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Logan – Review

6 Mar

The X-Men series of movies seems to have been around forever. The beloved team of mutant heroes were shown onscreen in live action for the first time back in 2000, and there are a few of these actors that are still playing the same roles almost two decades later. In this case, I’m talking about Hugh Jackman as Wolverine/Logan and Patrick Stewart as Charles Xavier/Professor X. Now, here in 2017, we’re seeing the departure of these two actors from their respective roles in the newest film of this series, Logan. What a movie to go out on. This isn’t just the best X-Men film to date, it may very well reign supreme as the best superhero film ever made.

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In the not so distant future, mutants are on the brink of extinction and have to go into hiding to avoid certain death squads and other forces that want them gone. One of these mutants is a much older Logan (Hugh Jackman) who is working as a limo driver to support his vices while also supporting a sickly Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart). A chance encounter with a nurse ends with a little girl, Laura (Dafne Keen), being left with Logan and Charles who are tasked with transporting Laura to a safe haven for mutants. Laura is soon revealed as a mutant test subject known as X-23, who is on the run from the company’s head of security, Donald Pierce (Boyd Holbrook), and his soldiers called the Reavers. Against Logan’s best wishes and attempts to rid himself of the responsibility, he takes both Laura and Charles out of their compound and begin their journey to the haven with Donald and his men hot on their tails.

There’s so much about this movie I want to dive right into that I have to force myself to stay focused. Let’s talk story first. I tried to keep my summary as vague as possible because there are so many layers and feelings that start to peel away as the movie goes on. It would be impossible to try and cover everything that is important in this movie because there isn’t one frame that is unnecessary. The story to Logan isn’t like any other X-Men movie, and it plays out like a very intense character drama as much as it is a graphically violent action film. The main reason this movie worked so well for me is because of how deep the story is and how it explored parts of these characters that were never seen before. The story is about Logan and Charles protecting X-23, but it’s also a story of family, regret, and severe, relentless pain. It’s can be a rough one at times, but I commend writer/director James Mangold and his co-writers for going there.

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The decision to make Logan rated R was a very smart move from 20th Century Fox, especially after the over the top success of Deadpool. This works great for the drama that I’ve already talked about as well as the action sequences. Let’s talk action, now. This is still a superhero movie, and a superhero movie completely devoid of action would be weird. Wolverine has always been viewed as an angry character prone to violent outbursts, and we’ve seen that in previous X-Men movies, but never like what I’ve just witnessed in Logan. This is Wolverine at his most unhinged. Limbs fly, heads roll, and the scenery is often times showered with pieces of whoever got in Logan’s way. What’s cool about it, also, is that it isn’t violence for the sake of violence. There’s a fair amount of action sequences that go heavy on the violence, but it has weight backing it up, and it never gets to a level that’s solely exploitive and gratuitous. It’s very well handled and was never anything less than exciting.

Finally, Logan has an excellent cast of characters and actors who play them to perfection. Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart have been playing these parts for years, so it’s pretty clear that they have their roles completely covered. Stewart gives a subtle and often sad performance here, where we see Professor X in ways that I’ve never thought I would. As for Hugh Jackman, this is simply his best performance. It’s controlled while also being ferocious, but the quieter and more contemplative scenes is where Jackman really shines by making Logan so vulnerable and appear so broken. There’s also some great newcomers to the series that are memorable. Dafne Keen, despite her relatively young age, is outstanding as X-23 and can really hold her own in terms of the ferociousness that is expected from the character. I also really enjoyed Boyd Holbrook’s portrayal of Donald Pierce, whose villainy oozed through every scene he was in. It’s exactly how I like my comic book bad guys.

I really wasn’t a fan of X-Men Origins or The Wolverine so I was really hoping that Logan was going to do the character right. Well, it sure does and it does even better than I could have hoped. It’s sad to see Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart bowing out of their roles, but this was the send off that they deserved. This is a powerful film that has some really heavy storytelling that will leave you teary eyed yet incredibly satisfied. This is the best written and executed entry of all the X-Men films and it brings something new and exciting to the superhero genre that can potentially change the game. I absolutely loved Logan.

Final Grade: A+

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Chappie – Review

18 Mar

When I first saw the trailers for Chappie with Neill Blomkamp’s name on it, I wanted to shoot right out of my seat and land in the closest theater and just wait there so I could be the first to see it. I feel like Blomkamp is at the head of the pack along with a few other in terms of modern science fiction movies. His films have this urban grit that meshes so well with the high tech sci-fi, and Chappie certainly isn’t any different. The troubling thing is that every critic seems to have major problems with it, and I found it to be far superior to his previous film, Elysium.

 

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In the near future, the police force in Johannesburg, South Africa is largely made up of state of the art police robots designed by Deon Wilson (Dev Patel). On his own time, however, Deon is working overtime trying to unlock the key to creating true artificial intelligence, a daunting task that eventually pays off. After stealing a deactivated police robot, Deon puts in the artificial intelligence chip, but not before being kidnapped by gangsters Amerika (Jose Pablo Cantillo) and Ninja and Yolandi (played by South African rap group Die Antwoord). When the robot comes to life and becomes aware of the surroundings, he is named Chappie (Sharlto Copely). As Ninja begins training Chappie to be a gangster for a major heist, Deon and Yolandi work to train Chappie in the finer things of life and protect him from the outside world. Meanwhile, Deon’s competitor in the company, Vincent Moore (Hugh Jackman), works to get his own police robot on the scene, no matter who has to die.

Compared to District 9 and ElysiumChappie feels like Blomkamp’s departure from a more violent and hopeless kind of science fiction. Both of the Blomkamp’s earlier movies leaves me feeling a strange sense of dread by the end of them, but Chappie made me feel different. There’s plenty of social commentary to be found, but I was way more interested in the characters and what happened to them. That being said, I felt that was the intention. There’s a lot of focus behind the differing factions of characters and the philosophical urges that push them. Then there’s Chappie, another memorable robot to add to the list of memorable robots. By the end of this movie, even though it doesn’t quite end on the happiest of notes, left me feeling a lot better for the situations and the characters than Blomkamp’s other movies did.

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There are plenty of great actors in this movie and a few quite interesting casting choices to really regard as a cinematic anomaly. The star of the whole show is Sharlto Copley who did the voice and motion capture for Chappie. Copley’s voice and movements bring Chappie to life more than any kind of advanced special effects could. He’s a tragic and interesting character and plays it to perfection. Dev Patel and Hugh Jackman work well as enemies, even though Jackman’s character was one of the least interesting parts of the entire movies. Finally, we have Ninja and Yolandi, a South African rap-rave group that seems to be playing themselves. I’m a big fan of Die Antwoord, and seeing them act was odd. Ninja was pretty on point and Yolandi did well with her character, but there were times where I was reminded that they weren’t trained actors. Still it was pretty wild to see them.

As I said before, Chappie dives right into social commentary in that strangely real way Neill Blomkamp does. District 9 brought racism to the screen in a way that was fresh and memorable while Elysium dealt with class differences in a classic science fiction sort of way. With Chappie, Blomkamp deconstructs the idea of a police state and a society that has become far too mechanized. This is a theme that plays very well with society today, in a world where technology seems to be going crazy. Combine that with the military, and things may continue looking bleak. It’s a smart way to go about telling a story, and it’s incredibly original in a world of reboots, remakes, and adaptations.

While Chappie isn’t quite District 9 it shoots past Elysium, and I’m baffled as to why critics are giving this movie such a hard time. Not only are there memorable characters, a sentimental feeling, and interesting commentary on technology and government, but all of that wrapped up in Neill Blomkamp’s distinct style. Not only is Chappie a good movie, Chappie is also a great movie. Suck it, critics.

X-Men: Days of Future Past – Review

11 Jun

The X-Men franchise, which has been around for over a decade (their movies at least), is a franchise that has had some strong up and some really strong downs. Bryan Singer’s X-Men and X2: X-Men United were both triumphant examples of how a superhero movie should be made. That’s when tragedy struck. X3: X-Men United was a complete disaster that ruined everything Singer had done, X-Men Origins: Wolverine was a mediocre entry, and The Wolverine was downright boring. Only with Matthew Vaughn’s X-Men: First Class did the series seem to get its footing once again with one of the best entries of the franchise. Now, Singer’s back in the director’s chair and has created the most exciting, dramatic, and action packed entries yet, X-Men: Days of Future Past.

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The future is a bleak place for both humans and mutants. Giant robots called Sentinels have ravaged the planet killing both mutants and normal people who have the mutant gene, leaving the world completely devastated. It is revealed that the cause of this is because the mutant Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) assassinated the designer of the Sentinels, Boliver Trask (Peter Dinklage), and prompted the government to capture her and use her genes to create the murderous robots and making Trask appear as some sort of martyr for humankind. Now, the only chance of survival lies with a small group of remaining X-Men, particularly Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), whose consciousness is sent back in time by Kitty Pride (Ellen Page) to bring together the young Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and Magneto (Michael Fassbender) and find Mystique to stop her before she can carry out her assassination. Meanwhile, in the future, the Sentinels are closing in on the X-Men’s hide out, forcing the survivors to fight for their lives so Wolverine can complete his near impossible mission.

Of course, I’m leaving a lot out of that quick little plot summary because there really is so much going on in this movie, to the point that it’s almost mind boggling. Time travel movies are rarely simple, but I found that this one was not too difficult to understand, and that has a lot to do with the writing and directing. I could tell, right from the opening scene (which might be one of the most violent scenes in this entire series) that this movie was not only going to be entertaining, but it was also going to impress me. There’s so much to love in this movie from the action and drama to its strong sense of style and humor. Finally, but the end, it becomes obvious that Bryan Singer fixed everything that was ruined, at least for the most part.

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One of the most impressive parts of this movie is the cast, but I feel like that really goes without saying. When I first heard that the casts from both the original X-Men movies and First Class were going to be in the same movie that involves Sentinels and time travel, I was immediately down with the entire idea. Everyone really brings their A-game to this film as well. Hugh Jackman gives his expected performance as Wolverine, which has really been a perfect combination right from the start. Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen also give their expected performances as well, which says a lot because I’ve never seen them off their game in anything that they’ve been in. In my opinion though, the real scene stealers come from the people in the past. James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender have difficult jobs in this entry, being that both of their characters appear to be at the lowest points in their lives. McAvoy, especially, delivers his lines with such emotion and power, it’s hard not to get just a little choked up. How could I forget Evan Peters, though, and his brief role as Quicksilver? Not only was his brief role one of the most memorable parts of the movie, but it also showed Singer’s strength as a film maker.

To go off from the main story a little bit, this movie got me very curious for what’s to come with the X-Men movie franchise. The post credit scene was crazy enough, but I just mean with things that were added in the plot itself. It’s almost as if Bryan Singer was standing on the side, wiping off his hands, and proclaiming “There. I fixed it.” Not only is the story put completely back on track, but there’s finally some style that’s returned in both the writing and the directing. That being said, kudos have to be given to the screenwriter, Simon Kinberg.

X-Men: Days of Future Past is, without a doubt, the best entry in this franchise and is also a refreshingly awesome and dramatic summer blockbuster. There’s a lot to marvel at with the outstanding special effects that add a level of epicness, but the dramatic story and social critique is just as excellent. The characters aren’t stupid and neither is the story, which only makes this film all the better. If you’re looking to just be mildly entertained, watch X-Men Origins. If you want to be blown right out of your seats with pure amazement, check out Days of Future Past.

 

Prisoners – Review

6 Jan

I can’t speak from experience, but I’m pretty sure that the thought of having your child or children abducted is every parent’s worse nightmare. It’s something traumatic enough to really mess with a person’s mind and body in such a way that they may resort to actions that they never would have thought possible. From this idea comes Prisoners, a morally heavy film that really shows that in extreme situations, morals lines may shake or disappear all together, but wouldn’t all of  us do anything to protect our children?

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Keller Dover (Hugh Jackman) is a deeply religious man with a loving wife (Maria Bello), a son, and a young daughter. On Thanksgiving, Keller and his family spend time with their neighborhood friends Franklin (Terrance Howard) and Nancy (Viola Davis), who also have two daughters of their own. After dinner Dover’s daughter and one of Franklin’s daughters go missing when they go outside to play. The police are called and Detective Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal), who is claimed never to have lost a case, is assigned to find their daughters. When a suspect is found in the man-child Alex Jones (Paul Dano), there appears to be hope, but there isn’t enough evidence against him and his Aunt (Melissa Leo) is determined that there is no way he could have done such a thing. As Detective Loki has to battle to stay within the realm of the law during his investigation, Keller decides to take matters into his own hands.

Emotionally, this is a very heavy movie. Right in the first fifteen minutes I felt an unbelievable dread. Not only is the subject matter heavy, but the look of everything is so gray and uninviting throughout the whole movie. It always seems to be raining. On top of how horrible this movie makes you feel, the run time of two and a half hours doesn’t make things any easier. But seriously, this movie is loooooooong. I’d say it’s a little bit longer than it needs to be. I could see it clocking in at a little over two hours, but two and a half going on three is kind of pushing it. There’s a surprising amount of things that happen in Prisoners which led the story to place I didn’t think it was going to go. This is cool and all, but a little but of trimming would do the movie a lot of good.

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The real draw of this movie is the performances. Just look at the cast. It’s unbelievable. Hugh Jackman gives an Oscar worthy performance as Keller and makes us sympathize, yet cringe at what he is doing and going through. Maria Bello and Viola Davis are both great, yet different, as the two grieving mother with Bello giving a more fragile performance than the strong willed Viola. Jake Gyllenhaal gives a very grounded performance as Detective Loki is what I may argue is his best performance and Terrance Howard, though not onscreen too often, gives a very quiet but tragic performance. Finally, Paul Dano and Melissa Leo are both excellent as always as they seem to have completely morphed into the characters they are playing.

Finally, I need to give a special nod to the cinematographer, Roger Deakins, who really gives his all with the dramatic lighting that is seen in Prisoners. A lot of what is seen seems pretty natural, as it should, and the exteriors all have a gray look, but there are times where the drama picks up that the lighting looks fantastic. There’s great exposures for silhouettes and very hard, foreboding lighting that really shows the gravity of a scene. Deakins has also been the cinematographer for a lot of the Coen Brothers movies like No Country For Old Men and The Big Lebowski and also did beautiful work in The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. I would check any of his movies works on.

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Prisoners is a very powerful and draining movie whose only hinderance is a run time that goes on a little bit too long. The content is very difficult, and to have to sit through that for such a long time may put some people off and that’s totally understandable. Still, this is a fantastic movie with some fantastic performers giving everything they have to their roles. This is not a movie that should be missed.

The Wolverine – Review

2 Aug

Wolverine and the X-Men are some of the most beloved characters in comic book history. Their powers combined with the team work aspect and some great villains have proved to be success for readers and with their more cinematic endeavors (mostly). In 2009, Wolverine got his own movie with X-Men Origins: Wolverine, and that was anything but successful. Now it’s four years later and his second attempt at a stand alone movie is aptly titled The Wolverine. With promising trailers and marketing, which include some excellent posters, I thought that nothing could go wrong. Well, I couldn’t have been more wrong.

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Taking place after the events of X-Men: The Last Stand, Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) is living in seclusion in the forest outside of a small American town. Haunted by his past with Xavier’s team of mutants, the loss of his beloved Jean Grey, and the constant struggle of the life that he has been living, he feels the desire to live a normal life. This wish seems to be granted when he is picked up by the mysterious mutant Yukio (Rila Fukushima) and brought Japan to meet with her boss and mentor, Yashida (Haruhiko Yamanouchi). During World War II, Wolverine saved Yashida’s life and now that he is dying, Yanshida wants to return the favor. Unfortunately for Wolverine and Yashida’s grand daughter, Mariko (Tao Okamoto) there are people who want Wolverine and his adamantium for mysterious reasons, and they won’t stop until they succeed.

I’m pretty convinced that 20th Century Fox released this movie just so we had something to hold us over until Days of Future Past is released. This does not feel like an X-Men movie at all. It could be argued that it is strictly a Wolverine story, but there are so many tie ins to the trilogy that it still has to be considered part of the canon that the previous movies have established. Jean Grey does pay Logan some visits in his dreams, and that’s pretty cool the first time it happens, but to keep having him get knocked unconscious and fall asleep multiple times just so we can have these scenes feels like overkill of a good idea. That’s a petty complaint, and just the start of a long list of reasons why The Wolverine is a major disappointment.

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I will say that this movie does have some pretty cool scenes, but I’m not saying that it’s a pretty cool movie in the least. A few scenes doesn’t make up for the rest of the movie. The scene on the train is a great action sequence that reminded me a lot of the climax of the first Mission: Impossible movie. The other cool part starts with Wolverine having an issue with a handful of ninjas and ends with a duel with the Silver Samurai (who gets incredibly poor treatment in this movie, and may be as big a disappointment to me as the Mandarin in Iron Man 3). Unfortunately, that’s about it. The first big action sequence that is really supposed to hook the viewer is so shaky that it made me nauseous. There were times when the camera man wasn’t even running after the action, and the camera was still shaking! Come on. That’s just stupid film making.

Finally, let’s talk about the story. So much potential is had here, especially with Wolverine losing his regenerative ability for some time. Nope. Wasted. Wolverine is shot and beaten, and the only thing that really happens is that he needs to chill for a few seconds and maybe take a nap. Great, so all of that potential suspense is totally lost. It would have been great seeing Wolverine try a new approach to taking down his enemies than just doing what he usually does and flail and stab about until they are all dead. It would have been awesome to see him adopt a more ninja-like style, using stealth and surprise. Also, there is a romance in this movie. Why, oh why? It really makes no sense to have it there and it has absolutely no bearing on the story a whole. It just slowed down an already slower than need be movie.

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So all The Wolverine really did was bore me silly. There is a scene during the credits that is absolutely necessary viewing, and is definitely a lot better than the movie itself. Major lore was changed in a way that was really stupid, there was a romance that felt forced, and the story was just wasted. There are other movies out there to see that are infinitely better than The Wolverine. Die hard fans may want to see it because it’s the newest movie in the X-Men universe, but don’t expect anything particularly good. I hate saying this about movies, but this one was just stupid.

Deception – Review

17 Apr

I’m feeling kind of weird. I feel like I’ve just been led on, lied to, then treated like a child. This isn’t anything personal, so don’t be concerned about little old me. No. I just watched Deception. Thinking more and more about this title, I can’t help but wondering if it was given in relation to the plot and themes of the movie, or if it’s because the film makers were just trying to warn the viewer that this movie only exists to lie to you and then disappoint on pretty much every single level that this movie has to offer.

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Jonathan McQuarry (Ewan McGregor) is an accountant who is presently hired to do the books for a law firm where one Wyatt Bose (Hugh Jackman) is employed. Wyatt is a smooth talking confident man who appears to take Jonathan under his wing after a chance encounter. Jonathan inadvertently stumbles upon a sex club called “The List,” which Wyatt is a member of. As Jonathan gets more into this club he meets a woman that he only knows as S (Michelle Williams). He breaks the rules and begins to fall for her. S is promptly kidnapped, which forces Jonathan to act out for her kidnappers and take part in a multimillion dollar heist in return for her safety.

Read that last sentence again. Never have I ever been so jerked around by a movie in my entire life. Having plot twists can be great and can really disorient and shock, but the twists that happen in Deception are so beyond ludicrous that I can’t believe the screenplay was even passed and the film actually made. The screenplay to this movie is so terrible, from the dialogue to the completely unbelievable narrative. I was literally shocked.

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One thing I will give this movie is the way that the actors handle the script. I don’t know exactly what they were all thinking, already being talented and established actors not hurting for work, when they read this and decided it was a good idea to take the job. Ewan McGregor is completely in character as a quiet and weak man who has stumbled onto something way above him. Jackman is plays his suave, condescending character with ease. Williams is fine, but certainly nothing special compared to these two other actors. There is some horrible dialogue that the actors really try to make serious, which sometimes works and sometimes it doesn’t.

What really makes me angry about this movie is that it started out so interesting, and I was pretty into it, but 40 minutes in I completely lost it. The plot not only changes direction, it goes completely off road making for a very uncomfortable, messy, and annoying ride. Even when I was sort of enjoying the movie, it seemed so afraid to take risks with the plot device of the sex club that I started asking myself, “What’s the point?” My attention wasn’t held any better with the absolutely bland set design. From the offices to the apartments, they were all so fluorescent and sterile that it was just ugly. This might have worked if this was shot completely in digital, but on 35 mm and HD video, it just doesn’t turn out well.

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It’s been a long time since I’ve despised a movie so much. Saying it’s a subpar thriller is an insult to subpar thrillers. I can’t tell if the film makers tried to hard or nowhere near hard enough. I can’t even say it’s not memorable because there’s no way I could forget the narrative atrocity that is Deception. It’s ugly, boring, and stupid. I can’t stress it enough that you stay far away from this piece of trash. It’s an insult to my intelligence and stole two hours of my life that I will never see again.