X-Men 1.5

Starring:
Patrick Stewart as Professor Xavier
Hugh Jackman as Wolverine
Ian McKellen as Magneto
James Marsden as Cyclops
Famke Janssen as Jean Grey
Halle Berry as Storm
Anna Paquin as Rogue
Rebecca Romjin-Stamos as Mystique
Tyler Mane as Sabretooth
Ray Park as Toad

Special Features:
Disc 1:
Director’s Commentary by Bryan Singer and Brian Peck
Enhanced Viewing Mode with Behind the Scenes and Deleted Scenes

Disc 2:
“X-Men 2″ Sneak Preview
Daredevil Teaser
The Uncanny Suspects with Character Gallery
X Factor with Costume Tests and Makeup Tests
Production Documentary Scrapbook with Multi-Angle Train Splitting and Fight Rehearsal
Special Effects of “X-Men” with Effects Breakdown and Animatics
Marketing the X-Men with Trailers, TV Commercials, and Internet Features
Reflection of “X-Men” with Ellis Island Premiere and Global Premieres

Other Info:
Anamorphic Widescreen (2.35:1)
Running Time: 104 Mins.
Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound
DTS 5.1 Digital Surround Sound
THX Certified

Synopsis:
Mutants are the next step in human evolution. With a simple tweaking of the human genetic code, mutants are created with extraordinary powers. One mutant can walk through walls, another can control fire, and others are telepathic. The possibilities are endless. Unfortunately, humans fear mutants because of these strange gifts (or curses). There is a push in the government by Senator Kelly (played by Bruce Davison) to have mutants registered and regulated. This anti-mutant stance wins him political power and increases the hatred against mutants in humankind.

Magneto (played by Ian McKellen), a survivor of the Holocaust, knows firsthand the depths to which humanity can sink. A mutant with the powers of magnetism, he’s willing to protect mutant-kind by any means necessary. His first step in his war against homo sapiens is to create a device which will supposedly turn the tide of anti-mutant hysteria. In order to make the machine work, he needs one key mutant. That’s when we meet Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) and Rogue (Anna Paquin), two outcast mutants struggling to find out who they are and where they belong. Wolverine is a mysterious mutant with a fast healing power and a metal skeleton featuring retractable claws that shoot out of his hand. Rogue is a runaway teenager who absorbs the memories and abilities of anyone she touches skin with. When Magneto’s henchman attempts to capture them for his plan, the X-Men intercede and save them.

We learn that the X-Men are an elite group of highly skilled mutants trained by Professor Xavier (Patrick Stewart). His dream is that mutants and humans can work together for a better world. He runs a school for “gifted youngsters” which is a front for a training academy for mutants. Professor X teaches mutants to control and master their powers. His X-Men are not only teachers at the school, but his army in the war against Magneto. They are led by Cyclops (James Marsden), a mutant who shoots optic laser blasts from his eyes. There’s also Jean Grey (Famke Janssen), a telekinetic who is able to move objects with her mind. She also has limited telepathic ability. Finally there’s Storm (Halle Berry), a mutant with the ability to control the weather.

After saving Wolverine and Rogue, Professor X offers to help Wolverine discover more about his mysterious past. In exchange, he needs Wolverine to help him discover what Magneto’s plan is.

Can the X-Men stop Magneto? Should they help save the humans that fear and hate them?

“X-Men 1.5″ is rated PG-13 for sci-fi action violence.

The Movie:
“X-Men” was a landmark film because it not only proved that a mainstream Marvel comic could be turned into a good film, but it proved that it could appeal to mainstream audiences. After “Batman and Robin” nearly killed comic movies permanently, “X-Men” came along and set things back on course. With a combination of a great story, perfect cast, and a top-notch crew, “X-Men” set itself apart as one of the best comic films ever made. It certainly paved the way for “Spider-Man” and other films to come.

“X-Men” made Hugh Jackman a first-rate star. Hugh Jackman IS Wolverine. He nailed the ferocity, the frustration of the character, and even the human side. From the very first moment he appears on the screen he captures your imagination. He appropriately kicks butt as you would expect. He also flirts with Jean Grey as fans of the comic would want. That softer side is also displayed in his father/daughter relationship with Rogue. The tension between Wolverine and Cyclops is also perfectly played between Jackman and James Marsden. It’s a kind of love/hate relationship where they respect each other but don’t necessarily like each other. These guys really pull it off and it is a highlight of the film. In short, Jackman was the perfect Wolverine.

This movie also held extra enjoyment for fans of the comics thanks to subtle references and Easter eggs spread throughout the film. Cameos include appearances by Kitty Pryde (with the ability to walk through solid objects), Bobby “Iceman” Drake (with the power to form ice out of the air), Jubilee, and more. There’s even a brief cameo by X-Men creator himself Stan “The Man” Lee. Watch for him in a scene at the beach. Wolverine fans will also be thrilled to see flashbacks to the origins of Wolverine that are similar in look and feel to the classic Barry Windsor Smith Weapon X stories.

What “X-Men” lacks in special effect and action, it more than makes up for in characterization and plot. The interaction between Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan is as dramatic as anything you’d see in their other films. They grab your attention and keep hold of it. It’s everything you would hope for in a comic book movie.

“X-Men 1.5″ is really a special edition of the film. As you watch the movie, you have the option to hit a button and see deleted or extended scenes. They are not incorporated back into the original cut of the film, and that’s a good thing. They simply don’t fit in the final cut though they are interesting. They include more scenes in the classroom with Rogue and her fellow students, scenes where the other X-Men discuss their thoughts on Wolverine, and more interaction between Cyclops, Jean Grey, and Wolverine. Another scene explains why Wolverine has trouble fitting into his new uniform – it is one of Cyclops’. The scenes don’t make the movie any better or worse, but fans of the film will want to check them out.

The picture looks great on the final cut of the film, but the deleted scenes are still a little rough. With THX digital mastering, the film sounds great on the home theater system.

The Extras:
If you already own the original DVD version of “X-Men” , then the real reason you’ll want “X-Men 1.5″ is for the extras. Fortunately, they deliver.

Director’s Commentary by Bryan Singer and Brian Peck – Singer sits down with friend Brian Peck (who apparently wasn’t involved with the film) and provides commentary for the DVD. While I would have liked to hear commentary from the whole cast, Singer provides a surprisingly interesting commentary on his own. Peck steers Singer in the right direction and seems to have an eye towards what fans are interested in. Singer points out that a truck driver is the voice of Beast from the cartoon series. He discusses how the Wolverine claw effects were done. He talks about Stan Lee’s cameo and more. To top it off, he talks a lot about “X-Men 2″ during the closing credits. (They were 5 months into filming when this commentary was recorded.) Overall, this is one of the better DVD commentaries I’ve heard.

Enhanced Viewing Mode with Behind the Scenes and Deleted Scenes – As previously mentioned, if you select this mode while watching the film, the deleted scenes will pop up and play at appropriate times. Icons will also appear and allow you to watch behind the scenes features that apply to what you are watching. There are a LOT of them. It really gets you into the trenches of the filmmaking and they are worth checking out. You see the stuntmen choreographing the fight between Wolverine and Sabertooth. You see them blowing up Wolverine’s camper. If you watch carefully, you’ll even see additional dialogue between Rogue and Wolverine on the train. There he reveals that she provided him with his first taste of deathÂ…and he didn’t like it. Rogue inadvertently gives Wolverine a new will to live. It’s quite a revealing moment for the character though the line was cut from the film.

“X-Men 2″ Sneak Preview – Disc 2 holds one of the main highlights of this special edition – a sneak peek at “X-Men 2″. You get to see the making of the film, interviews with the old cast, and interviews with the new characters. It’s a pretty cool, though brief, look at the making of the movie. At the end of it, you also get to view the first teaser.

“Daredevil” Teaser – The “Daredevil” teaser is included on this DVD. For anybody wanting a copy, this is the place to find it.

Evolution X – This is a series of documentaries on the making of the film. In one feature all of the actors talk about their characters. In another you get a look at the special effects and how they were made. In another you get to follow a documentary crew around the production as the movie is made. This starts at the first production meeting all the way to the final shot of principal photography. The features conclude with a piece on the debut of the film and the premiere at Ellis Island and London. As you watch these documentaries, little icons will appear and take you to fun features on the side. These include Character Galleries, Costume Tests and Makeup Tests, Multi-Angle views of the Train Splitting scene and a Fight Rehearsal, Effects Breakdown, Animatics, and more. A feature on the Marketing the X-Men includes the Theatrical Trailers, TV Commercials, and Internet Features. These features all add up to make the definitive “X-Men” DVD. It’s everything you could want. The only drawback is the camerawork on some of the production footage. It’s really seems to be nothing more than a buddy of Bryan Singer’s running around the set with a camcorder. The film is shaky, sometimes out of focused, and occasionally so dark as to be unrecognizable. That being said, though, the content is really good. You get a real feel for Bryan Singer’s genuine enthusiasm for the story while filming. Hopefully, though, on “X-Men 2″ they’ll have a more professional camera crew filming footage for the DVD.

There may be Easter Eggs on this DVD, but I have yet to find them. I’d like to see more of the bloopers and jokes from the set that could be found on the first DVD. Otherwise, the extras are first rate.

The Bottom Line:
If you’re a big fan of the X-Men and you own the earlier DVD version, you’ll still want to buy “X-Men 1.5″. If you’re just a casual fan of the film and you already own the first edition, this doesn’t have much to offer you. If you don’t own “X-Men” yet, this is the definitive version and an essential addition to your collection.

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