Saturday, August 31, 2013

Summer Movies 2013 in the Rearview, Part 2 of 2 (featuring The Wolverine, Pacific Rim & Star Trek: Into Darkness)

I'm finally getting to review the second half of the movies I saw this summer. I may have mentioned earlier that I'm reviewing them in the order I saw them. Apparently I had tricked myself into believing I'd seen MAN OF STEEL prior to STAR TREK: INTO DARKNESS. I actually attempted to see MAN OF STEEL with my family the day that it opened, but there a very strangely acting man seated right behind us, rocking in his seat, sweating and checking his watch while looking all around the theatre. Needless to say, we walked out. It smelled wrong, and we're all a bit paranoid since the opening night shootings during the DARK KNIGHT RISES. We bugged out. That may be why I was thrown off on the timing but probably not. So we're going to say that I will review these from 'worst' to first.

Just a quick update on the Box Office from the Summer releases, nothing much has changed from my previous . THE WOLVERINE climbed a couple of spots to number 12 and is actually the latest movie release of the summer to reach the Top 20 for the season. PACIFIC RIM has still failed to reach the $100M mark domestically, but it's near $400M worldwide, which is better than some of the flicks in the Top 10 US gross. There are a couple of later release comedies that are threatening the $100M mark, but this summer season is essentially over on the eve of Labor Day weekend.

THE WOLVERINE (4 OUT OF 5 STARS) - This is literally the last movie that I've seen, even including rentals. There was a time I was watching one movie a week, at least, whether that was in the theatre or renting. I've transitioned into more TV series that I missed originally and we're now catching up on.

Back to THE WOLVERINE based on Chris Claremont's and Frank Miller's story arc from the early 1980's. It was a nice ride, containing slightly more mature content than your average comic book movie. There was also a time when Wolverine was easily my favorite X-character, but now that he pops up everywhere from Avengers membership to team-ups with Scarlet Spider, not to mention running his own school, I think Logan has worn out his welcome.

Hugh Jackman has made a nice run at playing the character, but I never could completely buy into the fact that he's 6'2". Logan stands at 5'3" as listed by the Marvel wiki. It doesn't affect Jackman's portrayal of the character one bit though. The opening scenes of him in the wild are great. It was fun to watch his interaction with the Japanese characters; I just wish they were fleshed out a tad more. Yukio was the classic Wolverine side kick where he could serve as a mentor-type, but I think she was more the mentor to him in this case in showing him around Japanese culture, which was a nice twist. Tao Okamoto was hypnotizing as Mariko. It really was a solid character piece for about three quarters of the movie.

The Wolverine slips into typical comic book movie end pieces by the end of the flick, and this is when I started to check my watch. It wasn't terrible, but it's all climatic action finale stuff we've seen before. And the woman playing Viper was nearly unwatchable, very awkward scenes.

This turned into a fun, under the radar watch for a later summer release. [UPDATE: Quite possibly the best end-credits scene ever (and it's not a stringer), teasing the sequel to X-MEN: FIRST CLASS.]

PACIFIC RIM (4.5 OUT OF 5) - My tweet coming out of this movie - "Confirmed: PACIFIC RIM is an homage mash up of mecha anime and Japanese monster flick. Also, some TOP GUN for good measure." I took my kid to see this one afternoon, not really knowing what to expect. I'm a fan of ROBOTECH and other manga but never much got into the Monster movies like Godzilla. The visuals from the teasers and trailers looked pretty solid, and Guillermo del Toro has a decent track record. Other than some Idris Elba, there wasn't another actor draw for this flick.

I basically decided to see this movie in the theatre based on the word of mouth from my follows on Twitter. Everyone that was a big pop culture geek, where I respect their opinions on this stuff, had something fun and inspiring to say about it. Now, I don't see movies in 3D anymore, so I don't know how it translated into that medium, but I loved the action sequences between the mecha, known as Jaegers, and the giant monsters, or Kaiju. The acting and dialogue delivery/timing wasn't too awkward considering the relative lack of big stars on the cast, but there were moments of cheese. However I absolutely loved watching Rinko Kikuchi as Mako on screen. She reminded me of Mary Elizabeth Winstead from Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, absolutely captivating and stole every scene she was in.

Considering my low-ish expectations going into this film, I was pleased with my choice to see this film in the theatre, moving it all the way up to number 2 on list this summer. But this tweet sums up a response to some of the hyperbole from the more enthusiastic theatre-goers: 'I'm sureis epic, but it's not ! In case you haven't heard STAR WARS will be the next STAR WARS.'

Yes, it was fun. It was good enough to spend money on and a little time in a darkened theatre, but it doesn't change the way this genre of movies will be viewed. That's why it's best to let films sink in a bit before expressing feelings or reviews on the flick. They need a little time to simmer; some end up being forgotten within a month or two. Some like PACIFIC RIM will stick a bit longer, but it doesn't really stir any epiphanies. They're popcorn and Junior Mints, just meant to be enjoyed rather than savored.

STAR TREK: INTO DARKNESS (4.5 OUT OF 5) - Let me preface this with the knowledge that I've never been a big Star Trek guy. I know a bit about the mythos but not much. I know characters from one generation to the next, and I've seen quite a few of the movies, some even in the theatre. But in no way, shape, or form am I a Trekkie. I leave that to the professionals. I can't speak to whether they would like this current continuity of events ever since JJ Abrams took over the franchise with STAR TREK in 2009, in which film students went bonkers over the amount of lens flared shots. I admit to having fun with that one, more than any other thing I've viewed related to this franchise.

But I absolutely loved this film. Full of action and pace, some nice character exploration between Kirk and Spock. Zachary Quinto is brilliant as Spock, and I love how he even handles his relationship with Uhura. I didn't get the feeling that the other characters were given enough screen time, those being Sulu, Bones, Chekov, or Scotty, etc. My initial reaction that more Sulu would have been great. But that's fine because Chris Pine as Kirk steals the show. Benedict Cumberbatch as Khan was a fantastic foil, a real threat - one of the more motivated, multi-dimensional and believable antagonists from the whole summer movie slate.

The action sequences were gripping, and there were some nice emotional/evocative imagery employed throughout. The one thing I feel like we're missing with this series to this point is the sense of wonder and exploration. The original intent of the Federation mission is to handle deep space exploratory, diplomatic, scientific and sometimes defensive parameters. It tends towards more peaceful type of exploration for sentient life. The opening sequence of this film handles that well, but then it rips into the guts of intrigue and action plots. There is still plenty of time for this version of the franchise to set off in those pursuits.

This was such a big movie that it leaves me hopeful of Abrams taking on STAR WARS in 2015. I didn't look at my phone once for the time during this movie, and it really felt like I didn't blink the whole time. That passes the ultimate test. The more I reflect on it, the more I'm convinced this was easily my favorite movie of the summer.
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