Review: The Wolverine

This isn’t a review of the Blu-ray as I haven’t gotten my hands on it yet, but it’s recent release reminded me that I never reviewed the film, I really wanted to praise the film, but I had some minor issues with it that would seemingly negate my overall satisfaction, so at the time, I left it alone.  Here are my lasting impressions:

The Wolverine is the best Wolverine film so far. While that doesn’t say a whole lot, I think this time around actually delivers the best Wolverine centered film the proprietors of the X Men franchise are capable of offering. I would even call it their best X Men effort of all. James Mangold, director of Knight and Day, leads the action terrifically, almost from start to finish and Mark Bomback and cowriter Scott Frank’s (Minority Report) screenplay based on the 1982 Chris Claremont/Frank Miller series is very strong.

Beginning during US atomic bomb attack on Nagasaki, Logan saves a man’s life and many years later is summoned back to Japan to meet the old man before he dies.  He is offered a chance to become mortal, but sinister schemes are at work, putting the weakened Wolverine to the test as he protects a young woman from a deadly band of Ninjas lead by the Silver Samurai.

Like the first Wolverine film, we get to see a lot of cool things, but the dexterity with which this installment is handled is enviable.  It’s far from the perfect thrills of the very best Marvel films to date, but it is highly enjoyable and basically a really good movie.  Hugh Jackman continues to be the ultimate portrayal of Logan and gives considerable range to the character.  The very comics like appearance of Viper was a deviation from the look and feel of other movies which take steps toward a more believable film world, and ultimately that sense of being true to the source material is both The Wolverine’s greatest attribute and it’s greatest failure.

As the film progresses, it feels a little bit like a series divided between battles, which I thought was kind of a cool touch.  The story had me engaged all the way until the final act, which was the least climactic of all of the action sequences despite the high stakes, because you already expect Wolverine to win and it wasn’t staged particularly well.  I enjoyed the Avengers like tie in at the end that teases X Men: Days of Future Past.  I have a love/hate relationship with this franchise, but The Wolverine is a solid “like.”

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Review: Oz The Great and Powerful

gi poster ozLast night, I had the immense pleasure of full immersion into the merry old land of Oz the way it’s never been seen before.  Revealed by the vision of the great and powerful Sam Raimi and his master tinkers, from opening curtains it was clear that this was going to be a dazzling display that succeeds in recapturing the magic of the moment original audiences must have felt when first watching The Wizard of Oz in 1939.  Nothing beats the fun and anticipation of a wll crafted title sequence to get you started on your journey, especially when your companion on that journey is Danny Elfman, who has and still does do some of his very best work with Raimi (Darkman, A Simple Plan, Spiderman).  The score is immediately recognizable to any Elfman fan as classic Danny in his prime.  Ad to that the stunning black and white photography and you are locked in for the ride.

Oz the Great and Powerful is every inch made for a Real 3D experience and delivers the most colossal spectacular any team of Hollywood magicians can offer.  It’s no wonder that the ever-changing scenery and many elaborate sets are to be drunken in slowly as the epic adventure of a carnival con man drags him the yellow brick road toward possible redemption.  Aside from the stunning spectacle of magnificent scenery and Sam Raimi’s keen vision and incomparable sense of balance between fresh innovation and familiarity with the classic, the big seller for this film is James francos impeccable depiction of Oz.  Franco does for the character what RDJ does for Tony Stark and what Johnny Depp did for Jack Sparrow in the first Pirates of the Caribbean; only he handles the character with such finesse and discipline that he creates a more three-dimensional character than anyone is likely to have seen on the silver screen.  The complexity of the man has so obviously been thoroughly explored by Raimi and Franco that he becomes such a flesh and blood human it seems astounding that he could ever be a wizard.  Franco’s depiction of Oz is such that he ceases, as an actor, to be a medium to the character, and fully becomes him in a way that every look and every utterance comes from the heart and soul of Oz himself.

The amazing story of the redemption of Oz (both the land and the man) starts out in Kansas, where we find our trickster little more than a petty thief with some theatrical flair and a weakness for the ladies.  The black and white photography is some of the crispest most beautiful I have ever seen and Raimi’s first action sequence of the film is harrowing, desperate, comical and brilliant, as is the predictable, but no less illuminating first glorious glimpse of the land of Oz in full color, mirroring of course the moment of Dorothy’s arrival 73 years ago.  As a stranger in a strange land,  Oz struggles with the opportunity to start fresh and the irresistible urge to take advantage, especially when the chips are down, but before he is even fully aware of his predicament, the choices he makes upon his arrival begin to seal his destiny and shape the people he meets.

It’s an epic journey full of great humor and powerful imagery that marks a monumental technical and artistic achievement.  Danny Elfman’s score is so perfectly in tune with the production and a must have, especially for fans of his work on Big Fish and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.  Peter Deming, Director of Photography, gets to play with every trick in his trunk and creates a seamless and believable atmosphere where fantasy knows no bounds.

The rest of the cast is terrific, but my favorite supporting performances come from Oz’s primary companions, played by Joey King and Zach Braff.  These characters lit up the screen and really played a part in Oz’s transformation as opposed to simply adding comic relief.

Oz the great and Powerful in Real 3D will envelope you in a world unlike any other, so real and so imaginary it is a sensation that is unique to cinema alone and yet only the highest of aims and the loftiest of dreams can harness it.  It provides sufficient enjoyment of these gifts yet never treads away from the story.  So you can ease on down the road with little urgency, but no less compulsion to move forward.  This is a great piece of art that introduces one of the greatest characters in cinema history to one of cinema’s oldest and most timeless worlds.