Logan – Well Exceeded My Expectation

I am a fan of all things Marvel. For some strange reasons, I have not watched the previous installments of the Wolverine standalone movie series. But when I saw the poster, with Wolverine carrying a young girl against a sunset backdrop – how poetic by the way – I have got to watch this. My wife asked, “Who’s that girl?”. “She could be Laura,” I answered and then added, “X-23?”

Logan

Those who have read the Marvel’s X-Men series must have heard of X-23. She is Wolverine’s clone, with some subtle differences. An awesome character on her own. She is also the All-New-Wolverine. So yes. Being able to see her early years on screen is a big deal.

Unlike other Marvel movies I have watched, Logan doesn’t have those big budget explosion and city-wide / worldwide / galaxy-wide destruction. It isn’t drowned with special effects (sure, those claws ain’t real but you get what I mean). In fact, Logan doesn’t even wear his costume. I don’t recall anyone does. I get to see the characters’ expression all the time.

There is plenty of raw emotion. One could even shed a tear or two towards the end. It is good to be reminded that while special effects don’t usually leave a lasting impression, emotion and good acting often does. I am glad that my wife and I got a chance to watch this in a theater.

X-Men: Days of Future Past Is Amazing

X-Men Days of the Future Past

A bunch of us who are playing this Marvel themed online game were super excited for a get together event to watch X-Men Days of Future Past. Some of us have not met each other before the show. But one passion binds us together – Marvel. So we met up. All of us were kind of surprised at how we look like in real life. For example, one best known as Iron-Man is actually pretty hilarious in person. And Dr. Strange is a lot taller than I thought. They in turn were marveled at my ‘multi-tone’ hair highlight and that I am much – shall I say – matured looking than who they think I am. What they don’t know is that my hair was having this special effect even during my younger years. It is just a matter of days of my present past. What do they think of Rocket Raccoon a.k.a. my wife? Err. OK. Next.

I did not like the previous X-Men movie back in 2011. But you know me. Short term memory. And I am always excited by what is to come. The story is set in the future, when the war between the mutants (and the humans that side with them) and the sentinels is almost over. Mutants are facing extinction. The future is bleak. What an incredible fight for survival these mutants have put up against the formidable foes. The amount of teamwork is amazing. Blink (Fan Bingbing) opens up portals at strategic places, Colossus goes in for the punch. Iceman and Sunspot tackle the enemies with ice and fire. Storm powers Bishop’s weapon and Bishop goes in for the kill at range. Even with such teamwork the mutants are not able to take down the sentinels. Because the sentinels manage to absorb and adapt to the mutants’ power. It is always Shadowcat (Ellen Page) sending Bishop back in time to warn the mutants so as to avert the attack (now, I had no idea that Kitty Pryde has this sort of power!). That breathtaking last moment between victory and total annihilation.

But the mutants are tired of running. Professor X and Magneto have decided to send Wolverine back into the past and prevent that one single event that led to where they are in the future – the capture of Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence). Eventually her DNA was being studied and used to enhance the sentinels as the ultimate mutant killing machines.

The story is intriguing. Although it may not be considered as a true Marvel story – since it is common to have alternative realities when it comes to Marvel characters -I found the plot of Days of Future Past acceptable. It has also undone some of the unpopular movie endings in the past through time travel. So I am cool with it and am looking forward to more X-Men movies.

The casting is fantastic. Hugh Jackman is so perfect for the role as Wolverine. Both the younger versions of Professor X and Magneto have done well too. Key to the story is Mystique. I was unsure how our Hunger Game heroine Jennifer Lawrence would perform as a blue mutant. She has handled the multidimensional character well. Being someone strong but yet emotionally fragile, threading a thin line that separates the good and the evil. She has a decision to make. Can she change the future? This movie got me hooked from beginning to end.

Les Miserables – A Musical On Screen

I love this musical!

Les Misérables is one of my favorite musicals.  I have listened to it for decades.  I know every track by heart as well as the lyrics within.  Tracks like I Dreamed a DreamThe ConfrontationCastle on a Cloud, and Do You Hear the People Sing – they move me every time I listen to them.  My friends told me that I should have watched the musical while I was studying in UK.  True.  But alas.  Back then, every penny counted.  Luxury was something for the future.  So, in short, I did not have the chance to visualize this musical, till yesterday when we watched Les Misérable, with the usual Movie Review Squad and two of our friends from Google+.  It was two men and three ladies.  The girls cried profoundly during the show.  I cried a little, inside.  TK cried for a totally different reason: Russell Crowe.

This movie stays more or less faithful to the original musical score.  To that end, I have enjoyed the delivery thoroughly because I am so familiar with the music.  On the flip side, since I have an exceptionally high expectation on how Javert, Valjean, Fantine, and Cosette should sound like, I feel somewhat let down by the fact that not all the actors in Les Misérables can sing musical scores.

Russell Crowe has played a stunningly convincing stern looking police inspector.  Almost as convincing as Geoffrey Rush in the 1998 film adaptation of the same musical.  Sadly, Russel Crowe is also the weakest singer among all.  I cringed uncomfortably whenever he sings.  Huge Jackman, on the other hand, has done a much better job as Valjean thanks to his experience in theater.  Combined that with his acting skill, some scenes are pretty powerful.  Amanda Seyfried takes up the role of the most loved character Cosette.  She has sung in the movie Mamma Mia!  She sings OK in Les Misérables.  Not spectacular but OK.

Anne Hathaway’s performance is a surprise to me.  I Dreamed a Dream and Fantine’s Death: Come to Me are so moving and I have enjoyed every moment of her acting.  She deserves to be recognized, especially for her act in I Dreamed a Dream.  Definitely the highlight of the entire film.

During the movie, I observed that actors’ lips match perfectly with the singing as though it was recorded live.  I read later on that the singing was indeed recorded live and the orchestral tracks were added as a post-production activity.  This would mean that the actors have to act and sing perfectly in one take for each song.  Pretty amazing.

After watching Les Misérables, one question I have is: Do we need movie stars for a musical film?  Or would real theater actors from this very musical do a much better job?  I suppose in a film format, star power and acting is as important as singing, if not more.  Many of the scenes that move me emotionally are performed by the movie stars.  It is a trade off I guess.

All in all, I am happy that finally, I get to put all the musical notes and lyrics that I have learned by heart all these years into faces and scenes, visually speaking.