Now Playing Third Class

By: Jeff Ford
By: Jeff Ford

Previewing The Wolverine, Fruitvale Station, and The Way Way Back

 As I sit here, staring at the blank word page in front of me, a thought occurred.  Does anybody even read this?  For the past two years, I’ve poured my soul into these blogs and for what?  My Facebook ads register clicks but there’s not much statistics to show on my Wordpress account.  There are many times, the only visitor is me.  So why do I keep going on?  What is it that drives me forward?

 

It’s not the recent batch of movies, that’s for sure.  I used to enjoy heading off to the theater and watch titans battle each other on the large screen.  Now I get more enjoyment out of the Redbox and my decent sized screen.  Almost every event film feels the same these days.  There are hardly any risks taken by studios.  Instead they rely on “pre-sold” franchises (or the sure thing in laymen terms).  That’s why there’s a deluge of sequels, comic book movies, and Young Adult films like Twilight and The Hunger Games.  They only choose the things that they feel are guaranteed to put butts in the seats.  And they choose to do it in the safest of ways.  But sometimes we as an audience have shown that this is what we prefer.  Pacific Rim represents the most original of films this summer, and the American masses have chosen to reject it.  Instead, they catapulted the lowest common denominator comedy Grown-Ups 2 to a higher box office gross (but not number one.  Another sequel took that honor).

 

With the recent disappointments (if not outright flops) of The Lone Ranger, R.I.P.D., After Earth, and (unfortunately) Pacific Rim, maybe Hollywood will receive the wake-up call that audiences are trying to send.  We don’t want safe blockbusters whose budgets could finance a small nation.  We don’t want to see the same stuff over and over again.  Give us something new and exciting. Don’t micromanage your tent pole films until they are bland and uninteresting.  And spread out your movies so we don’t become fatigued.  But I have a feeling the only lesson studio executives will take from this is the audience wants more sequels.  A glance at the summer slate of 2015 is all I need to know that will be the case.  After all, there’s The Avengers, Star Wars, Terminator, Jurassic Park, Pirates of the Caribbean, Kung-Fu Panda, The Hunger Games, Finding Dory, Avatar, and now you can add to the list Superman/Batman (those are simply the ones I could think up off the top of my head.  I’m sure there’s bound to be more).  Something is going to break that summer, and I’m hoping it’s not me.

 

So what does bring me to write these blogs every week?  I think it’s because there’s still magic left in films.  I love it when something comes along that’s unexpected and takes me on an adventure.  And I want to share my experiences when it happens.  It may take a while to sift through the rubble but once in a while a gem shall shine.  And I want everyone to know about it.  (AKA, go see Pacific Rim).

 

With that out of the way, let’s stumble forward through another film from a pre-sold franchise.

 

THE WOLVERINE

 

Summoned to Japan by an old acquaintance, Wolverine becomes embroiled in a conflict that forces him to confront his own demons.  *

 

The Good – I have just spent the past 500 words bashing unoriginality in today’s movies, and now here I go to prove myself a hypocrite.  I loved the first two X-Men movies, with First Class doing a lot to right the ship of the franchise.  Now we come to another stand-alone adventure starring everybody’s favorite Canadian mutant.  The first one, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, was an abysmal movie, one that had almost soured me to this series completely.  Hoping to right the sinking ship that was buoyed by First Class, they hire James Mangold as director of this new film, along with three great writers (including Usual Suspects scribe and Jack Reacher director Christopher McQuarrie).  James Mangold helmed the great western remake 3:10 to Yuma as well as the Johnny Cash biopic Walk the Line (we’ll just overlook Knight and Day for now).  He may not be a Darren Aronofsky (the original director) but he’s a fine substitute.  Not to mention the storyline being told has been considered one of, if not the best, story arcs for Wolverine.  No serious discussion of the character can be held without mentioning his time in Japan.

 

The Bad- There is lethargy to the marketing.  The trailers, while not lackluster, don’t show much that can get a fan excited.  And when I talk with others about it, there’s a feeling that they prefer to wait until it’s on DVD.  The fatigue of the summer is striking hard, and The Wolverine may be one of its harshest casualties.  It’s sure to win number one in the box office this week, but I’m curious as to how much it will end up making.  This is one of the mysteries I’ll be waiting for when the final tallies come in.

 

The Ugly – Here I can make a sweet Red Dawn joke, but with its horrible remake, I just don’t have the heart.  Poor Swayze.  You deserved better.

 

The Wolverine is rated PG-13 for sequences of intense sci-fi action and violence, some sexuality and language.

 

FRUITVALE STATION

 

The true story of Oscar, a 22-year-old Bay Area resident, who crosses paths with friends, enemies, family, and strangers on the last day of 2008.  *

 

Brief Thoughts – From what little I know of this incident, it’s a complete travesty.  I’m going to refrain from making any comments outside of the previous sentence, instead insisting that my fellow readers learn more about this and make up their own minds.  The movie does look interesting and it won the Audience and the Grand Jury prize at this year’s Sundance Film Festival.

 

Fruitvale Station is rated R for some violence, language throughout and some drug use.

 

THE WAY WAY BACK

 

14-year-old Duncan vacations with his mother, her overbearing boyfriend, and his daughter. Having a rough time fitting in, Duncan finds an unexpected friend in Owen, manager of the Water Wizz water park.  *

 

Brief Thoughts – The Academy Award writing team of The Descendants (my pick for best film two years ago) wrote and directed this coming-of-age tale.  I liked the trailer.  I may not have time to go to the theaters to see it, but I’ll definitely catch it once it hits DVD.  It reminds me of Adventureland, a film that I feel is completely underrated.  It looks to have just the right touch of sentimental schmaltz.

 

The Way Way Back is rated PG-13 for thematic elements, language, some sexual content and brief drug material.

 

That will do for this week.  Tune in next time when… uggg…  Smurfs 2.  Until then, SNIKT!!!

 

*all movies summaries taken from IMDB.com.

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