Tag Archives: Hugh Jackman


Logan Movie PosterIt seems like much of the recent success of comic book and superhero movies can be traced back to Bryan Singer’s first two X-Men films which laid the groundwork, not only for their own ongoing and expanded franchise, but the Avengers series, and most other films in that genre as well.

In 2016 this initial foundation was expanded (with mixed results) by Deadpool, adding an ‘R-rated’ flavour to the now Sony/Marvel X-Men universe, and now James Mangold’s Logan has grabbed that more adult notion by the throat and, well, driven three claws through its head.

Despite being the X-Men film series’ most compelling character the previous pair of standalone films based on Wolverine (X-Men Origins and The Wolverine) had, to a greater or lesser extent, not quite the hit mark; either for the character’s long time fans or more casual moviegoers. Here then it was refreshing that from the start this Wolverine, again played by Hugh Jackman, felt far more true to the essence of the character established but never really seen previously.

Hugh Jackman in Logan

Jackman as Logan/Howlett/Wolverine

Opening on a shot of an ageing Logan (aka Wolverine, aka James Howlett) waking up in the back seat of a limousine and then swiftly and brutally dealing with a gang of thugs trying to steal his hubcaps, it’s clear that Jackman, Mangold and co are using all of their R rating (15 in the UK) allowance of profanity and violence.

The story centres on the now somewhat less superpowered Logan and his efforts to care for a frail and elderly Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) and a young mutant named Laura (aka X-23, played by Dafne Keen). While the film has its fair share of action, mostly in a close up more personal style than the now common city-destruction of other comic book movies, the majority of the film focuses on these three leads.

Jackman puts in not only his best performance as the character to date, but one of the best performances I’ve ever seen from him, as he carries the weight of the film with a surprisingly nuanced delivery, capturing the essence of faded glory and un-graceful ageing excellently, while also delivering hugely in the action set pieces while keeping the now developed character intact.

Patrick Stewart and Hugh Jackman in Logan

Stewart as Xavier and Jackman

Stewart reveals new sides of Xavier, and seems to have a lot of infectious fun doing it, as he balances a streak of humour that clearly comes naturally to him with the emotional heft necessary for his position in the film and with the same weighty presence he’s always had in the role.

Keen meanwhile is a revelation as the intense Laura. Largely silent, her movements and facial expressions capture and transmit everything you need to know about this feral child and grow as the films goes on to a massively satisfying climax beyond I think anything seen elsewhere in the comic book movie canon. To be honest the same can be said of both Jackman and Stewart’s parts too and even Steven Merchant as Caliban puts in a good showing.

As well as tremendous acting, helped by a story and script rooted in more down to earth feelings, Logan comes with more of a sense of consequences than other superhero films.

Dafne Keen as Laura/X-23

Keen as Laura/X-23

Here you really feel like what is taking place matters and that there are real stakes for those involved, unlike the Avengers movies where we ultimately know the outcome from the start for a number of reasons.

So every action set piece, and there are a fair few, comes with a sense of genuinely not knowing what could happen – both Wolverine and Laura are vulnerable enough to not come across as instant winners in every fight and this is exploited in variously clever ways as the film goes on.

Rather than climaxing on a moment of light relief like comic book movies are wont to do, Logan cuts to black at an emotional peak leaving the audience satisfied and with the sense that this was a complete story but (crucially I guess for the studios) with avenues open for more to come, but in far less obvious ways than most other franchise films manage these days.

Hugh Jackman in Logan

Logan takes comic book action to the next level

In the end Logan may well not only have eclipsed X2 or Days of Future Past as the best of the X-Men series but taken its place at the top of the mainstream comic book movie pile by daring to be different in ways that almost remove it from that canon, if it weren’t for the super powered mutants leading the story.

And the Johnny Cash track that kicks off the credits is the cherry on top of an already exceedingly good cake.

And here’s that Johnny Cash song, just because…

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x-men movie poster16 years ago, in the wake of Blade, the first bona-fide Marvel comics based blockbuster movie hit the screens in the form of director Bryan Singer’s version of X-Men. Since then the franchise has gone on to become a long series of sequels (some good; X-Men 2, First Class, Days of Future Past, Deadpool – some less so; X3: The Last Stand, X-Men Origins: Wolverine – some a bit average; The Wolverine), but what was its origin like?

The film traces the story of what seems to be the X-Men’s first clash with The Brotherhood of Mutants and their leader, Magneto (Ian McKellen), through the eyes of new recruit Logan, aka Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) and young mutant Rogue (Anna Paquin). This structure cleverly offers an audience potentially unfamiliar with the comics an easy way into this already established world on two levels, though both with the sense of the outsider.

This outsider nature is one that Singer laces heavily throughout, making it into something of a motif from the opening prologue showing us the origin of Magneto in the Nazi concentration camps of the Second World War, to the introductions of Wolverine and Rogue to the whole notion of Xavier’s School for Gifted Children.

Anna Paquin as Rogue

Anna Paquin as Rogue

Echoing the comic books’ 1960s origins that, supposedly, dealt with issues surrounding the civil rights movement, Singer incorporates a broader version of this theme more suited to a millennial audience, showing the two sides of the divide on the argument of integration and isolation/hostility that is still relevant now.

At barely an hour and 40 minutes Singer doesn’t deeply explore these issues but they are evident, what he does do in that time though is create a fast paced action movie. Unfortunately the short run time (something of a blessing compared to some of the over long movies that now populate this genre) means the large number of characters are, for the most part, underdeveloped; Wolverine, Magneto and Professor X (Patrick Stewart) get a decent amount of time to become slightly more than 2D but really the rest of the pack are fairly weakly painted hero or villain types.

Hugh Jackman as Wolverine

Hugh Jackman as Wolverine

A highlight scene comes early on that sets the ground for Magneto and Professor X as they attend a debate on mutant rights and meet afterwards outside the meeting hall. Here the chemistry between McKellen and Stewart that has become the stuff of legend sparks and they certainly provide the most convincing aspect of the film and are amazing to watch just talking – though McKellen does go on to ham it up a bit too much later.

The action across the movie feels like a hybrid of what had come before, with a particularly physical feel often in the vein of an 80s action movie (prior to these things becoming almost entirely computer generated spectacles) and what was to come later with hints of the CG smash-fests of more recent movies. This gives it a split feel that isn’t entirely effective, but serves its purpose and we get great signature moments from all the main heroes and villains even if these do feel a little gimmicky.

The film’s climax, based around the Statue of Liberty, lacks a certain weight within the story which is something that marks the whole of this first X-Men film giving it the feeling of being at best the start of something, at worst a hyper-extended trailer for the franchise. That said, its enjoyable enough on its own merits and certainly at the time was successful enough to warrant the superior sequel that really allowed the characters and story more room to breathe than they had here.

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X-Men: Days Of Future Past

X-Men Days of Future Past-Movie posterI will admit that, in the past, some of my straight from the cinema reviews of comic book movies haven’t lived up to scrutiny in the cold light of day, once the whiz-bang has all died down (see Avengers and to a lesser extent Man of Steel and Iron Man 3). Recently I have also become somewhat disillusioned with comic book movies in general and Marvel based fare in particular, thanks to the likes of Thor: The Dark World.

So, it was with some trepidation (but hope) that I headed in to see the latest installment of the extended X-Men franchise, Days Of Future Past.

Inspired by the comic story of the same name the film deals with a dystopian future where mutants (and most of humanity it seems) have been all but destroyed by The Sentinels – big robots designed to hunt and kill mutants and sympathisers – and one of the X-Men being sent back into the past to try to save the future.

James McAvoy

James McAvoy

While this may sound a bit like its going to hit logical snags it deals with it fairly elegantly by not really even trying to explain things and just putting it down to mutant powers, in this case those of Kitty Pryde. From there most of the movie takes place in the early 1970s with the First Class cast along with the ever-present Hugh Jackman as Wolverine and Peter Dinklage on fine form as primary antagonist, Bolivar Trask.

This is something of a masterstroke as (with a bit of retconning) it manages to link both franchises, while making it clear that the main team is now the one led by James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender’s Professor X and Magneto, rather than Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen’s.

Michael Fassbender

Michael Fassbender

It is their performances that really anchor the movie. While Jackman does what he has been doing for the best part of 20 years McAvoy and Fassbender’s performances are where the heart lies. McAvoy in particular stands out bringing (a very toned down version of) what he did in Filth to a much broader movie and still making it clearly the Charles Xavier Patrick Stewart portrays.

Really it’s the performances that stood out for me as, while there was plenty of spectacle on offer, at no point did it feel like the characters and story were being ignored while CGI people got thrown through buildings and the like.

Some have bemoaned the fact that a lot of the characters from the previous films are somewhat glossed over here, particularly the likes of Storm, Iceman and Colossus, and that newcomer Bishop is under used.

Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart

Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart

For me though, I liked the fact these characters were there (and played by the same actors as in the past) as it showed this was the same universe but without having to extend the film with needless sub-plots just to serve, in this case, superfluous characters.

All of this is backed up by, returning director, Bryan Singer’s vision for the movies that he laid out in X-Men and X2 as he uses the mutants’ story as an allegory for various issues relating to human rights, much like the comics have done throughout their history, while never becoming bogged down in the issues and still making a fun action-adventure.

I know it’s probably a bit old-hat now but I’m still relatively new (and a bit skeptical) about 3D, so I was pleasantly surprised as to some of its uses here. While most of the 3D remained somewhat superfluous, there were a few moments where it seemed Singer was using it to highlight things, particularly in regard to Charles’ chessboard, which has been an ongoing motif between both sets of characters.

By the time a franchise reaches its seventh instalment it would normally be expected that any freshness would be gone and things would have become painfully repetitive. With X-Men: Days Of Future Past though this feels like a franchise fully rejuvenated and ready for more, and with a post credits sting that certainly hints at much more to come.



I just hope Zack Snyder and co over on Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice were taking notes from Singer, Vaughan and the X-Men team…

Also, new mutant Quicksilver was really only a cameo, but an excellently done one that also hinted at the bigger universe of the X-Men with a couple of subtle (by comic book movie standards) nods and winks.

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The Wolverine (Unleashed Cut)

The Wolverine - posterHaving missed it in the cinema I thought I’d delve into The Wolverine by the extended ‘Unleashed’ cut of the movie that comes with the Blu-ray package. I’m not sure how much is different or added, but it seems the main gist of the changes is that Logan (Hugh Jackman) drops a few more ‘f-bombs’ and there’s a bit more graphic stuff in the fight scenes.

Anyway, The Wolverine tells us a new story about Logan and, thankfully, drops a lot of the over the top sci-fi comic book stuff of X-Men Origins: Wolverine and replaces with something that, at times, borders on feeling a bit James Bond as it takes Logan out of the world we’ve previously seen in the X-Men movies (though this is clearly still the same canon) as we go to Japan and find out about another part of the, essentially immortal, character’s story.

Hugh Jackman in The WolverineClearly inspired by the work of Frank Miller (the man who brought us 300 and Sin City) we are in a more serious world for The Wolverine, especially as we see Logan with his powers (sort of) removed for much of the film and, while it never quite reaches realistic territory, it does give Jackman something different to do with the character and attempts to introduce a bit more peril than there might otherwise have been.

Unfortunately, like most of the current crop of comic book movies, this sense of peril never quite gets to where we need it to. Much like Man of Steel or The Avengers, heading into this movie we already know the hero makes it through and, while it would be easy to assume that of any such movie, having the knowledge that a direct sequel was already in the works (and in the case here already being shot) does lose something in suspension of disbelief, so throughout there really is no feeling that Logan might not make it through no matter how dire the straits might appear.

Yukio in The WolverineFor a fair amount of the movie this is reasonably well dealt with as we get some pretty well executed action sequences that do some interesting things and so distract us, particularly earlier in the movie. A highlight of these is a sequence on the bullet train that mixes wirework with special effects to create something interesting and genuinely exciting.

These action scenes do have a slightly odd feel though as, while we may be used to Captain America or Iron Man knocking bad guys out before going on their way, Wolverine’s mutation of huge metal claws means he ends up inevitably killing a lot of the people he faces so the body count here is heading into Commando territory but without really paying it any notice. While in the era of Commando this was standard, in today’s style of action blockbuster it feels a bit strange as heroes killing people is generally frowned upon, though it does fit better with Logan than if he didn’t use the claws.

The Viper and LoganAs the film continues we get a bit more of Logan’s backstory, although emotionally speaking it doesn’t add much that we haven’t seen in any of the other X-Men films, and a bit more of the James Bond kind of feel, particularly reminiscent of You Only Live Twice, just without the hugely inappropriate make up work on the lead, this soon though gives way to more action, which again is well mounted with samurai swords vs claws being a major motif.

Unfortunately, for the films climactic scenes, we get back into the standard territory laid out in pretty much every Marvel movie of the recent run as a big robot-like thing turns up to have a fight with the lead and, while this does a much better job of it than Iron Man did with Iron Monger, it still doesn’t quite sit with the tone of the rest of the movie and feels very much like it had to be included to make it fit the ‘comic book movie’ style.

Silver Samurai and WolverineWhile Jackman clearly still loves playing Logan, and is excellent in the part, few other characters here stand a chance of being fully rounded leaving something of a lack of an emotional centre, despite the attempt to include a love interest storyline, everyone remains 2D, no matter what glasses you might be wearing.

While not a ‘bad’ film The Wolverine is also far from a particularly good one and, while far superior to X-Men Origins: Wolverine of X-Men: The Last Stand, it feels fairly imbalanced and is certainly over long at two and a bit hours, though waiting through it does lead to a ‘post’ credits scene that almost steals the show and sets up things to come in X-Men: Days of Future Past

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X-Men Origins: Wolverine

X-Men Origins: Wolverine poster

With the latest in the ongoing saga of Marvel’s metal clawed bad-ass superhero having just opened in cinemas I thought, before I got to that, I’d go back and give his first ‘solo’ outing another go.

When it came out its safe to say the cumbersomely titled X-Men Origins: Wolverine didn’t set the world on fire and as essentially the fourth film in a by then diminishing franchise I guess that isn’t surprising and, even now, its clear to see why this film was pretty much roundly regarded as causing the franchise to need a (sort of) reboot.

The film aims to tell the origin story of Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) by combining ideas from a couple of series of comic books including the Origins thread that deals with Logan’s youth and Weapon X which looks at how he got his adamantium claws and skeleton. Added to that we get a plot about the military, in the form of comics and movies regular bad guy General Stryker, trying to create a super-mutant to kill other mutants and generally being not too nice mutants in the process.

Hugh Jackman and Liev Schreiber

Hugh Jackman and Liev Schreiber

From the start its pretty clear that this film wouldn’t work as a standalone picture, anyone coming to this without prior knowledge of the three original X-Men movies would be pretty lost, but the opening montage which takes us from Canada in the 1800s up to a non-specific 1970s (certainly a time post Vietnam) is one of the movies most satisfying sequences and it does a decent job of setting up the relationship between Logan and Victor (aka Sabretooth as played by Liev Schreiber).

From there though things become a fairly repetitive mess of fights between the two in different locales (from northern Canada to New Orleans) with a distinctive lack of peril due to the fact that, not only do we know these two guys appear in films set later in the same series, but also that both are essentially invulnerable and, once Wolvie gets his adamantium, is essentially invincible.

Taylor Kitsch as Gambit

Taylor Kitsch as Gambit

Possibly to get around this we are introduced to a bunch of other mutants including Blob, Gambit, Kestrel and others who, while vulnerable, are generally so throw away as to not really gives us any more involvement with the story.

Even for a movie about superpowered mutants the film has a major lack of its own internal logic, most notably in the creation of Deadpool (the aforementioned super mutant) but also just in terms of why anyone really does anything and this is reflected in its odd tonally confused nature as it at once seems to want to be as light as The Avengers and as ‘dark’ as The Dark Knight but in trying to have moments of both fails to provide either leaving it feel generally confused.

Ryan Reynolds as 'Deadpool'

Ryan Reynolds as ‘Deadpool’

While the final fight scene between Wolverine, Sabretooth and Deadpool has a few nice touches it also suffers from the three characters apparent invulnerabilities, but it at least looks visually decent – unfortunately the same cannot be said of much of the rest of the movie where Logan’s CGI claws often look like something from a pre-vis version and many of Sabretooth’s movements lack any sense of weight as he runs and leaps, half animal like, around for reason that seem entirely unclear other than to give justification to his nickname (which is actually never used in this movie).

Another niggling factor which makes the film hard to stomach is it seems to share a sense of geography comparable to A Good Day To Die Hard as Canada, Las Vegas, New Orleans and Three Mile Island are flitted between seemingly in moments which just hints at some of the problems with the editing of the film that don’t help it make any more sense.

In the end X-Men Origins: Wolverine is an interesting idea for a comic book that just isn’t well translated onto the screen and ends up being at best disposable and at worst nonsensical and boring and even Hugh Jackman doesn’t seem to be giving his all in the role as much as he has elsewhere.

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Les Misérables

Les Miserables movie posterIf I had to pick three words to describe Tom Hooper’s filmic take on the musical version of Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables they would be vast, sprawling and overblown – though such a simplistic review would be to do it a disservice as, much like the story, there are many layers to this film.

Before I get into it though, I thought I’d make it clear that, as well as movies, I am something of a fan of musicals and musical theatre too, though that maybe hasn’t come across on this site so far… so I was certainly open-minded to all aspects of what I was going to experience coming into this movie.

The story itself is one I was not familiar with and it, loosely, follows the tale of an ex-convict in early 1800s France, Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman), and his quest for repentance through his charitable work, specifically with Fantine (Anne Hathaway), Cosette (Amanda Seyfried) and Marius (Eddie Redmayne).

Russel Crowe as Javert

Russel Crowe as Javert

On top of this we also get the story of the June Revolution of 1832 and the tale of Javert’s (Russel Crowe) quest to bring Jean Valjean to justice and Cosette’s former guardians (Helena Bonham-Carter and Sacha Baron-Cohen) trying to get money from whoever they can.

This multitude of threads is where I think the movie falls down, though it’s not entirely the films fault, as, just as we have got used to Jean Valjean as our hero and are following his story things cut 8 years into the future and a whole bunch of new characters are introduced, as well as the situation building towards revolution.

Hugh Jackman as Jean Valjean

Hugh Jackman as Jean Valjean

This left the story feeling somewhat imbalanced and, while it comes back round in the end to Valjean and Javert, there is a period in the middle where their story, which has anchored the first act, becomes almost inconsequential while a revolutionary tale is told – in any other movie these would be two separate films, but here they combined in a way that left me having trouble grasping any sense of feeling in any of the characters, at least until it reverted to Javert and Valjean who suddenly brought emotion back into things in their climactic scenes.

My other major issue was the film’s sense of reality. This is always something a musical is going to struggle with, what with everyone bursting into song every couple of minutes, but, from the off, Les Misérables seems to set its stall as being a more realistically placed musical with the lack of dance numbers and a lot of ‘spoken’ sung sections and a frankly epic set of opening scenes with slaves in a dry dock followed by Valjean up a mountain in rural France.

Les Miserables paris barricadeThis sense was destroyed though once the seemingly comic relief of Bonham-Carter and Baron-Cohen’s characters were introduced and, as they kept popping up, they kept spoiling all the work that been put in and, for the most part were neither funny nor did enough to move the story along to really be of any worth.

In terms of production as you’d expect from a mega-budget movie production the sets are fantastic with Paris really coming to life when we get to see its expanse – it reminded somewhat of how I’d always pictured Ankh-Morpork – and the dry dock in the opening sequence being a truly mind-blowing combination of special effects and location work. However, there are points where the camera work focusing too much of close-ups of the actors loses some of this sense of epic location and, at times, has a feel of The Surprising Adventures of Sir Digby Chicken Caeser the musical.

All this sounds like I’m on a bit of a downer about Les Misérables, but that isn’t entirely true.

Daniel Huttlestone as Gavroche

Daniel Huttlestone as Gavroche

Beyond all I’ve said so far the performances are pretty much all excellent with Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway and newcomer Daniel Huttlestone (as Gavroche) all standing out particularly and only Russel Crowe being a bit wobbly in places vocally speaking, but his final scene in the film really over powers any previous issues as he gives us very effective and effecting dénouement to his tale.

That and, in many places, the camera work is excellent and takes the place of big dance numbers to lead us through songs with the performers, all of whom were singing live on set rather than being pre-recorded in a studio which gives the performances a much greater sense of immediacy than in many other musicals.

In the end Les Misérables is far from perfect, and is surely a bit overlong, but is certainly worth watching as well for its sense of style and the performances on offer.

And, well because why not and so you know what I’m getting at, here’s a bit of Sir Digby Chicken Caeser…

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