X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Rated: PG-13 for intense sequences of action and violence, and some partial nudity.
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Liev Schreiber, Danny Huston, Dominic Monaghan and Ryan Reynolds
Directed by: Gavin Hood
What it’s about: In this prequel, we learn Wolverine’s history – from his early history as James Howlett, fighting in wars alongside his brother Sabretooth, to joining the elite Team X led by Colonel Stryker. After Team X disbands and Logan seeks a quieter life, Sabretooth returns to kill his girlfriend. Stryker uses James’ lust for revenge to convince him to inject a virtually indestructible metal into his skeletal structure. Now practically invincible, James becomes Wolverine and seeks retribution, leading him to team with other mutants.
What I liked: For the start of the summer movie season, you could do a lot worse. I have always liked Wolverine in the X-Men series, and Hugh Jackman seems born to play the part. While the movie isn’t as good as the other X-Men films, and the characters aren’t nearly as well developed, Wolverine provides a fine start to summer 2009.
The story is your basic revenge plot, which lends itself to plenty of mutant smackdown moments between Wolverine and… well, pretty much everyone. The action is pretty cool in this movie, and there were plenty of explosions and fight sequences to keep me interested on that pure testosterone level.
What I didn’t: I’ve already said this movie isn’t as good as the first three X-Men films, however the bar was set pretty high for those – especially X2: X-Men United. There were snatches of dialogue in the film that were cringe-worthy, and for the die-hard comic book enthusiast, I have heard that the story takes quite a few liberties with the original stories.
Finally, it seems that the studio made this film a little more on the cheap than the previous ones. Without the high-priced leads, the film had to have cost a lot less than the $200+ million budget of X-Men: The Last Stand. This also comes through in the special effects, which were sometimes awesome but other times kinda crappy.
Who is gonna like this movie: Escapists who just want to have some fun on opening weekend.
GHOSTS OF GIRLFRIENDS PAST
Studio: New Line Cinema
Rated: PG-13 for sexual content throughout, some language and a drug reference.
Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Jennifer Garner, Lacey Chabert, Michael Douglas and Emma Stone
Directed by: Mark Waters
What it’s about: Matthew McConaughey plays Connor Meade, a womanizing photographer who travels to his brother’s wedding for the weekend. While at the wedding, he is given the Ebeneezer Scrooge treatment by the ghost of his womanizing uncle and several women in his life. Through looking back at his girlfriends over the years, he learns the meaning of love and commitment to his first crush, Jenni Perotti (Jennifer Garner).
What I liked: I like a decent romantic comedy, and director Mark Waters (Mean Girls and Freaky Friday) has a really good handle on the chick flicks. McConaughey does a decent job in the lead role, and while Jennifer Garner seems uncomfortable throughout the film, they have pretty good chemistry together.
The strongest point of the movie is the smaller parts. Michael Douglas as Uncle Wayne (the Jacob Marley character) steals all his scenes, as does Emma Stone as the ghost of the past, representing Connor’s first intimate relationship (which lasted all of 90 seconds or so).
Oh, and this wasn’t Made of Honor, which was last year’s counter-programming against Iron Man. That’s worth something.
What I didn’t: The movie stumbles in the middle, lacking some focus in the ghosts of girlfriends present. Eventually it finds its footing but never quite has the spark that the film has in the first half.
Also, there’s an overly unrealistic premise of hot chicks at a wedding wanting to get laid so bad that they’ll even sleep with the dorky nerds. How come I was never invited to these kinds of weddings?
Finally, the womanizing nature of Connor Meade is so over the top in the beginning of the film that it serves a female anti-fantasy. I know a lot of guys who can rake in the girls, but even they don’t have the style and perpetual appeal that Connor Meade has in this film.
Who is gonna like this movie: Dates and chicks.
BATTLE FOR TERRA
Studio: Roadside Attractions
Rated: PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi action violence and some thematic elements.
Starring: Evan Rachel Wood, Justin Long, Brian Cox, Luke Wilson and David Cross
Directed by: Aristomenis Tsirbas
What it’s about: A peaceful civilization has lived on the planet Terra for centuries. However, one day they are faced with an invasion force – and that force happens to be humans who have left a dying Earth in search of a new world. Because the two species require very different atmospheres, it seems impossible to co-exist, so a battle ensues for the planet. It’s up to a young alien and an open-minded human fighter pilot to find a solution for both species to live together.
What I liked: Of all the movies I’ve seen so far in 2009, this was the most pleasant surprise. Not only is the film a fantastic action piece with plenty of laser-induced dogfights and battle sequences, but it also serves as a smart piece of speculative fiction.
Unlike some films aimed at a younger audience, Battle for Terra explores deeper issues in these complex relationships, and it allows the problems to be messy in the film. It’s a stark reminder of not only what happens when cultures clash, but why militaries are necessary to survival. After all, all the peace, love and happiness in the world isn’t going to stop an outside aggression.
Oh, and it’s in glorious 3D, which is quite simply awesome.
What I didn’t: The saddest thing about Battle for Terra is that it isn’t enjoying the advertising campaign it should. It’s a beautiful, brilliant film, but unfortunately it’s limited by a smaller advertising budget and a low theater count.
There are some moments where the CGI looks rather simplistic, and other times when it is simply breathtaking. A little more consistency, and it could have really competed with the CGI big boys.
Who is gonna like this movie: Anyone looking for some smart science fiction.