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Movie Review: The Wolverine (2013)

July 28, 2013 1 comment

Movie Review: The Wolverine (2013)

Armed with Claws and Cause The Wolverine does not disappoint

The Wolverine Poster

The moral of an immortal mutant

Every superhero has a storyline or era that most readers agree is the best period in their history. For Spiderman, it’s the Kraven series and anything involving Venom. Daredevil has the Elektra and Bullseye saga. For the X-Men’s most feral member [besides Beast], it might be his time in Japan and his battles with the ninja. The trailer shows Wolverine going head to head and a glimpse of a giant metal samurai. The story looks to be centered on Wolverine losing his healing abilities and living life as a regular mortal. That would normally be enough to sell us, but there’s that lingering taste left over from his first outing; X-Men Origins Wolverine (2009). So can we finally get the Wolverine movie we’ve been waiting for? In a simple word, yes.

He has lived several lives. He may die for one in Japan.

He has lived many lives. He may die for one in Japan.

Hugh Jackman reprises his role as the cigar-smoking, bub talking, and quick healing loose cannon. After the X-Men’s Last Stand, Logan has retired to the wilderness to deal with his personal demons [and mostly] the loss of his deepest love- Jean Grey. It’s here that he is found by the Yashida Clan and brought to Japan in order to have an old debt repaid. A Japanese officer, saved by Logan near the end of World War II, has offered Wolverine the chance to end his life as an immortal.

James Mangold [3:10 To Yuma (2007)] directs a nicely paced action adventure that adds humanity by exploring the mortality of a central character that has the attitude of truly being invincible. That acerbic swagger has always been the trademark of Wolverine- even in the first X-Men (2000) movie when he tells Cyclops “You’re a dick” as the X-Men leader is unsure if wolverine is really Wolverine. Wolverine goes on to steal his bike and almost steals his girl…Jean. Well, that’s the residual that resides in Logan. It’s that bit of unfinished business that gives Logan his dimension and gives us a reason to care beyond the fight scenes. Newcomer Tao Okamoto is perfectly cast as the granddaughter of corporate tycoon Yashida and becomes the love interest and central focal point. She becomes the thing worth fighting for. She becomes the reason to live and to love again. It’s a chemistry that works and we are given a worthy addition to the current crop of superhero movies.
Speaking of additions, I can’t forget to mention the work of Rila Fukushima as the ass-kicking sidekick Yukio. She flips in the trailer and fortunately, she’s been fully fleshed out in the film. She adds a fair amount of flair and flash and I hope we find her in Logan’s future.

The Wolverine early scene

His actions will echo for generations.

But, The Wolverine is not without its bumps. I find them to be mostly minor and not too much of a distraction. Every so often we have a small dip in CGI quality [That damn Coca-cola bear] and a little inconsistency with some of the characterizations and repeated action shots [You’ll see a few things a little too often]. The surprises, twists and turns keep Wolverine fresh and The Wolverine has re-energized the brand. And, the after-credits teaser may have just re-energized the X-Men franchise. Put the Origins movie on your shelf to fill out your Marvel collection, but set a special place for The Wolverine when it finally comes to DVD. See it now, own it then.

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Domino Grey Butterfly Affect Part III I of the Beholder

July 26, 2013 1 comment

Domino Grey I of The Beholder

Butterfly Affect Part III

Butterfly Affect III cover

Sometimes it’s What you see. Sometimes it’s How you see.

Domino Grey “Move Your Feet”

You all came here today to be different, to do different. You all understood a change was coming. You were about to blossom, you were about to become a better you. That little insect crawls out on that branch and he wraps himself up and he waits. And then it happens. We are the same way. Domino Grey adds to the Butterfly Affect series with I of the Beholder. After you Jump Up and Move Your Feet, calm down and reflect with these infectious and futuristic house grooves.   2013 Avxp Music

Track listing

1. Move Your Feet

2. Jump Up

3. I am The Beholder

4. Nothing is the same without you

5. New World

—- —-  —–

Beatport Link: http://www.beatport.com/release/i-of-the-beholder/1127942

iTunes link: http://itunes.apple.com/us/album/__/id678281249

http://www.DominoGrey.com

And More: http://www.feiyr.com/Domino+Grey/artist/10035404.html

Movie Review: Europa Report (2013)

Movie Review: Europa Report (2013)

It’s Mission to Mars Europa with found footage… and a hard Sci-fi edge.

Europa Report Poster

Plot Summary: Footage from a failed mission to discover life on Jupiter’s moon, Europa is used to answer the most important question in the universe…are we alone?

Somewhere between the classic Arthur C Clarke novel Rendezvous with Rama and the Grand Tour novels by Ben Bova, I fell in love with the planets. Reading the vivid descriptions of their surface and atmosphere filled me with a sense of awe and wonder. In works like Jupiter, Venus, Mercury, and Saturn, Bova brings us the planetary system- scaled up in its cosmic-magnitude. We are there to witness…miracles and to become tourists seeing sites and sights only meant for gods and angels.

Hard Sci-fi delivers the extraordinary in a believable fashion. We stay rooted to real-world physics and the limits of our material universe are not to be circumvented by techno-babble. We need to understand what we don’t understand. That pulls us in to the story and also pushes mankind out and to the dangerous reaches of space to find answers about us from them. Them is always the concept of life or intelligence. In movies like Mission to Mars and Red Planet, we find the discovery of life to be the central goal with numerous and unforeseen perils thrown in. A sub-title of Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey is “An epic drama of adventure and exploration”. That’s the idea of director Sebastian Cordero and screenplay writer Philip Gelatt. I had never seen any of their previous work so I bought in not knowing what to expect. I’m very glad I did.

I recently covered Apollo 18 -using the same style of found footage, with the viewer piecing together the entire story, which slowly paces towards a revealing climax. Where Apollo 18 was played for horror, Europa Report plays for hard. We have the familiar broken feeds, the camera failing at inopportune times and the constant glitches and even the prospect of being stranded a million miles from home.

Europa Report Space Walk scene

The cost of curiosity may be too high a price to pay

Command Crew

The crew is quite believable and we have actors fleshing out familiar characters with Sharlto Copley [District 9] and Michael Nyqvist [The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo 2009]. The hardware and footage feels authentic and that leads to a nice level of immersion. There’s a small moment of…upset when you find the crew ‘pushing it’ and your stomach knots up as you start thinking ‘get the hell outta there’. That reminds me of an episode of Star Trek where Captain Kirk takes in an opinion from Bones McCoy who votes for survival. Kirk snaps on the P.A. and reminds everyone that theirs is a mission of discovery and personal safety is not part of the prime directive. If you can appreciate that attitude then you will enjoy the core theme of Europa Report. Mission to Mars dropped the space rock a bit with the overly done big-reveal ending. Europa Report avoids this by staying true to its hard Sci-fi roots and allowing small events to have major impact. If you enjoy your science fiction leaning more towards science and enjoy the journey that a well written novel takes you on, see Europa Report. It’s was certainly worth the trip for them and it is certainly worth the trip for you.

These are a few other reviewed movies that gave me a similar feeling.

Apollo 18 (although horror-themed)

Oblivion

Solaris

and Moon (2009)

Movie Review Pacific Rim (2013)

July 15, 2013 1 comment

Movie Review Pacific Rim (2013)

The Robots are Giant and the Action is Huge

pacific Rim poster

What if Godzilla was bad and Mecha-Godzilla was good?

Giant Robo, Tranzor Z, Gundam, Big O, Voltron and Evengelion- are all part of our collective memory for what a hulking, monstrous robot adventure should be. Add Godzilla in the mix and you have mass destruction on a city-wide scale. The premise is pretty simple. A giant ocean fissure releases aliens into our dimension hell-bent on destroying humanity. They use big monsters so we use giant robots to match them. What ensues are some of the biggest bot battles depicted on screen.

Bang for the Bot

What we get is some really, really, really high quality CGI work that tops the Transformers franchise without repeating the look. Pacific Rim steps away from the Transformers city-motif by pitching its battles at night and in the rain- arguably the toughest combination to render convincingly. Even their at-sea and underwater work looks awesome. If you just go for the sights, you’ll be blown away.  The story, written in part by Travis Beacham (Clash of the Titans 2010) focuses on the relationships between pilots for the giant robot Jaegers. It takes two to pilot one and the sync between them is very important. Pacific Rim reaches for dramatic impact without getting too sappy or corny.

A small nod goes to movies like Robot Jox and Robo Warriors who tried to bring us stomping bot action with the expected 80s b-movie results. This is finally realized as Director Guillermo del Toro brings his visionary passion and eye to full effect. Job well done. A point that I was somewhat apprehensive about is how ‘The Americans’ would tread upon the Japanese giant-robot culture. It was… interesting to see western stereotypes still in effect as the Japanese citizens were throwbacks to villagers -even in a very Blade Runner-ish city. The Russian pilots were Drago and his girlfriend from Rocky IV and the Chinese team were anonymous…Chinese…men in (Communist) red suits. We have a Japanese female who is established as being a warrior, but then, is sunk down to being the weak link of the party. Let’s just say our hero does a little too much checking up on her during the battles. It suggests weakness and I’m not sure how much of that is the sympathetic female-cliché and how much is derived from the traditional foot-binding-meekness stereotype.

Following his solid appearance in Prometheus [reviewed by me here] is Idris Elba adding some brass and authority to the picture. Charlie Hunnam plays the main pilot Raleigh Becket, joined by Rinko Kikuchi who is the promising prospect Mako Mori. Alongside this central cast are a few nice turns from the un-expected expected scientists. You’ll see. Another fine addition is Ron Pearlman, which caused the entire audience to tighten up as soon as he appeared. We all knew he was about to add something cool to the movie. He does and the movie does what it sets out to do. See this while it’s still in theaters. Pacific Rim was meant for the big screen.

Like giant robots? Me too. I even made a song about it. “The Big Dynamic Robot Show Episode One” from my Doctor Atomics and the Fortress of Solitude album.

Movie Review Lone Ranger (2013)

Movie Review Lone Ranger (2013)

The masked man gets the Mummy treatment

 

 

Lone Ranger movie poster

Sidekick becomes Frontkick

The new movie is based on a famous 1933 radio show and the TV series from the 1950s. It’s the story of a Texas Ranger and his Native American sidekick dispensing justice on the Western Frontier. The first question most have with the remake is why- why bring back this franchise? And the second; why is Johnny Depp playing Tonto the Native American sidekick? When you get past the explanations mentioning 16ths of blood, you get to focus on a modern retelling and ask the most important question; is it any good?

 

Yeah, sorta, I guess. It’s the equivalent of watching Batman and Robin and liking Robin more.  Not just that but liking Robin so much, you wish he played Batman or they named the series Robin and the Batguy. True, Depp might lack some of the physical presence to be a larger than life lawman, but so does Armie Hammer who brings the not-quite-a-hero aspect several notches below what Brendan Fraser gave us in The Mummy (1999) franchise. Same Writer and Director. Stephen Sommers keeps this movie balanced between grit and grins so just when you think we are about to slip into a spaghetti western, we get a reminder that this is a Disney movie (after all) and the world aint as dark you might think. Most of the gruesome un-pleasantries happen off-camera or are promised on a later date [pun intended]. Sure we have the immigrant Chinese labor building the railroads, sure we have the slaughter of tribes, oh maybe a few servants, but mostly this depiction isn’t as important as the mission of our (unlikable) main character and his personal quest for justice. Tonto might have been right with this Kemo Sahbee.

 

So yes, it’s an okay-to-good movie. And it stops at good. Stops…at…good. As an adult watching a weirdly balanced movie between childish and churlish, I get it and won’t lose my mind over the numerous plot-holes, time gaps and slanted characterizations. Even the flashback-to-today storytelling technique jarred me from being into the movie to sitting at a carnival to sitting in a movie theater watching Hollywood retell a tired tale. Tired. That might sum up my experience watching a movie that misses in so many moments. By the time the William Tell overture cued up, I was already done. And so, when you bring your kids, be sure to bring the kid in you too. The adult will be disappointed. I’m not a movie critic; I’m just critiquing a movie.