Archive for Hugh Jackman

Revisited: Swordfish

Posted in Movie Reviews, Revisited with tags , , , , , , , , on July 17, 2016 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Stanley Jobson (Hugh Jackman) is a hacker. Having served time for infecting the FBI’s Carnivore program with a computer virus, he is now on parole but forbidden from touching computers. His alcoholic ex-wife Melissa (Drea de Matteo), who married a rich porn producer and is currently a part time porn actress has sole custody over their daughter Holly, and a restraining order preventing him from visiting the latter. One day, he is solicited by Ginger Knowles (Halle Berry), speaking for her boss Gabriel Shear (John Travolta), for his hacking skills. He goes to meet Gabriel in Los Angeles, where he is put on the spot to crack a secure government server within a minute while simultaneously held at gunpoint and receiving fellatio. Successful, Gabriel offers Stanley $10 million to program multi-headed worm, a “hydra”, to siphon $9.5 billion from several government slush funds.

Stanley begins work, learning that Gabriel leads Black Cell, a secret group created by J. Edgar Hoover to launch retaliatory attacks against terrorists that threaten the United States. He also privately discovers Ginger is a DEA agent working undercover, and further is surprised to discover a corpse that looks like Gabriel. He goes to see Holly home from school but finds he is being followed by FBI agent J.T. Roberts (Don Cheadle), who had previously caught Stanley. Roberts, though monitoring Stanley closely, is more interested in Gabriel as he does not appear on any government database, and after learning that another hacker, Axl Torvalds (Rudolf Martin), had been killed by Gabriel’s men, warns Stanley to be cautious. Stanley opts to secretly code a back door in his hydra that reverses the money transfer after a short period. Meanwhile, Senator Reisman (Sam Shepard), who oversees Black Cell, learns the FBI has started tracking Gabriel and orders him to stand down. Gabriel refuses, and narrowly avoids an assassination attempt ordered by Reisman. Gabriel personally kills Reisman in revenge and continues his plan.

Stanley delivers the hydra to Gabriel and leaves to see Holly, only to find that Gabriel has killed Melissa and her husband and kidnapped Holly, framing Stanley. Stanley has no choice but to participate with the bank heist to get Holly back. Gabriel and his men storm a Worldbanc branch, and secure its employees and customers as hostages and fitting each with ball-bearing-based explosives similar to Claymore mines. When police and FBI surround the branch, Gabriel takes Stanley to the coffee shop across the street to meet with Roberts, but Gabriel spends the time to discuss the film Dog Day Afternoon and the nature of misdirection. Once back in the bank, Gabriel has one of his men escort a hostage to demonstrate the situation. A sniper kills the man, and other agents pull the hostage away from the bank, causing the bomb to detonate, ravaging the buildings and vehicles on the street and killing several people, a scene shown in medias res at the start of the film.

Gabriel instructs Stanley to launch the hydra, and turns Holly over to him once completed. However, Stanley’s back door triggers before they can leave the bank, and Stanley is recaptured while Holly is rescued. Gabriel threatens to kill Ginger, who he knows is a DEA agent, unless Stanley re-siphons the money back to a Monte Carlo bank. Despite doing so, Gabriel shoots Ginger. Gabriel and his men load the hostages on a bus and demand a plane wait for them at the local airport, but while en route, the bus is lifted off by a S-64 Aircrane and deposited on a roof of a local skyscraper. Gabriel deactivates the bombs and departs with his surviving men on a waiting helicopter, which Stanley shoots down using a rocket-propelled grenade from the bus.

Roberts takes Stanley to verify the corpse they found, believing Gabriel was a Mossad agent while there was no record of a DEA agent named Ginger. Stanley recognizes the corpse as the one he discovered earlier and personally realizes that the whole scenario was misdirection. Gabriel had escaped a different route, and Ginger had been wearing a bulletproof vest and was working with Gabriel. Roberts arranges for Stanley to have full custody of Holly, and the two tour the US together. In Monte Carlo Gabriel and Ginger withdraw the money, and later watch as a yacht at sea explodes. Over the film’s credits, a news report describes the destruction of the yacht, carrying a known terrorist, as the third such incident in as many weeks.

REVIEW:

What does it say about a film that has a pretty decent cast, but it mainly known for a scene that last all of 15 seconds? That is the question I asked myself as I sat down to watch Swordfish this afternoon, wondering if the affinity I’ve had for this film in previous viewings is totally based on said scene. Let’s find out, shall we?

What is this about?

Determined to get his mitts on $9 billion in a secret DEA account so he can use it to fight terrorism, rogue agent Gabriel Shear recruits encryption expert Stanley Jobson to hack into the government mainframe.

What did I like?

Big action. Most thrillers aren’t known for their action scenes. With this film, the few scenes that have action are capitalized on. It makes one appreciate the  big payoff, if you will, as opposed to the kind of thing we get from Michael Bay type flicks, where it is non-stop explosions. These action set pieces are set up and executed with pulse pounding precision. It almost makes you wonder what this would have been like had it been a pure action movie.

Boss Travolta. The last time I saw Travolta as a crime boss, it was in The Punisher. He was somewhat believable there, but still felt like he was Travolta. His character in this film, Gabriel, feels like Vincent (his character from Pulp Fiction) survived being shot by Bruce Willis and just snapped. Aside from the weird hair and soul patch, I actually liked his portrayal of this guy. There is a calm on the surface, but also a murderous streak that lies under the surface. Both sides are shown when they need to be and Travolta does a masterful job of keeping those sides contained until the right time.

Hacktivism. There was a movie that came out not too long ago which had Chris Hemsworth as a hacker. It didn’t do much, partially because it had no direction. With Jackman’s hacking, he is doing it for the opportunity to be reunited with his daughter. What gets me though, is how Travolta was trying to convince him that the good of the one outweighs the good of the many.

What didn’t I like?

Miles ahead. Don Cheadle portrays a FBI agent in charge of computer crimes, or something like that. What is my problem with him? Well, he is trying to play a touch, yet cool cop. Nothing wrong with that, except there is no yang to his yin. I feel if one of the other FBI agents would have been his polar opposite, his character would have been more effective.

Techno. Is it me or does every film that has technocrime in it also have techno music? The scene where Jackman is doing his hacking thing, I felt like I was back in college, dancing at the club with some raver chicks. I’m not saying it doesn’t fit, especially for when this film was released. I’m just saying it is more of the same old, same old.

Stick it in. There is no mistaking Halle Berry is a beautiful woman with a gorgeous body. Can you blame her for wanting to show it off? If I’m not mistaken this came before Monster’s Ball, so her saying she “wanted to get used to being nude in front of the camera” is a valid point. However, the short topless scene of hers, in which she earned an extra $5,000, felt shoved in at the last minute. There are a couple of other option for Berry to have dropped her top. The first is at the pool party, where she very easily could have joined the 3 girls skinny dipping, or been seen topless somewhere. The other is in her lingerie scene. No one said she had to be wearing a bra there. At least with these scenes, I wouldn’t feel like I was force-fed a half-naked Halle Berry…that’s what Catwoman is for.

Final verdict on Swordfish? Surprisingly, this film has held up over time. Sure, a few things are dated, but for the most part, this film could be released today and still be as relevant to audiences. That said, I do have some issues with this film, but they are few and far between. When it gets down to it, though, do I recommend this flick? Yes, it is a solid viewing. Check it out!

4 out of 5 stars

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X-Men: Days of Future Past

Posted in Action/Adventure, Movie Reviews, Superhero Films with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 24, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

In a dystopian future, sentient robots known as Sentinels are exterminating mutants and oppressing humans, since humans harbor the genes that lead to mutant offspring. A small band of mutant survivors manage to evade the Sentinels thanks to the powers of Kitty Pryde, who has the ability to project a person’s consciousness back in time to deliver warnings.

Kitty’s group rendezvous with Magneto and Professor Charles Xavier in a monastery in China. They hatch a plan to send Wolverine’s consciousness back in time to prevent Mystique from murdering Bolivar Trask, the lead designer of the Sentinels. Trask’s assassination will make him a martyr, Mystique will be captured and her mutant powers will be reverse-engineered and used to create the formidable Sentinels of the future. A caveat of the plan is that they will have to stand and defend Wolverine and Kitty until Wolverine finishes his trip to the past and returns, otherwise the changes he made to the timeline will be lost.

Wolverine wakes up in 1973 in his younger body. He travels to the X-Mansion, where he encounters the young Hank McCoy and a disheveled Xavier. His school has failed and most of his original X-Men are dead, and this has left him a broken man. He has also lost his telepathic powers through taking serum which allows him to walk again. Wolverine convinces Xavier to free Magneto — who was accused of murdering John F. Kennedy (a charge he denies, stating that Kennedy was himself a mutant) — from a prison cell beneath The Pentagon. They do this with the help of Peter Maximoff, a mutant who can move blindingly fast.

Trask unsuccessfully lobbies to Congress for approval for his Sentinel program. Meanwhile, in Saigon, Mystique prevents a young William Stryker from appropriating a group of mutant American GIs, including Havok, for Trask’s research. Mystique investigates Trask Industries and discovers he has been capturing and experimenting on mutants, including some of her old comrades. Knowing that the assassination of Trask occurs in Paris, Xavier and Magneto board a private plane with Beast and Wolverine in order to intercept Mystique, although the two argue over abandoning each other.

In Paris, the Americans and Vietnamese are negotiating the end to the Vietnam War. Mystique impersonates a Vietnamese general to infiltrate a meeting with Trask. As she is about to kill Trask, Wolverine, Xavier, Magneto and Hank arrive. To guarantee her powers can never be used for the Sentinels, Magneto tries to kill Mystique, who flees out a window. A fight on the street ensues, in front of onlookers and television cameras. Wolverine’s upsetting encounter with Stryker causes his future body to react violently and injure Kitty.

Although Trask is saved, the world is horrified by the existence of mutants. President Richard Nixon approves Trask’s Sentinel program and arranges an unveiling in Washington, D.C. Trask’s scientists recover Mystique’s blood from the battle site in Paris, and Magneto fears Trask could still create the future Sentinels. Magneto intercepts the Sentinel prototypes on their way to Washington and laces them with steel, as he would not be able to control them otherwise since they’re made of polymer. At the mansion, Xavier eschews his regular serum dose to regain his powers. Through Wolverine, Xavier communes with his future self and is inspired to struggle for human-mutant peace once again. He uses Cerebro to track Mystique en route to Washington.

Nixon unveils the Sentinel prototypes on the White House lawn. As a show of force, Magneto raises RFK Stadium and deposits it around the White House. He also commandeers the Sentinels and has them attack the crowd. Nixon and Trask are taken to a safe room, followed by a disguised Mystique. Xavier, Wolverine, and Beast try to stop Magneto. Magneto impales Wolverine with rebars and flings him into the Potomac River. In 2023, the X-Men make their final stand as the Sentinels assault the monastery.

Pulling the safe room out of the White House, Magneto aims the television cameras at himself and prepares to kill the President with the whole world watching. Disguised as the President, Mystique wounds him with a plastic gun and reveals her true form. Xavier persuades Mystique not to kill Trask and allows her and Magneto to flee. Mystique’s interference is seen as a Mutant rescue of the president; the Sentinel program is cancelled and Trask is arrested.

Wolverine wakes up in 2023 in Xavier’s school, where he finds the X-Men all alive and well, even Jean Grey and Scott Summers. Logan asks Xavier to fill him in on the 50 years that he has missed out on, stating that the history he knew was a different one. In 1973, Mystique, impersonating Stryker, has the younger Wolverine rescued from the river.

In a post-credits scene, a cloaked figure telekinetically assembles the Pyramids of Giza as four horsemen stand behind him and a throng of worshipers chants his name: En Sabah Nur.

REVIEW:

Following the success of X-Men: First Class, fans were wondering if that was a reboot or if we were ever going to see the originals back in their roles (excluding Hugh Jackman, who has been in every film related to this franchise). Well, in order to keep continuity amongst both “timelines”, as we’ll call them, there was one story that could bring them all together. Aside from The Phoenix Saga, it is probably the most popular of the X-Men stories, and now it has made it to the big screen, but how will everyone react to X-Men: Days of Future Past?

What is this about?

This superhero sequel tracks Wolverine’s journey back in time in an effort to alter history and prevent the annihilation of both humans and mutants. Conflict also develops between Professor X and Magneto about the X-Men’s relations with humans.

What did I like?

X marks the spot. There is a reason the X-Men are called “X” men, and it is because of Charles Xavier, one of the most powerful mutants and brilliant minds in the Marvel Universe. Patrick Stewart brought Professor X straight out of the comics in the X-Men trilogy, leaving some very big shoes for James McAvoy to fill when First Class was made. In one of the early trailers for this film, you see the two of them talking, and you get chills. The past meets the present/future sort of thing. I hate to burst your bubble, but that scene isn’t as long as you think, but it is there. What is remarkable about both professors is as the film progresses McAvoy’s Xavier is humanized. We have never really known Professor X to be a flawed individual. Stewart’s version is the wise old sage we know him to be, but the fact that he can influence even his younger self with his wisdom speaks volume to the kind of man he is.

Tyrion. Bolivar Trask is not a likable character in the comics. In the X-Men Universe, we have seen Trask before. Go back and look at X-Men: The Last Stand, you know the X-Men movie everyone wants to forget happened, he’s in there, but it is a very different role. Peter Dinklage’s take on Trask is closer to the comic incarnation. As someone who loves it when they stick as close to the source material as possible, I was loving this. I have to bring this up, though. Dinklage is a great actor, and by winning this role, one that honestly didn’t call for someone of his stature, he may have opened up some doors for others.  I appreciate how that his height is not once mentioned, showing that he was meant to be taken seriously. Although, I could see someone using that in a future film as a mutant thing, or they could just bring in Trask’s son, who is a mutant (just a little info for those unenlightened out there).

Girl on fire. Jennifer Lawrence has really come into her own since we last saw her in blue body paint. Not that she wasn’t already a really fine actress, mind you. I guess the filmmakers paid attention to the Hunger Games films and noticed that she can kick some ass, something that Mystique needs to do. She’s not the timid little girl hanging on Xavier’s coattails as she was when we last saw her but, at the same time, she’s not the focused mercenary we see in X-Men, either. Lawrence realizes this and portrays the inner conflict between which way she should be leaning, which is a primary plot point.

Newness. Along with just about all the cast in the X-Men Universe returning for this film (not sure why Anna Paquin’s character was cut down to cameo at the very end….something I’m not happy about), we have some new mutants joining the fray. Most of which have never been seen any medium, except for Bishop who was in the 90s X-Men cartoon for this very story arc. Also appearing are Warpath, Sunspot, Blink, and Quicksilver. Blink, judging by the post-credits scene and what I know about that story, will be seeing much more screentime, What they did to shower her powers, though, was awesome! While on the topic of awesome, Quicksilver, who will be played by a different actor when The Avengers: Age of Ultron is released thanks to Marvel and 20th Century Fox having a war over these characters with neither wanting to budge (just like Sony with Spider-Man), was a real surprise. I don’t think anyone was expecting him to be that cool, especially when you saw the early pictures. That being said, if there was ever a time to use bullet time, it is with him (and this fall when The Flash comes to TV). These new characters weren’t really needed to breath new blood into the franchise, but they didn’t hurt.

What didn’t I like?

Here Kitty. Ellen Page has never been an actress I have cared very much for. Kitty Pryde/Shadowcat is not a character I have any feeling for one way or the other. So, you can see why Page as Kitty does nothing for me. I’m not going to bitch about her, but rather her sudden ability to transport people through time. If I recall from the comic, Kitty was able to transport herself back, but not other people. The fact that they gave her this ability in the film seemed as if it were an easy way to give her some screentime and keep it somewhat close to the source material, as it is obvious if you have the choice between Ellen Page and Hugh Jackman carrying your film, you go with Jackman.

Talk or fight. If you are an avid reader of my posts, then you know I love me some action and, unless it is a drama, could care less about a lot of talking. This film tries to balance out the dialogue and action, but I fear it doesn’t do it as well. However, there are some quite heated interactions between McAvoy’s Xavier and Michael Fassbender’s Magneto that were just as good as an all out brawl. Still, I was hoping we’d get more fun action, but I guess they can’t all be Captain America: The Winter Soldier, can they?

Be quick about it. As I said earlier, the effects on Quicksilver were great, but not everything worked as well. His personality, which actually is the personality he has in the comics, at least from what I’ve read. I’m not necessarily saying that I’d change anything about the way he was portrayed or tone it down when/if they show him as an older version of himself, but maybe not focus so much on him being as much of a dick towards everyone. I did appreciate the mention to Magneto when he broke him out of prison that his mom knew someone who could control metal, that was a nice little easter egg.

The perfect Storm. I have never had any problem with Halle Berry as Storm, except for that weird African accent she tried to have in the first film. Apparently, I’m one of the few, though, because it seems as if no one liked her as Storm. Not to spoil anything, but not only is she not in this film very much (she became pregnant during shooting, if I’m not mistaken, which caused them to change what they were going to do with her character), but she also has something major happen to her that will rock you one way or the other depending on how you feel about her character. Personally, I don’t think it should have happened, but given what was going on with everyone around her at the time, it makes sense.

People are already saying that X-Men: Days of Future Past is the best entry into the franchise. I can see how they think that, but for me this doesn’t stand out as the best. It is still pretty damn good, though. As one of the movie review podcasts I listen to pointed out, this was the triumphant return of Bryan Singer (who directed the first two X-Men films before leaving to do Superman Returns). The fact that Singer brings back the original theme should tell you something about how this film is going to be in comparison to what we got after he left. Hopefully, they won’t scare him off again! Do I recommend this film? Yes! Yes! Yes! It is a must-see before you die! Don’t forget to stick around after the credits for a scene that, if you’re a fan of the comics, you’ll know what it leads to and will more than likely piss yourself!

4 3/4 out of 5 stars

Prisoners

Posted in Movie Reviews, Thrillers/Mystery with tags , , , , , , , , on January 26, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Keller Dover (Hugh Jackman) and his family attend a Thanksgiving dinner at the house of their neighbors, the Birches; that afternoon, both families’ young daughters, Anna Dover and Joy Birch, go missing. A police hunt finds an RV which had been parked outside the house, and when Detective David Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal) tries to confront the driver, Alex Jones (Paul Dano) he attempts to escape but is arrested.

Loki’s investigations uncover a corpse wearing a maze pendant in the basement of a local priest, who says he had killed the man who claimed to be “waging a war against God” by killing numerous children.

Alex Jones is found to be developmentally disabled, having the IQ of a ten-year-old, and despite many hours of aggressive questioning, the police cannot link him to the missing girls, so he is released. Dover then confronts Jones, who whispers to him “They didn’t cry until I left them”, although no one else hears it. Dover abducts and imprisons Jones in an abandoned apartment building, and tortures him for days, but obtains no further information. Franklin discovers that Dover has abducted Alex and later Nancy discovers it too. They do not help in the torture but plead with Alex to tell them where the girls are.

During a candlelight vigil for the girls, Loki sees a hooded man acting suspiciously. When Loki approaches the man for questioning, he runs away. Both girl’s houses are broken into, apparently by the same man, who is now a suspect. A clerk at a local store reports the man had been buying different sizes of children’s clothing. This suspect, Bob Taylor (David Dastmalchian), is arrested at his home, where the walls are covered in drawings of mazes. In a back room, Loki finds crates filled with maze books, live snakes, and bloodied children’s clothing. The Birches and Dover positively identify some of the items of clothing. Detained, Taylor confesses to the abduction, but before giving any more information, he kills himself.

Dover continues to torture Jones, who finally says he is not Alex Jones, and that he escaped from a maze. Dover visits Jones’s aunt, Holly (Melissa Leo) and brings up the topic of mazes, but Holly only says Jones does not say much ever since an accident involving snakes when he was young.

The blood on the children’s clothes is found to be pig’s blood. It is concluded that Taylor had been abducted as a child, and had been play-acting recreations of abductions using a true-crime book which involves unsolvable mazes; the clothing was items that had been stolen during the break-ins, and Taylor had no real involvement in the abductions.

Days later, a drugged Joy Birch is found, having escaped, but Anna is still missing. When Dover visits Joy in the hospital to ask for information, she mumbles to him “You were there.” Dover runs off, believing he now knows where his daughter is. Not knowing Dover’s true motivations, Loki goes looking for him at the abandoned apartment building and finds the imprisoned Jones.

Dover is not there, however; he had realized that Joy overheard him at the Jones’ house and that is where he returns, intending to torture Holly. She invites him in and pulls a gun on him, revealing that she alone was responsible for the recent abductions. She and her husband had abducted many other children, including Bob Taylor, as part of their own particular “war on God” for letting their young son Alex die of cancer. The man now known as Alex was the first child they abducted, and probably the only one along with Bob whom they did not murder. Holly shoots and imprisons Dover in a pit under an old car in her yard; there he finds a whistle that belonged to his daughter.

Loki goes to Holly’s house to tell her that “Alex Jones” was found. There is no answer at the door but he hears someone inside, so he enters. When he sees a photograph of Holly’s husband wearing the maze pendant, Loki draws his weapon, and searches the house, discovering Anna being injected with poison by Holly. When he confronts her she shoots at him, but he returns fire and kills her. Loki rushes Anna to the hospital, where she soon recovers. “Alex Jones” is reunited with his real parents.

Outside the Jones residence, a police team stops digging for the night. They tell Loki it will take weeks because the ground is frozen. Loki hears the faint sound of a whistle; he initially hesitates, but then hears it again and turns to investigate as the screen cuts to black.

REVIEW:

I don’t have any children, so I can’t relate to Prisoners, but I can see how the sudden disappearance of a couple of young girls can send someone off the deep end. Will they find the girls in time? Who is behind the kidnapping? What was the motivation behind the abductions?

What is this about? When his 6-year-old daughter is abducted and the investigation stalls, carpenter Keller Dover tracks down the culprit himself. But his vigilante action pits him against the case’s lead detective and puts his own sanity at risk.

What did I like?

Intense. I cannot remember the last time I saw Hugh Jackman this intense, outside of him playing Wolverine. I think we sometimes forget that the guy is a very talented actor, who can pull off these disturbing roles and then go sing in a Broadway show. Jackman’s character is hell-bent on finding his daughter. He’ll stop at nothing to get her back, even beating the snot out of some punk kid who just happened to be in the neighborhood, and torturing him until he talks. This is not the kind of guy you want to mess with. At times, it is uncomfortable to watch, but you know that you are watching greatness.

Truth. The deeper and deeper I get into this world of movie reviewing, the more I hear that trailers are giving away too much. Well, I went back and looked at the trailer for this. The only thing it gave away was the basic plot, who was starring in it, and the tone. For me, that is all a trailer need do to be effective. Sure, there are trailers that literally show all the good scenes, and there are those that tell you absolutely nothing, but the ad blitz behind this film was smart enough to keep it close to the vest and give us the bare minimum, making the film that much more of a mystery. Remember the says when you had to actually go see a picture to know what it was about, rather than look it up on Wikipedia or somewhere else on the internet? That’s the truth behind this trailer, and it works, for the most part.

What didn’t I like?

Solo act. At some point in the film, it becomes more about Jackman than anyone else, followed by the same kind of film from Jake Gylenhaal. Where is everyone else? Well, apparently they were there strictly as supporting cast and nothing more. Terrence Howard, who I thought was going to be awesome in this, especially since he was playing trumpet in the beginning, plays a guy who is a little more reserved and, for lack of a better term, conservative about getting his daughter back. After his wife is brought in on what Jackman is doing, we don’t see them again until near the end, and then neither one has a line of dialogue, if I’m not mistaken. This is pretty much the way it is for all of the families, but for what reason? The film just takes them out and plugs them back in later, without any explanation for what they were doing. Had it been something like they were researching previous abductions or wanted time away from this town, that would have at least made sense.

Length. At 153 minutes, this film felt as if it dragged in a couple of places. I know, I know, I’m always complaining about the lengths of movies, but this is one that I literally was getting into and then it lost me because it wasn’t really going anywhere. Luckily, it does take a sharp turn, dare I saw twist that brings the audience back in for the final act. I would say that about 15-30 minutes of this film could have been cut, making it much more effective and not so bleh.

I must apologize for the briefness of this Prisoners post. I just got in from a long weekend and am dead tired. Still, the show must go on, right? What is my final verdict on this film? Well, if you’re into thrillers of this sort, then this is right up your alley. For me, I would have preferred something a little more action-driven, as opposed to character based, but that’s a personal preference. This not a bad film. You get great performances from Hugh Jackman, Jake Gylenhaal, and a chilling one from Melissa Leo, but I can’t really say that I was gushing over. Perhaps you will so, at your own risk, give it a shot.

3 out of 5 stars

The Wolverine

Posted in Action/Adventure, Movie Reviews, Superhero Films with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on July 27, 2013 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Logan retreats to the Canadian wilderness following the death of Jean Grey and the disbanding of the X-Men, where he is tormented by hallucinations of Jean, whom he was forced to kill, and of the Nagasaki bombing in 1945. One day, after getting into a fight with some hunters, he is located by Yukio, a woman with mutant powers enabling her to see people’s deaths, representing Yashida, the CEO of a technology corporation, who is dying of cancer. Logan saved Yashida’s life during the Nagasaki bombing, and Yashida wants Logan to accompany Yukio to Japan to return the favor.

In Tokyo, Logan meets Yashida’s son Shingen and Shingen’s daughter, Mariko. Yashida offers to conduct a transplant, removing Logan’s immortality and transferring it to himself. Logan refuses and prepares to leave the following day. That night, while Logan dreams of Jean, Yashida’s doctor, the mutant Viper, injects a robotic parasite in Logan’s system, which affects his healing factor. The next morning, Logan is informed that Yashida has died, and attends the funeral, where he saves Mariko from Yakuza assassins with help from Yashida’s associate Kenuichio Harada, a skilled archer and Mariko’s former lover, who still loves her. In the process, Logan is shot and finds out he is not healing as quickly as before.

After fighting more assassins on a bullet train, Logan and Mariko hide in a local hotel. While Mariko sleeps, Logan stands guard outside and experiences another hallucination of Jean before passing out from his injuries. When he awakens, he discovers that Mariko had the hotel owner’s grandson, a veterinarian, stitch him up. Meanwhile, Harada meets with Viper who, after demonstrating her mutant powers on him, demands he finds Logan and Mariko.

Logan and Mariko go to Yashida’s house in Nagasaki. As they slowly fall for each other, Logan slowly starts revealing his past to Mariko. Meanwhile, Yukio has a vision of Logan dying, and goes to warn him. However, she is too late and Mariko is captured. After interrogating one of her kidnappers, Logan goes to confront Mariko’s fiance, corrupt Chief of Justice Noburo Mori, who reveals that Shingen has ordered the kidnapping.

At Yashida Corporation’s headquarters, Shingen reveals Yashida has left Mariko his empire, and prepares to kill her when Harada arrives with his Black Ninja clan and Viper; Harada rescues Mariko, while Viper poisons Shingen. They then take Mariko to a research center based where Yashida was born.

Arriving at Yashida Corporation with Yukio, Logan uses Yashida’s medical technology to locate the parasite and extract it, but appears to die during the operation. Yukio is attacked by Shingen, who prepares to kill her when Logan awakens and intervenes, killing Shingen. Logan and Yukio then follow Harada and Viper to a research center, where Logan is attacked and captured by Harada and his men.

Logan is placed in a machine by Viper, who reveals her plans to extract his immortality and introduces Logan to her associate, the Silver Samurai, who has an adamantium sword and the ability to charge it with energy to increase its cutting power. After talking with Harada, who believes he is protecting her still, Mariko escapes and manages to direct the machine Logan is in into the Silver Samurai’s sword strike, breaking it and freeing him. Harada sees the error of his ways and is killed by the Silver Samurai while helping Logan escape. Meanwhile, Yukio arrives and defeats Viper by hanging her, while Logan fights the Silver Samurai, who cuts off his adamantium claws and begins to extract Logan’s healing abilities, revealing himself to be Yashida, who had faked his death and starts to regain his youth. Mariko intervenes and stabs Yashida with the discarded claws, giving Logan the opportunity to disable the armor with his bone claws and throw Yashida off a cliff before passing out. While unconscious, Logan once again hallucinates about Jean, and finally moves on from her death.

Mariko becomes CEO of Yashida Corporation and bids farewell to Logan as he prepares to leave Japan. Yukio vows to stay by Logan’s side as his bodyguard, and they depart to places unknown.

In a post-credits scene, Logan returns to the United States two years after the events in Japan, and watches an ad for Trask Industries and their advances in the field of robotics before being confronted by Magneto, with his powers restored. Magneto announces that Logan’s help is required to stop a new enemy that threatens to exterminate the mutant race. When Logan inquires why he should trust Magneto, Professor Charles Xavier arrives to reassure him. Logan is surprised to see Xavier alive since he saw Xavier being dissolved into particles, and Xavier reminds Logan that he is not the only one with gifts.

REVIEW:

As I was telling someone a few minutes ago, The Wolverine manages to do what all the other films he has appeared in have failed. The show Wolverine as the brute force of nature he really is. Only the original X-Men has come close to pulling this feat off, but the real question is, how is the film surrounding Logan?

What is this about?

Enigmatic superhero Wolverine travels to the Land of the Rising Sun in this kaleidoscopic battle epic based on the Marvel Comics character. There, Wolverine confronts his long-time adversary Logan in a spectacular battle that rattles the universe.

What did I like?

Story. One of the “holy grail” stories of Wolverine lore is his adventures in Japan. As a matter of fact, the first issue of Wolverine I ever read had him in Singapore (with the grey Hulk) reminiscing about his days in Japan. I bitch, moan, complain, and threaten murder about films that stray from the source material, but, with a few exception that I will touch on in a bit, this stays as close as possible to arguably one of the greatest comic stories ever written and just goes to show you that everything does not need to be changed to make a successful comic book movie.

#1 with a bullet. The bullet train scene is a true highlight of this picture. When I say that, I really mean it. Wolverine is crawling on top of this train going some 300mph while fighting the Yakuza and his healing factor is inhibited. Did I mention all the signs and what not he, and the other guys, have to avoid. It has an accidental comic effect, but the point is, this the best action scene of the film.

Post-credits. About halfway through the credits, there is arguably the best post credits scene that sets up a sequel/franchise that we’ve seen. I won’t spoil it, but I will say it sets up the forthcoming X-Men: Days of Future Past, in which Wolverine, at least in the comics, is a central character.

Ripped. Just like many other straight males that have reviewed this film, I have to comment on Hugh Jackman’s physique. He is in phenomenal shape this go ’round, probably the best he has looked on-screen. Those workout tips from The Rock really helped! I do have to wonder about the toll it took on him personally. I mean, he had to be a bit gaut for Les Miserables, and then super buff for this one. Some guys joked that in the early scenes, it looks as if he went right from being Jean Valjean to Logan, what with the whole grizzly look he had going.

What didn’t I like?

Fatigue. A review I listened to before I saw brought up the topic of how it seems as if every superhero film we see nowadays has the hero not wanting to be a hero anymore. Take a look at Batman in The Dark Knight Rises, he has all but given up being Batman and now we have Wolverine not wanting to do anything but live in a cave. Can’t we get a superhero film that just lets out hero be super and not have them try to give up the hero part of their persona. Hell, even Suoerman was going through this in Man of Steel, and he just got the job!

Differences. For all the faithfulness to the source material, there are a few things that stray. For instance, I don’t recall Viper being a part of this at all. My guess is they brought her in to have a hot blonde in spandex, because she really serves no other purpose. Silver Samurai is actually a mutant, not a suit of armor, and he is one of Wolverine’s greatest foes. Making matters worse, the character that actually is Silver Samurai is in the film as an assassin. Finally, Yukio has some kind of weird power where she sees when people die, they never really explain or show it fully, which she does not posses. Why did they do all this? Your guess is as good as mine, but the fanboy in me is not a fan.

Phoenix. In the timeline of the X-Men franchise, this takes place following X-Men: The Last Stand. I could go total fanboy and say that this is in the wrong part of the timeline, but I won’t. Instead, I want to focus on a couple of characters. First, during the bombing of Japan, unless I’m mistaken, Wolverine was still with Sabretooth at this time, so where was he? Did Live Schreiber not want to come back for a quick cameo? Second, the recurring appearance of Jean Grey was a bit much. Yes, Wolverine had an obsession over her, but that was it. Based on his movie relationships, it would have served better for Kayla Silverfox or, to a lesser extent, Rogue, to have appeared in his dreams. I’m sure there are those that will think otherwise, but that’s my two cents.

Bone claws. Again, not to spoil anything, but we get to see the bone claws again, instead of the adamantium. I’ve never been a fan of those, and never will, but I really am not a fan of how they brought them back. Wolverine is his adamantium claws, whether the studio wants to admit it or not, and by taking that away from him serves no purpose, not to mention deviates from the source material.

Boss battle. When I heard they were going to use Silver Samurai in this, I was uber excited, but that excitement quickly fell by the wayside when I saw that they were only using him as a sort of boss battle at the end, as opposed to an actual character in the story. Also, the battle between the two isn’t necessarily that great. There was too much emphasis on CG and apparent in-your-face 3D (post converted, I think), as opposed to a solid fight. Oh, and don’t get me started on Viper and her random skin shedding.

For some reason, people could not stand X-Men Origins: Wolverine. If you are one of those people, then The Wolverine is sure to remind you how great of a character Wolverine really is. This is a picture that has good and bad, but is much better than its hated predecessor. It starts off slow, but once it gets going, it is off like dirty shirts! I highly recommend you check this out! I doubt you’ll be disappointed.

4  1/4 out of 5 stars

Movie 43

Posted in Comedy, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 20, 2013 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

The film is composed of multiple comedy shorts presented through an overarching segment titled “The Pitch”, in which Charlie Wessler (Dennis Quaid), a mad screenwriter, is attempting to pitch a script to film executive Griffin Schraeder (Greg Kinnear). After revealing several of the stories in his script, Wessler becomes agitated when Schraeder dismisses his outrageous ideas, and he pulls a gun on him and forces him to listen to multiple other stories before making Schraeder consult his manager, Bob Mone (Common), to purchase the film. When they do so, Mone’s condescending attitude toward Schraeder angers him to the point that, after agreeing to make the film “the biggest film since Howard the Duck”, he confronts Mone in the parking lot and tries to humiliate him. Wessler tries to calm Schraeder with more story ideas to no avail, and the segment ends with it being revealed that it is being shot by a camera crew as part of the movie, leading into the final segments.

Having recently moved, Anna and Sean have coffee with their new neighbors. The neighbors, Robert (Liev Schreiber) and Samantha (Naomi Watts) have a teenage son, Kevin (Jeremy Allen White), whom they have home-schooled. Anna and Sean begin inquiring about the homeschooling, and the numerous manners in which Robert and Samantha have replicated a high school environment within their home, going as far as hazing, bullying, and giving out detentions, are humorously revealed. They also throw high school parties and Samantha simulates Kevin’s “first kiss” with him. Visibly disturbed, the neighbors end up meeting Kevin, who says he is going out and gives them the impression that all is fine: until he reveals a doll made of a mop with Samantha’s face on it, referring to the doll as his girlfriend.

Julie (Anna Faris) and Doug (Chris Pratt) have been in a relationship for a year. When he attempts to propose to her, she reveals to him that she is a coprophiliac, and asks him to defecate on her in the bedroom. Urged by his best friend Larry (J.B. Smoove) and others to go along with it, he eats a large meal and drinks a bottle of laxative prior to the event. Wanting foreplay, Julie is angered when Doug wants to finish, and she runs into the street. Chasing after her, he is then hit by a car and graphically evacuates his bowels everywhere. She cradles him and apologizes; covered and surrounded by his excrement on the road, she exclaims that it is the “most beautiful thing” she has ever seen and accepts his marriage proposal. (In the end credits, Julie and Doug are mistakenly re-named Vanessa and Jason by Rocky Russo, Jeremy Sosenko, Steve Carr, Peter Farrelly, and Charles B. Wessler).

Neil (Kieran Culkin) is working a night shift at a local grocery store. His ex-girlfriend, Veronica (Emma Stone), comes through his line and the two begin arguing, which soon turns into sexual discussion and flirtation as they humorously lament over their relationship; unbeknownst to them, Neil’s intercom microphone broadcasts the entire explicit conversation throughout the store, where various elderly people and vagrants tune in. After she leaves in tears, the customers agree to cover his shift while he goes after her.

Robin (Justin Long) and his cohort Batman (Jason Sudeikis) are in Gotham City at a speed dating establishment seeking out a bomb threat by their arch nemesis, Penguin (John Hodgman). While Robin attempts to connect with various women through speed dating—including Lois Lane (Uma Thurman) and Supergirl (Kristen Bell)—Batman encounters his ex, Wonder Woman (Leslie Bibb), and attempts to stop Penguin from detonating Supergirl, who later turns out to be the Riddler (Will Carlough) in disguise, which Batman already knew and was screwing with Robin, who kissed “her” moments before unveiling. (Early during production, this sketch was formerly titled “Robin’s Big Speed Date”.)

A faux-PSA about kids stuck in machines and how adults’ criticism of these particular machines affect the feelings of the children stuck inside the machines. This commercial was paid for by the society for the prevention of cruelty to children inside machines.

A developing company is having a meeting in their headquarters over their newly released product, the “iBabe”, which is a life-sized, realistic replica of a nude woman which functions as an MP3 player. The boss (Richard Gere), listens to his various workers (Kate Bosworth, Aasif Mandvi, and Jack McBrayer) argue over the placement of a fan that was built into the genital region of the iBabe, which is dismembering the penises of teenage boys who attempt to have sex with them. The board members then agree to strongly emphasise the dangers of the product via its new commercials.

Nathan (Jimmy Bennett) and Amanda (Chloë Grace Moretz) are watching television after school at Nathan’s house as their first “middle school” date. When they begin to kiss, his older brother Mikey (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) enters the living room and makes fun of them. Amanda then discovers she is menstruating and tries to hide it, and when Nathan sees blood on her pants, he panics and believes her to be bleeding to death, causing a debacle, which would later have Nathan and Amanda’s fathers (Patrick Warburton and Matt Walsh) involved.

Another faux-commercial; this time it now involves two women and Tampax as the two women are swimming in an ocean and a shark suddenly appears and graphically eats one of the women.

Pete (Johnny Knoxville) captures a leprechaun (Gerard Butler) for his roommate Brian (Seann William Scott) as a birthday present. After tying the leprechaun up in the basement, they demand he give them a pot of gold. The obscene leprechaun threatens that his brother is coming to save him. When he arrives, Brian and Pete are shot at but ultimately kill both leprechauns. At the end of the segment, Pete reveals he has also caught a fairy (Esti Ginzburg) who performs fellatio for gold coins.

Donald (Stephen Merchant) and Emily (Halle Berry) are on a date together at a Mexican restaurant. Tired with typical first dates, Emily challenges Donald to a game of truth or dare. She dares him to grab a man’s buttocks, and he follows with daring her to blow out the birthday candles on a blind boy’s cake. The game rapidly escalates to extremes, in which both of them get plastic surgery and tattoos, and humiliate themselves.

Set in 1959, Coach Jackson (Terrence Howard) is lecturing his basketball team before their first game against an all-white team. Worried about losing the game, the timid players are lectured by Coach Jackson about their superiority in the sport over their white counterparts, which he expresses vulgarly. When the game ensues, the all-white team loses miserably and rejoices in a single point they earn.

Amy (Elizabeth Banks) worries that her boyfriend Anson’s (Josh Duhamel) cat, Beezel (an animated cartoon), is coming between their relationship. Beezel seems to detest Amy and anyone who comes between him and Anson, but Anson only sees Beezel as innocent. One day, Amy witnesses Beezel masturbating to summer vacation photos of Anson in a swimsuit. Beezel attacks her and violently urinates on her. Anson still finds his pet innocent but Amy threatens to leave if he doesn’t get rid of Beezel. Caring more about his relationship, Anson agrees to find a new home for him. That night, Beezel tearfully watches the couple make love from a closet (whilst sodomizing himself with a hairbrush and dry humping a stuffed teddy bear). The next day when it comes time to take Beezel away, he is nowhere to be found. Amy goes outside to look. Beezel then runs her over with a truck and attempts to shoot her to death with a shotgun, but she chases him into the street and begins beating him with a shovel, which is witnessed by a group of children attending a birthday party at a neighboring house. When Anson approaches to see what is happening, Amy tries to explain Beezel’s motives. Beezel acts innocent and Anson sides with his cat. The children of the party then attack and murder Amy for beating up Beezel, stabbing her with plastic forks. Anson grabs Beezel, as Beezel again fantasizes about French kissing his owner.

REVIEW:

Movie 43 is a film that I have yet to read a good review about. Against my better judgment, though, I decided to see what the masses were so incensed about. Surely this thing could not be that bad…or could it?

What is this about?

A series of interconnected short films follows a washed-up producer as he pitches insane story lines featuring some of the biggest stars in Hollywood.

What did I like?

Offensive. No, this film did not offend me, unless you consider how unfunny it was, but there is a disclaimer at the beginning, and the directors were making the rounds before it was released saying that the reason they made this picture was to offend and shock audiences. Judging by the vitriol people have been spitting out regarding this film, I would say they succeeded.

Cohesive. Unlike Putney Swope, a film that also has random sketches interspersed amongst the “plot”, this one actually keeps everything tied together. As a matter of fact, the plot involving a guy who wants to get the horrible movie, which we are watching, made could very well be the best part of the entire flick.

What didn’t I like?

Fire the agents. I really have to wonder what the agents of such big stars as Kate Winslet, Halle Berry, Richard Gere, and fresh off his Oscar worthy performance in Les Miserables, Hugh Jackman, amongst others that have no business being in a film this lowbrow. I don’t particularly care to say that actors are too good for a film, but they were. For goodness sakes, Jackman was playing a guy with testicles on his neck!!!!

*SIGH*.  I was talking to a friend of mine a few minutes ago, and he summed this film up very well, it is like a movie version of current Saturday Night Live. There are moments that are funny, but they are so few and far between, that you barely even notice them, or care. The rest of the sketches and whatnot just exist for the point of being gross, offensive, or filler.

Some media outlets have been trying to compare Movie 43 so such comedy sketch classics as Kentucky Fried Movie and The Groove Tube, among others, but it doesn’t come anywhere near the quality of those. This is one of those films that I am stretching to fins something good to say about, so it is best that you avoid it like the plague. I’ve suffered enough for all of us!

1 1/2 out of 5 stars

Rise of the Guardians

Posted in Action/Adventure, Animation, Family, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on April 3, 2013 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

The story begins with the spirit of winter, Jack Frost being raised from a frozen lake, but he returns to the world unseen by people and it is learned that he cannot be seen because he is not believed in, and all of his memories from his former life are gone. Only his name, given to him by the Man in the Moon who raised him, is known to him.

300 years later, North receives a vision in his workshop of the boogeyman Pitch Black, and alerts the other Guardians; the head of the tooth fairies Tooth, the short tempered Australian-accented E. Aster Bunnymund and the gentle, non-speaking Sandy to the North Pole. Upon their arrival, they do not want to believe that Pitch poses a threat, but their guide the Man in the Moon suggests otherwise and instructs them to induct Jack Frost as a new Guardian to combat the threat. Meanwhile, Jack instills fun and laughter in children from his childish nature and inspires a snowball fight between a young believer named Jamie and the local children, but still they do not believe in him and he is still invisible. Jack is taken forcibly to the North Pole by North’s Yeti workshop workers, but declines joining the Guardians as his centuries-long isolation has left him bitter to the responsibility they hold dear to protect the children of the world. North tries to convince him otherwise, but they are alerted to an attack on Tooth’s palace. When they arrive, they discover Pitch’s nightmares taking all of the childrens’ teeth and the baby tooth fairies that work as Tooth’s assistants. Jack saves one before they are confronted by Pitch, who states he intends to stop the childrens’ belief in the Guardians so he instead is believed in, wielding a power like Sandy’s to turn his dreams into nightmares. Pitch escapes and the loss of belief in the tooth fairy seems to immediately effect Tooth. Jack volunteers to help when he discovers that the teeth provide the memories of the children they came from including his own and seeks to find his place among them. They manage to collect the teeth in one night and faith in Tooth is restored though they are caught by Jamie who can see them all with the exception of Jack. Jack and Sandy are attacked by Pitch’s nightmares and though Jack’s efforts are valiant, Sandy is overcome and seemingly destroyed by Pitch. With Easter a day away, the group agrees to help Bunny distribute his eggs. They find Jamie’s toddler sister Sophie at the Warren and manage to decorate eggs for distribution, Jack then takes Sophie home.

Lured by a familiar voice calling to him from under a bed in the forest, Jack and Baby Tooth discover Pitch’s hideout. Pitch offers Jack’s canister of memories in exchange for remaining a neutral party, but Jack refuses and in retaliation, Pitch destroys all the eggs before they make their way to the surface, destroying the childrens’ belief in the Easter Bunny. Being blamed for the failure, Jack leaves the Guardians and isolates himself in Antarctica where he encounters Pitch again who offers a partnership to spread fear to all the children. But Jack wants to be loved, not feared and rejects Pitch’s offer again. Pitch holds Baby Tooth hostage for Jack’s staff and then he sends Jack and Baby Tooth into a crevasse when Jack hands the staff over. Baby Tooth suggests Jack open his memories, where he discovers he was a teenage boy who had saved his sister from falling through thin ice by alleviating her fear with fun, in turn though he’d fallen in, but that sacrifice inspired the Man in the Moon to resurrect him as Jack Frost. Inspired by this, Jack returns to save the last light of belief on Earth; Jamie. Not only does Jack succeed in reaffirming Jamie’s faith in the Guardians, but he also instills a belief in him, allowing Jamie to see and hear him, much to Jack’s delight. The other woefully weakened Guardians join Jack to face off against Pitch, and Jamie has his own friends join in the seemingly impossible fight; but their faith is more than a match for Pitch’s nightmares and also causes Sandy’s resurrection, which sends Pitch running. No longer feared, Pitch cannot be seen or heard by the human children, and his fear turns his own nightmares against him, dragging him back under the bed.

Jack accepts his place with the Guardians and says goodbye to Jamie and his friends, their hope renewed and their belief strong Jack assures Jamie that they are now in his heart and as long as they believe the Guardians will always be there to protect them

REVIEW:

Let’s face it, there were a bunch of animated films that were released last year. Some have argued that there may have been too many. One of the films that many have overlooked, partially because of the massive shadow by Wreck-It Ralph and all the holiday films that were released around the same time, is Rise of the Guardians.

What is this about?

In this animated adventure, Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, the Sandman and Jack Frost come together to battle Pitch, a malicious spirit determined to take over the world and destroy the innocent beliefs and dreams of children.

What did I like?

Not what you know. Normally, I’m a purist. Give me what I know and I’ll be happy. No need to go around changing stuff for the sake of change. This film won’t change my stance on that, but I did appreciate the new versions of our well-known holiday icons. No longer is Santa a jolly old elf, but a Russian biker type, for instance.

Children. Children, and humans, in films like this seem to be nothing more than an annoyance. Thankfully, the children don’t really have much to do with most of the picture and the focus is on the guardians, which is what the audience came to see, after all. I’m sure there are those out there that feel they could have more of an impact on the proceedings, but I’m not one of those. The decision to not have some cheeky, disrespectful child mucking things up was brilliant.

Pitch. I really like the villainous Pitch Black, otherwise known as the Boogeyman. The look of him reminds me of a vampire and for a character than is all about the darkness, that works. Jude Law’s voice also really worked…better than I thought it would. With all that said, he still is no Oogie Boogie.

What didn’t I like?

Origin. We get Jack Frost’s origin and a little bit of Pitch Black’s, but the others, not so much. Reading a little background on this film, and it turns out that it is set 200 years after the book series, which gives each character their own story, apparently. I’m not saying the film should have went into great detail about each one, but maybe a scene where they are sitting around getting to know each other and we get a quick reference to what their past is would have been nice.

Sandman. I loved the little Sandman guy. He actually may have been my favorite, but two things bothered me. First, whose idea was it to have him be silent? If anything, that seems like something better suited for the Tooth Fairy. Second, why did they have to kill him? I can understand not killing off Santa or the Easter Bunny. Can you imagine the shock and horror on the kids’ faces?!? I just don’t feel it accomplished what the filmmakers were attempting. Now, if he would have just been kidnapped, that may have worked better.

Timing. So, this doesn’t take place around Christmas, but rather Easter. Does that make any sense? Not to me, it didn’t. Around one of the major holidays like that, when the guardians are at their strongest, might not have been the best time to launch an attack. Perhaps Pitch should have tried one of the lesser Patriotic holidays like Labor Day, Columbus Day, Veteran’s Day, etc.

When all is said and done, Rise of the Guardians should have risen to the top of the box office for weeks, but it didn’t, for whatever reason. Such a shame for such a grand film. The few qualms I have with this film are minute as it is a very well made and entertaining film. I highly recommend it, especially around the holidays (Easter or Christmas).

4 1/2 out of 5 stars

Les Misérables

Posted in Movie Reviews, Musicals with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 30, 2012 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

In 1815, convict Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman) is released on parole by prison guard Javert (Russell Crowe) after serving a nineteen-year sentence. He is offered food and shelter by the Bishop of Digne (Colm Wilkinson), but later steals the Bishop’s silver during the night. He is caught by the authorities, but the Bishop says that the silver was given as a gift, and secures Valjean’s release. Ashamed by the Bishop’s generosity, Valjean breaks his parole and vows to start an honest life under a new identity. Javert swears he will bring the escaped convict to justice.

Eight years later, Valjean has become a factory owner and mayor of Montreuil-sur-Mer. Fantine (Anne Hathaway), one of his workers, is discovered to be sending money to her illegitimate daughter, Cosette (Isabelle Allen), who lives with the unscrupulous Thénardiers (Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter) and their daughter Éponine (Natalya Angel Wallace), and is dismissed by the foreman (Michael Jibson). Left with no option, Fantine turns to prostitution. During an argument with an abusive customer, Javert, now a police inspector, arrests Fantine, but Valjean intercedes and takes her to a hospital.

Later, Valjean learns that a man believed to be him has been arrested. Unable to condemn an innocent man, Valjean reveals his identity to the court before departing for the hospital. There he promises a dying Fantine that he will look after her daughter. Valjean finds Cosette and pays the Thénardiers to allow him to take her, and promises to be like a father to her.

Nine years later, Jean Maximilien Lamarque, the only government official sympathetic toward the poor, is nearing death. Students Marius Pontmercy (Eddie Redmayne) and Enjolras (Aaron Tveit), together with street urchin Gavroche (Daniel Huttlestone), discuss fomenting revolution. Later Marius catches a glimpse of Cosette (Amanda Seyfried), now a young woman, and instantly falls in love with her. Meanwhile, despite Cosette’s questioning, Valjean refuses to tell her about his past or Fantine.

At a café, Enjolras organises a group of idealistic students as Lamarque’s death is announced. Meanwhile, Éponine (Samantha Barks), now Marius’s friend, leads him to Cosette, where the two profess their love for one another. Lamenting that her secret love for Marius will never be reciprocated, Éponine fatalistically decides to join the revolution. Later, an attempted robbery of Valjean’s house makes him mistakenly think that Javert has discovered him, and he flees with Cosette. As they leave, Enjolras rallies the Parisians to revolt, and Marius sends a farewell letter to Cosette.

The next day, the students interrupt Lamarque’s funeral procession and begin their assault. Javert, disguised as one of the rebels, spies among the revolutionaries, but is quickly exposed by Gavroche and captured. During the ensuing gunfight, Éponine saves Marius at the cost of her own life, professing her love to him before she dies. Valjean, intercepting the letter from Marius to Cosette, goes to the barricade to protect Marius. After saving Enjolras from snipers, he is allowed to execute Javert. When the two are alone, Valjean frees Javert and fires his gun to fake the execution. Initially disbelieving, Javert wonders at Valjean’s generosity.

With the Parisians not joining the revolution as the students expected, they resolve to fight to the death. Everyone is killed but Marius, who is saved when Valjean drags his unconscious body into the sewers. Thénardier, scavenging the dead bodies, steals Marius’s ring. Valjean recovers and escapes the sewers carrying Marius, but is confronted at the exit by Javert. Javert threatens to shoot Valjean if he doesn’t surrender, but Valjean ignores him. Unable to reconcile the conflict between his civil and moral duties, two things which he always considered the same, Javert commits suicide.

Later, Marius mourns for his friends but Cosette comforts him. Revealing his past to Marius, Valjean tells him he must leave because his presence endangers Cosette, and makes Marius promise never to tell her. Marius and Cosette marry; the Thénardiers crash the reception and testify that they saw Valjean carrying a murdered corpse in the sewers. Thénardier unwittingly shows Marius the ring that he stole from him as “proof.” Recognising the ring, Marius realises that it was Valjean who saved his life. Marius and Cosette rush to Valjean after being told his location by Thénardier.

As Valjean sits dying in a local convent, he perceives the spirit of Fantine appearing to take him to Heaven. Cosette and Marius rush in to bid farewell. Valjean hands Cosette his confession of his past life, and the spirits of Fantine and the Bishop guide him to paradise, where he joins the spirits of Enjolras, Éponine, Gavroche, and the other rebels at the barricade.

REVIEW:

My freshmen year of college, we opened our marching band show with the music from Les Miserables. It may come as a surprise to some, but up until a few minutes ago, I had no idea what the songs were that comprised that 2 1/2 minute medley. I just listened to it again, and found myself singing along, as if I knew the words as well as an Earth, Wind, & Fire song.

What is this about?

Based on the novel by Victor Hugo, ‘Les Miserables’ travels with prisoner-on-parole, 24601, Jean Valjeun, as he runs from the ruthless Inspector Javert on a journey beyond the barricades, at the center of the June Rebellion. Meanwhile, the life of a working class girl with a child is at turning point as she turns to prostitution to pay money to the evil innkeeper and his wife who look after her child, Cosette. Valjean promise to take care of the child, eventually leads to a love triangle between Cosette, Marius who is a student of the rebellion, and Eponine, a girl of the streets. The people sing of their anger and Enjolras leads the students to fight upon the barricades.

What did I like?

Stage to screen. In the Golden Age of Hollywood, musicals were all the rage. Some of them were real close to their Broadway counterparts, while others shared only the name. I cannot say for certain, but it seems as if this film didn’t try to do anything special with the sets, other than find and/or build real life version of what was used in the stage version. You have to give them credit for that, as audiences these days want bigger, better, more, as opposed to simplistic and authentic.

Better than the rest. Earlier this year, when the Grammys were on, someone asked me, “I wonder how it feels to be Adele and know that you are hands down the most talented singer in that entire room, and probably the world?” The same thing can be said for Anne Hathaway and Hugh Jackman. They are far and away the most talented members of this cast, though, I see some budding young musical talent in Samantha Parks and Aaron Tveit.

Casting. In the good old days, actors were actually trained, as opposed to being picked up off the street because they had “the look”. This is how we got people like Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire, Julie Andrews, Ginger Rogers, and their ilk. These talents were trained to not only act, but sing, and possibly dance. These days, that is such a rare occurrence, but Hugh Jackman has proven over the last few years, that it may be a good idea to go back to those days. This whole cast, with the exception of Russell Crowe, seems as if they were trained in musical theater. A couple of them, I know for sure, have been starring in London’s version of Broadway (I forgot what it is called, sorry). The one weak link is Russell Crowe. I’ll get to him shortly. Also, how perfect casting can you get than Anne Hathaway and Amanada Seyfreid. They both have those big “anime eyes” and could actually pass for mother and daughter because of some similar facial structure. Don’t forget young Cosette, who I think they did an exhaustive search to find someone who looks that much like Seyfreid. There is no way they could have been that lucky to have just come across her.

Dream. Susuan Boyle made us all sing “I Dreamed a Dream” all over the place a couple of years ago but, believe me when I say this, Anne Hathaway will blow you away with her rendition. Once you see the context in which that song is placed and watch Hathaway give, arguably, the performance of her career as she tears your heart out with each note, showing that she is more than a pretty face, but a true acting and singing talent.

What didn’t I like?

Length. I don’t believe they cut anything from the original stage version, so this is pretty much the same show you would see on Broadway, just on a grander scale, obviously. However, and this may because yesterday I sat through two nearly three hour movies and have a two more sitting in the living room waiting to be watched, but I felt that this was a scoche long. Having said that, I can’t really say where you could cut anything out.

Opera. Since there are very few lines not sung in this musical, some have called it an opera. I won’t go into a big spiel on the actual definition of an opera, but just because everyone is singing doesn’t make it an opera. Think about it like this, the Star Wars saga (that includes the prequels that people seem to hate so much) is often called a space opera, and other than that weird singing alien George Lucas added in to Jabba the Hutt’s palace, there is no singing, that I can recall, except the Ewok celebration after everything is over.

Opera mouth. Keeping on the subject of opera, I have to mention this because it sort of bugged me. Eddie Redmayne has some real chops, but he needs to do something about his facial movements when he sings. Watch a Broadway or opera singer perform, or you can watch Jessica Simpson sing, she does the same thing. You’ll notice that they move their mouth when they sing long notes, and so does Redmayne. It wouldn’t have been such a bother, except no one else does it!

Crowe. Russell Crowe impressed me with his singing skills. With this and his role in the upcoming Man of Steel, it looks like the guy is on his way to reviving his career. Here is the problem, though, his vocal chops don’t do him any good, especially against the likes of Jackman. He wasn’t as bad a Piece Brosnan in Mamma Mia!, but I still cannot help but think they should have gone with someone else. I’m sure Gerard Butler wouldn’t have minded dusting off his singing chops for this, or they could have gone with Paul Bettany, who was rumored to have originally been cast in the role.

Comic relief. I’m the last person to have issue with comic relief, especially in something that’s more on the serious side, as this film is. However, if you’re going to have comic relief, they cannot be a nuisance, but I found Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter’s characters to be nothing more than your typical lowlife vagrants. I’m not sure if that is how they are actually written in the book and/or musical, but I wasn’t a fan. Seems to me that they could have done something else, like be funny narrators, for instance.

Accents. This whole film is set in France, except maybe the opening scene, but I think that is just off the coast of France. At any rate, here we have these French people all speaking with British accents. I cannot be the only one that noticed this! I don’t get why they chose to give them all British accents. The little street urchin, Gavroche, has a cockney accent, as do the hookers and other peoples that mess chop off Fantine’s hair and send her to a life of, shall we say, less that wholesome living?

The few complaints that I have about Les Miserables are minor and can be considered nitpicky. I don’t intend to come off as if I didn’t enjoy the film, because I did. A few tweaks here and there and this very well could have been a stronger(er) contender for my top film of the year. I believe that the niche audience for this will not be disappointed and neither will the general public. This director was ale to find a way to please everyone. Maybe he should try his hand at a comic book movie! I highly recommend this, so go see it NOW!!!

5 out of 5 stars