*Gone are Halle Berry and that whole crew of the first two X-Men installments. “X-Men: First Class,” the prequel, stars Zoe Kravitz (Angel), Edi Gathegi (Darwin), James McAvoy (Charles), Michael Fassbender (Erik), Kevin Bacon (Sebastian), Rose Byrne (Moira), January Jones (Emma) and Lucas Till (Alex). Gathegi caused an uproar among white fans of the “Twilight” series when he was cast as Laurent. Diehard X-Men aficionados can rest assured that there was no audacious tampering in this instance. Darwin is a black character, as well as Angel.
Taking the reins of a franchise that generated over a billion dollars did not faze the cast of “First Class.” “You know, I don’t think we really felt a lot of pressure,” says Kravitz. “I think we all kind of went to go do a good job and I think we’re happy with the result.” Kravitz, who has starred in a number of indies, makes her big screen debut as the mutant with the gift of flight. Working on a blockbuster, as opposed to a small film, is not that much of a difference she allowed. “It was fancier,” Kravitz laughs. “Honestly, it wasn’t that different just because everyone was so cool. I think if it was with a bunch of Hollywood-excuse my French-assholes, it would’ve been intimidating and an awful experience. But with everyone wanting to make a good film, and with everyone down to earth, it doesn’t really matter the scale [of it].”
Asked why they thought “X-Men” was so popular among the fans, Fassbender was forthright in his explanation.
“I think, you know, the whole concept of X-Men is sort of a very mature idea, in terms of super hero comics in general. I think that idea of alienation is a universal thing. And whether it be for religious beliefs, ethnicity, or sexual orientation, I think everybody experiences it somewhat…and can relate.”
Impressed with the film, cast members shared my sentiments.
“I called Michael,” McAvoy enthused, “and said, ‘Dude, you’re going to be relieved.’ We were worried because these things sometimes are a nightmare to make and it’s well documented. We always thought it could either be really different and really brilliant or really bad and really different.” A beaming Bacon continued with the praise. “I was completely knocked out. I really was and many people that I contacted said to me, ‘I don’t think that I’ve ever heard you react to one of your movies like this.’ It was also super cool for me because there’s so much that I’m not in and didn’t see being shot. So seeing it for the first time, it was jaw dropping.”
Meanwhile, “Beginners” tells the story of two relationships, pointing out that ‘When it comes to relationships, we’re all beginners,” no matter the circumstances. Mike Mills wrote and directed “Beginner.” Based on his personal experiences, Mills sheds light on his father who came out of the closet when he was 75 years old and was married to his mother for 45 years. Ewan McGregor plays the son, Oliver, and Christopher Plummer is the father. The Film Strip asked McGregor why did he think the marriage was able to last so long. “I think the marriage might’ve lasted so long because they had a partnership and their marriage absolutely worked on the levels it worked on. Mike talked very fondly about his mom and dad in the film…Although they’re not mentioned in the movie, Mike has two older sisters and says he was an accident that occurred during recreational sex [laughs].
McGregor sheds light on one of the reasons the marriage lasted so long. “It looks at what it would be like to be a homosexual man in the early 1950s in America and the pressures that led him into feeling that he had to suppress who he was. You know, it was considered to be a mental illness, homosexuality, and people were arrested for sitting in a in a gay coffee house together. People were thrown in the back of police vans and it would ruin your life, the stigma that was attached to it.”
Commitment comes hard for McGregor in the film as he tries to make his relationship with the foot loose, fancy free Anna (Melanie Laurent) work. In real life, McGregor has been married for 17-years, which is a milestone in Hollywood years, and gives no explanation other than, “I love my wife. I’m very lucky that we found each other.”
And what about the cute Cosmo that actually has lines in the movie? “That dog had so much personality,” McGregor recounted. “He had a double, but the double didn’t have half the character of Cosmo. I did find a rescue dog on the last day of the shoot that is my dog now. I found a real Cosmo replacement. It’s like having Cosmo around; it’s funny. He also has a very strong character. He’s a real member of the family now.”
It might not be of big blockbuster stature or have men and women behaving badly, but “The Last Mountain” is an important film that exposes the failure of the government to carry out laws that are in place. Those laws, if adhered to, would prevent pollution and its resulting deaths. The lost of jobs is also at stake when big business is allowed to do as they pleases. Director Bill Haney received the help of esteemed environmentalist Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., who appeared in the film. Kennedy’s reputation as a defender of the environment stems from a litany of successful lawsuits against polluters. Among his books is the New York Times’ bestseller “Crimes Against Nature.”
With respect to his writings, Kennedy got an early start. “I’ve been interested in the environment ever since I was a kid. My first memories of pollution were seeing the smoke stacks on K Street in downtown Washington, in Georgetown. I saw pollution as a kind of theft, stealing from the American pu8blic. I was 8 years old when I decided to write a book about pollution. My under, President Kennedy, invited me to the White House-I think there are some scenes of me visiting him so that I could interview his Secretary of Interior.”
In light of the political quagmire pointed out in the film that allows corporations to constantly break the laws, I asked Kennedy if lobbyist played a role? “Well, they’re running our governments,” he said. “…There are 86,000 people employed by the wind industry and there are only 81,000 coal miners left in America. The wind industry has the potential to produce many, many more jobs per kilowatt-hour than coal. But, the coal industry has tremendous political clout on Capitol Hill because of its alliance with the railroads which have contributed a billion dollars over the past ten years to political campaigns and to lobbyists.” As they say, enough said.