” from Quantum Leap and put right what once went wrong he has the freedom of time travel to unravel the majority of plot holes from the disaster that was “The Last Stand” and a few little niggles from the impressive “First Class”

With the Movie opening in a bleak future controlled by Sentinels which are mutant hunting machines that can eliminate any mutant despite their powers. The Sentinels are adaptive and have the ability to counteract any of the abilities the last of the mutants are capable of and destroy them.

With only a few mutants left they have discovered a way of going back in time a few days earlier through the mind to warn their previous selves of any upcoming attacks and erase their existence in those scenarios. Time us running out for them though and Professor X and Magneto come together to devise a plan that could save the mutants from extinction. The X-Men send Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) to the early 1970’s in a desperate effort to change history and prevent an event that results in doom for both humans and mutants.

The event being Raven / Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) assassinating Dr. Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage) in her belief eliminating the creator of the Sentinels would be the end of the project. Unfortunately with a mutant murdering a human the government felt threatened by the mutants and continued with Trask’s project and through capturing Raven / Mystique where able to experiment with her DNA in creating more advanced Sentinels that could adapt and destroy any mutant despite their power.

Ellen Page is back as Kitty Pryde. You remember her? the tiny mutant that could run through walls. Well now she can send mutants back in time with mind control. I don’t get it either but it works and you are better not thinking too hard on that one and just accept it as this is the premise of the storyline. Also this movie is based on the Comic Book so you can’t argue with that okay.

After the events (a decade later) of First Class both Erik Lehnsherr and Charles Xavier are no longer friends. Xavier is now a recluse living with Hank McCoy (Nicholas Hoult) in the grounds that used to be “The School for Gifted Youngsters” and after the alleged assassination on President Kennedy, Erik Lehnsherr is now under heavy guard within the foundations of a purpose built prison inside the Pentagon. It is Wolverine’s task to unite the two former friends in preventing Raven / Mystique assassinating Trask.

The Director of Photography Newton Thomas Sigel who previously worked on X-Men (2000) and X-Men 2 (2003) and further Bryan Singer Projects (The Usual Suspects, Superman Returns and the sequel to this film X-Men: Apocalypse (2016) has his mark all over this movie and in a good way. The 1970’s are portrayed in an authentic fashion and not shoehorning everything 1970’s related into every shot that I felt That ’70s Show did (with intent or not) The film has a dark tone to it from the opening sequences that really portrays the future as a decelate environment and a reality with no hope to it.

Gathering an ensemble of Hollywood’s finest is also a Director’s dream or nightmare. You get the sense that everyone from both “generations” of X-Men films wanted to be involved in any small way. I will stop there as I don’t want to ruin any surprises that are in store for anyone who hasn’t saw the movie yet but I was impressed by how well balanced that screen time is for the main characters but also impressed with the screen time or limited from previous characters from previous x-men films receive, no matter how big or small the actor is, they are all there to be part of this event. All Egos have been left at the door.

Again Hugh Jackman is carrying the storyline from beginning to end and it will be interesting to see how the franchise copes with his absence now he finished his involvement in the superb Logan (2017) Both First Class (2011) and X-Men: Apocalypse (2016) have cameos that didn’t really have to be there but nevertheless both scenes are standouts in the movie no matter how brief they were.

Days of Future Past was necessary to keep the franchise in its current state continuing without a massive reboot and also complements the prequel First Class by having the main characters involved in this crossover that sets up the next couple of X-Men Films superbly with the acting credentials of McAvoy, Fassbender and Lawrence to name a few. I would put Days of Future Past up there with the excellent X-Men 2 (2003) and it is a film I can rewatch over and over again. Highly Recommended.

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Mr. Holmes (2015) Movie Review by Stephen McLaughlin

MR HOLMES

Director: Bill Condon
Writers: Mitch Cullin (novel), Jeffrey Hatcher (screenplay)
Stars: Ian McKellen, Laura Linney, Hiroyuki Sanada, Hattie Morahan

The movie Mr. Holmes is set in 1947, following a long retired Holmes (Ian McKellen) living in a Sussex village with his housekeeper Mrs Munro (Laura Linney) and her young son Roger (Milo Parker).

Based on a novel called “A Slight Trick of the Mind” by Mitch Cullin catches Holmes in his later years recollecting his last case from 30 years previously in which a desperate but angry man named Thomas Kelmot (Patrick Kennedy) seeks Holmes assistance in investigating his wife Ann (Hattie Morahan) who he believes is acting oddly. Sadly for Holmes his memory isn’t what it used to be and only remembers fragments of the case.

For Holmes his own therapy in remembering is keeping his journal up to date and visiting Japan and meeting with Tamiki Umezaki (Hiroyuki Sanada) who can help him with an ancient remedy from a rare plant known only to grow in Japan called the Prickly Ash.

This is the theme of the movie that moves back and forth between three sub plots. In my opinion the most interesting sub plot was the relationship between the elder Sherlock Holmes, Mrs Munro and her son Roger. It appeared to me that Holmes in this incarnation was fed up with people, living almost hermit like and was content in Irving out his days in Sussex. Early on in this movie you could sense the mutual respect that the young boy Roger had for Holmes and vice versa. Roger enjoyed reading Holmes journals (in which he broke into his study to read them and surprisingly Holmes wasn’t all that fussed) and Holmes seemed to perk up when the youngster quizzed the elderly man on what happened next.

The other mutual interest the pair had was for Holmes hobby of beekeeping or “apiculture.” Holmes would educate Roger on a Bees purpose and how they lived their lives.

Ian McKellen does not disappoint in the role of Sherlock Holmes and emerges himself in the role as a charismatic, subtle, stubborn and melancholy version of the famous character remembering his dear friend “John” (Mr Watson) who wrote Holmes’ adventures and it’s here we learn that Holmes choice of hat was never a Tweed Deerstalker and his choice of smoke was a Cigar instead of the well characterised smoking pipe. McKellen portrays Holmes at both 60 and in his 90’s with the great care to the character and respect. Which would become all too easy of McKellan’s caliberas one of the most charismatic and talented actors of his generation.

He  proves his acting abilities as he gives a moving and heartfelt performance as a man twenty years older than he is even now. He seems weak and struggles with not wanting to let go of his life as the 90 year old man but portrays a more distinguished version of the same character in flashbacks as a more well manicured Holmes who also mentally is sharper in his heyday. McKellen is fascinating to watch in this movie and I enjoyed his performance.

Playing young Roger is Milo Parker, Holmes’ young beekeeping apprentice and “friend”, was amazing who for such a young age is close to matching McKellen in every scene they share. Parker is enjoyable to watch and arguably steals the show . He holds his own opposite McKellan and is absolutely brilliant as the wide eyed, vivacious little boy that Holmes takes under his wing.

Laura Linney, as Mrs Munro did a fantastic job considering for the first half didn’t have much to do but the character redeems herself for the finale of the film. Linney is almost unrecognisable as Holmes housekeeper in her acting ability and physically. I first saw Linney opposite Jim Carey in The Truman Show as his “Wife” and always associated her in these type of roles. Here she portrays a woman with a hard exterior looking for a better life away from the cranky and sometimes ungrateful Holmes. Linney shines in the role in the third act as the protective mother to Roger and adds a remarkable performance in playing a downtrodden English woman.

Hattie Morahan does a great job as the woman that Sherlock is trying to remember about (Ann Kelmot), and her character just does something so beautifully tragic that you can’t help but feel somewhat sorry for her and sad at the end of the film. The role is very small and turns out to be a sub plot but Hattie Morahan shows great emotion and range in her small role.

Director Bill Condon’s Handling of the character of Holmes is considerate and understanding. Especially the older version of the character. The audience at no point should feel confused as the story flits between the 90 year old Holmes in his farmhouse to the previous 60 year old investigating Ann to Holmes search for the Prickly Ash. Condon keeps the audience guessing at every opportunity on whether or not Holmes will recollect the important details in his last case or not.

Cinematography and locations for shooting in this film is stunning and authentic. Especially the shots of Holmes and Roger down by the coast look glorious, and the Sussex farmhouse in which Sherlock has retired looks beautiful and peaceful.

“Mr. Holmes” is a different take on his story. It is sentimental (not a criticism) and I think it is a fair representation of one of the greatest detectives in fictional history. The script felt natural and real, and when at times dialogue needed to be told through exposition and such, it never felt forced. I highly recommend “Mr Holmes” for anyone who is a fan of the famous detective and if not then for the brilliant Ian McKellan. A must watch.