‘The Wolverine’ Review

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Dir: James Mangold (Walk the Line, 3:10 to Yuma)

Cast: Hugh Jackman, Tao Okamoto, Rila Fukushima, Hiroyuki Sanada, Hal Yamanouchi, Svetlana Khodchenkova, Will Yun Lee and Famke Janssen

Synopsis: Summoned to Japan by an old acquaintance, Wolverine becomes embroiled in a conflict that forces him to confront his own demons.

 

*Review Note: This is a non-spoiler review as always. But, I do have to say this…Stay for the credits scene, I won’t say what it’s about but it is a great scene.”

 

While some people say this is better than Origins: Wolverine, it really isn’t saying much since Origins, although having some moments wasn’t a good movie. But, it looks like the commercials are right. This is the Wolverine movie we’ve wanted, for the most part.

Jackman once again goes full in, embracing the character that fans fell in love with in the pages of the X-Men comics or the movies if that was your first encounter with him. But, you also have to give credit to James Mangold and his screenwriters smartly avoid the clutter of mutants, like Origins, and just make the movie about Logan. The movie is inspired by the famous Japan story-arc in the comics but is also a continuation of the X-Men film series serving as a some-what sequel to The Last Stand but is a separate adventure as well.

When we first meet him here, Logan is living like a hermit in the Canadian wild. He is also still mourning the loss of Jean Grey (Janssen) that comes to him at times in a dream-like environment asking the question that Wolverine deals with “Why keep going?” After an encounter in a bar he meets the mysterious Yukio (Fukushima) who is there to bring Logan to Japan to say good-bye to Yashida (Yamanouchi) a man he saved during World War II. Reluctantly he accepts and soon discovers that the man wants to offer Logan an end to his immortality in return for saving his life that day. Of course Logan finds out nothing is what it really seems.

Logan eventually finds out that his healing factor is affected after being poisoned by mutant Viper (Khodchenkova) when he starts to protect Yashida’s granddaughter Mariko (Okamoto). After that we get introduced to the other characters in Mariko’s father and Yashida’s son Shingen (Sanada) and Harada (Yun Lee) who is under orders to also protect Mariko.

Like I stated before the movie is inspired from the classic Chris Claremont/Frank Miller Japan storyline from the comics. However, it does take some liberties which are welcome. Maiko isn’t necessarily a damsel-in-distress and Yukio has a bit more meat to her character. It should be noted that this is the first film for both actress’ and they did a good job with such big characters. Khodchenkova’s Viper is maybe a bit too cartoony when it comes to being a villain but considering she isn’t the main villain it’s a bit okay.

However, despite all this the movie doesn’t really become a “comic-book” movie until the third act. Not saying it’s a bad thing either. The movie sets up Logan as a haunted character dealing with this “curse” and what the effects are to that and what happens when it goes away but it also tries to play Logan as a legend in some sense. This is probably makes the movie better and puts it ahead of Origins (although again not saying much). The movie isn’t worried about connecting it back to the X-Men movies (with the expectation of Jean) or about the fate of the world, it’s only concern is Logan and his story which is fantastic to watch.

The action is also stepped up and although they are spaced apart every sequence has a something on the line. People are talking about the bullet train sequence (I had my doubts about it in the beginning) which is pretty cool and maybe to some a bit cartoonish but it still works. Also for those wanting blood on the claws you can finally put that aside.

All in all, The Wolverine has finally given us a movie where we see the Wolverine that we all love. Jackman has truly made the character his own in every way and I feel for the person who has to take over after Jackman leaves. Filled with action, humor, and a love story The Wolverine is what I hope for in future installments.

 

The Wolverine

4.5 out of 5

‘The Conjuring’ Review

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Dir: James Wan

Cast: Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Lili Taylor, Ron Livingston, Shanley Caswell, Hayley McFarland, Joey King, Mackenzie Foy, Kyla Deaver, Shannon Kook, John Brotherton and Sterling Jerins

Synopsis: Paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren work to help a family terrorized by a dark presence in their farmhouse. Forced to confront a powerful entity, the Warrens find themselves caught in the most terrifying case of their lives.

 

*Review Note: This is a non-spoiler review as always.*

 

The synopsis for movie seems like maybe every other haunted house movie right? A family dealing with their nice new house with a troubled history that they don’t know about and when it becomes too much to bare they hired someone to help. The Conjuring is based on a true story off a case by the Warrens and the Perron family. But unlike other movies this is a refreshing take on the story.

In the 1970’s Ed and Lorraine Warren (Wilson and Farmiga) made a name for themselves as paranormal investigators. He was a demonologist, she was a clairvoyant, and together they gave lectures and visited homes to help people get rid of any darkness lurking about. The movie even starts with them working on a case (the famous Annabelle Doll).

After setting up the Warrens and what they do, the film introduces us to Carolyn and Roger Perron (Taylor and Livingston) and their five daughters, who have just moved to a beautiful old lake house in Rhode Island. They soon experience terrifying, unexplainable happenings, which leads Carolyn to beg the Warrens to come and help them. When they do encounter something even the Warrens know this is something truly evil.

As the paranormal events escalate the five young actresses playing the girls do a great job making us feel for them when the entity starts messing with them. The same goes for Lili Taylor playing their mother who steps up her game in the third act. The highlight of the cast is Wilson and Farmiga who, next to Taylor, carries a bit of the emotional aspects of the story. That secondary plot line, which we get just a tiny bit of, is about the Warrens and offers a tiny bit of relaxation from the otherwise tense action. Make no mistake even though we start off with Perron family the movie really is about the Warrens.

Also, in true James Wan fashion and unlike other horror films the movie starts off a bit slow but not too slow and the scares come pretty early. So if you’re easily scared the movie will likely give you some nightmares for awhile. James Wan, in my eyes, has become the go to man for modern horror films using old-school horror tricks and using little to no CGI to his best advantage. Even though we get some similar sequences from other horror movies that Wan is clear paying homage to it still works. The atmosphere that Wan and cinematography Frank Leonetti created really puts the viewer in the mood and the music that Wan uses it makes the tension and scary moments work better.

Another couple things that make the movie work is that it stays in the time period. Meaning there’s no cell phones that add to the helplessness that the characters feel when they are getting haunted. And even with the R rating the movie doesn’t have gore or nudity that most horror movies sometimes rely on.

All in all, The Conjuring is said to be James Wan’s last horror movie (Insidious Chapter 2 comes out in September but I’m talking about filming wise) and if it is he truly went out with a bang. Filled with tense and terrifying moments the movie does have some humor to it too which is nice to see before Wan scares the crap out of you

 

The Conjuring

5 out of 5

 

‘Red 2’ Review

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Dir: Dean Parisot (Galaxy Quest)

Cast: Bruce Willis, John Malkovich, Mary-Louise Parker, Helen Mirren, Neal McDonough, Byung-hun Lee, Catherine Zeta-Jones, and Anthony Hopkins

Synopsis: Retired C.I.A. agent Frank Moses reunites his unlikely team of elite operatives for a global quest to track down a missing portable nuclear device.

 

*Review Note: This is a non-spoiler review as always.*

 

After the success of RED back in 2010, the graphic novel adaptation has come back with a sequel that finds retired black ops agent Frank Moses (Willis) reuniting with his old partner Marvin Boggs (Malkovich) after a threat from their past resurfaces in the form of a Cold War-era nuclear weapon “Nightshade.” Now everyone thinks Frank and Marvin know where this device is located and it takes them on the run to not only clear their names but also save the world.

MI6 hires Frank and Marvin’s former sharpshooter friend Victoria (Mirren) to kill them. Also on their tail is U.S. official Horton (McDonough) and even he sends master assassin Han (Lee) after them. Han, as it turns out, has some unfinished business of his own with Frank.

Frank, Marvin, and Frank’s girlfriend Sarah (Parker), make their way around the globe to places like London, Paris and even Moscow to locate Nightshade. Along the way, they encounter Katja (Zeta-Jones), Frank’s former lover, and scientific genius Edward Bailey (Hopkins) who might be the key to helping them stop Nightshade.

The first movie did a great job of balancing humor and action, but it could have also been the chemistry between all the actors. This movie has the same balancing but it doesn’t have the same charm from part one which is probably one of the only letdowns (if that’s the word you want to use). However that doesn’t mean the humor isn’t funny. Malkovich and Mirren have their fair share of funny moments. Parker’s ever-wanting adventure character Sarah has more to do this time around. She sees the side of Willis’ Frank that she didn’t really see in part one and is dealing with Frank’s overprotective nature.

For the new additions; Zeta-Jones looks like she had fun with the role with an almost femme fatale-like vibe. Hopkins seemed like he was just phoning it in and doesn’t even show up until the third act. McDonough is passable as his character considering he’s use to playing that type of persona. The stand out is Byung Hun Lee, who despite coming in and out of the movie once he’s introduced is one of the coolest characters. His fights are great and he has this charisma/confidence in his non-fight scenes.

The action sequences, while just a bit generic they, are still pretty fun to watch. But one of the things I know will get to people is the bloodless kills. A majority, and by that I mean 98% of the kills, have no blood which I’m okay with. I don’t need blood in violence to justify it viewable.

All in all, Red 2 is just about as fun as part one and will have moments that people will like after they leave the theater.
Red 2

3.5 out of 5

‘Pacific Rim’ Review

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Dir: Guillermo del Toro

Cast: Charlie Hunnam, Idris Elba, Rinko Kikuchi, Charlie Day, Burn Gorman, Max Martini,Robert Kazinsky, Clifton Collins Jr., and Ron Perlman

Synopsis: As a war between humankind and monstrous sea creatures wages on, a former pilot and a trainee are paired up to drive a seemingly obsolete special weapon in a desperate effort to save the world from the apocalypse.

 

*Review Note:This is a non-spoiler review as always.*

 

Set in future, humanity is in its seventh year of war against giant alien monsters known as “kaiju”, which emerged from a portal deep within the Pacific Ocean. In order to fight back, the world put aside their difference and banded together to create giant robots called “jaegers” that require two pilots to link minds in order to operate in what’s called “the drift,” as Charlie Hunnam’s character says “the deeper the connection, the stronger the bond.” However, the kaiju invasion becomes more and more overwhelming,and the jaeger program is on its last legs.

Former pilot Raleigh Beckett (Hunnam) is pulled back in by project overseer Stacker Pentecost (Elba) in order to make a last stand against the kaiju. With the help of rookie pilot Mako Mori (Kikuchi), Raleigh attempts to stop the invasion alongside other jaegers from different countries. Meanwhile, scientist Dr. Newton Geiszler (Day) is hunting down a kaiju brain, which may provide the key for closing the portal.

The tagline “go big or go extinct” is perfect for setting the mood. The action sequences are not only amazing to look at but it really brings you into the movie. The jaegers and the kaiju each have their own unique designs that distinguish’ each of them and doesn’t have the viewer think about how’s fighting. Seriously, the kaiju and jaegers have their own names like two the jaegers are named Gipsy Danger and Striker Eureka and one of the kaiju’s is named Leatherback. The actual fighting is a spectacle of its own. At times it feels like a boxing or wrestling match with the way Del Toro sets up the fight but it’s also an all out brawl as these giants hit each other with you can feel the hits.

One of the complaints that a lot of people have is the human element. Hunnam does a decent job as Raleigh although there are times were I wish he did a little more. Idris Elba plays the no-nonsense Pentecost well but behind his hard-ass exterior there is something there that makes us like him(you know, besides being Idris Elba). The standouts – of the human cast that is– is Rinko Kikuchi, Charlie Day and Ron Pealman who plays a black market dealer of kaiju parts. Day plays a kaiju expert and has his comedic moments but also plays it a bit serious. Rinko however is the real standout. Her character has the most emotional depth of the cast and holds her own against the boys and quiet literally when she has a practice fight against Hunnam’s Raleigh.

Other characters that pop up are Hercules Hanson (Martini) and his cocky pilot son Chuck Hansen (Kazinsky), Dr. Gottlieb (Gorman) who works with Day’s character and isa bit odd himself. Clifton Collins Jr. shows up as an operator to the jaegers and for you video game fans Ellen McLain aka GLaDOS from Portal plays Gipsy Dangers AI voice.

All in all, Pacific Rim is a true summer blockbuster that will have something for everybody. Yes, there are moments when the movie slows down but I don’t think it hurts the movie. The human element isn’t probably the strongest especially after the action sequences. If you want my opinion spend the extra money to watch it in IMAX 3D. It is worth seeing and I think might be the only way to truly experience the movie. Also stay a bit for the credits.
Pacific Rim

5 out of 5

“Off Topic”: Logic

Welcome to a new series of posts I’ll be putting up that aren’t reviews. “Off Topic” (I couldn’t think of another way) will still focus on movies – for the most part – but it will focus on things I notice, dislike, and like about everything surrounding a movie or audience. This series isn’t meant to bash, annoy, or target anybody and although it sounds like it I just wanted to bring something new to the page that refreshing and gives you a little more of me. Also, if you like this feel free to put suggestion or things you want me to talk about in the comments. So let’s start shall we

 

Why do you watch a movie?

Sounds like a simple question right? Well, that’s because it is. I’ll tell you my answer. I watch movies because I want to be entertained! I like the escapism that a director, writer and actor/actress gives me. I like getting drawn into the story and feeling like I know the character and care about what happens to him or her. But again, I like being entertained. If you know personally (or even read my reviews) you know that I enjoy a lot of movies more than other people, hence the high-ish scores you see.

But why am I writing this? Because I’ve gradually started to hear more and more people walking out of the theater after a movie start to complain and talk about something that I really think people should stop brining into a watching a movie, logic.

Yes, logic. The thing we use everyday in our lives that may or may not be exciting. I’m all for using logic but once you bring logic into a conversation about a movie or a characters decision in that movie you have lost me.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve caught myself thinking “why is the character doing that” and “why can’t he/she do this?” But then I think to myself “oh that’s right, I’m watching a movie. He/she probably has a reason in their head for doing and might be explained later on.” However, those thoughts go away pretty quickly because I’m drawn into whatever is happening in front of me (if the movie is good that is).

Now I know movies are not perfect. They all have their mistakes and unfortunately we can’t change that. But I don’t think we, the audience, should really put logic on the table when we’re watching a movie. Why? Because it’s a FREAKING MOVIE!

Like I stated before, movies for me are about escapism and entertainment. We watch them because of that and putting logic into actions from the movie defeats the purpose. Yes, if the situations in the movie where real then you can do that but don’t add logic to scene or situation that already has a conclusion. Everybody acts differently in different situations put in front of them, whether it is the right or wrong one it’s not really up to us to decide. Also the reasoning behind that decision – wise or not – it makes us the viewer unease at what will happen next or mad with a character and it makes us feel something!

If you do this than that’s fine! Everybody has their own opinions on movies and how they should be done. I know I do sometimes as well. I’m just saying that I think all of us need to suspend more disbelief when we watch movies and ENJOY them!

And if you still disagree with me, that’s okay. But, if you think I am COMPLETELY wrong, please describe to me how the logical choice in a movie will give you any sort of suspense and put you in the “edge of your seat.”

While you’re at it explain the logic behind transforming alien robots coming to Earth and disguising themselves as cars. Or, as much as I love zombies, how they can exist or even better how can a fake character do that another fake character.

‘The Lone Ranger’ Review

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Dir: Gore Verbinski (The Ring, Pirates of the Caribbean 1-3, Rango)

Cast: Johnny Depp, Armie Hammer, William Fichtner, Tom Wikinson, Ruth Wilson, Helena Bonham Carter, Bryant Prince, Barry Pepper and James Badge Dale

Synopsis: Native American warrior Tonto recounts the untold tales that transformed John Reid, a man of the law, into a legend of justice.

 

*Review Note:This is a non-spoiler review as always.*

 

The Lone Ranger, an iconic character to the western genre.It’s been a while since the character has graced the big screen and what better way to bring him back than a big budget summer movie. Of course like every movie – and one that involves an iconic character – it has caused much debate amongst reviews. I’m not one to say their all wrong but I can say I see why they don’t like the movie. Some I agree with but others they should really let slide. It is the Summer Movie Season after all, aka the dumb fun movie season.

The movie is essentially an origin film about how a young lawyer John Reid (Hammer) becomes the masked avenger after coming home and then gets deputized by his older brother and model Ranger Dan Reid (Dale) after outlaw Butch Cavendish (Fichtner) escapes and have to go after him. Once out in the open Dan, John and other Texas Rangers are ambushed and all of them are killed by Cavendish and his gang. John, of course, becomes the only survivor and rises from the dead and is told by Tonto (Depp), who has his own reasons for pursuing Cavendish as well, that he is a “spirit walker” one who has seen the other side.The two team up to bring Cavendish down and stop another greater scheme.

The rest of the cast includes railroad tycoon Latham Cole (Wilkinson),a cavalry officer Fuller (Pepper), John’s nephew Danny (Prince), a brothel runner Red (Bonham Carter) and Dan’s widow Rebecca (Wilson). So yes, there are a lot of players in the game. Some, like Bonham Carter’s character could have probably been left since she really has nothing to do. The movie does rest in the hands of, at least in front of the camera, Depp and Hammer. Fichtner’s Butch Cavendish looks pretty terrifying and is he’s definitely a great addition to the cast.

Depp’s Tonto serves as almost a narrator to the whole movie in a way with a concept that some will probably like or not but it does explain why he gets top-bill (besides being the biggest star in the movie). As for his performance it’s really nothing new. His small ticks and mannerism are similar to Jack Sparrow although it never gets the same charm and wit that Sparrow delivers. Hammer’s John/Lone Ranger does the character justice (no pun intended) and you can tell he had fun with the iconic character.

The movie does cross between different tones ranging from serious moments to humor that mostly sticks between John and Tonto and a bit between John and Dan. Then to darker tone moments that revolve around Cavendish which you will know the moment it happens and also feels a bit out of place in a Lone Ranger movie. However, there’s some other stuff that doesn’t fit but Tonto tries to play into the movie.

Like Verbinski and producer Jerry Bruckheimer’s other collaboration on the Pirates of the Caribbean movies,The Lone Ranger is a bit long. I usually don’t mind long movies but the movies pacing is a bit off at times.There will be strong moments like Tonto’s dramatic backstory, which is one of the best and interesting aspects of the movie, and then it will slow down.

Nonetheless, Verbinski does a great job of setting up the set-pieces and the action sequences are pretty great. More particularly the finale were all the characters come together and all revolving, mostly, around trains which does play an important role in the movie.

All in all, The Lone Ranger is not the same Lone Ranger from the old days. It does feel a bit cluttered with all the characters and some are a bit underdeveloped but that doesn’t mean it’s not good. It really does have everything a summer movie needs; humor, action, and cool characters.

 
The Lone Ranger

4 out of 5