patrick stewart

[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: Green Room

greenroom_tgofRoad weary punk rockers run afoul with backwoods Oregan skinheads in Jeremy Saulnier’s Green Room– the director’s follow up to his surprise indie hit, Blue Ruin. Maybe it’s jumping the gun a bit and at the risk of sounding hyperbolic, but this could end up being the best movie I see throughout 2016.

Now, how can someone make such a bold statement just five months into the year? It’s actually pretty simple: I can’t find one thing that I do not like about this film. You read the bare bones premise in the opening of the review, and quite frankly, that’s all you need to know. That’s not to say that knowing the how the punk rockers run afoul with the skinheads will ruin the movie, it’s just that sometimes a one sentence slug is sufficient enough to sell a movie. Especially one with as simple a set up as Green Room. Saulnier isn’t out here trying to weave a complicated mystery that is trying to be one step ahead of the audience with twists and turns. The filmmaker simply slams a scenario down on the table and says, “What would you do?”  (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: Ted (2012)

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Looking back as a kid I can think of a lot of toys I would have liked to come to life and keep me company and none of them would have been a stuffed teddy bear. However, I think Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane took the right approach in using one because if making a movie about every pubescent boy’s real dream about having an anatomically correct Barbie doll come to life we would have been watching an even more disturbing film. A talking teddy is shocking enough in a real life setting, but in TED the result is surprisingly honest and even sweet, even with all the crude sex jokes and grossly offensive racially charged humor. The unfortunate thing about the film is that much like the most recent Family Guy seasons, where the best jokes are uproariously funny and a handful also land with a resounding thud.

According to TED there is nothing more powerful than a little boy’s wish (except am Apache helicopter) and a young John Bennett wish is that his new Christmas present, a stuffed teddy bear, would come to life and be his friend for life. Much to everyone’s surprise Ted does come to life and the two become and remain best friends into adulthood even after Ted’s brief run as a minor celebrity until people just stopped caring. Now as an adult John (Mark Wahlberg) is in a serious relationship with Lori (Mila Kunis) and he spends most of his time getting high on his couch with Ted when he’s not slacking at his job at a rental car outlet. Lori wants John to grow up, take more responsibility and ask Ted to move out, which turns out to be much more difficult than any of them could have predicted.

TED’s most obvious comparison is to MacFarlane’s most popular creation, Family Guy. The film is an almost two hour expansion of the same style of humor except with a lot more relationship drama and some nice friendship sentiments that I wasn’t necessarily expecting. The script has everything you’ve ever come to expect from the hit animated TV show all the way up to an over-the-top fight that mimics the infamous Peter Griffin vs. Giant Chicken fight except on a much smaller scale. The dialogue and the way the jokes are delivered hit the same beats and even the flashbacks have the same vibe to them, except given its real life style it is obviously more down to earth.

Mark Wahlberg and Mila Kunis’ relationship has its moments, but I never felt like it was fleshed out as much as it could’ve been as is there chemistry on screen. Wahlberg isn’t near as fun as he has been in other more comedic roles while Kunis is also very enjoyable, but also not as much as in previous roles. MacFarlane on the other hand as the voice of Ted delivers the films funniest and most heartfelt moments- fitting as he’s the title character and often the central focus of the film. He spends a lot of screen time spouting off lots of pop culture jabs, racial slurs and ridiculously vulgar sex related humor- his voice has a distinctly similar sound to Family Guy’s loveable egghead Peter Griffin, which is also used as a punch line at one point. The aforementioned jokes have their highs and lows, but the highs vastly outweigh the lows, although the extended Family Guy style humor tends to get a bit old by the end.

The animation of Ted is actually pretty spectacular- his interaction with people and the environment are almost seamless. There’s a particularly touching moment during the beginning introduction where the newly alive Ted hugs the young version of John and from then on out if not for the outlandish idea of a living teddy bear it be easy to be fooled that what you are seeing is a living breathing teddy bear.

Something refreshing about MacFarlane’s style is that he never dips into an overuse of modern music and instead uses quite of a bit of swing style songs that fit far better than some poorly chosen hip hop tune or overplayed pop song. There is a very palpable obsession with Flash Gordon from beginning to end, that surprisingly doesn’t get too annoying every time it comes back into play. MacFarlane’s approach to live action has its hiccups in terms of the sometimes rocky transitions to flashbacks and also with certain sound cues that sound as though they’d fit better in a cartoon than in a live action feature.

If not for a few inconsistencies in the vast amount of jokes being hurled at the screen and some dips in the film’s momentum TED could very well have been a contender for best comedy of the year. Seth MacFarlane has proven himself capable of creating and sustaining an incredible amount of comedic energy as evident in the immensely successful Family Guy series and it seems that TED dips into that well a few too many times to be something truly unique. However, due to quite a few laugh out loud sequences and jokes, an undeniably fun and touching bond between John and his talking bear and a satisfying bit of genuine heart towards the end, TED rises above its faults to be a very fun bit of comedic cinema. It’s a film tailor made for fans of Family Guy and MacFarlane’s other projects but proves itself to be filled with more than just useless stuffing.

Rating: B