Friday Fisticuffs: X-Men Origins Wolverine (2009)

I was not excited about watching X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Like with many comic book movies that came out between 2005 and 2009, I was pretty burned out on them by the time they debuted thanks to working at Wizard. In the research department, we’d struggle to find headshots of actors that most people hadn’t heard of, usually for free or low cost. Not an easy task, especially when they wanted to run different ones each issue. The reason I wasn’t rushing out to see the flick is because I didn’t hear good things. People seemed to generally dislike the movie. After putting off X-Men 3 and not liking that flick, I figured my days of watching X-Men movies were over for a bit.

Then folks started liking First Class (which I still haven’t seen) and I’ve gotten over most of my image-finding issues by now, so I not only added the movie to our queue, but bumped it up to the top. The missus wanted to check it out, so it took a bit for both of us to find time to sit down and watch it, but once we did, I actually liked it.

I’ve got questions about how everything fits together. Is the girl who turns into diamonds in this movie supposed to be the same as Emma Frost in First Class? Why did they bother including Cyclops? Exactly how many powers did Gambit have? Who are all these characters Wolverine’s fighting alongside? But even with questions like that, I still had fun with the flick. There’s a good deal of action, fun use of powers and an intriguing enough story, though one that would be just as at home in a Jean Claude Van Damme movie as anything else. I especially liked the early scenes with Agent Zero and Deadpool, those were pretty well put together and made me wish the movie was just about those guys running around kicking ass.

Even with my limited X-Men knowledge, I still couldn’t turn off that part of my brain that wonders who’s who, how they fit in to the grander universe and how the movie version differs from the comic version. It’s annoying. I wish I could just flip a switch and not spend so much time trying to figure out which mutant Dominic Monaghan or what role John Wraith played in the comics. To be fair, my wife was wondering about these things as well, so it wasn’t like I was the only one. I had to keep telling her I had no idea what was going on, which I kind of enjoyed.

The movie might get overly dramatic at times, but that’s part of the Wolverine game. I did like how they wound up erasing his memory so that the first three movies would make a little bit more sense and I thought it was clever how they got around the problem of having Cyclops there and even what happened to Stryker at the end. I want to believe it fits in well with the established movies, but I haven’t seen them recently enough to really judge the continuity and like I said, I haven’t seen First Class, though I am excited to. X2 is still my favorite of the bunch and sits up there pretty high on the list of my all time favorite comic book movies. Wolverine doesn’t come close to it, but it’s a fun continuation of the world set up by Bryan Singer.

Quick Movie Review: Adventureland (2009)

Em and I watched Adventureland yesterday and I really dug it. It was an interesting follow up by Greg Mottola (Superbad) as it wasn’t really laugh out loud funny (though I kept laughing pretty loudly, warranting “shush”-es fromo Em). It’s a story about growing up from the perspective of a recent college grad who studied literature and wants to be a travel writer, but has to work at an amusement park to make money from grad school in 1987. Along the way, he meets plenty of interesting characters (including Bill from Freaks and Geeks, the lovely Ryan Reynolds, Kristen Wiig, Bill Hader and Kristen Stewart). But like I said, it’s not as crazy and wild as Superbad, it’s a more subdued movie with a lot more emotion and I can’t help but relate to James (our hero) who has no idea what to do with his life now that he’s done with school and has a degree in English. There’s an Avenue Q song about that right? Anyway, it definitely reminded me of working at Barry’s Bagels back home, meeting weird and interesting people who introduce you to all kinds of stuff.

Anyway, like I said I dug it. A few things of note, we had to turn our subtitles on just to make out what everybody was saying. There aren’t any accents, it’s just that James, played by Jesse Eisenberg is very soft spoken and delivers a lot of under-the-breath lines, which I found to be the funniest. If you turn the volume up too loud, then the damn music kicks in and blows your ear drums (wow, that made me sound OLD). Also, this might be the first movie I can remember where the young stars actually didn’t look old enough to be playing their characters’ ages. Specifically Eisenberg doesn’t look like a college grad, but a high school one. This threw me off for part of the movie because I kept thinking they might get in trouble for drinking in public. I had to keep reminding myself of that. Also, I haven’t seen any of Kristen Stewarts other movies (scratch that, she was the kid in Panic Room? huh) and I definitely didn’t have the strong feelings towrads her character than Ben had, but I can say that, for the most part, this is the least gross I’ve ever seen her. What’s with the greasy hair? I get that you’re pothead, but dress it up a little, you know? High points were when Bill from Freaks & Geeks shows James how all the rides work and when James punches a meathead. All in all, this is a great movie for English majors.

Still Waiting…for a good follow up to Waiting

Back before I moved out here in 2005, I went with a couple of my friends who also worked at the Bagel Place (which has since been demolished and rebuilt as something…very different)to see Waiting… starring Ryan Reynolds, Justin Long and Anna Faris. It’s basically a look at a day in the life (though a crazy one) at Shenaniganz, an Applebees-like restaurant. Even though it wasn’t the same kind of restaurant we worked in we could totally relate to hating jerk-hole customers, relating to each other and playing games to make the day go by quicker (though, they didn’t involve balls).

Anyway, I’m a big fan of the movie. I worked with a lot of people during my 7-ish years at the bagel shop just like the people in the movie. Plus it had the above mentioned actors along with John Francis Daley who, like everyone else, I loved in Freaks and Geeks and a bunch of other actors I would eventually come to know and love like Chi McBride, Luis Guzman, Vanessa Lengies (yeah, I like Stick It, deal with it) and even Dane Cook who I like much better as a comedian, but whatever.

I actually get the itch to watch the DVD every time we eat at one of those TGIFriday’s-type (that’s can’t be the way to write that), though I usually don’t ’cause, you know, I’ve got a lot of other stuff to watch. Anyway, when I heard that the sequel, Still Waiting… came out I was cautiously interested. I put it at the top of my Netflix queue and got it the other day.

Well…

It’s not a good movie. The guy who’s supposed to be the Ryan Reynolds-type character just isn’t as good of an actor and can’t play off the lovable jerk character (also, making him kinda racist probably wasn’t the best choice). Overall, the characters just aren’t as real or interesting as the ones written in the original (even the few recurring characters), which is strange because, as far as I can tell, it’s the same guy who wrote the original (Rob McKittrick who also directed that one, but not this one).

I can’t say I’m disappointed or surprised because, hey, it’s a straight-to-DVD sequel to a movie that didn’t do all that well in the first place. I did appreciate the fact that Justin Long popped up in a cameo. Uh, I guess the following counts as a SPOILER, if you care. I like that he came back for this movie, but I’m not sure if I like the scene, where he basically tells the bartender that his life still ended up shitty after quitting at the end of the first movie. He sure gives a hilarious performance though and I was actually thinking “It’d be interesting to write a movie that starts where movies like Waiting and Empire Records end, with the guy leaving his dead end job and seeing how well they actually do with that” and then that essentially happened.

Oh well, I’ve still got the original, which is still rad, so who cares? Anyone else see it or even want to?

Smokin’ Aces (2006)

2009-01-30
12:27:45 am

I really, REALLY wanted to like Smokin’ Aces when it came out in 2006. A bunch of us from Wizard were so psyched that we went to see it in the theater and man was I disappointed. I wanted so much for it to be this awesome battle of crazy hired killers killing each other at breakneck speeds. But, that’s not exactly what we got.

So, like I said I was disappointed. But sometimes I don’t like something because it doesn’t match up to my expectations, not necessarily because it’s a bad piece of work. For instance I hated Superman Returns when I first watched it. That sure as heck isn’t the Superman I’ve been reading about since I was a kid (the same reason I don’t like the original Superman movies either, but that’s a discussion for another time). But, upon further viewings I like the movie more. I’m not in love with it (Superman has a KID!) and it’s not even close to my top 20 (maybe even 50) comic based movies. I don’t really agree with the director or writers choices, but it’s a well put together movie.

I can’t say that’s the same case with Aces, though. The movie suffers from all kinds of pacing issues and an overwhelming amount of information, characters and business. Plus, you’ve got the bid end twist (which is incredibly telegraphed, too much I’d say) and then the VERY end is just ridiculous (why the heck would they let him in the room?). The alternate “Cowboy Ending” makes a LOT more sense, though it wouldn’t have made up for the whole thing. I feel like there’s a really good story in there somewhere, but frankly, it’s buried under a mountain of other unnecessary bits of business. The last 20-30 minutes have so many head-slapping and scratching moments that it really kills the movie.

There are some fun moments and bits that have more to do with casting and coincidence than the story. The redneck brothers have a pretty cool shoot-out with blades, guns, a rocket launcher (?) and a chainsaw that’s too short, but still great. Basically, it’s what you expect from the whole movie, but it only lasts a few minutes and resolves itself oddly. Aside from that and one other shoot-out, though, the movie lacks action. It doesn’t lack an awesome cast though. Here’s a brief list: Ryan Reynolds, Ray Liotta, Jeremy Piven, Ben Affleck, Peter Berg, Common, Andy Garcia, Nestor Carbonell, Jason “Everything’s Better with Bateman” Bateman and even a small roll for Matthew Fox.

Oh, and those redneck brothers I mentioned? They’re made up of Keamy from Lost, Kirk from the new Trek movie and another guy. Yup that makes THREE Lost cast members in the flick and I still didn’t like it. What are the odds?!

All this being said, I would definitely check out the rumored sequel called Smokin’ Aces: Blowback, though I probably won’t shell out $10 again to see it in the theater. For my money, I’d rather check out a Shoot Em Up sequel, because that movie was exactly what I wanted it to be.