Review: The Wolverine

The Wolverine

After X-Men Origins: Wolverine managed to tear asunder everyone’s favourite clawed antihero, shredding him limb from limb with antiquated set pieces and the nonchalant walking away from explosions worthy of Hollywood’s worst B-movies, you’d be forgiven for wondering if this X-Man might finally hang up the claws once and for all.

Alas, the Wolverine returns. Following the death of telepath Jean Grey and dissolution of the X-Men, Logan (Hugh Jackman) is now an unshaven recluse who finds himself amidst a feud in post-feudal Tokyo, upon greeting his old friend Yashida, whom he once saved during the atomic bombing of Nagasaki. Entrusted with protecting Yashida’s granddaughter Mariko from the Yakuza, a syndicate who are perhaps as unorganised as organised crime can be, this is big trouble in little Japan for our prickly protagonist.

Heed this warning: trailers beguile, for this is not the film many will be expecting. The premise that Wolverine’s healing ability has been removed is as redundant as it is short-lived, for Logan continues to slice and dice despite sustaining multiple gunshots and otherwise fatal blows. “‘Tis but a scratch,” the Black Knight from Monty Python would attest, and it’s as hard as ever to care about the self-destructive mutant, whose only threat of danger is a blunt minute or two during the climax of this edgeless escapade.

This wounded mortal’s most mortal wound, however, is the 12A rated leash bound tightly round his neck, stifling and suffocating the Wolverine, rendering him as vicious as a common housecat, as he is prevented from afflicting any degree of satisfying damage to his enemies. The lack of authentic mutilation and lacerations again leaves a pang of disappointment, as many will be left unsatisfied and thirsting for the blood that his adamantium appendages deserve. With a love interest as cold as his skeletal core, and a thoroughly uninspired and terribly brief appearance from the Silver Samurai adding insult to injury, it’s a truly dull affair.

Unfortunately, yet another solid performance from Jackman entrusted with a few sharp jokes sewn into this average adventure cannot suture the sense that Knight and Day director James Mangold has opened old wounds. Such a shame, really, considering the previous instalment to this superhero series propelled X-Men from second rate to First Class, regenerating the fast-paced fights and excellent character development that mutated in X2. Given there is a distinct lack of Ryan Reynolds, however, and some rather enjoyable (albeit formulaic) action sequences throughout, it’s still better than Origins. But then, most films are.

Indeed, it’s interesting that a film so preoccupied with death should condemn this uninteresting antihero to life support once more.

6/10

Dexter: The Story So Far

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Dexter, deliciously dark Dexter, the serial killer with a heart returns once more, for one blood-soaked season, one last time.

Time is ticking for Dexter Morgan, ticking away one episode at a time, and when the severed hand strikes twelve, the red curtain will fall upon Dexter and Miami Metro’s finest. The question is: who will survive, and what will be left of them..?

It’s been a long road, a road paved with shrink-wrapped bodies and good intentions. Disturbed and dysfunctional, Dexter is haunted by his past, preyed upon by bloodstained memories of his murdered mother, and his need to satisfy his Dark Passenger, the clawing need, the voice within.

A blood spatter analyst by day, and vengeful vigilante by night, Dexter follows Harry’s code, his adoptive father’s rules which help quench his thirst for blood; never kill an innocent, and most importantly, never get caught.

Dozens have died dramatically over the past seven seasons, as Dexter killed friends and foes alike, preserving but a droplet of blood from their faces which he keeps as a collection of blood slides – trophies. The cheek of it. From the Ice Truck Killer and Miguel Prado, to Jordan Chase and the Doomsday Killer, Dexter has danced with death for days, as his life is spent under a microscope, in more ways than one.

And with an interior monologue dripping with humour and irony, Dexter has often stood shoulder to shoulder with the likes of Breaking Bad and The Wire.

And then there’s Debra. Oh dearly devoted Debra. Although averting the apocalypse, revelations came to light as Dexter’s dirty deeds were witnessed by his doting sister, and Miami Metro’s latest Lieutenant was emotionally ravaged. At the end of the last sanguinary season, Debra’s worst fears manifested with a twisted Sophie’s choice; kill her brother, or kill her boss.

‘Kill my boss?’ Homer Simpson once asked. ‘Do I dare live out the American Dream?’. Six months later, however, Debra’s dreams appear shattered in the wake of those damaging decisions, as she is evidently shaken to her foul-mouthed core.

Having quit her job at Miami Metro, Deb now works for a private investigation company, whilst consuming copious amounts of cocaine and alcohol. ‘You made me compromise everything about myself that I care about’, she affirms to Dexter. ‘And I hate you for it’.

As Dexter descends deeper into darkness, and his life spirals further out of control, vacillating rapidly between loving father and self-appointed judge, jury and executioner, the cracks again begin to show in his once immaculate countenance. Seeing Dexter’s Dark Passenger take control as he flies into fits of rage is so very reminiscent of the riveting Trinity Killer saga, and we all know how that ended.

With Angel Batista returning from the world’s shortest retirement (surprise, surprise), and the usual suspects Joey Quinn and Vince Masuka back at work, it would be business as usual, if not for the appearance of Dr. Evelyn Vogel (Charlotte Rampling), a neuro-psychiatrist who appears to know an awful lot about our predatory protagonist.

Although Dexter is unlikely to reach the lofty heights of season four once more, if the first episode of this final season is anything to go by, this is, and always was, a cut above the usual television show.

It would be an absolute crime to miss it.

Review: Monsters University

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What’s that coming over the hill..?

Some people might argue that sequels are inherently fated to fail, forever doomed by the success of the original and inescapably lingering in their predecessor’s shadow. But for every Grease 2 and Speed 2: Cruise Control, there’s The Godfather Part II and The Empire Strikes Back. Pixar rather emphatically quashed such suggestions with Toy Story 2 and 3 – two sequels which (arguably) are as good, if not better than their animated ancestor. But is Pixar’s second monster mash a dead cert smash?

Pixar’s first prequel, Monsters University is an origin story of University adversity: when Mike met Sulley. Michael “Mike” Wazowski has dreamed of being the scariest scarer at Monsters, Inc ever since he was a little monster. Now a scare major, who isn’t majorly scary, Mike begins University and meets James P. “Sulley” Sullivan – a furry, blue giant who is riding the coattails of his family’s name. After suffering setbacks due to their fierce rivalry, Mike and Sulley must work together as they compete in the Scare Games, a frightening mini-Olympics. And with one huge, shiny eye on the prize, Mike assembles a bunch of mismatched monsters and devises scare tactics to give his fraternity a leg, paw and tentacle up on the competition.

The film just screams beauty; it’s a florid canvas dripping with a profusion of vivid colours and glorious textures and shapes. Some monsters ooze charm, others ooze wit, whilst some just simply ooze. And with an abundance of voice actors who are every bit as dynamic as these creatures great and small, from Billy Crystal and John Goodman, to Helen Mirren and Nathan Fillion, it’s as animated as animation can be. It truly is a resplendent realisation of Pixar’s imagination, which frequently tugs on the heartstrings, and is surprisingly even a little scary at times.

Unfortunately, the problem with Monsters University lies in this fact: whilst fans of the original might have matured over time, the plot and characters have regressed, and despite many amusing instances, it doesn‘t quite register the amount of laughter that powered the cinemas and the world of Monsters, Inc the first time round. And considering where Pixar left the story in 2001, it just doesn’t seem a logical narrative advancement. Instead, it almost undermines the former’s moralistic ending – when Monsters, Inc became Feel Good Inc – and the lack of the adorable little Boo is sorely evident.

But fear not, it is by no means abominable. Although Monsters University isn’t as incredible as The Incredibles, and doesn’t ascend to the lofty, heartbreaking heights of Up, it’s still miles better than Cars 2 and the usual kiddie flick, making for some solid family entertainment which children will adore.

7/10