Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The Wolverine [A Fat Jesus Movie Review]

I posted a X-Men Superhero Franchise review way back in August when I was going through the X-Men series. You can click the link right there to go view it. In it I remember touting that I was looking forward to a real Wolverine stand alone movie (this film). Also that X-Men: Days of Future Past, could be the best superhero film next year. But this is now, and with The Wolverine getting ready to make it's home release, I thought I'd give you all a little review of it. Ya know, to keep up with all the other X-Men reviews I've churned out. Hugh Jackman is back as the iconic Logan aka Wolverine. There's only one familiar character in this from the previous movies as The Wolverine set out to right the wrong that was the abysmal origins story. It think they righted the ship well enough.

We open The Wolverine with Logan (Hugh Jackman) being imprisoned in a Japanese POW camp near Nagasaki in 1945. After being freed in the wake of the atomic bomb being dropped, he saved an officer name Yashida (Haruhiko Yamanouchi) from the blast. Present day, Logan is living the Yukon, tormented by hallucinations of Jean Grey (Famke Janssen). He is found by Yukio (Rila Fukushima) a mutant who is able to foresee people's deaths. Yukio was sent by Yashida (now CEO of a technology corporation in Tokyo) to get Logan and bring him to him, so that he may repay his debt. When Logan arrives in Tokyo he meets Yashida's son, Shingen (Hiroyuki Sanada) and his granddaughter, Mariko (Tao Okamoto). Yashida, who is dying of cancer, proposes that he transfers Logan's healing abilities to himself, giving Logan the freedom to live life until a timely death. Logan refuses and prepares to leave the next day. That night however Yashida's physician, Dr. Green (Svetlana Khodchenkova), puts something into Logan's body. Logan dismisses this as a dream. The next morning Logan finds out that Yashida has passed away. At his funeral a group of Yakuza gangsters attempt to kidnap Mariko. Logan saves her and is shot, but his wounds aren't healing like normal. Logan begins a journey to not only protect Mariko, but also to find out who (and what) he's become and why Mariko is in grave danger.

Let me start by saying, this movie, location and sometimes story-wise, is all over the place. We got Logan's head games, the Yukon, 1940s Japan AND present day Japan. With all of this scenery in this film, it's less of a jumbled mess than you would think it to be. On the flip side of that it can be confusing what's going on at times. Also the flow feels weird, disjointed at times almost. The action sprinkled in is fine, but the main story around it, feels pieced together like a torn piece of paper. While it fits together in theory, when you're adapting a movie every detail, moment, line doesn't have to translate. Also characters feel rushed. You get good performances out of Hugh Jackman, Wolverine, and Tao Okamoto, Mariko. But everyone else feels like they're just around. Jean Grey is a plot device and doesn't really carry the film. Yukio was is an interesting character that feels like she just drops off the face of the earth from mid-film to the end. While Dr. Green turned out to be one of the enemies that barely has any screen time until the end. All while Yashida is a nice addition and character, that felt bland to me and was highly forgettable. This is a long movie and to have so much that is seemingly forgettable, really brings down the movie. Also, the overuse of Japan can hurt this at times. From the traditional scenes in old style homes/palaces, to the Pancinko building and the Love Hotel. It's feels like they crammed in Japan just because it was the setting. While some of the more traditional places are fine, the bells and whistles are unneeded. Some things like said Love Hotel, jack it up to the umpteenth degree, and at times leaves you with that "Why did they do this?" feeling.

This movie does improve on just about every aspect of it's predecessor. The action is fun throughout. Integrating ninja and samurai, are a little more inviting than the, "Look out, mutant attacks!", we've become used to with the X-Men franchise. The hand to hand combat is fun, Jackman is used well as Wolverine, as you'd expect. This isn't a R-rated film, but I like when a movie can feel brutal and real with fight scenes. The final battle, while clunky, is in a great location and delivers over the course of the battle. Like I said above the story can be confusing and jumpy, but it's a pretty good one. Again it deviates from the traditional X-Men like narrative. It really gives us a glimpse into what adaptions can look like when they use the comics in making a movie. This is excites me cause X-Men: Days of Future Past, is an adaptation and it gives me high hopes that is can be even better than this. I touched on this above, but they also did well for the character development on Logan/Wolverine. We've all gotten used to the gruff and tough, fight first ask questions later aspect. With this we get the softer side of Logan. Battling with his inner demons, and helping those in need selflessly. We finally get that much needed dimension to a character that sorely needed it. Another interesting character they introduced, and my or may not keep around going forward, was that of Mariko. Not a mutant, and not Jean Grey, she is the catalyst throughout the movie that helps Logan get past his issues. She's the pseudo love interest that never really feels like one, but never feels out of place as damsel in distress. They're the anchors of the movie and are played quite well by Jackman and Okamoto. This is a long movie, a little over two hours, so hunker down. At times it feels draggy, but if you can get through the bad, the second half is smooth sailing. The score and music are pretty solid as well, nothing distracting. With the more intimate or action filled sequences sounding fine. Finally, there's a pretty sick mid-credits scene that with get any fan pretty hype.

The Wolverine isn't everything that Origins: Wolverine was supposed to be. But, it does set any future stand alone Wolverine movie in a better place. The story is a little average, and the characters can be forgettable too. But this was a bounce back for Wolverine, and Hugh Jackman, in what looked to be an ailing series. Fun action and a couple of great performances add up to an interesting movie. This is not a power house in the superhero genre, or even within the X-Men franchise. What this does well is set up future movies while keeping one of the series biggest character fresh. Next up, X-Men: Days of Future Past. I'm ready for ya.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

You're Next [A Fat Jesus Movie Review]

Horror films were hitting hot at heavy and it wasn't even October yet when You're Next was released. It was coming off the heels of The Conjuring (probably the best horror film of the year) and heading right into Insidious: Chapter 2 (a film I'm still waiting to see). You're Next is a film, first shown in 2011, that has taken a lot of people by surprise. I include myself in this as well. I wrote this off as another movie fueled by hype, that would fall flat when I watched it. But as I watched it, I was thoroughly surprised, as I think was the person I watched it with. From the dark humor, to the bloody deaths, this is not only a horror film, but a fun one that you can truly enjoy.

You're Next opens with a couple engaging in sexual activities. Once finished, the man takes a shower, while the woman goes to get a drink. As the man gets out of the shower, he sees "You're Next" written in blood on his mirror, before he's killed by an unknown assailant. The next day a wealthy family is shown driving to a remote vacation house in Missouri. At said house the mother, Aubrey Davidson (Barbara Crampton), hears a noise upstairs and her husband Paul (Rob Moran) is about to check it out. Before he can, his son Chrispian (AJ Bowen), and his girlfriend Erin (Sharni Vinson), arrive and the matter is dropped. The next day Chrispian's other siblings arrive. Drake (Joe Swanberg), his older brother, along with his wife Kelly (Margaret Kelly). Aimee (Amy Seimetz), his younger sister, with her boyfriend Tariq (Ti West). Finally, Felix (Nicholas Tucci), his younger brother, and his girlfriend Zee (Wendy Glenn) arrive that evening. At dinner tensions become high between Drake and Chrispian. As the two brothers argue, the rest of the family attempt to calm each other down. During the chaos, Tariq is shot in the head with an arrow, and this sets in motion the events of the movie. Where a family gathering turns grisly, as a group of animal mask wearing psychopaths terrorize them.

This is a movie that doesn't take itself too seriously. That's one of the biggest strengths that You're Next has. The writing , by Simon Barrett, was a decent blend of mystery and thriller, combined with the brutal side of horror. There's dark humor inter-weaved throughout this, so it never just turns into a twisted mess. The story is pretty simple, no bells and whistles. Not that that's a bad thing, but it's nothing to write home about. The twist (and Spoilers, there is one) is pretty predictable. But, the way it's revealed is done in a good way. You get the tension builds, you get the scares, the blood and gore, all wrapped up in a convenient little package, so to speak. The acting is fine by everyone. I had just watched Drinking Buddies, so to see the director of that, Joe Swanberg, was pretty cool. But, beyond that it was mostly unknowns (to me). The characters were fine, again nothing to write home about. Everyone did their job well and played their part. If I had to single out the star, I'd have to give it to Sharni Vinson as Erin. She really carried the bulk of the movie once everything started to happen. Not to mention she has some sick moments throughout the film. Now this is the point where I'd usually break into a second paragraph about everything "wrong" and "bad" about the film. But, like I've been saying this is a very straightforward flick. Nothing is bad per se, more lacking, and all of the good really outweighs the lacking in this. The lack of character development is made up for with the brutality. The lack of a truly great story is made up for with the dark humor throughout. All things of this nature is really what appealed to me in You're Next.

I've had a lot of time to mull over this film and it's really hit me as a Cabin In The Woods-lite. Although Cabin In The Woods had great writing and a great cast, You're Next shines, though not as bright, in some of the same areas. Capable enough writing, and actors who got the job done help. The brutal kills and dark humor shrouding this movie are great. Really making it easy to turn your brain off and enjoy. I think if you're a fan of horror you'll be into this. Easily one of the best horror films of 2013, and who doesn't love a good movie done on a smaller budget?

Friday, November 22, 2013

Thor: The Dark World [A Fat Jesus Movie Review]

It has been a long awhile since I hunkered down and did some reviews. Never fear though, over the next week, and end of 2013, I'll be doing my best to get this blog up to 100 total posts. I know it's a lot of work on my part, but if you keep reading, I'll keep writing. Deal? Deal. Onto to main attraction. Now I haven't seen all that many movies actually IN the theater this year. But, ever since the current crop of Marvel, and really superhero in general, movies have been hitting theaters, I've made a point to go see them. Thor: The Dark World is no different as I'm a huge sucker for Marvel movies. Thor has always been a sneaky like of mine, and everything I was reading said that this was overall a better movie than it's predecessor. Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston and Natalie Portman reprise their roles in the last big comic book movie of 2013. And I must say, it wasn't bad.

Thor: The Dark World takes place after The Battle of New York which occurred in The Avengers. To begin, we are shown a battle of titans that took place eons ago. In this battle Oden's (Anthony Hopkins) father Bor, clashes with and defeats the plans Dark Elf Malekith (Christopher Eccleston). Malekith seals away a dark power, the Aether, and flees into suspended animation with a select few Dark Elves. Present day, Loki (Tom Hiddleston) has been returned to Asgard and is facing Oden. Due to the compassion of his mother Frigga (Rene Russo), he is speared from execution and sentenced to jail. While this is happening Thor (Chris Hemsworth), alongside Fandral, Volstagg, Hogun and Sif (Zachary Levi, Ray Stevenson, Tadanobu Asano and Jaime Alexander), are fighting a battle to bring peace to Vanahiem. Thus bringing peace to the Nine Realms, as the Biofrost has been reconstructed. Meanwhile in London, Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) is taken to an abandoned building by her intern Darcy Lewis (Kat Dennings). In said building, items have been breaking the laws of psychics. Jane goes off to explore on her own and is transported to where Malekith hid the Aether, and is infected. The Asgardians begin learning about the Convergence. A rare occurrence where all of the Nine Realms align, and portals connecting them appear at random. Malekith is awakened when Jane is infected by the Aether, and begins a quest to reclaim it from her. In the process we learn that he is trying to destroy the Nine Realms and bring the universe back into darkness. Thor, with help from Loki and Jane, must stop Malekith before the universe is destroyed.

This movie can easily be split into two categories. 1. Anywhere other than earth. 2. Out of place shenanigans on earth. Now I like comedy and laughing as much as the next guy, and Marvel usually has a pretty good sense of humor in their movies. But, this movie has way too much of it for me to take any scene taking place on earth seriously. Aside from the climax of the film. I was expecting fleshed out characters played by Kat Dennings and even Stellan Skarsgard. What I got were almost caricature's of what we got in the first movie. There's a ton of unneeded "comedy" between Kat Dennings and her intern, even though she's an intern. Haha? All the while Stellan is thrown into a bit where's he's turned into a crazy guy jailed after streaking. All of this is a distraction and I was not a fan of the way they portrayed the supporting characters on earth during the movie. On the flip side of this, the portrayal characters in Asgard, Svart√°lfar, Vanahiem and the rest of the Nine Realms is fantastic. Tom Hiddleston, as Loki, commands the screen in any scene he is in. I love Loki's character and it's probably (to me) the most well written role (albeit not a ton of screen time) in this area of the Marvel movie universe (aside from Iron Man). Natalie Portman, as Jane Foster, slips into the caricature mode when on earth. But while she is away, she is a great on-screen presence with Hemsoworth, Hiddleston, Russo and Hopkins. Speaking of Chris Hemsworth, he reprises is role as Thor very well, and is really growing into the character. Even getting a little bit of growth and digging a bit deeper into it with Dark World. There's not a lot of other standout or distracting characters. Christopher Eccleston is as good as you can get with Malekith I suppose. While Thor's team, alongside Idris Elba and Anthony Hopkins, are relegated more to the background as they focused more on Thor, Loki and Jane in this.

The action in Thor: The Dark World, and almost any Marvel movie is pretty fun. You have Thor absolutely demolishing baddies, which is part of the charm of his character now. Thor and Loki doing their best WWE impersonation and forming a tag team was cool as well. There's some cool set pieces throughout, and weaved throughout the story line there's enough mind numbing action to wet anyone's appetite. I'm pretty easy to please when it comes to things like action and comedy as well. So I know I'm always in for a good time watching these types of movies. Like in the above paragraph, the writing can be split into those two areas. But overall it does a much better job than the first movie. Sure the overbearing scenes set on earth are out of place, but even in that the story is progressed well. Meanwhile the characters and plot are engrossing when it comes time for a scene in one of the other realms. It's a tough job blending all the things going on in this movie. But it's presented well enough to not confuse the hell out of the audience.  I really liked the way they dove into Thor's mind in this and gave him a bit more than "Thor, smash." Sorry Hulk, it had to be said. Meanwhile, Jane Foster goes from seemingly lost scientist in the first movie, to Thor's main squeeze in this. It nice to see they didn't forget about her despite only mentioning her in The Avengers. Finally Loki is given yet another dimension. We've seen the power hungry and the wanting to be ruler in Thor and The Avengers. We now have a Loki that's tapped into his emotions, and is a perfect blend of relateble guy, misunderstood genius and complete psychopath. It helps that Tom Hiddleston does a ridiculously good job of embodying everything the Loki is. The CGI looks good throughout. The pull in/out shots of Asgard are fantastic. As well as the funeral scene that was done beautifully. While the desolation of Svart√°lfar is oddly creepy. I didn't see it in 3D, but what really stood out to me, was there not being many points where I went, "There's where 3D would be if I was watching in it." The music and score are fine throughout, adding drama, tension, etc, when needed. There's a fantastic cameo that I won't spoil, alongside Stan Lee making his annual appearance. Both of which I enjoyed.

Thor: The Dark World isn't going to be a movie that will convince people to jump on the Marvel bandwagon. Show them Iron Man 3, show them The Avengers, that's what draws people in. This movie bridges gaps, builds characters, and gives a lesser known character, in Thor, the time to shine. Full of action, humor (even though a lot is out of place, there's still great moments) and a capable story, Thor: the Dark World is a nice addition to this film universe. It'll tide the comic book fans over until the likes of Captain America: Winter Soldier, X-Men Days of Future Past, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and Guardians of the Galaxy next year. While providing a capable, late in the year action movie, that people can go see over the Thanksgiving holiday. Did I mention that I love Tom Hiddleston as Loki? I don't think I did enough. Solid stuff Marvel, keep it up, and I'll keep watching.