“The Wolverine” (Action/Science-Fiction: 2 hours, 6 minutes)
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Tao Okamoto and Rila Fukushima
Director: James Mangold
Rated: PG-13 (Intense sci-fi action violence, sexuality and profanity)
Movie Review: Hugh Jackman makes his sixth appearance as Logan, better known to fans as Wolverine. Jackman is an incredible actor. He can easily move from a singing role to a feminine character on stage to Wolverine, an overly masculine, muscle-bound mutant with animal instincts and an aggressive temper. “The Wolverine,” which takes place after the events of “X-Men: The Last Stand” (Director Brett Ratner, 2006), benefits from Jackman’s talents.
Logan (Jackman) finds himself in Japan after billionaire tech magnate Yashida (Haruhiko Yamanouchi) invites Logan there to thank him. Several decades ago, Logan saved Yashida, a then-Japanese military officer. Even more, Yashida offers a means for Logan to age and eventually succumb to death, ending his immortality. For Logan, the proposal is tempting, considering Logan’s mutant ability prevents him from dying or becoming injured. Yashida’s proposal is also persuasive because Logan still blames himself for the death of fellow X-Men colleague Jean Grey (Famke Janssen), who remains a constant in Logan’s dreams and thoughts.
Soon, Yashida’s beautiful granddaughter, Mariko (Okamoto), is running from pursuing Yakuza, a major Japanese crime syndicate. Logan becomes the warring Wolverine to protect her. This task will not be easy, as several forces are working against Logan and Mariko. However, Logan has an ally, Yukio (Fukushima), a femme fatale with keen fighting skills. Her mutant talent is the ability to see people’s deaths. Is that ability useful in a fight? Not really, but Wolverine will have a long life span in moviedom if he and future X-Men movies follow the lead of “The Wolverine.”
James Mangold (“Girl, Interrupted,” 1999) helms the latest addition dealing with Wolverine with considerable attention paid to developing the character. He moves this screenplay back toward Wolverine’s depiction in comics over the years. This is superb as Mangold and screenplay writers Mark Bomback and Scott Frank make Wolverine more human than presented in other X-Men films. This application works nicely when Wolverine begins to lose his instant ability to heal. At this point, Wolverine is easily seeable as Logan, a human after all. Logan must acknowledge his mortality as audiences see him gradually weakening.
Jackman is superior in the title role. He behaves as in a drama here as much as an action film. Jackman more than earns his keep. This script allows him to act; the actor does that well. He loses the animalistic brutal side of Wolverine for something with added, tangible substance. While dramatic and romantic moments may slightly dissuade those who only want superhero action scenes, the film is engrossing, even if it is predictable.
The end is not as smart as everything leading up to it. “The Wolverine” delves into typical action sequences near its conclusion that appear too convenient and conventional. Yet all, including the conclusion to a lesser extent, is gratifying.
In addition, stay through the earlier part of the end credits as a sneak peak into the next movie debuts. This nearly two-minute teaser is gratifying, too.
Grade: B (Worth clawing into.)
“Fruitvale Station” (Biography/Drama: 1 hour, 25 minutes)
Starring: Michael B. Jordan, Octavia Spencer and Melonie Diaz
Director: Ryan Coogler
Rated: R (Profanity, violence and thematic elements including drug usage)
Movie Review: A fictionalized adaptation of the true story of Oscar Grant (Jordan of NBC’s “Friday Night Lights”), a 22-year-old Bay Area resident, is chronicled in this tale that takes place on the last day of Grant’s life in 2008. His life is a series of interactions with his family, friends, foes and others on New Year’s Eve. He is now close with his mother (Oscar Winner Spencer), but they once had a rocky relationship. Audiences also see him with his loving girlfriend, Sophina (Diaz), and their young daughter, Tatiana (Ariana Neal). He appears a loving man and a good father, despite other obvious flaws. Grant is a drug dealer and user, and he lies often to those he loves. He has been imprisoned multiple times and is prone to violence. Still, he is a man enjoying New Year’s Day celebrations in Oakland, Calif., where a law-enforcement officer tragically shoots the unarmed and handcuffed Grant in the back while lying on his stomach at Bay Area Rapid Transit’s Fruitvale Station.
Director-Writer Ryan Coogler is new to the big screen. He only has three film shorts to his resume. “Fruitvale Station” is his first full-length feature. It is a great debut for Coogler. It is no technical masterpiece. It is a low-budget, independent film, but the director craftily makes this drama one of the best movies out this summer.
As able as Coogler, Michael B. Jordan, who has been mainly a television actor, offers a brilliant natural turn. His portrayal of Oscar Grant should up his status as a movie actor. Jordan is good because of Coogler’s brilliant writing of Oscar Grant to make him personable and accessible, the good and bad.
Spencer ably joins Jordan. Spencer (“The Help,” 2011) plays his mother with a certain earnestness that effortlessly translates to viewers. She is a mother and worried about her son, her child. Her scenes with Jordan are a dynamic relationship that convinces.
Coogler’s screenplay does not portray Grant as a hero or saint. He shows Grant as a man with flaws yet resourceful. He is a man angered easily and in circumstances he wants to change. Just when Grant is in a position to change his life, a situation he cannot control emerges.
Coogler shows that redemption for every person exists. More important, Coogler’s screenplay shows that people want to be happy. People want their loved ones to be comfortable and happy, too. Everybody just wants a free shot at making his or her life better. Director Coogler guides you to this place to show Grant wanted this too.
All leads up to a suspenseful conclusion that those who followed this story years ago know what happens. This does not detract from the pending apex. Although his screenplay goes abruptly numb after Grant’s shooting, Coogler does a great job of showing Grant’s life being ripped away from him by a bullet by those who are supposed to protect citizens. With hope, the actual Grant found the redemption he sought before his untimely end just as Jordan’s depiction of him suggests.
Grade: B+ (Make this station your next destination.)
“The Wolverine” (Action/Science-Fiction: 2 hours, 6 minutes)
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