Tag Archives: James Mangold

The Wolverine (2013) Review

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The Wolverine

Time: 126 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence & offensive language
Cast:
Hugh Jackman as Logan
Tao Okamoto as Mariko
Rila Fukushima as Yukio
Hiroyuki Sanada as Shingen
Svetlana Khodchenkova as Viper
Brian Tee as Noburo
Haruhiko Yamanouchi as Yashida
Will Yun Lee as Harada
Famke Janssen as Jean Grey
Director: James Mangold

Logan (Hugh Jackman) travels to Tokyo to meet Yashida (Haruhiko Yamanouchi), an old acquaintance who is dying. The situation regresses when Yashida offers to take away his healing abilities, but Logan refuses.

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The Wolverine was one of my least watched X-Men movies, and I’m not sure why considering that I liked it quite a lot. I decided to revisit it and I thought it was really good, even better than I remembered. It definitely has some unfortunate issues that hold it back from being great, but I really enjoyed it for what it was.

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First of all, it is worth noting that I watched the Unleashed Edition of the movie, which is rated R. It adds back in some of the violence, language and additional scenes that were cut from the theatrical version. I don’t think I’ve seen the theatrical cut but honestly, I think that this is the definitive version of the film. So make sure to watch this version of the movie. The Wolverine is the second of the solo Wolverine movies, but instead of being a prequel like X-Men Origins Wolverine was, it serves as a continuation from the original X-Men trilogy. One of the most surprising things is that it does something with the aftermath of X-Men: The Last Stand instead of avoiding it completely and it works to put the character in the right frame of mind he needed to be in for this story to be told. The Wolverine is a darker, lower scale and lower stakes comic book movie, especially considering the previous X-Men movies. The number of actual mutants in the movie is very minimal, but it works to its advantage. The smaller scale of the movie allows for greater characterisation, in fact it’s at its strongest when it is focusing on the more human elements. The past X-Men movies portrayed Logan as being a bit tame, but here he’s very much a broken and haunted man. This story really humanised Wolverine and goes in depth, working as a character study. We see a guilt ridden Logan struggling with his burden of immortality, and I really liked where the film went with him. The movie even finds way to make him vulnerable despite his regeneration ability. I also thought the way they worked Jean Grey into Wolverine’s story was well done, and an admirable choice considering The Last Stand was hated by many people. The Wolverine starts off very well with a great opening, focusing on a World War 2 flashback with Logan right in the middle of it. Most of the movie throws Logan into modern Japan, which serves as a very unique setting which I liked seeing. The story is consistently intriguing and keeps things moving over its 2-hour runtime. I liked seeing how everything progressed. Despite it being a dark story, it does have moments of levity while not feeling cheesy. Where the movie really suffers is when it gets into its last act. That’s when it makes the sharp turn into a generic and typical comic book movie climax with much larger action set pieces, feeling rather out of place to what came before. It becomes cartoonish and comic booky, and unfortunately not in a good way. Not only that, but some significant reveals are rushed and underdeveloped. I still found some enjoyment in this segment, but it definitely brought down the movie. There’s a mid credits scene that is worth sticking around for, as it links directly into X-Men Days of Future Past.

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For the most part, the acting is really good. This is one of Hugh Jackman’s best performances as Wolverine, second best only behind Logan. Wolverine as a character is greatly developed here, far more than what the character was in earlier X-Men movies. In The Wolverine, he’s introspective and remorseful, and Jackman is superb here. It was quite compelling watching his journey throughout the film. The other actors are quite good, Tao Okamoto and Rila Fukushima are particularly great in their parts, though I wish the latter had gotten more screentime. The villains do have issues and feel a little weak. I do admire that most of the antagonists feel very human and are mostly decently developed, but they still aren’t nearly developed enough. My favourite of them is Hiroyuki Sanada’s character, though that might’ve had something to do with the performance more than the role. The one villain I’ll say is straight up bad is that of Viper, a mutant with toxin powers played by Svetlana Khodchenkova. Her character didn’t make much sense, and she’s very out of place in this movie, like she belonged in a different X-Men movie with a very different tone.

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The movie definitely benefits strongly from James Mangold’s direction here. The cinematography is slick, I loved the Japanese setting in the movie and it provided plenty of opportunities for some stunning shots and locations. While the action is pretty sparse, there are some great action sequences with some top-notch stunt work. The highlights for me was one involving a bullet train, and another involving a surgery. As I said earlier, the Unrated version has a real punchiness and impact, along with some added blood. I feel like the action would be toned down in the theatrical version, yet another reason to go with the unrated version. The action in the third act was still entertaining, but not as good as the first two acts. I didn’t really care much for the extensive use of CGI, and it’s much more over the top. However, the action in the first two acts are some of the best action in the whole franchise. The Marco Beltrami score is also great, and really added a lot to the movie.

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I wouldn’t quite say that The Wolverine one of the best X-Men movies, but I think it’s a really good movie nonetheless. I liked the darker tone and the character driven approach, which focuses more on itself than the wider X-Men world. It really is just the third act where it falls apart. While I still found enjoyment in it, it does hold the film back from being great. Of course, James Mangold would take these elements of Wolverine and to deliver a much better movie in Logan, but I still think The Wolverine is worth another look.

Ford v Ferrari (2019) Review

Time: 152 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Offensive language
Cast:
Matt Damon as Carroll Shelby
Christian Bale as Ken Miles
Jon Bernthal as Lee Iacocca
Caitriona Balfe as Mollie Miles
Tracy Letts as Henry Ford II
Josh Lucas as Leo Beebe
Noah Jupe as Peter Miles
Remo Girone as Enzo Ferrari
Ray McKinnon as Phil Remington
Director: James Mangold

American automotive designer Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon) and fearless British race car driver Ken Miles (Christian Bale) battle corporate interference, the laws of physics and their own personal demons to build a revolutionary vehicle for the Ford Motor Co. Together, they plan to compete against the race cars of Enzo Ferrari at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in France in 1966.

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Ford v Ferrari was one of my most anticipated movies of 2019. With director James Mangold (Logan, Walk the Line, 3:10 to Yuma) helming this and with a cast that included Christian Bale, Matt Damon, Jon Bernthal and more, there was a lot of talented people involved. With that said, I wasn’t necessarily interesting in racing or race cars, so I wasn’t hyped because of the premise, but I was still interested for the talent involved in it. I actually liked this movie a lot more than I thought I would, what could’ve been a standard racing biopic is elevated immensely by the direction and the acting.

Just to preface this review, I’m not really interested in cars or racing or anything like that, nor did I have any prior knowledge of the real life events. Thankfully it’s still reasonably accessible to those people like me, you can still follow along with what’s going on without being too bored or confused. The first half of the movie is the whole creative process, and I think most of us can be interested in that if it’s handled well, whether fully understand everything that’s going on or not. The last third act for the most part is a massive racing sequence, and it’s quite a rewarding experience. In many ways, Ford v Ferrari is a standard biopic, and at times it definitely feels like it. However it was injected with quite a bit of humanity. While I’m aware that a lot of biopics also have those manufactured emotional moments placed to make the audience care a little bit about the characters, I think Ford v Ferrari does just enough for it to elevate it above most similar movies. Ford v Ferrari is rather long, it’s 2 hours and 30 minutes in fact. While the pacing is generally good and faster than you’d think it would be, I still feel like it could’ve been a little shorter. The early portions are fine but after the initial setup, that’s when the movie really picks up. A very small gripe but we don’t exactly get a sense about how much time has passed. We are told that they have 90 days to build the car but the way the movie progresses, it feels like it didn’t take more than a month.

The performances are really good, and Ford v Ferrari has quite a talented cast. Matt Damon and Christian Bale are great, and they share some convincing onscreen chemistry together. Bale particularly is great, and a real scene stealer throughout. You have some solid work from the supporting cast as well. Jon Bernthal is really good here, he’s a prominent supporting character, and thankfully gets far more screentime than he receives in most of his movies where he’d usually get up to 10 minutes max. Other actors like Josh Lucas and Tracy Letts also play their roles well.

So I said earlier about how Ford v Ferrari is really a standard biopic at its core, however a big reason why it worked so well was James Mangold’s direction. The movie is basically perfect for what it’s trying to be on a technical level. It’s a good looking movie, and they captured the time period and setting really well. And that’s even before I talk about the racing scenes, which you can probably tell are among the highlights of the movie. The racing scenes are engaging, tense and really gripping, it’s very well filmed and it really allows you to see everything and never becomes confusing. It seems that very little CGI was used. This movie cost just under $100 million and you can definitely feel it throughout, they seemed to have utilised that very well. The score by Marco Beltrami does well to helps raise the tension even further.

Ford v Ferrari may not reinvent the genre and you can probably guess 95% of the plot beats or the structure, but I can’t deny that I still had a good time watching it. What made it stand out so much was the performances (especially from Damon and Bale), but also James Mangold, who gives such humanity and energy to what could’ve just been a mediocre biopic at best, and making it something great. If you’re just looking for a racing movie with a bunch of racing tense driving scenes, the whole movie isn’t won’t be like that, but you’ll definitely get your fix here. If you’re like me and aren’t particularly interested in cars or racing, I’d still say that you can get invested in the movie and it’s well worth checking out.

Logan (2017) Review

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logan

Time: 137 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Graphic violence, offensive language & cruelty
Cast
Hugh Jackman as James “Logan” Howlett/Wolverine
Patrick Stewart as Charles Xavier/Professor X
Richard E. Grant as Zander Rice
Boyd Holbrook as Donald Pierce
Stephen Merchant as Caliban
Dafne Keen as Laura/X-23
Director: James Mangold

In the near future, a weary Logan (Hugh Jackman) cares for an ailing Professor X (Patrick Stewart) in a hide out on the Mexican border. But Logan’s attempts to hide from the world and his legacy are up-ended when a young mutant (Dafne Keen) arrives, being pursued by dark forces.

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Logan was one of my most anticipated films of 2017. At the same time though, I was incredibly nervous. This film was going to send off Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart as Wolverine and Professor X respectively. This film needed to be perfect, or at least perfect in the way that it ended their stories. I am not exaggerating when I say that this is one of the best comic book movies I’ve seen. I know that I say this with many comic book movies, but this is like top 5 level. Logan truly blew me away.

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Make no mistake, although Logan is set in the X-Men universe, tonally it doesn’t feel like the previous X-Men films, or really any other superhero movie you’ve ever seen. It’s quite bleak, dark and much more smaller and personal, it’s not an end of the world type of story. It actually does have many themes of a Western. Now this movie is R rated, and it’s not just for the violence (which I’ll get into later), it’s also so that it can allow the filmmakers to tell a darker story, and I’m glad they did that. Don’t also go into this movie expecting a comic accurate movie. I won’t spoil anything but there are some differences from the comics, I was completely fine with it but I just know that some people won’t be. Comic accuracy is not the most important thing everything however. I can’t really find a fault in the story. I guess the second act is slower (at least compared to the first and third act) but I still liked it, and it allowed for some more character developing moments. As for whether Logan and Professor X and sent off well, I’ll just say yes, they pulled it off. The ending of the movie was perfect.

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Both Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart give magnificent final performances as their iconic characters. Both characters have clearly been through a lot and aren’t as optimistic as they were in previous movies. Their arcs were done incredibly well, especially Logan’s, it was the perfect arc to end his story. There’s a great new addition to the X-Men series with X-23/Laura, played by Dafne Keen. She’s definitely a showstealer, just in the way she acts, looks at people (she doesn’t even need to say any lines and we can tell what she’s thinking), and of course the action scenes. I’m definitely looking forward to seeing more of her in future movies. This is a character driven movie, and these three characters are done so incredibly well. Boyd Holbrook plays one of the Reavers hunting Laura down. He is really effective and quite entertaining but as the film progresses he sort of gets pushed more into the background. Other supporting actors like Stephen Merchant and Richard E. Grant are also good in their roles.

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The action is brutal and unrelenting and it is excellent. While the violence is bloody, it never felt excessive, it felt appropriate for the story that was being told. Unlike most comic book movies, Logan tries to make it’s action as realistic and smaller as possible and it pays off, don’t expect big explosions or planes falling from the sky. In terms of the stand out action sequence, I’ll just say that it’s in the third act. The cinematography I also should mention was also beautiful.

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Logan is truly a magnificent movie. Along with the brutal action and the great performances, the story works so perfectly. I haven’t seen a comic book movie like this, one that is willing to risk everything and deciding to create this story. I’m being vague because I want you to experience this movie for yourself without knowing too much about it. So yes, definitely check it out. Even though I’m praising this highly (like everyone else), I must emplore you to lower your expectations (high expectations usually result in disappointment). I will say though that no matter what you think of the overall movie, there would be no denying that Wolverine was given a perfect sendoff.