Directed by: James Mangold
Produced by: Hutch Parker, Simon Kinberg, Lauren Shuler Donner
Screenplay by: Scott Frank, James Mangold, Michael Green
Story by: James Mangold
Edited by: Michael McCusker, Dirk Westervelt
Cinematography by: John Mathieson
Music by: Marco Beltrami
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Dafne Keen, Boyd Holbrook, Stephen Merchant, Richard E. Grant, Eriq La Salle, Elise Neal, Elizabeth Rodriguez, Jayson Genao
Released in 2000, about 3 years after the abomination known as Batman & Robin seemingly killed off the superhero film genre, the first X-Men, even more so than its 1998 predecessor Blade, proved that comic book superhero movies really could find new life in cinemas, provided that the filmmakers took their subjects seriously. While Fox’s X-Men films have had more than their fair share of stumbles, particularly last year’s massively disappointing X-Men: Apocalypse as well as more egregious works like X-Men Origins: Wolverine and The Last Stand, they have also proven that the studio is willing to take some bold chances, too, rebooting and reorienting timelines with period films, or greenlighting a breakout R-rated comedy action film that proved that risks sometimes pay off with Deadpool. By far, however, the breakout element out of any of these films has been Hugh Jackman as Wolverine, who has been a constant presence throughout all these films from the very beginning, appearing in films even when his presence wasn’t necessarily needed because the studio knew he was just that good in the role. Hugh Jackman’s a talented guy, no doubt, but we’re all curious about whether or not it would have been as good as it has been had it not been for his casting in the first X-Men film – something that both nearly didn’t happen and was once a controversial decision at the time due to Jackman’s height betraying the comic character’s usually small stature. That was over 17 years ago, however, and now we’re facing the end of an era, with Jackman declaring Logan will be his final film as the iconic berserker. And thank God for that, as I think we’d all be disappointed if his cameo in Apocalypse was the end and not the phenomenal Logan – a film that may very well be the best superhero adaptation since The Dark Knight. Read more…
Produced by: Bryan Singer, Lauren Shuler Donner, Simon Kinberg, Hutch Parker
Screenplay by: Simon Kinberg
Edited by: John Ottman, Michael Louis Hill
Cinematography by: Newton Thomas Sigel
Music by: John Ottman
Starring: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Oscar Isaac, Nicholas Hoult, Rose Byrne, Tye Sheridan, Sophie Turner, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Evan Peters, Alexandra Shipp, Olivia Munn, Ben Hardy, Lucas Till, Josh Helman, Lana Condor, Tomas Lemarquis, Hugh Jackman
Based on the Marvel comics created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby
I actually didn’t initially intend on reviewing this, considering the number of superhero movies I’ve reviewed lately as well as the fact that, apart from The Wolverine, I haven’t reviewed any previous X-Men movies, and this was the third in the rebooted timeline series. However, in the wake of seeing it and thinking on it for about a day, I just couldn’t help myself, because I seriously needed to get this out of me in some way beyond nagging the one friend of mine who saw it with me. Read more…
Produced by: Lauren Shuler Donner, Jennie Lew Tugend, Richard Donner, Arnon Milchan
Written by: Keith A. Walker, Corey Blechman
Edited by: O. Nicholas Brown
Cinematography by: Robbie Greenberg
Music by: Basil Poledouris; Michael Jackson (theme)
Starring: Jason James Richter, Lori Petty, Jayne Atkinson, August Schellenberg, Michael Madsen, Michael Ironside, Mykelti Williamson, Michael Bacall, Keiko
Man, I remember a time when I could watch this movie and not think of all the horrors that went on at SeaWorld, don’t you? Thank you, Blackfish, for making the message behind Free Willy so devastatingly real now that I’m a grown man. I hate you.
All kidding aside, however, this was probably one of the first pieces of media with an activist message kids from my era ever watched outside of a “very special episode” of one of their favorite TV shows. (And that was probably the episode of Fresh Prince where Carlton bought the gun after Will was mugged.) Free Willy was the movie that dared us to care about the remarkable relationship between a troubled young boy named Jesse who just desperately needs someone to love him and set a good example for him and his unexpected friendship with a tenacious whale who was taken away from his own family and put on display for a world that doesn’t fully understand him. Read more…
Produced by: Lauren Shuler Donner, Hugh Jackman, Hutch Parker, John Palermo
Written by: Mark Bomback, Scott Frank
Edited by: Michael McCusker
Cinematography by: Ross Emery
Music by: Marco Beltrami
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Tao Okamoto, Rila Fukushima, Hiroyuki Sanada, Will Yun Lee, Svetlana Khodchenkova, Brian Tee, Haruhiko (“Hal”) Yamanouchi, Ken Yamamura, Famke Janssen
Based on volume one of the comic book Wolverine by Chris Claremont
It’s pretty telling that the filmmakers were confident enough in their hero that they felt like they could ditch the entire X-Men moniker for the film and coast solely upon the loner mutant who has been the team’s most famous member, Wolverine. The previous attempt (what was to be one of many) to cash in on the clawed Canuck, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, was without a doubt one of the messiest attempts to cash in on the X-Men and superhero craze, but its relative success at the box office, despite being behind the previous two X-Men films, proved that, as with comic book fans, the character had just as much staying power with movie audiences beyond his relationships to his teammates. Obviously, this meant that a sequel would be put into production – even as the series would ditch the whole X-Men Origins pretense (with the next entry, Magneto, being put down with a plastic bullet) and go in a decidedly new, exciting, and largely well-received direction with the period film, X-Men: First Class. Read more…
Produced by: Nora Ephron, Lauren Shuler Donner
Written by: Nora Ephron, Delia Ephron
Cinematography by: John Lindley
Music by: George Fenton
Starring: Tom Hanks, Meg Ryan, Parker Posey, Jean Stapleton, Greg Kinnear, Steve Zahn, Heather Burns, Dave Chappelle
Based on the play Illatszertár (trans. “Parfumerie”) by Miklós László
When I had heard that Nora Ephron passed away not too long ago on June 26, I knew that I had to do a tribute review for her. It’s not that I was a huge fan of her, her films, her plays, or even her widely acclaimed various writings. From my earliest memories of becoming a fan of films, Nora Ephron was among one of the earliest names in film credits that I recognized consistently outside the much more widely recognizable names like Spielberg and Robert Zemeckis. This was largely thanks in part to my mom, who was a fan of many of the films she did make, especially Sleepless in Seattle.
I originally planned on reviewing Sleepless in Seattle, in fact, which was Ephron’s second film as director and first widely acclaimed film. It also happened to be the only film of hers that I had in my library, and only then due to the fact that my mom had somehow managed to have two copies and so, you know, why not? But, though it is not at all a bad film, I must confess that my already limited affection for it has waned over the years, primarily thanks to the Meg Ryan character going completely unrecognized as an insane woman who seriously needs help. Needless to say, after re-watching it for the purposes of a review after not seeing it for several years, I felt as though I wasn’t doing the director justice in writing up a review of a film that I began to see as, well, enjoyable but quite mediocre.
Luckily, I found justification in buying up one of her other films — one that I genuinely love. At $9.99 on Amazon and featuring a DVD copy of the older film, The Shop Around the Corner, which also borrows its story from the same Miklós László’s stage play, You’ve Got Mail was a steal, and its purchase a cathartic experience for me. You see, as a guy, it was hard to admit it for a while but, yes, I genuinely have the whole guilty pleasure thing going on with this movie. Read more…
Now we come to a portion of the list that, by pure coincidence, I am dubbing the nerdiest portion of my list. Three comic book films and a semi-obscure sci-fi film from a director who did an even more obscure sci-fi film with Sam Rockwell a few years ago.
This was the final year in which we got pre-Avengers films for the last two superheroes who would be getting them (with Hawkeye and Black Widow likely to be given their own post-Avengers films after that is an undoubtable success), and it was also the year that superhero films began to experiment with formulas, styles, and audience taste.
The three comic book films here largely exemplify what studios need to strive for in order to keep this genre alive and interesting, while the other film, the more obscure film, is itself a great example of using a familiar genre and its tropes to catapult a film into a touching and yet still intriguing human story.
7. Thor (May 6)
When The Avengers were slated to get their film debut sometime in the future, I doubt anyone could have thought that this film would be any good, let alone be better than either of the Hulk’s two major film adaptations (though I did still pretty much like 2008’s take). While nobody really balked at the thought of adapting the story of a radioactive scientist who, you know, hulks out when he gets angry into an entertaining film (likely thanks to that character’s familiarity to audiences through various smaller mediums, especially the Bill Bixby/Lou Ferrigno 70s TV series), somehow the story of the tortured dichotomy of Bruce Banner and the Hulk comes off as far more believable and, more importantly, relatable on a metaphorical level than Thor — a being who, depending on what version you go with, is either from a parallel dimension who inspired the Norse god of thunder or, more classically, actually is the god of thunder himself. Read more…