X Men: First Class
(guest review by Kappa Dreamer)
This movie is surprisingly, almost shockingly good. It is one of those rare prequels/sequels/re-boots that actually surpasses that earlier entries in the series.  The other great thing is that this is not just a "comic-book" movie; it is simply a great story. It could be a cold-war spy story about agents with extra powers; not just the origin tale of a classic Marvel Comics series. This is a wonderful combination of action, strong characters, re-worked history and espionage that is well worth seeing.
This film is set in the 60's and expertly mixes the story of "mutants" with cold-war intrigue, specifally the Cuban Missile Crisis.  The discovery of a new class of men and women is well handled, and the overtones of the Nazi regime from just a generation earlier makes for realism Since our real history is so well-incorporated into the fabric of the film, it pulls us into "buying" this story more than most comic-hero releases.
The man who later becomes Magneto is of Jewish descent, and a survivor of Hitler's terrors. We get to see Erik Lehnsherr (actor Michael Fassenbender) transform from a good guy to villain over the course of the film, and knowing his back-story makes his Magneto character much more sympathetic.  So, when a young Professor X (Charles Xavier played very well by James McAvoy) attempts to locate and recruit mutants, it is given a different light when Magneto explains he saw it first hand in Germany. It started with identifying people of Jewish descent, then tracking them, and then...well, we know what inhumanities occured.
The strong cast is what makes this work; stars and unknowns alike deliver characters that you remember. Fantastic cameos from Hugh Jackman (Wolverine) and Rebecca Romijn (an older version of Mystique) delight long-time fans of the series. Meanshile, Kevin Bacon chews through scenery faster than you'll go through your popcorn; and is despicably delicious in the role. January Jones (breakout star of TV's 60's themed advertising agency drama "Mad Men") once again fills out 60's psychedelic styles beautifully, while rounding out her powerful mutant character of Emma Frost.
Amazing visuals, and blockbuster special effects are heavy features of the film, but the characters and plot are strong enough to keep this from falling into simply a visual adventure. You like the characters, and you care about them.  Because this movie goes beyond just being another super-hero story, it should maintain a massive audience and ensure the success of at least one more X-Men adventure. The big question will be whether the next entry in the series can live up to this installment.
Rating 4 & 1/4 out of 5
3 good things about this movie:
-James McAvoy, as Prof. X, delivers his work as one of the leads in surprisingly strong fashion
-Great small role for one of my favorite character actors Michael Ironside (from the cult Cronenberg hit "Scanners" and the sci-fi classic "Total Recall")
-Beautiful scenes of "old school" Vegas, complete with real & recreated footage of classic bygone casinos like "The Mint", which really took the neon-sign era to new levels
3 bad things about this movie:
- Megneto's accent, or rather that of actor Michael Fassenbender...in the final scenes, when he is almost yelling his lines, his true Irish accent almost destroys believability for few minutes
-With so many mutant characters, some will inevitably feel "thrown together" since all powers cannot be as iconic as Mystique's, or Beast's
-Found the character of Angel (flying former stripper played by Zoe Kravitz) to be poorly written in that her flip-flop of loyalty doesn't have the same depth as other character changes