Established May 2010.

Gordie: Do you think I'm weird?
Chris: Definitely.
Gordie: No man, seriously. Am I weird?
Chris: Yeah, but so what? Everybody's weird.

Film Critic for Twin Cities Live

Member of THE LAMB: The Large Association of Movie Blogs LAMB #1588

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Friday, August 30, 2013

Movie Trailer: PARKLAND

Director: Peter Landesman
Starring: Zac Efron, Jacki Weaver, Marcia Gay Harden, Billy Bob Thornton, Paul Giamatti, Tom Welling, Ron Livingston, Jackie Earl Haley

If you are familiar with the more specific details of the JFK assassination, you know that Parkland refers to the Parkland Hospital where President Kennedy was rushed to after the shooting. He eventually died there along with his assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, and Oswald's assassin, Jack Ruby.

The star-studded film is based on the book "Four Days in November" by Vincent Bugliosi and is a multi-storied look into the aftermath of the Kennedy assassination. The studio is advertising it as "the story you know, the people you don't." My brother was the first to show me this trailer, and it definitely peaked my interest. There have been numerous movies, books, and TV specials that follow the Kennedy family and the tragedy that fell on America on November 22, 1963, each taking their own spin on the story. I continue to be fascinated about that day no matter how many different perspectives I hear about it. Even if you think you know this story, there is always something new to take in.

Release Date: October 4, 2013

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Thursday, August 29, 2013


Director: Jean-Marc Vallée
Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Jennifer Garner, Jared Leo, Denis O'Hare, Steve Zahn, Dallas Roberts

Dallas Buyers Club has already gotten huge buzz as it is also "The Movie Where Matthew McConaughey Lost a Lot of Weight". Pictures of a very gaunt McConaughey and Jared Leto in drag surfaced while filming and it made all the headlines. The film is inspired by the true story of Ron Woodroof (McConaughey) who tests positive for HIV in 1986 and given only months to live. He takes matters into his own hands by taking alternative non-approved drugs and smuggling them from all over the country. Word spreads about his drugs and supplements and other patients seek him out for their own supply.

McConaughey has really turned his career around lately. He has distanced himself away from the the dopey rom-coms he had been cracking out. In 2012, he had strong performances across the board in Magic Mike, Bernie, The Paperboy, and Killer Joe. In 2013, he received high praise for Mud and will also be appearing in Martin Scorsese's The Wolf of Wall Street. I am pretty sure someone is hoping for an Oscar nomination between any of his three films.

RELEASE DATE: November 1, 2013

Here's the trailer:

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Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Movie Trailer: DIVERGENT

Director: Neil Burger
Starring: Shailene Woodley, Kate Winslet, Miles Teller, Theo James, Ashley Judd, Tony Goldwyn, Zoe Kravitz

The success of the Harry Potter and Twilight movies have led to a new genre of movies based on young adult novels, particularity books of a series. Within the past two years, there have been numerous pre-teen/teen sagas to hit the big screen hoping to be the next big thing. Studios are willing to produce them as they can be huge cash cows. If they can drum up some big names in the lead roles, it can be even more lucrative. Some are huge successes like The Hunger Games while others seem to fizzle like Beautiful Creatures and The Mortal Instruments.

The next young adult series headed to the big screen is Divergent based upon the books by Veronica Roth. If you saw The Spectacular Now, you are familiar with Shailene Woodley and Miles Teller. Woodley shined in The Descendants, which may be more familiar to you. She stars as Beatrice Prior who lives in a dystopian Chicago which has now been divided into five factions based on particular virtues. At the age of 16, Beatrice must decide which faction she belongs to and live with the consequences that come with that decision. What would a young adult series be like without some sort of dangerous initiation process and a love story to get in the way of our heroine.

Now you may be thinking, Paul, why do you care about this movie? The trailer looks interesting and has more appeal than some of the supernatural/vampire/magical type universes we've seen in other teen dramas. I would also like to point out that my KATE WINSLET plays a huge part in it! She is really the reason why I have an interest in this movie. I have followed Kate from very early on in her career and firmly believe she is one of the best actresses working today. To top it off, she steps outside her normal realm and plays the villain in the movie!

What are your thoughts on Divergent? Is it the next big hit or just another teen saga to add to the list?

Release Date: March 21, 2014

Here's the trailer:

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Monday, August 26, 2013

Movie Trailer: SALINGER

Director: Shane Salerno
Starring: Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Edward Norton, John Cusack, John Guare, Tom Wolfe, Danny DeVito

When I saw Blue Jasmine last week, I was fascinated by a new documentary coming out from Shane Salerno. Salerno digs deep into the life of reclusive author J.D. Salinger. I think it is pretty safe to say that almost anyone that read their required reading list in high school has read "The Catcher in the Rye". I know I read it and loved it. I still consider it my favorite book but I haven't read it since my high school days. Would I still sympathize with the misunderstood Holden Caulfield or find him annoying? Maybe I'll pick it up again soon.

Salerno has interviewed dozens of actors, writers, journalists, family, and friends of Salinger to delve into why people are so fascinated by him. I am intrigued by all of the controversy that surrounds like book. How does one book move someone like Mark David Champman to murder? Salerno definitely seems to have done his research and literary fans will most likely flock to to this documentary to learn more about his life.

Here's the trailer:

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Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Movie Review: BLUE JASMINE

Writer/Director: Woody Allen
Starring: Cate Blanchett, Alec Baldwin, Sally Hawkins, Andrew Dice Clay, Louis C.K., Bobby Cannavale, Peter Sarsgaard, Michael Stuhlbarg

Cate Blanchett. Cate Blanchett. Cate Blanchett. She has portrayed Elizabeth I, Katherine Hepburn, Bob Dylan, Galadriel the Elf, and was the object of Judi Dench's affection. All fantastic performances, yet one of the most riveting portrayals comes in Woody Allen's latest, Blue Jasmine. Jasmine (Blanchett) is trying to start a new life. She leaves New York and moves to San Francisco to live with her sister, Ginger (Hawkins). They are both adopted and could not be any more different. Ginger believes Jasmine was always the favorite daughter as she was the pretty one.

Jasmine's life has been turned upside down. Her husband Hal (Baldwin) was a wealthy businessman who was caught in embezzlement and fraud. Hal and Jasmine had more money than they knew what to do with, but it was dirty money that was not really theirs in the first place. Jasmine, of course, was oblivious to what was really going on. She was a socialite that had all of the designer clothes, numerous houses, and had all the time in the world for dinner parties, yoga, and pilates classes. It all came crashing down leaving Hal in jail and Jasmine left with “nothing” so she claims. Ginger quickly points out the fact that she still has her collection of Louis Vitton luggage and somehow flew first class to get to San Francisco.

Ginger lives a much simpler and cheaper life. She bags groceries for a living and has two sons from her ex-husband Augie (Dice Clay). Always one to be dating and flirting, she is now dating a younger brutish guy named Chili (Cannavale). It doesn't take long for Chili to come to Ginger's defense and question Jasmine's motives. She had practically ignored her sister and now that she is broke she swoops in to live with her and ask for her help. Jasmine needs all the help she can get as she has suffered a nervous breakdown and has begun talking to herself due to the fall of her marriage and lifestyle.

I would like to think of myself as a pretty big Woody Allen fan. I own a majority of his work and Annie Hall sits at #7 on my Top 10 list. Not many writer/directors, outside of say Tyler Perry, pop out a new film every year. I do admit that he does have his faults and some of his movies are not great. That’s what happens after fifty years in the business. Not all of them can be cinematic masterpieces. When you meet a Woody Allen fan, they will have their favorite decade or set of themes. I am more likely to pop in one of his more physical comedies of the ‘70s any day of the week before the majority of the ones that came in the 2000s era. Some love his more existential films of the ‘80s. Lately when his movies work, they really work like Midnight in Paris. If they flop, they really flop. Blue Jasmine really works on so many levels.

Allen’s script is one of the most well-rounded, dimensional, thought-proving pieces he has written in quite some time. There is no denying that there are parallels between this and “A Streetcar Named Desire” and the fall of Bernie Madoff. Many of his films lately have only seen the characters as they are in the short time frame of that story. We see the characters of Blue Jasmine throughout an extended period of time as the film shifts between Jasmine’s current life in San Francisco and the extravagant life she led in New York. It reminded me of Annie Hall in its non-linear approach. We get inside the turmoil and frustration that the fall of Hal had on all of our characters, not just Jasmine. How long can you stay happy in a delusional world? What happens when the truth is exposed and it all comes crashing down on you?

Allen has created some fantastic characters over the years leading to great material for many of his actors. Dianne Wiest, Michael Caine, Mira Sorvino, Diane Keaton, and Penelope Cruz have all won Oscars playing some of Woody's characters. Blue Jasmine is no exception. The whole cast is fantastic. I have heard that his direction is simple with very few takes, but he gets such rich performances out of his actors. Is that the writing, directing, or the actors giving it all their own on their own doing? I guess it is a mix of each. There is not one phoned in performance with each actor giving their A-game. Allen has given each one of them moments to shine. Andrew Dice Clay is known more for his stand-up routine, but I hope he is given more acting opportunities after this. He gives a very real and honest performance that is completely reigned in and far different than you would expect from his comedic persona. I am slightly embarrassed to say that I have not seen enough of Sally Hawkins' work before. Cate Blanchett may be getting all of the attention for her performance, but Hawkins is just as heartbreaking, genuine, and flawed. Can we start mentioning how great Hawkins is at the same time we talk about how great Blanchett is?

I would be highly surprised if Blanchett is not nominated for an Oscar for her work here. I've been throwing around the "O" word quite a bit lately in my reviews. I guess we are getting into that season. Every moment Blanchett is on screen, she is captivating. I could not stop watching every little move or vocal choice she made. I was enamored whenever Jasmine would talk out loud to herself or carry on conversations with full strangers. I have witnessed many people doing this throughout my years of working downtown. She makes so many specific and intricate choices to showcase the wide range of Jasmine between high socialite to post nervous breakdown to her trying to get better and make better choices. The film has another "A Streetcar Named Desire" connection as Blanchett has played Blanche DuBois on stage. You know how they always show a scene from a movie when they announce each nominee? There are plenty of scenes to choose from as the "Oscar telecast" scene to show off her brilliant performance.

There are plenty of people who have written off Woody Allen saying he is past his prime or they cannot put aside his personal life. I think the naysayers would be surprised and pleased with his latest. It is one of his strongest films in quite some time. It is not a straight up comedy with the typically Woody Allen neurotic banter, but the film is still funny at times at how shockingly delusional these characters can be. The humor is mixed in to off-set the sadness and uncomfortable moments that come with Jasmine's pain. Blue Jasmine has the depth that many Allen films of late have been missing.

RATING: **** 1/2 (4.5 out of 5 stars)

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Friday, August 16, 2013


Director: Lee Daniels
Starring: Forest Whitaker, Oprah Winfrey, David Oyelowo, Lenny Kravitz, Cuba Gooding, Jr. Terrence Howard

Director Lee Daniels has lined up one hell of an ensemble for his latest movie. The movie is a who’s who of Oscar winners and heavy hitters. Do not let the trailer fool you; the story is more about the butler’s family than all the presidents the butler worked for. As a young boy, Cecil Gaines (Whitaker) grew up working as a field servant and a house servant on a cotton field. When he is old enough to leave that volatile environment, he gets taken in by a restaurant manager who realizes he is in need of help. He takes him under his wing and teaches him the proper etiquette to be a waiter and butler. After twenty years of serving the guests of the Excelsior Hotel, Cecil’s extraordinary service gets noticed. He gets a call from the White House to work as a butler under President Eisenhower (Robin Williams). For someone from his background, this was an opportunity that only dreams were made of. Cecil would go on to work for each president from the Eisenhower administration through Ronald Reagan (Alan Rickman).

The film centers around the Gaines family and how they deal with the shift in equality for an African American family from the years of the Civil Rights Movement to the eventual run of the first African American president. Cecil’s work in the White House provides support for his wife Gloria (Winfrey) and sons Louis (Oyelowo) and Charlie (Elijah Kelly). Louis grows up to take his life into a different direction by fighting for equality. Much to his parents dismay for his safety, he joins the Freedom Riders, becomes a member of Martin Luther King’s inner circle, and later joins the Black Panthers. Charlie decides to head into battle in Vietnam. Gloria has trouble coping and dealing with the fact her husband is never home and the lives of her sons are always in jeopardy. Cecil remains devoted and faithful to her throughout the years despite some of the choices she makes in dealing with her depression.

Whenever I see “inspired by a true story” in the credits, I translate that to mean that the idea for the film may be based on a real person, but the majority of the story and its characters are fictitious and made-up for dramatic purposes. The screenplay by Emmy winner Danny Strong (Game Change) is adapted from a Washington Post article called, “A Butler Well Served by This Election” by Wil Haygood. The character of Cecil Gaines is based on Eugene Allen who served under eight presidents from Truman to Reagan. He had a wife, one son, and the ending of the movie is similar to the events in Allen’s life, but other than that, the majority of the film is fictional. Some may feel like the film is a choppy Cliff Notes storyline of the history of each of these presidents. I disagree as Strong’s idea to turn the movie into a family story grounds the film and makes it more humane in tone without feeling like a boring special on the History Channel.

Some of the casting may seem a bit gimmicky like having Robin Williams play Eisenhower or John Cusack play Richard Nixon. Surprisingly enough, the majority of the casting works pretty well. The trailer makes it look like they have supporting roles, but many are glorified cameos in one or two scenes. Cusack may not look like Nixon, but he does have the voice down. Many of these actors (Gooding, Kravitz, Carey, Cusack, and Oyelowo) have appeared in Daniels’ other films. If only Jane Fonda could have been in more of the movie as Nancy Reagan. She is quite good in the five minutes we see her. The real standouts are Whitaker, Winfrey, and Oyelowo. It is a bummer that many people forget Winfrey is quite a talented actress. I do not think she or others give her the credit she deserves. Gloria is by no means an easy walk-on role. It is even more impressive as this is her first film in fifteen years since 1998’s Beloved. Winfrey and Whitaker stretch themselves vocally and physically to age their characters at an appropriate pace in the sixty years the film spans. Kudos to the hair and make-up team for their work at aging those characters as well as their work on the other historical figures.

With only four movies under his belt, Lee Daniels is growing as a director. He makes interesting choices with his projects and casting decisions. I do not feel like he is ever playing it completely safe. His ideas may not always work out, but I appreciate his approach and outlook as a filmmaker. Precious was an intense film that packs a punch, but it is a one-time-only film for me. The Paperboy, unfortunately, was a bit of a muddled mess. Lee Daniels’ The Butler may get a bit sentimental for audiences looking for a more historical to-the-point look at the time period. Again, I disagree. Daniels gets fantastic performances out of his cast and keeps the pace going swiftly despite all of the ground he is trying to cover. Strong’s screenplay is sharp enough without ever feeling too “let’s feel sorry for the characters”. There are plenty of good laughs, times you’ll be embarrassed by history, and times you will cheer for the Gaines family. I saw it with a packed house and there were numerous audible reactions along the way.

The movie is definitely aiming for some Oscar gold here. You’ve got your inspirational storyline, historical setting and timeline, stand-out performances, and Oscar winning cast members. We shall see if it is still remembered come voting season. It is produced by The Weinstein Company who love to campaign hard for their movies. Like Fruitvale Station, I think it is another important film to see to remind us of how far we have come regarding equality in this country.

RATING: **** 1/2 (4.5 out of 5 stars)

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Tuesday, August 13, 2013


Writer/Director: Ryan Coogler
Starring: Michael B. Jordan, Melonie Diaz, Octavia Spencer, Chad Michael Murray

Alright, members of the Academy, pay attention to young actor Michael B. Jordan. He is simply incredible as Oscar Grant III. The film is based on a true story, and the tone of the movie is set right away as we watch footage from a cell phone camera of the policy brutality against the real life Grant and his friends by the Bay Area Rapid Transit officers. If you have heard anything about the story of Oscar Grant III, you know the outcome of that evening left a mark on history.

The majority of the story takes place in the twenty-four hours leading up to the incident at Fruitvale station. Oscar has had a bit of a troubled past but is trying to refocus his life and get it back in order. He spent time jail but has since been released. He used to work at a grocery store but got fired for showing up late too often. He begs his manager for his job back, but to no avail. He has dealt marijuana before but is leery of getting back into that web of trouble. Oscar is not your average stereotype of someone you may think of in this type of lifestyle. He is a devout family man who loves his girlfriend Sophina (Diaz) and daughter more than anything else in life. Oscar also seems to be the crutch of the family as his sister tries to borrow money from him which he does not have. Of course, he takes on the burden to help her out. He plans and organizes a birthday party for his mom Wanda (Spencer) who has been a backbone for him. She is strong, tough, and keeps him accountable for his actions and the consequences that follow. Upon his mother’s advice, Oscar and Sophina take a train into town after the party to meet up with friends. She assumed that the train would be safer and did not want there to be any issues with drinking and driving. There is no way she could have predicted the events that followed at Fruitvale station.

I think we as a society assume have come a long way, but when you see instances like the Oscar Grant travesty or the Trayvon Martin case, you can’t help but feel like we have taken a step back. The audience knows at the beginning of the film how it is going to end, but there is that internal hope we have that everything will be fine, but it is not. Coogler draws you into Oscar’s life without shying away from any of the negative aspects. Some directors or storytellers may have sugar coated him or completely showed him as an innocent victim in the wrong spot at the wrong time. While that is true, the film’s tagline “Every step brings you closer to the edge” also rings true. Oscar is continually struggling with the concept that all of the choices he has made in life, whether they are good or bad, have an impact on his future. You may not think about it on a day to day basis, but our future is continually molded by the choices we have made no matter how big or inconsequential they are. There are so many things leading up to the incident that may or may not have caused the outcome. It really is hard to watch the police brutality and know that this is a very real story and one that continues to happen. You see how Oscar made some bad choices in his past but has come around to making his life better for his family. He was not your average, stereotypical gang member that these officers thought he was.

If you have watched “The Wire”, “Friday Night Lights”, or “Parenthood” you are familiar with the fabulous young talent that is Michael B. Jordan. His performance is remarkable and heartbreaking as Oscar Grant III. He perfectly nails down the various attitudes, demeanors, and language he has towards the various people in his life. At the same time, he carries around that underlying built in aggression that he previously let loose which got him into trouble. A flashback scene involving Jordan and Spencer when he is in jail really showcases how quickly he can go between light conversations with his mother to the rage he has against the guards. I really hope The Academy takes notice of this film and Jordan’s performance. Speaking of the Oscars, previous Oscar winner Octavia Spencer proves she does not have the Supporting Actor curse after this strong performance. There is more restraint and control in how she deals with the incident than I would have expected.

First time director Ryan Coogler packs a wallop of a punch. It is hard to describe the emotional gut response this film brings. It is not an easy film to watch, but it is a very important story to tell for years to come. It is by far one of the best of the year. Are you listening Oscar voters?

RATING: ***** (5 out of 5 stars)

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Sunday, August 11, 2013


Director: Rawson Marshall Thurber
Starring: Jason Sudeikis, Jennifer Aniston, Emma Roberts, Will Poulter, Nick Offerman, Kathryn Hahn, Ed Helms

A drug “smuggling” road trip movie whose characters are on the run from their Mexican drug lords. I feel like I’ve seen this before. Oh wait, I’m sure I have. David Clarke (Sudeikis) is that guy we all know that has never really grown up. He’s not married, has no kids, and lives in a bachelor style apartment. David is also a well-known marijuana dealer. His iPhone is constantly going off and has his supply fully organized and stashed away. I always like someone that is well organized. It is not too long into the movie when he is completely robbed of his weed and the tens of thousands of dollars he had with it.

He must fess up to his dealer Brad Gurdlinger (Helms) that he no longer has the money he owes him. Brad offers David an ultimatum as a way to repay him his debt. Brad tells David to cross the border into Mexico to smuggle back a “smidge and a half” of marijuana. David has no choice but to go along with the plan. He comes up with the idea of posing as a family in a RV in order to breeze through border patrol. Who would suspect a happy-go-lucky-ain’t-life-grand type of family of bringing drugs back into the country? David has no family so he decides to form one by bribing some of his neighbors. Rose O’Reilly (Aniston) makes her living as a stripper but is being evicted from her apartment. She sees no choice but to take David up on his offer as she desperately needs the money. Kenny, the dorky kid next door (Poulter) tags along as he has nothing better to do and wants to score some weed from David. To round out the family is Casey (Roberts), a pierced and tattooed runaway.

The newly formed Miller family heads out on the open road. Their stop inside the compound to pick up their “smidge and a half” is highly guarded with rifles pointing in every direction. The exchange goes rather smoothly despite the fact that the “smidge and a half” turns out to be enough pot to fill every nook and cranny of the RV. They get stopped at border patrol but ease on through after the under vehicle check. For the faux Millers this slight altercation turns out to be the least of their worries. What would a drug smuggling road trip movie be without some other hijinks and crazy characters along the way?

I have mentioned it in reviews past, but I get leery whenever I see more than one or two screenwriters listed in the credits. We’re the Millers boasts FOUR writers. I highly doubt that they all sat in a room together and came up with this script. It is by no means original, and frankly, it is not all that funny. One would think that with four writers the jokes and zingers would just come flying out of each actor’s mouths. There are some good laughs to be had, but I was not busting a gut every time Sudeikis delivered a line.

I sometimes wonder why editors leave the funniest moments and punch lines for the blooper reel. Some of the best laughs of the movie come in the blooper reel. It set in stone the reason why this movie semi-works. This cast is able to take a weak script and run with it themselves to get some laughs out of it. Nick Offerman and Kathryn Hahn (both from TV’s “Parks and Recreation”) pop up as another RV riding Christian family that the “Millers” meet along the way. They are always funny no matter what project they do. You may not know the name Kathryn Hahn but you will probably recognize her. Another stand-out is British actor Will Poulter as Kenny. He is definitely not afraid to do anything for a laugh. The movie does have an interesting take on the idea of getting to know strangers and not judging the book by the cover. I must admit, the ending did take me by surprise. I assumed I knew what was going to happen within the first half hour, but I am glad that I was wrong. The movie is not terrible, but there are funnier pot movies out there if you are in the need for a late night high fest.

RATING: ** 1/2 (2.5 out of 5 stars)

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Wednesday, August 7, 2013


Director: James Mangold
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Tao Okamoto, Rila Fukushima, Svetlana Khodchenkova, Famke Janssen, Haruhiko Yamanouchi

Hugh Jackman is back in familiar territory as he straps on the claws for his sixth outing as the infamous mutant Logan, aka Wolverine. During the bombing of Nagasaki, Logan saves the life of Officer Yashida from the blast and in turn reveals his secret powers of healing and immortality in the process. Logan is severely burned by shielding Yashida from the blast but instantly heals in front of him. Time passes and in present day Japan, a very old Yashida (Yamanouchi) is dying and wants to find Logan to repay his lifelong debt to him.

Yashida sends fellow mutant Yukio (Fukushima) to hunt down Logan and bring him to his death bed. Logan agrees after seeing the effects of Yukio’s abilities. Logan finds out that Yashida’s plan of gratitude is not as simple as it seems. Through the use of his technology company, Yashida wants to transfer Logan’s healing power to himself in order to live forever and rid Logan of the crippling idea of immortality that has plagued him. Logan refuses the offer and Yashida dies the next day. At the funeral, Yashida’s granddaughter Mariko (Okamoto) is the target of a kidnapping plot by a bunch of gangsters as part of a bigger plan involving Yashida’s estate and the future of his company. Logan is able to rescue her only after taking a brutal beating and rounds of bullets to his body. He notices his healing powers are not working as quickly as they normally do. Yukio tries to warn him as she continues to get visions of his death. Yashida’s doctor, Dr. Green (Khodchenkova), is not to be trusted as she is also a mutant known as Viper with a wicked tongue and lethal toxic that she seductively blows into her victims’ bodies, Logan being one of them.

There is a lot riding on The Wolverine as the second solo X-Men related movie. X-Men Origins: Wolverine was considered a massive dud by many fans of the series. Hugh Jackman knew that special care was going to have to be placed in the story and characters if another solo Wolverine movie were to get made. You have to win back the trust of a loyal fan base now that you pissed them off with the horrible origins movie. It is easy to say that The Wolverine is better than X-Men Origins: Wolverine but it does not take much to reach that level. Even with that being said, it still does not live up to the quality of other films in the comic book turned movie genre. It is further proof that this character may not have what it takes for a solo movie. We have seen that many of Marvel’s Avengers can have their stand-alone movies. In theory one would think the character of Logan/Wolverine could work outside of the other X-Men, but like The Hulk, two movies have proven something is amiss.

It is easy to dislike a movie when it has cheesy dialogue, terrible characters, or fake special effects. I sometimes find it more problematic when a movie falls flat and feels boring. Viper, played by Svetlana Khodchenkova, is the main mutant villain but bears a striking resemblance to Poison Ivy in Batman and Robin. Like Poison Ivy, she makes for a weak, forgettable villain. Same goes for the gangsters that are after Mariko. The Japanese setting provides for some nice samurai style fight choreography, but most of the fights scenes are nothing special. I’m a sucker for fights on top of moving trains, so that chase was the only fight of the movie to leave a lasting impression and it came early on in the movie. As the semi-punk mutant fighter Yukio, Rila Fukushima is making her big screen debut. She has the best of the three main female characters, but again, I did not feel anything special about her.

The story touches upon Logan’s struggles with his immortality and the constant fact that everyone will die around him. He is constantly haunted by his former lover and fellow mutant Jean Grey (Janssen) who he had to kill in X-Men: The Last Stand. I found this sub-plot and themes between Logan’s identity crisis much more appealing than the Japanese gangsters and the kidnapping plot. I suppose the film would get too bogged down and droopy if it was all about a depressed and mopey Wolverine.

After six movies, I am glad Hugh Jackman continues to play Wolverine. I cannot imagine another actor in this role and after so many outings Jackman knows how to give him a life and dimension that other characters in the genre do not always have. The Japanese setting is a nice departure for the character and gives the film a very different look and feel from any of the others in the series. Along with the samurai style fighting, the cinematography and costume design is also enriched by the Japanese culture. Director James Mangold has had some career hits (Girl, Interrupted, Walk the Line) and some misses (Kate & Leopold, Knight and Day). While there are some nice touches along the way, I’d chuck this one in the misses pile. Mangold plays it far too safe the majority of the time. Is it bad that the best part of the movie came after the movie during the middle of the credits? Marvel always adds in a little mid-credit tease to their movies. I do not want to give too much away, but I was grinning ear-to-ear as it is a lead up to next year’s X-Men: Days of Future Past. I just wish I would have had that sensation during the actual movie.

RATING: ** (2 out of 5 stars)

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