Ian McKellen

X-Men Movie Commentary

Sometimes it’s hard to fathom that the X-Men franchise is solidly in its teenage years. It’s going to start driving and dating soon. The series is so significant to cinema history that it is responsible for launching the modern superhero film era. (Remember that this film came out only three years after Batman & Robin.) Without X-Men, there might not have been Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight series or The Avengers films. With Days of Future Past hitting the theaters, it’s time to look back to the year 2000 when superhero movies weren’t given $100m budgets and unlimited power automatically. Writer/director Bryan Singer had something to prove with X-Men, and with a limited budget and a production schedule shortened by five months, he succeeded. Five months into shooting X2: X-Men United, Singer recorded a commentary for his groundbreaking film for the X-Men 1.5 DVD, which is preserved throughout subsequent DVD and Blu-ray releases. Here’s a chance to listen in on what was happening at the dawn of the modern superhero movie.

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A dwarf named Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) sits in a pub on the cusp of trouble when a grey-bearded wizard named Gandalf (Ian McKellen) joins him. Words are exchanged, and Thorin is convinced of a plan to lead an expedition to reclaim the Lonely Mountain from the dragon in its bowels and restore it as home to the dwarves. Twelve months later, per onscreen text (and a wink from director Peter Jackson showing viewers that he can make expeditious cinema when he sets his mind to it), we rejoin Thorin, Gandalf, Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) and a handful of unimportant dwarves right where we left them at the end of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. The gang takes refuge in the home of a bearish man named Beorn, and the next day they enter the incredibly dangerous black forest on their way to the mountain. This is Gandalf’s cue to wish them luck, say he’ll meet them on the other side, and then leave the little bastards eating his pony dust. Typical dick move by Gandalf. The void left by his absence is filled with near death by way of giant spiders, moody elves, angry orcs, petty humans, and one eloquent but very ornery dragon named Smaug (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch). The end.

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The best movie culture writing from around the internet-o-sphere. Just leave a tab open for us, will ya?

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THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the Shire, Warner Bros. has released the extended edition of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.The movie, which grossed more than a billion dollars worldwide is getting its second home video release in the course of the year, meant to prime the pump for the upcoming sequel in December. Director and all-around Tolkien movie guru Peter Jackson joins with his production partner Philippa Boyens to dissect the first installment in The Hobbit trilogy. It’s a long one, clocking in at just about three hours, the commentary was recorded in the summer of 2013 while they were in post-production of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. This commentary track is exclusive to the extended edition of the film, and there is none available for the theatrical version, which came out in March of 2013.

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What is Casting Couch? It’s starting to wonder how many times Hugh Jackman can play Wolverine before his sideburns start to stick that way. Hot on the heels of the announcement that the original Professor X and Magneto, Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen, would be joining Bryan Singer’s X-Men: First Class sequel, X-Men: Days of Future Past, comes word that yet another actor from the original X-Men trilogy, Hugh Jackman, is also negotiating. This makes sense, of course, because Jackman’s brief cameo in First Class was the first indication we got that Matthew Vaughn’s reboot and Singer’s original films might actually exist in the same universe. Now that Singer has Stewart, McKellen, and Jackman on board, the only other actors he needs to poach from those first X-Men movies is…well, no one. It’s kind of amazing how well those movies cast these three guys and how poorly they cast every single other character. Hopefully this is the end of the colliding of worlds. [THR]

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What is Casting Couch? Despite the fact that the movie business seems to be slow to get back to work after the long weekend, it’s a column that’s managed to dig up a couple exciting casting coups. Bryan Singer out-scooped everybody in the news breaking business today when he suddenly started tweeting big updates on how the cast for his upcoming X-Men: First Class sequel, X-Men: Days of Future Past, was developing. He started off small by first confirming that a few members of the First Class crew would be returning. He tweeted, “I’d like to officially welcome back James McAvoy, Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Fassbender, & Nicholas Hoult to #XMEN for #DaysOfFuturePast.” But then he got a little crazy and started confirming rumors that actors from his original X-Men movies will be joining the film as well by tweeting, “Thrilled to announce @ianmckellen118 (Ian McKellan) & @SirPatStew (Patrick Stewart) are joining the cast of #XMEN #DaysOfFuturePast #magneto #professorX More to come…” Do you think we could get scenes where old Professor X and Magneto meet young Professor X and Magneto? The head spins with awesome possibilities.

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There’s not much one can really say about this first trailer for the much-anticipated The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. As with Peter Jackson‘s three previous Lord of the Rings films, the project looks gorgeous, meticulous, epic, stirring, just plain wonderful, and true to its classic J.R.R. Tolkien source material. So, yeah, I love it. With The Hobbit, we again return to Middle-earth and the Shire, and to a much younger Bilbo Baggins (a very well-cast Martin Freeman), to learn (the first half of) the epic tale that started all this ring business to begin with. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey comes complete with an all-star cast, including Ian McKellen, Cate Blanchett, Orlando Bloom, Ian Holm, Christopher Lee, Hugo Weaving, Elijah Wood, Evangeline Lilly, Andy Serkis, and Richard Armitage. It’s a testament to the world that director and co-writer Peter Jackson has created that so many of his Lord of the Rings cast came pack for this next go-round, journeying back in time to recapture some of that old magic. After the break, check out the first trailer for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.

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Culture Warrior

Themes of identity, difference, stigma, and othering are explicitly or implicitly present in much of the X-Men mythology, whether expressed through comics, television shows, or films. While I was never a devotee to the comics, as a fan of the 90s animated television series and (some of) the recent slate of Hollywood films (that have, as of this past weekend, effectively framed the continually dominant superhero blockbuster genre), I’ve always been fascinated by the series’ ability to take part in the language of social identity issues. Fantastic genres like horror and sci-fi have often provided an allegorical means of addressing social crises (vampire films as AIDS metaphor, zombie movie as conformist critique, or Dystopian sci-fi as technocratic critique, for example). The superhero genre has possessed a similar history in this capacity, even though it has thus far been mostly unrealized in the medium of film. As big entertainment, superhero films ranging from the first Spider-Man to the Iron Man films have bestowed narratives of exceptionalism and wish-fulfillment rather than shown any aspiration towards critique or insight. Perhaps The Dark Knight is most involved example of social critique thus far – a film that explores themes surrounding the personal toll on fighting terror and the overreaches of power that can result in the name of pursuing safety. What X-Men: First Class (almost) accomplishes is mining fully the allegorical territory made available by its fantastic premise in a way that few previous comic book films have.

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What is Movie News After Dark? It’s the movie blogosphere’s diversity action plan. Because too many movie blogs just regurgitate press releases, post POV videos of street luge or bring you the same 25 stories that everyone else already has. We take those 25 stories, smash them together, wipe away the blood and mix ‘em with the best links we can find in a nightly tradition known to its friends as Movie News After Dark… For those Hobbit fans who aren’t completely sold on Peter Jackson doing the thing in 3D, see the above picture. If Gandalf approves, how can the world disagree?

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It was only a matter of time before the major pieces of the puzzle fell into place. We’ve watched as other actors have signed onto the Peter Jackson-directed The Hobbit (even some that don’t quite make sense), but we’ve been waiting on a handful of names before heaving a sigh of relief. At least a smaller version of that sigh can be let loose because Andy Serkis is officially back as Gollum (the book/film’s version of The Riddler), and Ian McKellen is back as Gandalf. The only hold out at this point is Christopher Lee who (after his almost insultingly cheap appearance in Season of the Witch) would make the circle complete. Rejoice!

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Once upon a time, it was Harry Potter, The Doctor, and that guy who helped out Idi Amin that were rumored for the main role in The Hobbit. Those names have all fallen away to the history books only to leave the true Bilbo Baggins – Martin Freeman. Freeman was first propelled to our cultural conscious in the original version of The Office and since then has nakedly thrust himself in Love, Actually and carried a towel hitchhiking across the Galaxy. We reported last month that he was possibly out of the picture because of a scheduling conflict, but then possibly back in again, and it looks officially to be the latter.

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Your daily recommended allowance of random movie stuff, stories that fell through the cracks, and news you can’t use.

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The Shadow

Welcome back to Junkfood Cinema. Every week Brian Salisbury normally force-feed you hot spoon-fulls of hot garbage from his personal celluloid landfill, but today Kevin Kelly is stepping in to blast your eyeballs and clog your arteries.

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The Prisoner DVD Giveaway

The folks over at AMC have an interest in you. They would like you to come to their town, where a man who looks eerily like Ian McKellen will lead a town full of people in keeping you hostage for the rest of your natural life. The good news is that they’ve also provided us with five (5) copies of The Prisoner on DVD, so at least you will have something to watch while you’re there.

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hobbitweavingmckellenserkis1

All three actors are signed up to reprise their original trilogy roles for the upcoming The Hobbit, so feel free to wet your geek pants. After all, you can’t get any uncooler.

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We got some plot details for the forthcoming origin story for one of the most famous Marvel villains.

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The Hobbit Movie

There are talks to get three actors whose characters from LOTR, show up in The Hobbit: Viggo Mortensen as Aragorn/Strider, Ian McKellen as Gandalf and Andy Serkis as Gollum.

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Rather than saying, “I wonder if the Magisterium is supposed to represent the modern Catholic church?,” sit on the edge of your seat and say “Wow! Two polar bears beating the shale out of each other. Cool!”

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Simply put, this is as good-looking of a film as you’ll find this year or any other for that matter and it is accompanied by a music score by Alexandre Desplat (2006’s The Queen) that is more than suitable for the genre.

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published: 12.17.2014
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published: 12.15.2014
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published: 12.05.2014
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