Patrick Stewart

Review: Logan

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Review: Logan

James Mangold’s Logan is the definitive Wolverine movie. Subdued, mature, contemplative and brutal, Logan arguably could be called the best X-Men movie, period. It’s Hugh Jackman’s tenth on screen portrayal of Wolverine, three in his own personal films. This marks the end of an era; we watch Jackman and Patrick Stewart bow out, as their time as X-Men comes to close. What could have been another throw away comic book movie ends up having more in common with a John Wayne western than a mutant laced action flick. This is by far one of the best comic book movies to date and will go down in history as such.

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Patrick Stewart loves email, not so much Twitter

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In the video preview below of FRONTLINE’s Digital_Nation, Patrick Stewart explains why its not his style to talk to people in only 140 characters or less in Twitter.  Also, he explains why he loves his iPhone and e-mail.  Even though he’s putting down Twitter, which is what I think is a great piece of communication technology, the way how he says it so eloquently just makes me nod and say “ok.” Damn you and your awesome voice.  Maybe when Twitter converts to HD, he’ll join us “Twatters.”

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X2: X-Men United

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Long time readers (well, since July 2000) know how much I loathed the first X-Men movie. Don’t bother writing in and complaining again – you had your chance. Jeez, fanboys sure are touchy. So it should come as no surprise that I only saw this sequel as part of my constant supreme sacrifice for you, Constant Readers, as part of my painful duty to my loyal fans and eager detractors. I will say this: X2 is WAY better than the first one.

With a cast of this many old and new characters, some of whom blatantly contradict their four-color origins, it would be easy for the film to do a Batman Forever and just be a freak parade of Show & Tell Your Power. Naturally, we get some showing off, and maybe some of it was needlessly ostentatious, but no more than expected. Director Bryan Singer (Usual Suspects) occasionally wants his characters to be real, despite the pointy wigs, and so he de-comics the; but then he wants the flick of the wrist and the floopy cape and The Look (you know, the blank stare when the director is yelling into the megaphone “and then the huge effect barrels down on you!”) He alternates between making his mutants very real & fleshed out, and incredibly comic booky. It’s hard to tell if he’s holding back into for intrigue or just had lazy writers. He never really commits to either extreme, which was only occasionally vexing.

Overall and thankfully, all the action served the story. That’s all I really ask, you know? Another yummy if inconclusive scene of Ian McClellan and Patrick Stewart matching wits, Hugh Jackman in a dangerously strained undershirt, and Nightcrawler was enough to keep me awake and in the theatre. Very excellent effects, nicely designed and rendered and executed, far better than the first one (which did have good effects). All of them – CGI, wirework, pyrotechnics, the extras, and all of it.. The writing was still aimless and weak, but not insulting. The character’s problems dissipated as soon as they saw light of day, so it was odd having even brought up the problem if it was to be solved so easily.

They gave me what I asked for after the first one, which was less inane banter and meaningless non-plot strung between action sequences. Here, we have action sequences that are largely related to each other and even kind of matter. Nightcrawler was cool – Alan Cumming is always cool, but his makeup and powers did not overshadow his dialogue and acting and very very awesome introductory sequence. I loved every second he was on screen.

My only real problem, and it might just be me, but I know it wasn’t *only* me, was how totally disengaged I was from the people. I didn’t care about anyone and no one wanted to make me try (except Nightcrawler). Even when the fates of a billion or more innocents hung in the balance, I couldn’t quite turn on the empathy. And I cry at Kodak commercials, I can suspend disbelief like no one’s business. I felt lost, like there was a movie between the last one and this, with lost of people, particularly Wolverine, covering huge amounts of informational ground.

The acting was almost uniformly great. As my companion brilliantly noted, we’d “like to see all these actors together in a different movie.” The new(ish) bad guy Striker (Brian Cox) is a great grizzled egotist of a baddie with a painfully obvious grudge.

Any movie where people can do extra-ordinary things in our ordinary world will not be able to help fire the imagination. Sometimes it’s frustrating, when say, Aquaman ends up being the one trapped in the fish tank and Magnet Man ends up in the knife factory. It would of course be more of a challenge to see their situations reversed. But our intrepid X-Men get into some scrapes and work together with their unique skills, which helped reduce the “that was lucky” factor. I was a little disappointed in the reliance on mindreading/psychokinetic in the story, it always feels like a cheat. It’s generally watchable, totally disposable, but passable.

MPAA Rating PG-13
Release date 5/2/03
Time in minutes 134
Director Bryan Singer
Studio 20th Century Fox

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Star Trek: Nemesis

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I must say up front that I am a Trekker, specifically Next Generation cast and I don’t wear costumes to premieres. What I like best about Star Trek movies in general (unlike say, the X Files movie) is they operate on a higher level than the episodes, but complement and/or add to the existing lore. I am also a subscriber to the even/odd numbered quality meter for Star Trek films; i.e. even numbered ones good, odd ones bad. Until now.

This cast has always had delightful ensemble on the small and big screens, and previous directors have taken advantage of this chemistry and their acting pedigrees as well. To the degree that this script allows it, they have that chemistry again; but the script is pretty bad, and has no focus. Not only does this film not complement or add to the vast existent Trek universe, it actually sucks material from other films (bad and good) and puts a big stain on the carefully built Trek universe. Ecch.

After a forced, pseudo-merry introduction, the film proceeds (misguidedly) to try and emulate the empirical colonialism vibe of the most recent Star Wars crap, including meaningless CGI work, heavy reliance on our familiarity with the characters, blatant disregard for the existing knowledge base of the series, and even a freakin’ firefight in a corridor. (When you see it, as I know you suckers for punishment will, you will know exactly what corridor I mean.) The “central conflict” is between two planets (Romulus and Remus) we have never cared about, one of which has apparently been enslaving or keeping down the other in the name of commerce. Oh, but we are ultimately supposed to sympathize with the enslaving capitalists! But that is actually far secondary to the cosmic, personal struggle that screenwriter John Logan (Bats) has in store for us. Ooh I am all atremble.

The titular Nemesis is a – well, I don’t want to give anything away, but it rhymes with bone. The film seems to think the big shocker is pretty obvious, and then crabs about having to tell us. It’s like a bad comedian having to explain a joke that was never funny in the first place. When bee-stung lipped Shinzon (Tom Hardy) appears, it’s really only obvious he’s a bad guy who’s taken fashion tips from Ming the Merciless. Maybe it’s the “Hello, My Name Is Dr. Evil” name tag.

I can’t even go into all the humongous reasons why Data’s Little Orphan Android subplot is irritating, but for the fans I’ll say this: What about Lore?

The film annoys far more people than it entertains, and only raises questions to which we don’t care to have the answer. Most of Nemesis has the same arrogant blandness that George Lucas has perfected, which is of course, bad. I have generally preferred Star Trek to Star Wars for Trek’s non-mythologizing of goodness and cooperation. Trek was founded on the ideals of solving the world’s current problems and exploration and cooperation. Star Wars (see previous reviews) enlists a theocratic elite to battle the imperialist pigs. Sure, it’s all down to taste. But the movies are marked with differing standards of creativity. Trek gives me Vulcans and Borg. Wars gives me Jabba the Hut and Jar Jar and tie-ins. Nemesis gives me more of Jabba’s motiveless random craziness and not enough good stuff like Q; mischief with reasoning. Instead, we have RSC vet Patrick Stewart wasting his sublime and masterful character on scenes with Mini Me. And the music – what the hell is that?

Brent Spiner (with a writing credit) throws away some potential actorly moments, and thankfully I didn’t miss his big moment despite dozing off during the big last battle scene; director Stuart Baird (Tomb Raider) didn’t grab the dramatic brass ring when he could have. Nemesis is an aggravatingly middling movie, which practically guarantees there will be no more in the future. I am very disappointed.

MPAA Rating PG-13
Release date 12/13/02
Time in minutes 116
Director Stuart Baird
Studio Paramount

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X-Men: The Last Stand

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I should preface this review with the fact that several of my friends have come forward and admitted to liking this movie. I admit being utterly mystified by this news, and have steeled myself for the consequences of my really being wildly unimpressed by the movie. I read some X-Men comics in my high school years, and I have a higher than average comic-geek compatibility, especially for a female. I know who most of the characters are and I have always had a healthy respect for the series, oft-times based on the reverence with which it is discussed among my friends. At worst, with Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan, I expected it to be disappointing. I was braced from preview one of the X-Men for it to utterly blow, Schumacher-Batman style, and I will admit that it was not remotely as crappy as the last two Batman movies. However, it learned very little from that franchise.

The sets were cool, the effects were cool, but these days, with technology being what it is, we really shouldn’t be as wowed by stunning effects, as willing to forgive slapdash storytelling in the face of amazing visuals. The X-Men has some good visuals, but certainly not of titanic proportions enough to make you ignore the goofy one liners, stuttering storyline, thinly drawn characters (except Rogue) and the resulting inexplicable mess. Anna Paquin (you know, the Oscar-winning teen from The Piano) is the erstwhile lead of the movie, and if it had been part one of many films, focusing on her and discovering her X-Personitude and some dramatic “There are four lights!” type scenes with Patrick Stewart, well, I would have been happy. Instead, we have this fairly transparent humans vs. mutants tolerance theme, coupled with an intra-mutant community fracas, inexplicable and uninteresting. If the humans are ganging up on the mutants, why would the mutants then war amongst themselves? Most otherwise decent movies with a glaring plot flaw are totally uninteresting to me. For example – what should have been a cool, stylish thriller, Shallow Grave – just call the freaking cops, you didn’t do anything! An entire movie about something stupid.

Anyway, I am not saying X-Men is devoid of watchability – but when you start stringing together adequate set pieces with flimsy ridiculous reasoning, I can’t care. My friends know I can suspend my disbelief with the best of anyone – so you out there who don’t know me, please don’t think I was turned off by the mutant angle. Indeed, I wanted more mutants, more “how did we get here,” less inane banter and less motiveless silliness. The opening scene was very cool and it set me up to think the rest of the movie would be as well. Rogue interested me (despite rolling my eyes at a normal American teen calling herself Rogue *before* she is inducted into a group. Comics/graphic novels toe a very delicate line – you either have to downplay the silly stuff (I mean, can’t Cyclops wear the cool, regular-guy shades when he’s in public instead of that silly Geordi LaForge getup?) or totally work it – a la Jack Nicholson’s Joker.

You cast two fantastic actors (three if you count Paquin), McKellan and Stewart, and you keep them apart the majority of the movie? You slap a Flash Gordon rugby helmet on a Shakespearean master and expect him to out-emote it? No no no. I did enjoy very much the comic bookish (I regret not having my random X-Men comics handy to quote an artist) production design – swooping lines and gleaming metal, forbidding hallways and groovy overdone lighting. Storm looks ready to hit the red line sale at Express and the ink is still wet on Cyclops’ cK One contract. Wolverine looked like an Australian bouncer, which is good, but he was kinda more like a Labrador than a carrion-rending marmot. I was disappointed, but nearly not as much as I thought I would be. It’s obvious there will be a sequel, and maybe then they will make the movie for the people who don’t know the X-Men well and who need a little depth in their film characters.

MPAA Rating PG-13
Release date 7/14/00
Time in minutes 104
Director Bryan Singer
Studio 20th Century Fox