Last year director Garry Marshall hit upon a devilishly canny approach to the romantic comedy. A more polished refinement of Hal Needham’s experimental Cannonball Run method it called for assembling a gaggle of famous faces from across the demographic spectrum and pairing them with a shallow day-in-the-life narrative packed with gobs of gooey sentiment. A cynical strategy to be sure but one that paid handsome dividends: Valentine’s Day earned over $56 million in its opening weekend surpassing even the rosiest of forecasts. Buoyed by the success Marshall and his screenwriter Katherine Fugate hastily retreated to the bowels of Hades to apply their lucrative formula to another holiday historically steeped in romantic significance and New Year’s Eve was born.
Set in Manhattan on the last day of the year New Year’s Eve crams together a dozen or so canned scenarios into one bloated barely coherent mass of cliches. As before Marshall’s recruited an impressive ensemble of minions to do his unholy bidding including Oscar winners Hilary Swank Halle Berry and Robert De Niro the latter luxuriating in a role that didn’t require him to get out of bed. High School Musical’s Zac Efron is paired up with ‘80s icon Michelle Pfeiffer – giving teenage girls and their fathers something to bond over – while Glee’s Lea Michele meets cute with a pajama-clad Ashton Kutcher. There’s Katherine Heigl in a familiar jilted-fiance role Sarah Jessica Parker as a fretful single mom and Chris “Ludacris” Bridges as the most laid-back cop in New York. Sofia Vergara and Hector Elizondo mine for cheap laughs with thick accents – his fake and hers real – and Jessica Biel and Josh Duhamel deftly mix beauty with blandness. Fans of awful music will delight in the sounds of Jon Bon Jovi straining against type to play a relevant pop musician.
The task of interweaving the various storylines is too great for Marshall and New Year’s Eve bears the distinct scent and stain of an editing-room bloodbath with plot holes so gaping that not even the brightest of celebrity smiles can obscure them. But that’s not the point – it never was. You should know better than to expect logic from a film that portrays 24-year-old Efron and 46-year-old Parker as brother-and-sister without bothering to explain how such an apparent scientific miracle might have come to pass. Marshall wagers that by the time the ball drops and the film’s last melodramatic sequence has ended prior transgressions will be absolved and moviegoers will be content to bask in New Year's Eve's artificial glow. The gambit worked for Valentine's Day; this time he may not be so fortunate.
Update: Proving the point I just made in my original post that X-Men: First Class's casting is never, ever done, Deadline Hollywood just revealed that the distinguished Oliver Platt will be joining Jason Flemyng and Rose Byrne for director Matthew Vaughn's upcoming franchise reboot/prequel. Pratt will play a non-mutant, the enigmatically-named "Man in Black" - who, it can be assumed, has no connection to the Lost character of the same name, though I wouldn't be surprised if like Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones, Pratt's "Man in Black" was part of some similarly shady (though less hilarious) government agency. That's the same kind of villainous bureaucratic role Pratt played to perfection in Roland Emmerich's recent disaster-porn blockbuster 2012, so I give this bit of casting two thumbs up! The rest of the First Class news continues below:
Original Story: If you've been following our ongoing coverage of X-Men: First Class, then you're already aware that director Matthew Vaughn (Kick-Ass) has been busy all summer filling the prequel's roster with a wide spectrum of actors, ranging from the well-known (James McAvoy as Professor Xavier) and established (Kevin Bacon as an unknown villain) to the up-and-comers (Michael Fassbender as Magneto; Twilight's Edi Gathegi as the mutant Darwin).
Unfortunately for us carpal tunnel-stricken writers tasked with reporting on each newX-Men casting rumor to come down off the interwebs, Vaughn apparently isn't done expanding First Class's pantheon, despite the fact that 21st Century Fox expects principal photography to begin in London in just two weeks.
The latest to join the ensemble are British actor Jason Flemyng, who recently played Calibos in Clash of the Titans and is well known in England for his roles in Guy Ritchie's Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1999) and Snatch (2001), and actress Rose Byrne, who stars opposite Glen Close in Damages.
Flemyng revealed at this year's Movie-Con in London that he is set to play Azazel, a demon-like mutant whom he described as "a teleporter" at his presentation for Jonathan English's upcoming Ironclad movie. More importantly for the series' continuity, Azazel is Nightcrawler's father.
Azazel is introduced to the X-Men universe in "Uncanny X-Men" #428, "The Draco," as the father of Kurt Wagner (a.k.a. Nightcrawler) and the leader of a biblical race of mutants who have a demonic appearance and can teleport between dimensions. Although he is banished to another dimension by an angelic race of mutants, Azazel escapes to father Nightcrawler with the terrorist Mystique.
Byrne, meanwhile, joins the cast as Scottish scientist Moira MacTaggert, a leading expert on genetic mutation and the film's love interest for Charles Xavier (McAvoy). In the later 1979-1980 Uncanny X-Men storyline, MacTaggert is also the mother of one the series' greatest villains - the reality-warping Proteus - though by all accounts that narrative won't be part of First Class.
In addition to McAvoy, Fassbender, and Bacon, Flemyng and Byrne join Alice Eve as Emma Frost, Jennifer Lawrence as Mystique, Nicholas Hoult as Beast, Caleb Landry Jones as Banshee, and Lucas Till as Havok for First Class, which begins production at the end of the month.