Hello again everyone, and welcome to another edition of the film review column that recently lost eight hours and has absolutely no idea where they've gone. Yes, 24LAS is now coming to you fairly live from the less desirable end of Tokyo, courtesy of Big Orange Cybercafe (Free Drinks But It's 3p A Minute) Ltd.
Luckily, they have cinemas in Japan and a striking resemblence they bear to the British kind too: big dark rooms full of seats, mostly facing a screen on which they show films. I tell you, this foreign travel, you learn a thing or two. The main difference as far as I can tell (other than the subtitles) is that the film trailers and drinks adverts are all jumbled together and the anti-piracy warning is really OTT.
Anyway, the latest big movie to hit my local cineplex in Makuhari-Hongo is Brett Ratner's X Men: The Last Stand, which got overlooked on its UK release (by me, anyway). The title is a subtle clue that this is the third in the X Men series, but the first not to be directed by Bryan Singer (who was off remaking Superman at the time).
Maintaining admirably close continuity with the last installment, the new movie opens with things looking unusually cheery for Marvel's merry mutants — well, okay, Cyclops is still bummed out about his girlfriend's rather contrived death, but everyone else is fairly happy.
But then!!! The world is shocked by the news that a cure for mutation has been discovered, capable of turning even the X-Men into normal (albeit unfeasibly attractive and well-styled) people. Magneto (Ian McKellen) is not best pleased about this, but sees it as a means to attract many new followers. The X-Men also have their concerns, but are distracted by the apparent resurrection of their old comrade Jean Grey, something which will have grave consequences for more than one of their number...
This movie has taken a lot of stick, largely I suspect because the received wisdom is that Bryan Singer is an auteur but Brett Ratner is a hack. I can sort of see where that idea comes from, but I really rather enjoyed Last Stand both times I saw it. It may lack some of the darkness of the last installment in particular, but the central allegory survives intact and there's crash-bang-wallop in spades (something Singer always seems to shy away from).
There are problems, admittedly — the two main plotlines, one based on Joss Whedon's Astonishing X-Men run, the other on Chris Claremont's classic Dark Phoenix saga, coil about each other but never actually mesh. There's a lot of jostling for screentime amongst the various characters. (Angel in particular may as well not have bothered turning up.)
However, it isn't afraid to dispose of key characters in spectacularly terminal style. There are genuinely shocking moments in Last Stand. And some of the newcomers acquit themselves well, particularly Kelsey Grammer as the Beast. As Juggernaut, Vinnie Jones makes a significant impression (sorry, that should read 'big dent').
In the end, this is a cheerful and entertaining blockbuster movie, never less than competently made and acted. Singer fanboys may recoil in horror, but its bright and energetic style is probably more to my taste than that of the first two movies and arguably closer to the tone of the comic books. An undemandingly fun night out, no matter what time zone you're in.