Tag Archives: Hugh Jackman

“X-Men: Days of Future Past” (2014) – Review

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Director:  Bryan Singer

Writer:  Simon Kinberg

Stars:  Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Fassbender, James MacAvoy, Evan Peters, Peter Dinklage,  Nicholas Hoult, and Hugh Jackman

IMDb Logline:  The X-Men send Wolverine to the past in a desperate effort to change history and prevent an event that results in doom for both humans and mutants.

Pros:

  1. Truly ensemble film
  2. Stand-out performances from Michael Fassbender (Erik/Magneto) and Jennifer Lawrence (Raven/Mystique)
  3. Glorious over-the-top 70s costume and set design
  4. Wolverine used as a MacGuffin
  5. Evan Peters scene stealing turn as Peter Maximoff (Quicksilver)
  6. Just the right number of Easter Eggs for both film and comics fans
  7. More than expected use of my favorite X-Man, Iceman (thank you “Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends”), in the future scenes, as well as him being the last line of defence against the Sentinels

Cons:

  1. All the characters aged amazingly well in the future
  2. Magneto’s character motivation in Paris
  3. Magneto’s apparent never before heard of powers to see behind his head and immediately clot arterial bleeding
  4. 1973 Cerebro and underground X-Mansion set looked incredibly advanced and exactly the same as the 2000 set
  5. More a collection of set pieces than a complete and cohesive story

Review:  Though you know where the film is heading, you never know how you are going to get there and exactly what is going to happen.  Also, there were some surprisingly emotional deaths in the third act.  Overall a big surprise in terms of execution and how much I loved the film.

Grade = A-

Bonus material and comments after the poster/trailer link below.

Click on image to view trailer.

Click on image to view trailer.

Bonus Commentary 1: X-Men Cinematic Universe Continuity Issues (It really doesn’t matter) – Did you realize that both Professor X and Magneto are in their 90s in 2023–the year the future scenes in X-Men:  Days of Future Past occurs?  Both are pretty spry for older guys.  To be honest, the X-Men cinematic universe is closer in spirit to the comic universe–where continuity issues are the norm–than Marvel’s own Avengers Universe.  In comics the technology is always slightly more advanced than today, but time moves slower.  In a monthly series only a few days pass between issues, but in our time one month has passed.  Inevitably the comic writers revamp their series to catch the it up to current events, politicians, and introduced technologies.  This is why we all know Peter Parker got his powers in high school, accept him as currently being in his late 20s early 30s, and forget that he was created in the 60s.  Comic writers only run into serious  issues with characters whose origins are fixed by a historic event–Magneto being a Holocaust Survivor and Nick Fury leading the Howling Commandos in WWII.  To keep the characters fresh and relatable you have to play with history a little.  So long as the writer don’t take it too far, we happily go along for the ride.

By chosing the alternate reality route, Bryan Singer and company have broadened the choices of stories they can tell significantly while at the same time using the younger cast.  We can buy that Prof. X is alive in the future and Magneto has his power because we heard the Professor’s voice and maybe saw Magneto move a chess piece at the end of Last Stand.  We can accept that Jean Grey and Cyclops are alive at the end of Days because the past was changed so much that the events of the first X-Films probably did not happen exactly as we have seen.  But most of all, we accept all this because we want to keep seeing new stories with these same characters.

Bonus Commentary 2:  After Credit Scene – Worse one ever. First, based in the size of  material being moved around like tetris pieces, the pyramids took too long to build.  Second, that’s not even the power Apocalypse has.  And third, the character doe not even look remotely similar to the ancient Egypt depiction of Apocalypse.

Bonus Commentary 3:  Evan Peters appearing at Tampa Bay Comic Con in August 2014 – Why?  I usually view actors appearing and signing autographs at smaller comic cons as older, or who have nothing going on with their careers at the present time.  Evan Peters is young and is on a career high.  The guy appears on a hit cable TV series where he is not type cast, and is getting near universal praise for his scene stealing performance in X-Men:  Days of Future Past.  So again I ask why is he at the Tampa Bay Comic Con?  I don’t get it.

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“Prisoners” (2013) – Review

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Director:  Denis Villeneuve

Writer:  Aaron Guzikowski

Stars:  Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal, Maria Bello, Terrence Howard, Viola Davis, Paul Dano, Melissa Leo, Erin Gerasimovich, and Zoe Borde

A Thanksgiving Dinner goes horribly wrong when two daughters, Anna Dover (Erin Gerasimovich) and Eliza Birch (Zoe Borde), go missing.  After forty-eight hours in custody with no hard evidence of his involvement, Det. Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal) has to release his prime suspect, Alex Jones (Paul Dano).  Believing the police can no longer help, Keller Dover (Hugh Jackman) abducts Alex in order to make him talk by whatever means necessary.

The writer, Aaron Guzikowski, created an intelligent script with fully realized characters, and more importantly a story that does not take you down the usual path but keeps you guessing as to where you end up.  The story is both a crime drama and a character piece, with the central question being how far will you go.  How far will a father go to get his daughter back?  How far will you turn a blind eye to something you know is not right?  Is this person a hero or monster?  Is this person a victim or a perpetrator?  The story only becomes wobbly upon further thought after the movie has ended, but these are minor points that do not take away from the film.

The acting across the board is incredible.  Hugh Jackman as Keller Dover brings more menace in his interrogation of Alex Jones than in any scene of Wolverine in any movie.  His Dover is a decent man brought to the edge of sanity by incredible circumstances.  Maria Bello as Grace Dover is also brought low, but in her case to depression & withdrawal.  Terrance Howard is the audience surrogate.  Like Jackman’s Dover, his Franklin Birch is a decent man brought low.  But unlike Dover he sees the wrong in their actions; worse he chooses to do nothing about it.  Paul Dano delivers another solid performance as Alex Jones.  The quiet prime suspect with the supposed intelligence of a ten-year old.  But his Alex has an edge, a not quite right vibe that makes us guessing to how much he knows.  As for Jake Gyllenhaal, with this role as Det. Loki and Robert Graysmith from Zodiac, he is establishing a knack for delivering great performances in adult thrillers.  Det. Loki has an edge with a back story you want to know but is not revealed.  Melissa Leo is unrecognizable as Holly Jones and Violas Davis works as a strong counterpoint to Howard’s vacillating Franklin.

Denis Villeneuve delivers a tight and engaging thriller.  Though the film is 153 minutes long, it never feels fat and moves at a quick pace.  The mood is decidedly bleak and washed-out–as if the film was bleached at times.  Shots are well composed and Villeneuve is not afraid to show you the gritty–and necessary–moments.  There is nothing supliferous.  He also makes clever decisions in editing.  Key dialogue is heard during a confrontation but never seen spoken.  Did the character actually say it, or did the other character hear something he wanted to hear?

Prisoners delivers across the board.  Definitely the best thriller of the year and in my Top-Ten so far.

Grade = A-

Click on image to view trailer

Click on image to view trailer


“The Wolverine” (2013) – Review

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Director: James Mangold

Writers: Mark Bomback and Scott Frank

Stars: Hugh Jackman, Tao Okamoto, Rila Fukushima, Svetlana Khodchenkova, Hal Yamanouchi, Ken Yamamura, and Famke Janssen

August 9th, 1945, Nagasaki, Japan. Two B-29 bombers are seen flying overhead. Air raid horns blast throughout the city and across the harbor at the Japanese prisoner of war camp. There as the Japanese start to flee in a panic, Logan (Hugh Jackman) views the chaos through slits in the hatch to his subterranean dungeon. From his vantage he watches a young officer, Yashido (Ken Yamamura), release the prisoners from their barracks. Yashido then unlocks the hatch in order for Logan to escape, but Logan encourages Yashido to come into the pit where it will be safer from the blast. Yashido declines and goes to commit seppuku with other officers.

As the bomber drops its payload the officers begin their ritual suicide. Just as the bomb detonates Logan grabs Yashido, throws him in the pit, and covers him with the steel hatch in order to protect him from the blast as Logan takes the brunt of it. Logan awakes from his relived nightmare in bed next to Jean Grey (Famke Janssen). Their they talk about his regular nightmares. Logan promises Jean he will never hurt her or harm anyone again, but she claims it is already too late. As the camera pulls away it is revealed Logan has impaled Jean with his claws. Again and in reality Logan awakens from his nightmare. Alone in the woods, Logan is disheveled and lost to himself and the world, a broken man.

Later at a bar he meets Yukio (Rila Fukushima), a formidable young Japanese woman on a mission to find him. After revealing herself she asks Logan to come with her to Tokyo in order for a debt to be repaid. Yashido (Hal Yamanouchi), now an old man and an industrial and technology titan, is on his death-bed and has a gift/trade for Logan–a chance for a normal, ordinary life in exchange for his powers.

Though set in Japan, The Wolverine does not follow the same story as the seminal Chris Claremont-Frank Miller mini-series from 1982/83. It grabs characters from that mini-series and creates a more slightly convoluted and expansive story. Though in the end you know Logan will survive since he will be in the next X-Men film, the filmmakers do a good job of throwing in a few surprises that will have lasting effects that will be carried onto the next film. Also, by suppressing his powers they do a good job of forcing the character to face his own humanity.

It is by making this film a character study with great action set pieces that elevates it above the first Wolverine movie. Unfortunately for the supporting characters there are too many of them, and none of them gets a chance to shine. That being said, the actors do deliver good performances despite the limited material they are given to work with–the one exception being Svetlana Khodchenkova as Viper who is simply going through the motions. Also unfortunately for them and us–the audience–the writers, Mark Bomback and Scott Frank, must have gone to the James Dearden school of screenwriting. There are so many Fatal Attraction style rebirths I wouldn’t have been surprised to see a boiling rabbit in the background of a shot or two.

By now Hugh Jackman owns this role. The material serves him well and he is able to showcase his abilities. He has the right balance of edge, danger, sex appeal, cockiness, and vulnerability.

Mangold uses the Japanese locale well, and creates a good fish-out-of water experience for both the protagonist and the audience. He has a deft had with the action scenes and never overwhelms us. The audience is thrilled by it, but is also able to follow it.

The Wolverine could have benefited from a better script edit, but in the end does a decent job of revitalizing a character that was starting to get old and routine.

Grade = B-

Click on image to view trailer.

Click on image to view trailer.


“Les Miserables” (2012) – Review

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Click on image to vie trailer

Director: Tom Hooper

Writers: Claude-Michel Schoneberg & Alain Boublil (Show Book), Herbert Kretzmer (Lyrics), James Fenton (Additional Text[?]), and William Nicholson (Screenplay)

Stars: Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway, Amanda Seyfried, Eddie Redmayne, Sacha Baron Cohen, and Helen Boham Carter

We begin with song as prisoners toil to bring a listing French war ship into dry dock. At the end of their day of labor Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman) is presented his release on parole by Officer Javert (Russell Crowe). Branded as a former criminal for life Valjean is unable to find work and is harassed by the people. Eventually he finds sanctuary in a monastery through the kindness of the Monsignor. The kindness is repaid by theft as Valjean steals the silver in the night, but is quickly caught by the authorities and brough back to the monastery. But there he does not find condemnation but forgiveness.

The Monsignor once again extends a hand of friendship and gives Valjean the silver and a second chance. Overcome by the act, Valjean becomes a changed man. Renouncing his old life he also renounces his name and becomes Monsieur Madeleine. Years pass and he becomes a successful factory owner and town mayor. But then Inspector Javert enters his life again. Suspicious of Valjean after an extraordinary display of strength rescuing someone beneath a horse cart, Javert inquires into “M. Madeleine’s” past. But his suspicions are initially proved false when he discovers that Valjean has been recently captured and will face a court for breaking his parole. Once informed of this, the real Valjean suffers a guilty conscience for the wrongly prosecuted man and reveals his true identity. What follows is a cat and mouse game between Valjean and Javert through years, cities, and history by the end of which both become changed men.

Forgetting this is a film and not a Broadway show, William Nicholson the screenwriter is too slavishly loyal with his adaptation. Though I have not seen the show yet, it is obvious by the lovers that fall too quickly in love–Cosette (Amanda Seyfried) & Marius (Eddie Redmayne)–and the disjointed lapses in time within the same segment–Fantine’s (Anne Hathaway) fall from grace–that the screenplay does not veer far from the show book. What works on the stage where there is greater audience suspension-of-disbelief comes across as lazy writing of character development & motivation in a film. With the exception of Valjean throughout the film and Fantine in the beginning, why any character does anything is never properly shown. Also, great Hollywood musicals are films where characters speak to each other with dialogue and only break out into song at pivotal moments. Having every spoken word sung causes a distraction to regular dialogue and minimizes those moments where the songs are meant to be impactful.

As for the direction, Tom Hooper in wanting the audience to make sure we aware that the actors in fact sang while they were being filmed choses to show almost every scene in close-up. Though this is a powerful choice with the emotional solos of Fantine and Valjean, it becomes nauseous when more than three actors are involved and the shot is constantly cutting between performers. That being said, the choice of actually filming the actors sing their performance was an excellent one.

Anne Hathaway is rightfully praised for her performance of Fantine, and her moving rendition of I Dreamed a Dream. Hugh Jackman also holds his own both musically and by his acting as Jean Valjean. Russell Crowe has been unfairly maligned with his singing performance as Javert. When called to sing during the powerful songs and his solos Crowe succeeds, but falters with the sung dialogue. Eddie Redmayne is the biggest surprise as Marius, both for his acting and vocal abilities. Sacha Baron Cohen & Helen Boham Carter steal every scene they are in as the married con-artists and comic relief.

The set design is interesting; almost a stage production on steroids. The backgrounds are noticeably askew and a little unbelievable, but appropriate to the story. They are off, but in a good way.

Les Miserables in the end is a flawed film with great performances. The end of the film is emotional and impactful, but does not make up for what comes before. I was left more with a feeling of what could have been.

Grade = C