Posts Tagged ‘hugh jackman’

van helsing

Gabriel Van Helsing (Hugh Jackman) is a walking contradiction, part holy man, part murderer, he is part of the  Knights of The Holy Order, a secret Vatican organization devoted to ridding the world of monsters and demons.  In 1888, after killing Mr. Hyde Gabriel is summoned by Cardinal Jinettte (Allun Armstrong) head of the secret order, who wants him to go to Transylvania to kill Count Dracula (Richard Roxburgh) and save the remaining members of the Vallerious family tree, so the other members of the family can enter Heaven.

Gabriel reluctantly goes to Transylvania with a friar named Carl, (David Wenham) who has some inventions that may come in handy when fighting the bad guys.  When Gabriel gets to Transylvania, he finds Anna Vallerious (Kate Backinsale) who wants nothing to do with him or Carl.  She wants to save her brother Velken (Will Kemp) from turning into a werewolf, and hears that Dracula might have a cure.  After Gabriel kills Manishka (Josie Moran) Anna thinks Gabriel might be able to help her.

Dracula has a plan of his own and it hinges on Dracula finding Frankenstein’s monster (Schuler Hensley) and using the monster to carry out the Count’s plan.  What us Dracula’s plan?  Can Gabriel help Anna kill Dracula and save her brother?

Van Helsing is inexplicably a great movie.  Here is why.  It takes all of the all-time best movie monsters, and puts them in one movie.  The best part of this movie is that it is an action movie.  There’s never been a monster movie that is so action packed.  When Dracula’s brides stop attacking Gabriel and Anna, the Wolfman attacks them, or Dracula himself.  There’s an extremely good set piece involving Dracula’s ball.  Gabriel is an anti-hero, Anna is no shrinking violet, and Carl is a great sidekick and comic relief.  Dracula has a backstory, Gabriel has a backstory, and Frankenstein’s monster is no monster at all but a Psalm quoting sensitive soul, who only wants to live. Yes, there are Hollywood clichés, like explosions, cgi and chase scenes, but even the chase scenes are well-filmed and exciting.  Critics missed the fun element of this movie, it’s a lot of fun to watch, and re-watch.  I watched it in a theater 16 years ago, and it’s just as fun to watch now.

The acting is not great.  Hugh Jackman can’t get his accent squared away, is he American, is he British?  He doesn’t seem to know.  But he is definitely having fun with this role, maybe he got tired of playing the brooding Wolverine, which he was very good at.  He gets to have a love interest to some extent, crack jokes with a sidekick, and generally have a who gives a damn attitude.  Why wouldn’t anyone have fun with a role like that?  Kate Beckinsale began her inexplicable march to vampire queen by being a vampire hunter.  She plays Anna with a heavy accent of unknown origin, but the character fit the film, tough, fast talking and yes a love interest for both Van Helsing and Dracula.  Richard Roxburgh really does a heavy Transylvanian accent.  He says loboratory for crying out loud, just like Bela Lugosi, but Roxburgh is having a lot of fun too, and is a better actor than he shows here.  Shuler Hensley is good as the sensitive Frankenstein’s monster, not just the stereotypical growling beast. David Wenham is good as Friar Carl, he serves as sidekick and comic relief.

Stephen Sommers directed this movie and the first two Mummy movies, the first I liked, the second not so much.  In Van Helsing Sommers  starts with an interesting choice shooting in black and white while the villagers are chasing Frankenstein’s monster, which makes this opening scene reminiscent of a scene from the original 1931 movie.  The masquerade ball and the horse chase scenes are also well thought out and well executed. The pacing is at breakneck speed, and loaded with action.  Usually, action movie is shorthand for lacking story elements, but Van Helsing has enough backstory to make this movie interesting .

Van Helsing: A monstrously good time.



In the year 2029, the mutant population has shrunken dramatically, and Logan (Hugh Jackman) is finding life difficult now that the X-men have disbanded.  He is working as a chauffeur, and medicating himself by drinking quite a bit.  He realizes after fending off an attack from a group of youths trying to steal his car, that his ability to heal is vastly depleted.  Logan tries to maintain his loyalty to Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) by taking care of him in his older years.  Xavier is suffering from either Alzheimer’s disease or ALS, and if these diseases are not treated with medication, Xavier’s powers go haywire.  Logan is aided by Caliban, (Stephen Merchant) as the three learn to deal with the fragilities of aging bodies.

Adding to the chaos that’s become Logan’s everyday life, a woman named Gabriella (Elizabeth Rodriguez) is desperate for Logan to help her.  She is a nurse and she is taking care of a pre-teen girl named Laura.(Daphne Keen)  There is a story that Gabriella adamently wants to tell Logan, what is the story?  Who is Gabriella?  Who is Laura?  Why do they need Logan’s help?  Does Logan help them?

Logan is a very interesting story about men who used to have superhuman abilities who is now learning to cope with his mortality.  It’s also part Western (with a telling reference to the movie Shane) part odd mutant nuclear family story, and part road trip, its settings seem like they are post-apocalyptic, and they may be for mutants, but the roads are mostly empty in the small rural towns where the film is focused.  That seems purposeful.   It is far from the traditional superhero movie where the heroes team up to stop some catastrophe, instead it’s a very personal story about being mortal, after living as an immoral.  It’s funny, it’s sad, it’s touching, nothing anyone would expect from a superhero film, but all qualities that abound in this film.  All the more reason to watch it.

The acting in Logan is superb.  Hugh Jackman is an amazing actor who knows this character so intimately, that he knows how to play him in every circumstance, and in this circumstance the role requires different emotions for Jackman to draw upon, and he does so successfully.  I can’t imagine anyone else playing Logan or Wolverine.  I know it will happen, eventually  but I won’t like it. Patrick Stewart also gave a standout performance.  He is no longer the cool, calm, collected mentor of the X-Men he is a man on the verge of losing his mental faculties and watching his powers spiral out of control. Stewart conveys the desperation of that situation well, but manages to maintain the character’s dignity, humor and compassion. Daphne Keen is ok as Laura, but she us silent for much of the movie, then screams for more, she is just not given much to do.

The direction is very effective in conveying that this is not one of those epic end of the world movies. James Mangold wrote and directed this movie, as well as the previous movie Wolverine, so he knows this territory.  He also  directed  3:10 to Yuma so he knows how to direct a Western too. The scenes in the rural countryside give a sense that this is a modern day Western, and also a quieter movie devoid  of the massive amounts of special effects that are so prevalent in movies like this.  This is a long movie because there is a lot of exposition and there needs to be because there are a lot of pieces to put together, but when the pieces come together, it is a very satisfying film.  He gets good performances from the leads, and the ending is satisfying as well.

Logan:  The claws that refresh.

Eddie the Eagle

Eddie Edwards (Tom Costello, Jack Costello, Taron Edgerton) is born with knee problems that forced him to wear a knee brace until he was 15 years old.  He has one dream as a child, and that is to become an Olympian. Eddie soon realized that he could not make the Summer Olympics, so he wants to try out for the Winter Olympics in 1988.  He takes up skiing and then ski jumping.  Eddie learns that the best ski jumpers train in Germany , so he leaves England, and goes to Germany, much to the chagrin of his father, Terry, (Keith Allen) who wants to teach Eddie the fine art of plastering ceilings.

In Germany, Eddie meets Matti Nykanen (Edwin Endre) the Finnish ski jumping Olympic champion, and he also meets a washed-up alcoholic American who’s plowing the ski runs.  What Eddie soon understands that the washed-up American is Bronson Peary, (Hugh Jackman) who was on the U.S. ski jumping team, and blew his chance at a medal because of his big ego.  When Eddie ends up in the hospital after a jump, Bronson realizes that Eddie is serious about ski jumping.  Bronson simply teaches Eddie how to land. Eddie learns that because the British ski jumping team is non-existent, all he has to do is make a jump in a qualifying tournament and he is on the British Olympic ski jumping team, he makes the jump, and lands, but then British Olympic officials change the rules and now Eddie has to jump 61 meters, twice the length he jumped to qualify for the team.  What does Eddie do next?  Are his Olympic dreams dashed?

I loved this movie!  It certainly helps that I remember the story from the 1988 Olympics, but I didn’t know Eddie’s backstory, and that is what makes this movie fun to watch.  It’s easy to make a movie about a legendary sports star, like Babe Ruth or Lou Gehrig, but it’s sometime more interesting and emotionally fulfilling to watch a movie about a person who doesn’t care about receiving any accolades, who just want to participate, and by doing so, fulfills a lifelong dream.  That’s another reason this movie succeeds, Eddie is an everyman, doing what few men could, and by watching this movie, the viewer may think that he or she could achieve a goal that seemed impossible.  This movie does have flaws, the story and characters especially Peary seem clichéd.  I’m sure Eddie’s story was changed and the events condensed to make the story more audience friendly.  But it is a heartwarming, funny and charming film, and it made me feel good, and sometimes that’s all a movie needs to do.

Much of the charm and humor of this film are exuded by the film’s two stars.  Taron Edgerton plays Eddie as a shy, awkward, slightly overweight, mama’s boy, who never gives up on his dream, despite injury and embarrassment, Eddie persists.  Edgerton shows the grit, as well as the joy in Eddie, it was a great performance.  Edgerton was also very good in Kingsman, playing a guy from the wrong side of the tracks, who yearns to become a secret agent. Hugh Jackman can bring charm and humor to any character he plays he is supremely talented.  He takes a character that’s been played a million times, and makes the story about Bronson Peary’s redemption as well as Eddie’s dream. Christopher Walken has a small role as Jackman’s coach, and doesn’t do much with it.

Director Dexter Fletcher is mostly known for acting, his visual direction is off and on, the scenery looks spectacular at times, but at other times the ski jumps look absolutely like a greenscreen nightmare. The pacing is good and he gets good performances from Edgerton and Jackman, and the lesser known actors as well, so all in all he does a good job.

Eddie The Eagle: Soars high, lands gracefully.


The future is bleak for mutants and the humans who help them.  Robots, named sentinels are hunting down mutants to the point of extinction.  Professor Xavier (Patrick Stewart) and Magneto (Ian McKellan) are holed up in a bunker with the last few surviving mutants.  They decide to send Logan (Hugh Jackman) back to 1973, with the help of Kitty Pride (Ellen Page) who has the ability to teleport people’s consciousness back in time.  Logan is chosen because his mind is the only mind strong enough to withstand the process.

Logan must go back to 1973 to convince Raven (Jennifer Lawrence) not to shoot the inventor of the sentinels, Dr. Bolivar Trask. (Peter Dinklage)   He must also find and reunite the younger Xavier (James McAvoy) and Eric (Michael Fassbender) and convince them to work together to bring Raven back from the precipice of being an assassin. With the help of Peter/Quicksilver, (Even Peters) Logan breaks Eric out of a prison in the Pentagon.  Xavier meanwhile has become somewhat of a recluse, living in his school for mutants, which is now in disrepair, with Hank/Beast (Nicholas Hoult) Hank has cured Xavier’s paralysis, but the serum he uses, robs Xavier of his mental acuity. Morever, Xavier doesn’t want anything to do with his powers anymore, he blames his powers, and Eric for losing Raven, and causing his paralysis.  Can Logan convince these former friends, now rivals to bury the hatchet, find Raven, and convince her not to kill Dr. Trask?  Or do Xavier and Eric’s doubts about themselves and human beings overwhelm them?

I love this movie.  There are simply not enough superlatives to tell you how good this movie is.  It integrates the best of the first series of X-Men movies with the best of the reboot.  The sentinels do remind me a bit of the robots from the Terminator movies, and there is the usual time travel caveat about changing the future, but this time they want to change the future. There’s also a good bit of historical fiction about the Vietnam War, the Kennedy assassination and the Nixon administration, which I thoroughly enjoyed.  Nixon is a villain in this movie, and that will either enrage you or delight you depending on your political views.  This kind of historical fiction was tried in the movie The Watchmen, but I found that history muddled and incomprehensible, the flashbacks to the 70’s was a loving, nostalgic look at an era I look back on with fondness. Days of Future Past is also disarmingly funny, the script had me laughing out loud at times.  Other than Nolan’s Dark Knight movies, this is the best superhero film I’ve seen in a very long time.

What can I say about the acting?  It is first rate.  Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan bring the same heft and gravitas to these characters that made me love them in the first place.  James McAvoy  and Michael Fassbender are put in a tough position, being in the same movie paying the same characters as these iconic actors, but they not only hold their own, but make the characters their own.  Michel Fassbender is becoming a great actor in his own right, it’s getting to the point where I could watch him in any movie he makes.  Hugh Jackman has played Logan/Wolverine in at least seven movies now, and I can’t imagine anyone else playing him, he is Wolverine.  Nicholas Hoult is good as Beast, Xavier’s right hand man, Ellen Page brings some Inception style earnestness to her role. Evan Peters is very funny as Quicksilver, and Peter Dinklage gives a standout performance as the evil Dr. Trask. The only fly in the ointment was Jenner Lawrence, she actually made me realize how good Rebecca Romiijn was as Raven, she was much more edgy and mature.  Jennifer Lawrence seems like she’s trying really hard to be edgy, but doesn’t quite make it.  I think she is too young for this role, not to mention her role in American Hustle.

The direction is good, fast paced and action packed, the 2 hours and 10 minutes flew by.  The 3D effects, didn’t really add much I’m sorry to say.  There is violence and nudity, so don’t bring the young kids, they won’t like seeing Hugh Jackman’s bare posterior as much as their mothers might.

X-men Days of Future Past.  Happy Days, indeed.

Movie Review: Prisoners (2013)

Posted: May 24, 2014 in Drama


Anna Dover (Erin Gerasomovich) and Joy Birch (Kyla Drew-Simmons) are little girls kidnapped by someone driving a recreational vehicle.  Detective Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal  finds the RV in short order, and inside the vehicle is a mentally challenged young man named Alex Jones. (Paul Dano)  Loki arrests Alex, but cannot hold him for lack of evidence.   In stunned disbelief, Anna’s father, Keller Dover (Hugh Jackman) begs Loki to detain Alex, but he can’t.  After hearing something suspicious from Alex at a press conference, Keller takes matters into his own hands.  He kidnaps Alex and tortures him for a confession.  Alex doesn’t seem to comprehend what is happening to him.

While Keller is trying to get a confession in his own way, Loki is following different clues, which results in the arrest of Bob Taylor (David Dastmalchian) who makes a habit of buying children’s clothes, and mannequins.  So who has taken these girls, and who is vindicated in his investigation of this crime, Loki or Keller?

I did not like Prisoners.  It tries to be much more than it is.  There are all kinds of religious symbolism, the first lines in the movie are the Lord’s Prayer, there are crucifixes in the RV, a suspicious priest. I don’t know if the religious overtones are meant to illustrate a Job like parable of a man of faith being tested, an indictment of Christianity, or a crass marketing ploy to draw religious people into the movie. This movie explores torture too, there are scenes reminiscent of the torture or Iraqi prisoners during the Iraq war, that couldn’t have been accidental.  Again, is this to draw buzz to the movie and get people opposed to the torture in Iraq to come see it?  I found that part of the movie manipulative.  I also found the torture scenes to be excessive and gratuitously violent.  For such a serious movie, Prisoners has some major lapses in logic.  Loki seems to be the only cop in town, he has to find the kidnapper, interview a second suspect, keep an eye on Keller, and find the first suspect, who’s suddenly disappeared.  And the last 30 minutes, there is a plot twist that is so mind-bendingly stupid, I was left to scratch my head and think, what the hell just happened?

It is the acting that kept me watching, even as the script grew more ludicrous, particularly strong were the performances by Jackman and Gyllenhaal.  Jackman gives a mostly low-key performance, and he is a somewhat sympathetic character, even given the horrific things he has to do.  Gyllenhaal plays a character trying to investigate this crime by the book, and running into dead ends wherever he turns.  I was shocked at how blandly Terrence Howard played his character.  He was hard to watch.  Melissa Leo is wasted, in heavy makeup, as Alex’s mother.

The story is much too long, 2 ½ hours, and there were lots of slow spots. This is not a movie for kids there is a lot of graphic violence and torture, definitely not family fare.

The Prisoners.  Torturously long.


Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman)  has served 19 years of slave labor, under the watchful, vengeful, eye of police inspector Javert.  (Russell  Crowe) Valjean breaks parole, and escapes to the house of a kindly Bishop, (Colm Wilkenson) who forgives Valjean for stealing some silver.  Valjean makes the most of this second chance and becomes mayor of Montreuil  Sur Mer, and opens a factory.  One of Valjean’s factory workers, Fantine (Anne Hathaway) is a poverty stricken single mother who will do anything for feed her child, Cosette,  (Isabelle Allen, Amanda Seyfried) including selling her hair, and her teeth, and becoming a prostitute, now Fantine is dying, and she wants Valjean to take care of the young Cossette.  Always wary of the omnipresent Javert, Valjean pays off the owners of the inn where Fantine has left Cosette, Thenardier  (Sacha Baron Cohen) and Madame Thenardier  (Helena Bonham Carter) and takes care of Cosette while still on the run from Javert.

Years later, Cosette meets Marius (Eddie Redmayne) who after an argument with his grandfather takes up the Revolutionary cause.  Marius and Cosette fall in love immediately, but Eponine (Samantha Barks) also loves Marius, and is jealous of Cosette.  Further complicating matters, Javert is still pursuing Valjean.  Does Valjean ever escape Javert? How does the love triangle between Marius, Cosette and Eponine resolve itself?  How does the French Revolution affect these people’s lives?

When I first sat down to watch Les Miserables, I didn’t think I’d like it much less deem it a classic.  It’s a musical and I’m not too keen on musicals from Broadway.  In addition, the movie is set in French Revolutionary times, I thought I was in for a snoozefest.  I was entirely mistaken, this is an enthralling, engrossing, captivating film, that draws viewers in from the first minute and keeps them engaged throughout.  The songs, which I thought would be a weakness, turned out to be the strongest part of the movie and even aided in the exposition of the story.  It dealt with the poor, hungry masses of France in a compassionate tender way, and blended their fates with the fate of the French Revolution in a beautiful, seamless way.  Les Miserables doesn’t try to force tears, it just tells a story and lets the emotion come naturally.  This is the role Hugh Jackman was born to play, and all this time, I thought it was Wolverine.  Jackman’s acting was as good as his singing. Russell Crowe was also very good acting and singing his lines.  Anne Hathaway was wonderful in a small role as Fantine, and yes she can really sing.  Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter add some much needed comedy relief,  and Eddie Redmayne and Samantha Banks are actors who I’ve barely heard of.  I saw Redmayne in My Week With Marilyn, a very good film, but had no idea he could sing.   I didn’t know Barks at all, and she had a heartbreaking, scene stealing performance.

The writing is superb, I’m sure it’s difficult to take a 2000 page book by Victor Hugo and turn it into something that translates to the screen, but the story was told simply and effectively.  The direction was splendid, there is nothing that catches my eye about the direction, in many movies, but this movie was different, there were all kind of crazy angles and shots, and France looked like a picture postcard, although I suspect some of that was CGI.  I hope it was not most.  Watch this movie, with someone who means a lot to you, you will both enjoy it.

Les Miserables.  Not Miserable.  Enjoyable.

Movie Review: The Wolverine (2013)

Posted: July 27, 2013 in Drama


It is August 9th 1945,  Logan (Hugh Jackman) is in Nagasaki, Japan, as the U.S. drops the bomb on Nagasaki, as most of the soldiers commit hara kiri, Logan saves one soldier, named Yashida (Ken Yamamoura) and Yashida is eternally grateful.

Years later, a girl named Yukio (Rila Fukushima) invites Logan to Japan to visit Yashida.  Yukio is a mutant as well, with the power to see the future.  Logan accepts the visit, and visits Yashida (Haruhiko Yamanouchi) who by now is an aging tech giant, worth billions, but also dying from the radiation he was exposed to during the war.  Yashida is being treated by a shady doctor,(Svetlana Khodchenkova)  who he calls his oncologist, but is mixing up chemicals much more complex to keep Yashida alive.  Yashida makes a promise to Logan, he will give Logan what he desires most a mortal life, if Logan promises to protect his granddaughter, Mariko, (Tao Okamoto) from the Yakuza, the Japanese mob.  Does Logan agree to protect Mariko?  Who is Yashida’s mysterious doctor?  Does Logan get his mortality back from Yashida’s mysterious doctor?

I have very mixed feelings about The Woverine.  I wanted to like it a lot, because I really love the X-Men trilogy and even the first Wolverine movie.  But it is precisely because of the X-Men movies that I feel like the Wolverine falls short.  The X-Men movies were about large issues, the discovery of mutants, their impact on the world, and the human reaction to the mutants.  This story feels smaller in scope and impact.  And the substitute for story is gratuitous violence, and I’m not talking about comic book violence, people get shot and stabbed and right and that is disturbing.  The story feels almost provincial, being shot mostly in Japan, and the cynical side of me says that was done to draw on the large Asian audience both in the U.S. and worldwide. There is a romance between Logan and Mariko, that seems forced, maybe because Jackman s 44, and Tao Okamoto is 28.  A lot of the script is not worth the paper it’s written on.

There are strong points to the story though.  Jackman does a wonderful job reprising Logan, as a haunted soul, disturbed by nightmares and yearning for a “normal” life. Famke Janssen  is superb reprising her role as Jean Grey, she is a siren, a specter, calling to Logan to join her in eternal rest. Rilla Fukushima, brings some fun and action to the movie as Logan’s “bodyguard.” The rest of the cast pretty much falls flat. The character played by Svetlana Khodchenkova  could have been an interesting one, with a little more development, but they didn’t do that.

There is one action scene that deserves mention, it is when Logan is fighting one of the Yakuza on top of a speeding bullet train, the rest of the action scenes are pretty violent, and largely unnecessary. The Wolverine clocks in at 126 minutes and could have used a lot of editing, but there is a tease for the third Wolverine movie, after the credits, and that looks worth watching, so stay until after the credits.

The Wolverine:  A cat with no claws.