‘Unbreakable’ Sequel Will ‘Split’ Into ‘Glass’

Looks like I’m coming back into theaters soon.

News broke yesterday regarding the sequel to the M. Night Shyamalan films Unbreakable and Split, both of which were revealed to be in the same universe after a post-credits scene in Split. The title for the sequel has now been revealed, and it is officially being released as Glass.

Yes, you read that right. Glass.

As in, Mr. Glass, the easily breakable letdown of a villain in Unbreakable portrayed by Samuel L. Jackson.

unbreakable-mr-glass

This guy.

So yeah, now he has a whole movie named after him. That’s cool, I guess.

Seriously though, how soon until we have to wait to see Bruce Willis again? I’ve been dying to see David Dunn back on the big screen.

* Cough, cough. *

Glass will have Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson, James McAvoy, and Anya Taylor-Joy reprising their roles from the previous installments. It is currently slated for release in January, 2019.

– David Dunn (Not Bruce Willis)

SOURCE: Screenrant, Deadline Hollywood

 

Jeff Goldblum Returns To ‘Jurassic World’

Just like the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park, Jeff Goldblum finds a way back onto the big screen.

The Hollywood Reporter reported earlier this week that Jeff Goldblum will be reprising his role of Dr. Ian Malcolm in the upcoming science-fiction sequel Jurassic World 2. Being a staple of the franchise ever since the first film released in 1993, this will be the third time Goldblum will be portraying the character in the Jurassic Park universe, after his last appearance in 1997’s The Lost World.

Jurassic Park purists will no doubt be excited to hear about Goldblum’s return. An actor brimming with charisma and wit, Goldblum’s dry humor has usually been the best part of most of the films he’s been involved with, and somehow finds the right moments to spit a snappy quip or make some sarcastic comment.

Yet, fans shouldn’t be too excited for this casting news just yet. Goldblum also returned in the long-awaited sequel Independence Day: Resurgence last year, and even he couldn’t save that movie from its stupid writing and mediocre production. As we’ve seen before, Goldblum is a useful element that can be used to lighten up serious moments in a picture, but he can’t make up an entire picture. No actor can.

Luckily, it looks as if this new film is heading in the right direction. With A Monster Calls director J.A. Bayona at the helm working off of a script from Jurassic World’s Colin Trevorrow, Jurassic World 2 has been described as a fresh return for the franchise, going back to its roots in horror and thriller. Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Entertainment is producing, and Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard are also set to return.

What do you guys think? Are you excited for Goldblum’s return to the big screen, or like the dinosaurs do you wish he’d just stay in the past? Comment below, let me know.

– David Dunn

SOURCE: The Hollywood Reporter, Screenrant

 

“BEAUTY AND THE BEAST (1991)” Review (✫✫✫✫)

Beauty exists on the inside, not the outside.

The first time I watched Beauty and the Beast in theaters was nothing short of an enchanting experience. It was absolutely magical. The bright colors, the wondrous music, the dizzying animation, the brilliant voiceover work and the creative characters all combined into an experience that is ethereal, passionate, and everlasting. This is truly a standout among the Disney films, one that clearly demonstrates why animated film should be considered on equal footing to live-action.

In even the opening moments of the picture, we understand the scope of this movie and where exactly it wants to lead us. Sweeping through valleys, trees, and rivers until it arrives at a lone castle, we are told the story of an arrogant prince who refused to shelter an old woman from the cold. That woman, as it turns out, was an enchantress, and she placed a curse on this prince for his cruelty and his ego. The nails on his hands turned into claws like a lion. His smooth skin turned hairy like a wolf. And his human face was erased and replaced with the horns, teeth, and fur of an oxen. This prince was no longer royalty. He was now a Beast.

Enter Belle (Paige O’Hara), a village girl that lived a few miles away from the Beast and his castle. Belle isn’t seen as normal by her fellow villagers. She’s not dainty like the other girls are. She’s not interested in looking for a man, birthing children, or settling down to have a family. She’s more than content in living at home with her father the inventor and the occasional book she checks out from the local library. Her independence is seen as strange, even dangerous by her fellow villagers. But that’s the time that she lives in.

One day, her father ventures too far into the woods and is attacked by a pack of wolves. As Belle races to rescue her father, she runs into a creature that looks like an animal but talks like a human. That creature is the Beast, and thus begins their adventure as old as time.

One of the most prolific elements in any Disney movie is always the music. “When You Wish Upon A Star” in Pinnocchio. “Part of Your World” in The Little Mermaid. “Circle of Life” in Lion King. In most movies, the characters, the dialogue, and the action all make up the tone and feel of the film, while the music more or less rests in the background.

Not with Disney though. In their films, the music is elevated to the forefront as a form of expression for character’s moods and feelings, the lyrics expressing meaning and language much like the dialogue does. That rhythm and aesthetic is repeated masterfully here in Beauty and the Beast as composer Alan Menken takes us through an epic journey filled with upbeat melodies, climactic staccato, ominous foreshadowing, and beautiful voices that fill us with wonder and joy. This material would make for great opera if it hasn’t already in its animated form.

Seriously, the next time you watch Beauty and the Beast, close your eyes during one of the musical numbers and see if you can still follow what’s going on. I’m betting a 20 that you can. The conversation that characters carry while in movement, singing, and dancing carries the story in a way that flows just right while just slightly resisting the urge to be on-the-nose. Most musicals have that problem, in that they have to spell everything out like we’re second graders and can’t tell what’s going on unless it’s read to us like a bedtime story.

But Beauty and the Beast doesn’t ever fall into this mundane repetition of obviousness. Not once. Mostly because every scene comes alive with movement and energy, always moving on to the next scene, not slowing down to pause unless a scene calls for it. That’s because directors Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise have a clear understanding of pacing and build up, and how to make these elements work to escalate emotions in a film. Watch, for instance, how long they delay the reveal of the Beast. It’s at about the 30-minute mark when the Beast finally emerges from the shadows, and he doesn’t pop out like a Jack-in-the-box. His reveal is instead slow and ominous, ashamed by his ugly, animalistic appearance.

I find it interesting how the story parallels outward looks to inward personality, just like The Phantom of the Opera or Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde. In many ways, Belle and the Beast are outsiders, their differences shamed by the people around them. Beast is an aggressive, angry individual who is just seeking love, but doesn’t know how to pursue it or even where to start. Belle is a compassionate and intelligent woman who is proud of her independence, but secretly yearns for something more. Both of these are character archetypes definitely, but they’re done with an energy and honesty here that feels original and vivid.

I was reminded of Pinocchio while watching this movie. They’re very similar in many ways, mostly because they pose the same questions. How do you define someone’s humanity? Where does real strength come from? And where does the concept of love fit into all of this? They go about these questions in different ways, but they arrive to the same conclusions. Humanity is honesty, strength comes from within, and love is the source to both of these.

It’s also interesting how screenwriter Linda Woolverton confronts gender stereotypes while defining concepts of masculinity and femininity. There’s a character in here named Gaston (Richard White), who’s filled with so much hot air that his character would make more sense if he were a balloon. Gaston embodies all of the characteristics in how society perceives masculinity. His muscles are bulging and his bones are strong. He loves to get into fights and show off in front of cute girls. He is cocky and arrogant. He lacks humility and humbleness. And he doesn’t have a willingness to learn or admit when he is wrong. If these characters existed in a woman, she would be shamed for being selfish and egotistical. Yet when they’re in a man, people shrug their shoulders and say “Eh, boys will be boys.”

Gaston is seen as a hero by the townspeople, when really he’s only interested in serving his own self interests. I find it interesting how in the more pressured moments, Gaston cowers in fear, whereas Belle and the Beast persevere through the struggles. Yet, Gaston is celebrated as the bravest man in town. Could anyone ever see the Beast as masculine, or would they be too scared by his appearance and call him a monster instead? And what about Belle? She’s braver than Gaston, yet she’s a woman. Do you call that masculine strength, or feminine strength?

As the first woman to write a script for Disney, I’m assuming Woolverton comes from a personal space while writing this. She shows very clearly that people don’t exist inside stereotypes even though we create them. We are our own person, unique and irreplaceable in our own ways. This is a movie that celebrates individuality, diversity, and gender equality. While men and women exhibit different strengths from one another, they are strengths nonetheless. Woolverton has done a masterful job in making this film immediately relevant to her audience. I presume that’s why she would continue a long writing relationship with Disney that includes credits such as The Lion King, Maleficent, and Alice in Wonderland.

I could go on and on about all the amazing things about this picture. The animation is crisp and clear and brings detail and life into every person, every scene, and every setting that it paints in our minds. The characters come alive and dance to the beat and tune of every exciting moment in this picture. And at the center of it all are these two star-crossed strangers, who have every reason to be afraid of each other, yet fall in love despite all the odds.

I’m trying to levy where exactly I would rank Beauty and the Beast in comparison to its fellow Disney companions. Pinocchio is definitely first for me, then Bambi. I think Beauty and the Beast would rank third for me, but that’s still no small feat to achieve. With generations of different characters, stories, and mythology at their fingertips, how does Disney keep improving upon their franchise? This is a film that is so well made that you could see it being translated into live-action, although I almost don’t want it to. There really isn’t another film quite like Beauty and the Beast, and I seriously doubt there will be another one like it in the future.

Tagged , , , ,

“THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST” Review (✫✫✫✫)

A passion we’ll never be able to understand.

We open on a dark, haunting shot, a man standing alone in the vineyard weeping and praying desperately. Tears are streaming down his face. Blood is sweating from his brow. He begs in thick Hebrew dialect, begging to his heavenly father for another path if there is one. He knows what is coming. He knows what he has to do, and he’s afraid of everything that is about to happen.

A figure hides in the shadows, tempting him like he always has. He tells him he does not need to suffer if he does not want to. He does not need to be harmed. He does not need to die for the crimes committed by others. The man continues to weep, conflicted by his commitment to his father and the temptations from the evil one.

I’ve known this man ever since I was a young boy growing up in a Baptist Church. I’ve never met him face to face, yet I know him just like millions of other people do. Later when he exits the garden, a group of soldiers come to take him away before one of his followers slices one of the soldiers’ ear off in retaliation. The man rebukes his friend, miraculously heals the soldier’s ear, and allows the other soldiers to take him away. The evil one continues to watch closely while the rest of the man’s followers flee into the night.

This man, of course, is Jesus Christ of Nazareth, portrayed here by Jim Caviezel. He is the son of Mary the virgin, leader and friend to his faithful disciples, and the central figure behind the Christian faith. His story has been told and retold numerous times already, his sacrifice praised in churches all around the world. Yet, his story has never been told like this before. Not in the way that it is told in The Passion of the Christ.

In this epic drama directed by Mel Gibson, Jesus’ final hours is depicted in brutal, unrelenting detail as it covers the entirety of Jesus’ emotional and physical abuse leading up to his crucifixion. Whether you’re a believer or not, you more than likely already know the story from a historical perspective. A man claimed to be the son of God and was beaten, tortured, and sentenced to die on the cross because of his prophecies. Then on the third day after his passing, he mysteriously vanished from his tomb.

This much is consistent knowledge among atheists and believers alike. What isn’t covered enough is the full details surrounding Jesus’ suffering. I remember when I was in Sunday school and how much our instructors cleaned up their telling of Jesus’ crucifixion to us. I’m sure it was because we were all children and the instructors didn’t want to disturb us, but regardless we were only given a brief outline of the crucifixion without covering much of the specific details surrounding Jesus’ anguish. Since we grew up with this sanitized picture in our minds, we imagine the whole affair as clean-cut and are somehow able to brush through the messy parts of Jesus’ death.

Gibson, however, doesn’t allow us to shy away from the violence. Pulling from the New Testament Gospels including Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, Gibson confronts Jesus’ suffering headfirst, demonstrating all of the brutalities that Jesus went through at the hands of those who persecuted him. Among the cruelties that Jesus experienced included being arrested, beaten, kicked, spat on, flogged viciously, stabbed rose thorns into his head, forced him to pick up a 300 pound wooden cross, travel through the blistering heat while carrying it on his back, whip him when he falls behind, dehydrate him, strip him, and humiliate him in public before nailing him to the cross and waiting for him to die a slow, agonizing death. I know some pastors who preach about the crucifixion as if it were some deeply spiritual, dignified affair. Believe me when I say there was nothing dignified about it. It was an ugly, violent, torturous, exhausting, and disturbing experience that Jesus went through, all because the Jewish high priests felt this man wasn’t the son of God.

The Passion of the Christ is a deeply moving film. Powerful, spiritual, and profoundly mesmerizing, this picture is commanding of our attention and doesn’t lose it until after it fades out from its final shot. That’s because Gibson focuses on telling Jesus’ story as a filmmaker and not as a follower. In most Faith-based movies, the big mistake most filmmakers make is glossing over the complexities of real life to stick to its shiny-clean moralistic agenda, forgetting that oftentimes believers and non-believers both face the same struggles. This is one of my biggest pet peeves when a film skips material just to take the high road when it comes to content and development. Can you imagine how jarring it might be to see Jesus’ crucifixion adapted as brutally as it is here, then flip into a upbeat, flowery musical such as Jesus Christ: Superstar?

And yet, Gibson doesn’t forget that Jesus was a man before he was any of the other things that society has labeled him. In both cultural and religious groups, Jesus is referred to under multiple pseudonyms. Messiah. Savior. Redeemer. Son of God. If you are a person belonging to the faith, then of course you see him as all of these things and more.

But who was Jesus before any of these titles were attached to him? Quite simply, Jesus was a man. He had a family, friends, a great many people who cared about him and loved him, and he cared about and loved each of them a great deal in return. And yet, even as a man, he possessed a grace and strength to his character that is all too rare in today’s world. In the moments where he was tortured, victimized, and sentenced to a bloody death, you would understandably assume that most others in his position would curse and lash out at the people who were hurting him. Yet, while being mutilated, abused, and laughed at, Jesus cried to the heavens and shouted out “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

I’m trying to write this review from the perspective of a non-believer. As a Christian, I’ve always been familiar with Jesus’ story and why he felt the need to sacrifice himself for the people he loved. In the same way that Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatmas Gandhi died for the causes they believed in, so too did Jesus die for the cause that he believed in. Yet, their causes were for mortal and earthly movements. Jesus’ cause was for something much bigger, something that is not understandable to most people. So why should non-believers take the time to watch The Passion?

For me, I would watch it just to get an understanding of the man who lived and died. Like Schindler’s List, Braveheart, and Born on the Fourth of July, The Passion of the Christ evokes a deep understanding of the emotional impact for the character and what his actions meant to the people around him. This was a man who really lived and died for the people he held a deep compassion for. Even if you don’t believe in his mission or his identity as the messiah, can’t you at least feel sympathy for this man’s sacrifice and his willingness to die for the people he loved?

I will leave it to you to decide your own conclusions based on what this film shows you. I will say that even if I were not a Christian or a believer, I would still be moved by Jesus’ story and the sacrifices he made for his people. He knew in his heart what would come from this. He knew he would extend this gift to everyone and many would still choose to not accept it. So why would he still willingly sacrifice himself and allow himself to suffer, knowing where everything will lead in the long run? As much as we’re tempted to read too deeply into his intentions, I think the answer is relatively simple: love. He died because he loved us, even though he has every reason to hate us for our persecution of him. That’s a love many of us will never be able to understand. Or perhaps, maybe a more appropriate word would be passion.

Tagged , , , , ,

Josh Brolin Suits Up For Cable In ‘Deadpool 2’

Kiera Knightly is not going to be very happy.

The eagerly, long-awaited casting announcement for Deadpool’s sequel has finally been announced, and surprisingly, it’s a returning veteran for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The actor who will portray Cable alongside Ryan Reynolds’ Deadpool will be none other than Josh Brolin himself.

This is interesting for a few reasons. First of all, Brolin is already portraying another role within the Marvel Cinematic Universe as Thanos, the omnipotent villain who loves to sit in chairs and wait until Avengers: Infinity War comes out. Yet, here he is, announced to star alongside Deadpool in his anticipated sequel. Granted, Thanos is not really a standout role for Brolin (mostly because his character is entirely CGI). Still, seeing him in two different Marvel movies might be disorienting, yet can make for some entertaining content if Deadpool’s wit has anything to say about it.

Also, this is the fourth superhero movie that Brolin has been circling from the past few years. Back in 2013, Brolin was being considered for Bruce Wayne/Batman in the DC flop Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice. Thank God that didn’t happen. He also previously portrayed the lead in the other DC box office bomb Jonah Hex. Now that he’s Cable, he seems fully committed to the Marvel game and will no doubt be a part of the franchise for quite a while, considering the future Avengers and X-Force movies coming out respectively.

I still don’t know how I feel about Brolin as Cable. He is definitely a better choice in this role than he would have been as Batman, but I can’t help but look at other considered actors and think they would have been more fit for the part. Stephen Lang, for instance, has demonstrated his grit in both Avatar and Don’t Breathe, and that could have contrasted very well with Reynolds’ sarcasm and patronizing. Michael Shannon was also in the running, and considering how well he portrayed Zod in DC’s Man of Steel, I know he could have brought that same edge and roughness into Cable. Brad Pitt was also being considered, and we can only dream about the potential with that casting. Can you imagine the jokes Deadpool could have came up with? I can only wonder about their first meeting: “Why do you look like Brad Pitt?”

All the same, Brolin is definitely not a bad choice, and if anything, I’m curious to see where he will take the character. We’ll have to see for ourselves when Deadpool 2 comes out next year.

– David Dunn

SOURCE: The Hollywood Reporter, MovieWeb.com

Warner Bros. Casts Jude Law As Dumbledore

2018 is returning to the world of wizards, and what wizarding world is complete without Albus Dumbledore?

Warner Bros. announced earlier this week that they have cast Albus Dumbledore for the sequel to Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them. That role is going to English actor Jude Law, who surprisingly has not been previously featured in the Harry Potter universe.

A prequel to the critically-acclaimed Harry Potter film series, Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them showcases the events leading up to Voldemort’s rise to power and the death of Harry’s parents. The second entry in a five parts series, the sequel to Fantastic Beasts is being scripted by Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling and also stars Academy Award-winner Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, and Johnny Depp.

Law’s casting as Dumbledore is exciting for numerous reasons. First of all, he physically looks the part. Bearing similar characteristics to his elder counterparts Richard Harris and Michael Gambon, Law naturally has a warm, inviting face, but can also be fierce and imposing if intimidated. As seen in previous roles, Law has a wide range in acting ability, and can adequately embody all of the emotions that Dumbledore characterizes.

Beyond that, just look at Law’s career. From Vasily Zaytsev in Enemy at the Gates to Giggolo Joe in A.I. Artificial Intelligence to John Watson in Sherlock Holmes, Law has demonstrated that he can take on a challenging role thrown at him and make it his own. I have no doubt he’ll do just that as Albus Dumbledore just like any other role he tackles, and that makes me even more excited for the future of Fantastic Beasts.

What do you guys think? Are you enchanted by Law’s casting, or do you want to perform expelliarmus on Law’s contract? Comment below, let me know.

– David Dunn

SOURCE: MovieWeb.com, Cinemablend

 

Michael Bay Wants To Make 14 More ‘Transformers’ Movies. No, This Is Not An April Fools Joke.

I’m done.

– David Dunn

SOURCE: MovieWeb.com, ComingSoon.net

“GET OUT” Review (✫✫✫1/2)

SOURCE: Universal Pictures

The mind is a terrible thing to waste.

I’m going to start by saying I’m the wrong person to be reviewing Get Out. It wasn’t made for me. In fact, I’m willing to safely assume that it also wasn’t made for Caucasians, televangelists, Neo-Nazis, white supremacists, alternate right supporters, and Donald Trump voters. For all intensive purposes, Get Out was made for the people that go through the profiling and discrimination that its main character goes through every day of their lives. As a heterosexual white male, I will never fully understand what people like Chris go through. All I can do is try to empathize with it.

Taking place in a homey little town that feels too much like it’s pulled straight out of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, Get Out follows interracial couple Chris and Rose (Daniel Kaluuya and Allison Williams, respectively) for a weekend trip where they’re going to visit Rose’s white parents. And when I say these people are white, I mean they’re super white. They’re so clean-cut, well-mannered and awkwardly sociable that you start wondering if they’re real people or robots.

As Chris starts mingling with Rose’s parents and their white neighbors, he starts getting an eerie feeling that there’s something going on behind everyone’s polite manners and big smiles. The house servants, Walter (Marcus Henderson) and Georgina (Betty Gabriel) treat him with hostility. He swears he’s seen one of the black neighbors before, but he’s acting differently now. And his friend Rod (Lil Rel Howery) warns him that a lot of black people went missing in the rural area that they’re at. As events start to slowly unravel, Chris makes a discovery so horrifying that he needs to escape before it grabs a hold of him. Hence the title Get Out.

While watching Get Out, I was acutely aware that while some moments were intended as satire, other moments were filled with a surprising amount of truth in them. In one scene in particular, Chris was mingling with a crowd of white neighbors, and it was very clear that they didn’t socialize with African-Americans very often. From asking questions about sports teams to grabbing his arm to see how strong he was, the neighbors’ behavior wasn’t overtly racist, but they stereotyped in the areas that mattered most. Just as I was wondering if this discrimination ever happened in modern times, a viewer next to me commented “Oh yeah, that’s happened to me before.”

I’m assuming that writer-director Jordan Peele (of “Key & Peele” fame) comes from a very personal place while writing this, because the details are just too acute to come from random imagination. In even the most subtle of moments, Peele deconstructs and elaborates on white privilege and the devastating affects it can have on individual lives. Upon their first meeting, Rose’s dad comments that he kept Walter and Georgina as house servants so that they can continue to be employed. Couldn’t he just give them a letter of recommendation? Refer them to another employer? Maybe help work towards a 401(k)? When Chris comments how too many white people can make him nervous, Georgina retaliates. Yet, tears are streaming down her face as she’s doing so.

That’s the kind of movie Get Out is: strange, surreal, and deeply unusual, but also immediately relevant to its intended audience. Is it even possible to have a culturally relevant horror film? Well if Get Out is anything to go by, then yes, it is definitely possible, and it doesn’t have to sacrifice its thrills to make an excellent point either.

Two cast members I have to praise before going any further: Daniel Kaluuya and Lil Rel Howery, who respectively delivers the films most climactic and comedic moments. Howery is the smartass friend that always has a response to everything, no matter how ridiculous or obscene it sounds. I bawled in my seat when he tried to explain to a few police officers why he felt his friend was being kidnapped and hypnotized to be sold as a sex slave, or that his status as a T.S.A. agent somehow makes him qualified to do detective work. Calm down there, Rod. You’re checking my bags, not solving a murder.

But Kaluuya is truly impressive in the center role here. He expresses both the strength and the vulnerability that allows Get Out to work as a thriller, portraying a character that is confused, scared, and victimized in a situation where no one is coming to help him. In one moment of the picture, he has to summon tears instantaneously as if he’s under a trance. Demonstrating these emotions on the spot requires either immense talent or personal experience, and I can’t help but feel Kaluuya is utilizing both during these demanding sequences.

I can already hear some of the commenters typing. “But David!” You might be saying. “White people aren’t kidnapping and terrorizing black youth!” Yes, I obviously know that, no more than I know about the nonexistence of Hogwarts, Middle-Earth, and the Force. If that is a serious concern to you, then you’re missing the point. The point very vividly depicted in Get Out, and what you really need to pay attention to, is the privilege that allows white people to appropriate African American lives and culture. And when you’re part of a society where police brutality and black imprisonment are common occurrences, is it that much of a stretch to see this film as satire?

I know some people will debate on the validity of Peele’s point of view and how accurate it is to modern society. My job is not to agree or disagree with Peele’s point, but to analyze how well he made it. And I will say without batting an eye that Get Out is one of the most creative, compelling, riveting, and darkly humorous films I’ve ever seen. It works across the board as horror, comedy, drama, or satire. Take your pick.

Tagged , , , ,

“LOGAN” Review (✫✫✫1/2)

SOURCE: 20th Century Fox

The greatest X-Man that ever lived.

Out of any actor to ever inhabit their roles, I don’t believe there has ever been one as committed as Hugh Jackman has been to Wolverine. The guy is 48 years old now. He’s played the superhero for 17 years for a total of nine films. Now he returns one last time as an elderly Logan for a film that is equal parts violent, action-packed, emotional, heartbreaking, and powerful. What a finale.

Taking place far into the distant future in the year 2029, James “Logan” Howlett (Jackman) is no longer Wolverine or an X-Man. Now he’s just old man Logan, taking care of himself and an aged Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) in a world where mutants no longer exist. Neither of them are in their prime state of health. Charles is facing a degenerative brain disease that causes daily seizures, which in combination with his mutation sends out psychic shock waves that can kill anyone within a 100-yard radius. Logan himself is barely even healing anymore, and he self-medicates with a bottle of Jack to cope with the pain. Both of these men are at the end of their ropes. This is not a place where we expected either of them to be.

Enter a little girl named Laura (Dafne Keen), who Charles discovers is one of the last remaining mutants alive. On the run from a squad of cybernetic hitmen called the Reavers, Laura turns to Logan and Charles as her only hope to escape. While Charles is eager to help, Logan is done with the hero days and just wants to be left alone. But as he keeps getting roped into this pursuit, Logan discovers how he’s connected to Laura and the Reavers and how everything he’s ever been through has lead him up to this moment.

First and foremost, let’s get the obvious out of the way: Logan is rated a hard R. No, this is not a passive R rating like The King’s Speech with a small string of curse words. More like a Hacksaw Ridge, Deadpool, Hateful Eight R rating packed with bloody violence, gratuitous gore, dismembered limbs, exploding body parts, decapitated heads, and F bombs the size of Nagasaki. And I thought the mansion raid scene in X2 was rough. If the X2 Wolverine went head-to-head against Logan in this movie, Logan would literally shred him into a pile of bloody red meat. Period.

As someone who is a strong advocate for the PG-13 rating, I didn’t know how I was going to feel about the R-rated violence in Logan. None of the other X-Men movies would have improved if the violence were increased one bit. Not even the Wolverine films, which fans have been advocating for more mature content for a long time now. Yet strangely enough, the heightened violence worked very well for Logan and didn’t feel forced or unnecessary. Why is that?

I think it’s because in context to this film, it makes sense for Logan’s story. By this point in his life, he’s well over 100 years old. He’s literally seen decades of violence, both committed to him and committed by him. He’s seen friends, enemies, and innocents fall to the blades in his body. He’s lived a long, tired, blood-soaked life filled with tragedy and regret.

By the time we get to Logan, he’s not allowed to shy away from all of the violence he’s experienced in his life. So why should we? Logan is very confrontational in what the character has had to face all by himself, and for the first time ever in the series, it won’t allow us to look away from the violence Logan has had to struggle with. As one character points out in the film, killing is like a brand. And a brand sticks.

This is a brilliant entry by writer-director James Mangold, who previously directed The Wolverine in the X-Men saga. Instead of the action and the visual effects, Mangold chooses to focus on something more practical to Wolverine: his humanity. More than almost any of the other X-Men films, Logan is the most emotional, the most vivid, and the most grounded story told in Wolverine’s saga. Like The Dark Knight and Spider-Man 2, Logan relates to us on a more human level as opposed to a fantastical one. In one of the greatest moments of the picture, Logan turns to Laura and tells her “Don’t be what they made you.” I wonder how hard he wishes someone told him that same thing when he was Laura’s age.

As this is one of Wolverine’s most emotional adventures, so too is this the best demonstration of Hugh Jackman’s talent. The more I watch him, the more impressed I am by his range as an actor. This is a guy who has performed numerous roles besides Wolverine, from The Prestige to Les Miserables to Prisoners. How he can bounce from those roles back to Wolverine constantly impresses me, and the fact that he comes back and gives a performance as powerful and demanding as this shows how seriously he takes his roles as an actor. Patrick Stewart also gives a heartfelt performance and displays Professor X in his most vulnerable, broken appearance to date. Keen was also fitting in her role as Laura, although most of her scenes required nothing more than just fiercely death-glaring at everything she looks at.

I won’t tell you how Logan ends, although I’m sure you’ll have already guessed it. I will say that the thing that stays with you most is not how Logan ends, but of the smaller moments that lead up to it. I caught myself remembering how Logan first met the X-Men in the earlier movies, how the stray loner found a family, how he has lost the ones he’s loved most, how many friends he’s seen die, and how every small, intimate moment he’s kept close to his heart has lead him here. Take note of the last thing Logan says to Laura, the last thing Laura does for Logan, and the last shot that Mangold chooses to linger on. Time will remember Wolverine for the hero. I will remember Logan for the man.

Tagged , , , ,

“THE WOLVERINE” Review (✫✫✫)

SOURCE: 20th Century Fox

Snikt, snikt.

If there’s one good thing about sequels, it’s that it gives studios a chance to redeem themselves if they failed the first time around. With that in mind, I’m thankful that 20th Century Fox has redeemed themselves from X-Men Origins: Wolverine with its sequel The Wolverine, a vicious and riveting action-fest that features perhaps the most impressive performance from Hugh Jackman to date. Is it very original? No, but it’s loads of fun, and that’s one thing this film has over its predecessor.

A follow-up to both the X-Men trilogy and its failed prequel, The Wolverine features an older, more weary Logan (Hugh Jackman), who’s tired of all of the years of fighting and struggling as an X-Man. Now rescinded in the Canadian woods, he’s tracked down by a female samurai named Yukio (Rila Fukushima) who delivers some downtrodden news to Logan: Yashida is dying.

You see, back in WWII, Logan was held prisoner by a Japanese camp close to Nagasaki. After the notable atomic bombing, Logan pulled down a young soldier into his ditch and protected him from the blast. That soldier was Yashida (Haruhiko Yamanouchi), and he’s now succumbing to cancer.

So Logan is brought to Japan, where he once again meets with Yashida to say his goodbyes. But upon seeing him, Yashida instead makes him a ludicrous offer: surrender his healing factor to him, and become mortal. Settle down. Live a normal life, just like Logan has always wanted.

Logan ends up refusing and Yashida dies later that night. But the next few days, Logan notices something strange. After a few skirmishes with the local Yakuza, Logan notices that he’s not healing like he used to. When he gets shot, he’s blown back. When he gets stabbed, he bleeds. And when his claws come out of his hands, they leave holes where they used to be. Now left as an ordinary homosapien, Logan needs to traverse through Japan to discover what happened to his powers and once again become the Wolverine.

I’m going to get the obvious out of the way first: yes, Hugh is as great as Wolverine as he always is. That in itself isn’t a surprise to anyone. This is his sixth time portraying the character, the second time in his own film. He knows what he’s doing. Wolverine has always been the ultimate anti-hero of superheroes. He is a mean, ferocious, aggressive, untrusting, violent lone wolf who hacks, slashes, and cuts his enemies to pieces. He is not supposed to be a likeable fellow. Were it not for his slight sense of empathy, he could very easily be a villain if he wanted to be, and that’s what makes the character so fascinating. He exists on both sides of the superhero spectrum, and Jackman has always done well in contrasting the two sides of the character.

But an outstanding actor can still exist inside a mediocre movie. As demonstrated in the previous X-Men Origins: Wolverine, a performance by itself is worthless unless a good director can guide it in the right direction. Luckily, James Mangold does exactly that. Previously helming films such as Walk the Line and 3:10 To Yuma, Mangold combines action with relevance in The Wolverine, making it not only an exciting superhero blockbuster, but also an introspective character study on a man fighting his own immortality.

First, the action. While I still believe that X2 sports the best action scenes in the franchise to date, The Wolverine is definitely a worthy runner-up and is incredibly creative in constructing its action. In one of my favorite scenes, Wolverine is fighting against a slew of Yakuza on top of a bullet train with a base speed of 200 mph. If that just sounds ridiculous, imagine what it looks like seeing these guys fighting each other on top of it. While Wolverine and the Yakuza are desperately stabbing into the hull to maintain their grip on the train, they keep slashing at and fighting each other, all while the wind is slamming against their faces and they’re dodging signs and advertisements speeding past them. In another scene, Wolverine is fighting a samurai inside of a dojo, and the editing was so well interwoven together that I felt like I was watching a swordfight not unlike Gladiator or The Last Samurai. The Wolverine is an excellent blending of genres, and seeing Wolvie fighting in this new feudal environment gives a unique spin on the character’s regular hack-and-slash action.

But it’s not just the action that’s so enthralling. For the first time in any X-Men movie, Wolverine’s immortality is brought into question as a personal conflict for the character. It’s funny how I’ve never considered Wolverine’s healing factor as a weakness for him. But thanks to how cleverly constructed this movie is, it does bring up a valid question: if it were possible, would you want to live forever? I know I wouldn’t. What sane person would want to stomach Justin Bieber for the rest of their lives?

Wolverine, however, has much more serious consequences to face for his immortality. At this point in his life, he’s a weathered soul. He’s killed people. Watched as his friends were killed. Fell in love. Lost love. Found a family. Lost a family. For someone who has lived and lost as much as Logan has, I don’t blame him one bit for being tempted by the peace of mortality. As Yashida points out, if he gave up his powers, he could grow old, settle down, have a family, and die happily in peace, just like any other normal man. After everything he’s been through, “normal” is a gift Logan deserves at the very least. Yet, the gift evades him.

I enjoyed The Wolverine very much. The action, the conflicts, the performances, they all get back to the roots of the character and why they make Wolverine so interesting. A few of the film’s villains might be flat and uninteresting, and while the plot is unique with its themes, its execution fails to impress as much as its predecessors do. That still doesn’t change the fact that this is a fun action movie, a meaningful display of Jackman’s talents, and a worthy redemption from the haphazard failure of X-Men Origins: Wolverine. It’s good to have you back, Logan. Snikt, snikt.

Tagged , , , , ,