February 17, 2017 by  
Filed under Jerrod, Reviews

Starring: Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Dafne Keen
Directed by: James Mangold (“The Wolverine”)
Written by: Scott Frank (“The Wolverine”) & James Mangold (“Walk The Line”) and Michael Green (“Green Lantern”)

In the 17 years since Bryan Singer’s “X-Men” birthed the modern comic book movie, there have been a sizable number of really good films in the genre—but transcendent ones are as rare as adamantium. 2008’s “The Dark Knight” obviously makes that list, and many would put 2012’s “The Avengers” right behind it, followed in some circles by last year’s “Deadpool.” And now, nearly two decades after his first, career-making appearance as Wolverine, Hugh Jackman and director James Mangold join their company and outdo every film in the X-series—and most comic book movies, period–with the R-rated “Logan.”

Set in 2029 after something mysterious (and blissfully unexplored) left most mutants dead, “Logan” opens with Jackman’s erstwhile berserker X-Man, weak and hungover, sleeping in a limousine. When a group of guys try to steal his rims, Logan can’t muster the strength to take them down—until a shotgun blast to the chest awakens his anger and he cuts them to ribbons. Later, he’s met by a woman named Gabriela (Elizabeth Rodriguez) who offers him $50,000 to take her and her young daughter, Laura (Dafne Keen) to North Dakota—both of whom are also wanted by a ruthless, robotic-handed mercenary Donald Pierce (Boyd Holbrook). When the shit hits the fan, Logan and an elderly, dementia-addled Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) escape in the limo with Laura, who mysteriously mirrors Logan in both rage and the presence of razor-sharp claws that extend from her appendages.

Clearly owing a debt to the financial success of the brilliantly profane and grisly “Deadpool,” Jackman and Mangold were taken off the PG-13 leash, free to pepper “Logan” (seemingly not beholden to much of the series’ notoriously convoluted timeline) with all of the fucks and gory decapitations that have been missing from the character’s DNA. It pays off, too, allowing the film’s achingly bleak, last-of-its-kind tone to wash over everything without the compromise normally required for something meant to sell action figures and breakfast cereal. 17 years later, after pretty great movies (“X2,” “X-Men: Days of Future Past”) horrible duds (“X-Men Origins: Wolverine”) and underappreciated turns missing just a little something (“The Wolverine”), Jackman—in what he insists is his final performance in a role he 100 percent owns—finally has his comic book movie masterpiece.

A Walk Among the Tombstones

September 19, 2014 by  
Filed under Cody, Reviews

Starring: Liam Neeson, Dan Stevens, David Harbour
Directed by: Scott Frank (“The Lookout”)
Written by: Scott Frank (“Minority Report”)

Anyone else getting déjà vu? If you’ve seen the previews, trailers, or commercials for “A Walk Among the Tombstones,” it certainly appears as if Liam Neeson has returned to the well that has given him a rebirth as an action star. Even though his films might all appear similar, “Tombstones” isn’t quite “Taken 3” (or because of repetitive marketing, “Liam Neeson Aggressively Threatens Someone Over the Phone 3”) though that doesn’t mean it doesn’t feel familiar.

After quitting the NYPD years prior, Matt Scudder (Neeson) works as an unlicensed private investigator in New York. Although reluctant, Matt agrees to take a case from drug trafficker Kenny Kristo (Dan Stevens) whose wife was kidnapped and murdered after he paid a ransom. As Matt begins to dig deeper to find her killers, he sees the operation might be more complex than it seems.

As a hard-nosed former NYPD officer, Neeson sports a pretty bad New York accent that seems to fade in and out throughout the movie. Distracting dialect aside, Neeson doesn’t stray too far from the type of character audiences have seen him in since “Taken.” It’s a typecast that he’s certainly good at, but at this point the roles are beginning to blend together. Though it is of no fault to the cast, “Tombstones” suffers from completely unmemorable characters. Brian “Astro” Bradley gives a fine performance as TJ, a homeless kid who befriends Matt, but the character feels oddly out of place in the grand scheme of the film.

With an uneventful first two acts, “Tombstones” completely stumbles out of the gate. The first hour is dull and generic. Neeson’s character is searching for clues to put together pieces of a mystery, yet nothing of consequence or interest happen.s There are also a few puzzling decisions from screenwriter and director Scott Frank. For whatever reason, Frank felt the need to obscure the faces of the perpetrators and antagonists for the first portion of the film. It is an unnecessary mystery and decision with zero payoff other than literally seeing what the actors look like.

There is also the decision to take scenes during the climax of the film and relate it to a theme involving the 12-step program. It is a connection that is ill fitting and flimsy at best and actually annoyingly interrupts some of the most tense moments of the film. Where “Tombstones” is able to salvage itself is in its final act where the heat finally turns up and the story begins to take interesting turns. When Matt takes over another kidnapping situation, the film gains momentum as he inches closer and closer to a showdown with the bad guys. It is here that Neeson proves his worth and becomes fun to watch.

“Tombstones” is both visually and thematically a pretty dark affair. Unfortunately, it works in both directions and, at times, enhances certain scenes while leaving viewers cold and distant in others. It’s a shame Frank couldn’t have gotten to the point through a quicker and a more interesting route. “A Walk Among the Tombstones” is a slow burn that takes far too long to ignite.

The Wolverine

July 28, 2013 by  
Filed under Jerrod, Reviews

Starring: Hugh Jackman, Tao Okamoto, Rila Fukushima
Written by: Mark Bomback (“Live Free or Die Hard”) and Scott Frank (“Marley & Me”)
Directed by: James Mangold (“3:10 to Yuma,” “Walk the Line”)

When we last saw Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine, it was in the dismal “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” (if you don’t count his hilarious cameo in “X-Men: First Class,” that is). Marred by a dumb, continuity-shredding storyline and crummy special effects, Jackman’s first solo turn as the mysterious mutant fell flat, disappointing X-fans and shelving what had been a planned series of origin stories for other mutants. Yet with comic book heroes ruling the box office and Jackman’s absolute ownership of the Logan/Wolverine role, the character’s solo adventures continue with this latest entry, simply titled “The Wolverine.”

In a prologue set in the Japanese city of Nagasaki on August 9, 1945, Logan is being held prisoner, trapped underground in a well. When the atomic devastation awaiting the city becomes evident, Japanese soldiers start performing harakiri. One young soldier, Yashida, is stopped by Logan before plunging a sword into his belly. Using his mutant healing factor to withstand the nuclear assault, Logan shields Yashida from the blast, saving his life. Sixty-plus years later, a dying Yashida, now the head of a huge technological corporation, requests a visit from the troubled, near-immortal Logan, offering him something the mutant could never attain on his own: mortality. After telling the old man no thanks, though, a strange doctor and a clan of ninjas look to take Logan out of the picture in order to get to Yashida’s daughter.

Directed by James Mangold, “The Wolverine” is the freshest, most satisfying X-movie since “X2” hit theaters a decade ago. For most of its running time, it feels nothing like the comic book movies that pop up every summer. While it pays to know what happened in previous films in the series (“The Wolverine” picks up after the events of “X-Men: The Last Stand”), the film isn’t beholden to plot points and table-setting put in place by what came before it. This is the real Wolverine solo film fans have been looking for, packed with high-energy action sequences that stretch across Tokyo city blocks or, most impressively, on top of a speeding bullet train. “The Wolverine” loses steam toward the end, unfortunately, when sweet ninja fights give way to robots and lame mutants, but leaves fans on a high-note when the obligatory post-credits sequence sets up Logan’s, and the X-Men’s, next adventure.

Marley & Me

December 21, 2008 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Owen Wilson, Jennifer Aniston, Alan Arkin
Directed by: David Frankel (“The Devil Wears Prada”)
Written by: Scott Frank (“The Lookout”) and Don Roos (“Happy Endings”)

You’d have to have a heart made of rawhide not to feel a tad gushy while watching “Marley & Me,” especially if the man-dog relationship reminds you of a puppy love from your past. For me, it was my first pet, a funny-looking mutt I named Cracker (he was the color of a Saltine), whom I loved dearly.

The film may rekindle some lasting memories from your childhood, but the source material, John Grogan’s New York Times bestselling autobiography of the same name, is milked of all its sentimentality, and by the time we get to the film’s most tender moments, they’re unconvincing and obvious.

Directed by David Frankel (“The Devil Wears Prada”), “Marley & Me” is not so much about a dog as it is a family’s life journey with a dog as a supporting player through their ups and downs. Owen Wilson is John Grogan, a newspaper reporter stuck in a rut writing blotter stories, who surprises his newlywed (Aniston) with a pup (giving her something to nurture is supposed to be a surefire way to slow down her biological clock).

Marley is an adorable but incorrigible yellow Labrador whose alpha-male inclinations make him “the worst dog in the world.” (Basically, he gnaws everything to a stump and humps Kathleen Turner’s fat leg). In addition to Marley’s mischievous ways, the Grogans’ stress level skyrockets when they begin raising a litter of their own.

While the screenwriters would like you to believe the heart of the story centers on the unconditional love of a dog, Marley becomes an afterthought in the script until he turns weathered and gray in the most heartfelt and drawn-out scenes. Toss him a Snausage for not sinking to Beethoven levels, but I’d rather have my puppy-loving tears triggered by “Old Yeller,” “My Dog Skip,” or even “Turner & Hooch.”