X-Men (2000)

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Director: Bryan Singer

Cast: Patrick Stewart, Hugh Jackman, Ian McKellan, Halle Berry, Famke Janssen, James Marsden, Bruce Davison, Rebecca Romijn, Ray Park, Anna Paquin

Screenplay: David Hayter

104 mins. Rated PG-13 for sci-fi action violence.

 

This is where it all begins. Remember when you saw Spider-Man or Batman Begins or even Iron Man. The Modern Superhero Revolution. It all started 14 years ago when Bryan Singer brought together a star-studded cast and a great script from David Hayter.

X-Men follows Logan (Wolverine) and Marie (Rogue), two lost souls in the near-future, as they team up with Professor X and his heroic team of mutants to stop Magneto from turning human beings into mutants like him. It is a more complex story than I originally expected, with a nice amount of twists and turns.

This cast is one of the main reasons that this film not only succeeded, but also developed the superhero genre into more than cheese. We have Hugh Jackman in his first portrayal as Wolverine, a character who be a staple on the franchise and appear in every installment. Logan is a complex character, and Jackman gets to flex those claws a lot more in later installments, but this is a nice introduction to the character. We get to see the softness in his relationship with Rogue (Anna Paquin, TV’s True Blood, The Piano). We also get a nice strong turn from Halle Berry (Cloud Atlas, The Call), still somewhat early in her career (we are talking pre-Bond girl Berry here), as Storm.

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Nice work should go to Famke Janssen and James Marsden as Jean Grey and Cyclops, respectively. Their relationship in this film offers some conflict to be mined, and Marsden is portraying Cyclops for crying out loud, not an easy sell, as the character could have just come off as silly.

All these able performances are under the powerhouse work of Bromance buddies Patrick Stewart (TV’s Star Trek: The Next Generation, Ice Age: Continental Drift) and Ian McKellan (The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Stardust). These two classically-trained actors bring such depth to the characters of Professor X and Magneto. They carry the film and up the ante for future comic book adaptations.

The soundtrack in this film is absolutely iconic now. I find myself humming it and getting pumped up at the same time, very nice work.

The special effects do seem a bit dated, but there isn’t much to be done about that.

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This is a great start to a franchise and every single superhero movie since owes something to Bryan Singer’s incredible saga. You really feel like you know the characters from this original outing alone. Easily one of the most impressive superhero blockbusters of recent memory.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of X-Men Origins: Wolverine, click here.

For my review of X-Men: First Class, click here.

For my review of The Wolverine, click here.

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The Wolverine (2013)

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Director: James Mangold

Cast: Hugh Jackman, Tao Okamoto, Rila Fukushima, Hiroyuki Sanada, Svetlana Khodchenkova, Will Yun Lee, Haruhika Yamanouchi, Brian Tee, Famke Janssen

Screenplay: Mark Bomback, Scott Frank

126 mins. Rated PG-13 for sequences of intense sci-fi action and violence, some sexuality and language.

 

Last year, we saw the release of The Wolverine which, I noticed after my first viewing, was exactly what I wanted from the origins film released back in 2009. In The Wolverine, we see a damaged Logan (Hugh Jackman, in his seventh but not last portrayal of the clawed antihero), haunted by his having to kill the woman he loves, Jean Grey (Famke Janssen). He is asked to come to Japan to seek out a dying man who he saved back in WWII. Logan is a torn man with nowhere, and his struggle in this film is both an internal and external one. Jackman brings this struggle out beautifully, as a man who cannot die wishes to be at peace. As Wolverine begins to question the motives of all the new faces around him, he gets drawn into possible conspiracies and, if I may say, some of the best action sequences of the entire X-Men franchise.

This is James Mangold’s first foray into superhero territory, and he brings a film that feels realer than most of its kind (even if that realism falls apart near the end of the film). One interesting direction Mangold chose to take was to set the film after X-Men: The Last Stand, a decision I stand behind as it allows the film to truly spread its wings (or claws, for that matter). We see Wolverine in a much more personal piece than previous installments. Jackman knows this character and every portrayal gets him better and better.

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Now the supporting players, with the exception of Famke Janssen, are all relatively underwhelmed, perhaps as we know very little about them at film’s start, whereas we have canon for Grey and Logan’s relationship to build on.

The special effects and sets in the film are astounding, definitely worthy of praise and a big step up from the last solo Wolverine pick. Japan of the near-future is gorgeous, with popping colors and an array of visual textures to play with. The fight sequences are simple in essence and grand in execution. Overall, the film is very watchable.

Now, it does run on about 20 minutes longer than it should, and the ending tacked on both set up the next installment, 2014’s X-Men: Days of Future Past, as well as cause our heads to scratch (but more on that some other time). I didn’t see the point of the mid-credits end scene. Didn’t give us much. The realism of the film falls apart, as I said before, near the end of the film, but overall this is an emotional superhero film, exactly what we were missing in Origins, and reminiscent of 2013’s Iron Man 3.

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What did you think of The Wolverine? Have you seen it? Did it engage you? Vote and comment!

 

3.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

For my review of X-Men Origins: Wolverine, click here.

For my review of X-Men: First Class, click here.

X-Men: First Class (2011)

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Director: Matthew Vaughn

Cast: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Rose Byrne, January Jones, Oliver Platt, Kevin Bacon

Screenplay: Ashley Miller, Zack Stentz , Jane Goldman, Matthew Vaughn

132 mins. Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of action and violence, some sexual content including brief partial nudity and language.

 

Now this is how you do a prequel! How, after X-Men Origins: Wolverine was a major disappointment. I mean major. I didn’t have high hopes for X-Men: First Class. First of all, we are talking about a film with no returning stars that I was aware of. I enjoyed director Matthew Vaughn’s previous work on Kick-Ass, but I just couldn’t guarantee success. Not after the saddening The Last Stand and the worse Origins.

I’m happy to see that Vaughn was able to right the ship and give this franchise exactly what it needed: a fun action romp, with enough interesting new characters to pull you in and keep you in.

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So, First Class is all about the humble beginnings of Professor X (James McAvoy, Wanted, Muppets Most Wanted), Magneto (Michael Fassbender, Inglourious Basterds, The Counselor), and the rest of the group known as the X-Men, who take on a dangerous new mutant named Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon, TV’s The Following, Apollo 13) and his Hellfire Club. McAvoy, Fassbender, Bacon and Jennifer Lawrence, who dons the blue as Raven, the mutant Mystique, are all examples of what has been referred to as the Superhero Renaissance that started up a few years back. These are all incredible, Oscar-worthy performers helping to make these unrealistic characters into flawed, detailed, and tragic heroes who don’t have it all that good. All four of them are incredible performances, and are what make this prequel more grounded in X-Men mythos. They make this a part of the series, helped along by this year’s X-Men: Days of Future Past as well.

Let’s talk cinematography. Vaughn’s is a sweeping filmmaker, his camera always has a well-thought out place and takes part in the film. It does not sit idly by to record the goings-on. The film feels much slower even though it covers a ton of time and info. The music plays like 1960’s James Bond score. Plenty of intrigue, plenty of fear.

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It is important to note that the film is a bit campy. That was not an insult. It takes what could be silliness and really uses it. This is a lesson that could’ve been another Origins disaster, but it plays with its seriousness, and you can really tell that these people are having fun making this movie. It definitely is a great popcorn flick. There are genuine laughable moments, and there are genuine gasp-worthy moments, but through it all Matthew Vaughn keeps moving. This is easily one of the best Superhero films ever made, and it is a pretty damn good film in general.

 

5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

For my review of X-Men Origins: Wolverine, click here.

X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009)

My friends, X-Men: Days of Future Past is still pretty fresh in theaters and doing very well. I happened to see it last week and wow. Just wow. It got me thinking…a lot. About comic books. About time travel. About Jennifer Lawrence…

Anywho, I thought now would be a great time to revisit some X-Men films. Where better to start than an origin story?

 

X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009)

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Director: Gavin Hood

Cast: Hugh Jackman, Liev Schreiber, Danny Huston, Dominic Monaghan, Ryan Reynolds

Screenplay: David Benioff, Skip Woods

107 mins. Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of action and violence, and some partial nudity.

After the initial X-Men trilogy came to a close, producers and execs at 20th Century Fox were really scratching their heads. How do they continue a franchise about a team when not all the players want to play? Simple enough. Focus on just one. Who better than Wolverine, right? WRONG. Wolverine is a terrible character to focus two hours on. Simply put, he is just too powerful a character. First of all, unable to die. Okay, so how do we fear for him? It is the same reason why it is so difficult to make a solid Superman film. Too strong. Secondly, we already know his backstory. We learn everything we need to know about Wolverine from X2: X-Men United. We learn about Weapon X, about Stryker, about the whole kit-and-caboodle. SO why? Why follow around Logan for an entire film. It would be easier if we knew or cared about the supporting players, but this whole film is a cadre of mutants who we in the audience a) don’t know, or b) don’t care about. What’s to love here?

I think I’m getting ahead here. The plot. Okay, so X-Men Origins: Wolverine is all about Wolverine (Hugh Jackman returns for his fourth appearance as the clawing mutant). Wolverine before he was Wolverine. It examines his relationship with his brother Victor Creed, also known as Sabretooth (Liev Schreiber, TV’s Ray Donovan, Salt). Now you may be asking yourself “Wait! The guy from the first X-Men is Logan’s brother?” And don’t worry, because it is barely brought up and bares little to no bringing up in the actual story. We get to see Logan get his claws. We get to see Logan kill a helicopter. Easily, the plot of this film is a bunch of set pieces stitched together and designed to get us to X-Men in the most meandering way possible. And it indeed meanders.

Hugh Jackman is the reason for this film. He currently holds a record for most times an actor has portrayed a superhero on the big screen. X-Men: Days of Future Past marks the seventh time he has donned the claws, and I hear that X-Men: Apocalypse as well as a third Wolverine-centric film are on the way. He is Wolverine, so much so that leaving the role is tantamount to killing the unkillable character. Jackman surrounds himself with solid actors that have nothing to do here. Schreiber here is a terrible casting choice, more so than just because he bares no resemblance to the Sabretooth we already know. Danny Huston (21 Grams, Hitchcock) is again a very capable performer, and under a more solid script could do Stryker well, but he just becomes a half-assed villain reduced to little motivation and lots of cheese. Dominic Monaghan (TV’s Lost, The Lord of the Rings trilogy)  joins as Chris Bradley, but he gets two scenes and then is tossed aside in favor of shoving more worthless characters in. And then we get to Ryan Reynolds. Hold up, Reynolds gets his own paragraph…

Okay, are you ready? Let’s begin.

Ryan Reynolds has always loved the character of Deadpool, and really, he is a likable character. The Merc with a Mouth, Deadpool is known for his quips and one-liners, as well as the characteristic of regularly breaking the 4th wall and talking to the reader. So when Reynolds heard that Deadpool would appear in the new X-Men film, he called and asked for the part. What does he get in return? Wade Wilson/Deadpool amounts to little more than a few cameo pop-ins as a character who, get this, are you ready: When he becomes Deadpool, he doesn’t even get to talk! The Merc with a Mouth has his mouth sewn shut! What the Fu-

 

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Sorry. Yeah, sorry about that. It is angersome though, that is for sure.

Let’s talk about some of the other points in this film, because something has to be good.

The cinematography looks like someone hired director Gavin Hood to shoot a cheap music video featuring Hugh Jackman and terrible music. Once you get past the opening credits, which are beautiful, the film just starts to drag. The problem about opening credits, is that when I saw them, I saw the film I wanted to see. Forrest Gump with claws. There is something depressing about being unable to die, yet this was not thought of until the second Wolverine adventure some four years later.

Gavin Hood’s direction is boring and clumsy. It feels like he would have shown up to the theater in the middle of the film to yell out at the audience, “See, this is where he gets the claws! Hey look, it is Stryker, remember him?!?” To be fair, Hood did want to examine Logan’s PTSD at one point, something unheard of in a summer comic book blockbuster until last year’s incredible Iron Man 3.

The CG. My God, the CG. Those claws look bad. Check out the bathroom scene if you get the chance and you’ll see what I mean.

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In closing, screenwriter Benioff of Game of Thrones fame sought out to make an R-Rated Wolverine film that really examined the character’s life. This wasn’t that film, thanks to the studio. This film only wishes to confuse the timeline, and in fact it did, so there’s that for you. I’ll just say this, if you’re a completest as I am, watch the film once and burn the copy after. If you can avoid seeing it, do so. Not having seen this movie will not ruin the movie-going experience of seeing any other X-Men film, trust me.

 

1/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

Josh Boone’s Take on Adapting Stephen King’s “The Stand” Reaches for the R-Rated Epic Stars…

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Readers, I love Stephen King. I know this isn’t all that surprising. Many readers out their adore Mr. King’s work, and really, what’s not to love about it? It digs deep at the pulp of our deepest fears and rips us to shreds. At times, it also brings us to tears. Stephen King is just…I mean, c’mon.

Anyway, the reason I bring up Stephen King today is “The Stand.” It’s just…I mean, c’mon. “The Stand” is considered by many to be the top tier of King’s work by which all other horror is compared. King describes the tome as being his Lord of the Rings, which is saying a lot. The book has been adapted before, as a 1994 miniseries directed by King regular Mick Garris and scripted by King himself. It was awesome, and while not standing the test of time as much as one might hope, it is still a strong entry is the Stephen King adaptation archives.

Recently, though, heavy talk has spread of a new adaptation of the book, this time for theatrical release. Several names have been passed around for possible direction including Ben Affleck (fresh off of Argo and pre-Batman announcement). Now it would seem as though Josh Boone (The Fault in Our Stars) will be taking up the reigns. He was quoted as saying that his version will be gory, R-Rated, and long. 3 hours long. That’s good news considering the source material’s uncut edition runs upwards of 1100 pages. We’re talking Game of Thrones long here!

I personally love this news. I still think 3 hours would be smushing a lot of material in a crowded film, but I love the passion around this and cannot wait to hear more on the film as casting begins.

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How do you feel about this news? Is this cool or could you give a rat’s ass? Let me know!

June 2014 Preview

Just putting this out there again, I have not seen the following films. I have prided myself on being pretty good at guessing a movie’s place on the awesome-meter (shut up, it’s a thing!), so I have compiled a list of the film releases in June of this year for you to make the best possible choice when heading to the theater this month.

 

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The Fault in Our Stars

The Fault in Our Stars premiered last week at the Seattle International Film Festival, and will have its wide release on June 6th. Based on the popular novel by John Green, Fault tells the story of Hazel (Shailene Woodley, TV’s The Secret Life of the American Teenager, Divergent), a terminally-ill girl who meets Augustus Waters at a support group meeting. Their relationship changes everything for Hazel. Now, this film irked me a little with its bad marketing earlier this year. I trust Shailene Woodley, who has proven herself in the past. I feel like this will be the teen release of the year, so if you read the book, I’m feeling good about this release.

 

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22 Jump Street

I was actually surprised and happy to discover that 21 Jump Street, the 2012 action-comedy based on 1987’s television star vehicle for actor Johnny Depp, was pretty damn funny. It looked to me like the kind of film with all the best moments in the trailer. I admit I was wrong. As far as a sequel goes, under any other directors I would be nervous, but returning director team Phil Lord and Chris Miller (Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, this year’s hit The Lego Movie) alongside writer-star Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum flexing his funny bone again, I have to say I am excited. Here’s hoping it won’t be another Hangover sequel fiasco.

 

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How to Train Your Dragon 2

This was another film with a quality that shocked me. I initially thought How to Train Your Dragon was going to be likable but not loveable with either two much focus on cuteness or too much focus on goofiness. Again, happily surprised.  I’m going to say go for this sequel, which sees Hiccup and Toothless as they find themselves in the middle of a bigger conflict between humans and dragons. As much as I would’ve liked to see the film take the direction of the book series a little more (the second book was entitled How to Be a Pirate and, understandably so, would’ve caused a pretty sizeable risk for the filmmakers in terms of its overall plot), I like the idea of turning this into a film trilogy and being so adult while still being a family film. Kudos.

 

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Jersey Boys

Clint Eastwood is back! It has been three years since J. Edgar’s release, a film that labeled Eastwood as tamer than hoped, but I have always been impressed with the actor-turned-director’s time behind the camera. There hasn’t been a film of his that I was disappointed in. This is a new risk for Clint as well, a musical. I love seeing musicals from directors not usually tapped for such projects. I am stoked to see his take on the four men who grouped together to become The Four Seasons.

 

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Think Like a Man Too

Wow, another sequel to a 2012 film, and I have to say, the first film didn’t interest me enough to actually sit through it. I will say this, if you truly liked the first film, you may enjoy this installment, but it seems like a gimmick sequel (a film that takes implausible measures to bring the characters into wacky situations) and I don’t think it has the chops to seem less stupid. A Vegas bachelor/bachelorette party? I think it will sink, and I wouldn’t want to be in the theater watching it sink.

 

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Transformers: Age of Extinction

If you had asked me back in early 2007 if I would be here in 2014 discussing a fourth Transformers film, I would have responded with awe at the specifics of your question. After I got over it, however, I would be shocked to say yes. Don’t get me wrong; the first Transformers was a long-shot hit and I personally had fun with the sequels, though I accept their collective non-greatness. Transformers: Age of Extinction picks up a few years after the finale of Dark of the Moon, following Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg, Boogie Nights, 2 Guns) and his daughter (Nicola Peltz, The Last Airbender, Deck the Halls) who come across Optimus Prime and get involved in a plot involving, shockingly, Dinobots. Never thought we would see them, but I guess it is time. This will be the first Transformers film without the involvement of Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf). I’m personally excited about a possible new direction for the series. I was getting a little tired of LaBeouf’s constant freaking out and screaming. Wahlberg has the potential to carry this franchise to success.

 

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Mrs. Brown’s Boys D’Movie

I seriously had to look this movie up. I have no freaking clue what this is. I guess it is based on a sitcom. I’ll make this pretty simple. If you have heard of the show and liked it, you may want to see. Otherwise, stay the hell away because it sounds like a turd. There, I said it. A turd.

 

 

 

There you have it, June 2014 in Preview. Final tally:

Best Bets: 22 Jump Street, How to Train Your Dragon 2, Jersey Boys

On the Bubble: The Fault in Our Stars, Transformers: Age of Extinction

Likely Misses: Think Like a Man Too, Mrs. Brown’s Boys D’Movie

 

As before, I gave you the tools. It all depends on you to use them. What do you think? How do you feel about this month’s upcoming releases? What are you most looking forward to? Comment below.