While the original idea was to give individual X-men their own story between ensemble films, the stories have been too convoluted to really work (and that’s just from two Wolverine flicks).
Hidden in the Great White North, Logan (Hugh Jackman) is taking a break from humanity following the events at the end of X-men 3. Haunted by the memory of Jean Grey (Famke Janssen) and everything else he’s done in his too-long life, Logan can’t seem to stay out of trouble, especially when idiots provoke his wrath. Enter Yukio (Rila Fukushima), a young swordswoman from Japan who has been seeking “the Wolverine” on behalf of a soldier named Yashida (Ken Yamamura) he once saved at Nagasaki. Now a tech industry giant on his death bed, the old soldier offers Logan an unthinkable option – to become mortal and die like an ordinary human – but Yashida’s premature death triggers a power struggle threatening to not only destroy the soldier’s legacy but the life of his granddaughter, Mariko (Tao Okamoto). What’s a good man to do?
As a near immortal due to his mutant healing factor, it seems to be fun for screenwriters to have Wolverine present for all sorts of historical events – hey, it worked for Forrest Gump – so why not the dropping of an atomic bomb? Like the ill-fated X-Men Origins: Wolverine, everyone wants something from Logan because he’s got all the good stuff (even if he doesn’t think so). While the idea drives plot, our hero also spends more time reacting than acting even when his every instinct tells him to avoid the situation altogether. Does he listen? Of course not; otherwise we wouldn’t have a story, pretty girl in danger be damned. To quote Loki’s critique on Marvel’s Thor, “Are you ever NOT going to fall for that?” Thankfully it’s still better than the last Wolverine sorta-solo outing, so there’s that.
The surprise hit movie gets a not-so surprise sequel, but – surprise! – it’s fun, too.
Someone has stolen an entire research lab from the Arctic, but it wasn’t former supervillian Gru (voice of Steve Carell). Since stealing the moon and defeating Vector, he has devoted himself to raising his beloved little girls Margo, Edith and Agnes (voices of Miranda Cosgrove, Dana Gaier and Elsie Fisher), but he’s feeling a little restless going from bad guy to cool dad making an honest living with jellies and jams. Enter Lucy (voice of Kristen Wiig), an operative from the Anti Villain League who kidnaps Gru for his villainous expertise. Back in the game again, Gru and Lucy must figure out who the real villain is and stop them before their evil plan comes to fruition.
While Disney’s Pixar has animated storytelling down to a science, there’s usually a lack a craziness more often found in films by other studios. The original Despicable Me hit on a unique combination of central-plot characters while providing the Twinkies-in-coveralls “minions” as comic relief. Like the Madagascar penguins, the minions often steal the show out from under the principles, but there’s a unique balance in the Despicable Me films that blends it better. What makes their world interesting is all the big things going on in the background that come down to such simple character moments and interactions. While the heavy in the last movie, Vector, was missed, the addition of Lucy intermingles well with the nutty family, and the minions have stepped it up a notch.
Full of atmosphere and ghostly goodness, the only thing that doesn’t seem to make any sense is the title.
In 1971, Carolyn and Roger Parren (Lili Taylor and Ron Livingston) move their family into an old Rhode Island farmhouse and begin to experience ghostly activity. With all of their money tied up in the home and nowhere else to go, they contact paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren (Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson) for help. As their investigation turns up evidence from not only the farmhouse but the surrounding area as well, the Warrens will be taken to task against the responsible entity before both the Parren family and their own are claimed as its latest victims.
There are overtones of Poltergeist here as well as a dozen other paranormal investigation films, but this one seems to balance it right, coupling atmosphere with unusually solid portrayals that immediately make us feel and fear for the characters being terrorized. The story itself is reportedly based upon the case files of the Warrens themselves, the real-life investigators portrayed in the movie. Both psychological and horrific elements are employed in this R-rated film, and the cast grounds the early seventies time period with the perfect level of believability to carry the film to its conclusion. It’s just too bad no one could come up with a better title, because “conjuring” appears to be the last mystical thing going on around these parts.
At last: a film that redefines what a “Jaeger-shot” is.
In the future, a mysterious rift in the Pacific Ocean floor begins letting skyscraper-sized monsters into our world: the Kaiju. The first creature leveled most of San Francisco before it was destroyed, but with each subsequent attack, it was becoming apparent that these were not isolated incidents: humanity was at war. The Jaeger program was implemented to combat the threat one-on-one with human-piloted fighting machines; a neural link (called The Drift) shared between a minimum of two compatible pilots made the interface work and the program successful. When the Kaiju begin changing tactics and defeating the Jaegers, the world governments pull their support in favor of ineffective defensible walls. With little left to lose, the last of the Jaeger pilots assemble in Hong Kong to implement a final desperate plan to close the rift, stop the monsters and save the world.
The character end of the plot for Pacific Rim is simplicity itself. No one trusts the washed-up pilot (Charlie Hunnam) and the untested rookie (Rinko Kikuchi) he’s paired up with to watch their backs when the giant robots go into battle, but we already know they’ll rise to the occasion and kick ass when the need calls for it. The rest of the film is mech-on-monster goodness spewing from the imagination of writer/director Guillermo del Toro. Little Japanese girl crying as she runs through empty streets escaping huge monsters? Check. Overcomplicated giganto mechanoids with lots of lights, pistons and weaponry? Check. Fantastic faceless monsters created singularly for the purpose of causing mass destruction? Check. It’s nice to see an effects-heavy summer blockbuster leaning more toward Independence Day than Battleship, but if the next Godzilla isn’t at least this entertaining, the studio should pull the plug on it now and save their dough.
Unable to move forward, Monsters, Inc. scares up the past for fun and profit.
After a Monstropolis field trip, Little Mike (voice of Billy Crystal) decides to dedicate his life to pursuing a career in scaring. At Monsters University, he finds his academic discipline placed in direct competition with Sullivan (voice of John Goodman), a monster who gets by on natural talent and who does as little else as possible. When circumstances threaten to oust them both from the Scare Program, a bet with Dean Hardscrabble (voice of Helen Mirren) can get them back in, but only if they can whip a team of the least-frightening monsters of all time into a force for fear.
Remember when Pixar deserved to win the Oscar for Best Picture every year? Since merging with Disney studios, the films are beginning to feel hit and miss. It used to be there was Pixar and everyone else, but the newer stories, while entertaining, seem less special. Is it because everyone else has stepped up or because Pixar prefer to play it safe? Monsters University is entertaining but seems content to coast on exactly what’s expected of it until the very end. Remember the way it felt to finally watch Ghostbusters 2 after seeing the original film a hundred times? That.
Mining the planet’s core for energy has made the distant alien world of Krypton unstable. For centuries, children have been grown (in a very Matrix-like way) and pre-programmed for their role in society, causing stagnation of innovation and inspiration. Jor-El (Russell Crowe) knows this; against tradition, his natural-born child can be whatever he chooses, and he intends to send him far away to start anew. General Zod (Michael Shannon) also knows of the planet’s impending doom but chooses a military action to hold Krypton’s ruling council responsible. Soon after Jor-El sends his son to Earth, Zod is captured and banished, yet both are the last acts of a doomed world. Years later on Earth, Clark Kent (Henry Cavill) struggles with having super powers but not knowing what to do with them. When an ancient Kryptonian scout ship buried beneath an ice flow is found by scientists, Clark discovers his true alien origins. What he doesn’t know is that an old foe has been alerted to his existence, and it’s not just revenge he’s coming for.
Wow, is there a lot going on here! But first things first; this isn’t your father’s Superman, nor your grandfather’s or great grandfather’s. DC already tried to reboot what they thought audiences wanted – a Christopher Reeve clone – and it fell flat… for many, many reasons. Man of Steel is a reinvention and a fresh start for 2013, the story of a lost soul from a dead world struggling to be a good man with abilities he doesn’t understand. After his terrestrial father dies (Kevin Costner), Clark drifts from place to place (not unlike the old “Hulk” television series) to find himself; this is just one instance where the exemplary cast shines, from Diane Lane’s Martha Kent to Amy Adams’ Lois Lane. The modern world is a darker, post-911, NSA-is-watching-you kind of place; being told to serve as an example for an entire race is a bit of a burden on a farm boy from Kansas… or anyone, Kryptonian or not. Here and now is the time and place that producer Christopher Nolan, writer David S. Goyer, and director Zack Snyder created their story in because modern audiences won’t accept an antiquated, four-color Zipatone world.