Sunday, January 26, 2014

Lone Survivor (2013) (R)

     Navy Seals are in some ways the face of the U.S. military. They are given the most dangerous missions, are put up against the most impossible odds, and are almost regarded as superheroes. Lone Survivor shows some of the reasons why the Seals are looked at that way, and does a better job than any movie I've seen of portraying who the Seals are and what they stand for. This film is brutally violent and is at many times hard to watch, but it paints an unflinching portrait that makes for intense and moving viewing.

     The movie follows the true story of Marcus Luttrell and his four man squad of Seals that were deployed to eliminate the Taliban commander Ahmad Shahd. The operation should have been simple, and everything was going to plan until some goat-herders stumbled upon the Seals at their position. The Seals had two options: violate the rules of engagement and execute their hostages, or set them free and hope to be extracted before the goat-herders could warn the Taliban in the village. Marcus, the team leader, decided to set them free and make for the mountain top. However, the Taliban, with their superior knowledge of the mountain terrain, reached the summit before them. Then began an intense struggle for survival that would only leave one Seal alive.

     As soon as the Seals spring into action and begin combat, you see why the Seals are revered so much. Despite everything that happens to them, from falling off of cliffs to being shot and battered beyond recognition, they never once show any signs of despair or giving up. After one particularly painful tumble, once they had picked themselves up, one Seal simply said "Well that sucked.", and they kept on fighting despite the broken bones. It's a simultaneously inspiring and sad sight; we admire their bravery, but know that almost all of them will meet their demise. And when they do meet their demise, we are forced to watch until they are struggling to draw a few more mouthfuls of air. It is gut-wrenching to watch, but really makes you appreciate the sacrifice that the soldiers were willing to make for their country.

     Also, unlike 2012's Act of Valor, we genuinely feel a connection to the characters. From the first scene of the film these characters feel like living, breathing people. We see them eating together, racing each other, and just doing things that soldiers on a military base would actually do. The acting is great, with Ben Foster as a particular standout for me. He was a very complex character. The first time we see him, he's sending romantic texts to his wife. Within a few minutes, he becomes the most intense combatant of the group. He was the one who voted to kill the hostages, due to his relentlessly practical attitude and drive to complete the mission. Mark Wahlberg, playing Marcus, is just an all around "good guy" who is forced by his moral code to make the right decision. He ultimately makes the decision to set the prisoners free, due to the fact that he viewed it as wrong to kill them. The film leaves it open as to whether he made the right decision or not, but the moment kept with his character and revealed a lot about him as a person.

     One of the only complaints I have about this movie is that occasionally, the way it delivers it's message is a bit ham-fisted. For instance, when we first see the Taliban commander, he is having a man executed with a machete, in very brutal fashion. Now, while I don't agree with the complaints people have with this politically, from a movie making standpoint this is a poor decision. It deviated from the rest of the film, which was directly from the seals' perspective, to say "Oooo, this guy's really bad! He cut off a guy's head with a machete!" It was an unintelligent way to show the villainy of the commander, so much so that it removed any sort of fear that the audience might have of the character. It was too overt. This happened a few times throughout the movie, but for the most part the movie was very thoughtful, making those parts stand out a bit more. Overall it didn't detract from the film as a whole, however.

     Before I wrap this review up, there is one more thing I have to mention: the soundtrack. The soundtrack to this movie was composed by Explosions in the Sky and Steve Jablonsky. Now, I am slightly prejudiced, because of my love of EITS, but this movie has one of my favorite soundtracks of any movie. The soft, instrumental, and slightly triumphant sounds of Explosions in the Sky mesh perfectly with what is taking place onscreen, and just made the film all the more emotional.

     This film has gathered a lot of controversy since it has been released. Liberals have been condemning it as a "jingoistic" film that paints a picture of "brown guy bad, white guy good". While this film is brutal, it by no means glorifies the violence. This film has been made to show the sacrifices made by our armed forces to protect us, and to show how these missions don't always go as planned. It displays the unwavering bravery and heroism of those who have died protecting out country. And that is something special. 9/10

CONTENT: This is a very violent movie. Deaths are usually accompanied by blood, and the deaths of the seals are drawn out and very hard to watch. There is no sexual content. Language is also extreme, with strong language pretty much constantly throughout the film.


Thursday, December 26, 2013

Thinking Out Loud: Violence

     An issue that I've been considering lately in film is that of violence in movies. As a christian, obviously there are things in movies that I would tend to avoid or be wary of in film, one of which is excessive violence. However, I've been thinking about my criteria for "excessive violence", and I'm not entirely sure if It is correct, or if I am putting the right type of thought into it. As I've been thinking, I've realized that there are two main reasons for violence to be in a movie. I'm not trying to give a definitive statement on which one is better, I'm just thinking out loud (hence the title), and trying to initiate thought on the subject of violence in film.

     The first type of violence that you see in movies is violence that is meant to initiate some kind of thought or consideration of an idea. An example of a movie like this would be Schindler's List or, more recently, Prisoners. Both of these movies are not the type of movie that you would watch multiple times. They are very disturbing, and could be upsetting to many viewers. However, Schindler's List is a very important depiction of the holocaust, one of the darkest times humanity has ever suffered through. A depiction of the graphic violence that occurred, while not pleasant to watch, is arguably necessary for people to see, so that people will know the horrors that humanity is capable of and know not to repeat those mistakes. Prisoners is also a very brutal movie, despite not showing most of the acts of violence occurring. It serves as a depiction of what can happen to person when what they care about most (in this case a child) is taken from them, and how it can make them do terrible things in the name of love. You watch as Keller tortures the man who he believes knows where his daughter is, and you wonder whether you would do the same thing if you were put in his position. It produces thought and contemplation of a concept.
     In this type of movie, you aren't supposed to really enjoy what is happening on screen. It isn't for entertainment or to make you feel satisfied. This violence serves to make you ponder something, and goes deeper than just entertainment. However, it is debatable whether or not it is worth it to slog through two hours or more of heavy, brutal film simply to reflect on an idea. To some people, it just isn't worth it. I tend to think that it can be extremely beneficial, but that this type of movie should be taken in very small doses. Filling your mind with this kind of stuff constantly could be bad for you.

     The other type of movie, and the one that I am more worried about, is the kind of movie where violence is for entertainment. I'm talking about movies like the Die Hard series, The Matrix, and other typical action franchises. These movies have an extremely high body count, and death is handled very lightly. Lots of guns, lots of explosions, lots of dead people.
     I've been thinking lately that there might be something very wrong with this type of movie's approach to violence. The amount of people killed is very high, but the emotion we feel is not one of grief and shock, but of either indifference or even elation. There is very little weight behind the concept of death in your typical action flick. Movies like The Matrix even hyper-stylize death, turning it into a slow-mo symphony of destruction. Don't get me wrong, The Matrix series is one of my favorite franchises, but I'm just wondering why it is that we find so much enjoyment in watching large amounts of people killed in "cool" ways. Why do we find it cool? Why is the coolest character in a movie the one who can kill the most people in the coolest way? Death is the worst thing that has ever entered this world, and we sometimes act like it's fun. Is it possible that recent action films have desensitized us to the concept of death? Is the way these movies handle death a way to deny its reality? I don't know the answers to these questions, but I do think it's worth some thought. I find it strange that we can watch a movie where people are being slaughtered left and right and sit back and ooh and aah as if we were watching a fireworks display.

     As you read this, please remember the title of this segment. I'm just thinking out loud here, not trying to provide answers to big morality questions. I just want to initiate some thought on the subject, so that we don't remain stagnant in our movie watching. I don't know if either type of movie is right or wrong to watch; that's a decision that will have to be made by you. If you have any thoughts, please leave them in the comment section. Thanks! Expect more Thinking Out Loud in the near future.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013) (PG-13)

     Before I start this review, let me just give you a little background so you can understand how much I was building this movie up in my mind. I read The Hobbit when I was 8 years old, and when I read it I was seized by the image of Smaug the Terrible. He filled me with awe and terror just by reading the book, and I can remember myself wishing that they would make a movie of this book so I could see Smaug on the big screen. 9 years later, and that dream is coming to life. And I am happy to say that both Smaug himself and the rest of the film keep my childhood fantasies intact.

     The movie opens just where An Unexpected Journey left off. Bilbo, Gandalf and the dwarves are being pursued by Azog and the other orcs. They flee into the woods and are aided by Beorn, a huge man who has the ability to transform into a massive bear. They then are forced to journey through Mirkwood without the aid of Gandalf, who goes off to investigate the activity of the Necromancer at Dol Guldur. I won't detail the entire plot for you, both because of spoilers and because it would take far too long, but suffice to say that the tale takes the company into many interesting locations and pits them against many foes, such as the aggressive wood elves and the particularly disgusting giant spiders. The movie is much more busy than the first one, since it has all of the exposition and background out of the way. This film moves very quickly through each jaw-dropping set-piece moment, and I think that is a good thing. We had a more slow-paced, thoughtful film in Unexpected Journey, and Desolation is a nice change of pace. We also receive a good deal of development of the Necromancer subplot, which was not strictly speaking in the book. Gandalf's investigations confirm his initial suspicions and reveal the true extent of the problem. You feel the weight and dread of the Necromancer's rise to power, and realize that there is something going on even more dangerous than Smaug. However, that isn't to say that Smaug is no big deal.......

     Smaug is absolutely awe inspiring. I literally gasped in the theater when the first full shot of him appeared. He completely fills the screen with his fiery, glittering glory. Every ounce of flattery that Bilbo tries to appease him with is completely warranted. Its one of those things in movies where you just have to see it for yourself; no amount of description I could give would explain the magnitude of this dragon. Also, the CGI on Smaug is nearly perfect. The amount of detail on him is stunning, from every wrinkle on his face to the coins encrusted on his underbelly. In fact, the CGI in the entire movie has been stepped up from Unexpected Journey. In the first movie, the animation on Azog was a little shoddy. However, there is a noticeable difference in this film, and I found myself occasionally forgetting that he was a CGI character. It was much less of a distraction. In all, the visuals are even more dazzling in this film than the first one. Also, I would still recommend seeing it in the HFR 3D version. It adds a lot to the experience, much like the difference between blu-ray and DVD. 

     Back to Smaug. Despite Smaug being visually stunning, the real reason he shines is because of Benedict Cumberbatch's performance. Cumberbatch lends his voice and some motion-capture to the dragon, and it really brings Smaug to life. Cumberbatch's deep, rich voice is perfect for the ancient beast, and the motion capture makes Smaug's facial expressions seem more human than would have been possible with a simple CGI creature. And once again, all the other actors shine once more. We see some interesting development with the Ring, as it starts to affect Bilbo's character, causing him to lie and even kill. Martin Freeman pulls this off very well, I would say better than Elijah Wood did in The Lord of the Rings trilogy. We also see Thorin (Richard Armitage) begin to devolve into single-minded ambition, disregarding others in his desperation to reclaim the mountain and his throne. The rest of the performances are still sturdy as well, and haven't changed much. However, the one exception to this is the romance between Kili and Tauriel. This could've been much worse, but honestly, a romance between a dwarf and an elf is just an incredibly cheesy idea. I honestly don't think there could've been any way to redeem that subplot. There are several corny moments that really broke up the flow of the film, since everything else was perfectly acceptable. However, in the grand scheme of things, this was a total of 10 minutes in a 3 hour movie, so it wasn't that awful.

     As I'm writing this, I'm becoming more amazed that this movie lived up to the amount of hype I was giving it. Practically everything about this film was how I pictured it when I first read the book years ago, and then some. This is the movie I've been waiting for for 9 years, and it lived up to my expectations. That is quite an achievement. 9.5/10

CONTENT: This movie is comparable to the first film in terms of content. Violence is at the same level, with many decapitations (albeit bloodless) and a very high body count. There is a brief scene of some mild innuendo that might take some explaining to your younger kids.....if you want to avoid that conversation, you might want to find that scene and mute for a minute. 

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Thor: The Dark World (2103) (PG-13)

     And here we have the second of Marvel's "Phase 2", or post-New York superhero flicks. The first, Iron Man 3, in my opinion, was a huge disappointment. It advertised itself to be something entirely different from what it was. That is not the case with Thor: The Dark World, which is exactly what we have come to expect from Marvel: action packed, visually stunning, and very funny.

     The story this movie tells takes place shortly after the events of The Avengers. Thor and the Warriors Three are traveling between the 9 realms attempting restore peace in the wake of the destruction of the rainbow bridge. However, an ancient artifact of great power has been accidentally rediscovered by Jane Foster back on earth, alerting the lord of the dark elves, Malekith. Malekith has been awaiting the return of this artifact, called the Aether, and seizes the opportunity to control its power and return the universe to darkness. Thor is forced to return to earth to save the universe....with the help of his brother Loki, who has been rotting in prison since the events in New York. In all, this is a fairly typical storyline for a superhero flick, but it features enough twists and turns to keep the audience guessing and engaged.

     The main thing that held my attention throughout the film was Tom Hiddleston as Loki. As in Thor and The Avengers, the second he comes on screen he demands your full attention. In this film, he has exchanged the emotional outbursts he was prone to in previous movies for an icy, brutally sarcastic demeanour. It suits him well, and provides some of the funniest moments I've seen in a Marvel movie to date. He's one of those villains who you almost want to succeed, because you almost like him more than the hero. That isn't to say that Chris Hemsworth does a bad job at portraying Thor, however. His character hasn't changed much since The Avengers, and I do hope that in the future they develop him further, but he still feels just as powerful and righteous as ever. However, one major disappointment, and perhaps my biggest complaint with the movie, was Christopher Eccleston's Malekith. I'm a huge fan of Eccleston, and I don't think it was the actor's fault, but Malekith is a dud. There is absolutely no depth to his character. By the end of the movie, you feel like you've only seen him for a total of 5 minutes. He is completely and utterly forgettable, almost literally at times. I found myself forgetting that he was in the movie. It truly is a shame to waste such a good actor. 

     Like in the first film, the design in Thor 2 is very nice. We get to see more of the meticulous work that went into designing Asgard in this movie, all of which looks superb. The design and effects on the dark elves is also very interesting, with the eerie masks and pillar-like ships. The CGI rarely falters and is consistently good throughout the film, as we have come to expect from Marvel. There is also much more action in this film than in the first one, which I think is a good thing. I've heard it said that the first Thor was a chick flick.....I'm inclined to agree with that. This is by no means a chick flick, and contains the amount of action that we want from a super hero movie. 

     In all, this is a very acceptable, entertaining addition to the Marvel canon. It doesn't push any boundaries, but sometimes we just need to sit down and enjoy a popcorn flick rather than a groundbreaking drama. SCORE: 7.5/10

CONTENT: This movie is very mild on content. Violence is at a minimum, with nothing noteworthy. There is a small amount of language. No sexual content. 

Friday, October 25, 2013

Captain Phillips (2013) (PG-13)


     As most of you probably know, I'm a big fan of sci-fi and fantasy. I love being immersed in different worlds, and hearing tales that could never possibly occur in our own reality. However, while these stories thrill and excite us, most often the ones that stick with us and impact us are the ones that really happened. This is the case with Captain Phillips, a true-to-life story about a man whose ship was hijacked by Somali pirates and was taken hostage. This movie is an intense, nail-biting, deeply affecting look into the motivations behind terrorism and the horror it causes.

     It was just another freight run for Captain Richard Phillips (Tom Hanks); get the cargo from port to port just like every job. However, this freight run happened to venture very close to the horn of Africa, by Somalia. And in Somalia, there are pirates. We are dropped in a Somali village, where a local warlord's men bluster in and tell the men of the village to get back to work capturing ships for their boss. Right from the get go, we get the impression that these pirates are not evil, even if they are the antagonists of the film. They have choice between doing what the thugs tell them, or going broke and possibly causing more violence. So they get back in the water, and it isn't long before they and Captain Phillips' ship cross paths. They board the ship, and through a convoluted series of events, end up in the ship's lifeboat with Captain Phillips on board. However, the navy soon shows up, and, well.....most of us remember the news stories. The movie's intensity is searing, and in some scenes becomes almost uncomfortable to watch because of how much it is making you squirm. However, just when you almost begin to consider leaving the theater, the situation shifts and the tension lessens. At least for a while. The film is an emotional rollercoaster in the best way. 

    Once again, as we have all come to expect, Tom Hanks delivers another pitch perfect and moving performance. He taps into that "ordinaryness" that makes us able to connect with him on a deeper level than almost any actor alive today. He is resourceful and heroic, and does his best to keep his crew safe, but he isn't so much of a hero that the movie ventures into seeming cheesy. Not everything he attempts works out; he didn't plan on being taken hostage. He is genuinely concerned for the pirates as well, he sees that they don't really want to be there and tries to convince them to give up their futile attempts at fortune. The pirates themselves also give very good performances, particularly Barkhad Abdi as Muse, the leader. While he is trying to provide for himself, there is also an aspect of him trying to achieve some sort of greatness and recognition. He thinks if he pulls off this job, he could maybe rise above his station as "just a fisherman". You feel outrage at the crimes he is committing, but also pity. We've all felt discontent, and the desperation that can set in when we are dissatisfied with our situation. 

     Ultimately, most of this movie's impact comes from the hugely intense last 20 minutes. Shortly before the Navy Seals that have been deployed enact their plan, Muse, marvelling at the chaos, confides to Phillips, "It was supposed to be easy. I take ship.....ransom. No one get hurt." Throughout the movie, Muse had said to Phillips that "everything is gonna be ok". He didn't want or expect things to get to the extent they had gotten to. However, shortly after this, Phillips is left alone and blindfolded in the bloody aftermath of the rescue. Phillips removes the blindfold, and is left aghast at the scene before him. He lets out a heart-wrenching scream of anguish, and then settles into shock. We are left reeling just like Phillips; reeling at the horror of what happens when honest people are driven to desperation. While this is a heartbreaking scene, it is I believe necessary, or even beneficial to watch. To many people are oblivious to the horror that terrorists themselves go through. On another note, this isn't a movie that you can forget about because it was "just a movie". The events of this movie are very real, just like its impact. 9/10

CONTENT: As I mentioned earlier, this is an extremely intense movie. I normally wouldn't mention intensity in the content advisory, but the sheer level of it in this film in my opinion is worth noting. It would be very upsetting for many children or even early teens. The language is minimal, with only occasional mild language. There is violence present, and while most of it is not graphic, there are several beatings that are disturbing. There is only one scene that is becomes rather graphic, and that is the ending. There is no sexual content. 

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Gravity (2013) (PG-13)

     Since its announcement, Alfonso Cuaron's Gravity has garnered unimaginable hype. Cuaron is a very highly regarded director (most well-known for his post-apocalyptic epic Children of Men), and his hyper realistic space odyssey was looking like an intense, visually stunning thriller set in the dead of space. However, what we got in this movie is something quite different. And quite spectacular.
     This movie is, in my opinion, one of the greatest cinematic achievements of the past 5 years. A film that blends all of its elements together in perfect harmony like Gravity does is rare to the utmost degree. This movie perfectly mixes jaw-dropping visuals, acting finesse, and a rock-solid plot to create an experience that is completely immersive. 
     The movie opens with a single, 15- minute shot of Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) and Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) making repairs on the Hubble telescope, and right from the get go you know that this movie is something special. The camera moves through this scene with such breathtaking ease that I found myself wondering how on earth (no pun intended) they shot the scene. This sets the stage for the rest of the movie as well, which boasts throughout some of the best camera work I've seen to date. The swooping camera movements really give the sensation of being out in zero-gravity, and adds to the film's sense of immersion.
     The realism of the animation is astonishing. I found myself many times having difficulty distinguishing between reality and CGI, despite the fact that the images I was seeing couldn't have been real. There were several moments throughout the film where my jaw literally dropped at the breathtaking and horrifying sights I was seeing, whether it was a sunrise from space or a massive debris field smashing through a space station. Everything in the movie was gorgeous and realistic to the extreme.

     But, for all its dazzling visuals, this movie is still about the characters. The plot remains focused on Dr. Stone's personal issues back on earth (which I won't reveal in this review), and uses the deadly events occurring in the film as a vessel to help her deal with those issues. By the end of the film, she has become a stronger woman than before she ventured into space. We are completely invested in Dr. Stone's character for the entire film; we feel how she feels. We feel terrified when she's cast into space, spinning uncontrollably, and we feel happiness when she finally comes to grips with her problems. The audience basically become her for 91 minutes. This is largely due to Sandra Bullock's excellent performance, which captures every emotion the director was trying to convey perfectly. Clooney is also pitch perfect as the veteran astronaut on his last flight, with his cocky yet instantly likeable demeanour. However, the moment things start going wrong, he snaps into action and gets his job done. 

     As a whole, this movie is something different than it might seem to an average passerby. At first glance, it would seem to be just about two people trying to survive an extremely unfortunate series of events. However, while those events dominate the on screen activity, it's implied that there's much more going on here. As I mentioned earlier, this movie is about the characters, their personal struggles, and how they overcome them. The ending of the movie reinforces this, and while I won't reveal the outcome, the conclusion will make you proud to be human and make you want to jump out of your seat. While this movie dazzles on a level I have scarcely seen in terms of visuals, the characters are where this movie's true impact comes from, and why it is truly a masterpiece. 10/10

CONTENT: This film is fairly tame when it comes to negative content. Language is present, but for the most part it is mild and infrequent. Violence is also at a low, considering there are only 3 characters, but there is one scene that is rather gruesome and could be disturbing to some viewers. There is no sexual content. 

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Prisoners (2013) (R)


      Keller Dover stands in an abandoned house. Next to him is a shower, boarded up with a man inside. A man he believes knows where his missing daughter is. He turns on the water on full heat, scalding the man and causing him to scream, but he still doesn't offer any information. Why is he not cooperating? Doesn't he know the pain will stop if he tells Dover where his daughter is? Does he even know where the girl is in the first place? These are some of the headache inducing questions that Denis Villeneuve's Prisoners asks.


     The basic plot of this movie is very simple, and at first glance may appear to be just another film in the tired "kidnapping-thriller" genre. And while some plot devices in this film are familiar, the way they are delivered is anything but. Keller Dover, his family and his neighbors are enjoying thanksgiving dinner together when Dover's and his neighbor's daughters go missing while outside playing. A search ensues and a suspect is found, but the girls are still missing and the suspect, who is apparently mentally handicapped, isn't offering any information. Detective Loki, who apprehended the suspect, has no choice but to let him go free, but Dover isn't convinced. He kidnaps the suspect and tortures him, completely fixated on the thought that he knows where the girls are. Meanwhile, Detective Loki chases up more leads and begins to uncover the bigger picture of what is really going on behind the kidnappings, all while circling closer to discover what Dover is doing to the suspect. The plot is intense in the extreme, and keeps you on the edge of your seat throughout. It also brings up some very interesting questions. How far would you go to protect or save your loved ones? Would you violate everything you believe in an attempt to get them back? Dover confesses himself to be a religious man, and we see him praying throughout the movie, along with various other religious imagery. However, his "devotion to the faith" is in stark contrast with his actions and decisions, which are at times horrifying. The only moment when the story falters is in the final act, or "the big reveal" when you finally find out exactly what's going on. It ventures ever so slightly into the realm of being corny, but the final shot of the movie makes up for it. 


       An area where this movie shines in particular is in that of acting. The performances in this film are believable to the utmost degree. Hugh Jackman brings a perfect mix of unhinged intensity and pitiable worry to Keller Dover's character, causing you to simultaneously feel sorry for him and afraid of him. The things he is doing are detestable, but you find yourself questioning whether it could be the right thing to do. Jake Gyllenhaal is brilliant as Detective Loki as well, as the only character who consistently makes the right decisions throughout the film. That said, you don't particularly like his character. He's very cocky and sure of himself, and is absolutely infuriating in some of the scenes involving Dover and his family. He assures them that everything will be all right, that they have their best people on it, and they're keeping all leads open.....the typical police bull, all while having a cocky smile on his face. His condescension in the beginning of the film is maddening, but as it progresses he becomes more the hero of the story and becomes truly concerned with finding the girls and putting an end to the madness. Paul Dano as Alex Jones, the handicapped suspect, pulls off the mentally handicapped, terrified child very well. You feel awful for him throughout the movie, because of what Dover is doing to him, but at the same time you wonder whether he's just putting it on as a facade. There isn't a bad performance in the movie, although some stand out more than others. The writing is also fantastic. Prisoners is one of the most realistic movies I have ever seen, particularly the scenes involving the families together and interacting. I felt as if I was looking through a window at a real family. 


      This movie isn't really about flashy visuals and special effects, so in the visuals department there isn't really much to discuss. The whole movie has a sort of grungy, grey filter over it, increasing the feeling of grittiness and realism, and helping the feel of the movie. The camera work is very good as well, wisely staying away from the shaky-cam fad and sticking to more traditional style. The movie is shot in a way so as not to show all of the terrible violence that is occurring, but the beforehand or aftermath shots we get are bad enough and possibly more affecting than if they bared everything to the audience. The soundtrack is subtle but effective, and speaks more with its absence than with its presence. 

     This movie is a perfect example of why I love when the summer movie season ends. All of the big, flashy, effects-laden blockbusters have come and gone, and most of them have been forgotten, leaving movies like this: thoughtful, slow, and deeply affecting. I have a feeling that this movie is going to stick with me longer than any blockbuster will. 

CONTENT: This is definitely not a movie for children, or for that matter young teens. While for the most part this film is not graphic or bloody, it is highly disturbing and would not be good for most people under 16 to watch. There is also a fairly heavy amount of language present. There is no sexual content.    

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

The Wolverine (2013) (PG-13)


     Everyone's favorite slicing-dicing, sideburned ball of rage is back in the newest summer blockbuster! But after several shaky attempts at film greatness, can this new take deliver the Wolverine we've really been waiting for?  The answer, for the most part is an emphatic YES.


     The movie opens on Wolverine an undetermined time after the events of X-men: The Last Stand. Logan has exiled himself in the Canadian wilderness due to his guilt over having to kill Jean Grey, aka the Phoenix. However, he is soon flown to Japan to say goodbye to an old friend who's life he saved in Hiroshima years ago. Of course, nothing here is as it seems, and Wolverine is soon embroiled in a massive conflict that will change him forever. One of the main problems I had with X-men Origins: Wolverine was how complex and convoluted the plot was. They attempted to bite off more than they could chew, and the result was a mangled mess of a movie. However, in this film they keep it simple, and that makes the movie more easy to watch. It is also interesting to see the movie really get into Wolverine's character a bit more. He tries not to help people, but he can't resist. It's in his nature. There are a few unnecessary characters, such as the villain Viper. She barely even serves a purpose in the movie, and still not really sure why she was in it. She also came across as very cartoonish, which was in stark contrast with the rest of the movie. I mean, your power is spitting acid on people? Really? However, aside from the occasional deviation from tone, the story this movie tells is a great character piece and holds your attention very well. 


     Once again, Hugh Jackman brings shocking life to Wolverine's character. It still surprises me to this day how perfectly he portrays the character's gruff, often brutal, but still kind demeanor. I honestly can't imagine anyone else playing Wolverine at this point. In this movie, Jackman well portrays Logan's guilt over the events of Last Stand, but also his eventual acceptance and moving on. In other words, Jackman's still got it. Tao Okamoto as Logan's love interest, Mariko, well portrays her helplessness in the situation she has been thrust into, but her determination to do the honorable thing for her family. However, other than these characters, the standout acting stops. The other characters in the movie range from acceptable to not so great, most of them simply functioning as plot devices. Then there's the previously discussed Viper, who has completely no purpose, and is rather awkward to watch. So, while the vast majority of the acting is lackluster, Hugh Jackman provides more than enough charisma for the whole film.


     The exotic locales of Japan suit Wolverine well. The visual combination of him and ninjas and swords somehow works very well, and makes for an interesting experience. The fight scenes are brutal and intense as ever, and are a standout in this film, particularly the fight between Wolverine and Shingen. However, as mentioned earlier, this movie seems to suffer from a split personality, and jumps between dark, noir-style scenes and Sunday morning cartoons. Within the span of 15 minutes wolverine is slicing and dicing a group of ninjas in a village, then fighting a giant robotic samurai and a lady who spits acid. The contrast is just a bit to drastic to work completely. Also, the soundtrack is lackluster and boring. I barely noticed it throughout the film. At times, this movie feels like a movie that was made to be rated R, but then just had all the blood removed. This is by not means a tame movie, but I found myself wishing that the violence was a tad more realistic. Watching Wolverine rip his way through 10 guys without a drop of blood is a little bit disconcerting. 

     In all, this movie in my opinion delivers the Wolverine movie I've been waiting for. A darker tone, more character development, and an overall increase in seriousness make for a much better movie. However, there are still traces of that cartoonishness that tainted Wolverine's previous outings, as well as some character flaws. Despite this, The Wolverine is a highly enjoyable blockbuster that I would recommend to any fan of Wolverine's character. Score:7.5/10

CONTENT: This is not a superhero movie that you would take the kids to see like The Avengers or Iron Man 3. This, compared to previous superhero flicks, is a very violent movie, with a very high body count. The fights are bloodless for the most part, but Wolverine is a very dark character and this shows in the possibly excessive violence. Language is also at a higher level than most superhero movies, again due to Wolverine's gruff demeanor. Sexual content is at a minimum for the most part, however, aside from a suggestive scene or two.