Movie Valley
May 2009 Movie Reviews
Back to the main movie page

X-Men Origins: Wolverine
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Liev Schreiber, Tim Pocock, Troye Sivan, Tahyna Tozzi
Directed By: Gavin Hood
Run Time: 1 hr 47 mins

X-Men Origins: Wolverine is the backstory to how Wolverine (played by Jackman) came to be Wolervine. He has a brother Victor, aka "Sabertooth" (played by Schreiber). At first, they protect each other but then a rift develops between them that turns to an obsession for killing the other.

It's the end of May and I've only managed to see three, count 'em, three movies this month. Wow. That's truly a first. I think that says more about the slew of sucky releases than it does my busy schedule (although that factored in heavily as to why I skipped an entire week).

I've never fully watched any of the other X-Men movies. This one intrigued me (plus the other May releases were sucky and unappealing). Since it's a backstory for Wolverine - how he became a mutant - I figured the previous X-Men installments were not a prerequisite. I was right. I was able to enjoy and understand this one without having viewed the others (however, a basic knowledge of the others is helpful).

Given that this is supposed to be a backstory, a movie that's supposed to explain why Wolverine is who he is, I left the theater with more questions than I entered. This movie had me asking "Why?" a lot, and a lot more than a backstory should. Why was his father not his father? Why was he different from his brother? One's a Sabertooth, the other a Wolverine. That just don't happen in the animal kingdom. Why is his brother's last name different from his last name, considering Logan's last name is his biological father's last name? And what was with the hair? Even his father had that hair. And why did he stop aging? He was easily twenty years older than when he developed his powers/mutation but yet that was some 150 plus years ago. He should either be a really old man or a boy. Not the 30-something year old. And why did Victor go bad at all? Was it the animal in him taking over? Should that have happened while his brother was still around or was it caused by all the wars he fought in? And why were they self-healing? If they already had the ability to self-heal (and heal quickly), why did Wolverine consent to steel bones at all? He was pretty indestructible without them. Shouldn't he have enrolled in fight training? That's what he was lacking - fighting skills, not the ability to be even more indestructible... which turns out isn't so indestructible... (and is the destruction even feasible with steel bones?)

But for all the questions this movie imposed to my little brain, I did enjoy this movie. It was an interesting ride, even if it did stall for a moment after the two brothers separated and the mutant adventures ceased. Am I the only one who wished there were more scenes with Wade? And am I the only one who was upset at what they did to Wade? And was that truly Wade? Because the actor who played him in the end really wasn't Ryan Reynolds. I found that odd.

The story of the moon and Wolverine really touched me, particularly the twist it takes. The comic-book style quips made me really enjoy this movie. "How are you going to kill me?" "I'm going to cut off your head, see if that works." and "I'm not afraid of dying." "How do you know? You've never tried it before." and my all-time favorite line - "I think there's a naked man in our barn." "Yup".

I liked how Wolverine's character developed - struggling between good and bad, human and animal. It will make it interesting to watch the original X-Men movie knowing what I know about how Wolverine became who he is (and why). Sorta like how you can never watch Wizard of Oz again after you've watched the backstory Wicked. So that's why he/she did what he/she did!

One side note: I read something Liev Schreiber said about his action figurine for Sabertooth. He said it looked like "a rabid squirrel." I gotta tell you, everytime his face filled the screen, all I could think of was, "Yeah, I can see that."

In sum, a good movie - and you needn't have watched the first three X-Men movies to understand and enjoy this "prequel." It's entertaining. Hugh Jackman looked pretty good in several scenes, which makes it worth watching just for those scenes.

Star Trek
Starring: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, Karl Urban, John Cho, Simon Pegg, Bruce Greenwood
Directed By: J.J. Abrams
Run Time: 2 hrs 7 mins

Star Trek is the backstory to the 60s TV show - how the characters came to take their positions on board the Star Trek Enterprise. All of the usuals are here in young form - Captain Kirk (played by Pine), Spock (played by Quinto), Scotty (played by Pegg), Uhura (played by Saldana), Sulu (played by Cho), and Bones (played by Urban).

I've talked to many people since my viewing of this movie and it seems I am in the minority. Everyone else loved it. I... kinda liked it. I was a bit bored in the beginning and was really looking forward to it ending a half hour before it did. It takes awhile before the action kicks in. It is funny. I wasn't expecting that. I really did have some belly laughs at some of the lines. But like Ghosts of Girlfriends Past, there were a lot of annoyances that prevented me from fully liking this movie.

First and foremost, I was unbelievably annoyed by Karl Urban's impersonation performance as Bones. He's a good actor. I don't understand why he felt the need to mimic the old Bones instead of making the character his own. Bones from the TV show had a very distinctive tone and cadence. Urban duplicated it. It would have been fine if he just did it when he had to utter the line, "Damnit, Jim, I'm a doctor, not a " but he did it through the entire movie. Second, the aliens seemed to be aliens for the sake of having aliens in a sci-fi movie. What was up with the green skinned girl? That irked me. Oooh, so alien-like! And the thing on the planet that chased Kirk, and the wolf-like creature that chased him, and even the funny scaly creature with Scotty. They weren't very good aliens. They almost seemed done before in some other movie, but nearly as well as that other movie. It was someone's tired rip-off assignment. Instead of spending weeks dreaming up something good and creative and new, they went out drinking and the night before the assignment was due, ripped a cell out of another movie, changed it enough to avoid copy-right infringement, and handed it in as their own design.

My initial mistaken interpretation of the plot probably led to my initial boredom. I think misconstruing the plot elements was intentional - I think the director wanted you to think that this was a full re-telling of how things came to be (I'm pretty sure that's not technically a spoiler). Because of that, I wasn't very interested in the fight scenes and action sequences that eluded to danger. If it involved key players, you know how it's going to turn out... and I also felt sorry for those unknown characters who entered those scenes because you also know how it's going to end for them. Let's just say they won't be in the sequel...

I do want to point out that I totally did not recognize Winona Ryder as Spock's mother. I recognized the voice, not the face. And I kept searching her face for some hint that it really was her but kept coming up empty. I just didn't see it (although I did in the second scene she was in).

I must say that I was disappointed with this movie over its lack of campiness - not even a quick homage to the campiness of the TV show with the plywood sets and Christmas tree lights behind the control panels and the sound the doors made as they slid open and the glitter swirled around in a glass during beaming. But all the key players did manage to get their catch phrases in. I did not like how the changed the ending voice-over from "Boldly go where no man has gone before" to "Boldly go where no one has gone before." Okay, so it's politically correct but it just fell flat with a thud when I heard that line.

The action does pick up towards the end... but the final action sequence contributed greatly to my non-love for this movie. Um, why did they have to wait around for the final destruction? It was pretty inevitable. Waiting around only set themselves for that final angst, and that annoyed me. And now we have one more little tense moment.

The acting was all really good. Chris Pine was wonderful as Kirk, although I expected just one staccato delivered line. He was charismatic, funny, and smart. I thought that Eric Bana (who played Nero) could have been one degree more evil. He just didn't have the baddie persona (and his alien race depiction led me to another annoyance - why didn't the women have face tattoos and bald heads?).

All in all, this was a decent movie. There were some funny lines. An interesting story (once you understand what's happening and why). Well acted. It just didn't have that extra oomph, that extra pizzazz it needed to make me really like it. But I'm not a Star Trek fan. Perhaps Trekkies will have a different opinion.

Ghosts of Girlfriends Past
Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Jennifer Garner, Breckin Meyer, Lacey Chabert, Anne Archer
Directed By: Mark Waters
Run Time: 1 hr 55 mins

Ghosts of Girlfriends Past is about a bachelor who begins to ruin his brother's pending wedding but then is visited by three ghosts - one of girlfriends past, one of girlfriends present, and the final of girlfriends future (ala Dickens' Christmas Carol).

I was initially off-put by this movie. Perhaps that was the intent. Perhaps we had to be off-put in order to really dislike Connor (McConaughey) (because, seriously, he has to be atrocious can callous for movie-going women to dislike him). I still don't see what women like in jerks. Bad boys, yes, jerks no. Yes, Connor is a good looking man but the way he treats women - past girlfriends, his assistant, etc - should have been a red flag for the chick he was hooking up with in the beginning. I mean, he broke up with THREE women via web cam conference! Callous and impersonal and demeaning.

There were actually three speeches that actually brought tears to my eyes. A lot of the movie was pretty standard for a chick flick (interesting how someone can change overnight, or even be expected to change overnight - I think that's a chick flick phenomenon). But even as standard as it was, I liked it. I guess that makes this a non-standard chick flick because I don't usually tend to like chick flicks. The three speeches that got to me were when his brother (the groom) defended Connor, a speech Connor overheard during the girlfriends present ghost ride. The second speech - Connor's toast. Well, the part he added for the bride at the end. And the third speech that had me well up - the end scene with Jenny and the picture.

I found the Christmas Carol homage a bit too cheesy. I did love the girlfriend past... although I was a bit confused to discover she most likely wasn't dead. Is she? Isn't she? I just don't really know. She should be, since that is what a ghost is (a dead person's trapped soul) but I don't think she is... I find it interesting what Michael Douglas (who plays Connor's uncle, aka Jacob Marly) has been reduced to in his last few films. Think Hugh Hefner... but more creepy and smarmy. Makes my skin crawl just thinking about this character. And that's the guy Connor looked up to.

But Uncle Wayne's smarminess aside, there are other things that bothered me about this movie. (Big breath) First, I found all the conversations about sex - who was sleeping with whom, etc - a bit too liberal/open. I know the generation depicted is a different one from mine, but I just don't see people talking that freely about their sex lives, particularly with people they've never met before. Another thing I found annoying - I know every time you see a profession on screen, people always say the moviemakers got that profession wrong. I'm pretty sure they got photography all wrong. Unless Connor planned the photo shoots prior to actually shooting them (and we just didn't see the planning part), I'm pretty sure no photographer walks into a shoot with it already staged, takes one photo, and then walks away. The art of photography is how it is staged and lighted and if the photographer didn't do all of that, then the credit for the photo can't be his. He's just pushing a button at that point, and a monkey could do what Connor did. That didn't seem real at all and it bothered me enormously (which is another factor in my off-put feeling, I'm sure). Next, I was bothered by why Connor chose to drive from NYC to Rhode Island in the middle of winter in a Jag. For someone so prestigious and rich, you'd think he'd demand to fly instead of wasting his time driving. Moving on, I was bothered by the father of the bride. Not his grumpy, hard core military personality, but his age. Really? He was in Korea? Not Vietnam? Seeing as how that war (technically a conflict) was 55 years ago, that would make the father of the bride over 70. Are we really to believe he has a 20-something daughter? And don't get me started on the bridezilla. Really? She threw a fit over figs? Figs? I know that whole scene was to prove Connor's point about not tying yourself to one woman because then you have to deal with their craziness but it bothered me greatly. Heck, I even agreed with Connor's philosophy at that point. And at the smallest spectrum of annoyances is the casting choice for young Connor. I'm sorry, but that kid was not nearly good looking enough nor did he have a killer smile.

For all my gushing over Matthew McConaughey, I must admit his appeal is running thin with me. Sure, he's an attractive man with a great smile but I'm constantly aware that he's ACTING. It's a bit annoying. I have a feeling he really just doesn't care about his characters.

Whew. For all my annoyances, it may surprise you to know that I actually did like this movie. Me. Like a chick flick. I'm just as surprised! The annoyances, although seemingly great in numbers, are substantially less compared to other chick flick movies. It's a cute movie. It actually brought tears to my eyes (in a good way) so I have to put my annoyances aside and say I liked this movie. Any movie that can actually get to me is a good movie (as long as the ending doesn't blow it). But this was a good movie... if you can accept the fact that people can change overnight...