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I saw two movies this past week. One was a big-budget dystopian blockbuster, and the other was a small film that mostly takes place in a private prep school. Guess which one I liked more?

It's not that X-Men: Days Of Future Past is a bad movie. Hardly. The one thing about most of the X-Men movies is that they generally have something on their mind besides explosions. Being about mutants, and about traditional society's fear and intolerance of anything it sees as "different," the X-Men movies actually have concerned themselves with alienation and prejudice … until, of course, they get to the explosions and over-the-top special effects that are meant to give you your money's worth.

This one is no different, though it is ambitious. It posits a world in which drone robots are being used to hunt down not just mutants, but anyone perceived as anti-government, and kill them. Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart), Magneto (Ian McKellan) and assorted other mutants find a way to send Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) into the past so he can change history and prevent the drone robots from being invented. When he gets there, he has to enlist the younger Xavier (James McAvoy) and Magneto (Michael Fassbender) in his efforts … and it gets complicated, as one might expect, since Richard Nixon and the Paris Peace talks about Vietnam are involved.

It all works well enough, but it is what it is, and nothing more. It probably is unfair of me to expect X-Men: Days Of Future Past and its ilk to be more than that, but I keep hoping.



On the other hand, there's a little movie called Words and Pictures that I found to be absolutely delightful … mostly because it actually is about something.

Words and Pictures stars Clive Owen as an alcoholic English teacher who used to be a well-known writer, and who has either turned to booze to assuage his inability to write, or has allowed booze to make him unable to write. He's on the verge of losing his job until the school gets a new art teacher, played by Juliette Binoche, who find herself unable to paint because of severe rheumatoid arthritis. Nevertheless, Binoche's character is passionate about the fact that pictures express the truth more accurately than words, a belief that threatens Owen's world view. And so, he challenges her to a contest in which their students will debate the whole words-vs.-pictures issue.

Now, there's no question that Words and Pictures is derivative - it reminded me in some ways of movies like Dead Poets Society, Mr. Holland's Opus, Wonder Boys and even Goodbye, Mr. Chips.

But for me, it didn't matter. Owen and Binoche are terrific, the script, while talky, actually concerns itself with a serious debate, and the direction by Fred Schepisi is fine, which is what you'd expect from the guy who directed Roxanne (IMHO, the best movie Steve Martin ever made).

I liked it a lot.
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