Sunday, May 17, 2009

May Movie Madness: Coming Up for Air

It's happening again, only worse. Three years ago, the stars were aligned in May 2006 to offer up a movie-a-week -- literally, a new movie every week that I was just dying to see. I planned it out months in advance, letting Terri know about my plans so she would be prepared with the customary eye rolls, shoulder shrugs, and what-can-I-do?-my-husband's-an-idiot looks. One after the other, I scoped MISSION IMPOSSIBLE III, POSEIDON, THE DA VINCI CODE, and X-MEN: THE LAST STAND. In hindsight, of course, not the best of months. Now here comes May 2009, looking to blast May 2006 out of the Ward Record Books, and -- surprise, surprise! -- my wife is coming along for part of the ride.

Here's the rundown, only partially filled at this time: WOLVERINE, STAR TREK, ANGELS & DEMONS, TERMINATOR: SALVATION, NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM: BATTLE OF THE SMITHSONIAN, UP, and DRAG ME TO HELL. Actually, my wife doesn't know about that last one yet, but by the time May 29th rolls around, she'll be too exhausted to care.

The verdict? WOLVERINE -- disappointing. STAR TREK -- An outstanding reboot to the franchise. ANGELS & DEMONS -- surprisingly entertaining. The rest of them -- well, I hope the best is yet to come. Although they'll have to go far to give STAR TREK a run for its money. For a change, I'm not pontificating. (Sorry to disappoint you, Chaz.) I'll wait for the May picnic meeting.

Then I'll pontificate. (Just watch 'em head for the door. Heh, heh.)

P.S. And what about Terri, might you ask? Well, she liked ANGELS & DEMONS a lot more than DA VINCI CODE, as I did. And she's the main reason NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM is on the calendar -- she laughed a lot at the first one. Plus, she wants to see UP as much as I do. Three date movies in less than a month -- it's like 1989 all over again, but with higher ticket prices.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Watchmen on DVD

Hey John,

How come everything else comes out on DVD in 30 seconds and a movie like Watchmen, which didn't burn up the box office is set for a July release???? I am really jonesing for that one.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

So Much For the Superhero Winning Streak

2008 was a great year for comic geeks at the movies, with the success of Iron Man, The Dark Knight, and to a lesser extent, The Incredible Hulk and Wanted. But 2009, unfortunately, has not gotten off to the same flying start. Watchmen turned out to be overrated and somewhat pretentious, and now, here comes Wolverine, the Canuck with Claws, stepping away from X-Men "group mode" to fly solo. It's bits and pieces of a fun movie that don't add up to a whole heck of a lot.

Wolverine is, arguably, the most popular character in the Marvel Comics stable, so it was only natural that the powers that be would send him out on his own, sooner or later. (It helps when you give Hugh Jackman, the man with the claws, a producer's credit. Not to mention letting him film the thing in his own Australian backyard. What, did Canada decide to raise its taxes?) But the movie was such a mess, I found myself nitpicking from the get-go.

Let's start with the background detail, which takes up the first 15 minutes. I've gotten along perfectly well without Wolverine's backstory for over 30 years, thank you very much. I really didn't need to know that his real name is -- or was -- James Howlett, and as a child, he suffered the trauma of unwittingly killing his ...oh, please. If you can't fill in that blank on your own, you've already failed Screenwriting Cliches 101.

I think I knew from the comics (It's hard to say, since I haven't read Wolverine or X-Men regularly since about '95) that Wolverine has always had some sort of blood feud going with the psychotic Sabretooth. That little tidbit is given ample screen time here, with Wolverine and Sabretooth as half-brothers bouncing from one war to the next across the decades. I guess the "healing factor" that makes Wolverine a mutant also works as its own immortality drug. (Well, at the very least, it must slow the mortal part down a lot.) Wolverine/James Howlett/Logan/Who the hell knows? is recruited by Col. William Stryker for a special ops detail made up of other secretive mutants, and Sabretooth comes with him, mainly for the chance to kill lotsa folks legally. Stryker, played by the older Brian Cox in X2, is played here with equally bureaucratic smarm by Danny Huston, who I liked as the head vampire in 30 Days of Night. Knowing that Stryker has to live so he can cause all sorts of mischief in X2 kind of takes away the suspense, but that's the way it is with prequels, folks.

I have to note that I liked Liev Schreiber's portrayal of Sabretooth. Even though he looks nothing like the comic book character, Schreiber is a hell of an actor, and he chews into his role (literally) with feral glee. The movie wakes up every time he comes onscreen, which is often enough to warrant a Netflix rental down the road, I guess.

But one good performance is not enough to save this movie. There's all sorts of things going on here that really make no sense. For instance, why would Stryker spend a kazillion dollars to turn Wolverine into an adamantium-laced force of nature, then attempt to kill him when he doesn't want to play ball? Can bureaucrats be that petty? (Dumb question.) Soon after Wolverine goes on the run, he meets up with Ma and Pa Kent (or wait -- was that Uncle Ben and Aunt May?), a pair of walking homespun cliches with targets on their backs whose sole reason for being in the film is to give Wolverine another excuse for opening a mega-can of whoopass on the bad guys. (As if Jackman needed another reason, being stuck in this movie and all.)

I was waiting for something special, and kept getting stiffed. Even the CGI was lame this time around. The claws looked painted into the frame, and as for that final smackdown -- wouldja believe Wolverine, Sabretooth, and Deadpool duking it out atop the Three Mile Island nuclear reactor? No damn way that's going to look real.

I think the saddest part was waiting until after the end credits for what has now become the signature of all Marvel Comics movies: the "special surprise" extra scene. Even that was boring. I read somewhere that they actually have a couple of different "special surprise" scenes playing at the end of different prints of the film, and if you want to see them all, you have to see the film multiple times. Fat chance of that. I'll wait for the inevitable special edition Blu-Ray. Maybe.

Give Liev Schreiber 4 stars out of 10, tack on an extra 2 stars for a cool helicopter fight scene, and you've got something that's worth a rental on a rainy day. Me, I'm already counting the hours until the Star Trek premiere.