Sunday, July 28, 2013

The Wolverine review

The Wolverine has had a rough trip to the big screen.  The film is a s. I meauel to the terrible,entirr  Origins: Wolverine.  That film stunk up theaters everywhere in 2009.  Darren Aronofsky eventually signed on to direct the sequel, which is set in Japan.  The story comes from an incredibly popular Frank Miller graphic novel.  When realizing how long he'd be away from his family to film on location in Japan, Aronofsky left the project.  James Mangold came in to save the day, and direct star, Hugh Jackman, in his sixth film as the clawed anti-hero.  Lots to talk about, let's go!

What I liked about the film:
Hugh Jackman
At this point, Hugh Jackman is the Christopher Reeve of our generation.  Reeve WAS Superman to an entire generation.  And it would be seriously difficult to picture anyone but the Australian actor, playing the character of Logan, aka Wolverine.  His ridiculous physique, his voice, his beard; all comply such a great example of 'perfect casting'.  In this film, Jackman gets to REALLY show off his acting chops.  There are several scenes, with no dialogue, that Jackman is able to carry on his own.  The character has been through hell, and as an audience, we've taken this ride with him.  Wolverine has been though so much, the movie asks, 'is it too late for him to find peace'?  Only Jackman could bring brute strength, and pure emotion to a character he undoubtedly knows very well.

The Character Development
Adding on to my comments above, about Jackman; the character has an arc in this film.  Imagine that!  Where 'Origins' failed was really flushing out the main characters.  Instead, they teased the complicated relationship between Wolverine and his brother, only to leave us unsatisfied in the end.  The Wolverine doesn't do that; the character is a different man at the end of the film, than he was at the beginning, and that's really interesting to watch.

The Bullet Train Scene
The action wasn't my favorite aspect of the film, but there is one scene that stands out.  Wolverine is ambushed my some goons, aboard a speeding bullet train.  The fight starts inside and inevitably moves to the roof of the train.  The scene moves so fast, we barely have a chance to catch our breath.  But it's not done in such a way that you lose track of the action.  Director James Mangold and his team choreographed the fighting perfectly.  It is very reminiscent of the fight atop a train in Spider-Man 2.  As I mentioned, I liked this scene, but overall the action isn't that great.  Maybe it's because you're limited to hand-to-hand combat with this character and his powers, but there weren't many interesting action set pieces throughout the film.

The Score
Two-time Oscar nominated composer, Marco Beltrami, brings us a great soundtrack.  The music is aware of the films settings in Japan, and does a nice job of fusing the two worlds (East & West), together.  The action had almost a mechanical sound to it.  And without giving anything away, the climax definitely demanded that type of sound.  Great stuff.

What I didn't like about the film:
The Pacing (1st & 2nd Act)
The first act is not as bad as the second; but both move so incredibly slow.  Some of this was necessary to peak into the various characters' motivations, but most of it wasn't.  And speaking of motivations, they're outright ridiculous.  For Wolverine to go to Japan with a complete stranger, is so unlike the character, and completely illogical.  And once we're in Japan, there is so much setup, it had me bored.  I will say, this may be because I know the story from the comic books, and didn't need all the exposition offered to the audience.  Either way, it's a film that is just too long, and too slow.  I would have cut 30-40 minutes from this film to keep it going at a swift pace.

The Lack of Mutants (Damned if you do, Damned if you don't)
I guess it could be argued that 'Origins' had too many mutants, and didn't utilize any of them all that well.  This is a big problem for most comic book films.  They throw too many characters into the story, and none of them are developed correctly.  But there are seriously 4 mutants in the entire film (Wolverine being one of them).  Famke Janssen as Jean Grey is the second; and I'll get to that in a moment.  Rila Fukushima plays a very cool ninja-esque character, Yukio.  She befriends Wolverine and convinces him to go to Japan.  Not only is she good with a sword, but she can predict the future as well.  Last but not least, is Svetlana Khodchenkova as Viper.  In my opinion, she was one of the worst villains we've seen in the X-Men universe.  And I understand that this is the Wolverine character's franchise; but let us not forget where he originated from.  He is a part of the X-Men universe damn it.  And there is no way there should only be 4 mutants, in any film, taking place in the X-Men universe.  Period.

The Creepy Jean Grey Scenes
As I mentioned above, Famke Janssen reprises her role as Jean Grey, in a series of dream sequences.  I'm going to keep this short and sweet.  Whatever effect Mangold was shooting for with the dream sequences, didn't work.  They were creepy, and totally redundant.  And it threw off the pacing of the film.  It's almost too much, in your face, storytelling.  How many times are we going to see Wolverine wake up, in a cold sweat, claws out, ready to fight, only to realize it was just a dream?  Stupid.

There is Absolutely NO Chemistry Between the Leads
This was a HUGE pet peeve of mine.  Tao Okamoto is horrible in this film.  The film's story is basically centered around her character, Mariko.  Okamoto and Jackman spend a fair amount of time together in the film.  And they're interactions are awkward and cringe worthy.  This is Okamoto's first film (according to her IMDB page), and it totally showed.  I was honestly withdrawn from the film because of her acting; and totally gave up my suspension of disbelieve.

The Verdict:
It Caters to a Comic Book Crowd
For me, the film was entertaining, but only in short spurts.  I loved the character development and just one of the action scenes.  Overall, the movie was boring.  I'm sorry, I hate to say that, but it's true.  It catered more to the comic book crowd that knows and loves the Frank Miller story.  But I left dissatisfied.  I saw the mostly positive reviews online, and I guess I get it.  The critics love character driven stories, as do I.  But I walked into the theater expecting an X-Men, action packed movie WITH character development.  I didn't know I had to choose one.  Either way, this is definitely a step up from the previous Wolverine film.  And make sure you stay until after the credits for a scene that will bridge the X-Men, Wolverine, and X-Men: First Class movie franchises.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Pacific Rim review; just shy of an action filled masterpiece

The comparisons were inevitable.  Pacific Rim, "It's just like Transformers".  Let me tell you something... this film is NOTHING like Transformers, except for the fighting robots of course.  How good can a film be about robots, who must be piloted by two people at the same time, against sea dwelling aliens?  VERY GOOD!  Writer/director Guillermo Del Toro has created an action film for the ages.  I don't want to waste anymore time introducing the film.  Let me tell you about the film.  Let's go!

What I liked about the film:
The Bloody Robots of Course!
The special effects in this film are jaw-dropping!  The robots are so well animated you get lost in the film, forgetting that its about, well... robots!  And it's not just the robots on full display, but the alien life as well.  The aliens come in all sorts of imaginative shapes, sizes and capabilities.  There's the underwater Triceratops looking alien, and the winged variety with the ability to fly.  The team at ILM hit not only a homerun, but a grand slam.  The fighting is clean, easy to follow and spectacular.  The larger than life images had an entire theater of a 1,000 plus people captivated.  It was nothing like the robot fights of Transformers, where you couldn't tell what was going on.  The special effects of all the destruction was creative as well.  The animators found new and inventive ways to destroy buildings, blocks, even cities.  I can't wait to see the film again to really soak up all the fun!

The Actors/Characters
The film is very well acted.  Idris Elba is fantastic in this role as a high ranking officer, in a division of the military created to deal with an alien invasion coming from beneath the sea.  He is cool, calm, collected, and demands respect with nothing more than a stare.  I loved what Elba did with this character.  He was a compassionate military man; and that's such a tough thing to balance.  Great job here!

Charlie Hunnam's rise to fame came by way of a tv show called "Sons of Anarchy".  He was my biggest question mark in terms of casting, when I read about the film.  He does a nice job here.  He is a young, run and gun pilot to the giant robots in the film.  After a loss in the family, he swears off being pilot, only to find himself thrust back into the job years later.  Hunnam fit the role of action star, with a twist.  He is thoughtful, funny, also compassionate, and defiant to a certain extent.

Rinko Kikuchi plays Hunnam's co-pilot.  Kikuchi sort of sits in for the audience in the film.  Her training, her past, her motivations, all help the audience understand what's happened in the world that's been turned upside down by the discovery of the aliens.  Kikuchi is blessed with most of the emotional scenes in the film, and they just plain work.  She's never a victim, and she's certain an equal to the men in the military.  I loved what the writers did with her character; not letting her become the damsel in distress was terrific.  

I also want to mention some great actors in supporting roles: Charlie Day (Horrible Bosses), Ron Perlman, and Clifton Collins Jr.  Day is a scientist who is out to find a weakness in the alien life.   Day is really funny, whose humor comes from his petite size and squeaky voice.  I really liked him in this.  Perlman is no stranger to the director, Del Toro, or the star, Hunnam.  Perlman played Hellboy for Del Toro in two wonderful comic book films.  The actor/director duo have now done 5 films together.  He's also co-starred opposite Hunnam on "Sons of Anarchy" for several seasons now.  Perlman added flavor to an otherwise forgettable character.  Listen closely to where the character's name comes from, really funny stuff.  Clifton Collins Jr. had a small role, but does a good job, as he usually does.  He plays a programmer to the robots and is a part of the military team on the ground, guiding the pilots.  Nice supporting cast to keep us interested at all times.

The Story/The Writing
The script was written by Del Toro and Travis Beachman (Clash of the Titans 2010).  The story, overall, may not be anything new to theater audiences.  Robots, aliens, destruction, etc.  But the details of the story are.  Where the aliens ancestry comes from, their motivations to invade earth, how has society changed, the different attempts at making them extinct.  All of these aspects of the story are clever, well thought out and well executed.  Del Toro takes what could have been a Michael Bay fiasco, and makes it something special.  He's a grown man playing with his toys.  And his sandbox is that of a film costing hundreds of millions of dollars.  The dialogue is not terrible; but the film certainly has parts that are terribly predictable.  I'll get to that later.

The Director
Del Toro is an incredible filmmaker.  And a great storyteller as well.  I will not claim to have seen every movie he's ever made, but from what I have seen, they're all solid films with great stories to tell.  The Hellboy films gave us a character that simply doesn't fit the superhero mold; it had creatures and worlds that we rarely see in those types of films.  He made arguably the best superhero film of it's day, Blade II with Wesley Snipes.  And then his masterpiece, that will be difficult to top, Pan's Labyrinth.  That movie snuck up out of nowhere to be an instant classic, revered by fans and critics alike.  I am a huge fan of what Del Toro did in Pacific Rim.  The casting, the animation, the story, the pacing, the editing and the soundtrack (Ramin Djawadi, Iron Man), are all fantastic.  He is such a creative director that makes the different worlds in his films, such an interesting place to look at.  

What I didn't like about the film:
The Run of the Mill
Unfortunately, there are parts of this movie you'll see coming a mile away.  There's a jerk pilot in the program that is a thorn in Hunnam's ass.  There's the sexual tension between Hunnam and Kikuchi as they train with in various martial art fights.  Don't forget about Elba, and how he's forced to change out of his suit and into his gear to fight another day.  I'm not sure if these are thrown in there because of laziness, lack of creativity, or what.  But they did take me out of the movie and had me rolling my eyes.  Another part of me says, these cliches are to be expected nowadays, and are forgivable.  I mean what's an action film without two pilots who hate each other at first, but are forced to work together for the greater good?  Right Iceman?  Right Maverick?  

The Verdict:
Just Shy of an Action Filled Masterpiece
Much as The Dark Knight wasn't just considered a great comic book movie, but rather a great film in general; Pacific Rim is not just a great action film, it's an all around great movie!  It does so many things right, and has incredible fight sequences that feature one money shot after another, you won't feel the 2 hours+ runtime.  Del Toro and company deliver a home run in an otherwise forgettable Summer of movies.  I hope the film does well, because I can't wait to see what Del Toro has in store for us in the future.  Maybe more of Del Toro's films will be made, and less of Michael Bay's will be.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Ride Along, Escape Plan, Thanks for Sharing, jOBS and The Spectacular Now trailers

I just have not been as active on the blog as I'd like to be.  So excuse the laziness of creating separate posts.  But today I went on a trailer watching binge, and found 5 that I'd like to share with you.  They are in no particular order.  Feel free to watch the trailers and then my thoughts after.

Did you like that?  It's only a teaser for a 2014 release, but I can't wait to see this movie.  I am not the biggest fan of Ice Cube, but I think Kevin Hart is one of the most underrated comedians today.  He doesn't get too many leading roles, and it's a shame.  I love this guy.  The movie definitely feels like the polar opposite of Training Day, and that's not a bad thing.  I hope future trailers show us more, while leaving something for the release.  

These guys just keep going and going.  Stallone and Schwarzenegger don't look like they ever want to stop making movies.  And I ask you... would that be such a bad thing?  I have a lot of respect for these guys.  They're trying to make entertaining movies, that don't take themselves too seriously.  And I feel like they know they're never going to make Oscar caliber films, but they're entertaining as hell.  Escape Plan looks like a lot of fun.  And I can't wait to see what Jim Caviezel does with his role as the warden.  I'm in.  

I've been pretty rough on Mark Ruffalo the past few years.  I felt his performances in Now You See Me and The Kids Are All Right were sub-par.  But I loved this trailer.  He's playing a guy that is obviously going through some things that not many people can relate to, including new girlfriend Gwyneth Paltrow.  But what I loved most about the trailer was the look at the supporting characters.  I can't wait to see what comes of the Pink and Josh Gad characters.  I really enjoyed this trailer and look forward to seeing the film.

Unfortunatly, this is a movie people wanted to hate from the day it was announced.  And even more so, since it was announced that Ashton Kutcher would be playing the man that changed the world, Steve Jobs.  And to be honest with you, I'm not sure why people want to hate this movie.  I don't know much of anything about Steve Jobs, outside of what has become 'common knowledge' in our society.  I know about he and his partner, Steve Wozniak, started the company in a garage (the partner being played by Josh Gad).  I know he was forced out of the company, only to make a triumphant return a decade later.  As you can see in the trailer, those events are obviously going to be touched upon, but so too are other less famous myths about the man.  I don't think Kutcher is going to win any bio-pic Oscars, ala Jamie Foxx or Daniel Day-Lewis; but I think he'll do a fine job... no pun intended.  

I know it's just a trailer, but for whatever reason, I really connected with this film.  I had an incredible time in High School.  Lots of fun, lots of stress, and every other experience a teenager should go through during their formative years.  After The Descendants, I have become a huge fan of Shailene Woodley, and she looks like she's going to hit a homerun in this one.  I've never seen anything the main actor, Miles Teller, has done.  And based on the trailer, he's going to have to dig deep for this film.  I really like the tone and cinemotography presented in the trailer.  I think this will be a definite date night film with my wife.

So there you have it.  5 movie trailers, 5 opinions.  Now what do you think?  Am I way off on my assessments?  Would you go see these films?  Let me know.