hugh jackman

[Movie Review] ‘Logan’ Infuses Heart and Violence into a Potent Cocktail

logan_poster-tgofWhile superhero fatigue still has me in its icy grip, along comes Logan to warm that chill–at least temporarily. Perhaps it’s the, at times, overwhelming violence or the emotional vulnerability of being a new dad that makes the arc Wolverine’s final chapter that much more effective. Whatever way you look at it, Hugh Jackman’s curtain call as the claw wielding potty-mouth is a fitting and emotional bow that might rely a little too much on its R rating and hero cliches.

Picking up in 2029 where mutant residency has since passed, Logan spends his days driving a limo for drunk brides and frat boys chanting ‘Merica near the US/Mexico border. South of the border Logan lives with Caliban (Stephen Merchant) and an aged Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart with his most powerful portrayal as Professor X to date) suffering dementia and the occasional population crippling seizure. With his health steadily declining and his body unwilling to heal like it used to Logan begrudgingly accepts to transport a young mutant, Laura (Dafne Keen), with powers strikingly similar to his own, North across the Canadian border and hopefully to safety away from the research facility tracking her down. (more…)

Movie Review: Chappie

chappie_posterIn the wake of ELYSIUM I’m wondering if, with CHAPPIE’s release, Neil Blomkamp is fielding more questions about what went wrong with that film than anything else. That or what in the world was the thought process of casting the two weirdos that make up the South African rap group, Die Antwoord. Both of those questions I suppose have footing in some way or another. One view from my perspective being, did Blomkamp’s experience on ELYSIUM kill his drive to see his creative efforts all the way through? And in regards to the casing of Die Antwoord’s Ninja and Yolandi all I have to say is…just, why?

I don’t like to buy into excuses of studio interference especially this close after the release of CHAPPIE. However, the more I read about the issues on set with Ninja (which I can’t help but shake my head every time I type that as a persons name), the more I’m not all that surprised that Blomkamp’s latest film turned out to be as big of a mess as it is. This coming from someone who is head over heels in love with his work on DISTRICT 9 and is a supporter that ELYSIUM is not as bad as everyone seems to think it is- especially if you were to compare it to CHAPPIE. (more…)

Movie Review: X-Men: Days of Future Past

xmendaysoffuturepast_posterThere’s usually one or two things I don’t ever expect from superhero movies. One being that I don’t expect my IQ to grow even slightly and two being I don’t expect to feel any type of emotional connection. There’s a few superhero movies that surprised by making me feel the latter- X-MEN: FIRST CLASS was one of those special few. It was so surprising to me that I would feel so connected to the relationship between Magneto and Professor X that it almost felt silly. Regardless of the shame I feel on the front of having any emotional connection to a character nicknamed Magneto, it really made me love that movie. So here we are with X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST and I’m left wondering what happened to that magic?

This film blends the old cast and new cast by showing a future where mutants face extinction by an unbeatable foe, the Sentinals. To combat the threat Professor X (Patrick Stewart) and the gang come up with a plan to send Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) into the past to the point in history where the threat began. When he awakes in his younger body Wolverine/Logan must do the impossible and unite Charles (James McAvoy) and Eric (Michael Fassbender) at a time they were bitter enemies. Together they all have to track down Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) before she unintentionally gives the war on mutants exactly what it needs to defeat them. (more…)

Movie Review: The Prestige (2006)

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Over the last few years or so I’ve been so head over heels in love with Christopher Nolan’s Batman films as well as INCEPTION that I started feeling an uncomfortable distance with his previous works. MOMENTO is a film I remember watching once a few years back and need to revisit sometime soon, I was never as head over heels with his INSOMNIA adaptation, but then again it’s been a very long time since I watched it. One thing I did remember and reaffirmed recently is that I absolutely love THE PRESTIGE. Nolan has a knack for constructing a film with many layers of human drama, head scratching mystery and genuine thrills even if the scale of the film is much smaller than the destruction of Gotham City.

THE PRESTIGE follows the ups and downs of a rivalry between two magicians that both have a mutual love for insighting the wonderment of audiences as well as discovering each other’s secrets then trying one up the tricks that the other is performing. Along the way though there are people caught in the whirlwind of their competition that include wives, children and assisstants where at some point they have to suffer the consequences of their obsessions.

Batman himself (Christian Bale) stars as one of the rivals, Alfred Borden, the magician with great tricks yet lacks showmanship and flair. His competition, Robert Angier (Hugh Jackman), is the more gifted presenter, but relies on his wallet to get the flashier machinery to accomplish his illusions. The two of them spar off of each other perfectly and the characters are performed just as well, though Bale really shines in his role. The supporting roles cannot be overlooked though as Michael Caine, Scarlett Johansson and Rebecca Hall all give great performances where even small supporting cast members like David Bowtie and Andy Serkis have muted roles but play them very well. Bale and Jackman’s character arcs play out organically and the decent from joy to anger have very stark and powerful contrats that often make THE PRESTIGE feel more emotional and dramatic than a lot of Nolan’s most recent work.

Consistent with Nolan’s work though is the dark and gritty setting where there’s little room for too much light hearted fun to be had and more room for dramtatic moments to play out in a darker tone. There are always moments of humor here and there,  but what I love about Nolan’s films is the ability to have fun watching a film devoid of silly jokes and instead full of emotional depth that at least resembles the drama of real life with fantastic situations outside of realism. I always find it too easy to pick a movie apart for the little things that when it comes a Nolan film, so far from my perspective, he is competent enough to put together a film believable enough to let go of my annoyingly critical side of my brain and just enjoy the show.

Visually the film is striking especially given that it is a period piece. There are moments of spectacle that are subtle such as a field of light bulbs in the ground all lit up at the same time, to a machine alternating electric currents that shoots lightning bolts back and forth- the latter employing sound design that simultaneously had me tense and on the edge of my seat. The grit to the film is present, though the cinematography is still quite beautiful- something that I’ve come to really love in this film inparticular.

As time has passed THE PRESTIGE is a film that I still tend to drift toward when I sit down and think about something I want to watch. It’s not something I would put in if I’m ever in the mood for light entertainment or something to watch in the background as it will always engage me and force me to sit and watch even if there’s something else I should be doing. Filled with great performances and brought to life brilliantly by Nolan, THE PRESTIGE remains a film I hold pretty near and dear- and the longer it sits in the forefront of my mind it could also contend for a spot as one of my favorites of all time.

Rating: A

Movie Review: Real Steel (2011)

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I liked the idea of a Rock Em Sock Em Robots movie- maybe one day we will get that movie because unfortunately though REAL STEEL features fighting robots, it’s much more a father/son movie than it is actually about fighting robots. I really had zero interest from the trailers to ever see the movie and I have to say that I’m actually glad to have seen it- that has to say something about the film right? I was entertained more often than not but I was really hoping for some more robot on robot throwdowns than I got.

Hugh Jackman stars as a former boxer, Charlie, now swimming in massive debt in a future where humans control massive robots to box each other. A string of bad luck finds him struggling to pay people he owes money to and looking for parts to make a new fighting robot at the same time he is saddled with a kid, Max (Dakota Goyo), that he doesn’t want. On a late night hunt for parts Max comes across the remains of an early model robot used mostly for sparring and brings it back to clean it up. Max convinces Charlie to enter it into some fight and gives it the name ATOM. After ATOM shows itself capable of taking a beating and winning some fights Charlie sees the bot as his ticket to finally making some money.

REAL STEEL is not here to push across realism in fighting or even family relationships as movies like THE FIGHTER or WARRIOR did recently, but it does give off enough good vibes and intentions to be a pretty nice father/son story when it’s all said and done. Based on the Richard Matheson story it definitely is not the Rock Em Sock Em Robots movie most thought it’d be when it was announced and trailers emerged. The fighting scenes were a lot of fun though and if this movie inspires the Rock Em Sock Em Robots movie then I hope they takes some notes from the fighting scenes in REAL STEEL.

The special effects used for the robots are actually pretty great- not quite photorealistic, but just seamless enough to not pull me out of the movie when on screen interacting with human characters. The fights themselves are easily more videogame quality but also still very fun to watch to a point that I can still buy it in context to the film and not feel like I’ve just entered generic videogame cutscene.

I was convinced by the trailers that I was going to hate each and every story aspect in regards to Hugh Jackman’s character. Everything up until I finally started watching the film said it was going to be painfully generic and hokey but as it started unfolding I actually started to enjoy the dynamic between Charlie and Max. Jackman plays a character that is extremely selfish and has a one track mind and the things he says to his own flesh and blood are somewhat shocking. His transformation to a more likable father figure was believable and lends to how satisfying the conclusion is for me.

There are a few things that either didn’t work for me or just kind of seemed goofy. For one the relationship between Jackman’s character and Evangeline Lilly’s character wasn’t entirely fleshed out thus somewhat meaningless and tacked on. When it is later revealed that ATOM has a shadow function and mimics everything the person in front of him is doing and there are some interesting things done with them, but dancing had equal parts goofy laughs and genuine charm.

I also feel like there are some missed opportunities with certain characters as well as an interesting aspect of ATOM that kind of gets pushed under the rug. I would have liked to see more done with Anthony Mackie’s character mostly because he added quite a bit of fun in his stretches of the movie and he was quite good in the part. There is also a lot of robot fighting in the film but I still could have used more. The robot fighting is easily one of my favorite aspects in the movie and there are a few really fun scenes with the fights which just made me wish certain weaker elements had been scrapped for more extended fight sequences.

REAL STEEL emerged as one of those pleasant surprises- a film I expected nothing from and ended up with an emotional resonance I was totally unprepared to experience. Jackman gives a pretty good performance as the jerk you love to hate but with a good guy underneath his rough exterior. The film is not without its flaws mostly in the unrealized depths with its central robot character and characters that I wish had had a bigger role. Overall, REAL STEEL is an effective one two punch of fun sports flick with a bit of emotional father/son moments that could have used a bit more ambition to really take the experience to the next level.