Three strikes, you’re out
The Wolverine, the latest in Marvel’s ever-growing line of superhero box office domination, is more or less a long Instagram selfie of a shirtless Hugh Jackman arriving home from the gym and posing forlornly in the rain. Not much happens in the film and it’s hard to see what it accomplishes to further the already convoluted story of the X-Men film series. As a standalone it’s an entertaining but not excellent action flick. Jackman attacked the role of the Wolverine with his claws out, literally, and injected some much-needed life into the 126-minute runtime.
Logan the Wolverine (Jackman) is an immortal mutant who possesses rapid healing abilities and three metal claws that protrude from his knuckles. He is tracked by magenta-headed assassin Yukio (Rila Fukushima) as he lives caveman-style alone in the wilderness, presumably in light of events from one of the, like, five X-Men prequels leading up to this. Yukio is the granddaughter of Logan’s old friend (Haruhiko Yamanouchi), whom is now in charge of one of Japan’s most influential companies. He proposes to swap his mortality with Logan’s immortality, believing Logan wants to die after being haunted by dreams of his dead love Jean Grey (Famke Janssen).
Yankin’ my chain
James Wan’s The Conjuring aims to be a strong addition to classic horror movie tropes rather than to redefine the genre, and it largely succeeds. As polished as some of the best of the genre in recent years, seeing the movie in a theater feels like the correct way to witness cinematic horror, of which quality movies are getting harder and harder to come by.
The story isn’t exactly original, but it’s based on something that actually happened, so we can’t really nitpick here. Carolyn and Roger Perron (Lili Taylor and Ron Livingston) move into a practically rotting house next to an ever-misty lake and creepy willow tree with their five daughters, who range from stereotypically bratty to stereotypically stupid-adorable. They quickly realize something supernatural is happening in the house. It begins with strange smells and clocks stopping at the same time every night, then escalates to doors slamming for no reason, demonic figures appearing in the night, and feet being yanked out of bed by unseen forces.
Moves like Jaeger
It’s pretty significant a movie like Guillermo del Toro’s Pacific Rim was passed up at the box office. For one, the Transformers-on-steroids versus mutated Godzilla battles were some of the best battle sequences I’ve ever seen. The visual effects team made the entire thing look completely feasible without breaking a sweat. Coupled with this is the action movie, unlike so many other action movies, tells an interesting and (pretty much) original story rather than spending its entire runtime showcasing epic but nonetheless pointless. If Pacific Rim had come out five years ago, it would be a classic. Since it came out in a time where audiences have already been so spoiled by special effects they would rather go see comedies that can’t get their approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes above single digits, it will apparently go unappreciated.
There’s no way the script wasn’t initially intended for a video game. The movie felt like watching a video game, complete with uniquely stylized characters spewing out over-the-top dialogue. In a not too distant future, slimy behemoths bigger than buildings known as Kaiju emerge from the center of the earth and attack human civilization. As the attacks became more common, overgrown Optimus Primes known as Jaegers were created to fend off the monsters. One of the film’s most important plot points even felt like a game mechanic: operating the Jaegers required two people to link their minds together, as the interface was too complicated for one person to handle.
Despicable Me 2 is much too sugar-coated and cutesy-wutesy to warrant such a negative title, and so is the film’s central character Gru (Steve Carell), whose “villainous” personality in the film’s predecessor has been softened by unexpected fatherhood. The sploshy animation plays more like the new episode of a long television program rather than a blockbuster movie sequel. The odds were stacked against me enjoying this film (two animated sequels in a row is usually where I max out emotionally). But the film’s whimsical yet forthright refusal to take anything about itself seriously allows it to dissolve sweetly like a large, sticky cone of cotton candy in the mouths of the audience. This is what sequels should be like.
The film’s story was transparently plotted in a “say the first thing that pops to mind and see what sticks” kind of brainstorming session. The only thing still despicable about ex-evil mastermind Gru is his unsightly triangular shape and bald head – now that he is taking care of three orphans (voiced by Miranda Cosgrove, Dana Gaier, and Elsie Fisher from oldest to youngest) he uses his sinister schemes and army of overall-clad living corn puffs known as “Minions” to keep the girls happy.