The Wolverine (2013)


You Have Struggled Long Enough.  I Can End Your Eternity…

The Wolverine (2013)I was very excited to see today’s movie, but I was also a little suspicious.  There is a person at my job who I constantly engage in conversation about comic books movie, and I found myself shocked by the fact that she did not intend to see this movie.  But I also understood her logic.  The previous movie for this character was the ass.  I found it to be one of the most irritating comic book movies in recent history because of how poorly they handled some of my favorite comic book characters.  That being said, my argument for her was that none of these problems tied into today’s movie.  None of the same writers or directors were involved in this movie, so I had no reason to believe they’d make the same shitty choices.  And I never had a problem with the person playing the main character.  He’s played this character in five movies previously, and the greater majority of those movies were good, and he was good in all of them.  So I still had high hopes for The Wolverine, written by Mark Bomback, Scott Frank, and Christopher McQuarrie, directed by James Mangold, and starring Hugh Jackman, Haruhiko Yamanouchi, Rila Fukushima, Tao Okamoto, Svetlana Khodchenkova, Hiroyuki Sanada, Will Yun Lee, Brian Tee, Famke Janssen, Ian McKellen, and Patrick Stewart.

In 1945, the mutant known as Logan (Hugh Jackman), also known as Wolverine, saves the life of an officer named Yashida (Haruhiko Yamanouchi) from the atomic bombing of Nagasaki.  Years later, Yashida sends a precognitive mutant named Yukio (Rila Fukushima) to bring Logan to Tokyo to give Yashida the chance to repay his debt to Logan before he dies.  His offer: to negate Logan’s healing abilities so that he can finally live life as a mortal man.  Since that offer is so goddamned stupid, Logan refuses, but Yashida’s nurse, Dr. Green (Svetlana Khodchenkova), introduces something into him that negates his healing anyway.  And then Yashida dies.  Now Logan must try to protect Yashida’s granddaughter, Mariko (Tao Okamoto), from Yakuza and Ninjas without the use of his healing abilities until she is put in charge of Yashida’s company, as Yashida’s will states.

Sadly, I found myself pretty disappointed with this movie, but it did have its charms that elevated it far above Wolverine’s previous outing.  So it was an improvement and a disappointment simultaneously.  The story of the movie was fine, but I had problems with a lot of the writing.  There were so many occasions where they had the opportunity for a great line, but the one they chose just fell flat.  Like the part where the Yakuza guy tells Wolverine that he never talks.  That’s perfect for a great line!  Instead, Wolverine just stabs him and he talks.  And later when someone says, “Don’t hit my friends.”  That’s such a weak line where such a potentially great one could have been.  Instead it sounds like an elementary school student standing up to a bully.  Later, when someone asks Wolverine what kind of monster he is and he throws back, “The Wolverine,” I know what they were going for.  I assume they wanted me to get all excited because I had seen that on the poster before I came in, but I just wanted more.  They were able to set up fantastic lines, but completely unable to deliver them.  I found it to be quite a bummer.

I guess I was okay with the rest of the story though.  I was worried about the premise of the movie as I knew it going in.  All I really knew was going to happen in this movie was that Wolverine would lose his healing abilities.  That made me nervous that he wouldn’t be able to be as badass as I needed him to be.  It wasn’t as bad as I expected.   He was noticeably diminished, but he maintained a great enough deal of badassitude.  His friend Yukio could’ve been a little more helpful though.  I mean, she was precognitive, but was never really forthright with her information.  She tells Wolverine that she has some important information for her, but is cut off when he says she needs her to drive him somewhere, and then she tells him after they arrive.  You showed us some of that long car ride.  We know you had time to tell him.  That was information he could have needed.  As for more information that someone could have needed: we later find out that the Silver Samurai is made mostly from adamantium.  If only he had known that before he chose his name.  There were also a few things that I need to say, but I need to hide them in a ::SPOILER ALERT::  When Yoshida says that Wolverine should not look so shocked that he was in the Silver Samurai outfit, he was right.  No one should have been shocked by that.  Also, the movie bummed me out by not giving Wolverine his adamantium claws back by the time the movie ended.  The bone claws are lame.  I don’t want him to have to start another movie with those.  Couldn’t they just have decided that Mariko used the company’s obvious knowledge of how to shape adamantium to give them back?  It’s not like they didn’t have some spare adamantium lying around after the Silver/Adamantium Samurai was destroyed.  ::END SPOILER::  I would have to say that I liked the after credit sequence, and that you should make sure you stick around for it.

The cast in the movie was very strong.  Especially Hugh Jackman.  He looked so goddamned strong in this movie.  There was not a vein in his body that was not on display.  At least not north of the belt line.  He was awesome though.  Maybe not the most awesome person though, and I’m basing that mainly on his relationship with Mariko.  I know Wolverine has the tendency to knock the bottom out of some lucky lady, but this girl was already married AND in love with that Japanese Hawkeye guy, and Wolverine still had to get his dick wet.  And right after that came another problem: why does anyone ever sleep next to Wolverine?  He has the terrible habit of stabbing people that sleep next to him.  He stabbed Rogue in the first movie, almost stabbed his girlfriend in Origins, almost stabbed Mariko, dream-stabbed Jean Gray.  Stop sleeping next to him!  If you want the sex; get it and get out!  After him, I didn’t really think that much about anyone else in the cast.  Hiroyuki Sanada was fine.  Tao Okamoto was cute and did well.  Rila Fukushima caused no complaints.  I guess I was never really on board with Svetlana Khodchenkova’s performance.  Just didn’t do it for me.  She was hot though, so she doesn’t really need to act that well.

The Wolverine disappointed me with a decent story riddled with mediocre dialogue that could’ve (and should’ve) been so much more awesome than it was.  But I felt like the action was able to keep a good enough pace even though Wolverine himself was diminished by the story elements for a good part of the movie, and the performances mostly did a great job.  Overall I suppose I’d say that I enjoyed the movie, and certainly a lot more than I liked Wolverine’s previous outing, but I just wanted this movie to be more.  Definitely worth watching, but you can probably wait for a rental.  The Wolverine gets “Is that all the men you brought?” out of “It’s an honor to meet the Wolverine.”

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Les Miserables (2012)


Now Prisoner 24601, Your Time is Up and Your Parole’s Begun.

Les Miserables (2012)My friend Ashley Janet is not very good at requesting movies.  She told me I should watch this movie a while ago, and I told her (as I tell everyone) to make sure to request it on my Facebook Fanpage.  27 years later, lying on my deathbed, I received a request.  I had very little time – as the Reaper grew near – to meet this request.  I had my great, great grandchild run to a RedBox and pick up a chip that I installed in my futuristic eyeball player (I assume that’s what’s going to happen in the future).  Thankfully, after watching the movie, I welcomed the sweet release that the Reaper brought, so everything seemed to work out.  Did I want to die after watching the movie because it was so depressing, or because it was bad?  Or are they one and the same?  Let’s find out as I review Les Misérables, from a musical by Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg, which is itself based on a novel by Victor Hugo, written for the screen by William Nicholson and Herbert Kretzmer, directed by Tom Hooper, and starring Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway, Amanda Seyfried, Eddie Redmayne, Sacha Baron Cohen, Helena Bonham Carter, Samantha Barks, Isabelle Allen, and Aaron Tveit.

Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman) is a slave in a prison where he’s serving a 19-year sentence for stealing a loaf of bread to feed his sister’s starving child.  He’s released on his parole by the prison guard Javert (Russell Crowe), but finds it impossible to find work or shelter because of his criminal background, but he finds sanctuary with the Bishop of Digne (Colm Wilkinson) and in doing so adopts Christianity and changes his identity to start a new life.  Javert devotes his life to bringing Valjean back to justice.  But he’s not that good at it because eight years later, Valjean is a factory owner and mayor of Montreuil-sur-Mer.  A young lady named Fantine (Anne Hathaway) is working at his factory, but is fired by Valjean’s foreman because she has an illegitimate daughter named Cosette (Isabelle Allen), who is in the care of the unscrupulous  Thénardiers (Helena Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen).  Fantine eventually resorts to prostitution, where she is found by Valjean, who then learns that he is (kind of) the cause of her predicament.  Then she dies and Valjean collects Cosette to raise her in her mother’s stead.  Nine years later and Javert still hasn’t caught Valjean.  Cosette is now Amanda Seyfried, and she falls in love with Marius Pontmercy (Eddie Redmayne) at first sight.  He loves her back … and her front, I assume.  The daughter of the Thénardiers, Éponine (Samantha Barks) is in love with Marius.  Marius is also in love with France, and is a member of a group of revolutionaries that blah blah blah sad things.  The end.

Man, I was beginning to get bored of my own summation there.  I was not a fan of this movie, but it’s not to say there are not things within this movie that are to be respected.  I was not really surprised by any part of the story.  There is a chance I’ve seen this in musical form before, but if I have, I have no recollection of it.  I think I was more able to predict the story by just thinking about what the most melodramatic thing that could happen was, and then that would usually happen.  It was comforting, at least, that the ending was vaguely happy, at least in comparison to the rest of the movie.  Well, Cosette probably wasn’t too fond of the way it ended, but it was a bit of a relief for me.  Of course, I may not have really realized what was going on half the time because they sang 98% of their dialogue, making it much harder for me to just listen to what they’re saying.  One thing I did understand is when Valjean asked the young Cosette what her name was and she responded, “I’m cold Cosette.”  I asked your name, bitch.  Not for your name and temperature.  You think you’re updating your Facebook status or something?

The biggest problems I had with this movie was with the directing and the singing, which is not a good sign because this is a movie and a musical.  First off, they sing way too goddamn much.  I’ve generally hated musicals, and this is usually the reason.  They have to sing everything!  They have small talk in musical form!  Like the song that the poor people sing after they jump forward 8 years in the story where they sing about being poor and downtrodden.  I can see that.  You’re all dirty and diseased.  You could just pan the camera over those people and I’d know what that song laid out for me.  I really do feel like I’d like this movie much more if they just sang the few songs that didn’t just sound like people were chatting while autotuned.  Of course, then I had the problems with the director to deal with.  Every time someone in the movie was singing, he seemed to forget that he had the ability to move the camera or make something happen on screen.  You wouldn’t really even need a camera operator for most of this movie because you could just set up a camera mount on the actor’s belt and let him or her film themselves.  They were all just shots of the people’s faces anyway.  And I understand why he did it in some ways.  I heard lots of stories about how the people in this movie actually sang live on the set and didn’t get dubbed over later.  First off, I don’t care.  Second off, you don’t need to prove it to me by just focusing on their faces whenever they were singing at the detriment of your movie.  And since most of your movie is people singing, you’re going to have a pretty visually boring movie.

I liked the greater majority of the performances in the movie, so it does have that going for it.  Hugh Jackman did a great job.  Not only did he have the singing chops, but he played Jean Valjean throughout the 17 years of the movie very successfully.  From all I had heard of the movie beforehand, I kind of thought that Anne Hathaway was going to be a bigger part of the movie, but she actually dies fairly early on.  On the other hand, she was a motivating factor for the majority of the movie.  And she still kind of managed to steal the movie with her performance of “I Dreamed a Dream”, which was a good song delivered with a lot of passion and emotion.  I’m sure everyone already knows what it looks like because it was most of what I had seen of her part of the movie before I watched it.  If it hadn’t been filmed so boring, I probably could’ve been brought to tears.  I’d definitely say she deserved the accolades she received for that song alone.  I didn’t really understand what people were complaining about with Russell Crowe, though.  I didn’t think he was a mind-blowing singer or anything, but I expected him to be awful from what everyone was saying about him.  He did fine.  I doubt I could do better, and I’m pretty sure you couldn’t either.  And I thought the performance was a good one as well, because I could never tell how I felt about the character.  He was clearly the antagonist of the movie in that he chases the story’s hero to the end of … well the town, because Valjean never seemed to really try to get that far out of Javert’s jurisdiction.  But you also can’t really blame him because dude’s just really good at his job.  On the third hand, maybe there are people that deserve your attention more than a guy that stole a loaf of bread 30 years ago to feed a starving child.  And he’s rich now!  He’s not stealing bread anymore.  There were also some dumb people in this movie.  First, Eddie Redmayne as Marius, who is so dumb and in love with Cosette that he’s oblivious to Éponine’s obvious love for him, so much so that he is totally content to sing about how much he loves Cosette right in front of her.  But he did do an almost Hathaway-esque job performing “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables” near the end of the movie.  Also dumb is Gavroche, played by Daniel Huttlestone.  What is his motivation for crawling over the barricade and collecting ammo as he sings a song about how badass he is while he gets shot to death?  Possibly the most stupid thing is that Sacha Baron Cohen did this movie instead of Django Unchained.

I didn’t hate Les Misérables, but I didn’t like it either.  I’m just not into musicals, and I’m also not that into depressing movies.  I guess I should’ve known that the movie would be depressing as I was going in, but my French is just so rusty.  I still think the basic core of the movie would’ve worked a lot better on me if they didn’t sing every single menial line in the movie as much as the important ones, and if the director didn’t film most of those singing scenes in a really boring way because he was so impressed with himself and his actors that they were all singing on set.  The performances in the movie were either good or phenomenal, so I’d be impressed too, but I still would’ve recommended moving the camera from time to time.  I would say this movie is worth buying for people that are really into musicals, but for people like me a rental will suffice, if you get so inclined.  Les Misérables gets “You have only done your duty; it’s a minor sin at most” out of “Empty chairs at empty tables, where my friends shall sing no more.”

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Real Steel (2011)


The People’s Champion?

Some of you that are old enough may remember a time when one of the best “video games” you could play was two plastic robots on either end of a tiny ring, controlled by two buttons on each side that would cause the corresponding robot to punch with either his left or his right arm until one of the two robot’s heads popped off.  This game was called Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots.  In order to pave the way for them to somehow turn Battleship into a movie, they decided to turn Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em into a movie to test how people would react.  And then to add a little baby mamma drama into it, just to get the ladies watching.  They kept the beginning initials the same, but rename the movie Real Steel, written by John Gatins, Shawn Levy, and Richard Mathis, directed by Shawn Levy, and starring Hugh Jackman, Dakota Goyo, Hope Davis, James Rebhorn, Evangeline Lilly, Karl Yune, Olga Fonda, Anthony Mackie, and Kevin Durand.

In the not too distant futures, the world has decided that the sport of boxing is far too brutal for humans to go through, so they are replaced with giant robot boxers.  But also (and thank God for it) PETA seems to have disappeared because, on occasion, those giant robot boxers are allowed to fight bulls.  That’s where we start off, with former boxer Charlie Kenton (Hugh Jackman), down on his luck and forced to take his robot, Ambush, to fit bulls.  Charlie gets distracted by a cute blonde and his robot get scrapped, making Charlie skip out on the money he owes the promoter, Ricky (Kevin Durand).  Charlie finds out that his ex-girlfriend died and he must attend a custody hearing for his 11-year-old son, Max (Dakota Goyo).  Deciding that he is neither the paternal type, nor the type that wants to be likeable to almost any audience, Charlie not only does not want custody of his kid, but sells custody to Max’s wealthy uncle Marvin (James Rebhorn), behind the back of Max’s wealthy-by-marriage aunt Debra (Hope Davis), for $100,000.  Because Marvin and Debra were about to go on vacation, Charlie agrees to take Max for three months, until they return.  Charlie takes Max to the boxing gym of Charlie’s childhood friend Bailey Tallet (Evangeline Lilly) and promptly drops around $30,000 dollars on a once famous (and championship material) robot named Noisy Boy … which he quickly enrolls in an underground main event fight and gets it destroyed.  Charlie and Max go to a scrapyard to find pieces to make a new robot when Max stumbles across an old, 2nd generation sparring robot named Atom.  Flying in the face of all logic, Max single-handedly digs Atom out of mud and claims the robot as his own.  They take it to another underground fight and find out this little robot’s got some chutzpah.

I admit being completely caught off guard by this, but this movie actually won me over.  Going into this movie I figured that the robot fights would be awesome, but that they’d be flimsily held together by an ill-conceived plot and the addition of a kid reminiscent of Seven from Married … With Children.  …Okay, that’s kind of exactly what happened, but it was done in a way that worked.  The story is kind of one you’ve seen before … especially if you’ve seen Rocky.  There are two underdogs in this movie (as opposed to the lone one they had in Rocky) in Charlie and Atom.  Charlie doesn’t believe in himself anymore and his kid helps him believe in himself again.  The similarities to Rocky are at their boiling point in the very end of the movie where ::SPOILER ALERT:: Atom puts up a good fight but loses the decision, settling for the “People’s Champ” booby prize.  In this scene, Atom and Charlie take turns being Rocky, whereas Max takes the role of Adrian.  IMDb tells me that they’re in the process of making Real Steel 2, so one can feel safe in thinking that Atom will win in the next one, fight a robot with a mohawk in the movie after that (but Charlie will probably have to die at some point), fight a behemoth Russian robot next (and make a cheesy speech about how we all can change and love each other), and then further ruin the entire memory of the series in the fifth one.  Maybe, some years after that, they’ll make a coming out retirement one that tries really hard to fix what number five fucked up.  ::END SPOILERS::  I found the kid parts of the movie fairly tedious for the greater majority of the movie, but then it started getting to me towards the end of the movie, causing me to get a little bit choked up about it.  And before you go calling me a pussy, think to yourself why movies about daddy issues affect me so much and, if you know me, you’ll understand … and THEN you can call me a pussy.  On a much more manly note, the robot fights are pretty spectacular and incredibly gripping, especially when you take into account that they’re robots with no feeling or emotion.  I guess it’s because you kind of get attached to Atom, even though he only mimics movements of people around him.  Of course, that lead to something that I found sickening on every occasion, but it still popped up about 3 or 4 times: Max dancing with Atom.  Charlie comes up with this idea when he sees Max dancing with Atom outside of a hotel once and decides to incorporate it as a gimmick before the fight to get the audience on their side.  I grant that this would probably work for some people, but I just found it annoying.  Get to the robot smashing!  Speaking of  ::RESPOILER::    The ending bout worked for me too.  I originally predicted that they would need to defeat the adaptable, super powerful champion, Zeus, by doing something unpredictable.  I guessed that would be dancing to confuse Zeus.  Thankfully, that was not the course they took.  His remote controls damaged, Max comes up with the idea to have Atom mimic Charlie, so that Charlie would be doing the fighting via proxy.  Charlie doesn’t believe in himself, Max gets him to, and though they don’t win, they whoop that ass.  It’s another predictable strategy, just not the one I expected, but I thought it was very well done.  ::END RESPOILERS::

The cast mostly does a fantastic job for what I went into this movie expecting.  Hugh Jackman’s performance was great, but it was difficult to do with the writing being a little soft.  You hate him to some degree for about an hour and a half, getting to like his character for only the last half hour of the movie.  This guy basically sells his son, who he’s either never met or not seen in 90% of the kid’s life.  Then, Max turns out to be more business savvy than Charlie is because Charlie’s so desperate for money that he’ll throw a robot he’s never used into a main event fight, never thinking about why a legendary champion robot could be purchased for less money than he was fixing to win in that one fight.  Maybe there was something wrong with it, Charlie.  These kinds of decisions lead him to get in a bad financial situation, which in turn leads to more bad decisions, which in turn leads to him getting his ass kicked by the guy that played the Blob, probably mostly in retaliation for being in that shitty Wolverine movie.  But I got really confused by this beating they gave him because Charlie and Max were getting their asses beat fairly close to a truck that contained their giant, ass-kicking robot!  I’m sure there’s some law against using your giant robot to beat up a guy (and I’m sure Asimov wrote these stupid laws), but there’s also a law against beating up a man and his son with your two goons.  I’d call that a push.  I never really liked Dakota Goyo, but I’m not sure if that’s because he was bad or just because I hate kids.  I do know that I hate the kid in the movie that’s supposed to be smarter than a kid his age ever really is, but is also always trying to act tough when I know, for a fact, that I would beat the shit out of that kid.  Not so tough now, are you Dakota!  One thing that annoyed me about him was that he was instantly able to speak Japanese and disassemble a robot.  How was he able to do this?  He plays video games.  Well so do I, and I also watch TONS of Japanese Anime porn, and I only know how to say “No” and “Stop raping me” in Japanese.  Thankfully, I’ve had to use those two phrases a lot, but I still call bullshit on this movie for it.  Evangeline Lilly was also in this movie, and pretty attractive as well, but there’s not a whole lot more to be said about that.  She did, at one point, say that her plan was “trying not to let (her) gym die”, but that is not a plan.  That’s something you need a plan to do, so you’re apparently in the same boat as Charlie.  The performances of the robots in this movie can roughly be equated to that of Jet Li: they’re stiff and can’t really act, but they are good in the fight scenes.  I never really did understand how they justified the robots getting punch drunk, though.  They don’t actually have brains.  I could understand parts of them not functioning from being broken, but not them staggering around the ring because they’ve been hit in the head too many times.

I was quite shocked to find that I thoroughly enjoyed this movie.  Sure, it was pretty easy to make fun of because some of it is so ridiculous and pointless, but their story had won me over by the end of the movie, and the robot fights had me from the word “go”.  A lot of fun as an action movie, and pretty solid as a movie in general.  I say go rent this movie.  I’m probably going to outright purchase it, but I understand if you don’t trust me.  I’ve lied to you before.  OR HAVE I?!  Real Steel gets “I want you to fight for me!  That’s all I ever wanted!” out of “You know you’re bringing him home in pieces, right?”

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