Thursday, July 25, 2013

The Wolverine or The Let Down?

      Hugh Jackman is back in his sixth outing as every one's favorite Canadian X-Man. Wolverine's first solo adventure on the big screen left much to be desired. If you think about it, all of Fox's X-Men projects are filled with flaws. The Wolverine is no exception, but it is much easier to overlook the flaws in this film than in any previous one. Is it the Wolverine that we all want? NO. It is however a good take on the character and an all around decent film.

  After surviving Hiroshima, we fast forward to a mentally broken Logan living alone in the Canadian wilderness. He is scarred by the events of X-Men:The Last Stand. He is sought our by Yukio and brought to the orient to say good by to a dying man whom he saved many years prior.
In modern day Japan, Wolverine is out of his depth in an unknown world as he faces ninja, samurai, and yakuza all while feeling a little more mortal than he's used to.Vulnerable for the first time and pushed to his physical and emotional limits, he confronts not only lethal samurai steel but also his inner demons all while finding love along the way.

   Anyone familiar with Logan's story knows that one of the great loves of his life is Mariko Yashida. In the movie she is played very well by Tao Oakomoto. Mariko is tough yet vulnerable and the movie does a good job of showing Logan's human side when he's around her. They don't stray too far from the source material where she is concerned and the film is better for it.

    Yuiko (Rila Fukoshima) might have been my favorite character in the film. She is hinted at being a mutant, but in the comic she isn't. They give her this kind of premonition power, but never come right out and say she is a mutant. She does have the same epic martial arts skill as her comic counterpart and again they keep the basic essence of the character intact.

  The character that they truly screw up royally is the Silver Samurai. Screwed up, but not nearly as bad as you might think. The Samurai is NOT a robot. This was the big fear seeing the trailer. This films version of the Samurai works, but they totally ruin the character of Harada. While he is school to watch, he is little more than the token best ninja of the group. The charged swords are there, but not via mutant ability. I am not sure if the general population will mind this version of the samurai and I looked at it is a way to possibly start the character and fix him later. He is wrong, but not even close to how wrong Deadpool was in the first Wolverine.

  Spoilers begin here so skip ahead if you want to remain in the dark. OK. I am lost and irritated over his loss of adamantium claws. I feel like Fox wanted to show his bone claws, which I can understand in a movie about Logan's vulnerability. I get it, but I don't like it. My biggest flaw with Fox controlling the mutant franchise is the way the mess with all of the characters. Silver Samurai does not have a sword that can cut Wolverine's claws. One of the most epic moments in Wolverine lore is when Magneto gets pissed at Logan and rips his adamantium through his pores. The movie only has him lose his claws, but if I were to call shenanigans during the film it would be here.  Spoiler over.

 The Jean Grey stuff was good and more than originally thought. The Viper was done well and for the most part they stick to what was loved about the comics Japanese arc. Hugh Jackman still is Wolverine. He might be a little tall, but he gets the character and still looks great as Logan. The movie has flaws, but not enough to ruin it. The story doesn't pace as fast as origins, but it is far more serious in tones. The romance isn't forced and the stunts and C.G.I. are on par. There is an EPIC after credit scene that sets up Days of Future Past! I wish personally that the wouldn't have even referenced the horrific third X-Men, but what's done is done. It's not perfect, but it is a step in the right direction. Jackman is great and Wolverine is still the best at what he does.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Pacific Rim ...A Cartoon Come to Life

  It's summer and it wouldn't be complete without giant robots going head to head with equally giant monsters. In a nut shell, it's all you really need to know about Pacific Rim. Any one who likes anime or has seen an episode of Voltron will check this out, but what about plot? Does Pacific Rim deliver or is it just eye candy or two hours of sensory overload. It is a combination of a lot of things.

Giant aliens that are comparable to Godzilla have come to earth through a dimensional portal. Our military takes out the first but it levels cities. Time passes more come and we are in a war with big alien monsters that is wiping out human life. The countries of the world unite and we fight back. Jets and tanks are not enough. Kaiju (Japanese for big monster) are too powerful so we build our own monsters. Jaegers (German for hunter) are giant robots created to stop the threat. After a horrible battle, a former pilot is brought back to fly one of four remaining Jaegers in one final stand against the alien beasts.

 The film combines several different elements. Del Toro admits to being influenced by a specific anime film, but Pacific Rim borrows from several things. It is a little Robotech, Voltron, and Godzilla all rolled into one. The pilots wear a special body suit that looks nearly identical to the Cyclone Armor in Robotech: The New Generation (Mospeda). The Jaegers are controlled by two pilots who are joined together in a mind meld. In the movie it's called drifting. They share each others memories and each represents a hemisphere of the brain. They control the machines in a very X Box connect kind of way, but much more advanced. The movie opens and drops you right into the action and the process of how all of this works. Very well done and very attention grabbing.

  The Jaegers are cool, but outside of Gypsy Danger you don't get to see much of them. Gypsy isn't bad, but it would have been cool to see more of the others in action. The dialogue can be cheesy at times and the film is fairly predictable. My biggest problem was all of the dark and water makes it hard to really see what is going on most of the time. The 3D and C.G.I. makes for a lot of sensory overload and if I had one major flaw of the movie it would be that. Visual overload aside, the film does have a lot going for it.

 The cast is full of characters with really cool names like Raliegh Becket, Hercules Hanson, and Stryker Pentecost. Charlie Hunnam and Idris Elba are the most recognizable outside of Ron Perlman who I found to be annoying. Fan boys will disagree because they love him from Hell Boy. Charlie Day is the comic relief and for mostly unknowns they all gel together. The dialogue is forced at times, but you don't see a film like this and not expect to see cheese. There is even a nice nod to Star Wars.

  It's a giant cartoon brought to life and at times I was ready for someone to scream, "form blazing sword!" Pacific Rim was a lot of fun. Not the best movie. In my opinion, not as good as Transformers. Sorry Bay haters. The concept was decent and the story simple. I feel like after 911 and The Boston Bombing, I am having difficulty watching cities be leveled. It is, however, impossible to unleash giant monsters and not destroy a building or four hundred. It's not the best movie of the summer, but far from the worst. My advice, suspend disbelief, grab some pop corn, be a kid again, and have a good time. When it comes to Pacific Rim, that's what I did.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

The Lone Ranger or Captain Jack Sparrow Goes West.....

   Westerns are a tough sell to the movie  goer in this generation. Young Guns worked for those of us who grew up in the late 80s and 90s, Unforgiven and True Grit won academy awards, but there are countless others who aren't very memorable. It's a genre for a different generation. Disney is making the attempt now. They have gambled and lost on things like John Carter, but with the team that brought you Pirates of the Caribbean we are saddling up for a ride through the old west.

   I am admittedly not very familiar with the characters. I know the television series was extremely popular and so was it's star Clayton Moore. I have some memory of my late grandfather being a fan and even taken a VERY young me to see the 1981 version of this movie, but I have never revisited the film. The Lone Ranger is a hero of a different time. A time when westerns were much cooler than today and the world was a much simpler place.

   Jon Reid is a lawyer returning to Colby, Texas in a very lawless time. Outlaws are everywhere and Butch Cavendish is one of the most dangerous. An early encounter with an Indian prisoner, a train prison break, and typical drama is how we begin. Reid and his brother are reunited and venture out to bring the outlaw Cavendish to justice. Jon and his brother are among a team of Texas Rangers who are betrayed and killed by Butch. Tonto is shocked to find Jon among the living and convinces him to avenge his brother and hunt down Cavendish. Throw in some gunfights, horse play, political scheming and you have a Disney western.

  The movie is a big production. It was plagued inflated budget rumors. There were also rumors of a battle with werewolves and other things supernatural. Disney is believed to have eliminated this part of the story after John Carter failed to find audiences. If you pay attention you can see signs of this part of the story. Like they did in Pirates, the world around John and Tonto is created very well. The trains and gunfights are fun to watch and the movie seems vaguely familiar, but still fun to follow.

  The supporting cast is where The Lone Ranger is weakest. The romance between Hammer and Wilson never feels right. We never really get enough back story. There are elements of family and tension, but they are barely addressed. You will probably recognize some of the outlaws from their time as part of a pirate crew, but it still plays well. Tom Wilkenson is a great villain, but not nearly ruthless enough. His character is the one that is probably the most predictable. The film has a few villains, but only one is done justice.

William Fichtner is great as Cavendish. The look is amazing and he is evil as much as a Disney Outlaw can be. He is a bit gross at times and comical as well. He plays Cavendish as a loose cannon and you know right away that he is a bad guy and one you shouldn't mess with. His character looks like he was meant to be more supernatural, but had that cut. What's left is still very entertaining and one of the movies highlights. He isn't quite as good as the Pirate's villains, but he pulls his weight none the less.

  This movie is about the leads. Depp and Hammer really hold the film together. They have great chemistry and it really works well throughout the film. Hammer's Reid is naive and honorable and holds his ideals very close. He spends the majority of the movie in conflict with Depp's Tonto. This is what I am told is very different from the original. Different can work and it does here.  Hammer looks the part even despite people disliking the color change of his suit. The film is called The Lone Ranger, but it is all about Tonto. Johnny Depp owns this movie. He plays a Tonto that you never really know whether is crazy or not. His Tonto is quirky much like Captain Jack Sparrow, but he is definitely Tonto and not Captain Jack goes west.

   It is a film that was plagued with negative rumors. One of the leads is virtual unknown. Westerns are not typically popular choices these days. All of those are reasons to doom a film. I am happy to say that it's not the case here. The Lone Ranger is fun, witty, and packed with a decent amount of action. Depp and Hammer have done a good job of reinventing old characters for a new generation.
I hope it does enough to merit a sequel. In a movie world full of super heroes, space ships, and zombies, I would have no problem saddling up for another ride into the old west.