‘The Wolverine’ – What Did You Think?

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After years of development, the second standalone film featuring Marvel’s favorite claw-wielding mutant is here. The Wolverine had a hell of a development path, but finally came together with Hugh Jackman reprising the title role under the direction of James Mangold. Their inspiration was the mini-series by Chris Claremont and Frank Miller that cemented Wolverine’s popularity in the early ’80s.

The team took quite a few liberties with Claremont/Miller — characters are changed, and with them so are some of the broad strokes of the story — but there’s a definite path that links the films.

Is that link, along with the film’s other positive factors, enough to make this one work? Let us know below — what did you think of The Wolverine? Is this a lot better than the first standalone movie, or just a bit better? (It can’t possibly be worse; on that point I think everyone can agree.) As always with posts of this sort, spoilers are encouraged in the comment thread below.

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‘World War Z’ – What Did You Think?

Brad Pitt World War Z

In 2006, author Max Brooks released a book with an amazing premise and an even better title. World War Z, the book, was billed as an “oral history of the zombie war.” It told fictionalized stories of people’s experiences looking back at zombie apocalypse and how humanity ultimately triumphed. Actor Brad Pitt‘s production company almost immediately picked up the movie rights and director Marc Forster was attached in 2008. From there, the film went through several different incarnations before finally going in front of cameras in 2011.

Then, during production, controversy once again surrounded the film. We already knew Brooks’ structure had been jettisoned for a more straight-forward approach by now, millions of dollars and weeks of reshoots were ordered. Turns out, Paramount had hired a new team to rewrite a major section of the film hoping to create a more satisfying experience.

The gamble paid off. A mere eight years after Brooks’ book was released, World War Z is now in theaters. Though reviews haven’t been uniformly positive, most agree Forster and Pitt have made a decent film. It’s certainly the most epic zombie film ever made in terms of scope, but it does have some issues. What did you think of World War Z? Was it entertaining? Did you like the reported changes? Listen to the /Filmcast review here and talk about the film below.

Monsters University Mike

Pixar Animation Studios has created a monster and it’s not named either Mike or Sulley. It’s called “expectations.” After pretty much a decade of flawless excellence, the creators of Toy Story, Cars, Finding Nemo, Up, The Incredibles and so much more hit a bit of a critical rough patch. 2010′s Toy Story 3 was their most successful film of all-time, grossing over $1 billion worldwide. That was followed by Cars 2 and Brave. Each were financially successful, and Brave even won the Oscar for Best Animated Feature, but many Pixar fans were disappointed. They looked ahead to 2013 for the next chance at Pixar perfection.

That chance comes this weekend with the release of Dan Scanlon‘s Monsters University. The film comes not only with the baggage of Pixar’s last two films, but the fact that it’s the company’s first prequel. That’s a lot to live up to. As reviews were released over the past few weeks, reactions have been decidedly mixed. Some, like me, praised it as a return to the glory of Pixar. Others have dismissed it as a sub-par cash grab with little heart or emotion. Personally, I have no idea how anyone could come to that latter reaction, but we’d love to hear your thoughts on the film below.

Is Monsters University a return to the Pixar of old? Or is this their third questionable film in a row? Read our review here, listen to the /Filmcast review here and tell us what you think in the comments below.

‘Man of Steel’ – What Did You Think?

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There’s little question that Zack Snyder‘s Man of Steel is, at least on the surface, the movie that fans have been asking for. It has a solid performance from Henry Cavill in the lead role, a few great talents orbiting him in important supporting roles (notably Amy Adams, Kevin Costner and Michael Shannon), and the biggest, hardest-hitting depiction of super-powered action ever to hit a movie screen.

For some people, that — along with a detailed, wild vision of Krypton, and a revision of Superman’s origin — is probably enough to lock this as one of the best screen incarnations of the character. There’s a lot more than that to talk about in Man of Steel, however. So weigh in below, and tell us what you think of the film. Spoilers are encouraged below.

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‘This Is the End’ – What Did You Think?

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Who coulda guessed that the best comedy of the summer might involve a bunch of actors facing the Biblical end of the world? Years ago Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg and Jay Baruchel (with Jason Stone) made a trailer for an imaginary movie called Jay and Seth Versus the Apocalypse, and this week they released the feature expansion of the idea. Rogen and Goldberg wrote and co-directed, each making their feature debut as directors.

This Is the End sees six actors — Rogen, Baruchel, Jonah Hill, Craig Robinson, Danny McBride, and James Franco — trapped in Franco’s house when a raging party is interrupted by the Rapture. The movie has all the lewd and vulgar jokes you’d expect from that crew of actors, but also pokes sly fun at celebrity, and wraps all the goofy humor around a genuinely moral core.

It’s not the movie you expect, and it is funny as hell. Man of Steel is the big attention-getter this weekend, but don’t overlook This Is the End. After you’ve seen the film, chime in below to tell us what you thought about the movie. As always with these pieces, spoilers are fully encouraged. Read More »

‘Fast & Furious 6′ – What Did You Think?

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Cast your mind back to the release of 2 Fast 2 Furious, a film that was derided from nearly all corners, and then look at this week’s release of Fast & Furious 6. It took a decade, but Universal’s car-racing franchise has evolved into “event” status. Whether you like the films or not, there’s no arguing that under the stewardship of Justin Lin, who took over as director with the third movie, this series of films has exploded as a fan favorite. Lin knows how to manage action, and he’s had a long-term plan to consistently up the ante on that front.

Much more importantly, Lin realized that consistent characters are what bring people back to the films. He talked Vin Diesel back into the fold and then developed a suite of characters to fill out four individual films that ultimately work as one interlocked narrative. It’s an action-movie soap opera, sure, but one featuring precisely the sort of reliance on character that very few other action series get right.

The sixth film pushes outward in every direction: there are more characters and amped-up drama, and the action setpieces are more improbable and ridiculous than ever. Fast & Furious 6 won’t ever be held up as a major moral statement, but there’s a lot to be said for the series’ general tendency to trumpet values in friendship and family. There’s a sense of values here that could also be present in, say, the Die Hard movies, if the last couple McClane sequels weren’t such botch jobs.

With Fast & Furious 6 in theaters now, we’re curious to know how you feel about the film. Does the action work, and do the interlinked stories and characters provide enough meat to flesh out all the time between setpieces? Let us know in the comments below, where spoilers are allowed and encouraged. Read More »

Star Trek Into Darkness - Spock and Kirk

It’s in theaters now, and all the secrets are out in the open. Star Trek Into Darkness, the second Trek film from J.J. Abrams, has been locked (mostly) in the producer/director’s “mystery box” for over a year. For hardcore fans, at least, the secrecy around the precise nature of the character played by Benedict Cumberbatch has been a big part of the marketing allure, but the energy Abrams and his cast brought to their first outing on the Enterprise has been enough to make a huge audience curious about their encore.

And in the end, the irony is that, while there was a type of secret to preserve with respect to the character, in the end he plays a weird role in the plot. (There’s a certain kinship to Iron Man 3 in that respect.)

Abrams has said that he wanted to make Star Trek for people who aren’t Star Trek fans, and in that respect he might have succeeded. Into Darkness has a few well-executed setpieces, and loads of the same winning cast presence that made the first Abrams Trek a success. But does it work? Does the film’s wide divergence from many well-established Trek characteristics fly, and does it even really matter who Cumberbatch is playing? Weigh in below, where full spoilers are in force. Read More »

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We’ve come to know Michael Bay as the maestro behind a very specific type of huge movie, as he has defined the image of  glossy pictures full of gorgeous women and explosions. His work, as that suggests, isn’t really known for subtlety.

But since before Bay latched on to the Transformers franchise, he has wanted to shoot a film based on the story of a few Miami bodybuilders who concocted a plan to kidnap a businessman and steal his wealth. Years later, that story has become Bay’s “little movie,” Pain & Gain, starring Mark Wahlberg, Anthony Mackie, and Dwayne Johnson. The movie isn’t likely to change Bay’s image, but it does represent something (slightly) different from the director. Reviews have been coming in for a few days, but now we want to know what you think about Bay’s true-crime tale. Read More »

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