movies_the-wolverine-poster

CLAWS IN EFFECT?
Wolverine: Origins wasn’t a great film, to be honest but expectations for The Wolverine when it was announced were a little bit higher. Originally, Darren Aronofsky was attached to it but he left the project. Enter James (Identity, Cop Land) Mangold to helm it. So we fast forward to 2013 and The Wolverine has hit the big screens. The film begins well: we see Logan save the life of a Japanese soldier at Nagasaki. Then we flash forward to a Logan who is living rough out in the wilds of the US. The Wolverine starts in a very lowkey way, which is a refreshing change from the bombast of the usual superhero fare. But then it starts to take a different direction. Logan is approached by Yukio (Rila Fukishima), who represents the soldier he saved during the Second World War. Apparently he is dying and he wants to see Logan one more time. So through guilt, he is forced to come to Japan but the real reason for the visit is far more sinister and so events are triggered which threaten Logan’s very existence. The original Frank Miller and Klaus Janson miniseries that this is loosely based on was a great story but obviously Hollywood had to mess around with it and so we have a film that starts strongly but gets more and more silly as it progresses. Jackman is good value as Logan/ Wolverine as always but the payoff and the final battle is particularly stupid. Also, the love affair between Logan and Mariko (Tao Okamoto) doesn’t have much time to ring true on screen and the 3D is pretty pointless as it doesn’t lend much to the experience. Mangold does offer some nice visual flourishes here though: the battle on the train is well directed as is the massive ninjas vs Logan fight towards the end. But it does feel that they have taken the character to a visually arresting setting and then stuck him in the same old jeopardy without using the Japanese setting properly. It’s not a terrible film by any means and it is an improvement on its predecessor. It also sets up things for X-Men: Days of Future Past with the obligatory post-credits stinger. But it does feel a little bit like a wasted opportunity. The Wolverine is a fun but forgettable summer blockbuster with some nice touches and a silly third act…

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RIM SHOT
Today sees the release of Pacific Rim. The trailers didn’t fill me with hope as they looked like a larger scale Transformers. Before I start my review, I just want to say that I am a huge admirer of director Guillermo Del Toro. Pan’s Labyrinth and Devil’s Backbone are great films and both Hellboy movies are a lot of fun. Even Mimic, his mainstream monster movie, acquits itself very well. But the trailer for Pacific Rim is sadly very accurate. We are introduced to a world where monsters (Kaiju) from another dimension find themselves in our world, wreaking havoc and destruction and it takes a group of manmade machines (Jaegers) operated by two human pilots to go up against them. Charlie Hunnam (Sons Of Anarchy) plays Raleigh Becket, a Jaeger pilot who goes into hiding after the death of his brother and it takes Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba) to get him to jump back into a Jaeger when the last few machines are all that stands between a Kaiju victory against the humans. For me, the big problem with Pacific Rim is just how infantile and empty it all is. The script is excruciatingly corny, the characters are nonexistent (only Del Toro’s regular contributor Ron Perlman as Hannibal Chau manages to lift the scenes he is in) and the plot, such as it is, is flimsy and filled with holes. Idris Elba, often good value in things like Luther and obviously The Wire, is wooden and awful here. I enjoy fun, intelligent action films as much as the next man, but Pacific Rim looks and feels like an expensive toy movie, with all the depth of a child filming his toys in his bedroom. The best action films (Aliens, Predator, Die Hard) have a level of intelligence to their scripts that lift them up from being more than just impressive special effects bonanzas. Del Toro is a huge fan of monster films and Japanese robot movies but nowhere here does this really feel like one of his films. I will also admit that I was never into Japanese monster movies and giant robot films when I was a kid so there is no nostalgia for me here. I am fully aware that this is a very deliberate series of choices from Guillermo Del Toro and this is a love letter from him to all the films he’s loved but it just didn’t connect with me. I would rather if Del Toro was to make a mainstream Hollywood movie, that it would have been more like Mimic than like Pacific Rim. Audiences have such poor taste these days for mainstream films that I’m sure it will do well at the box office but I feel this is such a waste of a true cinematic maverick’s talents…

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FEELING ANIMATED
StudioCanal has been putting out Japanese animation master Hayao Miyazaki’s output on DVD and Blu-ray over the last couple of years. The latest titles to be released are Kiki’s Delivery Service (1989), which he wrote the screenplay for, and Grave of The Fireflies (1988), which is not a Miyazaki film but was made by his company Studio Ghibli. Let’s start with Kiki’s Delivery Service, a sweet film about a young witch, the Kiki of the title, who goes off to a big city to find herself and runs an air courier service to support herself financially. The film has all of the Miyazaki trademarks (a visual sense of wonder, a slightly unusual female protagonist) and is heartwarming and feels very Japanese. The choice of a white witch as its central character works well and this is a film that can’t help but make you smile when you watch it…
Grave of The Fireflies is a very different beast indeed. It deals with a young boy and his sister, Setsuko and Seita, and how they try to survive during the Second World War in Japan without parents and without anywhere proper to live. They are forced to live in a cave when their home is destroyed and they become itinerants when they have no-one to support them. It is a very sad and moving film with a very downbeat conclusion and it has a very serious message about the impact of war on ordinary people.
Both films are worthy additions to the StudioCanal Blu-ray and DVD library.