Category Archives: Movie Reviews

Movie Review: The Wolverine

After watching The Wolverine, I’m starting to doubt my power to give any superhero movie a fair review. Am I that biased? Have decades of reading comic books left me unable to separate the good from the garbage? I mean, yes, I loved Dark Knight Rises. Like, I really, really, really loved Dark Knight Rises. But I thought Daredevil was pretty cool. And Thor. And Iron Man 3. And Spider-Man 3. And X-Men 3.

the wolverine

And The Wolverine. I was watching that movie in the theater, sitting there, thinking to myself, man, this is a pretty cool movie. Pretty badass. Even when Wolverine got escorted through security, and the guards are waving the metal detectors all over his body, and all of the readings are off, you know, he’s got that metal skeleton and everything, and he says, “hip replacement,” I was like, well, OK, yeah, that’s kind of cheesy, but it’s still OK. I mean, yeah, he does have a metal skeleton and I’m sure that’s got to be annoying after a while, constantly trying to explain himself.

And then much later in the movie when he’s trying to get through airport security and the machine’s going nuts, and he’s just like, “I want the pat-down,” it’s like, really? Two metal detector jokes? But maybe it’s not a joke, maybe they’re just really driving home the point that, if you had a metal skeleton, this is what you’d have to deal with on a regular basis, deal with it. And that’s kind of like a really hard directorial trick, right? Like getting us really inside the character’s head?

But I’m jumping ahead. It starts in the woods somewhere. The Wolverine is sleeping outside, not like in a tent or anything, but just right outside. And he’s got a severe case of PTSD. But that’s OK too, because he’s sworn off killing, a solemn vow as he calls it. Except, there’s this guy in the woods who shoots this bear that the Wolverine has befriended, and that kind of sets him off, like it’s just the right offense to make him forget his solemn vow.

But that’s kind of believable, I mean, if I were living in the woods by myself, with a big beard and long hair, and a stupid little radio that runs on size D batteries, batteries that kept dying way too fast, so fast that I’d have to walk all the way into town and buy just one two-pack of batteries and then walk all the way back to the woods, and my only friend was a bear, and somebody shot my friend, I guess I’d be pissed. Yeah, that makes sense.

We’re out of the woods soon enough. The Wolverine’s got some business to attend to in Japan. Some guy that the Wolverine saved from the atom bomb in Nagasaki wants to say thank you, and goodbye, and also, sit still for a second so I can steal your healing powers, please. The whole rest of the movie takes place in Japan, showing off everything as Japanese as you might imagine: ninjas, samurais, secret orders of the black clan, marrying the Minister of Justice to help out with your family’s honor, getting scolded for leaving your chopsticks sticking out of your bowl of rice. It’s all very authentic. And very picturesque too.

In the comics, Wolverine does spend some time in Japan, and he winds up getting involved with a woman named Mariko. I only mention this because, when you see Mariko and Wolverine suddenly fall in love, the only reason that makes sense as to where the out-of-nowhere mutual attraction arose from is, well, it happened in the comics, so there you go, it’s happening in this movie also. But whatever, it’s love at first sight. That’s no reason to criticize a movie. In fact, it’s just another added dimension to the film. Look at me, I’m practically a romantic over here, gushing about true love.

There’s some blond villain named Viper. It’s one of those names that she kind of gives herself while she does this speech explaining her powers, more or less, “I possess the ability to manufacture any type of poison. Also, I’m immune to every class of venom. I guess you could say I’m a … Viper.” And it just takes off, because soon random Japanese people are referring to her as capital V Viper in their English subtitles.

But I can’t knock it. That’s her name, it’s Viper. That’s who she is. Who am I to judge her name, how she dresses? Hell, if I were a blond super villain named Viper, I’d probably only wear green also. Like green leather pants, and green tank tops. And then green dresses later on, and green eye shadow. That’s her thing, she wears green, like a snake, like a green viper. And she has that viper tongue, it’s always like slithering out of her mouth. She’s like a snake lady.

And then, I don’t know, there’s fighting and stuff. And there’s some sort of a plan to kidnap a granddaughter to trick the son, who in turn is using the fiancé, all in an effort to get back at the grandfather, I think. And the Wolverine is there. And he does this crazy fight scene on top of a three hundred mile per hour train.

It’s awesome! That’s probably all that it is, it’s just a truly great movie. I’m here doubting my reviewing skills, but it’s not me, it’s not me just blindly slapping a seal of approval on all projects Marvel. No, The Wolverine must have been a truly amazing movie. Some things don’t need to make sense. Or some things probably do make sense, it’s just my fault for not really getting them. Like when the Viper lady gets stabbed in the heart and dies, why is she able to peel off her skin and restart her pulse? I don’t know, it’s probably some really technical snake ability that I don’t get.

Whatever, superhero movies are the best. I could watch The Wolverine like three more times, today, and I’d still be entertained. Just keep them coming. Like man, I hope they make a Daredevil 2. Or even better, a Spider-Man 3 2. Maybe they could do a crossover, Spider-Man 3 Vs. Daredevil. That would be pretty sick. Even though Michael Clark Duncan probably won’t get to be Kingpin again, because he died.

Movie Review: The Conjuring

I saw the trailer for The Conjuring early last spring, you know the one I’m talking about, with the hide and seek, the clap, clap. Whatever movie this preview was opening for wasn’t even scary, and so I found myself totally unprepared for the terror that I was about to experience. Sure, and without giving too much away, the essence of that scene is mostly shock, or as they refer to it in that South Park episode, being startled.

The Conjuring Clap

But that’s exactly what you go to a horror movie to feel. A good one, anyway. The Conjuring is definitely a good horror movie. I felt like I was clinging to the sides of my seat the entire time, the sides of my seat, the bottom, I’d grab onto any part of the movie theater seat and clench my hands, my arms, everything, and I’d realize that it wasn’t really helping me manage the terror. So I’d shift, I’d grab something else. I wound up spending most of the movie sitting there with my arms wrapped tightly around my chest, exercising basically every muscle in my body.

So you get the picture, I was scared, I liked it. But why does this movie work where so many horror films fall flat? It’s all about pace, especially with a movie like this that doesn’t really stray too far from the time tested forms of the genre. There are creaky stairs, doors opening and closing by themselves, there was definitely a lot of stuff that we’ve already scene before.

But the pacing was perfect. It’s the kind of very slow, things-slightly-start-to-go-wrong mentality, an ominous build up that lets you know something very sinister is going on. That’s easy enough, at least, they made me scared during that trailer. But how would this idea play out for an entire movie?

We all know that there are going to be things popping out at you, lots of slow camera shots that just beg to be interrupted by a scary ghost-lady close-up, but at what point to you sit back and go, OK, this isn’t scary anymore? A lot of times whatever is being used as a plot gets too convoluted, like maybe they’ll look in the history books and figure out the origins of the paranormal activity, and they’ll have to return an amulet or something to set a certain spirit to rest.

So to me, the perfect horror movie never lets you go. Even as whatever is going on is brought to a climax, you’re still sitting there in your seat trying to find that magical position that might make the fear somewhat more bearable. That’s what this movie achieves. You’re never comfortable.

There’s a little side-story opening, involving a doll, which almost made me check out ten minutes into the film. Then we dive right into this family moving into this house somewhere in New England. It looks like it might have started falling apart a hundred years ago. They don’t waste time on too much backstory, and it’s not one of these things where only one person can tell there’s something wrong here.

And equally as important, there’s also not that one idiot character that, despite all of the evidence to the contrary, remains firm in his or her conviction that there’s absolutely nothing going on here.

Oh yeah, and it’s in the seventies. I’m telling you, the seventies are fucking scary. So are the sixties. The eighties are just this big neon joke and the nineties, well, I grew up in the nineties, so to me, it’s all a little too familiar. And go ahead trying to make a horror movie set in the present. Whenever I get scared in my house, I turn on all of my TVs, my lights, and I start streaming as much music and video from the Internet at the same time. There’s too much distraction in our modern world to get really scared of anything.

But the seventies, man, you’ve got a problem with ghosts? You can’t just send an email to some random ghost hunters you found on the Internet. No, you have to stalk them at some college hours away where they happen to be giving a lecture. And what if you need emergency clearance from the Vatican for a last minute exorcism? Sorry pal, we’ll see if we can’t get in touch with Rome tomorrow morning. And by the way, that call’s going to be expensive, so we’re going to need a deposit.

Also, the kids say stuff like groovy, and far out. Yup, that’s pretty much how I imagine the seventies, no cell phones, lots of creepy black and white TV static, groovy. I’m terrified.

The Conjuring is fantastically scary. Seriously, I’m still shaking. And no, nothing especially new happened, no envelopes were pushed or anything like that. It’s just a very well put together horror film. It’s like a really catchy summer pop song that the entire world gets stuck in its head. No, there’s nothing especially revolutionary going on here, but something’s been tapped, something universal, and it’s been executed almost flawlessly.

Movie Review: Pacific Rim

Throughout the entirety of Pacific Rim, all I could think about was stuff like, wow, this is such an awesome movie. It keeps getting better and better. Not once am I finding myself even remotely bored. I cannot wait to go home and write about how much I loved this movie.


And I did love the movie. But I saw it with my wife and the first thing she said upon exiting the theater was, “Wow, that was dumb.” How could we have arrived at two dramatically differing opinions after sitting next to each other for the exact same two and a half hours? Worse, why couldn’t I really mount a defense?

Because, look, I know when I’m defending movies that shouldn’t be defended. Like when I write about how much I loved Iron Man 3 or Thor, yeah, it’s probably because I’ve spent over fifty percent of my life reading comic books, that it’d have to be a really bad comic book movie for me to admit that I didn’t at some level at least enjoy a little bit what I just saw.

Like Daredevil, or Spider Man 3. Go ahead and start throwing eggs, I know that I’m broaching a very sensitive subject here, but were those movies really that bad? I haven’t watched them in a while, but I remember enjoying them. I liked the first Hulk movie. I always default back to the twelve year old me growing up on Long Island, no Internet, no cable TV, I used to get a thrill just from watching Fantastic Four cartoons on Sunday mornings. Never in my wildest imagination would I picture myself as an adult presented with dozens upon dozens of full-length comic book motion pictures featuring B-list superheroes.

I’m getting a little sidetracked from Pacific Rim, yes, but this is all adding up to a huge disclaimer, that in an attempt to review movies, I’m trying to go for an unbiased reaction after having seen one. I don’t know what the opening weekend numbers are, and I’ve yet to read any professional reviewers. I just want to go see a movie, and try as best I can to call it like I see it.

But it’s often the case that something cool like this will come out, a superhero movie, or in this case, a robots vs. alien monsters movie, and I can already picture exactly how the naysayers will react, similar to how my wife put it, that it was dumb. That it was just a bunch of fight scenes linked together by a pretty cheap plot.

And yeah, I guess, if you want to get all cynical and scientific about the movie, I suppose there really isn’t a whole lot more to it than that, alien monsters invade the earth through a portal deep in the Pacific. In response, we build a bunch of rock-em, sock-em robots to beat them all up.

But whatever, those feelings I was experiencing in that theater were real. It was pure joy. And I’ve sat through movies that should have been catered to me, like the new Superman, and I’ve been put to sleep. There was seriously no down time in the fun and excitement here. The score was a movie length fight song. The battle scenes were pure chaotic euphoria.

Did I mention that the pilots of the robots have to link their minds via something called a neural handshake? And that’s not like a colloquialism, the scientists say stuff like, “Neural handshake complete.” That’s what I’m looking for in a big action robot movie, people maintaining a straight face while talking about a neural handshake. The side characters, the almost unnecessary plots and asides and conveniently placed toilets that made up the caulk to this movie’s tiles, everything was fun, ridiculous, everything was insane.

And it’s a good concept. When was the last time we’ve had a really crazy monster movie? All I can think of are the old Godzilla films from decades ago. I know that the series has been rebooted several times in recent years, but nothing sticks, because everything tries too hard to be serious, to depict a modern world where big monsters wreak havoc.

This isn’t that world. It’s just further enough in the future to where the world resembles the one we live in, but all of the backstory is explained in the first ten or fifteen minutes, so everything is alien, fresh, reminiscent of the real but not even close to anything we’d be able to mistake for reality.

It’s just, my heart is still pumping, there’s still a surplus of adrenaline coursing through my veins. I really did love this movie. It’s fun, it’s pretense-free, they laid out some very simple rules that guide the course of the film and they rarely stray from the formula. It works. It’s pure hyper energy, it’s like an amusement park, one built entirely out of crazy roller coasters, and there are no lines, and they just let you keep riding everything over and over again for as long as you want. For like two and a half hours, anyway.

Movie Review: The Heat

The Heat is a buddy cop movie. But there’s a twist: the buddy cops are coppettes. Can you believe they made a woman police officer movie? With women? That’s kind of the gist we get from the opening sequence, Sandra Bullock leads a SWAT team into a house, nobody listens to her, and the all-male task force is almost happy when a thorough inspection of the scene turns up negative.


Not so fast. Sandra Bullock isn’t like most other cops. She’s a woman. She checks under the table for drugs. And behind that wall for guns. Bingo. If only all of the guy cops could stand to be around her for more than ten seconds. They hate her. She’s so annoying. “I wonder why she doesn’t have a boyfriend,” some dude sarcastically wonders out loud.

It’s the old try-twice-as-hard-to-get-half-as-far dilemma, as evidenced by this accomplished federal agent’s inability to convince her boss that she deserves a promotion. “It’s just that,” her boss tries to break it to her gently, “nobody likes you.” And yeah, it’s not a very subtle gender bias, but they’re laying it on thick on purpose.

After a sweeping seventies cop-movie intro sequence, filled with this huge sweeping camera shot tour of New York City, the plot of the movie picks up, leading Bullock to go after a drug smuggling ring … in Boston. Someone should have told her that the Queensboro Bridge heads toward Long Island, but whatever, I’m sure that, once off camera, she must have realized her mistake and asked for directions, because she makes it to Boston in no time.

That’s where we meet Melissa McCarthy. Whereas nothing Sandra Bullock achieves seems to earn her the respect that she desires, McCarthy has thrown all sense of professionalism in the garbage. She knows that the system sucks, that it’s inherently unfair for her as a woman. So she does whatever she wants. She doesn’t try to get her coworkers to like her or to respect her accomplishments. No, when she doesn’t get her way, she curses, she threatens to smash people’s heads in, she plays Russian roulette with a guy’s penis, she’s a real loose cannon.

And surprisingly, this dynamic works. It’s a really funny, entertaining movie. When I saw the trailer, I thought it looked lame, cliché. I was like, didn’t Sandra Bullock already do the whole FBI agent role? I didn’t get it. And then I saw clips of McCarthy cursing and acting like lunatic, I thought, OK, she’s really riding that Bridesmaids character all the way.

But it works. The jokes are funny. Everything is really over the top. The only time that I felt like the movie got a bit carried away was when they started blatantly saying stuff like, “It really is hard for us women.” The whole theme of women in the workplace, it’s obvious just by having these two women team up and try to take down a drug kingpin. You don’t necessarily have to have anybody shooting a bad guy in the penis – which actually happens – to drive home the message that our conception of law enforcement is that it’s still a very male dominated industry.

Another reason why I think this movie is a success is because we’re so familiar with the buddy cop genre. Two cops with wildly different dispositions and philosophies are forced to team up, in turn overcoming their mutual distrust while at the same time learning more about themselves. They get carried away, they get taken off the case, they decide to go forward with the investigation anyway, and everything pays off in the end. Normally, a movie like this would get me upset. How dare the movie studios make such a derivative film and expect me to pay money for it?

But it’s the perfect vehicle for two women to take the lead. Because the plot is all but laid out already, it allows the characters to focus on how and why it’s different for them as women. Why should we care about a cop’s gender? I can’t help but feel that it’s one of those movies that’s almost more worried about getting male viewers to buy tickets than it is for females. Based on personal experience, it’s much easier for a woman to go on a date with a guy to see an action movie or a blockbuster or a comedy than it is for them to go see a romance or a chick-flick. This is the kind of rare exception that would probably satisfy both audiences.

A lot of it has to do with the dialogue, with McCarthy’s comedic presence. I got the image of cameras just running on her constantly, taping long improvised rants of obscenities and violent fantasies, and then they’d take the best stuff and edit it down for the movie. And even the stuff that did seem written out was equally as funny. There’s an absurd scene involving a botched tracheotomy at a Denny’s. It’s one of the most insane yet original bits I’ve seen in a long time.

Am I gender biased by continually writing about how surprised I am that I enjoyed this movie? I have no idea. I’d like to think no, because I’m usually surprised when I enjoy any movie. But again, I’m always reluctant to see a girlie movie. Why? Because I’m a guy, I don’t know, and no offense, but a lot of girlie movies out there put me to sleep.

The initial summer blockbusters have come and gone, and now it’s hit-or-miss comedies and action flicks until August and September. The Heat definitely hits. Go check it out.

Movie Review: World War Z

The zombie apocalypse has finally arrived, for real this time. It’s not some rinky-dink comic book, or a cable TV show based on a rinky-dink comic book. This is a serious major motion picture. And it’s not based off of a comic book, ahem, graphic novel, no, it’s based off a real book, with real words. Go ahead and go to the bookstore, it should be right on display when you walk in, the booksellers are all like, “Please! Come inside please! Buy our books, any books! Buy anything! A cup of coffee! Something, please, we need to eat, we’re starving! Look, they just did a reprinting of World War Z, and Brad Pitt’s on the cover!”

Brad Pitt man bob World War Z

Because Brad Pitt is the costar of the movie. Rumor has it that Pitt was a little burned that he couldn’t secure the lead billing. The studio execs were like, “Listen, Brad, we want to give it to you, and normally we would. But we’ve got a huge new star taking center stage, a real up-and-comer.” And Brad Pitt was like, “Who is it? Who’s bigger than Brad Pitt?”

Brad Pitt’s haircut is the real star of the film. And once he and his new hairstyle were formally introduced, the rage kind of subsided somewhat as even Brad Pitt couldn’t help but look at the new do in the mirror and think to himself, damn, that is a ridiculously cool haircut.

It’s a groundbreaking new cut, perfect for breathing fresh life into the kind-of, about-to-be-played-out zombie movie genre. You’ve seen the trailers, right? I don’t know how to describe it other than that it’s like a man-bob, but masculine. It’s long, definitely longer than my hair, but professional. Each strand of hair, when combed or pulled back behind his ears, rests precisely at the top of his neck.

It’s great because, while I already told you that it’s professional, it’s also versatile. Perfect for that zombie apocalypse type of … well … what is it that Brad Pitt does in this movie? I never really got it, other than the fact that he works for the UN. They go about telling you what he isn’t. “I’m not a doctor. I’m not a soldier. I’m not a baker.”

And my missing his exact occupation wasn’t due to a lack of me paying attention. I thought I paid pretty good attention. Whatever it is that he does, he gets ferried around by the government from location to location, running around, trying not to make any noise, because that’s how these zombies know you’re coming, noise. But still, you know, he steps on some glass sometimes, and the zombies hear that, or he’ll kick a can of Mountain Dew down the hall, again, it’s an accident, but the zombies hear that also.

He keeps making so much noise I started to doubt that he was a … what should I call him? A specialist? Man, it’s going to drive me crazy, especially because at one point, right after he gets off the plane at a new location, some guy comes over to him and he’s like, “Who the hell are you?” and Brad Pitt’s like, “Do you know exactly what it is that I do?” And I thought to myself, here we go, things might start to make sense here, like maybe he’s an operative, or …

“I work for the UN.” Back to square one. But it’s all inconsequential. Because there’s this haircut. Oh my God, it’s like, if you have this haircut and, let’s say, you’re on a plane and the plane goes down, you’ll wake up and most of your hair is still going to be tucked neatly behind your ears. The man-bob makes it through! And I know that I keep spending a lot of time on shape, bounce, the way that, when he wills it to, Brad Pitt’s haircut can kind of fall playfully in front of his face, just a little, only obscuring say, one eye, the other eye looking back at you mischievously.

But there’s more. It’s like perfectly highlighted. Brown underneath, yeah, but sun kissed, just the right amounts of blond that, while still maintaining its professionalism, it screams out: what isn’t this haircut capable of? It’s the men’s haircut of the future. It’s perfect for at home or at the office. From casually running away from a hoard of zombies to frantically running away from an even bigger hoard of zombies. I don’t know why the director didn’t make the obvious choice to change the title to World War H.

As if to highlight the magnificence of Brad Pitt’s new haircut, they give him this woman soldier sidekick, and her head is completely shaved. What a role reversal! Hey lady, hope you’re not too attached to your hair, because if you want to act along Brad Pitt and Brad Pitt’s new haircut, you’re going to have to buzz your head entirely.

I feel like I’m not saying enough about the haircut, but I haven’t said much about the movie. It’s an OK movie. The scenes where it’s classic zombie stuff, like running, or trying to get through a building, stuff like that, those scenes totally work. It’s just the right amount of suspense and shit-in-your-pants zombies popping out of the closet.

But in terms of plot? Eh. I don’t know. Again, I didn’t not like it. It’s just, you know, what do you think happens in a global zombie movie? Yeah, that’s about it. The ending is kind of lame. But endings are always the toughest part of a movie, and I’m trying not to let my entire judgment of a film be based solely on how well everything wrapped up. Because I’ve found that most movies are constitutionally incapable of having a decent wrap up.

Kind of like this review. I spent so much time talking about the haircut, and then I made that awkward, forced transition to review, and now I’m trying equally as hard to abruptly end it without really making it too obvious that I don’t know what I’m doing. So, uh, yeah. It’s not bad. The movie, that is. The haircut is fantastic.