Paul Greenwood's movie reviews - X-Men: Days of Future Past; Fading Gigolo; Legends of Oz: Dorothy's Return; Postman Pat: The Movie; Heli

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Charles Xavier meet Charles Xavier... James McAvoy and Patrick Stewart come face to face as the young Professor X journeys meets his older self
Charles Xavier meet Charles Xavier... James McAvoy and Patrick Stewart come face to face as the young Professor X journeys meets his older self

Days of Future Past (12A, 131 mins)

Director: Bryan Singer

4 stars

For those not yet tired of mutant superhero action, here then is the seventh movie set in the X-Men universe.

Some have been great, some have been misfires, but the series was shaken up a couple of years ago by X-Men: First Class, which showed us younger versions of the well-worn characters as they were in the 1960s.

Days of Future Past is a sequel to that prequel, and is being sold on the fact that it brings both casts together, so we get Patrick Stewart and James McAvoy as original and young Charles Xavier, and ditto Ian McKellen and Michael Fassbender as Erik/Magneto. The one constant has been Logan aka Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), because he doesn't age.

It begins in the future following a devastating war, where the few remaining mutants are on the run from Sentinels, massive almost unstoppable machines that are threatening to wipe them out entirely.

As Stewart asks in voiceover, is this future set or can it be changed?

The X-Men believe it can be changed and so come up with a plan to send Logan (or his consciousness at any rate) back to the 1970s to stop the chain of events that led to the creation of the Sentinels.

In a nutshell this means stopping Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) from killing the scientist (Peter Dinklage) who initiates the programme.

But of course it turns out to be a lot more complicated than that, leading to difficult decisions for many of the X-Men.

This is a film that's always more interested in its characters than its action, and that has to be thanks to its director.

Bryan Singer hasn't directed any of the films since X-Men 2 in 2003, but he shows why he was the right choice to return with a guiding hand, grounding it in the choices made by its protagonists while also being in complete command of the sprawling narrative.

The set pieces aren't just elaborate displays of special effects and action, but driven by character and plot while moving the story forward at the same time.

Generally the films end up turning into the Wolverine show, which as the original trilogy and two Wolverine spin-offs have demonstrated, can get a bit dull after a while. But this is the Mystique show, and everything depends on her.

An early sequence where the lightning-fast Quicksilver helps break Magneto out of the Pentagon is gloriously inventive and thrillingly executed. And it doesn't skimp on humour either, offering good laughs without descending into camp.

There are a couple of niggles, generally to do with plot points that might find you asking "why?" a couple of times.

If you attempted to draw a line through the chronology of the previous films, you'd probably find the timeline has been a bit squiffy anyway, so as with all time travel movies it might be best to just not worry about it.

And Stewart, McKellen and co in the future can end up getting a bit sidelined.

But there's real-time danger and darkness linking the future and the past, and the stakes are massive. And thanks to the numerous highpoints and an ending that could possibly be described as perfect, in most regards this is as good as superhero movies get.

See it if you liked: X-Men: First Class, The Wolverine, X-Men

Fading Gigolo (15, 90 mins)

Director: John Turturro

3 stars

John Turturro writes, directs and stars in this curious and stylish comedy-drama as a middle-aged singleton short on cash when the bookstore he works in closes.

Its owner (Woody Allen in a rare acting-only role) suggests he reinvents himself as a gigolo and starts setting him up with local women, including Sharon Stone.

This offers less compelling drama than you might think, but though slight, this is often a film of poise and panache.

What is interesting is seeing Woody play a character who isn't a version of himself, and he gets some funny moments, even if that results in quite a few unnecessary side diversions.

But the different people Turturro encounters opens it up into more of a portrait of their Brooklyn neighbourhood, a la Spike Lee, with a focus on the relationship between a widow (Vanessa Paradis) and Liev Schreiber's safety officer providing the film's heart.

See it if you liked: Don Jon, Romance and Cigarettes, Spread

Legends of Oz: Dorothy's Return (U, 88 mins)

Directors: Will Finn, Daniel St. Pierre

1 star

Any return to Oz is generally a foolish enterprise to begin with, but this animated effort, based on a book by Wizard of Oz creator L. Frank Baum's great-grandson, is worse than most.

Ugly animation is the least of its worries as the cowardly lion, the scarecrow and the tin man endeavour to get Dorothy (Lea Michele) back from Kansas to help them save Oz from the evil Jester (Martin Short).

As old-school fantasy mixes with modern sensibilities, it doesn't fly for a second, though the makers have managed to gather an impressive roster of voices, including Patrick Stewart and Kelsey Grammer.

But the main issue is the way it harks back to such a classic, setting itself up for a fall by having Dorothy sing a quite horrible song just where Over the Rainbow should be, and the rest of the songs range from bland to painful.

See it if you liked: The Wizard of Oz, Oz the Great and Powerful

Postman Pat: The Movie (U, 87 mins)

Director: Mike Disa

2 stars

The world's friendliest postie gets his own movie at last, as Pat (voiced by Stephen Mangan) and his black and white cat, Jess, pound the streets of Greendale bringing good cheer to everyone as they go.

Things get shaken up when diligent Pat stumbles on a plot to replace all the postal workers with robots for maximum profits - cutesy kiddie animation or savage indictment of the privatisation of the postal service?

Anyone over the age of six is unlikely to find much to hold their attention, and it mostly looks like it belongs on CBeebies, with featureless animation and the colour turned up to the max.

In tandem is Pat trying to win a talent contest, which means we get far too much on-stage singing, but it's generally quite jolly, and tots should find it diverting enough.

See it if you liked: Top Cat, The Smurfs, Arthur Christmas

Heli (18, 103 mins)

Director: Amat Escalante

2 stars

The title character of this squalid drama is a young Mexican man with a wife and baby who does his best to work for an honest living.

But his world is turned upside down when his teenage sister's police cadet boyfriend steals some cocaine and the family ends up mixed up with some very dangerous drug dealers.

A depressing picture of the poverty, violence and corruption in Mexico, this is tough going for very little reward, technically proficient but low on compelling characterisation, with Heli not much of a presence at its centre.

It's a movie of ponderous pacing and long takes, where people being filmed walking or driving or simply doing nothing for minutes at a time is supposed to be powerful direction.

And while the extended scenes of graphic torture will gain it some notoriety, it really doesn't deserve the attention.

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