The Wolverine – Forget that stupid X-Men Origins movie, THIS was the Wolverine movie we’ve been waiting for. It was pretty frickin’ awesome! In The Wolverine, we see Logan go to Japan on the request of a man he once saved the life of in World War II. In the process he mysteriously loses his healing factor and then has to contend with the Yakuza and ninjas. Like I said, it was the Wolverine movie Jonny and I always wanted to see. Logan losing his healing factor was a really great plot point. It made him vulnerable in a way we have never seen on film. At that point, ordinary people with guns became a threat, making Logan look like a far bigger bad ass than ever before. He took numerous gunshots and wounds, but kept going to the literal point of collapse. I only have three complaints of this movie. The first is that he is continually haunted by Jean Grey, whom he killed at the end of X-men 3. Not only are those scenes unnecessary to the plot, but they only serve to enforce the continuity connecting the awful X-men 3 to the looming train-wreck titled X-Men: Days of Future Past (Jonny and I really hope we are wrong and that movie turns out great, but we doubt it.) I would have preferred that The Wolverine remained a stand-alone film instead of being reminded of all the crappiness from “The Last Stand.” (I will concede, however, that the end credit bit with Ian McKellan and Patrick Stewart returning as Magneto and Professor X was cool.) The second complaint was that one of the action scenes against the Yakuza had some of the worst “shaky cam” work I have ever seen… like I had to look away or I’d get sick it was so bad. Thankfully, that part didn’t last long. The last complaint is that I would have liked Logan to spend a little longer fighting the ninjas. That part just was too quick for my liking. Hopefully there is a deleted scene where he fights them a bit more. I do have to say that the scene where Logan is fighting Yakuza members on the bullet train is one of the best action scenes I have ever witnessed… no joke. It was awesome. I also liked his battling the Silver Samurai at the end. They changed up that villain some, but it worked and was pretty cool. Viper was pretty sweet too; they did a great job with her. All in all, this was what X-Men Origins: Wolverine should have been… not jammed full of random mutants and a stupid plot. Just focus on one key plot and let the awesomeness of Wolverine carry the rest of the movie from one bloody violent scene to the next.
Elysium – I really want to like this movie, but I find some serious flaws with the story. The positives are many. The special effects are great. The world they presented was amazing with all sorts of little touches and details. One example I love is the robot probation officer with the grinning cartoonish head of a person. I can see this cold, distant future world using uncaring automated programs to handle virtually anything, even something as important as dealing with a probation officer. Elysium did a great job of putting us into an uncomfortable place; an over-crowded, polluted, run-down, cut-throat world. And by contrast, the space station Elysium seems like this pristine, clean and beautiful place, like a heaven for the living. The robotic police looked cool and seemed far more threatening than those crappy battle droids from the Star Wars Prequels. Matt Damon gave his usual “I make this look easy” performance, which is to say that he was excellent as always. Jodie Foster made a convincing cold hearted, power hungry aristocrat. Sharlto Copley pretty much stole every scene he was in as the sadistic and sadistic Kruger (Now Jonny won’t shut up about wanting him to play The Joker). The action sequences coupled with the special effects worked well. Kruger had some very imaginative weapons in his massive arsenal. I thought that Elysium also had a really good plot. Damon’s character ends up getting a lethal dose of radiation at his job and, with only days to live, becomes determined to make it to Elysium to be cured by their advanced technology that its citizens refuse to share with the Earth. So, what did I have a problem with? For starters, we needed to spend more time with Jodie Foster’s character. Aside from her being a power hungry bitch, we never learn anything more about her. Why was she the way she was? Why would she kill a spaceship full of innocent people from Earth trying to get to Elysium as opposed to just deporting them upon arrival? We never know. I also would have liked more time with Kruger. Again, we never really learn his back-story, but you get the impression that living on Earth as the “dirty jobs” mercenary for Elysium’s interests and having been fitted with advanced cybernetics, he has devolved in a sense to an almost barbarian mentality. However, since Kruger ends up an even bigger threat in the end than Foster, I would have liked to have known more about the monster. What drove him insane? How did he get his position? Again, we never know. The lack of information for both the main antagonists represents a real lost opportunity as it could have explored the idea of how unlimited money or unlimited power can create monsters far worse than criminals on Earth stealing to get by. Another major problem I have is the idea of Elysium itself. All the rich people live in paradise in space and refuse to share any of their wealth or technology (including their advanced medical healing machines) with the people of Earth. We saw people from Earth repeatedly attempt to infiltrate Elysium, usually to try to cure their ailments. Most die trying. Why would people on Earth just put up with that? Why wouldn’t they constantly be trying to launch attacks and invasions? Why wouldn’t there be constant missile strikes at Elysium? Desperate people do desperate things and an entire planet of poor, sick and starving people who have nothing to lose would wage quite a war against their oppressors. There was nothing about Elysium’s defenses that seemed all that invincible to me. They had no force shields or deflector shields. There were supposedly missile defense systems, but we never saw them in action (it was Kruger, under Foster’s orders, who blew up the aforementioned refugee ship with a missile from Earth). In fact, Elysium seems to only have a weak atmosphere held in place by artificial gravity. I was honestly wondering what would stop even a small space rock from just shooting through Elysium and destroying it. I have is how the entire space station and society of Elysium could be upended by one man creating a computer program to change the system and essentially put Foster’s character in charge. This program becomes a McGuffin for the plot and plays a key role in the end of the movie. Foster’s character employs a corporate head to write a program to allow her to take over Elysium… and he seems to do so with ease. Why was it that easy? Are the people of Elysium naïve and could never expect someone to try to take over their computer systems? Were those systems created by idiots? If it was that easy, how come nobody had done it before? This leads to my final complaint… the ending. First of all, you could see it coming a mile away. (BIG TIME SPOILER) Infiltrators from Earth use the program to alter the citizenships of everyone on Earth to also be citizens of Elysium. That means they can no longer be kept out of the space station and more importantly, everyone can receive the advanced medical treatments they need. Wow, happy ending… until someone reverses the programming. I mean, if someone could change it once, logic dictates that it could be changed again… probably pretty easily. You know these rich pricks will do everything in their sizable amounts of power to make sure that everything goes back to how they like it… the way things were. So, I guess it’s just a temporary happy ending. In conclusion, Elysium had a lot of potential, but the execution left a lot to be desired.
Kick Ass 2 – Did you like the first Kick Ass? If so, you will like this one. That’s the easiest way to tell people what I thought of Kick Ass 2. Some of the novelty had worn off. Hit-Girl was no longer a kid, so the fun of a foul-mouthed child killing machine was long gone. She was still cool, but didn’t elicit the same dark humor as before. In this one, Chris D’Amico really took center stage with his becoming the “World’s first super-villain” known as The Motherfucker. His building an army of bad guys through Twitter is a great concept. Much of the story in this one dwelled on Kick-Ass and Hit-girl having to decide their paths in life, with Dave seeking to take his crime-fighting to the next level by seeking out allies and Mindy taking the road of the average high school girl. I don’t think the plot of this one is as good as the original. The first Kick-Ass was pretty implausible at times, but it had a touch of realism to it. This one just came across as cartoonish which to a certain extent should be expected considering the main villain was an immature idiot. That can explain the shark tank in MF’s evil lair, which served for the penultimate battle against Kick-Ass. But this doesn’t explain the ridiculousness of Mother Russia taking out six squad cars and a dozen cops by herself. Seeing something that implausible contrasts the “real world” scenario where Kick-Ass can’t take three guys by himself. I get she was supposed to be a massive bad-ass, but when one character adheres to realism and the other makes an oversize grenade out of a propane tank and kills two officers with a lawnmower through the windshield, that is a massive contradiction. Of course, the problem here is arguing plausibility in a film where people dress up as superheroes. (Oh wait, that’s real.) I did enjoy the members of Justice Forever, the good super team. Donald Faison was funny as Dr. Gravity. I liked the parents of the missing boy who decided to become superheroes. Dave’s friends becoming heroes of their own with Marty’s Battle Guy and Todd’s Ass-Kicker was pretty funny too. Of course, Jim Carey’s Colonel Stars & Stripes stole every scene he was in. It’s sad that Carey seems to have lost his mind as of late… oh well. Kick-Ass 2 underperformed at the box office, which may become a problem for Mark Millar’s intentions to complete the trilogy. I personally think that the way the movie ended could effectively end the series as well. However, if there is a third, I totally want Uncle Ralph (played by Game of Thrones Iain Glen) to return! I will probably end up getting this movie on Blu-Ray since I have the first one, but I might wait until the price drops some (depending on how badly TivoGirl wants to see it). Hey, there’s always Christmas. (Or Life Day, assuming Jonny doesn’t see that fucking Fruity Pebbles commercial again this year.)
The World’s End – I had some high expectations heading into this one as Jonny and I are big fans of Simon Pegg, Nick Frost and director Edgar Wright. We both loved Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz and similarly enjoyed Wright’s Scott Pilgrim VS the World and the Pegg and Frost’s Paul. I must say The World’s End did not disappoint. It masterfully blended humor with heartfelt characters and science fiction. I was initially worried that this was just going to be Shaun of the Dead but with robots. Thankfully, aside from having to escape hordes of monsters, the two films are very different. At its core, The World’s End is about a loser who can’t get past his supposed glory days in high school and convinces his old friends to join him as they attempt an epic pub crawl in their home town. Without the robots, the movie would have been great by itself. It’s like you take any cliché horror (or in this case sci-fi/horror) movie but actually give it a good subplot instead of the “who gives a shit, I can’t wait for you all to die” subplots you usually get. I think that’s one of the most crucial ways that The World’s End is like Shaun of the Dead. You have great writing and relatable characters driving a humorous plot set against some sort of terrible backdrop. This was one of my favorite movies of the year and I seriously can’t recommend it enough.
The Grandmaster – Since this one came out at the very end of August, we are lumping it in with the rest of the summer fare. Jonny and I love martial art films and Asian cinema in general making this movie a great mix of both. The Grandmaster featured amazing fight scenes and was beautifully shot. I should also point out that it’s nice to be able to watch a fight sequence that isn’t just a confusing montage of blurry close-up jump shots and shaky camera work. For those who don’t know, the movie is about Ip Man, the legendary martial artist who trained Bruce Lee. The man had a very interesting life that coincided with such events as the Japanese occupation of China. The biggest problem that I have with the movie is the same problem I have with all virtually all biographical films. They try to cover far too much of a span of time in two hours. In this case it was around thirty years of Ip Man’s life, which isn’t as bad as some movies but still lends itself to certain parts feeling condensed while others feel too long in the overall plot. One such example was how Ip Man ended up leaving his family behind and relocating to Hong Kong in the wake of World War II. We never really see why as the events are glossed over, but that’s a pretty interesting point in one’s life to abbreviate as he apparently never saw them again. I also kind of felt like the ending came off a little anti-climactic as well, which I suppose is true to life. The action climax takes place a good twenty minutes before the credits rolled, but I suppose the larger scheme of things was the emotional conclusion as the film dealt heavily with Ip Man’s connection to a female martial arts rival played by Ziyi Zhang. The weird thing is, I think the film was trying to convey how their lives were intertwined when I don’t think they really were. They were friends who lost touch and then found each other again in Hong Kong. Her story was interesting; trying to reclaim her family’s pride after her father was murdered by a traitorous disciple. But I really think they were two separate stories for two separate movies. The Grandmaster really should have been about Zhang’s character as her story seemed more complete in the film, but everyone loves Ip Man because everyone loves Bruce Lee, so he ends up the main character. I enjoyed the film, but I doubt I will end up owning The Grandmaster on disc.
So concludes F'N Toaster's Movies of 2013 Review-a-rama-thon Spectacu-Looza-Mania 2000 (+ 13)… all 15 movies we saw in theaters over the summer. We really have no lives. For those of you who give a crap or have like minds to Jonny and I, we’ll keep reviewing movies as we see them. So until next time… Stay Strange.