Film Review: The Wolverine (2013)

Also known as: Wolverine 2 (working title), Wolverine: Inmortal (Spanish language title), Wolverine: Samurai (Japan)
Release Date: July 16th, 2013 (London premiere)
Directed by: James Mangold
Written by: Mark Bomback, Scott Frank
Based on: Wolverine by Chris Claremont, Frank Miller
Music by: Marco Beltrami
Cast: Hugh Jackman, Hiroyuki Sanada, Tao Okamoto, Rila Fukushima, Famke Janssen, Will Yun Lee, Svetlana Khodchenkova, Haruhiko Yamanouchi, Brian Tee, Patrick Stewart (cameo), Ian McKellan (cameo)

Marvel Entertainment, The Donners’ Company, TSG Entertainment, 20th Century Fox, 126 Minutes, 138 Minutes (Extended Edition)

Review:

“Your grandfather called me a ronin, a samurai without a master. He said I was destined to live forever, with no reason to live.” – Logan

The Wolverine did a pretty good job of making up for the mostly terrible X-Men Origins: Wolverine movie. Also, it was the film I wanted instead of Origins because when I first heard that they planned on a solo Wolverine film, I immediately hoped that they would tap into his Japan stories. I just had to wait a few more years for that, I guess.

Everything about this film is really good, except two things.

The first, is that it was drawn out a bit too much. I felt like it could have been whittled down by twenty minutes or so and had a much better flow to it.

The second, is the villains. I loved the story but the baddies were weak as hell and really uninteresting.

Viper has never been a character that’s been a big deal in the comics and I’ve never really cared about her. In this, she just never felt like a real threat. She spits acid but in a film where the hero is Wolverine, who heeled from a nuclear bomb blast in the first five minutes. So now I’m supposed to worry about him getting acid spit in his face?

The other villain is a more well-known character from the comics, the Silver Samurai. However, he isn’t really the Silver Samurai here, he’s just an old dying Japanese billionaire wearing a mecha suit. Sure, the suit is adamantium but whatever. Tear that shit open like a tin can and squash the dude’s head like a grape. And again, he’s just not the real Silver Samurai.

Getting back to Viper, she stuck out like a sore, disfigured thumb. The reason why is because her acting was abominable. Everyone else in this film gave great performances. I don’t think it’s her lack of experience in acting that’s the issue, it’s just that her poor performance is greatly contrasted by how good everyone else is in this. She would blend in to a lesser film but every scene that she is in here, is bogged down by her performance. It really hindered key moments in the film.

Getting to the positives, there are more of those.

The story is great and I do love how it develops and evolves. It could have used better pacing but once you get to Japan, things really pick up and there is just a bit in the middle that could have been edited down because I didn’t need as much attention given to the romance story as this film felt it needed.

All of the action sequences are executed superbly, most of the CGI is pretty good and Hugh Jackman proved that he is perfect as this character, even if hardcore fans still complain that he’s too tall.

I also really enjoyed Rila Fukushima’s Yukio. She kind of made a good sidekick in the movie and I wish she had carried over into Logan, even though it was set well into the future.

James Mangold did a fine job resurrecting this franchise. This was a good first outing for him with the character, which only helped to make his Logan pretty close to a comic book movie masterpiece.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: all the other films starring Hugh Jackman as Wolverine.

Film Review: Walk the Line (2005)

Release Date: September 4th, 2005 (Telluride Film Festival)
Directed by: James Mangold
Written by: Gill Dennis, James Mangold
Based on: Man In Black: His Own Story In His Own Words and Cash: The Autobiography by Johnny Cash
Music by: T Bone Burnett
Cast: Joaquin Phoenix, Reese Witherspoon, Ginnifer Goodwin, Robert Patrick, Dallas Roberts

Fox 2000 Pictures, 20th Century Fox, 136 Minutes (theatrical cut), 153 Minutes (extended cut)

Review:

“You wear black ’cause you can’t find anything else to wear? You found your sound ’cause you can’t play no better? You just tried to kiss me because “it just happened?” You should try take credit for something every once in a while, John.” – June Carter

I’ve been a big fan of Johnny Cash since the age I first sprouted ears. That being said, I hadn’t seen this film until recently. Reason being, there were a ton of musical legend biopics popping up in the early 2000s and whether they were critical successes or not, I was pretty burnt out on them.

To be honest, I’m kind of glad that I waited, as I saw this at the right time, when I needed to. Plus, being a good distance away from the slew of other biopics that were in abundance back then, allowed me to appreciate this better than I would have in 2005. Also, my knowledge on old country and rockabilly is richer than it was in 2005, so I was really drawn in to all the other famous characters worked into this picture’s narrative.

Besides just being a really good movie, Walk the Line really gave me an understanding of who June Carter was and why Johnny loved her. The film gave me an appreciation and a respect for her that I didn’t have before. I have to give a lot of the credit for that to Reese Witherspoon, who won an Academy Award for her performance here and deservedly so. She also held her own musically and her performance of “Juke Box Blues” was energetic and awesome. Her duets with Joaquin Phoenix were quite amazing, as well.

Speaking of which, Phoenix truly knocks it out of the park with his performance as Johnny Cash. He had the voice, the mannerisms and exuded the presence of Cash. His covers of Cash’s songs were also well done and more than convincing. One thing that really worked extraordinarily well in this movie were the live performances. Everyone involved in this picture created musical magic.

The film was directed by James Mangold, who most recently directed Hugh Jackman’s swan song as Wolverine, the stupendous Logan. From his work on this film, I can see why Mangold was given the reins to helm two Wolverine films, both of which were really good.

Walk the Line isn’t a perfect movie but it is a solid biopic that is only enhanced by the talent of its stars, its director and its stellar musical performances.

Rating: 8.5/10

Film Review: Logan (2017)

Release Date: February 17th, 2017 (Berlin premiere)
Directed by: James Mangold
Written by: Scott Frank, James Mangold, Michael Green
Based on: the character of Wolverine created by Roy Thomas, Len Wein, John Romita Sr.
Music by: Marco Beltrami
Cast: Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Richard E. Grant, Boyd Holbrook, Stephen Merchant, Dafne Keen, Elizabeth Rodriguez

Marvel Entertainment, TSG Entertainment, Kinberg Genre, Hutch Parker Entertainment, The Donners’ Company, 137 Minutes

Review:

To sum up this motion picture in one line: Logan made me sprout a third testicle bigger than the original two combined.

Initial reaction aside, I figured that I should talk about the film more in depth, as opposed to summing up a two-plus hour movie with the length of a tweet. Granted, that’s all people really have time to read anymore.

For those still sticking around, Logan was exactly the film I wanted, the film fans deserved and another clear indication that PG-13 superhero flicks have gotten really fucking lame. Logan like Deadpool before it, got a pretty hard R for a rating. And truthfully, Logan is even more hardcore in the violence department than its predecessor, which relied on not just violence but a lot of good old fashioned potty humor. Logan does not bring the potty humor. Instead, it brings a huge body count and a lot of severed limbs.

The movie is hardly a festival of gore but it certainly isn’t an X-Men picture for the kids or those who are offended by a little… okay, a lot of blood splatter and knives through heads.

Logan is not a comic book movie relying on cheap parlor tricks, however. It is a damn good movie, through and through. Everything good about The Wolverine is magnified here, without the flaws. James Mangold directed both films but with Logan he showed how far he has come since the last solo Wolverine movie and this, the final chapter in the character’s seventeen year and nine film run.

This was like the Mad Max: Fury Road of comic book movies. It was gritty, balls out and pulled absolutely no punches. Where I was sure it would try and play it safe, it did not. In fact, I was a bit taken aback by some of the things that happened but the shock of those moments, made the film greater than it would have been if the filmmakers let off of the gas.

The picture was shot magnificently and it plays more like a modernized western, which it actually is, than a popcorn comic book flick. The film even shows Patrick Stewart’s Charles Xavier showing the classic western Shane to the young Laura, the girl he and Logan are protecting from a posse of really bad men.

It was nice to see the film feature Caliban, who was a total jerk in the comic books, but the story here shows him later in life, trying to somewhat atone for the sins he committed against his kind.

Laura, or X-23, is also really great and she is actually better than I could have imagined her before seeing the film. She does some really intense things physically and fights like no other kid has, in the long history of watching movies. X-23 makes Kick-Ass‘ Hit Girl look like a Powerpuff Girl.

Charles Xavier, or Professor X, comes full circle as a character. Sure, we saw his end way back in 2006 with X-Men: The Last Stand, the finale of the original trilogy of films, but this was a more fitting and sentimental end to the character’s story. Also, Patrick Stewart knocks it out of the park like never before. Having played this character for so long, Stewart was really connected to Xavier on a deeper level than what has been seen before Logan.

The villains were pretty interesting and the best of the Wolverine trilogy. Boyd Holbrook played the cool and calculating cyborg soldier Pierce. Richard E. Grant played Dr. Rice, an evil scientist that feels a lot like a classic Peter Cushing character. There was another big bad that Wolverine had to match up against but I won’t spoil it for those who haven’t seen the film.

Logan is one of the best superhero films ever made. Its strength is that it isn’t done in the vein of other superhero films. It is its own thing like Deadpool was a year earlier. It challenges the formula, breaks the mold and has genuine gravitas. It is heartwarming and painful. It generates a level of emotion missing from the genre. It also feels a lot closer to reality than anything else that has ever come out from the worlds of Marvel or DC.

Rating: 9/10