Monthly Archives: July 2013

Wolverine, Definitely

“20 years from now, when Hollywood makes the 10th reboot of the X-men franchise, they will cast the role of Wolverine with a body double and digitally superimpose the face of Hugh Jackman using old, unused footage from his previous 12 outings as Wolverine. The actor who played the iconic character so well has become an icon himself.”

the poster

the poster

Barring this bit of speculative musing, I seriously think that when Hugh Jackman decides to stop playing Wolverine, Hollywood casting directors will have a terrible time looking for a suitable replacement.

In an effort to distance itself from the silly ‘X-Men Origins: Wolverine’ (which I thought could have had more of Gambit and less of The Blob), the timeline of ‘The Wolverine’ is set after the events of Brett Ratner’s ‘X-Men, The Last Stand’ (which was spectacularly inferior to Brian Singer’s first 2 X-Men films). Jean Grey and Dr. Charles Xavier are dead, the X-Men have disbanded, and Wolverine feels more burdened than ever.

Because he’s had a long life, Wolverine is haunted by more memories than ordinary people. And early in the film, one of the people in his long past seeks him and makes him an offer that is difficult to refuse, for someone like him. But refuse he did and this sets into motion events that demonstrate how far someone would go to capture Wolverine’s burden/ gift of immortality.

Director James Mangold, who previously directed Hugh Jackman in the rom-com ‘Kate & Leopold’ and who thrilled us with the mind-bending ‘Identity’, fashioned a comic book film that doesn’t feel like a comic book movie. Well, that is, until the last third of the film sort of devolved into big-action-blockbuster-formula. But even this I can forgive the film makers. Because the rest of the film is imbued with ideas on the way we live, the legacy we all would like to leave behind, and living with the consequences of our actions.

Of course, the action sequences are excellent: I especially liked the fights at the funeral and atop the speeding bullet train. How good must it look on 3D. I also liked the fact that in spite of the gravity of the film’s theme, they found some space for humor–albeit unintentionally. But aren’t those the best kind? I read in an interview that Hugh Jackman is at ease when it came to baring his body as Wolverine. In this film, his nudity is played for laughs as he struggled against two little old Japanese women who were armed with body scrubs. This scene led to my favorite exchange between Wolverine and Yukio (Rila Fukushima):

Yukio: You look nice.

Wolverine: I feel violated.

Wolverine + Yukio

Wolverine + Yukio

And yes, the women. One interesting thing I’ve observed about the character of Wolverine is that he’s always beaten black and blue by women. In the first X-Men movie it was Mystique, in the second it was Lady Deathstrike, and in the third it was Jean Grey. In ‘The Wolverine’ it is Viper, played by Russian-born actress Svetlana Khodchenkova. Viper is a nasty villain; she reminded me of Typhoid from ‘Elektra’ (Rob Bowman, 2005), capable of killing with just her breath.

Viper's costume is 100% slithery

Viper’s costume is 100% slithery

But ultimately she is vanquished by another woman: Yukio. Completing the trio of strong women leads in the film is Mariko, played by Tao Okamoto. I read somewhere that this film is the first major outing of Rila Fukushima and Tao Okamoto. I sense a long career for both ladies.

wolverine & mariko

wolverine & mariko

There is also a trio of gorgeous Asian actors here, headed by Hiroyuko Sanada who I first saw in ‘Ringu’, Will Yun Lee–who I remember as the sexy guy in a Mariah Carey music video, and Brian Tee who played a corrupt government official who gets thrown from a balcony wearing a sexy pair of red boxer briefs.

Contrary to other Marvel films of late, Stan Lee didn’t have a cameo in this. But there’s a scene where Wolverine is in the snowy forest, and I saw a bottle of whiskey called Stanley’s Whiskey. Is that a reference to Stan Lee? As always, there is fun to be had if you stay for the end-credits. I won’t divulge it here, but if you’re a fan of the X-Men, you would surely be delighted. Promise!

Is ‘The Wolverine’ worth a second (and so on) viewing? Definitely!

Friday Photo

I’m starting a once-a-week thing here in the blog. Kind of like the ‘Wordless Wednesday” I used to do in my former blog. Yesterday I met a couple of classmates from graduate school. While waiting for them at a cafe, I snapped these shots of the mall’s interior.

view from the cafe

view from the cafe

 

And now, back to normal programming

My short engagement with a UN Agency ended last week. My new-found friends in the organization gave a me a send-off lunch at one of the better restaurants close to the office, which I wrote about HERE. I knew that the Staff Union was organizing a merienda cena of some sort in honor of me. I knew this because they did the same thing to another colleague/ friend whose contract ended a couple of weeks before mine did.

the ladies who lunch

the ladies who lunch

I’d like to say that I always avoided soirees, especially in my honor, like the plague but truthfully, this is not always the case with me. This aversion to things social is, I believe, a remnant of my depression. A persistent remnant, I must say, but it is not an indicator of my emotional well-being. Pre-depression era, I liked going to parties, but not too much. If said party is in my honor, it’s fine. Lately though (as in the last three years), not so much.

Nevertheless, I am deeply grateful to the Staff Union for making me part of their activities. Please accept my apology for ditching that send-off party in favor of a quiet afternoon with my family.

Yesterday, I felt a little disoriented when I woke up early in the morning and realized I didn’t need to rise that early because I didn’t have to go to work. So I slept again and didn’t get out of bed until 8AM. Yesterday felt like a long weekend, even if I felt unwell the whole day and slept through my nausea and malaise.

And today, I am spending the morning as if in a daze. The only conscious things I am doing are posting photos on Facebook and writing this blog post, which I hope I am doing well enough. I have eaten a bit; my queasiness remains–abetted by keeping a piece of hard candy in my mouth.

My agenda for the next months is attending to my personal writing projects in between freelance work. Wish me luck, would you?

Flesh

The art book of the film ‘Pacific Rim’ is called ‘Man, Machines, and Monsters’. This post, combined with the previous, should be called ‘Monsters, Metals, and Flesh’. In my opinion, Idris Elba was such a strong presence in the movie that he emerged as the star of the film. This, however, doesn’t diminish the star power of Charlie Hunnam.

IMHO, Charlie Hunnam can be shirtless forever

IMHO, Charlie Hunnam can be shirtless forever

I thought I first saw Charlie Hunnam in the delightful but under-rated film version of Charles Dickens’ ‘Nicholas Nickleby’. He reminded me of Heath Ledger, although his face was ‘prettier’.

Charlie Hunnam in 'Nicholas Nickleby'

Charlie Hunnam in ‘Nicholas Nickleby’

However, I soon realized that Charlie had appeared in the TV series ‘Queer as Folk’ where he played the lovelorn jailbait Nathan Maloney. That was a great performance, by the way, and not just because he was almost always shirtless, or nude, in many of his scenes.

Charlie Hunnam the twink

Charlie Hunnam the twink

The next time I saw Charlie was when he had a small role in ‘Children of Men’. He’s barely recognizable because of all that hair but his smile is the same.

all that hair couldn't hide that pretty face

all that hair couldn’t hide that pretty face

Then came ‘Sons of Anarchy’, which brought Charlie Hunnam to fame. I’m not a fan of the show, though. Maybe I should start watching it now. Hmn…

(image from EW.com)

(image from EW.com)

It seemed that Charlie has a predilection for having his pictures taken while he is shirtless. Consider this:

shirtless in a magazine feature

shirtless in a magazine feature

And this:

shirtless on TV

shirtless on TV

And this:

fresh out of the bathroom

fresh out of the bathroom

In my previous post, I wrote that Charlie Hunnam ought to be shirtless all the time. Well, a singlet will do. We don’t want him catching a cold, do we?

training in 'Pacific Rim'

training in ‘Pacific Rim’

Monsters and Metals

the poster

the poster

From the first time I saw the trailer of ‘Pacific Rim”, I’d been filled with anticipation to see the whole movie. But this anticipation was also tinged with apprehension. What if it sucked? The downward spiral that the ‘Transformers’ franchise has become haunts me, you see. The third film, in particular, was so tech-heavy it forgot to have heart–or even just a semblance of it. Fortunately, Guillermo Del Toro–who delighted me with ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’ and the Hellboy movies–approached this movie with a humanist’s mind and heart. Of course, there is no shortage of thrilling battles between giant robots and monsters; but the important thing is that the human element was not neglected.

Well, not that much. The film is set in a future world that has been almost entirely decimated by kaiju–giant beasts that emerged from a breach at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean that connects our world to another dimension. After several cities (Manila is mentioned) are laid to waste, several nations (including Australia, China, Russia, and the US) pooled resources to build giant robots (jaegers) that will fight the monsters. However, the giant robots require human operators. Two human operators, in fact, whose minds are welded together in a bond called ‘The Drift’. Early versions of the robots, operated singly, led to disastrous results for the pilots. Being a jaeger pilot is much riskier than being an astronaut so when they survive, they are treated like rock stars.

The plot is pretty straight-forward, and often formulaic. Like any self-respecting action adventure film, it opens with a big action sequence that also sets up the back story/ motivation of the main character. There is an upward progression of the action set-pieces, which later becomes responsible for the demise of a major character–the one who always dies to provide the impetus for the main character to act heroically. It ends on a positive note–affirming life and hope in the midst of the chaos and destruction. To expect more is to do so at your own risk. Guillermo Del Toro is a virtuoso in balancing and juggling the many elements of this movie. But with too many balls in the air, we can forgive him for dropping a few.

I’d like to point out that this doesn’t diminish the visual power and beauty of this film that makde it compelling to watch. In terms of grandeur and scale, ‘Pacific Rim’ fulfills the promise that the trailer of the 1998 ‘Godzilla’ made. The monsters, while paying homage to giant monsters of the past, looked unique and genuinely dangerous. Each is glorious to behold. And in spite of their colossal sizes, they moved nimbly but looked as if they were affected by their environment (like water and rain) and vice versa. The robots also moved as machines would–with motions that didn’t violate the laws of Physics. They moved as if they really weighed a lot, so unlike that robots from ‘Transformers’. Kudos to the CGI teams that created and rendered these visual tricks.

And did I say that the battle scenes were thrilling? It wasn’t hard to cheer for the robots when they fought, especially because these scenes were marvelously edited so that in the midst of all the metal-crunching action, you never forget the humans operating the jaegers. The action escalated in each kaiju attack, both in terms of the fighters and the damage to the environment. Hong Kong’s destruction was delightfully saturated in colors.

In this type of movie, it is easy for actors to get swallowed up by the scenery. Fortunately for them, the script of Del Toro and Travis Beacham gave them a bit more meat to chew. Idris Elba, who I last saw in ‘Prometheus’ and ‘Thor’, was a commanding presence in the film, driving the film’s plot to its glorious conclusion.

Idris Elba can take me anywhere he wants

Idris Elba can take me anywhere he wants

Charlie Hunnam, who reminds me of Heath Ledger if not for his buff body, played his character with effortless ease. He is intransigent in one moment and sensitive in the next, as he tries to move on from the trauma of his brother’s death. This trauma is compounded by the fact that when his brother died, their minds were connected so he literally ‘died’ with his brother.

IMHO, Charlie Hunnam can be shirtless forever

IMHO, Charlie Hunnam can be shirtless forever

He has an undeniable chemistry with his partner, played by Rinko Kikuchi (Babel). Unlike many Japanese actresses I know, Ms Kikuchi has a very expressive face that conveys her emotions matter-of-factly. Which is fine because amid the noisy proceedings in the film, there is no room for so much subtlety.

Rinko Kikuchi with another co-star of the film--the rain

Rinko Kikuchi with another co-star of the film–the rain

Max Martini and Robert Kazinsky also excelled as the father and son jaeger pilots who never feared making noble sacrifices. Rob Kazinsky can also be seen as the current big baddie in ‘True Blood’, where he looks hotter–not sure why.

Rob Kazinsky reminds of the young Chris Meloni

Rob Kazinsky reminds of the young Christopher Meloni

I remember Max Martini from ‘Saving Private Ryan’ many years ago. Well, I’d always been fond of guys with flared nostrils and a steely, weather-beaten demeanor.

Max Martini could very well be my daddy

Max Martini could very well be my daddy

Every Guillermo Del Toro film–no matter how grim–carries his brand of off-kilter humor. In this film, it is provided by Charlie Day–who gave new meaning to the word ‘mad scientist’ and Hellboy himself, Ron Perlman, who played the black market broker of kaiju body parts and organs. In my opinion, he had the best character name (Hannibal Chau), the best costume, and the best death sequence. Well, almost-death sequence, I should say. Just make sure to stay for the equally colossal end-credits.

Ron Perlman and Charlie Day talk kaiju

Ron Perlman and Charlie Day talk kaiju

‘Pacific Rim’ is not perfect, but it’s perfectly watchable many times over because it’s entertaining and compelling to watch. This could be Guillermo Del Toro’s biggest movie to date, and I’m so glad to know that his unique vision was not diluted by its epic and immense scale. My inner geek is relieved, and rejoicing.